Monday, August 7, 2017

2017 MacPass Mile Bridge Run

So it is Natal Day weekend in Halifax and after a 2 year absence, the MacPass Mile Bridge Run is back. Conveniently one of the bridges in Halifax is a mile long, and for many years a free mile run has been held on it, with cars being excluded for the entire morning. I have raced this once before in 2014, where I finished 13th overall, 4th in my division (Masters) and a time of 5:18.

That year I raced this on a whim, as I had been preparing for my marathon and didn't do a lot of summer racing. This year I raced it on purpose, and while I didn't specifically training for a mile race, I did incorporate some 800m repeats in speed work this year at mile pace.

Race morning came and we had a bit of rain in the early hours, but as we arrived to sign in at the race, the rain had cleared off and the air was just slightly warm.

First up was the women's race. We watched as the first few ran to the finish with some speedy times. Then we had to take off to the other side to get ready for the men's start. Just as we did, the rain started. It came hard and fast. We got soaked. So much for staying dry for the run.

It came time to line up, heavy soaked shoes and socks and all. I took to the front to get ready and then we were off.

The run starts on a downhill for a couple hundred meters before starting a climb up. I picked a decent pace and just held it. The uphill felt perfectly fine and as I crested the top of the hill (likely around halfway through the race) I was in 3rd place overall and felt fine. As the downhill portion started, I lost 3rd place but picked up my overall pacing. Like any good mile race, the aches and pains of running started to come on strong. The race finish as the downhill settles out to a more or less flat 300 meters of agony.

One more person passed me at this point but I was more concerned with overall time. I pushed as hard as I could, but ultimately did not make my goal of a sub 5 minute mile. I clocked in officially at 5:07, 5th overall, 3rd age group. It was a good effort and I think I ran it well. The rain that soaked us certainly did not help and may have slowed me down a bit, but who knows.

Shaving 11 seconds off my mile time after a 3 year absence wasn't too bad though. Maybe these aging legs have some speed still. Maybe the sub 5 min mile can happen. It was nice to hear my name announced during the awards though. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Product Review - Rekarb Gels

So I was given a couple of samples of Rekarb gels to try out. Newish on the market, I hadn't given them a try yet but have certainly tried a huge variety of other gels. Usually most are pretty similar, in that they are a simple sugar, with flavouring and electrolytes and possibly caffeine (sometimes protein as well). That doesn't mean they all taste the same or even all go down as easy. I definitely prefer some gels more than others. 

What was nice about these (aside from them being a Canadian company) is the ingredient list is so minor. Maple Syrup (the simple sugar), Sea Salt (the electrolyte) and in the case of the 2 "flavoured" versions Cocoa and Matcha Tea (both of which contain some version of caffeine as well as other electrolytes). None of those ingredients are extracts, or heavily processed versions, simply the raw(ish) form. These aren't maple flavoured, they are essentially maple syrup.

Their website contains all the marketing jingo, though even it is simple and sticks to the basics. This company really does keep things easy going.

So enough of the marketing stuff anyway, how were they? Well I gave them all a try in a variety of settings, though all at a hard pace to see how they really went down. I tried the first one at a Duathlon, the next at a Triathlon and the third at a hard trail run in humid hot conditions.

I am pleased to say that they all sat extremely well and gave me no issues. The texture is very fluid, so they go down easy and fast. The one issue is that (and this is the same with all liquidy gels) you can easily get it on your hands, which is a bit sticky. I figured that out quickly after my first one and was more prepared on the second.

The maple flavour (being the man ingredient) is strong. So if you gate maple syrup, you will hate these. I like it and loved these. My favourite was the Cocoa, and I normally hate chocolate gels.

I don't use a lot of gels in training, but I will be switching to using these a lot more in racing. On a hot day when my mouth is dry, the fluid nature of these makes them so much more palatable. And as well, in the cold, they don't get thick either. Win win.

As is always the case, try nutritional products outside of a race setting first (unless you are me) to make sure you can stomach them. But it is great to see a new player on the market, whose product is just that little bit different.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Aylesford Triathlon July 2017

So Sunday was my first Triathlon of the season. Aylesford Lake. This year I decided to do the Sprint distance, rather than the Standard / Olympic I did last year. Mostly this was due to my complete lack of swim training this year compared to last. While I am sure I could make the Oly distance swim, I knew it wouldn't be pretty, especially if the water temp made it wetsuit illegal.

So race morning came and I arrived early at site. The race was declared wetsuit legal, but only just as the air temp was cool enough. The water temp was right on the border. So I decided to use my sleeveless suit, which I find makes my arms less tired and is also much quicker to get out of.  After setting up my bike in transition, I put on the suit and got a warm up swim in.

The race brief happened, then we waited on the beach as the Standard/Oly distance swimmers took off.  Eventually it was our turn and we headed to the water.

I entered at a more causal pace, as I wanted to start the swim easy. Sadly, I hit the water and started to push a little too hard. Things were going okay, but I started to breath heavy and had to slow down a bit to catch my breath. I got going again, but was now pushed fairly wide of the first buoy. Still, I kept going. Then the waves of a distant motor boat started to hit us. Nothing too big, but I ended up gulping down some of the water and again had to deal with that. Finally i got to the far buoy and headed to shore.

Ultimately my stopping and my lack of endurance showed in my final time. Also my apparent inability to sight properly didn't help either. My swim was about 850m rather than 750m and i got out of the water in 17:44, the worst swim I have had in a long time. Oh well. I was 41st now and headed to the bike.

A quick transition (44 seconds and 3rd in time) and I was riding. I had many places to make up and wasted no time. By 10km into the 20 km bike ride I had moved into 10th place overall and pushed as hard as I could. I knew my run would be decent and was willing to sacrifice a little speed to get as close as possible to others. With 5km to go I had moved into 8th place overall and that was as much as I could do on the bike.

I finished the ride with the 4th fastest bike split at 33.4 km/hr avg speed for the 20.5 km course. Some people found this course hilly. Other than one big climb (excluding the initial climb from the beach) I found the hills to be mild, long but shallow in pitch.  That allowed me to hold a better rhythm. My second transition from bike to run was 27 seconds, only good for 5th overall. I did screw up putting on my first shoe and had to readjust it. But overall it went well.

I took off on the run, and is usually the case, the first kilometer or so is tough o get your legs to full extension. Still I reeled in the next two runners by the 1.5 km mark and firmly planted myself in 6th place. As I approached the turn around positions 4 and 5 were headed back but were likely 800m or so ahead of me. My stride started to open up and I was able to push a little harder. I reached the final hill down (about a 400m descent) and ran towards the finish. I never was able to catch the next two guys, but got within 30 seconds. A better swim and who knows.

 My run was the fastest of the day at 19:30 for the 5km. That was what I had. And truthfully it was the first time in a long time that a run actually felt good (well after I got warmed up). So that was good.

I finished in a time of 1:15. Not my best but decent. I was really happy with the bike and run and transitions. Ideally I "should" have been able to knock 3 minutes or so off that swim, but it wasn't to be that day. But how fast are the 40 year olds? 6th place was only good enough for 4th in my Age Group. Zoom.

Next up? Still planning on what to do. The mojo is starting to finally come back from Bluenose, so i don't want to let that slip away. I also don't want to over do things.

Monday, June 26, 2017

MEC Race #3 - The Hot Hills of Cole Harbour

It was a humid start to the morning as I awoke to fog and mist but a temp of 15C at 6AM. A light breakfast and easy morning was in order as the race didn't start until 9AM, though I knew I needed to get there early to find parking. And while I did get there 1 hour early, close parking was still a bit of a jaunt. That meant I had to leave most of my warmup gear in the car.

As this was a new course for me, I decided to take my warm up run on course, specifically the first 2.5km portion. It was rolling hills, tight corners, crusher dust and a portion through a grassy path.

Due to the huge crowd that showed up (over 700) things were a little late starting. Eventually we got started almost 20 minutes late and by now the sun was in full shine mode.  The humidex was over 30C and there were no clouds in the sky. A course like this on a day like this is one of do what you can.

Finally the race got underway and a few of us grabbed the lead. As is usually the case, a few runners go out too hard and are soon over taken. All MEC races have multiple divisions starting together. So I tucked in behind the Half marathon leader, knowing his planned pace was going to be suitable for me.

As we finished the first 2.5km section, I was in second place with third right behind. Luckily there were a few shady bits and we all jumped into them as quickly as we could. This was an out and back course as well, so on the way out I was planning on how to run the course back. Finally we reached the 5km mark, I grabbed a little water and took a sip then turned right back, third still firmly attached to me.  Drew in 1st was way ahead and not a concern.

There was barely a flat spot on this course expect for kilometer 5 and 6. And after turning back, you then had to contend with oncoming runners. Everyone was really good though and quickly got out of the lead runners' way. Even though I was breathing pretty hard, third place was breathing harder. Then by around the 6 km mark, the breathing behind me started to get less.  At the 7km mark, I glanced back and saw that I had about a 100m cushion.

Now I will admit, at this point I hurt. The heat was taking its toll. I was now also starting to come upon 5km race runners going the same way as me, so many didn't know I was coming up fast behind them. A few times I had to run through the grass to get around.  At least, though I knew I wasn't alone in my hurt as I finally saw Drew again with about 1.5km to go. I had caught back up to him. I was still too far back, feeling a I did, to really mount a comeback attempt, but it was good to see him. 

I finally made it to the final corner, which was a 90 degree downhill, followed by a final short up to the line. As I got close I could see the time on the clock and I was still sub 39 min on this crazy course. So I pushed through and finished officially in 38:57. Whew. 2nd place overall, top Age Group. My heart rate averaged 178, which is really high for me on such a long race.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Duathlon #2 - Baddeck 2017

So it is always good to keep checking on the dates of races.What was originally slated to be in August of this year was moved to June due to the cancellation of another race. I almost missed the Baddeck Duathlon! But I didn't.

So now in June (in its second year), the Baddeck Duathlon is a great event hosted in a great place. Big Baddeck offers a 22 km paved loop for the bike portion and a tough gravel run for the run portion. The loop is open to cars, but I saw maybe 3 or 4 the whole race.

This year we had a few less people than the first year, but we gained some even tougher competitors up front.  I was looking around and instantly figured I would be racing for 5th place, maybe 6th depending on conditions. And speaking of conditions, what could have been a rain soaked crazy fest, turned into a perfect temperature, low wind, great day to race.

So after all the bike setup, chats and race briefing, we lined up ready to race. Last year I won the first run portion with a rather fast 18:33 5K. I consider it fast because the first 1.2 km is straight uphill. While I hoped to get the fastest first run again, with Corey there, it seemed unlikely. Instead of killing myself, I decided to play things safe and after the start tucked in behind Andreas, who seems to be of a similar speed to me.

We ran up the hill and I felt okay as Corey pulled away. We were in second and third place and I was having no issues keeping up. In fact when there were little dips I had to slow a little bit to stay with Andreas. At the turn around we were still together, having dropped fourth through sixth. Playing my cards, I figured I had a good ability to pull away into second by myself on the final downhill of this run and when we hit the crest of the hill I started off. By the timing mat I had a clear lead over third by 7 seconds. I finished with a 19:13 this time. Looking at last years race, the first run this year was a little long and the first run last year was a little short. My pace was quite similar in both races. I would also say this year's pace might be a little slower due to the road being freshly graded and therefore covered in loose gravel and some areas of soft sand.

I grabbed my bike and headed out quickly (with the second fastest T1). I knew I wouldn't be able to hold off those guys behind me for too long, but I wanted to get a bit into the ride before being overwhelmed.

At about 5km Andreas passed me, then at around 7 km Allan did. I didn't let up and pushed hard, though the first section is all up hill and I waited for the next couple of riders to scream past. But all of a sudden I was approaching the 10km mark (which was also a stop and turn). I dared a look back and maybe 1/2 km behind me was 5th place. Knowing how far ahead I was on the run, I figured this pass was happening soon. But id didn't. I really started to push through the kilometers, knowing that the longer I could hold out, the better my chance of using the second run to repass. But the pass from (what turned out to be Daniel) never came. I rode into T2 in 40:18, just hitting thew 1 hour mark.  This was slightly faster then last year but darn close. 32.1 km / hr average pace and a nice 60.1 km/hr top speed.

I wasted no time in T2, for fear that Daniel (now right behind me) had been saving his legs for the final 2.5km run. A 30 second T2 (second fastest of the day) meant I was out and running fast. But man did my legs feel like hell. 

Straight to that big hill climb. The second run was basically, up then right back down. I pushed hard last year to catch and pass Kevin at this point. I pushed hard this year to keep my spot. I knew second and third were too far up the road. At the top I hit the turn around (whew) and knew all my downhill run fast experience was going to be needed. I finally saw Daniel in 5th at this point and I had a couple 100 meters on him. I felt secure but didn't let up. 

Soon the finish line loomed, I pushed through and crossed in almost exactly the same time as last year, 1:10. My final run was done in 9:59, 1 second faster than last year. I finished 4th overall, last year was 3rd. But what a great group of guys to fight with. That was all I had in me that day, and I feel good about it. Also I feel like I am finally recovering from the Bluenose Half marathon, which has left me feeling dead.

I have a trail race coming up, then a rest. Back to coaching some great people as well.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Canicross Season is Here! June 2017 (oh and Bikes and Scooters too!)

So this past winter, I started working with my good buddies at DogRunnin' to help begin a race series for people and dogs in the Maritimes. Together we put forth the sanctioning body Maritime Association of Harness Dog Sports or MAHDS, and began the work on getting a race series started.

Now forward to June and our first race was ready to be held. Thanks to sponsors like Nahak, Inukshuk Dog Food, Salomon, Aerobics First and Earth Rated we got the ball rolling (or frisbee flying or Dog Runnin). Also local sponsors for the first race including the town of Truro, and Holiday Inn, Truro were key.

The first race was held in Victoria Park, Truro and included Canicross (running with your dog), Bikejoring (biking with your dog) and Scooter. All based on the concept of sled or mushing, the harness is now tethered to you or your bike and you work as a team to get to the finish.

The weather was great, the course mostly flat and the competitors had a blast.

The next race will be in Shubie Park in July and I am having a blast being involved in helping launch this race series in the Maritimes.  Future races in Moncton, and Halifax are planned and should be announced soon! Until then, check out some pictures and be in awe!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Navy Duathlon 2017

So the Navy Duathlon has come and gone. A local standard for early season multisports that I have been doing for many years now occasionally with some success. As this is the first triathlon of the season as well, the field tends to be on the smaller side,but this year saw a tough battle amoung the top competitors. Due to some confusion for late registrants, we were a little late getting started and it was a cold morning. So that meant a little jog around to keep warm. But soon we were lined up and ready to go.

We were off on the first 3km run leg, though due to the start logistics, it was actually 3.2 km. I knew that Zach was pretty fast on the short stretches and wasn't too sure about Doug, but I also knew that I had to  stay as far up front as I could, even at this short distance, to have a chance at getting a top three spot. I knew that at least 3 of the guys were much better cyclists than me.

I tucked in behind Doug and let him lead us out. I could hear Zach right on my tail but decided to see what Doug could do. Our pace was pretty decent, and I was still breathing fine. By the turn around, we had pulled a lead over 4th and 5th and kept pushing the pace a little more. With 1 kilometer to go I had enough and took the lead. Ultimately I knew this was an unlikely win today, so I decided on a persona victory by at least having the fastest first run. And I did pull a nice little gap. 

I finished the first leg in first place with an avg pace of 3:38.To the bike!

To the bike and to a very hilly course with a lot of wind. It didn't take Doug long to catch me and he did within 2 km. Zach followed a kilometer later. Both are fast enough runners that I knew if I was already being passed on the bike, that first and second was for them to fight over. So I just hoped I had enough of a lead on Greg and Kevin.

The head winds were fierce and annoyingly seemed to be at tight corners and uphill sections. On the plus side the tail winds made for fast sailing as I hit a top speed of over 59 km/hr.

The course was well marked and ultimately rather nice other than the wind. Greg passed me on lap 2 of 4. With only a 5km run it was now not likely for me to  be able to keep the gap close enough to catch him on the run. 1 minutes maybe 2 if I killed myself, but things weren't looking good for the podium. Now I just needed to push hard enough on the bike to keep Kevin off as far as possible.

Luckily he wasn't able to pass me until part way through the last lap. That was not going to allow him long enough of a gap to hold me back on the run.

I came into transition as fast as I dared, had a solid dismount and headed to the bike rack for a quick change over.  I passed Kevin in transition and headed off to see what I could do. By the 1.5 km mark I found the other three guys but they were a sizable gap ahead of me. I pushed as hard as I could and hoped that if possible I might be able to hold on for another fast run. By the turn around I had a sizable gap on Kevin so felt safe there and could see Greg in the distance, but unless he had a massive cramp or something, it was unlikely I could catch him. My avg pace was 31.4 km/hr.

I picked up the pace nearing the finish to come home strong and finished with a second run pace of 3:51. Not bad for off the bike. The run was slightly long. Officially I was credited with the second fastest run by 3 seconds under Doug. The timing, though, included the transition. So it is hard to actually tell, but it seems we were pretty even runners on the day.  Greg ended up just slightly ahead of me with our runs and the bike almost canceling each other.

Total time for me was 1:09:05, fourth place, and second age group. A tough morning's fight for sure.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bluenose Half Marathon 2017

So last year I focused on trying to improve my speed after having failed to better my Half Marathon time at the Bluenose. I tried and failed, running 1 minute slower than the previous year. So I entered the Bluenose 10km race and hoped that a focus on that distance for 2016 would propel my speed forward. What it did was get me hurt. I pushed too hard, harder than what my body was capable of sustaining, totally my fault and I should have known better. But then, that's why having a coach or mentor or running friend with a cool head can be such as asset. They tell us when too much is too much. I bounced back form injury last year to have some great results, but not the one I really wanted, a sub 37 min 10km. I did win my age group at Bluenose and finish in the top 10, and with no running for almost 3 weeks manage a 37:40ish 10km. So I wasn't totally unhappy.

Lessons learned and this year I opted to go back to the Half. That 1:23:53 of years ago was still holding on, and my age wasn't going down. So I knew that I had to find that speed sooner rather than try for it later. I spent this winter with a run heavy focus. Yes, cycling was still a key part of my training but I ramped up my weekly mileage to 50+ km each week, generally in the 60+ km category. For me that is big mileage, as all of my running is heavily focused. I need lots of rest between sessions.

Another key focus on my training was strength sessions. I have done these before and preach them to whoever listens. But now I was even more focused on getting them done. I also was proactive in my recovery, seeing my Chiropractor Alan from Seaside Chiropractic monthly. He was great at cleaning up overused muscles and adhesions as well as pointing out when new issues seemed to be on the rise.

My use of heart rate training has continued, though now my ability to "feel" the right zones has increased as I have so much more experience. And while I have tried to use the Dr Daniels VDOT system in the past, this year I focused heavily on it (even becoming a certified VDOT coach). Oh and hills, so many hills.

So that preamble leads to the race itself. Sorry about that, but this is a text heavy blog post.

So I was ready, I was well trained, I was rested, I was strong. I knew I could beat that PB this year, I knew I had it in me. My choice of race attire was even selected with maximum speed in mind. Heck, I even took off the heart rate monitor for race day to save previous ounces.  Then came the Saturday before the race.

I awoke, ready for what was going to be an easy day. Walk the dog, watch a show, lay out my clothes, and do nothing else. Instead I found I had picked up a stomach bug. It seemed pretty mild, so I assumed some rest and watching my diet for the day would be enough. But as the day went on, it got worse. I was not feeling up to par for sure. I won't get into all the aspects of it, but basically I wasn't able to eat or drink very much without being totally uncomfortable. So I nibbled a little and sipped some water, but that was it. By the time I went to bed, I was seriously considering pulling out of the race.

When I awoke I didn't feel much better. I had a little bit of oatmeal and a few sips of water, I doubt that stayed in the system very long. I took some medication and drove to race start (my wife was racing as well). I waited in my race attire, near race start for an hour, finally wandering over with a few minutes to spare before race start. Oh well, I thought, either I make it or I don't.

Then we were off.

Within the first few kilometers I picked and held a decent pace. My cardio was feeling fine. My muscles were already tight.  I ran through the first water stop. By 5 km I felt like I needed to stop for fresh legs already 

Though apparently I looked like this, which seemed okay.

So by this point the race seemed to have settled a bit. The lead runner, Johana, from Kenya was well off the front, and ahead of me was a decent sized pack of runners. I was alone in 8th, but still hoping to grab my main goal of a sub 1:23 time, so placing didn't matter much.

The first half of the Bluenose half Marathon is downhill. Normally I suggest watching yourself and not burning the the first half of any race, but in this case you really need to take advantage of the free speed. To this end, I had not only focused much of my training on climbing hills, but also running down them. I feel like I became much better at it and had so much more control, limiting the use of my quads. By the time I crossed the 10km mark I was running at a 3:44 min/km avg pace and had a time of 37:23. That was over a minute faster than my previous best half marathon time by this point. And my breathing was fine as well, though my legs and belly still felt less than happy and I had passed through all water stops without taking anything on. I had also fallen to 9th place.

After 10 km, it is time to climb. We started up Inglis, then hit Young Ave, which is always great as it is the party street. Loads of support and cheering. Then into Point Pleasant Park. I new I would lose time here as it is a lot of climbing and crusher dust trails are usually a little slower. But I had planned for this. I watched my pace as best as I could, picking it up when I could and then easing into the hills. Another runner passed me and I used this as a chance to draft for a bit, tucking in and pacing off of him. As we hit the exit of the Park, he took off, but I feel like that really helped a lot.

Now for the worst part of the race, in my mind. a couple of kilometers of twitsy turning, bit with steep hills. It is really hard to get a good feel in this section, but I survived, and hit Young Ave again with a good avg pace of 3:50 min/km.  As I crossed the 18 km sign I looked down and did the math. I needed to average only 4 min/km to achieve my goal over the next 3 kilometers. That was good. I could do that.

Of course I looked like this. Not the greatest. Clutched tightly in that fist was a gel that I just refused to use.

As we hit the final kilometer and a half, I caught one runner, the guy who had passed me way back before the 10km mark, he was slowing and I was finding that last little bit of whatever was left. Then I caught and passed another runner, who had been with the fast pack from the start. But again, this wasn't about placing, so I didn't care about race tactics and having them jump on for a tow. I just picked up and ran.

As I hit the downhill portion before the finish I picked up the effort, then the 400 meter uphill climb to the finish reminded me of all those hills sessions I did and hills I threw in at the end of a long run. I pushed through with avg pace for that final kilometer of 3:35. I crossed the line in 1:21:40 officially, best my previous record on this tough course by 2 min and 13 sec. As I slowed I knew I had nothing left. I staggered a bit, a volunteer helped me get some water and over to the curb, where I sat for a bit then found enough to get up and indoors.

The overall pace average was 3:52 min/km, my finishing place was 8th overall and my AG placing was 2nd.

The weather on the day was sunny, cloudless and windy. Big gusts that were face on for the final 5 km. But the temp was perfect. I got hot, but that was fine. I found every reserve of energy ,my body had built up in training and used it (so yeah, you can race a half marathon well without food or water). I practiced all of this in training anyway. My plan worked, and even sick I pulled out something special for me.  Now I also know there is more in there. A good rest and I will begin a new plan, with an attempt at a Fall half. 

Thanks to all my support, the BLT Runners, Aerobics First, Seaside Chiropractic, Kinesic Sports Lab, and Elizabeth. Also thanks Craig at the start line for saying, "oh your tough, you can do it." 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

MEC Race #2 - Citadel Highlander April 30, 2017

So I'm a little late getting to this blog post, but I was a little busy, so you'll have to excuse me.

This has been a Spring classic race in Halifax for at least 6 years (maybe 7?) and I have been at all of them with a decent bit of success.

Now while it is a fixture race, due to circumstances with using a Historic Fort for a run means that the route has frequently been adapted over the years. Some years a little long, some short. I won last year with a good run that ultimately kicked off a spat with my Achilles. So this year I entered much stronger.

I entered the 5km race and right away knew it would be tough with a couple of strong competitors lined up with me. The sun was strong and warm, but the wind was fierce making things overall quite cool. Still, I opted for shorts.

We all lined up (including the 10km race) and were soon off.

I tucked in behind Drew, as he was doing the 10km race, and while  he is usually a little faster then me, I knew he would be pushing more of a 10km pace, which I hoped would be a good start for the 5km until I saw what others were doing. This proved to be fun as he lead us to a first kilometer in 3:36. Oops. That included a pretty decent hill climb. I was able to hang on though.

I got to around the half way point in second place but then let another 10km racer through and finally had to succumb to the power of Chad as he pushed into 1st in the 5 km race. At this point it was stay with Chad and see what happens. I stayed right on him until we reentered the fort, which required going through tunnels and stairs, eventually jumping a pile of sand bags and running through a wet grass moat. By the end of this Chad had formed a slight gap.

We exited the fort for one final lap around the outside before a kick to the finish. This was about 500m of steep down then steep up. Chad kicked early and I knew that I was just holding on at this point.  He finished ahead and took the win, I followed pretty closely and finished second in a  time of 18:55 and a distance of 5km. Las year's time was much faster but I think it was a couple of hundred meter short. 

I was very happy with my performance. I pushed at the right times, likely went out a bit hard but had to follow the way the race unfolded and ultimately felt god after a quick recovery. A few sore muscles over the following days have been very minor, which I tink shows that my hill sessions hve been doing their job of building my strength.

Here is my heart rate graph. A sharp spike to start, then a gradual climb. I like that it shows I pushed just as hard on the downhills, which are long enough here to recover if you want. And a little kick at the end to beat the clock.

Speed sessions and hill sessions this year have done well to keep me strong, chiro and physio session have kept me healthy. All together this has been a successful training year so far.

Next up is the Bluenose half. So a couple of weeks of specific race training and we will see where we are at.

Monday, April 24, 2017

That Time Ian Became Coach Ian

So a couple of weekends ago I took a course offered by the great Dr Jack Daniels, author of The Running Formula. Dr Daniels has been coaching for quite some time and before that was an accomplished athlete. His main focus has been on using the idea of VO2Max but making it accessible via a system he termed VDotO2. In this system you base you quality training sessions off of a VO2Max that has been determined via race results and not a lab test.

Now wait Ian, you are a huge believer in Heart Rate Training right?  And isn't Vdot based on an accumulation of data from many runners, then aggregated to show a pattern? Isn't heart rate about individuality?  Whoa! Let me answer these.

Yes, I am a firm believer in heart rate training. And I think all adult runners should get tested  to establish their base training zones. And heck, I still wear that monitor on each and every run.  I think that adult athletes have shown an inability to run easy when they first start out heck I as right there). We run like we think we are kids but we need to learn our limits. Heart rate is the perfect way to accomplish this. Zone 1 recovery and Zone 2 easy running is essential to becoming  solid and fast runner by building a base while limiting our chances of injury.

So how does VDot fit into this then? Well after years of training by heart rate while loosely following the Daniels approach, I have been very happy to see that his system and heart rate training are very good mirrors to each other. Both essentially push the athlete while simultaneously putting limits in place that should help us to limit injury. And limiting injury allows us to run more and running more allows us to run faster. 

A limit to heart rate training comes about in short efforts, like intervals and repetitions. The heart usually can't respond fast enough for the monitor to show you if you are giving too much or not enough. Instead having a pace or time set by years of observations allows you to dial right in on what you are supposed to achieve at a given workout. 

Heart rate in these cases still isn't useless.You gather the data and look at it afterword. Were you spiking appropriately in the intense portions and recovering as you should in the easy parts. Did you warm up enough and cool down sufficiently?

Heart rate is also great at putting limits during extreme temperature situations, or showing you if you aren't recovered enough from a previous workout, meaning you should (again) limit your next intense sessions.

I love working with adult athletes and helping them get past tough times, and showing them that smarter training doesn't mean you have to kill it every time you head out the door. Add in my growing knowledge of physio / strength training and my willingness to test everything I learn on myself first and I see a lot of fun times ahead.

Thanks to Dr Daniels and the RunSmart program for making this course available online, and let me tell you, that test isn't easy, but the course as well worth it in my opinion.

Friday, April 14, 2017

New Shoe Review - Saucony Zealot ISO

Not my actual shoe

So I found myself this spring with a pile of mostly worn out running shoes. Some I had rather liked, some not so much. But I also found myself starting to really ramp up my weekly mileage as my half marathon training has taken off. With a few aches and pains I knew I needed new shoes.

Into Aerobics First I went. I am rarely tied to any specific shoe, instead wanting what fits me best and fits the style of running I am doing. I had recently done a lot of running in a Skechers  shoe which I really liked, but it wore out quite fast for my liking. It would have been a great race day shoe, but I have that in my NB 1400's. Instead I wanted something that was going to give me a bit of support for longer training runs, and overall cushioning (without being squishy) for running frequently through the week (I usually run 5 days a week, sometimes 6).  

A chat with Luke at A1 and we tried a few options based on the criteria I talked to him about. In the end I bought this pair of Saucony Zealot ISO shoes. This is a shoe I had generally not even bothered to try as it didn't seem to fit what I liked about running shoes. First and foremost it looks clunky and huge. Also I had mixed luck with the Saucony brand in the past (I loved their Mirage but they stopped making it, I didn't find good luck with the Kinvara). 

But I decided to give this shoe a real try. And now three weeks later, I love it. Not as much for fast speed work, as I find it isn't as responsive as a racing flat for intervals, though it isn't bad for tempo work.

So this is a neutral shoe in the maximal world. That is it has no internal stability properties, has a low drop (4mm) and loads of cushioning (24mm on avg).  While it has no posting for arch support, what it does offer is a build up foam piece in the arch . This doesn't seem to affect your foot's natural movement from within the shoe, but when you start to get tired on longer runs, it helps to prevent tired muscles from allowing your foot to roll in upon impact. 

The cushioning aspect is definitely not a soft and plush feel. This shoe is still relatively firm (which I like) and this gives a more responsive road feel, IMO.  

Finally, the wear on the sole of this shoe seems, so far, to be quite good. With over 100km on it, I see little to no wear yet. A durable and comfortable trainer? I am happy. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Moose Run 2017

Another year another Moose Run, the 25th edition at that! I wish I could say I have been to every one, but alas I have been to exactly 2 now, including this year. The 25km distance was never one I cared to do, even when racing half marathons. Last year I decided to tackle it to help pace my buddy Craig. This year, as we are both racing the Bluenose Half,  it seemed like a good idea to come back and give it another go. Only this year faster! But still not at racing speed, more of a hard paced long run.

A few members of the BLT Runners showed up to run it as well.

It was a cool morning, so I wasn't sure what to wear. As I knew I wasn't going to be pushing my own pace too hard, I wondered if I might be chilled. In the end, I was convinced to drop the jacket. And really I was fine with the temperature, but I am glad I had gloves and a buff.

Last year Craig and I ran a 4:45 pace, but with about 3 km to go, you hit 2 nasty hills and those knocked Craig down a bit, we finished eventually with a 4:50 pace. Still, it was a great effort and with him just getting into heart rate training, we paced things well.

This year I wanted to push the pace a bit, up into the 4:40 min/km mark. This was likely going to push Craig a bit into Zone 3, but I wanted to see how much his training had toughened him up for race day. We had to beat that 2 hour mark!

With a record crowd, and a lot of smiles, we were off.  We passed a few people, we were passed by a few, but settled in to what was probably the top 1/3rd of the runners (243 in total). This included some relay teams as well.

The weather remained great, at the turn around there was a bit of a headwind for 4 km or so, but nothing crazy. We saw many friends, we chatted a lot and Craig was doing great. We even stopped and drank water at the stops, rather than spill it all over ourselves.

By the time we hit those final killer hills of the causeway we were already above pace at 4:38, and looking good. We grabbed a final water and headed for the home stretch. Craig was talking and breathing fine, and I finally convinced him to try and catch a few people up ahead. We did, and then as were began the turn to the finish with under 2 km, I convinced him to tag along as best as he could. I kept ramping the pace up slightly as it was mostly downhill.

With the finish line in sight, Craig was pushing it, and I was forcing him along, just another 100m Go Go! We hit a pace best, crossed the line and managed to get home in an awesome 4:36 pace time blowing away our old record, and doing so with relative ease (except those last 2 km). But those last 2 km last time is where things fell apart, so what a difference a year makes. 1:54 was our time.

All of the BLT Runners had a great day, followed by some spicy soup, hot dogs, cake and coffee.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Final Speed Skating Race of the Year, 2017

So the final speed skating race just happened this past Sunday. Two weeks ago we had the chance of losing the ice completely due to heat and rain, but this weekend we had record low temperatures and high wind. Brrr. I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

I signed up for the 1000m Olympic Style and the 1500m mass start. I had hoped to see if I could better my 1000m time from a few weeks back.

So race morning and the car said -18C on the way to the ice. With the wind it felt closer to -26C. And what a head wind it was.  Warm up was more a case of trying not to freeze, and I had to wear more clothing than I had previously raced in as well.

My heat came up. I started on the inside this time, which meant an outer corner finish. The horrible wind made getting to the first corner a little tricky, but it made skating through the second one fierce. The speed the tail wind brought was crazy, and I am not great at corners when going too fast. So my overall speed ended up suffering. I won my heat but with a paltry 2:20, when a few weeks back in better conditions I skated a 2:04.  Oh well. I placed 5th out of 16.

The 1500m mass start came up and I took my spot on the line. The speedy guys were in my race, so I had no illusions of winning or anything. From the start they headed out hard. I found a pace I thought I could hold, but again that wind was crazy, it had even picked up some.  I managed a time of 3:43 for 5th place out of 8. I don;'t think I have a 1500m best time that I can recall, but I can only suspect that was slow.

So a winter of ups and downs. I think overall my skating got better, but I wish I had more time to commit to the sport. I know my weaknesses better anyway.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

So far behind on this one why even bother - Speed Skating racing!

Dang, I am so far behind on this post that it is 2 posts in one and they are still both late. Initially I was waiting to see if any pictures showed up, but they didn't come, and then I got lazy and then.....

So a few weeks back I entered the 25 km skate marathon. This was a part of the winter Polar Vortex Challenge in Halifax, which also included the Tri-the -Oval winter triathlon I took part in.  I missed the first race of the series but still earned the coveted extra hat!

25km on skates sounds like fun (ha ha) but dang it was tough. 65 laps of the oval and I knew I was going to be hurting by the end. So I made darn sure that i paced myself to finish.

Knowing my current strengths, I decided to go out at a low 20 km/hr-ish pace. By 10  minutes in I was averaging 21.8km/hr, so that felt fine. Soon I was lapped by the leaders who were flying, but I really focused on keeping an even pace.  Halfway through and I was averaging 21.2km/hr.

I would like to turn this into a great story and all, but really, it was a bunch of laps of the oval where I spent a lot of time skating alone.  I did fall down at one point. Apparently the only person to do so. I just got tired and lost my footing, so that was interesting.

Anyway, short story long, I made it the final two laps, picked up the pace and finished with 2 laps in the 25 km/hr range, then just about collapsed. 1 hour and 14 minutes, with the leader finishing almost 20 minutes before I did. But I now have a bench mark for the future.

The next week brought another race. This time an Olympic style 1000m race. This one is tricky for skaters as it requires a series of lane changes throughout the race. In fact 2 skaters got disqualified for messing this up. I'll have to go back and look but I don't think I have raced the 1000m before, so my time of 2:04:61 is likely my benchmark.

This race felt great. I went out hard, maintained a decent body position, worked my crossovers as best as I could and won my heat, placing 8th overall. That felt good.

We also had a 3000m points race, and in this style, it is a mass start with skaters that get lapped being pulled out. All but the top 5 skaters got lapped all at once. It was rather funny. But sadly most of us did not get to finish the race.  I ended up with another 8th place, but as I didn't get to do the final 3 laps it doesn't really matter.

Hopefully the weather allows for a little more skating this season, but darn, it is getting warm!   

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tri the Oval 5 - Winter Triathlon 2017

So after a year off, the Halifax Winter Triathlon was back. But this year we had a change. Instead of the bike ride there was a snow shoe leg in the middle. So Skate, Snowshoe, Run, with distances of roughly 5km/3km/5km (the skate was pretty much dead on).

Due to the fact that it was late getting put together, this year had a small but mighty crowd of crazy souls, who braved the starting temperature of about -10C.

yes, those are bacon costumes

The skate started off well, with beautiful ice and low wind. My first few laps were nice and fast, allowing me to keep up with the top couple of skaters. But my lack of long training skates on the ice meant I ended up slowing down a bit, eventually coming off the ice in 4th. But my transition to snowshoe was fast, so I immediately jumped to third place. 

Luckily we had a good little snow fall a few days ago, meaning we could actually hold the snowshoe portion of the race. Yes, there were a few bare spots, but overall, running in snowshoes was fun. Now, I will admit that I had never really run in snowshoes before this, as we just bought our snowshoes this year and have had next to no snow falls in Nova Scotia. But I think I did well, keeping my cadence high and pushed through to take over second spot.

This lead to the run. Luckily I had my running shoe on, so I just had to pop off the snow shoes, drop them off at my transition zone spot and take off for three laps around the Commons.

I could see Adam ahead of me, but I knew unless he had a cramp or something, he had far too big a lead (he is a really great skater on hockey skates) for me to run that down. Still, I felt okay running, considering I had really no rest at all before hitting the sidewalks. Pretty much all three events use the same muscles, so it is a great workout.

Sure enough I watched the gap stay the same for much of the run, with me finally coming through the finish line in second place overall.

  don't hide the finish line cones!

It was a great event and took me 47 minutes to finish, so well below my 50 min goal time (just a rough estimate in my head). Yes, the distances were a bit short, as I mentioned, so likely that 50 minutes would have been a lot closer. Still it was great fun, and I am 5 for 5 on these events, and I couldn't pass up the 5th Tri the Oval Toque.

For my efforts I won a custom Cow Bell (thanks James), and some much needed Java Blend coffee beans.  And I can't wait for next year's race.