13 June 2016

And the cat came back ... (post-injury update)

Well, it's been two weeks since I last ran any distance.

Really, it's been two weeks

without exercise

of sleeping in

eating whatever I wanted (in whatever proportion)

being off of the running radar.

I'd like to think that I learned a few things during this mini-break:
  1. It feels really good to take a rest.  Like I got to do things with my family a bit more because my schedule wasn't so structured.
  2. My body seems to be thanking me for the off-time ... I feel much better physically, and I hope that I'm ready to resume (basic) training workouts.
  3. I missed running - but not as much as I thought I would.  I think that I actually missed the people I run with (shout-out to the RunNinjas!) more than the activity itself.
  4. While I did gain weight, I didn't balloon up like I'd anticipated I would - I think that I actually only put on about two or three extra pounds, although I can see that I've lost a good bit of tone.
  5. It's hard to break the exercise habit - I did feel like I was missing something most mornings by getting up so late (i.e. 7:00 am) and not having walked in the door with a good sweat going on.
  6. There's nothing like a bit of new tech to get you itching to climb back into the game - and that's exactly what the arrival of the Epson Runsense SF-810 did for me.

And now I anxiously await tomorrow morning when I will be back on the roads again, and a reunion with my running family!

Share/Bookmark

02 June 2016

Race report - 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon

Well, it all finally caught up with me. 

Despite putting in a full winter season's worth of training, I cannot honestly say that I arrived at the start line of the 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon healthy - and I paid for it.

The events surrounding the event were all great enough - being able to join Jim Willett as he wrapped up his #Marathon2Marathon escapade, sharing the race weekend with so many of my RunNinja compatriots, and participating in the largest and most prestigious race in our country (and at the nation's capital, no less).  But alas, the hopes and dreams of becoming a sub-3 hour marathoner were not to be for me.


 Our tribe of RunNinjas (aka "The Beautiful Freaks") - photo by Miranda Wade Cudmore

With the temperatures soaring well above 30°C (factoring in the humidex) the long walk from our cars to the expo in downtown Ottawa on Saturday afternoon (after having spent the entire previous day moving our home with the assistance of RunNinja friends) didn't help matters much.  While feeling mentally tough I tried to suppress the sensations of being physically depleted on Sunday morning.  I ran through the standard routine that I follow for any go at a serious race, including the pre-dawn shakeout run, solid breakfast, and arrival at the start/finish area with at least an hour to spare - and I must say that feeding off of the energy of the likes of RunNinjas Rob, Robert, Lewis, Rick, Mariana and Crystal made me feel like I might actually be able to pull off something decent.


Pre-race hopefulness ... photo by Crystal Oakley

There was an additional boost when I lined up in the Blue (anticipated sub-3:15 finish time) corral and not only met up with fellow Skechers Performance Ambassador Dave Liu (who was going for a 2:30ish gun time) but I was separated just by an arms length and a barrier tape from the elite athletes who were warming up in their cordoned-off front section.  Just being that close to so many great marathoners made me feel fast and ready ... I even tried to hype myself up by standing tall with my hands on my hips a la Amy Cuddy's TED talk.



But it was all for naught ...

With no 3:00 pacer I started out with the 3:05 pacer and immediately found that my legs were lumbering and heavy.  I managed to stick with this group for about the first 10k but then slowly found myself falling back, until the 16k mark (oh no - shades of the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon!) when my right knee immediately went into full-out rebellion mode.  Pain radiated across the bottom of my kneecap and would buckle every time that I tried to open up my stride, and my pace fell from 4:25/km to 5:00/km. 

I continued to hobble my way forward with no ability to pick up any steam without incurring the wrath of my knee - all the way up to about the 22k mark where I decided that I needed to stop at the roadside medical tent to get some attention.  After a solid wrap I rejoined the fray (as best as a lame duck can) and continued to semi-limp along until all of the compensating that my left knee was doing finally ground to a halt and it gave way, radiating the same sort of pain transverse-wise from the bottom ridge of the patella.  Through some force of will I carried on one foot in front of the other (now clicking off 6:00+/km) until around 33k when a subsequent medical tent stop was made to tensor-up the now-aggravated left-knee.

It was quite a sight.  I even heard at least one onlooker comment "Look - both knees taped up" as I attempted to finish up the race.


The agony of defeat de-knees

What was perhaps the most frustrating was that my cardio was all there, and my muscles were feeling otherwise fine.  Even psychologically I was still with it, as at around the 38k mark I decided to give my regular finishing kick a go, managing to drop from 6:00/km to 4:27/km while weaving through the sea of humanity as full and half marathon runners merged down the finishing stretch along the Rideau Canal.

I crossed the finish line in a disheartening time (to me) - but was still able to celebrate so many victories by my fellow RunNinjas, including a number of PBs (including Mike's sub-3 BQ), first-time marathon finishes and the conclusion of Jim's east-to-west journey.

So what did I discover?
  1. I'm pretty slow - I may have to rethink my potential to post a sub-3 marathon finish.
  2. I'm pretty stoopid - for all the talk that I've spouted to others about taking appropriate rest and avoiding overtraining, I managed to blow straight through that stop sign.
  3. I'm pretty tired - it's time to take a step back.  A mini off-season is long overdue, and will provide me with an opportunity to re-evaluate what I'm going to do with this running stuff in the future.  
For now, a hearty congratulations to all who toughed it out over the course of the Ottawa Race Weekend - you've earned a real 'pat' on the back (the inverse of what is depicted below, especially if my knee issues turn out to be chronic and not acute)!



Race gear for the 2016 Ottawa Marathon:

Share/Bookmark

26 May 2016

Anticipating my first one-legged race

The weekend is almost here - and not just any weekend, but the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

I've been looking forward to being part of the biggest road running event in our country for a couple of reasons - first because it's the terminus of our RunNinjas sensei Jim's epic trek from the Fredericton Marathon to the Ottawa Marathon, and secondly because I'd targeted this marathon as my goal race for the spring season (in hopes of attaining a sub-3 hour finish).  Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray ...

Jim is doing just fine, and managing to capture some fascinating people and experiences as part of a video documentary that he is compiling along his journey's route.  We RunNinjas are going to be over-the-moon to be able to reunite with him and celebrate this phenomenal and superhuman accomplishment!

On the other hand, I will have see what Sunday brings, and celebrate just being able to get to the starting line.

Since my last adventure running with my friend Nav at the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon I've been battling some knee issues, and as I've discovered just recently a strain of the short head (lower part) of the biceps femoris.  Tenderness, weakness and pain led to me taking almost a full two weeks off immediately after the GoodLife Marathon and then resuming training/tapering with modest success.  As such I'll be heading into Ottawa with a bit of a busted wheel that will be taped up like Red Green had attacked it.




If that wasn't enough, the one thing that I've heard about racing in the Ottawa Marathon is that while the course itself might be conducive to decent finishing times, the ambient conditions may not ... and this weekend is shaping up to be a messy scorcher.

http://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/weekend-weather-forecast/ontario/ottawa

I've been heat training this week (layering up for workouts on even the warmest days) to try to acclimatize but I'm not sure whether or not it will have any significant benefit based on the projected forecast.

As such it will be a real roll of the dice in terms of how things turn out.  If there is a silver lining in this (thunder)cloud it could be that the one mitigating factor might benefit the other, as the heat seems to alleviate the tightness and pain that I have been feeling in my right knee.

I'll get to the start.  I'll be excited to be putting my fluorescent orange Skechers GOMeb Speed 2016 through their first race.  It'll be awesome to share the experience with all of my RunNinja tribe (some of whom I've helped coach in preparation for their first marathon) and reconnect with Jim.

One way or another, it will be a memorable weekend ...!

#GOlikeneverbefore #RunJimmiRun #RunNinjasCapitalTakeover
Share/Bookmark

06 May 2016

Race report - 2016 GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon [Guest Post]

Grateful. 

That was my emotion when I toed the starting line of the Goodlife Toronto marathon. 

When I initially planned (during Summer 2015) on training to run a fast marathon at the PEC marathon (October 2015), half way through the training I had a glute issue that wrote off my training efforts. And any hopes of a ‘race’ planned! I still ran that marathon, primarily treating it as a ‘systems-check’ and ‘speed-check’. 

Training 
I spent the most of the first 4 months of 2016 training for this marathon, in the backyard of where I live these days – Toronto. I had a variety of interruptions from January to April, from 3 weeks of travel to India / Dubai in Feb, to some Achilles strain in April. When life got in the way of training, I had to use a pen to keep moving around workouts and adjusting the plan to get in the right portion of mileage and intensity with sufficient rest and recovery in balance.18 weeks in and 628 miles later, I was ready for the race weekend. 

Pre-race 
I went to the Exhibition Place on Friday to pick up the bibs for my friend and I. The expo was the usual –find your bib #, pick it up based on your event registered for and walk ahead to get your T Shirt – and I thought it was pretty small and uneventful. Just a handful of stalls and running vendors. I was done in less than 10 minutes and found myself taking the return shuttle to downtown from where I was heading home for my first carb-loading of the weekend. I heard from other folks who have ran this race in the past that the expo has only gotten smaller, and support, etc. on race day was not being very well organized in recent years. 

Shumit – a friend from India, these days is in Michigan – was running the full too. He and his wife Ekta came by on Saturday, we had some pasta at a local diner close by, talked running, and some more. We were up at 4:30 am, without an alarm, continuing our conversation on running. I still remember talking to Shumit on the telephone a week before I ran my first marathon in 2009. Being new territory back then, I could use all the tips I could find. Shumit gave me some valuable input that helped me. As you’d imagine, we’ve been good friends since. 

Race morning 
Ekta drove Shumit, Ryan and I to the start. Ryan is a local running friend from my local running group, East York Toronto Runners (EYTR). He was all fired up to run a 3:05, and seal his spot at Boston 2017. Everybody in the car was so engaged in conversation that we missed the intersection where we had to get off to walk to the start. Half a km later, Ryan is the enlightened one, and we find ourselves taking a U-turn. 

Everything happens for a reason. I earlier touched upon how I was hoping the PEC marathon (October 2015) would have been a fast marathon for me. When I still got there, hoping to run a decent time, I decided to stick to the 3:30 pacer. This introduced me to Patrick Voo, a genuine human being and a fabulous runner. Patrick and I became friends after the run, and we stayed in touch. He offered to pace me for the Toronto marathon back in March. And even before he finished his thought, I took him up on the offer. 

I wish I had my phone before the bag check-in because I would have loved to take a picture of the huge sign that Patrick had made that said “NAV”. It was fun to see the expression of some runners as we traversed through the crowd, trying to get close to the 3:15 pacer. And confusing some folks in the process. I even saw a couple of them taking pictures. Anybody want to share some here?? 


First half – Fun 
The plan was simple. Try to stay in the 3:15-3:17 range. Go a bit easy on the hills / incline, let gravity drive you on the downs. Save the legs. Try not to push too early, and maybe get an even (ideally, a negative) split. The weather called for light rain for the first hour or so, with some occasional windy conditions. 10 minutes to the start, people started to throw away their trash-bag turned ponchos as the drizzle started to wade off. 

7:30 a.m. and off we went. The start line was the same for the half and full, but since we kicked off an hour before the half marathoners, we didn’t have a sea of people to dodge our way through. It wasn’t long before we settled into our pace. I’m not sure if Patrick was an ‘exclusive one-person pacer’ in the past, but boy did he look like a seasoned one at it. I seldom watched the pace on my Garmin. At most, I would look at the watch when it beeped every mile’s split; and once in a while, when I saw myself losing ground on him. I guess that’s what you get when you have a fine runner leading you in a marathon. 

Starting at Mel Lastman Square, the course took us north for about 800m before turning around to head down Yonge Street for the next 8 km. The first half of the race has a net downhill, with the occasional inclines. The only ‘climb’ I’d consider is the Hoggs Hollow Hill – a 500m steady incline, just after Yonge & Sheppard – at the 4th km. Being so early into the race, we kept it nice and steady, focussing on effort rather than pace. I thought it looks like a killer of a hill only because there’s a huge drop before you get to it. All about perspective! 

We chatted a good bit in the initial miles. I did give Patrick a heads-up early on that I was going to save up the numerous tokens of appreciation, for all the great things he was doing as a pacer, to thank him big at the end. Before I knew it, we hit the 10k mark in 46 minutes and change. The course then hangs west into a stretch than zig-zags through many corners as we go through some pretty neighbourhoods, passing the Upper Canada College, Casa Loma, handing us down into the beautiful Rosedale Valley. This was one of favourite patches as we ran through the picturesque section. Trails in our peripheral vision, running a long and slightly winding stretch, and making friends with runners in the same pace range. 


We were hitting our splits for a 3:15 pace, but could not see the official pacer in the horizon anymore. Positive split is a popular strategy in such a course, where the first 20 kms has a significant amount of downhill stretches. This probably explained the split for the first half split of many runners, including us as we pass alongside the Don Valley Parkway on Bayview Ave to register the half marathon distance in 1:36:56. 

Second half – Agony 
The second half starts by running through downtown, a 5 km stretch heading west ward, first onto King Street and then onto Wellington Street. It was nice to run on familiar ground for a bit, and getting the first real chance to run on flat roads since the race started. We made friends with a couple of other runners as we ran in a 5 pack for the next 20+ minutes. As we ran through the financial hub, we got a sneak of some landmarks – Air Canada Centre, CN Tower, Harbourfront, Rogers Centre, Billy Bishop Airport – every now and then, between those tall buildings on the south side.

26 km in, I let Patrick know that my right Achilles was bothering me for the last 10-15 min, and was only getting worse. We decided to keep at a 3:16-3:17 pace, letting go of a couple of folks who looked strong. If this wasn’t enough, my left Achilles also played along and bothered me from the 34th km. As I was being a cry-baby, I learnt much after the race that, Patrick was also having issues with his right knee from the 16th km. But he kept pressing, because I was counting on him. Isn’t he a stellar of a dude or what! 


Back to the race, it teases by taking you adjacent to the finish line, heading further west as you get into the last third of the distance. The final 14 km is an out-and-back from Ontario Place to Humber Bridge, on the Martin Goodman Trail. I was hurting in my Achilles, but I was feeling alright otherwise. My stride was good and breathing normal. For the first 5 km out, we enjoyed some tail wind. 2 km to the turn around, and I could feel the wind picking up. The turnaround as such is a small cone shaped trail section that houses the park boat ramp which you circle around, and make your way back. I would imagine that it would be easy for many runners (especially the back packers) to be confused to which turns to make. 

The conditions started to worsen in the last 8 km. With light rain and headwind, my body was getting cold. And the series of inclines (that at this point felt like mini hills) was making it only worse. I saw Shumit and Ryan before and after the turnaround, and they too looked spent. When you feel like you are pushing hard and your pace is 45-50 seconds / mile slower, you know that it’s not your day. I was determined to keep moving, and that’s all I managed. All the above factors meant that I lost about 3:40 in the last 8 kms. Crossed the finish line in 3:19:41, a PB by 5:07. 


Post-race 
I felt a huge amount of gratitude for Patrick for giving up his time, energy and more importantly, a potential good time for himself. I don’t think my embrace and words could relay my deep appreciation of his selflessness. Thank you so very much Patrick, you’re the best dude. 

Patrick continued to help me beyond the finish line. I was hypothermic and was trembling like crazy. He helped me grab my bag, change into some dry clothes and get into some shelter to warm up. Standing at the massage tent was not going to cut it, since I could not cease to tremble. We then moved to the medical tent where I was first made to go horizontal, wrapped up in a few layers of mylar blankets and cotton sheets as my body temperature plummeted to 34C. I was then advised to sit next to the heater. Finally, after about 55 minutes my temperature returned to normal and I could walk and talk without moving like a bobble head. I realized that I was not the only one since many runners seem to have faced the same fate. 

I have to mention here that the race organization in many quarters was below par. The bag check area at the finish line was unattended and uncovered. I know of a few folks who picked up their bags to only find wet clothes in them, and I also met a lady (who I would think isn’t the only victim) who couldn’t find her bag. There were supposedly two aid stations where gels were available – 28th km mark and 41st km. a) I didn’t see them handing out gels at the first aid station, b) why would you want to give out gels one km to the finish!!?? The race t-shirt I hear was of better quality and design a few years ago; honestly, I couldn’t care too much about the t-shirt, but I might imagine a majority do. The medal is huge, which is good as this seem to be their unique selling proposition (not that I’m a fan of medals either!). I just hope it’s does not become their ONLY selling point. 


In the last few days, I’ve had a chance to reflect about my race. I’m very grateful to have been able to complete another marathon; another lesson to be absorbed. If there’s one thing I can take away, it’s confidence. I know better than to expect perfect conditions on race day. Receive what you are offered, and adapt accordingly. Given the sub-optimal training season until now, I thought many facets of the race day turned out well – the target in hand, the ability to sustain the pace all along and the determination to stay strong when the going got tough (in the last 10k). I’m confident of only getting stronger in my next phase of training, as I work towards creating a great memory in Berlin. Here’s to better times ahead, literally! 

~ Navin Sadarangani

Share/Bookmark

28 April 2016

Pound for pound

Have you ever obsessed about weight as a runner?

Feel like if you could only get to that 'wafer-thin' status you would fly down racecourses like an elite-level marathoner?

I sure have.

Even now as I prep for another race this weekend (my first running of the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon, albeit as a pacer for a friend) I'm wishing that I was just 3-4 lbs. lighter.  Perhaps I'll get there for my goal marathon in Ottawa at the end of May - and if I do then perhaps it'll be thanks to some of these tips and tricks for tweaking my bodyweight.  Enjoy, and please let me know what you think!



Share/Bookmark