28 July 2013

the beaches jazzfest 20k tune up run - race report

i'll call this a race report even though it's marketed as a 'tune-up run' for the scotiabank toronto waterfront marathon.  the beaches jazz run comes in a variety of distances - 20k, 10k and 5k, and i registered for the 20k as a tempo run/test-the-waters distance to see just how ready i am to hit a BQ come september in erie, pennsylvania.

i tried to treat this like any other race, although it falls smack-dab in the middle of a normal-ish training week.  from stocking up on the appropriate gels, to drinking everyone's favourite refreshment all week - beet juice - to hitting the hay at 8:30pm on saturday night to ensure a decent 4:20am wake up, i tried to leave no pre-race stone unturned.

the one thing that may well have tripped me up in terms of my race-week preparation is that my coach had prescribed a mini-taper approach to the runs leading up to sunday.  my thursday tempo run i actually ran faster than required, and i may have overcooked my system a bit even though it didn't feel like too much.  more on this a bit later ...

race day
the plan was to trek down to my buddy stan's place and park in his driveway, as it's about 1km from his house to the start line.  we met up at around 6:30am (after he'd downed his sausage mcmuffin) and proceeded to the 'expo' tent.  it wasn't really much of an expo since it wasn't a race (no chip timing), but that also meant that the kit pick-up was no-muss no-fuss.

after depositing the goodies that we received are part of the kit back at his place, we got ready to put in an easy 2k warm-up.  i say "got ready" because it took my garmin 305 about three or four minutes to find the satellites.

yes, in the middle of the park it asked me if i was indoors.

by the time that we'd returned to the start area from the warm-up, it was practically countdown time.  we located our pacer - as this run is a tune-up for a full marathon, we found that they provided pacers who targeted 3:10, 3:15, 3:20, etc.  the 3:10 pacer walked into view and we flagged him down ... only to find out that he didn't know up until he arrived that he was pacing, so he didn't even have a watch with him.  it was going to be up to us to let him know whether or not we were on target.

in the 'chute', the 3:10 pacer was at the front of the line, so stan and i actually got to take the starting pose that you see many elites in as they are poised at the leading edge of the pack.  probably the only time i'll ever get to be in a situation like that.

the race
we started off into a decent headwind on a cloudless morning.  our pacer took us out at what he thought to be the right pace (having paced numerous other marathons apparently), but our handy-dandy GPS-enabled wrist computers told us that we started out just a bit on the quick side.  typical of early-race adrenaline.

it was at about 5k that we settled into a decent pace - 4:24ish/km.  peter the pacer (aka peter rabbit) was clear of stan and i by about three metres and expanding his gap.  at 10k i'd hit my PB for that distance (43:41) but was also starting to feel the stride shorten up.  stan was still moving like clockwork - it was both amazing and distressing ... but hey, this guy's gone sub-3:00 for the marathon and is training for sub-2:50.  

at 15k the fabled 'elastic' between stan and i broke, and i was on my own to finish up.  this was the point at which i began to seriously wonder if pushing out 8k at 4:17/km pace on thursday had been a good idea.  i tried to muster up more energy but it just wasn't translating to increased speed.  kilometre by kilometre i was slowing, and one or two people passed me by.

at 19k something really odd happened - i'd never felt anything like it before.  i can only describe it as a spasming of my diaphragm ... it wasn't like a side-stitch, but like my entire core was tightening and i could only take in maybe a 1/3 of a breath of air.  i liken it to hyperventilating, and it felt like all systems were shutting down, and i was in (audible) yelping mode.  my pace dropped to something like 5:12/km, but it did allow me to breathe a bit better and when i felt like i'd regained the use of my lungs and abdomen i picked up the pace to finish at a 4:23/km pace.  i crossed the line 1:31:03 (for 20.18k) - and i gotta say that it's now a strange feeling to finish a run wearing a bib and not receiving a medal.  i need to become more of a purist.

stan and i lingered just a little bit at the recovery tables littered with juice boxes, bananas, fudge-striped cookies as well as the required gatorade and water cups.  we wrapped up with a 2k cool-down run, after which i noticed that there were some sore spots on the bottom of my left foot, the result of some hot spots from wearing the skora phase as a distance race shoe.  i'm pretty sure that while they're one of my favourite interval/tempo run shoes, they're going to fall out of contention as my race day shoes come sept. 15.

then i got the privilege of hanging out (in my sweaty gear b/c i didn't bring a change of clothes) at chez ong.  after getting schooled on the race course i got schooled in the way of beyblades and was treated to a delicious vegetarian (i know ... me, vegetarian???) meal of curry udon noodles, soy-protein pseudo-veal and stir-fried veggies.

all in all, a day well spent in the beaches.  and i didn't even take in any of the jazz fest. 


18 July 2013

my mowph ith stuk wiff goop!

if you've been disappointed that i haven't been posting as regularly as i once was, i'm sorry about that ... the summer has been jam packed with work as i'm helping to get our volunteer team ready for the Rogers Cup tournament starting on august 3rd.  what started out as a fun volunteer gig for me with Tennis Canada has become a passion and a seasonal job working as part of the volunteer office coordinating the logistics and resources for our over 1000 volunteers each summer.  good times - just busy times!

but fear not, good townspeople ... this fanatical runner continues to log the kilometres.  even in this wicked heatwave.

on my coach's recommendation, i've begun to use a 4-bottle hydration belt (generously given to me by my friend trevor) on my long runs.  for probably 98% of all of my training over the past three years i've had no fluids, solids or gels with me - regardless of distance.  perhaps not the smartest move, but i've been reluctant to strap on anything that (a) restricts or constricts my body and (b) few things motivate me to move faster than the lure of refreshment/replenishment at the end of a good run.

now that the fuel belt (and yes, it is a FuelBelt) has been incorporated to my sunday morning routine, i've also decided to try bringing along gels to help get me through the 30+ km distances.  for those of you unfamiliar with gels, they are small packets (larger than fast food ketchup packs) of energy, often providing much needed
  • carbohydrates
  • sodium/potassium (which helps stave off muscle cramps) 
  • and sometimes caffeine
... for the endurance athlete.  they come in various flavours to suit just about any palate, and are usually quite affordable at a couple of dollars per single use gel.  they're usually sold at running specialty stores - but as i discovered with glee (and relief) they can also be found at well-stocked bicycle stores such as T.I. Cycle in gananoque.

i've tried most of the major brands of gels - powerbar, gu, hammer, clif.  to-date i've found that gu gels provide me with the most bang for my buck, although hammer nutrition's gels (promoted as all natural) are the easiest consistency for me to swallow.

in the gu brand, the flavs that i stock up on the most are:
  • strawberry banana
  • mint chocolate
  • jet blackberry
  • chocolate raspberry roctane (uber-caffeinated to wake me from my stupor during the late stages of the run)
while not everyone subscribes to using them, i've found that they work for me ... in the right proportion.  i'll usually take one every 35-40 min. during a long run/race, because it takes about 30 min. for them to really kick in as an energy boost.  other people can take them less frequently, and apparently lance armstrong can take them once every 12 minutes - but then i'm told he takes other stuff too ... 

are you a gel-eater?  what brands or flavours do you prefer?  and how often do you consume?

if you don't take them, what do you know that we don't?

02 July 2013

angle, schmangle.

recently i've been paying more attention to my running form.  maybe it's because i have this skora shoebox staring me in the face with it's run real slogan.  maybe it's my coach trying to get me to move with greater economy of motion.  maybe it's my constant amazement at how 5'2" tsegaye kebede can be one of the fastest marathoners on the planet.

whatever it is, i've been trying to pay more attention to form, and in particular stride rate.  there's a pretty steady stream of conversation about how both stride length and stride rate affect overall run speed ... with most pundits agreeing that the majority of recreational runners overstride in an effort to increase speed while putting forward too little turnover.  

as a result, i've worked on increasing my stride rate (although i haven't yet taken an accurate count, so it could all be in my head) and found correspondingly that i'm able to run faster - particularly during intervals and tempo runs - with less perceived effort.

even though i feel like i've stumbled onto something here, i realize that stride rate and stride length are just some of the simpler parts of the running form equation.  just today i was pointed to this great video that outlines some of the finer points of running form - it's definitely worth a watch:  

now i'm going to do some active isolation stretches till i'm gumby-like.