Rapid review – Doctor Who: “Deep Breath”

Promotional image of the 12th Doctor and Clara

I considered just tweeting out my thoughts on the first episode of Doctor Who series 8, “Deep Breath”, but it became clear I needed more than 140 characters. Spoilery stuff below, so click on if you dare…

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Powell Street overpass complete, includes bike lanes

Earlier today, I took the chance to ride the just-opened Powell Street overpass in Vancouver. It has a separated bike lane, on the north side of the overpass. It stretches from Hawks Avenue at the western end to Clark Drive at the eastern end.

It’s only been open a few days, so I wasn’t sure how to approach it, as I was heading east from Downtown along Cordova Street. Hopefully signage will be coming up to let cyclists know how to access this heading east.

Separated bike lane on Powell Street. West end (at Hawks Avenue), looking east.

West end (at Hawks Avenue), looking east

Powell Street separated bike lane, east end, looking west (approximately Glen Drive)

East end, looking west (approximately Glen Drive)

I found it strange that both west- and eastbound traffic are on the same side (similar to the Dunsmuir Viaduct). The sign below is what greeted me at Clark Drive:

"Dismount and Walk" sign at the eastern end of the Powell Street bike lane, at Clark Drive.

Dismount and Walk

It’s a little incongruous that this bike lane just ends abruptly at Clark, without any decent connection to the rest of the bike network, although the start of the Mosaic route is two blocks away. (According to Richard Campbell, this connection is part of the city’s transport plan.) At least the city’s cycling options are growing!

Race report: 2014 Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon

Even though I’ve run this course before (the last time in 2010), I found that the hills (up and down) made it more tough when attempting to run for a personal best. But I had an almost perfect training cycle, which ultimately paid off with a new PB!

In my last update, I reported that training had been going well so far, especially in the month of May. It extended for most of June even though I had to juggle my runs around other things happening. There wasn’t much change in the format of the training (three days: tempo, intervals, long run with some race pace), so why mess with a good thing?

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Training update: Epic May

Sharing some quick stats for May:

  • 169 km (105 mi) run – my first 100-mile month in almost two years, when I was training for the NYC Marathon. Having five weekend long runs right at the peak of half-marathon training helps.
  • 155 km  (96 mi) total cycling; most of that is in the occasional commute to/from work. The last week of May was also Bike to Work Week; it was the first time I cycled to work each day of the week (I logged 67 km in total that week, including non-commute rides).

This past weekend, I finished my longest training run for the Scotia Half. This training cycle so far has been very good. I thought all the cycling would be a hindrance to the running, but that hasn’t been the case. Keep in mind that for my commute-cycling, I deliberately kept it slow to minimize the sweating that I’d endure when I get in to the office.

I’m now in a three-week taper, but the training continues…


Training update: creeping self-doubt

I’m halfway through a 12-week training cycle leading up to the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. This past weekend, the various races of the BMO Vancouver Marathon took place. I was on Cambie Street to cheer on the half marathoners as they started their race (my instagram video), sticking around to see all 10,000 of them pass. Despite the poor weather, a couple of my twitter friends did set new personal bests in the marathon.

Even though I shouldn’t, that got me thinking ahead to the NYC Marathon in November, about all the progress I’ve made in other race distances, but a decent marathon finish still eludes me. I’m seriously considering setting my goal for NYC to be a one-second PB, which is 4:39:20. According to the McMillan calculator, my half marathon PB translates to a marathon finish just over 4:00.

Maybe it’s because I don’t run marathons as often as I do other distances, but the self-doubt about a strong finish to a 26.2 is gnawing at me. But I still have a few months to fight it. I have a half marathon to train for, then I’ll tackle the marathon training separately after that.

And if there is anyone in the Vancouver area who will be running New York this year, let me know. I’d love to meet the local contingent heading to NYC!

Race report: 2014 Modo Spring Run-off 8k

This was the 8th running of the Spring Run-off 8k (I’ve run all eight so far!), and the first under the title sponsorship of Modo, the locally-based car-sharing cooperative, of which I am a member. The sponsorship gives the race a nice local flavour, and Modo certainly made strides to highlight that, showcasing other local programs and initiatives at the expo in the Stanley Park Pavilion, as well as putting on display several cars available in Modo’s fleet.

As for training for this race, I considered this as a maintenance period between two half marathons. I put in some strong tempo and interval sessions, and added some race-pace practice in the middle of the weekend long runs. Considering how I’ve been getting closer to the 40-minute finish time in past years, I felt I can challenge myself to break it this year.

I went to the start line, thinking I can start conservatively (around 5:05-5:10/km) and get the negative split. For some reason, the corral system didn’t work as planned; when the gun went off, I had to weave around some people, which can be dangerous in tight confines and on a downhill. Once the crowds separated themselves, I found myself finishing each of the first two kilometres under 5:00. I quickly changed strategy to ease up for km 3-5, hoping I’ve banked enough time. I found some folks with whom I kept pace, and that worked: I ran about 5:05/km for those three kilometres.

It became a different race when we passed the Prospect Point lighthouse and went into a headwind. Without many people I can chase, I decided to do small surges over kilometres 6 and 7. The second and last aid station was just after the 7 km marker, but it was also at the base of the long uphill (the first one). I should have foregone the sport drink and used the momentum from the last moments of the seawall to take me up the hill. Nevertheless, I reminded myself to use my arms to propel myself uphill, and even started passing other runners. There was a 400-metre flat section of reprieve before the cruel, final uphill to the finish. Throughout this last kilometre, I was very aware of my time and whether I can hold on to stay under 40 minutes.

When all was said and done, my chip time was 39:52. It was definitely one of the toughest races I’ve run. I’m happy I can now run a sub-5:00 pace (albeit just barely) for 8 km. The next challenge, of course, is to replicate that on a 10k race. But that’s for another time. My next race is the Scotia Half, and I’m hoping for more positive results!

39:52 (4:59/km, 8:01/mi)
198/771 overall
142/412 males
30/68 males 30-34

Race report: 2014 First Half Half Marathon

I just ran a winter race in conditions so ideal I thought I was running in the spring or fall. It certainly kept me off guard, as I was bracing for ugly weather; I even brought a hat and a toque to ensure proper head coverage. And by the end of mile 1, I was thoroughly overheated. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful day for the first half of the year!

Let me backtrack to the training. A couple of colds at the beginning and end of January really affected my running, and it was a little demoralizing as well. I even forced myself to cancel a weekend long run, which was beneficial to fighting the cold, but frustrating that I couldn’t do the run. By the time the second cold subsided, it was taper time, and I just accepted that these things happen, and to trust the training that I had done not just to that point, but over all the years I have been running.

Before the start, I was thinking of being really conservative in terms of pacing: 9:20-9:30/mi (5:47-5:54/km). As soon as the race started and I found myself running a 5:30 for the first kilometre, then a sub-9:00 first mile, I knew I might not be able to sustain it. As I mentioned earlier, I got overheated, but since I was wearing tights and no jacket, there aren’t places on my person to store them my toque and gloves. I thought of the next-best thing: between my tights and the shorts I was wearing under the tights. It wasn’t elegant, but I couldn’t really bear to part with those items of clothing.

As I usually do at half marathons, I mark split times on my watch at 5 km, 10, 15, and the finish. Interestingly, I recorded identical split times at the 5 km and 10 km markers: 27:33, or 5:31/km (8:52/mi). I slightly eased up, but my body was already ahead of my mind by that point. When the course entered the exposed part of Stanley Park, the cold headwind sapped my already-flagging energy. By that point, I was easing back toward a 9:00/mi average. (The course has markers each mile. I don’t know how I managed to calculate per-km and per-mi paces as I passed various distance markers.)

As the course left the seawall at Second Beach and made its way around Lost Lagoon, that’s where I felt totally drained. It was there that I passed the 10-mile marker at around one hour, 30 minutes (or 9:00/mi). Like I did in Kelowna last October, I started doing the reverse calculation: could I finish the last 3.1 miles in under 30 minutes? It didn’t get any easier, with an uphill section, and a stomach that could rebel if it wanted to, as it had done in earlier training runs. I had to take an extended walk break to calm down.

I passed the 20 km marker and figured that I had about six minutes to finish under two hours. Challenge accepted. I set aside what had happened in the last few kilometres and went for it. An uphill led to a downhill coast along Pacific Boulevard back toward the start/finish zone. By then, I was keeping an eye on my watch, hoping that I can make it. As I sprinted the last 50 metres toward the finish line, the gun time crossed two hours, but my watch still showed a 1:59 when I stopped it.

Finisher's medal and fridge magnet marking the finish time for the 2014 First Half Half Marathon

Medal and time-plate magnet with my chip time

1:59:37.67 to be exact! It was a finish that I’ll take pride in, because of the way I fought back in the last kilometre to save the goal time. Fighting the mind when self-doubt creeps in, fighting the body when there’s nothing left: it’s the quintessential race experience.

(Update, 02/20/2014, 22:50 PST: after reading one of the comments below, I realized I hadn’t put down what I had stuffed into my tights. Now you know…)