Training update: dispatches from the long run

Yesterday, I completed the last long run of my training for the NYC Marathon. I brought my phone in an armband (that I bought a week ago) to test how well it travels with me.

The first hour was just pouring rain; I don’t how well I’d fare for four hours of it. But it mostly stopped by the time I entered Pacific Spirit Park. The first picture was on the trail after mile 7;  the second is not even 15 minutes later. It made the rest of the run much more pleasant!

Imperial Trail in Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Imperial Trail, around mile 7

Salish Trail in Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Salish Trail, between miles 8 and 9.

Selfie on Salish Trail, Pacific Spirit Regional Park

Selfie on Salish Trail

Maybe it was all the breaks I was taking for photos, or to consume gels & water, but I survived the almost four-hour run, completing 21 miles (33.9 km). My pacing was consistent, and even on the five separate miles I sped up, my legs were up to the challenge. I just have to be just as consistent with pacing and fueling, and I think I’ll do well for the big race. I just have to endure three weeks of agonizing taper!

Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver, taken 11 October 2014

Kitsilano Beach, about mile 14.5


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…


Race report: 2013 Vancouver Eastside 10k

For me, this race is part of the lead-up toward the Okanagan Half Marathon. With four weeks to go, this 10k is a good test to see how I can handle the big race. My August was not what I was expecting in terms of training; a number of events that month took the focus off the running. As a result, the total distance run for the month is less than 100 km, the first time this year.

The Eastside 10k is a new race; the route is more-or-less an out-and-back that incorporates the parts of the old BMO Vancouver route through Strathcona until new courses were unveiled in 2012. It’s nice to have a run race back in East Vancouver, which is why I’m very enthusiastic about this race. The race’s charity partners are also very local and relevant to the neighbourhoods in which the race is run.

It was a dreary Saturday morning for a race, especially for one in late summer. There were about 1500 people ready to take on a whole new experience. The race starts on one of the viaducts leading into downtown Vancouver before emerging onto Prior Street in Strathcona. I know the terrain, since my bus commute usually goes through Prior, so I’ve anticipated the hills. The whole race does have a lot of small hills that can be off-putting to some, but for me, I like the challenge. I’ve always enjoyed powering through the uphills and passing people along the way.

The course goes through historic Gastown (technically not in the Eastside) before turning around and making its way back to the start line. It’s nice to run on the cobblestoned streets, but disappointing that not a lot of people were around to watch. At the time I was running through, I was thinking about the annual cycling race that does laps around Gastown (held on a weeknight with plenty of spectators) and whether a race held later in the morning could attract more crowds.

The theme for the races I’ve run this year seems to be humid. Because of the mist-like conditions that morning, the humidity was pretty high. I was sweating very early on, and I’m sure that wasn’t because of how fast I was running. By the end, I was regretting not packing a change of clothes.

Another theme that has emerged is new personal best. With a chip time of 53:18 (on a negative split), this is the third separate race distance this year for which I’ve established or broken a PB (or PR, I use them interchangeably). The half marathon beckons in less than four weeks. Can I make it four PBs in one year?

Overall, I’m definitely going to put the Eastside 10k as a race to put on my calendar from now on. By itself, it’s a great course, but it’s also scheduled so that it can be a dress rehearsal for a longer-distance race later in the fall. This is a great addition to the Vancouver running calendar.

Training update: 5 weeks to 5k

Today is the first day of a very brief training cycle. I am 5 weeks away from racing the 5 km event at the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. Believe it or not, this will actually be my first ever 5 km race.

Based on recent performance on other race distances, I could break 25 minutes for the 5k distance. However, I’ll be training instead to go under 26:00. I think it’s a realistic challenge, especially considering the short span of time in which to train. I adapted a program that was published last year in an issue of Runner’s World. The miles-to-km pace conversion was a pain, but I think I calculated the appropriate paces for the various workouts.

Training calendar - 5 weeks to a 5 km run race

Click to view a larger version

There isn’t much of a change from the last training cycle as there is one day for tempo, one day for intervals, and a long run done over goal race pace. Given my current runemployment status, and allowing for nice spring weather, I’m hoping to increase the number of my runs per week from three to four; a fifth day can be used for an easy run or cross-training. Do you think my approach will work, both for a first-time 5k, and the short period of time to train for it?

Race report: 2013 BMO Vancouver Half Marathon

Before I tell you about what happened during the race, let me catch you up with what has happened in my training.

I more or less followed the Furman FIRST program all the way through. Without a GPS watch to track instant paces, I found myself running slightly faster than I should be during the weekend long runs.

With six weeks until race day, I ran the Spring Run-off 8k, and broke my PB at the distance. I felt really strong throughout, and finished fast in the last kilometre despite a sustained uphill. This performance definitely gave me a boost in the final stages of training.

The morning of race day was unusually warm for Vancouver, and this was for a 7:00am start for the half marathon. The temperature at that time was around 15°C (59°F). Given the conditions, I brought a water bottle and some extra gels with me, and resolved to take it easy in the early sections of the race. My goal was still to break two hours.

I don’t know if I took my advice too seriously, or if it was the slight uphill that marked the start of the race, but the 1st kilometre was run around 6:30 (10:27/mi). I did gain pick up the pace on the downhill toward the Cambie Bridge (taking care to control the descent), but the warm spring day was really felt on the bridge deck; without any buildings to provide shade, it was the first real test racers had to endure.

I reached the 5 km marker just under my target time, so I was surprised given the first kilometre. The downtown and Yaletown segment was tougher than I expected: long stretches of uphill, uneven pavement, and constant turns. But I got to the halfway point just over one hour, which put me in a good position provided I could nail the negative split.

The second half was along Beach Avenue, into Stanley Park and out to the finish line on Pender Street. The shade provided by the trees definitely helped with keeping things cool the rest of the way. There were some hills here too, notably on Pipeline Road; I considered that the make-or-break part of the course in terms of a strong finish.

The last 600 metres were run on Pender, and despite the early hour, the crowds were there, 4 or 5 deep, cheering us on for a strong finish. I thought it was great to see everyone there, and the atmosphere was electric as I crossed Bute Street and the finish line.

Finisher's shirt and medal for the 2013 BMO Vancouver Half Marathon

Finisher’s shirt and medal. Note the past-tense “RAN” on the shirt (it’s also on the other side of the medal). This shirt has to be earned!

My chip time was 1:59:02. Considering the morning heat, I was totally happy with my performance. I feel the training paid off, and that I’m in a position to challenge my personal best of 1:57, which I’ll likely do this fall.

The half marathon was capped at 10,000 runners, and despite the corral system, I felt that I had run with most of those 10,000 the whole way. There just weren’t many areas where runners spread out. This was clear in the water stations; I had to stop dead a few teams in order to weave around other runners pulling out with their water.

The race directors do get some props on placing the bag pickup mere metres from the finish line, instead of the long slog to the convention centre last year. (At least it was long for me, considering how I finished the marathon in 2012.)

So far, 2013 is turning out to be a good year for running, and with at least three more races the rest of the year, I hope that it gets better.

Training update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, but I’m taking the opportunity of the new Family Day holiday here in British Columbia and put something new on the blog.

You can see on the sidebar on the right my race schedule so far. My current training cycle is for this year’s BMO Vancouver Half Marathon. I’ve also signed up for a series of races ranging in distance from 5k to 10k. Apart from the annual 8k Spring Run-off, 5k and 10k races are quite lacking in my schedule. In fact, this year’s Scotiabank 5k is the first race I’ll run in that distance.

For my current training, I’m using the Furman FIRST plan, with slight adaptations. One of them involves the weekend long run. Over the 16 weeks of training, I’m gradually increasing the distance at which I’d be running at a pace that is slightly over goal race pace, instead of running the full distance at that pace. It’s been a few years since I attempted long runs with some race pace in it, and with the intensity involved in this program, I do need a few kilometres of easy running.

The Furman plan recommends including cross-training on one, maybe two, days that I’m not running. As it’s one of the goals I set for myself this year, it’s something I haven’t done yet in this cycle, but hopefully I can squeeze some in before the race in May.

Race report: 2012 Surrey Half Marathon

Posing with the finisher's medal for the Surrey Half Marathon

P366:335 – Surrey Half Marathon

I’ve totally neglected the blog over the last couple of months. But I’m not going to neglect the tradition of posting a report after a running race. This past Sunday was the inaugural running of the Surrey Marathon. Like the Green Sock Half this past March, I’m treating the half marathon event in Surrey as a stepping-stone in my training for the NYC Marathon. My intention was not to break my PR, even two hours, but to get a feel of marathon race pace for the big day in New York five weeks hence.

It was a great fall race: the weather was cool and cloudy, and the number of participants was small enough that everyone spaced themselves out after the first kilometre. The course looped counterclockwise around north Surrey, touching a number of the city’s largest parks before returning to the start point in the city centre. The course was generally flat with some gentle hills, but there are a number of turns, including a turnaround point on a (closed) Fraser Highway in Green Timbers Park. I personally liked when the race went off-street and into a couple of greenways that felt really serene when I ran on them.

The plan was to go very easy for the first few kilometres, pick it up to marathon goal pace for the majority of the half, then finish at a slightly faster pace. I executed it perfectly: averaging about 6:40/km (10:45/mi) in the first 5 km, and 6:25/km (10:20/mi) in km 5-15. I wasn’t thinking of a particular finish time, but 2:15 was reasonable. When I got to km 15 and noticed I would have to pick up the pace just to make 2:15, I picked up the pace. At some point the lead marathoner passed me (completing a 2nd lap of the course), and I vainly tried to catch up, finishing that particular km in a time of 5:25. In this last section, I assessed my progress each kilometre and felt I was on track to beat 2:15. Knowing this I slowed down slightly, but picked it up again in the last 500 metres, finishing in a chip time of 2:13:42. The last 5.1 km were all run under 6:00/km (9:40/mi).

Approaching the finish line of the Surrey Half Marathon

Finish line (photo by instagrammer freshlemon)

Surprisingly, I didn’t cramp near the end as I had done in previous races. It was also a good thing I wasn’t gunning for a PR, because the first half of the race seemed to lack adequate fluids at the designated aid stations. What could have been a table for drinks was shockingly empty, and I was left to downing my gels (at my usual long-run frequencies) without the requisite water. And speaking of water, I was disappointed that among the post-race treats for runners was bottled water.

However, I was quite pleased with the “music markers” scattered throughout the course; in keeping with the international theme for the race, a number of different countries were represented. The “Indian mile” along 88th Avenue, and especially the high-tempo performance when I passed in front of Bear Creek Park, was one of my favourites. Overall, I liked running in Surrey, and it’s now added to a dizzying collection of area races held around this time of year (the others are Victoria and Okanagan). Next year’s fall race might be a tough one to choose!