Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Went Sproing

It's gorgeous out, very spring like and lovely for running. Another late meeting at work, so I was out a little later that usual. I was still in the middle of the crowd, sort of. The Stairs were crowded by the various boot campers, and the crossing to Prince's Island was busy. I dodged down the ramp to the path along Memorial.

All the paths are dry now, and there's very little snow left. Still lots of ice on the river, but it's piled on islands, great metre thick chunks lodged among buses, or caught up in low water.

Good run! I pushed hard all the way, stretching a bit with each step. It makes a huge difference in how fast I cover the distance. And it still feels great.

Cyclists are thick on the south side of the river, and some aren't too careful when passing. Some of the narrower stretches are a little too crowded for that. And there are lots of people out on the promenade when it's nice like this.

I stretched a little all the way around, and on The Path, I launched myself up the slope. Not quite so fast, but I pushed it. My average pace didn't come down much at all for that.

Along the top of the bluff, it got crowded, and I slowed down behind a foursome for a hundred metres or so before the break in the guard rail at 4th Street. Made it up in the last 300 metres though.

Today's run:
Distance: 10.11 Time: 55:09
Average speed: 5:27 min/km. (11.00 kph)

Shoes: New Balance 769 (Blue).
Today's earworm: Something by Sinatra that slips my mind now, L n K.
Weather: Partly cloudy and 10C.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Windy in the Hat

Not really, not where I was. I think I was on the lee side of the neighbourhood, and I ran through a lot of sheltered area.

I was in Medicine Hat, visiting my parents. I'd always thought that running the path along the valley that borders their neighbourhood would be an interesting run. The paved path twists along the prairie dipping into draws and coulees, sometimes edging a bluff that overlooks the rail line that goes to Saskatchewan. In some places the path is very steep so it's a little challenging going up or going down.

I left my parents place and walked a block or so before beginning the run. I ran down Cameron Road to the end, taking a little jog southward along Ross Glen Drive to where the trail came up to the street. The first stretch down into the valley was long and gradual. The slope slowed me down, as I don't have the flexibility that I used to have for downhill running.

The trail joined the one that continues in both directions along the edge of the valley, and for awhile, I was, elevation wise, halfway between street level and the valley floor. Then this wicked steep stretch, that looked and felt like nearly straight up maybe 15 metres. A little ways after that, and it dropped again, just as far and just as steep.

I was feeling it. Those cramps in the shins were persistent. On my mostly flat usual path here in Calgary, the cramps come for a bit, not too forcefully, and then go away after thirty or forty minutes. But after the first steep climb and descent this morning, they were undeniably there, and they were not going to go away.

That part was the steepest up and down, I think, of the whole run. There were several more, but not as dramatic. I ran across dry prairie, occasionally dipping into coulees, and across wooden bridges. There are several places where they cross the outflow of natural springs. Lots of flowing water, and last years weeds and cattails are thick in places.

I passed three intersections where spur paths lead back into the neighbourhood, but kept to the open prairie, the path quickly moved back from the edge of the valley, and finally made a last turn back to the streets and sidewalks. I followed, and turned to run northward along Carry Drive.

The sidewalks lasted for two blocks. Then I crossed Carry Drive at the top of the long hill to South Railway Street. It's not very steep, but it seemed to go forever, in reality at least half a kilometre.

At the bottom a trail lead along the bottom of the bluff. It was almost wide enough to be a street, a rather narrow one. And it turns out that it was, sort of. After another half kilometre, it veered across the small creek it had been following, as it came on what looked like a small farm yard. When things turn green, I can imagine the place to be a peaceful and private spot for whoever lives there, even with all the pedestrian and bicycle traffic that must travel along there.

Once across the creek, there was a large flat field, well trimmed, brown as everything else. I came up along side one of the commercial grain elevators that were built years ago on the flood plain in the valley. This one had a well faded logo painted on the side. Near as I could make out, Oglevie's Royal Household, registered trade mark. By the looks of it, it may actually be a flour mill.

A little way past that, and I was at Dunmore Road, just where it reaches the bottom of the hill. I ran under Dunmore and past a few metres, before deciding to turn and retrace my steps. I'd been running for about fifty minutes at that point.

Running beside the flour mill, I noticed the shin cramps were mostly gone. And it was warming up. I stripped of my wind breaker and tied the sleeves around my waist. At Carry Drive, the bottom of that long hill, I looked up with resignation. Climb I must. But you know, it wasn't half bad. The hill is long but not all that steep. If felt kinda good to run up that grade.

I crossed Carry at the top and then took the path into the prairie again. I don't thing there are many runners on that path. I met several walkers with dogs, and almost all reigned the dogs in as I passed, as if the dogs might be tempted to chase. I wasn't concerned; they were all friendly breeds, and just seemed to want to say hi.

I finished on that last steep up and down, then up to street level on Ross Glen Drive, then Cameron Road back to my parents place. No speed record today with all that up and down, but it was fun once I loosened up those cramps.

Today's run:
Distance: 13.93 Time: 1:26:33
Average speed: 6:12 min/km. (9.66 kph)
Rest distance: .76 km. Rest time: 9:00.
Total distance: 14.69 km. Total time: 1:35:33.

Shoes: New Balance 769 (blue).
Today's earworm: The Looney Tunes opening theme of all things! What's up, L n K?
Weather: Cloudy and 3C at the start, 8C at the finish, and breezy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March is Roaring

Not really loud, but it's definitely a typical March day, all wind and cloud with the occasional bit of sun. The wind still carries a winter chill, too.

I resisted the urge to over dress again, and as usual started out getting good and chilled. People running The Stairs were bundled up as were many walkers. It's not all that cold, but the wind was nasty.

A couple of years ago, when I ran down The Path Under The Stairs, I could take quick short steps and make some pretty good speed. It seems that since my last marathon, I've stiffened up, and I just don't have the flexibility for that anymore. Except tonight, I felt like I was getting close to that again.

I still feel it. My speed is way up, and I'm paying for it in the hips. I'm stretching a bit more in my stride and working things a bit harder. Knees complain sometimes, but those pangs are still transient, popping up in the middle of a run to last for a few paces before subsiding again.

I also believe that getting back to regular 10 km runs during the week is helping a lot too. That extra distance helps. I crossed the river at Crowchild and I consider the south end of that bridge to be the halfway point. So if I get there in 28 minutes or so, I'm doing good. Tonight I was two minutes ahead of that.

I counted steps a couple of times tonight. 180 steps a minute is supposed to be optimum, and both times I checked I was 174, so within range. But it's not the pace so much that's making me fast, it's how I'm stretching a little more than usual with each step. My hips are telling me so.

Coming off the promenade and over Prince's Island was when I slowed a little. I think. On the foot bridge I pushed pretty hard. I still felt strong toward the end, and my breathing was still steady. I'm amazed at that. Usually I'm puffing pretty hard when I push, but lately breathing has been steady even when I'm pushing it.

I bounded up the bottom two flights of The Stairs, sort of. Not much traffic today; I think that cold wind kept most of the booty campers indoors. On The Path, I decided to push hard all the way up, and for the last 50 yards I tried to run it like I would a level stretch.

Breathing was hard, but didn't fail me. I still had reserves. At the top, running along the edge of the bluff, I slowed for a minute or so, but my recovery to steady breathing was quick. So for the last 700 m or so, I stretched with each step, all the way home.

Forgot to write up Tuesday's run so here's the stats:
Distance: 10.97 Time: 56:39
Average speed: 5:09 min/km. (11.62 kph)

Today's run:
Distance: 10.09 Time: 54:41
Average speed: 5:25 min/km. (11.07 kph)

Shoes: New Balance 769 (Blue).
Today's earworm: Lili Marleen, of all things, and L n K.
Weather: Mostly cloudy and 1C, and darn windy, from the north at 40 kph, gusting to 50-ish.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Wow, Good Run!

That was some run. Felt really fast, and I think it actually was. It also felt really good. I do feel it in the hips though.

It's one of those early spring mornings (being still winter after all) where it clear and bright and sunny...and cold. How to dress? I opted for a long sleeve tee and my vest, along with the running tights. The first twenty minutes were darn chilly.

But what a busy day. Lots of people out running, big groups and small, and lots of singles. It felt great to be out in the middle of it.

Along Memorial both paths were busy. I tried the sprints in the middle of the running intervals again. Breathing was good, the sprint was good, everything was good. Felt the usual aches in the knees, the hips, the shins (darn those shins), but those ones don't last past the post-run stretch.

The run to Edworthy was nice, and the temperature had gone up considerably by then. I had a light pair of gloves that came off about then, and I rounded Angel's Cafe a few minutes ahead of my usual time.

The wind was from the west as usual, so for the return trip I had the wind at my back the sun at my front. I warmed up considerably. My sunglasses tended to fog up a little at times.

The whole run back was just as nice as the run out. To do the sprint, I run normally for about four minutes, run hard for one minute, and run normally for another four minutes. I noticed my pace after the one minute hard run was faster than my pace before it. The interval distances I was seeing on the Garmin showed I was moving faster too.

I don't know if it all matters that much. It would be nice to gain a new PR this year for the half marathon. The way I feel right now I think I can beat my old one of 1:50:03. It would be kinda cool to have a one hour and forty-something on my wall.

Not the goal though. I like running fast, but fast for me isn't all that fast. I like doing the races, and I like that I finish them, however long I take. I like that it keeps me in decent shape, too. As long as I'm moving, I think I'm doing good.

Man, the numbers almost look rounded!

Today's run:
Distance: 16.50 Time: 1:30:00
Average speed: 5:27 min/km. (11.00 kph)
Rest distance: .99 km. Rest time: 9:30.
Total distance: 17.49 km. Total time: 1:39:30.

Shoes: New Balance 769 (blue).
Today's earworm: Heart and L n K Soul .
Weather: Sunny and -7C at the start, -2C at the finish.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Where Was I...?

Ever have one of those moments, where you seem to be running on auto? I was out there running, and I remember some moments. The wind, the ice on the river, bits and pieces of it. Mostly I was zoned out, don't know where I was.

It was a good run, I think. Never felt much in the way of aches, seemed to have a good pace. I ran along the river, lots of ice still out there, crossed the footbridge under Crowchild. There was a little bit of congestion at Eau Claire and on the foot bridge near the curling club.


I was fully aware of The Path. I stretched and pushed hard once I got on it, pushed hard all the way up. I think that's the fastest I've climbed The Path in a couple of years.

It was on the trail along the top of the bluff that I sort of woke up. Very strange, but I know I sometimes focus inward pretty strongly.

It was still good. At the end I felt like I'd been working at it.

Tuesday's run:
Distance: 10.10 Time: 58:25
Average speed: 5:47 min/km. (10.37 kph)

Shoes: New Balance 769 (Blue).
Today's earworm: Just L n K.
Weather: Sunny and 12C.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Nope, It's Still Winter...

Not really. It has cooled off, and gotten windy, and we got a little bit of snow. I dressed for it, and it was all right to run in. It'll be back to spring in a couple of days.

It was a pretty good run though. I started off running into an east wind along the top of the bluff and was relieved to turn the hairpin to head down The Path. By the time I got to the bottom, I'd forgot about it.

On surprise was that the underpass under the Louise Bridge at the north end was open. Last time I looked it was still burried under a few feet of ice, but it's been cleared out and the water level on the river is actually a couple of feet below the walkway.

The rest of the run along the north side of the river was quite uneventful. I crossed at Crowchild, as usual, and ran back toward downtown, as usual. Trundled along the promenade, as usual, and crossed Prince's Island, as usual.

Actually I was looking inward a little, pushing a little bit. It would have been easy to turn off the brain and plod along, but I thought about where my feet were falling, and trying to stretch a little more with each stride. I don't think I made a huge difference, but it felt marvelously different.

At the traffic jam on The Stairs, I bounced up to The Path, and then did the same. Instead of plodding up with little short steps in a grumbling shuffle, I stretched a little. My breathing has really stretched, so to speak, and I noticed. I was puffing hard, but still had lots by the time I got to the top. I hit the trail on the top of the bluff without slowing down, and after a block, I was breathing quite normally for regular running.

I wonder if getting back to the 10 km runs has helped. Lately I've had lots of gas in the later stages of a run. I really notice it on Sunday mornings. Pushing harder so I can push harder, so to speak.

Tuesday's run:
Distance: 10.07 Time: 56:43
Average speed: 5:37 min/km. (10.65 kph)

Shoes: New Balance 769 (Blue).
Today's earworm: Heart and Soul L n K.
Weather: Cloudy and -1C.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I Do Believe It's Spring!

Gorgeous day! Sunny and clear, warm, stunningly lovely outside. A severe danger to today's plans for clean bathrooms and freshly folded laundry.

What a chilly start though. It was still frosty, but the wind was light and the sun is up reasonably early now, so inviting for light clothing. I put my shorts on and a tee, with my running vest.

It was brisk. By the time I got to the bluff, I felt the cold on my legs, and the sun wasn't quite up to being warming yet. I ran along the guardrail on the street side, and cut over onto the shale path at the top of The Stairs. The shale and underlying clay was still firm, very uneven as the footprints of the day before were frozen.

I headed down to the Centre Street bridge, and all the way was chilly. On the bridge itself, I was screened somewhat from the sun by the concrete barrier separating me from the traffic, and could feel the chill in the shaded areas.

Down on the promenade, it was doubly cool, being shaded in many spots, and there being a light westerly wind, to keep the coolness in those shadows.

But busy out there. It was fun. Lots of goodmornings and walkers and runners with dogs. Running under the Louise Bridge, it seemed strange to still see the wall of ice from when the underpass flooded a couple of months ago. Ice is still heavy on the river, and there is little open water yet going west from Prince's Island.

All along the promenade and almost to The Pumphouse, I felt cramping in my shins again. It wasn't to bad, and I knew that once I passed Crowchild the cramps would be gone. It seems to take forever to warm up all over, my hands were crampy and stiff form the cold until at least the Pumphouse, almost thirty minutes of running.

After I passed 14th Street, I decided to try something that I used to do up until I ran the Banff to Jasper relay. In the middle of my interval, I'd kicked up to a sprint, reaching more with my stride while keeping the same cadence, for about a minute. That actually helped with the shin cramps.

I continued to throw in the sprints as I worked my way to Edworthy. Before when I'd done this, I found I would be breathing hard at the end of the fast minute. This time, my breathing held steady: inhale, exhale, every four strides. That was very surprising as I expected to be more winded from pushing harder, but it seemed to not be making much difference.

I wonder how long I could sustain that pace? Perhaps I'm a faster runner than I thought. However, I also feel my hips right now, a bit more than I usually do. It could all be due to the wicked awesome massage I had yesterday too.

Around Angel's Cafe, quick bathroom stop, and heading homeward. The wind was behind me, the sun in front. I was getting warm and my sunglasses were fogging a little. I continued with the one minute sprints every ten minutes or so.

Approaching 10th Street, I held off on it until I crossed the street and was back on the path, and then pushed hard for the minute. One more walk break, then run, up the ramp to the footbridge and to the bottom of the stairs. Up two flights to The Path Under The Stairs, at which time it was time to sprint again.

I suppose the option was there to take it easy on The Path, but what the heck. On the steepest part of the path is where I did the sprint. This time my breathing was definitely affected. I slowed down just past the halfway point (it really takes over two minutes to climb that thing??) but kept pushing all the way to the top. Probably my best climb of The Path in a couple of years.

The temperature had really climbed while I was running. All that frozen clay on the trail along the bluff was now pretty mushy. I ran along the edge, but ventured on to the red shale when it looked drier. Of course, I kicked up a lot of the fine red gravel which made it's way into the back of my shoe, and which I occassionally limped with as I tried to shake it out from under my foot.

My last walk break ended just before I turned up 4th Street, and from there I sprinted the last 150 metres toward home.

Oh right, I forgot to write up Thursday's run, so here's my stats from that one:

Thursday's run:
Distance: 10.07 Time: 58:26
Average speed: 5:48 min/km. (10.34 kph)

Today's run:
Distance: 16.54 Time: 1:31:10
Average speed: 5:34 min/km. (10.89 kph)
Rest distance: 1.00 km. Rest time: 10:00.
Total distance: 17.36 km. Total time: 1:41:10.

Shoes: New Balance 769 (blue).
Today's earworm: An L n K smile.
Weather: Sunny and -2C at the start, 6C at the finish.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

That's Much Better

I had none of the cramping that I felt on Sunday morning. I don't know what that was about. I don't think I did anything different as far as stretching beforehand. Maybe the brisk walk home from work warmed things up.

It's still being gorgeously spring-like out there. The sun is still up even though it's after work, and most of the paths are dry pavement. There are a few wet spots here and there, and a couple of notably large ponds along Memorial Drive.

I may have been all right muscle-wise this evening, but breathing was different. It felt a little laboured. I dunno, am I complaining too much? Not a concern, but there always seems to be something lately. Couldn't be age, of course - heck no!

I ran up The Stairs instead of taking The Path Under Them. I haven't done that for awhile, and I've been thinking I should do that once a week or so, to use some different muscles, and challenge myself in a different way. Definitely laboured breathing after that, whoo!

The top of the bluff is nearly slush free, but is now a continuous set of ponds. The grass along the sides is soft and it's easy to pick up mud. I ran the street for a bit, then the sidewalk.

It didn't feel like all that fast a run, but it was good.

Oh hey, check out the countdown thingers on the side. Always wanted to put those silly things in there...

Tuesday's run:
Distance: 9.70 Time: 56:57
Average speed: 5:52 min/km. (10.22 kph)

Shoes: New Balance 769 (Blue).
Today's earworm: A happier L n K.
Weather: Cloudy and 0C.