Sunday, June 27, 2010

Getting Off My Backside

Man, I've got no motivation at all. I've been lazy and not even thinking of running. Perhaps because all the races I signed up for are done. And I'm supposed to be hiking now, getting out in the mountains on the weekends instead of staying in the city, running early to dodge the summer heat.

As I stepped out the front door, my neighbour walked around the corner. Another runner, and much more serious about it than I. We had passed each other often in the last five years, one of us heading out while the other was just back, or passing on the river paths.

So we ran together for awhile and chatted a bit. It was warm, a typical summer day, and we were out in the late morning. At Crowchild, she continued on, while I turned back. Given how often I've been out in the past few weeks, a 10 K was about all I was up to, and I was moving kinda slow, too.

Distance: 10.36 Time: 1:05:59
Average speed: 6:22 min/km. (9.35 kph)

Shoes: New Balance 769 (Blue).
Weather: Sunny and 21C.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Missed the Rain

It's been an odd day over all. Accidents, and several lightning induced fires. Thunderstorms and rainshowers, and sunny moments.

I just missed a shower when I left work, and it cleared quite nicely as I walked home. Of course my rain jacket just soaked up the heat form the sun.

I was out of the door in running gear shortly after I got home, and trundled down toward the bluff. It's busy down there lately, with all those bootcamp groups running, stretching, lifting, climbing, jumping and whatever else they do. It's a little bit of a traffic jam at times.

I tried going westward on the south side tonight. The promenade was sort of busy, but there was lots of room. It was warm enough, and there was a small chance of another shower, but that never materialized.

All in all, it was a pretty unremarkable run, except for the fact that it's the first time I've been out in a week. The Path was a little challenging, but ain't it always so.

Anyway, I had a nice, sweaty, huffy, puffy hour.

Today's run:
Distance: 10.04 Time: 59:31
Average speed: 5:55 min/km. (10.12 kph)

Shoes: New Balance 769 (Blue).
Weather: Fog and 4C.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Schedule

I'd like to get out and do some hiking on the weekends so the weekend runs might take a hiatus for awhile. But tonight was just getting back into the groove.

I took a week off after the Banff Jasper run, a little recovery time. And it felt good to take it. I'm still marvelling at how freakishly good I ran that. I place 31st out of 33 runners on that leg, in other words, not last. So I'm quite happy with that. Given that stellar performance, our team placed 11th over all, and 3rd in the corporate division, which meant medals!! Suh-wheet!!

So anyway, I'm over that, mostly, physically. Back to my natural stiffness. Tonight was good, though. I got a chance to loosen up some. But what a grey day. The rain held off all the while I was out there, but it just kept getting darker and darker.

Nothing special, just a solid run.
L n K
Distance: 10.19 Time: 58:24
Average speed: 5.43 min/km. (10.47 kph)

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Banff Jasper Relay

The dreaded Big Bend! This is what happens when you volunteer to do whichever leg they need a runner. No one wants to do this one, cuz you climb 400 metres in the first 5.5 kilometres. It's a pretty relentless climb, and I wasn't sure I was up to it.

I wasn't sure I was even ready to try that morning. I barely slept at all. I got to my hotel at Lake Louise late, and grabbed a late dinner that kept me tossing and turning. Getting up at 4:30 in the morning, all I had for breakfast was a banana and some grapes before I drove the hour and a half to the starting point of the north half of the relay, at Saskatchewan Crossing. I got another banana and coffee, thinking that was about all I could handle about then.

I managed to find some of my other team members, and we susssed out a plan for supporting runners and ferrying vehicles along the route. At 7:00 the first set of runners were off.

Once they had disappeared around the bend, people dispersed to get some breakfast or where ever. I talked a little more with my team mates, and then drove to the first hand off. The first leg was about sixteen and a half kilometres, and our runner was only thirteen minutes past the forced start. Actually a really good run for someone who just started running less than a year ago.

We sorted out some changes about who was driving what and drove to the next hand off point - my start.

Once there, we had about an hour before we thought our runner would arrive. I dithered a bit about how to dress, and decided to go with shorts and tee, with a vest. Over that I wore the required high visibility vest and pinned on my number. I did some stretching and ran up the highway a couple of times, trying to loosen up and settle down.

From the curve in the highway that gives the Big Bend leg its name, the highway slithers up the side of the mountain at what looks deceptively like a gentle slope. From our starting point you can see about a kilometre of it before it curves around the mountain side.

Our runner made great time, showing up well before the forced start time and accompanied by lots of excited loud cheering from all of us waiting at the hand off. In fact he was 19 minutes ahead of the forced start for my leg, so I got a great start ahead of many of the teams. After he handed off to me, I got a loud cheering start from everyone and started down the highway.

The shoulder is terrifically narrow all the way up the first couple of kilometres or so. I tried hard to keep my pace even, pushing enough to make some headway, but paying attention to my breathing, two steps to inhale, two steps to exhale. If I couldn't maintain that rhythm, I would know it meant I was pushing too hard. Just to maintain a good pace it seemed more important to focus on that than on what the GPS was telling me about pace.

I had set up my GPS as usual for a long run, intending to take a one minute walk break for every nine minutes of running. When the alarm went for the first walk break I kept running. This run required a full commitment, so every ten minutes when the walk break alarm went off, I ignored it.

Around the first corner, the road steepened even more. Two hundred metres of that and my calves were aching. I had a knot forming in my hip too, but none of these aches were enough to slow me down. I think my body was telling me that what I was doing was harder than usual.

I pulled back my pace a little to maintain my breathing rate, and runners began to pass me. I fully expected that. On this leg, I think many teams put their strongest runners. Also the slight drizzle that had accompanied me up the long stretch from the start, had turned into a bit of a downpour, then a blizzard. A wind had come up to drive the sleet some, and it stung my bare arms and legs, and my face, and the sound of it hitting my racing number rattled like sand in the wind.

It didn't last. About the time the slope eased considerably the sun came out, and the temperature climbed. The wind died as well. This kind of thing continued throughout the entire run. We were subjected to every kind of weather possible, through several cycles.

This easy slope, though still going upward, was a great relief for the calves. And by the time I reached it, my hip had stopped bothering me as well. About this time the GPS finally locked on the satellites again. It had lost connection near the first curve, so had lost about three kilometres of distance in its register.

The support crew was great, and the first few times they were out with cameras, so I hammed it up as much as I could. I was feeling really good, maybe even a little cocky, so it wasn't too hard. I had them stopping every kilometre and a half so I could get some water, and it gave me another kind of measure of my progress too.

The road steepened once more, enough to get my calves complaining again. It felt like I'd been climbing forever, but I also felt like time was going by pretty swiftly. I tried to remember to look around once in awhile. It's a beautiful place to run. The cloud stayed high, so I could see the mountains. There was lots of snow, and the creeks and waterfalls were full and flowing noisily. Sometimes I could hear the roar of water from somewhere close by.

I finally reached the summit, although I wasn't sure. I didn't see a marker, and I don't know if there is one. But the highway started a downward slope, and I could feel the relief of the pressure in my calves . Runners continued to pass me every once in awhile, and the weather cycled through the hot sun/pouring rain/driving blizzard cycle what seemed like every ten minutes. I met the support team and had a drink every mile or so.

About three kilometres to go, I felt the downward slope more strongly. It wasn't steep, but it was definitely downward now. I lengthened my stride. At the last stop of the support team, I waved off the water, and said I'd see them at the end. I could see the building that holds the restaurants and souvenir shops of the icefields; the highway curving to the left. The big glacier came into view about the same time I resolved the hand off point. I glanced over every once in awhile; it's a pretty commanding sight.

As I got close to the hand off lane, I saw someone waiting for me - I had beat the forced start! That was totally unexpected. I hadn't thought I'd be anywhere near fast enough on that climb to get to the end before they started the remaining runners at the designated time. As it turned out I was twelve minutes ahead of it. Just unbelieveable!

I slapped the next runner's hand and he took off. I ran out through the lane and a couple of team mates were there with cameras and water bottles. I was elated at how well I'd done, and at how good I felt.

I think this was my strongest, most solid run ever. I had tackled the toughest leg on one long relay through some very challenging terrain, and I'd done pretty darn good.

Here's the elevation profile for the leg I ran from the runner's manual Dig that first six kilometres:

Because the GPS lost satellite contact, I'll use my time with the stated distance of the run.:
Distance: 15.78 Time: 1:37:21
Average speed: 6:10 min/km. (9.73 kph)
L n K!
Shoes: New Balance 769 (Yellow 2).
Weather: just about everything possible in the mountains.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

An Attempt to Keep Going

I should have taken the week off, I think. I was still a little depleted from the half marathon, and I think I needed the recovery time. It wasn't a half bad run though.

I went east toward the zoo again, and crossed Memorial at St. George's Avenue to run up Tom Campbell's Hill. And from there I did the usual threading up and down the bluff.

But when I crossed Edmonton Trail, I realized I was going to be late to meet a friend, so I instead of the last two hills, I ran straight home.

It was good, but I didn't feel the solidness in my legs that's usually there. The half marathon seemed to use up any looseness that I normally have.

Tuesday's run:
Distance: 9.08 Time: 56:33
Average speed: 6.13 min/km. (9.63 kph)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

2010 Calgary Half Marathon

I dressed for running, attaching the timing chip to my shoelace, and pinning my bib to my windbreaker. It was chilly and wet when I walked out the door just before 6:00 am. At least there was no wind, but I wore my rain jacket over a fleece on the walk down to the start line for the Calgary Marathon and Half Marathon. The web site said there was no parking near the area, and suggested taking the train. I think the nearest train station to me is about the same distance as to the start line, so walking seemed the best choice.

The walk warmed me up some, too, and got my legs loosened up a little bit. I got to Bridgeland and the park where all the tents and activities were set up, and walked across to the bag check. I stuffed my jackets into the bag that came with the race kit, and stuck on the sticker with my bib number. Then queued up at the porta-potties.

Once through that, I walked and stretched and did some light running to warm up some more, then queued up again. Then some more warming up. I probably should have queued up a third time.

Alexandra appeared out of the crowd as I stopped to stretch my calves at the curb. She took a couple of pictures to send me, my "before" picture, though there would not be an after pic. She was not running but would be handing out medals at the finish line.

About then it was time to queue up for the start. I pushed through the crowd to and got as far up as the 2:30 sign (the expected time to complete the half marathon) before the crowd got too thick to push through. And then it was waiting for the start.

When the start gun went off, it was the usual pushing forward two steps, then standing for a minute while the three or four thousand runners ahead of me funneled through the start gate. I shifted from shuffling to running about five paces from the start mats.

The crowd was pretty thick, and Centre Avenue is a little narrow, so it was slow going for awhile. Turning onto 12th Street didn't make a lot of difference even though that street is wider. It stayed a little congested down to St. George's Avenue, across Memorial and around the zoo. By the time we got to Inglewood, we were spreading out a little.

I was just following the crowd, trying to keep to my own pace and playing tourist a little bit. Turning down 21st Avenue at the Shamrock, I missed seeing those pillows they put on the street to add a punishing bounce to any car that drives over them over 30 kph, and nearly fell. I watched for them all the rest of the way through Ramsay.

After crossing the Elbow River, and getting onto 12th Avenue, it was pretty calm. No standout events, other than the comments while we passed Berard Callebaut Chocolates on 1st Street. that they would have made for a popular aid station.

On 17th Avenue, I was swept along. We made the volunteers for the Lilac Festival on 4th Street wait to cross while we ran through. 17th Avenue went by quite fast.

At 14th Street, the underpass seemed steep both going down and climbing back out, especially as we kept climbing to the top of the bridge over the Bow. The loop around to go underneath and on to Memorial was memorable, as we joined up with the 10K runners who came straight down Memorial from the start line.

From there it was a long slog. I don't know why it feels like such a long slow stretch. It seemed to take just a little time to cross Crowchild, but from there, it felt like miles and miles to the turn around point. It came up fast too, after looking for it for so long.

Flowing eastward, the crowd had thinned considerably, but we were a steady stream along the river. There were a surprising number of people on both sides of Memorial and on the overpasses cheering us on. I remember approaching 10th Street, but not crossing it. I don't really have much recollection of that stretch until we crossed under Centre Street.

I was glad to finally turn up Edmonton Trail just after passing the 20 km marker. Turning onto 1st Avenue, the long hill ahead seemed invisible, and I really didn't notice it much as I climbed it. I guess it's not all that steep.

From there we crossed over to Centre Avenue again, and I kept steady all the way across the line. Nothing left for a sprint to the finish, I was just glad to be done.

Alexandra was there handing out medals with several other volunteers, and she was quite excited that I finished in under two hours. The hug was a nice greeting along with the medal - thanks Alexandra.

I got a Mylar "blanket" but the thin sheet of silvered plastic didn't keep the cold away for too long. I gulped my bananas and cookies, got my jackets from the bag check, and called it a day. I had a good run.

My GPS results:
Distance: 19.71 Time: 1:46:32
Average speed: 5:24 min/km. (11.31 kph)
Rest distance: 1.59 km. Rest time: 11:00.
Total distance: 21.30 km. Total time: 1:57:32.

The official results are here.
My official time is 1:57:02 for a pace of 5:33.
I was 957th out of 2787, 618th out of 1119 males, 48th out of 111 in my age group.
L n K