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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Race Recap: 2012 Springbank Half Marathon

44 years young!

I've stared at this blank page for long enough to know that I don't know what to write. This race took place a month ago now, and I just couldn't bring myself to writing much about it. But that's now changed. Something feels renewed, so here I am, writing a race report. Shall we?

A few months ago I had been approached by my coach in regards to helping pace one of our club athletes through their first marathon later in the fall. The idea of me pacing a distance donkey through their first marathon made me chuckle at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would be a great opportunity for everyone involved. So I smiled back at Steve (my coach), and nonchalantly said "Sure". He looked back at me in shock, and asked me if I had understood him clearly. And that's how I embarked on my mini-marathon training block with Leslie Sexton.

The Springbank Road Races Half Marathon was the first test we'd be putting ourselves through on our journey towards her 2:38 Marathon in October. The training leading up to the race had been going very well for both of us. I was slowly getting used to dialing my pace into the 3:45/km we'd need come race day, and for Leslie it took a little less adjusting as she had already done a previous block at this pace for the 2012 edition of the Around the Bay 30km. This however, would be my first attempt at 'racing' this distance.

The goal was to nail 1:19:00 as closely as possible through the twists and turns, ups and downs of the TVP along the Thames River from Springbank Park all the way to Harris Park and back. The morning was absolutely perfect for running. The temperature was just under 10C, the sun was shining and there was very little wind; I could not have asked for better.

The race unfolded quite perfectly. We had a nice pack until about 7km in, at which point Leslie and I distanced ourselves a bit. We were rolling through the course at 3:40-3:45/km, and it wasn't till we hit 20km that I started to feel the effort in my legs. It also happens that from 20km on the rest of the course is uphill. Oh joy.

In the final meters Leslie and I decided to stop just past the finish line, turn to face each other and shake hands. And that is exactly what we did. We crossed the finish line together in 1:18:44. Pretty close to our goal, and we both felt satisfied.

Leslie and I in sync as we finish up the 1/2 Marathon

Monday, July 23, 2012

Shoe Wear Over Time

There is so much talk about proper running form buzzing around, and within, the running community. There's always a new craze every other month. Pose this. Chi that. Minimal this. Barefoot just keeps going round and round.

I'm not here today to talk to you about how to quickly fix your running form. I'd like to provide you some evidence that changes do happen over time, and you don't really need to think much about it.

I'm not a heavy runner. I'm not exactly tiny either. I'm just shy of 6ft in height and weigh about 157-161lbs, depending on where I am in my training. Until this year I've worn a motion control shoe (the NB 850/940 has been my go to trainer). This year I decided that I would try and make the transition to something with a little less motion control, something a little lighter.

So I purchased a pair of New Balance 860v2 and New Balance 880 and made those my go to training shoes with some lighter flatter shoes thrown in for my track workouts. It wasn't without a bit of pain that I've managed to get my feet accustomed to less control, but it took time and lots of preventative work. But there was no change in how I made my legs move. It was not a voluntary shift. Every time I tried to force my legs to move differently, my feet to land differently or my arms to swing differently I would find a new pain somewhere along the chain.

So I resigned myself to stop worrying so much about it. I changed my shoes and hoped that as I continued to run lots I would become more efficient. I had no idea if I had become more efficient or not until I looked at the soles of the most recent batch of shoes I've worn.  I recommend you give them a look and see for yourself how my stride has changed over the last year.

Oldest Pair - New Balance 940

Not so Old Pair - New Balance 940

Newest Pair - New Balance 860v2

2012 Track Season Recap

Wow, it's been a while since I posted on this blog. My last race recap was back in June, after I attempted my first 5000m race on the track. Since then I've been busy working, running and trying to enjoy a rather warm summer in London.  Since I fell so far behind in my race recaps I figure I'll just dump it all on you in one massive post.

Sunday June 10 – RCLDS #3

At this event I ran my first 1500m race of the season. I had already kicked off my season with a 2:02.51 clocking in an 800m race in May, so I knew I had decent wheels, it was a matter of keeping it all together in the last 500m of this race. I went in with a seed time of 4:10 I believe, and what happened after felt very surreal.

After going through 800m in 2:15 (SLOW!), I managed to decimate the final 700m and dropped a 62 second last lap to finish with a 4:07.39! That's just a hair over half a second slower than my lifetime PB I set way back in 2001, when I raced my last track season prior to casting it all aside for years.


Friday June 22 – RCLDS #4: New Balance 1,500m Night

Fast forward nearly two weeks and my favorite race of the year is back. I had such a great time at this race last year ( Read my race recap here ). At this point I don't remember what the heat was like. I do remember it rained, only for my race, but I was moving so zen like that I didn't feel a thing.  I knew based on my previous result that I'd be looking to PB in this race, and I was seeded at 4:07 so IT WAS ON!

I again went through 800m a touch slow, but held on tightly throughout the 3rd lap to position myself perfectly to hunt down the field in the final 300m. I didn't eat up very many competitors, but I managed to post a new PB of 4:06.07. Just a hair above 4:05, and that kind of stung a bit since I had aimed to clock a 4:05 that night.



Friday July 6 – RCLDS #5: Forest City 5k

This was my 2nd 800m race of the year, and after my stellar start to the season in May, I was expecting big things from this race. I was planning on going sub 2:00 in the race, and when I saw my seeded time at 1:58 I realized just how much I had to want this in order to dip below that magic mark.

The race was rather uneventful, and when I crossed the finish line, thinking I had finished 3rd in my heat, I was ecstatic to hear over the loud speaker: "What a stellar finish, and with the top 3 finishers under 2:00!". I nearly lost it, had I actually run under 2:00? Turns out I hadn't. I was 4th and finished with a 2:00.84 clocking.

Sub 2:00 would have to wait a while longer. I then laced up again an hour later and helped pace Leslie to a 9:45 split in her 5000m, and we went through just about perfectly...about 9:43-9:44.



Saturday-Sunday July 14-15 - Athletics Ontario Championships (Ottawa)

I travelled to Ottawa for my first Athletics Ontario Championships EVER with some clubmates. The trip was great, though I found I had too much free time to get stuck in my own head. I had been dealing with a recent flare up with my knee and was worried that I wouldn't be able to make it to the start line, so that kept my mind busy as I whittled away the hours on Saturday.

First up was my favorite event, the 1500m. It was slated to run at 6:30PM in what felt like 1 million degrees and pure sun. I toed the line in the slow heat and was never in contention. I finished second last overall with a 4:14, well off my seasonal best of 4:06. It was time to understand what went wrong (just happy to toe the line, I forgot to race) and move on from it to nail my 800m race the next day.

After a quick dip in the Ottawa river we headed back home at 9PM, had supper at 11PM and I was in bed by 12:30. Back up early the next day, I headed to track focused on nailing that sub 2:00 barrier. I had to redeem myself and I only had one shot to do it, and less than 2 minutes to do it in.

Well, I went for it folks and it paid off. I came down the last 100m feeling pain I don't think I can ever recall feeling before. In the last few metres my knees locked and I slapped the track straight-legged, nearly sending me over board. I waited quite a while for my official result, and for the longest time all I knew was that the guy directly ahead of me was clocked at all came down to how close I was to him.

In the end the result was very satisfying. I had dipped below 2:00! I clocked a 1:59.94, just barely getting it, but getting it nonetheless. It was the perfect cap to a great season of track racing.


Friday, June 15, 2012

If you never try, then you'll never know.

that's right, I quoted Coldplay. Tough.

So after my last race one of my club mates asked me a simple question that I wasn't able to answer.

The question:
How do you run a fast last lap in a track race? I just don't know how you do it...
has made me spend some time thinking about my answer, and to form an answer I had to spend time actually thinking about why I was so successful at running fast at the end of a race. I had never heard his perspective, or at least thought about it from someone else's shoes, so when I began thinking about it, it became apparent the answer wouldn't be easy to elicit.

So what made me successful at running fast at the end of a race? Is it purely training? Mental ability? Drive? Reckless disregard? Fear?

It's probably a little bit of each of those, and other topics I didn't even list. But then I started thinking about how I handle pain, and I'm confident that my ability to manage pain plays a large part in my success at the end of a race.  To be truly successful in that last lap of a track race, you've got to be able to handle the level of discomfort needed to lay it all out. So I'm going to focus on the effect of pain, handling pain and the runner's ability to run a fast last lap.

Pain is a signal to the brain that we should stop a certain activity before we do any permanent damage. So logic dictates that if you feel pain, you should stop. That's exactly what I don't do. At what cost? Who knows, so far I haven't had any adverse effects (other than tight/sore muscles).

So now I'm wondering how pain levels work, and if it can be looked at in the same light as the speed of sound.  Take for example a supersonic air fighter. It crosses the sound barrier, and all of a sudden, you can't hear anything. Is it possible that the same thing happens with pain and the receptors within the body? Can we overload the brain to a point where it can no longer understand the pain signals, it cannot keep up with the deluge of signals, so that it just can't read any pain signals at all?

When I'm hammering away on my last lap, I don't ever remember feeling anything. I forget about my breathing. I forget about how much my lungs are burning. I forget about how heavy my legs get. I just run. Regardless of pain, I keep running. I push myself to see if I can handle just a little more pain...a little more....a little more....and what I've found is I don't ever get to a point where my body says "That's the end idiot, stop pushing".

And that's why I can run a fast last lap at the end of a track race.

Race Recap: 2012 RCLDS #2 The London Distance Classic

This was to be my 5000m track debut, and what a debut it was. I had booked the day off from work so I could rest up. My only twilight meet last summer was a bit of a mess, seems it's hard to 'perform' after 8 to 10 hours at the office. So I figured I'd err on the side of caution this time...except I found myself at CBI health at 9:30 that morning getting my shin looked at by the very best of the best, Rob Wingert.

I've been dealing with some tenderness in my shin/calf for the past 10 or so days, and after an easy workout on Monday, the rolling terrain mixed with speed work mangled my shin to the point where merely walking hurt. So I rolled into CBI that morning fearing the worst, but I had my worries put at ease nearly instantly when I was reassured it was likely not a stress fracture. From there we moved onto some general poking and prodding, ultrasound and taping. I left the appointment feeling optimistic that I would be able to race that night, but I still had quite a bit of work to do on the shin before I would know for sure.

So I spent the afternoon relaxing, stretching, reading, and massaging the crap out of my right shin.  Every hour I spent 10-15 minutes digging an ice cup into my shin. It wasn't until later that I would find out if my efforts would pay off, but I figured it was worth the effort to at least try. As I was leaving CBI I was told I'd be able to race that night, but that I shouldn't expect a great effort out of my leg. I was determined to prove that wrong.

The rest of the day was uneventful...I rested, stretched and read a book while the hours ticked by.  Before I knew it I was at the track, had picked up my racing kit and was chilling on the infield with other clubmates. LRDC fo'life yo! The night had other races lined up, you can see videos of all the races at

The goals for the race were pretty simple:
  • Work with Leslie Sexton
  • Run 3:10/km for as long as we could
  • Hang on for dear life
The race kicked off and we started rolling. I was boxed in early by two Speed River gents pacing their ladies, it would have been nice if they weren't taking up two lanes. So we clicked through the first km in 3:12, a touch off our goal pace, but within a decent margin.

....The next km was run in 3:15. UhOh.
....The next km was run in 3:17. Uhoh.

And so it continued until I finished in 16:21.  It wasn't a great race overall, but there were many positives to take from it. Most importantly, I just went for it and hung on as long as I could. I don't typically race this way and I knew it was risky, but in order to be great, one must take risks...and sometimes they don't always pan out.  This was one of those times.

Oh, and I got a new PB, so I guess it wasn't that bad of a race after all. I also want to thank everyone that showed up to cheer me on. 16 minutes is a long time to stare at me running around a track. You guys rock!

Stay tuned for my next race report, I crank out my first 1500m race of the season....

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Race Recap: 2012 RCLDS #1

Last weekend I kicked off my track season with the London Runner hosted RCLDS #1. This kick off event is also the Ontario 10,000m championship for Junior and Senior men and women. Along with the premier event are two other races, the full and half mile.

This was to be my first open 800m race since 2001, when I was graduating from High School. I managed to dip under 2:00 that season, just barely, and since then I've been slowly rounding into shape after my best winter of training ever. Needless to say, I was nervous throughout the day on Saturday in anticipation for the gun and my two laps of pain.

I arrived at the track early enough to settle in and chat with Leslie and I quickly realized I did not bring enough clothing to keep me warm, so I didn't waste too much time and decided to get into my warmup and give myself a solid 25 minutes to get the legs moving. It didn't take me very long to realize I left my watch at home, so I was going to fly solo for the warmup and my pickup, ah well, there was no sense in stressing out, I'd have plenty of time to do that after my warmup.

I was seeded at 2:03. Steve decided that all on his own and I felt it was an ambitious goal. I had already worked out my own goal, to break 2:05, and seeing my seed time shifted my mental approach a bit so I decided I had to get after it and get comfortable with the pain I knew I'd feel.

The goal was to go out in 61 and then hang on as well as possible to break 2:03, and if everything fell apart I'd still squeak in under 2:05.  We lined up in our staggered lanes, and my body was nearly shaking with nerves. I knew I just had to get the race started, but I tell you, in this situation 1 second feels like an eternity. The gun went off and before I knew it I was well behind the leaders coming through the 100m and even still at the 150m mark. I won't ruin the rest of the story for you because I can show you a video of my race.  So head over to and watch the video. If you're interested in reading some more once you've watched it, come back and keep on reading.


So, you came back, or you never left. Either way, let's keep this rolling. So I aced the race. I ended up running 2:02.51, just under my seed time and a great effort throughout the entire race. Here are my splits as I remember them:

200m: 30.XX
400m: 61.00 (200m split: 31s)
600m: 1:32.XX (200m split: 31s)
800m: 2:02.51 (200m split: 30.5s)

As I crossed the finish line I was very relieved, and so excited to see that I came so close to my seed time, and even beat it. I felt so strong in the last 400m, and I'm amazed to see that I was able to maintain that pace so evenly through the full 800m. Who knows, maybe I'll be flirting with a sub 2:00 effort by the end of the season?

I'd also like to give a shout out to my cheering section in the stands. Melanie, Sara, Wes, Brian and's so amazing to know I've got people who are willing to take time from their busy schedules to come see me run around an oval track.  You all mean so much to me!

And so, that's that folks. I'll be racing again this week, a 5000m on the track, my first 5000m on the track. EVER. Oh man, this is going to be interesting.
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