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Saturday, July 30, 2011

The 7AM Unspoken Bond

So I'm finally getting back into a regular running routine, and let me tell you, it has been nothing but struggles and bliss. I love feeling free again, able to just let my legs fly as I coast along the Thames River, but it sure is a pain in the ass to only be able to see out of one eye. Ah well.

I was out bright and early this morning, it was a wise decision considering it's been so stupid hot lately. So I made my way out this morning just before 7AM, after my first real night of sleep in many days.  I was pleased to find only a few people wandering the path, but what I realized as I passed each with a friendly 'Hello', nod or smile....was that these people all shared the same passion as I did. Whether they were walking, running or biking, they were all out at 7AM on a Saturday morning enjoying the freedom of talking one's legs for a jog, spin or whirl.

And then I realized that although I would likely never associate myself with these people, through this thoroughly individual activity we had created a bond, a connection. It seemed like we both understood each others reason for being on the path and this sensation was at first, strange, but as I thought about it more, it provided me with some re-assurance, a sense of community and some grounding for the activities we undertake.

So the next time you're out and about, running/biking/walking at 7AM, be sure to smile, wave or say 'hello' to those you cross paths with. It is these people who share a very common ambition, passion, connection with you: They are, much like you, enjoying the freedom their legs provide them with before most of the modern world has even shaken off their morning rust.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It sure has been quiet in here lately...

If you've come around at all during the past week or two you'll have noticed an almost ear piercing silence.  After I ran the Summer Night 5km, which I recap below, I spent the next few days living it up. I was a social butterfly, enjoying the warm weather and looking forward to a week free of running.

It wasn't before long that I realized I would be enjoying a week free of nearly everything as I was admitted to urgent care at St Joseph's Health Care on Monday Morning. 6 hours later and far too many eye drops and bright lights, it was announced to the world that I had a corneal ulcer. It had developed in just over 12 hours and the speed at which it did this worried the staff doctors that day. I was put on a strict regimen of 'carpeting bombing' my right eye and a darkened room for as long as it would take for me to get better in bright lights.

I've now visited the specialist 4 times and every time news gets a bit more promising. It turned out they were able to culture a bacteria from the scrapings they got off my cornea, it was pseudomonas, so the carpet bombing turned into more of a heat seeking missile launch instead. They also noticed what seemed to be fungus growing on the inside of my cornea, so I've got drops to fight off those nasties too.

Essentially, I've done absolutely nothing over the past 6 days and it has slowly driven me crazy. Luckily I had a complete down week scheduled for running, and frankly, the weather was so hot I don't think I would have run regardless. We hit 49C on Thursday! I've been away from work now for a week, hoping to return on Monday, and I also hope to resume my running on Monday night with my trusty seeing bike rider Melanie!

So that's why it's been rather quiet lately, I've been locked in isolation, forced to sleep all day in a dark room. But things are looking better, brighter.

Race Recap: 2011 Barking Frog Summer Night 5km

I discovered this race last year and I was so enamored with the great format that I decided I would run it this year, and run it I did.  I had planned on working all day but ended up leaving a tad early so I could come home and have a power nap.

The nap felt great and I felt refreshed waking up from it, but it was really hard feeling truly fresh, the temperature was a scorching 32C with full on sun. I was beginning to dread racing in this heat.  I had a light supper, got my stuff ready, check it over and made it out the door with Melanie to head over to the Frog and pick up my race kit.

I had been inviting friends to enjoy the weather, drinks and racing and when I returned from my warmup I was very pleased to see a strong contingent of friends ready to cheer me on while downing beers.  Speaking of my warmup, I was saddened to realize that my legs didn't feel great during my warmup. They didn't feel dead and heavy, but they definitely lacked the pop they had in Sudbury 2 weeks ago.

LRDC Crew pre-race
I worked through my dynamic drills and some strides and before I knew it we were toeing the line, waiting for the horn to sound the start of the race.I was standing second in line as the horn sounded and before my legs could realize what my body was doing, I was off putting one foot in front of the other. Well, I guess it was time to shine, wasn't it?

THe Gun goes off, and we're off!
I was warned by many that the first km is fast and downhill, and I wasn't going to let precious seconds slip away at this chance so I decided I'd try and bank 5-10 seconds by the time I finished the first km. That never happened and I slipped by the 1km marker in 3:19.  At that moment I knew I wouldn't be hanging on for a 16:40 effort and decided to see what my legs would take me through after 3km.

I kept getting a little slower, stuck somewhere between the chase pack and the front end stragglers. I didn't pass anyone and no one passed me, and I passed the 3km marker in 10:16, well off a 10 flat pace I needed to go 16:40 today.  The last 2 km are pretty much uphill as this is an out and back effort and from 4 to 4.6km is uphill just before you get to muster up enough energy to bring it all in over the last 400m.

Bringing it into the finish!
I finished the race, officially, in 17:31....a whopping 50 seconds off my goal pace, but I was still satisfied with the result given the effort. It was on par with what I showed up to do, I just had greater expectations I suppose.  I finished 19th overall and 5th in my age group. Full results are here. I quickly forgot about the effort as I had, literally, the world's best cheering squad EVER!

Can you spot the difference in these two pictures?

Can you spot the difference in these two pictures?

7 or 8 of my closest friends showed up just before the race to pump me up and stayed around to watch me finish and cheer me on. We promptly downed a few beers, talked, laughed and took pictures.  Here are some of the night's finest, including running action shots courtesy of Melanie.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Race Preview: The 2011 Summer Night 5km (London, On)

So, the day is nearly here. Tomorrow night I'll be running in my first edition of the Summer Night 5km hosted by London Honda and Runners' Choice at the Barking Frog in London, Ontario.

I was at the race last year as a spectator and was able to have a few beers with a good friend of mine as we watched the runners take off and arrive just in front of the Barking Frog patio. At that time we had decided that we would run the race next year, and here I am, 12 months later and I'll be toeing the line looking for a top 10 finish. Sadly my friend won't be joining me this year, but maybe next year?

It's actually rather fitting that I jump into this race as it was at this race last year that I reconnected with my then old Mustangs teammate Steve Weiler, who is now my coach (for the London Runner Distance Club). If it wasn't for me taking those first steps (towards meeting Steve that night), most of what I've accomplished athletically since then would not have taken place. And so I take this moment to thank myself. :D

Anyways, the race goes down tomorrow night at 7PM and I'm a little worried about a few things:
  • The temperature is supposed to reach a scorching 32C on Friday, this could be a factor, but I'll try and ignore it as much as possible. Battling the heat in a 5km is purely mental.
  • It's a challenging course in that the first 1km is downhill, and the last 1km is uphill (it's an out and back loop). This poses some pacing challenges and I've been told the course isn't exactly favorable for PBs for this reason alone. Should I revise my goal of dipping below 16:40 and a new lifetime PB?
  • I will be working all day at the office, only to get home by 5PM and then make it out to the race for 6PM. The last time I ran after a day at the office was last week, and that did NOT go well.
This is the last race of my competitive summer/track season and I want to finish off in style. I want a good solid effort under my belt, one in which I feel strong and can be competitive. I also want a personal best, or at least a seasonal best. With that in mind, I've set some goals for my race tomorrow:
  • Crack 16:40 for 5km.
  • Place top 10 Overall (top 3 in my AG)
  • Finish Strong in the uphill finish.
  • Have Fun.
  • Drink beer and eat burgs.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

All Things Must Come to an End

...even if just momentarily...

This week is my last week of training for my track/road race season, and though I feel ready for my last race of the season, I'm also glad to finally see it all wind down. Some of my club mates will be at the Ontario Track & Field competition this weekend, but I'll be at the Barking Frog Summer Night 5km looking to better my seasonal best I set nearly 2 weeks ago.

I hit the track last night for a final tune up and our prescribed workout of 2 man 400m relays was a great way to get in some final sharpening (our effort was to be slightly faster than 3km race pace). I finished up with 4 strong 100m strides and called it a night.  I'm sitting here and feeling pretty good, hopefully I can continue to sharpen up a bit for Friday night, I have high hopes, but I'll cover those in another post.

As for now, I'm enjoying the reduced mileage and emphasis on sharpening. It's certainly a nice change after nearly 7 months of volume, intensity and racing.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Video of Junior Nationals Men's 1500m: Aaron Hendrikx!

It was yet another great week to be an LRDC runner as our very own Aaron Hendrikx competed at Junior Nationals in the Men's 1500m.  He ran a perfect semifinal race to qualify for the final and in what proved to be a sit and kick affair, placed 6th overall!  Congrats Aaron, that's an amazing result!

If you'd like to see the video, follow this link:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Race Recap: RCLDS #6 1500m/800m

Well, another race in the bag and this one is only 5 days after my last race, so needless to say I went into this one wondering what it would boil down to. It turns out that after a day spent in the washroom (which I visited 9 times) I was unable to even crack 4:30 for the race when my goal was to go 4:20.

I ran the 1500m in 4:32 and finished a disappointed 2nd last overall. Ah well, it was still a solid effort considering and the fact my lungs felt like they were larger than my ribcage after the race meant that I knew I put in some kind of effort that taxed my body.

I was about to leave the track after a cooldown run when Mr. Procter asked me to step up and race the 4x800m with our club. I agreed and wondered how I got myself into this mess. The 800m felt good, I finished strong and I imagine it wasn't any faster than 2:20, essentially what I split for 800m when I ran 4:21 3 weeks ago.

And that wraps up my track season. A whopping 3 races and much to learn from. I am now preparing for the Barking Frog Summer Night 5km in less than 2 weeks and that will cap off the first block of training and competition for the year. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Running Log 2011: Week #26

It's official, half the year has now passed and we're inching closer and closer to snowy weather. Boo urns! This past week was a fun running week as it saw me compete in yet another successful 5km road race, and logged many kills through my old stomping grounds in Northern Ontario.

The next three weeks will see me cap off the season in style with a track race or two and another 5km on the road.

Race Recap: 2011 Firecracker 5km Road Race (Lively/Walden, ON)

Well, it's now Monday evening Tuesday morning and we've returned from our long weekend in the great white North. The drive up on Thursday was pretty craptastic as we got stuck in stop-n-go, stop-n-go, stop-n-go traffic from the 400 at the 407 all the way past Barrie. There's nearly 2 hours of our life we won't be getting back.

Anyways, we made it to Sudbury safe and sound on Thursday night and I anxiously awaited Friday's arrival. We were finally re-united with the Southern wing of our family, and before we knew it we were packing up for the Firecracker 5km in Lively/Walden.

I had spent most of the day mulling over what I would do, wondering who would show up to the race and how it would all play out. I seemed stressed on the outside, but I was just busy thinking...and ok, maybe a lil stressed.

I knew the race was won in 16:30 last year and the previous year Ross Proudfoot took home the win in a blazing 15:56! This meant the course was both challenging and fast, though I knew it would be a hilly affair and after analyzing the elevation map on, figured I was in for a real treat.

We got there nice and early, had a brief chat with some old faces I hadn't seen in ages and settled into my warmup routine after a group shot of the entire family was taken by our old track coach, Dick Moss of Track North Athletic Club.

The happy family!
And now this post gets serious as I take you along for a ride through the 5km road race that took place on July 1st 2011.  The time was 7PM and athletes from all walks of life toed the line in Lively to burn some rubber, in hopes of smashing a pb, beating a competitor or run with family. Luckily, I was aiming to do all three.

During my warmup I had kept a keen eye for possible competitors, and the longer I looked the less worried I became. The women's field looked to be decently stacked, but I seemed to be the only male with hopes of cracking 17 minutes tonight.

So I continued my warmup through a hilly residential area and I had a hard time containing my devilish grin as I was forcing my legs to slow down. They were ready to rock and did not want to be reined in for long. I cut my warm up a tad short, did my dynamic warmup and threw down a few strides to give my legs a taste of what they were craving: speed.

We toed the line at 7PM and the gun sounded. Before I knew what was happening, we were off and nearly immediately a small pack of 4 runners formed at the front with yours truly tucked in. Within a matter of seconds we dropped one of the runners and the three of us worked our way towards the 1km marker.

Prior to toeing the line for the race I did a little investigation into the elevation map so that I could get an idea of what to expect while out on the course. It turns out it wasn't very pretty:

roller coaster.....of pain....roller coaster...
In the first 2km the course climbs about 60 feet vertically before leveling off, climbing a bit more then dropping over the last 2km until a 400m finish uphill. I figured the first km would be fast as it normally is, but if I wasn't careful enough it could spell disaster if I put too much into it too early.

We clipped by the 1km marker at 3:19 and the pace felt quite relaxed. I had a hard time keeping my mouth and throat wet, it was like sucking back a gallon of sand at times. At this point I decided to take charge as I felt the pack was already to starting to lag and I wanted to stay on 3:20/km pace for as long as my legs could handle it.

Our 2nd kill came in at 3:23 and if you look at the graph above you'll see that it was a relatively tough kilometer as the elevation constantly changed. At this point we dropped the 3rd runner in our little pack and it was just me and a Track North athlete. We pushed on through the rolling hills, unable to get a great groove and I fought with a stuck rock in the sole of my Fastwitch. Stupid drainage holes...seriously, what a stupid idea.

My 3rd km was my slowest at 3:30, but that kilometer was nearly entirely uphill, 'cept for the last few meters at which point things leveled off and set up the next downhill half a kilometer. Up to this point I still had the pesky Track North athlete on my shoulder and we had been trading leads for well over 2 kms at this point.

I'd put in a small surge downhill and gain a few steps on him, but he'd come right back up to my shoulder on the uphill, only to lose a few steps to me again as we flew downhill. I tried to break him over and over again from 3 to 4km, but he hung on strong. By the time we neared 4km I could sense he was hurting more than I was...his breathing was labored, he was hacking/coughing and finally I sensed I should try to surge once more.

As we approached 4.2km there was a slight downhill across a gravel road and I put in one more surge to see how he would respond. He didn't. I seized the chance and pressed on even harder. Within 30 seconds I had already made up a 5 second gap on him and I continued to pressed knowing I had 500m to go.

One last turn to face the finish line and then it hit me. The last 400m were uphill. Ugh. I kept pushing, never looking back and driving for the finish line. That last 200m were so brutally hard that I felt almost exactly as I had felt after my debut. That sand sucking feeling I felt in my warmup was amplified just before the finish line. If you're wondering what that might look like, have a gander...

I crossed the finish line completely spent and gasping for air, feeling like there was none left in atmosphere.  I had high hopes for myself tonight and finally, for the first time all day, I was able to relax. I clocked an amazing 3:12 for my last km, something I'm very proud of considering the last 400m were uphill.

I had won the race, and obviously, my age group! I had set a goal of running 16:45 knowing it would be a warm and rolling course, and I came very close to that goal. I ran 16:48.06, just 3 seconds shy of my goal.

That's within striking range of my all time personal best of around 16:40 that I would have set sometime around the year 2000. Pretty crazy to think. Heck, just last October 30th I ran a then blistering 18:10 over 5km on a fast course, and just 8 short months later I've chopped off 1:22 and feel I can sneak below 16:30 before my track season is done. And who knows, maybe I could sneak into London's top 10 over 5km rankings (brought to you by London Runner and M&T Printing).

Even more impressive is the fact that our entire family ran amazing races. We all smashed our goals we had set prior to the race and we were all on cloud nine as we rested after the race. Also, it seems I have the world's best cheering I accepted my prize for winning the race it felt like the whole gym cheered for me, but it turns out it was just my super awesome family. Thanks guys!

Garmin Connect Recap

Shout Outs:
  • Big thanks to Neil 'Da Rabbit' Phipps for taking our little pack of 3 through 1 km on perfect pace. It would have been nice for you to stick around a bit longer though, maybe next time I'm Sudbury?
  • Huge thanks to Seb Diebel for pushing me through the first 4km. You are one heck of a fighter, and you helped keep the pace honest.
  • Dick, Darren & the volunteers put on a great event. There were tons of volunteers directing the runners and I'm glad I was able to help raise funds for the LU Women's XC team!
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