Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon

So I ran a half marathon last Sunday. And despite it being my second worst finish time of the 14 half marathons that I have run, it turned out to be the one that required the most perseverance and I am actually proud to have finished, yet a bit mad at myself for even having run it. As I mentioned previously, I was suffering from a gluteus medius issue that was so bad it was causing me to limp and it hurt to run. And nothing I was doing was working – it was like it was too tight to even get it to stretch at all, no matter how much I tried. Then I went out for dinner with my friend Linda and she told me about a physiotherapy treatment called intramuscular stimulation (or dry needling1.). This technique uses acupuncture needles, but instead of poking the needles into things that have never been scientifically demonstrated to exist, they insert them into tight bits of muscle. It seems like the idea is that your muscle is confused and thinks it should be shortened into this tight piece of agony and isn’t getting your message to just chill the fuck out already, so you poke it to sort of reboot the system.

Have you tried turning my muscle off and then turning it back on again?2

I did a (very) quick look at the research literature and, unlike acupuncture which has definitely been shown not be any better than a placebo, there really isn’t much research on IMS to know if it’s effective or not (at least as far as I can tell from my quick look). So I figured that it at least has some biological plausibility and I was desperate, because I knew I couldn’t run the race if something didn’t give. So I decided to try it as a Hail Mary pass.

It’s a very interesting sensation to have someone poke a needle in your muscle. It doesn’t hurt, but it feels… unusual. Also, when I told the physio that I wanted to be able to run a half marathon in 3 days, he decided to do electrical stimulation with the needling. So in addition to stabbing the muscles, he also electrocuted them. That felt in some cases like he was just flicking my leg and at other times it just made the muscles twitch repeatedly. Oh yeah, and a lot more muscles were messed up than just the glut med. The TFL ((a.k.a., Tensor Fascia Latae.)) was solid like a rock (which my massage therapist had also noted) and the quads and hamstrings were too. So he stabbed and electrocuted a whole bunch of parts of all of those muscles.

After the treatment, I could immediately stretch my hip more than before the treatment3 and it continued to loosen up a bit more each day. Could it have been a placebo effect? Entirely possible. Would it have loosened up in those days even if I hadn’t had the IMS. Maybe they would have, been there’s no way to know!

The physiotherapist’s advice was to try a little 1-2 km jog on the Saturday and see if it was loose enough to run. So we made our way to Kelowna on Saturday and then I went for a 2km jog, which I was able to do, but with a shooting pain with every step. It would get a teensy bit better, but if I stopped, say, to catch a Pokémon, when I restarted, it would hurt as much as the start of the run. What to do? What to do? I was of two minds: the one that said “Maybe it just needs a bit more jogging to loosen it up4. If it loosens up as much over tonight as it has the last few days, I’ll be fine. What if that happens and I don’t do the race – I’ll be walking around all fine and then I’ll want to kick myself! I can’t miss another race this year!” And then the other one that said, “What if you injure yourself more by running on this injury? That’s how you got this injury – running on the not fully healed sprained ankle! Do you really want to jeopardize your upcoming trip to Australia? The race fee is a sunk cost!” So Andrew made me an offer – I’d  start the race and if after 5km, I’m still in pain, I could call him and he’d come and pick me up. So that’s what I did.

Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon route 2016

Long story short: my hip was considerably looser the next day and combined with the race day adrenaline, the first 15 km were slower than I’d usually run a race, but faster than I’d expected given the circumstances. My hip didn’t hurt, it was more just uncomfortable. As I passed the 15 km marker, I thought “I’m glad I did this, I’m going to finish much sooner than I thought, maybe I should text Andrew to let him know as he might not go to the finish line in time to see me” and no sooner did I think that than a pain shoot through my hip – pain that would continue to shoot on every step of the remaining 6 km. Every volunteer I passed gave me a look of genuine sympathy and a kind encouraging word that I could do this. As I crossed the finish line, I was glad I was wearing sunglasses because maybe that would make the tears of pain streaming down my face less noticeable.

Kelowna half marathon 2016 - finish line 2

Me at the finish line. You can see the pain on my face.

Some thoughts on the race itself:

  • The route itself was gorgeous – it officially replaces Victoria as the most beautiful race route I’ve run. It started in the Vibrant Vine vineyard, ran through some wine country and farm lands, down a giant hill, through some neighbourhoods, and finished up in a park by the lake, where a wine festival awaited. I’d really like to run this race again when I’m not injured so I can more fully appreciate it.
Kelowna half marathon 2016 - actually smiling

This is me at some point before the 15 km mark, where I was only in mild discomfort. Or as I call it now “the good ole days”.

  • While the race as beautiful, the logistics weren’t the best thought out. For example, the website mentioned nothing about a shuttle bus taking runners to the start line, so we expected Andrew to be able to drop me off there, but then out of the blue the road was closed and they said I had to go wait for a shuttle bus. Since people weren’t expecting this, they didn’t allot time for it and they had to delay the race start to allow for more people to arrive on the shuttles. Even with that, I heard that some people didn’t get to the start line until after the race started because they had to wait for the bus they didn’t know they’d have to take.
  • Another example of poor planning was that the place to pick up your gear that you’d checked and your wine glass that was required for the wine festival tastings was at the very end of the festival compound, which meant you had to walk all the way to far end to pick up your stuff and then all the way back to the entrance to the festival to go to wine tastings. This was particularly bad for me since I was in a lot of pain and walking was not something I was wanting to do at that particular time.
  • It was different to run a race at the back of the pack. I mean, I’m not a top finisher by any stretch, but I’m used to being in the top half to the top quarter. Being at a slower pace meant I did have more time to look around and enjoy the scenery – though I guess that part of that was also the I chose to do that to try to distract myself from the pain.
  • I also had more time and attention to think about things. Who were my fellow runners? For how many of them was this their first half? Their 50th? Who else was running hurt, pushing through despite the pain? I thought about the saying that you should “Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” What battles were my fellow runners fighting, physically or psychologically, that you just can’t see from the outside? What motivated them to run today? And conversely, who was having the best race of their life? And who else was in this for the wine?
  • I also thought about my dad. I find I do that often when I’m running, because I know he was a runner before I was born. Also, my dad was very stubborn and I was being stubborn too, by running this race.
  • The race medal was awesome. When I first saw it, I didn’t clue into what it was and just thought “It’s huge!” But it turns about that it’s a coaster for your wine! It’s easily detachable from the ribbon so you can actually use it! Though I’m sure I’ll just hang it on the wall with my collection5

    Untitled

    I do love a good race medal.

I’ve spent the past week since the race limping around – I saw the physio on Wednesday and he said I have acute bursitis and maybe acute tendinitis – and I saw the massage therapist today. I had to skip my hockey game today because I can barely walk, let alone skate. Here’s hoping the 16 hours of flying I have coming up on Wednesday doesn’t kill me!

The one silver lining – well, in addition to the awesome race medal and all the wine – was that I finally caught the damn Mankey that had been eluding me in Pokémon Go. Mankey isn’t that rare of a Pokémon – I just could never seem to catch one, until now ((Of course, once I caught one, I ended up catching a few. Now I just need to keep catching them so that I can evolve one into a Primeape!)!

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  1. As opposed to “wet needling”, i.e., injecting you with stuff []
  2. Props to Kalev for coming up with this line in a convo we were having yesterday []
  3. By which I mean to say – I could then stretch it more than 1 mm. []
  4. I had some bad shin splints earlier this year that took about 5 km of jogging before they disappeared, so this wouldn’t have been unprecedented. []
  5. Speaking of which, my medal rack is too full – I need a new one. But I don’t have time to deal with that right now, so that is after-Australia Beth’s problem. []

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I’m In It For The Wine

So I’m one week away from my next half marathon – the Kelowna Wine Country half. When I set my goals for 2016, I had big plans to really focus on my training to finally Posterior Hip Muscles 3.PNGbreak the 2 hour barrier that stayed just out of reach in my races last year. But a series of annoying illnesses and sprained ankle have hampered my training and forced me to recalibrate my goal. After taking three weeks off due to my sprained ankle, I did manage to do 1 long run in July (16 km) and 3 long runs in August (a 17 km, an 18 km, and a 19 km), but I didn’t manage to fit in any speedwork. And in the last week I’ve been dealing with an insanely tight gluteus medius muscle. Like so tight that I’ve been limping and have been unable to run without a lot of pain. And so I haven’t run. My massage therapist theorized that it might be from the fact that my left ankle was not 100% so I was compensating and putting extra pressure on my right gluteus medius and now I’m in this state. So I had some massage and I’ve been stretching and foam rolling and I had an Epsom salt bath yesterday and I tried running again this morning and it definitely still hurts, though not as bad as it was. I’m hoping that if I continue to stretch and roll it for the rest of this week I’ll be able to loosen it up enough to get through the half marathon next Sunday. So that’s basically my recalibrated goal: I would like to be able to finish the race. I figure that I’ll just try to enjoy the scenery and be motivated by the fact that there is a wine festival waiting for me when I cross the finish line! Wish me luck!
Image credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=545381

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The Agony of Da Ankle

Hey, remember that time I rolled my ankle one week before the Scotiabank half marathon, but I was all “it’s just a little tweak and I’m totes going to be fine to run 21.1 km in a week”? Yeah, so, apparently that “little tweak” was a “grade 1 sprain” and I was totes not fine to run any number of km on Sunday.

On Monday and Tuesday I was in denial that this was really a sprain and was convinced I’d be fine by mid-week.

On Wednesday I realized that I probably shouldn’t play my hockey game, as my ankle was still swollen and I didn’t want to aggravate it such that I wouldn’t be able to run on Sunday1.

Ankle.PNGOn Thursday, I slowly started to come to the realization that I might not be able to run the race I’d just spent three months training for and it made me really sad. Like, I was on the edge of tears much of the day. Frustrated that I wasn’t going to get to add a new medal to my collection, despite having done my three months of training. Frustrated that the Scotiabank half marathon has a “deadline” for withdrawing from the race due to injury that is *two weeks* before the event, as if you can’t get injured in the 14 days leading up to race day2. Frustrated with yet another health issue that, while minor, was enough to screw with my running season this year. Wishing that I’d gone running last Sunday, when it wasn’t raining, instead of Saturday, when it was pouring to hard that there were giants puddles to hide such things as uneven bits of pavement on which an unsuspecting running might roll their ankle.

By Friday, with my ankle still just as swollen as it was on Monday and still not able to walk, let alone run, without limping, I had accepted that I really, really wasn’t going to be able to run. And I found myself in the bizarre situation of having to justify to a variety of other people that it really wouldn’t be a good idea to run on an injured ankle. Usually I’m the one who is all “I can just walk it off” and everyone else is all “Don’t be silly! You’ll make it worse and then put yourself out of commission for even longer!”

I went to the race expo on Friday to pick up my race package – since I wasn’t able to withdraw my registration due to injury thanks to the Scotiabank half marathon’s absurd deadline for such withdrawals, I figured I may as well pick up my race shirt – it is now officially the most expensive shirt that I own!

When I try to look on the bright side, this is actually the first race I’ve ever missed out on due to injury. And when you consider that I’ve run 13 half marathons, as well as 13 races of other distances, over the past almost 10 years since I started racing, that’s actually not a bad track record. And while I missed out on a medal, this year’s Scotiabank half marathon medal doesn’t really look much different from the medal I got from running the Scotiabank half in 2014, so it’s not like I missed out on an exciting medal for my collection.

Other random thoughts about my ankle predicament:

  • Not being able to do any physical activity for the past week and a half has been killing me. When you are in a routine of doing regular exercise, you get really antsy when you can’t do it. I only just occurred to me the other day that, while I can’t do any of my usual forms of exercise – running, hockey, or biking – I could use this opportunity to do some upper body weight training (while sitting, so as not to aggravate my ankle. In fact, I’m going to head down to my building’s exercise room to do that right after I finish this posting).
  • Also killing me is that I’ve had to wear flat shoes! Last week was particularly bad, as it was too cold and wet out for sandals, and I discovered I really only have one pair of non-sandal flats that I can wear to work. Clearly, I need to do some shoe shopping!
  • Even hobbling on a gimpy ankle, I’m still faster than at least half of the people in the Skytrain station.
  • Even with a bandaged ankle, precious few will offer you a seat on the bus or Skytrain… there were even people who I saw look at my bandaged ankle and then go back to reading crap on their phones. On one Skytrain ride a woman got up to give me her seat… and she was pregnant! I said I couldn’t take a seat from a pregnant woman, but she refused to sit down, insisting that both her legs were at least working. All around sat many non-pregnant, non-bandaged people watching this conversation, until finally one person actually offered to give up her seat as well.
  • When my mom heard about my sprained ankle, she suggested I try out Voltaren, a topical gel that works to decrease pain and swelling. I’d never heard of it before, but when I mentioned it to some people at work they were like “OMG, it’s the greatest thing every invented!!!” I’ve been using it since she suggested it; my sister asked me today if it was working and I said “I don’t know. I have no control ankle to see how it would have healed without it.” Her reply “Common Bethy…sprain the other one along with that one when it heals to test it out!” Obviously, I have failed as a scientist.
  • Speaking of Voltaren3, I keep forgetting what it’s called. I may have said that I’m putting Voltron on my ankle at one point, and I may also have said that I have to put some Virtanen on my ankle a few other times4. Jake Virtanen, for the uninitiated, is an adorable player for the Vancouver Canucks (who just so happens to have been born in New Westminster!).

My ankle definitely felt better this week compared to last, so I’m hoping that another few days of rest will have the swelling gone. I’m going to start rehabbing it with some ankle strengthening exercises. And I’ve already looked into another half marathon to replace this one: the Kelowna Wine Country Half Marathon on Labour Day weekend. You get to run through Kelowna, which is beautiful, you get to go to a wine festival afterwards, and there is a medal (though I don’t know what it looks like, I do know it will be one I don’t have yet!).

OK, I’m off to go do some biceps curls now!

Image credits:

Drawing of ligaments in the ankle. Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1176993

  1. In retrospect, I think this was the “bargaining” stage of grief “If I skip hockey, I’ll get to run the race” – I seemed to have skipped right past the “anger” stage of grief. []
  2. I think they should at least let you transfer your registration to next year if you can produce a medical note to verify your injury. Because these races aren’t cheap! []
  3. Which autocorrects to Voltaire. Autocorrect, you are so pretentious! []
  4. The first time by accident and the other times because I thought it was hilarious. []

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Running for the Kitties

So now that spring has sprung in Vancouver and all of the various pathogens with which I’ve been infected appear to have left the building, I’ve gotten back into the swing of things running-wise. I’m really, really slow from having taken so much time off from running1, but I’m confident that if I keep getting out there, the speed will eventually return.

I met up with my BMO Marathon Relay teammates for brunch on Saturday to discuss logistics, and I’m really looking forward to that event, which a mere 20 days from now! Fortunately, I’m training for the Scotiabank Half Marathon and the 13 km I will need to run for my leg of the relay is in line with my training plan2.

And speaking of the Scotiabank Half Marathon, I’ve signed up to run as part of Team VOKRA, which is raising money for the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Organization (VOKRA), which I’m sure you will remember is where I got my kitties from. They do good work in rescuing kitties and finding them safe and loving homes, so I’m happy to help support their work. While VOKRA is run by volunteers, there are lots of costs that need to be covered when it comes to rescuing, caring for, and eventually placing homeless cats in their forever homes such as:

  • prenatal, natal, and bottle feeding program
  • trap/spay or neuter/return program
  • supplying all foster homes with food and supplies
  • medical emergencies/medications

The team has a goal of raising $10,000 through our Scotiabank Half Marathon fundraising, so please consider donating on my fundraising page:

Watson in a bow tieWatson & Crick say “Please Sir or Madam, won’t you donate to help the kitties?”

  1. Not to mention the [redacted number] lbs that I gained over the winter thanks to taking so much time off from running and also Drink-cember. []
  2. I’m scheduled to run 13 km the week before BMO, as it so happens. The weekend of BMO is supposed to be a “rest” week where I go back to 8 km, but I figure two 13 km long runs in a row will be fine. []

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Just me talking about running again

all races except marathons

OK, that’s entirely not true but I thought it was pretty freaking hilarious.

Sadly, my running season has been off to an inauspicious start. As previously mentioned, my pathetic immune system’s inability to dispense with a simple sore throat/cold has severely hampered my attempt at starting the 2016 running season. However, I finally felt well enough to run and, in fact, I went running *twice* this week! On Monday I was working from home because I had a giant pile of papers to read and I find that easier to do in the quiet of my apartment with my wee fuzzballs nearby and big cup of tea; this meant that despite the fact that it was pouring rain out, I could go for a run on my lunch1. I briefly contemplated using the treadmill in my building’s exercise room, but then I remembered that I absolutely hate the treadmill and would, in fact, prefer to run in the pouring rain. And despite that fact that my running was slow – I know it will take a few weeks of concentrated running to get some of my speed back – I actually felt really, really good running in the rain. And then yesterday it was actually sunny out, so I went for a run on my lunch at the office – it was awesome to get back out on the seawall for a sunny lunchtime run even though, again, I’m not nearly as fast as I used to be. Now I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that my cold is actually gone2 and I can get back into a training rhythm.

Given all this, I’ve been thinking about what races I want to do this year. My goal is to collect 6 race medals in 2016, so here’s my tentative plan:

  • Hot Chocolate 5 km Run – You get a shirt and a mug and a hot chocolate and a medal that looks like a hot chocolate. I’ve already signed up for this one!
  • BMO Marathon Relay (13 km leg) – I’ve already signed up for this one too
  • Scotiabank half marathon – my friend Christina said she’s going to run this one, so I’m planning to do it too and since I’ll have trained for the marathon relay, I may as well keep training as the timing is perfect for Scotiabank
  • USA Half Marathon – this is a qualifier half marathon (for which I have achieved a qualifying time) in San Diego in November. I couldn’t do it last year because I had a scheduling conflict, but that shouldn’t be a problem this year

Then I just need to find another couple of races. I can’t do the Green Sock half because it conflicts with my hockey playoffs, but the Vancouver Rock’n’Roll 10 km in October is a likely one, as they always have really nice medals. I’ve never done the Eastside 10 km, so that’s another possibility.

Anyone know of any races with really excellent medals that I should consider doing?

  1. At work, there’s a shower I can use after going for a run, but I don’t have a hair dryer. Plus, it was so raining the my clothes were soaked by the end of the run, so it’s much nicer to just be able to throw them in the washing machine at home rather than having to carry a gym bag full of soggy clothes home. []
  2. I still have a bit of a cough, but otherwise feel fine. *knocks on wood* []

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Mon 13ème demi-marathon: Pas le résultat que je l’espérais, mais je suppose que si je vous écris ce titre en français il sonnera plus impressionnant

Translation of the title (assuming that Google Translate translated it correctly): My 13th half marathon: not the result I was hoping for, but I figure if I write this title in French it will sound more impressive.

I was hoping to have called this blog posting “Lucky #13” and to be writing about how I’d finally run the elusive sub-2 hour half marathon that I’ve been aiming for, but alas, it was not to be. In fact, I didn’t even beat my time in the BMO Vancouver half marathon in May, as I clocked in at 2:03:07 in yesterday’s race, compared to 2:02:24 in May.

Those 43 extra seconds, however, are likely due to the fact that I had to take a pee break during the race because I was waiting 45 minutes from the time the race started and when I actually crossed the *start* line. The race started on Pont Jacques Cartier (i.e., a really big bridge in Montreal), so the pre-race portapotties were just before you go on the bridge, so we went pee there and then had to walk eleventy billion miles to get to the corrals. I was in corral number 17 (of 26) – they put runners in corrals by speed, so the fast people are in the first corral, then the next fastest and so on. Daniel was in corral number 2, so we went up to our corrals about 10 or so minutes before the 8:30 am start time.

The first thing I noticed in my corral was The Flash, so naturally I asked for a selfie with him:

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Then I spent 45 minutes looking at this:

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Because that’s how long it took for all the runners in the corrals ahead of me to go.

Also, did I mention that it was eleventy billion degrees below zero? And I was dressed in a tank top and shorts because it was going to warm up to 21 degrees, so basically after waiting – did I mention? – FORTY-FIVE minutes!! I was frozen and I had to pee again!

UntitledSo I finally got to start running at 9:15 am, at which point I was so cold that I couldn’t feel my hands or my feet. It was really weird to be running and not be able to feel my feet! I contemplated whether I could run the whole race without stopping to pee, but I realized that I had to pee so badly that if I tried that, I wouldn’t be able to run as fast and I’d probably end up taking a pee break later anyway, so I should just stop at the first opportunity. I saw a bunch of people peeing in bushes in the first few kilometres, but then I saw a sign in some of the bushes that said “Beware – Poison Ivy”, so I decided to keep running until I found portapotties. At about the 4 km mark, I found some and went pee and I’m pretty sure that it took me 43 seconds (give or take).

After that, I felt much better – not only did I no longer have to pee, but I’d warmed up enough that my hands and feet had regained feeling. The next many kilometres I actually felt good – I was running at a good pace and feeling strong. I was using my Runkeeper app to tell me my pace1 every km, but because I’d taken a slight detour to the portapotty and also because GPS is imperfect, the pace it was reporting was a bit off – it would tell me I’d reached a kilometre about 200 m before I hit the kilometre marker. Which meant that the app was thinking that I had run further than I had and thus, was reporting a pace that was faster than my actual pace. Unfortunately, I suck at math in my head at the best of times, so I certainly could not figure out the correction required to know my actual pace while exerting myself on the run! However, since the app was telling me that I was a bit faster than my target pace for most of the race, I figured I was in the ballpark.

It definitely started to feel harder in the last third of the race and I knew from looking at the elevation map prior to the race that I’d be running up some hills toward the end of the race, including a big one in the last ~1km.

My mom, my sister, my niece, and my nephew had driven out to from Toronto to watch the race, as had Sarah & Dave and their kiddies from Ottawa; I knew they were intended to be at about the 19 km mark and I managed to see my family, who were on the far side of the road, but completely missing seeing Sarah & Dave et al, who were on the side of the road closet to where I was running! Seeing friendly faces in the crowd always gives you a boost when you are running!

The big hill, however, had the opposite effect. It was steeper and longer than I had envisioned based on the elevation map, so it definitely slowed me down, but once I caught my breath after cresting the hill, I decided that with just 1 km to go and being somewhere in the ballpark of meeting my goal, I would increase my speed as best as I could without dying and then sprint once I saw the finish line. So I did all that and when I got across the finish line, I stopped my Runkeeper app and looked expectantly at my time, thinking I was reasonably close to my goal. But much to my surprise, it said 2:03! Wtf? I really thought I was close, but it turned out I’d done worse than my run in May! Not by a lot, but still. This made my very grumpy, as all I could think was “I trained for 4 months to get slower. I should have just sat on my couch eating Doritos for the past 4 months!”

On the plus side, while I didn’t achieve my top goal – run a sub-2hr half marathon – I did achieve my consolation goal, which was to run my first half marathon where I don’t do 10 and 1s. So there’s that. And I suspect from the results of my second fitness assessment, that it was my insufficient zone 3 training that prevented me from achieving the elusive sub 2-hr half. I did do my zone 3 training after that assessment, but it was too little, too late. So at least I know for next time2

The way this race was set up, all the half marathoners and the full marathoners started together. Daniel started at 8:30 and, since I was told I should expect to start at 8:45, I expected to be done around 10:45, which would give me enough time to get my medal, my post-race food, and find my family and friends, and make way back to the finish line to watch Daniel complete his race around 11:45. However, since I started at 9:15, I didn’t finish until 11:18, which was not enough time to do those things, so I didn’t even get to see Daniel finish. He set a new personal best of 3:17, putting him 1 minute better than May but 2 minutes shy of his goal of a Boston qualifying time. So both of us were a wee bit disappointed in our results, though everyone else thought we were slightly crazy because our times were good.

After we managed to find our respective families/friends/each other, the next event was the kids run… I mean, the P’tit Marathon. Daniel’s kids and my niece ran this 1 km race – they all did really well and had a great time!

And also on the plus side: shiny new medal3!

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It’s a big 25 because this was the 25th running of the Montreal marathon. And for the record, the green bit in between the 2 and the 5 is not a crocodile, as one of my coworkers thought upon first seeing the medal. It’s Montreal island, on which we ran a bunch of the race!

  1. As I’d lent my running watch to Daniel, because he forgot his at home. []
  2. I haven’t decided when my next half marathon will be. I’m registered to run the Rock’n’Rock Vancouver 10 km next month, and my tentative plan is to maybe do the Chilly Chase in January (assuming that next year’s medal is like this year’s, which was gorgeous and I was so sad i didn’t do that race once I saw the medal!), the Delta triathlon in the spring, run as part of a relay team for the BMO Vancouver marathon, and then maybe do the Scotiabank half? Or maybe some other half marathon that I haven’t done before? I’m not sure, but I am reasonably confident that I can say that I’ll do another half marathon in the near future. And in the far future, actually, as Sarah has us pencilled in for the Ottawa marathon in May 2017! Half marathons, I just can’t quit you. []
  3. The kids got s smaller version of this for their race too! []

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And now we taper

It has been 14 weeks since I started training for the Montreal demi-marathon. BlissThis training has been quite a bit different than my previous training sessions. Differences include:

  • Over those 14 weeks, I’ve run all my runs straight through – no more 10-and-1s for me.
  • I’ve run the majority of my runs in my zone 1 heart rate zone and done a few zone 3 runs – though not nearly as many as I should have. And I’ve done some zone 2 (which is the zone I’ll run my race in) at the end of some of my long runs, but, as with zone 3, not really as much as I should have.
  • I’ve been alternating between two different pairs of running shoes

One thing that has been similar to my previous training session, despite using a different training plan, my weekend long runs have still increased in distance each week, save for a few recovery weeks where the “long” run got shorter. Yesterday, I ran my last really long run of this round of training – 20 km. Which means now the tapering begins!

Tapering is where you decrease the volume of running you are doing to allow your body to recover from the training you’ve done so that you are in tip-top shape on race day. You don’t get to slack off completely – the schedule I’m using calls for a couple of runs this week where you warm up for 10 minutes, run as fast as you can handle for 30 minutes and then cool down for 10 minutes. Next week it goes to 10-20-10. And next weekend my “long” run is 14 km – so less than this week’s 20 km by a fair margin, but still a long run to be sure!

As you can tell by the photo of my foot – yes that is a blister on top of a blister which has a blister inside of it! – my poor feet sure won’t mind running a fewer kilometers for the next two weeks!

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Half Marathon #12 – Crushed It!

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Me, pre-race.

I’m am *so* glad that I set a three-tiered goal for my BMO Vancouver half marathon because I am genuinely proud of my personal best finish of 2:02:24 (goal 2), despite not quite getting to a sub-2 hr finish (goal 1). In fact, when I thought about it after the race, I realized that I’m much happier with a 2:02 than I would have been with a 2:01 or 2:00:301. 2:02 is far enough away that I can’t kick myself for, say, slowing at too many water stations, but quick enough that I’m legit proud of it.

I started off the race quite strong (the 3 km downhill *really* helped) and was well faster than the pace I needed for a 2 hr finish, which gave me confidence that I would at least a have a shot at it. My strategy was to listen to my body and try to find a balance between pushing myself to do my best but not so hard that I would completely run out of gas or, worse, get injured. I started a mantra of “Run *your* race”, which I repeated to myself whenever I started to feel tired or sore or had to run up a hill or I got distracted by other people passing me. It worked surprisingly well to keep me balanced and keeping my legs pumping. I also would use it as a reminder to pay attention to my running form – stand tall and relaxed, hips over feet, arms pumping.;

I was on pace for the first half, reaching the halfway point at 59:07. But, though I’m in the best shape of my life, it wasn’t quite enough to keep up that pace for another 10.5 km. I started to slow. Muscles started to hurt. First it was a tight right calf. After I managed to loosen that up, it was a tight right glut that made my right knee angry. Then my right calf was all “heeey, don’t forget about meeeee!” Then there was a right shoulder thing, just to keep me in my toes because I’ve had a sore left neck for a few days, so wasn’t expecting right shoulder pain. But every time these things reared their ugly heads, I said “shut up body!” And then I’d refocus on form and say to myself “Run *your* race, Beth. Run your race.”

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Personal best.

As I got closer to the end of the race, I realized that I was slowing at a rate that was not going to allow me to finish in 2 hours. On my last walk break (I do 10 and 1s2 ), I saw that I was at 1 hr 50 mins and I had 2 km to go and I knew I was not capable of a 5 min/km pace, but then I though about my three-tiered goal, because I was able to say to myself “You knew that 2 hours was going to be a stretch – if I were sure that I could do 2 hours, it wouldn’t be a good enough challenge for my top goal. But I am going to make my personal best, as long as I continue to stay focused on giving this my all. And so why don’t I focus on making the best possible personal best that I can make right now.”

As I crossed the finish line, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions. I was glad I could stop running, because I was tired and hurting. I was happy with a personal best, but then as I took my medal from the volunteer, I nearly came to tears because I was sad and disappointed and mad at myself for not breaking two hours. But then I remembered that a personal best is a totally legit goal and this is the best I’d ever done. I gave it my all and that is worth being proud of.

After the race, I did some stretching, ate some post-race food, talked to some friends who I ran into after they finished the race, enjoyed a well-earned cappuccino, and then went to the finish line to watch Daniel finish his full marathon with a personal best 3:18.

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Another medal for the collection!

After a couple of weeks of recovery, I’m going to do a fitness assessment3, which will help me to construct a training plan to go after that elusive sub-2 hour half marathon finish time. I have you in my sights, sub-2 hours, and I’m coming after you in Montreal in September!

  1. Or, heaven forbid, a 2:00:01, which one of my colleagues did last year! []
  2. i.e., 10 min run, 1 min walk, and repeat for 21.1 km. []
  3. VO2max and blood lactate. []

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Watch me run!

Speaking of my upcoming half marathon, if you would like to follow along with my race on Sunday, you can do so through the magic of the internets! 

 Just go to: http://www.sportstats.ca/display-results.xhtml?raceid=25175 and enter my name. 

There are four timing points that should show up in the “results” section of that page as I cross each of the timing mats: Start Line, 5.5km, 10.5km, Finish Line. The half marathon starts at 7 am Pacific Daylight Time, but since I’m in the third corral1, I won’t cross the start line until all the runners from the first (white & yellow) and second (blue) corrals go through. 

I thought there was going to be a live video feed of the finish line, like they had at the Victoria marathon, but searching through the race website, I don’t see any mention of that, so you’ll just have to make do with seeing my results! 

Or you can always come out and watch the race live. Here’s the route:

   2015 BMO Vancouver Half Marathon route

Note the elevation map at the bottom: hooray for that nice long downhill at the start!

  1. The third corral in this particular race is called the “pink” corral. I’m not sure why it’s the “pink” corral, but I guess it at least matches my hideous, hideous running shoes. []

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Running Math

So it’s just 7 days until my next half marathon and I’m really not sure if I’m going to be able to achieve my goal of a sub-2 hour finsih. I’ve been far more diligent in my training since… well, pretty much since the first half marathon I ever ran. I completed all my hill runs. I’m doing my interval training. I did the long Sunday runs with my running club1. I feel strong and I have improved my pace, but I just don’t know if I’ve improved it enough to reach my goal.

I’m hoping to see this (or better) when I cross that finish line next week:

Image Credit: Posted by Adam Fagen on Flickr.

The thing with races, you see, is that you always run way faster on race day than you do when you are doing a training run. You aren’t even really trying to do it – you are just full of adrenaline and the energy of the crowd takes you away and you start running and you don’t feel like you are running that fast but when you check your pace, you are. When I ran the Hollywood Half marathon I was convinced that the 2:15 pace bunny2 was screwing up, because Alicia and I were way ahead of her and I was thinking “there’s no way we are running faster than a 2:15!” And then it turned out that we were – we finished in 2:09:57!

But the question is, just how much faster do you run on a race than during training? For example, the longest distance that I do in training is 20 km and my 20 km training run this time was 14 minutes quicker than my 20 km training run last June for Scotiabank. My finish time for Scotiabank last year was 2:15:05. Which begs the question: will a 14 minute improvement in my 20 km training run translate into a 15 minute improve on race day?

To try to figure this out, I turn to my old friend, Math. As luck would have it3, I have records of my 20 km training times for my last 7 half marathons (plus the finish times for my last 7 half marathons, of course). Now, I once swore to my MBA stats prof that I would always graph my data, so here’s a graph of said data:

The times are shown in seconds per km (rather than minutes:seconds per km) because despite all the awesome things that MS Excel can do, handling time values is not one of them. As you can see, my pace for my 20 km training time is not a good predictor of my pace on race day. On the plus side, my race pace is *always* faster than my training pace, but it has ranged from a mighty 1:15 per km faster (Scotiabank 2011) to a meagre 0:08 per km faster (Edge to Edge Tofino half marathon, of the horrible hills and knee injury infamy). I run an average of 0:46 per km faster on my races than my 20 km training runs, but given the aforementioned wide spread of the data, I wouldn’t take that average to be a good predictor Moreover, I hope it isn’t, because if I run my race next Sunday at 45 seconds faster than my 20 km training run, I’ll finish the half marathon in 2:13, which is despairingly slow.

Just to be sure that the graph wasn’t misleading me, I ran a linear regression analysis and found there is not, in fact, a statistically significant linear relationship between my 20 km training time and my pace time4. I even tried calling the Edge to Edge Tofino half marathon an outlier, so I could remove it from the data set, but there’s still no statistically significant relationship.

So, in conclusion, apparently my 20 km training pace is not a good predictor of how I’ll do next week. There’s just too many other facts at play I guess – whether I was giving ‘er on my training run or not, conditions on race day, whether the race route is insanely hilly à la Edge to Edge or a beautiful net downhill like Scotiabank5.

Something that Daniel taught me that he does with his races is having not just one goal, but a staged series of goals. If you only set a goal that you know you can achieve, then you aren’t going to have to push yourself to achieve it. But if you only set a goal that is really, really hard to achieve, you run the risk of not being able to appreciate what you do achieve because you didn’t reach that single, really tough goal that you set for yourself6. So I’m going to go into this race with three staged goals:

  1. a sub-2 hour half marathon – This is my ultimate goal. As described above, I don’t know if I will achieve this, but I don’t think it’s totally out of the realm of possibility7.
  2. a new personal best. My current PB Is 2:07:23, so I don’t acheive a sub-2 hr but I do better than 2:07:23, I willl be happy.
  3. finish. Even if I don’t set a new PB, it will still be an accomplishment to finish a half marathon. And given that this is my 12th half, I think finishing an even dozen of these races will be an accomplishment to be proud of.

Footnotes:

  1. Except for a few weeks where I have something else going on on Sunday morning, in which case I completed my long runs on my own at another time. []
  2. i.e., the person who runs at the pace that will result in finishing the race in 2 hrs 15 mins. Races have people like this for all sorts of different paces, so if you want to achieve a specific finish time, you can run with the corresponding pace bunny. []
  3. Where by “luck”, I mean, my nerdy habit of keeping records of everything. []
  4. I was hoping, before I started this, that I’d find a statistically significant relationship and then I could use the equation of the line to predict my finish time! Math, you have dashed my hopes! []
  5. Happily, next Sunday’s race route is also net downhill! []
  6. I’ve seen this happen before where someone sets a stretch goal and though they didn’t quite reach it, they really improved over their last race, yet they are sad at the end of the race and can’t enjoy the fact that they set a new personal best or took at a good amount of time off their previous race. []
  7. Unlike the last few times where I started training with a sub-2 hour goal, but wasn’t really diligent in my training and knew by race day that I would not be anywhere near that. []