Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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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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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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Slaying the Sloth

Sloth Beth

This is a picture of me after No-running-vember and Sloth-cember.

While I exceeded my 2015 goal of running 800 km by 34.7 km, I did it despite barely running in November and not running at all in December!

Running Jul-Dec 2015

As much as I enjoy running, I felt like I needed a little bit of a break from it. I’d been doing it with only one little break since mid-2013, as you can see from this graph:

Running 2010-2015

I trained for the Edge-to-Edge half marathon, which I ran in June 2013, followed by training for the Fall Classic in November 2013, which lead directly into the running study that I took part in that kept me running until January 2014, at which time I immediately rolled into training for the Hollywood half marathon in April 2014, which lead directly into training for the Scotiabank half marathon in June 2014, and then I trained for two 10 km races in fall 2014. I took a short break in Nov & Dec 2014 (much like I did in Nov & Dec 2015), and then started training in earnest for the 2015 BMO half marathon, followed immediately by training for the Montreal demi-marathon in Sept 2015, then a 10 km race in Oct. Even just typing that all out made me tired – no wonder I felt like I needed a break!

Now, however, I think it’s time to get back into the running habit. I really do enjoy it and as the days are starting to get longer – and we have even had some days without rain, I’m craving the feeling of giving my running muscles a good workout! I’m all signed up for the BMO marathon relay, which is also providing with some motivation.

Tomorrow promises to be sunny, albeit chilly, and I think it will be a good day to start my 2016 running season! I’m sure that I’ll be much slower and the run will be much harder than I’m used to (since fitness  starts deteriorating pretty quickly once you go sloth, but experience has shown me that after a couple of runs, they’ll start to feel much better!)

I have slayed Sloth Beth before and I can do it again.

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Race Medal Inflation

As you know, I’m rather addicted to race medals. And since I started racing in 2007, there’s been a considerable amount of what I’m calling race medal inflation. Race medal inflation has occurred both in the number of medals being offered and in the size of medals.

Medals have gotten considerably bigger over the years. Case in point: The medal on the left is from the 2007 BMO Vancouver half marathon and the one on the right is form the 2015 version of the same race:

Vancouver BMO half marathon mdeals - 2007 and 2015

Here they are shown with the 2009 BMO Vancouver medal in the middle – you can see that the progression has been a gradual increase over the years:

Three different years of BMO Vancouver half marathon

The other way that race medal inflation is occurring is in terms of the number of things you can get medals for.  When I first started racing, you usually needed to run at least a half marathon to get a medal – the BMO Vancouver Marathon was notably in that it gave a medal for the 8 km race, which was virtually unheard of in those days. But these days most 5 km and 10 km races offer a finisher medal.

Plus, races are also offering bonus medals for running multiple races – the Rock’n’Roll series of races does this a lot. If you run two RnR events in a calendar year that are at least a half marathon, you get the bonus “Double Beat” medal. If you run 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. RnR events that are at least a half marathon, there are bonus medals for that too. Plus there are themed bonus medals – like getting the Cascadia medal for running the half or full-marathons in each of Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. And my personal favourite was that someone I know was given the “World Rocker” medal for running two RnR events that were at least a half marathon or longer in two different countries – because he ran the marathon in Montreal and the half marathon in Vancouver, BC. That’s right folks – apparently RnR thinks that Montreal is not in Canada.

And finally, you can also now get race medals for running non-existent races. The Hollywood Florida Virtual Half Marathon was like this – you just had to send a link to show that you’d run a half marathon distance worth of running during an allotted timeframe (e.g., from an app like Runkeeper or from your GPS watch) and pay US$20 and you got the medal. I did that one, but it didn’t feel nearly as fulfilling as running a real race. Which is actually what kept me from going for the RnR “Bonus Track Virtual Run” – which only requires that you run *any* distance you want at some point between Dec 17 and Dec 31 and then pay them US$26, which, with the current US exchange rate, is about eleventy billion dollars.

I mean, it’s a super cool medal because the guitar pick slides up and down (!), but the fact that you could just go out and run 0.1 km for all they care, means you are really just buying yourself a medal. That’s no fun.

Anyway, all this talk about race medals is getting me excited about running actual races. I really should decide what ones I want to do this year!

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My 2015 race medals

One of my 2015 goals was to add 5 new race medals to my collection. Mission accomplished!

My 2015 race medals

My first medal of the year didn’t come until May, when I ran the BMO Vancouver half marathon:

BMO Vancouver half marathon 2015 medal

Then came the Florida virtual half marathon:

Florida virtual half marathon 2015 medal

The PNE Donut Dash 5 km wins the prize for the cutest medal in my collection:

PNE Donut Dash 2015 medal

Then there was my first ever demi-marathon at the Montreal Rock’n’Roll marathon:

Montreal demi-marathon medal 2015

And finally, there was the Rock’n’Roll 10 km race:

Vancouver Rock'n'Roll 10 km medal 2015I originally thought I’d get a bonus medal called the “Double Beat” medal for having done two Rock’n’Roll events, but I learned too late that you had to do at least a half marathon distance at each event to qualify for that, so no bonus medal for me! Good thing I’d done the Donut Dash so I already had five1!

  1. Of course, there were several small races even after the Rock’n’Roll Vancouver 10 km that I could have run to get a medal if I’d needed to. []

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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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I came here to kick ass and eat donuts – the Inaugural PNE Donut Dash 5k race

PNE Donut DashExcept that I didn’t really go to the race to kickass. Because I was really there for donuts. And cotton candy. And a race medal with an adorable running donut on it.

This morning my friend Julie1, her friend Jen, and I participated in the first ever PNE2 5km Donut Dash. The premise of the race is that you run through the PNE fairgrounds before the park opens and you will “be reenergized with tasty Fair treats throughout the course, including mini donuts, cotton candy and more!” (source). Having now done the race, I would like to contest both the phrases “throughout the course” and “and more!”

Before the race, I wasn’t too sure about the idea of eating a donut in the middle of a run – I find it hard enough to stomach my electrolyte/fuel gummies on a run, let alone having a pile of deep-fried dough in my belly, so I probably shouldn’t complain that there wasn’t a tonne of treats on the race course. Actually, if anything, what they really needed more of was water stations on the route – given that we are in the midst of a summer-long heat wave here in Vancouver, a single water station on a 5 km route was definitely not sufficient. I thought I was maybe going overboard bringing my water bottle belt on a mere 5 km run, but in retrospect I was quite glad I did!

PNE Donut DashThe race started on a track at Empire Field, but you quickly veered off that and onto a pathway, and then it was off through the park. I was originally hemming and hawing about whether I was going to run by myself at a fast pace or run with my friends who were planning on a slower pace with some walk breaks. In the end, I choose the latter and I was glad I did because not only is it nice to hang out with friends, but there were apparently 1300 runners in the race and the pathway was quite narrow for the entire route, so I think if I’d tried to run at a faster pace, I’d have been frustrated the entire time being stuck behind slower runners and walkers.

PNE Donut Dash

It was kind of fun running through the park – I haven’t been to the PNE in ages, so it was neat to see the different booths and rides and games and dinosaurs. Because there are dinosaurs there apparently. There were also bunch of kids dressed up as pirates and mermaids and some sort of showgirl-type thing but with hot pink Converse hightops, all of whom were ready and willing to high-five the passing runners. Somewhere around the middle of the race we finally reached our first treat station – cotton candy! There were people handing it out in plastic bags (see the photo) – I insisted on getting the blue cotton candy, which for some reason seemed much more rare than the pink. Then we didn’t see another treat station until the 4.4 km mark3, where we finally reached the mini-donuts, which were also being handed out in little bags4. And from there it was just over a 1/2 km that we had to carry our haul to the finish line, because seriously, who can eat a donut and also run?

When we came to the finish line, I decided to go for a little “sprint”5. I passed a little boy who was maybe 6 or 7, who then decided he was going to race me! So he and I ran for the finish line and he actually veered at me to try to cut me off! Fortunately, despite being short, I still have significantly longer legs than a 6 or 7 year old and managed to get aside to avoid being run into but it only took a couple of strides to catch up and run alongside so that we ran across the finish line at the same time6.

At the finish line, they were giving out the medals and all of the people holding medals at the start of the line had medals with red ribbons, but I could see the guy at the back had blue ribbons. So, because I do always like to be different, I bypassed all the medal giver-outers at the front and went to the last guy in line and asked for a blue one. I said “Does the blue ribbon mean anything?” and he just shook his head, and handed it to me. Then he ran off because he noticed the little boy who I’d crossed the finish line with had walked right past all the medal giver-outers without getting a medal. So the little boy also got a blue ribbon.

PNE Donut DashAfter the finish line, they had fancy mini-donuts – dipped in chocolate with sprinkles on them – that they were handing out one of to each runner. Sadly, they were a bit on the dry side and we honestly wondered if they were just day olds that they dressed up! The sugar-covered mini-donuts that we were given along the race route were much better. Happily, the cotton candy was delicious! I’m sure it was because I insisted on getting the blue kind.

All in all, it was a pretty fun time and I have now earned 3 medals towards my goal of earning 5 medals this year. Next up: Montreal half marathon – more than 4x the distance of today’s run and significantly fewer donuts expected… though I do plan to indulge in some poutine, a Montreal smoked meat sandwich, and some glorious, glorious spruce beer while I’m in Quebec – just not during the race!

 

 

  1. You may recall Julie from the zombie obstacle course race and the Longest Game for CF. Clearly, our friendship is based on doing awesome sporty things together! []
  2. That’s the Pacific National Exhibition for my non-BC readers. For my Ontarian readers, it’s like the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition), except more Pacific. I was about to say “except we understand there is more to Canada than just our city *cough* Toronto *cough*”, but then I realized that it has the word “national” in it, so maybe we are saying we are the whole country expect not because it’s just the Pacific part? Or that Toronto is being redundant because it’s says “Canadian” and “national”? Anyway, my heads hurts now, so suffice it to say that the PNE is like the CNE – a big fair with all sorts of exhibits and games and food and whatnot and this footnote is way longer now than a footnote should be. I think I’m still on a sugar rush for the donuts and cotton candy that I had for breakfast. []
  3. hence my comment that it wasn’t really mini-donuts “throughout” the race course. []
  4. And that was it for treat stations, hence my contesting the phrase “and more!” []
  5. I say “sprint” in quotation marks, as it wasn’t *that* fast, but it was faster than we had been going. []
  6. I was going to let him win, but after he tried to knock me off course, I changed my mind! []

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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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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. []

By

Unsloth

Hey, remember that time that I mentioned being a total sloth? Apparently my strategy of blogging about my slothiness as a way of killing said slothiness was a good one, as I have managed to turn around my slothy ways and get myself back on track. Since that blog posting, I’ve done:

  • 7 runs (for a total of 58.52 km)
  • a 35 km bike ride
  • 4 hockey games
  • 2 hockey lessons

Not bad for 29 days.

RunI’ve also signed up for the 10km Night Race and am tentatively planning to do the 10km Rock & Roll race – for the latter, I’m just waiting for my Coquitlam hockey schedule for October to be posted, to make sure I don’t have a hockey game that morning1. I really hope that my hockey game isn’t in the morning that day, as the medal for the Rock & Roll is gorgeous and I really, really want to add it to my collection!

And speaking of hockey, in addition to playing on my two teams (one in Coquitlam, one in Burnaby), I’ve also signed up for 10 weeks of hockey lessons on Saturday mornings. As I said to my friend Patricia the other day, after two years of weekend MBA classes, I apparently have to be learning *something* on a Saturday morning! Basically, I decided that after 10 years of playing hockey2, it’s high time that I learned how to shoot a puck. We’ve had two lessons so far and I’m finding it very helpful. The class is small (there were only 4 of us there today), which means we get a lot of 1-on-1 coaching and the coach is excellent at breaking down skills into easy-to-understand parts. This is helpful for both improving skills that I’ve developed bad habits on (e.g., skating form) and for working on skills that I never really mastered in the first place (e.g., shooting the puck). The coach also pointed something out in the first lesson – during a game, you probably only touch the puck for 15-30 seconds in total, so how can one expect to get good at stick handling or shooting with so little time to actually do it? So I’m really glad I’m taking these lessons, so that I can spend time working on these skills. Of course, the lessons are only 45 minutes long and we work on a bunch of things3, so I really need to get out to some stick’n’puck to put in some dedicated time working on the skills I’m learning, because you really don’t get good at this stuff until you’ve done it enough times that you no longer have to think about it!

Sunset HockeySo, the upshot of this is that I’ll be on the ice three times a week from now until mid-November4. Plus, I now have a standing Tuesday night running date, so I’ll be getting that workout in as well. Also, I am now settled into my new office enough that I know where the shower facilities are, so yesterday I went out on my first ever lunch hour run. Since I work so close to the seawall, it would be a crime not to take advantage of that great running route! I think this will be especially useful in the winter-time, when it’s dark before I leave for work and dark by the time I get home – I can run on my lunch when there is actually daylight!

In addition to all of this, I’m also inspired by my goal of running 800 km in 2014. When I lasted blogged about my slothiness, I was 57% of the way to my goal, but 63% of the way through the year. Thanks to my renewed training, I’m now 64% of my way to my goal and we are 70% of the way through the year. So I’m maintaining my relative standing (i.e., I’m 6% behind), but I’ll take that as an improvement, because I had been on a trajectory of falling further and further behind. I’ve crunched the numbers and figured out that I need to average ~19km per week for the rest of the year to meet my goal. It’s a lot, but given the aforementioned Tuesday night running dates and lunch time running option, I think I can do it!

Image Credits: Running shoe photo posted on Flickr by Fe llya and hockey photo posted on Flickr by Tyler, both with Creative Commons licenses.

Footnotes:

  1. To me, every form of exercise other than hockey is just off ice conditioning, so if I have to choose between hockey and a local race, it’s going to be hockey, not matter how beautiful the race bling is []
  2. Or is it 11? I can never seen to remember when I started playing! []
  3. Today we worked on stopping, cross overs, dangling, and wrist shots. []
  4. Well, except for this coming week, as I have to miss my first two games in Burnaby due to conflicts with other events. []