What's Been Happening...
Spring is finally here and it's also pretty much transitioning into spring running season! Looks like I already broke my resolution of posting more often and then doing the exact opposite couple weeks thereafter ?- I guess I'll make it easier on myself by doing monthly editions, perhaps that will keep things more interesting
I have been keeping average weekly mileage ranging from 75 to 85 km for the past few weeks. This also includes visits to the gym and the dreadmill in which I make sure I don't take any shortcuts by maxing out the incline on the treadmill and steady pace. Majority of the runs stuck to my marathon training regime for May, while other runs are squeezed in strictly as a post-daytime work diversion and clearing my mind (and it helps!) And shoes! Out goes the old ones that accumulated over thousands of kilometres and in comes two pairs of Saucony as my primary workhorses. TBH, the more mileage racked up, the better the excuse it is to buy more pairs of runners as a reward to myself ?
Throughout the past weeks of missing in action, I ran the Chilly Half-Marathon in Burlington and also the signature Around The Bay 30K in Hamilton as training benchmarks towards the main goal of the full marathon in Pittsburgh this upcoming May. For weekly long runs, I managed to set a minimum of at least 25km and keep pushing the mileage boundaries without provoking any preventable injuries. The biggest highlight of them all is my recent 50km run with my brother from my house all the downtown Toronto! I am extremely proud in the sense that I checked off one of my bucket list items and actually turned that mythical points of destination into reality.
First race of the year! This race is the first since the last one in Hamilton for the full marathon. It was a great opportunity to shake off the rust and the race day jitters altogether. Call me superstitious but I am a big believer of starting things (or in this case, the running season) on the right foot (and pun intended!). By getting my pre-race routines and game day rituals right, it helps me significantly to replicate the same best practices for the year ahead. In this case, this Chilly Half helped set the tone for the Around the Bay couple weeks later.
This was my first time competing in this race. Race day pickup was at Mercedes-Benz Burlington. As a car guy and related to my daytime work, I had an enjoyable time being fascinated by nice cars all around not to mention the very long sleeve race shirt for this year. It was a nice touch to have it in black with silver caption accents, so nice that Canadian Running had an article for that very subject.
The course itself was flat and very reminiscent of the Barrie Half Marathon route that I did last June. The start line was somewhere within the middle and you first run towards Hamilton before looping up the lakeshore area northeastward towards Oakville. The only obstacle for this race was mainly the weather as it can significantly vary from year to year. This year was sunny but quite windy so my pace was adjusted to tailor to the conditions. To my delight, I managed to obtain a new half-marathon PB by 2 minutes over the past record in Barrie.
Would I do this race again? Certainly will and I did! The 2019 edition of Chilly Half will be Sunday, March 4, 2018. And it just can't get any better with free beer and chilli after race to complement that PB.
Around The Bay
...I enjoyed the Valley Inn Road so much I came back this year to conquer it again ?- NOT! I am so glad my winter running training plan effectively bailed me out amidst my busy work schedule week. My mind was not ready but my physical training offset the indifferences and it all turned out great. I rode the confidence booster from Chilly Half into this race as well as the lessons learned from last year and the year before in 2016. This year, I decided to tackle the first (fast) corral but tucked myself way at the back of the line. Why? Ample of space within my surroundings. Also, this gives me enough time to slot myself in a comfortable but fast enough of a pace to set the tone for the entire duration of the race. By the 2nd kilometre, I felt that pace I had was sustainable enough to keep me going and so my next priority was finding somebody with the same pace to run behind so I don't feel the full brunt of the headwind crashing towards you. The Burlington skyway segment brought me back memories from my Hamilton marathon so that was a nice distraction during the run. Another thing I did differently was sticking with my gel pack intake during my run and being discipline about it. Just that alone gave me sufficient time absorbing the calories and converse it into my run when I need the energy most. Compared to last year, I had not feel especially tired or suffer tremendously compared to last year and especially during the infamous hill, I felt that I still had lots left in the tank to tackle the hill. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself being featured on Canadian Running's coverage of this year's ATB, check out the YouTube clip below!
When everything's all said and done, I managed to carve out an 11 minute PB over last year's result which further sentiments incremental improvements towards the grand prize: full marathon PB and eventually be competitive enough to chase for the unicorn.
Pittsburgh Marathon is only a few weeks away and I have one more short distance race (Race Roster Spring Run Off) and a few more long runs before tapering. I have been seeking areas with major hills to combat such obstacles if it very well indeed shows up. I'm feeling mentally confident but it doesn't mean jack if I don't continue trusting and following the process set in place for myself with my training. You know what they say: "actions speak louder than words" To be continued next month with updates to my progress then! Cheers - M.W.
Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront half-Marathon
I took this particular week on the easier, relaxing side with the Niagara Falls International Marathon still fresh on my mind. Meanwhile, there was lots going on leading up to the local Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon happening exactly one week after the Niagara Falls. I signed up for this race months ago, speculating that I should have more than enough rest days to recuperate.
There was also another event called the Ghost Race happening in Toronto as hosted by Lululemon from October 13 - 22. Essentially, it was a live run that starts from a certain marked location and keep following through the hints within their set course. Once the course is completed, the raw GPS data must be uploaded onto the Strava app for validation. In the Toronto region, the run was located at the Martin Goodman Trail. I ran through this route with my buddy that was making a short homestay visit while we were picking our packet pickup at the Exhibition Grounds located in the Enercare Centre. I noticed that this event was mostly hosted in major cities. Although this is fine, it would be much preferred if they also have events like these in the uptown area.
A couple of days after the Ghost Run, it was finally the main feature - the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon. For me, this was effectively a mini redemption run - to expel some frustrations from the week before and also rectifying the smaller actions that attributed to last week's fuck up.
This year, I started all the way at the end of the first (red) corral. I was banking that this would give me ample of space to maneuver around various runners and set a constant, sustainable pace for the remainder of the run. The notion of "don't start bursting out of the floodgates too fast" was by and large from the very start of the race - especially since I committed such a rookie mistake still fresh from one week prior. I was very cautious of my pace for the first five kilometres of the race until the slight downhill segment (similar to the end line of the Sporting Life 10K area at the bridge and then the down slope) and then I started to increase my pace comfortably from the 5th kilometre to the 13th km where you do the turnaround at the Lakeshore Boulevard. I also conserved enough energy to make a huge boost by delaying my energy gel intake so that way the calories kick in right when you start running uphill at the 14 - 17th km slot. At the end of it all, I managed to register in a final chip time of 1:32:46 which almost eclipsed the all-time PB time I got back in June 2017 from the Barrie Half Marathon. Not bad considering this was a secondary cool down from the full-marathon from the week before. More importantly, it acts as a huge confidence booster with another few weeks until a second redemption opportunity knocks in the form of the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon.
As my university's universal motto goes, "keep pushing on!" (or Surgite!) - MW
Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon
The weather for race day was certainly not the most ideal with intermittent rainfall and cold winds. However, I was able to manage my overall pace from start to finish as well as even distributing my energy gel pack intake.
Takeaways from this race: maintain a comfortable yet manageable pace / energy gels or chews are your best friend (the more the better... without upsetting your stomach that is) / study the route map and elevation (if you run with music, see how long your playlist is and sequence it in a sense where the most pumped up beats occur when you need it the most)
I especially find this YouTube video embedded from the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon website quite useful as I could envision the time and pace of where I want to be at, at a certain given time during the race.
I look forward to tackle this course again in the near future and use this as my benchmark for potential BQ times.
I'm still smiling ear to ear knowing that a carved out a 19 minute advantage over my last best marathon!
A Little Bit of Hiatus & Rest
It's rest times of such that allows me to sit back and go back to the drawing board for better planning. By doing so, I need more resources and metrics. That's where the extra data sourced from the recent Garmin Fenix purchase and the Garmin Connect app comes in handy. I also managed to convince myself into the Strava Premium (to chase more online virtual achievements ?) and extracting extra data to determine the scale of actual efforts placed in my training runs. Those buzz words such as cadence, spm, stride length, suffer score, and etc. are finally relevant unlike back in half year's time!
In anticipation of the upcoming Niagara Falls marathon in October, I decided to really make an even more dedicated effort to follow through with a training plan (as provided by Strava Premium and the McMillan Running) That means no more half-assing on the fartlek runs just because I didn't quite know what it meant. And easy runs actually means easing the legs while still being conscious of form and stride lengths to maximize running movement. The only thing I will keep flexible for myself is the duration span within one week's time especially when life happens and not everything (and weather) will co-operate at all times.
So the key races for this fall will be the following:
- Niagara Falls International Marathon
- Hamilton Marathon Road2Hope
With side races along the way as interim simulation and progress benchmarks.
Oh, and here's some jams for the month of August to get me moving! Have a great week and hopefully I'll be back with another post on time!
Cheers, - M.W.
The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K Edition
Longest. Race. Ever. (For now...) , at least mission accomplished - FIRST EVER ULTRAMARATHON NOW IN THE BOOKS!
But just like how life is about the journey and not the destination, the same can be said for the running train ups leading up to the big day
Respect the distance. Respect the elevation. Everything looks easy when looking at other people's Strava GPS log and observing their metrics until you have to conquer the dexterity yourself first hand. I was pleased with this year's performance for the most part but of course, there are much more things that can be done for next year's improvements.
Trail Running Versus Road Running
I personally tend to consider myself more of a road runner than a trail runner. For competition, I am more bias towards road whereas for trails, I tend to personally enjoy myself with the nature, scenery and surroundings.
Road running is more paved, predictable and highly accessible for runners living in the downtown core or suburban uptown residential areas. If speed-work is necessary, you don't have to go too far off to do so - perhaps a school track field or an indoor treadmill will do the trick.
Trail running is easier on the feet, with softer landing surfaces compared to the hard asphalt. It is the perfect escape from the hectic surroundings of the concrete jungle and the 9-5 office environment. However based on weather conditions, the running conditions can get very tactical. In this particular case with the race, the mud was more so in a clay like condition. Footwork and cadence that you're used to with road running will no longer be as effective with trails. Especially since you also have to be mindful of the surface conditions such as tree uproots, rocks, uneven grounds, bridge crossings - all while trying not to get hurt along the way.
Start time to the 50K was at 7:00 am. In order for me to be well-prepared, I woke up at 4:30 am, get changed, apply necessary anti-chaffing ointments / bug sprays, fill up hydration bag and grab a quick Timmies drive-thru run for my coffee. As mentioned previously, always stick to your own preferred race food procedures. For me, it is a whole banana and strawberry yogurt and a large double double for good measures. I left a whole hour around 6 am solely for the washroom routine so that there won't be any washroom related issues during the race.
Prior to the start of the race, I left another 45 minutes before gun time just to get moving / walking / jogging to kickstart a transitional heart rate raise without spiking it from a lack of warm up. Mental-wise, I feel much more prepared than the half-marathon one that I did exactly one year ago. I still recall getting caught up in the opening hype and over pushed myself the first 2 km into that race. I corrected that rookie mistake this time around and instead of being in the middle of the starting wave, I waited for the start three quarters into the start line.
I was instantly discouraged by the sights of the wet puddly mud pits in the first few steps right after the start line. "Oh fuck," I thought to myself, "this is going to be an extra shitshow of a run..." It was that moment where I decided to ease back on my already slow pace so that I can hopefully still have some reserve energy and willpower in me to finish in the final few miles. In my mind, I was solely focused on tackling the first 10 kilometres as they would be one of the most intensive obstacles throughout the run. This was based on other runner's Strava data for this very race and they proved to be beneficial going into this race. After the first 10K and a bit, those clay like mud pits were everywhere as I was going uphill. You simply had to slow down and in some cases, side step on the moss or grab a side tree branch to boost yourself upwards. Technical, challenging but fun I suppose. And then of course the uphills. Lots of them... unless you are an elite runner that has trained up to beat up your quads, it is best to just walk up those hills (or at least power stride your way up anyways) Second half was a bit more forgiving with the trail way for the most part. For me, I had a relatively steady running pace to get a momentum going for several kilometres before those mud pits make their return visit with a vengeance just when you're beginning to feel fatigued. I also recall having to do two river crossings, good for clearing out some mud but bad for getting your feet wet if it hasn't already been like that yet.
When everything was all said and done, the official completion time was registered at 7 hours 57 minutes and 6 seconds.
Three things that stood out during the race was (1) having ice filled into my hydration pack whenever I get the chance at the aid stations (2) dropping ice down into my running jersey as a physical "air conditioning" from overheating, and (3) the importance of bringing ibuprofen if in the case of headaches and temporary pain relief [as this was proved helpful to my brother who was also running along side with me]
The aid stations were plentiful throughout the race, resourceful with adequate liquid and solid fuel as well as medical team readily available for assistance. Another bonus was seeing fellow Team Running Free members providing support simply by being out there (whether volunteering or also racing in various races during the race weekend). Nonetheless, very humbled.
Will I do it again for future editions of this race? Certainly! The amount of future trainings will dictate whether I stay at the 50K distance or further challenge myself to the flagship 50 miles.
Race gear: Salomon SpeedCross 3, CEP compression socks, Ciele FSTcap, Team Running Free triathlon jersey, moist towelette (if necessary)
Playlist: note - for safety reasons, no music was brought so that I have the senses to be mindful of any obstacles and hazards around my surroundings, instead the soundtracks below were played driving up to the Blue Mountain Village and departing from.
Opening & Closing Soundtracks
Looks like weather will be heating up this week, so I will most likely resume recovery running Tuesday and onwards. If not, then back to some indoor recovery on the treadmill. As most websites suggest, we all need some down time for rest and bodily maintenance. So, I will be taking the remaining July and August slightly more on the easier side and not get too caught up with racking too much mileage. Next upcoming race won't happen until late September with the Oasis Zoo Run and hopefully smash the last record set in 2015!
CHEERS! - MW