Race Season Begins!
It's quite literally been a fast and furious few weeks into the spring season with all the spring races happening. It has also been transition time for me to adjust the running training schedule earlier so I can avoid training in the summer heat. Fast and furious, mainly because of the key races such as setting a new benchmark for the marathon time in Pittsburgh and also a new PR for 10K for the (plentiful of downhills) Sporting Life 10K. I'm proud to say that I'm still basking on that extended runner's high even it's been a few weeks time. But like all things, can't dwell on past achievements and have to plan actionable training plans to keep pushing the PR envelope even further!
May 6: Pittsburgh Marathon
This full marathon at Pittsburgh is my first out of country run outside of Ontario. I was equally as excited as I was with the travelling and the unknown jitters. However, I felt pretty confident going in with the winter training finally coming to fruition with a few side race PRs from Burlington and Hamilton sedimenting that state of mind.
During taper week, I actually did not really minimize my weekly mileage but rather running at a significantly reduced pace - at least just so I mentally don't feel that I forgot how to run lol. I was increasingly carbing up at the second half of the week to reduce the over bingeing the very last minute. In terms of travelling, left Toronto at around 6:30 pm and headed straight for Pittsburgh with the intention of going straight to their convention centre for baggage and bib pickup. That was a relatively manageable 7 hour drive with a pitstop by Grove City as I made it down by around 1:30 pm... quite honestly not too bad in my opinion. That very day, I had a late lunch (not by choice) followed by yet another carb rich dinner a couple hours later so that there are enough time for digestion and be deep sleeping by 10 pm before race day. By the time I'm back to the hotel, I had roughly an hour to pack the next day's baggage prep and bib belt essentials.
Pre-Race Rituals: Hotel Kuerig coffee pod, banana, Starbucks muffin that I got one the night before / anti-chaffing balm applications / Google Mapping the designated parking area again before leaving
I find it nerve-wrecking especially if you have to blindly drive off to a set designated parking that's not your home turf with the addition of public roads gradually being closed off bit by bit as time winds down. Once the parking was done and over with, the first line of business was to do baggage check and then finding my set start line corral. Also in the meantime, it was just as important looking for nearby porta-potty and do my constant cycle from using the stall to lining up again to keep the bowels and the bladders at bay.
0 - 10 Miles
New: I started at the first corral for this marathon. Unlike previous runs, I made a deliberate choice to space out at the very far end so I can manoeuvre around passerby without all too much additional effort. It was also quite new to me to get accustomed to mile markers as I'm so used to seeing kilometres over miles. Throughout the very first kilometre (based from my GPS watch), it was busy hunting for that sweet spot pace where it can dictate the overall tone of the entire duration of the run. Once the pace was attained, I started to push that benchmark pace a bit more and test if it is sustainable enough without any extra discomfort early into the run. The elevation for this part was manageable but the humidity that very day made things uncomfortable (although I can't complain about the overcast skies prior to the rain showers...) I recall that after the initial bit of bridge crossings, that's where that gummy worms pickup from some random stranger really came in handy and euphoric. Essentially those sugar bombs carried me through into the next sequence of the run.
10 - 20 Miles
Still chugging along until the upcoming bridge crossing and leading into miles 12 - 13. From there at around near half-marathon distance, a very un-welcoming 43 metres of elevation awaited to be grind through. Essentially, the surface of those roads are highway exit on ramps which gradually merges into a residential road. You know how I mentioned about those gummy worms? They REALLY came in handy as I chewed down on them some more to extract as much sugar as I can to push on through ?. However after that initial uphill, it was not completely done and over with where the next sequence was nothing but small rolling hills around various sub-divisions within Pittsburgh. Although speed made everything seem like a blur, I managed to observe my surroundings and be able to pickup on generic impressions of the city overall and the community that keeps the place operational. Select areas remind me of Hamilton, Ontario when I did the Around The Bay and also the Hamilton Road2Hope Marathon.
20 Miles - Finish
This last segment was mostly downhills as the course makes a returning route back into the downtown core of Pittsburgh. I recall the overall pace then was at around roughly 4:10 min/km and the time advantage really had me thinking that qualifying for BQ was no longer just a pipe dream but rather something that I can actually attain with even more serious training from where I'm at now. At around mile 24, I literally tried picking up the pace and flirted with the idea of actually gunning for that elusive qualifying 3:05:00 finishing time. However by the time the mile was done and onto mile 25, it was mathematically no longer feasible. I was not discouraged... very content as a matter of fact. So I consciously slightly dialled back the pace so that I can still finish at a respectable time frame. To my absolute surprise, the final time was at 3:08:48 based on my watch. I can't get any more ecstatic than that!
Takeaways: YES - the qualifying times can be attainable, but the million dollar question is - "how badly do you want it and exactly what will you do to attain it?" In addition to those self-questioning statements, I need to hold myself accountable with an actual timeline to what I plan to do in order to measure progress and self-evaluations. After all, momma didn't raise no quitter!
May 13: Sporting Life 10K 2018
June 2018: Toronto Lululemon 10K
I have been running with my local Lululemon chapter in preparation for the upcoming 10K in June. You see, I love running in groups even more so than just running solo during my own training. I feel even more empowered when I know that I can help somebody make a positive difference, albeit a new PB, feeling good about themselves, moral boost, etc.
Returning to the trails! Now that the Endurance Challenge in Blue Mountains for July is no longer happening, I can finally turn my attention to do trail running at other locations within Southern Ontario and tap into my inner adventure bug. But, I have been even more wary of nature's hazards such as blazing sun damage and disease carrying insects such as ticks and mosquitoes. Aside from that, let's keep adventuring on!
Cheers and until next time - M.W.
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.
Roller Coaster Weather
The weather has not been kind in the past two weeks in Greater Toronto Area. It has been a constant cycle of merciless snowfall, freezing temperatures, or a combination of both.
I barely hanged on with a whole lot more visits to the gym with the treadmills and upper body workout to complement the constant abuse on the lower body from the running mileage. I also managed to stay focused by having online motivations such as an online Strava badge ?. In this case, it was the 5 x 5k challenge as reflected this past week with five consecutive days of running.
Mike's Winter Essentials: Nathan Halo Fire - Review
Disclosure: This headlight was bought out of my own pocket and did not alter my influence for this review
The Halo Fire by Nathan outdoor products is their flagship headlamp especially with runners in mind. It comes with 3 LED lights for various lighting modes. Their product page also claims to have over 280 lumens on their brightest mode - it is bright for sure but at the expense of shorter usage time.
- 5 lighting modes (from dim to max brightness, strobe mode)
- RunWave technology for convenience and less fidgeting during the run
- Reflective materials on the strap
- Product guarantee backed by Nathan --> excellent customer service
Real Life Application
I received my Nathan Halo Fire as a direct replacement from my personally bought Nathan Nebula Fire. The outgoing headlamp stopped charging through the USB charger and was effectively useless if it cannot charge. I reached out to Nathan's Facebook page and they were quick to ship me the replacement (which became the very Halo Fire that I have been using even to this very day) upon proof of original purchase of my defective headlamp. I am pleasantly surprised by their willingness to stand behind the products that they sell and doing the right things to delight purchasers like me. However, I have since been quite wary of all electronic devices that require USB charging - including this replacement piece.
If you are interested in this item or similar, I am pleased to offer $5.00 OFF merchandise over $50.00 or more excluding taxes - at runningfree.com or at an in-store Running Free. Simply apply the CODE: 47794 to redeem this offer from me!
Have a good week ahead! Cheers - M.W.
Moving forward, I am revising the blog title to a much more appropriate "The Uptown Runner" moniker.
The more I observe my own runs within the suburban neighbourhoods, the more I realize of the differences compared to downtown running. More open running space, less traffic stops. More solo running journeys, less so of community-knitted runners out there. And ongoing changing landscapes with non-stop urban development and growth pushing northward in the City of Markham.
Adding Incremental Mileage to Weekly Totals
I have been adding extra mileage to top up my weekly mileage totals for the past four weeks. This is mainly to further build endurance and trying to achieve my goal to reach up to 3,000 km or more by year end. I pushed it even farther to 3,200 km so I have some buffer should I need to take any extended breaks from bodily fatigue or commitments along the way as the days pass by.
New Playlist & Song Sequencing
Indoor Track Work
Gradual Mileage Increase
This year, I am also attempting to raise my weekly running mileage and ultimately pushing the annual goal boundary too. Last year, I set a modest mileage of 60 km / week. And by trying to stick with the program, I realized that I once again have to be even better at my time management skills - as if I haven't already done so. However, life happens and so do injuries along the way. So it goes along way to compromise my regular day-to-day priorities along with my running hobbies. At the end of it all, I managed to rack up approximately 2,800 km. Not bad but fell short of my personal goal of 3,000 km.
The realistic goal for this year would once again be 3,000 km. But I am raising the bar higher to 3,200 km. In other words, I am once again setting my weekly goal of 60 km plus an extra 5 for good measures if in the case of any minor setback.
I came across an interesting article from Runner's World, suggesting of the 6 training habits that lead to Boston qualifying times - according to Strava. I feel confident knowing that the tailoring for this year's training is mostly aligned to what the article states.
The Strava 40|80 Challenge hosted by Lululemon was also great motivation to kick start the frequent running habits to. By the end of the event, I managed to rack up roughly 82 km within 13 days. Hopefully my drive towards improvement continues on for the remainder of the year, and not limited to just being motivated by prizes and tangibles ??
Have a great week everyone! - M.W.