First 29km in the Books

Things get serious fast when training for a marathon and this was the week it all happened.

The schedule called for 29km today – the first of three weeks of runs in the 29-32km range. With just eight weeks to go now until race day, this first 29km run is always a test of how things are going.

I’m happy to say that I passed today with flying colours. I ran a very solid 29km today with tons of energy and pace left at the finish. I dare say I could have grunted out a full 42.2km today if I had to.

Tempo and Hills

I ran the usual weekday runs this week, including a 7 hills run on Wednesday. That sort of kicked my ass and Thursday’s 8km run wasn’t easy. My legs felt a bit dead, but I toughed it out and finished up the 8km that was in the calendar. A rest day on Friday was just what I needed and I had the usual power and energy on Saturday for the easy 6km.

Fit and Feeling Strong

Strava now rates my fitness as a 62 which is better than I was at any point of my training last year, including the day before the race. I have to say, I feel stronger and fitter now than I have in a really long time.

We’re off to Florida on Tuesday and that will be a bit of a challenge in terms of training. I hope to be able to get in a quick run on Tuesday some how, then also a couple more while we’re at Disney. We’ll see how that goes. Sunday’s long run will be in Naples, Florida and I’m looking forward to running in the warm weather for a change after a pretty tough winter up here in Toronto.

Sticking With It

I need to just keep the pedal to the metal now and push through for the next two months. Race day is just around the corner and there are just five weeks until things start to ease back into the taper. As tough as training is, when you get to the plateau, it’s really not a long time spent there.

Nine Weeks to Go

It’s just 63 days until the 2018 BMO Vancouver Marathon now and the training continues to go well.

This week was a step-back week in my training program. That means that rather than continuing to build on the mileage for the long Sunday run, this week featured a shorter run than the last few.

With just 19km on the schedule, these step-back weeks provide a chance to rest up and recover a bit before the next push that will take me into the 29km and 32km runs.

I usually work in a full week of easier runs on step-back weeks. I took it a bit slower on Tuesday, still ran the hills on Wednesday and then ran just some real steady pace miles on Thursday and Saturday.

The run today wasn’t easy as the route included Mt. Pleasant which is a bit of a grinder of a hill. With an overall average pace of 5:35/km, this was one of my slowest Sunday runs so far.

Week Six – Here Come the Miles!

I missed the weekly training update last week, but I didn’t miss any of the training. I’ve run back to back Sunday runs over the half marathon distance and we’re heading into the rapid escalation of weekly mileage.

That first in-training half marathon of the year went well, with a nice negative split (mostly due to some nasty weather). The front half was run fairly easy, but after the turn around, the winds were in our face and it was starting to freezing drizzle so I dropped the hammer and ran the back half at race pace.

Tuesday was another indoor run, and the pace was good and fairly easy. I ran the usual 6km at an average pace of 4:26/km. These tempo runs continue to get easier as the training builds in and my fitness comes back.

Hills!

Wednesday marked the start of the hill training portion of the schedule and that meant a bit of a step back in the Wednesday distance from 10km down to about half that. The good news? It was mild and an early finish to work allowed for four times up and down Victoria Park before dinner.

Thursday was back to the treadmill at Variety Village with a steady 8km run. The pace was back around the 5:25/km range which is where I’ve been trying to keep my non-tempo runs.

ebrc-w6Saturday was a family affair with Ginny on the treadmill to my right while Mackenzie put in a few kilometres on the treadmill to my left. In the end, it was another 6km at a fairly easy pace of about 5:20/km.

Another 20+km Sunday

That brings me to Sunday, with a 23km on the schedule. Ray mapped out a nice west-east route that got us a good way out to the west end. It was nice to get out to Keele and St. Clair; it’s cool to run out to what seems like a long way from the start and makes for a pretty nice tour of Toronto.

I ran well, keeping the pace slow again, although the overall pace is starting to creep up a bit. I need to slow it back down to the 5:30 or even 5:40/km as we get into these big distance runs.

200 for February…and sloooow down

Looking at the schedule ahead, I need to put in all the runs and keep my Wednesday mileage up close to 8km for the next two weeks to ensure I top 200km for February. One of my goals in training is to get over that 200km monthly total for four months leading up to race day in May. The math says it’s a done deal, even with a short 28 day month.

Next week features a 26km Sunday run and that brings some new challenges. I feel confident in my ability to run the distance – I could have easily run a few more kilometres on Sunday’s 23.6km run. I need to continue to pay attention to pacing and ensure that I’m running smart with fast runs on Tuesday, good hill training on Wednesday and then easier runs on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

How Experiencing Pain Made Me a Better Person (and Runner)

Pain sucks. Trust me.

I’ve been through some pain. A run in with a car while riding my bike to work on September 16, 2011 introduced me to pain at a level I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I went over the hood of a car, landed on my left side and pushed my left elbow out through my triceps and shattered my humerus (upper arm) into five or six pieces. A paramedic who happened to be just around the corner and was on scene in less than two minutes was honest with me while I was lying on the road with my arm bent and pointed in the wrong direction.

“We need to move your arm onto your chest. This won’t be fun, but it has to be done.”

It wasn’t fun. It hurt like hell. But once it was moved, and my arm was across my chest and roughly back were it belong, it was better.

In the emergency room various doctors, paramedics and nurses came by to look at my injury. I remember on guy picking dirt out of the bone that was protruding through my arm. I learned that pain medication works.

An open, displaced, compound fracture was the official diagnosis. Dr. McKee put it all back together in a five or six hour surgery that night. Two plates, 13 screws and 42 staples.

The first night was long and tough. The pain was intense and it was impossible to sleep.

I spent two nights in St. Michael’s Hospital before they deemed me well enough to head home with a prescription for hydromorphone and instructions to start physio in a week.

The pain medication worked wonders. I could take 10 milligrams, and within 15 minutes the pain would fade away. Three hours later, it would return and it was time for another dose.

Physio is a special kind of hell

I started physio not knowing what to expect. It became clear within the first ten minutes of my first bi-weekly session that, like the moving of my arm on the road after the accident, this wasn’t going to be any fun at all. I would take the same 10 milligrams of hydromorphone on the walk over to the clinic. It barely took the edge off the pain.

Some days I would leave in tears. A “good session” left me exhausted and with a throbbing arm for hours. For months and months, twice a week, I walked over to the clinic and let someone stretch and twist and bend my arm for 30 minutes before sticking me with 15 acupuncture needles to aid in the recovery.

I figured I would be done and recovered by Christmas when the injury first happened. Then I thought maybe spring, and I signed up for the 2012 BMO Vancouver Marathon in May. All through the winter I thought of being done with physio and running a marathon to celebrate and declare that I was back.

I ran the marathon, and cried at the end because while I finished the race, I wasn’t done my recovery yet. The next day it was back to Toronto and a day after that I walked over to physio again and again for another three months.

By the summer, it was clear that I wouldn’t get my range of motion back no matter what we did at physio. I talked it over with doctors and my physiotherapist and decided to go back and have the plates, screws and scar tissue removed in another surgery that eventually happened in late March, 2013.

The day after the surgery I went home and a few days later it was back to the clinic for more physio and more pain. That went on for another few months until the progress stopped and I had to accept that my left arm would never be right again. That was that.

I still have pain from time to time. Some days my left hand goes numb because the nerve that runs through my elbow joint gets pinched. Changing weather (especially when rain or snow is on the way) leaves me with am annoying dull ache for a day or two. Every night when I try to get in a comfortable position to sleep with an arm that won’t bend the way it used to, I’m reminded of how I had to sleep on the couch for six months after the accident.

I thought this was a running blog

So what does all this have to do with running?

I’ve run 11 marathons and two 50km ultras. Anyone who runs long distance will tell you the same thing. It can hurt.

“Make friends with pain, and you’ll never be alone.” – Ken Chlouber, creator of the Leadville 100 mile ultra marathon.

I can honestly say that experiencing that kind of intense and frequent pain from my bike crash changed me. It made me realize that I was tougher than I ever imagined that I was. Initially I dreaded walking over for physio and often contemplated quitting it entirely.

But a strange thing happened over time. I started to look forward to physio. It’s not that I enjoyed the pain, but I started to embrace the process and the pain that was part of it. It was never fun, but it had to be done.

It was often awful, terrible pain. And I survived. And two days later I would go back for more and do it again.

I realized that if I went in thinking, “Bring it on!” that the sessions were way better and far more productive. Not fighting the pain and embracing the process meant more progress.

When it came to training, I started looking at my runs the same way. I looked forward to tempo runs on Tuesday where I could push myself and then come back on Wednesday and do it all again on sore legs.

Sunday long runs were a chance to explore how far I could run when my legs were yelling at me that they couldn’t run anymore. I became more aware of the difference between good pain that I should push through and bad pain that was telling me to stop.

More pain, more gain

Last March I fell out on a 29km run on Hilton Head Island. I was 14km into the run and I went down hard. It turned out that I broke two ribs in that fall, but I didn’t know it at the time. I ran 15km back to our place on the other side of the island after the fall, with each step becoming more and more painful as things tightened up.

The next week was rough. Sleep was tough, breathing hurt and running was basically impossible (of course I tried). The 2017 BMO Vancouver Marathon was already on my schedule and the flights and hotel were booked. I had eight weeks until race day and I could barely move, let alone run.

The day after we got back to Toronto I made an appointment with my physiotherapist. I told her what happened and we got to work to make running a marathon in less than eight weeks a possibility.

I fell on March 12 and started running again on March 28 and let me tell you, it hurt.

It began with an easy 5km run/walk on a Tuesday night. Then a harder 8km on Wednesday. Then 10km on Friday. Sunday was a painful and difficult 17km.

I embarked on a very aggressive plan to get two 30km runs done in April before starting the taper with a 23km run three weeks before race day. Those 30km runs hurt like no other runs I’ve ever done (including my first 50km ultra). But I ran them from start to finish and, like the physio sessions after my second arm surgery, I looked forward to the pain and embraced it as part of the process.

Marathon day came and I finished it with a really great first 32km and a really tough last 10km. I knew at the start line that the last quarter of the run would be a slog. And I started it anyways, ran to it and ran (and walked) through it to the finish.

Embrace it, overcome it

Pain sucks. But it’s part of life.

Jordan Peterson says about pain, “Pick up your damn suffering and bear it.”

In other words, this life we’re living sometimes sucks and it includes suffering and it involves pain. Suck it up. Pull yourself together and get on with it.

I think of this often when the running gets tough. Like in life, when things turn to shit, you have two choices. You can walk away from it and complain and feel sorry for yourself. Or you can toughen up. Take it. Embrace it. Run through it. Overcome it.

When I’m out on the marathon course, or even in the later stages of a really rough training run, one of the biggest motivations is knowing from experience that the best way to deal with the pain is to run through it and overcome it.

Just like when I walked out of a particularly horrible physio session after my accident, when I hit the finish line after 42.2km and some wonderful volunteer puts that medal around my neck, the pain sure as heck doesn’t go away.

It’s still there and sometimes it’s even worse than when I was running. But it has no power over me anymore. I’ve won. I’ve embraced the pain and invited it in. And it didn’t beat me. I beat it and took its power away.

The Best BMO Vancouver Marathon Medals Yet

I thought the 2017 BMO Vancouver Marathon medals were stunning. But now that the 2018 medals have been revealed, I have to admit that this year’s design is easily the best yet.

I’ve earned some nice medals over the years and the four I have from various BMO Vancouver Marathons are some of my favourites. The Ottawa Marathon medals are also nice, and the Toronto Waterfront Marathon medals with various Toronto landmarks are also great.

I can’t wait to add this beauty to my collection in 94 days.

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The front features the course map with a unique relief design that plots the elevation of the route in three dimensions.

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The back features the famous mountain peaks called The Lions off in the distance, with ocean waves in the foreground.

Week Four – Slow Down, Here We Go!

One more week with a 16km Sunday run, and then it’s 19km, 23km and 26km through the month of February.

That big-time ramp up at around week six has killed the dreams of many who take on the challenge of training for a marathon. This is the time when the going gets tough. The choice? Either get going, or…not.

I’ve spent the last eight weeks building a very good foundation on which to build in the next phase. Heading into the house building phase that awaits in February is actually not something I dread. Rather, because I know I’ll be building on that solid foundation of fitness and strength, it’s actually exciting to think about the big Sunday runs to come.

But as the mileage ramps up quickly on Sunday, I also need to slow down to ensure that I can avoid injury and build smart. That started this week with a focus on paying attention to running the right pace on my various runs.

Four Good Runs

Tuesday is tempo day, and that’s my chance to run a bit faster and push things a little bit. It’s only a 6km run, so that translates to a little less than 30 minutes total for me. I ran it in 28:18 this week and that was still a fairly conservative tempo pace. I might look at just running 30 minutes on Tuesdays rather than running the usual 6km distance.

Wednesday is also a chance to run faster, but over a longer distance (and therefore, more time). A 47:17 this week showed the progress I’ve made in building strength and fitness. Keeping things reasonable through the non-tempo runs, and not pushing things too hard on Tuesday will make these Wednesday 10km runs better.

On Thursday, I eased the pace back and ran 8km in just over 42 minutes. That’s not slow, but it’s certainly an easier pace for me than the tempo runs. It’s a bit tough mentally to run that slower pace, but I know that the payoff comes on Sunday when I’ll have more strength and endurance, with less fatigue.

Saturday is another 6km run on my training schedule and it’s super tempting to run this one fast as well. But I worked in some hills and kept the pace easy, averaging 5:20/km for 32:05.

Sunday Runday with EBRC

That brings me to Sunday. It was another run with the Eastbound Run Crew (EBRC). Things are really coming together at EBRC with the Sunday runs from The Lab. We have a good group with a lot of experienced runners, many of them long time friends. I stepped back to the 5:30/km pace group today and we did really well.

I ran up front, setting the pace for much of the run. I used page two of my Garmin which omits the time screen in favour of a realtime pace as the main metric. Keeping the pace around 5:30-5:40/km was a bit of a challenge at times, but the overall average pace for the run was right on the money: 5:30/km.

The great news was that 18.5km felt pretty easy. It’s been a long time since I’ve run that far, and while the schedule called for 16km again this week, we’re adding on a bit since most of the group has been to 42.2km multiple times.

200km Month

January comes to an end on Wednesday and I’ll finish up the month at around 205km. Running 200km a month is a pretty big deal for me. I’ve written about this before, but not too many years ago, I wouldn’t hit 200km in a month until March. Thanks to running a higher mileage program, and mostly thanks to running five times a week, these 200km months come earlier in the year for me now.

Onwards to the next phase. 98 days to go.

Week Three – Better Weather, Longer Runs

Another week in the books and this one didn’t involve running with every bit of cold weather gear I own just to stay warm.

Things improved nicely in the weather department over the last couple of days. I hit the treadmill again for the majority of the runs thanks to some school meetings and other life things that prevented any outdoor weekday runs.

Tuesday’s tempo was tough. I had to get up and run this one at 6am and the shorter rest meant my legs were still fatigued from Sunday. I had a bit of a harder time holding the pace compared to usual. But I did manage a good, fairly fast 6km.

It was back to the usual evening run on Wednesday with a reasonably quick 10km on the treadmill. This one was tough to start, but I used some visualization techniques and pulled it together for a strong finish.

Thursday’s 8km was your standard 5 mile run with a hockey game on the TV to help pass the time. Saturday was another early run so we could head to the Rogers Centre and meet Josh Donaldson and George Bell at Winterfest. Suffice to say, it was worth it to get up early and put in a 6km.

Sunday Long Run Day!

That brings me to Sunday. Miguel was out running the MEC 10km race, so it was Heather and me with special guest Michael Liberzon who runs X3 where the EBRC runs on Sunday. Despite his plan to “run a little slower” and our plan to “run a little slower”, we ran the usual pace and finished with some really fast kilometres at the end.

The route was lovely, with a trip out to Dufferin and King, then up to College, over to Ossington and back to the east end via Harbord, Wellesley and Sumach. Running from the east end is nice. Less downtown to run through and fewer lights to chop up the rhythm.

Ahead of Schedule

In theory, I should still be running 13km long runs on Sundays so the fact I’m running more like 17km means I am nicely ahead of pace. If I keep things up here and run the schedule through the end of the month, I’ll finish up over 200km for January. I haven’t run a 200km month since April, 2017.

My Fitness Score on Strava is now at 51, which is a few points ahead of where I was at last year at this point. I’m feeling like things are going well, although it’s early in training with 15 weeks to go until race day!