“He’s Going The Distance / He’s Going For Speed…”

Another weekend, another long run.

This week was the start of the taper to my training runs. 6.5/8/6.5 mid-week (including a couple of speedy runs), then I swapped my Saturday and Sunday runs so that I did my 5k first, and the long run on Sunday.

Saturday’s 5k just plain felt good as I got underway, and so I decided to kinda push things a little. In the end, I PB’d it, clocking in at 22:06. I’m quite happy with this time, I have to say.

Planning was key to Sunday’s run. I have been using Runkeeper for the last few years to track things, and it’s been fun to see my progress as things go along. It’s also been immeasurably handy for picking out routes that make sense. For Sunday’s run, I departed View Royal, ran along the north side of the Gorge to Tillicum Rd, across the bridge, down Craigflower to Banfield Park, where I got onto the Galloping Goose. Past the new pedestrian bridge, I made my way to the West Bay Walkway, down past Work Point to Saxe Point, and home along Admirals Road, with the last of my trek going around Shoreline Trail. 17.7km in around 1:40. At that pace, I probably had enough left in the tank to notch things up and really chase it home for the last 3.4km.

Again, thanks to Runkeeper, I got some valuable info about pacing. I take my audio cues every km so that a) I know where I am in the run, and b) so that I have an idea of whether I need to pour it on or not. For my long runs, I’ve been just loping along, seeing where I end up naturally. These last two runs have been fairly quick by the long-slow-distance book, and realistically, my last three or four weekends have been pretty close to race pace.

Examining my pace over the course of this distance though, I think to how I was feeling underfoot and in conjunction with how my body was moving, and there were times when I made minor adjustments that seemed to make a world of difference. Specifically, if I loosened up my hips, I found that I could fly without causing myself any additional cardiovascular load, causing my pace per km to drop substantially. Looking at the chart for the last 3-4km of today’s run, I went from about a 5:54/km average down to 5:30 or better.

Week 8 has me doing three 6.5km runs mid-week – I’m going to experiment with race pace and changing my mechanics a little before a shorty (2-mi) on Saturday, and a 12-miler (19.31km!) next Sunday. I’ll have to resist the temptation to just finish the job…

Smashy Smashy

The mid-week runs this week were good. Like, real good. This is my heaviest week of training runs – from Mon-Sun, it was supposed to be off/8/9.65/8/off/16/5 (or, in miles, 5/6/5/10/3).

Things got going in a hurry with my Tuesday run. The GPS in my phone was wonky, and it gave me some erroneous readings, but the numbers that I was being fed as far as pace went just encouraged me to run faster and faster. I wound up at a 4:35/km pace, which is well faster than what I would run my quick 5k at. This run was interesting, too, as I was experimenting a little more with being looser in the hips. I saw in my shadow how I was running, and saw just how stiff I looked and so was able to make an adjustment and it really helped with my pace.

The 9.65km run (Wednesday) didn’t exactly go according to plan. I went to Vancouver with Elijah to go see the Takashi Murakami exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which required a way-too-early wakeup. If I was to run, it would have been a 4:30am start, which I’m just not down with. Instead, I opted for an evening run, and I kinda ended up chasing Levi to Saxe Point Park and back. As I discovered that my pace was on track for a fast 10k, I decided to add the extra 350m and just make it pay. I’m glad I did. My fastest 10k up till that point was 47:12, which I ran with Jeremy Duggleby in 2015. With that one, we sprinted the last 400m, so realistically I was probably closer to 48:15 or more. With this run on Wednesday, I was steadily running 4:40 or thereabouts per km, and clocked it at 46:40. Shaving 30 seconds off your time feels pretty good.

Saturday is my long run this week and I’ll be switching over to Sunday long runs next week. Plan right now is to run from my place around both upper and lower Thetis Lake, coming back via the Galloping Goose. I’ve never run this far before, but I’m confident I can do it.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

Starting to notice (and be noticed for) changes in my body now that I’m really running with some consistency. Probably the biggest change is that running has given me a decent level of buoyancy in my life these days. On days where I don’t run, I really notice a difference in my energy levels (even though I know that I need those days off for recovery). Most runs (ok, almost all of them) have been just fine in terms of aches and pains (see below), and I often find myself with a smile on my face as I’m heading down the road.

The food aspect, though, I don’t think I’d really considered. I’ve always been generally active, but not since I was bike commuting almost 50km a day have I been running my body like this. The constant need to feed is something I didn’t quite expect. When I was riding, sure, I was eating two breakfasts, a sizeable lunch, a good snack, dinner, and maybe an evening snack. Nowadays, I’m pretty much ready to murder a buffet or two, twice or three times a day. Today was one such day – I had eaten a small breakfast (toast with PB and a banana) before heading out for 14.5km/9mi. Got home from my run, ate a second breakfast (eggs with veg, bagel, smoothie, coffee). My hunger was satisfied for a couple of hours, but as I was on the bus to work, everything was fine, fine, fine, OK I NEED FOOD RIGHT NOW AND LOTS OF IT OR I WILL EAT MYSELF FROM THE INSIDE OUT OK THANKS. Same again tonight, I ate a good-sized dinner (even with seconds!) and 2 1/2 hours later, my body is begging for food. Nobody said it’d be like this.

Kristy paid me a rather nice compliment – she’s noticed a difference in my physique as I go through this process. I recall chatting with a colleague years ago, and her husband was my supervisor at the time. Her comment was that he could work out for a couple of days and the extra pounds would just melt off of him. Granted, this guy would get up and work out for two hours before riding his bike from PoMo to downtown Vancouver and was one of the fittest dudes I’d ever met. At nearly-40, I’m feeling good about how my body is reacting to what I’m throwing at it.

As for aches and pains, they’ve been relatively minor, and thankfully not long-lasting. The worst so far was a knee ache after a long run (felt like it might have been a slight hyperextension), and I’ve been experiencing a very minor shin splint on the left side, but only when I’m pushing hard. Maybe the odd foot ache here and there, too.

Up next is a new pair of kicks – I’ve outlived my recommended mileage in the pair I’m in right now and would like to be in some comfy new Cadillacs for game day.

11.26km/7mi

2nd longest run ever today. The awesome part about it was that it felt good through and through. I wasn’t going to win any races at this pace, for sure, but it was the first time I actually felt like I had hope in what first seemed like a daunting task of doing a half-marathon. My natural slow pace runs about 6:30/km (10:28/mi). In order to make a 2:00:00 half, I need to shave that down to an average pace of 5:40/km (9:07/mi) or so, and even then, that only leaves me a 25-second margin of error. The speed work is helping, albeit ouchy. Today was also important in that I learned that knowing a course really helps psychologically. I knew the route to and from where I was headed today, so I could mentally wrangle how far I’d gone. Also helping today was that I was outside, with fresh air, scenery, and tunes, unlike last week when I was holed up in a fluorescent-lit hotel gym on a treadmill and my headphones died a third of the way in. I love being outside, plain and simple.

Tomorrow is my shorty run, clocking in at 5km. Next week sees the same distances mid-week (6.5km/8km/6.5km) and my long run will be 12.87km (8mi), my longest ever. I guess this is really starting to happen!

Playlist: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/playlist/long-run/pl.u-GgA55dgF2o9B8

Playlist – 9.65 km/6 mi

I’m going to start sharing what I’m running to – that said, a third of the way into my run today my headphones died which made for a long slog on the treadmill…

  • No One Knows – Queens of the Stone Age
  • Hate to Say I Told You So – The Hives
  • Redbone – Childish Gambino
  • Do It – Tuxedo
  • Hard Candy – Counting Crows

After that, I was left tuneless…

I have another 15 tracks on this list which I’ll add a few more to and it will become my 7-mi run next weekend.

Trudging Along

It’s just a matter of numerics, really. I’ve survived nearly four decades on this planet. That being said, there are a few things that I feel I need to get done before (or around) when I turn 40 later this year.

I feel kinda blessed – I get to spend my 40th birthday on the road. Some folks would lament the fact that they have to work on their birthday, especially on such a milestone. I am lucky because I get to do what I love to do (make music) with an amazing group of friends and colleagues, and for this I am thankful.

That said, I’m still going to throw myself out of a plane on the morning of my 40th birthday. Yes, I’m going skydiving. No, I can’t wait.

More than this, though, as 40 approaches and I wax somewhat nostalgic about not being all that young anymore, I can look back on these four decades and realize that I’ve done and seen some cool stuff, and I’ve (certainly in the last few years) made a bid to push myself to do new things.

When we moved back into the city and started a family, I started commuting by bike, which rekindled all kinds of love for cycling. When I got posted to Edmonton, I took up hockey as a 32-year-old, because, hockey. I also took up running, and that leads me to my next best/worst idea.

I’m going to run a half-marathon before my 40th birthday.

I’ve done *some* running before. I’ve done the Vancouver Sun Run, the Navy Run (both 10k), but I’ve never done anything longer than just shy of 12km. I’ve got my eye set on the Oak Bay Half Marathon at the end of May, which gives me just over two months to get ready.

Today was my first training run – an easy 5k that I ran in just over 26 minutes. Slower than my preferred 5k pace (I try to run 5k in 25 minutes, as a course of habit).

My goal for this race is to finish the half in two hours, which, by the magic of internet calculation, is 5:41/km – much slower than what I’m running right now, but also averaged over a much larger distance.

All kinds of physiology, kinesiology and psychology involved in this one. I’ve heard lots of stories about people hitting the wall, bonking out, etc. I’m curious to see where this journey will go and what kind of successes (and challenges) I’m going to have along the way.

The training plan I’ve selected is fairly basic – speedier runs Tuesday to Thursday (starting at 3/4/3 miles, ramping up to 5/6/5 miles by weeks 5-6), with long, slow runs on the weekends (5 miles this Sunday, increasing by one each week until the main event).

Thankfully, I’m well-supported in the physio department – I’ve been in lately for tight hip flexors, and he’s aware of my plan to run. We both feel like it’ll be ok, and by starting out “slow” with not a ton of mileage to begin with, my body will be able to adjust fairly quickly to what I’m tossing at it.

So here I go. One run down, 88 to go till race day.

What Just Happened?

Waking up slow on a Saturday morning, assimilating some of what just took place over the last week. For those that don’t have their finger on the pulse of my life and those of my colleagues and friends, we’ve been working hard for the last couple of weeks to put together a recording project of wind ensemble music.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like a professional musician again. I should qualify that by saying that not everything about a pro’s life is all glamour and simply making music — especially with the job that I and my colleagues have. Most of our time is spent behind the scenes, setting up jobs, getting all the administrative, logistical and financial details together, and then only a tiny fraction of what the job actually entails is putting notes out. This week though, predominantly, was all about the music.

More than this, though, we were able to assemble a team of friends from across the country to help us out with some holes we have in the Band. Quite literally, it was a coast-to-coast endeavour, across all three elements of the Canadian Armed Forces. Folks came from Newfoundland, Ontario and Manitoba to help support us, and I think we’ll all be particularly proud of what we achieved.

Badminton. Badminton? Badminton!

I’ve been trying to motivate my teenager to be more active, and this has been met with varying levels of success. He has a tendency to side towards things that are either sedentary (the scourge of blue screens) or inherently dangerous (free climbing, for instance), and hasn’t yet fully discovered the freedom afforded to him by riding his bicycle. That said, he’s made some strides in this department which are commendable, like bringing his bike to school on days where he has appointments, so he can take himself where he needs to go without the parental taxi.

He’s expressed that his favourite unit in Phys Ed class is when they do badminton. Somewhere, buried deep in the recesses of my mind, was a reminder that “oh yeah, you’ve got access to a badminton court and gear at the Base Gym, and you can get into the place for free!” I’m a sucker for a court sport, too, so this made sense all ’round. It’s nice that the younger kids are able to self-manage, so leaving for an hour or two is easy, and plus, the gym is so close to home that once the new E&N Rail Trail extension is open, we’ll be able to ride there, day or night (be damned if I’m taking that construction zone in the dark! It’s bad enough during the day…)

So we went.

Elijah and I had a great time. He’s a good badminton player, and he beat me, three games to two. We had a number of good laughs along the way, broke a sweat, and mostly, got him active. For a kid who’s been struggling with mood, I could see that he was truly having a good time. We’ll be doing this again soon!

DIY on a Saturday

It’s nice to get to the weekend and take care of a few things that you’ve been meaning to get to.

I’ve been playing around with earlier wake-up times lately. This week, I did a couple of 5:30am wake-ups and found that the extra hour in my day didn’t have a negligible impact on the state of my affairs during the later parts of the day. If anything, I was actually *more* ok than most days (I tend to suffer from energy dips at around 10:30am, 1:30pm and 4:30pm). The energy dips I used to chalk up to those being times when a) breakfast runs out; b) when lunch lands in my stomach; and c) my brain quits because it’s 4:30 and it’s naptime). The 5:30 wakeup seemed to negate all of that. I didn’t have to back my bedtime up that much — I racked out at 10:45 or so, but 5:30 really seems to solve a lot of my inertia problems during the day.

But that wasn’t today. Today, with no alarm, and with a head full of shit that’s happening at work, I woke at 6:30. Spent part of my morning just laying in bed, finishing off the book I’ve been reading, and then getting on with my day. Saturdays can be busy, but I took advantage of things right off the bat. Levi and I took care of some yard work, and then made a couple of pit stops. First one was to Salvation Army, where we got a pair of ski poles, and then to Canadian Tire for some ABS pipe, machine screws and street hockey balls. More on that in a minute.

T has art class out in Langford for two hours right around mid-day, which isn’t really worth the trip back in to View Royal, so after dropping her off I decided to grab a coffee and go for a walk in Havenwood Park. A nice walk, and I spent a little time talking with one of the ladies who resides near there. She tipped me off to the best vistas in the neighbourhood.

Once we got home, Levi and I got down to some serious business – the manufacture of two bike polo mallets.

Thanks to teh interwebz, we had a really easy guide to follow – Remove the handles from the ski poles, cut the bottoms off, cut 4.5″ of ABS pipe, drill through, make a pocket on the inside of the pipe for the ski pole head, drill a screw through the side of the pipe and the shaft of the ski pole, bolt in, plug the ski pole end (no core sampling!) and tape like a hockey stick. Repeat with the other side.

Levi worked on a little bike maintenance on his ride while I put the mallets together, and then we headed for the tennis court at our local rec centre.

Now, I can get pretty excited about stuff, and when I find a new obsession, I tend to go all in. Think commuter cycling. Or brewing. Or hockey. I tend to not do half-measures. Bike polo, I’m afraid, is going that way. I think I’m in love.

Levi and I figured out pretty quick that bike polo ain’t exactly the easiest thing to do, but at the same time, it’s so RIDICULOUSLY fun. We hit the court around 2:45. Levi was hooked right from the start. We even got to show our neighbour, Geoff, what it was we were doing. The look on his face said “you’re crazy, but I see where you’re going with this”, and after a while longer, I headed back to the house. I urged Elijah out the door, put him on his bike, gave him the mallet, and he took to the game like a fish to water, too. His comment was that bike polo was “weird” but that he liked it.

I headed back to the house to start to get dinner ready, but Levi stayed out on the court for over two hours in the light drizzle, just working on his shuffle and his shot, not to mention trying to keep his feet off the road. Tomorrow, he plans on eating breakfast and getting on the court right away.

This week might be the first week I head to Victoria Bike Polo.

 

 

Take The Long Way Home

Last night, I was supposed to meet up with a friend for a beer. I’d had a long day, followed by a game of hockey. I had a quick turnaround at home, and hopped on my bike to head downtown.

First revelation: I can now get downtown wearing street clothes and not look like I just ran a marathon.

This said, my pace was off what I normally ride, but I left plenty early and allowed for all the hills along the way.

Once I got there, I checked my phone and discovered that my friend had to jam out due to unexpected family business. No problem, I wasn’t going to let that get in the way of me having a couple of very hipsterish glasses of beer (one being called “Hot Trub Time Machine” and the other being “Junk Punch IPA”). The soundtrack at this particular establishment was very fine, too, and I found myself being quite inspired by what I was hearing.

After settling up, I got my gear back on and started off for home. Had a brief chat with another cyclist in the bike box just before the Johnson Street Bridge, and then proceeded across my favourite metal-decked span.

Normally, I go up to Tyee Rd and along through Vic West to my house, but this time around, I opted for Harbour Rd. For starters, it was quieter, a little darker, and I was really able to enjoy the scenery as I was pedalling through the night.

When I got to the path to the Galloping Goose, though, I decided to take a little detour. Nobody waiting for me at home tonight, and nowhere else to be, I just started pedalling. I found it exhilarating to be on a night ride, taking paths and roads I wouldn’t normally take. Realistically, it might have only been a two- or three-kilometre detour, but I found myself laughing and experiencing moments of true joy as I rode my way home.

My friend Derek, who lives in Toronto, uses their bike share system and he got me thinking again about bike shares and rentals. One thing I started doing through the last number of tours I’ve been on has been to find a way to either bring a bike or rent a bike when in different cities. I really started in earnest in Ypres this past summer, when, faced with a half day to myself before hitting the road, I rented a bike and started pedalling through the countryside. Before I knew it, I’d gone for a couple of hours, just wheeling my way through all the scenery. In Amsterdam, I rented a bike for the days I was there, and found myself able to cover so much more ground, and experiencing that city the way a lot of locals do. In Paris, same deal – their bike share system is very robust, and I covered a ton of ground for 8 Euros for the time I was there. Later on, when I was in Toronto, I used their bike share system during breaks in the schedule to ride from Air Canada Centre back to the hotel for naps, or to go to the last Jays home game. All of this on two wheels.

It goes back to that sense of freedom I spoke of in an earlier post. So much opportunity presents itself when you’re on a bike. My youngest definitely gets it, and my eldest is starting to now, as well (he’s been borrowing my bike to go on photography expeditions).

All that to say, just get out there. Ride. Figure out how to buy your groceries on a bike. Go see some stuff. Go to friends’ houses just like you used to when you were a kid. Just go.