Skills/Gear Tweaking

If you know me or have been reading some of what it is I do, you’ll know I’m pretty big into DIY. From making my own furniture to generally just trying to get stuff done, I don’t let a lack of skill dampen what ought to be achievable tasks. Along the way, I’ve learned to be a better cook, how to do some (seemingly-modestly difficult) automotive tasks (think stuff like changing brakes, replacing reservoirs, thermostats, etc), along with learning a bunch about how to keep my gear in working order.

Specifically, one year, I asked to get a set of fretboard radius gauges, a feeler gauge, and a luthier’s ruler so that I could really dial in my setup on electric bass. I’d gotten a copy somewhere along the way of Jerzy Drozd’s guide to bass setup, and had some modest successes in adjusting other instruments.

Flash forward a couple of years, and I found myself here in Victoria with this gorgeous Modulus bass that was at work, but the action was so ridiculously high it made it unplayable for me. For the bass-playing set, I’m the guy who likes to dial it down pretty low rather than straining to fret the notes. I know there’s a trade-off for tone along the way, but for the stuff I do, it’s what works for me. I needed this bass for a string of upcoming shows in Portland with work for Rosefest, so I figured it ought to be best to get some adjustments done prior to departure.

I had a couple of extra minutes tonight after getting home to take the time to properly intonate and adjust this bass. I made a quick truss rod adjustment, which helped with the neck relief, but the strings still weren’t any closer to being where I wanted them. One other quirk about this bass is that the graphite neck is one piece, including the nut, so making any adjustments on that side could have been catastrophic.

After the truss rod was done, I noted that the string height at the bridge saddles looked a little on the high side, so armed with another hex wrench, I took the time to lower the strings, ensuring that the notes didn’t buzz. By the time I got to the B string, I’d realized I’d gone too far. I dialed that one back up a little, took out my radius gauge, ensured my strings matched the curvature of the fingerboard, and kablam, wouldn’t you know it, this bass is infinitely more playable. A quick intonation job, and all is good.

Truss rods I’d adjusted before, and same with the intonation, but tonight was my first (educated) foray into string height adjustment. Truthfully, the gauge made it dead simple, as I had the match for the radius. Now that I’ve done the Modulus, I might have to go around and do the rest of my instruments…

Cycling Infrastructure

I kinda die a little on the inside when I read about folks who have such hate for the bicycle. I really wish it weren’t so – there’s so much joy, especially here in Victoria, for the ability to ride bikes in fair weather for more than half the year.

And if there was ever a case for cycling infrastructure, Victoria’s starting to make a point. Yes, I get that the Pandora (and now the Fort) lanes are frustrating (I concur – why would you put a two-direction bike lane on a one-way road, and also complicate every single traffic rule for cars along the way), but also, too, those lanes provide a measure of protection for those of us that use two wheels.

Let me be clear – for as pro-bike as I am, I also acknowledge that bikes aren’t absolutely everything. Transportation systems are just that – systems. They need to be able to cover off a wide range of modes of transportation for the entire population, not just the spandex-riding elite or the dead-dino-burning set.

I read “The Enlightened Cyclist” earlier this year after having spotted it on the shelf at a friend’s place. Some of it was pretty preachy, but there were a couple of takeaways in there that were worth noting. Specifically, it was the need for everybody to just chill the fuck out and realize that NEITHER of us are going anywhere. We each have sacred obligations to not kill each other (wilfully or not). So if we all just calm down and respect each other’s space, we’ll all be much, much better.

So back to infrastructure, because this is where things get good for bikes. I live along the E&N Rail Trail and there was a small section through the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations that had yet to be built. Levi and I had been biking up Admirals Rd, and that, in and of itself, was an exercise in maximum patience, creative language, and near misses for both of us, especially through the shittiest months.

Once the trail had opened, however, it provided a link for us not just to make the commute to work/school that much easier, but to provide a safe, stable route to get all kinds of places, and really open up a world of possibilities.

So with both hats on, here’s how my Saturday went down. Talia has art class out on Latoria Rd. As much as I’m game for long distance riding, she’s not at this point, and that’s ok, so I drove her to class. I also had a few errands to run in the two hours that she was there, so I took care of those in the truck (including picking up my race package for the Oak Bay Half.

Once I got home from T’s art class, though, she was off to a sleepover at a friend’s house. Rather than drive her the 1.5km, I got her to ride her bike – it’s E&N all the way, with one traffic interface along Island Hwy (covered by a traffic light). No problems, at all. She’ll be riding home by herself later.

After I dropped her off, I had some more errands to run downtown (needed a couple of things from MEC, and some brewing supplies). E&N to downtown (lovely ride!), did my one stop at MEC, then headed back across the new Johnson bridge to head along the Goose only to find that my favourite homebrew shop was only a couple hundred metres from the trail.

A quick jaunt back across Selkirk Trestle and lo and behold, Vic West Fest was happening. So many people out, taking in some music and other festivities.

Sunday presented its own opportunities, too. Levi had a birthday party downtown, so rather than drive, the kids and I rode. T and I had a lovely dinner together while Levi played laser tag. We rode home in what T calls the Golden Hour, when everything is bathed in that picturesque hipsteresque instagram fading daylight.

Best of all, we did this mostly on bike lanes and dedicated paths.

Bike to Work (and school!) week is now happening. Levi and I hit our first Celebration Station today, and are planning on several more this week. It was so wonderful to see so many cyclists along the Goose and E&N. Tomorrow will be breakfast at Janion Plaza, again, taking advantage of as many bike lanes and paths as we can on our way.

Well, that was a thing.

So nine weeks ago, I leaned over to Kristy and said “yeah, I think I’m going to run a half-marathon.” I knew about the Oak Bay Half from my friend Roy, so I went online, paid the fee, and promptly looked at the calendar.

Nine weeks to go.

Next stop: Google. “9-week half marathon training plan”.

Ignore the safety warning that said you should only do this plan if you’ve got at least a half-marathon under your belt and have been logging steady miles. Check. (yeah, I’m that kinda stupid – oh yeah, and it was still hockey season for the first month of training, too, so bonus!)

Started running. Felt good. Started running more. Still felt good. Ran a hell of a lot. Felt awesome. Started running less. Tried some new shoes. INJURY. Like, WTAF.

Stretched, debated, freaked out, stretched more, talked to people, stretched again, got out my old shoes, arrived nervously this morning, ate a banana, stuffed a gel down my neck, turned on the tunes, and ran.

And ran.

And ran.

Vital stats:

1:38:27 total time (from the gun)
1:37:51 tape to tape
66/628 overall
20/71 AG bracket
55/289 by gender
4:39/km average pace

Splits:

5km: 23:09
10km: 45:51
20km: 1:32:01 (+46:10)

I texted my friend Jas, who lives in Oak Bay, and mentioned to her that if she happened to be out and about on Sunday morning that I’d make certain times at certain spots for viewing. Jas and her gang were there in full force, cheering me on, and it was such a boost to how I was feeling through the race, especially as the kms started to pile on, especially the last sighting just before the 17km mark (the final hills).

I definitely ran this faster than any of the training I’d done. All the way along, whenever I did my long runs, I always felt like I had lots of gas left in the tank. Today, I got over the line on fumes, which tells me I did something right.

Got a quick message a little later from my friend Beth in Halifax, who is a running/triathlon/awesomeness machine. She sent me a copy of the rules and minimum times for the CAF running championships, and yes, I did cross the line in time. Going to submit my time to the base gym and get myself onto the team going to Ottawa next year!

I really couldn’t have done it without all the encouragement from so many people. From Kristy, who gently provided all kinds of support, to Roy, Shawn and Robyn who peeled me off the ceiling when shit was going sideways, Andrea, who provided some good framing to some of the problems I was facing, and so many others along the way. I feel good about this.

I’m Ready

So here it is, the weekend, upon me after just nine weeks of training. I always looked up to those who had done serious distance running. I just never figured it was something that I would ever a) get into; or b) actually enjoy. Turns out that the lessons I learned a few years back when I used running as a means to keep my brain and emotions in check hold true at longer distances.

I’ve loved the feeling of getting up and out and hitting the pavement. I’ve loved the experience of running to places that I didn’t think I would run to. I’ve been on pre-dawn runs, rainy runs, windy runs, and lately, an abundance of sunny ones. I’ve seen hundreds of other people out early in the morning, some commuting, some running, some walking, all just being outdoors, getting some air into their lungs. I’ve (thankfully) avoided injury, I’ve carefully prepared, I’ve made running something that fit into whatever I was doing, wherever I was (camping, touring, whatever).

My body likes what I’ve been doing. I’ve been lucky in that everything has just worked as I’ve progressively stacked on the miles. I’ve run more in the last nine weeks than I did in the last two years. I can see the difference in how I look, I’ve adapted to the food needs, I’ve balanced things out with other sports and activities I enjoy (cycling, hiking, etc). Running has been good to me.

So now, I’m headed into this race. I’d set a goal of hitting sub-2:00 on a marathon, a pace that I know I’ll beat by a long shot. The question is now, can I get the pace down to run a 1:45 half? Or even a 1:40? That would mean running a half at the pace I’ve lately been running my 5k. Given how I’ve been feeling these last couple of weeks, it’s not impossible. I guess it’s time to find out.

 

Jinxing Myself

Why, oh why, did I have to mention injury?

After my last long run, I commented that unless I injure myself, a sub-2:00 was all but certain, and that I was likely going to crack the 1:45 mark, maybe even trying to ratchet down to 1:40 if I could.

Well, a couple of things have popped into play here. First, I bought some new kicks last week, thinking that the 20ish km that I was going to run this week would be enough to break them in before I launched on Sunday.

They’re Brooks Ghost 10s. They feel pretty damn good.

Thursday rolled around, I get out, run a 5k, go to work, everything is good. For some reason, though, and for no obvious physical (accidental) reason, my left knee started to hurt. Just a nagging behind-the-knee pain. Didn’t put too much thought into it, just went about my day.

On Friday, however, crisis mode leapt into mind, as the back of my knee was around a 7/10 for pain when I was walking or going down stairs.

I was absolutely gutted. Here I was, sitting in my office, after all this training, thinking I’m not going to be able to run this race.

Thankfully, I was able to get a quick call in with my doc, who happens to be an extraordinary athlete, and we talked briefly about factors for/against, recommendations for what to do, and ultimately, his advice was to take it easy the rest of the day, take some ibuprofen, roll it, and go for my planned easy run, just to see how it felt, but to do it in my old shoes. It could easily be that the Ghosts just aren’t doing it for me on such short notice, he figured.

Well, I ran. I did the first part with Levi, running around 5:45/km, and after I dropped him on the trail home, I cranked things up a little, doing more like 4:45/km for the rest of the run. Things felt good, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

I’m going to take it easy for the rest of the day and just keep rolling it, resting it, stretching gently, and then going for it tomorrow.

“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.