Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Metropolitan Racing

So tomorrow is the ZegnaSport Yaletown Grand Prix around the streets just a block away from my apartment. By all accounts it's the first time the Grand Prix have included an 'elite' men's and women's 4.5km race alongisde the usual bike crit racing, so we'll see how the organisation goes.

So far I have to say that I haven't been too impressed. I registered a while ago but have not had any confirmation from the organisers that I have a place on the startline. Any joe jogger could have gone online and entered, so for an 'elite' race you'd at least hope for guys who can break 16:30mins for 5k at the very least. The website has not updated since I registered over a month ago, and if it wasn't for the banner hanging up by Earls saying 'Yaletown Grand Prix 1 July' I'd have my doubts whether it was even going ahead.

That aside I'm looking forward to putting on the racing flats and having a blast. I jogged a total of four laps of the course this evening as my usual pre-race warm up - strides - warm down routine, and found it to be quite entertaining. Once the streets are closed it will make for a great atmosphere, especially through the bar district. My hope is that a load of sub-15min 5k runners don't turn up making me look like a right idiot for even entering. If that happens I know I'll probably pull out after a couple of laps and save myself for something less embarrassing!

Having witnessed some great running over my weekend in Des Moines I am pretty excited to be racing again, just seeing the guys laying it all out is extremely inspiring and it makes me hungry to pour out the pain. So this is my philosophy... early on sit in the pack like Jan Frodeno, then make my presence felt like Brad Kahlefeldt, on the last lap make my move like Lukas Salvisberg and then kick like hell like Simon Whitfield. If it all goes to plan I'll be a happy guy! But as we all know, plans on paper hardly ever work out in real life.

Training Week 21 June - 27 June

Sun.pm. 20.00m / 2:09:05 / 6:27 miling
Loooong Sunday evening run across to UBC from Yaletown, just couldn't stop myself, had a great time. See the blog entry for more details.

Mon.pm. 7.21m / 48:33 / 6:43 miling
Relaxed run, keeping it smooth and gentle with yesterday in mind, nice to freshen the legs up before the week ahead.

Tue. Rest - flying Vancouver, BC --> Denver, CO --> Des Moines, IA
All aboard the triathlon train for the Hy-vee ITU Triathlon Elite Cup and ITU Triathlon Team World Championships.

Wed.am. 4.25m / 30:30 / 7:11 miling
Easy morning run out to wake the legs up having spent yesterday on various planes and taxis. The heat and humidity of Iowa really hit me despite it being 7:30am and I soon had my vest off.

1m WU - 5k tempo (17:20) - 2min jog - 5k tempo (19:01) - 1m WD
I couldn't guarantee my training for the week so decided to get the session done early incase I ended up not being able to fit it in. Over concrete pavements, intersections and a few undulations I felt decidedly ill-prepared for the intense heat. I wore my GB Beijing Olympic shorts and by the end they were completely saturated in sweat, it was ridiculous. In the final 2k I got a stitch and felt like death. I must have looked a right state walking back into the hotel.

Thu.pm. 7.00m / 47:58 / 6:51 miling
Got out the door at 9:15pm into the slightly cooler air for an easy 45mins up to the local mall and back. The mall complex was probably the best part of 4 miles in diameter - crazy!

Fri.pm. 6.29m / 37:09 / 5:54 miling
Got back from team interviews and media activities in the late evening so threw the kit on and headed out for a quick run before we headed off for dinner. Felt a lot better, more acclimatised and fresher so wound up the pace and made it a tempo run. Imagined I was racing some of the triathlon guys for the $200,000 prize cheque, haha.

Sat. Rest - Hy-Vee ITU Triathlon Elite Cup
Early start (06:30am), late finish (01:45am when I finally turned my computer off) so no training, as expected. Decent women's race with an impressive run by
Lauren to take third - great to see someone taking their first step onto the World Cup podium, especially when it's long overdue... and then that happened. The men's sprint finish was nothing short of epic with a win for Simon over Brad and Frodo:

Simon probably gave the best interview I've ever done as he finally got one over on Jan to bury the Beijing demons and gave tribute to his daughter. It was a buzz just to witness such a great sporting moment and it's something I'm not going to forget. I'm not sure the Americans were too pleased in hearing the Canadian national anthem though!

Run total: 53.32 miles (85.8km) / 5:47:54 / 6:31 miling avg


A bit of a strange week with all the travel, change in climate and event work, but it has really got me fired up for the Yaletown Grand Prix. Training was rather sporadic, but at least I got most of what I wanted to do done.

I am just working out my travel plans for the summer, but I could well end up spending six weeks back in Europe from 6 July - 18 August going from Austria to England, to Germany, back to England, to Hungary to England. I'd like to get back to Vancouver after Hamburg World Champs, but we'll see how it plays out.

Right now I want to race hard, get some training in, and try and keep the consistency despite the rollercoaster lifestyle. I knew my life would change when I moved over here and I feel like I'm living the dream; so sometimes I need to forget about the 'triviality' of running and instead focus on enjoying the moment.

Congrats to everyone at VFAC on the Scotiabank Half Marathon results! Top banana!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Over The Top?

So despite it being June, the time when base work is effectively put into maintenance mode, I found myself running 20 miles last night... and at a decent lick at that. 2hrs 9mins in fact, and most of that was off road on an out and back route to UBC from Yaletown.

I asked myself why I was doing it as I hit 7 miles, then 8, then 9 on the way out to UBC, knowing full well that every yard I ran forward I'd have to repeat on the way back. But it was almost uncontrollable, the power of freedom being expressed through my legs, this feeling of escapism having been working from 6am until 2pm in my front room, and the knowledge that I was running well and really enjoying myself.

I looked at my garmin stats and it turns out that it's the second longest run of my year, the biggest being 21.5 miles run just before I came out to Vancouver at a time when I still had spring marathon ambitions. Saying that, I was running 2.5 hours on Sundays back home, so longer, but the hilly running around Loughborough was done at a slower pace.

The fact is I think I have an underlying desire for distance. However much I enjoy the 5k and 10k races in the summer, there is one nemesis I need to correct - the marathon. When I cramped up at the 20 mile mark at London in 2006, aged 20, I made a vow that I was coming back to erase my embarrassing 3:07:16 and clock something respectable. Last night I could have jogged a 50 minute 10k on top of my 20 miles and run a sub-3 marathon, easy. It's great to know that any given day I can go out and re-write the record books, so roll on the Royal Victoria Marathon in October when I'll get the chance to do it in anger.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Training Week 14 June - 20 June

Sun.pm. 14.50m / 1:37:15 / 6:42 miling
Feeling pretty pumped after the Longest Day so did some exploring in Stanley Park, up to the top of Prospect Point and back via Brockton and sea wall.

Mon.pm. 11.50m / 1:06:02 / 6:36 miling
Pretty inspired by the trails in Stanley Park, so back through up to Brockton Oval. I passed a Sikh music festival, great vibe, great dancing. Party in the Park!
Cycling - 16 miles

Tue. Rest - sore calf
Took it easy with a sore calf. My left cleat on my bike shoe broke and screwed up my leg biomechanics. Decided to not to risk it and to take my rest day early.
Cycling - 16 miles

7.76m / 48:01 / 6:11 miling
Run over to Kitsilano Beach on the grass for a stretch out. Dropped in 6 x 80m incline strides with walk back recovery. Need to improve my turn over!
Cycling - 16 miles

Thu.pm. 6.23m WU - 2 x 1.83m reps - 5.84m WD
Awesome session in Stanley Park with the guys. See the blog entry for details.
Cycling - 16 miles

Fri.pm. 4.28m / 30:00 / 7:01 miling
Easy grass run lapping David Lam Park by the apartment. Wanted to freshen the legs before the morning track session and felt good for doing it.
Cycling - 16 miles

Sat.am. 2.75m WU - 4 x 1200m hard/400m +25secs continuous - 2.68m WD (0.75m barefoot)
Rep 1 - 3:49 / 1:41 ... Rep 2 - 3:45 / 1:41 ... Rep 3 - 3:44 / 1:39 ... Rep 4 - 3:44 / 1:36
Really nice session where I tracked Jay throughout, trying to keep him in sight. Love the continuous workouts and this was no exception. Great to have Kevin trackside to read the split times.
Total time for 4 miles: 21:42 / ~5:25 miling
Cycling - 10 miles

Run total: 64.08 miles (103km) / 7:10:08 / 6:42 miling avg
Cycle total: 90.72 miles (146km)

Really nice week, two great sessions and no recurring injury from last week which is the main thing. Feeling very motivated to run some fast times this summer and the legs are responding well to what I'm putting them through. Hopefully last week's 5k is the start, not the peak, of what I can achieve.

I'm not sure if the cycle commute across Lions Gate Bridge each day is necessarily aiding my training, but psychologically I feel like I'm getting some decent aerobic work in, even if I am only spinning for the most part. My legs are a lot more toned because of it and my quads are certainly more prominent than they have been.

This coming week could be tough with training as I fly to Des Moines, Iowa, on Tuesday ahead of next weekend's elite triathlon. Therefore I'm going to play it by ear, but hopefully I can wangle in a session and a tempo at some point. Next race is when I get back on Canada Day in the Yaletown Grand Prix. As a Yaletown resident I'm looking forward to getting the opportunity to smash it through the streets past my local bars, however if it turns out to be a sub-15min elite athletefest, as I fear it will, then I'll be pulling over to the side for a pint instead!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Topless Crew

Anyone walking through Stanley Park this evening must have thought there was some kind of camp guys' running club going on as this chain gang of topless fellas came storming through at five minute miling. We were flying, pushing each other hard and towing ourselves along in one long line of exalted brilliance.

There's something really empowering when you find a group of similarly paced runners who all want to lay it out on the line rep after rep. Without each other we wouldn't run as fast, train as hard or necessarily have that motivation to pull ourselves down to Stanley Park on a Thursday evening. Aside from Brad who ran the 10k at Longest Day, the other four of us were covered by just 18 seconds in the 5k, so we're all really close.

The warm was good, I felt pretty fresh, although finished needing a drink without a water fountain in sight - typical! It was great to have Ian Druce down training with us; a few of us were telling him to come along back at last week's 5k, and he was a very welcome addition to the group. Top bloke!

The session was 2 x 1.85 mile laps of the park, starting on the Rawlings trail by second beach before routing along the bottom before the slight drag up to the footbridge and back along the Lover's Avenue trail towards second beach.

Me chasing Graeme for fourth at Longest Day 5k

For rep one the chain gang of myself, Brad, Graeme, Paul and Ynuk started 15secs ahead of Jay. Instantly the pace was laid down by Mr Cunningham, obviously feeling good from his 10k last Friday. I slotted in alongside him but made a stupid error after half a mile when I nearly missed a right angled turn and had to play catch up. I returned on the back of Graeme who pulled us through the incline with his marathon strength which was much appreciated - the guy's an animal! Once over the 'hill' I felt pretty good and Brad and I worked hard on the final downhill stretch back to the finish - 9:17.

The mass start of rep two was a better paced affair. Jay stormed off as per usual and somehow I ended up at the front of our group, feeling really good, running fluently and striding out well. However once we hit the incline I went through a bad patch, probably from going off too hard, and really had to battle to hang onto Brad at the rear of the group. My head was rolling like Paula Radcliffe, much to my amusement. I felt better once we had got to the top again and gradually worked my way to the front before trying to pick it up in the final 400m with Ynuk on my shoulder - 9:20.

Ian (white vest), Phil (red vest), Ynuk (blue vest), Mike (red vest), Phil (blue vest) at Longest Day

A super session, not least because our working group stuck together for the entire rep. With Simon to add and a few guys getting quicker since their marathon endeavours, like Phil, we're going to have a crack team of running operatives before very long. Anyone else in Vancouver looking for some decent guys to train with, you know where we are! Hats off to Graeme and Paul who went out for a third rep, and came past us as we cooled down looking really good. I can't wait until I'm back in marathon training and hitting bonus loops!

Unfortunately my lower legs seem to be having a rough week. I postponed Tuesday's easy run by 24 hours as my left calf tightened up because of a broken cleat on my bike shoe which skewed my muscle; and during the session my popliteus on the back of my left knee was tightening up and it became very rigid on the warm down. Back on with the compression socks (left one rolled up to my thigh) and we'll see how it feels in the morning. Hopefully some knee extension on the easy ride into work will loosen it off!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mind Over Matter

Sometimes we all find it hard to get out of the door and into our stride. Motivation is often lacking in runners, usually in the winter during the base phase when we're clocking big miles, running twice a day and generally feeling constantly tired.

I remember earlier in the year when I was running over 100 miles (160km) a week, grinding it out day after day, but thankfully every evening I would meet up with the squad and train with the guys and girls, distracting myself from the fatigue. I found that hitting big miles was actually a motivating factor. The satisfaction of clocking three digits in the diary kept me going, even though the comfortable duvet was ever present on those cold wet mornings.

My good friend Kevin Seaward, an international from Northern Ireland, recently posted this now infamous quote on his facebook page:
"Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?'"
- Peter Maher

Peter Maher was a Canadian marathon runner who competed mainly in the 1990's. He was credited for a brief period with the record time for a half marathon and competed in the Olympic men’s marathons in Seoul, 1988 and Barcelona, 1992 and ran sub-2:12. In other words, he is a bit of a legend.

His description of running as a 'question mark' is interesting. In my experience the questions thrown up through training revolve around finding that kick to get out of the door every morning and evening. Am I going to be that proverbial wimp, or am I going to be the tough guy, the one sucking up the hurt for the greater good of my performance? Am I going to take the easy option and take the day off, or am I going to stand back at the end of a race knowing I have given everything I possibly could have done?

Unfortunately for runners, this can become obsessive. Days constantly spent thinking about the evening's training session, the times you want to run, that fear of the niggle growing in your right calf muscle, the wonder about what your rivals are doing, the feeling you need a caffeine hit to get you going again. We've all been there, and we know that only the strong perservere and get their just rewards.

Maybe the best summation of overcoming the issue is from former US Army General and 1912 Olympian, George Patton:
"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired ... you've always got to make the mind take over and keep going."

My question now is: am I strong enough today to give it everything in tonight's session?
When really I know deep down inside, so that I don't even need I ask in the first place, I am.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

There's Better Clubbing in Britain

Since moving to Canada it's become very apparent that there isn't actually a system in place to aid recruitment or competitions for clubs. I always took it for granted back in Britain that throughout the season I would race for my team, Cheltenham Harriers, in a number of competitions. It meant that no matter what fitness level I was in I would don the vest and do my best to support my team and clubmates wherever possible.

Racing old friend Ed Womersley at the Birmingham League Div 1 race in Gloucester, clubmate Jeremy in the background

Over the winter I would compete in four league cross country fixtures where every result affected our collective aspirations. If we failed to put out a strong team in each fixture we faced relegation from division one, something we wouldn't dare to think about. In the spring the top twelve guys would do battle at the Midland and National 12 Stage Championships, and then repeat the process again at the Midland and National 6 Stage Championships in the autumn. Wearing your club vest was a symbol of pride, something that resonated in your bones and so you made sure that you made the commitment to do your very best when wearing it.

Canada is quite different. The only athletics club of note in the whole of Vancouver is the Falcons, although there are other clubs dotted around the surrounding towns, such as Richmond, Burnaby and North Vancouver. Results for road races are posted with the city of residence of the runner, not which team vest they were wearing, and there are no inter-club competitions, even on a local level.

Giving the captain's team talk to the Loughborough guys before British Uni XC Champs 2006

Everything here is individualised. Name, date of birth, city of residence. That's all that counts. There isn't that identity where your training group or coach is highlighted. For instance, in the current British Columbia Athletics Road Race Series my training partner Jay is placed in third. There is no mention that he runs for the Vancouver Falcons, so those people interested in the runner don't see the background as to what makes him successful. Does the average recreational athlete in a local road race even know that there is an athletics club in Vancouver that they can join with like minded individuals? They sure can't see it when they receive their results. When Vancouver is such an active city, and one where I pass literally hundreds of people out running every week, why aren't more of them attached to a club?

The Vancouver Falcons - we'd make a great team!

I'm not having a go at my Canadian club here, far from it. I love training with the guys every week and I think it's a very energetic and motivating setup with excellent coaching; but where are the opportunities to race for each other and not just against each other? We'd make a great team, one where we'd give every last drop of energy to have us succeed as a group.
As team mate Brad posted on his blog: "I am looking forward to workout on Thursday and meeting up with the rest of the blue train after their great showing last Friday. 3rd through 8th and a bunch right after that. What a group." But unfortunately, despite the camaradarie I can't see us getting the chance to pull on the Falcons vests to battle it out against the Richmond Kajaks or the Island Road Racers; and I think it's a real shame.

Old Marlingtonians/Stroud AC, the winter training buddies and former school team mates

Ironically back in Britain there have always been complaints about the state of the club system, from the low turnouts at BAL matches to the arguments over the apparent poaching of athletes. The message I will take back with me is that the British distance fraternity should count themselves lucky to have such opportunities to compete against each other on such a regular basis. It's one thing to run for yourself, but it's quite another to run for your team.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Training Week 07 June - 13 June

Sun.pm. 6.24m / 42:00 / 6:43 miling
Hungover run around False Creek sea wall and around to Kitsilano Beach. Glorious.

Mon.pm. 9.01m / 1:00:48 / 6:44 miling
Nine miles into Stanley Park, small loop up to Prospect Point and back along English Bay.
Cycling - 16 miles

Tue. Rest - sore peroneus
Cycling - 16 miles

Rest - sore peroneus
Cycling - 16 miles

Thu.pm. 1m WU - 6 x 100m strides with walk back recovery.
Barefoot at Brockton Oval to test peroneus, it held up fine.
Cycling - 18 miles

Fri.pm. 3.27m WU - Longest Day 5k (4th, 15:42) - 2.29m WD
Warm up on course with Jay and Ian, really solid race and came through strongly in the second half to run a PB. Took home $75 as well, always a bonus. Warmed down with the guys.
Cycling - 16 miles

Sat. Rest - trip to Whistler, two hour walk

Run total: 23.92 miles (38.5km) / 2:43:56 / 6:51 miling avg
Cycle total: 69.41 miles (111.7km)

Sore peroneus in my right leg meant that I missed much of training this week, but luckily the commute kept me active. Thankfully the tightness and pain eased off by race day and I was feeling fresh as a result.

Pleased with my run as I didn't feel overly stretched during most of the race and it was nice to place well and run a decent time. A good confidence boost coming into the summer so hopefully this is the start of some good results and revisions of my personal bests.

It's time now to put in a decent week of miles and quality sessions before heading to Des Moines, Iowa in a week's for the next stop in the triathlon tour.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Signed, sealed and delivered

Well I said my target for tonight was 15:45, and I hit 15:42 at the Longest Day 5k, so how's that for prediction accuracy?

Me (4th in 5k), Ian (9th in 5k), Brad (1st in 10k) and Jay (3rd in 5k)

It was pretty much textbook stuff, exactly as planned. The opening downhill kilometre was quick, and I started conservatively, tucking in behind Mike and Phil from VFAC and Ian from Lionsgate for the opening 500m. I realised we were effectively in a pack sitting in sixth position so I made my move coming off the downhill and into the uphill second kilometre. I managed to get a gap on the bunch and noone came with me, and I quickly reeled in the guy in fifth who had gone off too hard.

I tried to keep my pace on the inclines consistent and strong, focussing on technique and efficiency rather than effort. It worked well and once I was on the flat again I was able to open my stride and get back into a nice rhythm. I visualised Ryan Hall striding out up in Big Bear Lake, California, just wanting to praise God with every turnover of his legs - tonight's run was about using the abilities I believe the Lord has given me rather than trying to run well for personal gain.

This video, Ryan Hall: Passion for the Run, has really inspired me.

Slowly I started to track down Graeme, a 70min half marathoner who clocked 2:31 for the Calgary Marathon just two weeks ago and ran a 32:40 10k last weekend. Going through 3km in 9:18 I managed to latch onto the back of him and made my move on the slight incline back to the main drag. With his incredible strength and stamina I was worried he would manage to cling onto the back, but thankfully for me it was decisive.

The final kilometre was a nice run in to the finish, striding out on the slight downhill gradient, then raising the tempo 400m from the line. Running up onto the grass was tough, but I still felt pretty good and so to finish with 15:42 is very pleasing. Hopefully on a flatter, faster course I can get down to 15:30. Now I've got to decide what to spend my $75 prize money on. Suggestions please.

Jay was always up the road from me, although his race was a solo affair, caught between me and the leaders who ran 14:22 and 14:27 respectively - highly impressive. VFAC were towards the fore throughout the 5k with Phil and Mike right behind along with Ian.

Ooh err missus, check out those socks!

Brad stormed the 10k, running with another two guys for the first 4k before making his move and pulling clear. On a relatively undulating course his 34mins is very solid and he should go well in the Scotiabank Half Marathon in a couple of weeks! I'm not sure about his compression socks/number belt/lycra shorts under split shorts attire though, haha.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Smash ups!

Thankfully my injury has slackened off and the peroneus has relaxed, albeit not completely. Therefore tomorrow evening's 5k is on like Donkey Kong. I cycled back home via Brockton Oval this evening and dropped in a mile in bare foot on the grass followed by 6 x 100m strides and it felt fine, so I'm ready to rip it up.

British NCAA runner Luke Cragg coined the phrase 'smash ups' to describe how he wants to attack a race, and I'm borrowing it for tomorrow. I want this 5k to be the result of the hard work I've put in. The thousands of miles I ran between September and March and the subsequent speed work I've been doing in Vancouver.

I want to take this race apart, I want to build into it, run the opening kilometre controlled, enjoying the downhill, then work hard on the uphill and the second kilometre before letting the legs open up through kilometres three and four on the flat. Kilometre five is going to hurt like hell, I know it will, I want it to. I want to feel the pain of pushing myself to the limit. I want to taste the lactic acid rising up from my legs into my mouth. I want to run that final kilometre completely balls out, on the wire. I want to run it how Luke Cragg would run it - smashing it up.

Target time: 15:45

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Not impressed!

Typically three days before a race I pick up a niggle, namely to my peroneus brevis which runs down the outside of my right lower leg towards the ankle. It's the part that sticks out, the thin corridor of muscle fibre that is used in flexing the foot.

It's not so sore that I couldn't train on it if I wanted to, but you know something is up when it starts to twinge when doing a non-impact activity like cycling. Anyway, I'm not impressed. It shouldn't stop me from toeing the line on Friday night, but at any rate it's going to be in the back of my mind.

I'm not sure how it's come about, probably through over training on hard surfaces like the track and the sea wall. I did some rolling on it at work and have used the t-roller tonight and am sat here writing in compression socks, so hopefully a good night's rest will help it out.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Training Week 31 May - 06 June

Sun.pm. 13.28m / 1:30:01 / 6:46 miling
Relaxed run around False Creek sea wall and Kitsilano Beach, moving well, very fluent.

Mon.pm. 12.22m / 1:21:05 / 6:38 miling
Stanley Park inner loop out to Brockton Oval. 5 x 100m strides on cinder track included.

Tue.pm. 9.34m / 1:00:00 / 6:25 miling
2 mile easy - 2 miles tempo - 2 miles easy - 2 miles tempo - warm down through Stanley Park and English Bay.
Cycling - 16 miles

Wed.pm. 6.60m / 42:27 / 6:26 miling
Kitsilano Beach loop, relaxed, staying springy and fluid.
Cycling - 16 miles

Thu.pm. 6.58m warm up - rep session (1k, 2k, 2k, 1k) - 5.24m warm down
1km (2:57), 2km (6:09), 2km (6:18), 1km (3:00) off full recoveries.
Session around Beaver Lake kilometre loop in Stanley Park.
Cycling - 16 miles

Fri.pm. Rest
Cycling - 16 miles

Sat.am. 3m warm up - 5 x 800m track session - 2.50m warm down
Rep 1 (2:24), Rep 2 (2:24), Rep 3 (2:23), Rep 4 (2:24), Rep 5 (2:18).
Cycling - 10 miles

Run total: 66.93 miles (107.7km) / 7:29:26 / 6:42 miling avg
Cycle total: 73.32 miles (118km)

Nice week, plenty of aerobic stuff at the start and a decent Thursday session to boot, if a little tired and dehydrated towards the end.

Saturday's track workout was pretty good, although could perhaps have gone faster with Simon and Brad around.

Looking forward to the Longest Day 5k race on Friday, aiming for sub-16mins, but will need to judge the pace well.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Hangover Run

There is always a split second when you awake after a heavy night which indicates how bad the day is going to be. This morning was one of those you come to recognise as painful. The kind where you denounce alcohol for good, swear you will never touch it again and wonder what you have done to deserve such a headache, nausea and fatigue.

Usually I can handle a decent amount of liquor without ill consequence, but for some reason it took me all day just to feel half decent, and that involved a long afternoon nap and a whole packet of crisps ('chips' for my Canadian friends).

Come 7:30pm I was just about ready to hit the road, feeling better, refreshed and hungry for exercise to sweat off the remaining remnants of last night's beer from my system. With the sun going down over False Creek it was glorious, euphoric, blissful and liberating. With Hillsong United playing in my ears and a spring in my stride it made me realise just how far I've come this year. The mountains in the background, the lapping waves of the Pacific and the reflecting sun in the windows of the skyscrapers epitomised the beauty of creation and the fluid mechanics of running.

So thankyou hangover, you may have ruined most of my day, but those 45 minutes of pure unadulterated praise made the endurance worthwhile.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Let's Drop in Some 800m Reps

Six days out from the Longest Day 5k marked my final workout, with 5 x 800m off 200m recovery on the Point Grey track down in Kerrisdale. With Jay doing some all outs I was pretty much the designated hare for the guys, so had the responsibility of pacing around the ever-fitter Phil who was nipping at my heels.

A football tournament in the centre of the field provided some ample support from the sidelines for those of us repping out the track, although the poor quality of play meant that there was an ever present fear of a stray ball whacking us in the head. Eyes on the prize though, and my focus was on maintaining good form, efficiency and stride length.

John recommended trying to hit 2:24 for each rep, so 72 second laps. Thankfully Kevin was on hand with a stopwatch as my Garmin had run out of battery, so he was able to take my splits and call out the elapsed time at half way.

We warmed up with a 400m lap at target pace, and despite not having a watch I was able to hit a 72, a perfect start. Obviously there is some good intuition somewhere in this brain of mine.

The first rep started strongly, good leg turnover and feeling pretty fresh with a 2:24, so bang on the money; my only concern really being the breezy headwind in the homestraight and first bend, but having trained on Loughborough's backstraight for five years it was well within acceptable atmospheric boundaries.

Rep two was much the same, a solid start to open the legs up and then onto the toes aiming for consistency. 2:24 again. On rep three we caught the back end of the group to lap them, and despite running in lane three round the final bend I dipped a 2:23 - maybe the extra motivation of having people to run towards quickened the pace? Rep four went to plan, although I started to tighten up in the final 200m, fatigue kicking in.

Jogging round for the final rep I knew I had enough in the tank to push out something a bit quicker. I got rid of the Loughborough vest for a final topless assault and started with a 70sec first lap. Striding out into the wind for the final time I picked up the effort and then accelerated out of the final turn for a 2:18.

Strange how a week ago I ran a hard 800m after just doing a 200m rep in 2:17 and then today could muster a 2:18 at the end of a session. All good though and I'm pleased with how it went. I wore compression socks for the first time on the track as I had struggled with some calf tightness earlier in the week, and they certainly did a good job. I warmed down with Jay and finished with three laps on the faux-grass infield in barefeet for some intricate muscle strengthening exercise before he left for Eugene and the Pre Classic. That's a definite date for my calendar next year!

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of Beaver Lake

Thursday's are workouts in Stanley Park and last night was the hottest one yet. As temperatures soared up in the thirties for most of the day I was keen to get under the bows of the trees and down lakeside where it was cooler as soon as possible.

Given the fact I have to run over four miles just to get to Brockton Oval to meet the guys I sometimes feel like I've done too much before we even get going on the rough stuff, and last night was no exception. With 6.5 miles showing on the Garmin I had already worked up quite a sweat before John informed us of the 1k, 2k, 2k, 1k interval session around Beaver Lake. With the predicted times of "2:55" and "6:10" given to Brad and I, it was evident that it was going to be pretty solid.

Beaver Lake in Stanley Park - 1km perimeter

Starting at aggregated time intervals Brad, Jay and I soon found ourselves ploughing through the dust storm spewed up from the runners in front as we caught them on the relatively narrow gravel path. Somehow Brad can always muster a shout of "on your left", which is very unnerving for someone fighting for breath as I always seem to be when I try and keep up with the king of the heel flicks - he really does have a great running style. We managed to navigate our way through with Jay crossing the kilo in 2:53 with Brad and I in 2:57. First one down and I felt sore: legs burning, lungs coughing and with the breathing rate of an asthmatic in Beijing rush hour.

The 2km rep was pretty decent, with Brad putting distance into me in the final quarter as he went with Jay's increase in pace. A rounded up 6:09 was bang on what the coach ordered, but I knew a repeat in the next rep would be out of the question. Sure enough Brad ran away from me early on and a 6:18 was clocked in the diary; not too bad but not great either.

Trying to recover in the lead up to the final rep is tough to do when all you can think about is the pain and suffering it's going to cause. For some reason I got pretty nervous, although in reality I knew it wasn't that much of a big deal. I have a habit of slapping my outer quads, breathing deeply and getting agitated when I get anxious and I was certainly feeling the heat. Dehydration was starting to work against me and I felt very parched so I was keen to get it over with and back to the carpark.

With the mass start I was very concious of the guys just behind as Brad latched straight on to the back of Jay and disappeared into the distance. All alone I could hear the pounding feet on the gravel, the sound of deep exhales in my ears and the all to familiar feeling of instinctive primeval 'fight or flight' adrenaline rushing into my system. I wasn't going to let myself get caught, not today! Turning for home into the cooler air I surged for the line, closing the gap on Brad, but nowhere near fast enough to get on even terms - a bang on 3:00 for the kilometre was a just reward and welcome closure.

Once back at Brockton I spent a good minute at the water fountain, surprising myself at how much I could drink without feeling nauseous. I jogged back to the city with Jay who has been buzzing about his impending trip to the fabled Prefontaine Classic in Eugene this weekend. Jealousy isn't quite the word I'm looking for... envy might just suffice, haha.

All in all it was good to get the session done and have a rest day to follow. I have pushed some decent mileage this week, considering the time of year; and coupled with the 16 mile round cycle commute each day my legs have welcomed the rest. Hopefully that workout around Beaver Lake has give my muscles something to think about for next week's Longest Day 5k race at UBC. Time will tell!

Read Jay's summation of the workout, 'Ode to Beaver Lake'.
Read Brad's blog regarding the session, 'VFAC Thursday 1, 2, 2, 1'.

Making the Switch

Having come off a British winter into a Canadian spring it dawned on me that my training was never quite going to be the same again.

After enjoying five and a half years at Loughborough, both as a student and a working man, the familiar routine of annual training periodisation, socialisation and racing was to come to an end. Under the regime of infamous coach George Gandy, life for an aspiring athlete couldn't have been much better. Fantastic insight, great facilities, amazing trails and run loops and above all, incredible training partners and friends to share the experience with.

Ed Prickett Memorial Relays 2006 (4 x 2 miles vs. men's 4x400m team - I won!)

Vancouver quickly became a lonely place as far as running was concerned. For the first month I trained alone, unmotivated and fed up with pacing the pavements and the repeated stress on my calves that the relentless tarmac pounding caused. Loughborough was but a distance memory, a holy land amongst the barren suburbia of the city.

I came to Canada in great shape having been training specifically for a spring marathon, however due to work commitments the chance to race and put my large aerobic capacity to use over 26.2 miles faltered and I was unable to take to the streets in anger. With this in mind running became a hassle, a 'should do' rather than a 'want to do' in my list of priorities. For the first time in years I was seriously concerned that my running days were numbered.

However things soon changed with the Vancouver Sun Run, the world's largest 10km road race, where I finished 41st out of 56,000 competitors. I missed my personal best by 12 seconds due to a stitch in the final mile, but realised then that I loved running too much to give it up. I was very fortunate that Kevin O'Connor, a fellow Brit living in the city, had got in touch through the eightlane.com website and spoke to me on the startline, inviting me to train with the Vancouver Falcons.

VFAC track session of 12 x 400m off 1min jog, me in purple shorts, Jay leading us off.

I now run with the Falcons every Thursday in Stanley Park and every Saturday at Point Grey School in nearby Kerrisdale. The two sessions orchestrated by John Hill are pivotal to my week, a chance to train alongside likeminded athletes, aspiring for fast times whilst juggling work commitments and day to day lifestyles. If anything, it's like a mature version of Loughborough where the students are replaced by adults. I owe a lot to the guys towards the front of the group with whom I share the pacing, hand slaps and "good jobs" with each week. They welcomed me with open arms and it's great to feel part of a group.
So to Jay, Brad, Simon, Paul, Kevin, Phil and everyone else, thank you!

Of course I miss Loughborough, the seventy guys and girls smashing it up on a Saturday morning, or the throng of athletes making their way to various fixtures week in week out, but I'm glad that I made the decision to move to Vancouver, and right now I can't imagine myself anywhere else.

As a comparison between winter marathon base work in Loughborough and 5k/10k specific workouts in a Vancouver summer, I present my typical training weeks of 2009:

Winter, Loughborough, UK
Sun.am. 18-22 mile long easy hilly run
Sun.pm. Rest
Mon.am. 6 miles easy
Mon.pm. 10 miles easy
Tue.am. 6 miles easy
Tue.pm. 4m WU - long rep session, short recoveries (6 miles) - 4m WD
Wed.am. 12-15 miles easy
Wed.pm. 6m WU - circuit training - 4m WD
Thu.am. 6 miles easy
Thu.pm. 4m easy - 6 mile steady - 4m easy
Fri.am. Rest
Fri.pm. Rest
Sat.am. 2m WU - 10 mile tempo - 2m WD
Sat.pm. Rest
Weekly total: ~100 miles

Summer, Vancouver, Canada
Sun.am. Rest
Sun.pm. 13 miles relaxed
Mon.am. 8m cycle to work
Mon.pm. 8m cycle home + 10 miles relaxed
Tue.am. 8m cycle to work
Tue.pm. 8m cycle home + 12 miles steady
Wed.am. 8m cycle to work
Wed.pm. 8m cycle home + 7 miles easy
Thu.am. 8m cycle to work
Thu.pm. 8m cycle home + 6.5 mile WU - rep session (4.5 miles) - 5 mile WD
Fri.am. 8m cycle to work
Fri.pm. 8m cycle home
Sat.am. 5m cycle - 3m WD - track session (3 miles) - 3m WD - 5m cycle
Sat.pm. Rest
Weekly total: ~65 miles + ~90 miles cycling