Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Resolutions aren't just for January 1, apparently

So I somehow talked my friend Tina into doing the Resolution Run as her first 5k race. Okay, to be fair, I can only take half the credit (and corresponding blame); I mentioned it, she pretty much talked herself into it. This is all great. Tina and I both run about a half-hour 5k, so we can pace each other. Her husband, who's also signed up, is a little more accomplished, and should be warm and dry and sucking back hot chocolate by the time we see the clock.

Problem is, the Resolution Run, which is on January1 pretty much everywhere else they run it in North America, is actually on December 26 in Toronto. This we did not discover until Tina registered. With Tina and James in, I was kinda obliged to do the 26th, too.

January 1 would have been perfect. I'm not much of a New Years' reveler. I don't like the holiday, to be honest, and I like it less as I get older. Let's celebrate another year passing! Sure, buddy, just wait till you've got as few of 'em left as I do.

(And much like St. Patrick's Day, it's what my friend Simon calls "Amateur Night." I'm much more comfortable around the professional drinkers; they're less unpredictable.)

Whereas at Christmas, my family tends to eat. Lots. I'm not going to be crossing the finish line alone; there'll be a good fraction of a turkey and a not inconsiderable amount of ham accompanying me. The wine and beer will surely have evacuated, but their ghosts will linger, if you know what I mean.

I'll also have to come back into Toronto Christmas night, which may be a bit of a pain, but it's a blessing, too. It'll mean a couple fewer beers, a few less Yorkshire puddings, and maybe a fighting chance to start the race feeling like I can finish it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It isn't walking if they don't see you doing it

I ran my first 5k race on Sunday on something of a whim. The Run Ajax Waterfront 5k is in my hometown, and I'd thought about running it earlier in the year, but I never got around to registering. Last Saturday, I took the train out to Oshawa to drop off my old bike for my daughter. It's a bit big for her, but only a bit. Then we went out to get a multi-tool, so we could adjust the seat and a couple other things, and a lock.

While we were at it, we stopped at the Running Room in Pickering. They were handing out the race bags and taking last-minute registrations, as I thought they might. I ended up with race bib No. 598.

While I was there, a picked up a pair of tights to replace the ones I'd quickly grabbed off the rack at Mountain Equipment Co-op the week before. I hadn't tried them on. As it turned out, I'd grabbed a women's medium.. I dunno, maybe I would have looked fabulous. And since I can't pass up a clearance rack, I also ended up with one of their Resolution Run jackets, last year's version, for half price. (The Resolution Run is a New Year's Day 5k the Running Room puts on in cities across the country. The jacket, which sells for $90 the rest of the year, is your gift for entering.)

And it's a good thing I did, too. It wasn't till later that the thought crossed my mind: In the event I was going to run this race, I had brought a pair of cotton shorts (all my Lycra was in the wash) and a cycling jersey. It never crossed my mind, until Saturday evening, that the weather might be rainy and cold in the early morning in late October.

And it was. Probably 6C when we got to Rotary Park. Okay, that's not so bad, but add cloud and wind and rain at 8:30 in the morning, and it's pretty uncomfortable. My dad drove  Sophie and I down to the lake. It was unfortunately early. I've never gone through the registration process for a race before, so I had no idea how simple it was. There was the start of a half-marathon walk at 8:30, followed by the start of the half-marathon run at nine. The 5k was a 9:30 start. My dad grumbled and read his Kindle in the car. Sophie and I went to the start line about 9 just to see how people took off.

The rain stopped about 10 minutes before my gun time, which was perfect. Five minutes before we took off, someone took to the stage to lead us in a warm-up. It looked like fun to my daughter (who despises running, like I did at her age). I just kinda shuffled from foot to foot. There was a guy wearing a cap that said "80 AND STILL RUNNING." I had a feeling he'd beat me.

And we were off. I'd positioned myself about two-thirds back in the back, where I figured a half-hour 5k might come in. The course began heading east, with a loop back to the west before continuing east along the lake shore. This gave me two waves from Sophie as I started.

In the first five minutes or so, I was passed more than I passed people at a ration of about three to one. This is discouraging. But as we wound along the path toward the turnaround mark, I was no longer being passed. I caught up with a number of people on the outward leg. (I paced myself behind a pair of very attractive young ladies for a while, and I'm sure it hurt my time. But you have to reserve some strength for the finish.)

I was probably at the 1.5-kilometre mark when the first runner passed me coming back the other way. I couldn't do the math at the time -- the only thing I could focus on by that point was my breathing -- but that would have meant he'd covered 3.5k in the time I'd covered 1.5k. There were only a few outliers like that, though. But by the time I got to about the 2k mark, there was a steady stream of people coming back the other way. (One of them was the 80-year-old; I figure he beat me by about four minutes.)

The course has long, rolling hills, for the most part not particularly steep. But there was one downhill on the way out that made me think, "Expletive deleted, I'm gonna have to climb that on the way back."

From 1.5k to the turnaround felt dreary, but at the turn, I felt much better. Then came the hill.

I don't know for sure, but I figure it's somewhere around 3.5k. I got to the bottom, had a quick look around, and saw no spectators. I can walk for 30 breaths, I figured. And I'll make 30 breaths last the length of this hill.

And the rest was a struggle. I was close to packing it up when I came back into the staring loop, but a spectator told me: "You got it beat now." Still, that last 500m was a test. Then I rounded the last corner into the home stretch and saw the time clock.

I can't describe the feeling. It's not just relief. There was no element of excitement. It's kind of like having wandered around in the woods for hours, with no idea where you are, and suddenly, you spy the parking lot you left from. I sprinted the last 75m. (I'm sure witnesses would tell you it was 50, but it's my blog.)

And not only was Sophie there at the finish, but my high school buddy Kevin. I'd called him the day before, since he'd mentioned he'd run a couple 10ks, to see if he'd registered. He hadn't, but he came down to catch the finish.

I figure I finished in about 30:35. I was 58th overall (out of 90-some-odd), 25th male. I have much of this information courtesy of my daughter, since I was wearing contact lenses and couldn't properly read the results page. Running Room hasn't posted the results yet.

I took advantage of the free massage afterward, which was probably a mistake. I hurt WAY more afterward than I did before. I should have just stretched. Well, I know for next time.

This does officially make me an endurance athlete. I have raced. I want to do the Resolution Run this year, but I'm not sure where. I'm not sure where I'll be for New Years', and the Toronto run starts at 9:30, whereas the Whitby run starts at a more civilized 12 noon. The jacket is kinda orange this year (last year's one, the one I picked up in the clearance rack, is green). I could see myself getting into the habit of collecting them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's a Cannondale

Great news on the my new baby front: It's a Cannondale, about 22 pounds, white and black with red trim.

Another way of saying the Toronto International Bicycle Show (Fall Blowout Version) was this Saturday. I had been prepping for this for at least two months. I'd researched brands and models out the wazoo. But the more I researched, the more I realized: The model I want, even if I've only narrowed it down to about eight, is not going to be there. What you want is a nice aluminum frame, carbon fork, and the rest you can upgrade.

I'd promised to hold a place in line for Kathleen and Beryl at the show, but my buddy Paolo, whom I've known since we were five, dropped in and I misbehaved somewhat the night before. Kathleen actually got there first, probably about an hour before the show opened. We were about 200th in line.

I had planned my assault on the show, mapped it out. But when the doors opened, I did what everybody else did. Hustle in, very business like. Stop, intimidated by the scale of the venture. Wander aimlessly for a few moments. Then, go back to pretending you had a plan.

I think I bounced along pretty efficiently, ruling out shops quickly. The inventory they're blowing out is often unpurchased because it's higher-end than your average failed triathlete might be looking at, and a general rule of these shows is: The more you're willing to spend, the bigger the discount you'll get. A bike with an MSRP of $3,200 on sale for $2,400 is still $1,400 over my budget.

I settled on a Cannondale CAAD 8, mostly for the frame. It felt right. The drive train is nothing to write home about, Shimano whatever, but Peter from Pedal Performance assured me that an upgrade wouldn't be horrifically expensive when the time came. (I'm not giving numbers because there was an element of bike-shop-guy confidentiality. I will, however, reveal this: Do the fall show for bikes, but do the spring show for accessories.)

It's lightish at 22 pounds -- a new wheel set and drive train will take a little off that -- and it just plain feels good. Checked out a Specialized Secteur, a bit more expensive but with a better drive train, but I just didn't feel as good with the frame.

(Kathleen got a Trek, after wrestling with a number of colour schemes and some geometries that just didn't look right. She's also difficult to fit, to be fair, with a long torso.)

The next day, I spent a good hour in the courtyard of my building, practicing clipping in and clipping out with cleats. I've never ridden cleated to a bike before, and it's a little intimidating when you're slowing to a stop and you can't get your feet out of the pedals. I'm okay with that now, though it isn't the most graceful thing, and I'm still not going to be found in heavy traffic till I'm more used to it.

I've swapped the aero bars over, and I'm going to need a fitting. I'm hoping the PP folk will give me at least a 30-day tuneup, once the bolts and cables and such stretch out. Maybe a fitting while I'm there? probably a good idea.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Happy Trails

Had to travel on business to Vancouver last week. Since I've got a couple of friends who've moved out there in the last six or eight months, I extended the trip a couple days to catch up. I also designated the week a "recovery" week. Well, I recovered in epic style, going from nine workouts the previous two weeks to ... three.

One of those workouts, though, was a trail run in Lynn Canyon Park in North Vancouver. The weather was glorious; so good, in fact, that on the Friday night, I'd slept on Dale's 14th storey balcony in Yaletown. (I woke up at six on the morning remembering I'm terrified of balconies. Yes, I'm afraid there was some drinking involved.)

Dale and I did breakfast at The Tomahawk, a greasy spoon in North Van that does Yukon-style bacon and feeds you like it's a Denny's. Then we went off to the park for a run.

I'd not gone for a proper trail run before, largely because there aren't proper trails in Toronto. This one started with a walk across a suspension bridge about 50 metres over the river and canyon. I stopped in the middle to revel in the awesomeness of it all. ("I cannot deny the snazzy of this," were my exact words.) Then there were stairs of hewn wood, lots of climbs, lots of descents, fallen trees to hurdle (okay, climb over) and dogs that had been rolling around in the mud. We ran for about half an hour, and I kept up with the punk. Not bad, since he's 10 years younger than me. I even outsprinted him the last 50 yards, though, to be honest, I don't think he knew we were racing.

It was easier on my knees than lap running, with a much softer landing. The scenery was compelling, though for the most part I kept my eyes on the trail ahead -- there were lots of impediments and, in general, crap that could kill you if you didn't see it coming, or at least twist an ankle nicely. In half an hour, I'm sure we covered at least 5k, if you factor in the changes in altitude.

I also hurt in different places than I do after a lap or street run. It didn't help, I'm sure, that I didn't have my foam roller to tease out my IT bands, etc., but it definitely works different muscles.

Now, I have to find some half-decent trail to run in Toronto. Any suggestions? It won't be Lynn Canyon, I'm sure, but there has to be some trails worth running.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Dude, *there's* my breakthrough

Sometimes, you have a breakthrough workout. You go with a plan; when you hit the end of the workout, you feel like continuing. Before you know it, you've doubled your target, maybe more.

My runs lately have been capped by knee pain, almost like clockwork, at about 18 minutes. I'd run for 20 laps, or 2.5 km, walk a lap, then continue. At 26 laps, the knee pain would start; by 28 laps, 3.5 km, I'd have to shut down.

So I went in today with that general plan; run 15 minutes, walk a lap, run until I had to shut down. But I got to Lap 20, and I still felt good. Breathing wasn't too laboured, legs felt fine. And that put me at the halfway point of a 5k. So I figured I'd just run it out.

I thought I felt the twinges begin at Lap 24, but I relaxed a bit and they stopped. I was expecting them at Lap 28. Nothing. By the time I'd got to 30, I figured I had no choice but to finish.

At Lap 32, I started getting twinges. They didn't go away. But I only had a kilometre to go. (BTW, if I'd said, "Only a kilometre," six months ago, I'd have been being sarcastic.) The pain got worse, but slowly, and only a little. Steadily, but not a lot worse. I turned it up a notch for the last two laps. I sprinted the last half lap, though "sprint" would be a loose description; it might have been a 25-seconds-per-100m pace.

So, radical improvement. I'm sure the foam roller helped; my IT bands are much looser now. The new orthotics, too. But everything else falling into place helped, too -- the spinning, the swimming, they helped build the cardio aspect of it as well.

I'm in Vancouver a couple days next week, so I'll get a chance to check in with my buddy Dale. I'd hoped by the time I saw him, I'd be able to kick his punk ass in a 10k. For now, I'll settle for keeping up with him for five.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Note to self

After swimming with a pull float, remind yourself to start kicking when you try to swim without one.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Making other plans

I'm up to my hips in triathlon training plans. Aside from the iPod app, which I can't be bothered to even look up the name of let alone link to right now, I've got at least three magazines (plus two with bicycling training plans), two books with about a half dozen to a dozen each. Other people's plans are useful. They've actually got experience. But I found trying to follow someone else's training plan, especially as I'm essentially a fitness beginner, unsatisfactory. Sure, it gave me a certain structure and demanded a certain amount of discipline, but bristled at that after about six weeks. It didn't adapt well to my circumstances.

But it's a good body of research to draw from, in terms of specific techniques -- interval training, for example -- to develop my own plan. And that's what I plan to do now. Every Sunday, I'll develop a plan for the following week. It'll take into account how I feel, what I want to (and realistically think I can) accomplish, other demands on my time (damn work), etc.

What I want to do at this point, since there's no pressing deadline, is develop general strength and fitness, using sport-specific training where possible.

As I see it, there are five disciplines I need to work on: swimming, cycling and running, of course, but also upper and lower body strength. I should probably work some flexibility training in, too; at the moment, it's a matter of stretching after workouts and with the foam roller at home.

Another mistake I made, I now realize, was thinking I could squeeze most of my training into lunch hours. It just doesn't work. At best, you get 45 minutes, five times a week (though it probably turns out to be four), plus whatever you do at the weekend. So I'm building my weekly training plans around two sessions a day -- 45 minutes at lunch, and an open-ended one after work -- figuring it'll realistically turn out to be seven sessions a week.

Each discipline gets one session in the lunch slot, and one in the afternoon slot. (The exception is cycling, since spin classes start at 6:30 at my Y, and that just gets me home too late.) For example, this week's schedule:

Monday: Swim at lunch; upper body/core strength in the evening.
Tuesday: Spinning; run
Wednesday: Lower body/core; swim
Thursday: Run; upper body/core
Friday: Spin; Lower body/core

If I miss something during the week, I juggle and try to make it up. For example, I missed my run this afternoon, so Thursday, I'll swap it from the morning to the evening so I can have a longer session. Or I can try to fit it in one day on the weekend, but it's no big deal if I can't, as long as I don't habitually miss one discipline. Logging is very important, not just to track progress and what I've missed, but also to make sure I ease off every fourth week. And that's another area where weekly planning comes in handy. If, like at the end of this month, I'm away a couple days on business and can't get to a gym/pool/run, I can make that a recovery week.

Must say, there was something relaxing and motivating about sitting down Sunday evening with the puzzle of how to fit disciplines and sessions together. It made me look forward to the week. Eventually, I'll have to work on cycles where I focus on specific disciplines, but that depends on my progress. Swimming will probably be first. And possibly second. Definitely last before I launch into a training schedule based on event dates.