Monday, February 28, 2005

Rest, Recover and Regroup

After doing nearly 23.5 miles (39K) last Sunday, the plan this week was to scale back a little and recover before ramping up the mileage again. So on Saturday and Sunday I did a couple of easy back to back 20K (12.5 miles) runs. I didn’t want to get much above 65% and kept my average heart rate around 140.

As today is the last day of February and a rest day, it’s time for a brief summary of my workload for the month. Running four days a week, with the occasional fifth day thrown in for good measure, I managed to rack up around 260 kilometers on the odometer, or about 160 miles. Time spent running was a little over 26 hours. Tipped the scales at 195-196, give or take a pound or two. My weight loss is where I projected it to be (two pounds per month between January and October), but to be honest, I’m a little surprised I haven’t leaned out a bit more. Maybe in March, when my mileage gets over 200 miles.

I feel good. The next six weeks of training will really tell the tale come Marathon Sunday on May 1st. This next Sunday I begin ramping up my mileage, going from 40K (25 miles) to 50K (30 miles) on my long slow distance runs, as this training strategy has yielded my best results to date. I’d like my weekly mileage to average around 60 miles for the month of March and finish off my long runs with a 50K plus effort three weeks before the Marathon.

My tempo workouts have been good, maybe the best for any marathon training session yet. I would really like to get more comfortable at a 7:50 – 8:00 mile pace in the tempo runs which projects to a 3:25 – 3:29 marathon. I have not been as strong during the Hill training so far as I have been in the past. I seem to be less explosive than in years past. Perhaps my predominantly fast twitch muscles are adapting to endurance training? I will ponder this development more…

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Run On

It has been a roller-coaster of a week, emotionally. Even with my learning of my friend passing away last week, and spending as much time as I can with her family this week, and a wonderful Memorial Service yesterday, I was still able to make all my runs. In fact I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't been able to run. It's the best coping mechanism I have. My running buddies and clinic members have all been stalwarts and tremendous support.

The hardest part of the week for me training wise, has been getting a good nights sleep and remembering to eat well. I seem to have lost a couple of hours of sleep each night this week, and a few times I have not noticed that I haven't eaten anything until I get light-headed or all of a sudden my legs get heavy.

Tuesday night we had a great clinic, where we discussed cross-training, a subject dear to my heart, in great detail. More on that in subsequent Blogs. I ran 6K in 29 minutes at an average heart rate of 162.

Wednesday night we did six hills, and it was one of those days where I went twelve hours without eating. On the fouth hill I just ran out of gas. Did get my heart rate up into the mid 180's without too much difficulty. Noticed a little stiffness from Tuesday nights tempo run.

Tonight, I am just so thankful and grateful for the people that running has brought into my life. And that running has given me so much personal core strength. Running is a healthy, safe, and sane place to retreat to and cope with the curve balls that life throws at us sometimes. Thanks again for the heart rate monitor, Stacy. I hope I am running with the Kirk pack for many moons to come.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Sunny Sunday

Today was cool and crisp, with not a wisp of clouds in the sky. The sun shone bright, and once we had cleared the shadows and the trees in the park you could feel it's warmth on your cheeks.

As the weekly mileage climbs inexorably higher, the first time marathoners are begrudgingly beginning to respect the demands made on their bodies by preparing to race 26.2 miles (42.2K). We ran 28K (18 miles) today, and there was not a lot of chatter in the last half hour. This past week the second hill workout had left a few folks feeling stiff and sore. The usual suspects who do the optional add-ons with me had decided to err on the side of caution, and pay heed to their aches and pains, (with lots of hints from Uncle Vince), and aside from Laura, I did another 10K as part of a terrible twosome.

Actual mileage was 23.4 (37.66K). Average heart rate for the nearly four hours of running, 138.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

At a Loss for Words

I found out on Friday that a friend, once someone who was part of that tiny group of people that you can count on the fingers of one hand in an entire lifetime, one of those rare treasures called a best friend, had died suddenly. A best friend and a sometime business partner, a person with whom I had shared hopes and dreams, aspirations and ambitions, triumphs and tears, secrets and confessions, someone with whom I had spent some serious time in the trenches, was tragically, irrevocably, and horribly gone. It was a bolt out of the blue, but not unexpected. And that statement would take a month of Sundays to explain.

And it was one of those situations complicated by there having been a falling out between us, with acrimonious words and bitter feelings and a failed venture, and lawyers, lots of f**king lawyers. The only thing that mitigates any of this is that an olive branch had recently been extended and we had talked. Exchanged kind words and pleasantries and mutual wishes of well-being. But of course, now, that's not nearly enough. Not by half. Jesus, sometimes life is so unjust and the universe is so inequitable it just makes you want stop the planet, call a time out, and step off for a while.

Instead I went for a run. Sometimes, that's all you can do.

Slow Hand

Thought a lot about the fact that I've been preaching all week to my pace group about training in the proper heart rate target zones and the importance of not pushing too hard in pursuit of diminishing returns. The start line, never mind the finish line, of the marathon is still a long ways off.

I red-lined myself at 140 and went out at dawn on Friday for 20K (12.5 miles). At the end of the run, which took two hours and ten minutes, my average heart rate was 138. Hardest part of the run to be disciplined was going up the UBC hill, which is over a mile of 8-10 percent grade.

I have been swamped all week with work and commitments and haven't been able to find a moment when the laundry room in my apartment hasn't been in use. Had used up all five pairs of my running tights and was faced with the disagreeable task of find the least odoriferous pair. Went with the hill training pair which had kind of been airing out over the back of a chair. Technical fibres are fabulous but boy do they stink. Only good part of this story was that it was only a degree above freezing, so I couldn't smell much anyways. Pitied the poor folks in my wake.

Received some really terrible personal news last night and to be honest, I don't have much of my heart and soul in this Blog this morning. Hope everyone has a great weekend. And don't forget to tell the people you love how you feel about them. You never know when it might be your last chance to say it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Be Still My Pounding Heart...

Don't you just love it when your browser, or your server, or God knows what, or probably all of the aforementioned, crashes, dies, gives up the ghost and all of your Blog just kind of... disappears?

Normally I write my Blog first, copy it and then cut and paste it into Blogger, but me being me, sometimes I get lazy and just want to cut corners, or I think it's going to be short. As if I have ever been anything other than long-winded in my entire freaking life. And by the way, everyone tells me I am beating the word freak to death lately, and I don't have the heart to tell them that I'm trying to wean myself off of the f**k word. So freak is kind of like the methadone treatment for profanity. For someone who tries to make their living with words and is possessed of a not unreasonable vocabulary (even if I do say so myself), I have found myself a little too predisposed at times to drop F-Bombs into a conversation, usually with very little provocation.

Enough whining. I had two good work outs back to back this week. Tempo and Hills on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. Anthony asked me at the last moment to speak with him at the marathon clinic on Tuesday night about heart rate monitors and I didn't get his e-mail until about ten minutes before I had to jump into my car. The gist of the talk was... 'Get a heart rate monitor!'

I can't train effectively without one, given my tendencies for overtraining, and I don't want to risk burning out. I tried to convince the clinic members that it is one of the best investments a runner can make, especially if you think of what it actually costs when spread out over four or five years. It definitely costs less than what I spend on runners per marathon, and for me a heart rate monitor is at least as every bit as important as fabulous footwear, maybe more so.

The marathon clinic as taught by the Running Room really emphasizes getting to the start line of the marathon fit and capable of finishing, and hopefully with a smile on your face. For all the eager Type A's who sign up, one of the hardest tasks for the pace group leaders is convincing them to SLOW DOWN during the long runs. Save it for the hills! I figure my job would be easier if I could just pin a heart rate monitor on everyone.

Here's a few links that will keep you going for a while and give you more information about heart rate monitors, MAX VO2, Lactic Acid and Lactate Thresholds and Heart Rate Target Training Zones than you ever wanted to know... unless of course you're just like Seymour, or Michael or Anthony or... Hell, unless you're like just about every other obsessed runner I know.

There are so many runners, mainly the ones that run a marathon for the first or second time, that make a mistake regarding the marathon's predicted time.

Research in the USA showed that 65% of the runners said that they would run the marathon faster than they really did, and worse, 15% of the first time marathoners and 8% of the second time marathoners made a mistake of more than one hour.

On the other hand, experienced runners can predict their marathon time to within a few minutes.








1. What are some different levels of VO2 max, and what do these numbers mean?

VO2 max values, typically expressed in ml/kg/min., can vary between 20 and 90 ml/kg/min. The average value for a sedentary American is about 35 ml/kg/min, while elite endurance athletes average about 70 ml/kg/min. Your sedentary VO2 max value is primarily determined by genetics (a sedentary person may have a VO2 max value as high as 50 ml/kg/min. or as low as 20 ml/kg/min). Although anyone can improve their sedentary VO2 max value through training, this genetic variation helps explain why everyone can't train themselves to be elite.

2. What are some of the highest levels of VO2 max ever recorded?

The highest VO2 max value ever recorded, 93 ml/kg/min, was from a Scandinavian cross country skier. Steve Prefontaine, at 84.4 ml/kg/min, had one of the highest VO2 max values recorded in elite runners. Grete Waitz had a VO2 max of 73 ml/kg/min. when she was running at her best, one of the highest recorded values for women and on par with the values for some elite men.

3. How do some elite runners make up for lower levels of VO2 max?

Although all elite runners have VO2 max values well above the population mean, the correlation between VO2 max and performance is not absolute. Derek Clayton only had a VO2 max of 69 ml/kg/min. and Frank Shorter only recorded a value of 71 ml/kg/min., yet both of these runners ran marathon times of under 2:11 and surely outperformed runners with higher values. This variation in VO2 max values among the elite is possible because VO2 max is only one of several factors that determine running performance. These other factors include mental attitude (ability to tolerate pain), running economy (how efficiently one runs), and lactate threshold (fastest pace you can maintain without accumulating large amounts of lactic acid in your blood). A runner with a relatively low VO2 max, but high in these other performance factors, could outperform a runner with a significantly higher VO2 max but with poor running economy and a low lactate threshold. For example, Derek Clayton and Frank Shorter compensated for their lower VO2 max values with their high efficiency and ability to run their marathons at a high percentage of their VO2 max without accumulating too much lactic acid (high lactate threshold).
MAX VO2 Calculators

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Blog Hole

Wow! Suffering from OCD as do most multiple marathon aficianados, I began to wonder what other forms of intelligent life might exist out there in the Blog Universe. A couple of clicks on Google and I found a world I didn't know existed. I have been going to running sites on the internet faithfully for years, but hadn't delved into the specialized world of Blog Holes. What started as a seemingly innocuous inquiry has turned into something like the voyages of the Starship Enterprise.

There are some amazing Blogs being put out by runners. If you want to take a dip in the Running Blog pond, a great place to get your feet wet, is the Running Blog Family -

There are nearly two hundred different Blogs to choose from and after reading them for about a month (I looked at about half of them) I decided to join myself. As of this moment, I am number 29 on the Hit Parade. There are a half dozen that I have checked every week. It is very interesting exercise to watch someone document their progress in training, but the really fascinating part, and the one that makes me feel a bit like a voyeur, is charting the emotional ups and downs that people go through in training. It is comforting to realize that most, if not all runners, go through the same self-doubts and fears that you do.

The Blogs run the gamut, from first timers hoping to do their first marathon, to old pros who have done many marathons to a few people who make their living in the running industry, coaches, and writers. Some of the writing is of magazine and book quality and all of it seems very heartfelt.

After doing 20K (12.5 miles) on Friday and 35K (22 miles) on Sunday, I feel great. Had a good, if kind of twitchy rest day on Monday and now I'm raring to feel some speed tonight. Had another great salmon feast last night thanks to Seymour. I am down to my last salmon steak in the freezer, so I'm going to have to start pestering him pretty soon. Of course, I could always invite myself over for dinner...

And I will have to figure out what to do with a couple of "problem children" in my pace group. One of them actually confessed about going to the gym on Monday! And cycling! So my preaching about the importance of the "Rs", rest, recovery, and recuperation, seems to have gone totally unheeded. Of course there was a time when I was exactly the same way. Oh to be in my twenties again and feel immortal. Will have to impress upon the first-timers that overtraining will not make them any faster, and that "more" is not necessarily "better". And we haven't even gotten into the big mileage weeks yet!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Day Special

Sunday morning is a good time to count your blessings. For instance, sometimes you have to be grateful for the fact that the Weatherman, like the rest of us mere mortals, is imperfect. The Weatherman had been calling for rain, and lots of it, on Sunday morning. As of this Monday, we are still waiting...

Yesterday dawned clear and crisp, nary a cloud in sight, and my feet crunched through panes of ice covering the puddles on the way to my car behind my apartment. It was hovering around the freezing point when we went out for our Sunday run and as I had laid out all my clothes the night before, thinking it was going to rain, I had three layers on, a long-sleeve shirt, a vest and my rain jacket. Bless the folks who invented running tights. Because the sun was shining, I left my hat in the car but kept my gloves, a decision I was later grateful for when crossing the Lion's Gate Bridge with a 25 knot breeze cutting across English Bay.

You couldn't really ask for nicer weather to run in yesterday. With the sun shining it doesn't much matter how cold it it - I understand all those mid-westerners who are scoffing now - but here on the West Coast we'll do just about anything to bask in the rays. And within fifteen or twenty minutes you're generally toasty enough not to mind the wind or the temperature.

Our route took us through the woods of Stanley Park, where shafts of early morning light beaming through the trees brought to mind images of light coming through leaded windows in a Cathedral. We then took the Lion's Gate Bridge and looped around the waterfront in West Vancouver before heading home. The conversation was constant, when the wind coming off the water wasn't whisking our words away, and once the wind was at our back - well, we were as happy as clams.

After finishing our 23K route, over which there was some confusion as to exact distance, I went out to do my add-on, and spent another hour meandering around Stanley Park, my exact route dictated by running from patch of sunlight to patch of sunlight. At the end of the day I had run 21.8 miles/35 kilometres in a little over three and a half hours. As I finished I couldn't help but think that I was hoping that I'd be crossing the finish line in Kelowna this fall at about the same time. By this time we were famished and headed out for breakfast.

I don't know what it was, but no one was in a great hurry yesterday. After grazing through a plate of French toast drowned in maple syrup and snacking on some scrambled eggs and bacon, we lingered over coffee. I was as hungry as a wolf, and like a whiskey-jack skirting around a campfire, I scarfed up the odds and ends of toast that got left behind. Although Seymour, who was sitting beside me, defended his scraps a little more vigorously than I thought was entirely necessary, with his fork at the ready... There should probably be sign in the restaurant, "Don't Feed the Animals". Being the day before Valentine's Day, the conversation turned to what people had planned for the year's pinnacle of romance. I soon discovered why no one at breakfast was in a particular hurry to go anywhere! And why St. Valentine was shot full of arrows.

Turned out that with the exception of a couple of married members, most of the runners gathered around the breakfast table were single. And I mean really single. I was kind of shocked to discover that all these fit, attractive, talented, well-educated, motivated and successful people I ran with, were single. Of course, in hindsight, it certainly explains the amount of time they have to devote to training for multiple marathons! But my Gawd!, these people, especially the women (I am a man, after all) struck me as being ideal partners. Within minutes, every single person at the table was recounting horror stories of dating in Vancouver. I was shocked to learn that one woman, who, trust me on this, would turn heads in any room, confessed to not having had a date in over a year. And why, inquiring minds wanted to know? Because she had been stood up four times in a row! It almost made me lose faith in my gender.

The women at the table kevetched about how difficult it was to meet men and the men whined about how difficult it was to meet women. I was stunned. I mean, these people are some of the most accomplished folks I know. Out of a dozen people I was sitting with, there was a real smorgasbord, an engineer, a chemist, a lawyer, an accountant, and an assortment of professionals. I was the lone deadbeat at the table! The romantic confessions that took place next had us all in stitches. I now have a sneaking suspicion that the world of endurance runners is well-populated with individuals whose single-minded pursuit of marathon excellence is the result of successfully channeling all their sexual frustration into their long runs!

Time to go home and alternate between hot and cold showers...

And here is my Valentine Heart to all of you - the following links will allow you to calculate your MAX VO2 without having to jump on a treadmill. And it will tell you just how good your hearts are, which I am sure is very good.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Carbs, Carbs, My Kingdom for a Carb

After yesterday's 19K run I have been craving carbs all day. And given that I have 32K (20 Miles) on the training schedule for tomorrow, I have heeded the call somewhat. My weight is currently at 196, which is on target, maybe a little ahead for the month of February. So I have indulged in an early pasta dinner (with red sauce) and a beautiful piece of poached salmon, courtesy of my buddy Seymour.

Last night Tom and I went to the Vancouver Boat Show and oggled how the other half lives. It struck me that a goodly number of the middle-aged men who can afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on floating toys would be wise to spend some of that hard-earned money on a gym membership and a personal trainer. In fact from a survey of the crowd in attendance at the Boat Show, it almost seemed that a prerequisite for having the kind of buying power to purchase a boat meant that you also had to pack around a spare tire. And not just any spare tire, we're talking SUV style rubber, folks. I wondered how many men in attendance at the Boat Show were going to experience chest pain while straddling the fibreglass decks of the tupperware fleet that was spread across the cement sea of BC Place Stadium. For me, it reminded me just a little too much of my father's love for boats, the good life and his struggle with heart disease.

My father had his first heart attack when he was 46, not much more than a year older than I am now. We were just about to leave Coal Harbour in Vancouver for a weekend sailing trip aboard his beloved ketch, the "Stone Raven", to the San Juan Islands and the Jazz Festival at Friday Harbour when my father complained of chest pain. We never left. Instead I drove him to the ER at St. Paul's Hospital where he was admitted and firmly ensconced in the Cardiac Care Unit. So much for the benefits to be enjoyed by a family friendly healthy lifestyle on the water.

That was twenty years ago, this year. Since then he has had bypass surgery, a quintuple, congestive heart failure and more episodes in the hospital than I care to think about. A larger than life figure who was a superb athlete in his youth, he struggled most of his life with his weight, a fact caused as much by his love for the good things that life has to offer as his career spent behind a desk, the wheel of a car and on the telephone. Dad was an early devotee of the Atkins Diet and carbs were the enemy. The lone exception to this rule was the wine that washed down the protein.

At any given time as I was growing up, my father was on one end of a pendulum swing that saw him losing or gaining as much as fifty pounds over the course of his dieting, year in and year out. Before his heart problems, he had struggled with gout and back pain and not long afterwards he developed type two diabetes. Despite the abuse he heaped on his body he was vigorous to an amazing degree but it was not a health regimen that I would recommend to anyone anytime soon. My father is twenty-one years older than I am, and I have a hard time reconciling the man I see now with the figure from my childhood.

Dad is a big fan of me running and few would be prouder of their childrens accomplishments. Yet Dad remains firmly old school when it comes to running, often voicing his concerns that my high mileage is going to "wear out" my knees or bring on a sudden onset of arthritis. Trust me, I know well enough now to not even start that conversation. Because of his back injuries and joint problems, it would be tough for Dad to begin running, but a regular program of walking would probably do him wonders. Atkins has been dismissed and now he's a devotee of the South Beach Diet. At least former President Clinton is looking better these days. Maybe he could fly out to Arizona and convince my father to go for a walk around the block.

Two summers ago, after I had finished my fourth or fifth marathon and after Dad had come a little too close for comfort in the hospital, I convinced him to get a heart rate monitor. I guess I thought that I must gotten my OCD (yes, that's the obsessive-compulsive disorder that all true runners recognize in one another) from him if from anyone, and I was hoping to get him hooked on the data he could collect. At that time he was living just across the border in Washington and I was able to see him fairly regularly. We even went walking together. He got fitted with orthotics for his feet and finally had shoes that were comfortable. By that time he had lost so much muscle from his quads and his calves that it was painful for me to watch. And for a while he walked on a regular basis. But he never quite believed what the heart rate monitor was telling him and I didn't have the heart to argue with him. He's a grown man and he's going to live with the choices he's made. That's life.

I always think of my Dad as my Dad, as I'm sure most people do. He is who he is and looks like my Dad is supposed to. But now when I run a marathon I am always struck by the vigour and health of the men and women who are my father's contemporaries and then I am absolutely floored by the difference in appearance and health. And that's when I know I want to grow old running. I'll be damned if I'm going to grow old gracefully. Hell, graceful was never a word used to describe me in the full flower of my youth. Nope, I want to be dragged kicking and screaming from the marathon course in my nineties as I try to finish the course before they put the traffic control pylons away.

And I hope some of those portly middle-aged men at the boat show have the good sense to go ashore and get some mileage in. If not for themselves, then at least for the wives and the kids that a good many of them had in tow. And a good run will certainly help them deal with the pain of making boat payments, paying for moorage and the endless dribs and drabs of money that boat ownership entails. My Dad could certainly tell them about that part, "Son, a boat is a hole in the water that you shovel money into..."

Friday, February 11, 2005

To Hill and Back Again

Having missed my date with my MAX VO2, I decided to take out my impatience on the Hill up to UBC. I was feeling a tad guilty because on my Tuesday and Wednesday training runs I had held a little back for my bout with the treadmill.

It is a gloriously sunny day here in Vancouver and on the Wet Coast you really have to make hay while the sun shines. The weather forecast for our long run this Sunday is calling for rain, rain and more rain. Did I mention it was supposed to rain this weekend?

I was bit stiff in the glutes of all places from the first Hill Training workout, so I started out slower than usual. Twenty minutes in I was crusing along. The weather was so spectacular that I honestly lost track of time. Before I knew it I had gone almost 10K before remembering on an out and back run, the turnaround is only halfway! I ran 19K in 1:44:12 at an average heart rate of 142 and a peak heart rate of 162 on the Hill. Felt really, really strong.


I was eagerly anticipating my MAX VO2 test and hydrostatic body fat test at the University of British Columbia's Sports Medicine Clinic this week. As luck would have it, the machine is broken and I will have to reschedule my test. In the best of all possible worlds, the necessary replacement part will arrive in Vancouver from Toronto in a few days, a week at the most. The worst case scenario is that the part has to come all the way from Germany.

So instead of burning myself out on the treadmill and finding out just how fat I really am, it's up the hill at UBC again. Oh well, on the bright side, another week gives me a golden opportunity to lose another pound and a half percent of body fat!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Gasping

Hill workouts started last night. I am a strange duck. I LOVE HILLS. I love every thing about them. I love the intensity, the lactic acid build up, the waves of nausea at the end, the lightheadness, the ache deep in your legs as you struggle to maintain proper form on the last summit attempt. A great hill work out leaves one with a sense of exhilaration and a real sense of accomplishment.

Hills are your friends. When you're doing the last 10K in the marathon, all the hills you've done in training will come back and join you. They'll bolster you and serve as your wings. You just have to be willing to pay the price to earn your "Hill Wings". And the price you have to pay is pushing back your lactic acid threshold. It is hard, uncomfortable, uncomprising work. There is no way around it and the only way to get the benefits out of hill training is to committ to it wholly, completely and without reservation. Hill training is all about committment and about how badly you want to improve and get better.

I have found after having done a half dozen marathon clinics with several hundred participants that two things invariably reveal how someone will fare in their first marathon. First, if someone manages to attend most of the clinic and do most of the training runs they will almost certainly finish, barring an unforeseen disaster. And that in itself is the greatest accomplishment of all. What an achievement! And for your first marathon, finishing should be your primary goal. But of course, most of those Type A goal-setters who sign up to run a marathon also have a time goal in mind. And I have observed that how close people come to making their time goal is predicated by how hard they work during hill training and how disciplined they are during the Sunday long, slow distance runs.

As a rule of thumb, the people who nail their time goals the first time out are those who push hard in the hill work outs, and then have the discipline to run within themselves on Sundays. For me, the only way NOT to run hard in every work out and burn myself out is to train with a heart rate monitor. But the smart runners seem to instinctively grasp and understand that each of the training sessions in the clinic should be run differently. Their work out efforts reflect whether they are building strength or stamina or endurance.

That's the beauty of training for the marathon. Part of the paradox, is that to be successful, you can't always go all out. To be successful you have to be as smart and as disciplined as you are committed and hard-working. Sometimes, it's smarter and much better to run slower than faster. That little gem only took my a few years and a half dozen marathons to figure out. And it's still a work in progress.

There is no use my denying that one of the main reasons I love hills, is that they are a part of the marathon training where being a mesomorph comes in handy. Is even an advantage. Big quads are fun to have in any distance under 500 metres! It's one of the few times that being a sprinter is rewarded.

Here are some great articles on Hill Training:,5033,s6-51-54-0-1063,00.html

Last night, four long hills, got my heart rate up to the mid 170's and then on the last hill I let myself taste 182 for about ten seconds. But, knowing that my MAX VO2 test is in two days, I eased up. I'm hoping to see over 200 on the treadmill!

The Reality of Stretching

Tuesday night marathon clinic at the Running Room started with a discussion on stretching. This is a subject guaranteed to get yours truly really going, having endured more than my fair share of injuries and lengthy post-injury rehab programs, including coming back from back surgery.

First off, I stretch just about every day. But I do it at a set time, in the morning, and it is completely seperate from the set of exercises I also do on a regular basis to maintain my core strength.

I happen to think that the best way to prevent running injuries is to do a warm-up that ramps up your pace for at least 5 to 10 minutes, and when finishing a work out, to ramp down for a similar period of time. And I try to never increase my speed or disdtance by more than ten percent in any given week. Hence, my passionate advocacy of training with a heart rate monitor. A heart rate monitor is a sensible best friend on your wrist.

Here are a couple of interesting links -

A recent study of 1500 participants in the Honolulu Marathon actually linked the pre workout stretching with a higher risk of injuries, particularly in white males. The warm up for your run should be 5-10 minutes of walking or slow jogging. If something feels tight, you might stop to stretch that area. After the workout, which should include a 5-10 minute cool down period of the same gentle exercise as warm up, is a good time for a short stretching routine. Do not stretch immediately after a long run or strenuous workout when your muscles are apt to be fatigued and dehydrated. Rehydrate and rest before stretching. The best time is to set aside a separate period 3-5 times per week for a complete stretching routine of the exercises shown below which should take about 20 minutes. Many runners find a gentle stretching routine done before bedtime a relaxing habit.

For many athletes it is axiomatic that stretching before or after exercise reduces subsequent muscle soreness, cuts injury risk and may even improve their performance. But are they deluding themselves?

The answer, according to Australian physiotherapists Rob Herberts and Michael Gabriel, is ‘probably yes’. The pair, based at Sydney University, carried out a systematic review of relevant good-quality literature on the impact of stretching in order to produce the most reliable estimate of benefit, and their results were published recently in the British Medical Journal.

And the workout? Did 6K in about 30 minutes. Doing my MAX VO2 this week, so I didn't go out too hard. Average heart rate was 158 and never got above 162.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Take the Long Way Home

You just can't beat the long Sunday run. It really is the highlight of my running week and something I look forward to with eager anticipation.

This Sunday I awoke to mixed rain and snow as the temperature hovered around 1C. So it was back to multiple layers, a hat and gloves and long tights. I have nothing but admiration for those people with the drive, determination and discipline to actually train in weather below freezing and in the snow. I can suck it up for those conditions for a few weeks, but months? My toque is off to you.

Sunday's training schedule called for a 19K, so we trotted around the Seawall, headed over the Burrard Street Bridge to Kits Pool and back. It took considerable effort to keep my little bunnies to a pace of a minute over race pace. So I had to play the Pace Nazi a little more than I would like. Part of it was the fact that my 3:45 pace group had ballooned from a dozen to twenty people. A few out of towners which is always nice, and a few local first timers, also encouraging.

After the 19K, a half dozen of us tacked on another 10K, and I increased the pace to at least two and a half minutes over race pace and had us doing 5 and 1s. We finished the 29K in a little over three hours. As fabulous as today's technical fibres are for wicking away swaet, they certainly don't insulate you from the cold. We headed out as a group afterwards for a hot breakfast and a few gallons of hot drinks.

And I have found the ultimate Running Route Mappers website. This site is amazing. And I've checked and double-checked the accuracy. It's just incredibly well-done. You MUST check this site out! It gets 5 STARS from Vince.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Green, Green Tea of Home

Friday morning I headed up the UBC Hill and cranked out 15.5K in 1:31:38. When I stepped out of my front door it was a gloriously sunny day. I slipped a windbreaker over a short-sleeve shirt more out of habit than necessity and headed out. I was mightily glad for it within the first mile. I had a rude awakening when I turned to follow the beach along Spanish Banks.

The clear, sunny skies over 4th and McDonald had given me no inkling about the stiff breeze I soon encountered coming off the water. English Bay was frosted over with white caps and on the beach a group of para sailors was being pulled over the sand by the kites they had aloft. And when I mean pulled, I mean literally dragged as if they were attached to mules pulling a plow. I estimated that the wind was gusting to 25 and 30 knots and I had to lean in to it to make my way. An occasional gust that seemed hand-delivered from the Cnanadian Arctic would snatch the breath from me and I dreaded the thought of having to run home into the wind. But into the wind heading out meant that it would be at my back heading home, so off I went.

Every runner I encountered seemed to be relishing running in such conditions and I couldn’t remember being greeted by so many smiles. The wind was making everyone’s jackets flap and snap like flags and it just lent an infectious air of craziness to the whole proceeding. Nuts, of course we were nuts, but you had to appreciate the craziness of running through it all. And coming home, it was like I had my spinnaker up. I sailed home, feet flying, legs light, head held high. Heart rate a steady 148 BPM.

On Thursday I had checked out green tea supplements at several vitamin and supplements stores. After doing some comparison-shopping and double-checking of the labels, I made my purchase and headed home. My particular Green Tea Extract promised “High Potency”, “95% Polyphenols”, “60% Catechins” , each capsule 300 mg, and recommended 1 to 3 tablets per day with meals.

At 4:00pm, it was a little early for dinner, so I washed down three tablets with every expectation that thermogenisis was happily under way. Twelve hours later I was still up. And pacing my apartment. And my body gave no indication of wanting sleep any time soon. What was up? Usually after running hard on Tuesday and Wednesday nights I sleep like a baby. Or an old man.

I rechecked the bottle and read the fine print, ONE CAPSULE EQUIVALENT TO 8 TO 10 CUPS of GREEN TEA. Egad, I had consumed 24 to 30 cups of green tea. All the studies I had been reading had said, a minimum of four cups a day was required to get the benefits of green tea, and I couldn’t help but think I had gone a little overboard in all too typical fashion. But the Japanese study about the effect of green tea on fat burning had mentioned that participants were taking 625mg of catechins per day. Yikes! I’ll have to fire off a few e-mails to some nutritionists involved in the study and see what’s what.

I now take my green tea capsules (two), first thing in the morning, with breakfast and my vitamins. And I'm back to sleeoing at night.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Running at Redline

Last night's 10K run was a revelation. First, because it was really 11K! And secondly because I was adamant that I wasn't going to run beyond my self-imposed limit of 160 BPM. Last night was all heart rate, heart rate, heart rate. There was one stretch after a down hill where my running partner, Ron and I got a little carried away, but other than a couple of quick blips to 164, I kept it under 160 for the entire run.

Instead of just going fast, I concentrated on form, relaxation and breathing. The night was perfect for running, cool (12C/50F), clear and with just a hint of a breeze. Didn't need a vest and could have done it in a short sleeve shirt. Everybody just seemed to get into a groove. The miles flew by, not effortlessly, but easily, nonetheless.

We were a little stunned to find out that we finished the run in 49:56, just nipping under the fifty minute wire. But when I checked my Triax I was really stunned. It showed we had run 11.18K. Have to say we all felt really good about that! Afterwards, Ron, Michael, Warren and I celebrated with a little sushi and sashimi. And a little sake to wash it down.

Latest bit of interesting research I've done has been into the benefits of green tea. After this, I'll be drinking four cups a day!!!

Great articles on the benefits of drinking green tea.,,8004-4018584,00.html

All those polyphenols and catechins can only be good for me, but I must say I am very intrigued by the thermogenic properties that recent studies have revealed.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Training in the Target Zone

Getting on the scale the last two days has been a welcome excercise. I've tipped the balance at 198 and it's a confidence builder for meeting my goals in the month of February. I took that mindset to the marathon clinic last night.

After an interesting discussion on nutrition we went out to do our speed work. Those wanting to do a 3:30 or faster marathon had a run of 8K and the rest of us had a run of 6K. Michael and I both want to be under 3:45 so we thought we'd redo the 6.7K run from two weeks ago. That run is also an out and back, so we'd be able to get an accurate halfway split.

Given my recent propensity to turn Tuesdays and Wednesdays into races, I went out last night determined to stay in my training heart rate target zone. Michael and I went out and did the first half of the 6.7K in 17 minutes and my HR was a steady 160-162. At the halfway point Michael stepped it up and took off.

I have to confess it took a considerable amount of willpower on my part to let him go. That is the great thing about training with a heart rate monitor. With my heart tachometer on my wrist I simply redlined myself at 165 BPM (beats per minute!)

Instead of going faster, I concentrated on my running form, my cadence and turnover, and most importantly, on running as relaxed as I possibly could. I refused to let myself get over 165 and rather than having to risk slowing down, I found myself running in a very controlled manner at 164 BPM, just like I want to do in my marathons. It was a very Zen-like training exercise, as I found myself focusing more on the process of my running than on the end result of a particular time or my performance in relation to someone else's.

I think that focus and concentration actually resulted in a better performance, as I finished the second half of the run in about 16 minutes. Total time for the 6.7K was 33 minutes. The night's run was an eye-opening experience. Tonight is a 10K and I'm hoping to bring the same mindset out on the road. Staying in my heart rate training target zone!