Monday, March 28, 2005

Hippity Hopping All Easter Weekend

As the Vancouver International Marathon draws ever nearer, I am beginning to plan my end-game strategy. The marathon is approximately five weeks away and I am certainly not going to get significantly faster or much better conditioned.

I have decided to run the April Fool's Run Half Marathon in Gibson's on B.C.'s beautiful Sunshine Coast next Sunday. The plan is to sharpen up and tune my muscle for a little race speed. Following that, I am planning my last long run of 50K the following Sunday. At that point the taper begins. Long live the taper!

This past week, I followed up my 24K on Friday with another 24K on Saturday, and followed up that up with a very leisurely 23K on Sunday. That brought my weekly mileage up to 65 miles (104.6K). This morning I feel very fit.

Hills are finished with and now it's time to sharpen up my racing instincts and marathon pace speed.

Everyone in the clinic is beginning to get very antsy, agonizing over every little ache and pain and wondering if it will disappear by the time of the marathon and worrying over every itch in the throat or errant sniffle lest it develop into a full-blown cold.

I will have to keep a tight check on my paranoia, because this is often where I go out and do something foolish in my training, trying to get just that little bit faster. Will not get too crazy in Gibson's. My goal is to run a 1:45 half. Fast for me, but not TOO fast... Just enough to get everything in running order.

I hope!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Fridays

It's apt that today is Good Friday, if only because I have always thought of Fridays as inherently good. Fridays are a good thing. And where once Friday was the end of a work week and a precursor to the weekend, Friday is also now my Friday run, which I have come to think of as my short long run.

For a year now, I have been stretching out my Friday runs from 10Ks to 20-24Ks. This came about when I cut back from running five days a week to four, but didn't want to sacrifice any mileage. I find I recover more fully running this way and get additional benefits from going out longer. If I do go out for a fifth day, it's never more than 5 or 6K to loosen up some muscles and move some warm blood around. So it's a win win training strategy. In addition, Friday is now quite often the only time I run solo for big chunks of the year. So I value my solitary jaunts.

Hill and Tempo runs this week went well. Backed off a little bit on the Tuesday tempo run and finished Hills with a flourish. Looking forward to some kilometre repeats next week.

I think that everyone in the 3:45 Pace Group now has a heart rate monitor. My work here is almost done... Now, on to Seymour and the rest of his 4:00 group, plus of course Paul... and those poor overtrained 3:30s could sure use a little monitoring... The work continues!

This week seemed all bound up in the controversy surrounding last Sunday's 32K long run pacing. Enough already, I say! Because this Blog belongs to me - well, it does - I do get to have the last word.

Over the years, as I have grown longer in the tooth, I have had to accomodate the inevitable changes to the flesh that come with the passage of time. Rather than fight a fruitless, unwinnable physical battle and rail against the vagaries of aging, I like to think I have chosen the path of cunning and guile. I have tried my best to deceive both my body and time when it comes to training. I hope this means that I am training smarter, not harder.

And that was the core of my arguements this week. Use the training time and the runs you have as wisely as you can. Choose to train in a way that maximizes your potential and minimizes the risk of overtraining or worse yet, injury. Try to get the most you can out of your running for the least amount of effort.

Sometimes, in order to run fast, first you must run slow.

I hope everyone has a great Easter weekend. Peace to all.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk

Ahhh, finally, a posted comment on my Blog worthy of it's own Blog! It doesn't get any better than this. Someone left the following comment on my preceding Wet and Wild Blog...

Anonymous said... In your piece you say it was almost impossible to keep people below 70-75%. How do you know that? You've never run a 3:45 marathon yourself. Maybe you are too slow to be a 3:45 pace leader, did you ever consider that?

Isn't that great! I love it! You can almost hear the indignation in their voice. "Who the Hell does this Vince Hemingson guy think he is? Who died and made him the Pace God?"

To begin with, the writer is absolutely correct in pointing out that I have NEVER, not ONCE, EVER run a 3:45 marathon. That fact is, however, beside the point in this discussion. I have been a pace group leader a half a dozen times and I have run eight marathons and my best marathon time is only 3:52. But those are just numbers and don't really address the issue I was bringing up. Plus, I would argue pretty strenuously, that those same numbers give me pretty firm ground to stand on in making my observations about the pacing on Sunday. Some old homily about , "Experience is one of the best teachers... ", or something like that.

The Sunday Long Distance Run is part of a marathon training program that the Running Room subscribes to and offers, for money, I might add, to members of the public. It is assumed that if you pay your money to participate in the marathon clinic that you are also subscribing to the training regimen and philosophy put forth by the Running Room itself. If not, why the Hell did you pay $69? To see me in tights? I think not.

If you are in the Running Room Clinic you should be running at least four days a week and most probably you are running five. It is set out very clearly in the literature (I wonder if the person actually read the literature) that different days of the week call for different work outs. These work outs are specific to building your STRENGTH, STAMINA, SPEED and ENDURANCE.

And each of those work outs IS SUPPOSED TO BE DIFFERENT!

This is the crux of what I am talking about! We run hard short distances, HILLS, short fast distances, INTERVALS, slightly longer race pace plus distances, TEMPO, longer RACE PACE distances, and LONG SLOW DISTANCES for our ENDURANCE RUN on Sundays.

Sunday's 32K run should have been run at 65%. Granted, some people, John Stanton among them, suggest a 70% pace or a pace that is X percentage slower than your planned marathon pace. But it should definitely have been slower than what it was. How do I know that?

I confess to being a Heart Rate Monitor and Data freak. I run with a bunch of engineers, physicists and chemists to whom I pale in comparison, but they can at least confirm my claims. And I know within a few percentage points, based on my heart rate and my experience what my level of effort is during a run. Yet despite all my experience I still need a heart rate monitor in order to be truly accurate.

I normally run Sundays at 132-136 BPM. That's about 65% for me. And that pace, as measured by my accelerometer, is only about two minutes slower than marathon race pace for a 3:45. On Sunday I was 142-148 BPM and for many stretches I was up to 150 BPM, which is 75% plus for me. And the pace? Barely a minute over and occasionlly LESS than a minute over the 3:45 marathon pace! That's when I barked. More importantly, if you have any experience whatsoever, you can tell with amazing accuracy just from listening to and observing people's respiratory rate, what their level of effort is. You should have heard some of the gasping on Sunday!

My good friend Seymour, with whom I have run hundreds and hundreds of miles together with, if not indeed thousands of miles, can painfully verify this. To Seymour's great disgust, all I have to do is observe him for a few moments and chirp up with, "What's your heart rate, Seymour?", for Seymour to look down at his heart rate and see that he is five beats per minute above what he should be.

Why does this matter? Because we are dealing with percentages in training for the marathon. The four different building blocks of training are ALL DONE at DIFFERENT LEVELS OF EFFORT! Many people, particularly those who are not experienced, run the entire marathon clinic at 75% effort. And then they wonder why they didn't make their time goal. Or why they faded at the end of the marathon.

Why!?! Because despite their perfect attendance and best efforts, they didn't receive all the benefits that come from training according to a proper training program. Their hearts and lungs and bodies and leg muscles didn't receive the full benefits of their investment of all those miles and hours, simply because they failed to maximize their efforts. It's not enough to just run hard to succeed in a marathon, you have to run smart, as well. The marathon is the thinking man's (and woman's, for that matter) race. It is about the careful management of scarce physical resources.

If you want to run a marathon simply to finish, that is an honourable and wonderful goal. More power to you. I applaud your effort. If your object is to run a time goal and you don't train according to how you are supposed to, you are wasting your time.

My problem is that on Sunday, those people who were running too fast were not only wasting their time, they were endangering the running goals of other people who were actually following the training program. There were people I was running with who simply could not carry on a conversation. Translation for the people who still don't get it - THEY WERE GOING TOO FAST FOR AN ENDURANCE RUN! Many of the people who ran on Sunday ran too fast and hence they overtrained. The consequences of their actions means that their bodies will not be fully recovered by Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. So their Hill and Tempo training for the coming week will be compromised. What's so smart about that?

Marathoners are competitive people, and the long endurance runs are rife with potential danger. Part of being a pace group leader is thinking of what is best for the whole group. And that means not letting the Sunday run turn into a potentially injury-inflicting exercise because a few individuals have neither the self-control nor the self-discipline nor are smart enough to know how to train properly. It's the job of the pace leaders to set the pace. If you are not smart enough to understand that, you should be training on your own.

Plus, Sunday runs should really be an enjoyable experience. Let's not lose sight of the big picture here, folks. I want everyone to achieve their marathon goals. To run to the best of their ability and maximize their potential. And the marathon is a big, long, tough race. You have to respect the race and you have to respect the distance. And if you are training with a group, simple courtesy suggests that you should respect the group. Save the total effort for the Marathon, because that's when you'll need it!

Final Note - As for me being too slow to be a 3:45 pace group leader? I'll bet anyone who cares to, subject to me remaining injury-free, that in my next marathon I will break 3:45 (And I'll bet I'm a damn sight closer to 3:30). Standing bet is a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Wet and Wild

After last week’s rather epic mileage (at least for me) and the pace of the speed and hill workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday, I took both Thursday and Friday off. On Saturday I did a relatively easy 24K (14 miles) with a 46-minute 10K stuck in the middle. I was ever mindful of the fact that I was going to run 50K (30 miles) the next day. Or so I thought...

Sunday dawned wet and cold. I wore more layers than I had in many weeks. It was also the first official 20 miler (32K) scheduled for the Running Room Marathon Clinic. The Running Room has a venerable and much beloved tradition of inviting all the Marathon Clinics from all over the Lower Mainland to the Denman Street location and then having everyone follow a 32K route that follows as much of the marathon course as possible. It familiarizes first time marathoners with the layout of the course and hopefully reduces some of the trepidation. Afterwards there are pancakes, hot chocolate and coffee and lots of runnerly camraderie.

Many marathoners, especially first timers, seem to fret about “knowing” the marathon course, as if they were Formula One Grand Prix race car drivers who need to memorize the apex of every corner in order to achieve their optimum lap times. Me, I am happy to follow the crowd in a race and frankly, it makes not a whit of difference to me whether I know the course or not. After a few marathons I try to cut corners, but I could care less where the hills are on the course. The last time I checked, the marathon is over when you cross the finish line. And usually the race organizers make a big stink about it, they put up banners, balloons and generally a crowd often gathers at the end as well. It’s pretty tough to miss even if you’re severely blood-sugar deprived and on the brink of hallucination.

Several hundred eager, enthusiastic and excited marathoners made their appearance on Sunday morning. The air of anticipation was so thick you could cut it with a knife. And therein lay the problem. No one treated the first twenty-miler of the marathon clinic like a training run. For most people it was clearly a dress rehearsal for the marathon itself. Any endurance or training benefits of the run were negated within the first few miles.

I was supposed to lead a 3:45 pace group and I was in the midst of fifty people who were determined to run at slightly above marathon race pace. In a word, it was insane. I barked a few times about slowing down the pace and a splinter group of about twenty people took off ahead of us. By the end, that group broke apart and was strung out over several kilometers. It was every man, woman and jackass for themselves. I was so startled by the pace that most people seemed bent on pursuing that I began querying all the unfamiliar runners around me about which Running Room store they were training out of and who their pace group leaders were. And just out of curiousity, what training regimen were they following? Was this a new training philosophy I had not yet heard about?

The long and short of it was that most pace groups were kind of, sort of lumped together by ability but nobody really “set” a training pace. What!? One group leader commented to me (and this was a nine marathon veteran) that he used to enjoy Sunday long runs but that at his store they had turned into Sunday races! The pace set on Sundays was so fast he continued, that over the course of the clinic about half of his pace group had dropped out, some with injuries, and he was down to eight people in his group. I did not find another person running outside of the Denman store who had a heart rate monitor. There were a few runners with GPS units and accelerometers, but they were mostly using them to keep track of the distance and not worried so much about pace.

Over the course of several hours of conversation, and most of the runners still left in my group couldn’t believe the amount of talking we were doing, I did not find anyone who was familiar with training in target heart rate zones or any of the good stuff you supposedly learn in a marathon training clinic. What are mitochondria? Enzymatic and hormonal changes in muscle cells, huh? Aerobic versus anaerobic? Free fatty acid mobilization? Capillary density? The Sunday endurance runs in most running groups are the equivalent of taking people who can’t swim, throwing them in the deep end of the pool with no instruction or supervision, and if they get out of the water alive, declaring that they know how to swim. I was shocked. But I found a lot of people who at least pretended to be interested in the discussion of the benefits of training at 65% on Sunday. That being said, it was almost impossible to keep the group below 70-75%.

I ran at the front of the pack and attempted to explain running group etiquette to anyone who would listen. I had to tell the same individuals over and over again, that if they couldn’t run behind or beside me, they were welcome to join the group in front of us. Unbelievably, a number of four hour pace group members had sped up and joined us and one of them proved to be the worst culprits of all. This guy was incapable of carrying on a normal conversation and his breathing and his running form were clearly labouring to keep up the pace. I had to wonder what the point of the exercise was for this individual. Did he actually think he was getting some kind of training benefit from running 32K at a pace that was patentedly and obviously absurd for him? I bit my tongue, other than to make the somewhat acid observation that the actaul marathon race wasn't until May 1st.

Most of my regulars were running at the back of the pack and observing the fiasco that was playing out in front of them. Afterwards, during our 10K add-on, Michael and Sean commented that it was clear that the vast majority of the people were labouring to maintain the pace. They said there was little or no conversation at the back of the pack and a universal look of grim determination to tough it out. My God, what an unenjoyable way to train and to run on a Sunday.

Having kvetched and pontificated now at length, I must say I did enjoy meeting a bunch of new runners. I am certainly looking forward to running the Vancouver Marathon with a number of them.

We finished the first 32K in a little over 3:30 and this was with me adding a few unscheduled breaks and extending a few of the recovery walks without telling anyone what I was doing. Sneaky and underhanded, but it was so cold and so wet, 4-6 degrees in a constant drizzle, that I was damned if I was going to let anyone get injured on my watch. Leading the first 32K was more emotionally exhausting that physically tiring, but at the end of my ordeal I had no taste for doing another 18K. So Michael, Sean, Justin and Laura and I all took a bit of a breather; Laura, in a stroke of brilliance changed into a second set of dry running gear, and after a few Power Bars we set off to do another 10K on the trails in Stanley Park.

Once we were amongst the trees in Stanley Park, the temperature seemed to rise several degrees, but we looked like wraiths as we ran, great clouds of steam trailing in our wake and drifting off into the evergreens. The joy and bliss of switching to five and ones cannot be adequately described in this space. It was better than sex. That and the fact that we slowed the pace down to a place where we were all running at around 55-60%. In the end we ran 41.5K in 4:40 and headed home.

One of the pluses of switching to a pace where we were actually getting some endurance training benefits was that all of us observed that our legs actually felt like they were recovering from the previous 32K. We loosened up and a lot of muscle stiffness and soreness disappeared. I can honestly say that I am eagerly looking forward to an easier week of training.

But I can't help wondering how most people are feeling this morning...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Maxed Out

I have had enough testing to last me a month of Sunday runs. Nothing to do now but do something about the results.

After the MAX VO2 and what I affectionately call the "MAX Fat" or the Hydrosatatic Body Fat Test, I decided it was time to dig in.

I went out and did 24K (13.5 miles) on Saturday morning before the sun was even over the horizon. Once again I did the long long slow warm up and then I cranked out a 44 minute 10K followed by a long long slow down. Did not let my heart rate get above 164 and averaged around 160.

Sunday I did 28 miles (46.5K) over five hours, very slow. Heart rate was 131-136 for the first 30K (20 miles) and then I switched from 10 and 1s, to 5and 1s, to 4 and 1s, and finally, ended with 3 and 1s. Michael, Sean and Dan, went up to 40K (25 miles)and after a previous discussion, saved the marathon distance for their first marathon. Laura and I went the last few miles on our own. My heart rate was 124-126. On the last mile my heart rate dropped to 116-118 at an 11:00 minute per mile pace. Jeff Galloway would have been very proud I'm sure, !

Monday was an easy rest day. Meandered around a bit. Legs felt a little restless, almost itchy in a strange way.

Tuesday, I felt the need for speed. Plus, a few people have been questioning whether all my long distance endurance training meant that I was sacrificing speed. Went out on our 6K route that is actually 6.18K. The course is an out and back. Did the first half in 14 minutes at 162-164, turned around and came home in 13 minutes at 171 and blew the dirt off my spark plugs with a last half K at a steady, fairly comfortable 181. Pretty confident 185 is NOT my maximum heart rate, kids!

I am seeing a nutritionist later this week. Went grocery shopping and "stuck to the perimeter", a suggested healthy grocery buying strategy. Don't want to cut back on my complex carbs, so all my excess fats and overly processed foods, you know, anything "white" or that comes out of a box, is consigned to the scrapheap of history.

I reviewed my training log last night and had a long conversation with Anthony, who leads the marathon clinic. I am pretty certain now that I am going to go out with the 3:30 pace group in Vancouver and see how long I can hold the pace at my current weight, which I now see as my main limiting factor.

Diet and discilpine is my new motto... "DIET AND DISCIPLINE!"

Friday, March 11, 2005


Well, I went for my Max VO2 Test and my Hydrostatic Body Fat Test today.



Where to begin?

Let me initially evade the hard facts by profusely thanking the staff at the John Buchanan Exercise Science Laboratory at The University of British Columbia, particularly Rob Langill. Rob was a font of information and everyone at the Lab went out of their way to accommodate me and the rest of the gang from the Running Room Marathon Clinic and help us out in every way they could.

Down to brass tacks. The test this afternoon was one of those, good news and bad news scenarios. And there is not really any way I can sugarcoat or finesse this.

The bad news is so bad, it’s actually good. Kind of like the long slow distance runs on Sunday where I berate my charges into slowing down and then tell them in a very Zen-like voice, “Sometimes in order to run fast, first you must run slow.”

I am so fat, that I only have room for improvement. How fat am I? Not so fast, my little chickens!

First off, I owe a HUGE apology to Ron and Steph and Rachel for giving them a hard time about having difficulty achieving their maximum heart rate. After they did the test, they kept up this strange muttering and mumbling about the treadmill and the mask and how hard it was to concentrate and focus and I, I, in all of my graciousness and sweetness and in my most diplomatic manner for which I am famous, basically accused them of being a bunch of weak little sissy scaredy-cat panty-waist girls… Much like myself as it turned out.

I never really got a good idea from Ron and Steph and Rachel how the lab was set up. First off, the treadmill is halfway to the FREAKIN’ ceiling, guys! The treadmill is elevated. As in elevator to get onto it! It’s thirty inches off the freakin’ ground. I too was afraid I was going to get shot off the end of it when my heart maxed out.

Second, the mask that you have to wear over your face to measure your oxygen intake and carbon-dioxide output, wasn’t suspended very well. As Rob said to me, figure out a better way to do it, Vince and it’s a million dollar idea. I may have to form a Max VO2 Skunkworks with Michael, Sean and Warren in a garage. Because there definitely has to be a better way to do this without having to resort to running in a sealed chamber. The mask was wired to a pole and it pulled my head to one side as I ran and I couldn’t move my head up or down which had major consequences at the end of the test.

I warmed up by running on the treadmill and chatting with Rob. Rob asked about my running background and training and I regaled him with tall tales of my misadventures. I had no sooner mentioned the word, “kilt”, than Rob had blurted out that he had read all about my exploits. “I know you! I read about you. You’re the guy who ran the ultramarathon in Dayton Boots, didn’t you.”

“One and the same,” I said proudly. “And a few marathons for good measure.”

“Man, that’s just nuts.” And with that Rob said he was ready to get started.

Rob started me out at five miles an hour and ramped up the speed every minute. After eight minutes I was running nine miles an hour. Every minute after that, Rob increased the elevation of the treadmill by two percent. The first ten minutes was relatively easy. It was hard, but not that much different than running on any treadmill. What made the mask so annoying, other than the sweat running into my eyes, was that I could not properly align my head. I couldn’t run straight without the mask tugging my head to one side. At three quarters it wasn’t so bad, but nearing my maximum heart rate it became more and more annoying.

Also, as the speed stayed the same, but the elevation of the treadmill changed, I couldn’t adjust my head to compensate for the fact that I was now running at full speed up a slight incline. And at the end, the incline wasn’t so slight. It was 6%. It was a hill in other words. So I felt like I was horse galloping along with my head held up in a halter. I couldn’t lower my head or my chin to adjust for the incline, as you would during a hill workout. I couldn't, "dig in" to the hill like I usually do when working close to my maximum heart rate.

And finally, and once again I throw myself at the feet of Ron, Steph and Rachel in abject apologies, as I neared my maximum, I was ever mindful and cognizant of the fact that I was going full tilt on a treadmill that was several feet in the air and I was in danger of momentarily collapsing and shooting off the end like a great sodden projectile. Near the end of the test, as my form began to falter and my running architecture began to break down, I literally bailed out. I grabbed the railings and vaulted off the treadmill to rest my weary feet on either side of the grey snake whizzing by underneath me.

The sweat poured off me and Rob slowed the treadmill down to five miles an hour to allow me to cool down. He played with the machine and went to the computer to get his readings. Before I would know the results, Rob weighed me in the next room in the “tank”. And the “tank” is literally a big tank filled with warm water and a scale that looks like a giant playground swing. You have to sit in it. You lower your head beneath the surface and exhale as much of the air in your lungs as you can. And this takes place mere moments after you have been gasping what seemed like your last breath on the treadmill. Those guys at Buchanan are sick bastards, let me tell you. This is what they do for a living.

To get an accurate reading is not as easy as you might think. To begin with, your body treasures every morsel of oxygen that you have in your lungs. Especially when your head is under water. It’s hard to squeeze out the last few bubbles. But Rob got identical back-to-back readings and let me emerge from the tank. As I dried off and changed, he went to make his calculations. Rob said he went into Phys Ed to get out of doing math and in the end, a huge part of his job is crunching numbers.

So here is the part you’ve been waiting for, the numbers.

My Max heart rate reading was 185. But because of all the training I have done with heart rate monitors over the years, I know that this number is inaccurate. Rob says from his experience that the equipment and the mask and the treadmill and the artificiality of the procedure usually lops what he figures is about 5-7 heart beats off of what would be most people’s true maximum heart rate. In my case, based on numbers I’ve seen, I know my true maximum heart rate is in the neighbourhood of 200-205. Also, if you look at my chart, you can see that my heart rate hasn’t flattened out. It was climbing when I bailed out of my burning plane and pulled the ripcord. What a pussy, Hemingson!

My Lactate Threshold is given as 159-164. Interestingly, my best tempo training runs are the ones I do at 162-164. When I let myself get lured by the pretty girls up to 168-172, I get a little burnt around the edges. Getting up that high for me has to be saved for races, not training.

My Max VO2 is 52.4. If you extrapolate that number out to what my maximum heart rate is more likely to be, my Max VO2 is probably in the area of 54-55. Anything over 48 for men over the age of 40 is considered "superior", ie the highest end of the scale.

Now here comes the bad news. My bathroom scale is Gar-Baj 196 my ass! I tip the scales, real accurate scales that it, at 203.3 pounds! 92.3 kilos! My body fat percentage is a staggering 22%. In my worst-case scenario, I thought it would be around 16%. At 12% body fat I would tip the scales at 180 pounds.

Rob attempted to ease my pain by saying that most healthy men are between 16-20%. Hah! Crap! I am a freakin' Graf Zepplin. I am the Great White Buffalo of Borneo, and if not the Buffalo, a pretty damn big horse! However, losing ten-twelve per cent body fat, also means getting ten-twelve percent faster. It certainly explains why I could run a 36 minute 10K in my twenties when I weighed 185 pounds. And why I'm not now.

BUT. There IS a but to all this. Here is where the numbers gets interesting. Because numbers are meant to be played around with, shuffled and crunched until you get all the juice and data and information you can squeeze out of them. The bad news here is so bad, it actually becomes, paradoxically and perversely, now get this, kids at home, GOOD news.

Max VO2 is a function of oxygen utilized as a percentage of bodyweight. Based on the numbers I produced today, if I weighed 180 pounds at 12% body fat, my Max VO2 value would shoot up to a quite impressive 58.1. And then if you factor in my true maximum heart rate and look at my being able to get down to 10% body fat, then Rob said it was completely realistic for me to look at targeting a Max VO2 of 60-65. Two world-class Sub 2:11 marathoners by the names of Derek "Deke" Clayton and one Frank Shorter had respective Max VO2s of 68 and 71. I, folks, can take solace and not a little inspiration from that. And there is more.

Max VO2 numbers in the 65 range? 10-12% body fat? 10-12% faster? THAT folks, puts me in the three-hour marathon range! So if you are a cock-eyed optimist such as is yours truly, the disastrous numbers I came up with, actually, when you look at them the right way, DO HAVE a silver lining.

Come this time next year, as I prepare to race Boston, I will be slicker than snot on a doorknob and greased lightning in the second-half of the marathon. Heartbreak Hills be damned!

Lactate Threshold

Body Fat % - MAX FAT!

Max VO2 - Heart Rate/VO2

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Hills at Half Speed

Went back and added a number of links to my last Blog, Supplementing Your Recovery, because I was inundated with requests for more information. I believe that this sudden interest in supplements stems from a couple of different factors.

The first is that members of the marathon clinic, particularly the first timers, are beginning to feel the cumulative effects of the training to date and the added stress of the increasing mileage. Legs are getting stronger but are taking a pounding, immune systems are getting overloaded and people are just feeling plain old fatigue. People who never get colds are developing sniffles. People who have sprung out of bed their whole lives are finding it difficult to throw off the covers. "I just need another twenty minutes!" All the talk we do about recovery in the clinic is starting to take on a whole new relevance for people, "Oh, that information might apply even to me!" And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at the training schedule for the next month and figure out that the mileage is going to be pretty high!

The second factor and one that I am prone to myself at this stage, is the dawning realization that the actual date of the marathon is getting closer and closer with every passing day and every mile run. People are getting anxious and are looking for every angle to ensure that they run as good a race as they are capable of running. Who among us doesn't get the urge to hedge our bets? So if you think taking a few supplements will help, or make your legs feel better or recover from the hills a little quicker, so much the better.

During the hill training work out last night, in prepartion for my MAX VO2 on Friday, I redlined myself on the heart rate monitor at 150. As soon as I hit 150 on the hill, I pulled the plug on the throttle. It was a very interesting exercise. I would continue on up the hill, but not allow myself to go beyond 150. On the last few hills, I stopped accelerating as soon as I saw 150, and then watched as my heart rate climbed for a few seconds before taining off. I was going out at full throttle and even when I started to ease off my heart rate would continue to climb before tailing off. Would love to have seen a print out. Can hardly wait for my Polar S625X to arrive!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Supplementing Your Recovery

Everybody is still upright and mobile after our epic long run on Sunday. Sunday was quite deceptive for many people, because despite it being cool and relatively overcast, the humidity was above normal and a bunch of folks... well, they seemed to forget about drinking water! And despite knowing that they were going out for 29K and three hours, some folks had NO water and others only had one or two gels. And these same folks wondered why the last few miles were tough. Even those who were well stocked with provisions didn't seem overly concerned with consuming them.

Despite their difficulties, I had to tell them it was better to experience them now, rather than during the actual marathon itself. The chat last night at the clinic was all about the mental preparation for the marathon, and how our coming long runs are dress rehearsals for the same. You have to respect the race and you have to respect the distance. And if you're going to do that, you have to start by respecting your body. You have to be well-fueled and well-watered during the race, and well-fed and well-recovered before the race.

Which brings me to supplements. A lot of people ask me what kinds of supplements I take. So here they are, with the following provisio - I have consulted with my friendly family physician about most, if not all of these - and everybody should do the same.

- Every day I take an aspirin. As does just about every cardiologist I know, and given my father's medical history, trust me, I've consulted with a few. An aspirin is just my basic anti-inflammatory, cardiac insurance policy. And because I suffer from chronic pain, I find that an aspirin a day seems to be enough to cover my basic aches and pains. I haven't had to take a prescription pain medication or muscle relaxant since October, 2004. I take two after my Sunday long runs. Running, and being fit, is the best pain management regimen I can recommend.,,181165_185990,00.html

- I take two Centrum Forte High Potency Multi-Vitamin Multi-Mineral Supplements a day. Given the stress of my weekly mileage and training, I'm just trying to cover the bases, A-Z here, on the vitamin and mineral front.

- Vitamin C - 1,500mg per day. Vitamin C, it's good for you! Linus Pauling says so.

- Calcium and Magnesium supplement. I find that once I am running 40 miles plus per week, especially in the summer, when I am sweating a lot, I will occasionally get muscle cramps, mostly in my calves. My physician recommended magnesium citrate and that ended the problem. (note - I also pay extra attention to my calves in my stretching) The supplement I take also contains Potassium, Zinc, Manganese and Vitamin D. All good stuff for bones. And there is recent evidence that a diet high in calcium helps your body regulate it's weight by assisting in fat burning.

- And for the stuff between the bones, I found that all my joints and connective tissues recovered more quickly and felt better when I started on a regular regimen of Glucosamine Sulfate with Chonditrin (it took me the better part of a year to be able to pronounce that). There is lots of good research to back this up, particularly in double blind studies with sufferers of acute arthritis.

- Omega 3 Oil Supplements, three per day. I take a mixture of salmon oil, flax oil and borage oil, 3600mg per day. Honestly, I have no idea what borage oil is, but everyone swears by the Omega 3 oils, as antioxidants and as natural anti-inflammatories.,1525,992,00.html

- Green Tea, three per day. - After reading all the recent research I started taking 625mg of Green Tea Polyphenols and Catchetins. See my previous Blog on Green Tea.,,8004-4018584,00.html

- Herbal Compound, two per day - After doing a lot of research I take a Herbal Compound that is a mixture of naturally occurring compounds that studies have shown to be good for you. The compound is a mixture of cayenne, ginger, ginseng, garlic, white willow, curry, etc. The premise is that these compounds are antioxidants, are good for boosting your immune system and assist your body in recovery.

Caffeine - I have two cups of coffee every morning. It helps kick-start my motor, and research has shown it helps kick-start fat burning. Further research has also shown that caffeine DOES NOT dehydrate you when performing endurance events.§ionId=621&subSectionId=317&parentSection=299&which=1

On a final note. Supplements are NO SUBSTITUTE for eating well and following a training program that allows your body to recover after you stress it. I find it a real struggle to eat what I know to be appropriate amounts of fresh fruit and fresh vegetables in my diet. That confession being said, I do try my best.

On the protein front, I try to eat salmon and fish at least two or three times per week, lots of chicken and I have cut back on my consumption of red meat.

I AM trying to make my carbs as complex as possible, and I AM avoiding fats where I can. I DO try to choose good fats, fish oil, olive oil and fats in nuts and other vegetable sources.

I had been avoiding dairy for a few years, but have been trying yogurt again.

Hard training for a marathon requires me to think about my sleep, and I have finally accepted the fact that my Sunday morning long runs mean that I am going to sacrifice my Saturday nights. That's the price you pay for doing what you love. Nothing is for free.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Sunday Epics

I had been facing this Sunday’s long run with a certain amount of apprehension and perhaps even a smidgeon of trepidation. After the debacle on the preceding Tuesday night and the lingering muscle stiffness I had suffered all week, I was not too sure how 40K (25 miles) was going to feel, or more importantly, how my body was going to respond. True, I had postponed my MAX VO2 test until this coming Thursday, but I was still somewhat taken aback by the consequences of my over enthusiastic speed workout on Tuesday. I was really beat up for a few days. When I rolled out of bed on Sunday morning I was relieved upon giving my limbs a shake, to find that they felt reasonably fine. The quick 10K time (46 minutes) safely sandwiched into the 20K on Saturday seemed not to have done any damage. In fact, I felt pretty good. All the muscle stiffness that had been plaguing me all week was gone. Now to take the legs out for a test drive.

The entire marathon clinic had spent a week in recovery (I’ve been dying to say this), and it was time to start ramping the mileage back up. Sunday’s 29K (18.5 miles) run was the longest that many of the first time marathoners had ever run and there was fair amount of nervous tension before we set out. And all kinds of people were asking me about what route we’d be taking for our first 20 miler the following weekend! Talk about getting ahead of yourself! With all the different pace groups and clinics assembled, there must have been two hundred people present at the Running Room. With only two bathrooms and one cash register, it was well worth the effort to turn up early and take care of any business you might have beforehand

Seymour had been off with an injury last Sunday but was back and had reclaimed the four hour pace group. Anthony was back with the 3:30 group and I had my 3:45s back. After the pace Anthony had put them through on last week’s 20K I think that for once, they were glad to see me. I have been trying to start everyone out very slowly for the first ten minutes on the long runs and then slow them down for a similar amount of time at the end. This morning you could tell that everyone was feeling their oats as I looked down and saw that we were at marathon pace right out of the gate. I reined us all in and even I had to admit that a pace twenty percent slower than race pace felt very slow. In fact we were within spitting distance of Anthony’s group for the first six or seven kilometers. The funny thing was, my heart rate was rock steady at 138, several beats slower than usual at the same pace.

Our route took us along the exact same path as my usual Friday run, up the University of British Columbia hill towards Wreck Beach. With the Burrard Street Bridge thrown in, we had a few long hills on the run. The group was very disciplined going up and we had a lot of fun working on our running form on the down-hills. Over the course of my endurance running and training the past five years, one of the things that has changed the most dramatically for me is my stride. Due in large part I think to my proclivity and love for going very long in training, the distances I have subjected my body to have really shaped my running style. My stride initially in my marathon training was one that I would describe as very athletic. I ran like a sprinter. I did a lot of bounding and bouncing and I took very long strides. There is nothing like running for four or five or six or ten hours to beat that out of you. My body seemed to, for the most part at least, naturally find a more efficient way to cover longer distances. The most noticeable side effect of this evolution has been the way I feel after very long runs.

Even though the times might not be appreciably faster, I now have very little muscle soreness after my long runs. And as I have become more efficient, I can clearly run faster at the same, or amazingly enough to me, at an even lower heart rate. Which brings me back to the run yesterday. After the 3:45 pace group finished the 29K scheduled run, a small group of us added another 11.3K to run a full 25 miles. Sean actually kept us stopped for about eight minutes while he ran into the Running Room, and purchased a new pair of runners! Of course, being the true techno geek and chemist he is, he had already done all his research about what kind of shoes would be best for him, and it was all a matter of fit. Watching him was like watching a NASCAR pit crew in action.

From the Running Room we headed back out onto the Seawall and slowed our pace down to according to the guidelines that I’d received from Jeff Galloway for going out on the extra extra, long slow distance runs. We ran three minutes slower than marathon pace and switched from ten and ones to five and ones. Even after four hours, my heart rate dropped to 126-128. Michael and Sean were absolutely astonished that they could run so far and still feel so good. Laura has already run a marathon and gone out on these long runs with me before, so she wasn’t the slightest bit surprised.

Throughout the run, my legs felt great and my heart rate was normal to low normal. So my little scare on Tuesday left me properly chastened, and relieved that I hadn’t done any permanent damage to myself. Certainly I will try to keep a curb on my enthusiasm. Out on the optional extra, Michael felt well enough to pull out his digital camera for a little documentary touch. Sean learned the value of knowing the mileage you can actually get out of a pair of runners, and that once you are past 20 miles, there is no such thing as too much personal lubrication… As for Laura, I’m just amazed she was able to put up with three men for that length of time.

By the end of it, fours and forty minutes, we had all had enough and were ready for breakfast. And a lot of it. Better yet, my confidence has returned and hopefully I’m a little wiser as well.

The 3 Amigos at 35K

I can't believe I just ran 25 miles...

Why we run... breakfast!

After 40K (25.1 miles) and AFTER breakfast - Michelle, suffering from heat exhaustion (rehydration?, what's rehydration?) and delirious from dehydration, strokes my, quadricep.

After Breakfast, time for a nap!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Aches and Pains

With slightly wooden legs I did just over 20K (12.5 miles). I went out very slowly, cranked up my core temperature and kind of divided the run in half. To be accurate, I divided it into four parts, an extra long warm-up, at least 2.5K, an easy jog to find my rhythm and thoroughly warm and loosen up my legs, a pretty fast 10K - 46 minutes - after about 45 minutes and then a very long, slow cool-down. I kept my heart rate under 160 as I plan to do 40K (25 miles) on Sunday.

I am very surprised at the amount of stiffness I experienced after Tuesday night. The speed surges and bounding clearly really stressed different muscles than I have been using and the amount of recovery time has somewhat surprised me. Has definitely made me more cautious about throwing myself into new training techniques and I will certainly try to ease into new routines as I train.

Have rescheduled my MAX VO2 Test for next Thursday. Will keep you abreast of the results.

I have also heard from Polar that a S625X is wending it's merry way through the mail in my direction. Very exciting news. I'll now be able to crunch data for hours!

And Cactus Jack graduated from Puppy Class today. Good Boy, Cactus! (Sadly, this is what passes for my social life, obedience classes with a three pound dog...)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Going to the Dogs

My legs, quads actually, are stiff from doing "surges" on Tuesday night's Tempo Run. Got a little carried away with Paul, and the three-quarter sprints turned into full on after-burners. Hit 196 on the last one. When will I ever learn!?! Did get a massive, "pump", in the legs though. Just like doing squats in the old days.

Took it easy on Wednesday night's Hill Training, because I was planning to do my MAX VO2 on Friday. Still too stiff to max out today, however. Have rescheduled for next Thursday afternoon. Will do my 20K (12.5 Miles) as per usual, and hope that getting up my core body temperature and moving some blood around will ease the stiffmess.

Here is a picture of my teaching assistant, Cactus Jack. Cactus will be four months old on the eleventh of March. Dragging Cactus to the Marathon Clinic on Tuesday nights seems to be the only way to get the runners to pay attention to me, "If you don't listen, I won't let you hold, Cactus Jack..." And then they all heed me!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Great White Buffalo?

Here it is in living proof. In the Fall of 2000 I weighed 246 pounds. While in Sarawak, Borneo the local Iban people nicknamed me the Great White Buffalo. As you can see from the pictures, it is not surprising why. I ran my first marathon about eighteen months later in Vancouver of May, 2002. I was about forty pounds lighter. I'll be posting some of those pics soon. They should be a tad more flattering ;-)

Borneo 2000 The Great White Buffalo Dances
Borneo 2000 - 246 pounds of Shake and Bake
Borneo 2000 - 246 pounds of Sumo
Borneo 2000 - 246 pounds of Buffalo Thunder
Borneo 2000 - 246 pound Gulliver