Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Engine Failure...

Last night I felt like a Formula 1 driver suffering catastrophic equipment failure. I was scheduled for an 8K tempo run and I felt great out of the gate. After about a kilometre and a half - about nine minutes in - I began having more and more difficulty breathing and maintaining my pace and before I knew it I was suddenly all out of breath. I mean completely out of breath. I was gasping like a fish out of water. Even more disconcerting was my inability to draw a full breath. My chest began to constrict and I was having trouble both inhaling and exhaling. My heart rate shot through the roof and I could feel my pulse pounding in my ear drums.

I had fallen off the pace precipitously and Michael pulled alongside me and asked what was wrong. I gasped that I thought I was having an asthma attack and the next thing I knew I was unable to breathe at all, let alone talk coherently. I crashed to a walk and had to stop, unable to even walk for a moment. The rest of the clinic flooded past me, many expressing concern and I waved them by.

I have been taking an inhalor to control what I thought was a relatively mild case of exercise-induced asthmas for a few years now. As a child I had asthma but mostly grew out of it, although during vigorous exercise I was always a bit wheezy, at one point even being nicknamed "Freight Train" by a few friends I ran with. Last night was a full-blown flashback to being a skinny little kid with asthma, unable to breathe unless I was propped up in bed. There really is no more frightening feeling than being unable to breathe. It is like drowning with no way to get to the surface. You have a feeling of terrible helplessness. My chest was absolutely constricted and I literally had to come to a complete standstill, unable to move without being close to passing out. Without airflow and oxygen I had literally run out of gas and I stalled on the Seawall gasping for breath, or better yet, a complete lack of breath. More worrisome yet was the fact that the attack seemed to come out of nowhere.

I usually take a shot or two from my puffer before exercise and all is fine, but I had still not unpacked my bag from my recent trip to California and I was running around town all day trying to get caught up with business, visiting my Dad who was in town from Arizona, getting to the Marathon Clinic and then squeezing in a friend's Art Gallery opening afterwards - needless to say I overlooked being fully prepared... It just goes to show you that you can't take anything for granted.

I walked back to the Running Room, gasping away and every time I tried to increase my pace I couldn't. Once or twice I actually had to stop and sit on a bench and try to catch my breath. Any real exertion was impossible. And of course my inhalor was at home. Relief would have to wait.

But while the good Lord occasionally taketh away, He also giveth. But more about that later. I have to run off and insure my car...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Off the Road Again

Back from a week on the road in sunny California. After a solid month of rain in Vancouver it was a little eery to be greeted with cloudless clear blue skies in the lower 49. While I was away I managed to run nearly every day, three 10Ks and nearly 20K on Sunday. I did the 10ks, easy, fast and faster. Seemed strange to go out alone every day. On my long run I coerced a friend to go with me, the longest run they'd had in a few years, but not that difficult a chore given our easy pace. And afterwards, my Sunday-run-smitten friend was vowing to continue running, and going long once a week!

The mornings were cool, but by ten every morning the temperature was up to around 70 degrees. Was great to run in short sleeves and shorts.

Looking forward to the clinic tonight. Feels like I've been gone a month. And by the way Cactus Jack and Panhandle Slim mobbed me when I walked in my front door, they thought so too.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Heads Up!

There is an interesting little marketing exercise going on here... And a chance to win some free branding and advertising expertise, so check it out!

Busy as a Bee

Where does the time go? I am busy writing away on a number of fronts and back into the full marathon clinic swing.

Friday, nice 14K - easy.

Sunday, did 16K and went out a little faster than I wanted to lead the group. There are some new speed demons in this Clinic, so I just have to let them go. You run your 3:20 your way, and I'll run my 3:20 my way... or at least I hope I will! Hugh got picked to spearhead a 3:20 group and off he went. I hope I can keep up to Hugh in Boston!

Oh yeah, my weight is 183 this morning. I miss the occasional glass of red wine, but the second time around the diet seems easier. And now I have people coming up to me and asking diet advice! Oh, who would ever have imagined such a thing... it must be as cold as Hell in Hades!

Tuesday, Seymour and I concocted an 8K tempo run for EVERYBODY in the marathon clinic to give them an idea of where they were at running fitness-wise. We had some newbies who had been running 5K twice a week who had their hearts set on a 3:45... Nothing like a bracing dose of reality. As my good German friend always says, "Vince!, the Data does not lie!"

But we do have some very talented, very fast runners in this clinic. Runners who have been doing 30-40K per week. Should be a wonderful experience to see what they can do. We then sent people to the McMillian web site to project out what a realistic marathon time might be... Seymour seconded me to be the turnaround post at 4K. I ran out in 16:13 and then stood in the cold and the rain for twenty-five minutes for everyone to stream past. Once Paul, our valiant sweeper had showed up I headed back, and after seducing the canine I decided to add a second 4K tempo run. I returned to the store in 18:32, so my combined times for the full 8K was somewhere between 34 and 35 minutes.

Wednesday, did 10K in 50:35 (last week, 46:33 for 10.3K). Hugh was the voice of reason and I scaled back my efforts about five or six percent. I think most people were still feeling the effects of the 8K from the previous evening. What a diffence a few percentage points can make. I could talk quite comfortably the whole way, and realized about halfway through the run that Hugh and I were replicating our Kelowna 3:29 marathon pace to a T. Will have to turn down the screws a little for a 3:19 in Boston... But my goal weight of 170 should help immensely.

Should be about fifty people in the marathon clinic when all is said and done. Great to see so many familiar faces and wonderful to see so many new people excited by the idea of tackling their first marathon. It will be a treat to watch their progress and a source of inspiration to bask in their enthusiasm. It really does rub off on you.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Shameless in Vancouver

I am going to be on Shaw Cable at 6:00PM this Monday evening in a segment on Fitness and Running as part of a healthy lifestyle. I was interviewed by Host Ami Catriona.

They made me do core-strengthening BALL EXERCISES on camera! While wearing spandex! Yikes!

They may mention the Running Room Marathon Clinic as it was part of the interview and I talked at length about the benefits of clinics and running with a group to get started and stay motivated and HAVE FUN!

Plus of course, the Boston Marathon and

My word, but I am a SHAMELESS Media Whore...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cranking It Back Up

Did 10K (actually 10.3 kilometres) last night in 46:33. It was the first time I had run with the new Spring Marathon Clinic and the first time I had run with Hugh in ages. I skipped the Tempo Run yesterday on Tuesday because I still felt a little leg-weary from Sunday's 53.8K epic adventure.

Last night was the first time I had cranked my heart rate up since the end of October and the James Cunningham Seawall Race. My average heart rate was 168 with a maximum of 177. This leads me to believe that I have pushed back my lactic threshold a few beats, as the limiting factor for me last night was lingering leg fatigue and not my respiratory or cardio rates. I will have to reload some screenshot software on my computer as I lost the last one with my new PC rebuild. The chart is quite interesting.

We have a few new racehorses in this clinic, and it will be interesting to see how they shake out during the tempo runs and speed work in the coming months. It was so great to run with Hugh again, and it makes you realize just how big a role your running buddies play in your training.

I can hardly wait for Sunday morning's long run. Now THIS feels like Christmas. New marathon recruits are like getting Christmas presents under the tree. With some you have no idea what you're getting and you can hardly wait to take them outside and see what they'll do! In the case of returning runners, it's like getting another pair of favorite woolly socks, familiar, comfortable, welcome - of course some returning members are like getting that purple polyester tie from Aunt Melba...

I found a great new running site and I have fallen in love with the Pace Calculator. I'm hoping to get Seymour to try it out on a bunch of clinic Guinea Pigs next week!

Now, back to the grindstone...

Monday, January 02, 2006

Bite The Banana, Baby!

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Vince, "Bite The Banana, Baby" Hemingson caught in the act.

Laura, yours truly, and Patrick at the Hydrant that marks the end of the Club Fat Ass 50K New Year's Run. At this stage of the day (notice the light, or lack thereof) I was just too tired to bend down any further, so instead of just kissing the hydrant, I look like I am performing an indecent act on a piece of city plumbing infrastructure.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Club Fat Ass!!!

Happy New Year!

I was looking back over my Blog and I see that my first post was on January 14, 2005. So I am fast approaching my one year anniversary. Stop it! I'm getting all misty...

Yesterday, as advertised I ran the Fat Ass 50K on New Year's Day. I tried to stay around seventy percent of my maximum heart rate and after the first hour I was largely successful. I still can't get over the fact how hard it is for me to be disciplined when I am in a large group of people, by large I mean more than three. Trust me, there were not large numbers of people in Vancouver running 50K on January 1st! But there were at least forty who did the 50K and another forty or fifty doing shorter distances. It took me an hour to settle down and treat the day as a super long training run.

I don't know what it was, but yesterday's run never seemed to settle into a groove for me. A lot of little things went wrong. I didn't sleep all that well the night before, probably because knowing I wasn't going to be drinking for the next four months, I polished off a bottle of red wine at dinner. I laid out all my gear the night before, and Cactus Jack, probably pissed off at the lack of attention he's been getting, pissed on my rain jacket. A fact I didn't pick up on until almost at the race. Too late to turn around... I put fresh batteries in my Polar footpod, but never checked them. So when I got to the start and tried to switch on the footpod, it remained lightless and silent. Great, just great. Then I had trouble getting a heart rate for the first ten minutes and I inadvertently stopped recording the run and had to reset my watch. My legs felt heavy, my lungs wheezy and a couple of times I almost turned over an ankle because my fine motor control seemed to have abandoned me. I hope this was not a harbinger for the coming year.

The great thing about Club Fat Ass are the people. I enjoy the company of lifestyle marathoners, and by that I mean the people who enjoy long distance running for the joy and pleasure of it and not so much about, "What's your personal best, mine is..." Those people tend to make me want to roll my eyes on a good day and wretch on a bad one. But I digress. The Club Fat Assers and trail runners and ultramarathoners do seem to me to be a much more tightly-knit group with a heightened sense of community. The best part of hanging out with people like that, after the run itself, is the meal, drink, feast afterwards and the telling of war stories and the company of folks who just enjoy being outside and covering a lot of ground in the process. And the volunteers. Wow! You can't say enough for people who willingly stand around and pass out food and drink and soup (yes, Chicken soup with enough garlic to kill a brace of vampires and leave you celibate for a month) and offer you encouragement and the kind of enthusiasm that makes you want to keep going even when you really don't want to. How could you let down people like that?

Yesterday the advertised 50K was about ten percent longer according to Patrick's Polar. And the weather, well, the weather was Vancouver in the midst of winter. Rain, wind, more rain, more wind.

I spent seven, yes, seven hours running 55 kilometres through the trails yesterday. The course as laid out by Ian was an enjoyable and scenic way to transverse Vancouver. All trails and bike paths. I even spent some time on trails I had never been on before. What a great experience to run in the woods. But more of the dark forest later... We started just as it was getting light and ended just when it was getting dark. That pretty much sums up the day.

I went pretty easy, so I am not toooo stiff today, but the weather was rainy and cold and the wind was blustery. Blustery enough to blow down the big trees in Stanley Park. And by big trees I am talking about trees that were two and three feet across at the butt. Along one portion of the run we had a twenty five knot wind in our face for forty-five minutes. It was so ridiculous that you couldn't help but laugh out loud. In Stanley Park the wind was something else entirely. It became a little more serious. The wind was crashing the tops of the trees together and branches and twigs were raining down. A branch almost two inches thick landed a few feet from us, the needles braking it's descent enough for us to pick it up on the way down and stop in time.

During the last five kilometres we heard three big trees snap off, the sound like a grenade going off. We came across one felled giant along the path, whose collapse had taken out half a dozen smaller trees in its path to the ground. Less than 500 metres from the finish one of the big trees gave up its struggle with the wind - less than fifty metres behind us - and with a tremendous CRACK! that could have been a stick of dynomite, it came down so quickly that it was nothing short of astonishing. Any closer and it would have been nip and tuck as to whether or not we could have been quick enough to get out of its way. Laura had never experienced anything like this and she was only too happy that the run was nearly over. In fact she practically sprinted the rest of the way.

- I later found out that the wind was gusting to 75 knots in English Bay and around Stanley Park, which was why the trees were coming down. And at Pender Harbour, just up the coast, they apparently recorded gusts up to 100 knots. At Spanish Banks, where I estimated the wind at 25-30 miles an hour, the wind was actually gusting up to 40 knots.

Both Patrick and Laura were gracious enough to run the whole way with me, and I think Laura astonished herself with her base level of fitness because she was never too sure she would be able to do the entire distance. She hadn't gone more than 20K in a while but she had run two marathons this past year and done some over-distance training with a group that had gone out to 50K a couple of times. And at seventy percent with that kind of base, you should be able to run all day. And we all did. The crazy thing of course is that by running that way you can navigate stairs the next day and not feel like the walking wounded.

First Marathon Clinic session is tomorrow night, so back to training in earnest.