Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Solitary Confinement: Or, How I Spent Last Sunday

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Six hours is a long time to run. It's an even longer time to run by yourself, especially if you are not particularily enamoured of your own company. Three hours is usually about the limit of time I can put up with myself...

I put off posting Sunday's run because I had such a dim view of the whole experiece, both prior to and for the first half of the run itself. The last half my brain was numb, so I'm not sure that counts...

My first aggravation was the fact that my Polar S625X Heart Rate Monitor was on the fritz and acting up. My heart rate data was basically useless for the first three hours, so in essence the monitor was useless. I almost chucked it into the ocean on a couple of occasions...

I ran the first few hours over-lapping the Running Room's 32K long run in preparation for the Vancouver Marathon. Long time readers of this Blog will know I have a festering highly dysfunctional love-hate relationship with the Running Room marathon clinics (why should the Clinic be any different than the rest of my relationships, I ask you?).

The clinics are wonderful in theory and nothing short of a brilliant corporate strategy. Look at all those potential in-store customers! That being said, it sticks in my craw that the Running Room's head honcho, John Stanton has essentially ripped of Jeff Galloway's run-walk program and is passing it off as his own. He has even gone to the trouble of largely plagiarizing Galloway's book in flogging his own book in his store - you never fail to see literally hundreds of copies towering on a shelf in a prominent position somewhere in a Running Room store.

It wouldn't be so bad if the Running Room clinics were well taught, but they're not. Actually, that's not a fair nor an accurate statement. Rather, MOST of the clinics are poorly managed and taught. There is a shortage of exceptional clinic instructors, so when on occasion you do get one, the majority of the rest of the clinics are glaring in their ineptitude.

On Sunday I started passing people at about the 25 K mark - I was averaging a 12:00 pace as instructed - who were beginning to falter after three hours of running. Most of them were breathing too hard, so their pace was all wrong and when I chatted up a few to offer some encouragement, a few queries revealed that most of the folks in trouble had only had one or two gels after three hours of running! Proper pace and fueling are the kind of knowledge that first time marathoners get from a clinic instructor who knows what they're talking about. I can only imagine what these poor bastards are going to look like at the 22 or 23 mile mark in the marathon...

It was at about this point in time that what I took to be a 3:45 group passed me on the way back to the store. I recognized a few folks, and boy, from the red faces and the grim expressions you would have been hard pressed not to assume that they were going at pretty close to race pace. Once again, you can only imagine what it is going to be like for these folks in the last ten kilometres of the actual marathon.

Me, I'm a pussy. Which is actually an insult to pussies everywhere. Honestly, I am a total wimp when it comes to training. I will go to almost any lengths to avoid pain and suffering and do the absolute minimum I think I can get away with in order to meet my goals. I prefer to do short, intense, extremely painful work-outs over drawing out my suffering for the long periods of time that a long Sunday run usually entails. Why would you want to beat yourself up for that long, and then afterwards, take a week to recover?? It seems so nonsensical and counter-productive to me. How can a runner not understand that on at least an intuitive level? And that is if you actually do recover before your next intense work-out.

My other complaint about the Running Room clinics is the utter lack of running ettiquette they teach. Hey you morons out there, share the fucking road! I would say that on Sunday about sixty percent of the running groups had broken up into single runners and small groups of two to five people (never mind me going off on pace group leaders who don't keep their group together). No problem sharing the road with those people. But there were several hundred people participating in the 32K run, and there were still extremely large groups of twenty to thirty people.

These groups were moving juggernauts that were catastrophes for any poor pedestrians that happened to get in their way. On numerous occasions I moved as far over on the sidewalk as I could to avoid them and yet on three seperate occasions I was run into, twice hard enough to get bruised the next day. As it was one of the first nice sunny days in Vancouver after weeks of rain, I had to wonder about how many other people sharing the sidewalk had taken their lives in their hands just by venturing out on to the sidewalk?

All my whingeing aside, it was hard to maintain the pace that Jeff had suggested. Twelve minute miles! And two and ones? My God, it felt like I spent six hours just looking at my watch. About three hours in I got so bored that I stopped at Starbucks for five minutes for a double-espresso and a low-fat fruit bar!

At this stage I have no idea whether or not I am ready for Boston. Not even a clue. My weight is 184 and everyone says I am the leanest I have been since last year, but I have no real sense of my speed nor my strength. Of course by ready I mean to re-qualify and perhaps run a personal best. In the end, I can only take what the race and the day yields up...

I am so ready to taper it hurts.

The non-runners in my life don't seem to have a true grasp of the toll that training 65 or 70 miles a week extracts. It takes a momumental effort on my part to want to roll off my couch these days. Throw in a full days work and by sundown I am ready to fall into bed - make that collapse.

Not quite the glittering little social gadfly I once was!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of what you say about RR Clinics but take it easy on the Clinic leaders - being one myself - I have threatened, begged, screamed, pleaded, physically pushed, yelled and on and on for people to run proper paces, share the road/trail, nutrition, water, blah, blah to the point that I am tired of hearing my own voice. I have thought about an electic prod but am sure there are legal issues and have come to the conclusion that they are adults - some I am convinced dropped a lot on their heads as small children for sure - but legally still adults.
You sir are a wealth of information and respected why not step up finally - put your money where your mouth is and take on a clinic. If you have the secret on how to make a bunch of A-type personalities listen then it is your obligation to share and end our suffering.

1:56:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I quite enjoyed reading that post, Vince.

> The clinics are wonderful in theory
> and nothing short of a brilliant
> corporate strategy.

Indeed! I think the Running Room makes most of its revenue just before and just after the Sunday runs. Before the run everyone is buying Gu, Sharkies and Sport Beans. After the run, everyone is buying new shoes, Garmins and fuel belts.

You're talking about John's book "Running: Start to Finish"? I'm not familiar with Jeff Galloway's programs but the programs in John's book do remind me of other programs I have seen. Still, I did get some value from the book.

> MOST of the clinics are poorly
> managed and taught. There is
> a shortage of exceptional
> clinic instructors

Have you ever taught one Vince? You certainly have a lot of good knowledge to share.

> Proper pace and fueling are the kind
> of knowledge that first time marathoners
> get from a clinic instructor who knows
> what they're talking about.

I run with the half marathon people on Sundays at the Burnaby store but I'm not in the clinic. I'm not sure if they talk much about fueling in the clinic though. When they see me whipping out a Gu part way through a long run, some of them ask questions like "What's that?" or "Does that help?" or "Should I start taking those?"

> These groups were moving juggernauts
> that were catastrophes for any poor
> pedestrians

I can only imagine how frustrating that must be. Luckily, in Burnaby, the sidewalk-hogging groups of runners are far less frequent than in your neck of the woods. Having said that, I did pass a large group from another running club just this past Sunday and I had to go on to the road to get around them.

Keep up the good training for Boston!

2:12:00 PM  
Blogger Vince Hemingson said...

I'd teach a clinic in a minute, but it couldn't be a Running Room Clinic. We differ too much philosophically on a number of training points.

For starters they have a running program they follow: sixty percent of which I agree with, but I do my own thing too much to teach a Running Room Marathon Clinic.

For starters, I over-distance train, doing long distance mileage on Sundays that the Running Room doesn't come close to - in part I think because of liability issues. Which is fair enough.

Secondly, I would not allow people to take the marathon clinic who have not been running a minimum of thirty kilometres a week for at least a year. There is too great a risk for an overtraining injury and the drop-out rate is brutal.

The thing is, if you chat with most people who are interested in running a marathon it is not that difficult to explain to them what kind of preparation is necessary in order for them to do it safely.

When people tell me I have to do something a certain way, the first thing I ask is why? Any adult is entitled to a thorough explanation of why they need to do something a certain way in training. I think the Running Room clinics have a tendency on occasion to gloss over the details...

Maybe it's a twelve month plan instead of a four month plan. Maybe it's a ten K first, then a half-marathon and THEN the marathon.

The whole part of getting people to join a clinic is to help them participate in a healthy lifestyle activity. Hopefully one that they will follow for the rest of their lives.

And if people in a clinic participated in such a way that they endangered themselves or others, I would refund them their money and show them the door. But politely of course.

But you are absolutely right on one count, dealing with Type A bastards like me who think they know it all is an endless pain in the ass!

2:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who the fuck are you?

2:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you ever get tired of shooting off your mouth?

2:45:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

> For starters they have a running
> program they follow: sixty percent
>. of which I agree with, but I do my
> own thing too much to teach a
> Running Room Marathon Clinic.

I can understand and respect that. You're sort of like the Robin Williams character from Dead Poets Society, who didn't like the curriculum he was asked to teach and instead he did what he thought was best for his students. Maybe I'll stop calling your Vince-san and just call you O Captain, My Captain. :-)

BTW, do you run with the Running Room every Sunday or do you usually do your own thing?

3:41:00 PM  
Blogger Vince Hemingson said...

I have been following Jeff Galloway's coaching sugestions since I registered for his online e-Coaching back in December.

For the first few months I did the Running Room Sunday morning run and then tacked on another ten to twenty kilometres.

But for the past two months of Sundays I have largely been on my own, alternating mile repeats, a long, long run and then an easy recovery week.

I have no idea what the end result will be, but I'll soon find out!

As for the Running Room, while I am there I try to keep most of my comments to myself. And I am very careful to qualify what I say as only being one man's opinion - mine.

As for this Blog, if you don't like what I say, you don't have to read the fucking thing after all.

Start your own Blog.

That being said, I would defend to my death anyone's right to read my Blog and then make a complete fucking ass of themselves in the comments.

No matter how much of a moron you are - you, like me - have the right to your opinion.

But if you're going to rail against what I say, at least have the balls not to hide as some "anonymous" wanker.

That's just kind of pathetic.

4:01:00 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Vince, I think you probably like the "anonymous wankers". I'm pretty sure you've been on blogger long enough to know that you can disable anonymous comments. :-)

I once got an anonymous comment that accused me of being a narcissist. My response was that most bloggers must be either narcissists or haters-of-everything (and sometimes both at the same time!). I'm not sure which category you fall into...

I'm glad you have an opinion. It does make for interesting reading...even if one doesn't always agree with you.

Anyway, since you're doing you own thing on Sundays, I guess you won't be at the Running Room in a couple of weeks from now when our club is coming down there for a combined training run? I guess the only way I will meet O Captain, My Captain will be to qualify for Boston. Okay, I'll work on it. See you in two years. Hehe.

4:24:00 PM  
Anonymous S said...

I appreciate your many, many hours of advice and help over the years.

Me and lots of others.

By the way, its good to see you with a goatee again!

6:36:00 PM  
Blogger gearsurfer said...

Hi Vince,

I think your blog is awesome and I think it wouldn't be the same without "anonymous". And once we know who he/she is we go and find his/her car and put some flowers under the windshield wipers as a big thank you for being such a wonderful contribution to your blog and the world :)

7:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Pedro said...


8:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Shaun said...

Right so out of the woods I come - but let me say this I was the first responder under anonymous the other ones - don't know who they are - I would never be so crass.

It is Shaun and you got my gander up when you made comments about the clinic leaders - As I said I have no problem yelling/lecturing my renegade clinic members and have lectured continuously on running etiquette till I am hoarse - as I was taught by you. However they are free thinking adults and there comes a time when you just have to let the bus accident happen - and hope the casualties are few.

Keep the thoughts and opinions coming and for those other anonymous folks - please a little decorum please - if you have a message wrap it properly others may actually listen and learn.


1:17:00 PM  
Blogger Scooter said...

There seeme to be an implied, "I'm not going to Boston this year" in your post. Is that correct, or will I finally get to meet the tattooed curmudgeon?

2:02:00 PM  
Blogger M. Tate said...

Vince, I just started reading your blog, and quite frankly I enjoy it quite a bit. Keep up the good work, and next year if I qualify I just might see you at Boston.

3:39:00 PM  
Anonymous DR said...

Almost fifty K on Sunday.

Vince, you're my hero.

4:37:00 PM  

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