Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Wee Scottish Tribute


So Justin and Patrick, with Brad in tow, knocked upon my door. And we toasted the Boston Marathon and all its venerable glory.


I'm getting all misty here...


Our hat is off to Barbara-Jo at fame, and the fabulous folks at Les Amis du Frommage who came up with the incomparable cheese and Scotch pairings. We were all a little in awe of the results...


And in the end, twenty marathons and two Bostons later, this evening sums up best why I do this.

Camraderie, friendship, an evening of shared tall tales and lies, living well, laughter, whiskey that makes you weep and cheese that makes you want to kiss a cow...

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A Wee Scottish Tribute to the Boston Marathon


Good food, good friends, VERY good drink...

My running compadres, Justin and Patrick, and I, had been planning a Scotch tasting for some time - and isn't that a line-up and a half? The lads had been chafing at my teetotalling ways as I trained for Boston this Spring. Having survived the Great Boston Marathon Hurricane of 2007, they were not to be denied.


Many of my forebears come from and are buried not too far from this distinguished distillery. And the distillers are fellow - although probably very distantly related - Clansmen.


A bit of poetry in a bottle...


...that whispers your name.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Boston Marathon Photos Are IN!


In Hopkinton the afternoon before the race. At 2:00 PM it was cold - look at the snow on the ground!, dark and the rain had been steady all day. Most of the boothes had closed and there were no more than a handful of race fans to be found.


The inimitable Wayne "Scooter" Baker, fellow Blogger - "Lose Weight With Scooter" - and a great reason all on his own to make the trip to Boston. Wayne has a great Blog and is a passionate running and track historian and enthusiast. His Blog is always full of interesting tidbits and is always worth a peek. The Blue Moon was delicious!


Dressed head to toe in multiple layers. It was still cold!


My 2005 Vancouver Marathon Clinic Group Leader jacket.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Worst and Toughest Boston Marathon Weather in History


It's Boston Marathon Time

The worst and toughest Boston Marathon weather in history...

After leading for most of the race, Jelena Prokopcuka is beaten in the last mile to take second to Lidiya Grigoryeva who wins in 2:29:18. Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot wins his third Boston Marathon in 2:14:13 - nearly seven minutes slower than his 2006 record-setting performance. Read our race recap below and continuing coverage over the next day...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Rest and Recovery

After a relatively easy run in Boston, I am experiencing more of the usual post-race stiffness than I expected. Of course an entire day spent sitting in planes and airline terminals less than twenty-four hours after the race probably didn't help. Will definitely NOT fly out of Boston at the crack of dawn the day after the race next year, should I be so lucky as to re-qualify, that is...

Thanks to all the kind folks, friends and family, who have inundated me with e-mails and calls. It is nice to recognize that in most people's eyes, just running in the Boston Marathon is nearly every bit as noteworthy as running the race in a blistering time. Getting to Boston and qualifying really is half the battle.

So it is nice to get a pat on the back. I am surprised at the level of maturity with which I am handling not re-qualifying in Boston this year. Normally, I would have imagined that I would have struggled not to fall into a funk or I would have indulged in a lot of drama-queen self-flagellation, but none of that has happened. I am actually looking forward to a summer of training and preparation for Boston - Round Three!

After months of the "Boston Diet" I am actually finding it difficult to stray off of it very far! So I am generally sticking with my usual meal plans and then rewarding myself with a nicer than usual lunch or dinner and maybe a glass of wine or two, or a drink in the evening. Maintaining a sensible training weight is so much healthier and productive than having to lose weight every marathon cycle. Of course Patrick and Justin may have something to say about this, given we have been planning a premium single-malt Scotch tasting for many months...

Now I am looking forward to some weeks of lower mileage and weekends indulging in some other passions besides running for five or six hours!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

2007 Boston Marathon Polar Heart Rate Chart

Apparently you CAN teach a dog new tricks...

2007 Boston Marathon Reprise

There should be a graph of my Polar heart rate chart from the 2007 Boston Marathon here, but in its infinite wisdon, Google has yet again changed their Blogging format and user system. Trust me, this is only de rigeur for the past... oh my God, has it really been six days of my life?

The 2007 Boston Marathon has been a cluster fuck for yours truly from beginning to end. And in some ways, it has been one of my most enjoyable marathon experiences ever. And I do mean ever.

Let me start from the beginning as they like to say...

Last year I qualified for the 2007 Boston Marathon in Boston itself. The 3:30:39 marathon I ran in Boston in 2006 I have come to think of as my best marathon race effort ever. It wasn't my smartest race - because I came dangerously close to bonking in the early stages - but I thought it was the marathon where I dug the deepest in the final stages and was willing to pay the highest price to do well.

The last 10 K of Boston last year was the hardest ten kilometres I have ever experienced in terms of cramping, pain and suffering. It was glorious. And to funnel between those enormous, raucous, thundering crowds of race fans to cross the finish line was simply a spine-tingling, hair-raised-on-the-back-of-your-neck, never to be forgotten trancendant experience. Honestly, I still get a little choked up thinking about it.

This year I ran a 3:48 something. Don't remember the seconds, don't really care.

I bailed on the Boston Marathon as a race this year before the starting pistol for the second wave ever went off in the cold and damp and drizzling rain of Monday morning.

I entered my taper this past few weeks with tremendous reservations about my level of fitness and readiness for the 2007 Boston Marathon. I started this Boston Marathon training cycle back in December, but family health issues made it very difficult to focus and concentrate on what I needed to do. In addition to that, December was a tough month to train in weather-wise - although hindsight suggests it would have been perfect preparation for Boston this year!

I got untracked in January, but come February I found myself struggling to fight off a cold and then succumbed like so many others plague victims in Vancouver this Spring. I spent five solid days in bed and didn't venture outside to run for almost two weeks. When I did hit the road again I was as weak as a kitten.

A month ago I managed to polish off all my long runs and my speed work, but I never felt like I was on top of my training. Even well into my taper, and happy to be a svelt 182 pounds, I never got a sense that my legs had the pop and snap, that edge of speed that I had felt in my previous two marathons.

In the week preceding the marathon the weather reports were enough to give one pause. I knew that I was only marginally in peak fitness and I knew that an attempt at a sub-3:30:00 time in Boston this year - I had long since given up on my dreams of a sub-3:20:00 - was going to take a heroic effort of Herculean proportions. Even then, I knew it was going to be a toss-up if I could re-qualify. Throw in reports of freezing rain and steady 20-30 mph headwinds with gusts up to 50 mph and I knew I was facing a potentially stacked deck.

Arriving in Boston last Friday, with my flight delayed several hours and my luggage missing in action, I was already equivocating. Because of my missing gear I had to buy a whole new outfit at the Boston Expo - I had the good sense to pack my runers in my carry-on luggage - and I began to feel like poor old Sisyphus. A visit to the Start Line in Hopkinton on Sunday, feeling first-hand the freezing temperatures and seeing the snow still on the ground and the abandoned boothes and stalls that are normally crowded with thousands of runners and race fans made my decision the night before a relatively easy one.

One of the highlights of this year's Boston Marathon was finally meeting Wayne "Scooter" Baker in person. Wayne and I have traded e-mails and Blogs for several years now. What a treat to go out for beers and trade stories and talk about the history of the Boston Marathon and the runners we have met and all the myriad reasons why we love the Boston Marathon. Meeting with Wayne crystalized why running, why marathons and why the Boston Marathon in particular have come to mean so much to me. It's about the people, and the shared experiences and about a sense of community among people with whom you share a passion.

I went to bed on Sunday night, filled with a couple of pints of Blue Moon and the knowledge that more than anything else, despite the weather and the difficulties training and in getting there, I was in Boston to enjoy the Marthon for itself and the people that surround the race, the other runners and the incredible Boston Marathon volunteers and the fabulous fans along the course who create such an amazing event. It was about high-five from little kids, and people handing out water and orange slices and paper towels and who shout out their support and encouragement and yes, love, and it's about the wonderful Wellesley women, young and old, of all shapes and sizes and all of them beautiful and LOUD and they rouse your spirit and carry you on their energ down the road for another few miles until the next group of race fans picks up your spirits and propels you forward, until you crest Newton and Heartbreak Hill on gutted legs but you hardly notice because of the SCREAMING of strangers who are running with you vicariously and downing beers ALL BECAUSE OF YOU! Because you had a dream to run in Boston and you made it happen.

On race day I woke up in pitch black, listening to the wind howl against the hotel in Milford. A peek out the window revealed conifers bent nearly double as they twisted and turned in the wind. I opened the window a crack and closed it immmediately as rain and a chill wind hammered to get in. In the dark dawn hours I dressed in a layer of Vaseline, shorts, tights, a long-sleeved and a short-sleeved shirt, a rain jacket, a touqe, a hat and gloves. I packed a rain ponch for the start line. Inside the hotel room I almost immediately broke into a sweat. But the idea of running for three and a half hours in near freezing temperatures in a steady rain and high winds made it an easy outfit to live with. I knew I wouldn't be warm long.

The shuttle bus to the start was slow and steamy. It was a little like the costume parade in the Medoc Marathon as you had to see to beleive some of the get-ups that runners had fashioned to stay warm and dry. I would venture to guess that no plastic bag within a radius of twenty miles of Hopkinton survived this past weekend. They were all hunted down and sacrificed to make gumboots and rain coats and rain capes and gloves and hats and probably a couple of pairs of underwear.

I decided before the race to aim for a time somewhere around 3:40:00. It would be respectable, but I wouldn't have to die trying to run it. And my attitude was pretty much, hey, whatever the race yields on a day like to day, I'd be happy with.

Although I was in the 11,000 pen by bib number, I dropped back several corrals to run with a friend. It was a good decision, as we chatted away and did our best to ignore the cold and the drizzle. The weather by the start was getting better, brisk but not brutal. The start was still something of a frenzy.

Standing around it was impossible not to stiffen up. I tried jumping jacks and running on the spot, all pretty much to no avail. Cold is cold! And it was cold. I started out easy and an 8:30 per mile pace seems light years away from 7:45 or 7:50, which is what I launched myself out at the start last year. I took at least thirty minutes to warm-up and although the crowds were thinner this year, those race fans who showed up made up for the smaller numbers in sheer volume.

After fifty minutes and just short of the 10K mark I was overheating. I tossed away my toque, my mittens and stripped off the singlet I had over my long-sleeve shirt. A brand new singlet, but not made of gold or anything.... I tossed it to the side of the road near a father and son, a boy of about eight or nine. He raced over to my shirt, screaming "Oh my God!, Oh my God!..." and for the first and only time in my life felt like a star athlete. You'd think that kid had just been given Ted Williams Red Sox jersey! It made me feel like a million dollars.

My friend developed bad cramps at 15 miles and had to walk - and urged me to run on. So I did. I stepped up my pace and sailed through the final 11 miles, really seeing and appreciating the course, especially the hills in Newton, for the first time. In fact, it was an excellent exercise for my next Boston Marathon.

The last few miles were just amazing. I was running hard, at my lactate threshold, but I wasn't on the ragged edge, where you are so intent and so focused on the race that you develop tunnel vision to the exclusion of everything that isn't immediately in front of you. I could see and appreciate all the course had to offer, could take in the fans, slap some palms, sample the pretzels and even try a proffered chocolate brownie... Yuck! Two chews and I had to spit it out. Some things are not meant to be eaten in a marathon!

For all you dedicated marathon runners out there, if you have a chance, you owe it to yourself to experience at least once in your life the final stages of a Boston Marathon. For us aging amateurs it is as close as we are ever going to know what it is like to enter the Olympic Stadium. My word, what a way to end a race. Every hair on your body stands to attention, every goose-bump you own goes ballistic, every fiber of your being comes alive. The sound, the roar of the crowd - simply electrifying.

I zoomed across the Finish Line, letting my heart race and my lungs sear. I owed myself that much.

In the finishing pen I was approached by a CBC film crew and asked a few questions. I was wearing my beloved 2005 Vancouver Marathon Clinic Group Leader rain jacket from the Running Room and the sharp-eyed correspondent picked up on it. When asked about the conditions I had to say it was much better than expected. Was in fact pretty good weather and conditions to run in.

At the end of the race, I felt SO good that I experienced a few hesitations and wondered if my decision to back off had been the right one, but when I saw that the elites won in a time a full seven minutes slower than last year, all doubts flew from my mind. Sometimes you have to take what the race gives you. There is always another marathon.

So I am back to Boston or Bust. I need to re-qualify this Fall for the 2008 Boston Marathon and after a few easy weeks, I'll be dusting my ass off and getting back in the saddle.

And Wayne, thanks again for the beers.

To the race fans and volunteers in Boston, thanks!

It was great!

I didn't even mind the fact that United lost my luggage again on the way home. As a matter of fact, it just showed up on my doorstep and I am gazing at my 2007 Boston Finisher's Medal as I type this...

It IS great...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

One Thing After Another

It's early Sunday morning and I am still waiting for my luggage to arrive in Boston. I hear rumours it is in town, but have yet to actually see it.

Good old Air Canada, still providing the level of crappy customer service for which it is renowned, failed to get my lone bag on to my connecting United Airlines flight to Logan after my flight from Vancouver was delayed for nearly an hour.

The United guy at Logan did hand me a bag containing a toothbrush and the world's smallest stick of deodorant, however. That and his sympathy...

As with the last few marathons I have travelled to, I had the foresight to have my running shoes on my carry-on luggage. And I have since been to the Expo and scrapped together a worst-case scenario substitute running outfit. But I hate wearing gear I haven't washed first...

Maybe it was the glow of being a first-timer last year, but the Expo didn't seem quite as interesting this year. This year, it definitely had the feeling of the bargain basement room at a Wal-Mart as people were hawking ten dollars shorts and fifteen dollar tops. I was all jazzed up to buy lots of the Adidas line of Boston gear, but on close examination it didn't seem that fabulous. The clothes themselves are well-made, but the whole effect seems spoiled by what looks like screen-printed Boston Marathon logos that give off an air of being tired, old-school and ready to come off after two bouts with the spin-cycle of a washing machine. A bit of a disappointment actually.

Liked the Asics booth. Got a pair of shiny new red racing flats. The folks at the Polar booth were friendly. The Bill Rogers Running Centre still feels like the most real Boston Marathon experience.

Bumped into lots of marathoners this year who also run ultras. A new trend or just a coincidence?

Weather here is crisp. Runners from the southern United States, places like Florida and Southern California are all in a tissy about the weather. Some folks even talking about not running after travelling all the way to get here!

Hell, I spent all winter running in the cold and the rain and slush and I'M in a tissy (or is it tizzy) over the prospect of the deep-freeze on Monday.

They were selling lots of hats and gloves at the Expo!

Oh well, one more day and then it's fun on the run!

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Great Boston Marathon Blizzard of '07

Boston Marathon to Be Run Though Forecast Rain, Wind, Cold

By Dan Bollerman

April 12 (Bloomberg) -- The Boston Marathon, which has never been postponed in its 110-year history, probably will be run as scheduled on April 16 even if current weather forecasts for heavy rain, cold temperatures and high winds prove accurate.

A decision on canceling the 26-mile, 285-yard race would be made by public-safety officials and its organizer, the Boston Athletic Association, said spokesman Peter Judge of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Current forecasts call for temperatures in the low 30s Fahrenheit (around zero degrees Celsius) with heavy rain and steady winds of 25-30 miles per hour (40-48 kilometers per hour), gusting to 50 mph.

``There's no threshold, but obviously conditions that are very unsafe for the participants or the community'' would force the race to be called off, Judge said in a telephone interview. ``We don't have a template.''

Over the past 10 years, temperatures at the start in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, have ranged from 47 degrees in 1997 and 1998 to 83 degrees in 2004.

Judge said the race, which has 23,800 registered participants, would be canceled if it can't be run, rather than postponed. Jack Fleming, a spokesman for the organizers, said that decision was up to public-safety officials.

``Our plan right now is Monday,'' Fleming said.


More than 100 people from the athletic association and emergency-management agencies held a regularly scheduled meeting today to discuss preparations for the race, which runs through seven suburban towns before ending in the city of Boston. The race traditionally takes place on Patriots Day, a Massachusetts state holiday that falls on the third Monday of April.

Judge said special preparations include the placement of pumps along the course where flooding is possible, installation of heat in the medical tents and parking of buses along the route to give people shelter from the elements.

``We're breaking new ground in dealing with this type of event,'' Judge said.

According to the race's media guide, the 1970 event was run in heavy rain with temperatures in the low 40s, while five Boston Marathons have had some sort of freezing precipitation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Bollerman in New York at

The Last Blog Before Boston

Dawn in Vancouver found me wide awake in bed with skies still shuttered against the sun. Even in the dark I could hear the first traffic of the day making the unmistakeable swishing sound of tires cutting through rain on pavement.

I sleep with my bedroom windows wide open - undoubtedly yet one more reason I am single and untaken - and I swear I could see my breath. It was, in a word, cold.

How could I not take this as an omen of things still to come? On the other side of the continent, the poor bastards in Boston were waking up to the same damp embrace and chilly reception of morning. Maybe with a little more wind thrown in for good measure...

In the past 48 hours I have thrown together a few probable outfits to run it, and sadly from the mound of clothes I have assembled, it looks like I am making for the outer reaches of Mongolia in the dead of winter. I will have to take AND run with a hat, gloves and a rain jacket as a bare minimum of weather protection. Will probably, because of the long wait at the beginning, need to equip myself with a top and track or sweat pants I can throw away. I should really run with two thin tops in 42 degree temperatures. Fuck, there is no way all of these clothes, in several hours of rain, are not going to slow me down...

I bet the Kenyans will be running in singlets. Of course they'll get to wait for the start in a heated bus. And their race will be over in two hours and ten minutes.

Got my last note from Jeff Galloway as I fired off a last second missive hoping for some kind of miracle insight, like, every degree you get closer to freezing your nuts off makes you a mile per hour faster... or something like that. You know, the fact that freezing temperatures causes your scrotum to retract and as your balls try to climb back into a nice warm body cavity you become 14% more aerodynamic. The reason being of course, and as you have probably ascertained, that I have outlandishly sized testicals.

Hi Jeff,

The BAA has sent out a warning to everyone running the Boston Marathon this year to expect "heavy rain and high winds".

The Boston Weather Channel says Force 1 Hurricane winds will be battering Boston from the Northeast all weekend.

The temperature prediction for Boston on Monday is 42 degrees or 6 degrees Celsius..

Any suggestions for conditions like these??

How warm should we dress??

Best regards, Vince Hemingson


Worst case is a cold rain. I suggest wearing a polypro type garment next to your skin--either short or long sleeve. Wear another polypro on top of it.

Then, several layers of throw-away clothing with a water proof rain jacket and rain pants over everything. Bring a cheap plastic blow-up pool float to lie down on if you can find a place in a shelter.

Take off the throw-away clothing as you are waiting at the start. You will choose how long to use the rain gear, depending upon the weather. In general, it's best to run with the two layers of polypro, tights or bike tights. You could tie the waterproof garment around your waist for later use.

Prepare for the worst--you can always wear less.

Have a great experience!

Jeff Galloway

So, no miracle words from Jeff.

All of this goes to show you that you can never take a marathon for granted which is part of the beauty and just general all-around awesomeness of the race. You can get all blase about running 26.2 miles after you have done a few and plan and scheme to kick-ass on race day and set a new PB or PR or whatever you want to call it, and the race itself has a life of its own and it just laughs at all your plans and presumption and then like a great Nile crocodile the marathon rears up out of the water and bites you on the ass.

The current weather situation facing the runners in Boston is very apropos, or the fancy Latin root for appropriate. Marathons are themselves a little like forces of nature. I am sure Herman Melville would have appreciated what it takes to run a marathon when he was busy grinding out endless pages of Moby Dick like they were Jeff Galoway-inspired mile repeats. The marathon is like the sea - when it comes to marathons you have have to respect the race, you have to respect the distance.

To quote the great Bill Rogers yet one more time, "The marathon can humble you."

Hear, hear.

Especially if you have wet feet.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Boston Marathon Weather Forecast

The are a few things I can tell you for sure about the Boston Marathon this year.

I will be wearing a Red Bib bearing the number - 11783.

I will be starting in the second wave and crossing the start line a few seconds after 10:30 AM on Monday, April 16.

And I will be wet.

Well, maybe the last one isn't an absolute bet-the-farm-and-the-kids-Martha for sure thing. But it is increasingly looking that way.

Wet and cold, if I was being a stickler for detail, and I usually am...

This is the Boston Weather Forecast - as determined by the good folks at the Weather Bureau in Boston - Monday - Rain likely. Rain may be heavy at times in the morning. Windy with highs in the lower 40s. Chance of rain 70 percent.

And thank you to M.Tate for the delightful little tidbit about a Nor'easter with Category 1 Hurricane strength winds that will be hitting the Eastern Seaboard around abouts Boston way some time on Sunday...

A Nor'easter ya say, boy!? Yes, Pops, that's a crisp little zephyr that blows out of the Northeast, you know, from Canada and Greenland and points out over the North Atlantic, where all the frost and snow and iceburg calfing grounds lay. You know, the place that is home to polar bears and marine mammals like whales and seals and walrus, the animals that keep warm with six inches of blubber over their kidneys and other tasty bits. Like me in the weeks right after Christmas...

A Category 1 Hurricane ya say, boy!? Yes, Pops, or as my old sailing instructor used to say, that's the category above a mere piddling Tropical Storm with mild breezes of 39 - 73 knots. Ya boy, yor Category 1 is a stiff blow, with winds of 73 - 95 knots, the winds that will stand a man up when he leans into the wind, and push back! The point where all the smart Captains batten down the hatches, reef in the main sail and hunker down to wait out the wind...

From the Northeast you say... Yes, lad, we'll be running INTO the wind, oh joy, oh bliss!

Oh to be in balmy Boston, leaning into a stiff wind, 42 degrees and a spring shower to refresh us as we climb Heartbreak Hills. 'Tis magical lads, I tell ya! Magical.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Things to look forward to in Boston...

Well, it's not like I didn't train in the rain this Winter and Spring!

Wednesday, April 11 - As the Boston Athletic Association continues to make preparations for Monday's Boston Marathon, we are monitoring the upcoming weather conditions forecast for this area. Based on the National Weather Service's most recent report and in cooperation with the Executive Office of Public Safety (Commonwealth of Massachusetts) and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, together with the eight cities and towns along the 26.2-mile marathon route, we are planning for likely heavy rain and windy conditions on race day. However, all race day plans remain the same. The Boston Athletic Association advises participants in Monday's race to plan accordingly for their run, bringing with them gear and apparel to suit the conditions. The B.A.A. will continue to update its web site as necessary.

Hugs and Puppies


Doesn't get much better than puppies. The little buggers that Cactus and Rosie produced are now four weeks old.

I went out to the last Marathon Clinic - for me that is - before the Boston Marathon last night. There are some very talented athletes in this clinic and they are a mere four weeks out from the Vancouver Marathon themselves. Some of them are hurting. And whereas Boston will be my twentieth marathon, Vancouver will be the first for most and I had a few things that I wanted to tell them, mostly the things that I should be focusing on myself.

Relax. Take a deep breath. Enjoy the experience. Don't beat yourself up over missed runs or time taken off for illness. Don't try to make up for any lost training sessions at the end. If you have nagging injuries or are hurting, focus on recovery.

Seymour and I had planned to go out for a little half-price pasta after the clinic and before I knew it we were joined by ten other people. It was great. I mean really great in the nice way. Time spent in the company of people whom you enjoy. A bit like a big group hug, only with no groping. Damn!

And because I have droned on ceaselessly and endlessly during this marathon clinic - and the other ten that preceded it I must confess - about the need for having a strategy and a plan for running a marathon, I was asked a LOT of questions about whether I was ready, and even more specifically about what time I was going to run, all questions of which were issued from little expectant, cute, trusting faces. As if somehow I KNEW...

I guess this is the danger in burnishing your reputation with lots of outlandish marathon and ultramarathon stories. People start to expect that I actually know what I am blathering on about. So I tried to be as honest as I can, admitting and knowing full well that I am as full of shit as any two-legged primate that knuckles across the face of the planet.

This marathon is one of the few where I am at a bit of a loss to know where I am at conditioning and speed-wise. My speed work has all been miles, and I don't have the afterburners that I usually do. But over the course of 26.2 miles that doesn't seem like such a big deal. I banged off runs of 24, 26 and 28 miles, so I have to believe my endurance base is there. My weight is 182, and will probably stay there, so I am as lean as any marathon I have run. I also ran Kelowna at 182, even though I got as low as 177, as I bumped up with my taper diet and pre-race carb-loading. And in Boston last year I was over 190. In Boston I zoomed from a pre-taper 188 all the way up to 194!

I'll really miss Hugh. I ran my last one and a half marathons with Hugh - and trained every week with him for the last two. In Kelowna, Hugh paced me every single step of the way and I know I would never have qualified without his untiring support and encouragement. Hugh was my safety blanket. Last year in Boston we got seperated, so I know that I can at least suck it up and finish relatively strongly on my own.

And the wine. I am 182. There is less than a week to Boston. I was in the company of fellow marathon warriors, comrades in arms, and it just seemed right. Four of us split a bottle of red wine. I had my first glass of wine in eight weeks. It was glorious. Thanks for the toast, folks.

See you next week! Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Road to the Boston Marathon

After a week of mostly dreading having to run the Boston Marathon, including sleepless nights of tossing and turning in bed followed by eye-bag inducing nightmares, a funny thing happened.

The taper began to take effect and I am significantly less tired - make that exhausted - and I spent the weekend as a specatator at an ultramarathon.

My friend Rachel, whom I take some small credit for turning on to ultras, ran a 50 K trail race on Saturday and came in as the fourth woman in a field of some 125 runners, and second in her age class.

Her significant other, Michael and I spent the day trying to navigate around the back country of Port Moody to find aide stations where we might cheer her on and as we waited we cheered and clapped for the other runners. Michael busied himself by pouring out Coke and doing everything in his power to make sure that it was flat.

I wore my Boston Marathon jacket from last year - both for my "street cred" on the course and to help pysch me up - and I had two first-time Boston Marathon runners come up to me, introduce themselves and then pepper me with questions about the course, the wave starts, and the city of Boston. It made for some wonderful conversations and I didn't even mention my Blog once. And was a wonderful reminder of why I wanted to return to Boston in the first place.

The first runners crossed the finish line for the Diez Vista 50 K after about five hours and thirty minutes. About every five minutes another runner would cross the finish line to the sound of clapping and cheering and hugs from family members. It was great. It reminded me of why I love ultras and small races and the comradery of the athletes and supporters in the endurance athlete community.

Michael and I checked out the new Montrail trail runners and the Nathan Human Propulsion Hydration packs at the displays put out by the race sponsors and made our wish lists. The Nathan products are just amazing. Extremely well-designed for ultra athletes. I vowed to get a Nathan dual-bottle set-up for the Stormy 50 Miler I am doing later this summer. We taked shop with the product reps, bench raced the products and had a great time.

Watching the runners all day made me wish I was out on the course, buoyed my spirits and brought me back to the realization that I run mostly for the sheer enjoyment of it and that I should get less caught up in worrying about results and times. Some of the biggest cheers and rounds of applause of the day were for the runners who were two and three hours behind the front runners. In other words, runners just like me.

Reporting from the back of the pack - and loving it, Vince Hemingson.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Great Quandry

I ran my last hard work-out on Sunday, doing more mile repeats than I thought possible.

I would post the work-out except I also bought a new Polars RS800sd, and the Finnish engineers responsible for this latest little Polar baby should be taken out and fucking shot.

The lure of the RS800's data was too strong for me to resist. I made the mistake of buying it at the Running Room where the staff has so little product knowledge it makes you want to cry. In fairness to them, they are minimum wage slaves who get no real training to speak of... and most of them are doing the job for their love of running and the fat employee discount - well, that and to pass the time of day. I called every store in the lower Mainland seeking some information about the RS800 and came up dry. In the end, I had to wait until a store manager who had purchased one himself came back from a business trip to company headquarters in Edmonton.

Alex, the Store Manager, went above and beyond the call of duty. Without him I would have simply taken the watch back.

When you buy the new Polar, you also have to buy a new sensor to go along with it. The old Polar infrared device - worth seventy dollars - effectively becomes useless. So you have to buy a new one. I got a generic for another forty-five fucking dollars. Neither Polar nor the retailer is up front about this. A little like selling a car without tires or runners without laces.

Of course, both Polar and the retailer are a little fuzzy about mentioning this. Fuckers.

The watch and the foot-pod are both lighter and more streamlined.

The pod gets a big thumbs up.

The new RS800sd watch itself - design-wise - sucks. It looks and feels terrible. And for a product this expensive, that is a nearly unforgiveable sin. The watch looks and feels like a Star trek convention gimmick - all cheap looking silver plastic. The buttons feel cheap - especially in comparison to the S625x. And the red plastic start button - so retro disco it makes your eyes bleed. I would never wear the watch except to run.

But the upgrade in data makes the decision one of those cases where you grit your teeth and say fuck it. But it would be nice if Polar could get its act together.

The Polar technical help line is even more of a fucking joke. There is an 800 number to call, but I have no idea if there is any tecnical help beyond an answering machine. I called - get this - no fewer than EIGHT times in four days. Not ONCE did I get past being put on hold to wait for the next available technical assistance drone. I waited once for twenty minutes and twice for fifteen minutes. The worst part is that every few minutes they cycle their system and you have to press one on your key-pad to stay in the holding pattern. It's a total corporate fuck you - we've got your money and you're on your own now - SUCKER!

How does this happen? All Polar does is pump out heart rate monitors. You have to admire their comittment to their product niche. They have partnered up with Adidas. BUT...

The Polar web site, software and watches themselves are brutally difficult to use. The worst part is, I am a HUGE proponent of Polar products and have probably sold more of them than most of their product reps.

And Polar product reps are another bone of contention. Here on the West Coast the Polar reps are, and this is being charitable, barely noticeable as functioning, breathing human beings. It is tough to tell if they are alive. We know they are not competent.

Long-term, you have to think it is only a matter of time before a company that manufactures a product with good design, good support and good customer service will hand Polar their heart monitoring little hearts one day on a silver platter. Someone like a Nike or a Garmin.

I run with a couple of guy who are computer freaks - and I mean that in the most amazing, in-awe-of-their-talent-and-knowledge-of-the-technically-arcane way - guys who manage companies that design and write software and even these wizards are left shaking their heads.

Boston is now less than two weeks away. If I wasn't paid up in full I might very well have bailed out at the last minute.

Jeff Galloway has been very upfront about where he thinks I am, training-wise. Me, I am not sure I have followed his training regimen as intelligently as I could have. No excuses, but my brain has been pulled in all sorts of directions this winter and I have had a hard time pulling my Boston Marathon training into focus.

Hence these e-mails -

Hi Jeff,

I appreciate the race strategy suggestions for Boston, but the race plan you have laid out for me looks like it will result in a 3:35 or slower (much slower) marathon time.

Last year I re-qualified for Boston in Boston with a 3:30 time and an 8 minute per mile average pace.

Are you saying that my training results this spring negates the idea of a marathon any faster than a 3:35?

Also, my last two marathons, a 3:29 and a 3:30, I have taken thirty to forty second walk breaks at the water stations.

Best regards, Vince Hemingson


I will always give you the advice that I believe to be realistic, so that you won't have a bad experience. My concern is the key workouts that you lost when you were sick--and the speedwork adaptations from the mile repeats.

I'm a "no BS" coach and will not tell you what you want to hear. I will always be honest with you.

It is very possible that you could run 5 min faster in the last 6 miles because of the the downhill. Here is a slighly more aggressive strategy.

Miles 1-2----8 min pace
Miles 3-16--8:10 pace
Miles 17-20--8:30 pace
Miles 20-26--whatever you have left

If the legs are resilent, and the temperature is below 60, you can fly down the hills. Remember to use a short stride, feet low to the ground, quick turnover.


I am not going to Boston to run a slow fucking Boston Marathon. I need a 3:30:59 to re-qualify, which I do need to do. I need a 3:29:38 to run a Personal Best, or PR as Americans like to put it.

I have never run a marathon based on a "miles per minute" plan. I run what my training and what my heart rate give me. Warm-up, start out at 155 for the first 10K, 156-158 for the next 20K, at 30K ratchet it up 160-162, the last three or four K go for broke. This year I have no idea what that means in terms of my pace.

Weight this morning - 183. After carbing up, probably means I'll race in the 185 ballpark. Pretty close to my Kelowna weight and my 3:29:39 Okanagan Marathon.

I am cursed with trepidation and self-doubt this time around and find myself thinking of the myriad reasons why I will not do well, telling myself that my father's health and my getting sick were all beyong my control and not my fault.

I hate making excuses for failure and loathe the fact that my mindset appears to be doing it before I have even run the damn race.

Worse, I know that coming close to a 3:30:59 will require a herculean effort on my part, and that the last ten kilometres is really, really - did I mention really? -going to hurt. So I find myself equivocating about paying the pain price, knowing full well that I may be dipping deep into the well, and then coming up a few minutes short at the end.

So that is my great quandry. Qualify this time around, or put it off until the Fall? The problem with having re-qualifying in the Fall as my back-up plan is that it leaves me wiggle room for failure in Boston, and qualifying for Boston is never, ever a given. Too much can happen, too much can go wrong.

And so all I can ask myself is this. How badly do I want to run the Boston Marathon next spring?

And am I willing to pay the price in ten days?