Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hills, Max VO2 and Predictions...

Last night the Marathon Clinic finished the Hill Training segment - all ten hills. Because of running Stormy (50 miles) this summer, I had been doing hill work that featured repeats of a 1.2 mile long hill rather than 600 metres (and only six times, not ten!). Last night I did the ten hills and was happy with how I felt, especially given my 45 minute 10K on Saturday, 20.5 miles on Sunday and 5K Max VO2 workout on Tuesday (18:32). My Max VO2 index was 70 at 187 pounds and I figure to drop a little more weight in the next month.

I went to the Marathon Guide Race Predictor, and the 45:28 on Saturday, on a very hilly 10K course mind you, predicts a marathon time of 3:31:08. Since that race was only two weeks after Stormy and I went out a little easy in the beginning to gauge my recovery I am feeling pretty positive.

I must say I am really beginning to look forward to running the Portland Marathon on October 7. I feel good, if still a little leg weary, but I find my current level of conditioning encouraging. Another three weeks of speed training and I should be - all things being equal on race day - in pretty good shape to re-qualify for the Boston Marathon.

After the hill training almost all of the clinic went out to the Comox Grill Pub for a pizza or some pasta and a few beers to wash down same. Wednesday nights features the live music of one Taylor James, and a good time was had by all.

Should be quite the road trip to Oregon in five weeks!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Run for the Ferry!

Thanks to Pat I dragged myself out of bed at 5:00 am on Saturday morning to take the Ferry to Bowen Island so I could take part in the Run for the Ferry 10K Race. Thanks to my neighbours upstairs and their raucous party, I did so on about three hours of sleep. The bass in their speakers was actualy making my bedsprings vibrate, which sort of negated the efficacy of wearing ear-plugs...

The Bowen Island Run for the Ferry 10K is a delightful set-piece of the Bowen Island Festival, BowFest, which is an Islands Trust version of a summer fair. Nay, the crown jewel of BowFest! Delightful. The parade is something not to be missed. This year's theme was "Treasure Island", and that had immense appeal to the pirate in me. The costumes and floats in the parade were just great. Made me want to live on Bowen Island. The cougar population in evidence on Saturday was truly spectacular.

I ran a semi-respectable 45:28 on a very hilly course, exactly two weeks after running the Stormy Ultra Trail Run Fifty Mile Race. I went out pretty easy and then - to paraphrase a good friend - in the second half it was time to drop the hammer. I picked up about a dozen runners who had passed me in the first few kilometers. I came in sixteenth out of about a hundred runners. Fastest guys were of course in my 40 - 49 age group. What is it with these competitive old men? Oh wait, I'm one of those competitive old men...

I bet Pat breakfast if he'd break forty minutes, and the little rat bastard ran it in 38 minutes and came in sixth over all and third in his age group. Quickest time was a geezer greyhound in 31 minutes. Impressive.

This Sunday morning Seymour was over in Victoria and I took out his 4:15 pace group. Had been a while since I had run with a group this large and actually played the role of pace group leader with a bunch of runners unfamiliar with my ever-loving Pace Nazi ways... Seymour of course has been spoiling them rotten, but once I had shown them the immense benefits of running while admiring my firm taut spandexed ass, they were a bunch of pussy cats. We did about 21 miles in three hours and fifty minutes with lots of water, walks and bathroom breaks. My average heart rate for the run was 118, or 59% of my maximum heart rate and my legs felt good.

Weight this morning was 187... It had better be 186 tomorrow, dammit!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tempo Tune-up

Still mindful of the fact that fifty miles through the mountains was only ten days ago, I red-lined myself during last night's tempo run and pulled back from 8K to 6K. I maintained a 7:40 per mile pace and an average heart rate of 154, about 75% for me. And for the last few hundred meters I cranked up my speed and got my heart rate up to 178, or about 90%.

Feel fabulous this morning, but will take it easy on the hills tonight.

Looking forward to the Bowen Island 10K Run for the Ferry Race. Except for the fact that I have to meet up with Pat and Rob at 6:00 am!!! Shades of the 4:30 am start for Stormy!

Weight is 187...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Caught in Advice

It usually starts out something like, "Vince, can I ask you a question?". Now normally my heart leaps at such a turn a phrase, loving as I do nothing so much as the sound of my own voice dispensing pearls of wisdom. Hell, I have even printed up little manuals of Vince Advice, with catchy and original titles like, Vince's Top Ten Running Mistakes. And to those folks who have yet to do their first marathon, or who have only done one or two, an old codger like me who appears to have survived a couple of dozen or so marathons and who has run back to back marathons through the mountains probably seems like someone who may know a thing or two. May... So why am I surprised when hours into the middle of a long run someone should turn to me, looking for answers, traing tips, race strategies or the cure for the aches and pains du jour?

The answer of course is that I myself am endlessly in search of similar advice, have the same questions, the same need to know. I have all the same doubts I did when I first started running marathons, but now, with a few of them under my belt I can see that I have acquired a little knowledge - maybe not even knowledge, but the experience of doing - along the way as the miles have accumulated and piled up.

Where once I was a know it all, dispensing that little knowledge I had with total confidence, now I preface most of my tid bits with qualifiers such as, "in my experience..." , or "I have found..." , or "what works for me may not work for you..." , or the old stand by "everybodies different...". Time has taught me that I don't really know jack shit. I am making all this crap up as I go along my merry way. I think of myself not as an expert - I tend to spit on experts - but more as a crusty old soldier in the endurance trenches, just trying to keep my head down and my feet and my powder dry as I attempt to survive another marathon or ultramarathon campaign. The advice I tender to green peas and newbies has evolved from the big picture stuff of years past to the more mundane tips like the best kinds of socks to wear or using vaseline on long runs or simply eat more gels and drink more water, buy new runners before the old ones wear out, listen to your freakin' heart rate monitor...

Most of my running tips are heavily weighted towards long-term running survival. "Err on the side of caution, less is usually more, it's better to be under-trained rather than over-trained, eat less, eat better, don't do it if it hurts..." Basically, do whatever it takes to survive to run another day. I cringe a little bit when people ask me about their latest twinge or injury, because the last time I checked I had still not graduated from medical school, but then again I have probably graduated from the Marathon School of Aches and Pains and earned some kind of honarary certificate... Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation... take two anti-inflammatories and if it still hurts, call your doctor in the morning... Because let's face it, over time, if you run enough and run enough marathons you are going to experience all kinds of twinges, aches and pains. There is a reason they call it a marathon.

The best advice is usually firmly grounded in common sense. And the general lack thereof in modern culture leaves me shaking my head. It really is true. The older you get, the less you know. Or rather life teaches you the less you know with absolute certainty. As time goes by you get to experience many more of the exceptions that prove the rule.

So well I certainly do not know everything there is to know about running marathons, even I have to concede that I have picked up a thing or two along the way. So fire away with your questions. Just don't ask me about women, balancing a check book, family relationships, politics, religion, keeping dogs from peeing in the house, getting organized, or planning a career. Trust me, I have no idea what the fuck I am talking about.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Recovery Redux

After a week of recovery and taking it very, very easy on my weary bones, I set out on this Sunday's long run to see how I felt and to run what I could run - comfortably that is. Long story (and run) short, I was able to do 29 K in just over three hours and not feel not too much worse for the wear.

I didn't have my usual jump, but I was not far off. At the end of three hours I was only too glad to go to breakfast!

Plan for the next few weeks is to ease into some speed work. Pat and I are planning to do a quick 10 K on Saturday and that will give us a good barometer of where we are at in terms of quickness...

Ciao for now.

Weight is 187...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Portland Here I Come

After months of dithering, I finally decided this week to run the Portland Marathon. I had originally planned to run the Okanagan Marathon again in Kelowna this Fall, but apparently much of the course has been torn up and is under heavy road construction. My PR of 3:29:39 is at Kelowna - October, 2005 - so I was a little disapointed by that news. I considered doing the Royal Victoria Marathon for the fifth time, but as lovely as the course is visually, I am not a huge fan of the course layout and the crowds.

I like the idea of doing Portland for a couple of reasons. I love doing a new course and a new marathon for the first time. My last two races on new courses resulted in a PR and two Boston Marathon qualifying times. Being as superstitious as I am, that seems to bode well for Portland.

On Tuesday I went out for a very, very easy 5 K ramble. On Wednesday and today, I did a couple of forty minute walk/runs - twice a day. In other words, I briskly wanted Cactus Jack and Panhandle Slim...

My weight has been dithering between 186 and 187. My legs feel good, I have been sleeping well, and my feet are much less sore and bruised. The ankles and left knee feel pretty good. I am still unsure of what distance I'm going to run this Sunday. Probably very easy, but at least a couple of hours.

Next week I will start easing back into speed work and hills. I think I can safely say after doing fifty miles at Stormy on Saturday that my mileage base is as good as its going to get....

Monday, August 13, 2007

Road to Recovery and Thinking Ahead

Two days after running fifty miles, I feel pretty good, all things being equal. Fifty miles is still fifty miles, or eighty kilometres if you want to look at it another way. Despite crossing the finish line - or hobbling - with a throbbing knee and a twisted ankle, both on my left leg, forty-eight hours later I can't say that either one is giving me much trouble. I have iced both, but there has been no swelling and very little pain. Granted I haven't tried running on them, but yesterday I managed three thirty minute walks. And all three times, my quad stiffness was my most pronounced twinge producer.

Strangely enough, what I have noticed the most is that my feet feel bruised. I ran the Stormy Ultra Trail Run in my Montrail Trail Runners, and normally they are more than adequate. But I had banged up my feet pretty good six days prior to Stormy by scrambling over rocks to reach the summit of Hudson's Bay Mountain while wearing nothing more than runners. Massaging my feet, it feels as if the bruises go all the way to the bone!

Now it is time to concentrate on my Fall marathon and try to decide whether I am running in the Royal Victoria Marathon or the Portland Marathon on October 7. I have done Victoria four times already, but it is in my own backyard so to speak, and would take less of an effort to organize and cost less. Portland has a great reputation, is relatively flat, has great restaurants, I love doing new marathons, and I might even get to run as a Clydesdale! But it is a journey.... Decisions, decisions...

A few folks have asked me what my next running goal is, and speaking honestly, I don't have a clue. I have trouble getting excited about the idea of doing a triathalon - I just don't swim that much and here in Vancouver, every time you get on a bike, you literally take your life in your hands (and I am tired of spending a small fortune on gear) - and I have run the Boston Marathon for the past two years. The other thing is that the friends of mine who have done the longer distance triathalons, half-Ironmans and Ironmans, basically drop off the face of the planet as their lives become consumed by training ten or fifteen or more hours per week and you never see them again. I would like to re-qualify for Boston one more time so that I have an opportunity to run with some friends who have qualified themselves.

I do like destination marathons. It is great to plan a trip with friends, people whom you enjoy spending time with and sharing life's experiences, and it's a great way to see a new place. Regardless, I have lots of time to figure out what I'm going to do next.

Of course I am speaking with the voice of someone who just spent over ten hours stumbling through the woods and the forest, so perhaps my mindset will change once the memories begin to fade with time and I see things through the rose-tinted spectacles of my hazy, fond recollections...

Sunday, August 12, 2007



Ahhh, the joys of cold Vaseline in the crotch at 5:30 am.... But you have to wonder what Michael was doing watching with a camera.


Six hours into the race, forty-five minutes ahead of schedule, what could possibly go wrong...


Crossing the Finish Line at 10:28, and a high-five from Race Director Wendy Montgomery.


Boy, do I ever need a cold beer and a hot bath.
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Stormy - Stupid is as Stupid Does (for 50 Miles)

My apologies to Forrest Gump. But yes, as Momma said, stupid is as stupid does. Yesterday I struggled through the Stormy Ultra Trail Run - the 50 Miler - in 10:28 and change. I say struggle because my taper in the three weeks immediately proceeding the Stormy Race was a thing of utter madness, I was beat up and tired on the day of the race and at mile thirty I knew I was in big trouble.

But let us start at the beginning. Using the Boston Marathon as a jumping off place, I worked up a training schedule for the Stormy Ultra Trail Run that included several 45 and 50 K long runs and also the Vancouver Marathon and Skidegate Totem to Totem Marathon as part of my mileage base. The Totem to Totem Marathon in Skidegate was twenty days before the Stormy Ultra Trail Run.

The Totem to Totem Marathon in Skidegate was a race that was in a bit of flux and when the time actually came to do the race, Pat and I found ourselves in the midst of a rather epic ten day journey that took us the length and breadth of Haida Gwaii and had us doing the marathon and a 32 mile long run a mere four days apart. The runs were done at a relatively easy pace, but the sheer amount of mileage and the travel - and the drinking took its toll - and did I mention the drinking? I was bone tired for a long while afterwards. During our long run I turned my left ankle quite badly on a rough logging road and I had to hobble for a few minutes. Both my ankles have been broken and twisted many times and all the scar tissue has left me with limited mobility and ankles that if I were a boxer would be akin to a glass jaw. Instead I have glass ankles. To top it off, we had an incident on our fishing boat where an attempt to haul in a fully-loaded crab trap nearly left me on the ocean floor as an anchor. Instead, I was left with a badly wrenched shoulder and a strained back. In short, the Haida Gwaii trip kicked the crap out of me!

And last weekend I went up to Smithers to celebrate with some friends and to take it easy with some leisurely 20K runs... Hah! On Sunday the run was abandoned for a "hike", which turned turned from "about four hours" into a five and a half hour summit assault on Hudon's Bay Mountain and a ninety minute mad cap descent through rock fields, scree slopes and foot skiing on snow pack. Rather than wear hiking boots or trail shoes, all I had were my Asics runners. Not the best or most protective foot wear for mountain climbing. On the way down I jammed my left knee badly, and once again turned over my left ankle on a loose boulder that nearly shot out from underneath me...

Fast forward to yesterday. The Stormy Ultra Trail Run - - takes place on a mixture of logging roads, a very small amount of pavement, Hydro cuts (powerline clear-cuts) and beautiful single-track trails. Some of the trails are very rocky, with loose footing and lots of roots. There are even one or two pretty technically challenging spots. The weather was absolutely perfect yesterday. Sixty degrees, overcast, fabulous running weather for the middle of August. At about the thirty mile mark, I once again jammed my left knee and in a few short miles I found I couldn't even support my body weight on that knee on a downhill. I was fine on the flats or uphill, but even a few degrees of descent and I was in agony. When I came to a set of stairs I had to go down sideways. Literally. It was real grit your teeth time.

I was running with my friend Rachel Nelson, who won her age group last year. Our goal was to finish in under ten hours and at the halfway mark we were ahead of our pace by nearly forty-five minutes. Eight hours and seventeen minutes into the race, I told Rachel to go on ahead of me and make her time goal. Rachel was worried about whether or not I could continue and I assured her that if I thought I was risking permanent injury I would retire at the next aide station. My primary goal for this year has been to re-qualify (maybe one last time) for the Boston Marathon and my sub-ten Stormy was a secondary goal - although it would have been nice to qualify for the the 100 Mile Stormy. Still it was tough. After over eight hours, it would have killed me to quit. And I knew that, as close as I was to the end, I could probably walk out the end and still make the time cut-off. Decisions, decisions!

Over the last dozen miles of Stormy I was forced to walk on all the downhill sections, but I still made pretty good time on the flats, averaging around ten minute miles. Rachel made her goal with time to spare, finishing in 9:50 and actually coming in third in her age group. Not a bad "easy run"! As I said earlier I managed to get across the Finish Line in 10:28. Best of all, the Race Director, Wendy Montgomery even commented as she placed my Finishers Medal around my neck that my time was probably good enough to qualify me for the 100 Miler. It was like she was reading my mind!

I had a few other running buddies, Cynthia and Laura and Victoria (trust that it would be a group of determined women), run their first 50 miler on the weekend. They did an amazing job. And there was a whole contingent of gorgeous ladies - Deepi, Mima, Shauna, June, Kris, and a host of others - from the half marathon and marathon clinics who ran the 50 Mile Relay Race as a team. And they finished in high style, popping champagne at the end! My kind of broads - as Frank Sinatra would say.

The best time of the day was 7:17, from a guy who is apparently a 2:40 marathoner. An amazing feat for Stormy. And the top 100 Miler finished in approximately 20 hours.

As usual with Stormy the volunteers were simply amazing - and there were many familiar faces, including Stu and June Kleban (Stu, I want those photos!). And Wendy Montgomery has to be congratulated on her efforts as the Race Director as she undertook the unbelievably difficult task of fielding not just one, but two entirely new distances, the 50 Mile and 100 Mile Trail Runs. In fact, the 100 Mile distance is apparently the only one in British Columbia this year and we have it in our own backyard in Squamish.

Afterwards, I downed a few cold beers, rested my knee until I could ice it at home and enjoyed the festivities. Many thanks to Michael, for being Race Crew to Rachel and myself (of course he gets to live with Rachel, so that is some compensation) and for driving us and for being continually upbeat and positive on the course.

According to my Polar, I burned 8,726 calories over 50 miles, at an average heart rate of 138.

The best part? I woke up this morning after ten hours of sleep and weighed a mere 186 pounds!

And my knee and my ankle don't feel so bad...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Forty-seven. I have spent a goodly portion of my time on this godforsaken rock we hairless apes call home living in the moment but Christ, where did all the time go?

And when I rolled out of bed this morning, I am not kidding you, I swear I heard creaking as I swung my legs out of bed. Granted I have been rode hard and put to bed wet a few times in my life - but actual creaking!


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Oh, My Aching Body

I flew up to Smithers in Northern BC over the long weekend to spend time with friends and to celebrate a birthday and to touch base with my roots.

I had planned to run a couple of 20K's, nice and easy as I taper for the Stormy Trail Race 80 K (50 miles) Ultramarathon, but the runs turned into a trail run for ninety minutes on Friday and then, on Sunday, the day after Justin's 30th Birthday (what a puppy!) an epic assault on the summit Hudson's Bay Mountain. The hike was about 10 K and scrambling over the rough rock and scree slopes, took about five hours. Or roughly four hours up with lots of breaks for photos and an hour down! The view from the top was well worth the effort. And Justin and I got to write our names in the logbook at the top.

Good news is I had a fabulous time. Bad news is I seemed to have tweaked a knee. Still a little stiff today from using my quads and calves in ways my body had not envisioned, so will have to take a wait and see approach as to whether or not it will have any effects on my plans to run Stormy this coming weekend.

I am just a day short of my 47th birthday, an event which I view with an increasingly jaundiced eye as the years progress. Came to me as a bit of a shock to realize that I spent the last weekend hanging out with a group of people mostly fifteen and twenty years younger than me. Have not yet decided whether this shows I am young at heart or in a long and protracted adolescence and refusing to grow up...

Thanks to the wonderful hospitality of Justin's family and my own weakness, I gained two pounds over the last five day... So I am tipping the scales at 189! Yikes!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Running in the Summer Sun

Vancouver has been deemed worthy enough by the Gods to be bestowed a glorious string of days of clear blue skies and brilliant summer sun. And in a word, hot! Wonderful weather for summer vacations, less so for long or hard runs.

I have taken to walking my boys at the crack of dawn and then going out for my runs in the morning. Less heat, and after last summer's little escapade with topical chemotherapy for cancerous skin lesions, less radiation! I rarely go outside in the peak hours of sunshine and even then, it's with heavy-duty sunscreen. Some days it's actually been too hot to run with a hat. Even so, I spend so much time outside running, that I am still more tanned than many of my compatriots. Strange times, strange times...

So my mornings are given up to running and my cup of coffee and daily dose of the New York Times has to wait... Have found myself missing the comradery of meeting up with everyone at the marathon clinic, though, so I find myself a little wistful for cooler temps and overcast skies! Mon Dieu!

Had a chance last evening to wish Justin a happy 30th birthday and to see Patrick's first compilation of our photos from our trip to Haida Gwaii. Pat managed to whittle the collection from a monstrous three thousand plus images to a little more feasible five hundred. Even then, at four seconds a pop, it took a good half hour to relive our trip on Kirsten's living/dining room wall. Accompanied by much wonderful food.

Couldn't believe I still weighed only 188 pounds this morning!