Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Caribbean Facebook Photo Album

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Heading Home

Health Insurance - In the immortal words of American Express, "Never leave home without it."

Being somewhat discretionary - at least to a small degree - and without mentioning exact numbers, for what my father has spent on the last week in the hospital, two bouts of kidney dialysis and an impending ride home on a Lear jet air ambulance that is for all intents and purposes an Emergency Room with wings - including Pilot, Navigator, ICU Doctor, Nurse and Respiratory Specialist, I could have walked into a European car dealership and driven away with a bright red sports car capable of going two hundred miles per hour.

There is so much equipment on board that although I am allowed, in fact encouraged to accompany my father back to St.Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, Canada I am not allowed any luggage of any kind. Zero. My bags are coming home by bus.

I hope that in the coming years, as I enter the Autumn and Winter phases of my life, that I have the good sense, grace and wisdom to accept the passage of time and the toll it naturally takes on the body with good humour and equanimity.


I had a hard time typing that last paragraph with a straight face.

Given my gene pool and my exhibited behavior to date, that may be a bit of a stretch.

Hopefully, by this early evening I will be within arm's reach of my wine cellar and my whiskey collection.

Robbie Burns Day, is, after all mere hours away!

Yee be a good Lad, Robbie and a boon companion.

I may yet get into me kilt.

Thank you to everyone for your wishes for my father's good health and speedy recovery.

It will be good to be home amongst such good and stalwart friends.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Some Pics From The Road

The Dream Chaser

Freeport Harbour

The Dream Chaser's Kitchen

Vince, Errol, and Bryan

Vince and Errol

Jamaican Boat

Jamaican Bar

Hey Mon! How's it Going, Bro?

In a strange twist that I'm not even sure that I fully understand (actually, that describes the vast majority of my life), most Bahamians seems to think that I must partake of the ganja.

In Freeport, Harbour Island and of course here in Nassau, I can usually count on a car slowing down as it approaches me, the window rolled down surreptitiously and the occupant asking me out of the darkness- "You looking, Bro?", while mimicking the rolling of a big spliff.

Whether on the street corner, the open road or a bar, I'll be queried about, "smoke", "ganja", "weed" and then be offered the most kind assistance in making sure my every need is taken care of while being at the same assured that the product in question is only of the highest quality...

I can't tell if it is the look of quiet desperation in my eyes, the exhausted slump of my shoulders or simply the clear evidence that I am clearly in need of a good time. My cousin Cecile has even mentioned that the local "girls" have been eyeing me up, though the truth be told I have missed every instance of this.

Tom, with his full body suit of tattoos, his long hair and his air of insousance (sp?)would seem like a natural customer but has not been aproached once. This has bothered Tom immensesly. Me, I've lost track of the times I've been propositioned! Tom has left for Jamaica to try and salvage some kind of winter vaction in the sun, but even he is mystified by my ganja attracting powers.

Of course I haven't shaved since early December, am crushed that I will not be wearing a kilt for Robbie Burns day, or drinking fine whiskey - but maybe my ganja power comes from the red beard liberally striped with white. Calling it grey would just be a lie.

Or maybe it is my collection of vintage tropical shirts and well-worn khaki shorts, or - God, forbid - that I am beginning to look like Jimmy Buffet, or a particularly well-worn member of the Beach Boys. The sad cousin that no one can quite remember the name of....

Anyways, I am sticking to too much wine, cold beers and the demon rum. Bought a bottle yesterday for $6.50 called, "Fire in De Hole" with a naked women in silohette on the bottle label dancing against a background of flames - presumably the flames of Hell. Or a night of spectacular sex that you will always just sort of remember and will remain nothing more than a vague recollection through the gauzy memory of your alcoholic fog...

My father was put on a dialysis machine last night. I am trying to arrange an air ambulance back to Vancouver - best quote so far, $26,900 - where he can get the kind of medical help he really and truly needs. He is in rough, rough shape.

In all honesty, I'm not that sure that I am in that much better shape.

God, maybe I really do need a big, fat spliff...

Hey, Bro!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Chasing Dreams and Risking Failure

Stranded in Nassau aboard a '65 Cape Horn Trawler called the Dream Chaser is not without some small degree of irony.

I fully understand my father's desire to fulfil a dream, to call his boat the Dream Chaser, but when I ask him exactly what that dream is, he is, for all intents and purposes, utterly inarticulate.  And I wonder, if asked to say what my dreams are, would I be any more articulate?  I've dedicated an entire Blog to qualifying for the Boston Marathon, hundreds and hundreds of entries, and yet if pressed, I am not sure that I could adequately articulate what qualifying for Boston means to my heart and soul.  And some times, just being and just doing is what it is all about.

The sky over Nassau is leaden and overcast, a small craft warning is in effect and rain spatters the boat and the dock with every gust of twenty knot wind. And after a while the whistling of the wind through cables, lines and halyards just becomes annoying, like fingers on a blackboard.  I worry endlessly about my Dad.  This mythic figure in my life become so frail it seems like a different person.  I help him get dressed and my feelings of frustration give way to a tenderness so unexpected that I have to choke down the lump in my throat.  And when he tell me as I pull on socks over his swollen feet that I would make a good father, I have to blink back tears.  I am scared for him.

Running marathons is a dream for most people, trying to qualify for Boston was mine.

But fulfilling a dream requires planning and forethought and following through with a plan of action that takes you in the direction of your goal.

I admire and enjoy the company of dreamers. I don't have much patience for daydreamers.

And even if your dreams exceed your talents and abilities and, in many cases, just plain luck, there is something exhilarating in making the attempt. Marshalling all your skills and abilities towards a goal or an ambition that you know will take you to the very limits of what is possible is to me the very essence of life. It is sucking the marow out of the bones of life. And chewing with satisfaction on the great knuckle bone of achievement.

I like doers, don't have much patience for talkers, and have great empathy for those who have tried and failed, having a lifetime of experience in that department myself.

The best dreams I think, carry a high risk of failure. And if you have done your best, there is no shame in falling a few feet short of the summit, a few minutes short of your time goal. Most of us finish off the podium in life. It is not always about coming in first, but in having lived well.

All you can ask is that you did and gave your best. That to me is acomplishment in itself, a test of who you are.

Chase a dream, the crazier the better. Do everything in your power to make it happen. Risk failure. Wild, crazy, disastrous, preposterous, glorious failure.

Just do more than talk about a dream. Actually chase one.  If I do it, I guess I get that from my Father.

More photos -

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Batten Down the Hatches

The wind is howling in Nassau. A small craft warning is in effect for much of the Bahamas and most ships have sought safe harbours and shelters from the wind and waves. Everyone is hunkering down.

Most people think it will last several days. I wish my life were as easy as a surviving a short squall or a little hurricane...

We took my father against his will to the hospital today. He had to be physically carried as he could no longer even walk. Technicaly a mutiny, but he was suffering acute renal failure so we probably saved his life. Can't imagine too many military tribunals flogging me for that crime... But my old man will sure be counted on to bitch. I snapped a photo in the ER to show him in the future that he was turning yellow as his liver was cashing in its chips...

Can't imagine the Caribbean adventure continuing in its current guise. The Ancient Mariner needs to be in a Coronary Care Unit - one that doesn't require me forking over ten thousand dollars in advance for three days regardless of the outcome... Three cheers for the socialized medicine in Commie, pinko Canada...

Strange family I spring from. All surface conversation and none of that meat and gristle stuff that defines life and poetry and the human condition and is worth killing a good bottle of wine or scotch over... Most of what springs forth is superficial and self-servingly trite and nothing that cherished life-long memories or art is made of. Of course I am probbly a hopeless romantic, too-well read diletante and such talk doesn't really exist except in novels or hazy recollections coloured by too many drinks.

Strongest inclination is to run, leave town, pull up anchor or catch a plane - but no real place or destination to head to...

Forty-seven years old and I couldn't even begin to tell you or describe the true nature of either my Mother or Father or siblings. This indicates a rare self-absorbtion, narcicism and/or obliviousness on my part or a degree of stupidity and obtuseness that boggles even my fertile imagination. It's clearly a blessing in disguise that I never had kids of my own.

I'm stuck here day to day, wondering how I got sucked into this yet again, knowing full well that what is transpiring is exactly what I predicted would happen. Which may well make me the biggest horse's ass and fool of all time. Or at least a close runner up...

Strangely enough, I keep find out I have really great cousins.

The funny thing about life - Knowledge and insight often comes too little, too late...

But even then, better too late than not at all...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ship of Fools on the Voyage of the Damned

We live in an astonishing age, where it is possible to keep in touch with the rest of the world from just about any corner of the globe.

I know this blog is supposed to be about my running and Boston Marathon crap, but I am pressing it into service to fill my current communications needs.

I think I have just conscripted my Boston Blog into the Caribbean draft...

My problem is that I left town on Monday on very short notice. I received a call from my father - who was in Freeport, Bahamas - that he needed my help. Desperately. A few phone calls confirmed this.

My apologies to those I failed to notify about what was going on.

My father - and this is probably where I get my insanity gene - (that and the one that makes me as dumb as a sack of hammers in the face of the obvious), has decided to sail some 3,500 miles in a 65' Cape Horn Trawler called the Dream Chaser - something that has to qualify as the trip if not the adventure of a lifetime - and despite his being much better served in my not very humble opinion by being in an assisted-living facility. My Father, bless his pirate soul, could not disagree more. Such is the dance between fathers and sons.

And my Father actually needs to have this boat - the Dream Chaser - in Panama City, to get it through the Panama Canal before April 15. And sooner is even better. Health-wise, he can barely stand and I think he should be not only in a care facility, but a hospital. But my Father has always been happiest on or near the water and in my heart and soul I understand why he has to do this. He is not so much chasing dreams as fulfilling one. And like him, if I had to choose between a small condo and days filled with monotonous routine or life aboard the Dream Chaser, I would choose the Dream Chaser.

So, I bolted town at a moment's notice, missing both Robbie Burns' Celebrations, scotch-tastings and any number of social obligations. And a couple of jobs. Once again, my apologies...

My Father has talked about the Dream Chaser for years. Has extolled her virtues to such an extant that I have taken it all with a grain of salt. But when coming aboard for the first time, I must confess I am floored. The Dream Chaser really is nothing short of amazing, from stem to stern.

We left Freeport, Bahamas at dawn on Wednesday, January 15, a glorious sunrise lighting our way. The Dream Chaser is absolutely, truly, astonishing. She is a beautiful ship, originally designed and built for around-the-world voyages and to be at sea for long periods of time. In even the roughest seas. Her appointments are gorgeous. The wood work and interior craftsmanship, utterly flawless. The galley is amazing and the engine room spotless. I can see why my Father fell in love with her at first sight and pined for her for years until she was his.

Forty-five minutes under way I just kind of weasled my way into taking over at the wheel.

Which was a good thing, because as we soon hit the big rolling swells in the open South Atlantic, all Hell broke loose. For most of the Crew that is.

Within an hour everyone in our crew of five - except me, and Dad - was violently seasick and losing their breakfast over the side. The net result of this was that instead of two or four hour watches at the helm, yours truly was at the wheel for twelve solid hours.

Dad was happy as a clam sitting behind me on the bridge, but the rhythmic rising and falling of the deck has a tendency to lull him to sleep... Which meant I felt very much alone.

You can't make this stuff up...

But the Dream Chaser has a way of instilling confidence as she is remarkably steady under way. And when you look out over the bow to the horizon, feel the deck humming under your feet and with the wheel rock steady in your hands, you just know that a safe harbor and a good anchorage are just around the corner.

Not wanting to pull into a strange port in the dark - and a plan not advised in most books about sailing in the Bahamas - the Crew then decided on Plan B - a safe, wind-protected anchorage - and proceeded to sail another ninety minutes in the dark after the sun went down. We anchored off Grand Abaco.

I have never been on the Dream Chaser before this trip, but she makes it all seem easy. Did I mention that this was all done in the dark? All this was done by using the ship's radar and computer navigation. Nothing like learning by doing, and I was astonished at how easy THAT was...

The galley invites you to cook up a storm and after a day of bobbing and weaving it is good to sit and drink and eat. I still can not believe what an amazing boat the Dream Chaser is. A floating palace.

Afterwards, bored to tears, I baited a hook with salami and caught two ten pound fish in less than ten minutes. Snappers we think. The first one was delicious. My Dad seems utterly rejuvenated by watching me catch the fish. He beams as if he had caught them himself.

We crash into our bunks and I must confess, I sleep like a baby. Sawing up and filleting the fish is actually the hardest work I have done all day.

Jan 16. we sailed to Harbour Island on Eleuthera Island - look it up!

Voted the Caribbean's prettiest island, and one of the best beaches in the world. The sand REALLY is like icing sugar and actually IS pink!

Getting into the harbour was a treat - supposed to be one of the trickiest harbour entrances in all the Caribbean and a local pilot is highly recommended (you can read it in the local Guide Books). Of course, we did this on our own. And yet again the Dream Chaser proved what an able ship she was. Her instrumentation, radar and GPS and depth sounder and all the other bells and whistles, made navigating a course seem fundamental and easy.

When Brian and Tom weren't hanging over the side, they were lying down. They roused themselves for the entrance, as we navigated a fifty metre channel with reefs and breakers on either side...I guess this appeals to the pirate captain in me. So maybe growing the beard was a harbinger of things to come.

But it is exhausting. None of us can convince my father to leave the boat. He's actually said he wants to die on it. Greaaaattttt for crew morale.... My word, but we Hemingson clan can be a bunch of drama queens. But in a way, I can see his point. In life, why would you not want to die as you want to live? Doing this makes him happy. Who am I to say it is wrong? But if he should go to Davy Jones on this trip, what then?

This has led to much black humour about what we'll do with his body if that happens... The freezers are pretty small. The Viking funeral pyre he wants? Not sure if we have enough gasoline on board as the reliable Volvo Penta burns diesel.

Not sure what we will do with our seasick crew members. Tom may actually have to leave just in order to survive and fly ahead to meet us in Jamaica and Panama City.

Looks like I am going to be spending all my waking hours on the bridge.

I do miss everybody. Hope you are well.

The Caribbean is dotted with Cell Towers so I can call out every few days. Cyber cafes as well.

Cheery notes appreciated. My e-mail is getting overwhelmed, so please keep them brief!

Good Rum is only seven dollars and fifty cents a bottle. Tom and I bought a gallon of the miracle elixir!

And yes, I am completely and utterly aware that I got myself into this by agreeing to do this. The Old Man can be hard to turn down. Actually, at this stage, I'm not sure I'd know how.

All of my wounds in life are mostly self-inflicted.

Still not sure what I have agreed to or gotten myself into to....

Sat. Jan. 19.

Arrived in Nassau. Becoming a bit of a computer navigation whiz. Figured out the auto-pilot after several moments of high terror at sea. It is actually very straightforward if you think it out step by step.

Much less puking among crew. Praise the Lord, pass the rum!

But my Father is deteriorating rapidly. He is getting dragged to the hospital whether he likes it or not. It breaks my heart to see him like this and I understand full well his reluctance to yield. If life is an ultramarathon, surely there must be times where you can just clench your teeth and grit your way through it. Can't you?

A very strange way to see the Caribbean...

More photos...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vince's Top Ten Running Mistakes - Redux

It's that time of the year...  A new Spring Marathon Clinic...

After some thought I realized the best advice I could give to new runners was not to repeat the mistakes I have painstakingly and painfully made.

Here it is then...

Vince’s Top Ten Running Mistakes Over the Years

And when I say Vince’s Top Ten running mistakes, I absolutely positively mean that literally. 

These are the top ten mistakes I have made while training for Half Marathons, Marathons and Ultra Marathons.

1. Pacing, Pacing and Pacing

The top three mistakes that I made as a new endurance runner all had to do with Pacing. I will explain…


A Training Program for an endurance runner is made up of at least three different components, Endurance, Speed and Strength (hills and intervals), and Stamina (race pace). All three training components in a training regimen require specific and very different pacing in order to be successful. The pacing for each component requires a runner to aim for a very specific Heart Rate Target Zone.

The first mistake that I made and that many other new runners, and even the more experienced runners make, is that they do not go slow enough. In fact, this is by far the most common mistake endurance runners make, both old and new, and you don’t have to take my word for it. 

Even the experts, like Rob Sleamaker and Ray Browning, authors of SERIOUS Training for Endurance Athletes, agree on this one – “Many athletes have the tendency to train at medium to high intensity all the time, never allowing their bodies to rest, recover and catch up from the rigorous training they do on others days. …the natural tendency for the hardheaded overachiever is to think if some is good, then farther and faster must be better.”

The paradox for endurance runners is this - in order to build the all important endurance component of your training program - “Before you can run fast, first you must run slow”. And slow literally means slow, generally no more than 65% of your maximum heart rate and preferably 55-60% and certainly NEVER over 70%. If your maximum heart rate is 200, that means your heart rate during your endurance runs should be no more than 120-130 beats per minute and you should never get over 140! For some people this pace will feel like walking!

(Don’t know your maximum heart rate? A rough rule of thumb is 220 minus your age, but that is only a ball park figure. And I am getting ahead of myself)

The rule of thumb in regards to pace - without a heart rate monitor - is that you should be able to carry on a conversation and speak full sentences without needing to pause to catch your breath. If you can’t carry on a conversation you are going too fast!

In terms of training volume, the endurance component takes up to 80%, that’s right, 80% of the running that you do. In this program, the Sunday endurance run serves several purposes, one is to get your body used to the idea of the time and distance required to cover a half or full marathon. The other is to bring about the actual physiological changes in your body and your metabolism that will transform you into an endurance athlete. 

When you run at 65% of your maximum heart rate or lower for an extended period of time, a series of extraordinary changes will take place in your body. Your cells will increase the actual number of mitochondria (your cellular power generators) present within the cells by as much as 100%, effectively doubling their ability to burn fuel. At 60% effort your body will increase the number of capillaries in your cardiovascular system by as much as 40%. This will allow you greater delivery of oxygen to your muscles and an increased capacity to get rid of waste products produced while you are running. One of the best ways to spot a long time endurance athlete is to check their vascularity (veins, baby, veins!). At 60% effort your body will increase its ability to consume oxygen (Max VO2). At 60% effort your body will burn 5% glycogen and 95% body fat as a fuel source. As you increase your effort, your body rapidly switches from burning body fat to burning glycogen. As an endurance athlete you want to increase your bodies ability to utilize fat as a source of fuel because of simple arithmetic. Most of us only have the ability to carry less than two hours of fuel for running in the form of glycogen - stored in our blood and in our livers. If our bodies are utilizing our body fat as we run, within reason you can run indefinitely! 

Once you are running past 70% effort you have effectively negated all these aspects of your endurance training.

The other consequence of going too fast during endurance runs is the old domino theory. The rule of thumb is that for endurance athletes it takes approximately one day to recover from every mile run at race pace. In our program we follow every endurance run with a recovery day. That day is followed by a strength or hill workout. If you run too fast during an endurance run, particularly when your weekly mileage is getting up there, you will not be recovered in time to get the maximum benefits from the other components of your training program. Just like falling dominoes, going too fast on an endurance run negates the benefits of the endurance run, which prolongs your recovery, which negates the benefits of the other training runs during the week…

So by running too fast during the endurance run, you effectively become a slower runner! Remember, “Before you can run fast, first you must run slow”

I used to do my endurance runs at 70-75% effort and beyond. Before I got a heart rate monitor I had no way of knowing exactly what my level of effort was. In addition, I was close to forty AND I was overweight. The consequence of this approach to my training was that I trained for two marathons where I did not even reach the start line because of injuries brought about by overtraining. I did not start and finish my first marathon until someone gave me a heart rate monitor for Christmas.

As you run more half and full marathons you will begin to look at the results. Did you make your goal time? Did you finish with a negative split (the second half of the race slightly faster than the first half)? Did you feel strong all the way through the race? Bonking, or hitting the wall three quarters of the way through a race is usually indicative of two things – going out too fast in the beginning and not properly pacing yourself, or your endurance training was inadequate to prepare you for the full distance of the race.


Typically hill and interval training only make up 10% (imagine that!) of an endurance athletes training volume. But what a ten percent it is. Once again, for new endurance athletes, knowing the level of effort or the pacing they should be at can be a problem. Hill workouts and intervals are short one, two and three minute spurts of hard effort that are followed by a period of recovery and then we repeat the process until nauseous (just kidding, but not really). The idea is to stress your body and recover and then stress it again. Over time you should become progressively stronger and faster. The rule of thumb in terms of effort is that you should not be able to speak without have to pause to catch your breath – gasp- between – gasp – words. If you can carry on a pleasant conversation during hill training you are not running hard enough.

Typically, by the end of a hill or speed work out, you should be seeing 90-95% of your maximum heart rate. 

During tempo runs training, which is a sustained effort for 30-35 minutes just below your lactate threshold (where your body switches from aerobic to anaerobic) your heart will be somewhere between 78 – 85% of your maximum.

Many beginning endurance runners find it difficult to give their best efforts during hill and speed workouts because they are often struggling to fully recover from going too fast during their endurance runs.

The only way to get stronger and faster during speed and hill workouts is to push the limits of your ability. That stress will cause your body to get stronger during the recovery and rest phase of your training. Stress and recovery, stress and recovery. Each week you get a little bit faster and a little bit stronger. 

This is the component of your training where faster is better, but it must be controlled speed.

I was never able to get the full benefits out of my hill training until I started going slower in my endurance runs. Before that, I was often too tired and I would need two or even three days to recover instead of just a single day.

The advantage of having a heart rate monitor is that on those days where I don’t feel a hundred percent my monitor will tell me that I have a little bit more to give…


Learning to run at race pace. Boy is that a mouthful! After nine marathons I am still struggling to learn to find a pace that I can carry through an entire 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon and Ultra Marathon. How fast is fast enough? Less important if you are running to finish, but crucial if you are trying to make a time.

This is the great thing about endurance running. Half Marathons and beyond are about the careful management of scarce physical resources.

Ideally, you want to cross the finish line with nothing left in your gas tank. The flip side of that is that you don’t want to be stuck by the side of the road a mile from the finish line sucking on fumes!

Research in the USA showed that 65% of the runners said that they would run the marathon faster than they really did, and worse, 15% of the first time marathoners and 8% of the second time marathoners made a mistake of more than one hour. On the other hand, experienced runners can predict their marathon time to within a few minutes. One of the best places to go to find out what pace is realistic for you –

Out of nine marathons I have run three negative splits and bonked three times, the other three marathon, two of them I was in combat boots and a kilt and in the third I was recovering from a broken ankle.

Although I bonked in my last marathon I have run three personal bests in a row.


Feel the love of the pack. Being a Pace Group Leader is a lot more difficult that it looks. No, really! Help your Pace Group Leader make the runs an enjoyable experience for everyone.

You should NEVER be in front of a Pace Group Leader. It’s simply bad manners. And it throws off the pace of the entire group and the Pace Group Leader. If you feel really strong one day, be disciplined. Save it for your next speed workout.

Other training runs are different. During hill and speed workouts, get outside your comfort zone. These are training days when you can - “Lets the dogs out to run!” Feel the need for speed? Run hard. Then run harder!

When running with a Pace Group it’s important to remember that you are there to reap the benefits and rewards of running with a group. Just like there is no “I” in Team, there should be no individual goals in a Sunday Endurance run. Sunday morning is like going to church. Be on your best behavior. There will days when you feel awful where you will be grateful for the support and love of the pack.

Nor should you be crowding the front of the pack or the sidewalk. 

Don’t forget to remember that we share our running routes with others. Be a good citizen. Be polite and others will be polite to us.

Keep an eye out for dogs, bicycles, obstacles and especially older pedestrians. Suddenly have a pack of sweaty, crazed lumbering runners appear out of nowhere can be frightening experience.

It took me a couple of clinics and being a Pace Group Leader myself before I realized just how difficult it is to maintain a steady pace.


Simple, straightforward, and easy to do. Any run longer than 10K and you should have a water belt. This is not rocket science.

In hot weather, running without water can be dangerous. And yet every clinic I see people without water on long runs who tell me that they “never” run with water. You can’t always count on water fountains, and unlike the race, there will not be volunteers handing out Dixie cups along the training runs.

Confession – See #6


Once are approaching the two hour mark in your training runs your body is reaching the end of its glycogen reserves. 

And even when your body is mostly burning body fat as fuel it needs glycogen to metabolize body fat. Think of glycogen as the pilot light that allows your body’s furnace to burn fat. It is absolutely critical to maintain your glycogen levels and crucial to your success in your training runs and your races.

I know most Gels and many electrolytes taste terrible. Use your training to find the most palatable ones you can stomach. Try cutting up Power Bars into mouth size bites.

It will take time for your body to get used to Gels, so do it in training and not in your race. You need to start “gel-ing” before the first hour is up and every forty minutes after that. You can also mix gels with water and take a small mouthful at every walk break.

Confession – I did my first 32K run without a water bottle, no Gels and no electrolytes. And I did it in 3:02. I ran the last 10K with water in a cup from Starbucks. Neil Wakeline took pity on me and bought me a power bar and a Gatorade at a gas station. I never did THAT again! Plus, it took me almost two weeks to recover from what SHOULD have been a training run.


You will feel much, much better and certainly stronger if you eat 400-500 calories of complex carbs before a long run. I notice better training results if I eat two hours before every run.

Training is the time to find the foods that agree with you before a run and is preparation for your meal before your race.

Because of the volume of training in doing a half and a full marathon, it is not a bad idea to keep track of your protein consumption.

Food is just as important as rest for recovery.

Confession – I have run 32K without breakfast and after having had two and a half bottles of red wine the night before. Not recommended.


The best way to maintain your running form and technique in the latter stages of a race is to have an upper body and a core that is as fit as your legs and your lungs and your heart.

Strengthening your core can help alleviate some injuries, and lessen your chances of getting injured.

Cross training is also a way to use different muscles and not burn yourself out with too many miles of exclusively running.

But you can go overboard. In one marathon clinic I became obsessed with hill training. I did the Grouse Grind every Saturday before the long run on Sunday. Yes, this was a prelude to one of the marathons where I bonked.

And four weeks before your race, concentrate on running and taper off your cross training. (Yes, I have made the mistake of cross training right up until the week of a marathon….)


Recover, recover, recover. Rest, rest, rest! 

Resting and recovering are training days. You must allow your body to recover from the stress of training. You are not being lazy by taking a day off. Your body is rebuilding itself, getting stronger and faster. That means that rest days are for resting, not junk miles and certainly not other vigorous forms of cross-training.

Rough rule of thumb. You may need an additional recovery day in your training schedule for every decade you are over forty.

If you are feeling run down, do not be afraid to take a day off.

Do not think you can run through an injury.

Do not be afraid to drop down a pace group or two if you are injured or tired. Your body is trying to tell you something. Listen to it. YOU WILL NOT LOSE ANY TRAINING BENEFITS BY DOING AN ENDURANCE RUN A HALF AN HOUR SLOWER OR EVEN AN HOUR SLOWER THAN YOU WOULD USUALLY!


Don’t miss the forest because all you can see are the trees. 

We are incredibly blessed to be able to run and to be able to run in Vancouver.

I really do consider my Sunday morning runs as going to Church. It is about as devout as I am ever going to get.

In your running and racing, try not to get obsessed with time. Goals are laudable and important to have. But don’t let them take over your life or overshadow your other achievements.

My first marathon was in Vancouver in the Spring of 2002. My goal was to beat four hours because I'd heard that Oprah Winfrey had run HER first marathon in four hours. I was gutted when I staggered across the finish in 4:06:09. (don’t get me started on the line-ups for the Porta Potties or the lady who took five freakin’ minutes to do her business!)

I thought I'd been beaten by Oprah, and foolishly, I allowed the thrill of finishing my first marathon to be diminished by missing my time goal by a mere six minutes and nine seconds.

About three weeks later a friend of mine had rightly had enough and said, “Vince, you just ran a marathon.” Like I said earlier, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer and it was only then that it dawned on me that finishing a marathon at all was not a bad achievement in and of itself.

I didn't realize JUST how foolish I’d been until nearly a year later, when bitterly whining to a running buddy, who filled me in correctly, that Oprah had actually run her marathon in 4:29:20, which is still quite a feat.


I have to add this final comment. Technically, it doesn’t fall under the category of making a mistake, but I think you’re crazy if you don’t do it.

Training for a half or full marathon is going to consume at least 16 weeks of your life, untold hours of time, and you are going to spend several hundreds of dollars on runners, spandex, lycra and other technical gear, gels, water bottles, entry fees and other assorted goodies that you can not ever imagine running a race without. If you become a lifestyle runner and do this year in and year out you will spend thousands and thousands of dollars on your obsession.

BUY A HEART RATE MONITOR! It will be the single best investment you ever make in your running endeavors.