Archive for the ‘Training advice’ Category

1 Weekend, 2 Personal Bests…

Quick summary: Saturday morning, OPG 5km run, won it again somehow, drove to Ottawa right afterwards.  Sunday morning, Army 1/2 marathon, set new personal best for the half.  Awesome weather all around!


Not so short version:

I signed up for my company 5km run at the last minute, thinking that it was ludicrous to run both the 5km and half marathon back-to-back on the same weekend.  I had signed up for the Army run months ago, and I’d be wasting my money because my time would undoubtedly be affected.  Or would it?  My well-experienced colleague says that it’s fine to do a high intensity run beforehand, just so long as it’s not an endurance run.

This turned out to be a very busy weekend indeed.

With our team speed training in my pocket, I felt confident about running a 5km distance, especially knowing that most of the competitive runners were doing the 10km distance.  When I got to the Sunnybrook Park start line on Saturday morning, I recognized many familiar faces from the combined Hydro companies.  Especially that of the girl who came in 2nd place behind me last year, and it was a very close second.  This year I had my work cut out for me, as she was indeed older now, and still about half my age.

We were off!  I strangely managed to lead the entire pack for a good distance, short of a kilometer.  I remember that I did the exact same thing the first time I ran this race, but I quickly faded within 30 seconds.  Thank goodness it was different this time.

The 5km people turn around at a 3km checkpoint whereas the 10km runners continue on.  Yes, I was the first one to turn around!  I saw the girl when I did the complete 180 turnaround and I was probably 15-20 seconds ahead.  I had trouble downing the water from the cups, and I probably lost a few seconds there.

From the checkpoint there was only 2km to go, yet I was feeling oddly aloof.  I bee lined towards the finish line feeling strong, and as I kept checking over my shoulder, I saw that she wasn’t really gaining on me.

1km to go.  Still, she was still a fair distance from me, so I started to slow down.  In the back of my mind, I knew that I still had my run tomorrow, so I didn’t want to overdo it.  As the finish line came into sight, I simply coasted across the finish line, but strangely enough, the clock timer was showing a stuck time of precisely 20:00 minutes!  Doh!

This OPG/Hydro One Fun Run is a very well funded race, especially because they ask for absolutely no participation fees.  We had chip timing for the first time ever this year, food and prizes for everyone, medals and trophies for the winners, and even draw prizes.  I guess their timer was just bugging out.  It started to work a little while after.

The girl came from behind me soon after and we exchanged pleasantries.  She stop watched her own time and said that she came in at 19:53, so I guess that I came in a little before that.  Wow!  Under 20 minutes.  I didn’t think that was possible for me.  My legs started to feel really tired at 3.5km.

As much as I wanted to stay for the awards ceremony, I had plans for dim sum with my parents and fiance, who came to support me for the race.  Then it was off to Ottawa almost immediately.

Hints for a better 5km:

  • More high-energy tempo runs between 3-5km will help with getting the legs used to it.


Army run race time!

Awesome shirt!  The expo was reportedly very small, but we got a wicked long sleeve shirt from the SWAG.  The weather was simply amazing.  The 5km runners started at 8am while the 1/2 started at 9am.  I had two friends running the 5km.

I positioned myself in the Orange Corral (3rd highest), and the gun went off!  I was armed with two GU gels, and I recalled the article I read earlier – the key to a fast half is to start slowly.  There were lots of people for this run, and I was stuck in a good pack for a kilometer or two.  This assisted with the slow start.

Far too many negative thoughts come into my head as I run.  “Did I do enough LSD’s?”, “Why are there so many kilometers in a half marathon?”, “Will my legs fail again at 18km?”  Sucks.  Daily and Weekly practice runs help to build with the mental confidence that comes with long distance running perils.

I continued to pass people 5-6 km in, and it was time to take my first half gel.  I’m still having trouble drinking fluids at the water station.  My laboured breathing is an apparent hinderance.

I make it to 10km feeling good.  The mental halfway hump between 10-11km is a great one to overcome for  the half marathon.  Only 10.55 more km past the hump!

I managed to keep my legs moving all the way through up until now.  The memories of my legs failing out at 18km for my last half marathon careen through my brain.  Rats.  At 11km, I ready my gel pack for another hit, but then it flies out of my hands!  I refuse to stop to retrieve it, as it is already several metres behind me, and it really kills my rhythm.  I still have a fresh gel pack, so I rip into that one and keep push on.

15km!  I’m starting to feel it more mentally than physically, but I think that my legs are affected either way.  I’m start to slow a bit, but I keep visions of Peky & her friends in my head because they promised to be able to cross my path at two points near the finish line.  I could not disappoint them.  I finish the rest of my gels at 17km and hope that it’s enough.

18km!  I’m nearly there.  If my legs weren’t tiring my now, then my brain certainly was.  3km is no easy feat when you’re tired, but I managed to persevere because I just passed by my personal cheering squad!  I feel an immediate boost.

We turn around the bend along the Rideau Canal, a place that I have run countless times before.  Yet, this is it really counts.  I finally pass by the 20km mark, and there’s no stopping now.  I am utterly surprised that my legs have kept moving all the way up until this point.  Many of my fellow runners were quickly chipping away at the final km at an increased pace and I tried to stay in the game.  I knew that the finish line would be in plain view soon, and I gave it all that I had.

BEEP.  My foot crossed the electronic mat and I…………..done!  The clock overhead showed that I finished at a good time.  I pray that my chip time would be much better.

I grab the post race eats and quickly find my cheering squad.  My fellow 5km runners both set personal bests as well (it was their first 5km run!), and shortly after, they helped me to find my time posted on the wall to be 1:34:52.6.  Yowee!!!  Sub 1:35:00!  Boston pace!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  My legs hate me for running two races in one weekend, but my brain is firing off proverbial fireworks to celebrate.  Now can I hold this pace for an entire 42.2km distance?  Probably not.  At least…not yet.  😛

So I went for a barefoot run…

It was not intentional in the slightest.  It was supposed to be a weekend of relaxation, so I decided to lace up one cool Friday evening to go for a brisk jog around my hood.

Off I went at my usual trotting pace, when just 400 metres later, I felt this shooting pain going down my right leg.  I immediately stopped and nursed my leg with my hands.  What was that??  I waited about a min to pass and I tried to run again.  It came back!  I had not felt this type of pain in a while.  It didn’t feel muscle, tendon, or bone related.  It was just…well…pain!  I repeated this several times and I was in no shape to run.  Then a crazy thought entered my mind.

I remember seeing an interview on TV about this barefoot runner who claimed that all of his aches, pains, and injuries was no longer existent thanks to running without shoes.  In fact, when he ran a full marathon, he passed by this gent who was in obvious pain.  And when the gent saw this, he followed suit and unlaced his shoes for the remainder of the run and managed to finish the marathon without any pain.

On this whim, on this night, I decided to try my hand at imitating insane notion and took my shoes and socks off to brave the bareness of the road and sidewalk that lay ahead of me.  With a shoe in each hand, I started off slow towards my home along Finch.

Slowly, slowly I went, with very soft feet.  What a strange and liberating feeling.  The sidewalk was not that smooth, but it wasn’t hurting either.  I remember reading that when you barefoot run, you have to change your running gait, so in turn, I did.  I ran on the balls of my feet (that sounds so funny), landing gently with every step.  I manged to move without the pain!  Amazing.

I made it back home within a few moments, and it was then I decided to drop my shoes off and try a full run feet bare and all!

It was late and dark at night, so I’d have to be careful about where I stepped.

I had more than a few “OW” moments, where I stepped directly on a large pebble or a twig that hid in the shadows.  Barefoot runners say that the greatest tools that you have are your eyeballs, because they help you steer clear of obstacles in your path.

I started to pick up my speed and although my breathing wasn’t heavy, I was able to run at a decent pace down the side streets in my neighbourhood.  I was barefoot running!  So crazy……..

Ew!  A dead squirrel.  I’d best avoid that even moreso now.

There are these special Vibram 5-finger shoes that many people swear by now.  I spoke to a girl at the Montreal Marathon who says that she strictly wears those shoes to run, and would never go back to runners.  Such conviction…

I was not liking the rough pavement or the pebbles that would make me jump every now and then, but I certainly was able to run.

I wonder what these barefoot runners do in the winter?

I did about 4km in my barefeet.  I headed home and donned my regular running shoes and went for another tempo run to see how I’d be feeling.  The pain in my leg was gone, but now the shoes I wore felt rather restricting.  It felt as though I was stepping in a canoe with the edges of my feet carrying the brunt of my weight.

Will I ever be a convert?  I’ll have to see…

Montreal Oasis 10km Run

Sacre Bleu!  Four 10km runners + one half-marathoner + Montreal Run Weekend = 5 personal bests!
The Labour day long weekend weather really threw us for a turn.  I got to Ottawa on Thursday night in the blistering heat and Friday was no better.  Peky & I went out for a last minute tune up run on Friday morning and the heat was really beating us down.  I could barely eek out a 6km tempo run, as I tried to simulate near my race pace.  Then on Saturday, the cold came.  Nice!
I had high hopes for Montreal to host a well-funded run.  It was platinum sponsored by Oasis, the fruit juice company.  When we got to the expo on Saturday, we were sorely disappointed by the number and quality of vendors.  Even the Running Room was absent!  Mon dieu!  The only saving grace was that the t-shirt co-ordinator was nice enough to let me exchange my medium t-shirt to a large size.  The tech shirts for the Montreal race are indeed nice.
10km start time: 8:45am
1/2 marathon start time: 10:15am
marathon start time: 8:15am
Interesting setup.  The course route has everyone merge along the same finish point in the Stadium de Olympique. 
Peky & I awoke bright and early and squeezed in a short warm-up jog towards the Charlevoix Metro station.  We arrived at the start line with good time, and I did my pre-race business at a nearby McDonald’s washroom.  Men in line: 2.  Women in line: 30.  😛
While waiting in line I quickly downed a GU roctane  about 15 minutes before the gun went off.  Peky did the same with a GU expresso love.  There were no corral dividers so I scurried near the front of the pack.  When 8:45am came around, it was time to allons-y!  The Sportstats chip counter recorded that my difference in gun and chip time was 1 min 17 seconds!  It really didn’t feel like that when I was revving myself up after the gun went off.  Either way, that bodes well for my chip time.  lol
My right shoe set off my chip recording time and I was off!  I purposely did not arm myself with my GPS watch as I find that checking my times either disheartens me or forces me to run at an ungodly pace.  I tired to rely on my own instincts. 
What the?!?!  There were old people using walking sticks ahead of me!  Parents pushing baby strollers!  Walkers even!!!  We need starting corrals!!!  Yargh!  When I finally reached a clearing in the masses of people, I tried to set out at a strong pace.  My breathing was already laboured but I felt as though I could hold it for a good long while.  I promised myself that if it started to feel too strenuous, then I would slow down my pace.
The first water station came at 3km, and I followed my previous advice by slowly down to a crawl to diligently down as much quality sports drink as I could.  I quickly sped up again and returned to my regular pace.  I don’t know how those elites do it, but they must have training sessions on how to drink fluids!
I passed 5km with a strong heart but so many thoughts were racing in my head.  More training.  More tempo training!  Why can’t I run faster??  I’d better beat my previous time!  The course route was not all that challenging, thank goodness.  We hit a handful of minor grade uphills, but it was compensated with some good downhills, where I let my legs flank the way. 
When I got to the 7km, I started to lose some steam with a long uphill ahead, but thank goodness I challenged myself by sticking to these two faster gents and literally drafted them the entire way.  I think that they were none too pleased having this heavy breathing asian stealing their wind away.  They were both giving each other looks as though I was not welcome to the tea party. 
When we finally reached the apex of the hill just before 8km, I felt a new surge of energy.  Hopefully it was the roctane!  I quickly passed the two gents and gave them a ‘sorry bout that’ hand wave, and they kindly returned the favour as to show good sportsmanship.  I started to pump my legs, hoping that they would carry me just 2000m more towards the finish line.  The Olympic Stadium was easily in sight. 
I downed my last water at the final water station and I gave it my best.  Our interval speed training immediately kicked in and I imagined myself chasing down the bright coloured red pylons, knocking back each interval.  Passing the 9km mark provided me with an immediate adrenalene rush as I pictured my GPS watch giving me the ‘final countdown’.  The final 800m was the best finish I ever had.  We rounded the corner into the majestic Olympic stadium and the crowds began to thicken.  There was a long massive downhill that led into the entrance of the stadium and I let my legs rip.  I’ll bet, though, that I was still not going anywhere near as fast as the elites, but I like to think that I did.  (Psh, as if.)
Once inside the stadium, the air was warm, and you could see the finish line in the distance once you finish the half lap around the outer rim of the stadium.  Burn baby burn!  I felt great.  Many in my running pack were following suit as we sped past the finish line in a great photo-like finish.  I looked up at the clock time and I was disappointed that I only finished below 44 minutes, as I was under the assumption that it only took me mere seconds to reach the start line.  Alas, the race as over!  I was happy.
The medals were very nice and so were the post-race snacks.  It was the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Marathon.  Another 20th anniversary!  Great coincidences.
I quickly booted over to the entrance of the Olympic Stadium to wait for Peky and Vi.  Surprisingly enough, it was Peky who came trotting in first!  I gave her my heartiest cheer and navigated my way back through the crowds to catch her after she crossed the finish line.  She was disheartened to report that she lost a chunk of time simply trying to get her shoe across the electronic finish line as there were so many people creating a bottleneck at the finish line.  Still, she finished with an incredible personal best, 6 minutes faster than her previous.  Leaving her former self nearly a full kilometre behind.
We both decided to wait for Vi at the finish line exit as we expected her to be coming up soon, and surely enough she did.  Her gun and chip time were 10 minutes apart!  Talk about relying on the chip time!  Her boyfriend’s time was an incredible 15 minutes apart.  The stereotypes about Montrealers may be true after all.  🙂
As we waited for Vi’s brother to come in on his first half marathon attempt, we were treated to the big full marathon finish and indeed it was!  The leading man from Columbia was overtaken at literally the last second by 0.3 seconds.  He literally collapsed near the end with dehydration.  The 10km finish seemed to be equally as riveting, as the stats show that the winner won by just 0.1 seconds!
In the end, five personal bests were set.  I walked away with a final chip time of 42:31 for my best 10km yet, Peky recorded her fastest time.  Vi and her boyfriend now have one notch under their belt, and the half marathoner…..well…..can barely walk today.  Good race weekend!


…here in London.  Which may have been the primary cause of my LSD demise.  My anticipated goal this weekend was 22-25km so as to taper down from my longer run two weekends ago.  Alas, there were too many factors working against me this weekend.

I struggled to make it to the first km.  I walked.  The second km.  I walked.  The third km.  I walked.  The fourth km.  I walked.  The fifth km.  I walked.  I wasn’t even 1/4 of the way to my planned distance and I was already hauling ass.  Now I know why I warm up so much before real races, as the elites do, because my legs need to get warm before they’re working at peak efficiency.  By the sixth km I was starting to feel better.  It was none other than my tired legs that were holding me back.  I took the first half of my GU gel at 7km and I managed to make it to 9km without walking.  It kicked in at that point, and I was happy that my body was starting to come alive.  It was no where near a solid run, but at least I was getting out of the funk.

The night before, I was given the floor to sleep on, in a sleeping bag atop a thin area carpet situated on top of hardwood flooring.  My back was aching throughout the night and I hopped onto the leather sofa at around 2am.  I finally got in touch with my fiance at 3am to make sure that she was ok, and at 4am, she called me back to tell me that she made it home.  I was utterly exhausted.  The sleeping bag provided little ventilation as well, so I was constantly covering up due to chills, and opening up the bag due to cold sweats.  Sleeping in a new and foreign setting takes a toll on your physical self.

I rolled out of bed at a late 9 a.m. and managed to get myself on the road in short time, as I wanted to avoid the afternoon sun.  I managed only to scarf down a peach right before I left, so I’m afraid that the lack of digested food really did me in as well. 

London has a really nice path that runs along a river, and my friend is fortunate to live so close to it.  It’s not as nice as the Rideau in Ottawa, but it’s nice enough.  Although I was lucky that I was protected by an overcast sky, the humidity compounded with the proximity to the lake made it yet another hellish and hot run.

The city of London is very small, especially through the eyes of any Torontonian.  I ended my run in St. Catherine’s Cathedral park, where they have a very nice ‘Queen’s Park’ish circular path that allows you to do nice intervals.  Seeing as how it was the end of my run, I decided to try as the professionals do, and run one final kilometer at my best pace, so as to utilize fast-twich muscles that I had not been using this whole time.  I wasn’t even able to get under 4:00:00.  WTF??  Damn elites!

In the end, I knocked out a paisely 17km, a sizeable chunk of it was probably due to walking.  Let it never be said that a good night’s sleep has no affect on performance.


Went to a friend’s condo yesterday.  Went swimming.  Man, I suck at swimming.

Track Intervals for Runners

Track Intervals for Runners

Running track intervals are extremely beneficial to runners. Interval training teaches the body how to run fast and the mind how to run through pain. These workouts are essential in developing the kind of leg turnover needed to race well. Here are a few pointers about track intervals.

Track intervals are essentially hill repeats on the track wherein you alternate fast repeats with rest periods. One day you might do a 8 X 200 workout with 2 minutes rest. This translates into doing 8 repeats of 200 meters (half a lap) with 2 minutes of rest in between each interval. Or you could do 12 X 400, which is 12 repeats of 400 meters (a full lap).

Common Types Of Interval Workouts:

Here are some bread and butter interval workouts for runners training for a 5k race. Keep in mind that your mileage for an interval workout should not greatly exceed your race distance.

14-16 X 200 meters
8-12 X 400 meters
6-8 X 800 meters
4-6 X 1000 meters
3-4 X 1 mile repeats

It is a good idea to mix up the interval distances during workouts to focus both on speed and endurance. This type of workout is called a “ladder.” A simple ladder workout for a 5k race would be: 400, 800, 1000, 1600, 600, 400, 200. The mileage for this workout is exactly 5k and it includes intervals that will work on a runner’s raw speed (200 and 400’s) and endurance (800 and above).

Resting In Between Repeats

The common wisdom is to rest two times as long as it takes to run the repeat. So if run a 400 in 70 seconds, rest 2 minutes 20 seconds. Now, “rest” does not mean you should stop moving! At least walk around. For a real challenge, try to jog in between each repeat. The workout will be more productive if you can make an interval workout a continuous run. This will make the workout much more difficult, but it will simulate what it feels like to run a race.

How Fast To Run Intervals

This really varies with age and talent. Generally, 1 mile intervals should average 10k race pace, 800 meter intervals should average 5k race pace, 400 meter intervals should be between 5k and mile race pace and 300 and 200 meter intervals should be run faster than mile race pace. Note that interval training should only be attempted after developing a fairly large base of fitness. You should run at least a month of quality base training (at least 20 miles a week) before attempting any interval training.

LSD + Hydration Pack = Great!

After copious amounts of research and sports store hopping, I finally settled on a hydration pack.

I was this close to going with the Camelbak Rogue (2.0L) at $90, as opposed to the skinnier Camelbak classic (1.5L) at $70, but after scouring through the racks at MEC, I dug up a great find with the Deuter Race X at $56.00.  It has plenty of space to carry the essentials, and I like the build quality.  Buying the bag separately from the bladder allowed me the option to buy a larger 3.0L camelbak water bladder for $35.  The way I see it, I can still fill it up to 2.0L if I want to have a lighter pack and still have the option of more.

Here’s the story of my inaugural run with the waterpack:

The route:

I didn’t plan on going far, so I eyeballed the bladder and filled it up to a decent volume.  I didn’t know how I would feel with the bag while running so I didn’t want to weigh myself down too much from the get go.

It was hot all day, so I chose to leave late 9pm on Sunday, hoping for better running conditions.  Turns out that I was reaching for the drinking tube very often, showing that it was still rather hot.  As this was an LSD, I tried to jog at a slow pace, and I slowed down to walk every so often.  I kept my stopwatch running the whole time instead of stopping it with each break.

I found the waterpack to be very comfortable to run with, with minimal bounce, and the drinking tube was so easy to drink from.  Each initial sip would be as warm as the temperature was, but the following water from the reservoir was nice and chilled.  I found the waist belt to be riding up too high across my belly, but I guess that can’t be helped as it is a smaller pack.

The only issue I have is with the way the tube hangs, so I have to find a way to finagle with it so that it doesn’t flap around as I run.  Andrea’s North Face system was equipped with a magnet attachment, which looks to be very practical.

When I made it to the entrance of Edwards Gardens along Lawrence, I was witness to a raccoon getting hit by an SUV, which kinda shook me up.

It was getting kinda dark by now, and by the time I got deep into the woods, my depth perception was all but nullified.  I was running virtually blind and every uneven bump on my path made my legs wobble.  I was about 12km by now, and my legs were starting to feel it.  Even though this was an LSD, I couldn’t help but run faster than I should’ve, as it was nearing 11pm and I had to work the next day.

I finally reached the street-lit area at Leslie & Eglinton, and it was time to beeline home.  My shirt was drenched with sweat, and my pack was hydrating me very consistently.  However…

All was going well until I hit 18km at Leslie & Sheppard – I went for a drink of water to prepare for the steep hill that lay ahead, but instead, all I got was opposing suction.  I WAS OUT OF WATER!!!  To top it off, I was still at the bottom of the chasm.  Screwed.

My legs were already sore, and without water to oil my joints, I was up the creek without a paddle.  I walked the rest of the way home.  I should have filled up the bladder more, knowing the conditions.  Hindsight.  It’s still 20/20.  In the end, the reason for the run was so squeeze in an LSD as well as try out how it feels to run with a water backpack.  It’s thumbs up all the way.

Things to remember for next time

  • Always carry the essentials: cell phone, tokens, food, gels.
  • It’s better to carry too much water than not enough.
  • Start the run earlier so you’re not so rushed to finish.
  • Work on increasing lactate threshold.  Lactic acid sucks.

Walking home really sucked, as it was about 5.0+ km to go back.  Even though I stopped by Bayview Village tennis club to freshen up (yes, they were still open at that time!…I used to work there when I was younger), I was in no mental shape to run any further.  It probably took me 45 minutes to walk home on sore legs.