Monday, April 28

Marathon Training Programs

Last week, after sharing some thoughts with Thomas and Rob about training I started to reflect on my own marathon preparation, specifically the 2006/07 season. My musings further intensified following a conversation with Brad about his recent race in Boston.

How do you adjust your training to compensate for legs cramps that systematically hit you at 32km? How much recovery is required during a 12-week marathon build? What is an adequate combination of endurance and intensity? And, in and attempt to avoid being insane (expecting a different result with the same preparation) how do you go about building from one marathon to the next?

How should you approach training for a marathon?

I’m not a trainer nor do I espouse the teachings from one specific coach but I’ve messed around with training enough to come up with a long catalog of mistakes and a much shorter list of guidelines that work for me:

(1) I need scheduled recovery, if not for my physical wellbeing at least for me mental sanity. While training under Wynn Gmitroski we would take one day off a week (Monday), two days on recovery weeks (Monday & Friday).

(2) I respond well to volume… for a while, I’m guessing around 6-7 weeks. Had you asked me yesterday I would have told you that my previous coach had gradually built upon each marathon and increased my volume. After some recent analysis (see graph), I realize this not to be the case. Total planned running for the 12-weeks as follows: Ottawa 2006 5,145km, Sacramento 2006 5,165km & London 2007 5,895km. What I find interesting is that Ottawa and Sacramento are almost similar but with most of the mileage for Sacramento in the latter half. Perhaps this helps prevent over training?

(3) When cycling my weeks I respond well, particularly during high volume, to a 2:1 ratio (two weeks hard, one week easy).

(4) My 200m-800m times can be misleading, as I’m relatively fleet footed over the shorter distances... I fall to pieces during longer intervals, e.g., 2-mile repeats. If you need to boost your confidence play to your strengths, if you want to run faster, don’t shy away from your weaknesses.

(5) As much as I’ve tried to convince myself otherwise, I don’t run well in the heat. To compensate I take salt packages the day before the race (I rediscovered this after London, 2007). I’ve also drawn on experience gained during some ultra marathons and have taken to carrying a water bottle (complete with 2 GUs) for the first hour of a marathon. Not only am I hydrated but I don’t have to fight for a cup at aid stations. This was first attempted this during Sacramento, 2006 where I ran 2:40:19, my current PB.

(6) When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves - Victor Frankl

Monday: day off (scheduled)
Tuesday: hilly but soft 1:19:36 with 4xstrides

Sunday, April 27

Times Colonist 2008 10k

It wasn’t pleasant. Still, I ran better than I feared under near perfect conditions and for that I’m thankful. If nothing else I ran a PB as a father, which must count for something?

Ally and babe had hoped to cheer me on but after a late night/early morning, I was lucky to make it to the race myself. Despite the 10,000+ participants I didn’t have any trouble finding parking and after a short break at Starbuck’s I headed into Beacon Hill Park to begin my usual warm-up routine: 20’ with 4’ tempo - I try to finish about 20’ prior to the start so that I can stretch and relax.

The race start is tight with everyone funneling down a slight grade prior to a sharp right hand turn. This year wasn’t any exception as I had my heals clipped twice during the first 200m.

My plan, which was loose, was to aim for 3:30/km and assess how I felt midway. I settled into a nice group with Marilyn and Walter and despite trying to bridge-up several times during the race I couldn’t close any ground.

Walter and Marilyn slipped back on a hill about 5k but I managed to close the gap on a lone solider in no man’s land and we worked together over the final 4k. All things considered, I’m happy with the race which translates into a 2:45:29 marathon. My (running) priority over the four weeks is to a) maintain some consistency and b) tuck a few longer runs under my belt. Results here.

3:30, 3:26, 3:30, 3:34, 3:35 (17:35)
3:43, 3:40, 3:27, 3:38, 3:28 (17:56)

Congratulations to Seamus who ran a solid race despite lacking any strength and still finished second with a time of 30:36! Oh, and this is Isla (day #1), I’ll try and post a few more in the next day or two.

Training: 1:21:17 with Times Colonist 10k 35:31, 45th OA, 8th AG

Saturday, April 26

Pre race considerations

It’s the night before my first race in what feels like months and I’m absolutely knackered. I’m happy mind you, I managed to play around in the yard today (planted a rhododendron and some else), snuck in a light jog and even managed to visit with friends. Still, what I wouldn’t kill for an extra few hours. The race start is going to roll around far too quick which means my alarm clock… it’s going to be dreadful.

I still haven’t decided how I’m going to tackle the race. I know I’m not in half the shape I’d like to be and as such I was contemplating toeing the line in board shorts and a cotton t-shirt, that was until I picked up my race number. It’s seems someone out there (Bob/Sylvan) has shown some heart and decided to put we with the elites, #40. I don’t dare disrespect the race which means tomorrow is going to hurt.

Friday: easy 39:27 with 4xstrides
Saturday: easy 30:36 with 4xstrides

Thursday, April 24


I’ve been had, hoodwinked, lulled into a false sense of security. It started innocently enough; it always does with these stories doesn’t it? It’s the subsequent events that hold the details, where theory is tested and subsequently all bets are off.

After almost a week in the NICU, we were ecstatic to bring Isla home with us yesterday. Leaving the hospital parking lot, I remember feeling confident. With a grin on my face and both girls secure in the car, I turned right onto Watkiss Way and couldn’t have been happier.

The beginning was easy, a change of diaper, breastfeeding; this wasn’t so bad. That evening we took advantage of a quiet house and watched a video, even shared a pint. It’s here that they have you, you believe that you know what you’re doing and that your child is different. It’s here that the first snowflake turns into an avalanche of late night exhaustion (and I was the fortunate one).

Wednesday morning I was fit, smooth and positive, that afternoon couldn’t have been more different. I was running late on time (and energy) and after a short warm-up launched into a series of 1-k repeats on a marked section of the Lochside Trail. I was aiming to run 3:20-3:23, the results speak for themselves (downhill, uphill):

3:18, 3:20,
3:18, 3:26,
3:22, 3:32

I’m proud of myself for finishing the workout given that I contemplated stopping after three and recall having convinced myself not to continue after five. Still, crawling back to the house that evening I felt slow, uninspired and ruined. To make matters worse, this weekend I’m supposed to participate in a race, the Times Colonist 10-k (the second largest 10-k in Canada). From my perspective, the event has TRAIN WRECK written all over it. A few months ago I would’ve settled for nothing less than 34:18, today though, I’m looking to run sub 36:00 which supposedly translates into a sub 2h50 marathon (assuming you can squeeze in a few longer runs).

Thanks for all the comments, photos soon.

Tuesday: hilly 1:09:06
Wednesday: A.M. easy 40:09, P.M. 55:51 with 6x1-k (2’)
Thursday: easy 40:28

Monday, April 21


“Every child begins the world again...” – Henry David Thoreau

Wow, becoming a father is like nothing I ever expected and all of it better. I can’t begin to put into words the feeling that wells up inside when I catch myself reflecting on recent events; I think intense jubilation best sums it up.

Ally returned home from the hospital this evening and is recovering well. Pregnancy suited her and she continues to carry a cheerful smile.

Isla has figured out feeding and when not sleeps contently. She has spent the last two days in the special care nursery and with some luck, we’ll be taking her home on Thursday morning (pictures soon).

I had hoped to get out for a longer run this morning but my heart wasn’t there. I headed out on our hilly 10-mile loop and then looped around the lakes. I felt smooth and strong but after about 1h20 the temperature dropped and I found all the reason I needed to return home early. I had hoped to log the second of my scheduled 2h40 jaunts, but having missed both now I’m going to have to adjust my training (again).

Saturday: day off (unscheduled)
Sunday: hilly 46:30
Monday: 2:03:14 with 4-mile tempo

Friday, April 18

New Beginnings

“Mighty things from small beginnings grow” – John Dryden

The last 24 hours has been a complete whirlwind. On a very sad note, Ally’s mom passed away yesterday. She had been struggling the last few days and as sad as it was to see her go, she is in a much more peaceful place.

Today though couldn’t have been more different. The first contraction started at 4:30 this morning; six hours later Isla Aoibhinn was born. Ally achieved rock star status during the delivery (both babe and mom are fine).

More later…

Thursday: 1:47:20 with 25’ tempo (5’), 20’ tempo (4’), 15’ tempo (3’), 10’ tempo (2’), 5’ tempo
Friday: day off (unscheduled)

Wednesday, April 16


It has been a welcomed quite and relaxing evening. I’m sitting here now with a wee dram of Grant’s savoring a “deliciously complex, long, smooth taste” that I’ve come to love.

A few weeks ago, after getting sick on the heels of a near 100 mile week I decided (Seamus don’t shoot me) to revise my current training program. It wasn’t so much that I changed it, but I rather made an alternate version to accommodate for any lack of sleep, energy, desire or speed. As an example, rather than run a 50’ tempo, I might opt to choose 4x10’ tempo (2’).

So, given that I ran my long run on Monday I’ve been trying to decided where to compensate for the loss of a day. Yesterday was simple, I was tired and my feet hurt, it was 25’ or nothing. Today though, after consulting the schedules my decision wasn’t any easier as I had planned the same for both: Tuesday 90” with 6xstrides, and Wednesday 60’ easy… I compromised and headed into Mt. Doug for a soul rejuvenating jaunt.

To Seamus, Marilyn, Hicham and everyone else racing the Sun Run this weekend (a 10k race in Vancouver which as of Tuesday had 54,000+ registered participants) remember this quote from Pre, “Something inside of me just said 'Hey, wait a minute, I want to beat him,' and I just took off."

Yup, still waiting.

Training: hilly 1:09:25

Tuesday, April 15


Ally and I had to make it to the doctor on short notice last night (everyone is fine), which meant I was out the door and shuffling along the Lochside Trail two hours later than usual. With my stomach starting to eat itself, and flat legs owing to yesterday’s workout I started slowly and eventually wound things up to a blistering 7:23 mile/pace.

With Boston just over four days away, and me on the other side of the continent, I’ll be living vicariously through Brad and Mike this year. All the best guys and good luck!

I’ll leave you with the lyrics from one of my favourite Norah Jones’ songs, “He may move slow,but that don't mean he's going nowhere”.

Training: easy 25:50

Monday, April 14

Lessons Learned

The History
[spring 1995 and it was my first season as a triathlete; my early season goal was marathon, followed by a slow four-month build to Ironman Canada in late August]

It was Tuesday, May 2, six days before my second ever marathon. A friend, Norm, told me a bunch of guys were going for a ride that morning and wanted to know if I was interested. As I was racing the marathon that weekend, I told him I was game as long as the ride was no longer than 2h. I never trusted Norm again.

Bringing only one water bottle and no food, and in the company of strangers, I returned home after a 5h07 (143km) ride completely spent. That Sunday (and I quote), “Ran with Malcolm, paced at around 5’/km, split in 1:42:XX, felt good. From 21-34 paced 5’/km, steady, then progressively picked it up, felt fantastic, good kick – 3:22:02”. Not one to stay down, the following Sunday I rode back out to Jordon River, the same 143km passing in 4h42.

The Present
Not being able to run on the weekend, this afternoon I was given a get-out-of-jail-free card and after work took the opportunity to sneak out for a long(er) run. Again, not wanting to stay down, I reacquainted myself with the scene of last Thursday’s debacle. It was Karl Marx who said, “The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain”, tonight I wound it up.

Ally continues to be a star, displaying only the patience of Job. On a sad note, her mom was checked into palliative care this afternoon…

Sunday: day off (unscheduled)
Monday: 2:20:08 with 55’ easy + 10x30” (30”) + 40’ MP (5’) + 15’ MP (5’) + 5’ MP

Saturday, April 12

Sans Shirt

With the temperature today 7C warmer than it has been all year I eagerly anticipated getting out for an enjoyable jaunt. Still, anticipation gets you only so far and it wasn't until later in the afternoon that I was able to squeak out for a short run. Legs felt okay but that was probably because I was pushing the pace harder than I should've.

Still waiting...

Training: 45:55 with 4xstrides (1')

Friday, April 11


With the day hinging around one of two phone calls, I reluctantly got up early and was out the door far sooner than I would’ve liked. Although the legs were heavy or perhaps groggy due to the early hour, I was surprised that they weren’t sore from yesterday’s effort. I’ll take my blessing in whatever form they come.

I strolled down the Lochside Trail with the birds beginning to wake and the sun casting it’s golden rays upon a quiet dawn. Since moving to this neck-of-the-wood in October, I don’t know that I’ve ever had an early morning run that wasn’t in complete darkness. I welcome the change. Better yet, after moving the lawn this afternoon I treated myself to a rare midday Speckled Hen.

For better or worse, we didn’t receive either phone call today.

Training: easy 27:11 with 4xstrides

Thursday, April 10


“Like a bag of smashed assholes”

I feel fucking shattered. It all started a few days ago when Hicham asked me if I was interested in joining him for the Thursday night 10-miler with
Paul O'Callaghan’s group. As I had originally slated a 50’ tempo, I thought this would be a good opportunity to run with the group (an invitation that had been extended on numerous occasions).

The first two miles were relatively uneventful. I was familiar with that portion of the route, and although it was undulating, I felt controlled and comfortable. It was shortly after the two-mile marker that the road went skyward and I, despite my resolve, went backward.

I had my ass handed to me on a silver platter this evening.

Hicham left me around the 4-mile marker, with Kevin and
Marilyn catching me at the turnaround. I tried to stay with them but without strength in my legs, I lost huge chucks of time over the smallest rises. The run is a mountainous monstrosity.

Being seriously gapped and running only on vapors I decided to shut it down after 50’ and hobbled back to the start. It was during the cool down that I seriously questioned my resolve to continue with the marathon training. My only consolation was Marilyn informing me that it took her three attempts to adjust to the run, and that she questioned whether the workout had any value whatsoever after her first effort. I couldn’t agree more.

Wednesday: easy/hilly 43:08
Thursday: 1:13:38 with 50’ tempo

Tuesday, April 8


After being ill for five days I knew I was on the mend when this morning I started daydreaming about running. Looking back, I'm not sure what triggered the event, but as I was eating my breakfast I started to reminisce about the preparation I did for London. Moments later, I was at the computer flicking through photos that Carter and I took, post-race, as we went for a celebratory pub-crawl of sorts.

My return to running this afternoon couldn’t have been more welcomed and the weather cooperated. It must have been only seconds after leaving the house that I ran into a drenching wall of drizzle, that proceeded to keep me company as I weaved my way through Mt. Doug. During the last few kilometers, I remembered that I had scheduled some strides and was surprised at the snap in my legs. Upon returning home, my legs were covered with mud, my heart was pounding and I had a huge grin on my face.

Training: undulating 1:13:03 with 6xstrides

Monday, April 7

Luxury Removed

Today I felt markedly better than I did yesterday, so much so that I contemplated running. I didn’t.

Me not running even confused Ally as while preparing dinner she inquired, “Aren’t you going out for a run?”

“No it’s Monday, I don’t run on Mondays”

“Yeah, but I thought you might try and make up for yesterday”, if only she knew.

This morning I was reflecting on my season, what little has transpired, and trying to pull the framework out from the mist. I’m happy thus far, and should be as I set two personal bests and it’s only April. Still, with me wanting to run Boston next spring I was disheartened to find that the qualifying window begins on September 29, 2007. This is unfortunate as I was hoping to use my 2:45:09 from last year, May 27, last year. This means that should I run Ottawa this year, I don’t have the complete luxury of enjoying a gentle stroll down the Rideau Canal. Currently, I’d be happy to run 2h50, we’ll see.

I now wish I’d run today.

Yup, still waiting…

Training: day off (scheduled)

Sunday, April 6

Best Laid Plans

On Friday I felt like absolute shite. A low level cold that had been lurking in the shadows decided to show itself in force and consequently sap a disproportionate amount of my energy leaving me drained, sore and feeling sorry for myself.

I watched my only window of opportunity to run pass by and didn’t care. I went to inform Ally of this and 20’ later found myself jogging down the Lochside Trail wondering how I would adjust for missing the scheduled 6x1k. With the legs lethargic, I decided on some speed work and if nothing else wanted to give myself something to feel sorry for. I ran surprisingly well. My lungs seared.

Yesterday, I was out with the clinic for a great run from Mattick’s Farm, down the peninsula, over Bear Hill and back around Elk Lake. With the pace effortless, I was lulled into a false sense of wellbeing and decided on calling Carter to keep me company this morning. I’m glad he had other plans.

I woke today feeling worse than I did on Friday. Still, with the sun peaking out between the clouds and the temperature still uncharacteristically cold, I set out determined to run 2h40. It was while running through Bow Park, passing the 40’ mark that I questioned my resolve to continue for another 2h. My tenacity was first-class but something else made me second-guess myself and rather than continue into Mt. Doug, I veered west and was home moments later. Missing the run makes me question my resolve to run Ottawa, if it wasn’t for my wanting to run Boston next year.

After a two-hour nap I salvaged something from the day as Ally and I planted out first vegetable garden – beets, onions, radishes, kale, rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley.

Still waiting…

Friday: 42:53 with 10x1’ hard (1’)
Saturday: easy 2:09:41
Sunday: easy 52:05

Friday, April 4

A Night Off

There was some work that I had committed to finishing yesterday and as such, I dragged my less than enthusiastic butt to the office. Two hours later, I had everything nicely wrapped up and out the door, and was minutes away from going home when I received that dreaded email.

“Mike, the presentation you prepared is on the agenda for 1:00, see you then”

What was happening, I was told one of the Executive Directors would be giving the presentation? A few hours later, I was leading an inspiring discussion on financial statement presentation with all the CFOs on board.

Although I didn’t get to rest as much as I would’ve liked yesterday, I did take some of my own advice (done rarely) and decided not to run, but alternatively exchanged it hour a 90’ nap.

Training: day off (unscheduled)

Wednesday, April 2

Under the Weather

I’ve been feeling exhausted the last few days and today was no exception, only this morning I woke up with a throat that was sore… definitely not what I need at the moment. I decided to remedy that situation, and picked up a packet of Fisherman’s Friends on the way to work. They helped.

When it came to running this evening I had considered tacking on an additional 30’ to make up for yesterday’s shortfall, after two trips up Mount Doug and a stitch on my left side I dragged my sorry ass home pleased only to make today’s goal.

This evening then we began round #2 in our 80’s flashback. Last week, in an attempt to escape the present, I rented Goonies, E.T, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, it was brilliant. As I sit here typing, Ally has Some Kind of Wonderful paused (tomorrow it’s either Romancing the Stone or The Breakfast Club).

Still waiting…

Training: hilly 1:02:03

Tuesday, April 1

Roller Coaster

The baby hasn’t arrived and I’m already tired, this doesn’t bode well.

The last 48 hours have been an emotional roller coaster of my own making that has left me disappointed, tired and fretful. I was excited but I’m reserving what little excess energy I have for later.

It all starts Sunday evening when Ally thought she was experiencing contractions. These sensations didn’t last longer than 30’ but they thrust my imagination into overdrive, taking me on a whirlwind ride of what ifs and holy cows, all the while questioning whether I was ready. I can now unequivocally say, “I was ready”.

Fast-forward 24 hours and Ally was once again experiencing some unfamiliar sensations, this time though they were more regular and stronger. I thought for sure this was it. We even went for a gentle stroll along the Lochside trail to start the ball rolling, Ally walking like C3PO after he was reassembled by Chewbacca, and me babbling on about the serendipitous series of events that has taken us to this fortunate moment. I was ready to meet this girl, I wanted to have our first conversation. I was excited.

We returned home, the sensations immediately stopped, and Ally went to bed. Today, we have nothing, not even a remote, tiny, inconsequential little tightening. I’m not a patient person.

Needless to say, after two restless nighst I’m left with a weary body and a low level of enthusiasm. If it wasn’t for my brother-in-law needing to get into shape for Rapattack I question whether I would have run. Actually that’s silly, I would have run, just slower.

Monday: day off (scheduled)
Tuesday: easy 59:58