Sunday, August 31


Our vacation in Great Britain continues to be enjoyable, sadly, and should I look at the big picture perhaps for the best, my running has taken a back seat. Still, I've managed to sneak out for a couple more runs.

Yesterday I went for what has been my most enjoyable run yet in the UK. I started in Shobdon and headed north through field after field of wheat or black currants (Ribena) before passing an ancient curch known as the Court and north still up through a set of arches built in 1158 +/- a year or two. From there it was along a short roadway to Easthampton after which it was back onto the fields before turning up a redicoulously steep trail that peaked in Shobdon Hill Wood and finally conecting with the Mortimer Trail. From here it was valley after valley of what looked liked the Shire which left me breathless. Only two things would've made this run better, good company (Rumon) or a pint at the finish.

As enjoyable as yesterday was, today was desperate and almost dreadful. After a large Ploughman's lunch that included a block of Stilton that would've cost > $10 back home, I decided to go out for a jaunt. Stupid. Needless to say my stomach was far from settled. My workout degraded into a long run which quickly tuned into survival and lastly just fresh air. The highlight though was catching sight of two gorgeous foxes playing in the corner of a field.

Tomorrow, Cornwall, as long as the car holds together... and I figure out the driving.

Saturday: hilly 58:45
Sunday: easy 29:26

Friday, August 29

Running in the UK

We arrived safe and sound after an uneventful flight where Isla was a star. After taking the red-eye and arriving bleary eyed and bushed, our friend met us at the airport and drove us to their place only four miles from the Welsh boarder. The last time I drove on the left was in rural Ireland two years ago and I think driving over here is going to take a bit of adjustment. Everyone seems to be in a rush and the number of lorries on the road is ridiculous, I've never seen anything like it.

I've managed to squeeze in a few runs which has been great fun! Yesterday I discovered some ancient arches at the top of an epic climb. Today I'm going to see if i can find the Mortimer Trail, a 30-mile regional trail that takes in all ridges and forests in the area. It's not that I haven't been able to find any trails, the nearest only 5 ft from the house, but making sense of them while avoiding fields of bullocks has been difficult. Our time here has been very enjoyable and the scenery absolutely breathtaking. We're here for a few more days and then we're off down to the Cornish coastal.

Yesterday we managed to enjoy a few sneaky pints and discovered a great local brew called Butty (?); Carter, Seamus, I was thinking of you two. More later, typing on this laptop is killing me.

Wednesday: day off (unscheduled)
Thursday: easy 45:11
Friday: 39:34 with 10' tempo

Tuesday, August 26

Mount Doug (hills)

Please excuse the brevity but the taxi is coming in less than 40’ and I still have to hop in the shower having just returned from a pre-plane run. Oh, and I hear the baby.

Yesterday I had what was probably one of my best workouts in months, perhaps even a year or more. I felt as if I broke free from a restrictive cocoon and now have only possibility in front of me. Granted I was nervous at the start of the session given last week’s slugfest, but the Gods were on my side, eith er that or it was the homemade sausages from Rumon.

For those of you who know Mount Doug, I made my way over to Whitaker and ran the dastardly steep sand hill for my 30” intervals. The forth one left me with my balls in my mouth while gasping for much needed air. And then the lactic acid. Feck!

I then jogged down toward the bottom of Whitaker and started the 1’ pieces. I timed, and then marked the first three after which I aimed for the literal line in the dirt. I almost stopped at six, and perhaps I should have. Nevertheless, after allowing an additional 10” recovery I launched into a seventh repeat, knees rising and arms pumping amazed to hit the top marker with 5” to spare. Epic.

After such a great w/o yesterday, I fully expected the pins to be throbbing today but it was not to be. The sun was shining, the birds busily preparing for fall and every step better than the last. I’ll try posting a bit from the UK, got to run, ciao!

Monday: 1:07:42 with 4x30” (2’) hills + 7x1’ (2’) hills
Tuesday: undulating 32:24

Sunday, August 24

London Calling (again)

No. I’m not doing the London Marathon again. What was it that Frank Shorter said, “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming.” Forgetting my 2007 London experience, will take longer than a year.

No. Ally, Isla and I are travelling to the UK for a family vacation. We’ve both been eagerly anticipating the trip for a variety of reasons. The missus wants to visit the Tower of London after reading every book possible on the Boleyn sisters. Me, I’m looking forward to running in the Brecon Beacons, along Cornwall’s coastal pathway and perhaps the odd trail on the outskirts on London (this time sans Rumon and hopefully bulls). And, perhaps I’ll have to see if I can’t find myself a quiet pub where I can enjoy a pint or two. Unfortunately, any structured training will be taking a back seat, just as it was getting started, but with some luck I hope to squeeze in a few jaunts.

For the adventurous out there, or anyone who wants to live vicariously through some crazed individuals, check out the husband and wife team of Rumon & Aviva Carter, competing in the upcoming TransRockies Run (TRR), a 6-day, 112-mile trail running stage race through the Colorado Rockies.

And Brad, yes, I, we, hope to come over for the BC Championships although I aim to run as a Master… you young ones are too quick.

Saturday: rolling 42:54 progression run
Sunday: day off (unscheduled)

Friday, August 22

Cedar Hill Golf Course

Although the pain wasn’t instantaneous, thank God for small miracles, the indifference and unresponsiveness in my legs was immediate.

I haven’t run any workouts at Cedar Hill Golf Course (CHGC) in years, and reacquainting myself with a session of tempo miles might not have been the best of ideas. The plan was simple, 4x mile with 1’ recovery. Having not raced in months I’m unsure of my current fitness but aimed (perhaps ambitiously) to hit somewhere between 6:00 – 6:05 mile/pace. Even if you take into account the rolling terrain and the bark mulch footing, I was hopelessly disappointed.

I met Hicham at the start of the upper loop and after a light warm-up we “eased” into the first mile. It was about the 1200m mark that I started to second-guess myself on competing in my first cross country season later this fall. What have I gotten myself into?

6:27, 6:16, 6:29 & 6:23

Hicham was a trooper and completed a fifth mile whereas I, after licking my wounds, decided to limp back home in anticipation of a cold beer.

Wednesday: easy 38:15
Thursday: 1:19:35 w/ 4x mile tempo (1’)
Friday: day off (unscheduled)

Tuesday, August 19

Managerial Experience

The large picture window to my left is open allowing a damp breeze to enter. I sit at the keyboard, write, and hear nothing but the incessant beating of the rain outside. It’s strangely comforting.

Getting out the door this evening required a disproportionate amount of energy that left me questioning my decision to head out. Whether the summer doldrums or otherwise, I turned down the street with the same determination I had when heading for detention. To make matters worse, rather than rolling through an easy jaunt I’d scheduled hills for this evening (my first session in months).

Oh joy.

I trudged along toward my spring stomping grounds, reacquainted myself with Maltwood and eased into the first interval. I was surprised at how long and painful an uphill minute can be on a concave hill.

Run. Gasp. Recover. Repeat.

After number six, I used the recovery to jog over to a terrific little hill circuit that I’d scoped out earlier. The shorter intervals took me almost to the peak of a very steep convex hill, after which a long curved gentle descent brought me back to the beginning. My fitness and or natural talent much more suited to the shorter repeats. Still, I ended the session earlier than planned, stopping while ahead and leaving the remaining two intervals for another day.

My current supervisor recently returned from Harvard where he was taking a course on governance, problem solving and negotiations. With me beginning a new job at the end of the month, he came into my office today and mumbled something about him passing on knowledge and books on managerial experience. Given his recent studies, his comment piqued my interest. I shook my head and laughed as he handed me two soft cover books and wished me well… 26 Miles to Boston and The Perfect Mile.

Monday: day off (scheduled)
Tuesday: 57:41 with 6x1’ (3’) + 6x30” (2’)

Sunday, August 17


He paced slowly. His hands already perched on his hips as he tried to bring his laboured breathing under control. Sweat poured down his face, tracing toward this chin before falling away into an abyss. In a city where winters are damp but mild, and summers are pleasantly warm at best, today brought the arrival weatherman trying to fry an egg on the pavement.

After a short reprieve he cautiously approached the kilometer marker prepared to tackle his final interval. He stood motionless, and then gradually, unapparent at first, he leaned forward, his legs compressing before driving ahead.

Although his turnover was quick, his gait looked uneven, rough, like a child hopping on a bike for the first ride of summer. He powered down the tree lined trail, branches from opposite sides joining overhead, his private passageway of pain. The next marker passes and then he slows, before circling back and coming to rest. He is bent over, his chest heaving as sweat continues to pour down as a smile, barely visible between gasps, begins to creep over his face.

[Without having performed a recent time trial or race I had little idea of my fitness. I hoped, perhaps unrealistically, that I could knock off a 36’ 10k and therefore aimed to split my repeats in 3:40-3:43.]

My times were as follows: 3:37, 3:40, 3:37, 3:40, 3:39, 3:41, 3:44 & 3:39


Thursday: 1:04:29 with 8x1k tempo (1’)
Friday: day off (unscheduled, took the long way home on the bike; Marc would be proud knowing I didn't wear red shorts)
Saturday: easy 2:46:27 with the clinic
Sunday: 1:01:08 with 8x(2' (1'), 1' (30"), 30") (30")

Thursday, August 14

T.S. Eliot’s The Return

Some day, if you are lucky, you’ll return from a thunderous journey trailing snake scales, wing fragments and the musk of Earth and moon. Eyes will examine you for signs of damage, or change and you, too, will wonder if your skin shows traces of fur, or leaves, if thrushes have built a nest of your hair, if Andromeda burns from your eyes.

Do not be surprised by prickly questions from those who barely inhabit their own fleeting lives, who barely taste their own possibility, who barely dream. If your hands are empty, treasureless, if your toes have not grown claws, if your obedient voice has not become a wild cry, a howl, you will reassure them.

We warned you, they might declare, there is nothing else, no point, no meaning, no mystery at all, just this frantic waiting to die. And yet, they tremble, mute, afraid you’ve returned without sweet elixir for unspeakable thirst, without a fluent dance or holy language to teach them, without a compass bearing to a forgotten border where no one crosses without weeping for the terrible beauty of galaxies and granite and bone.

They tremble, hoping your lips hold a secret, that the song your body now sings will redeem them, yet they fear your secret is dangerous, shattering, and once it flies from your astonished mouth, they—like you—must disintegrate before unfolding tremulous wings.

Wednesday, August 13

Beckwith Park (session #1)

The door gently closed and I reluctantly paced out onto the street, my legs already heavy and any motivation left lacking. After countless sun-drenched days the clouds had returned together with an uncommon towering humidity. At this point I couldn’t help but remember a quote from an ultra t-shirt, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. I was to run my first scheduled workout since completing the Ottawa Marathon in late May and I was already being tested.

The session was to be a combination of 200s and 400s but as we’re now a one-car family, and with no reasonably close track I was left with little alternative. In hindsight, I think this worked out for the best as I’m flirting with the idea of jumping into what may be my first cross country season later this fall.

Nobody could ever say I wasn’t a creature of habit, and so I trudged along to Beckwith Park and traced a 200m section out on the grass. My plan was to run an out-and-back on this portion and then use an undulating pathway around a small pond (approximately 500m) for my next piece.

30.3, 32.3, 1:48.8

29.9, 29.7, 1:44.3
33.3, 33.7, 1:46.8
34.3, 33.5, 1:42.2
34.8, 34.9, 1:40.8

The workout unfolded a good deal better than I had anticipated. My turnover definitely fell off on the latter 200s but I managed to maintain my momentum and worked the rollers on the 500s. After posting a 1:46.8 for my third 500 I was worried that I’d opened too fast and made sure to push the remaining two, the last one leaving me gasping for air.

A good session, felt content afterwards.

Tuesday: 1:00:07 with 5x (2x200 (1’) + 500) (3’)
Wednesday: easy 30:31

Sunday, August 10

Feeling Good

Despite having not put in much speed work, I’m really happy with how my body is responding at the moment. Taking it easy the last few months has really allowed me to recover and build a comfortable base.

Saturday saw seven of us tackle Mount Finlayson, some for the first (and probably last) time. With four members of the group working towards the Great Lake Walk in late September, our bi-weekly runs are becoming more challenging with race just around the corner. The highlight was definitely the view from the 419 meter (1,375 feet) summit. The following email was waiting for me at work this morning:

“My legs are screaming, I hate Mike. Okay, I can hardly walk today. Stairs are not on the agenda for today. Is anybody else sore?”

Mission accomplished!

Yesterday, Hicham and I looped around what has quickly become one of my favourite routes; around Mount Doug and McMinn Parks, and circling Rithet’s Bog… while avoiding all the major climbs in the area (his request not mine).


Saturday: very easy 2:19:35
Sunday: rolling 1:21:26

Friday, August 8

A Lesson in Proprioception

Hicham’s schedule, not mine, called for some one minute repeats but with nothing to lose at this point I decided to keep him company. I remembered that Tergat would run a similar workout on one of the Polo fields near his house and with that in mind I talked Hicham, after a longer warm-up, into running the session up on the playing fields at Beckwith Park. I’d been up there previously in the week and the grass is in excellent condition (probably the best I’ve ever seen)… thick, healthy and tall (3”-4”).

The park are a combination of about four or five soccer pitches which makes it a great place to run 1’ repeats without having to replicate track conditions, i.e. running in a tight circle. After easing into the first few we were in full form and flying by six. After #8 we decided to quickly kick off our shoes and run the remainder barefoot… I loved it! I felt like a child again and it provided some needed inspiration to keep me honest.

After the w/o we laced up our shoes and head home and it was then that I could feel every muscle in my foot and lower leg that is usually kept in check by wearing shoes. Definitely something to repeat.


Thursday: 58:17 with 12x1’ (1’)
Friday: Day off (scheduled, coincidently not feeling 100%)

For Cliff

Keep in mind that what I’m about to share is my opinion and based solely on experience, AND that everyone you ask will give you a slightly different answer.

At first glance, structuring your week to run a tempo on Monday, hills on Wednesday and a long run on Saturday leaves enough time for recovery (check). Make sure you also play around with your weekly periodization to aid with recovery. Don’t get tricked into thinking that you don’t need recuperation, everyone does sooner or later.

I believe that one aspect of racing a marathon that people tend to overlook is specificity. It’s important to keep in mind both the route and that it is an endurance event. After looking at the course, the first 17k is gradually downhill with the remainder flat (apart from the last mile). With this in mind, how long are you planning on running hills, i.e. how many weeks/months? How are the w/o’s structured, 30” vs. 3” or perhaps just running a rolling route?

Although hills build strength keep in mind that you will plateau and that Toronto is not a hilly course. I’d advise a) doing hills at the beginning with a few sprinkled in at the latter stages or alternating right from the outset, i.e hills one week, with shorter tempo (1k-3k repeats) efforts the next. You might want to have the third week hill & tempo free… an easy week? As for the duration, I think it’s a good idea to do at least one midweek run that is moderately long (building to 1h30).

As for the long run, I’d really try to hit 3h recognizing that the longer you run in training the easier race day will be.

As for Monday, what type of tempo sessions are you planning? If you’re going to mix up the hill sessions with some shorter tempos, I’d try and make the Monday intervals longer. As you get closer to race day (6 weeks out) you might want to consider dropping the Monday session and working some longer tempo pieces into your long run.

Examples you could use are below:

M (long tempo): 2x10’-15’ tempo (2’); 3x2M tempo (2’); 6xM tempo (1’); 8-10x1k tempo (1’); progressive (15’/10’/5’) descending from MP, HMP & 5kP

W (hills/tempo): 5-8x30” hills; 4-6x2’ hill; 5x1k (2’); 3xM (2’); 8-12x1’ (1’) on recovery week; or 2x90” (90”) + 4x1’ (1’) + 4x30” (30”) + 4x15” (15”) again on an easy week.

S (long run): build to at least 2h30; 3xM tempo + 1h easy + 3xM tempo; 2h with 6M MP building to 12M MP

Hope this helps?!

Wednesday, August 6

Hot in the City

“It's hot here at night…” okay, I’ll save you from the rest of Billy Idol’s lyrics but I thought they were fitting given the evening we had yesterday. Granted it’s not as humid as some eastern/southern climes, only 38%, but as I looped around Beckwith Park I was sweating profusely in the balmy 28C sunshine.

I had planned on an easy jaunt around Mount Doug but when I discovered that the Prairie Inn Harriers were running on of the summer Wildcard Workouts at a park I decided to opt for some social running.

Despite not running anything faster than a few quick strides since late May, I was surprised at how I responded, particularly as the 800m loop was on lush, thick grass. The highlight was finishing the workout prior to the water park shutting off and enjoying a rewarding soak.

As for this evening, my calves hurt for the first time in months.

Tuesday: 58:15 with 4x (800m, (1’), 500m) (1’)
Wednesday: easy 40:23

Tuesday, August 5

Sinking Like a Sunset

Despite a good start, by midweek my training had all but ended. I intended to get out on Thursday but was held up late that afternoon selling our 2-door car and then spent the rest of the evening packing for our short holiday. To make matters worse I brought my running kit with me to Galiano (one of the Gulf Islands) but the only used it for swimming in the ocean… go figure.

Therefore, after a four-day weekend consisting of little sleep, copious amounts of food and numerous pints, I intend to make this week count.

[The photos were taken from the deck where we were staying which helps to explain why it was difficult to get out for a run. Ally’s father is a lucky man.]

Monday: day off (scheduled)
Tuesday: hilly 1:11:02
Wednesday: 33:02 with 6xstrides (1’)
Thursday: day off (unscheduled)
Friday: day off (unscheduled)
Saturday: day off (unscheduled)
Sunday: day off (unscheduled)