Wednesday, July 29

Heat Wave

The attached passage was taken from James Tabor’s, The Runner, and has to be one of my favourite quotes. The imagery that Tabor provides speaks volumes, but I also find myself envious of the runner and the experience that he had created for himself. Yesterday I fashioned my own experience, my own carnival of pain.

"Out of the silver heat mirage he ran. The sky burned, and under him the paving was a black mirror reflecting sun-fire. Sweat sprayed his skin with each foot strike so that he ran in a hot mist of his own creation. With each slap on the softened asphalt, his soles absorbed heat that rose through his arches and ankles and the stems of his shins. It was a carnival of pain, but he loved each stride because running distilled him to his essence and the heat hastened this distillation."

Victoria has been under a blanket of unseasonably warm weather, but on Saturday, we started setting records. Yesterday was ridiculous, 33C by mid-afternoon (38C with humidex). This was made all the more amusing given the session that was scheduled.

My goal was to run 10k MP (3:47-3:48km/pace), but as I watched the mercury climb I knew the workout was going to be a challenge. I had begged a colleague for the use of his water bottle and after getting changed, stepped outside into the furnace and slowly made my way toward Vic High. My plan was to spend my first 4-5 km on the track and then run at effort.

After arriving at the battleground, I drained half the bottle, drew a line across the dirt track, laughed, and began. Scorching would be an understatement! I made sure to build the first lap and then concentrated on finding a comfortable (and I use that term loosely) relaxed pace, the first four kilometres passing in 3:49, 3:49, 3:47 & 3:47. At this point, I quickly stopped, guzzled what was left of the water bottle and took off toward Cedar Hill.

After reaching the golf course, I was parched and stopped at the fountain outside the clubhouse for a quick drink. As the water trickled down my parched throat, I looked to my left to see a flood of water coming from the underside of a planter that was hanging down from one of support beams. Not wanting to pass by a golden opportunity, I stood underneath the pot for a few additional seconds as the icy cold stream ran over my head. In those conditions I’m happy with the workout but rather than concentrate on pace, or reap the full benefits of the training, I feel too much energy was spent just trying to survive.

And then there was today, at 5:00 p.m. as I was running home… 35C, that’s just stupid.


Monday: day off (scheduled)

Tuesday: 1:05:43 with 10k at ME

Wednesday: undulating/ridiculously hot 50:43

Sunday, July 26

Royal Victoria Marathon (12-weeks out)

I suppose an added day off on what was a scheduled recovery week isn’t the worst scenario to have happened, particularly when I was able to squeeze in a solid workout and a long run. Still, for someone who likes to follow a plan... Saturday’s doughnut stinks.


On a weekend where Ally was away at a hen party, I definitely could’ve used an extra pair of hands. On Friday, an old varsity friend and his wife were out visiting from the UK (Bristol), and on Saturday afternoon Isla and I had a wedding to attend. These two events alongside walks in the park and playing on the swings made for two very busy but extremely enjoyable days.


Amongst all the socializing and activity, I was able to sneak in a run. On Sunday morning, after the wee one woke up from her first nap (what a life, two naps/day) I drove up the peninsula and coerced her grandfather into spending some quality time with his granddaughter. Recognizing the opportune moment, I didn’t dawdle and out the door.


With all the exceptionally hot weather we’ve been having, Victoria experienced a very unusual thunderstorm on Saturday evening. That evening, after returning from the wedding and with Isla sound asleep, I sat out on our back porch I nursed a beer while enjoying the lightshow. I then went to bed and didn’t pay the storm any more thought. That was until I was running through a layer of thick humid air that blanketed the ground the following day. The conditions remaindered me of my one experience of running on a treadmill… inside a sauna. It was hot.

The run itself was great. I eased into the first few miles but after about twenty minutes I began to pick up the pace, holding a steady consistent clip as I ran to Island View Beach, before returning through the Saanich farmlands and circling back home. I was thoroughly drenched.


Week 12 is in the books, and apart from a missed 70’ cruise, I’m happy. My achilles has settled down (knock, knock) and my energy level is decent. Not shabby at all.



Saturday: day off (unscheduled)

Sunday: steady 1:30:17


Weekly mileage: 4h55’58”, +/- 69k or 43 miles

Friday, July 24

Cruel and Unusual

With Ally away this weekend at a hen party, Isla and I have been given complete run of the house. Papa gets to watch his choice of movie while nursing a cold beer and the wee one can enjoy plums and blueberries to her heart’s content. Sadly, without the extra pair of hands the prospect of me getting out for a run let alone a workout on Saturday was doubtful. Sunday, even less likely. With this in mind, I took advantage of a late start at work and squeezed in a track session early this morning.


Surprisingly, as I drove toward Oak Bay, it felt as if every ounce of energy was being sucked from my body. The enthusiasm I displayed as I slid out of the car was reminiscent of a child at bedtime. Completing a solid workout was in doubt.

As I sat on the bleachers lacing up my flats, I watched Seamus was finish-up his workout. He didn’t look nearly as fluid as when he was knocking off a multitude of 27” 200s a few weeks back, and we concluded that there must be something in the air… I had my out. If Seamus couldn’t run well that morning, why should I begin?

Not wanting to delay the inevitable, I decided to forgo the usual strides and hopped straight into the first repeat. It was half way through the first lap that the right-hand side of my back seized, completely taking my breath away. I cruised for a few strides, trying to decide whether to pull the plug but my determination (stupidity) won out and I carried on.

Although I could feel the strain during the remaining intervals, running didn’t seem to make it any worse. I stretched my back during each recovery, would toe the line and then run a controlled 1200. The consistency was uncanny: 4:01, 4:01, 3:59, 3:59

Typically in a session like this, I would split the first 200 in :37, complete the 400 in 1:22 and have to sprint to make up a 3-4” deficit on the last lap. Today, I split almost every 400 on 80” and was surprised how relaxed I felt, particularly during each closing lap. Welcome to the weekend.

P.s. My back is now worse and the idea of chasing around a highly energetic 15 month old child is going to be a challenge.


Thursday: easy 45:31

Friday: 1:07:35 with 4x1200m 5kP (400m)

Wednesday, July 22


The joys of developing, or at the very least selecting your own training program dictate that you get to call the shots. This approach can work well if a) you’re lucky, or b) have some experience to draw from. The approach though isn’t without its pitfalls, as it lacks oversight… that independent individual who brings reason to the foreground. And for people like me, who will follow a program blindly into the ground, this is a very real risk.


As I begin my preparation for the RVM, I can only hope for luck. But failing that, I do have experience to draw from… both the good (Sacramento & Ottawa) and the bad (London & Boston).

All that said, I purposely scheduled weeks 12, 9, 6 and 3 for recovery. Needless to say, and given where I’m at in the program, the last few day have been enjoyable as I’ve taken advantage of some gorgeous summer weather, a random encounter with a good friend and an extra spring in my step.


If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost question whether the training has truly begun.



Monday: day off (scheduled)

Tuesday: easy 44:34

Wednesday: steady 48:01

Sunday, July 19


On one hand, it seems just a short while ago that I was bundled into bed, trying to warm up after a disappointed race in Boston. After running 26+ miles and what felt like a freezing wind howling between the buildings, I honestly doubted whether I’d make it back to the hotel. Had that been my first marathon, I would’ve sworn it was also my last. Yet, I’ve done too many of these races. Or at least enough to know that the aching pain and the feeling of frustration quickly dissipates.

Frank Shorter summed it up more eloquently, stating, “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming."

And so I find myself here today, sitting in front of this computer with a 12-week marathon program laid out in front of me. I love this period, the race is far enough away that dreams seem larger than life and the reality of the preparation has yet to be absorbed underfoot. The glass is definitely half-full.

This week was a transition period and I used the opportunity to take advantage of a second, unscheduled day off. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. After watching my sister graduate as a police officer, the family made a trip over to
Galiano Island to stay with Ally’s father for the weekend. With naught to do but relax, enjoy fresh crab and squeeze in a run, the weekend couldn’t have been better.

On Sunday, we returned to Vancouver Island and after arriving in Swartz Bay, I watched the girls drive off home and then set out on my long run tracing an alternative route to meet them. Within minutes, I was in MacDonald Park under a towering canopy of trees (helpful given the 23C temperature and the warm wind). From there, I sauntered through the sleepy seaside town of Sidney and the out into the farm fields of the Central Saanich. Despite the heat, the journey was remarkably uneventful. I experimented with a new electrolyte drink (the jury’s still out) and some Gu… lessons were learned.

Here’s to the week ahead!


Thursday: undulating 41:40

Friday: day off (unscheduled)

Saturday: 43:01 with Moneghetti strides

Sunday: steady/warm 2:02:17

Weekly mileage: 5h09’56”, +/- 72k or 45 miles

Wednesday, July 15


In order for me to get in a run on Friday, I took advantage of the commute and ran home from work. The idea seemed good at the time, and Monday, well it was an entire weekend away.

After a solid workout and an accompanying long run, I found myself staring into an empty shed… and wondering why on earth I ran home on Friday. This missing piece to this story involves a lonely bike that was securely locked-up in the sub-basement at work. I suffered the entire way as I jogged down an empty Quadra Street on a quite Monday morning.

Tuesday, I rested.


As for today, I fully expected to feel good on my run home, or at least I thought I deserved to feel good. If nothing else, my mindset was correct. And so it was on a balmy July afternoon, I wallowed in the discomfort as I paced out an undulating route home. I need to make sure that I stay on top of the training and not the other way around.



Monday: easy 36:44 (unscheduled)

Tuesday: day off (unscheduled)

Wednesday: easy 1:06:14

Sunday, July 12


Three questions were asked of me lately, two by friends and one of myself. Thought I might use this opportunity to address them.

Q. Is Hicham the same person as in this article?

A. Mark, I have no idea how you came across the TC article but as Dr. Evil already pointed out, yes, he is the same Hicham that ran with us in Boston. Don’t be fooled by the moniker, it couldn’t be further from the truth.


Q. Doesn't Jack Daniels’ state that repeats at that pace should not exceed 5 minutes each (re: my w/o last Tuesday)?

A. Thomas, the short answer is yes. I believe that Daniels’ is one of the best coaches around and I’ve had success with his marathon program. As I train for the RVM though, I thought I’d try something different. I’ve built a framework based on Gabriele Rosa’s emphasis on speed (arguably the world’s greatest marathon coach), allowed for 2-weeks of transition, and then tacked on an approach used by Ronaldo da Costa (2:06:05). As a check, I’ve overlaid this on my preparation for the California Int’l Marathon in 2006 (my fastest marathon to date)... the result is eerily similar.


Q. What the hell was Bruce thinking when he gave me this w/o in 2006, and why am I doing it again?

A. Because I want to reconnect with my speed. Almost three years ago, Bruce gave me the following w/o as I prepared for the CIM, 3x [600 2:00, (1’) 1,000 3:12 (3’)], and in an effort to build upon the past I attempted the session Saturday morning.


I wasn’t too worried about the 600s (2:00), but the idea of running 1,000s at +/- 3k pace (3:12) was worrying. I really don’t enjoy the discomfort of running 5k pace, and I like 3k pace even less. Not wanting to dwell on the inevitable though, after running a short warm-up I hopped straight into the first 600. I kept the rhythm steady and told myself not to worry about finishing 2” slow; much better than the alternative. As the seconds ticked away during my recovery, I could only grin as I toed the line about to begin the faster paced interval. 3:11, wow, that was unexpected.


I tried to concentrate on relaxing during the second set but as the times indicate, I believe there is an inverse relationship with these concepts where I’m concerned. The last set rolled around all too soon but as it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried. That is not to say there wasn’t a little bit of desperation in the last lap.


2:02, 3:11

2:03, 3:14

2:01, 3:11


As I was cooling down, two friends of mine showed up at the track to start their own w/o, 6x200. I watched them for the few and then was coerced into keeping them company for a couple. I couldn’t believe the butterflies in my stomach as we started, but all that quickly vanished. Can’t recall running that fast in quite a while, 27.3. I was half way through the second 200 when I felt my blood turning to concrete and decided to shut in down coming out of the corner, 29.1. Fun though, stupid considering my achilles, but fun.



Thursday: steady 35:56

Friday: easy 38:42

Saturday: 1:05:52 with 3x(600m (1’), 1,000m) (3’) + 2x200m

Sunday: easy 1:56:55


Weekly mileage: 6h24’18”, +/- 90k or 56 miles

Wednesday, July 8

Each Peach Pear Plum

With the missus away, I’ve just finished playing Mr. Mom which this week means reading Each Peach Pear Plum innumerable times; luckily I’m easily amused. And now, with a steaming cup of Wild Sweet Orange tea nestled up against the keyboard, I can enjoy a rare quiet moment.

Yesterday, after weeks of glorious sunshine I found myself staring at the drops of rain as they ran down my office window. And with an upset stomach to boot.

With 4xmile on the schedule, I had originally thought I might jog up to Vic High but the idea of running multiple laps on a wet, muddy dirt track somehow didn’t seem as appealing. Luckily, with me working in town I decided to take advantage of the old horse oval, jogged over to Beacon Hill, and ran session there. I borrowed the w/o from the corresponding week of my Sacramento build, the plan was to descend the set, 10k to 5k effort (5:36, 5:32, 5:28 & 5:24); the reality wasn’t nearly as smooth.

Unless I check my pacing every 200m, I tend to open this sort of workout too fast. Hell, I open every workout too fast. With this in mind, I made sure to hold back on the first mile and concentrated on settling into a comfortable rhythm (5:34). During that lap, I broke the loop into three segments and I decided to run the last section more aggressively on my second mile. I smiled looking at the time (5:27), but knew that I had just delivered myself a knockout blow if I was to run the session properly. Ouch.

Despite running 2/3’s of the third mile quite strongly, I wasn’t surprised with the result (5:30). I now knew that my last mile was going to be a battle. After shaking out my arms and dodging a few peacocks, I started the last interval content on at least equalling my previous best. The first half went reasonably well but I could feel arms and shoulders tightening up. Rounding the last corner, I turned back into the park only to jump up onto the grass to dodge an unforgiving motorist. Pleasantly, this only fuelled the fire and I was able to squeak out the result I was looking for… not the planned 5:24, but a victory all the same.

The jaunt home was a disaster. It wasn’t until much later that evening that I realized I had just averaged four 5:30 miles, 6.2 km at 17:05 5k pace… not too shabby given last weeks 17:07 performance.


Monday: day off (scheduled)

Tuesday: 1:28:41 with 4x1600 (2’) 10kP-5kP

Wednesday: easy 38:45

Sunday, July 5

Regroup and Recover

The Sidney Days 5k has been a means to an end. Running three 5k races within a short period of time has allowed me to remain focused/excited while working on the larger agenda, i.e. regaining my enthusiasm and foot speed. With this objective in mind, I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve set aside this week and next as a transition period of sorts. Having just come off a block where I’ve been running, 100s, 200s and 400s, I’ve given myself some latitude over the next two weeks to have some fun and recoup, before approaching a marathon build that I haven’t tried before, but one that I’m very excited about... if for no other reason than its simplicity; more on that later.

All that said and done the last few days have been good, Sunday particularly satisfying. With a day packed full of adventure (Strawberry Festival followed with a b-day party), I had a small window of opportunity. Given the warm weather we’ve been enjoying, I was out the door shirtless and after dropping off the previous night’s DVD, it was a loop of Cedar Hill, up and over Mount Tolmie, around the university campus before running through Mount Doug and home. As enjoyable as the jaunt was, the real kicker for me was how effortless everything felt. This is not to be confused with easy… but despite the undulating route, I felt comfortable and ran as if on cruise control.

Lastly, “A Touch of France” continues, and on a day where Columbia HTC displayed superior tactics, I dished out steak au poivre avec frites… damn I’m good, perhaps even better than that Cavendish bloke.


Friday: steady 48:53

Saturday: day off (unscheduled but planned)

Sunday: steady 1:28:28

Weekly mileage: 5h02’00”, +/- 71k or 44 miles

Thursday, July 2

Sidney Days 5k

Yesterday was the last of three planned summer 5k events and it left me wanting... not an entirely bad feeling, but something I certainly didn’t expect.

After taking a month down after Boston, I spent the last several weeks getting in touch with my turnover and speed: I managed to jump on the track several times, tweak my achilles (actions not necessarily connected) and participated in my most feared event, not once but three times.

So it was that yesterday, Canada Day, the girls and I drove out to Sidney on a gorgeous summer morning to participate in the Sidney Days 5k. Despite a sore throat (Isla has been sick); I was looking forward to the event and if nothing else, enjoying the day with family. After scanning the 2008 results, I was amazed at the turnout. Not only were there an additional 100+ participants, but the calibre of runner was much higher. Still, after a routine warm-up with Hicham I found myself starring down Bevan Avenue and directly into the sun.

Once the gun had gone off, I quickly became engulfed in sea of arms, I felt in the midst of a 300+ participant track event. Even after splitting the opening kilometre in 3:16, I still found myself surrounded with unfamiliar completion and in about 30th place... I couldn’t help but think it might be once of ‘those’ days.

It was after roughly one mile that the field started to come back. I settled in about 3m behind Hicham, confident that riding his coattail would see me through (my goal was 16:XX). After taking stock around 2k (no marker) I was a bit surprised with my comfort and despite being nervous, opted to pass Hicham knowing now that I was now going to be running scared.

We covered kilometres 2 & 3 in 6:58 (3:29 avg.) which was disappointing, enough said. I could still see Kevin Searle down the road, and despite being out of reach he wasn’t too far away that I couldn’t attach an imaginary line and hope for a free ride. Over the last two kilometres (3:28, 3:24) I really concentrated on my turnover and that imaginary line. I was also aware of the conversation I was having with myself, but unlike the typical negative self-talk, the nattering this time around was a positive exchange. I knew it was going to be tough, but I believed I was going to slide under 17:00 with just a few seconds to spare.

My office time, 17:07, the result... satisfying. Over the last 6+ weeks I’ve managed to improve my 5k by 20” (Black Press 5000 17:27, Twilight Shuffle 5k 17:23 & Sidney Days 5k 17:07). Outside of the performance though, what I’m taking away most from this small training block is a) a renewed desire to run, b) positive self-talk and c) a sore throat... being sick in the summer sucks.


Monday: easy 30:20 with 6xstrides

Tuesday: easy 18:29

Wednesday: 1:05:12 with Sidney Days 5k 17:07, 12th OA, 4th AG

Thursday: easy 50:38