Monday, June 28

VTS Race #4: 5,000m (Track is Back)

It had been eight laps since I’d run comfortably in the slipstream of the runner in front. Now, almost in jest I felt nothing but the imaginary slap as their wake dangled painfully out of reach.

The bell rang loud in my ear as I began my last lap. I round the corner and ran hard onto backstretch for the last time. I remembered the advice painfully gained from my last race, and tried in vain to hold my form. I had started my kick 500m out, and now with 300m remaining I had made minimal progress. Rather than gaining on my nearest competitor I enjoyed the lukewarm comfort of a dead heat. Once again there was nothing left in the tank. And much like last time I was left gasping, hands on knees after crossing the finish line.

A colleague and I were swapping weekend war stories this morning. He asked me what it felt like during one of those races, and my answer, “a long drawn-out paper cut”.

On the weekend I participated in Victoria Track Series Race #4, the 5,000m. It would be my second 5,000m of the summer, my first eight week earlier a disappointing (personal worst) 17:40. Despite having lost two weeks to an injured ligament, I was looking forward to making gains in my quest for a new PB.

Unlike last time where they held separate heats, on Saturday the organizers combined the elite and open races and I toed the line with 20 other nervous athletes eventually finishing in 17:24, 16” faster than my previous race. More importantly (and despite a fast opening lap) I was pleased with my pacing.

May 01: 3:35, 3:25, 3:36, 3:37, 3:25

Jun 26: 3:23, 3:30, 3:31, 3:30, 3:30

Obtaining a new PB (16:51) in the next two months will be a push, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. Last summer I ran three 5k races over the similar 8-week period and lowered my time from 17:27 to 17:07 (a 20” improvement). So far, I’ve managed to knock 16” off, in a little over 6-weeks. And with 8-weeks remaining until the August 21 final race, I have the road clearly laid out in front of me. With wildcard this summer will be the arrival of our newest family member.

Jun 21: day off

Jun 22: A.M. 1:15:07 with 4x2' (1') + 6x1' (30") + 8x30" (30"), P.M. easy 1:02:26
Jun 23: easy 54:16
Jun 24: easy 43:14

Jun 25: day off
Jun 26: 1:00:17 with 5,000m 17:24, 7th OA, 4th AG
Jun 27: rolling 1:22:21

Weekly mileage: 6h17’41”, +/- 89km or 56 miles

Wednesday, June 16

Training, Tales, Lies and Legends

Before twitter, before the internet, and even before cheap running magazines, there was the story, the tale of life’s lessons. Morals and information of all sorts were passed down from generation to generation – not through the electronic media, but by spoken word. And when told with conviction and enthusiasm, the themes became real, the legends believable. People pondering worldly decisions (what race shoe to wear) could refer for guidance to the memory of a particular tale told over a treasured pint.

I love a good story. Reading it, hearing it, and butchering it afterwards when I pass it forward. It doesn’t always have to be true, although often the good ones are, regardless I file them away in my scrapbook of memories. Legends and heroes are gifts.

Sadly though, I believe it’s too easy to miss an opportunity to learn from the experience of others. Luckily, running is simply one more vehicle for experience. And last night, a good friend and I traversed around a favourite part of Victoria all the while creating stories, embellishing... and at the appropriate time speaking the truth. Last night we were heroes, if only our own.

My training has been going well, nothing spectacular, but I’ve managed to string together several consistent weeks of +/- 70 miles. More importantly I’ve managed to stay injury free. It seems the “Mile” I raced a few weeks back, really sparked a desire to run. My next test will be a week Saturday when I run the second 5,000m of the Victoria Track Series and hope to build upon my sluggish 17:40.

Enjoy whichever road you’re travelling!

Jun 07: easy 1:08:12
Jun 08: A.M. easy 47:44, P.M. hilly 56:17
Jun 09: 1:09:46 8x3’ hard (3’)
Jun 10: easy 48:37
Jun 11: 1:10:27 with 30’ tempo
Jun 12: day off (scheduled)
Jun 13: undulating 1:38:24

Weekly mileage: 7h39’27”, +/- 108km or 68 miles

Sunday, June 6

VTS Race #3: the Mile (my first)



There was a small moment of hesitation when I thought my legs were going to fail me completely, and then I was away. Bolting clear from the line, burning off the rush of excitement and fear that had been weighing me down. Almost immediately, I found myself on the outside in about fifth position and not where I wanted to be. I ran strong around the first bend and tucked nicely into second, about two yards off the pace.

The first 200 went by as always, dizzily fast and I risked glancing at my watch, 38.0. Opening in that time was par for the course for me but as I tried to adjust the split for the additional 9m at the start, I quickly realized my brain was lacking the necessary concentration and gave up the calculation. What should I have been running?

I heard the crowd as we passed the start in a relatively tight bunch, the announcer reading off names like role call on the first day of school. But did I hear that, probably not. I swore I heard one single voice, “go daddy, go”.

“… 1:15, 1:16, 1:17…”

I rounded the corner again and began my journey down the backstretch for the second time, then it hit me. It started in my gut, a slow acid kind of strain, my systems beginning to panic, intestines, other organs shutting down for the duration. And my legs started to get the first wave of lactic numbness. Shoulders and arms starting now. However, what I remember most was the sheer dehydration in my throat, I was completely parched.

I could hear the panting and heavy strides of the runners behind me. Someone was trying to move up on the outside. Who was it? I hung in there coming into the home straight for the second time, although this time a little more laboured. As the crowd yelled, this time I knew I heard it, there was no mistake, “go daddy, go”.

“… 2:35, 2:36, 2:37…”

Starting the third lap, I was really feeling it now, the old intestine-sliding-down-the-leg extremis that comes when it dawns on you that there is a long way to go. Paul, the first place runner had put 15m on me, but as I stared down the far straighaway I knew I was gaining, slowly.

My shoulders ached now with the heavy strain of the lactic acid, so I pumped harder, trying to concentrate on form as my headed rocked back. I had been warned that this is where I needed to focus, maintain the pain, then push through it. Strangely enough, I vividly remember taking stock and was surprised at my inability to recognize any pain. I was completely numb.

As I sped down the homestraight, I really felt it, the lactic acid was boiling, but I was also getting excited knowing that this time it would not be long, that it wasn’t going to go on forever. Then the bell rang out.

“… 3:47, 3:38, 3:49

As I rounded the corner and ran onto backstretch for the last time, I was tying up, “feck me, what was I doing”. My ears were now firmly resting on my shoulders and my arms were heavy. I opened my kick only to find I was already in top gear, there was nothing left. I couldn’t breathe fast enough, my chest was pounding. I remember someone telling me to relax my chin, and Ron yelling at me to pump my arms as I soared onto the home stretch, running in fear of the footsteps behind.


"So this is what it feels like, this is what happens..."

Earlier that morning, I plugged my recent 17:40 5k into McMillan’s Calculator and was unceremoniously awarded a time of 5:06.0. I crossed the line in 5:04.2. I have eight weeks to find another four seconds. I loved every painful moment.

Training: VTS #3: mile, 5:04.2, 3:09/km, 5:04/mi, 2nd OA

Thursday, June 3

The Journey

I can’t remember all the details of my first marathon on that cold autumn morning, but there are certain elements I’ll never forget. Like passing my good friend Lance at the halfway point and deciding, I must have been running too slowly. And then there is that truly enjoyable sensation saved only for the uninitiated where you, and I, subsequently run headlong into that infamous wall. And, of course consequently being asked by the paramedics, "are you okay?" To this day, I wonder just how shattered I must have looked.


But what I’ll never forget is the feeling that existed once I crossed the finish line. Not the immediate jubilation and relief, but what stayed with me was the hunger to do it all again. I needed to try something greater. I wanted to fill up my memory banks with a new exotic experience. Later on that month, I signed up for what would be my inaugural Ironman race. The humour, or stupidity depending on your point of view, is that I’d yet to complete in any triathlon.

Almost fifteen years, a few hundred races and a million miles of training later and I regret very little of what I’ve done. But it wasn’t until recently, and I’ve yet to decided the exact catalyst for being able to see more clearly, that I’ve been able to reflect upon my athletic endeavours with new light.

Arguably, if you strive to reach your goal, what you achieve is not the golden fleece. What I discovered was that reaching my goal was great, but then what? Another Ironman? More recently, another marathon? Perhaps another goal, something bigger. And then another. And it isn’t until now that it has become clear that what I love is the process, the journey, the search is what counts.

And what a long, strange trip it has been.

Just like that old advertisement, “there is no finish line”, in my case, only a series of mile markers. And so having said that, I admit freely to having mapped out a plan for the rest of this year… and I might have continued through to May 2011.