Archive for September, 2010


New PR for the 5k

Well, in case you needed some vindication of my suggestion to do short distance time trials during one’s taper, here it is: 23:01, my new PR for the 5k distance. The previous record was the first 5k of a downhill 10k race last May, but this time I managed to surpass it–by a full minute–on a completely flat track here at the University. I’ve less boredom and more confidence than ever.

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3 Cures for “taper madness”

’tis the season to be antsy, isn’t it?  Right about now thousands upon thousands of marathoners are hopping up and down, energetic and anxious as their big 26.2 mile day approaches…far too slowly. They can’t train heavily because they’re in taper but they’re too revved up physically and emotionally to NOT want to train.  The resultant mess is sometimes called “taper madness”, and those who experience it could really use some relief.  Here are some ideas to try out:

1) Whenever I taper, I try as much as possible to distract myself with other things in life, but that doesn’t always work fully.  Before anything else, ensure you pay more attention to your family, work on another hobby or just catch up on things neglected due to your marathon training.  Taper madness for more important events, however, is resistant to this method.

2) Research your sport and develop the training plan for your next cycle.  I never seem to have enough time or energy to go over the literature on running and training, but with a decrease in running related commitments during a taper, plus another training cycle on the horizon, gives one a splendid opportunity to build on one’s knowledge before committing to the journey towards the next race.

3) Schedule periodic short distance time trials to test yourself over the 1 mile and/or 5k distance.  If you do this for every taper, you’ll not only get to check your ability over these short distances, you can compare your performances between training periods and cut your taper anxiety into manageable bites.  Instead of 2-3 weeks of waiting around with little to do, one can wait one week till that 5k time trial, then another till the 1 miler, then finally one last manageable week until the marathon itself.  Such tests also take advantage of common advice about the taper:  reduce mileage while maintaining intensity.  It also makes a superb way of boosting your confidence, since its very unlikely that a concerted period of training (such as happens between, say, your last race taper and now) wouldn’t result in improvements.  Deep marathon training periods can leave you feeling slow, tired and even borderline injured, and therefore vulnerable to doubt.  Substantially upping your 1 mile performance from earlier in the year will help combat this.  Time trials combined with the above mentioned tactics will hopefully lessen taper madness for you.

And try not to go TOO nuts….see you on race day.

General Notes:

  • 30k and 15k race in the “Racing District” area of Toronto, (the waterfront area)
  • A fast field of competitors
  • Not widely advertised.  Gave me the impression of a run for experienced people “in the know”
  • May make a nice compliment to March’s “Around the Bay” 30k race

Pros:

  • Decent information ahead of time.  Website could be a little more polished but everything really important was there.  Email contact about previous years’ issues was prompt, friendly and promised corrections.  Corrections were effective.
  • Swag consisted of a single, top-quality item:  a hooded New Balance running Jacket.  Not exactly appropriate for August in a heat-wave summer but probably the single best swag item I’ve ever scored.  Nothing else was provided, but with an awesome jacket (the organizers only advertized a “technical garment”) I was more than happy to forego some food samples I wouldn’t eat and pamphlets for other races I either wasn’t going to attend or knew about already.
  • Decent post-race celebration, beer tent, etc., especially if the weather is discounted
  • Evening race on a Saturday.  Awesome.   Why can’t more race directors figure this out?  Nobody finds it convenient to race at 6am on a Sunday, guys!

Cons:

  • “Cult of the giant finisher’s medal” (see below)
  • A 30k in August?  In a heat-wave?  Really?  Well, they do have a 15k option…

Finish Time

Gun: 3:09:03
Chip: 3:08:15

Place

Overall:  472 / 652
Gender: 254 / 316
Age Group: 88 / 105

This was the first time for me at this event, and I was a touch anxious about doing a 30k deep within the marathon training season, not to mention during an August heat wave.  The race’s motif was festive though: inviting and Shakespearian.  Very novel.  I signed up with enough enthusiasm to almost forget that this was a ¾ marathon.  Having only discovered the race’s existence at the end of June, I entered rather later than I usually would; the fact that its discovery was so lagging—I’d spent much of the year searching for a decent August event—made me wonder what the field would be like.  I was correct to guess “competitive”, given the lack of advertising.

Three weeks before the event, I made certain to take a 30k long run, and under similar (dusk) conditions to the race itself.  Doing this run over my usual moderately hilly route proved a difficult task that turned my legs to a pulpy mush near the end and left me exhausted.  I contented myself with reassurances that the race would be conducted on much flatter territory.

The packet pickup was brief with no line-ups, and mostly a pleasant surprise.  A “technical garment” had been promised and like many I’m sure I anticipated yet another t-shirt.  Nooooo way.  Instead, I was presented with an awesome New Balance hoodie/jacket, suitable for runs in cool fall weather, if not those all-out boiling days in August when the horizon is a wavy, blurry mirage in the distance.

Laid out on the table where I eagerly snatched my swag I noticed a large bronze coaster.  I squinted.  “Beautiful, isn’t it?” quipped a retiree volunteer behind the table.  I tried to contain the wave of disappointment rushing to my face and restrained sarcastic remarks about pizzas and cowboy belt-buckles.  This year’s new race medal abandoned previous traditions of moderately sized designs with aesthetics at their core.  Instead, it followed the sad trend that bigger is somehow better, more meaningful, more impressive.  It’s not, but just *try* telling this to some people. I know that’s just my opinion, and I seem to be in the minority, but some of the most stunningly impressive awards on this planet are small, simple and utterly unassuming.  Nobody should need a 6” wide medal to commemorate the training and effort they’ve put into their sport.  A beautiful medal, yes.  A big one, no.  Overall it’s really a shame, too: if the medal’s diameter was, say, cut in half, it’d be a splendid object, featuring a wonderful crescent moon relief and a black ribbon with the race’s name.  Most people, I suspect will be extremely pleased with the medal as-is, and I can at least derive some pleasure from that.  End of rant.

As my first ever 30k race, however, and given the less than stellar (read: hot) weather, I decided on a game plan with modest personal goals that wouldn’t push the envelope too much.  This wasn’t an event for ambition, I had two more races this year for such things.  My right knee had also been giving me a dull ‘full’ sensation that I worried about turning into something injurious, so easy-sneazy was a tone I could appreciate.

Baggage check and toilet facilities were very reasonable, a comforting difference from some experiences I’ve had with other races, and different from previous years of this event where such logistics proved difficult.  Line-ups before the race were tolerable, but I followed the “go early, go often” rule, which facilitated this.  I met up with my first ever pace rabbit, an amicable fellow who’s name I forgot to ask, but who brought his own stick and lost his fairy costume halo within the race’s first two blocks or so.

The 30k start was unpretentious, with only one large wave of runners, which worked out fine for a race this size and distance  I didn’t get stuck into a massive wad of slowpokes like at the Distillery District 10 miler.  Strategically speaking, I elected to use a “10 and 1” method of running ten minutes then walking for one, and this helped me through much of the distance in good order.  The earth’s atmosphere showed up to watch the race that day, and had been rudely spitting rain at attendees; its tactlessness would only peak near the race’s end.

Heading out along the route was actually quite enjoyable despite the pressure I felt to handle a race of this distance well, and I actually thought for a moment there that I may have actually been *enjoying* myself.  Fortunately, a multinational electronics conglomerate would solve that for me around the 7km mark.  It will go unnamed for now, but it sold me an overpriced (and very popular) mp3 player that decided, with 20+ km to go and a clear need for motivation, that it would start going haywire on me.  I had to pull out of the pace group I was in and walk angrily along the roadside for an indeterminate period until I determined that the plastic baggie I’d wrapped my player in to protect it from rain may be trapping moisture and shorting out some circuits.  Removing it coincided with the return of reasonable functionality, a calming of my emotions and a steep loss of ground which I was forced to make up over the next few km’s.

As we entered the Tommy Thompson Park, I suddenly realized that my right nipple protector–“NipGuard”—was gone.  With so much distance to go I was in genuine fear of searing pain or—eep!—bleeding.  I realized I’d just passed an ambulance at the park entrance and would return soon.  Just another *sigh* 8km to go, I told myself.  I unzipped my jersey and hoped for the best.  Fortunately, I managed to make it to a helpful medical tech who gave me some much needed material to work with.  Passing the halfway mark I realized my pacing was solid, since I felt very good despite the heat.

After Tommy Thompson, the route curved along and eventually wound its way through Ashbridges Bay park, which I’d never been to but which proved scenic, even at dusk.  I’d heard some pretty negative things about running on the boardwalk on the return leg of this area, but I didn’t find it nearly so difficult—I couldn’t even decide if it was better or worse than the sidewalk—and there was often pavement next to it for anybody who really wants to avoid it.  Terrain was quite undulating, though.

Near the end things started to fall apart for me physically, which is unsurprising, but things weren’t as bad as in training runs and I only ended up increasing walk breaks slightly.  As previously stated, I was more interested in having a decent time than causing a knee injury and establishing a doable baseline time for the distance than setting a serious PR.  Therefore, I kept things at as sane a level as I felt necessary.  I was really pleased at this point to discover that I found keeping to my own pace and avoiding peer pressure was comfortably intuitive.  Perhaps my first race when I’d never felt such influences.

The rain increased to a near downpour as I finished, but post-race festivities were largely unaffected.  I personally had been soaked through to the bone with sweat for about two solid hours anyway, and I suspect this was many people’s attitude.  I think it’s an old Russian proverb that proclaims that ”A wet man doesn’t fear rain”.  I’d feared that the manhole cover posing as a finisher’s medal would all but keel me over in my exhausted state post-race, but it felt and looked just fine.  In a manner becoming customary in my experience, finisher’s also got an unannounced “prize” at the end:  ‘Planet Forward’ brand stainless steel water bottles, thoughtfully pre-filled for us, a nice touch.  When I discovered a few days later that my bottle’s silicone seal was crapped out, Tracy Ritson at the company happily sent me a replacement.  I was impressed.

Line-ups after the event seemed enormously long compared to before the start, and beer was in especially high demand, even at $6 for a small cup of Steam Whistle.  I made sure to grab a soda for some liquid calories while waiting in line and downing my aspirin flavoured bagel.  Food ($8 seemed a bit high for the no doubt filling but otherwise unimpressive fare) had virtually no line to speak of.  The wait for baggage on the other hand snaked several times around the park , through a highway underpass, along much of the 30k race course and back to the park again.  At least that’s how I remembered it.  The race distance overall was something of a “checkmark” distance for me, and next year if I run this event (I’d like to) I’ll be doing the 15k option.

Volunteers were present and efficient throughout the race.  I’d especially like to shout out to the woman in the pink feather boa around the 20k mark who cheered me (a stranger) on by name.  Your comments were a surprisingly strong boost at a needed point in my run.

In an inverse of pathetic fallacy, I limped and waddled home through the rain, very satisfied.

Good news: Pheidippides, the legendary world’s first marathoner from ancient Greece, has finally posted a race report for the event, only about 2,500 years after the fact. He’s almost as timely as me. (and yes, that Midsummer 30k race coverage is coming very soon!)

..and good news–this one’s actually about running. Also, I’ve tried to make it funny, which may or may not be a good idea. Anyway, here’s “How not to run your first 5k or 10k race”.

It’s not directly running related, but I published my first “instructable” today.  Instructables are, well, sets of instructions on how to do things, from recepies to DIY projects.  Mine is about how to compose a tiny survival kit in an Altoids mint tin.  Enjoy:

Urban Altoids Survival Kit