Monday, January 31, 2011

Team Effort - Icebreaker 8km

I can't believe I'm inside writing a post on such a sunny day - but I can't be outside all day and did need to come inside to warm up after an easy run this morning.

Yesterday was the Steveston Icebreaker 8km.  I had never done this race before, and woke up (early - yikes) to a totally clear sky - so I was very excited! (there has been a lot of training in the rain lately...)

I really like the 8km distance (with my total of 8k's now at 2), and was happy to be running along the water.  So after a fairly early up-and-at-em with rice cereal (aka adult pablum) with bananas and agave, we loaded up the car with VanRunners and teed up the Garmin (I can't get away from them) to lead us to Steveston.

It was so fun to meet up with so many people from our training group at the community centre and head out to the start line.  I've done quite a few races on my own, showing up at the start line to do a warm up by myself, looking around at other people running in their groups, not necessarily feeling jealous, but wishing I could be more relaxed like 'those people'.  What I realize now is that the group provides a great environment of fun energy, because everyone brings a mix of feelings, hopes, predictions and goals.  It's so nice to have people around, on the start line, seeing them out on the course, and knowing they'll be there at the end to celebrate (or commiserate).

So race start - quite exciting!  This was a gun-time only race (no chips) so there was a lot of vying for the start line spots on a narrow start line.  On one side was intermittent knee bashing benches, and on the other side, some very chilly Steveston ocean - so you definitely needed to stay midline.  Almost immediately after the gun, some guy must have mis-stepped and took a tumble to the floor - which was tough with 200 people behind him.  I had to almost piggy back the guy in front of me as we both had to hurdle over this poor soul (along with many others).  So, had to quickly recollect my thoughts and get back to being reasonably calm and in control of my pace after so much excitement off the line.

I really did spend the first 1/2 of the race mostly looking at the ground to make sure I didn't slip on any ice (plus the sun was shining straight into our eyes - not that I'm complaining about sun!).  The race travels along the water, firstly along the gravel side outbound, and road side inbound.  I found the gravel path pretty narrow and not easy to pass people, so you had to do a little bit of skipping around side to side.  Overall, though, I was feeling pretty good to the 1/2 way point and decided to pick it up from there.

The road back was quicker than the gravel and we had a bit of a tailwind, so that was nice - and you got to enjoy the view a little more because the sun wasn't in your eyes (not complaining!)  After a lot of twists and turns at the end, it was a straight 250m shot to the finish line, with all types of sprints to the finish.  I ran behind the same guy for at least 2.5 kilometres and despite one challenge off his shoulder, he had more gears and managed to finish 1 second ahead of me at the finish.  So, new goal for 2011 now includes beating him at a race, somewhere, somehow.  Because I know him, I just wish he wasn't such an experienced runner - it is going to take a special sneak attack off the shoulder when he's looking the other way, Tour de France style.  So it's my new resolve.  People who run in our group will know who I'm talking about but I am not making public declarations because I'd really rather he didn't know I am gunning for a win - because it isn't going to be easy!

Overall, I finished 7th, 5th in my AG, and set a PB of 29:50, which wasn't quite as fast as I would have liked, but it wasn't the fastest course in the world (despite being the flattest course I have ever run - I don't even think there was 1m elevation).  Still, 30 seconds faster than 2 weeks ago.  So, goals for next time!  I am quite excited to be getting back to the longer distance of the 1/2 marathon - more in my comfort zone of endurance racing - so very excited to see what I can do.  The First Half half marathon is next - only 2 weeks away!

In the end, we all regrouped and (some of us) did some strength work and (again) did a pretty crap job of the cool-down (we walked to breakfast though - for about 10 min - does that count?).  I knew I was getting back on the bike for a spin in the afternoon so wasn't too worried.  We went to "Cinnamon Bar" - also properly known as "Cimona" (but interestingly enough that lady knew where we wanted to go? ) and chowed some food and do what runners do best - talk about running.   All said and done it was still not even 11am - that would be the benefit of early race starts.

I named this blog post "Team Effort" because I would really truly encourage anyone who has been running on their own to find a group of people to run with.  It doesn't have to be a competitive team, it doesn't have to be professionally organized, it could just be you and a couple of your friends - but make a resolve to go to a race or event together.  There are so many people that run, so many groups, that it really is accessible to anyone who wants it.

 I ran on my own for 4 years and was really hesitant to join a group - which seems to surprise people when I tell them that.  But it's true.  It was like pulling teeth to get me to join Forerunners running clinic.  Even though (I think) I'm a pretty shy person, and it took me a few runs to get to know some people in my group, by the end of the clinic I couldn't believe I had been doing so much running on my own - and how much easier it was for me to get the speedwork done when I was doing it with a group.

 I joke about it, but I really did try, maybe once, maybe twice a year, to actually commit to doing speedwork and made up some random (and much too difficult) track workout, feel totally defeated by it, and have nothing to compare it to.  And I really do think, now getting to look back on my year of training and my improvements in running, that finally doing some speedwork is what made all the difference to my times.  Every year, I managed to take ~2-3 minutes off my marathon time, and the difference for me this year between Oct 2009 and Oct 2010 was 13 minutes - that's a lot!  And I'd be pretty happy if I could do 13 minutes again - which isn't an impossible goal at this point.  So trust me - groups are good - and speedwork is even better!

 So thanks to Sue, Steph, Paul, Jerry, Jeremy, Art, Sarah & Jeremy (aka Saramy), Kelsey, Rachel, Brendan, Andrew & Amy, and everyone else that keeps coming out to cold nights on the track, dark nights on the hills, and early mornings at the races.  Your efforts don't go unnoticed and I hope that it helps you as much as it helps me!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

fun in the rain!

I had the opportunity yesterday to do a new product notification photo shoot with Lululemon yesterday!

I'm learning more and more about what goes on at Lululemon and I think it's really cool that they are working with so many people that are local to their area - all sorts of different types of people!  I did the shoot yesterday with Mitch the pro baseball player - I felt bad he didn't get a jacket - because it was chilly!
I also have to say, if you are looking for a new pair of running tights, the tights I wore yesterday (and today.....and likely tomorrow) are awesome - definitely the most comfortable tights I've ever worn!
(And I've worn lots....)

Anyways, here's the link:
Lululemon Product Notification for January 25, 2011

Enjoy the rain while it lasts....spring is around the corner!

Monday, January 24, 2011

garmins are for cool kids....let's go run

A quick link to my Sunday afternoon project while procrastinating going to the pool...

It may not all make sense to you, as it was made in the spirit of the ongoings of our running group.

Click on this link:
Garmins are for cool kids....let's go run.

As I said, this is the first of the series.  Look for more to come, especially on Sundays when it rains a lot.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A race, a crash, and a nap

That about sums up my last couple of weeks.

After running around in winter wonderland for 2 weeks, we made a detour through Victoria to do the Pioneer 8km in Saanich.  This was the last of my 'firsts' - my first 8km!  Having already tackled my first 5km, I was a bit more prepared for a race faster than 10km - which is the shortest distance I had ever done prior to the 5km this past fall.  I'd have to say I now like the 8km more than the 5 or 10km.

Race reports get quite short when the race only takes 30 min!  Well, 30 min and 22 sec to be exact.  Our wonderful running team of 3 (Sue, Steph and I) set out to do our warm up on a cold morning.  A little bit of ice here and there but we all managed to stay upright.

The Pioneer 8km was also the BC 8km Championship - which definitely makes it competitive.  There were some serious singlets & compression socks out there.  At a very comfortable 11am start, the gun went off, and we all went flying down the hill.  The course was a very rural route through fields & homes, with the ever cruel run past the finish line at about 5km.

Besides a chilly start, the race had a great course and this was a (mostly) enjoyable 8km race!  I stayed with the same woman for the last 3km, but could never convince myself to pass her - lessons learned for next time.  Racing takes practice - which is the nice thing about shorter races - you get to practice more.  Having mostly only doing marathons in the past, you learn valuable lessons during racing but you can't practice them for another 4-6 months!  These lessons and feelings stay a little more current and hopefully I can work on them during these shorter races in these series.  In the end, I finished 7th in the race and 6th for the BC Championships - so for my first 8km - I'm pretty happy with that.

In the end, our team was decorated with ribbons, medals and gloves - sweet!  Too bad we didn't win that Dairyland picnic basket - reason to go back and do another Island Series race!

Then it was back to training - my new 'job' - full time (with mandatory non-running projects so I don't go nutso).  I made it a whole 5 days until I managed to crash my bike while cycling downtown.  No broken bones, thank goodness, but I did wonder that as I felt myself catapulting towards the ground.  On a wet day, without doing anything stupid, I just managed to get caught in what I think is an old cable car track - about a 2-3 inch deep vertical line - and automatically knew I was going to bail.  So, taking the low side, not even bothering to brake (to avoid end-o's into the intersection) I just went down to the road and curb.  Road rash - check.  Bumps & bruises - check.  Hit my head - check .  Whiplash - check (although I would find that out on Saturday).  Sucky mcSuckerson - check.  One passerby stopped to ask if I was ok - a better question would have been, "Are you stunned" - to which I could definitely answer yes.

My bike still in one piece, I finished my errand downtown and headed off to the pool, which I had pre-planned into the schedule for the day.  When I got to the pool I sat down for a bit, just to let some of the adrenaline/shock wear off.  I had a couple sore wrists, as they braced my slide for at least a few metres along the pavement (thank you gloves), but I seemed to be able to bear weight on them so thought swimming was ok.  I realize now, that swimming after an accident is probably not a good idea, but it's tough to know not to do things when you're a bit stunned.  However, I really don't see that the swim workout made anything worse, other than the fact I was getting a bit emotional when the swim sets were getting tough (I did not, cry, in my goggles).  Then I hopped back on my crash proof steed and biked home.  I was then promptly banned from running Friday night's session.  And I really didn't fight it.

I did the long run Saturday, and it went ok - I just warned my running mates that I couldn't shoulder check and needed a left-hand man in that department.  18km went by pretty fast and after getting home and eating lunch, I decided to call it a day.  That is when things started to stiffen up and hurt.  My neck, my shoulders, my back - blah.  It was a day of rotating ice packs, and by the evening I gave up and knew I had to buy some Ibuprofen.  So, about 24 hours after crashing, things will hurt.  About 24 hours after that, things weren't so bad, and I managed to eek out an indoor ride and an old man swim that afternoon.  But not the way I wanted to start my first week back - although now, it's done - my first bike crash.  Irony being this is the week I also bought an indoor trainer.  I was, however, commuting, not riding.  So things are looking up.  Some massage appointments, some weird clicks and pops, and a bit babying things along and I'll be fine.  Added bonus, I get to chuck the old helmet and wear my pretty new one :)  Things were much worse after the running fail/fall so I'm not too upset by this episode.  Although I did learn that unless you're bleeding quite a bit (ie my running fail) no one will stop to help you.

Then the naps.  And the sleep.  I hate to be that person who talks about how much they get to sleep, but really, it has been very interesting to see just how much my body will sleep if I will let it.  Now I'm not talking crazy sloth amounts, but I am pretty consistently smashing 10-10.5 hour sleeps with a 45min-1hr nap in between.  I think before when I was working full-time and doing as much training as I could handle, I was sleeping about ~8-8.5 hours most days (which I know is still more than most) and maybe only 7 hrs if I was getting up early to swim.  And I'm not really sleeping in just because it's fun, but I really am interested in how much sleep my body will take if I will let it.  And a 25% sleep increase is quite a lot for someone who already gets a 'recommended' level of sleep.  They say that sleep helps you release human growth hormone, although I do not yet have Hulk-ian pipes to prove this.....yet.

So that is a recap of the last couple of weeks.  I am still trying to settle into a routine.  Believe it or not, it wasn't very easy (or fun) to transition into this new routine.  I love what I'm doing but when your body is used to a certain pace and routine, it goes a little snaky when you flip it all on it's head.  I always had to rush everything and stack everything on top of each other to get all the work and life and training done.  Now it's a bit weird (although I'm getting used to it) to have that time to sit and relax and let my body just rest.  My system was so charged up on adrenaline getting everything done and definitely not sitting down and relaxing into the couch for too long, that I'm sure my system will appreciate the more balanced approach.  Time will tell what that means to my training and racing, but I'm sure for my overall health it's a good thing.

Hope the New Year is being kind to everyone and that you're finding some fun in this winter training somehow (my advice - bike inside).  Spring will be here before you know it - so enjoy the crisp air now!

Friday, January 7, 2011

winter training camp

I've been up training at Mt. Washington, BC for the past 2 weeks.  We've had a truckload of snow (2 metres in 24 hours at one point), about 5 metres in fact, and a wicked streak of sunshine between Christmas and New Years.  It was hard to decide what to do up here - run with yak trax, snowshoe run, xc ski, classic or skate, downhill ski....and when to take a rest from it all with a steaming mug of hot chocolate in hand and lose continuously in Monopoly.

Running and training on a mountain is fun - but it is also hard.  There are no flats, no pavement, no stopping in case you get too chilled, wishing you didn't forget your clear lenses as snow darts into your eyes, effort that totally outweighs pace...but in the end, it is beautiful and it more than makes up for it all.

 I've had days up here where I've felt invincible and crazy strong, and other days where I just felt beaten down by this snowy terrain.  I've been gasping for breath at the top of totally silent and abandoned hills, and I've gone flying downhill kicking snow over and in front of me with my snowshoes.  It's so different from the usual routine.  I even hit the back of my head yesterday with a self-created snowshoe snowball.
 You need balance and respect for this world up here.

 I feel very lucky to have had a great holiday break with family and friends.  I'm also happy to be moving on to a new routine and new goals, but I'm certainly going to miss the mountain when I leave.