Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Boundary Bay Marathon - November 5, 2017

Remember, remember!
   The fifth of November,
   The Boundary Bay race we sought;
   I knew of no reason
   Why my legs would be seizin'
   And my training would be for nought!
   I haven't raced since 2010,
   My spirit I did revive,
   To crush the run, no argument,
   Or, at the very least, survive.

   I started training, 5 months ago,
   To prove this body was not too slow.
   My marathon itch, it needed a scratch,
   And the race was off as we left in a batch!

   I'll make no mistake,
   Or my legs will ache!

   T'was gorgeous the run,
   Incredible view,
   So much to see,
   As I swallowed each GU.

   No slope, no slope, I knew I'd cope,
   My body felt great from limb to limb,
   Mile by mile I ran it down,
   Lactic acid to my brim.

   Run strong, boys! Run strong, boys! I gave everything!
   Run fast, boys! Run fast, boys! To my pace I did cling!
   Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!

Last spring I was inspired as I watched my wife run the Calgary marathon. I felt a tingling deep down inside - my competitive juices were started to bubble. Not to be competitive against her, but myself. That's what makes running amazing after all - it is a personal journey that encourages travel companions along the way, but the journey remains yours.

I was also inspired by my weight. For too long I had used my kids as an excuse not to be in shape as I gradually slid (uncomfortably so) into a "dad bod". I mistakenly thought I was still in shape - I could still bust out a relatively fast mile here or there during my increasingly infrequent runs, but I wasn't being honest with myself. The scale was honest - too honest, in fact (to the point of being rude). 6 months ago I was dangerously avoiding the 190 pound mark by just a few tenths of a pound.

An old coach of mine, who I credit for making me an running enthusiast when I lived in Houston, used to say that a proper marathon training program should not be confused as a weight loss program. That's a fair statement, but I decided to ignore it anyhow as I dusted off my Jack Daniel's training book and began planning my training schedule for the Boundary Bay Marathon. I had two key motives: Lose weight, and to complete a marathon once again.

The Boundary Bay marathon course - flat, scenic, and the last Boston Qualifying race of the season in Canada, which gave me more time to prepare and train.

The first training runs were brutal (and they were supposed to be 'Easy'!). There were several 8 mile treks, done at a 8:30 min/mile pace where I questioned my sanity and my ability to run anything longer, or faster. But if you know me, you know that I am more stubborn than smart.

So I kept running. I kept following my program. And I started each run asking myself, "What is the point of this run?" For the first time in my entire running career, I ran with maturity. I ran with patience. I ran alongside my wife who was also following the same training program - who consistently inspired me when she nailed the hard workouts to do the same.

I ran with confidence in my plan and strength from my partner.

My VDOT increased as my weight continued to melt away and the miles logged on. As the marathon date became nearer and was no longer a distant horizon on my calendar, I started to think about Boston. That was the last marathon I have run, and I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to qualify at Boundary Bay. I had no intentions of going, but could I run that fast again? Now?

The thing about Jack Daniel's is that he does give you confidence. Whether you think I am talking about a smooth whiskey, or a crazy intense running coach, you are right. The completion of each quality workout slowly revealed an almost forgotten runner below. I was mentally and physically confident boarding the plane to Abbotsford for the marathon weekend.
Checking out the race course the night before. It was windy, freezing, and made one question their sanity for signing up for a marathon in November in Canada.

Do you know what I don't like? When people ask me what I plan on running when I sign up for an event? "What's your goal time?" they ask. I hate this question. I don't understand it. Young David, always had an answer. In fact, he was always fixated on his answer. Young David always had a very specific response. He also had specific excuses and reasons to explain his answer. Young David was dumb.

Going into this marathon, being my 17th, and considering that my life is drastically different than it was before when I seriously ran, I figured that maturity and wisdom should be something that I could start to rely on by now. Being wiser, I do not make Time-Based goals as I used to. (Did I mention that these are dumb?) They focus on the wrong thing - the result. It is the process that one should focus on - if you get this right, the result is simply the marriage of your preparation and execution.

Preparation is not, simply, following a training program. Ask yourself this: What are you strong at? What is your best quality as a runner? A marathon training program will get you from one line painted on the ground to another, with a few water stations in between. But what are you doing between those lines that focuses on your strengths, while avoiding your weaknesses?

I know where I am my strongest. I know where I feel most alive. I know when I feel most invincible. 5k and 10k efforts. My body, my mind, my soul like it here. It is controlled pain. It is mental focus. It is unquestioning determination and stubborness. It is me.

Heading out the door to go run the marathon!

I planned my marathon to get me to a point where I could unleash this effort. Instead of getting increasingly fatigued as the marathon went on, my goal was to become increasingly strong, more determined, and increasingly happy. So what was the plan?

Negative splits. The great thing about running negative splits is that if you got it, you'll do it. If you don't, then it is a good thing you started slower so you didn't completely blow-up. Specifically, I wanted to start at a 7:42 min/mile pace, and increase my pace by 2 seconds each mile and try to run a 5km "race" at the end. The result of this process would be a Boston Qualifying time of 3:10:58.

And we are off! I am lower left with the blue shirt and orange glasses.

So, what actually happened (paces listed as min/mile)?

Miles 1-5: 7:43, 7:40, 7:36, 7:37, 7:32         38:09
Miles 6-10: 7:30, 7:23, 7:25, 7:20, 7:17       36:55
Miles 11-15: 7:19, 7:14, 7:17, 7:08, 7:10     36:08
Miles 16-20: 7:07, 7:06, 7:02, 6:59, 6:56     35:10
Miles 21-25: 6:55, 6:55, 6:50, 6:48, 6:39     34:06
Miles 26+: 6:36, 6:12                                    9:05

Avg pace: 7:11 min/mile

TIME: 3:09:27.1 - 4th Overall (/140)
First Half: 1:38:14
Second Half: 1:31:13

Of all the marathons I have ever done, I executed this one the best both in terms of training and actual race day performance. 4 weeks out, I practiced the final 15 mile acceleration and finished the final 2 miles around a 6 minute pace. I treated race day as two separate pieces: 11 mile warm-up + 15 mile workout. If I got to the beginning of the 15 mile workout with a controlled HR, then I would be in good shape.

Graphically, the pace (blue), effort (HR is in red), and pace difference (black) from average are shown below:

I see/read/hear a lot of talk about HR zones, but I do not see a lot about how your HR changes within those zones. Over distance and time your HR is not a static entity that comfortably finds equilibrium within a particular training zone - it increases with prolonged time of effort. The rate in which your HR increases is a function of the HR zone you are in. One will "hit the wall" when their HR hits its max before the race is over (at least this is true in my experiences). A successful marathon is all about controlling when this happens and, thus, being extremely aware of when and how your HR starts to increase during the race.

Marathon preparation and training is when you learn this. How does my HR increase and when does it happen? When I am running easy-aerobic, my HR increases by approximately 1 beat/minute per mile run (green slope on graph above). My lower HR limit of my Threshold zone is around 146-148 bpm. At this point my rate of HR increase doubles to 2 beats/minute per mile. Note that this HR zone does NOT equate to a Threshold pace - it occurs at a much slower pace. This is simply due to my slowly increasing HR over the first 16/17 miles of the marathon.

Once you are on this track, there is no going back. Start too early and hit your max with race to spare, then you can enjoy your walk to the finish line. I try to error on the side of starting a little too late, because I can speed up when I feel comfortable. This is what I did in the final two miles - I let my heart guide my run without waiting for confirmation from my watch. I kept telling myself, "Don't do anything dumb...Don't do anything dumb..." until I was confident that I wouldn't (and feeling confident that I am not doing anything dumb is not a feeling I get a lot!!)

This moment felt great!


Training for a marathon is, in fact, a marathon in itself. It is impossible to do properly without the help, support, and patience of the people around you - my 3 kids and my amazing wife. I was so excited and privileged to share this journey with her.

Not only does my wife offer amazing support - she offers great motivation - she finished 2nd female overall!
Her and the guy to the left used the buddy system to get home!

The woman's winner and my wife finishing second!

Did I mention that if you were not running, it was pretty darn cold! For running, the weather was nearly perfect!

At the end of the run
So, the marathon is done. Does this mean my journey is done? No. It will take a little break right now, but will continue. I lost 26 pounds from when I started, shared an amazing experience with my wife, and demonstrated a healthy and active lifestyle to my kids. I no longer use them as an excuse to gain weight, but they are my motivation to keep up.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 30 - 2017

After a very long hiatus, I think it is time to run a marathon again. I am not the runner I once was, but I can run once like the runner I was.

My journey begins with different expectations, different goals, but same Jack Daniel's running philosophies (but with a VDOT that is 10 less than before).

Seasonal Goal:
Time to rebuild and refocus to November 5, 2017.
Marathon: Boundary Bay
Goal Time: 3:30

Next Season's Goal:
Let's get back to Boston.

This blog may be less intense than before...time does that. But it will give focus, and that over time will bring back some intensity.

Let's start.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March 1: Consolation

If it is any consolation to my American friends who may be lamenting their loss to the superior Canadian men's hockey team - it was an overtime loss, so at least you will still get one point for your efforts...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Feb. 28: Running Recap

This blog was originally started so the JD and I could communicate our Berlin training progress with each other to help keep us motivated through the gruelling training prescriped by the original JD. Well here we are again both planning on running another marathon together but this blog is not being used at all to keep each other motivated. I know that he is training in his usual dedicated and intense way whereas my running (noticed I did not use the word "training") has been quite spotty, so there really has not been much for me to report. This was a good week though.
Monday: 4.25 miles with the Lagos Hash House Harriers. This was like running fartleks. At some intersections you were not sure where to go (based on the symbology used by the HHHs) so you would have to run down a street, realize that you were on the wrong path, turn back, and step on the gas a little to catch back up to the correct path.

Tuesday: 6 exciting miles on the treadmill.

Thursday: 6 exciting miles on the treadmill.

Friday: 5 miles. I was invited to the Chevron run, which Chevron sponsors for its employees. It was a great way to finish the week. The run leaves from Chevron's compound and winds along a sandy road to a bonfire pit on the beach. After watching the sun set, and meeting a few other runners, a bus takes you back to the compund. This run occurs every week - unfortunately it is a long way away and starts early at 5:30pm. I am not sure how often I will make this run, but I am hoping I can figure something out because it was great. (In the picture I am sure you can recognize Banana Island. The distance to the Chevron run may not seem like much, but with Lagos traffic it is not a simple task to get there. The satellite photo also highlights how the run felt like I was actually running out in the country - note the concrete jungle on the left (aka my usual hangout) vs. the green vegatation on the right).

Saturday: 10 miles (4+6). I started the day by running 1 lap around Banana Island (4 miles) and I finished the day with 6 exciting miles on the treadmill.

Sunday: 12 miles (4+4+4). This was interval training - Nigerian Style. I ran one lap around Banana Island clockwise, then I went for breakfast. I returned to run another lap but counter-clockwise (to keep it fresh!). Upon arriving home I decided to add 4 exciting miles on the treadmill.

In total I ran 43 miles this week. They were all very slow miles, but they were miles none-the-less. I am pretty happy with my running this week...even the little guy seems pleased!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Feb. 23: I thought I was coming down with something...

...but it turns out that I am just eating a lot of fibre.

I blame Patience (aka Precious). She has been doing all of my grocery shopping for the last little while and I have pretty much given her free reign to buy whatever she wants. She has a general idea of the types of things that I like. The trade-off between getting a few surprises in the fridge vs. wasting a Saturday afternoon in a sweaty market shopping is worth it.

Now I know that amongst several (all?) of you that I have a reputation as being an eater. JD tells me that it goes straight to my ass and having to lug it all around a marathon course is what slows me down. Apparently Patience thinks I am quite the eater as well - she went shopping today. Upon returning home from work I was greeted with an entire fruit and vegetable section in my refrigerator.

And beside the fridge I have all the stuff that could not fit in the fridge.

Let me just take a second to highlight some of the things that you may or may not have missed from the above pictures: 2 coconuts, head of cauliflower, 2 heads of broccoli, 3 heads of lettuce, enough oranges and grapefruit to prevent scurvy for entire armies camped out in winter, 2 pineapples (+ 1/2 of another already cut up in a tupperware), 4 mangos, 2 dozen tomatoes, a dozen pears, 8 apples, a dozen plums, a batch of grapes, a sack full of potatoes, 4 croissants, a jumbo loaf of bread, and a 2 foot long fish. I am sure that I missed something but I think you get the idea.

At least I am eating good food...right?!

Hold that thought...I got to go to the bathroom.

Ok where was I? Oh yes, I also wanted to mention that I met up with the Lagos Hash House Harriers last night and got in 4.25 miles. To be honest, I have always avoided the Hash because it has never really sounded like my thing. And I am still not sure that it is my thing. I am just happy to be running with others.

They were a great group of people and I enjoyed myself but I find that there is a lot of wasted time. What happened to the days of showing up, running, then meeting at Panera Bread when you are done (if nothing else just to make a public appearance in your short shorts)? But with the Hash it takes all night just to run 4.25 miles. If I were anywhere else in the world I probably would be bothered by that. Since I have nothing better going on, I think I shall make a habit out of meeting them.

Today I hit the treadmill for 7 miles (or 1 1/2 episodes of Heroes).

I am off to the bathrooom again - have a good day!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Feb. 21: Why is there so much crime?

Of all the places that I have ever lived I have never seen such a place like Lagos when it comes to religion - in particular Christianity. Everywhere you look you will see bible verses painted on cars, trucks, boats, sides of buildings...well pretty much anywhere. (Actually that also reminds me of when I lived in Missouri and saw "Jesus" signs everywhere). At the workplace you hear a lot of mention of God and Jesus and people are not shunned or discouraged from bringing their religion into the office (as is the case in North America). If something good happens you are told to praise Jesus. (The only time you see someone praising Jesus in the American workplace is if you consider the NBA or NFL a "workplace" and a player (i.e. a "worker) pounds his right arm across his chest before shooting it to the sky while nodding his head in thanks. I have often wanted to do this after a sweet PowerPoint presentation before spiking my notepad on the ground but I digress).

People are named Sunday to celebrate the fact that they were born on God's day. Speaking of Sunday, it is a pretty special day because EVERYone goes to church. In fact, this is the only day that it is recommended that I can drive on my own - the roads are completely empty (unless you drive past a church).

Sure, I have experienced many of these things in other countries as well but not to the same magnitude as I see here in Nigeria. This brings me to the title of this blog - by all appearances this is the most Godly place I have ever lived in so why do I have to be escorted by an armed gaurd? Furthermore, why do I keep getting emails offering me financial windfalls if I help some Nigerian prince transfer his funds he just recieved by pillaging a new country or something?

I am sure the answer is something simple. All the locals that I know have jobs and are gainfully employed. It stands to reason that the majority of my impressions of the locals are formed by them. I am sure that there are a few sketchy characters amongst the ~10 million inhabitants who have learned how to cash a ransom cheque with little difficulty. My random thought of the day while swerving back 'n forth across two lanes of road today because I had it all to myself. But if anyone were to ask - I was just warming my tires - Nascar style.

I ran 35 miles this week - 27 on the treadmill. I finished the week by running 10 miles today, which is huge for me because I have not done a double digits day in an eon. To break it up I ran 4 miles outside (at lunchtime in the heat and decided that was completely stupid) then came home and did 6 on the treadmill.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Feb. 18: Winter Olympics

My favorite time of year, every fourth year, is the Winter Olympics. I love watching them. I find myself completely mesmerized and glued to the TV for the latest news and highlights.

In '98 I could not get enough of Schmirler the Curler, nor of the American men's hockey team trashing their hotel rooms (hmmmm hotel rooms, or rooms in the athlete's village?...hmmmm, if I recall correctly it was their hotel rooms...that does not seem very 'olympic-y' but that is not the point of this post).

In 2002 I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Canadian men's hockey team beating the American men's hockey team ON american soil - that was pretty sweet! I will discuss the women's victory later.

But I think my love for the olympics started in 1988 when I got to watch ski jumping, bobsled, hockey, and figure skating (just to name a few) all in my own back yard of Calgary. I was in grade 4 at the time and was fascinated by the "Battle of the Brians" and the final threads of the cold war - the hottest ticket in town was anybody vs. Russia. I instantly loved Eddie the Eagle and even got to watch him "soar" from the ski jump. And who could forget the Jamaican bobsled team - I even managed to get their autographs on a sweatshirt (too bad I ruined that sweatshirt!).

A lot has changed since then. Jamaica sticks to the other olympics (can you imagine if Usan Bolt decided to become a bobsledder instead?!), professional athletes are now allowed to partake, Mr. Gorbechev tore down his wall, interpretive ski-dance never made it beyond an exhibition sport, snowboarding became a sport (the highlight being when Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati was stripped of his gold medal for failing a drug test. He argued that the marijuana was from second hand smoke during a going away party before he left for the olympics. He got his gold medal back and became a national hero), Katarina Witt posed for playboy, speedskate technology changed - the new speedskate was dubbed the "clap skate" and instantly all records were demolished, mogul skiing was introduced, Tonya Harding proved that anything can be accomplished with a tire iron, Alberto Tomba seems to have been forgotten, and women started playing hockey.

Now, I agree with all of the above changes...well all but two. I often felt that interpretive ski dance was a vastly under appreciated sport. The other sport that I do not think belongs in the Olympics is women's hockey. (I will wait patiently until the rotten eggs and cabbage have been thrown my way to explain my point).

Why would any red blooded Canadian denounce hockey of any sort? To be honest I could care less if Canada won only 1 medal in the whole olympics - as long as it is gold and is for the men's hockey. So, what is different about women's hockey?

Competition. That is what is different. Every year the gold and silver medal goes to Canada and USA. All the other games are complete blowouts. Do not get me wrong, I love watching the women's hockey. The passing is phenomenal and the goals all belong on highlight reels. I am all for equality and think that it is great that both sexes have the opportunity to play hockey. Unfortunately this opportunity only seems to be prevalent in North America. Until women's hockey can prove to be competitive at the world level, I think the olympics should push this sport aside and make some more room for interpretive ski-dance again.

I am off to watch the day 5 highlights! Go Canada!