Monday, 28 November 2011

Windy sunday!

I was going to do a short blogpost, so I thought on saturday, about how weird it was running in shorts when I looked like an astronaut the week before (forecast was for 13 degrees). However, howling gusts of wind over 100 km/h greeted me on sunday morning. The whistling was so loud that my wife and I had to raise our voices to talk to each other. I live in a new community, with much construction still going on, so there were tarps aplenty dancing around. It's surreal to say the least to see cereal boxes and plastic bottles fly past your window, only to see the exact same cereal boxes and plastic bottles fly back in the opposite direction.

I don't want to get hit by IFOs (identifiable flying objects), I thought, so indoor track at the Y it'll have to be. I'd never dreamed that this kind of wind would drive me indoors, as opposed to a blizzard.
Feeling nice and light, I did 18km in just under 1h 24min. The track is only about 125 metres long, and it's difficult to get the balance right in the corners. My left achilles would start to ache a bit, so I lent less in the corners. 10-15 minutes after that, I'd feel a mild ache on the outside of my right knee, so would lean in further, and so on. I actually felt that I was able to analyse and understand what was going on from the point of view of mechanics and anatomy. There wasn't really much else to do except yell "boo!" at numpties crossing the track in front of me without looking. Amateurs!

At work today, a couple of offices had had their windows blown out.

When I got home, I had to clean up as well as deal with a piece of roofing felt and a tarp. The tarp was big enough to cover most of my garden. I folded it up and carried it across the road to the building site, wishing the builders "merry bloody christmas" as I dumped it.
It made me realize something all over again though. Being a fairly serious amateur runner for the past few years has given me good fitness and stamina which also come in very useful in practical, everyday situations. I love to push myself in races, but this gives me a quiet satisfaction when I compare it to similar situations a few years ago that left me gapsing for breath and a touch depressed about being so out of shape.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Road testing winter gear and too much excitement

I don't believe I've specifically blogged about an indvidual training run in detail so far. While I love every step I run, there's not too much to report really. Not this time...

Calgary just had a very sudden jab of winter over the weekend. Time to test out some winter stuff. I've only got the one balaclava - Running Room - and it's a touch thin, so I wore a double layer Under Armour hat on top. Ski goggles were a new purchase, I didn't like icicles on my eyelashes in January this year, but more than that - when it's -20 and you blink too slowly, your eyes can freeze shut which is some scary sh!t.
Also over 2 thin pairs of gloves I tried out new Sugoi mittens. Finally, it was my first time out in my new Salomon cross country runners. One day when it's -25 or worse I'll take a picture of everything before I put it all on. Any readers from warmer climates might be a bit taken aback by it all.
First hill above - and I didn't slip once on toe-off. Amazing shoes. A sterner test will come when the slopes are truly icy, or the melt/freeze stuff starts in the spring. My googles were stopping my eyeballs from hurting, though they did steam up a bit. An essential purchase nevertheless.
I was trying out a new route, going along the north ridge of Fish Creek Park, but didn't study the map well enough as I turned off early. There's a river (Fish Creek) and a series of streams below and normally I'm on the other side on paved pathways I've run on for years. I go to one stream, and crossed slowly and heard cracking - it had only been this cold for 2 days - jumped up the other side and ended up at the river. Turning around I knew I'd have to cross the same stream again, did some cartoonish tippy-toes across, then followed the path round. I tripped on a tree root, but somehow didn't fall flat on my face by grabbing at dry grass, perhaps it was enough to slow down my top half and re-balance?
After seeing this fella, I came to an eroded pathway which went either back up to the ridge or down and through some trees and I thought towards the familiar path the other side of Fish Creek. Just as I was getting going, I saw a knee height dog-like animal with a thick tail dart into a clump of trees. I could take a coyote, I thought, but there's no point trying to find out. I got to the top of the hill very quickly, partly because of the Salomons' phenomenal grip and if I'm honest partly due to wanting to put distance between me and fido.

After getting uncomfortable, lost then scared, the run home was a little tough. This cold snap came on so quickly, and acclimatization will take around a month. It was a dull fatigue that set in, and unlike most of my training runs, I was looking forward to finishing.
To top things off, and not for the first time, I got "runner's nipple". I wore 3 layers under my jacket, and wasn't cold. I sweated a lot, and they must've been, ahem, standing up a little more. All 3 shirts got a little blood on them, but it all washed off easily.
So next time, no improvising the route, stay in open areas and I'll make sure I keep those 2 naughty bits protected...

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Volunteer

I finally got around to volunteering at a race! Only took me 29 1/2 months from the time of my first race. It was fairly uneventful, though interesting to be a close-up spectator at local event. The Last Chance Half Marathon is one of the larger races in Calgary. Perhaps I call it one of the "Calgary Majors", i.e. more than 200 runners and therefore one that I could never win.
The winner was Jeremy Deere, below, who got the $500 1st place prize some 3 minutes ahead of the next guy. I'd love to do a half in 1 hour 12 minutes, but that is faster than my 5k pace.
Lisa Harvey, below, came in at 1:23, which is the same as my 5k pace!
After this it was a question of making sure everyone did the u-turn onto the bridge and finish around 400 metres away.
 My toes were getting cold just standing there, so after the first few had gone past so I did a few jumping jacks, running on the spot and small jumps. My post was at the crest of a rise, so I must have stood out quite well bouncing around. I noticed that when I was mobile like this, runners seemed to pick up a little speed, and certainly smiled more than when I was static. Interesting learning of some human psychology. I kept it up even when my toes weren't cold, pointed the way, clapped and smiled at one and all. I could've said that old cliche "almost there!" as it would've been true, but have found it annoying while racing myself, not to mention the number of times I've read others being annoyed by it too.  
Martin Parnell ran past, but I didn't realize it until he was halfway up the bridge ramp. I would've liked to have said "hi". For those who don't know, he ran 250 marathons last year. Above is the final finisher.

So a nice somewhat Stampede-style lunch, then home. It goes without saying that I prefer running in a race, though they are largely made by the volunteers who indulge those of us who are doing what we love. This also marks the beginning of building a stronger base for marathon training in 2012. Now to find/ design a training plan.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

..and I'm spent!

Aside from the shock I got at finishing a 5 mile race recently at a faster pace than my 5km PB, I might have caught a slight cold that day. That race had been a reward for getting a new job which I was a week away from starting, and a good general demeanour may have helped get that surprisingly quick time. I had already defied expectations 3 weeks earlier at the Harvest Half Marathon, and now I feel as fatigued as I thought I was going to after that race.
With winter just about to hit for real, and daylight minutes dwindling rapidly I've had one of those low-level colds for the past couple of weeks. Once again though it's been a time to learn a little more about how an amateur athlete's body works. Modifying a workout so I don't feel more tired than usual (i.e. than when I don't have a cold) afterwards, it seems that every day my body is expecting to have to work hard, so is in a routine of having to also work hard to repair itself post-exercise using the food I give it right afterwards. Once the tiredness from the workout fades, I feel better 2 or so hours after getting sweaty. Things have certainly changed since 4 years and 25kg ago.

Speaking of the recent past, I was able the past weekend to take in part of my original sunday running route from 2008/ 2009. The back country roads and surrounding fields always look great, though they're still as windy as ever.
I realize too that the crown on this road may well have had something to do with a few of the injuries I had then, including the one I carried into my first ever race, the 2009 Calgary Half Marathon.  I guess on that day I surprised myself too, a habit that I never want to lose.