Friday, 31 August 2012

The 3x10

4 weeks until the Harvest Half, and it's friday, so it was time for 3x 10 minute intervals with 3 minute jogging recovery in between each. Each time I've done this in April, it's been into a howling wind. Before last year's HHM, I only ran on sundays in the weeks leading up, having strained my hamstring in the Quebec City half. Off work today, so from home I went into sundance and past the top of Sikome Hill which is the 17.5k mark of the HHM.
Even cars about to right turn at a road I needed to cross slowed to let me keep going, so during the intervals themselves I didn't need to break stride once. Magic. Feeling both strong and stable, I was even able to put a little thought into my stride and form, toeing off a little more, lifting the legs forward again quicker for higher cadence. Above all, TTA: Toes, Tailbone and Arse. Flatten the toes, as I have a tendancy to lift them which decreases efficiency. Imagine an invisible piece of string is lifting the tailbone also enables footstrike to happen further back and reduce impact. Engaging the butt muscles also allows for quicker leg turnover (lifting the leg in particular, at least that's what it feels like to me).
I thought I'd put together a HHM preview, partly as an aid for me to plan my race. In the meantime, there's 2 more weeks of increasing KMs coming up before a taper and showtime.

Monday, 27 August 2012


Cross-training can take many forms, including these:
On sunday afternoon, having done 21.5k in the morning while A-Chang was at her kickboxing class (never thought I'd be half of a sporty power couple), the 2 of us went to Bikram Yoga to have our 1st go at hot yoga. I'd tried, er, cold yoga a few years before, but really this seemed like my yogic debut. The picture shows the basic routine (from the Bikram site).
The extra squats I do on tuesday and thursday gym sessions and the free-weights routine from the last post probably saved me from swan-diving onto the floor more than once. The temperature and humidity were also something else. Just 2 minutes of sitting on the floor before class had me taking my shirt off. The newcomers are the ones wearing actual clothes.
The audible breathing at the start might have made me feel a little silly but for the fact that I was probably quietest of all. Imagine the "castle of arrrgggh" sequence from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and you're just about there. The drips of sweat turned into a several streams of it after only another couple of exercises. I was the shiniest person in the room in no time, a glistening, salmon coloured human spit-roast. When there was an exercise involving lying on the back, my belly-button filled up like a bathtub. I also frequently had to do a posture with my eyes shut to avoid the stinging, and it even flowed up my nose when holding the head upside down.
Nevertheless, I know this will help with stability, strength and balance (and probably more). Myself, I had no soreness the following day, unlike the time I tried "fitness bootcamp". I had to take the last 15 minutes easily, running out of energy at the end. My towel was very heavy with sweat, and I somehow forgot to bring a change of underwear. I will now coin a new phrase: "you never forget your first time doing yoga, especially when you have to go commando afterwards."

Friday, 24 August 2012

Still summer, but autumn on the way..

6 weeks until the Harvest Half Marathon already. It means that summer's coming to an end unfortunately, though the HHM's approach stops that from getting me down. How do non-runners cope? A mystery. With summer still going strong, an HHM facebook group meet/ run had a lot of no-shows, but it was great to meet up with Kyle & Robbie-Lynn, along with Neil (took this photo, son Andrew leading the way). More of a Calgary running bloggers meet-up.

Work-outs are going well, doing hills/ hill intervals instead of speed intervals is proving a tough workout that stresses the legs less while also giving the hamstrings more strength, hopefully correcting the imbalance vis-a-vis the quads at least a bit. One of my thrice-weekly weight sessions, the saturday session which I follow up with 40+ minutes on the bike, is now the free-weight session I mentioned in a previous post. This is still extremely challenging, and the last of each set still has me wobbling a bit, battling to keep my balance.
As much of it involves lunges, I bought a pair of New Balance (730 I think) minimalist shoes to wear in the gym. My runners simply don't have enough give in the toes. I couldn't see myself racing in these for anything longer than a 400 metre track race though, soles are just too thin for me.

Last sunday, after my 20k run in the morning, I had a brief swim in a nearby lake. I don't think I've ever swum in a freshwater lake before, though when I looked down, all I could see was green. My shoulders fatigued fairly quickly, although the old legs just kept on going. No triathlon in the near future then. Just the HHM in 37 days and the California International Marathon in 100 days.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Olympic reflections

I'm probably last of all in writing up my thoughts on the olympics. I grew up in the UK, so naturally I followed it closely. My Dad in fact was one of the army of volunteers, driving various people to various venues. I have 2 countries to cheer for, being also a Canadian citizen.
Before it all even began, there was the pantomime of Mitt Romney casting doubt on how the games were being organized. He probably wasn't aware of how cutting the British tabloid press can be, with its "Mitt the twit" headlines. I remarked how the highlight of the opening ceremony would be the giant cannon that would fire him into the Thames. Even better than that was Danny Boyle getting the Queen to do a spot of acting, and the Mr. Bean take on Chariots of Fire.
So, poor Canada didn't have much luck. Only 1 gold, albeit in the absurdly difficult trampolining. Prior gold medalist in the triathlon Simon Whitfield fell off his bike negociating a speed bump. Paula Findlay in the ladies' race would have been gold medalist if the Olympics had been in 2010/ 11, but a year dogged by injury affected her fitness and she finished last in tears.
Gold could have gone to the Canadian ladies' football team but for one of the strangest refereeing decisions I've ever seen. In the semi-final against the US, a free kick was awarded for the goalkeeper holding on to the ball too long. I've never seen that happen in all my decdes of watching the sport, only a yellow card here and there. The US captain, Abby Wambach had been counting in the ref's ear more than once, though must have been surprised herself to get a free-kick. From that came an also errant penalty which the US put away, and they went on ton score at the end of extra time. In all honesty, on that day Canada had the measure of the US team. For the bronze medal match against France, the luck evened things out a little, the Franch hitting the post, and the crossbar twice. Canada had only one shot on target all match, and coming one minute before the end, made it count. I was watching that online from work, with my boss standing next to me.

Great Britain, with quite the home advantage, really outdid itself. Cleaning up in cycling, there were also the expected gold medals in rowing along with boxing, showjumping, kayak slalom, shooting taekwondo and the Brownlee show at the triathlon.
Then of course there was the athletics. I wasn't a runner at the time of the last Olympics, but this time I followed every detail. "Super saturday" saw 3 golds within the space of an hour with Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon, Greg Rutherford in the long jump and Mo Farah the 10,000 metres. Mo also took gold in the 5,000 metres a week later.
Fun moments I enjoyed include the German shot-put champion jumping hurdles in celebration and the reaction of 18 year old GB sprinter Adam Gemili to the 80,000 crowd cheering for him. He could go places, and hopefully will put his going too early in the anchor leg of the 4x100 relay, thus earning GB a DQ, behind him. That was in the heats. Poor old Canada was DQ'd from the final due to a minor lane infringement.
The standout performance for me was David Rudisha's world record of 1:40.91 in the 800 metres, without a pacemaker. Quite extraordinary. Speaking of which, Usain Bolt fist-bumped every "lane assistant" he had - the teenagers who collect an athlete's clothes, and he handed one of them his woolly hat for the souvenir of a lifetime. I love the way he's brought a lighter dimension to the track, there are now a lot more animated athletes around. Bolt did Mo Farah's "Mobot" on a couple of occasions. When I do the Harvest Half I might do it too when I cross the line. I've also publicly stated that I'll do the "Lightening Bolt" if I PB. I'm sure I'll do well if I just keep this photo in mind.

During the opening ceremony, a conservative MP who is too much of an idiot for me to bother looking up his name tweeted something like "when is this leftist multicultural crap going to end?" It's a reminder to me of much that is wrong with Britain. There is still something of a case of mistaken self-identity which comes out as denial expressed in terms of prejudice (indirect or otherwise) and jingoism (the whole "Plastic Brit" thing spread by the awful tabloid press for example). The hope for me is that these Olympics mark some kind of a start at turning away from this. Winning certainly helped, the diversity of the 3 winners on "Super Saturday" a case in point.
All the trouble in the lead-up to the Games pointed to the age-old down in the mouth attitude that afflicts the UK too much. When the torch reached London however, it seemed to me that the public then relaxed and in a sense got over itself, and did away with whingeing and cynicism, in themselves a national sport on occasion. So the aspirations I have are best expressed with the question: can the embracing of multi-ethnic Olympic champions extend into a country of more pluralistic attitudes, one more honest about how it views both itself and others?

Monday, 6 August 2012

From runner's wife to running wife - a local "Olympics"

A-Chang, my wife, took part in a local Chinese community event, an "Olympics" as it was billed. Just a bit of fun, and all well-natured. Having dropped her off for the "opening ceremony", I went to the nearby ymca for my usual saturday workout.
I got back halfway through the 5000 metres, with a lot of very tired looking runners doing the best they could. Other events included tug-of-war, beanbag throw, skipping/ jump rope and long jump.
The lunch interval entertainment included tai-chi and this amazing guy and his spinning top.
A-Chang's first event was the 800 metres. Stand by for a dramatic race report! She's in the blue top and white cap. We'd actually discussed tactics, and viewed in the same light as a longer distance race I advised keeping it fairly relaxed for the first lap, picking it up at the beginning of the last lap, and giving it everything for the last 120 metres.
There was also a 6-ish year old boy in the starting line-up, I don't remember what happened to him. A-Chang's hat flew off after the first bend. After she went by on lap 2, I ran on the outside of the track next to her. The leader was slowing a little, but assumed the race was hers when she glanced over her shoulder entering the final bend. At the last 3rd of the bend I hissed "attack". I said it too quietly, so repeated myself a few seconds later. My rocket-wife then flew, faster than I've ever seen her go. Just like an elite race with that last kick. Not like an elite-race was the double-take the erstwhile leader did on seeing the blue-bullet fly past. I believe I heard a few gasps from onlookers too.
A-Chang doesn't do much running as part of her fitness routine, though weights, rowing machine and pilates all add up to strong legs with a fair bit of speed. All "medalists" received toothbrushes for prizes. Far more useful.
While on a bio-break, I was reading on my phone that GB was winning the heptathlon, the mens long-jump and the 10,000 metres over in London. I was expecting to take A-Chang's place in a 4x100 relay as she'd felt a little light headed after her 800. I turned out that mixed wasn't possible as there were separate mens and womens races. She'd recovered enough by then, so took her place for the anchor leg. She was given a lead which she extended, barelling down the home straight her cap having flown off again.
I ended up being drafted into action after all, for the last leg. I got the baton in last place, 20 metres back, but still had a good old go at sprinting for the first time in eons.
I was then talked into lining up for the 1500 metres. Rather easily. Most of the others looked fairly fit to me. A quick start, then they all slowed down and I went to the front. Depite being a bit of fun, if it has a start and finish line, I can't help myself. One teenager did his best to stick with me, laps 1 and 2 below. 
By lap 3 I was way ahead, and noticed a few surprised looking spectators. Not really a fair contest given the fact that I run 50-80km a week. Still, I camped it up at the finishing tape. While there's still quite a bit of the real Olympics left, it's pretty doubtful that a Maple Leaf will find the top step of the podium in track and field, so this will have to do. Hope I'm proven wrong.
I must have made a good impression as I was given 2 toothbrushes at the end. Lots of smiles that day. Boiling hot though, and my cotton t-shirt only dried out when we got to a Chinese (what else?) restaurant an hour later.