Saturday, 27 September 2014

Harvest Half week in Calgary

This is the running station, I only get on a train here twice a year. Once after the Calgary Marathon, and at package pick-up the week before the Harvest Half Marathon. 
It's the time of year at the end of summer that work and life in general gets busier and there's more stress going around. So in one sense, this race comes at the right time. A fitting finale to the end of the main running season, I've done it every year I've been a runner since 2009. 
Training has brought on the feeling of burnout. I'm on the Hansons' half training schedule, very similar to that of their full marathon programme. It seems that two training cycles of 6 runs and 70-95k a week are too much in a year. Feeling close to injury, it's been quite a balancing act. I'm doing less in the final 2 weeks than the plan specifies. 
Once more then, I have no idea how race day will go. Will I be feeling too flat to put in a great performance, or will I match the dizzying heights of 2012 - 1:26:48 and 7th place? 
The Harvest Half has the best views of any race in Calgary. It's like running through 2 countries - the middle 12.5 k in Fish Creek Park starts in pine forest and ends up in wide open scrub dotted with birch trees in a valley between ancient buffalo jumps. Towards the end of Fish Creek, the route passes Ranche House, probably Calgary's oldest original building and a key part of the city's history. Add to that neighbourhoods either side of the park of 2 distinct eras. 
It's challenging with continuous elevation gain from 1.5 to 5 k and a 500 metre hill at 17k, Sikome Hill. The moment of truth comes after that hill - finishing kick, or all matches burned getting to and up the hill? I've had both. Last year I had the latter, being too far ahead just before Sikome. This time around, I'll try to go a little slower in order to have some warp drive left for the finish. 
Overall though, this local event with 1,000 runners is a beautiful day that helps me remember what running and life is all about. Who wouldn't want to run it? 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Calgary Corporate Challenge 10k

This race came as a slight relief from feeling quite a bit of training burn out. Just 4 weeks until the Harvest Half, so near the peak. 
I was talked into this race, so have tried to fit it into training. The results are done by company team, with companies in divisions according to size. 
Teams were either 4 or 6. In our group of 6, I figured I was the second fastest, after Ken, right, who has 2 sub-3 hour marathons to his name. 
Also lining up was Rich (above, in yellow) with a different company. We have very similar PBs, apart from the marathon in which he's 5 minutes ahead. 
It was seemingly the last day of summer, with a 3 day winter preview the very next day. I was sweating at the startline for this though. 
Inclines and twists everywhere except the first 2k and the second from last k were going to make for a tough race. I didn't take up running because it was easy. Roar. 
One of the most crowded startlines I've been in. 
A chicane, and the road down to the pathway to the dam. The end of the race would be back up this road. 
Remembering the angle of the decline would have been a great help for the finish. Like for many others perhaps, that kind of thing only works if it's in my mind before the start gun. 
Over the dam, over Glenmore Trail, then along twisty up and down pathways which must be thrilling on a bike. For a 10k they're a bit energy sapping. 
Turnaround, wave to Rich, back the way we all came and then up Glenmore Trail's never ending slight incline. Just under 20 minutes at halfway, I felt that I would probably miss a sub-40. The leader, no doubt cheating, was already heading over the second bridge back over Glenmore Trail, 1.5k ahead. 
About 100 metres of down-ishhill, then more climbing to ensure that over 40 minute time. During all this I was gradually narrowing the gap to Rich. As I was doing so I thought "he's more fatigued than me." By the time I was right with him at the second bridge I thought, "I'm in much worse shape than him." 
Coming off the bridge I actually dropped back a little. Now on the only other section without an incline, I checked my form and made good use of the downhill to catch up again when we left the road to the path which rejoined the start of the course after about 200m. 

On the way down to rejoin the main road, we both had one runner in the middle of the side road to pass. There were cars coming the other way, so I went the other side of Rich and sped up to overtake and tuck back in safely. In doing this I passed Rich. "Oh, I'm doing this now?" 
Turning onto the main road, about 500 metres to go and it was a lot steeper than it had been the other way at the start. I had already figured I'd burned too many matches by 6k, now I knew I was burning my last one. With what seemed to me like the hill getting steeper, I let my pace drop. Alongside came Ken whom I had seen at the second bridge catching up. Some motivating words from him which I can't exactly remember had me pick the pace back up while saying "override" to myself. 10 seconds later, my breathing quickened. Override. A few more seconds and I was almost hyperventilating. "Override" only works for so long, but I am honestly glad for the experience and discovery. I am my own lab on legs. 
Rich also came past with a nice finishing kick. "Come on Peter!" "Huurrrch." 40:22 was in the end about what I had been expecting. Catching Rich had made me keep my speed up for the second half of the race. He later said that me joining him, and later having me to overtake at the end kept him pushing. 
Ken had used me as a target to catch, and might have otherwise backed off a little too, so he said. 
Rich's company won its division. We have a history of trying to beat the other, and it's about even. When we do battle, we tend to both finish with a better time than we would have got otherwise. 
Could I have beaten him if I had stayed behind up the hill? Perhaps. I also went too early in the Banff Ekiden last year and was passed on the final hill. So either pass very early with a high pace, easier said than done, or wait until the end. The shorter the race, the shorter the finishing kick? It's not an aspect of running I'm that expert on. Next race that I'm in this position, hopefully I'll have a timely flashback. The below photo is probably what'll end up coming to mind, so that's up in the air.
My company won its division by 1:20, and pushing hard might then have made the difference. Our next guy, Garrett was a minute further back. Star of the team for me was Jennifer who finished in around 42:40. Our other ladies achieved the aims, including Diana, getting 1:01 in her first ever 10k. A winning team, and also my first non-relay team event. When's the next one?

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Toe-Watch! Beijing-Reggae-Back strain! (& next race)

Toe job
3 months after the Calgary Marathon, I thought my toenail would've dropped off by now. The bottom half is all that remains discoloured. Is that the new nail growing? Or is it the clotted blood moving up as the original nail grows? I will just leave it alone and wait for whatever, er, awaits.

Beijing reggae in Calgary
I went to Reggae Fest a couple of weeks ago. Running wise, I strained my lower back from too much sitting down on a downward sloping grass bank. Nothing too serious. 
I was there to see a favourite band of mine. Collecting Chinese music is a hobby of mine, so it was wonderful that Longshendao, China's only reggae band, would come to play in Calgary. They were a bit bewildered by me, the Canadian superfan. Most of the crowd were there to see the much better known Jamaican bands. 
Best moment: the smiling festival organizer and in turn shook hands with all the band members and myself on hearing me speak mandarin to them: "I don't think we've met?" "Peter... oh, I'm not in the group, just came to say hi to my favourite band." Upon hearing those last 2 words, they all paused and looked at each other. 
Just for a few seconds, I was "with the band". 

Hard training
Half marathon training never stops, doing the Hansons' half program for my annual 100% effort in the Harvest Half. Some of the workouts are close to that level too. Wednesdays are various 10k race pace intervals for a total of 38 minutes - i.e. matching my 10k PB with a few breaks added. 
Fridays are race pace runs, with 1k warm up and cool down either side. Not easy when part of a 70-80k week. 
I could do the ice-bucket challenge after everyone of these high speed sessions.

Calgary Corporate Challenge 10k
I was talked into this one to be honest, though I hear it's a fun day. The course for this coming Sunday's race is a bit Mickey Mouse with its bridges and inclines. I'd like to dip under 40 minutes for a second time, but that's a tall order. If I get a PB (39:23), I've probably cheated.