Run a marathon

A bit more stuff

42.2 km and still standing!


It has been about a year and a half since I started getting ready to run a marathon, so Sunday was the conclusion to lots of hard work! What follows is a journal of my Ottawa Race Weekend experience.


About a month and a half ago, I set out to loose 15 pounds. I was tipping the scale at 195, and I knew I had to be lighter to put forth my best effort in Ottawa. It was an injury prevention strategy too: The heavier you are, the more stress you're putting on your muscles and joints -- especially after running for four hours!

And so while I was frustrated by injury during the month leading up to the race, I had something else to focus on. My progress was consistent, and by the time race week rolled around, I was below 180 pounds one morning!

Carb loading

Everyone who's read up on the marathon knows about "carb loading". Basically, your muscles, liver, etc. can store energy, and it's this energy that your body uses as a key energy source during an endurance event. By eating generous amounts of carbohydrates the week and day prior to the race, you in effect fill up these energy reserves.

So on Thursday, three days prior to the race, I concluded my diet and cranked up the calorie intake, especially the carbs.

Houston, we have a problem. Guess what happens when you spend a month and a half training your digestive system to process five small meals a day and then, without warning, cram it full of carbs? I'll let you guess, but I could tell that my digestive system wasn't happy. Too bad I didn't read about that.

Saturday: Flying

On Saturday morning, Meredith and I left at 7:30 AM to catch a flight to Ottawa. I'm a bit of a cheap skate when it comes to flying to Ottawa, which is within driving distance. But Meredith had a point: She was exhausted from studying for her CFA and I was going to be toast from the marathon, so it made sense to be able to fly back on Sunday. I think it might have been my first time flying on an Embrair; I liked it! It was also my first time being on an Air Canada flight with their new back-of-chair LCD entertainment system. Pretty impressive! (On demand TV, movies, music, etc)

Saturday: Pavilion

After our flight landed, Emily and Paul were there to greet us. It was the start to a great weekend. We hopped into the van, then decided it made sense to drop by the pavilion to pick up my race package. As I entered the pavilion and took a look around, the impact of the weekend started to set in. You could just feel the spirit of the place... all of these people who had been training for months, brought together, and bursting with anticipation for tomorrow.

We walked along the wall to where they had all of our names listed with our bib number, and then I went across to the lady who was handing the race packages out. She handed me mine, #2204, and wished me good luck with a really kind, sincere smile. Woo hoo!

Right around the corner, Emily informed me that John Stanton was greeting people and signing autographs. The one and only John Stanton! For anyone who is familiar with the Running Room, this guy is a huge celebrity. I must have seen his picture in a thousand different places over the last year and half, so it was neat to be able to shake his hand and get him to sign my race package.

The overriding feeling I left the pavilion with was how proud I was to simply be a part of what was going on that weekend. The sense that my time didn't matter, that even finishing wasn't required: Simply having trained and making it here to run with these amazing people was more than enough.

The 5k

At 4:00 PM, we drove down town to get Emily ready for her 5k. It was the first time I witnessed the huge crowds of people. As the racers lined up in the starting chute, it was just mind boggling to look back and see this sea of people.

It was also an extremely anxious time for me. Here I was, in Ottawa, amidst thousands of other people, waiting for the race gun to go off. Five minutes to go! *gulp* I wasn't even running this race, but I was going through all of the pre-event emotions. One minute to go! The elites braced themselves.

Bang! Off they went! The guys and girls out front looked amazing. Their legs were pure muscle. After a couple of minutes, there were still hundreds of people waiting to cross the staring line! We watched Emily walk by, and kept an eye out for Uncle Fred and Aunt Laraine, but couldn't see them.

What a huge sigh of relief. Seeing all of the runners gone finally gave me the let down from the anxiety that I had been feeling. It felt so nice to be relaxed again!

Just as we were reorienting ourselves, we realized that, while it had only been ten minutes since Emily had departed, the elites had already finished the race! Crazy! We walked over to the finish line and watched the people coming in. There was this one little kid, probably 9 or 10 years old, that finished in 18:30. Amazing.


Meredith, what a sweet woman, made some home made spaghetti for us Saturday night after we got back from the 5k. My favorite food, and the perfect thing to eat the night before a big race.

I also had some bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. What a great combo. It brought me right back to our 2004 Greece and Turkey trip!

9:00 PM: Bed time

By 9:00, I was up in bed. I was quite tired from all of the walking that night, and I actually got quite a bit of sun even though we got downtown around 4:30.

Fortunately it didn't take long to get to sleep. I woke up at 11:30 thinking it was time to get up. Thank goodness it wasn't!

3:30 AM

By 3:30, I had slept about five hours, and my body was ready to go. I couldn't get back to sleep, so I didn't fight it. Instead, I just relaxed and let my mind contemplate what lay ahead.

4:30 AM

At 4:30, my alarm went off, and it was time to get up. This is what happens when a race starts at 7:00! Yikes. I got up and headed downstairs for three slices of peanut butter and jam. There Meredith was, sleeping downstairs in the living room on cushions. When she had come to bed at 11:30, she wasn't feeling that great, and so rather than take the chance of getting me sick, she slept downstairs. I smiled many times this weekend when Meredith would do things to keep me on track. She was like my body guard!

The next hour was the usual pre-race biologic fun... it's all part of it!

6:15 AM: Downtown Ottawa

Once we got downtown, the nerves started into overdrive. I guess there isn't a whole lot you can do but sit down, relax, and try and keep calm. I posed for a couple of photos at the starting line and then we found some benches close by the "Green Corral", which is where I would start the race. There are four or five "corrals" which partition runners at the starting line depending on what time they predict they'll run the marathon in. Back a few months ago, my estimate was 4:30, so that's where I had been slotted in. Since then, and after the whole foot injury thing, I was expecting my time to be a lot closer to 5:00, but oh well, I stuck with the green corral.

With about 10 minutes to go, I headed over to stand in the starting chute. There was Sherri Schmidt-Stutzman! I had met Sherri a couple months prior when Jon Schmidt was back in the area for Easter, and the three of us went out for a 26k run very early one morning. It was reassuring to see a familiar face and make some conversation while waiting for the start.

In the final minutes, the race coordinators came on the microphone to welcome us and remind us not to start too fast. Good advice.

7:00 AM: The gun

The gun went off. I couldn't believe it, the race had started! I actually liked being way towards the back and having to wait a few seconds before needing to walk. It was a brief, reassuring pause. And as we started jogging, I also liked being in the middle of a large crowd. You didn't have to worry about sprinting off and tiring yourself out, because you had nowhere to go! Perfect.

We started up a slight hill, which was a curious way to start a long race, and then rounded a corner to run along side the parliament buildings. What a great way to start a race! It was wonderful to jog gently along, staring up at the buildings, ... also a good way to trip, thank goodness I didn't!

My strategy was to start by doing a 6-1 (run for six minutes, walk for one), followed by an 8-1, and then resume the usual 10-1 rhythm for the remainder of the race. Looking back, I think that's a great strategy. It allows your body to get warmed up and stretched out before it needs to work too hard.

During these easy first few minutes, I was amazed to look around and see so many different body types, especially some middle aged ladies who, trust me, did not look like runners! But there they were, out in front of me, leading the way through a marathon. Way to go ladies!

76 years old

As we passed the war museum and crossed the bridge over into Hull, I found myself running beside a guy who looked to at least be in his 60s. I said, "Well it's comforting to know that there people older than myself out here". He asked me my age, and when I asked how old he was, the answer came back: 76! He had checked and as it turns out, he was the oldest guy out there that day. He was an Olympic canoeist / kayaker back in 1952, and after he retired from that sport, he took up running. I had to stop for a walk break, and he went off ahead!

Hills of Hull

After a gentle start to the race, things were feeling pretty good. A cheer went up as we passed the 5k marker... I think it had been about 33.5 minutes. We continued on through Hull, and as I learned, it's a bit of a hilly place! Then something changed. There was a hill in front of me, and with my sleek little 182 pound body, I took joy in striding up it at a good pace, passing several people. Then on the way down the hill, rather than using my quads to absorb the energy of the bouncing, I went into a low-bounce, quick stride and picked up a fair bit of speed, again passing quite a few people. This is a documented quirk of my personality: When I'm feeling good and there's a challenge in front of me, I like to pour it on a little bit. Like when I was 16 years old, on camping trips with Gerald's gang, I would often start paddling at a ridiculous pace just... because that's Daniel.

The cost of this, of course, is that your heart rate climbs way up and over where you're intending to run the race at. Rather than being 155, it was sailing along at 175, popping up over 180 as I flew down some of the hills. But I felt great, and I wasn't sensing my breathing getting overly quick, so on I went at a high heart rate.

The 4:30 pace bunny

As I crossed the Alexandra bridge back towards Ottawa, I couldn't believe my eyes. There was the 4:30 pace bunny! Wow! I had it drilled so far into my head that I was going to run a five hour marathon that I was caught off guard by the fact that I was right there with the 4:30 pace after 10k. And that provoked me to let my high heart rate continue... a little dangerous, but I wasn't running that fast, and I felt great, so who knew, maybe it's just because I was so excited to be out here running a marathon?

With the 4:30 pace bunny, I came across Sherri again, who was running with one of her team mates. It's a neat feeling seeing people out there that you know.

Meredith, Emily, and Paul were there at the far side of the bridge waiting to cheer me on. It was the first time that I had seen them since the start of the race, and it felt great! I gave them high fives and kept on going.

I passed the 10k checkpoint and heard the "beep" of the device capturing my shoe chip. I had signed up the day before to have my live race info sent via SMS to my dad's cell phone at the 10k, 21.1k, 30k, and 42k checkpoints. What a fantastic service! My time was 1:04:09, not bad.


The next portion of the race was into the Rockliffe area. It's a beautiful, wooded area with large, expensive homes. I can see why the houses here would go for so much: You're within a few minutes of the Ottawa downtown, but you feel a lot closer to the Muskokas.

It was so much fun being cheered on by all of the fans. People had come out of their homes to line the route and clap and cheer for everyone. Little five and seven year old kids where out there holding their hands out to give the runners high fives. Some kids had brought their water guys to give us a squirt. The atmosphere this gives a race is indescribable: You just have to be there to feel the smiles.

I also had to smile at the courageous ladies who braved the bushes to relieve themselves. While the course does have portable toilets now and again, there really aren't enough to service everyone. So there these ladies were, crouched a couple dozen yards from the road behind a tree or some long grass! Now that's brave!


Out of Rockcliffe, and back towards the Ottawa downtown. I passed through the half way point at 2:10:06, compared to my time of 2:04:44 last year when I ran a half marathon distance here in Waterloo. I was in great spirits!

Meredith, Emily, and Paul were there again to cheer me on. I tell ya, it is so exciting to see your family there with big smiles on their faces. I feel for the people who are there all by themselves! I ran over a bit to touch hands with Meredith, and off I went again.

My walk break after the half was the first time that I noticed my legs weren't quite feeling 100% any more. There was a wee bit of tension starting. But the fact that I had run a half marathon without any noticeable leg fatigue was more than I could have asked for! Things were looking up!

At this point, I was on track nutrition wise, having finished almost 500 calories of "Shot Blocks". The digestive system was holding up perfectly, as was the "Fuel Belt" that I borrowed from Emily. It was key having the water stations every 3k. If you didn't have those, you'd have to wear a 3.5 pound Camelbak, and you'd need to completely refill it a couple of times.


Once back in the Ottawa core, the route moved along the Rideau Canal. By now it was 9:30 and the sun was already starting to beam down noticeably. One of the entertainment stations was a group of guys playing some Jazzy tunes. As I got close, I thought I recognized one of them. "Bob!" It was my grandma Green's brother Bob Fry, waling away on his clarinet! I actually stopped, ran over to him, and shook his hand!

Some time during the next 40 minutes or so I used Emily's cell phone to call 23 Oxford St. There wasn't any answer, oh well, so I left a message. It was fun to be able to even do that, though :) The people cheering on the side of the road made some funny remarks, like "Hey, this guy even has time to do some business"! :)

Change in mood

As the runners worked their way down the Rideau Canal, 23k, 24k, 25k, the mood started to change. The exuberant smiles and chitter chatter between runners was starting to die down and you could tell that people had to focus a bit more. As 10:00 neared, it was getting quite warm, and when you're body is already cranking out the heat, you sure feel it. At this point, I was starting to get a bit less fond of the Shot Bloks every 25 minutes, but I continued to take them knowing that they would help in the long run.

It was far enough into the race that, when I looked down and saw my heart rate blistering along above 170, I had to shake my head and smile. I had done a fine job completely abandoning my race strategy of low-mid 150s! Oh well! I still can't figure out why my heart rate was that high. I was running fast enough that I would think 164 was perhaps in order, but not 175!


Just after 10:00, I squinted ahead and saw the 30k banner. Woo hoo! I said, "Looks like we're at 30k guys"! But there wasn't much response from those around me... the mood was shifting again. You could tell people were starting to feel it, starting to have to focus more on moving forward. My time at the 30k point was 3:08, which was far faster than I could ever have hoped for. I was somewhere in between the 4:30 and 4:15 pace bunnies! But most importantly, I was seriously on track for finishing the race. Overall I was feeling so good that I had virtual forgotten that "not finishing the race" was a likely outcome.

Just after the 30k sign, my favorite three fans were there again. But this was the "big one", the point in the race that they really recommend you be there to cheer your runner on for. It's far enough that they're probably going to be hurting a bit, but also far enough from the finish line that it's going to feel a bit daunting for them in terms of hanging on for another 12k.

My walk break after the 30k mark was the first time I would say that my legs started to hurt. It was minor, but there was definitely some discomfort starting to crop up.

What's for supper?

I made conversation with strangers a few times throughout the day, and I was always impressed with how friendly people were. The first was the sweet 76 year old man. The second was a lady from Toronto who looked to be in her mid-late forties. There was also the guy in the red shirt, obviously in his mid fifties, who kept pace with me for much of the race. (I'm just amazed at how well middle aged people do in marathons!)

Later on in the race, as I ran along side another gray haired man, I joked, "So what's for supper"? I liked his response: "Steak and beer! Probably not in that order"! That got me dreaming about steak!


As we navigated around the end point of our trek down the Rideau Canal, doing a loop over and around, the heat started to become quite a bit more noticeable. It was getting close to 10:30, but it felt like noon! You could tell that people were getting hot. The water station we passed was littered with cups on the ground, probably from people just pouring it over their heads.

Then we came across the sponge station. Glorious, glorious sponges! They were sitting there having been soaked in cold water, and they felt amazing against the skin! Definitely my favorite aid station.

Heat stroke

The saddest thing I saw was a young girl, in her late teens or early twenties, laying in the shade next to the path with a couple EMTs. She was covered with a tin-foiley emergency blanket. It was the first and only person I saw that had to lay down. A while later, I think past the 34k point, I saw a runner getting into a van. It must have been so hard for those people to give up so close to the end!

Familiar faces... make that shirts

The last 15k of the race was full of familiar people. Not people that I knew from elsewhere, just people that I had passed or been passed by many times throughout the race! It was neat to be so familiar with these people, but at the same time, when you've been passed at least 10 times by the same girl who's shirt says "I'm running 42.2km to celebrate", it gets a little tiring! People kept calling "Happy birthday!" out to her, so I assume the front of her shirt said "It's my birthday" or something to that effect.

The wall?

People had warned me: "The first half of the race is 20 miles, the second half is 6". You know, "the wall". The thing you're supposed to hit shortly after 30k, when your race grinds to a halt and you feel like you can't take another step. I can't say I ever hit the wall. Maybe it's because I was, after all, taking it somewhat easy on myself. Or maybe it was because I consumed a whopping 900 calories of energy, which I expect was far above average. But I was glad I didn't have a "wall" experience!

Still, as the kilometer count passed 32, 33, 34k, I was definitely starting to get sore. A while back I had felt a few twinges of cramps in my left calf muscle, which I have never felt before. Fortunately they went away, but overall my legs were starting to feel quite tight.

The return of the 4:30 pace bunny

To my dismay, the slight lead I had had on the 4:30 pace bunny at the 30k mark had slowly eroded over the next 30 minutes, and he re-appeared for the first time since the Alexandra bridge. There is something motivational about being passed swiftly by a man wearing a ridiculous pair of pink bunny ears. Something deep down inside says, "Oh no you don't, bunny man"!

How long can you hang on?

I had to make a decision. I had another 6k or so to run, about 40 minutes. Was I going to let the 4:30 pace bunny run off ahead? No way! I felt weak to give into a bunny chase this late in the game, I mean, the point for me was to finish the marathon, not to tire myself out in the last 5k to better my time by a few minutes.

So there I went, picking up my pace and moving along with the 4:30 crowd. Ouch. I couldn’t believe how fast it felt. It just goes to show how the body starts slowing down after 30k, and what was a fine pace back at the half way mark now feels really fast.

With the quickened pace, my calf muscles started to cramp. Oh oh! They'd contract every couple of strides, then it was every stride, and eventually my left leg had a knot of contracted tissue right down from knee to heel. I was definitely paying for this 4:30 pace!

The other thing that happened was that my ability to drink started to suffer. The whole run prior, I was drinking all the time and it felt great, but once I quickened my pace in these last kilometers, my stomach started to get upset and it didn't want anything.

My heart rate topped 180 bpm. It was working really hard keeping up to the bunny, and I was getting rapidly more tired doing it. After perhaps 15 minutes of solid effort the 38k sign came into view. Four more kilometres! That's only 1k further than my silly little 3k route from our house back home in Waterloo to Columbia Street and back. That's nothing! And yet, it felt a little daunting when you consider that's over 20 minutes at what feels like a ridiculously fast pace on very tight, now very sore, legs.

In a sense, the last 6 miles, while it is only a bit more than an hour, is its own race. Not necessarily because it's a magical physiological point, but because you know you're getting close, and so I think many people either try and keep up the pace they had been running, or try and pick up the pace a bit to make up lost time. Either of those things is a recipe for very sore legs! And when lactic acid starts to build up, the whole body starts to hurt.

As we got nearer and nearer, I picked up the pace yet again (silly me), and passed birthday girl one last time. "Hey, I guess in the end I beat her" I thought.

1k to go

I hung on, and eventually, the 41k sign was in front of me. So close! My poor little heart was doing 186 bpm, which is getting close to my max. The lactic acid was doing a great job of making me feel like I "couldn't go on much further", but now I was close enough to the finish line that both mentally and physically I knew that I was pretty well home free.

With a few hundred metres left to go, low and behold, birthday girl was out in front of me again! Oh well, if she wants it that bad she can have it!

The finish line

The last few hundred metres saw Meredith, Emily and Paul on the left side of the road cheering. I veered across the road towards them with my arms out wide and a great big happy expression on my face, gave them a wee little high five, and then straightened out towards the finish line. I also saw Steve Stutzman cheering me on from the left, which felt great.

And then, there it was. Just a hundred more yards to go, the big, beautiful finish line. I kept an even stride, smiled, and then as I crossed the line I pointed to the sky as planned to say thanks to the one who made such a wonderful day possible.

Hey look, I'm not running!

It's weird to run for so long, and then, all of a sudden, you're just standing there not running! (Probably not a good thing, no chance to flush out any of that lactic acid for those that ran faster in the last 5k than they should have) We waited a few minutes to get our shoe chips clipped off, and then proceeded to get our medals. I was really happy with the quality of the medals: Great job race organizers!

The next ten minutes wasn't the best. If I could have any comments or suggestions for race organizers, it would be to try and improve the after-race experience, especially that first 15 minutes. That being said, I'm not sure what they could really do: There was hundreds upon hundreds of people all crammed into the "Recovery Area", such that you couldn't really walk anywhere. It felt quite chaotic, and to make things worse, it is now 11:30 AM and the sun is hot. I guess I was expecting some kind of oasis with a cool, covered area, free massages, great food, etc, etc.

I stumbled around for a while trying to figure out where to go and what to do, and all the while I think the lactic acid was having a field day with my legs. They started to really tighten up, and soon it was challenging to walk with a normal stride. I decided to just skip the "recovery area" and go find Meredith. But of course, it took another 5 minutes to squeeze out of the recovery area because there were so many people trying to get out!

It was great to see my supportive trio again. Meredith put her arms around me and I limped along to a shaded area to lay down. Classic Daniel: When I'm cooked I find a place, any place, to lay down! It felt fantastic to rest in the shade, let the smiles come out again, and to just relax after a long morning!

My poor body

Once I got up from the shade, it became evident how tight my legs had become. Ouch! Walking was pretty tough. How odd that only 25 minutes earlier, I was running along at a sub 6 min/km pace, and now I couldn't even walk normally!

I'm not sure how other runners fared, but my impression is that they weren't nearly as tight and stiff.

Recovery step 1: Bath

The first thing I did once we got back to the house was to soak in a warm bath. It felt good, but I was in quite a bit of discomfort. I noticed that the ends of my second toes were quite sore -- they're almost as long as my big toes, so they get more friction than the other small toes. And the spot where my heart rate monitor sits on my sternum was pretty tender. There was a small bloody spot on my thigh as well, where it looked like a hair follicle had started to bleed... you know, all those curious little boo-boos you get from running for several hours! Thankfully I don't have any issues with nipple chaffing, losing toe nails, etc, etc.

The top of my left foot felt quite bruised, and was probably the sorest part of my legs at that point besides my calf muscles.

I think I spent about 45 minutes in the bath, coming very close to sleep a few times.

Recovery step 2: Food

After the bath, Meredith made me a delicious bagel sandwich with meat and cheese. It was so delicious, but I was too exhausted to hold my head up, so again, in classic Daniel style, I sat there with my head on my forearm, munching on the bagel sandwich! I guess this underscores that, although my body was tired, my "head" was somehow just was tired.

Recovery step 3: Sleep and water

I hopped into bed, and the next four hours were spent sleeping soundly and waking up every now and again to drink. I kept feeling overheated. What I realized after a certain point is that my entire body was radiating heat. Sort of like when you get a sun burn, your skin can actually be quite warm, it was as if my entire body was just belting out way more heat than usual. I was sure to drink lots of water.


After a good four hours of sleep, my head started to improve. I could think again! And my left foot was feeling much better. We made plans go to a beautiful "Keg" restaurant in Ottawa, and I had a succulent top sirloin steak. Marvelous! What a great meal.

The next day

It felt great to sleep again the night after the race, but come morning, I was again amazed at how stiff and sore I was.

Surprisingly, the sorest muscles are my quads, which are completely shot. I find this so strange since I had never had sore quads after any of my training runs, and I didn't feel them at all during the race. But oh man are they ever sore now. This makes going up and especially down stairs extremely difficult. I've had pretty sore quads from lifting weights before, but nothing like this!

A close second are my calf muscles, which are also still toast. They have almost no lifting power and are very sore and tight, which makes it hard to walk with a normal stride. Not surprisingly, my left leg is noticeably worse than my right.

Fortunately, the top of my left foot, which was the sorest part of my body the hour after my race, is pretty much back to normal. I'm surprised that my feet held up so well! I figured they would be in rough shape.

Other sore spots: The upper outside of my legs, extending from my hips downward, are pretty sore. My core is somewhat sore towards my sides, maybe my obliques, but not too bad. Likewise for my back. It's nice to think that, while I find it easy to strain my back, I can run without any issues.

Even my pecs are a wee bit sore! Strange, but they are involved in the motion of your arms and upper chest, so it makes sense I guess.

My digestive system hasn't been quite right since the run, not really sure why. I'm just happy that it held up beautifully until the last hour of the race. It would be a tough go if you had an irritated stomach early in the day!

While I'm in rough shape now, I'm sure I'll be mostly back to normal within a few days. And I'm glad that my "head" has recovered fully.


Something that I realized while I was training was that the ability to walk and to run are a pretty special gift. Being out on a beautiful sunny morning, experiencing the city or country side, breathing the air, feeling the steady beating of your heart. It can be a very joyful experience, a way to more clearly "see" how wonderful God's creation is.

And while some of the best memories are of the day of the race, there are many, many more good memories from the year and a half prior...

I'm thankful for the Running Room, for our zany half marathon leader Derek Hergott and for the a great group of fellow runners last spring, who wouldn't hesitate to give rides home. What a kind group! (I saw one of the ladies with her husband at the finish line on Sunday -- they had done the marathon this year as well)

I'm thankful for friends like Jon Schmidt who have done the marathon in years past, who were excited to watch my progress, prayerfully encouraging me along the way.

It was great to have Emily as a cheerleader too. She was actually the one that got me thinking about running, and introduced me to the Running Room after she completed the "Learn to Run" class. It was on June 10, 2006, on the car trip down to St. Catherines that I decided to run the half marathon the following year. (A very eventful day in our family: My mom's 50th birthday, Jason and Amanda's wedding, the birth of Rachel Bigham, and the day I set out to accomplish the marathon)

I'm thankful for Meredith's understanding and patience when there were other things to be done when I was out running (and then sleepy afterwards). Any endeavour in life takes times and energy, and it's a limited resource! It was really touching to see Meredith a little teary eyed the day of the race, my loving body guard, proud to see me out there.

And likewise for all of my other family and friends who have spoken words of encouragement. Like I've said, I feel for those for whom running is a solitary activity, for the ones who made a long drive to Ottawa by themselves and finished the race without anyone to embrace. Although running a marathon takes a lot of personal effort, it is largely the network around you that adds joy to the experience.

I'm also really thankful to the city and people of Ottawa. You can't truly understand what it's like until you've done it to be cheered on by the smiles and clapping of thousands of people who have come out of their homes to see you through. The race involves a lot of work, and the dedicated volunteers are out there filling cups, cleaning up the big mess, and doing whatever they can to make it a great experience for the runners. Volunteers rock!

What amazes me is how joyful the race was. I think I must have been smiling for the majority of the run, breaking out into a huge grin on many an occasion. What a gift.

And so it's bittersweet to see this goal come and go. Don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly happy that it has come to pass, but it does feel like I've lost a little bit of something. Life is like that: It is great to move forward, to experience and accomplish, but each time you do, you're a little closer to the end of your earthly story, which isn't just made up of months and years, but of passages.


My page!

10k: 1:04:09 / 6:25 pace over 10k
20.1k: 2:10:06 / 6:32 pace over 10.1k
30k: 3:08:13 / 5:52 pace over 9.9k
42.2k: 4:26:56 / 6:26 pace over 12.2k
Average heart rate: 174 (estimate)
Heart beats: 46,458
Heart beats per metre: 1.10
Millibeats per pound-metre: 6.02

May 14-08: Go for liftoff

Thankfully, the last week has gone really smoothly. Last Friday, I set out before work to try 12k, which was a pretty big test of my foot. The run went really well, and so I set my sights on trying 16k this morning, 5 days later. I got up at 5:30 this morning and headed out at 6:15. The run went quite well this morning, and it felt to be out in the country again early in the morning.

I wore my heart rate monitor, and it was quite interesting to observe my heart rate lower than what it typically would be. As I was leasurely jogging down Laurelwood, my heart rate was actually below 130, which I've never seen before while running. And many times throughout my route, I'd look down and see it in the 140s. Again, usually I would be in the low to mid 150s.

Although my watch-to-PC link is broken these days, the watch was able to tell me my average heart rate, which was 145. My time was 1:57, and the distance was 17. So:

Heart beats = 145 * 117 = 16965
Distance = 17000 m
Weight = 184
Efficiency = 16965/17000 = 998 millibeats per metre
Efficiency normalized for weight = 5.424 millibeats per lb-m

Past numbers:

May 2007: 21 km in 2:04:44 at 165 bmp and 180 lbs:
  980 millibeats per metre, 5.444 millibeats per lb-m

January 2008: 12.3 km in 1:27 at 148 bmp and 190 lbs:
  1040 millibeats per metre, 5.445 millibeats per lb-m

All of that being said, it looks like my efficiency numbers are pretty good, it's just the endurance of my legs after a three week period of no running that remains worrisome.

With this 17k run behind me, I'm nervously starting to process what all I need to do to get myself to the starting line on the 25th. Eek! For example, I haven't even looked up where the race starts, where to pick up my bib number, what the route looks like, etc.

And I wonder how the actual race will go. Will I finish? If so, will I limp across the finish line? Only time will tell. Let's hope for the best.

Here are is my final training graph, with the last week and a bit projected rather than actual:

Here are is my "max weekly run" graph, with the last week projected:

And here is my current weight graph. Looks like I'll be at about where I was hoping!

Book: My Life on the Run

As I was looking through this month's Runner's World magazine, reading a bit about  Bart Yasso's adventures, I noticed that he has a new book out entitled My Life on the Run. Sounds like fun!

Recounting his adventures in exotic locales like Antarctica, Africa, and Chitwan National Park in Nepal (where he was chased by an angry rhino), Yasso recommends the best exotic marathons for runners who want to grab their passports to test themselves on foreign terrain. With the wit and wisdom of a seasoned insider, he tells runners what they need to know to navigate the logistics of running in an unfamiliar country.

May6-08: A glimmer of hope

After taking another 9 days completely off of running, I went out for a short jog on Sunday to see where I was at. Emily was visiting this weekend for a very special person's 80th birthday, so we headed out on Sunday morning for a little jaunt. I was excited to find that there was no discomfort at all. Way to go body! The next question was how far to test it. I really wanted to go out for upwards of 10k to see whether it really was healed up, but in the end I cut it off at 3.5k, deciding it was probably smarter to build up slowly and methodically.

My plan was to give my foot another day off, and then try 7k. That was today, and it went pretty well. I didn't have any discomfort in my trouble spot, which was fantastic. My left foot was a bit tight in other places, but I think that is due to me doing weeding last night for an hour and being crouched at some points.

I could really tell a difference this morning in terms of my weight. I was 183.3 when I woke up this morning, down from the 195 I was a few weeks ago when I was running last. My legs felt "springier", and my centre of gravity felt a bit lower, if that's possible.

The plan from here is to walk 4k tomorrow (to work), then take a rest day, and on Friday, if I feel up to it, tackle a 12k. This will be the biggest test yet, in my mind, since I'll be out for an hour and a half. Once you're out there for that long, any niggling bodily issues will likely show themselves. If I pass that test, I will take about 3 days off and then try a 16k, which will push me up to about the two hour mark. And by that point, there will only be a week and a half left until the marathon, so it would be my last "long" run. Here goes nothing...

Apr26-08: Still not right

Well, it's been two weeks, and I'm still hobbled up. I went for my second run on Friday (yesterday). I had to stop for walk breaks every 4 minutes or so because, this time, the tension in my foot was increasing rather than decreasing as I ran. Ugh. After I got ready for work, biked there, and got off my bike to walk up the stairs, some of the foot soreness had returned and stayed for the majority of the day. Crap. This is a pretty huge setback at this point.

So I'm confused and not sure what to do. Maybe I should give my foot another whole week of no running at all with the hopes that it will be back to normal. But by that point, I will have not been running for almost three weeks, and the time left until the race will have shrunk from a comfortable 42 days to a very scary 22 days. That would pretty much spell the end of any hopes of having a somewhat "normal" marathon experience. You can't get back into peak form in 22 days, and even if you could, you wouldn't have left any time for your body to recover (tapering).

So the dream of training for and having a happy marathon day is pretty much shot, and I'm down to hoping that I can get back running and in "half marathon shape", which might be good enough to get me through a marathon in one piece at 5 hour pace. Poo on a stick.

Given my experience these last two years, I'm realizing how tricky it can be to have a successful marathon experience, especially if you are prone to finiky leg issues that spring up out of nowhere. You can train for 5 months, have a month left before the big race, and then wham, you get a little sore area on your foot one day and you're cooked. So harsh!

Apr23-08: Back on the road, tenatively

After a disappointing attempt Monday to go for a short run, I decided to take Tuesday off and try again today, Wednesday. It was another disappointing start today. Within half a minute I started to feel some tension in my foot. I decided to ride it out a little ways, because there are three broad states an injury can be in: 1) You can't run, or it really hurts to. 2) You can run, but there is some discomfort, and it gets worse the longer you run. 3) You can run, and while there is some discomfort, it lessens over time.

So while I was nervous to keep going, I wanted to run long enough to figure out whether I was dealing with situation 2 or 3. And fortunately, after a few minutes, the tension started to lessen in my foot and almost disappeared. Big sigh of relief! I ran for a total of 17 minutes.

I'm not quite sure how to proceed. Perhaps I'll do a 1 hour swim tomorrow morning and then try a 4-5k run tomorrow night or Friday morning.

Apr21-08: Almost running

Day 6
Felt about the same as day 5, but as I left work, for the first time I was walking without any unusual feeling in my foot. Woo hoo!
Day 7
An extremely busy day: Went for an easy bike ride, raked for an hour, planted trees for an hour and a half, and then got tempted into playing some road hockey with the MYF. No foot discomfort at all, so that's fantastic, but by the end of the day my legs were exhausted and I was a little worried that I had overdone it.
Day 8
Legs quite sore from yesterday, but foot still feels ok.
Day 9
Tried to go for a run this morning but I could sense that my foot wasn't quite ready. No explicit pain, but my foot wasn't quite feeling normal, and my legs are still quite sore from Saturday, so I didn't push my luck. Walked for 3k. Once I got to work, there was a bit of tension in my foot -- shoot -- but it disappeared over the next couple of hours.

In other news, today is the Boston Marathon! Trevor from church is running in it, as well as a previous work colleague, Jill. What I didn't realize is that they have it set up so that you can track runners live via Very cool! So far Trevor is at the 30k mark with a time of 2:20, pace of 7:32/mile or 4:42/km, and a projected finishing time of 3:17. Jill's current projected finishing time is about 3:36.

On the diet front, things have been going quite well. While it can be challenging to not pig out, it also feels healthy to be avoiding the junk food and eating somewhat smaller portions spread out more throughout the day. I've also really enjoyed going for short walks with Meredith early in the morning (well, before I hurt my foot). My first weigh-in was 195.1 lbs, ouch, but I'm down to about 189, so things are going in the right direction.

Apr17-08: The foot is improving

Day 1
Limped around and hoped for the best.
Day 2
First day back at work. Couldn't walk normally, pain varied from very slight to the occasional "ouch". Had to take it quite slow.
Day 3
Still surprisingly sore. A bit better, but slower to improve than I would have thought.
Day 4
Starting to improve noticeably. Got a chiro adjustment on my foot which felt good.
Day 5
Walking is mostly back to normal. Minimal discomfort, but still an awareness that my foot isn't quite right.

I expect by Sunday I'll be able to walk around the house without discomfort, and perhaps by early/mid next week I'll start to go for faster paced walks outside, and when I feel ready, try a bit of jogging interspersed with walking.

It's tough, because I don't want to lose the fitness that I've built up these last five months, but I also don't want to rush it and hurt my foot again before it has time to get better.

This morning I went to the pool so that I could still get my cardio in. I spent an hour doing lengths, which is the longest I've ever swam! All in all I did about 86 lengths, which is around 1.9 km. (More than a quarter of the way to Pottahawk!) Tonight my triceps are quite sore, which surprised me... I think of front crawl as a "pulling" motion, not a "pushing" motion, but when you look at the stroke, it does in fact end with a pushing/extension of the arm. So there you go.

It was great to get some exercise. I think that people who get a regular dose of it go through a kind of withdrawl when they go cold turkey for a few days. Last night my emotions were very blase / the glass is half empty... you know, just the grumpy guy you don't want to be around. But this morning after I got back from the pool is back to myself. (Maybe it's withdrawl from endorphins?)

At work today, someone had posted a picture of Jill, reminding us that she is all set to run the Boston Marathon on Monday. Apparently they have an electronic tracking system set up so that if you know your runner's bib number, you can follow their progress online! Very cool! Trevor from church also made it to Boston this year, so I'll have to see if I can get his bib.

Apr 13-08: Sore foot again

Today marks the return of the dreaded sore left foot. Last year, on May 12, it reared its ugly head for the first time and marked the end of my training for the half marathon. This year, I was in the middle of a 32k run when I felt a bit of tightness in that same area. Because minor aches come and go all the time during long runs, I stopped for a walk break to let it have a bit of rest and then continued on. What provoked it further was picking up my pace for a few seconds to make it across University Ave before the light turned red. A few strides later, I could feel the ache intensify. Now it wasn't just a vague tightness, it was feeling more similar to how it felt last year. Rather than tough it out and keep running on it like last year, I stopped and stretched, and then walked at a slow pace for a few hundred metres. After it started to feel better, I tried jogging a bit to test it out, but fortunately I listened to my body and ended my run.

The ache, specifically, is tight/inflamed connective tissue close to the intersection of the outer most metatarsal and cuboid of my left foot. (Perhaps the peroneus longus / peroneus brevis) It may or may not be related to a slightly tight IT band on my left leg -- hard to know.

The good news is that the marathon is 42 days away... six weeks. Last year, it was 12 days before I could walk without any discomfort, and I don't think I've aggrivated the tissue as much this year. My plan is the usual R.I.C.E.: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, although I would emphasise rest and ice.

Given that this is the second time I've run into this, I think it's a lesson to be more deliberate in doing foot strengthening exercises, specifically focusing on ankle eversion. I should also include some preventative IT band strengthening exercises. That being said, I tend to find it quite difficult to be consistent doing the prevantative periferal exercises. Whether it be my chiropractic exercises or the various preventative leg stretches / exercises, there's definitely some patience and persistence required to be consistent there.

Danny goes on a diet

So after some rather theoretical calculations, I'm convinced that I need to be lighter than 192 lbs to be able to finish the marathon in a decent, sub 4:30 time. It would be a reasonable goal to be 184 lbs, but my Camelbak is 3.3 lbs, so I'd actually want to be more like 182 lbs.

That's 10 lbs in 7 weeks, or 1.4 lbs per week. That seems like a lot considering that training for a marathon puts your body under a lot of stress, and the need to repair bodily tissues isn't going to be any easier for the body if you start limiting calories. Tricky.

Anyway, here's what I'm going to try:

1.Nothing to eat after 7:00 PM, unless I've gone for a run, after which I can consume 200 calories.

2.Go for a brisk 15 minute walk each morning as soon as I get out of bed to make sure my metabolism gets going.

3.Wait for an hour after I get up before eating breakfast, and limit myself to two slices of toast. (Not four!)

4.Have a snack of oat meal at 10:15 at work.

5.Have a small sandwich, granola bar, and cup-of-soup at 3:15 at work.

6.All junk food is banned. No foods high in saturated fat or high in refined sugar. Specifically, no pizza, chips, hamburgers.

7.A decent dose of vegetables both for lunch and for supper.

8.Take my multi-vitamin every day.

9.Take a whey shake every morning with my breakfast.

10.Sleep for at least 8 hours each night / be in bed by 9:50 at the latest.

April 7, 2008: Measuring efficiency in heart beats per metre

Something that occurred to me some time ago was that you could measure running efficiency in terms of how many times the heart has to beat per metre run.

For example, last spring I ran 21 km in 2:04:44 with an average heart rate of 165 bmp:

2:04:44 = 124.75 minutes
124.75 * 165 bmp = 20583.75 heart beats
20583.75 / 21000 metres = 0.980 beats per metre

For comparison, my 12.3 km run this January took 1:27 and I averaged a heart rate of 148 bmp:

1:27 = 87 minutes
87 * 147 bmp = 12789 heart beats
12789 / 12300 = 1.040 beats per metre

... and the 21 km route was a fair bit hillier!

Now obviously weight plays into this. The heavier you are, the harder your heart is going to have to work. So in a sense, perhaps you should divide this value by your weight to get beats per pound-metre:

0.980 / 180 lbs = 5.444 milli-beats per lb-m

1.040 / 190 lbs = 5.445 milli-beats per lb-m

Suddenly the two performances seem a lot closer in terms of how hard my heart had to work. Interesting.

Just for fun, let's try running the calculation the other way. Say we had these factors:

Efficiency: 5.3 millibeats per lb-m
Weight: 175 lbs
Distance: 42.1 km
Time = ?

5.3 * 175 * 42100 = 39047.75 heart beats

At 150 bpm: 260 min = 4:20
At 160 bpm: 244 min = 4:04
At 165 bpm: 237 min = 3:57
At 170 bpm: 230 min = 3:50

Or say we had these factors:

Efficiency: 5.5 millibeats per lb-m
Weight: 195 lbs
Distance: 42.1 km
Time = ?

5.5 * 195 * 42100 = 45152.25 heart beats

At 150 bpm: 301 min = 5:01
At 160 bpm: 282 min = 4:42
At 165 bpm: 274 min = 4:34
At 170 bpm: 266 min = 4:24

The above factors are likely a good approximation of where I'm at for the upcoming marathon. If so, this model would predict about a 4:45 finishing time, which sounds about right to me. I'd love to be able to run at 170 bmp, but as I've learned, the harder you push your legs -- the further you push them beyond what you've trained them to do, the more likely they are to break down on you, either ending your run early with a strain, or perhaps leaving you with an injury.

So realistically, the only thing I can do at this point to improve my time is to lose a few pounds and perhaps raise my realistic race heart rate a bit.

Perhaps I could go for:

Weight: 184 lbs
Heart rate: 162 bpm

5.5 * 184 * 42100 / 162 = 263 min = 4:23

It sure would be nice to creep in under 4:30.

April 6, 2008: 30.5k

As it turns out, the 26km route I ran a couple of weekends ago was actually 27.5km because I ran out of our neighbourhood the "long way". So when I planned my route this weekend, I decided to go for 29k. One wrong turn later, the route ended up being 30.5k -- the first time I've run more than 30k!

The unfortunate fact is that it took me much longer than I thought it would. Rather than keeping my typical 7 min/km pace, I seem to have slid back to about a 7.5 min/km pace. Not good when my normal pace is already so slow! Oh well.

The word I keep hearing is "insane" -- when I explain that I got up at 3 AM and hit the road by 4 AM to make it to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival in good time... and I have to agree, doing something like that on a Saturday morning is definitely a little loonie! But as I've remarked before, being up before the sun to enjoy the crisp air and the energy of a new day as the sun peaks up over the horizon is a real treat that we don't get to experience very often. And Saturday was a gorgeous, sunny day. The snow is finally on its way out!

My route took me through Heidelberg, St. Clements, Hawksville, Wallenstein, and finally Floridale. Quite amazing considerling that up until a few weeks ago I had never run through another town before! What made the run unique was that I wasn't running I'll do is push the week one day longer so that my long run is on Monday morning. Hopefully that will give me enough time to get a couple runs in later this week and recover enough to do another long run.

What will my marathon time be?

As May approaches, I sometimes wonder what my marathon time will be. I've always had "4 hours" as this vague number in my head that seems reasonable. But the more 7 minute kilometers that I run, the more I think that 4 hours, while very attainable, isn't very realistic for me for a 42 kilometer distance.

At a 7 min/km pace, 42 km takes 4:54... that's a long, long ways off of 4 hours! And while I did manage to do 21 km in 2:05 last year, I haven't really had any runs this year where I've managed that pace over a long run.

Only time will tell!

February 23, 2008

My running continues to go well. I had a bit of a hiccup a couple of weeks ago when I hurt my shoulder, but it was more of a speed bump than a road block. I'm typically running about 30k per week at this point, with my long run tomorrow set for 17.5 km. My calf muscles are usually pretty tuckered after my long runs, but they're holding in there.

This week I was out for a run early one morning, and at the half hour point I reached back for a drink of water. I was surprised how little water was left, but didn't think too much of it and put the bottle back in its holster. Fifteen minutes later I felt something hard rubbing against my knee. It kept persisting, so I reached down to feel what it was and discovered that my bottle had been left open and had leaked out and down the back of my pants, which then froze into a solid sheet of ice! It was such a strange feeling!

During January I made it a goal to read all of the way through the December issue of Runner's World Magazine. Emily bought a year's subscription for me, which was a very nice gift. I really enjoyed reading the magazine, and when it was all said and done I thought, wow, if you read through each of the 12 monthly magazines from cover to cover, you would get far more than $19.99 in value. Each magazine represents about 4 hours of reading for me!

February 7, 2008

There are days when you go running and think, oh gosh, I'm out here again, and there are days when you go out running and come back home laughing or with a great big smile on your face. Today was one of those days. I had gotten up early and headed out at about 7:00 AM after a night of very heavy snow fall. Mer and I woke up to the Chym FM report of which school buses weren't running, but apparently some schools were still open.

As I turned off of Fischer Hallman onto Roxton, an older lady was stuck trying to make it up the hill back into her driveway. She asked whether I could try pushing, but after a few runs at it we gave up and went to find some of her neighbors that were there shoveling their driveway. Even as a team of three, we couldn't get the car up the hill. Fortunately, the snow plow came by and we were able to back the car into someone else's driveway, let the plow go by, and then try again. This time it worked and she was home free. I waved goodbye and kept going.

Five minutes later, I came across a more amusing predicament: A short school bus, stranded in a divot, spinning its wheels back and forth hopelessly. I ran up to the side door and it opened. "Looks like your stuck" I said. The lady replied that she couldn't believe they'd send the buses out on a day like this. I told her that I had helped a car a ways back, but "A school bus is a little heavy to push". She didn't have a shovel either, so I apologized and kept running.

As I ran up one of the highest income streets in Waterloo (Mike L. from RIM lives there apparently), I saw an old man snow blowing his driveway and stopped to ask whether he had a shovel. He did, and so I headed back the way I had come to see if I could help the school bus. By that time, the lady was out there with an axe, chopping away at the snow, all the while the kids sitting in the bus watching the action. I got to work with the shovel clearing snow away from the back tires, and then another man approached to help. We decided to try pushing, rocking the bus back and forth. As we heaved with all our might, the bus started rocking back and forth higher and higher, and eventually broke free of its divot. The lady thanked us and headed off down the hill.

My run continued out of the neighborhood, up Erbsville Rd., and into Columbia Forest. And then there it was: An identical school bus, stuck. I had to laugh. Was it the same lady? No, it was another poor school bus driver, stuck in a divot just like the last. I went and found another shovel, cleared away the snow from the back tires, and then a group of three of us pushed and heaved it free and into someone's driveway. The plan was for her to back the school bus out of the driveway and drive backwards down the hill, eventually turning onto the next side street, so that she should get going down the hill forwards. We had to laugh as this poor lady tried to back down the hill, unintentionally drifting sideways and almost landing the bus right into the high snowbanks. I guess she was a bit of a rookie. Anyway, she eventually made it as planned and headed off.

After rescuing one more car, I headed home. When I got back to Erbsville, there was a steady stream of cars and absolutely no opportunity to cross the street. What to do? I noticed a crossing guard there and said "How on earth am I going to get across here?" at which point she smile, raised her sign, and walked out into the traffic to allow to me run along. Brilliant!

My short stint as Superman was over, and I made it home in time to quickly shovel our driveway, shower, and get to work by 9:20 AM.

Running on vacation

Today I was reminded of our trip to California in October and how I went for a few runs along the way. Meredith was patient to sit in the car for 15 minutes while I ran ahead, and then she'd come pick me up on our way to our next destination. Running on vacation is wonderful, especially when you're surrounded by beautiful scenery and you've been stuck in a car for a few hours.

Here's a little 3k run I did, all downhill, from "Keys View" in Joshua Tree National Park:

Map: Keys View 3k Run

Here's another great run I did, this one a 2k jaunt in Mojave National Preserve:

Map: Mojave National Preserve 2k Run

I expect running on your vacation is something people have done for a long time. In Runner's World magazine, there is a section called "Rave Run" that consists of a beautiful photograph of someone running somewhere exotic.

A couple other maps:

A 16k run I did in Ottawa this weekend:

Map: Ottawa 16k run

A little week 1.6k I did in Kingston on the way home:

Map: Kingston 1.6k run

This run in Kingston was the first time I've gone for a run on the drive between Ottawa and Waterloo. It felt great and I think it's worth adding 25 minutes to your drive to stop a couple of times and go for a 10 minute run.

What I discovered recently on Google Maps is that you can right click anywhere on the map and a popup menu lets you select "Directions from here". You can then right click another spot and select "Directions to here". And then if you're not quite happy with either the start or end points, you can drag them. Brilliant! It makes the job of mapping out your planned or actual route a breeze.

January 20, 2007: 12.3k

I've been fighting a cold virus the last few days but it hasn't quite gotten the best of me... I decided I'd get out of my lazy gear and try my run last night and I ended up feeling splended at the end of it. I'm back to feeling yucky today, but I'm glad I got the run in. I don't think I'm any worse for it.

Towards the end of the run, coming up Fischer Hallman, I got my motor running as I climbed the hill towards Columbia St. You can see a spike there to about 190bpm.

The run took 1:27 and I averaged about 8.5km/h or 7:04/km at 148 bpm. In comparison, my 21.1 km run last season was 10.1km/h or 5:57/km at 165 bpm.

My weight is still about 188 lbs, compared to 178 lbs at the end of last season. It will be interesting to see whether that changes on its own. I will likely start to watch what I eat over these next three months. ie. Not pig out on junk food and not eat after 8:00 PM, and it will be interesting to see whether my weight goes back to the 175-180 range.

January 15, 2007: So far so good

Here's a graph of weeks 4 through 17 (I'm part way through week 17). This shows how much of a write off December was, but that I have been able in January to get back into things. My long run this Sunday was 11.5km VS the 12 I did near the beginning of December. I think I'm in a good position to "start" training for a marathon that is at the end of May. (I'm not sure what the Running Room's training program like, but I think it starts out with the long run at about 13km and commences at the end of January).

I'm hoping to get some more swimming in these next few months as that will be good prep for triathalons in seasons to come :) I seem to be meeting more and more people that have done a triathalon. One guy even admitted that once you do an Ironman you realize that they're not as hard as they're made out to be... but I won't bank on that!

My run on Sunday went ok, but it wasn't free of challenges. For one thing, my shoes have this funny characteristic that allows them to trap snow, and if it's good packing snow, it starts building up into ball of hard packed snow at the heel until it's an inch thick. Sunday's snow was almost perfect packing snow, so I was constantly trying to kick/grind the buildup off. The second challenge was that my ankles / lower calves seemed a bit over worked. Hopefully that was a result of the snowy conditions, but I'm a little nervous. Fortunately my legs seemed to recover quickly the next two days.

The other challenge today is that I have two nasty blisters that came out of nowhere when I walked home from work today. Why would walking in my good running shoes give me a blister? The socks I was wearing were quite thick, so maybe that's it? Hopefully they heal up quickly.

Speaking of shoes, I bought mine last January, so they're already a year old. At the time, I bought two identical pairs. I had heard that people often wear their shoes out just in time to run a marathon, so it was smart to buy two pairs if you really liked them and then alternate which pair you wore. But after a year they are starting to feel a worn out. The thing is, spending $170 x 2 for new running shoes seems like a tonne of money. And yet, I can wholeheartedly say that they were worth the money. I guess I'm just a cheapskate :)

Exercise and mood

I was reminded the other day how much of an affect exercise can have on mood. I think it was a Tuesday or Wednesday night, and I had felt tired and unmotivated to do anything around the house for a couple of nights. (Maybe even bored) It was time to go for my next run, so I obediently got ready and headed out the door. Half an hour later, as I was getting home, my mood was 180 degress different... I was happy, energetic, my mind was busy with all the things I wanted to do, etc. It was just amazing how much of a "reset" my run was.

It makes me think that people who suffer with mood disorders should train for a half marathon... they might just find that exercise is the best medicine.

December 2007: First bump in the road

On Dec 13th I had the pleasure of spraining my hand quite badly while playing some basketball, and then coming down with a cold virus that kept me in bed for a couple of days. This has been the first break in my running schedule, at 11 days and counting, and now we're in the thick of the Christmas season. Oh dear... hopefully this won't set me back too much.

November 2007: Return of the Jedi

I'm back at it, aiming for May 2008. This year my aim is for the full marathon.

One month down, six more to go! Speaking of which, I need to head out for 4k...

June 28, 2007: Boo hiss

On June 10, the day of my last post, I played a game of church baseball. After making it on base for the first time in 4 at bats (ugh) I pulled my groin slightly while running between first to second base. What a frustration! I came home that night pretty depressed about having had three injuries in three months.

This injury did heal faster than my last two, but now I'm dreading what I'm going to hurt next. I was out playing ultimate tonight and I started to feel a bit of sharp pain around my big toe. I eased off and it went away, but it's spooky. The other discouraging thing is how out of shape I feel now that it has been a month and a half since I was actively running. It sure doesn't take long.

Anyway, time to stop complaining and start getting back at it :)

June 10, 2007: First run

Yesterday I went for my first run in 30 days, and it went pretty well. It was a nice and easy 5k in 40 minutes from Riverstone Retreat where Meredith and I were church camping this weekend. In doing this I realized that running while you're traveling can be lot of fun. There is new territory to explore -- it's a neat way to get a bit of a better sense of where you are and what's around you. Given this perspective, it is neat to imagine running in different provinces, states, countries. It's neat that you can use Google maps to map out your route before or afterwards and then zoom out to see where you were in the grand scheme of things. This fall when we're traveling in California, I'll try and go for a run each morning.

June 6, 2007: Getting active again

It has been 25 days now since I hurt my left foot, and this past week I've been able to start getting active again. Interestingly I started to "feel" the injury again every so slightly as I was running in the outfield on Sunday playing baseball. On Monday, in the spirit of this week's "Commuter Challenge" I walked to and from work, etc, and ended up totaling 10 km on foot. My ankle held up pretty well but I'm a little nervous that maybe I'm doing too much too soon. Tonight is ultimate frisbee with the Pickle Bombs. I'm crossing my fingers!

I've decided to train for the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon on September 30th, which is three and a half months from now. (Compared to the four and a half months that I prepared for the Ottawa race) I figure it will keep me active and healthy, and help me get ready to run the full marathon next year some time. Summer running, here we come!

May 26, 2007: No run for me

On May 12th, two weekends ago, I went out for a jog in the evening after playing a round of golf. My intention was to run north from Woodstock along Highway 59 towards Tavistock. As I got going, it felt as though my left shoe was on a bit funny; perhaps it was loose. So I stopped and re-tied the laces and proceeded onward. As I ran along Vansitart Ave, out of the city, my left foot continued to feel a bit strange, and before long it was achy. Wanting to get my weekly long run in, and not wanting to turn back, I continued on. It wasn't stopping me, but it didn't feel right either.

Some comic relief: I learned a lesson about the challenges of running out in the country. If you've gotta go, and you don't want to get intimate with nature, your options are limited! Thank goodness for the little gas station in Huntingford!

My run ended after about an hour. I made it 9.4 km by the time Hannah picked me up. From there we drove back to Waterloo, and when I got out of the car, it hurt to even stand on my left foot. It has taken about 12 days to get to the point where I can walk at a normal pace without any discomfort, and can only jog about 1 km before I start to feel my foot. At this point, it just wouldn't be smart to push it and do the half marathon. I'd have to limit myself to > 2:30:00, and even then, I'd risk hurting myself. The best case scenario is that I'd be back to limping around for another week or two.

So no run for me.


May 7, 2007: 21 km

My training for the half marathon has reached its peak as of today, which is when I start tapering for the actual race at the end of May. I used Google Maps to plan out a route which ended up being about 20.9 km, and has been the most enjoyable so far in terms of scenery, variety, etc. I ran north from our place past the Laurel Creek Reservoir, West on Conservation Drive, then South on Wilmot Line. Wilmot Line was a fantastic gravel road just outside of the city. A bit of a roller coaster, but that also made it more interesting. From there, I came in on Erb St., North on Fischer Hallman, and then went East on Columbia, up Hagey Blvd past work, and then home on Bearinger Rd.

I was a bit nervous as usual, but I think my body held up very well. I felt energetic and in good spirits the whole way along, and just loved the weather. It was a blue sky day with lots of sun and slightly cool air, and the mix of country and city felt just right. There were lots of cyclists out on Beaver Creek Road and Conservation Drive. (I admire the look of a well outfitted cyclist: Sleek helmet, cool shades, colourful fitted top, and black biking tights. It's a cool look!)

As I was driving through the city half an hour later, I was on cloud nine with all of the endorphins running through my body. What a great feeling!

My time was 2:04:44, so I'm in good shape to go for 2:00:00 in Ottawa. Here's my heart rate log: (averaged 165 bpm, high of 184)

April 20, 2007

It has now been two weeks since I strained my left leg... thankfully things have gotten a lot better this week. Last weekend I was still pretty unsure as to whether it was getting better or not, but three treatments of active release therapy (ART) and getting lots of rest has helped a lot. By now it feels more or less back to normal, but I haven't regained the confidence that it won't flare back up again the moment I start running four times a week, or attempt any hill or speed training. For now I think I'll continue to take it slow and ease back into the normal training schedule.

Thursday is the C.N. Tower climb. I'm scared I'll hurt my leg, so I think I'm going to do a bit of a trial run this weekend and see if my leg can take 5 minutes of intense stair climbing. If it's feeling good, I'll go for it.

April 7, 2007

On Friday, I joined our Running Room group as we embarked on our attempt of 16 km. It strikes me odd that our program was structured to have the long weekly run at 10 km for a month and a half, and then wham, increases to 12 km, 14 km, then 16 km, over just three weeks!

This week has been a struggle for me. After my 14 km last week, I felt some tightness developing in my left leg, about four inches above the ankle. The next day I should have run really slowly and let the group get away from me, but not only did I keep up, I felt energetic so I stayed to the front of the group. When I got done my run, that left leg felt very tight, almost to the point of feeling injured. I came home and put ice on it, elevated it, and tried to rest it as much as possible the next two days. I think that helped, but having a 16k run on Friday was rough. I simply couldn't keep up with the group. Rather than quit and go home, I decided the best thing was just to take it very slow and try to favor my right leg a bit to take some additional stress off of my left leg. I made it, and by the end, my left side felt fairly loosened up. Not to my suprise, my right side now feels a little strained from overcompensating!

So I'm not sure where to go from here. I should probably talk to my chiropractor about getting some ART (active release therapy) done on my calf muscles to work out some of the tightness and possible scar tissue, but that doesn't answer the question of how I should modify the training program so that I maximize the benefits while mitigating the risk of injuring myself.

March 29, 2007

Thank goodness for adaptation... I recovered from this week's hill training much quicker (last night). To my suprise, I woke up this morning refreshed and not sore at all. I was wearing my heart rate monitor this time around:

My heart rate topped out at 194 bpm on the third rep, which took me 1:30... not bad. I'm beginning to like them, these hills. They're good medicine.

Tonight I joined the boys at the track for the first time on a Thursday. We ran 5k together, this my first time trying to keep up with them. I was pretty spent by the end of our 20 laps, which took 26 minutes. For my last lap, I decided to sprint... now this is only the second time I've sprinted these three months that I've been training, so I savored it. But I was shocked, and, ok, amused too, at how slow I was. I was sure to time myself, and came out at 44 seconds for 250 meters. That equates to a 1:10 time for the 400 m -- a long, long cry from the 0:55 pace that I figured I was running when JE and I sped around the track a few weeks ago. I've got some work to do! My heart rate topped out at 204 bmp, so that's interesting to know what my max heart rate really is.

March 24, 2007

These last two weeks have been rough going... up until this point my body seemed to be chugging along nicely, but as of late I have been very tight, and have been taking a long time to recover from my runs. My neck is tight and sore, my back feels funny, my hamstrings are tight, etc. Fortunately, I was able to get a chiropractic adjustment this week which helped. Here's hoping that perserverence and sleep are enough to get me over this bump in the road.

On Wednesday, I started hill training. Woah man is it ever tough! It is recommended that you start with 3 hills, and each week, increase your hills by one until you get to 10 hills by the time you are ready to run the half. Since I missed the first week, I jumped right in with 4 hills this week. Running the hills is quite an intense workout, but it was the broken-body syndrome later that night that blew me away. I was a log. I couldn't move! Even two days later, I was pretty gimpy trying to play hockey. And it's going to get worse each week!

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