Monday, February 28, 2011

Coolis - 1, Stevenson - 0

Naturally, the count starts in 2011.

Well, apparently I have not been freed from the evil grips of lord AO ( Perhaps as a curse for having berated him so badly in November, I will forever be faced with a sentence of torrential weather and horrid footing such that even the most flat and fast road race will be transformed into a trek through the North Pole. Such was the case this morning, when Val, Nic and I set out to the wonderful, quaint town of Grimsby, for what we thought would be a pleasant 21k run down road and main streets. Instead, we were met with slush, snow, wind and ice and spent the last 12k fighting for sub-4:00 km’s. Oh the joy.

At 7AM, I walked up to meet Val at Starbucks, noting the fresh layer of snow coating the sidewalks. I thought to myself – perhaps too complacently – how great it was that we would have entire roads to ourselves that morning to run on, unimpeded by the snow. Oh, how wrong I was. Val spoke strangely prophetically when I met her (perhaps momentarily possessed by the Lord AO?): “This snow is going to make for a brutal race!” “What do you mean?” I questioned, “The race IS on the roads, after all – they will be cleared, no?” “Oh really?” she responded (somewhat) innocently “I thought this race was small, and that we’d be running on the sidewalks!” I couldn’t help but chuckle (or maybe it was more like burst out in hysterical laughter, I can’t quite remember...) at her comment, having never, EVER having to run on the sidewalk in a road race. “Not sure what kind of races you’ve done, Val, but they normally aren’t held on sidewalks.” I think I was too demeaning in my comments, however, as karma came back to kick me really, really hard in the ass...or perhaps should I say both my hamstrings.

Nic picked us up and we arrived in Grimsby just in time to get in 20min warm up and decide on racing attire. Despite the snow, we were blessed with what felt like unusually balmy weather for this time of year (it hovered around zero degrees – in short, wintertime SUMMERTIME). I am delighted to announce that it was my FIRST day in half-tights in 2011! Juxtaposed with my feather-weight ASICS hyperspeed racing flats, light long-sleeve and sweatband in lieu of tuque, I felt strangely light and zippy. I asked Nic what the plan was. Although we had vaguely discussed 3:50/km as a target pace, she suddenly decided that she would be much better off running 4:00/km for – not just 1 – or 2 – km, but 5km, and picking up the pace every 5km onward. Given that Nic is a classic GOHAHI racer (go-out-hard-and-hold-it...obvi), I was baffled by her new race strategy. “Why on EARTH would you do such a thing?!” I exclaimed in horror. She explained that in every half she has done in the past year, she has positive-split and was tired of it. “But still...4:00/km? Don’t you think that’s a *little* conservative?” I continued. The image of her behind me, hunting me down in the latter half of the race was absolutely terrifying. I prayed and hoped that her legs were simply not capable of running a 4:00 km in a race, such that I would not be running it scared like Forrest Gump.

We amassed near the start line and I noticed that the first few hundred meters were on hard-packed snow. Hmmmm. This made for some awesome, backward-flailing strides. I figured it was because we were on a side street and that the roads would clear up once we turned onto the main roads. Thankfully, this was the case – at least initially.

First kilometer of clear road!

I went through the first km in 3:46 feeling very comfortable and already Nic was nowhere to be heard. I began to think that she may follow her ridiculous ‘4:00/km for the first 5k’ race tactic. 2k and 3k were 3:50 and 3:47; nevertheless, I soon heard the hard pitter-patter of Nic’s quick stride as she pulled up beside me. “Well that lasted long,” I chuckled, somewhat relieved that I wouldn’t be hunted down like a wild animal after all. We continued on clocking consistent 3:45-50s (4k – 3:45, 5k – 3:48, 6k – 3:48, 7k – 3:47, 8k – 3:47) and I was surprised by how easy it felt. By 8k, I was convinced we’d be able to go around 1:20:00 no problem. Then at 9k, after pulling out a 3:40, we were faced with a 1.5km snowy stretch through some desolate fields. I remembered this from last year, so ‘knowing’ it was the only real snowy part, I was motivated to power through it and regain my pace from 11k on. At this point I pulled ahead of Nic and did gain some ground on her through this ‘cross-country’ section. It actually was startlingly reminiscent of Nationals XC in Guelph, as the ground was slippery, undulating and uneven. It felt long so I was ever-so-thankful when we finally popped out on the road again and I could get back into a rhythm. Perhaps I would leave Nic behind for good?

Nic suffers in the background

Yeah, right. My rhythm did not last long. The second half of the course was filled with several turns into small neighbourhoods, whose inhabitants were motivated enough to wake up early, create elaborate and creative signs for us (one even advertising free lap dances for runners, at which point the lead biker almost gave up his job to take these ladies up on their offer), but not keen enough to get up and shovel or salt their roads (soooo rude of them!). All jokes aside, every turn – which seemed to occur in 300m intervals - we were met with a unkempt side street filled with slush, ice and snow and horrible footing. I almost slipped several times and came to a near standstill going around several tight turns and saw Nic right in front of me doing the same (I secretly hoped she’d go over and I’d gain 30s on her...umm...kidding...?). My hamstring tightened up considerably and I began to wonder if I would finish the race without more (not-so-mysterious) bruises and possibly a leg injury. After we clocked a 4:17 km through a particularly bad stretch, I decided to stop looking at my watch. It was all too depressing. Aerobically I still felt great, which made the slipping and sliding that much more frustrating.

Balancing act

At 18k we were met with clear roads once again and we began to pick up the pace. Nic began to growl at me in her usual climactic manner. “3k! EXECUTION! EXECUTION TIME!!!! GO GO GO! Common’, get these guys ahead! They’re dying!” I looked ahead at a guy hunched over, barely running in a straight line and realized that his form was so saddening that it would be an utter failure of a day if I did not pass him. So pick it up I did, overcoming him and another guy ahead. Nic and I were neck-and-neck for the last 2km, in which I am sure she could have gained 30s on me had she not been more focused on me digging deeper and yelling at me to take ‘FASTER steps!’. ‘Yes, faster steps, speed up, quicker turnover, I get it, I am running too slowly for you!’ I thought to myself. Part of me wanted to tell her to go ahead, but before I knew it we were in the last 500m and all I could do was turn off my brain and give everything I had to try and outsprint her. Unfortunately, all blood was drained entirely from my brain, as I completely forgot to leap-split across the finish to secure my victory, and instead we broke the tape together and had to wait around for an hour before we knew who got the win. During this time, Nic stormed away from the finish in furious anger at my possibly edging her at the line. I think that later she was also spotted crying pitifully in the corner of the gymnasium, wondering how on earth her own athlete could challenge her in such a formidable way. At the awards ceremony, when it was unveiled that I had indeed beaten here by a mere 0.2 seconds (!), she REFUSED to shake my hand and jumped from the stage, nearly meeting her demise.

Perhaps I am exaggerating slightly, nonetheless I think I have proved that I am faster than Nicole Stevenson, since I beat her 7 years after she was in her best form, in a mid-winter race after logging twice as many miles as her, while she barked at me from behind. Clearly, I beat her fair and square! Our official times were 1:21:35.0 and 1:21:35.2 – not bad for this course on a day like today, but well off what I think we both could have run on real asphalt. Not to make excuses or anything (I haven’t provided ANY in this recap at all, I know). Val had an extraordinarily impressive race, running 1:32:55 for a 5-MINUTE personal best! Unbelievable. This is a testament to how much she has improved in the past year since joining the Angels, and bodes extremely well for the rest of the season. She will undoubtedly shave off several more minutes in better conditions!

We left with some great loot, including some spectacular ‘Roll Up the Rim to Win’ t-shirts (yes, t-shirts! Nic’s new favourite shirt), free coffee, a $2 gift card to Tim Hortons (who knew they made $2 gift cards?!), a MEDAL (joy), a hat and oh yes, a personal cheque for $250. Can’t complain there! The race organizers were great and the whole event was really fun; however, I vow to be back next year only if there is no snow...hopefully Jerry can arrange that?

Nic is a huge fan of roll-up-the-rim-to-win

Next up is a full week of training including a 20-miler on Thursday, Saturday intervals and ending with me being the 1:30:00 pace bunny for the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington on Sunday. I am looking forward to doing this, as several Angels will be racing so it’s a great excuse to go down and cheer them on. Never been a pace bunny before, but I do hope I get to wear some pink bunny ears (these are the kinds of things I look forward to). And seeing how much everyone enjoyed and appreciated my last running video, I am thinking I should bring my camera with me for some footage on course. I know you all can’t WAIT to see it!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Shoeless Coolis Project


No, I did not get swallowed by a snowstorm, succumb to a mileage-induced coma, or [finally] get hit by a car, though I won’t deny the very real possibility of these things occurring. I am deeply sorry for leaving you in the dark for so long – I can’t imagine how lonely, boring and utterly empty the last two weeks have been for my readers. I know you have all been sitting anxiously at your computers, fiddling, worrying ,waiting, and wondering about shoeless coolis: what was her mileage this week? Did she clothe herself before her long run? Did she get tripped by Megan Lynch? Did she do any push-ups? Real ones? Did she finally get hit by a car? Or slip on ice? How long can she hold the plank position now? Oh the burning desire you must have to know the answers to these important questions!

Well, first things first: I ran 100 miles this week. Yes, I did it. 100 miles, 6 days, 8 runs later I am alive and typing at my computer on an enormous sugar high from eating an entire bag of licorice for having accomplished such a feat. I actually wasn’t intending on hitting 100 just yet but on Thursday I realized I’d hit 98 with my regular Friday and Saturday runs so at that point, could there really be anything done to stop me? Besides the possibility of getting hit by a car from running downtown for 2 hours every day? I think not.

A desolate morning run workouts were nothing spectacular but I suppose that’s to be expected in the thick of the miles. Last Saturday we did a challenging workout in the cemetery consisting of 8x1k w/90s rest and 2x500m w/90s rest. I went into the workout with my legs feeling heavy and tired and expecting to try and just get through 6k of intervals. I surprised myself by instead working through 9k in wind and mediocre footing, feeling stronger throughout in 3:43/3:41/3:38/3:41/3:36/3:43/3:29/3:41/1:39/1:42 (every other km is slower because we reversed directions and were going into the wind). I was happy with the effort, but I have to say after having gone into the workout feeling zonked, I was doubly so afterwards. Let’s just say I’m glad I’m one of the tallest ones in my ballet class so that the teacher didn’t notice me barely leaving the ground during the jumps. I remember also feeling my eyes close several times while standing up, which is never a good sign. Perhaps not surprisingly, I didn’t feel recovered by Monday’s workout, which turned out not to be an issue since Forest hill was transformed into a skating rink that night. This, of course, led to another crazy coach interval session, where we ran random sections of road, slowing at stop signs and accelerating when the road was clear and basically coming to a standstill whenever we made a tight turn. Good times. My favourite interval was the last one, where Nic turned to us and said: ‘Run NORTH. Slow down at the intersections though. And then accelerate. Everyone ready?’ I think a few of us knew we were missing some crucial detail of the interval, though perhaps not everyone could grasp what it was, since I was the only one to ask just how far we were supposed to go! Nic sighed and hummed as if I were asking her an incredibly loaded question. ‘ get tired.’ ‘Well, Nic,’ I responded, ‘for some of us (i.e. the relentless slow-twitch marathoners of the group) that would mean a lot longer than others...’ Still, her instructions did not change, so we set out on a potentially never-ending interval up the icy Russel Hill road. Fortunately for my tired legs, 600m in Nic yelled ‘STOPPPPPPP!!!!’ at the top of her lungs and we all haphazardly slowed to a jog. This was perhaps one of the strangest workouts we had done, which led me to conclude that it had really been a while since I had updated my blog. The only explanation I could find for the oddity of the workout was that Nic was purposely trying to provide me with blog-worthy material.

Beautiful scenery

The rest of the week was spent logging slow and long miles, many of which were alone and in the dark. On Friday I brought my camera along to give my friends a taste of what I do for two hours each morning. Unfortunately I am a completely hopeless videographer, my clip looking more like an excerpt from Blair Witch Project than a peaceful morning run. I am not sure why I am including it in this post – perhaps because I am simply at a loss of exciting things in my life, and this is a somewhat accurate reflection of it right now? Oh dear. This is really quite sad. If you are somehow bored enough to watch an entire 2 minutes of unsteady filming of a desolate road in the dark, you may observe that two vehicles *seem* to come dangerously close to me (as evidenced by the blinding bright lights coming directly into the camera), though I profess that they were actually quite far away from me. That, and the fact that I am fearless since I am able to dodge them in ninja-like fashion, of course.

We were blessed with a wave of warm weather on Thursday and Friday so for once it was warm for our long run and I didn’t have to worry about inappropriate dress! Aaaah the awesomeness of it all. Apparently it usually takes me 30min to put my winter gear on (and not even fully at that!), as I was ready to head out at 4:45 instead of the usual 5:15. So what do I do in this circumstance? Have a much needed 30min powernap? Of course not! (What a waste of time!) So obviously I head out before 5 and get in 5k before I meet Val and finish off 30k by 7:15. I felt like superwoman until about 9AM, at which point I almost face-planted into my lab bench, potentially contaminating my cancer cells (and maybe more concernedly getting cancer cells on my face...). It was nothing that litres of Gatorade couldn’t cure, however, and by my afternoon run I was feeling much more chipper.

The sun is rising!

By Saturday the fatigue was setting in pretty hard, but knowing I only had 14.5 miles to do before hitting 100, I was motivated. The workout was 2k fartlek/2x1k/2k/2x500/1k fartlek. I actually felt pretty good and was at 3:30/3:29 for the km repeats, but that quickly sucked the life out of my legs and I struggled through the second 2k repeat. As I completed my cooldown I wondered how I’d feel having done 100 miles. Would I suddenly fall over and slip into a coma? Would I have to nap all day? Would I wake up sore and unable to walk? I couldn’t believe the lack of acute effects the week had, except for becoming severely intoxicated off of one martini (and I can’t really complain about that). Suffice to say that I celebrated my big week on Saturday night with a shamefully small amount of vodka that was somehow enough to keep me dancing all night. I had such a good time that I somehow missed getting kicked/beaten/punched in the leg, as I woke up the next morning with a giant, GIANT bruise on my leg.

Mystery bruise?!

I still am at a loss to explain how it got there. I would like to say that I got it from running 100 miles (that would be pretty hard core) but unfortunately I am pretty sure it wasn’t there before heading out on Saturday. Dammit.

Post-100 mile fuel

Next week I will be bringing down the miles a bit in preparation for the big coach-coolis showdown in Grimsby. Nic and I are both running the half-marathon, where I have bets on leap-splitting over the finish line and edging her gracefully, thereby proving that my ballet training is useful for marathoning. You just wait!


**Note: I am currently unable to upload my awesome Blair Witch video (I think it just contains too much greatness for the internet to handle) but will be working constantly until I am able to post it.**

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Alive at 96

No, I am not talking about my grandmother.

96 miles, 6 days and I’m feelin’ pretty good. I have abandoned all attempts to figure out when I will feel the effects of my higher mileage weeks. Judging by my latest patterns, I wouldn’t be surprised if this week’s lethargy hit me at the end of February, or the first week of March. Go figure. Although it was a lifetime mileage PB, there are a few reasons why it may have been easier on the bod than some of my 90 mile weeks: (1) I ran on the treadmill three times (shame), (2) only ran 26k for my ‘long’ run (double shame) and (3) there was little snow this week (BLISS). If you add up my total time running, it’s about the same as last week, but I covered 5 more miles due to the lack of snowshoeing involved. Pretty awesome. Since my LR dipped down a bit, I upped my morning runs to 13 miles and added on 2 miles to my doubles, and voila – 96. Those are some nice numbers. Almost as sexy as 69. Okay time to change the subject.

On Monday we did our classic hill repeats up Glen Edyth, where I was ordered by coach to give everyone a head start before chasing them up the hill. I wasn’t very happy about this initially, since the first two repeats didn’t feel easy, but it was interesting to see how much harder I could push when I did this. We ended 6 hills with 3x800m up an even larger hill, through slush and snow, at which point Nic started to royally kick my ass. She stayed on my heels until 100-200m to go and left me in the dust every time. It is really not fair that I have absolutely no fast-twitch muscles. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a great workout as I got a pretty hard effort in on a snowy night that wasn’t so conducive to interval training!

On Thursday, I met Val for our usual long run, though I was only running 5k more than my easy days so I didn’t treat it as much of a long one. I was getting a lot more sleep this week and went to bed at 9 on Wednesday, so for once getting up at 4:30 felt like a breeze. I waited in the lobby for Val and asked the concierge what the temperature was. ‘It’s -4C right now...’ he said sleepily. ‘Seriously? Wow! It’s like summertime!!!’ I exclaimed (perhaps wayyyy too jubilantly). He looked up at me sceptically and mumbled something about me being completely nuts. I am pretty used to this so I continued on jabbering about the balmy weather while stripping off my hat, neck warmer and extra gloves and asking him to hang onto them (don’ worry...undergarments: ON.). I bounced out the door with Val and we ran down to Queen street to pick up Jebs. Jenn ‘the responsible one’ Eberman is always appropriately dressed for the dark and/or wintertime weather and carries enough calories with her to optimally re-fuel from her run, wherever she might end up (in case there should be an impromptu bonk, a wrong turn or a mileage miscalculation – she would STILL get her recovery foods in a timely manner!). On this morning, she, perhaps not surprisingly, told us to watch out for her nifty blue lights that would be flashing from her jacket. We jogged along slowly and suddenly Val screamed ‘I see her! JENN!!!’ but as I looked around there was no Jenn to be seen. ‘There! There!’ Val screamed and pointed. ‘Aaaaah, yes!’ I said as I saw a light in the distance. However, as we approached this blue flashing light we eventually realized it was a police car that had stopped to arrest someone. This took us way too long to figure out (I think I said ‘where is she?’ as an older man was being cuffed...). Nevertheless, we did somehow end up finding her, though it was a good 10min later and it was more like she found us...details, details! The rest of the run went by relatively incident-free (imagine that) and was actually quite enjoyable due to the spring-like weather that day.

Saturday’s workout was 4x2k with 3 minutes rest. I was hoping to stay somewhere near coach during this workout but I quickly realized this wouldn’t be happening. Damn Nic and her blood-doping, tapering ways! She commented on having run about half as much as me so far that week and beamed about how fresh she felt. I wasn’t too far behind on the first interval (about 4-5s back in 7:25ish), but even by our second ‘moderate’ effort she was 15s ahead. Dammit. The third interval was the hardest of the bunch, where we were instructed to negative split by 10s no matter what. The obvious approach to conquering this interval would have been to take it easy in the first km and hammer the 2nd. I was feeling feisty, however, and wanted to make it a truly hard interval, so I went out in 3:40 (as I had in each of the other intervals) and did my best to hammer the second half (which I had been running 5-6s slower in 3:45/6...this loop is tough to negative-split on). Nic stayed with me to 1k, then left me in the dust with a 3:24 2nd kilometre as I struggled home in a 3:34. I was satisfied with my effort but was more awed by Nic’s prowess than anything else. The last 2k was another moderate effort, which I ran in 7:25 again. I was happy about how consistent I was [7:27/7:25/7:14/7:25-6] and by the fact that I was able to negative split...though not by 10s, at least by something! Furthermore, it being the end of my biggest mileage week yet, I was happy to end on a strong note.

And now...for my down week! Oh the joy. Though down weeks are clearly a time for your body to rest and recuperate, it is also a time to mentally recharge. I love the peace of mind of knowing I don’t HAVE to do anything I don’t want to and the lack of pressure on mileage or workouts. This week will end with a marathon-style workout in which I will do 25-26k starting easy and ending under marathon pace. I hope I have good news to report!