Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger

Hello and welcome back runners and readers.

Suffering through the Pinetree Classic XC
I would like to start this blog off by admitting to the fact that I am injured.  I have been trying to fool myself into believing that it's not that bad or it's not really injured its just kind of sore.  After three months of start stop attempts at consistent running I will admit that I am not invincible.  I have been diligent with listening to my body and letting up when need be but perhaps not as diligent at physio exercises. For the last while I have been doing calf raises to try and help strengthen my Achilles heel.  After completing the Whistler Spirit Run I was talking to the 2 time champion of the event Chris Winter.  Chris has performed on the national level for some time and has some serious talent.  He recommended that I try calf lowers instead as what I was doing was actually slowing the healing  process with my routine.  I am now working on that to hopefully regain full strength for the Canadian National XC championships At Jerico Beach Park on November 30th  One of the most frustrating things has been the lack of speed I have.  I want to train and push myself, but whenever I do, I'm limping around for two days after.  I am feeling stronger and the improvements are like molasses in January but I'll take any gains right now.

I have been racing a little bit as I enjoy the scene and I know I can push it a bit without total Achilles failure.  This latter portion of my season has been filled with a lot of unknown, failure, dissappointment,  surprise, luck and taking what comes.  A little bit more negative than the more positive attributes which running usually provides.  What doesn't kill us only makes us stronger. I am persistent and too in love with running to ever let go.  Running has made me who I am today and continues to help push me through many of life's other challenges.

This fall has brought some interesting race situations due to this problem.  First big race for a long time was the Down Town East Side 10k. It was a big deal as a lot of Nationally talented runners would be there as well as mostly all of the provincial talent.  I knew I was not fit enough to compete at my regular level but thought at the very least it would be a good training run.  I was given elite status and showed up ready (or not) to run.  I absolutely love the start finish area of this race.  The Canadian Running Series really know how to put on a phenomenal event.  Organization and race hype are what make these events highly attractive and ranked not to mention great venues.  I will keep race reports very brief as there are more which I'd like to include in this blog entry.

DT ES 10K final 100M
I started with a familiar pack.  The pace as expected was quick with a downhill start.  It felt as comfortable as a 3:16 first km could.  I settled in with my usual chase pack.  At 3km my legs turned into cement.  I had no energy or speed in my legs and had to lower my speed just to keep them moving.  I watched in horror as many runners breezed by me.  As the lead female blew by me I knew I was in for a demoralizing race.  At this point, any race plans had gone completely out the window and my plan was just to keep moving at a "tempo" pace.  The course was a very challenging and dynamic course with lots of turns and hills.  As the second woman came by me just after half way I was in a world of pain and misery. "I can't believe I just got "chicked" twice!" I thought.  Not long after I was passed by the third woman.  I was able to catch back up and keep with her pace.  I uttered some encouraging words to her about catching up to the woman in front of her.  Something like "You can catch her."  Soon after that I started to feel really good and I thought,
"Hey, I can catch her too!" This was at 7.5km so only 2.5 km to go.  Beast mode set in and I started reeling back runners. One after another and I was back on the heels of the second woman.  We battled briefly as we crested the second last hill and I was finally able to take her after the descent. One last pack of runners to blow by on the final climb up the Georgia viaduct and it was into the last km for the finish.  Aaron was the last runner to try to come with me and kept me on my toes all the way into the finish.  That last km lasted for a long time and I pushed harder than I had for some time and amazingly my body which was dead up to that point responded.  I am not happy with how the race went overall or with my time, but to have recovered and finished it off in that way made me feel a lot better about it. I can't wait to come back next year in good shape and really race this course to my potential.

The latter portion of the year symbolizes many things for runners.  The two main things which most road and track runners gear up for in the fall is a fall marathon or half marathon and cross country.  I was hoping to be able to race the Victoria Marathon which is the BC Marathon Championships.  Due to the fact I had no depth or speed I decided to remove the fall marathon from my program and try to gain some strength and speed by competing in the Lower Mainland Cross Country Series.   The first race was a brutally fast 4 lap event called the Pinetree Classic. This is an event put on by the Phoenix Running Club and is a prime example of a grass roots locally organized event.  These races remind me very well of competing in high school.  I love running on grass and trails.  My fitness level (or lack thereof) made this race very difficult.  A fun day none the less was had by all.  It was great watching the young children run and to see the future of the sport in development.

$75 for 3rd Open Men at Whistler Spirit Run
I am now starting to recover from my injury after a week of trying those calf drops.  This blog has taken me two weeks to write as I have been very busy moving toward a new career.  Life for me at the moment is very transitional and I am excited for new journeys into a rewarding career in the financial industry.  In order to get there, I must take a sales position at a car dealership to earn some more money via commission.  This way I can clear up all depts and move forward in life.  As much as I have enjoyed working in sporting retail for the last 5 years, I feel the need to move forward and progress my life so that I can gain financial security for my future.  I make only enough to pay my bills at my current income and am not able to get ahead.  Time for new beginnings and new adventures.  I am thankful for the ability to learn new things and for what I have learned so far coming up in this beautiful city.  It is not cheap to live in Vancouver but I will survive. Running will keep me balanced and focused and I hope you will all continue to follow and support me through this journey called life.

Aaron Weidman and I celebrating our 1st and 2nd OA 
I meant to write about the Coho Salmon Run as I did pull off a win there this year, but I am not as focused with writing as I am to find new work and become certified to do that work.  So here is the link to their website and I do recommend this run to anyone who wants a challenging and stunning run through Vancouver.   I'm off to grow and get better! My 8 Minute Ab workout is complete, I will now go and put in a tempo run on the course for the Remembrance day XC race in Stanley Park.

Happy Training and Happy Thanksgiving! Congratulations to all who completed their goals at Victoria Marathon and Chicago Marathon this past weekend.  Enjoy some well deserved rest and we will see you back out there soon.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Strange Summers make for a Fantastic Fall

Hello and welcome back,

I am sure you have all been wondering where I've been. A lot has happened since the Envision Financial Abbotsford Run For Water Marathon  in May. I took a bit of time off structured running and put in some extra time at work at Dizzy Cycles. I usually like a month away from intense training to allow my body and mostly my mind to recover. I was enjoying some mountain biking and was planning for an extra big step up in mileage when going into my fall marathon program. When I felt motivated to get back to training and racing, I had only a couple of self guided speed sessions under my belt before signing up for the Summerfast 10k.  I was finding it incredibly difficult to find the motivation to get out the door and push my limits. Its strange to explain, I know I am a runner and I am meant to run and train and compete, but there are a few times a year that I just do not want to do it. It takes just as much work mentally as it does physically to prepare for racing. Lets just say I was slightly underprepared in both ways for this race.
Kelly Wiebe Winning CIS 

Going into this one I had been feeling some achilles pain leading down into my right heel. It wasn't anything major but it was still trying to tell me something.  I had been trying to restrengthen it with excersises but it seemed to be slow to respond. Toeing the line I was nervous. I knew a lot of these guys and girls were still primed for competition. Not to mention there were a few superstars there as well. I was worried about the strength of my tendon as well as my endurance. None the less, it was time to give it a test. I felt fairly good for the first kilometre, and was tiring by the second but the achilles was not acting up.  Just after the 3k mark my left calf tweaked straight up the middle.  It jarred me and I was forced to limp off course.  I stretched it and breathed deeply in hopes of getting going again but as soon as started to run again the pain was shooting.  I hobbled back through the park to the finish line just in time to watch Kelly Wiebe coast in for  the win. Tough day but I could tell that the calf was a tweak and not a full tear. It would not take too long to get it back. I found this which is cool.

For the next few weeks, the calf had healed but the stubborn achilles heel issue pressed on.  I was strength training it with calf extensions, squats and planks.  Even still it can be a bit tender while warming up. I find that I need a longer time to warm up with this issue before I am able to push it.  I guess I'm getting older after all. I had started back running smaller distances than I'm used to when I came down with a virus.  I have not been sick in over two years.  I tried oil of oregano, doubling my vitamin C intake and drinking water constantly.  I was able to stay normal and it moved through my lungs, my sinus' and then into my body.  I even had to take a day off work which I barely ever do.

My fellow Pace Beavers
After all of this time off and ups and downs, I had been stressing out quite a bit about not having enough depth for the BC Marathon Championships in Victoria on October 13th. I really wanted to do my best this year in a fall marathon.  I have decided not to do a fall marathon now and man am I ever relieved.  I feel a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders and I am now feeling more motivated to train consistently.  I have diversified my regular training schedule with some new activities. After being a Pace Beaver for the Lululemon SeaWheeze Half Marathon I have received a lot of opportunities to help out in other community events.  First off I have been invited to help lead the Saturday morning run club from the West 4th Avenue Lululemon. It has been great helping these runners learn more efficient techniques and exercises to help prevent injury.  I feel a great deal of respect from these runners and it makes me proud to see them improve.  Its great for me too as I get to work on my technique at the same time.

Classic North Shore Mountains
Another club I've just stuck my feet into is called Club Mud. Last night we scaled a mountain and ran back down.  After the previous day's tempo run and spin class (which I'll tell you about in a second) I was having a tough time keeping up to these mountain runners. They were all very talented athletes and there was a group of around 20 last night.  They didn't stop except for the view and ran wherever the terrain would allow. I really enjoyed the challenge and my competitive nature wouldn't allow myself to drag behind. We even had a great pick up at the bottom trail to the parking lot which was great. Sub 3 minute/km pace for sure for the last 2km with Ed and James was a blast.

So last thing for now is Cadence Vancouver spin classes.  My friend Mike Porter the owner of the studio was a participant in The SeaWheeze half marathon and happened to end up in my pace group.  He was inspired by my enthusiasm and genuine nature in which I worked to keep the athletes in the group motivated and strong.  He has asked me to come out to his studio to learn the ropes and hopefully become a spin instructor. I am always open to new opportunities and know that the athletes who go to Cadence are respected and connected within the community.  The first class was a challenge and I really enjoyed the workout. I look forward to tomorrow morning's class and see this as a good way to start or finish my work day. I have entered into a few races this fall including the Coho Salmon run 14k and the Down Town East Side 10K.  The Salmon run I like because of the scenery and it's not easy. I have also committed to the Lower Mainland Cross Country Series. I know these combinations will help to diversify my strengths and rebuild my overall strength and speed for another successful spring marathon.

Thats all for now sports fans! Thanks for reading and good luck with your training.

Things I Love: Having a great team/network at home
Things I Hate: Pollution

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Running Therapist.: Envision Financial Run For Water Marathon

The Running Therapist.: Envision Financial Run For Water Marathon: Hello and welcome back Readers, So glad to be writing this blog today on my first day off from what I could likely call my big day.  This ...

Envision Financial Run For Water Marathon

Hello and welcome back Readers,

So glad to be writing this blog today on my first day off from what I could likely call my big day.  This whole week winding down from the marathon has been awesome.  I just love the Vancouver Running community.  Actually I love the whole running community but feel much love close to home.  I really enjoy sifting through the online media and reminiscing over a successful event.  For those who don't know, I was invited to partake in the elite field at this years Run for Water Marathon.  Unfortunately at the time I had already committed to the BMO Vancouver Marathon.  After not completing Vancouver, I had plans already to have a second go at the marathon distance in Abbotsford.  Before I could even email the elite coordinator, I already had a message asking if I'd like to join the event.  David Jackson was the gent in charge of organizing all of the elites and is an elite runner himself.  He also happened to win and has the course record for the Half marathon here.  He did a great job of organizing the Day and making sure it was smooth for all runners.  It's this kind of care and attention which makes me want to be a part of a great event.  An event is only as good as it's volunteers and organization.

The hardest part of coming to this event was trying to stay mentally focused after a tough and deflating Vancouver.  I wanted to relax and felt ready for a break after my lengthy training block leading into BMO.  I had some nutritional issues which were leading to low energy levels.  I actually think I was suffering from this in the BMO Marathon as well.  I felt as though my efforts were there but the performance was not.  As if I was an 6 cylinder engine running on 5.  I went to YVS (Your Vitamin Store on West 4th Ave and Burrard St.)  He has been in the biz for years and really knows his stuff.  I suspected I was low on Iron as I do not eat red meat very often so Randy hooked me up with a two week supply of samples for free.  After talking to my coach John Hill he thought Vitamin B12 would be a good idea as well.  I picked up a natural concoction for the iron and some tabs which dissolve under the tongue.  After only a couple of days I was feeling charged and energy levels had climbed above where they had been for a while.

Saturday was a crazy busy day on the sales floor at Dizzy Cycles.  The conclusion of the West 4th Ave construction was celebrated by a street long sale here in Kitsilano.  I was running the whole day trying to help three people at once all day.  I was glad to be able to leave early at 4:30 but it was so busy at the time I felt horrible to leave my sales team a man down in the trenches as we were already short handed. Sally and I made it to the Greyhound station on time and made our way out to Abbotsford to settle in for the night.  My team mate Bryan Andrews who was also running the Marathon was kind enough to pick us up from the depot and we all had dinner at Moxies before returning to the Sandman hotel.  Thanks to the hotel and race director for putting us up in a lovely room.  Unfortunately I was hot and cold all night and suffered from convoluted dreams which were stressful and made no sense at all.  I basically woke every hour on the hour until my last restful hour between 4am and 5am where I was dreaming about missing my ride to the start and being late.  Needless to say I was glad to be awake and starting the race.

We met at the elite tent and dropped off our bottles and gels for the course.  It was rainy and cool which meant hydration wouldn't be a hard thing to maintain, but fuelling is still crucial in a marathon.  I didnt have time after work and before the race to get bottles for the feed station and was glad that Happy Water was able to hook me up with 5 bottles for the race.  I pour out half the water and put in my CytoMax mix.  I tape a Vega Gel to the outside.  This is a formula I won't mess around with as I know it works well every time.  The Cyto Max gives me the energy and electrolytes I need and the gels keep me fuelled up and sustained for the long haul.  Pre race routine for fuelling: Oatmeal, Banana, coffee.  Never fails and sticks to the ribs.  I will also consume 200mg of Caffeine 15 mins before the start as well as a gel and a bottle of Cytomax.  The Caffeine helps with mental strength and I can fool myself into feeling good for a long way.

The gun went off and I was in the lead immediately.  There was Jason Loutit a certain contender, and last year's winner Ryan Prachnau who were close around me and we travelled as a small pack through the first 2kms.  There was a taller less graceful runner who pushed past and started to push the pace.  I knew he wouldnt be able to continue this for long and was likely running his first marathon.  I said to him "42 to go bud." As I looked to my right and shared a smile and glance with Jason.  We both knew.  After that it was game time.  The first few kilometres are downhill and thus the last few are up. The course comes back to itself around the 34km mark.  I was able to settle in and found myself comfortably running my goal pace of around 3:33/km.  As I went through the ten Km mark I glanced over my shoulder expecting to see a pack hot on my heels.  There was one man behind me in a blue jersey about 200 Meters back.  "Ok," I thought, "We have a real race on our hands."  In my head I knew it was still early and also felt as though I was the fastest most capable runner on the course.  I knew if I continued this I could grow the gap.

At Half way I had only grown the gap to about 400 Meters and was a bit worried that this guy may try to push in the later parts to shrink my lead.  The first half of this race had a ton of head winds to battle and at times I was really struggling to keep my pace.  The wind wasn't horrible, but it was persistent and along those 2-5km straight roads it was constant.  I knew the competition was facing the exact conditions as I was and would likely be suffering equally.  This was comforting.  Here's something you don't or won't hear everyday, But I know a lot of you have had to think about or make decisions about going pee during a race.  I have had to pee in three or four other events during the race.  I have at times tried to do it while running and other times just tried hard to ignore it.  I have only experienced this in shorter races like a half or 10k.  Seeing as how it was raining and I had worked so hard to grow and maintain my current lead, stopping was out of the question.  Peeing my pants however, still very much in question.  The only problem about this potential reality is that no matter how hard I tried, I could not for the life of me get my plumbing to work.  When the only thing on your mind is going pee and trying doesn't work, well you have to keep trying.  I honestly spent over three kilometres trying and finally I was able to relieve myself.  I have never felt so good or proud about soiling my running shorts.  To make this situation even more difficult, I had a wonderful man named Rick who was the lead cyclist cycling right beside me.  He heard me making some strange noises and asked if I was ok.  After a few grunts and sighs I replied "I am now!"  Immediately after I felt lighter and my pace magically resumed.  I ran through a large puddle which cleaned my legs and shoes and at the next water station poured two cups all over myself.  "All clean!" I said "Now back to the race."

The two lead cyclist were amazing and very helpful.  They kept me safe from traffic, prepared the feed station volunteers to have either water or sports drink for me as I passed through.  At the elite feed stations, the bottles were on the ground unattended.  Rick was kind enough to ride ahead and take my lid off and hand my bottle to me like the other feed stations so I didn't have to stop and pick them up.  It was also great Having them there as for the most part, this course was in the middle of nowhere.   My super awesome support crew Sally and Zahida were driving the course and were sure to be at all the check points cheering and ringing cow bells.  I felt so happy to hear them and see them along the way. They did a fantastic job of keeping my spirits high.

At the 24-34km mark I Constantly focused on form and technique in order to keep my pace strong.  I was running a little slower than I had hoped for but maintaining 3:37/km avg.  I knew at this point that if I could keep my legs moving I would win this race for sure.  By the time I had 7kms left to run my legs were starting to feel the pain.  My mental strength was the only thing which could force my legs to keep pressing on.  I was suffering quite a lot when we merged with the half marathoners.  I was so relieved to be surrounded by other runners at this point and knew the race would soon be over.  By the time we blended into the 10k runners their energy was infectious.  The cheers and number of people made me ignore the pain.  The uphill finish made my legs feel like lead and when I checked my pace I felt as if I was barely moving.  The only reason I could guarantee I was still in fact moving was everyone saying you look great!  In my mind I was saying "Hmmm that's funny, I feel like shit." I felt like my goal time had been lost long ago but when I saw the yellow finish line banner I for the first time in a marathon was able to find another gear to grind into the finish.  The clock came into view and I could see I was under the 2:35:00 mark.  I was so excited that my time was fairly decent.  Could I do this??? I pushed as hard as I could possibly push toward the line and sadly watched the PBon the clock trickle away.  I finished in 2:35:08.  Extremely happy with the outcome and time for a lonely race, I absorbed the reality of the accomplishment.  I wobbled my way through to collect my medal and hurried to fill myself with Muscle Mlk for some quick and easy to absorb protein.  I made my way from there quickly to the medical tent for a relieving ice bath and got into some dry clothes.

The trophy, medal and plaque were stunning and the $1200 cheque completed my day successfully.  I have never received a payout this large and it will help me drastically pay off some much needed depts and bills.  Its such a relief!  It's not like winning the lotto but it really does help alleviate the many costs of life.  All in all, I loved the course, the event was perfectly organized and on time.  I will recommend the Envision Financial Abbotsford Run For Water Marathon to anyone looking to set a fast time and have a great run for an awesome cause.  By the way, as well as I set the course record, there was a record breaking $358 000 for clean drinking water in Ethiopia.  I have run out of time for today but will return tomorrow to add photos and more links from the event.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more sports fantastic action soon.  Next race will be the Sandcastle 10k in White Rock on June 9th.  Stay fit and have fun!!  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.

Hello sports fans,

As you all know, the last few months of training for many people have been devoted to the BMO Vancouver Marathon.  It was a long and strenuous journey for many to fight injury and illness and toe the line in May for this big spring marathon.  I had been focussing all of my training and races specifically for this race and for the most part, things were going very much to plan.

I had recently had the confidence booster I needed coming into this race by setting a new PB at the Vancouver Sun Run.  On race morning I felt great and my pre race routine was shaping up very nicely.  I was able to consume all my fuel at the early hour and keep myself relaxed and happy.  I made it to the Fairmont Waterfront hotel by 6am to catch the elite shuttle.  It was great being in the lobby basking in the sun as it rose up over the east of the North Shore mountains.  Kenyans so relaxed and graceful even as they eat their pre race fuel.   It feels so calming being around such greats as I know in their minds they are approaching this race with a familiar feeling.  We are all going out on course to push the limits of our bodies and minds.  I find a spot on the bus next to fellow VFAC teammate Alex Lea who was pleased to have earned her way up the ranks to elite status.  Her and I both shared our feelings and goals on the way to the start area.

The elite warm up gym was great for pre race dynamic movements.  It was an acrobatic gym so the floor was bouncy and very soft under foot.  Had I not had a race to do I would be tempted to try some acrobatics on the floor and trampoline.  With my luck I'd brake a leg for sure.   The sun shone in through the windows and the Kenyan runners stretched and applied their Icy Hot rub as I listened to my music and did my routine.  I left to go out and do a warm up run.  The Pearl Izumi Road N1's felt great under foot for my warm up and have treated me well during training.  They really do promote an efficient running style and cater perfectly to my mid foot strike.

As the gun went off and we made our way down the road I noticed a very relaxed and lazy pace.  My goal in a marathon is to run the same pace from start to finish with some tolerance on downhills and uphills.  It worries me to be shoulder to shoulder with a 2:15 Kenyan Marathoner for any length of time in a race but I knew based on effort I was running the right speed.   A familiar sight was talented Nic Browne race up to the lead as he is quite religious with pacing as well.  I know the marathon is a run your own race kind of deal so I plugged on at my given pace.  We were closing in on the second mile and I was in a very familiar place. I was all by myself feeling good and relaxed and running the correct pace.  There was no group around me as I was planning on and Nic was pushing it just out of reach up ahead.  I was passed by Jason Loutit going down the last bit of hill at 8km.  I knew I was running fast enough and kept my pace.  He's a strong runner but we were super early in the race.  As we climbed Camosun hill I caught up to and passed Jason.  There was a great cheering squad at the top of the hill and a very enjoyable water hose which sprayed us as we ran by.  It was hot at 10km and I was still comfortable with the heat.

The next few kilometres were uneventful.  I cruised through the out and back and was able to get a look at the leaders as well as my competition.  I was comfortable with my effort and placing, but my pace was not as consistent as it should have been.  The course for the next few kms would be flat and also a great place to see how pacing would be.  I was not happy and my pace was between 5-10 seconds per kilometre slower than projected.  I knew I could maintain this effort and placing but would never be able to achieve my goal time at this rate.  With the heat and slow speed, it would likely be a disastrous time.  My coach and I had agreed that if for some reason on race day things were not going to plan to pull out early enough to save my legs and body for the Abbotsford Run For Water Marathon in three weeks.  I was passed again at the bottom of Spanish banks hill by Jason once again by his uncommon surge pacing.  I knew I would likely be able to catch him if not keep the gap.  I kept the effort on as I had yet to make up my mind weather or not to race to the finish and keep my second place Canadian Finish and a pay day but also a slow time which I would not be happy with.  I went through Half way in 1:15:30 about a minute slower that I had hoped.  After seeing my coach on the sidelines, I told him I was out.  I kept my effort at tempo pace for the next few mms until the 25km mark.  I pulled the plug and sheepishly walked off course.
Just before making the crucial decision.

The decision was more difficult than finishing the race would have been but I really wanted my fast Marathon time.  It was not the day for it.  I know how many people had expectations of my performance and will likely consider this as a failed attempt.  Some of Canada's best Marathoners including Dylan Wykes (2nd fasted Canadian Marathon of all time) have had to pul out of a race in a desperate attempt to save the body for another attempt.  In a way, his Olympic qualifying race in Rotterdam meant nothing in regards to his overall placing, but everything in regards to his time.  He not only qualified and beat the olympic standard, But set the 2nd fastest Canadian marathon time ever.  Sometimes you have to look outside the box to the bigger picture and know when to hold em and when to fold em.  I am continuing to train and stepping up my mileage to prepare to crush my best marathon time.
If I failed you, do not worry, I have not given up and nor will I.  No matter what happens in the Run For Water     I will cross the line and meet all three of my goals. First is my time goal of between 2:32 and 2:29. Second, I want to win the race, but will accept top three if the day goes poorly. Third, Bring home the cheddar! Even if I had finished second Canadian in the BMO Marathon, my payout would be less than finishing 2nd in this race.  I know I don't make lots of money with running and that I run for greater reasons, but when there is cash, it always helps out.  For now I am tired of writing but still hungry to train and build strength and speed.  Stay tuned for the next entry in a few weeks and come out to Run For Water to cheer or compete. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

2013 Vancouver Sun Run Race report

Hello Readers and Runners,

Another year of training is symbolized by another very exciting Vancouver Sun Run.  As the second largest 10km road race in the world and the largest in North America, it's quite an honour and a thrill to be a part of the front lines.  I used to not like the event as it was very stressful and challenging due to the depth of the talent that shows up every year.  This year I knew my training was going well with very few hiccups to get in my way.  Physically I felt strong coming into this event but I wasn't as mentally focused as I have been in some of my better races.  I realized I had been getting myself down mentally a couple of days before this event and made a conscious decision to change that.  I worked a long hard week right up to the Saturday.  I had been so caught up in work and trying to be positive and found myself home at just after 8pm.  I had forgotten to pick up my race packet!  As I frantically emailed Maurice and called Thelma,  I started to panic.  Thelma returned my call quickly and assured me that all was well.  Sincere thanks to Maurice, Thelma and Jenn for their outstanding job in Keeping us all organized and well taken care of.

Race morning came and the weather looked and felt calm.  I woke up early and started my coffee machine.  Rode my bike to the Hyatt to pick up my race packet at the elite hospitality suite.  Jenn was there with big smiles on and I also bumped into Erin Burrett who's energy was high.  Back home for fuel and race prep and it was game time!  I enjoyed being able to go for a light spin on the bike, it made my legs feel loose and the fresh air is great.  I left the house a little later than planned. (As per usual) It was the first year I have ever been close enough to run to the start line from home.  I live on the one mile mark of this course.  The roads were already closed to traffic when I set off and for the first time ever I got to run down Denman and up Georgia.  It was beautiful getting to warm up on the empty course in safety.  Climbing to the start I could see the masses.  I entered the warm up area already warm.  I love the start line of this race as it's like a giant running party!  Everyone has the best energy and emotion and there are superstars everywhere!  The anxious countdown and we are off.  Helicopter over head and people swarming all around as we jockey for position.  The start is always risky as it is downhill and the fast competition can lead to an overdone first mile.  I was feeling very relaxed and strong and starting to file in amongst runners who I hoped to be near.  The first two kilometres were very comfortable and I wanted to push more as I knew I had to in order to reach my goal.  My team mate Nic Browne came past me at this point at a crispy pace.  I was glad to see that as it gave me the boost I needed to push through.  for the next two kms I tried hard to keep Nic and Craig Odermatt right in front of me as they are both in great shape and could very well pull me to my needed quick time.
It was the next 500-600 meters where they put a gap between me and I was unable to respond.

Final push to the finish across Cambie Bridge
I knew that Burrard bridge has made me suffer dearly in years passed so I let them continue and kept my effort.  We climbed the hill and bridge and I gained a couple positions.  My coach yelled my 5k split which was 16:00 even.  I was on point for a successful race if I could keep this up.  I have run the bridge a lot recently as well as this side of it, so I was feeling strong still as we crested and started the descent.  I knew I couldn't relax as those long leggers I had passed on the way up would be opening up their stride to chase me down.  As we cleared the 7km mark, I was hot on the heels of Ed McCarthy.  He had beaten me here last year and at the BMO Vancouver Marathon.  I had to get him.  I was very closely chased by Mark Wilkie from the Point Grey Track Club.  I had taken him on the bridge and he was back for vengeance.  I tagged onto Mark as he came by me and we turned onto the Cambie Street bridge.  We passed Ed and battled each other until the top of the bridge. (Which is actually the end of the bridge too) the downhill was not kind to me and I could not match the kick of Mark's "track kick".  I was running scared at this point because I knew I was running on fumes and there were sprints and battles going on just behind me.  I dare not look as I had my tunnel vision locked onto the finish line. My coach yelled my time and I knew I was slow but very close to a best.  I had one last ounce of energy which I poured on until I could hear announcer Steve King announce that Natasha Fraser was seconds from the line.  I had one last boost of fear which got me across the in 32:31 a 4 second personal best.

I had put it all out there and the confidence booster I needed was there.  I wanted to be up with Nick but my fitness was just not up to his standard.  I feel as though for the next marathon I train for I will incorporate more mileage to be more solid. To do so this time I have felt a bit stressed for time and energy in single workouts and may adopt a dual workout day to spread out the workload.

After the race we gathered for the awards in BC Place which is always a grand spectacle with the live band and big screen in the huge open space of the stadium.  Usually we look down upon the playing field but in this instance we were on the field and able to watch the remaining masses cross the line.  We were chauffeured from the stadium to the hotel in the coach bus and arrived to a massive feast.  I cannot say how well Hyatt puts on a brunch buffet in words. My taste buds and ferocious desire might be able to explain how good it was if it weren't for the fact that my eyes are bigger than my belly.  I'd love to eat a bit of everything, but my body just wont allow at this one.            
Post race celebrations with 2nd place Canadian Rejean Chaisson

Thursday, April 11, 2013

2013 BMO Sunshine Coast Fools Run Half Marathon- 2nd place ain't that bad

Hello my fellow fitness fans,
Another half marathon has come and gone.  This years Fools Run was a mirror image of the past 4 years I've attended.  I'm always telling people what a great event this is.  Teresa and Larry Nightingale contribute so much to the local running scene and are true role models to the way I believe a great running event should be put on. From the value of what you get to the organization which makes race day easy even with ferries and such. There should be a trophy given to best race at the end of the running series!

This was my fifth year runnig this event and every year I feel as though I'm a different runner.  Three weeks before this event my Girlfriend Sally and I were in a horrible car accident in Rogers Pass. We were inside a tunnel when the car slid on black ice and we crashed into a pillar.  The car was written off but Sally and I escaped without a scratch or a bruise and a new found respect for life.  As happy as I was to be alive, the incident was very traumatic and it created a great deal of financial and lifestyle stresses which drained me physically and mentally.  This led to more than two key workouts being missed leading up to this event.  I knew I was still fit but was unsure how well I could run compared to last year.

There is a great deal of pride and respect that comes from being able to wear the bib #1.  Along side that comes a lot of expectations.  I'm always ready for a challenge but admittedly it's a bit intimidating.  There were rumors that last years 2nd place runner and previous race winner Graeme Wilson would be returning.  I also knew that fellow teammate Nic Browne was showing solid performances during practices and wouldn't go down without a hard fight.  This was not going to be a cakewalk of a win.  I'm glad that there is always someone for me to worry about here at this race as otherwise it would just be a glorified speed workout.

After we toed the line and the gun went off, I ran from the start line in a relaxed manner.  Within five seconds I noticed Nic blasting past me as if we were doing a 400 on the track.  I was very surprised to see an attack right off the start line.  I immediately responded and matched his pace.  We rounded the first corner and the pace pressed on.  I knew we were going quickly and I could feel it in my breathing.  I was wondering if perhaps Nic was making a rookie move of going out too quick being it this was his first time on this course.  I don't know Nic super well as he's a fairly new team member but I do know that be is very intelligent and an extremely talented runner.  I know he studied the course elevation profile and between the first kilometer (3:13) and the mile, I knew his plan was to use the downhill during the first 4km to get as far ahead o me as he could.  I know my fitness as well as this course and thought that I was working above my capacities if I had any hopes of staying strong through the hills in the last portion of the course.  It was hard for me to let him go, but I thought I'd be able to catch him in the second half.

By half way Nic had run out of sight.  Usually I would have given up right there but I still had hopes as we had yet to hit Marlene's hill.  That hill has nearly killed me before and I was ready to show Marlene who was boss today.  At the water station before the hill a spectator said that Nic had 3:30 on me which hurt more than the upcoming hill.  As I turned the corner to start the Marlene battle I could see Nic cresting the hill and I knew I still had a chance.  I powered up Marlene like never before in hopes that Nic was running on fumes.  After a few turns I realized that Nic had recovered and resumed his speed.  Because of a distance miscalculation I thought I was still on par for a PB so I continued with a full effort. It wasn't until I reached the 18km marker (the second time! My fault) that I came to the reality that I had lost to Nic and was way off my personal best.  I waivered between relaxing and pushing for the next kilometer until finally just saying screw it, you're almost there just give'er!

I was glad to be on the podium in one of my fave events but had a tought time on course all alone with what I thought was the toughest headwind of the five years I've done this race.  After a warm down and some Delicious Muscle MLK to replenish my spent muscles, I went back onto the course to cheer in some more finishers.  My friend Zahida was attempting to run a sub 2:00 and knew she would be coming in soon. When I caught up to her she was about 1k from the finish and suffering from severe calf cramping.  I was worried her calf was going to get the best of her so I gave her the drill sergeant routine.  I knew she was hating me at the time but she kept moving and as soon as she saw the finish she grew wings.  Great perseverance as she just missed the two hour mark but still came in with a personal best.  I may not have succeeded in completing my goals during this event, but to have helped one person to meet theirs was very satisfying. I'm glad to be able to inspire.  I'm also glad to have runner who look up to me as they inspire me to stay strong and focused.

I will now be religious with my diet and training as the next big race after the Vancouver Sun Run will be the BMO Vancouver Marathon.  I will be ready for battle on both of those days! I love all the support I receive from the running community and am proud to be a part of this local scene. Thank you to my wonderful sponsors Pearl Izumi and Muscle MLK for providing me with the tools to stay healthy and strong and perform at my best!

Happy training to you all! Stay fit and healthy and keep on running!
(Photos and links to come ASAP as this was written and posted from my iPhone. 1st time hope it's not a mess)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Just a quicky

Hey Y'all,

Just because I'm up later than usual and fully charged from a sweet VFAC workout I thought I'd post something for you all for motivations sake.  I know it's going to be a pissing with rain kind of weekend for those racing the Dave Reed Spring Classic so I thought I'd share my feelings about tonights VFAC workout.  This will be short and sweet with no icing, candles or songs.

I showed up tonight  after a full shift at the ski shop. The tired factor had nothing to do with the expanse  of customers but rather the lack thereof and a series of cancellations of our weekly bus trips due to the weather.  The one thing I had going for me tonight was the fact that no matter the regular spring Vancouver #wetcoast weather, I could count on a core group of VFAC crazies being out on the track for a weekly calf thrashing.  My typical mates Drew and Nick were absent this evening and Coach Hill with his usual lack of impeccable timing along side of my car's lack of heat meant that that I was freezing before I even got warmed up.  Time for a new game plan I thought.  Next to the track we practice at, is an ice rink.  I made my way originally to the McDonalds to warm up with an attempt to use their bathroom hand dryer to dry off and their line up area to do my dynamic movements. The person behind the till still asked me if they could help me as I waved them off and the patrons gave me the weirdest of looks, my bare legs in my shorty shorts making them feel as awkward as I did.  It wasn't long before I realized the obvious. I needed to be where the sporty are but I'm still too cold to partake in the craziness off warming up in the cold rain.  The ice rink doors open and public skate is about to begin, the light bulb went on.  I went in to find a very cold air,  but the dryness was primarily what I was after.   I went upstairs as heat rises and found a hallway between the top of the stairs and the men's washroom was a lit and slightly warm section where I was free to do my dynamic movements and drink and gel to my hearts content.  Soon after realizing that no one from my team was warming up on the track or anywhere in view from where I could see out the window I was getting warm but not as much as running would make me.  I ventured inside the arena where I could see skaters taking to the ice.  I was on the upper level and noticed the almost track like area around the top level of the rink.  I could hear the rain pelt off the roof of the building and realized the gem on which I had just stumbled.  It was probably 250 meters around and there was music!  Top forty none-the less, but heck, it was dry.  Pure luxury and sanctuary was mine! I had a full on warm up until I could see the small group forming. (As expected) In fact I was wondering if anyone was showing up at all. Even though that would be super uncharacteristic of any VFAC workout. No matter the weather, I can always count on Coach and a good group being there. Hence forth why I continue to show up with my crew.

 I strapped into my spikes and did two laps with 100 metre strides built in.  Coach proceeded to give everyone their workouts and at this time of the season not everyone is one the same page.  I was on my own tonight and doing a completely different workout than the rest of the team.  I was somewhat happy about this as I had their support but I was the captain of my own ship.  I like having help and others to push me but I trust John and that he knows whats best for me.  His formula seemed easy at first but by the last couple of intervals I knew he knew where I was at physically.  His workout for me was 5X800 metres with 200 metre rest.  I was told to run through 400 in 71-4 seconds and this I was very comfortable with.   I ran the first in 1:27 which I wasn't overly happy with.  I started my second interval with the rest of the team, some of which were doing 600's which made it hard for me to gauge my speed.  I knew what I had to do on the next one.  I like running by feeling, something which has taken me years to figure out. A.K.A. pacing.  Simple to some but mastered by few.

The next few being long intervals compared to most of which we do on the track were very good for me.  I did five repeats of 800 metres dropping a second off of each one. Keeping in mind that my rests were only 200 metres between each interval, my last one ended at 1:22.  I felt pretty good aside from yelling at some soccer moms for crossing the track in front of me without looking on my last 100 metres. Get in my way on the track and I'll either bark loudly or knock your ass over.  There are rules on the road and rules on the track, ignorance won't get you out of a ticket or in this case a stern bark or worst case an elbow into your side with no remorse.  Would you walk your kids out into traffic without looking both ways? Didn't think so.  This is my track and I'm pushing harder than any soccer coach/parent who steps out onto it so new year's revolutionists beware! Call it harsh, but me and my team are here year round so read the signs and get the heck out of our way!  Bitching aside, I felt awesome and somewhat bad for being rude as I had completed my interval in 2 seconds ahead of what coach had prescribed.  I warmed down auto with a 400.  I came around and almost started into my 200's at 10k pace to clear the lactic acid when coach said ... well you missed the last long one, So how bout one more?  I agreed immediately as I had some left in me and am super hungry this year for improvements.  Off I went on my 6th 400 with only 200 rest in the cold torrential rain and blazing wind.  This time nothing mattered but my form.  I want more now just thinking about it.  Great workout, finishing my 6th at the same 1:22 as my 5th.

Coach Hill knows me and I feel as though he's been holding back on me until now. Now he knows I have the base to make his program work and take on the extra volume.  I'm super happy and hungry about that.  I will be the fastest team member this year and the BMO Vancouver Marathon is my main goal for success this spring.  Running is more exciting for me now than ever before and I'm ready mentally and physically for the efforts in front of me to make it happen.

I love all the positive energy in my life right now and the opportunities in front of me.  Any open door is freedom and I will make the best of everything I can.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sigge's P'ayakentsut. A place to train oneself physically

Good day to all!

The Sigge's P'ayakentsut for those of you who do not know is a ski event (or Loppet) which Sigge's the nordic specialty shop which I have called home for employment over the last four and a half years has been the title sponsor for since it's inception.  This was the third year of the inaugural event and it just keeps getting better.  From the amount of skiers who participate, to the awards and smoothness of how it is organized, the P'ayak as it is becoming known as for short has quickly become the largest loppet in Western Canada.  I can not take any credit for helping this event become what it is today, but I will continue to support it and share it with as many racers and new skiers as I can.  The beauty of this event does not rest in the epic scenery of the Whistler Olympic Park/Callaghan Valley but more so in the fact that skiers of all ages and abilities are encouraged to participate.  It follows so closely to the fact that no matter how old or experienced you are with the sport of cross country skiing there is an event which can cater to your needs and abilities.  There are several events during the day for children as well and this year there were over 100 children partaking in their fun activities.  For the adults or the superstar youngins there are three different event which can be done on either classic or skate skis; there's the 15km for those who are just starting out, looking for speed or just looking for fun, the 30km for those who are speedy but also have some endurance and then the big ole' 50km event for the champions of the sport.

Being it that my main sport is running I chose to do the 30km event.  I did it last year and felt as though there would be room for improvement.  The first year I attempted the 50km event and ended up with one of my only DNF's ever.  After completing the Victoria Marathon in 2010 I was sure I had the fitness to complete it.  Little did I know at the time how important technique is to this sport. (As it is with many others)  My arms burnt out and I ended up exploding into a million pieces of spandex on the side of the trail at 38km.  There is a lot of elevation gain in that one and the course was the toughest ever on the first year.  I have come a long way technically and spent more time working on technique this year as compared to distance training.

In the shop we deal with many different companies and brands which we choose to have in our shop based on how well they will perform for our customers and the feedback we receive as well as how well we do in sales with their brands.  The brands are brought to us by representatives and they are the face of the brands within our shop.  Our two main ski suppliers are Fischer and Salomon.  Salomon clothing has been great for us in the last few seasons and their boots have always been a hit with the North American market.  Fischer skis have always had a global stronghold on sales by numbers and their skis speak for themselves.  Salomon's Ski program has advanced by leaps and bounds in the last ten years as well as other brands and its safe to say now that a top end ski from any company will be an excellent experience underfoot.  Each brand will do their best at saying why and how they are better than the other but one thing has become clear to me.  Outstanding customer service, in addition to excellent quality products must be combined in order to win me over to make a purchase.  Salomon and especially Chris Center their rep have been a top notch example of both of these and race day was no exception to the rest of the year.

I spent so much time and energy layering the wax into my Salomon Equipe 10 Skate skis the days before the P'ayak.  I had never invested so much time or effort into making them race ready as prior to today it was merely a recreational event for me.  I was convinced I had the speediest skis on the start line.  I did not want to wear off my wax during warm up so I asked Chris if I could borrow some of the brand new 2013 Equipe 10's.  He didn't even bat an eyelid and hastily grabbed me the slickest pair from his quiver.  These were a ski which I hadn't yet tried called the Soft Ground.  They have a cambered tip which is a bit softer for when the snow is not hard packed.  He assured me this would be a great ski for the conditions out on the course that day.  I normally ski on a 182cm ski and he gave me some 192's.  I have never been comfortable on a ski of such length as they are usually too much for me to handle.  I figured they would do for the warm up.  I strapped my SLAB Skate Pro Boots into the Pilot Equipe bindings and started off.  Well I almost fell on my face as they were sticking hard to the snow.  "Woah!" I exclaimed to Chris, "What the heck are these things so slow for?"  "Those are brand new." He chuckled. "You might want to peel the cellophane off the pre waxed bases before you go!"  New for 2013, Salomon is shipping their skis from the factory with a Low fluorinated wax treated base protected with cellophane.  Usually new skis take a lot of waxing work before they are race ready for speed, so needless to say I was a bit skeptical about how effective this might be.  During my warm up, not only was I surprised at how stable they were, but my gosh they were fast.  I came back after a couple of kilometres and exclaimed how excellent they were to Chris.  He told me to race them.  I am a racer who firmly believes it is a serious offence to change your game plan so close to an event but I figured I would put mine on and compare them before making any final decision.  It didn't take long to notice how much more stable I felt in these conditions on the new 2013 SLAB Soft Grounds.  I told Phil Villeneuve (50km winner and Salomon sponsored athlete) that I wanted to race them so he handed me some of his Start Wax Pure Fluorocarbons which I crayoned onto the base and rubbed in with my palm as there were no clean corks around.  Out of the box with three minutes of prep, the skis were 30km race ready.

I pulled up to the line where a customer of the shop had saved me a spot on the front line in the very centre.  What a privilege it was to be up there with these excellent skiers.  I was intent on a good start and needed to make the whole shot as so not to be jammed up in the first corner and up the first heart stopping hill.  By the time we were on the hill there were no broken poles and i was relaxing into my pace.  My best nordic start ever!  I was now with the top 6-8 skiers as we winded our way through the first part of the course.  Over the next few kilometres,  there was some position shuffling and a bit of a tug of war for positioning.  We entered Madeley Creek loop and the lead skiers pulled ahead mercilessly.  Colin Campbell a nordic racer was right on my hip and encouraged me to keep them close.  I knew I wasn't able to maintain the lead pack's pacing and am well aware that a race of this distance cannot be won on the first lap.  I listened to my body and kept my effort consistent.  Before too long the lead group had an unclose-able gap and I spoke to the two skiers that were with me.  I said, "Looks like it's just us, we might as well work together."  They were both local skiers who were well known to me through the local twoonie race series at Cypress mountain.   We encouraged one another to keep the pace up and stay strong.  By the end of the first lap we had all separated.  Colin had lost us and Mike couldn't climb as fast as I.  As I approached the second lap I could hear the familiar and comforting sound of race announcer Steve King as he spouted of many facts of the passing racers.  I knew the podium was out of reach but the chance for a cash prize was still available if I could get my tiring butt up that start hill the fastest for the prime. It was a race within a race.  I cruised through the line quickly after exchanging water bottles and the thought of going for it was in my mind.  As soon as I was on the hill my muscles started to ache and I realized not only did I not have enough steam to push the tempo, but I could barely maintain the speed I had going up that hill again.  It was now a race against the clock and to maintain my overall position.  There were many different times of pain and doubt going through the last lap.  I took my gel earlier than I had planned on the flats as my body was asking for fuel.  I was drinking a lot more fluids than I am used to as well.  This seemed to be just enough to keep me moving steadily along and whenever my body wanted to quit I had to remind myself of the techniques which I had been practicing to use my entire body instead of burning out parts.   As I passed skiers who were in the 15k or part of the 50, I sputtered out words of encouragement between breaths to try to alleviate my own pain and theirs in hopes of sharing good energy.  The final few kilometres were very tough and I had one last surge into the finish line.  I caught my breath and moved through to congratulate all of my fellow skiers.

Post race celebrations and food were wonderful in the sun.  I went for a warm down run back onto the course to cheer on some skiers up that last bugger of a hill.  Awards went down well with lots of skiers winning great prizes including cash from Fischer, Salomon Skis and many trophies and medals.  I came out in 2nd place in the men's 25-29 year age group as the age on race day was calculated as your age as of December 31st 2012.  Had I been in the 30-34 year age group, I would have placed first.  No complaints at all as I completed the goals I had set for myself in this event,  Top ten (7th) overall and take 8 minutes off of last year's time.  I am now ready for Marathon training.  There will be some short fast races, plenty of VFAC workouts, The Vancouver Sun Run 10k and BMO Fools run Half marathon to get me in shape for the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May.

Stay tuned for more exciting posts and for the dates on those Pearl Izumi Demos for the new Emotion line up.            

Monday, February 18, 2013

2013 Best season ever?

Hello and welcome back readers and runners.

Last season was an exciting one with a few wins and some great action.  After winning the Whistler Half Marathon my body and mind were very tired.  I decided to take a six month break from competitive running.  This is the first long non injury related break I've taken since I began running in 2009.  I spent the next few months riding and racing my mountain bike, eating whatever I felt like and working at Dizzy's Cycles.  This was a very refreshing and recharging experience.  To start this season off, I was approached by a rep from Shimano and Pearl Izumi.  She had observed my running and the way I interact with people and offered me a position as an ambassador/ field staff member for the new Pearl Izumi Emotion Running line up.  I was super excited and proud to be offered this position and look forward to promoting the brand and vamping up my training and competitions to get their name  out there as much as possible.

I have received a pair of their EM1 Road shoes and some apparel and must say that they are pretty darn close to perfect and I couldn't have dreamed up a better looking shoe.  The size was a bit large (which is truly the only flaw) but the shoes have thus far proven to be excellent even if they are a bit big.  I have taken the shoes on a couple of tempo runs and yesterday put them to a 28km run at 4:04/km average with team mate Nick Brown.  No complaints, pain or discomfort.  These shoes are fantastic and I cannot wait for the shipments to arrive here in Canada.  The best part is here: Within the next month I will be given a whole demo fleet of men's and women's trail and road shoes which I will be setting demos up around the city and province for people to try out their wickedness for themselves with chances to win their very own pair for free!! How exciting right?  Totally.  Apparently some Pearl Izumi socks will be given to those trying the shoes out so they have the best comfort and consistency for the demos.

The season is well underway now and my fitness is starting to come back to where it once was.  I have a lot of VFAC interval sessions with Coach John Hill and my team mates before I can surpass last year's speed but I'm super hungry after my break and with this new partnership to really kick some butt.  I will be returning to the BMO Vancouver Marathon to try to achieve top Canadian spot this May.  Other goals for this season will be to return to the Sunshine Coast Fools Run Half Marathon and Whistler Half Marathon to defend my titles and to continue building my speed.  I plan on doing a fall Marathon as well and partaking in either the full or the half (depending on fitness and recovery as well as coaches orders) at the brand new Banff Marathon.  This event is brand new and has a net downhill course.  The scenery will be sure to put this event in the record books for Canada's (if not the world's) most scenic marathon!  I have been confirmed as an elite into this years BC 5k Championships and have been asked to put the word out for any runners who are not running to help out as a volunteer.  Volunteers make the running world go round and are always greatly appreciated.  Thats it for now sports fans, Stay tuned for more action to come.  Stay fit, stay awesome!!