Friday, May 28, 2010

Hop bunny, hop; the first half

A small oasis of calm this morning, before heading up to the Cabot Trail Relay. As in previous years, I am on the tech crew, 17 legs,17 starts and finishes, essentially setting up (and breaking down) 17 races back-to-back in a little over 30 hrs. A challenge to be sure, but a satisfying one. One of the challenges is staying awake for >30 hrs. They say staying awake for 24 hrs gives the same functional impairment as drinking three whiskeys. Of course, on the Cabot Trail, home to all things Gaelic, one could stay awake for 24 hrs AND drink three whiskeys. And the state the tech crew will be in Sunday morning, you will be hard pushed to see the difference.

This year I will break with my rule and run a CTR leg as well. Why? I was offered the chance to run leg#9; North Mountain. For the record, 6k up, 6 k down and 6k flat, but I could swear the finish is also uphill ( but what on the Cabot Trail isn't?). I've never run a mountain leg of the CTR before, or a night leg, and leg#9 is also the first night leg. I think to be a serious runner here, you have to have done either a mountain leg or a night one, a bit like how to be a serious cyclist you really must have ridden the big mountains, the Ventouxs, the Alpes. Or so I think. Plus, Cathy Carter offered me both the opportunity to be worshipped as an uphill running God AND steak-and-kidney pie. Deity status and ambrosia. How do you say no to that?

And all of this a week after the Bluenose. I know many did not run the Bluenose or run it full-gas because they wanted to do a good CTR leg. I wasn't on the CTR start-sheet at Bluenose time (in my defence), but even so, I'm not too worried. I seem to race my best in when I do blocks of races, just like this in fact, so as long as I finessed my recovery properly this week, I think I'll do fine (by my standards at least).

The Bluenose was fun, in a peverse kind of way. Perhaps is because there was very little pressure going into this. You could say the big pressure was having to run a 1:30 half, but while I have to work to bring in a 1:30 (it isn't the proverbial walk in the park as it would be for Rami or Denise) it's not like they were asking for an 18' 5K, that I could not guarantee. Anyway, seeing how the Full Marathton 3:45 bunny ended up bailing just after the half, perhaps I shouldn't have even worried about this!

As you may have guessed from the previous post, I was feeling way too relaxed on Saturday evening. I knew nerves would kick in at some point before the event, I wouldn't be all lousy-goosey and cracking jokes on the start-line, but having some control over my emotions on race eve surely means I'm coping better, no? Certainly, I got a good night's sleep.

Compared to Boston, this one is so much easier in the morning. A relatively late rise, say 06:30, leisurely breakfast, leisurely walk to the start. No getting up before dawn, cramming your breakfast, getting crammed onto a school-bus and getting to the start 3 hrs early and having another breakfast, this time crammed under canvas. I'm not saying Boston is bad, it is an amazing experience and I am incredibly lucky to have experienced it twice, but just getting to the Bluenose start is so much easier on the nerves!

We picked up our signs, the ones for helping people to seed in the corral that read "Half-marathon", and if bunny ears and a red 10-and-1T-shirt weren't attention grabbing enough, this was the icing on the cake. I hate to say that I would ever abuse a symbol of authority, but the ears and the sign made it easy to jump the queue for the bag-check or the loos!

I seeded myself at the front with my sign when the halfs were called to the corrals. It felt very friendly as I knew many people up there on the line. I gave out the pace wrist-bands I'd got from Running Room, I figured we'd find them useful. Last year I bunnied on dead-reckoning; if we'd done x km on the target pace then speed x time = distance and yes, we were on schedule. Not everyone in the group last year found that logical deduction (which I thought impeccable) to be correct (what a bunch of Kants) and were convinced we were running too way fast. I figured pace-charts would take the guess-work out of it and give me some breathing space as the numbers would be right there; besides, you know, sometimes you can get dropped even if the pace-bunny is on-pace.

As always, the hardest thing after the start is to let the fast-boys go. I said as much to Mac Grant, a Canada Games triathlete now looking to go longer. So often I, we, run in that group, so letting them go feels unnatural. There were the usual start-line shenanigans, people (guys, all guys) sprinting past us in the first mile. Mac and I looked at each other and said "we'll see them again!".

The first five kilometers or so were a little too fast, we were a minute or so up on schedule, the exuberance of the whole thing going to our heads I suppose. Point Pleasant Park, three off-road kilometers at 10k always takes a minute out of us, so I figured we needed a minute in the bank going in. Still, there was no need to get that minute in the first mile.

We had a good group of >10 on Barrington and we hung together well. I tried to get some through-and-off going, there were enough cyclists in the group, but it didn't happen. Stacy Chestnutt kept us amused by talking about the cherry pie her husband was baking for that afternoon, which segued into which 80's hair-band sang "Cherry Pie"?


The park was tough as expected, and we shed several members in there. That was despite slowing down a little. By the time we came out on Young, now right on schedule having lost the predicted minute, we were down to four or five, including Mac, Stacy and Sandy, a quiet young woman who was quietly getting it done and hadn't taken part in any of the banter to this point.

We were steadily bringing back many of the guys who had started too fast. The ears can be demoralizing as some people's race strategy is "stay ahead of the bunny" and when the bunny comes steaming through they look at you and say "hey, you're fast" and you look at your band and say "Nope, right on time". Those wrist-bands were useful; I thought I'd never I'd say this but "thank-you John Stanton".

Of course, one of our number put the pace-band on upside down and now those numbers, small to begin with, were totally unreadable!

I told the guys that they could take off any time if they wanted to; we'd clocked just over 14kms in the first hour and while I couldn't put the hammer down (as a bunny, I had to cross the mats at 1:30), they were welcome to try. A mile or so later when we got to the Commons Mac and Stacy decided to go for it. They both go in under 1:30, which was the goal for that day. I hear Stacy clocked a 6 minute final mile; she's a machine and is going sub 40 for 10 and sub-1:25 for the half in the near future if she likes it or not. As for Mac, if he carries on running like this, there's no hope for any of us. Even Rami had better keep an eye out over his shoulder!

I soldiered on and kept Sandy going, the veil had descended over her somewhere after the park and even been told she was 3rd lady didn't seem to raise her spirits. She kept the pace though, even if she was somewhat uncommunicative! When you're on the limit, put all your energy into running, not talking. No-one is going to think you're rude, trust me! Someone told me I had a bit of the drill sargeant going on! I hope I was slightly more compassionate than that! Anyway, with about 1200m to go Sandy found an extra gear and motored off to a 1:29 and, as told, 3rd lady.

I ended up passing the mats with a 1:29 half, a little closer to the mark than last year. I feel quite chuffed about it actually. Many people in the group got PBs or placings, or both, and that does give a tremendous feeling of satisfaction of a job well done. I think that I get just a big a thrill out of doing that as I do getting a PB myself. No, I can't explain it either, but I do. That's why I came back to do it again.

Of course, for the me, the day was only half done. So I headed up the marathon chute, not the finish chute and contemplated what was now an empty road ahead. That's where I'll carry on with the next post.


Saturday, May 22, 2010


It's funny how things change. I remember sitting on my couch the night before the first Bluenose, which was my second marathon ever and the first for ten years. I was surrounded by all my kit, I really do mean every piece, trying to decided what to wear.

Fast forward six years and ten marathons later and once more it's the night before Bluenose. A lot more relaxed. I haven't even got all my stuff out yet. Instead I'm writing a blog about getting ready, or not getting ready, rather than actually getting ready. This time six years ago I was practically dressed and sleeping in my running kit, just in case. You know how it is. Of course, the nice weather forecast for tomorrow, the only nice forecast they've ever had, helps. Really all I'll need are shorts, T-shirt, shoes, socks and my pace-bunny ears; and I'll be wearing all that lot down to the start anyway. I really don't need to schlep a whole bunch of just-in-case stuff down, certainly none of that Shackleton-in-the-Antarctic stuff as in previous years. Maybe a back-pack with a dry-t-shirt and hat for afterwards. I mean, how easy does this get?

I guess the pace-bunny stuff helps. I'll bunny the half to 1:30 and then carry on to finish the full, like last year. It this removes some of the performance anxiety I think as I should be running within myself for the first half. It's only in the second half I have to start to think a bit. And even then, I'm just doing a long run. Sure, I'll see Tinkerbell sometime after Shubie, but that's just par for the course.

Actually, the first half should be fun. It sounds like there will be a small nucleus of triathletes running 1:30, some good runners and great athletes; in so-much as it is often said "there's no such thing as a happy runner" I think we're going to have a great time out there.

Perhaps I should at least go and pin on my number and lace my chip into my shoe for tomorrow. And if you see me, remember it hurts if you hold rabbits up by the ears!


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You cannot be serious.....

Time for a John McEnroe-style rant I think.

Surely you've seen this post now, the one about "motorized doping'". To be honest, the headline didn't make sense to me at first, but I do speed-read and sometimes have to go back to make sure what I thought I'd read, I had actually read. It didn't make sense the second time either. The gist of the story is motors have been allegedly secreted in pro bikes, perhaps to assist the bottom bracket rather than directly driving the rear wheel a la the Trek Ride+. The electric assist is used for the first half of the race to conserve energy and then the rider switches the a regular bike for the finale.

Puts a new spin on Di2 doesn't it; we have to perfect electronic shifting so there's an excuse for mounting a dirty great big battery on a sub-kilo carbon frame?! Concealed cables aren't aero, it's so we can drive the motor. The UCI can make them pee into all the bottles they want, check for drug doping and gene doping to make sure no-one is augmenting the motor but bastards will never even think about checking for a real motor!

Can it actually be true? The last I checked it was on AND, two independent sites, but this doesn't mean anything as they could be cut-n-pasting from one another so they don't get left behind in this 24/7 news culture. In such a culture, this blog-post is already irrelevant and OBE (well more irrelevant and OBE than usual), but this blog is for fun, those other guys get paid to blog.

Anyway, back to the story's verity. Can it be true? Has the sport I love really descended to such Ealing comedy-farce levels? I've seen Carry On films with more plausible plots. This is surely stretching credulity.

The alternative is not more appealing, and rather exonerating the sport, merely excoriates it. Let's assume this was an off-the-cuff joke to Hein or Pat or even between a couple of journos and a mechanic. Instead of being ignored as a joke, the sport's reputation is so bad, the joke can be regarded as Plausible and investigated, if only through trial-by-media.

Perhaps we should get Adam and Jamie to check it out; they are independent and seem to have the trust of the public at large! More than your average pro cyclist, or so it seems. Plausible, Confirmed or Busted could equally apply to the JATO rocket car, can a falling penny kill you, water-heater rocket, exploding toilet or any Giro, Vuelta or Tour win since the early 90s!

So what to do. Well, I think I'll start by finishing following today's Giro stage; the silly buggers let a 58-up break get 17 minutes on them and now the pink-and-hairless one is getting all worried, and try not to think about drug doping, gene doping or motorized doping. But I'll tell you one thing. Any one of them gets a bike-change at the top of the last climb, I'm handing it my cyclists' card, will stop shaving my legs and taking up competitive tiddlywinks. Grrrrr...


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fanny's muffins

I once heard of someone being asked "do you cook" as a quite serious question during her university admissions interview.

OK, I admit it, I've been baking recently. Stove-top cooking is fun, it's bucket chemistry. Just add here, withhold there, alter proportions at will. No problems, no explosions. Baking is different, much more like "real" science. Precise measurements, amounts, times and temperatures. You don't add more Taq to the PCR because you think it will cook "better", or double the annealing temperature because it will make the reaction go twice as quick, you'll just end up wasting $10 of reagents and a morning's work. And hopefully not a really difficult sample to get hold of. You see the analogy. Maybe that's why baking feels so nice, so homey, so comforting.

Anyway, baking can also be misunderstood, so I present not a sock (I have no baking socks) but a cruelly misunderstood poster from days gone by. It's wrong on several levels, and that's before you take into account this is an American poster, and back in Blighty, our use of "Fanny" just elevates (well sinks more like) this poster from merely fail to epic fail.


demotivatonal posters


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Something for the weekend?

There's something to be said for doing something for yourself, or for the sheer badness of it. There's something else to do it for someone else. We spend a lot of our time doing things for ourselves and spend much time focused on our own goals. It was time to redress the balance. Perhaps, ahem, doing something for the sheer baldness of it?

The Daniel McLellan Memorial Fund raises money to help families of those with leukaemia. It helps with accomodations and other such needs when families have to be in Halifax for periods of time while their child is an inpatient at the IWK. The idea is that having a child in such circumstances should be stressor enough, without worrying about how to live away from home. Yes, I've been in research and understand the need for research money and how without money research just can't happen. Even a modest research lab can have a burn rate of $1000 CAD a month, and that's without salaries (I should know). However, the human side is just as important and probably quite underlooked. I think any of us with children can understand this.

So once a year the Memorial Fund raises money through Hair for Heros, a sponsored head-shave. The symbolism is quite direct; a side-effect of chemo is baldness. However, we can choose to do it, for those with chemo, not so optional.

Enough off the semantics, you want to see damage. I will confess to being a bit of a basket case beforehand. Goodness knows why, like so many things in life all I had to do was sit there and take it. Possibly with a whiff of public humiliation. Like work really, but without the union. Anyway, so this was me immediately beforehand

From the looks of me, I was in better mental shape on the start-line at Boston, but yesterday I suppose I was without the calming effect of 800 mg ibuprofen and 2 mg of Immodium! Better living through chemistry indeed!

La belle did the honours. Incisions, suturing and setting up IVs may have been part of her training, but the finer points of clipper-wielding use were not. Still, she did a fair job and got most of it off without leaving any clumps but, fortunately, leaving me my ears. The professional coiffeuse hired for the occasion finished the job off, but there wasn't much to finish off. More like a quick wax and polish.

To be honest, having the clippers on the back and sides was not a novel experience, my instructions to a succession of barbers on two continents for the past twenty-odd years having been "No.2 on the back and sides blended into the top please". The sensation of the clippers without a clipper-guard over the top of my scalp felt strange though. It hasn't taken too long to get used to the sight, but I do feel a slight chill around my temples that is taking some getting used to.

I think I'll keep it like this for a while. Never having had hair short this before (well, never not had hair before, not even when I was born) I'll have to get some scalp-health tips, but from whom? Is it an oxymoron to say I'm getting hair-care advice from Rami Bardessy, or Ray Moorehead, or Frank Lauzier or Charles Mandel? Noted slap-heads all. They all have something else in common too; they're all fast runners. I hope my legs can keep pace with the new do.

I'm still collecting money for the Fund. If you think this is something you'd like to contribute to, drop me a line. Alternatively, you can come and see me at the TNS booth at the Bluenose Sports Expo this coming Friday/Saturday (what, is it Bluenose already?) and after you've stopped laughing, you can make a donation.

Thanks to Dr Bruce Crooks, an oncologist at the IWK Health Centre, who talked me into it and, as the slogan on the back of the T-shirt said, to perhaps see myself a little differently.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Clé d'enfer

Yup, I saw my first MEC bike in the wild the other day. I gave it a quick look and was not impressed by what I saw. The "obvious"components; rear mech, brakes and the like were low end Shimano, and once you've seen that much Tiagra and Sora on display, you start to despair at what is hidden. You know, how the nominally Ultegra-throughout bike has a 105 bottom bracket? Well what's the BB spec on this beaut? Shinano Reject? Still, horses for courses and all that, and this little red monster isn't supposed to be a hard-core Koppenberg cross junkie. It's supposed to get it's owner safely to-and-from Starbucks, which is exactly where I saw it and so it was, apparently, doing it's job faultlessly.

We haven't had a cycling sock for a while, so I'll give you this beastie from today's ride. They were a gift, and to be honest, I do have soft-spot for them. True, tall and black but not Armstrong "births, deaths, weddings and court appearances only" tall. Plus, it was kinda wet out today, a mud-caveat day, just like at the 'cross, where adhering slavishly to the sock-rules (well rule) is just going to cost you a pair of socks. And sometimes that's no fun, not even to make a point! Besides, after what happened to my running socks in a sudden downpour last week, I didn't want to wreck another pair so soon.

Speaking of fashion points, I was called out wearing my orange triathlon socks at the race this weekend. True they weren't white, but they were swim-bike-run themed and I thought they'd fit the occasion, even if it was a duathlon and strictly a run-bike-run affair but I didn't have those socks.

Besides, I was wearing an all black top with orange accents (my shorts were black, naturally) and the colours matched nicely. Now blue swim-bike-run socks with the same top? I don't think so!

Anyway, back to those spanners. The whole spanners and flames thing was apropos seeing as I've had pretty much every bike that I own or have "mechanical custody" over on the workstand recently. Some needed a little tweak (new brake-blocks in the fixie) whilst others needed a complete triage to find out what's fatal and what's merely cosmetic (the Humber). I flatter myself to think that the socks refer to my "smoking spanners", that is quickly and competently doing the work. I can't help but feel they are more clé d'enfer and that the wrenching was more diabolical than useful. If a pedal falls out or a brake-cable spontaneously combusts next time I'm on a ride, then we'll know.

Something interesting happened when it came to Old Bess' turn. I dropped the rear wheel out to change the tyre from a 32-knobby to 25-smooth when I noticed something.

Did you ever do a climb on your bike that just felt ridiculously hard, harder than it had ever felt before? You clicked down and down again, all the way through the block and it didn't get any easier? You get out of the saddle and really haul on the bars and still go nowhere fast and wonder how you managed to get quite so fat and quite so unfit quite so quickly. Then when you top out and you finally have the energy to look and it turns out you were in the 53? Well sometimes, you're still in the 39 and the reasons are way more insidious, way more diabolical. And no, I'm not talking about the person I know who didn't put the sprockets back on the freewheel in order. But that's just funny. Anyway.

This was the freewheel on the wheel that came out of the drop-outs, still with a bit of mud from he last 'cross race on the tyres and between the spokes....

....and this was the spare wheel from the shed.

Notice any difference?

Yes, the one from the shed is a tad rusty around the edges. But other than that?

Yup, the one that was in the shed all winter, and all 'cross season too, has a 25T bottom sprocket. The one I raced on has a 23T bottom sprocket.

Yup, I raced the 'cross without a "proper" bottom gear. Now granted 36 x 25 (38 inches) isn't much of a granny (more of a maiden aunt kind of gear) but when it comes to 'cross, it's surely better than 36 x 23 (42 inches). No wonder it felt so hard!



Friday, May 7, 2010

Validated by Henri Desgrange

Whilst perusing a TdF coffee-table book (a gift from my brother, seeing as he did the cover art-work and all), my life got a little validation from no less than Henri Desgranges and his famous outburst "I still feel that variable gears are for those over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a deraileur? We are getting soft? as for me, give me a fixed gear".

So 40 isn't quite over the hill yet then and there are still a few years ahead of me before encroaching decrepitude requires that all my bikes be fitted with deraileurs or other "artifices". Certainly, my initial forays into racing the 40-44 age-group as a fully fledged 40-something have left a lot to be desired (I raced 40-44 last year but because of the vagaries of age-group definitions and the timing of my birthday I was 39 for all of last year's races). So it was nice to get this little attaboy, this little confirmation that whereas the the top of the hill can be seen, it hasn't been reached yet. Albeit an attaboy and a confirmation from a long-dead traditionalist in a frock-coat who makes today's UCI's Technical C'ttee seem positively forward-thinking.

Simply put, a fixed gear is a single sprocket screwed directly on to the rear hub; there are no pawls or other "artifices" between the sprocket and the hub. If the wheel turns, the pedals turn, and visa versa. Due to this direct drive feature, fixed is supposed to help souplesse, a fancy French word to describe pedalling technique. There is no freewheeling, and there is only the one gear, no changing up to climb and down to descend. If you descend at 45kph, you have to pedal correspondingly quickly; for those of a math bent the relationship is Speed(mph) = Gear(in) × Cadence (rpm) ÷ 336 (and do your own conversion to kph!). I recently hit 45 kph (27mph) on 68" fixed, which works out to be cadence of 138. Now granted I wasn't spinning 138 for very long, but still, if you didn't have good souplesse, the bike would have you off in short order!

Gear choice is critical; too big you can't ride the flats or the uphills and pop a patella or two; too small you spin out on the descents or just can't go fast enough on the flat and you're spinning your (track)nuts off. Plus, a gear change requires a 15mm wrench (to get the wheel out), a lockring spanner (to frees the sprocket), a chain whip (to screw the sprocket off the hub) and at least five minutes. Longer if you can't remember which ways the lock-ring and sprockets screw off. Not that that has ever happened to me! (Much!!).

I've got two fixies. One is pretty much a stock Paddy Wagon from Kona. It's built as a fixie, with horizontal drop-outs and a high bottom bracket. After-market mudguards and removing the chainring guard are the extent of my blinging it out. The new 2010 PW have a shiny, all aluminum cockpit, which I might emulate tho'.

The other fixed is the Lemond. This little beauty was put together mostly from bits and pieces in my parts bin. She's probably the closest thing I have right now to a "pure" racing bike. There's no flah-flah here; a Reynolds 853 frame, fixed gear, one front brake (the other lever is there for something to hold on to, besides, brakes only slow you down).

The lack of anything superfluous also makes her light, she weighs about as much as an entry-level Cervelo, and that's with box-section rims and plenty 'o spokes. That should satisfy the weight-weenies out there.

Her (his?) heart is the ENO eccentric hub, that allows a frame with vertical drop-outs to be used as a fixed. The hub, laced to a 36 hole Mavic Open Pro, makes a wheel that is a sweet piece of kit and real talking point amongst aficianados, especially those with beards, wooly jerseys and a fondness for real ale. It has to be said that with the hub plus rim, spokes and build, the wheel wasn't cheap, in fact the rear wheel alone could finance the better part of a new Langster or a Pista; but the world has one of those, and there's only one of these. Plus it's a guaranteed entry into any bike-porn related conversation in the world.

I've ridden each of the pure road bikes my stable recently (Old Bess doesn't count here) and I'm enjoying the Lemond most of all. The PW and the Carrot have seemed, well, stodgy. I'm not sure why; the tyres were pumped up, the frame angles didn't change overnight neither did the frames put weight on over the winter (more than can be said for me). I can't explain it, but neither bike seemed to have any zip, any zing, any get-up-and-go. Neither bike seemed to want to jump when I asked, they grumbled going up hills and, even though we didn't indulge in any race-foolishness, I can tell they wouldn't have wanted to sprint either. The Lemond has done all of this though, and in spades.

I'm going to reward the Lemond for her (his?) dedication to duty by racing on him (her?) at the Du It For Shelter event this weekend; in deference to the (allegedly) flat course I'll likely just slap on a pair of Jammers, probably in TZ, and make sure I've got an Allen key in my pocket in-case they work loose (happened to me once!). The bike had it's racing debut at the Riverport Du last October. She did well, and held her own against supposedly sleeker and more well equipped machines, by which I mean gears and decidedly un-boxy section wheels! As you can see from this short video from the event, her debut wasn't entirely without incident, spinning out (in excess of 100 rpm) in the 15 at well over 20 mph (for those of you wondering what an ideal pedal cadence should look like, worryingly this is it).

Ah, the curse of fixed; there's nothing worse than getting half-way around the loop and then thinking "I wish I'd put the 14 on" (as I had here). So I've decided to abrogate my responsibility in this area and put the question out to the triathlon community and asked them "what gear I should ride on Sunday". Should be interesting; will they respect my spinning roadie heritage or demand the biggest thing I can possibly turn? Or not, as the case may be. The early running is for a larger gear, say 72" although 84" was suggested (despite not being in the poll). Sadists!

Best get the lock-ring spanner and chain-whip out then. So now, if it's righty-tighty lefty-loosey, for a reverse-threaded lock-ring it should be the other way around........

See you Sunday


Wednesday, May 5, 2010


This one goes out to a friend of mine who recently lamented the end of her "indie chick" days with the realization she is starting to like folk music.

Given the magnitude of her crisis we're going to assume we are talking Lindesfarne and hardcore Morris dancing here, not folk-punky The Men they Couldn't Hang or the Dropkick Murphys. Harboring a secret love for the ouvre of Stan Rogers is a bit like liking Tim Hortons breakfast "sandwiches". They're OK once in a while but they tend to be consumed furtively when no-one is watching but most of all you know it's wrong and don't indulge too often or too publicly. Not the kind of thing one admits to in polite company. More tea, vicar?

Truth be told, however, one of the signs of aging, other than the policemen do all start to look younger or it now takes two weeks to recover from a marathon is that the music once condemned in our youths becomes respectable. AC/DC were on the Lilo & Stitch trailer. See my point?

So perhaps my friend can go back not just to her indie chick days but beyond to her goth chick days with The Damned's Eloise, performed here with a full orchestra.

If the godfathers of punk can collaborate so publicly with the Establishment like this (frilly shirts worn unironically, are you listening Dave Vanian?), then my friend can surely enjoy the odd Aran sweater, twanging guitar and ode to lost fishermen (Halifax, Nova Scotia) or miners (Halifax, West Yorkshire) and know her indie chick credentials will always be above reproach.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Nice legs, shame about the face

I'm just about coming to terms with what happened in Boston. In a way it reminds me of the existential crisis which strikes many after their Finals. You spend all winter working towards a single goal, where everything you do is done in the light of this singular goal. Then one day, you write the final Final, go out for a beer (perhaps) and the next day you wake up and there is a huge exam-shaped hole in your life.

Pretty much the same thing here; after a winter of focussing on a singular event, there is now a huge marathon-shaped hole in my life. Could I cope with the sudden listlessness? Normally, probably. However, whatever coping strategies I may have had to deal with the whole post-marathon listlessness thing have been scuppered by the whole PW thing. Sure it happens, and sure it probably happens to most at Boston, the course is known for it. Some console themselves by saying that running ten minutes slower than your qualifying time is normal; so was my 3:14 typical given I qualified with a 3:05? Sure, except I qualified with 3:05 at Boston! One can't help but feel it was all a bit futile; all those runs in the dark and snow, those early mornings, the spartan diet and for a PW? M'eh.

So how did the day go? Very early start for this race. Up at 04:30; granola and Advil for breakfast and out of the door by 5:45 for the mile walk to Boston Common to get the bus. It was a lovely morning; blue skies and no wind. The first half-mile along Columbus we were the only ones, after we passed the T did we start to see more and more people in track-pants and club-jackets with the official plastic bag over their shoulders.

It helps to be in the first wave of buses. I've heard horror stories of the later buses getting caught in traffic and taking well over an hour to make the 45 minute journey. I can't even start to imagine how stressful that might be. It may have been an early start but at least one stressor was kinda controllable.

It's quite the sight though, that long line of school-buses, as it leaves the Common with Boston's finest holding all the lights and waving the convoy through.

When we got to the start village, club-mate Ray Moorehead had snagged a prime spot for us under the tent, protected from the wind but in the sun. We hunkered down there and munched on bagels and bananas and tried to keep the anxiety down. Ray mentioned he might have peaked a bit too early in March; I said I peaked too early at 08:00 that morning! I was ready to go at eight, but had to hold for another two hours!

Funnily, of the five of us there, four of us were in new shoes. Ray had a fluorescent pair of go-fasters that only had a couple of runs in them. Randall's too. La belle and I both bought new shoes at the Expo; at those prices you'd be mad not to.

These shoes had 5K on them come race day, plus the 1.5km walk to the Common on race morning. Pretty much all I'd done was a quick loop to make sure the laces were right then tied on the official race chip

This year the chips were the disposable ones and I've seen a few Boston marathoners around Halifax still with the chip laced in to their shoes since we didn't have to get them clipped off at the end! We'd better collectively remember that before we do our next race or else we're really going to piss off Mike Richard and the Atlantic Chip guys.

This new shoe thing runs counter to everything they teach you, but really, it wasn't a problem, I'd done this before. I'd been running a pair of Mizuno Precisons since Moose, I ran Precisions all last summer in and, to all intents and purposes, the Ascends I'd run all winter in are the same shoe as well (with a more aggressive sole and a bit of posting). There's nothing quite like that bouncy new shoe feel! If I'd felt like it, I could have swapped the insoles from the old shoes into the new ones, but I didn't even need to do that. To be honest, by the end of the day my feet were the best part of me. This is the third or fourth time I've run a marathon in Mizunos straight out of the box, and run to both PBs and PWs, so overall it works for me. Would I recommend it? As long as you go for exactly the same shoe, and you never have any teething problems with a new pair before - then why not?

Anyway, back to the official race bits, the race packet looked like this, with the stern admonition to us the chip, official number and safety pins.

Of course to my pedantic, childish mind, this sounded like we were to use the official safety pins to affix the aforementioned official number to our vests. So, I used the official safety pins (enclosed) to ensure I wasn't DQ'd on a minor point. Not that someone would try and get me ejected from the race to secure the coveted 3555th place for themselves on a technicality ("he wasn't using the right safety-pins gov!") but still, official BAA safety pins it was.

At the athletes village I have to say, there were enough portapotties; the queue wasn't that bad, considering they were catering to 26000. We were tickled to see at the Expo, the changing room at the Brooks booth was a portapottie....

....if only the ones at race site were quite so well appointed (and fragrant).

After last years mistakes, the game plan was to run an easy first half and not to get carried away on the initial downhill sections. Certainly the first 10K went to plan, thanks to fellow NSer Leah Jabbour. We kept each other company for the first 8K/5 miles and stayed on pace;Leah was aiming for, and got, a sub-3 (way to go Leah) and we knocked off a 21 minute 5K and even though she tailed me off at 8K, I hit the 10K with a 42 or something. All in all, a more relaxed pace than last year and having someone to talk to for the first 30 minutes helped tosettle me down alittle. Funnily, we heard "Gonna Fly Now" from Rocky played at the side of the road three times in the first three miles. Someone was channelling Mark Stein and it made us feel right at home.

They tell you in marathons to look outside you as much as possible; if you dwell on inwards thoughts from the begining you will start to feel bad earlier. I tried this, tried to see more of the course than I had the previous year. I think I managed this and I have more memories from the road-side than last year, where all I remember seeing was the patch of tarmac straight in front of me.

Then sonmething funny happened. I startd to feel bored; when would this thing be over? I've been running for ages and we're not even at Wellesley yet. Weird; never had that in a marathon before. I think this was a manifestation of the overall malaise I'd had coming into this event. And my quads started to ache. Already! Dammitt.

Wellesley was loud and the screams were at the exact pitch that made my ears hurt. By this point I was trying to zone out a little and just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. I tried not to look at mileage markers and tried not to look at my Garmin; the numbers weren't going to make good reading and I was feeling crappy enough without seeing pace numbers like that. Plus, when you look at your Garmin six times and see 23 point something each time, well, it doesn't feel that you're making progress. So just keep on putting one foot in front of the other and try not to worry about numbers.

Surprisingly the Newton Hills didn't feel too bad after all, but then I didn't have to fall that far to feel bad. Even though my running form was bad and my pace was worse, I managed what passed for a run all the way through the hills. In fact, I didn't walk until mile 23, and even then I always managed to keep some forward velocity and never actually stopped. Even though I'd had those threatening "wobbles"in my legs, I didn't get cramps until the last mile though either, and then only in the gastrocs and they weren't bad enough to stop me from running. Not quite sure how I pulled that one off.

The crowds get thicker and more vocal the closer you get to Boston. That I remembered from last year. What surprised me was how aggressive the crowds got after Boston College (20 miles). On a couple of occasions I was scared out off walking breaks by guys screaming at me, and not nicely, to stop walking. Can you imagine what it must be like to be a pro sucking on the Red Sox, Bruins or Celtics roster when they treat random runners in the marathon like this!

Either that, or the sight of me running wasn't pretty (as you can see). Of all the pictures to be sent as a freebie it had to be this one. And what's with the arm; am I channeling Elvis (thangyuhvurymuch)? Apart from one awesome bulging quads shot (nice legs but shame about the face) the official pictures are a depressing sight. My bib # is pretty much the smallest number in the shot and a race-walk official would have no reason to disqualify me!

I like this one though.... was nice to get a shot together at the end; last year I was in the med tent (getting soup) and we kinda missed each other.

On the subject of medical tents, I had Advil for breakfast, another two on the start line and a couple more to help me move (then sleep) afterwards. Or put another way; you know those packets of Junior Motrin, the 24 x 100 mg tablets? Yup, I ate the equivilent of a whole one of those in one day to cope with one marathon. Thank goodness for childproof caps!

There's a saying in marathon circles that 20 miles is half way. This graph proves it. I was keeping a good pace in the early part of the race, a slight upwards trend as I tired, but not too bad. The blue box is the Newton Hills, with the far right edge being Heartbreak (at 32K/20 miles) and it seems apart from Heartbreak itself, I was holding my own. I kinda came back to normality in the few kilometres after it then bang, all hell broke loose, going from 4:30s to 5:30s. Ouch! That was the walking for you. Would not walking have helped the time? Maybe, it would have saved 4 minutes (4 kms at 5:30 instead of 4:30), which whilst not quite a PW wouldn't have been an outstanding result. Besides, the marathon is 26 miles, not 23, so there's no point what-iffing. It looks like I found my legs again around Kenmore Square/the CitGo sign. I didn't think I did, but I neither do I think the Garmin lies, so clearly I found something in the tank!

I must have been bored one day, or perhaps I just can't switch it all the way off, but I got to thinking how good a predictor the had Moose been? I remember thinking at the time that my 1:38 was indicating a 3:08-ish marathon, based on the what happened at PEI or last year at Boston. Was I right?

Kind of. This year is in red. If this point is excluded, there is an r2 of 0.53 (black dotted line). Granted, not Letter To Nature/trip to Stockholm significant, but certainly suggestive there is a relationship. Include this year's Boston, that figure falls to 0.35 (red solid line) which is the statistical equivalent of go home and take two Asprin - you're seeing things. So statistics, at least, tells me this race wasn't normal by any standards. And regardless of how you feel about Disraeli, if it gets to where a linear regression has to tell you you had a sucky race, then you definitively had a sucky race. Ninety-five times out of a hundred!

What went wrong? Many things I suspect and I could drive myself mad trying to isolate each variable and give it an appropriate weight. Weight, however, is probably some of it and is tied in to how I was training for this one. I was told I was training too hard, however such a spectacular failure of form might suggest I wasn't training enough.

So where next? Believe it or not, Bluenose. I'm bunnying the half and I'll carry on and do the whole thing. Call it "getting back on the horse". What can I say, it's all Mark Campbell's fault!

Fricking marathon.