Thursday, October 28, 2010

Naughtius Maximus.

A conversation about carbon off-sets (I am going to off-set the ton of travelling I've done this year for triathlon; stay tuned for details) evolved, or devolved (depending on your point of view) into Pythonesque name-calling a la Life of Brain. As you know, I am usually tickled pink by Brian's Latin grammar lesson ("People called Romanes they go the house") but given we were doing name-calling and not verb declensions it had to be this scene instead.

Enjoy, but do twy to keep a stwaight face!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Marathon Doom; Incomplete

We saw that tree.

Is it me, or does Mount Desert Island look like a granulocyte's polymorphic nucleus?

Of course, the scales are different, but who knew there was a fractal relationship? Funny the stuff that pops into your head when your mildy hypoglycaemic, hyponatremic, hypokalemic, acidotic and you only have yourself to talk to.

To carry on from where the last post finished, I went back to the motel room after watching the early start. It wasn't a long journey and we were close! I was still feeling decidedly m'eh with just under an hour to the gun, and when I say gun, I actually mean small cannon.

The view from the motel balcony; we were that close.

Le belle decided that she wanted to go and drop her stuff off at the bag-check now. It was clear from the finger-tapping, eye-rolling body language that if the bags weren't dropped off this instant, her entire race would be in ruins. Hey, what can I say? I didn't start the Riverport Du in the bathroom! Maybe this was why. Whatever the reason, I hurriedly finished off my (ahem) "preparations" and headed out. It was a good idea to head out at that instant however, as we bumped into most of the Nova Scotians; Shawn Deleu, David Nevitt, Karen Marlin, Leah Jabour almost immediately.

Dave Nevitt, Shawn Deleu, la belle, you-know-who, Leah Jabour, Karen Marlin and a big mountain!

Funny thing about that photo. As we lined up under the banner for the photo, the lady taking it asked "do you want the mountain in as well?". Mountain? What mountain? Feck it, there's a bloody mountain!

After a quick photo stop and bag-drop, and we were soon all back in the motel room to finish our preparations and that all-important final pit-stop. I felt a little like the NS chef de mission! Marathon veteran David Nevitt was a calming influence to us all I think, there was less evidence of nail-biting, pant-wetting nerves and more getting ready for the job.

We finally headed off down to the start with about ten minutes to go and we immediately bumped into Charles Mandel. It was good to see him again. Charles seemed to also be feeling m'eh about the whole thing, and I couldn't blame him. It was cold, it felt early and all we could see looking down the street, through the start-gantry and along the route was that mountain! That thing Oscar Wilde said about a hanging? That mountain had the same effect!

Pretty soon the energy levels started to ramp-up as the RD initiated the start-line experience. With two minutes to go, the play-list had switched to AC/DC. It sounded like Hells Bells or something similar, a gradually building crescendo of Angus Young's best that culminated with a for-real cannon-blast.

We were off.

Nova Scotia fast boys David Holder (11th in 2:52:58) and Shawn Deleu (13th in 2:53:54) soon found the second pack on the road behind a sizeable and ominous-looking lead pack. In fact, the men's course record would fall this day and six guys would go under 2:40.

I found myself with Charles, Dave, Leah and last years winner (and Maine Road Hag from CTRR) Amanda Labelle. There was a a little trash-talking; Leah said Charles sounded like he was running like a girl back there, so I told Leah she looked like a man up there.

The first hill, the first hill of many, soon came and put a stop to the trash-talking. We were only a mile into the race but it was already time to throw down. Well a little. There were still many hills and many miles to come.

Charles, David and I crested the hill together. David said we had just done the worse hill on the course. Normally, I would defer to his status as an experienced marathon runner, and one with two MDIs under his belt, but with only one hill and two miles down, this seemed like a particularly rash and irresponsible statement.

Around now we started to get mightily pissed off by George from FLA. Charles and I were doing a conservative 7 minute mile pace, and so was George. On average. You see he was doing a strange combination of run-walking; like the Running Room on Amphetamines. We passed him in the first mile walking, then he caught us on the first hill running like gangbusters, stopped looking blown, walked for a bit and repeated. Not that I mind being passed, it happens to me more often than you'd think, but this was playing merry hell with any sense of rhythm. I told Charles we'd loose him by 8 miles if he carried on like this. Which turned out to be about right. We saw less and less of him for the first hour, and after that we didn't see him at all.

The course elevation map didn't really do justice to the route as I felt it unfold under my feet. On paper it was bowl-shaped; climbs in the first eight and last five miles with relative flat in-between. In truth, this wasn't the course I remember running. The hills were fairly evenly interspersed throughout the course. Dave was right, until the final climb between 22 and 24 miles, that first climb was the worse one, in terms of length at least. The rest of the climbs weren't really that bad at all. They were enough to get stuck in to, and if like me you do well at hills, they were places to pick people off or make up a little time. There was nearly always a a downhill to recover on or, if you're like me, to loose a little ground but there was always another hill to make it back on!

The middle section was a little flatter, but all this this meant was the hills didn't come quite so quickly or steeply. I was able to push the pace a little around the half. I was feeling disgustingly good after the conservative start, and I had to remind myself constantly to keep a eye on the meter. You try not to think negative thoughts, but you spin-doctor it in your head so that you know it could still blow at any time but you're not dwelling on it! I found myself thinking thoughts I'd never had in a marathon, thoughts like "only 10 miles to go, why don't you try and open up a little" or "oh, 20 miles and feeling fine, have a bash at catching Amanda now?". Strangely positive considering I'm usually considering crawling under the nearest bush and having a nap at around this time.

Imaginary Garmin; time for plan-B

A word about the"meter". I use the term in a purely figurative sense as I was running this "old school" on a regular Timex, the mile-markers and mental arithmetic. This wasn't as bad as I had feared. Perhaps a Garmin can hold you back? I let myself run on feel, not numbers. Have you noticed that the worse you feel the more you look at the Garmin? I remember feeling like crap in Boston '10 and the Garmin just reinforced these feelings. I'd look at it repeatedly and yet it would always say "28". "What?! Only 28? Still! Still 28! That's 14 to go! Arghhh" Bonk!. Here, there was only a mile-marker every seven minutes, you see it, look at the watch, do the math, memorise a number and carry on.

The first twenty miles of MDI are the prettiest. The last six are a bit of drag along the only road to Southwest Harbour and consequently a little less scenic, except for the town of Somesville. Other than this, the course follows the coast (or nuclear membrane) fairly faithfully and you would be constantly rewarded when coning down off a hill, or topping out on a climb by seeing an incredible ocean view.

To describe the course, it distilled the best parts of the Rum Runners Relay, Cabot Trail Relay, Victoria Park in Truro, the Purcells Cove Loop just outside Halifax and the old Valley marathon route in Kentville. Yup, it was that good. I don't think I'd go as far as saying the scenery made me forget the pain (as the race-blurb would have me beleive), but I was never too far gone to appreciate it.

The sting in the tail final miles weren't as bad as feared. Instead of a steady four mile climb, it was punctuated with little descents, not enough to register on the elevation profile but enough to register in the legs. The was one long uphill drag between 22 and 23 miles with no respite, but whilst everything else was trending uphill, there were rests. I didn't get cramp in this marathon, one of the only ones I haven't. Perhaps it was both the early conservative pace and also, counterintuiviately, the hill at the end. They gave me something to work for instead of feeling sorry for myself!

In absolute terms, the race was a bit of a disaster; far from a PB. However, I can take many positives from this.

It was a solid yet enjoyable effort. After several horrible marathons, some of which felt like chores, I rediscovered a little of what it's like to enjoy running marathons again. I even-splitted this one with a 43 minute 10K, 1:33 half and 3:07 full. No cramps and an even pace, even with all that climbing. This was one of the only marathons where I've felt in full control of myself from gun to tape; I didn't even need medical at the end! I think I can build on this experience, build in some more pace over distance, but try to keep this feeling in mind; if it doesn't feel like this then I'm doing it wrong!

For the competitive jerk inside of me, there was still some measure satisfaction to be had. I won nearly all of my internal battles within the race. As always, I did pretty well in the ladies race! I was only a couple of minutes behind Leah Jabour, the ladies winner (and only winner, male or female in the history of the event, from outside the US). Amanda Labelle, second lady, was in sight for ten miles. She hove in sight at around 15 miles (where I later found out she was having problems) and I was steadily making progress on her until about 21 when she found another gear. Knowing what was coming probably helped her, knowing exactly how much she had to give.

My final battle was with Daniel, one of a large contingent from Levis, QC. I'd already passed him at about 8 miles but he and a team-mate worked together and worked me over, pulling away from me by the half. His mate was dropped earlier bur he was making good progress and I only caught him again as we topped the last hill. I remember thinking how funny it was that the Powerbar in the back pocket of his singlet looked like a puncture-repair kit! Oh well, I thought it was funny, Perhaps you had to be there. Or maybe have run for two hours first.

There was a 2000 m downhill after we topped out, and it was painful. Daniel and I both upped our pace. I'm not sure if I was trying to beat him, he was trying not to lose a place within sight of the line or if it was just the effect of the downhill! It burned the quads almost immediately. We we both grimacing in pain; "mes jambes" I said, "c'est une descente de tabernak". It may not get you your Treasury Board 'E' but it was well understood!

The clock was reading 3:07:30-something as I hit the chute. I remember thinking that a 3:07 would be a very nice result and unequivocally faster than Bluenose's 3:08 and arithmetically symmetrical to the Boston disaster of 3:14. However, I also remember thinking, no, don't sprint for the line, preserve your dignity Sir. Sure, do the fist-pump thing (always a marginal gesture in a slightly overweight 40-44 finishing >40 minutes behind the winner), maybe shed a tear or two, but don't sprint. Sprint for what? This ain't no PB you're sprinting for, it is quite literally a median marathon time for you. Sure, it may be a BQ, but one for a guy ten, twenty years younger than you, you're not fighting for 3:20:59 to make it by a second, and you don't want to go to Boston anyway! Enjoy it, float across the line instead of fighting for two seconds and a coveted top-30 spot that's yours anyway. So I did. I enjoyed it, enjoyed the feeling of the crowd, of the cheers, of the announcer, the sun on my face, a feeling of accomplishment. And it did feel like an accomplishment, not a relief, but a sense of something greater.

Speaking of announcers, the MC was going a little nuts; I was the 4th Nova Scotian in 26 finishers, more than 10% at the time, and the announcer was wondering what it was the runners were doing up there. Which is funny because at Cabot trail we say the same thing about the Maine runners!.

So that was MDI, marathon number 13 in the bag, and the third this year. I really enjoyed the race, the event and the area. It doesn't quite deserve the reputation for toughness it has, but in the same way 26.2 miles is not a distance to be taken on with alacrity, neither is this course. It deserves respect, but it will give back in equal measure.

Put it this way; I"m already signed up for next year!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Marathon Doom Imeadiate

Yup, in serious denial about what is about to happen!

Had a good night's sleep, woke up just before the alarm (which is always good). Had a reasonable breakfast and coffee. Even the weather seems to be co-operating. Friday was just plain nasty, high winds and rain. Yesterday was damp and drizzly and cloudy. Today, clear and sunny, if not a tad cold (it's about 6C which feels shockingly chilly!). It should warm up to about 14c by the time I finish though. The wind is ligh(ish) and from the west; we should have a cross-wind for most of it, with a couple of short stretches of tail-wind. Unless of course, MDI is anything like Riverport in which case it will be a head wind on both the up-island and down-island stretches of the run! Time will tell.

Resolved the fashion-crisis; short-sleeved compression top and club singlet, arm-warmers and gloves, shorts. In theory the arm-warmers and be rolled down and the gloves discarded, but in practice I have worn them all straight to the finish.

As I said yesterday, the start-line is right outside the door and I literally just heard the PA kick into life as the early-start runners leave in 15 minutes. I'll go outside and cheer them on. Perhaps it will spark me up 'cos right now denial is just a river in Egypt, right?


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Marathon Doom Impending

Do you think that's a reasonable acronym for MDI?

Swings and roundabouts here. The motel is right on the start-line, by which I mean it's a ten second walk to the line, you can see it from the door. This was the first thing we saw walking out to find a breakfast spot this morning;

This is great as it means we don't have to spend twenty minutes finding a parking spot, another twenty walking to the start and yet another twenty in the line to use a particularly noisome portapotty!

Picked up our kits today. I got bib#60, which seems frighteningly high given it's a race of 2000! Remember how I commented on the officials' and voluntolds' freebie at Edinburgh being a rain-coat? Same here, the race-day freebie for runners is a rain-smock! It's been raining quite a bit here and that Edinburgh coat has come in useful. Actually at the Expo someone asked me about it after seeing my Du Worlds coat as she was a triathlete from Montreal and and just come back from Tri Worlds

More impressively, la belle got F18, yup she got seeded! Yahoo! What this is doing to her presumably fragile pre-marathon state of mind I don't know. She's not the only seeded Nova Scotian. Leah Jabour is F4 in the ladies, Kristan Gough is F11 and Shawn Deleu is M19. Good luck to them all. Try and beat your bib-numbers guys!

It's funny being here in Acadia National Park. I was pretty sure I was at Acadia last week! This place has the same name, just more Moose.

After the expo we spent the day mooching around Bar Harbor. Funnily, we spent quite a bit of time in bike-shops. It's funny because we're here for a marathon. Maybe it's our (well, my) way of distracting myself from what's to come tomorrow! I have to say, I was mightily distracted by a carbon Specialized Tricross single-speed on sale (about 15% off) but, as usual, had to be removed from the shop kicking and screaming. Now I think about it, this is how many bike-shops see me leave.

Off to the pasta-party now. Funnily, it's a bit of a drive away in a high-school, but I suppose on Mount Desert Island, there's a paucity of places to seat 2000!

Will post more pictures when I get back to Halifax, the interweb connection here isn't the fastest.


Friday, October 15, 2010

What am I doing here?

Here being Mount Desert Island; the reason, the MDI Marathon. Graciously described as a scenic event, with scenic being the runners' euphemism for "hilly"

Here's the race-blurb straight off their website

Our certified 26.2-mile foot race begins in downtown Bar Harbor, where the first mile out is slightly downhill, which will allow runners to warm up before the first hill; a 150-foot climb from mile one to mile three. This incline will carry runners over the ridge between Champlain and Dorr Mountains. Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the immediate Atlantic Coast at 1,532 feet, will cast its shadow on the early miles of the course.

Route 3 then gives back a downhill sweep from mile three to six where runners meet the sea, and those famous ragged cliffs and headlands at the southeast tip of the Island. The small hill from mile six to seven will not be noticeable because runners will enjoy spectacular scenery along the Hunters Beach Trail.

There is a long, gradual downhill from mile seven to mile nine, then a series of rolling, curving vistas which overlook Seal Harbor, and Cranberry Isles. At mile 10 rolling hills reveal unparalleled scenes, and the village of Northeast Harbor is visible across the ocean. Runners will enter Northeast Harbor, one of six villages along the course --quaint and attractive all-- and reach the halfway mark just beyond the town.

The halfway is also near the mouth of the only true fjord on the Atlantic Coast, lined with the pink granite that makes up most of the area, Somes Sound nearly bisects the entire Island. The second half of the race is literally on the edge of this remarkable topographical marvel.

The low point on the course, will come at mile 16 along the eastern shore of Somes Sound. This is followed by a slight rise to mile 17, and then a sharp incline from 17 to 18, heading up to the cliffs of the interior end of the fjord. Running hills makes for powerful camaraderie. Mile 19 is a giveback downhill, and then the gradual ascent from mile 20 to 25 begins in Somesville, the quintessential New England village.

Mile 25 will be the high point of the course, literally and figuratively, and affording great views. And it will be all downhill from there. The final 1.2 miles to the finish line in charming Southwest Harbor descends; yes, that last 2,000 meters will be all down. But what a sky-high feeling of accomplishment it will bring.

The astute amongst you will have noticed many "climbing" verbs and height-associated nouns (ridge, ascent, climb, high, incline, sharp, cliff, mountain, fjord) that are not exactly balanced by an equal number of "descending" associated words (low, give-back, downhill). It reminds you of that old saw that a good pilot's take-offs should equal the number of landings. Or maybe an Escher print.

They also have a detailed mile-by-mile breakdown where they try to persuade you that climbing is great for building "camaraderie". Never heard it called that before. I love that final line about "accomplishment" too, trying to ice the cake, gild the lily but in truth this course will have grown men crying.

The course-profile isn't quite as bad as I'd remembered, the Boston elevation doesn't quite disappear in comparison when shown to scale. The distribution of hills and climbing looks interesting, with multiple climbs at the beginning followed by some bumps in the middle before finishing off with what appears to be one mother of a climb at the end. I'm thinking North at the CTRR, but after the 20 mile mark, which is when weird things happen in a marathon anyway. To cap it all, the final mile is downhill. Contrary to what non-runners say, all runners know that downhills are bad, and worse towards the end of a marathon. Unless you have perfect form, and even if you do, there's nothing more likely to induce cramps than a long steep downhill. Then again, there's nothing quite cramp-inducing as the last mile of a marathon.

You don't need to be Einstein to realise that happens when you put them together!

I am concerned on a personal level too; my training has not been where it should have been. In terms of miles, I'm middling. It's higher than the last couple of years, but not as high as earlier in the aughties when I was running good autumn marathons .

The volume may be on the low end of normal, but the quality of running is very different. There was a well-intentioned start, some solid long runs starting ten weeks out (week#33), but the trip to the UK was right in the middle of the critical long-run window, where you can see I rocked out a couple of wicked 13 km long-runs! For scale, last week's Valley half is the last bar on the right.

Still, at least I did some a small volume of long runs, if temporally skewed to the left.

I'm banking on the fact the UK trip gave some much needed rest coming into the past month, where I've raced every weekend. I'm not so concerned about this quantity of racing; this is my modus operandi! You see, I'm fundamentally too lazy to train hard so by racing I get the "quality" sessions I'm too bone-idle to do during the week. Besides, doing repeats on the track is boring but racing is fun, even when you're going beyond max revs and giving your legs the Jens pep-talk every couple of minutes.

The MDI organisers tell runners to cool their jets, forget about PBs or BQs, readjust their sights, add 15 minutes to their average marathon time (because that's what they'll do), treat it like a mini-ultra and just enjoy the day.

So that's a >3:25 then!

The very astute will have noticed that 1 x Potteries Marathon, 1 x KVC, 1 x PEI, 1 x Valley, 2 x Ottawa, 2 x Boston and 4 x Bluenose equal twelve, so MDI makes thirteen, lucky thirteen! What could possibly go wrong?

Given the state of my training, the state of my knees and the state of my (apparently triskaidekaphobic) head, following the RD's advice is what I'll do. I am already resigned to doing a PW. If you remember the introspection following my Boston "performance" then you may be worried, but you know, given the course I see no shame in saying "yeah, I did a 3:30 at MDI".

I saw Mark and Ron enjoying the Valley marathon; they were tired and beat but up-beat in their look-out. In the final couple of miles they were almost punch-drunk, what with Mark vaulting every mile-marker and Ron singing a bawdry Scottish drinking song about rum and wenches. I should take a leaf out of their books, kick back and allow myself to enjoy the scenery.

La belle is running too, and I'm sure she's just a big bag of nerves as I am. I don't think she has too much to worry about; she always pulls a good marathon out of the bag. Take Fort Lauderdale earlier this year; entered on a last-minute whim and she ran a time within spitting distance of her PB with only two 20 milers in the bank! She has a good, consistent sense of pace and seems to get better with distance. Most people rock the first ten K and gradually (or exponentially!) fall off after that. She's more likely to have crappy first ten K but rock the last thirty; go figure! Certainly, she's one of the only people I know who can regularly even-split a marathon. Plus, she always finishes with a smile on her face, so she's enjoying it way more than most others. I get the feeling she could just keep on going, while I (and others) are firmly in the "42 200 m and not a metre more" camp!

Still, it's not all about the marathon. There is quite the Nova Scotian contingent going down. With so many familiar faces there it'll likely have a bit of a Boston feel but without the mass commercialism. The word on the street is Leah Jabour was gunning for the ladies win; if she runs as she has been doing, I wouldn't want to bet against that. I'm looking forward to seeing Charles Mandel again too.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee....

TIBS on the cheap; a pour-over coffee and a St Viateur bagel. It's just as good as a 'spro and a croissant.

The Valley Marathon last Sunday was a good day out, all in all. It started as all late-season race-days do with getting up obscenely early and hitting the road in the dark. It was funny to drive along the 102 to the 101 exit; every northbound car on the 102 took the 101 exit. Similarly on the 101, there wasn't any traffic on the Halifax-bound side at 06:30, it was all valley-bound!

I enjoy this race, certainly I have a history with it. My win at the '06 event (albeit in the slowest winning time in the history of the event) ranks as my all-time sporting achievement. Sure, it's not much but it's mine! It was a PB too; one I've never been close to since. The newspaper coverage was funny, with the reportage barely concealing it's contempt for my win. I was back the next year where I took 2nd in the half, in what is probably a PB 1:19:55. I might have ran a 1:18 at the St Andrew's Half one year, but I think that race was measured by the same people who measured the Navy "10 (sic) K. That year I chased John Herron through the lanes; he took every tangent, cut every corner, whilst I doggedly stayed on the correct side of the road. I lost by a minute, or about 200 m. I wanted to lodge a protest, but RNS doesn't have that kind of set-up! Anyway, appeal or no, I have my apples.

This was my first time on the new Wolfville course, and I think I prefer the old Kentville course. Partly for personal reasons, but perhaps first running the Wolfville course in anger under such brutally windy conditions wasn't the best introduction. I noticed they hadn't learned from my Valley experience of 2007 and there were runners on both sides of the road for much of the half, and it wasn't an out-and back!

For company on the trip to the Valley, I managed to coax my iPod back into life. Due to reasons too long to relate, it only works on shuffle, so I let it do it's thing and surprise me. On the way into Wolfville itself I got Don MacClean's American Pie, which isn't too bad to have as the day's earworm, especially if you've got to do a race.

Nothing worse than being unable to displace Your Love Is King by Sade on the start-line. Try running a PB to that! American Pie is, of course, one of the seventies two biggest "what was it all about" songs, the other being an absolute all-time top five favorite of mine;

This song has been in my life since my mother bought No Secrets in the early 70s, in other words since before my earliest memory.

It must also have been the first time I heard of Nova Scotia. It's funny how that works. Back in 1972, of all the places one might have imagined the three-year old me might end up, Canada, much less Nova Scotia, would have been low on the list.

I've led a fairly peripatetic life; six months there, three years here, four years in another place, yet Nova Scotia and Halifax are the places I have lived in the longest. Primo Levi once wrote "that on one of those pages, perhaps in a single line...or word...his future is written". It works in this context, how a single line on Track #3, held my future.

The quote's actual context was about chemistry and how the student should be aware as he reads his text-book that somewhere there is written the group or molecule that will make or break his future career. This works for any science, in-fact any academic field; we could talk for hours about this too, but perhaps not today.

I was thinking about this when we were in the UK a month ago. This is the place that I consider myself from. If pressed I'll call myself a "moral Londoner"; I wasn't born there but it's where I consider home and if Robert Frost was right and home where they have to take you in, then London definitely qualifies. I suspect most of you do too I bet you say "you know, Andrew, that British guy who does those races and writes that blog", yet I haven't lived in the UK for twelve years, or in London for seventeen.

I think that's why I was feeling somewhat displaced in the UK. It was familiar, I knew the lingo, I didn't have to order everything twice and still not get what I wanted, I knew my way around (literally and figuratively) and yet I still felt like an outsider.

They said the old USSR had villages in the depths of the steppes that were miniature British, German or French towns. Here prospective spies could practice going about their daily lives in English, French, German or whatever; buying stamps, getting a round in down the pub, opening a bank-account. This way, when they got to their operational area, they felt at ease and nothing seemed new. Tom Wolfe had a phrase for it, whereby the Mercury astronauts had pre-lived the whole space-shot experience from blast-off to splash down so nothing was novel on the big day. I felt the same, as though I had pre-lived my whole English experience somewhere else. Pete's Frootique perhaps! So when I finally got there it was familiar but in an academic way "Oh, so that's what a Marks and Spencers really looks like on the inside" "I heard about Yorkie bars, I wonder what they really taste like".

It's a strange sense of belonging in two places at once, and yet not being quite at home in either. No matter how comfortable you may get, there's always a niggle of disquiet that won't quite go away. I think the niggles are getting quieter though, and they no longer keep me awake in the long, dark hours of the early morning.

Anyway, enough of this. I have to go and tidy up the place I have made home (the flat, not Nova Scotia per se). Continuing with the spy-theme I suppose I should really have used a debrief double-entendre (fnarr fnarr) but alas, the truth is more mundane and not quite as sexy (as always!).


Thursday, October 7, 2010

a) Croissant b) Sock of the week. Delete as appropriate

Pleasant little jaunt out to TIBS via the Waverley Road; just long enough to make me feel alive and not long enough (or hard enough) to make me wish I wasn't.

We all know Hemmingway's old saw that it's only by sweating up hills you get an accurate memory of the country you can't get by car. I think we could add another remembrance to the list. The autumn leaves do look beautiful, but perhaps you can only really feel autumn when you ride through a wind-blown flurry of golden, fallen leaves. It was one of those mornings, so don't call it training and take it away from me.

Afterwards I rocked up to TIBS for the Croissant Of The Week and gossip. The gossip was of an epic fixie ride this Thanksgiving Monday which any sane person is giving a miss as there is no way it is going to end in anything but tears. The Croissant was Pear, Walnut and Brie. Maybe I was missing something, because I certainly missed the brie, but even so, just pears and walnuts was good enough. Add in a cappucino (a 'spro would have been too hard-core and an AMericano oo much volume) and it was a nice little morning out.

I do enjoy these mornings out, as they count as "me" time. Sure, little fills my days at the moment and most of it may be classified as "me time", but this is me time without screen time, which is just as important, and the phone is out of reach.

That's not screen-time as in too much Tomb Raider or Call of Duty either. I have got to thinking that to save time I should have my CV and generic cover-letter printed on race-bibs. The bulk of the text will go where the number usually is and then the usual responses printed on the tear-off label at the bottom, so instead of reading "Good for one meal" or "Entry to post-race" it says "Thank-you for your time. We have considered your application and 1) You are underqualified 2) You are over-qualified 3) why would we hire a 40 y.o. independent thinker when we can hire an ingenuous arts graduate straight out of school and mould them in our own image mwa ha ha. Thank-you for thinking of our company blah blah (delete as appropriate)". Alternately, the rip-off tag could be left blank, which would adequately describe HR's response ninety-nine times out of one hundred.

I did get some newspaper time at TIBS and saw a running-related "overheard".

It's a but blurry but the speaker is "ass-appreciative guy at the Rum Runners Relay". Either you find this funny or you start looking at all the guys on the relay sidewise and feeling in your purse for a can of Mace. My money is on Phil "Flashing Lights" McElroy. He already told me I was looking chunky to my face, so goodness knows what he's saying sotto voce to the other guys on the tech crew!

Speaking of appreciative guys, I broke out a new pair of socks today. Sure they're black, but today was one of those grimy days where the spray would ruin a fine pair of white socks, so it's perfectly acceptable to go with colour. What's not acceptable are the calf-high plain black ones a la Lance Armstrong. Go with a bit of colour, or maybe a motif. If you're going to wear black socks in non-ironic conjunction with athleticism, go big, go patterns, just go responsibly

Hence the egg-and-bacon socks. I'm training for cyclocross season already with these puppies. Nothing as crass as getting Old Bess in the mud and practicing my dismounts and run-ups (you've seen me do it so you can understand exactly how much time and effort it took to get them looking quite so sucky!). Nothing goes down after a 45 minute lung-burning session in the mud getting your arse kicked by 14 year-olds on MTBs than five-times the RDA of cholesterol served up in the full monty (as in full fried English breakfast, not stripping male steel-workers).

Til next time, wear black socks but enjoy them responsibly.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I went geared today. My knees are aching, which is partly a function of my age, but also partly a function of too many miles on fixed! Still, I like the sentiment.

Bumped into a group of roadies after my ride today. We all hit Java Blend on North at about the same time. One of the guys looked like Garrett MacFadyen, winner of IM Canada in 2002 but I'm sure I'm wrong. Either way, the Garrett-dopleganger was the only guy who would talk to me, the other guys wouldn't even give me the raised eyebrow/nod greeting. I guess they thought I was a sandbagging Uitlander sitting in for the sprint, whereas all I was doing was sitting in for a coffee. One of the guys was wearing the full Rapha Condor kit; what can I say?

I think it was a nice ride today, it was hard to tell. I recall pleasantly dry roads and little or no wind for a jaunt through the dark-side to Caldwell Road and back. My Garmin, however, looked like this.

As far as a bit of kit goes, it is currently moribund. On the U-shaped curve that gives problems vs time for electronic equipment (ask your IT provider at work, they should know this graph, given that it's the only graph in IT!) , it's way on the right-hand side of the graph.

When I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago (the Garmin climbing the right-hand side of the graph) la belle, however, didn't seem to think it was entering it's senescent phase, insisting that all it needed was a couple of days in a bag of desiccant. Therefore, the display remaining like this despite being fully charged and after multiple hard resets (mode/lap reset)....

...was clearly all in my head. Regardless where the glitch was (in the 305 or in my occipital lobe) it was a pity because as we all know, if a ride (run, whatever) doesn't appear on your Garmin then it didn't happen!

I'm not sure what to do with a marathon coming up and an imaginary Garmin. Psychologically I'm suddenly feeling quite unsure about the whole thing, and to be honest I wasn't exactly feeling "fully engaged" about MDI in the first place. I haven't quite gone totally wobbly; stamped my feet, folded my arms, pouted, thrown my proverbial toys out of the pram and said "I'm not going" yet, but I think we can probably all feel a certain empathy with that sentiment!

It looks like I'll be going retro, back to how we did things in ye olden days, which was a regular Timex, mile-markers and mental math. It always used to keep me sane for the first two hours (in the third hour I was usually just a basket-case anyway and didn't have the capability for mental math)! I've heard it said that a Garmin can actually make you think too much about your pace and be a hinderance not a help. La belle, for one, has run PBs in the marathon with a dead Garmin, almost released by the 205's death to run her real pace rather than constrained by the idiot box to run an artificial pace "because that's what the chart says". There's merit to that idea.

Unless the Garmin miraculously heals itself in the next ten days, or I receive a sudden infusion of cold, hard dollars then I'll have to wean myself off my Garmin dependency pretty quickly, Garmin cold-turkey if you will. Should be an interesting ten days!


Monday, October 4, 2010

Riverport Du 2010

Ended up having a coffee at the Bike and Bean Cafe in Tatallon today. Fortunately the Bikes bit was closed. You know how I can get in bike-shops, even (perhaps espcially) small ones! The cappuccino was a bit disappointing; the coffee wasn't bad but it was just a mass of foam on top. I guess I'm getting too used to Zane's army of Special-Forces Ninja Barristas

That can't necessarily be a bad thing, can it?

I really enjoyed the Riverport Duathlon last Sunday. It was nice to race a TNS race for once. Quite a few people asked me how I felt racing instead of officiating. Well, I've not officiated too many TNS races this year, only three, even if I have done more running rces. Then again, I've done a few more higher profile events this season. I've said it before and I'll say it again. As "glamorous" as it may be to work the high-profile ones; to wear the ITU gillet-vest and stand on the blue carpet under a branded gantry, there are more smiles and fewer high maintenance Brazilian women at local events!

(By the way, if you were wondering, that's a good thing!)

The weather Gods had finally smiled on the duatlon. They had good weather, which they were (ahem) du after a couple of years of dreary and/or decidedly awful days.

I started the race out on the front row and tried to hit it from the gun. My race strategy in duathlons, as you all know is to run R1 like there's no bike, hold on during the bike and run R2 like I hadn't done anything else that day. This isn't due to anything other than a brutal assessment of my abilities. I can run, and not badly, and my cycling isn't anything like what it used to be. So, knowing I can lose up to five minutes during an hour's worth of TT, if I can peg back two or three minutes on each of the runs, well now it's a race.

Just because there is a bike-portion where really expensive bikes are used doesn't mean that this has to be where the race is decided and the runs are just inconsequential pro- and epilogues to the main event. If you feel like that then get thyself to BNS and do a proper TT. If you think that running is an integral part of the race, stay here.

And don't get me started on the people who whine about the swim in the triathlon.

So, I took off on R1 in, what you may call my accustomed spot, which you may remember from the inaugural 2006...

...and 07...
...and 09 (missed '08 but was there as TD so in a way I was still at the front of the pack for R1, just trying to stay out of shot!)...

See what I mean?

I think I need a new duathlon outfit!

I thought there was a gap, but after a few hundred metres Jamie Haynes - the Cyclismith winner, was on my heels. Never mind, it's always nice to share the work. We hit the 2km turn in a shade over seven minutes; no wonder it felt fast. I know, I know, the courses aren't wheeled etc etc, but this was clearly fast! Jamie pulled away from me shortly after the turn and made it look so easy. I'm not sure if I slowed up of if Chris MacKenzie speeded up, likely both, but by T1 Jamie had 14" on me and Chris was only 12" behind. I mean, 3:30s out of the gate? C'mon!

T1 was a mess. I think I managed to nail it in broad brush strokes, but the exigencies of fixed meant my cycling shoes had to be on and tightly buckled before I left my spot. Jamie was long out whilst I was still farting around with my shoes and Chris passed me in T1.

The bike felt pretty good. The 78" gear (42 x 14) was much better than the smaller gears I'd been using before and I manged a 33.8 kph average, a faster average than any of my outings on fixed before and a lot closer to where'd I'd be TTing on gears. There was an added advantage too; my overall cadence was lower, only 85 rpm, compared to the >90 on the smaller gear. Last year I span up the climbs but also had to spin down them. A speed of 45 kph on 75 fixed is a cadence of 125 (135 on 68") and it only goes up from there, so after spinning up a climb you really have to spin down the other side and there is no time for any recovery. On 80" fixed, 45kph is only 123 and it is easier to recover.

The climb of Grim Road is really a series of climbs, each only a few hundred metres long, followed by a short descent. It continues almost ladder-like for 8 kms. By the final couple of rungs of the ladder the gear was starting to feel a bit heavy. I'd been locked in a battle with Alan Miner for the past 10 kms or so and I was heartened by the fact that even though I was finding the hill hard, he must have been too as he wasn't pulling away any more.

Interesting factoid about Riverport; it's the Bermuda Triangle of Nova Scotia. Not that ships go missing there, although I have heard of many triathletes, duathletes and roadies who have mysteriously lost their legs on that loop. Rather it's the terrain. If it's windy, the there's a head-wind all the way around the loop (think about it). That climb on Grimm Road? It's a real-life Escher print! Starting at sea-level you climb a series of ramps, each followed by a short descent; it feels like snakes-and-ladders - up three, down one. Yet 5 miles later you emerge at sea level. Huh? Where was that nice downhill?

Like I say, spooky. Maybe I'll spot a flight of Avengers in the underbrush next year if I keep my eyes peeled?

T2 was a real mess; less haste more speed and remember to undo the drawstring laces before taking the shoes off in T1. My legs didn't have the accustomed zip coming out onto the road and it took a kilometre before I started to feel fluid. Compared to other years on fixed, I was a little more ahead inthe race and it was, consequently, quieter. I got Alan Miner back just before the turn and he told me there was nothing but empty road ahead.

Coming into the turnaround I saw Stephen Cameron ahead. Looking at the results, he'd come into T2 four minutes head of me; I took 45" off hin in R1 but he more than handily took that back, plus another three minutes plus on the bike. Yet he was slowly coming back. By the time Rt2 332 came back into view, he was definately closer. Mindful of my usual attitude towards sprinting for a mid-teens place, and then ignoring it I tried to find a finishing kick for the final 1300 metres. He slowly came back, but it was too slow. The last 500m were uphill, and I did a Jen Voight

Still, it looked to be futile; the gap was still too long, I needed another kilometer but I wasn't going to get one so I had to live with it. The calculus wasn't resolving and soon he'd hear people cheering "he's behind you" (what is this, panto?).

Still, I gave it everything! As we headed into the car-park he went the wrong way and headed back into TZ instead of down the finishing chute. Sportsmanship and honour dictate I should have let up then; he'd had the best of me, I'd been found wanting over the previous 35 990 metres and it wasn't his fault he couldn't navigate his way through the cones in the final ten (it does look confusing).

I'm ashamed to say I didn't.

I am, however, pleased to report he corrected his mistake in time and took the placing by one second. Chapeau Stephen!

I had the measure of a few guys who'd beaten me at DIFS and Cyclesmith. The larger gear helped me be more compeitive, as did the kickings I'd been getting from Mac Grant on the bike all summer! I finished the day 12th overall in 1:22, perhaps surprisingly 2 seconds slower than last year. The bike was quicker, but the runs were slower. Even if I had the 2nd fastest R1 and 3rd fastest R2 I needed them to recover from the 27th fastest bike (not even the upper quartile!). Swings ands roundabouts. Que sera sera. The age-group results weren't much better; 5th and no, Cozy-Beehive, there were more than five in my age-group! Still, 40-44 is clearly the age-group of death with a full four of the eleven spots ahead of me taken by my conferes, with a hefty number of 35-39s just champing at the bit to get into 40-44 and do some real damage. And by hefty I mean thin, fit and cut with slow-twitch muscles (you know who you are Shawn Amirault!)

Meanwhile a mile up the road (12th place was seven minutes down on first place), Chris MacKenzie passed Jamie on the bikeand took the race by 90" or so, courtesy of the fastest bike and R2. He always says I'm the better runner, but Chris is no slouch and is clearly better than me off the bike (as well as on it). As I said earlier; the run is integral to duathlons and you should play to your strengths! Chris clearly has two! Jamie Haynes was second, whilst Mark McMullen was 3rd thanks to so some solid splits!

Le belle had a better race, all kitted out in her swanky Team Canada uniform from Worlds. She managed to start the race in the bathroom, as in she came out of the school and saw the tail-end of the pack heading down the road. All fired up she (ahem) whizzed through the crowd and onto the heels of the pack, working her way up to lead the ladies race into T1 by the slimmest of margins.

Elmo, her custom Guru, was sulking, probably because she bought that new Condor. What went wrong? What didn't? Firstly we couldn't get her tri-bars on in TZ. Normally five minutes work, today it was all dropped screws, dropped shims, pinched cables and she ended up throwing them in the trunk in frustration as the equation "tribars or warm-up" started to be resolved out of her favour! Then she blew her front wheel in TZ pumping it up! Fortunately we had a spare in the car. Sure, it was an RSX Shimano hub laced to a 36 spoke 1990 vintage, box-section Mavic MA2 but it was 1) round 2) had a new tyre on it which was 3) inflated. Job done! Out on the course her chain was skipping more than Sarah Dobrowski, which was odd because it hadn't been doing that all week! She reckons that cost her a couple of minutes fiddling with derailleurs and trying to find a working (stable) cog-configuration.

Still, she came in 3rd lady overall, and as overall ladies winner Suzanne Ferrier was also in her age-group she was given the overall 35-39. Sweet!

Good day out for her! Tri-bars and Mavic Cosmics...who needs 'em anyway?

We had the boys with us, who were incredibly well behaved given that their morning consisted of hanging around an empty school-yard while a bunch of grown-up kids were playing silly buggers for a couple of hours. So afterwards we stayed on the South Shore, took the ferry over to La Have

Where we hit the bakery!


Thanks to the Bridgewater Tri Club for putting the event on; RDs Tom Rogers and Jen Worden, the local RCMP, all the voluntolds, marshals and officials. It was a great, nay perfect, way to end the triathlon season.