Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bluenose #5

A croissant and a latte at TIBS on the way back from my ride today. What with the cafe-stop and some quiet roads, it was a time to reflect on my marathon.

I felt very disconnected from the race this year. I didn't go to the Expo (la belle picked up my dossard and chip), I didn't go to the kids' run, I didn't make the pace-bunny meeting on Friday. I just rocked up to the Metro Centre on Sunday wearing my ears.

As you know, I was my usual basket-case beforehand. Perhaps more-so because of the lack of racing this year. I think it showed in the run-up to the start. I was able to relax a little with my fellow pace-bunnies, but that was it. I felt as focussed bfore this as I had for any race I was running solely for myself!

We (the pace-bunnies) were all sitting on the floor in a corner of the Metro Centre and everyone was laughing at me because of my pre-race drugs plan

Imodium, Advil, gels and water. Embrocation to kick-start my muscles. What's wrong with that?

As we did this, we had one guy come up to us and get all aggravated there wasn't a 3:30 marathon bunny. He started to complain there should be, the last race he had done had one blah blah. It was hard to be level and calm and diplomatic (but I was, I think). With the minor shit-storm swirling around BN, it seemed the perfect start to the day; a bunch of volunteer pace-bunnies getting aggravation for something totally out of their control!

I started a tad too fast, but we always do, but took some corners wide and slow and tried to slow to to pace, about 4:15/km. I hit 1 km on the money, but after that, we always seemed to be on the back foot, always five to en seconds per km slow. Each and every time. We hit the park late, whereas I always like to get there early. We always lose time in there. I think it's easier to run 4:10 to the park, get there a minute early, slow down to 4:30 in the park (uphill, draggy, off-road) and leave the park on-schedule rather than run 4:15 to the park and try to keep 4:15 through it!

Somehow we left the park on-schedule and stayed there to the end. As usual, I picked up a lot of guys who'd gone storming off the front in the first couple of miles to the usual refrain

"You're fast"

"No I'm not"


Not as usual, I didn't have a group with me; just two guys who stuck with me all the way; one guy sped up after the park to get his time (which I always tell them they can do) and one guy ran in with me for a 15 minute PB! I feel bad that I didn't have a big group, or that I dropped the group I did have, but I ran my set pace and if no-one could stay, well? Surely I was there to run 1:30, and that was my prime motivator.

As I ran through the start/finish area, la belle ran next to me for a bit, having just been part of a team that pushed a 17 y.o. boy with cerebral palsy in a chair in the 10K. Now that's hard! To be honest, I wanted to know how fast they could get going down Nantucket! The child really enjoyed the run, he likes the sensation of "fast" and laughed his head off all the way around.

At the CBC on Sackville and South Park, Denise met me as planned to run the second half with me. She filled me in on the marathon; who was leading who and the inevitable course fuck-ups that this race seems plagued with.

Back in the day, when the Halifax loop was just one big loop of Halifax; Citadel, North End, Waterfront, Park, Oxford St, West End, Citadel, no-one got lost. This one and one-half loops of the North/South End, someone always takes the wrong direction somewhere. Invariably it's a front runner taking an under-trained volunteer by surprise and being sent left instead of right. By the time the fuck-up has been remedied, the bulk of the runners are there, playing follow-my-leader and have no idea of the ruckus they just missed. Tough shit they think, fricking "elite" runner, serves 'em right (the logic escapes me). Except this ain't no wiry Kenyan out for a payday, it's an age-grouper just like you and me, who's been training since Christmas with this one goal in mind, and all those interminable miles in snow and freezing temperatures have just been pissed down the road by a race-organisation that seemingly values a runner only until they've paid, and a front-runner even more-so.

Anyway, Denise and I dug into the second half; any attempt at conversation on my part was cut off with "if you have enough breath to talk, you have the energy to run faster, so run you bitch".

The lack of quality racing miles was starting to show even three miles into the second half, with my quads feeling heavy. Heading over the bridge, even my hamstring started to give out that warning twinge, the one that says "try that again and I'll cramp, you bastard".

Nonetheless, the endless hills in the second half came and went; Bridge, Nantucket, Woodlawn, and no cramp. I felt pretty good heading into Shubie at 30km all things considered. Denise was being a hard task-master.

The wheels started to fall off in Shubie coming up to the 20 mile mark. We met Shawn Beaton in there and he started to run with us, but he pretty much had a nice chat with Denise while I wallowed in their wake. Sorry Shawn, I wasn't much of a conversationalist.

As you can see, Shawn and Denise had the energy to dynamically pose for the camera whereas I think I just ran into a trash-can!

Out of Shubie, 33kms done. The works starts now. I told the guys I just needed to hold it together until Maple, at 38km, because by then the work was done. Sounds counterintuitive, with three major hills in four kms, but by 38 you know it's in the bag, plus I like hills. I'm too lazy to really give it all when it's flat, I need a hill to bring the best out in me! The five kilometres between Shubie and Maple are sterile death. Yes, flat, but no diversion, no crowds. Just a lake on one side and a busy road on the other. This year, those kilometres just flowed by with Shawn and Denise talking a storm in front and me tagging along behind like an idiot child; the illusion complete when at each water station Denise would take a cup of water and give it to me!

Maple then hove into view; 38 kms, three hills. Then a surprise. At the bottom on Maple, club-mates and friends; Louis Brill, John McQuaid and Nick McBride. Together with Shawn and Denise they ran me all the way up Maple, shouting encouragement and coaching advice; dig in, back straight, knees up, breath. I may not have looked it guys, but I was so grateful.

Over the top and Shawn peeled off, leaving me with Denise and Nick, who coached and cajoled me all the way home. The nice thing about runners is they don't give you that sugar-coated "it's all downhill from here" crap (it's Bluenose fer' goodness sake. There is no downhill!). They tell you like it is, but also tell you how to get it done and that you can get it done. In very explicit terms too. Honest advice, in other words. The stuff you appreciate.

The cramp finally came on the bridge, but I was lucky and didn't have to stop, but ran it out.

Nick and Denise peeled off on the hill on Brunswick with the finish-line in sight. Big thanks to both of you for dragging me around. I quite literally couldn't have done it without either of you, and having seen the pain and suffering up-close and personal Nick seems more determined than ever not to do a marathon!

I saw la belle just before the line and she gave me Cookie Monster! I took Cookie and ran over the line with him; it seemed like the thing to do to celebrate getting marathon #14 in the bag, and my 5th Bluenose full.

I posted a 3:05:57, my best marathon outing since BN in 2009, which was also a 3:05. I was 10th overall, after Mark from Sportstat transferred my time from an embarrassing 3:05 half to a respectable 3:05 full!

Obviously, I"m pleased with the time; one of the best I've posted for a while. Does this mean the legs are coming back at last, or was this a statistical blip; the low time to average out last years PW at Boston? Time, and perhaps Johnny Miles, will tell.


Saturday, May 21, 2011


Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. I know that's not how it's said in QC, but it's what I learned at school and 65 million French can't be that wrong, can they? The reason I say that is because I remember this very night seven years ago, before Bluenose 1. I was sitting on the floor, surrounded by all my running kit, contemplating my second marathon (my first in seven years) and totally freaking out.

Fast forward seven years, it's now BN 8 and I have 11 more marathons under my number-belt but I'm still sitting on the floor, freaking out slightly. Some things have changed. The pile of clothes is smaller. I know I have to wear the Running Room Pace-Bunny T-shirt and hat with bunny ears. Arm-warmers probably, but with a T-Shirt not a singlet, so I'm safe from my snob self! I'm still debating between three pairs of shorts; two of which have seen marathons before, but one of which should probably not see another! I have new Balega socks (thanks Luke MacDonald and A1) and I think I'll use the Precision 10s rather than the new Precision 11s (which I haven't quite dialled in yet). The Ronins can stay on the shoe-rack tomorrow; weighing more than 70 kgs I don't think this Clydesdale wannabe should do a full in a 7 oz racing flat.

If it's a nice day, I'll break out my new bling from the bike-shop, a sweet pair of Oakley Flak-Jackets. Thanks Terry. Yeah baby, yeah!

I have a love-hate relationship with this race. I'm still waiting for my 2nd place medal from 2005. From the small tempest swirling around BN in the Chronic and on-line, Gerry Walsh's recent comments, how the race is for everyone, not for Elites, I guess I'm waiting in vain. It's flattering to be classed as "Elite", but still, I'm your average age-group runner who trains hard, was blessed with a reasonable gait and good mitochondria and occasionally gets lucky. I occasionally win a race (or at least place) too! So it would be nice to get rewarded for that. But that's another story.

I do think, however, its unfortunate how some people have jumped on the "the race is too hard" bandwagon as to why BN is unpopular with local runners. Sure, it's hard. So is Boston. I think if the race was better organised, and that means the City coming on board and coming on board big-time, then the race would be better, and more people would run. Have the 5K and 10K on Saturday like Ottawa; that'd free up the roads and avoid a cross, yes a cross, of runners tomorrow. Let runners, not bureaucrats, devise a clear route, not this one and a half loops of Halifax that gets people confused and led to the mass DSQ three years ago. It can be hilly, sure bring 'em on, but make it easy to follow, and not rerouted to make it easier for some-ones Sunday Timmies run. Close some more roads. We have what, three or four miles of closed road in 26 (Brunswick and Ilseview)? Does Boston just close Boylston? Does London just close The Mall and Tower Bridge, but open the bridge after two hours and make everyone run on the sidewalk? Do all of that, and more, and make BN a real destination race, not something we have to apologise for.

Oops, rant over. Sorry!

It turns out I've done five BNs, four fulls and a half, in the seven editions. The fact I keep on coming back must mean I like it, right? This will be my third time pace-bunnying. The Running Room let me bunny the half and then carry on for the full as a semi-official, quasi-endorsed bandit. I spend five minutes after the race in the timing van with Mark from Sportstats, who I sometimes work with as an official in Quebec, and they reconcile my time from a >3hr half into a >3hr full! I do find bunnying rewarding, to help people do that pace. Last year, there were so many PBs in my group, for both 10K and the half. Regardless of what happens in the second half, that's always a good feeling. To be honest, nowadays I think I get more out of that, than I do out of my own achievements!

I missed one BN to do Ottawa and missed one due to illness. I think Mark "Cookie Monster" Campbell has done all seven. Given that I've done so many, and these are the roads I train on all the time, gives some advantages. I can visualize nearly every step of the way. This is pretty useful when you come out of Shubie and are faced with the spectator wasteland that is Waverly Road and Braemar. I know exactly how bad Maple and all the other hills are.

Conversely, I know how bad Maple and all the other hills are. I have, statistically speaking, suffered badly on nearly every portion of the route at some point over the last ten years, which means I can tell a bad race or training-run story about every sector on the course; Oh yeah, I blew up here, bonked there, threw-up in that corner. Those negative thoughts can dwell on your mind at some point in the race.

This will be my first race this year; my last was the Fort Lauderdale Resolution Run 5K on Boxing day. I've logged a moderate number of miles this year, just over 1400 kms, not the most ever but not the least either. I'm also going to be unapologetic about mixing my units, deal with it. I'm not sure how my legs are going to behave. I have no Moose, for example, to measure myself by, nor do I have any shorter races to sharpen my legs and top off my lactate pathways.

My running buddies tell me I'm running strong, but the marathon is a different beast. I don't think it matters how many times you've done one, each time on that start-line is a new roll of the dice. Like die, the marathon has no memory and weird shit happens after 20 miles. You can train all you want and perhaps ameliorate how bad the shit's gonna be or when it's gonna strike, but strike it will and the marathon will have no mercy as to whether it happened last time or not. It's not about avoiding the man with the hammer (as the French say), it's how you deal with him when he comes. Essentially, just remember you're not due, by right, a good marathon after three bad ones, or visa versa.

Well, I think I've successfully transferred some of my angst onto the screen. Time to go and try to make a decision on those shorts, charge the Garmin and get an early night.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

All revved up with no place to go.....

Ahh, makes you feel 16 again doesn't it? I know, not the best quality video out there. Try this one; cavorting, scantily-clad women in leather and fishnet. I think the 16 year-old in me just had a cerebral vascular accident (or something). I know it's cheesy, over-the-top, objectifying, demeaning and promulgates sexist stereotypes of women, but it's also rock-n-roll. This is before we talk about Carmen Electra, ahem, fronting ZZ Top's Sharp Dressed Man and Legs. Is it warranted? Perhaps not, but I like to think we can all let our PC instincts lie down for a while in the interests of a thumping back-beat.

Lest us not forget the late Robert Palmer, the godfather of such scantily-clad rock foolery.

Is it me, or are those knee-length dresses on the guitarists looking dangerously modest? Probably because of this. I've heard that Richard Curtis films, such as the one that last video came from, portray an inaccurate picture of England as a romantic wonderland; snow at Christmas (a la Bridget Jones's Diary)? Please! And it, should it actually snow at Christmas, we all know the place would grind to a shuddering halt that would last until Epiphany. Still, I have to be careful of them. Too many can put me in a state of nostalgic melancholy.

Not that I've ever pursued Rene Zellweger through snow-covered streets or publicly dumped Anna Chancellor (that Gladys Althorpe; never buys 'er own) for Andie MacDowell of course. It's just the, well, Britishness of it all. Oh well, it isn't good to dwell too extensively in the past, in detracts from the now dhaling.

Which rather long-windedly brings me to the original subject of this post, feeling decidedly all revved up with no place to go. Randal asked me this morning when I was going to use some of my form on a race-course. I have no idea.

Let's look at it. I spent the winter sitting, by choice, on the sidelines while y'all skated and skied around me. I have neither the skill or the knees for such activities and gladly awaited the return of sports dependent upon a decidedly higher coefficient of friction. None-the-less, I slithered and slid my way through many, many training runs, putting miles in the bank against such a day.

I missed Moose due to both family and triathlon commitments. Goffs, I was on the course at the turn due to RNS commitments. I missed the Pig being unable to secure the time off work. I skipped the 8 miler today through (to be honest) blatant apathy yet paradoxically buried myself on the training run. I'll miss the Bulldog 5K for the same reason as the Pig and the following duathlon for the first reason stated, but I'm still working through last year's gin so that's not so bad.

I am, on-track however to make a 2011 racing debut at the Bluenose, reprising my role as the 1:30 pace-bunny and, once more, I hope to reprise my role as full-marathon quasi-sanctioned/quasi-bandit running half-an-hour behind the main group.

This isn't because of the Tally. I have neither the time, money, inclination or knees for such foolery. It's because of what racing does for me. One, I really enjoy it. I can't explain it either. I'm a basket-case beforehand, sometimes for days, totally wound up, I push myself like crazy during it, and invariably spend a few minutes on the floor retching afterwards. Not the way intelligent people behave on their days off. But I enjoy the cut-and-thrust of racing, the tactics on the fly, finding out exactly what my body can do.

Which leads me to the second point. I'm too lazy to be a real athlete. I'd much rather go for a scenic ride, see the proverbial roses and smell the proverbial coffee than do intervals. Ditto running. It's only by racing that I train for racing. It's only by racing that I push myself harder and further than I would sanely do so on a random Wednesday night training run. You can train as hard as you want, but only racing makes you better at racing. I thought I'd read a similar sentiment from Steve Tilford recently. I can't find it now but go ahead and read his blog anyway, it's really, really interesting.

Sure, you can train quite adequately for a time-trial on your own, on the rollers or on a treadmill. Just settle down, ramp up the pace until you hit your numbers and hold until done. Easy. But the bike-portion of a triathlon/duathlon aside, we're not solo, we're mano a mano. We're reacting to other people.

There's no such thing as a game-plan in a race, it all goes to shit once Mike blows the whistle. Someone goes off the front from the gun? Well if it isn't Matt Callaghan then you probably have to chase him down right now; so much for easing into the race. Then if buddy goes in the last 5 K, is it a real threat? Is he going for a flier? Should I chase him down? The answer is undoubtedly "yes" in all cases. The next thing to do is go catch him, go deep to do so, and then either sit on and make sure he doesn't do it again, or put in another dig of your own just to piss him off and show him who's boss. Can you train for this? Only to a point. Every race is unique and you can't map every possible scenario out. You can't ask him to wait, you hadn't planned your attack for another kilometre and then you can both go and make a race of it and besides, you've only trained at pace x on the dread-mill and would he mind dreadfully if he slowed down because you're not ready for it!

Nope. Just go already, and never mind the Garmin.

I miss racing.


Friday, May 6, 2011


No, no, don't worry. This isn't an evangelising post. Well it is, but the J is not Jesus, but Jason, as in Jason Murphy, our favorite race official.

As you may be aware, la belle just came back from the Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati. It was a warm(ish) but wet day, maybe between 17 and 21 Celsius. Great running weather we suppose and she put it to good use, running a 3:23:53 (or thereabouts). First time sub 3:24 and a personal best. Yey.

Pretty good splits, very consistent and near-as-dammit even splitted the whole thing. Fourth AG too. All-in-all a good day out. Training was not perfect and this result clearly shows that long runs are over-rated; the fewer she does, the better she does. Any fewer and she'll be taking to the start-line smoking a Gauloise and eating poutine and still get a PB!

As you may also be aware, it was a trip fraught with difficulties; a cancelled flight on the way out, a missing suitcase that turned up just in time for the trip home, hotel problems and most of the museums and art galleries in Cincinnati were closed on Monday, the only day she had left to take in the sights of Jerry Springer's former stomping-grounds.

There was one last thing. The Flying Pig has a no-double-dipping policy for it's awards. Nice. So as at least one of the big-time place-getters was 35, la belle reckoned that, according to the preliminary results, she should have been in line for a nice little gong, no?

However, the preliminary results were just that, preliminary, and before she'd eaten her way through the recovery tent, she'd been dropped by one place. Which on the face of it was odd as whilst PBs and BQs are always by chip-time, gongs are by gun-time.

A little digging (what's a gal to do when Cincinnati is all but closed?) showed something odd. The lady who was 3rd AG did not ping all the mats!


That's right. Runner #5307 (I have no problem naming and shaming at this point) had 6.8 mile split, missed the half and 20 mile mats and pinged the 25.2 mile and finish mats. As she had some split times and a chip-time, she also must have pinged the start-mat.

#5307's first 6.8 miles were at nearly 10 minute per mile (or there-abouts), so after an hour, she was something like 14 minutes in arrears to la belle, who as previously noted was stoically knocking out 7:45s (per mile). Her final mile was 7:20 or so. Her final time was a scorching 3:21. So, she covered the remaining 18.2 in 2 hrs 06 minutes. This isn't a bad pace, 7:00 per mile or so, coincidently the same pace Denise Robson and I were knocking out on our Tour de Dartmouth at the same time.

I can't work out where she must have passed la belle, as running at least 40 seconds per mile quicker and being fourteen minutes down after 7 miles, it should have taken her over 21 miles to catch her (14 mins = 840 seconds/40 seconds = 21) ! This assumes they started together, which they likely didn't. If you say the speed differential was 45 seconds, #5307 could have caught her in 18 miles (18 + 7 = 25 miles), but you tend to remember being passed in the finishing straight and sprinting it out for the place, and she doesn't. These pace times are necessarily extrapolated as she didn't have those splits.

When contacted by the timers, who'd noticed this anomaly, she said she ran the whole course but her chip fell off and she was carrying it on her watch-strap, hence it didn't register on the mats. The timers were temporarily placated, but then they then found a finish-line picture from their own cameras that showed #5307's chip clearly on her shoe.

The map is above (larger version here). There is no evidence from the mats, that #5307 was ever any further east than than the apex of that big bend in the Ohio River.

For a while, the timers didn't think they had grounds for DSQ, but we argued (in a couple of emails) that if she couldn't be placed on the course, then there were no grounds to assume she had run the distance.

The last we heard, however, #5307 has been DSQ from the results.

This is as it should be.

Those mats, you see, aren't split-time mats per se. Sure, that's how we think of them and your average runner thinks they are there so their times can be texted to friends, family and colleagues and simulcast to people following them on Athlete Tracker (who hasn't spent the last Sunday in August, or the Patriots Day morning glued to their computer?). As nice as that is, that's not why they are there. They've been there since before when SMS was only a brand of cycling clothing!

They are lap audit mats and there because Rosie Ruiz cut the course (and spectacularly so) at Boston in 1980! She denies it, but the fact remans the only person who vouched for her being on the course was a dude running in a Superman suit. In 1980 BAA didn't have hard-and-fast eveidence that Rosie was, or was not, in Framingham or Wellesley or on the Newton Hills or on the subway. So lap-audt mats were introduced. They confirm you did, in-fact, run the entire course.If you didn't ping all the mats, it's pretty good evidence you didn't do the course, and if you didn't do the course then you should not appear in the results. And if you ignore the evidence of the lap-audit mats, as the Cinci timers were thinking of doing, then why go to the expense of having them? Speaking of Boston, this was a BQ time, and not any old time, this was a first-day sign-up time.

You can miss a mat, but when this happens we ask, did your splits make sense? If you missed a lap and clocked a 2:55 per k average, it's clear something is wrong. In this case the times were believable, but fast. Running a 7 minute mile, #5307 should have been fighting for the win and would have been third. So, was it believable? Perhaps, but one's incredulity was being strained by this point; missing mats, chip not where she said it was, blazing fast times. Occam's razor and all that.

So justice, in this case has been served. It's not about the gong, which la belle may, or may not receive, it's about the principle.

Now all we need to do is write to the Columbus half. She won there last year but, curiously, she has no 10K split-time.......