Monday, May 31, 2010

Iron Knee - 1:49

To break 1:50 I knew I needed to push. At 1:38 I came into the clearing above Quarry Rock, Deep Cove and knew I was about to burn if I was to do it. Story to come.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Iron Benchmark

No, I'm not thinking about the gum stains on the underside of a bus bench or the heart-shaped carving with T.C.+ L.P. in it, on the log at the beach. I mean benchmarks that we keep for ourselves for future comparison, development, and growth. These are the indicators we use to let us know where we're at, like the marks your mom used to make on the kitchen wall to keep track of your height. In running we keep track of our achievements, sometimes mentally or in a log, to determine if we're as "strong" as we were five years ago, or last year or last month. It's human nature to want to see ones self advancing.

The mistake we sometimes make however, is choosing a moving benchmark. For the runner, it's another runner, one's nemesis. It might be out of fun and comedic rivalry, like it is with the Lazy Trail Runner and I, but few people don't compare themselves. Keeping perspective on all this is the key though. There will always be someone faster, higher, richer, skinnier, or stronger. This is not to say we shouldn't shoot for what we perceive to be the top, it's just about maintaining realistic expectations and not losing sight of the true reasons we're out there.

I have two major benchmarks in my running life: Knee Knacker, which I unfortunately didn't get into this year, and the Iron Knee, a 22km run from Grouse Mountain to Deep Cove. These two annual events stay on the same route year after year and therefore provide me with a comparable tell-tale for the rest of my season. Iron Knee in particular, with it's variety of technical ups and downs, flat turn over stretches and one really large climb, gives me a heap of feedback about the upcoming season and fitness standing. The biggest challenge for me is that it's a local event and I recognize many of the other racers which in turn gets me comparing myself and creating expectations. I like to think I'm out there for me, and I remind myself as I start the race, but when I spot fellow racers , certain ones more than others, I immediately assess my position and often decide to push harder.

When I look back at the Iron benchmark I see...
2007 - 1:56
2008 - 1:52
2009 - 1:51
and this tells me my next natural goal should be to run below 1:50. I have worked at my speed again this year, as well as my hills and I really think, if I don't get wrapped up in other racers, I can do thisl. A smart race for me will be an easy start and an obvious pace change at my predetermined mile marker. Last year, the last three kilometers of this race were incredible for me and that's great, but it tells me I might have picked up my pace earlier on. Now I know.

Not only do benchmarks help us check up on our goals, they help to improve and always aim higher. Wish me luck this weekend. There are a lot of unspoken rivalry's out there that are incredibly well trained this year. Nervous, but excited.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The 3 Day Miracle

Hamstrings ready to snap,
hips abuckling,
runny nose, red eyes,
my body was a breakin' down...
and all I had to do was listen.

I took my three days off and then jumped back out there. I was a grumpy bear whilst not running, but once I got my turnover fix I began to smile again. Until...what's this? I don't usually get shin splints. This really bloody hurts. "Run through it!", I said to myself. And I did, and it kept hurting. Dammit!

Another day off and voila, all is well again. I've had some tense moments where I thought my ailments were wiggling their way back into my life, but no such luck....for them. Find a new host, I say.

Late last week the road bike came back out and that bit of cross training really helped spin out my legs. The latter week was an 1:10 up Capilano Canyon and back home, Saturday was a 60 minute hill climbing clinic with Flight Crew Clinics, and Sunday was a cruisy 3:45 to Deep Cove from home. There's nothing like finishing in the Cove and soaking in the ocean. The only thing missing was my Honey Donut. The line up was out the door so I chose the chocolate milk option at the corner store.

With these tired, aching muscles of late, I've been running a lot in my S Labs. They're super light and provide a heap of lateral stability, compared to the Speed Cross 2 that is. This shoe really is the S Line or M Series of Salomon's trail shoe fleet. The contagrip sole is like having gum on the bottom of your shoes, just adding to their overall stability. And of course, they look incredibly cool with their Ferrari red sensifit strips to seal your feet in nice and solid.

I listened and my body spoke. Thus was born the three day miracle.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Question of Climbing

I came off BCMC last week and came upon a fellow who had been having some real challenges getting faster and feeling more proficient while climbing. "Climbing Guy" (I'll keep him anonymous) asked me a few questions. I gave him my email, and this morning he sent the following:

Hello Tom,
I bumped into you last week on Grouse Mt in the red VW. Hope all is well. I tried to run straight up after our discussion the next day but dropped a lung after the first quarter LOL! it 'seems' impossible! You were saying that the Grind tends to make people step due to it having stairs? so is their away round this? Some people say the only fast way is knees on hands technique bent over? Is doing it more often better or a detriment? I am going crazy!

Kind Regards, "Climbing Guy"

This was my response to "Climbing Guy".

Hi, "Climbing Guy"

Glad you got out there and tried to blast one. It's always fun putting the heart to a test.

When I ran I went up BCMC, a trail just to the east of the Grind. A bit longer and slightly less steep. It has far fewer steps and therefore allows me to choose my stride length. I have found, and many will agree, that a faster cadence and shorter stride helps to avoid or delay lactic acid build up. When you take longer strides it makes your muscles work much harder. In short, this extra work creates more of the ugly bi-product, lactic acid. I'm not suggesting you won't create lactic acid with shorter strides, but this may help to delay it's onset.

As for the hands on knees, it's not typically recommended for long climbs. I occasionally put my hands on my knees, but for only a few strides. A high posture with shoulders back is best. Your forward lean should be initiated from the ankles. This will help to defer/avoid low back strain and fatigue. As well, the high posture forces you to keep your shoulders back and your lungs open. Some folks lean over their knees and this compresses the lungs, which you need to be fully inflating during bouts of exercise like this.

I hope this helps. Please let me know how your next session goes.

1. faster cadence with your feet.
2. high posture
3. forward lean from the ankles

Also, more advanced runners control their breathing. Once it gets away from you, it's tough to bring back. Hill climbing breath is like yoga breathing, cyclical.
If it's too rapid, you'll start to slow because the whole system isn't able to keep up.

Have fun out there, "Climbing Guy".

Salomon Flight Crew

I'm not the world's fastest climber so I'd love to hear what works for you.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

I can do it...but should I

Last night was a beautiful night in North Vancouver and I had been looking forward to my workout all day. My knee felt semi-cool so I figured it would be fine and hey, what does my body know anyway? Those little tightness messages my hamstrings are sending to my brain are nothing. Or are they?

Of course I tell myself, "I can do it!", and off I go. I pick up Coo and explain the workout: 5 x 2km. I had the route all picked out with an 800 meter climb, 400 meter decent, and about 800 meters of flat. We rolled off the first three in the 8 minute neighbourhood and at the beginning of number 4 I pulled out, letting Coo take off. He came back around after I'd been stretching, and I finished the last one with him in 7:30. I felt terrific. On the cool down my knee tightened up again and I stretched and ran some more.
This morning during our 5 Peaks Clinic, a spectacularly gorgeous morning, I ran for the first 20 minutes and made the tough decision: just because " I can do it", it doesn't mean I should. Right there, at the entrance way to Rice Lake, I decided on three days off running, starting immediately, as well as Sunday, and Monday. I have to kick this thing and each time I run I feel it again.

To a runner, a couple days off are a real challenge. This is how we identify ourselves. We are runners and not being out there because of a silly little injury is going to ruin my fitness. I can't possibly allow some stupid ailment to beat me. I will thus be weak. But what takes more strength, to run through an injury or take some days off? I know I'm going to be thinking I should be out running, especially this weekend with the sun in the sky and the trails in amazing shape.

So what is this injury anyway? Or is it an injury at all? My mileage has been climbing over the past few weeks and with that too is my speed and hill work. Both of which lead to a large load on the hamstrings, among other things. My feeling is that some time off to stretch and relax will allow a nice rest for the hammies. I had a massage on Wednesday and Lesley White made me feel the pain for sure. She agreed that my hamstrings were the root of my pains. From here I rest, relax and try to convince myself that just because I can do it, it doesn't mean I should.
In the mean time, I'll consider my problem no worse than the cartoon above and bank on rest as the cure-all. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this pain. Have you experienced it? What did you do? Any insight into what it is?

Monday, May 3, 2010

What a weekend!

Friday afternoon I felt great! I left work at 12:30, sucked back a java at the newly opened Brazza near home, and made a break for Grouse. Then, it was to be my first "up and down" of BCMC this year. Fueled up on coffee I felt great and managed to get to the Chalet in 37 minutes and back down in 27 minutes for a round trip of 1:04. This was on the heals of a long Thursday run up Mountain Highway. I'm telling myself I can come in under an hour on fresher legs.

I took Saturday as a rest day, Miwok day for many, and watched my students race on Swangard's track. Again, it's so inspiring to watch young kids run. They're so natural and they clearly love running and jumping.

Sunday morning was another day of coaching at the track for me, but I managed an early morning run up Capilano Canyon to Grouse and across Baden-Powell to Mountain Highway. From there, the posteromedial portion of my knee began to irritate me, and sent me packing home. Fortunately, running downhill didn't bother it so I was able to move fairly quickly across Montroyal , down Mosquito Creek and back home. While I was out, Flight Crew Teammate Jason Louttit slaughtered the Vancouver marathon in 2:25 for second place. Congratulations! And Simon Bairu, of Saskatoon broke the Canadian 10,000 meter record in 27.30, Check out the story; he was 6th with that time. Crazy.

I'm not breaking 10,000 meter records, but my knee feels better this morning after some rest, ice and some stretching. Wednesday night, "wonder hands", Lesley White (RMT) will be over and hopefully she can help me work the tightness away.