Thursday, September 06, 2012

the would be 5km Paris Marathon

Wow, didn't think things could get worse after my Disney beatdown, but they did. Ended up with Tendinitis in my foot (most likely a side effect of Lipitor, that my Doc seemed ignorant of). In any case I haven't been able to get in a full week of running since Disney, and maybe just a handful of runs in the last few months. Not a single run in the last month as I've been trying to recover. 

I was planning on running the Paris Marathon as part of my 10 year anniversary European vacation, but realized it would be a monumentally bad choice to try now and would most likely be a miserable and potentially painful experience leading to even more time off. But totally giving up the chance to run in Paris with 40,000 other maniacs, and with many of the big sights within the first 5km (Arc de Triomphe, Place de La Concorde, Grand Palais, Louvre, Musee D'orsay, Hotel de Ville, and the Bastille) seemed silly as well. So, I decided to run the first 5km and then go until the foot pain started again (typically @10km) and take the metro back to my hotel. 

What an experience. Obviously the sightseeing is exquisite, and well beyond any other race I've done. Nice race expo and kit, including a paris Marathon Buffwear hat (but the logo is upside down for some unknown reason), and a brilliant plastic Paris Marathon cut up garbage bag to wear before the race to stay warm. Race shirts are only for finishers, so tough luck there. But the race organizers are a joke, with aid stations spread 5 km apart, that only serve bottles of water and fruit, but no sportsdrink except for 1 stop at 33km. I asked the Powerade reps at the expo why they didn't offer the drink at every stop and was told "trop cher monsieur" i.e. they couldn't care less. So, I brought a race belt stuffed with gels that I never use even in training. 

Ran my 5k and was loving every moment of it, and with no tightness in my foot decided to keep on going. In theory the aid stations sounded like a nightmare, but in reality they were worse. I've never seen so much savage behaviour at a race as people jostled and shoved to ensure they got their only chance at a drink at fruit for 5k. Think of pigeons fighting over some french fries UFC style and you'll have an inkling of the repulsive behaviour going on. At least pretty much everyone threw their water bottles into one of the many bins lining the streets when they were done. But the fruit peels were discarded everywhere and trampled on to ensure that the cobblestone streets were slicker than a hockey rink. 

Saw new sights when I made it to Chateau Vincennes around 12 km, and started thinking that if I hung on til 21km I might be able to speed walk in the second half and finish under their time limit of 5hr 40 mins (and get my finishers shirt!). But in the meantime I was just taking it nice and easy (10 minute miles),enjoying the day, and never aiming beyond the next 5k marker. 

Hit 21km in 2:14 and was amazed that I felt so good. I hadn't really thought this far ahead though, never believing I'd make it so far, and had no clue where I could find Metro stops now if I needed to get home. By 30k, the lack of preparation started truly hitting and I was getting sore and stiff (but not in my foot). Pace was slowing down, but my only exit strategy now was either to wait for the sweeper bus at the back of the pack which would've been another 2-3 hours or get my ***** to the finish line. Gladly grabbed my powerade bottle at 33km and kept it with me for the next 6 km or so. I walked a good bit around here and considered walking in the rest of the way, but it honestly felt just as bad to walk as to jog, and I didn't want to be out there that long, so I started jogging again. At 39km, I just said WTF, and started pumping my arms to get the pace back up and started passing others around me thinking of trying to get to the finish line before all they had left were XL. I definitely wasn't 'running', but was happy to regain momentum. 

Finished around 4:50 and was thrilled to get a size L t-shirt (only L and XL left at that point, but they are much smaller shirts so the L fits me like a M), and a very thoughtful disposable rain coat (that I'm keeping), which again was a nice touch. Nothing else to speak of at the finish line besides the bare minimum of apples, bananas and water bottles (more Powerade too, but a little late at this point). Can't figure this race out, they offered a few amazing amenities and did some great things that many races should aspire to but were amateur hour in so many other areas. Even the on course entertainment was strange with some great acts; a dozen horns playing the spiderman theme was my highlight, to what often felt like the real band didn't show up today, so some kid walked on stage and just was practicing his chords. Not sure how they continue attracting such a large field when the London Marathon is the following week and they apparently do everything right. But, I guess London is the huge draw and is so tough to get into that the rest do Paris. 

For others considering this race in the future, it is a great experience if you are well prepared to handle their eccentricities. Entry fee was a nice and low 60 Euros on day 1 (but rises with applications) and there are plenty of hotels near the finish / start line (Arc de Triomphe area) to make it a convenient race. I had a good time out there, but I suspect (as counter-intuitive as this may sound) that if I was in marathon shape and tried to race it in well under 4 hours, I would have had a much worse time struggling with the aid station logistics that don't work well for a guy who typically sweats a lot. It's frustrating, but unfortunately since the race will continue to sell out, not a lot of motivation for the race organizers to match the service levels of other races.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rich gets what he deserves in Disney

Another beatdown. Ouch.

Used the same title for my Mississauga marathon when a stumble at 40k led to total leg cramping and forced me to walk in the last 2k, netting a 4:09 instead of a good shot at breaking 4 hours. This time was worse.

I never had my head in the game after suffering a calf strain playing tennis 2 weeks ago, and didn't even expect to start until the day before. As such I never planned my race, and never truly believed that I could finish. Without a rational game plan I started off by running intervals between characters trying to see if I could still do a 4 hour race.

Monumentally poor strategy. Since I hadn't run or stretched in almost 2 weeks, my muscles were stiff and never had the proper flow. Thankfully all of the photo ops in Magic Kingdom ( I was running with my camera and stopping at all the characters) cost me too much time and when I crossed the half at 2:05, I put the 4 hour goal to rest and decided to have fun. That lasted for @ 4 more miles before I started struggling with a seriously upset stomach. Not sure if it was a result of the powerade, all the garbage I was eating between Disney & Universal, lack of a huge BM on race morning or all of the above. But I started to find that anything above a fast walk made me feel very sick. So, I walked, and walked, and walked, and whenever I tried to ease back into a jog just to finish it got worse. The smart choice would've been to quit, but I had to get that Mickey medal for my kids. Besides, most schmucks can train and do a sub 4 hour race, it takes a real man to drag himself over the finish line while whining and bawling.

So, I must've walked for a good 2 hours straight, which was especially tough on a 1 mile out & back stretch after 20 miles that I really really wanted to cut short. But, I figured I wouldn't be able to rightfully claim my medal that way so kept dragging myself along. It was by far the most MISERABLE experience of my running career. Everything felt like garbage at that point, my stomach refused to allow me to increase the tempo, and my feet were ACHING. Hit mile 22 just before entering Hollywood studios, and realized that this was no fun, and whats the point of running if it's not fun? Time to change things up.

I got a couple more photos with disney characters from the incredibles and the old guy from UP, and then promptly walked off the course and headed to Star Tours, their redesigned 3d Star Wars ride simulator. It was farther than expected and when I found it I saw there was a 20 minute wait, I begged them to let me go on the fast pass lane, but no dice. So, I waited! Made lots of new friends who were at first impressed that I must've come straight there from the race, and then even more impressed (or puzzled) when I explained that I wasn't done yet, but felt like taking a ride. Really enjoyed the ride and everyone's encouragement and started running back to the race course, and was thrilled to discover that I could jog again. Of course that ride and detour cost me @ 40 minutes and it was now 5 hours into the race, but who cares? I could jog in the finish and was now having a blast.

Except I couldn't quite jog it in. I needed to run again. My legs still felt like lead but my stomach was settled and it was time to find out what type of guts I had. The only thing slowing me down now was the tight course and all of the other runners and walkers still out there. Still stopped for all of the photo ops, and even got one with Donald and Goofy just before the Finish line before putting it to bed in 5:33, It may be an hour and 40 minutes off my PR, but I was never more proud to wear my marathon shirt as I was today on the way home.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ft. Lauderdale 13.1 Marathon?

C'mon make up your minds is it a marathon or a half? There is no such thing as a 13.1 marathon, any more than a 5k marathon. Granted, many runners complain about the title of a half-marathon, as they feel it degrades their accomplishment somehow, and while it is a huge accomplishment all it's own it isn't a marathon. But, I guess this is what happens after Ironman turned their lackluster half-ironman events around by renaming the series as Ironman 70.3. At the end of the day it doesn't matter what distance you race, if you go all out in a race and leave it all out on the course you've earned some props. Let's face it, every hardcore marathoner will (secretly?) admit that they despise the effort of racing a 5k where you feel like puking the minute you cross the starting line.

Ok, on to the race, which is honestly the first half I've managed to race since the San Francisco half two years ago. Despite the inherent silliness in the race branding, they put on a well organized race. I stayed at the host hotel to avoid the 45 minute drive from Palm Beach, because really, who wants to wake up at 3 a.m. for a race? Ooops, guess I'll be doing that for Disney Marathon in January, but I digress. Kit pick up was fast and easy on race morning. Ditto for gear check, and plenty of port-o-potties for the runners. The race started at 6:13 a.m. with temps in the low 70s, and little humidity, but for a runner who sweats like I do, any heat will wear you down. So, once I broke out a good sweat after the first mile, I knew I had to shelve any PR dreams, and back off of 1:45 pace. It was a good decision. I was running well and averaging about 8:10 min/mile, but the second half got tougher and tougher as I felt myself overheating and watched my heart rate jump up 10 beats from the first few miles. But once I got to 10 miles, I knew that none of that mattered anymore. The last 5k is all about heart and mental toughness. Ignoring the doomsday messages of your brain and focusing on the here and now. Pick one runner and slowly pull him in, then pick off your next target. I'd love to say that I really picked up my pace in this portion, but at best it was a couple of seconds/mile. Crossed the line in 1:48:18, which while way off my PR feels like a huge result in these conditions.

More importantly it's a huge confidence boost as I enter my build up phase for the Disney Marathon in January, followed by the Paris Marathon in April. Even better, the next morning my legs feel lose and relaxed and ready to get into some deep marathon training.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Angus Glen Half 2:00 report

Ran Angus Glen half marathon yesterday as the 2:00 pacer yesterday, and thanks to my super bright Brooks Pacer shirt and Neon socks was easy to keep in sight of my runners. This photo was in the last km, where most people were already kicking well ahead of me for their finish. It was a nearly perfect race, except my compression socks didn't stay up my leg the whole run! Grrr. Usually a big fan of but they literally let me down this race. I e-mailed them, let's see how/if they respond.

Ok, one more week til back in Florida for the Ft. Lauderdale 13.1. Hopefully this cool weather hasn't sapped my heat acclimatization.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon '11

Ok, just finished the STWM half as the 2:00 Brooks pace bunny. Best gig in running. Not only do I get to run this flat & fast fabulous course, but I am surrounded by dozens of adoring 'fans' who are thrilled to run with me. Well, they are happy to be with me until I get them within a couple of clicks from the finish line where many happily left me in their dust. Perfect weather, nice and cool, but way too windy out there til the turnaround. Pretty much everyone I started with had a great race, and I was thrilled to see them after the finish line, since most of them beat me in by minutes, but I still brought in the rest of my group at a near perfect 1:59:37, since lets face it nobody that runs with the 2:00 pacer, actually wants 2:00 on the clock! My Heart rate was nice and low in the high 120's, low 130's most of the way, and I'm extremely confident in how my running is going leading up to the Disney Marathon in Jan, and Paris in April.

Thanks again to Michael at Canada Running Series for arranging all the pacers, and getting us all nicely equipped in Brooks gear, although as a proud Brooks ID member I have closets full of their shoes and clothing already. And to Allan Brookes of CRS, for managing to consistently improve the event year after year, and for having the class to quickly send out that conciliatory e-mail to all runners who may have gotten stuck with the bag check mess this year.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Import google maps course to Forerunner

Ok, this is the coolest thing I ever learned to do with my Garmin Forerunner 305. Interval training? Yawn. Virtual Partner? Whatever. Back to start? Now, we're talking. But the best thing I've discovered how to do is to import maps from a mapping program like Google Maps (or Pedometer) right onto the 305 itself. While running you can view the bread crumb map of that course and ensure you're staying with it. It will even beep at you when you go off course. Of course typically we don't need this feature, but when running in a new locale, or when trying to keep on track with a difficult 20 miler this is invaluable.

Ok First things First, make a course on Google Pedometer

Second. Drag this link to your toolbar GMAP TO GPX

Third. Click on the GMapToGPX bookmark in your toolbar.

Fourth. A GPX file should be displayed over the map. Copy and paste it into a file on your hard drive. (Save it as a plain text file, using Notepad, TextEdit, emacs, or whatever your favorite text editor is. If possible, save it with the extension “.gpx”, but “.txt” ought to work, too.)

Finally head over to GPSies , upload your gpx file and choose convert to Garmin Course TCX. Then take this new TCX file and import it via Garmin's Training Center software.

Ok, it's a lot for the first time, but it gets easier after that. And it sure beats wasting time stopping to figure out "where now" while on the long run.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Garmin Forerunner 305 $149 at

Wow, I've been running with the 305 for the last 3 years, and the prices are dropping faster than my run times. I must have paid $350 for mine originally. Regardless, this watch is the ultimate running companion. The GPS locks onto the satellites quickly and always performs reliably even when running under heavy tree cover which used to give my old generation 301 fits. I'm also happy to say that the Heart Rate Monitor is much improved and doesn't require a ton of water or electro-gel to get a decent signal.

Compared to foot pod speed distance watches like those from Polar, I much prefer the GPS. While the HRM strap of the Polars are the best in the business, the foot pods were never accurate in my experience. You need to calibrate and recalibrate them often to get a good result. Some people prefer the pods since they can track your mileage on a treadmill, but that seems overkill since the treadmill will give you the same information. At best it's useful in the winter if you ever get stuck running around an indoor track and need a better way to guesstimate your mileage.

The Nike + foot pods are a joke by comparison, but for just $40 it's an ok deal if you run with an ipod anyways.

The Killer App of the Garmin though is the mapping functions. One, you can always download your routes to the computer after a run, and see exactly where you ran overlayed on google maps (best done with Sportstracks free software). That's great and makes for a nice souvenir of marathons or special runs in a new city. But, what's really cool is that when you're running somewhere new, you can just scroll to navigation, click "Back to Start" and it will show you a breadcrumb map of your route for you to follow back to your starting point. It's saved me from getting lost (or the anxiety of worrying about it) more times than I can count.