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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Preview: Hamilton Road to Hope 1/2 Marathon

The Race

The Hamilton Road to Hope Marathon. I signed up for the 1/2 marathon on a whim, after some friends suggested it.

Things I know about it:
  1. It's in Hamilton
  2. The course is net downhill!
  3. Simon Whitfield is going to be running the 1/2
  4. The course is net downhill!
  5. It's point-to-point
  6. The course is net downhill!

Apparently this is the best full marathon in Canada for qualifying for Boston (it produces the highest percentage of qualifiers). I'm only doing the 1/2, but I'm counting on the downhill to help me!

My Strategy

I'm not all that confident... had a run on Sunday that seems to have tweaked something in my knee, looks like IT band is acting up again. I've been icing/stretching/Ibuprofen'ing like crazy, hopefully it's enough to hit the start line healthy.

My best 1/2 marathon was 1:49:17 in February of this year, with snow on the ground... in fact I've only ever done 1/2 marathons in February! I'm really hoping to crush that time on Sunday and set a new Personal Best. I feel like there's a 1:45:00 in me waiting to come out, but a lot will have to go right to find it!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Marathon Deaths: An Analysis

Three runners died during their 1/2 marathons this weekend in Detroit. A man also died during a race I was in this year, Ironman Canada.

As more people take up endurance sports, this is becoming a more common occurance.

The media love the parradox... a healthy active person suddenly drops dead while exercising. And I'm sure inactive people get a smug satisfaction out of it, as it gives them one more reason to stay on the couch.

Well, not really.

The Benefits

As Dr. Paul Thompson identifies in this study, active people are 30-50% less likely to suffer a heart attack than inactive people. So the benefit to being active is quite clear and irrefutable, over a lifetime you are less likely to die of heart disease.

Around 250 per 100,000 die of heart disease every year in Canada.

The Risk

But what is the risk while running a marathon? Most recent statistics peg the death rate at between 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 75,000 participants.

If you run one marathon per year?

Around 2 per 100,000.

The Conclusion

The numbers don't lie: being active is far more likely to save your life than to kill you, by an order of magnitude. If every inactive person took up marathoning, we'd have far fewer overall deaths from heart disease, not more.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Race Report: Vulture Bait Trail Race (25k)

The Race

Vulture Bait. It's a trail run around Fanshawe Lake near London, ON. The main distance is a 50k ultra race, I opted for the far more modest 25k.

This was my first trail race, so was looking forward to the experience! It was going to be a "B" race for me, but by mid-week I'd pretty much decided it was closer to a "C"... I've been sick for a week with a chest cough, and it stuck around for race day. Grumble.

Garmin Data

Results: 2:33:00, 85/171 overall, 44/61 Men under 49.

Race Day

C-c-cold! Just below zero at the start.

I'm not used to running in the cold yet for 2009, so I made the classic mistake of over-dressing. I wore a long-sleeved technical shirt and a wind breaker jacket, which was just too much, one or the other would have been plenty.

3 - 2 - 1 - GO?

The start was certainly different from most races I'd seen... everyone was lined up, and suddenly they started going! No gun, no whistle, nobody on a loudspeaker saying "3, 2, 1, GO!". I assume someone officially told everyone to start, but I have no way of knowing for sure.

The course started out on fairly easy flat trails. They seem well trod and straight, a nice warm-up. I was trying to control my effort on heart rate, so would back off any time it spiked over 170bpm.

At some point, we turned into some single-track section which had more stumps, rocks and sharp little climbs. Despite my relative lack of experience, I was able to keep pace with those around me.

The aid stations were odd... I'm used to having a row of volunteers dangling cups out and not breaking stride! But here there were far fewer people, and I had to come to a complete stop to grab my two cups of Heed.

By about 5k my lungs were burning from the cold air and my chest cold. My sincere apologies to the people around me for the snot-rockets (I was careful not to hit anyone but it's still gross!!!). I was a bit of a mess.

The one thing I hadn't practiced that threw me off was running across hills, ie. the hill goes down right to left. I actually slipped a little on one section like this, just wasn't used to it.

Halfway, time to race!

By halfway I was still feeling pretty good, so instead of sticking to a near-LSD pace I decided to pick it up. My heart rate got into the 170's more consistently now, and I would only back off it it were over 180. I started passing people one by one, and I don't recall anyone passing me from the halfway point to the end. I'm sure some of them were doing 50k, so while I was revving up for my finish, they were still in the first 1/2 of their race.

The one thing I did very poorly was nutrition... I went in without a plan, other than to drink whatever they had. I also had a bottle of my own to supplement between aid stations (they were about 5k apart). I also didn't realize they'd be using Heed, which I've never tried... and I ended up using some gel they handed out in the goodie bag. Very amateur-hour of me, I should have taken better care on a race of this length, I didn't get the calories I probably should have.

There were more technical sections in the second half, lots of loose rocks and several steep up and downs. Even one creek crossing across slippery rocks - the lady in front of me slipped and ended up with a shoe full of ice cold water! Oops.

With about 3km to go, I started feeling a bit light-headed. I briefly considered backing off, but I heard someone coming up behind me so my animal instinct to go faster kicked in! I put in a good finishing kick, passing one last person on the way to the finish.

A Whole New Respect for Ultra-folks

I guess it never really clicked for me just how hard 50k would be... but 50k on trails? Wow. Brutal. Even the 25k beat me up pretty good, my ankles and knees were quite tender by the end. It's less impact than running on roads, but you're also using a lot of muscles that normally get a vacation.

I'm not entirely sure it's my thing... I enjoy the trail running, but I found the race lacking something that road races or triathlons have. It was almost TOO friendly, like nobody was actually competing with each other! They were just out for a run on some trails. It was a really nice fall run, though, so maybe it will be something I do annually to close out my season. We'll see, I'm undecided.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sniff. I'm snuffed up.

I'm sick. And I have a race in 5 days.

Last week was a near write-off. I managed to get in a spin on my indoor trainer and one 10k run, but it was awful. I rested through the weekend, then tried a 10k run today which was just as bad... my heart rate shot up at even the slightest attempt at increasing my pace.

Not good!

Plan for this week: Rest. I'll try a short run on Wednesday or Thursday if things feel OK, otherwise I'm going into this race on Saturday cold. Not ideal, but I was going to run it as more or less an LSD anyway.

And 3 weeks from now is the race I really want to rock... the Hamilton 1/2 marathon. This is a good chance to really improve my 1/2 marathon time. I've done three 1/2 marathons before this, but it was always the YMCA one in Peterborough in February. Not ideal conditions and never in peak shape, so should be lots of room to improve there!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Preview: Vulture Bait Trail Race (25k)

Vulture Bait features a 50k and 25k option. I'm doing the shorter one this year as my first trail race. Ideally, I'd be doing something closer to 10k for my first, but at this time of year there aren't many options for that!

I've been told this course is easier than most trail races, so a good place to cut one's teeth. Of course, what's "easy" to seasoned trail runners could still be quite difficult to a novice like myself!

The aid stations are 5k apart, which at my trail pace will be over 1/2 hour. That's not enough fluid for me, so I'm going to bring a water bottle with me on the course to supplement the aid stations.

Goal: finish with a smile on my face! I'll push if I have something left, but mostly I'll just learn, take it all in, and pace it to finish.