Sunday, January 27, 2008

Robbie Burns 8k Race

Last night I had a hard time going to bed. I tried to rent an On-Demand movie but they didn't have "Chariots of Fire". Luckily, "Armageddon" was playing on a commercial-free station and I only saw it 20 times, so I watched it again! My new favorite line in the movie: "HE'S GOT SPACE DEMENTIA!!!". Just great entertainement.

For those who haven't read my previous posts (which is everyone), my target time for this run was 38:40, which is a pace of 4:50/km, or 7:30/mile. This is the fastest pace I've run in a race, a 5k on December 30th. And I had run hard. I figured that if I can sustain it for 8k, I could live with that result.

This morning, I got up at 6 am to drive to Burlington, Ontario, which is about a 50 minutes drive from my house in Toronto. My bag was packed and my running clothes were downstairs so I wouldn't wake up my wife and kids. I had an envelope of instant oatmeal and a black coffee for breakfast, got dressed, jumped in the car, hooked up my iPod (containing 2 episodes each of Planet3rry and 'Dump Runners Club').

We had some light snow last night but the roads were clear, as was the course. I got there pretty early and drove the course to scope out the hills. It was pretty darn flat. I picked up my kit at 7:45 and got dressed.

I met Marty, from We had exchanged messages on buckeyeoutdoors and decided to meet. Everting is weird. Everting (to evert), a term I picked up in a William Gibson novel, happens when cyberspace projects in real life. Marty and I chit-chated a while and then he went on to meet a friend of his.

The weather was just about perfect, 0C and no wind. I decided to only wear 3 shirts without the outside shell. Looks cooler! I had my recorder, which I turned on for my French podcast (

The race started and what more can I say? I gave it everything I had. I went a bit faster than the pace I had picked, but just by a bit, and I felt like I could handle it. My splits for the first 3k were about 4:45 and then we started going slightly down hill and the remaining splits are between 4:33 and 4:40. I was just friggin' flying! On my way, I blew my 5k PR out of the water by 25 seconds with a 23:30. I got a side stitch in the last 500m but I still managed to summon some kind of a kick at the end and pass a few people suffering worse than me.

Final time: 37:46, a full 14 seconds better than my ultimate best case scenario. What a race.

I was 191th out of 608 finishers. I was 154th male out of 333. And I was 30th out of 48 in my age group (40-44). That's a harsh age group. I think I'm going to have to win by longevity.

Now this new time means that my VDOT is up two notches, from 40 to 42. My quality workouts will go from painful to excrutiating. For example my Threshold pace will go from 5:06 to 4:56/km.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Brain Training

Bought that book that RunnerMatt (Dump Runners Club) recommended: Brain Training for Runners. The foreword was from Tim Noakes (Lore of Running) so I just couldn't resist.

I'm not quite done yet. Basically, this is about training within the context of the Central Governor Model instead of the more common Cadiovascular/Anaerobic Model. I first heard about the Central Governor Model in Tim Noakes book and my understanding is that basically it postulates that fatigue is a feeling induced by the brain to prevent organ damage or failure as opposed to a lack of fuel.

The book is interesting. The training program is based on Jack Daniels' training program, which I'm currently following. The VDOT table is basically the same but the various paces have been modified a bit to fit the "Director" model. Although the programs are similar, there are differences that, as a novice runner, I'm not comfortable with.

The first difference is that the Threshold pace running is pretty much replaced with Race pace running. I'm a bit uncomfortable because Daniels is so specific about not running at race pace during training. If it was benificial, you'd think he would have noticed.

The second difference is that the VDOT adjustments (called "TPL" in Brain Training") are kind of done by feel. Again, that's something Daniels is against. VDOTs should be upped as the result of a race time or after 6 weeks of structured training.

One of the reason I picked Daniels' program was the self-limiting aspect of it. There's a "sling-shot" effect where training improves race time, which improves the VDOT, which increases training, which improves race time, ...
The logic of this system appeals to the computer geek in me. It also prevents me from increasing training too fast or too slow.

The Brain Training program, on the other hand, leaves more freedom to the runner, which might be all good, but in my case I don't think I have the experience to use it. In a couple of years, I think I will find the program much more attractive.

This won't prevent me from using some of the techniques in the book. I believe he make a good point about improving one's stride technique and I will definitely do that, as well as some of the other exercises and use proprioceptive cues (don't ask, just buy the book).

Definitely worth the price. The section on Flow (aka "the Zone") alone makes it worth it.

My two cents.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


This morning in the car, I listened to RunnerMatt on Dump Runners Club and he discussed Flow a.k.a. "the Zone". I really enjoy his show. He has a lot of running experience and he's not shy about sharing it.

I ordered a book he mentioned "Brain Training For Runners". One of the co-authors was Tim Noakes who also wrote "The Lore of Running". I couldn't resist.

An interesting comment he made about flow is that it can be experienced in many activities, not just sports, as long as they follow certain criterias such as structure, intensity, goal, etc... I'm certainly going to try to set the stage for a Flow moment on Sunday.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Last week before Robbie Burns 8K

It's always the same. The week before a race, any race, I keep thinking about "The Plan". How hard should I try? Up to now, I've been pretty conservative and I've always done better than planned.

I like the 2/3 plan where you follow a fairly conservative pace for the first 2/3 of the race and then decide how much to "unleashe". The thing is, once your actually racing, conservative is a relative term but I'm going to have to learn to stick to a race plan. In my December 5k, my so-called "Ultimate goal" was 24:59 and I finished in 23:44, a full minute faster than planned. I still ran fairly smart, with a faster second half. One could say I raced better than I planned.

Learning from my mistakes, I will now risk public humiliation and aim for a pace that I'm not entirely comfortable with. Live a little, as they say!

My plan for the week is to slow down a bit. I will skip my Friday quality run and just run a few easy kms with a couple of strides instead. Same on Saturday possibly on the threadmill.

Sunday. Ah, Sunday. I will go out at a blistering 4:50/km and maintain it to 5k, where I will decide what to do. If I feel ok, I will try to push down to 4:45. The last k, I will try to "sprint" under 4:40.

This best case scenario would give me a time of 38:20, give or take. An even 4:50 would give me 38:40. The thing is, I don't know that I can sustain 4:50 for that long. But it's time.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Garmin 305 Crash!

I nearly had a baby duck! I decided to upgrade my Garmin Forerunner 305's firmware to improve satellite acquisition and the updater crashed my computer in the middle of the update. I hadn't seen the "blue screen of death" in a long time. I was flippin'.

My Garmin was left in a funky state.

I rebooted and tried again and thank God! the update worked the second time. I'm now at V2.90.

Being the biggest sucker ever, I decided to refresh my Training Center. Well I seem to have lost a few workouts. I know that I lost at least last Wednesday's (Jan 9th). I'm not going to go through everything since I also download to SportTracks, which I prefer.

The worst of it is: in the back of my mind, I thought that maybe I was just going to HAVE to get a 405!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Spinning as cross training

After seeing that a lot of people were spinning on their day off, I felt I had to emulate so I went to my club for a spinning class tonight. I've never done it before and I hate being the newbee. The instructor showed me the ropes quickly with a minimum of fuss. Now I'm in the know.

Jeeez. That was hard. For the same heart rate, I would say that my perceived effort was almost double. Now I understand what they say about "specificity of training". I guess it was a good workout. I'll probably do it again but I would prefer to do it at lunch so I might have to shift my runs to match the spinning schedule since there's no lunchtime spinning on Thursday, which is currently my day off.

After the class, I just had to have a beer (well... two) at the bar, so I don't think there will be a caloric net gain on this workout. Still, a positive outcome.

New Running Shoes

My second pair of running shoes has had it so I decided to buy new ones so I have time to break them before my next race just in case I need them (like if my other ones are at the shop for maintenance). Last week I tried the Nike Pegasus Clima and really liked them, so I went to the Running Room all set to buy a pair. After extensive gait analysis, the lady convinced me that I needed more stability than the Pegasus provides. My regular shoes are "stability" shoes, so it kind of made sense.

So I'm the new owner of a brand new pair of New Balance 1223. They feel real comfortable.

I also bought some winter socks and a fuel belt. As I increase the length of my long run passed 10km, I will need to hydrate. Later on, I also want to experiment with goo, gels, etc... so the belt is a must. The lady at the store had very specific ideas about hydration. She believed one should drink over 8 ounces (222 ml) every 15 minutes, while I read in "The Lore of Running" that the absortion rate of liquids is 700 ml per hour. I wasn't going to argue with her. Anyway, SOME drinking is required on longer runs so now I have a fuel belt.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Nike Running Lounge

I had an excellent week of training last week. I increased my mileage a bit more than I should have I thank, but no harm done.

Yesterday I released a new episode of my french podcast. I actually see a few downloads of the show, although I haven't heard from anyone. Good or bad?

On Sunday, I trained with a couple of friends and we met at the Nike Runner's Lounge. It was the first time I tried it. It's pretty cool. You get access to a locker. You can try Nike gear. For example, I got to run my long run in the Nike Pegasus Clima. Better than running 25 feet in the store! After the run, we got free gatorade and waffles. If you have one in your city, recommended.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Why, JD, why???

Today during my quality training, a thought poped in my head, similar to the one that popped in the president's head in "The Fifth Element":

"I have a doubt."

Didn't last long. But for a short while sometimes, our puzzler skips a beat and we lose our focus. Tim Noakes would probably say that our "Director" is trying to make us stop. The kind of doubts I refer to are not necessariliy "why do I run" but rather "why train so friggin' hard". Some will look at my training lo on Buckeye Outdoors and laugh. Well, its hard for me!

The thing is, I don't really have an answer. I just know that at this point in my life, I need to push myself physically further than I've ever done before. I've pushed mentally at work all my working life. Now I want to do this for myself.

I ran my best race ever about 10 days ago. I'm not just talking about my time, I'm talking about how the race felt. I pushed as hard as I could, but smartly. I ran negative splits. And at the end, I had nothing left.

It felt so great that when I play my race in my head, I want to BE there, live it again. Feel my breath move air in and out my chest. Feel the energy run through me like fire burning in my veins. Feel my heart beating as fast as I dare demand of it. To feel my body and mind, as one, accomplish even more than what I had hoped.

People ask me why I race. I can't really explain it to them. They will read the previous paragraph and feel nothing. We runners know better. You, my fellow runners, understand. You felt it as you read it. The feelings that come to us are so strong as to overcome our sense of now and transport us back in that race.

So why train hard?

Because I want more of it. This year

I want to complete my 3 training programs this year.
I want to run a 10k so fast that I won't believe my time.
I want to run the World Wide half this fall.
I want to run a marathon in Sedona in February 2009.
I want to keep on runnin'

See you on the road.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Long run

I went out with the "Running Room" group again today. They didn't really have a 10K group so I went out with the half-marathon group for a 14Km run. They stop every 10 minutes for a short walk so I figured it wouldn't stress my legs too much.

It went pretty good. The pace was fine at about 6:20. Next week they are going for 16km. I'll have to think about this. Apparently, the Nike store has a 10km group going, plus you get pancakes at the end of the run.

My wife now wants a heart rate monitor to go with her Nike+ chip, so I'm thinking of going with the Garmin 50. I think Polar has good ones too.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Cold Runner

There was an article in the local paper titled "Cold Runner" about running in Yellowknife where temperatures hover between -20 and -30C.

I won't complain anymore. Well, maybe I'll complain a bit less.

I did my first quality run using my new t-pace. It was the hardest workbout I've ever done. I didn't reach 5:06/km in all the laps because of the ice and snow, but I gave it my best. T-pace is supposed to elicit 88-92% of maxHR. My last interval had an average of 89% and that's interval where I actually ran at 5:07 to I'm pretty impressed by this whole VDOT thing.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

First cold run of the winter

Today was my first run in the negative double digits. The temperature was -10C (10F) with an annoying wind that I didn't notice on the way out but got to me on the way back. I had vaselined some of my face but forgot the tip of my nose because I had planned on wearing my scarf over it, which I didn't do because I was recording my French podcast.

It was still a nice run at E-Pace, but I didn't do my strides because there was just too much ice. I tried the first one and slipped and just gave up. I can do it tomorrow.

I signed up for the "April Fools Run" in Whitby with at least one of the paddlers. Challenge extended!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hair of the Dog Run/Walk

Today I ran the annual "Hair of the Dog" 9k run/walk at the Balmy Beach Club. Met lot's of friends from paddling.

My pictures are available in my Picasa album.

When I looked outside this morning, this is what I saw:

Street behind my house

It damped my enthusiasm a bit but then I thought I'd have to go for a training run anyway, so might as well have some fun.

There were few walkers, maybe a dozen, but well over a hundred runners. Here's a picture of the walkers assembling before the start:

Walkers getting ready

I started running fairly slow, 5:30ish/km with some friends but then I picked up and did the rest in the 4:50 to 5:10 range. At mid-point, there was a drink table where you could pick a cup of water, orange juice or schnapps. I had a cup of the latter and had to chase it down with some water. I'm pretty sure the schnapps did not help. But it was tradition.

I finished in 46:34, which I'm happy with considering my 5k two days ago and the fact that I started slow. Also the path was slippery and rolled under your feet. It would have been a good time to wear crampons.

Race course

I taped the run in English and might make a podcast out of it.

A couple of paddlers and me decided to race a 10k together in March. No excuses. Should be fun although I might get my ass kicked.

That's it for today. Happy new year!