Friday, January 30, 2009

Almost ready to switch ...

Next week is my last week of marathon training ... and Boston is months away! After that, I'm switching to Coach Norrie's Comrade marathon program, which should prepare me for the Sulphur Springs 50 miler. My mileage should quickly go from about 70 km per week to about 90 km.

In my book, that's a lot of mileage and thankfully, the speed workouts are not as intense although there are a few tempo runs that look nasty.

I've been hovering around the 70k mark for over a month now and mt body seems to be holding out. The only part of my body that hurts a bit is my right foot, above my heel. It's not getting worse, and maybe improving a bit but it's there.

In the last couple of weeks, I've done a lot of trail running in the deep snow. On the one hand, it's really nice but it's also harder. I don't think I could do it in regular running shoes, but my new La Sportive Crosslite Trail shoes make it fun.

I'm pretty happy with my training. I've skipped a couple of speed session but I feel much faster than before Xmas. Treadmill work, as much as I hate to admit it, has a way of keeping you honest when doing intervals or hills. I don't really feel like racing right now because the conditions are just too nasty. Deep snow and ice everywhere. Sure fire way of getting hurt and I don't need that. I might go for my 5k PR at the St-Patrick's race. That's where I set my current, official PR although I ran much faster at the Resolution run but the course was a bit short.

For the first time in a long time, I don't resent Winter. I'm even re-discovering it a bit with my trail running. I'm thinking of trying snow shoe racing. A bit hard to train around here though, but it might still be fun to try it. I'm thinking of renting a pair of snow shoes at the MEC next week and give it a try.

I still haven't got on the bike. I don't have an excuse, I just didn't do it.

I'm so into running now that I'm kind of wondering how I will get back into triathlon-mode. I'm sure when the nice weather comes back the decision won't be hard to make.

I love running, but I don't want to be a one trick pony who is devastated when injured. By doing multi-sports, it's easier to prevent injuries by shifting training around the 3 sports. If your legs hurt, you can just go for a swim, you don't feel like your only option is running. I believe that I will run for longer if I also enjoy other sports.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's Wrong With a Nice Ride?

I haven't been on my bike in months. Since September 30th to be exact. Same with the swim. I've done a few drills in November but that's it. What's wrong with me? 

Well, I've been runnin', that's what. But I think this is only an excuse. What's really happening is that I'm resisting going outside of my comfort zone.

I'm identifying more and more with running. There's something about the simplicity of it that I find beautiful. Maybe I can learn to enjoy cycling and swimming more than I currently do, which is: not that much. Cycling consumes so much time. To get a decent workout, you need to drive out of the city, then you need 3 hours for a decent ride and then another 45 minutes to get back home. I understand why some people do all their cycling on the trainer. 

The cyclists at my gym are mostly hard core. My bike looks like a piece of junk compared to the other bikes I see there. I don't even have "real" cleats; I got tired of spending money and bougth SPD pedals so I could keep using my spinning shoes. It shouldn't matter but somehow it does. The gym has a very nice setup, with 16 computrainers linked to two large screens and it's pretty busy in the evenings. This means that everyone gets to see how slow I am. Damn.

But enough is enough. If I want to do some Half Ironmans this summer, I need to get going. 

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Winter Running is Expensive

I'm sitting in my living room, waiting for my running clothes, which are tumbling in the dryer. Who said running is cheap? Quality winter running clothes are ridiculously expensive. I think that if I add up the cost of everything on me when I go out in the winter, it probably adds up to 500$:

  • Tuque:     10
  • Sunglasses:     30
  • Mask:     20
  • Scarf:     15
  • 2-3 layers:     50 each: 100 to 150
  • Wind shell:     75
  • Mittens/glove:     25
  • Windproof Undies:    25
  • Winter tights:     50
  • Socks:     15
  • Running shoes:    100
  • 515 (Subtotal)
  • Garmin 305:     250

So on a cold day (3 layers) I wear 500$ of clothes plus the Garmin. Crazy. Anyway, that's why I basically wash them over and over rather than buying more.

I'm 3 weeks away from switching from the regular marathon program I use to build-up my mileage to my ultra program. The speed work is getting to me. I skipped Fridays intervals because I was just too tired. I'm not 20 anymore and I felt like I was on the brink. The next week is a recovery week and should let me rest a bit. The thing is though, the ultra program's speed work is nowhere as intense as the one I'm doing now. Am I wasting my time? I hate questioning my training. IT worked for my marathon, I should trust it with this cycle as well.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I just finished a pretty difficult week of training and I have to admit I'm tired. I ran about 45 miles which is only one mile less than my biggest running week ever. 

I went to the MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop) on Saturday to buy a face mask. When the weather is cold and windy, my nose and face become really numb and I'm afraid to eventually get a frostbite. I have a regular Balaklava, but it has no breathing openings and when I cover my nose and mouth, I feel like I can't breathe so I never cover up.

So I got me a Seirus mask. It's really nice and comfy. The nose opening still keeps my nose warm. There are holes for the mouth. I'm thinking of cutting a larger hole to let a bit more air in.

Then I walked by the trail running shoes and tried the La Sportiva Crosslite. They felt great and I got a pair. I figured that with a 50k and a 50 miles trail races coming, I should at least try trail shoes. I hear that some people prefer to run in regular running shoes but I figured that if the conditions are nasty, I might need to wear more robust shoes than my Nike Frees.

Yesterday I had a 13 miles (21k) run on the menu and I decided to try my race gear. I felt like I was going on a polar expedition. It was about -12C outside and it gets windy near the lake. In addition to my mask and new shoes, I decided to try to run with my Camelback instead out my regular belt/bottle kit. It makes quite a difference because I don't want to put Gatorade in my Camelback. Nasty things tend to grow in Gatorade, so I filled it with water and put a couple of gels in one of the pockets. The key word here is FILLED. I don't know what I was thinking, but I filled it to the rim, a bit more than 2 liters, which means I was running with about 5 pounds extra on my back.

I don't think I will run with the Camelback again. I believe the model I have is for cycling and it tended to bounce a lot. By the end of my long runs, my traps are always stiff and this time it was almost unbearable.

The mask performed well. It wasn't quite cold enough out, so I took it off when I was out of the wind. Like I said, I might cut a bigger hole for my mouth. This would alos allow me to drink without taking it off.

The Crosslite shoes were really nice. Fair warning, the sole is HARD. I usually run in Nike Free shoes, which have little cushioning, and the Crosslite felt harder, probably because the whole show is stiffer. Still, they were nice and light. Remember, this was my first time running in them and I went for 13 miles... I didn't suffer any chafing or blister. The shoes let me keep a fairly forefoot/midfoot stride. About half of my run was on snow covered road and sidewalk, and they had really good traction. I'm happy I got them.

So today, I rest and tomorrow it's back to the grinder!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Lessons learned in 2008

Now that the year is over, time to take stock of what I've learned in 2008. 2008 was actually my first complete year of running/triathlon. I participated in many road races, trained and raced in sprint and olympic distance triathlons and ran my first marathon, where I actually qualified for Boston. Surely, I must have learned a few things along the way.

Sure I did, and I'm going to share some of them with you!

It's hard to improve speed and distance at the same time

My experience in 2008 is that once I started my marathon training program, which was done concurrently with triathlon training, my speed leveled off. I didn't lose any, but it stopped improving. Maybe I'm just too old, but I couldn't force myself to move up a notch in the pacing tables. I was able to translate that speed to longer and longer distances though. I finished my half and full marathons at almost exactly the times predicted by my training program.

High volume is not necessary to run a marathon in a decent time

Of course, my decent time can be someone else's worst nightmare, but here I go. Since I was doing triathlon training and therefore had to swim and bike a few times a week, I decided to train for my marathon using a low volume, 4 days/week program. During the 24 week program, only 2 weeks exceeded 50 km of running, 3 if you include the week of the race. I still managed to run under 3:30 and qualify for Boston in my first marathon. Two quality sessions and a long run. Those are the keys.

Higher volume might be a good idea

Although my marathon felt great, it took its toll. It took me a while to recover. I can't help but wonder if higher volumes of training would have helped achieve a faster recovery. I will be testing that hypothesis this year.

Be careful when you choose to give blood

I'm not saying not to do it, I'm just saying to chose WHEN. Don't do it if you're planning on racing hard, or if you need to do some hard training. Don't believe those who say that they don't feel a difference. You can't lose 10% of your oxygen transport system and not feel the effect. Training is all about building up that system. Yes, it will come back but it takes weeks. If you train with a HR monitor, you WILL see a BIG difference. Enough said.

Don't under-estimate the mental toll of training

At the end of the summer, I became quite distraught. I was tired, the training kept becoming harder and harder, I was afraid of getting hurt and worst of all, I was sure I couldn't run my marathon at the pace I was training for. Everything was just so hard. I even emailed Matt Fitzgerald, the author of the training plan I was following (Brain Training for Runners) who graciously answered back with some advice. The thing is, I was physically tired, but mentally I was exhausted. Personally, being a lazy bastard, making myself go out and do those quality sessions, which were VERY hard, day after day just slowly ate at me. For the first time, I didn't feel like running. I took a hard look at my training to make sure I wasn't over-training, decided I wasn't and just kept going. I was a hard patch though. 

There's always something that hurts

Looking back in my log, I don't think there's been more than one week where there wasn't some kind of pain somewhere in my body. If it wasn't my calf, it was a hamstring, or blisters, or my quads, or even just some pain "deep inside somewhere". If someone was to follow those "zero-tolerance" advice from some running books, they basically couldn't train or would be limited to a slow shuffle (actually that gives me knee pains).

I think this is enough. Those were the main lessons I remember from last year.