Running Free

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Collingwood Half Marathon

On Saturday October 4th, I ran the Collingwood Half Marathon in support of their charity The Collingwood General and Marine Hospital Foundation.

The event was well organized, well marshaled and professional in every way, especially considering this was their second year.


I left the house at 7am sharp, running bag/shoes in the trunk, shorts and sandals on and coffee in hand.  It was 9 degrees out, I had the heat cranked and had that uneasy anticipation feeling heading along Hwy 26.

Around Stayner the rain started to pour.  Around Stayner +30 seconds I started thinking ‘what the hell am I doing?’  It occurred to me that I was driving an hour, early in the morning, to run a race I didn’t know a single person in to hopefully run a time only I give a crap about.

By Collingwood the rain had let up and was replaced by a light breeze.

Standing at the start line with 201 other runners I started to question the short sleeves.  It was cold.  I knew damn well that my extra weight and physical conditioning level will generate more than enough heat shortly after start.  However, the long-sleeve people were everywhere and some people had garbage bags on … not a bad idea as long as you take them off before the race starts.

The Start

Starting at Bygone Farms outside of town, the race meandered into and through some residential areas.  I felt good knowing that I was going out a little quick and tried to hold back a bit.  The first 5km of a half marathon are probably the easiest 5km I run.  The anticipation, the energy, being rested … holding back.  The fifth km goes through the mainstreet/downtown strip which was nice.

It was during this part that a garbage-bag-wearer finally had enough.  If you have ever seen a large man trying to get out of a garbage bag while running down the street then you know the treat it was.  It was kind of like watching someone trying to get out of a straight jacket except they don’t realize they can just rip it.  At one point it looked like he gave up and decided to just wear it.  I am not certain what he did in the end.  I was concerned he may pass out on the side of the road but soon realized it wasn’t garbage day so he would be fine.

The next 4km wandered through some residential and commercial areas making our way back out of town.  Highlights include passing The Legion (which always tempts me) and passing a garage business of some sort where 2 people seemed to find us amusing while they stood by smoking.  I used to smoke.  Seeing people running a half marathon didn’t make me want to stand in an open door and smoke.  Just kind of funny to me.

There were two fit looking guys I followed for about 20 minutes, one wearing this tight Under Armor Superman shirt.  I remember seeing it in a Sportchek ad a few months back and liked it but then realized I would like an almost exploding Bratwurst in that shirt.  I passed him and his buddy and felt good about it.

By this time I had already smugly watched 10 people ditching their warm clothing.  Some right away and some later.  Some handing them to volunteers, some hanging on posts/fences and other stashing them in trees and bushes.

The Middle

Around 9km the route has left town and turns onto a straight road for around 8km.  It’s also around here that you realize when the website said “water approx. every 3km” it meant 4km between 6km and 10km.  I then started regretting not checking the route map as these little 3km water breaks are all you’ve got to look forward to with 12km to go.

The next 8km started flat and then begin an uphill climb.  A headwind was constant for much of this section.  I have yet to run feeling “gee the wind is sure at my back today” but turn around and face it and its effect is without question.

I vaguely remember the race website describing this section as ‘beautiful fall colours and country setting’ which was true but I tend to go to a darker place during this middle stretch.  Some people may watch the scenery, some may check the watch and monitor their pace but for me I spend a lot of time staring at the ground and letting my mind wander.  Legs on autopilot and mind on space-exploration/day-dream-land.

“Superman” powered by me around 12km or so.  I started wondering if he was pacing better than me and I went out too fast and now am slowing too much.  ‘Run your own race’ I told myself.
The last 8km could be summarized as 4km up and 4km down.  The 16km and 17km hurt.  Climbing to the 16km water station I was leveraging the deal I made with myself that whether it killed me I wasn't walking on this the biggest hill.  These are the times we make mental trade-offs.  My inner voice is saying “you are only marginally running faster than you walk … just take a break”.  But I didn't.

I must have looked shocking as one of the volunteers on a bicycle burst out laughing when she looked at me approach.  I am thankful I was not in a position to verbalize the thoughts I had.  Honestly, maybe she was just told a joke or something but regardless, it was not a welcome reaction.  If you run the 16km with me … go ahead and laugh … if you take a bike and a Starbucks you can kiss my ass.

I have read other runners talk about the “pain box” or concept of feeling the pain, harnessing it and compartmentalizing it in your mind and feeding off of it.  For me it turned out to be like bathing a cat.  As soon as it hit the water the cat was out of the tub scratching the hell out of me.  Nice concept though…

The Finishing Stretch

The last 4km downhill is a great payoff after the climb.  You can see the open road and turn toward the finish through the farm fields.  A volunteer on a bike told me “downhill from here” but I have been lied to before.  As a corner volunteer it may seem downhill but 1% burns at this point of the race but this guy was telling the truth.

Somewhere in the last 4km I caught up to “Superman”.  His tight shirt and youth had begun to fail him.  During brief flashes of sunlight during the run I caught a look at my running shadow and now I could only imagine what it felt like to see me blow past him in all my sweaty gut-and-glory.

Around 19km I looked at my watch and I was sitting at around 1:58 or so and knew if I could hold out and put down two more 6 min kms I could hit my target of 2:10.  It’s really running a knife’s edge at this point as pushing too hard you can blow up completely and projectile vomiting at the finish is not fair to the volunteers or spectators.

I crossed the line with a chip-time of 2:09.30.  Very happy with the result and happy with how I ran the race.

Halfway through the race I had all but decided to ditch my goal of running the 30km Around The Bay as my spring goal race.  After crossing the finish line and pounding water and a green banana … I think I can do it and pricing goes up November 4th … 2 clicks away was registering …

Monday, September 15, 2014

MEC Barrie Race #4 15K 9-13-2014

The 15k showdown was set for the shores of Lake Simcoe in Orillia at the Youth Leadership Camp of Canada.  The route was an out-and-back that offered 5k, 10k and 15k distances.

First off the staff/volunteers of the YLCC and MEC were amazing.  For a $15 race the MEC races cannot be beat.  Great venue, well-marked route, cops alerting cars to runners, food, beverages, water table every 2.5k, great atmosphere, etc.

I was happy to be running with my pseudo-coach Dave as well as having my MEC Barrie meet-up run Ninjas in attendance:  Patrick, Lewis and Rick.  The MEC guys were running the 10k which means no matter how fast they were they weren't faster on 15k on this day!

The attendance at 15k was 30 racers.  Which tends to mean a bunch of ringers prepping up for a fall marathon.

What amazes me about races vs. training is that either the extra rest or adrenaline always helps a ton.  If you love to run but don’t race … sign up.  These MEC events are cheap and fun and will give you the taste of competition.  A race is the place to PB.  Besides pumping your fists all alone in your front yard after a PB just helps confirm to your neighbors that you are a lunatic.

My plan was to run 6 minute kilometers pace the whole race.  In the end I finished at 1:29:38.  Hit my goal, made my PB and dispatched 6 unwilling competitors to come in at 24 out of 30.

Special thank you to Patrick who ran in with me for the last 2.5k after he took 3rd in the 10k race and likely circle back out to make sure I was still alive after waiting for ages.

And an extra special thank you to Dave who helped accompanied me to finish tied for 1st place as the only 2 competitors having post-race beers in the rain soaked parking lot after he himself finished 3rd in the 15k.

This is what 24th place out of 30 people looks like hustling in after 15k.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A Bad Neighbor

Okay .... I haven't cut my lawn in what will now be almost 2 weeks.  I know!  Its wrong!  I injured my toe on Monday and haven't been running or exerting myself so ya, there's my excuse for now.

In meantime neighbors, please enjoy these wonderful flowers that have popped up!

So ya, the whole lemonade analogy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Country Beer Mile Review - 8/3/2014

The Country Beer Mile is a wonderful event held by friends Dave and Sandy.  Here is my enormously biased review.

What is a beer mile?

4 beers + 4 laps of a track = 1 beer mile ... need more explanation?

The Track

The track used for this event is located East of Zephyr and North of some other place you never heard of.  Folklore true and made up is that a group of Estonians left Europe after WWII or some other unpleasant event and bought up more land than they seemingly knew what to do with.   At some point in history it lead to an enclave of homes and a very well used youth camp.  The homes are still there ... but 'well used' is not the way to describe the track.

The track was meticulously prepared by Dave who only had to pull weeds totaling 1.5 yard bags full this year leaving a path wide enough for a bit of passing before getting tangled in 3 foot high foot-grabbing brush.

The weather was sunny, the track was hot but the beer was kinda cold.

The Competition

The overall winner from last year was called away for some urgent hair styling this year meaning the championship was wide open.  Rookies Mike H, Jack, Trevor and Leslie were eager to take part with grizzled veterans Dave, Mike W and yours truly.

The Race (from my lens)

The starting instruction was given and the sound of 6 simultaneously cracked cans of 5% deliciousness echoed through the forest like the distant memories of the once great Estonian footraces from yesteryear.

Lap 1 - Dave and myself left the drinking area onto the course with Dave departing first and spreading his lead as the meters added up.  Dave's running style is hard to describe nor understand but its seemingly effective.  I knew I wouldn't keep with him for long.  I tried to hold the gap if I could and was hoping whatever was holding up the other jabronis behind me would keep holding them up.  Heading into the second transition/beer Dave took quick advantage of his lead and promptly knocked back his #2 and headed onto the course.

Lap 2 - I left for the second loop thinking I was a little too gassy.  I felt good on the legs but my stomach was saying "hey, when you drink beer like this you should sit on the couch or perhaps a hammock but not run as fast you can".  At some point I was passed by Trevor and the Mikes on the back stretch.  I remember hearing my breathing and footsteps 'huff puff, huff puff, belch, huff puff, foot steps, huff puff, some stupid comment from them, huff puff, belch ..."  There was plenty of encouragement from the spectators at transition but beer #3 was no longer fun and the dazzle of this event had faded.  This is a person battle ... a painful one.

Lap 3 - Going out on third lap frankly is where the confusion started.  I am not really certain I can separate my memories from this and the second lap.  I remember thinking 'gee pounding 3 beers and running down this backstretch in the burning sun while belching gas and sweating like crazy could only feel better knowing I get to do this all over again in another lap!"

Lap 4 - I don't get demoralized at running events.  I know it's a personal race and I will never be competitive overall.  But what is demoralizing is trying to choke back a fizzy warm beer while you are hyperventilating unsure exactly how or why you got into this mess and receiving encouraging words from the winner WHO WAS DONE and hearing the other competitors arriving into the finish line.  I departed for Lap 4 knowing that Jack was still behind me.  He had some pre-race chatting about running full marathons and what-have-you and seemed to be a runner so I figured I had to hope he puked or took way too long to finish #4 or he would catch me on the track.  As I rounded the first turn I felt as though I may have accidentally swallowed a basketball at some point judging from pressure in my stomach.  By the second turn I knew I was in a bit of trouble.  A belch let me know that all the beer and foam was literally and figuratively very close to making an exit.  I slowed my pace to the cat calls and taunts from the opposite front-stretch.  However, years of being in this exact situation allowed me to control myself and get under control.  Jack passed me going into turn 3 but with every step on the track I felt stronger.  Knowing he could likely out kick me I tried to hold the gap and surprise him in the last 30 meters.  He heard the steps and likely being afraid I could run him over he quickened the pace to beat me by 3 seconds.

I was still smiling ... but unable to stand upright for about a minute.

Somehow year over year at this event I managed to get slower.  I finished in 13:50.  I know I am running faster so clearly I need to work on my power drinking over the next year if I am to be taken serious.

The event concluded with a great BBQ spread by the hosts and the retelling of the day's events.  Once rivals on the beer mile battlefield the warriors retreated for some rest and patting of backs.

You may ask yourself the question 'Why run a beer mile?'

Let me ask you these questions:

Why climb that mountain?
Why paint a beautiful picture?
Why make a child laugh?
Why invent the woopie cushion?

That's why.

Monday, July 28, 2014

How and why I started running

In March of 2011 my wife and I welcomed our son Lucas to the world.  We were late to the parent game in terms of age but we were ready.

Like all new parents we found ourselves with such an amazingly awarding and challenging change in our life.

With children there are lessons we learn every day.  With Lucas at age one I decided to confront the fact I had been steadily gaining weight over the second half of my life, not to mention basic inactivity.

I found it harder than it should be to crawl on the floor and chase him around and when walking with my wife and Luke in the stroller I was throwing in the towel early (and grumpily).

Also what came with children and family is a feeling of responsibility.  Responsibility to provide.  Provide in all ways … being there in 10, 15, 20 years being the most important.

What I did

Why running?  I know lots of people who did the ‘couch to 5k’ start to run app.  I am not sure what happened or why I did it all of a sudden but I downloaded RunDouble C25K on my Android phone to check it out.  And one day I put on some track pants, a hoody, strapped on my crappy runners and away I went.

Here is my first run Saturday April 6, 2013 3:45pm: 

2.6k in 28 minutes including warm up and cool down.  8 intervals of 1 minute running and 1:30 walking on the common 9 week, 3 times a week plan.  When I say nearly anyone can do it … nearly anyone can do it.  Is it hard at times?  Damn hard.

I couldn’t walk very well the next day.  My legs and butt hurt.  I wondered what I was getting into … but I saw the plan there on the screen … marked out clear as day … ‘do this and achieve that’.  Little did I know 15+ months later I still have a plan … the numbers have just changed.

I know a lot of people join a running club or group and get a lot out of running with people.  For me it was a solitary struggle that worked.  I remember running and waiting for the beep and the damn voice to cut into the music and say “Now walk briskly for 90 seconds”.  When it told me to start running again, I ran ... reluctantly, but I ran.

The feeling I got then and the feeling I get now when I finish a run, no matter how far, is a sense of accomplishment.  A sense that I just did something positive, not only for myself but for the people I want to be there for.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Is blogging dead?

I just read an article about questioning whether blogging was dead (honestly, I read the title) and it occurred to me that as soon as blogging becomes completely unfashionable and irrelevant it would be about the right time for me to get involved.  So here goes!

I actually feel like my retired parents with this process when I did a web search on "blog".  Kind of like doing a search on "the internet".  I am about to take a break as my fingers are tired after all this typing ... I will attempt to save this without posting it ... lets see if that works ... fortunately, 100% of 0 people who know about this blog will likely not read it (multiple double negatives intentional).

Okay, I am back.

I have had a number of hobbies over the last 10 years or so that include muscle cars, guitars and now running.  My 1968 GTO sits in garage too much, my guitars are being played half as much as they used to but I run 3 or 4 times a week.  Based on that I would expect my blogging to follow roughly that proportion of topics.

Whoever you are, I hope you enjoy this blog.  It was written without anyone in mind.