Monday, April 27, 2009

Brutal Winds...

Went out today for my scheduled 50km ride and got tossed around like a ragdoll for pretty much the duration ;) There was a constant 30-40km/h wind coming from the south-west, but there were also gusts approaching 70km/h that took a lot out of me on the way back. To put it in perspective, I averaged 30.6km/h for the main stretch heading out (ascending 300ft) and only 26.0km/h on the way back (descending 430ft.) thanks to the wind. Despite the net downhill aspect, the headwinds didn't allow me to build up the speed I'd like on the steeper descents so the small uphill segments were a lot more work than usual. Naturally, the flats were also a lot slower than usual due to the extra drag that I had to deal with.

Aside from the additional work, however, the crosswinds were likely the worst part of it as it made it difficult to stay in a straight line. Under a constant wind it isn't a huge thing, as you simply go slower to keep your power output constant. The gusts, however, push you back and forth and require constant changes to the steering inputs to keep the bike on the road :( Thankfully there wasn't a whole lot of traffic out this afternoon so I didn't get into any trouble, but this is certainly something that I'll have to look for in the future and select a different route - this path took me past open fields with little to no protection from the wind, a more urban route would have been a smarter plan today.

Distance: 54.37km
Time: 2h00m18s
Speed (Avg, Max): 27.1km/h, 68.7km/h
Heart Rate (Avg, Max): 150bpm, 171bpm
Calories Burned: 1303kcal
Basic Telemetry (The RS800sd doesn't work with Polar's cycling sensors, so distance speed were manually entered from different cycling computer)

Either way, I managed to complete the route as planned - 7 miles with 8x100m scheduled for tomorrow!

Week 14: Review (2 Weeks to Go)

I'm now down to two weeks to go before the Mississauga Marathon and well into the taper at this juncture. The nerves are starting to build a bit at this juncture, but fortunately my runs lately have gone quite well so that does a lot to help calm them. The marathon is an intimidating distance, and as it's about 10km longer than I've run before that stress is likely to build over the next little while. Regardless, the only thing that I can do about it is to do my best to get the training right over these coming weeks so that I'm as prepared as I possibly can for the eventual race.

As for this week, I got most of what was planned in although I had to move things around a bit because of scheduling issues. I had a family event on Sunday, so I didn't have enough time to fit in the scheduled 16 miler so I originally planned to move it to Saturday. The cycling group started this week, however, and I figured that doing the long run and the group ride on the same day wasn't the wisest idea. As such, I moved Saturday's 8K run back to Thursday, Sunday's 16mi run to Friday and Friday's 4 miler to Sunday. As such, it was a little out of sequence but I managed to get everything in that was scheduled without any major problems.

Friday's long run was a little wet as a storm system came in with about 7K left, so I ran through some pretty heavy rain for a short while. It was a relatively warm day, however, so the rain wasn't entirely a bad thing at that point in the run. I was a little more tired during this run than I was on the 20 miler last week, however that was likely related to the reduced amount of recovery time due to switching the days around.

As noted above, Saturday was also my first time out with the cycling group which worked out quite well. Up until this point, I've done all of my outdoor rides on my own so riding with a group was a new experience. Unlike running, the aerodynamic speeds we are traveling at mean that drafting is an option which can make a significant difference when riding. Being in a group also makes us more visible to motorists, so it is a lot safer out on the high-speed rural roads that we're traveling on. Naturally, like running the social aspect of the group is also a significant advantage in and of itself and is a great way to get pointers from more experienced riders.

This group is made up primarily of runners that I know from the Running Room, so it was a natural progression from what I was doing. There is a cycling shop around here that has a pure cycling group, however they are a much more aggressive group and I figured that it wasn't the best way to learn the ropes. Given my limited experience in this environment, I elected to give myself a good amount of space between the other riders - that would significantly reduce the drafting benefits, but given my limited experience in handling of close quarters I didn't want to risk anything.

Either way, I showed up in front of the Running Room shop at about quarter to 8, unloaded the bike and got it ready. The others trickled in slowly and we chatted for a while until the last of the individuals showed up. Once everyone was ready, we started out and headed north. The pace was a little slower than I was used to (~27km/h), but we were looking at a relatively hilly course so saving energy was a good idea at this point. The first 10km was basically uphill, but it was a relatively small grade so it wasn't that much of an issue. I stayed near the back of the pack for most of this segment as I was still a bit skittish about getting to close to anyone.

After that point, we started into some rolling hills with significantly higher grades. The fellow who was in front of me at this point was slowing down significantly when we hit the uphill segments, so I passed him and accelerated to catch up to the front pack. This allowed me to gain a lot more speed on the downhill segments, which meant more momentum to push me up the hill and, despite the higher speeds, actually made the hills easier to handle. After a while we were getting a good distance apart, so we slowed down a bit to let everyone catch up and then got back up to speed once we were all together again.

At around the 20K mark, we started getting into much larger hills. The more experienced riders were getting down into a tucked position and coasting down the hills to build up speed so I figured that I'd do the same. Even without pedaling, however, I was accelerating a lot faster than the rest of the group on the downhill portions (possibly due to my Cervelo's aerodynamic tubing, although it's hard to believe that it makes that big of a difference) so I pulled in front, powered my way down and used as much momentum as I could to push back up. This worked quite well, as I'd generally get about 2/3rds of the way up before having to pedal again.

The only downside, however was that I would put a lot of distance between myself and the rest of the group after each set of hills. Fortunately, between the 30-43km marks we went back to a relatively flat (apparently downhill, although at a very low grade) segment that I coasted to allow them to catch up. I'll have to figure out how to handle this type of thing in the future, as I'd prefer to stay with the group for the duration of the ride. The only catch, however, is that unlike running slowing down doesn't always make things easier as it means one has to expend more effort pushing up the hills.

We finished off with some more big hills in the last ~5km or so, but that short stretch meant that there wasn't too much time to build up much of a lead. When we got to the top of the last big hill, we stopped at a coffee shop and sat down for a bit of relaxation after our workout. When we were finished, they headed back to the Running Room shop and I just headed home from there (we were within 1km of my house, so there wasn't much sense in going out there and then fiddling with getting the bike back in the car).

Either way, it was a good experience and I'll stick with these guys as best I can this summer. I gained a lot of confidence in handling, and feel a lot better about following closer next time we go out. While I was faster than most of them for this ride, they have a lot more experience with the longer rides so chances are that things will even out a lot more as the distances increase. The furthest I've gone up to this point is about 87km, and this group has gone a lot further than that so their experience will be quite helpful one way or the other.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 62.8km (39.0mi)
Walking: 2.4km (1.5mi)
Cycling: 72.9km (45.3mi)
Total: 138.1km (85.8mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 867.4km (540.0mi)
Walking: 146.1km (90.8mi)
Cycling: 957.9km (595.2mi)
Total: 1971.4km (1,225.0mi)

The weather today is pretty good, and I'll be heading out for another ~50K solo ride in a little while. The rest of the week is going to be unsettled, however, so I'll have to play things by ear as far as cycling goes. Fortunately, I don't really have any plans that will interfere with my runs so I should be able to get all of them in as scheduled.

Upcoming Week:
Mon 50K Cycle
Tue 7mi (11.3K) GA w/8x100m
Wed 8mi (12.9K) w/3x1600m @ 5K Pace
Thurs 50K Cycle
Fri 5mi (8K) Recovery w/6x100m
Sat 50K Group Ride
Sun 12mi (19.3K) LSD

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Let the Taper Begin...

Just finished my last (and only) 20 miler under pretty much perfect conditions out there. I was planning on targeting a 5:30/km pace, but my body didn't want to cooperate on that front and I ended up averaging 5:07/km. Either way, I felt great for the duration of the run (likely thanks to the weather) and even had enough left at the end to accelerate substantially for the last two kilometers (4:47 and 4:21 respectively). As such, it's done a lot to boost my confidence for the marathon in three weeks - just have to cross my fingers that the weather will be half as good as it was today.

Either way, this was the last run before the three week taper begins so my mileage will be dropping from this point on. This should allow any residual injuries to heal themselves and hopefully when I reach that starting line I'll be able to give it everything that I have. I've trained harder than ever before over the last 15 weeks and, while there were a few setbacks, I'm certainly in better shape than in the past. Thankfully, aside from the blister everything else is feeling great so hopefully that process will continue ;)

While today did a lot to boost my confidence, I think that I will still stick with the 3:30 goal for the marathon this time out. I might be able to do better, but there are a lot of things that can go wrong over this distance and I'd rather play it safe the first time through. As noted in previous posts, I tried the equivalent of a 3:20 pace during Around the Bay and it was a bit more than I could handle. While I'm in better shape at this point (the first injury cost me a couple of weeks in close proximity to ATB), I don't think that it's necessarily enough to make up for that difference.

As for cycling, I took my weekday sessions off to help the blister to heal. While cycling would likely be easier than running for it, this was my last hard training week so I wanted to avoid skipping runs if at all possible. As I missed the other two 20 milers in my schedule, I didn't want to miss the final chance this week. Cycling is just cross training for me at this point, so I'm open to skipping those sessions if it will help. I had hoped to make it up a bit on the weekend, however the great weather has brought out the hordes so the bike shop was backlogged and I had to leave it there over the weekend to get the rear tire switched back out for outdoor use. Unfortunately, the weather this upcoming week doesn't look like it will be great for riding either - but I'll have to work around it as best I can.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 81.2km (50.5mi)
Walking: 3.4km (2.1mi)
Cycling: 0km (0mi)
Total: 84.6km (52.6mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 804.6km (500.0mi)
Walking: 143.7km (89.3mi)
Cycling: 885.0km (549.9mi)
Total: 1833.3km (1,139.2mi)

Cycling will likely be a little more unpredictable than normal this week as I've taken the bike off of the trainer, so the weather will be a significant factor again. With that said, riding outside is much better than inside and I'll be able to begin increasing the mileage once again (50K was about all that I could psychologically take inside). I can't do too much right away, as cross training is also supposed to be tapered along with the running - but I might still try to squeeze in some longer rides and just do fewer of them.

Upcoming Week:
Mon 50K Cycle
Tue 8mi (12.9K) Recovery w/5x600m @ 5K Race Pace
Wed 30K Cycle + 6mi (9.7K) Recovery
Thurs 50K Cycle
Fri 4mi (6.4K) Recovery w/6x100m
Sat 10K Simulated Race
Sun 16mi (25.7K) LSD

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


RunSaturdayA little more than a month ago, one of the individuals in my running group mentioned this site on their Facebook account so I took a look. There were a number of sites like this, however most of them only worked with Nike+ and Garmin products and were pretty limited in their ability to analyse the data that was captured. Nonetheless, I've always liked the idea of being able to share detailed running logs with friends so I was very open to the idea of any site that provided the level of detail that I wanted and could work with my Polar. This blog does a decent job of that, but the workflow for posting detailed telemetry from each run wasn't really practical so it only really helped with the major sessions.

Either way, after checking out the site I was disappointed to find that it didn't support Polar's products at the time. Thankfully, however, the site's owner appeared to be very open about the development of the site so I gave him a shout and offered my assistance. After a bit of back and forth, I dug up a bunch of sample files (making some up as well to test certain scenarios) and worked with him to work out the format of Polar's files and do what I could to assist him in getting things up and running. I asked around and got some further samples for Polar devices I didn't have immediate access to from another blogger. Within a week or so, we had the system operational and I was able to begin uploading my files. There were a few minor bugs, largely due to oddities in the way that Polar formats their files but overall it was functional and allowed me to achieve what I wanted to.

Since that point, I've been uploading my sessions and keeping a second copy of my running logs online (in addition to the copy stored locally within Polar ProTrainer). The site offers the ability to pull up detailed plots of telemetry from sessions covering multiple sports, as well as a large variety of analysis features that aren't present in Polar's software. Further, it has an excellent mapping system that is much more sophisticated than gmap pedometer (which I was using previously to make up routes) and allows me to attach those maps to my exercise sessions (the RS800sd can't record GPS tracklogs, that feature was added in the RS800CX). As a result, in addition to being able to share my sessions I also have a number of tools that I otherwise wouldn't have had access to.

The site is free to use, and currently doesn't have any advertisements. It has a great community for discussing various topics related to fitness, and the author is extremely active on the site and willing to address any issues that come up. It can also be connected to your Facebook, Twitter and Blogger accounts, which can cut back on having to go to a bunch of different sites every time you want to post an update. As such, if you are interested you can join by clicking on this link. More information is available on the main website at

For reference, you can follow my progress via my profile.

Catching up...

The last couple of weeks have been quite busy and I haven't had much opportunity to update this blog, so I have to catch up a bit here ;) After the Harry's race mentioned in the previous post, the hamstring issues persisted a bit so I elected to cut my Sunday run short (to 8K) and take a couple of days off running to let it completely heal. In it's place I did some cycling (50K on Monday, 30K on Tuesday) as that seemed to help, and by Wednesday the discomfort was completely gone. I took it easy and only did 10K to make sure everything was as expected, but as that run went well I picked up where I left off.

Naturally, this weekend was Easter which complicated my running plans a bit. As I was heading out to a family function right after Church, I wouldn't have time to do the 17 miles that I had planned. As such, I originally intended to move the 4mi recovery run to Sunday, and shift Saturday's 5 miler and Sunday's 17 miler up one day. Unfortunately, I was busier than expected on Saturday and didn't get back home until later so I ended up doing the 4 miler and going to the Easter Vigil that night so that I could head out at sunrise and get the 17 miles in before I left.

When I was getting ready to head out, the temperature was -4C and there was a nasty 45km/h north wind making it even worse. I threw on my jacket, some gloves and a headband and headed out the door along my planned route. Given my revised Marathon target pace, I knew that I'd have to do a lot to slow myself down for this run (I usually do long runs at a 5min/km pace, which is now my targeted race pace). The goal was a 5:30/km pace which felt excruciatingly slow, but I kept my eye on my watch and made sure to regulate it closely. After a couple of kilometers I got the feel for it and it wasn't too difficult, but I did have to check myself after every downhill segment as I'd pick up the speed and not want to lose it.

Shortly after passing the local Running Room shop, a couple of other runners in my group passed me in their car (on their way to the Sunday group runs that I completely forgot about) and after a quick hello I continued on my way. Around this point (~9km), I was starting to feel some friction on the arch of my right foot and as it wasn't going away, I stopped and took the shoe off to investigate. Everything looked fine, so I pulled the sock tight to make sure it wasn't a crease, put the shoe back on and continued running. The friction continued, but as I didn't see anything that I could do about it I let it be. Fortunately, it wasn't really bothering me all that much and after a while my mind just filtered it out.

Either way, when I got to the last four miles I was running straight into a headwind with very little cover so it was a bit of a fight. Unfortunately for long runs like this I don't really have much option to avoid this sort of thing, as we're flanked on three sides by conservation areas so if I want to stay in civilization (ie not running on 80km/h roads without sidewalks or curbs) I have to head south. Luckily, the sun was warming things up at this point so while it was cold it wasn't as cold as it could have been. Further, there were a lot of other runners out at this point and it was encouraging to be able to blow past them this long into a run ;)

Once I finished, I stretched for about 15 minutes and then quickly headed in to shower. Even with the headwind in the last segment, I felt good for the duration of the run thanks to the slow pace that I was maintaining. In the end, I completed the 17 mile course in 2h28m32s, or about a 5:25/K pace. The last two miles were actually quicker than the rest of the route (~5:19), as I likely overcompensated a bit against the wind. Either way, other than the spurt at the end my pace was pretty close to target and relatively even across the course so I'm happy with that as well.

After I got inside and took off my shoes, a blister had developed in the area that was bothering me. I'm not entirely sure what caused it, as my feet weren't really that wet and I've been using this type of shoe for a couple of years without any problems. This particular pair does have a lot of miles on them (~690km), but I generally keep shoes until about 800km so it should still have a good deal of life in it. It's possible that the marathon training is wearing them out faster than they have in the past, as I'm accumulating those miles much faster. Either way, I'll grab a new pair and retire these as soon as possible to avoid any further problems but I'm still a bit curious as to what caused the problem this time out.

I didn't do my cycling session yesterday to allow the blister to heal, and it appears to have mostly gone away today so I should be okay for my run this afternoon. This is my last week of hard training before the taper, and I've lost a good deal of mileage over the last few weeks so I'm renascent to skip any sessions that I don't absolutely have to. With that said, the last thing I need is another injury so I have to be somewhat careful about it (while blisters aren't really a huge problem in and of themselves, I may subconsciously try to protect it and throw off my gait in the process, causing other issues).

Either way, weekly mileage for the last little while is as follows:

Week 13:
Running: 59.9km (37.2mi)
Walking: 1.2km (0.8mi)
Cycling: 0km (0mi)
Total: 61.1km (38.0mi)

Week 14:
Running: 25.6km (15.9mi)
Walking: 0km (0mi)
Cycling: 25km (15.5mi)
Total: 50.6km (31.4mi)

Week 15:
Running: 51.2km (31.8mi)
Walking: 1.9km (1.2mi)
Cycling: 130km (80.8mi)
Total: 183.1km (113.8mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 860.1km (534.4mi)
Walking: 143.4km (89.1mi)
Cycling: 1040.0km (646.2mi)
Total: 2043.5km (1269.8mi)

I've also been playing around with Twitter to post daily updates of my running thanks to a compelling post by yumke. I still need to get into the habit of remembering to update it, and I'll likely want to work some other information into the mix but anyone interested can see my posts here. If at all possible, I'll be attempting to generate any entry for all of my sessions with basic information as well as a link to the telemetry on RunSaturday.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Harry's Spring Run-Off 5K Race Report

I ran this race last year with some friends, and afterwards we went out for lunch and discussed the possibility of doing it again this year as a team. As such, when I was planning my races this season I sent out an email and we signed up as planned. When the other races came into place, it ended up being less than a week after Around the Bay, so it was evident that I wouldn't be able to run it at full speed - but as it's a relatively pleasant (albeit challenging) course, I figured that it was still worth it.

After my recovery run on Wednesday with the group, however, my left hamstring was a bit sore so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make it. I took Thursday and Friday off to let it rest, and it got much better but was still a bit sore this morning. I headed out anyway, and figured that I'd just go slower than usual and just play it by ear. Worst case scenario, I figured that I'd just skip the race and simply join everyone for brunch afterwards.

I got down to High Park just as the 8K race was starting (which one of our team-mates, yumke was running as well) and headed down to the staging area to grab my chip and check my bag. Once I was done with that, I jogged around a little to see how the leg was doing. It was still sore, but it was significantly improved so I elected to go ahead and see how things went. I did a few extra stretches to make sure that everything was lined up, and then set out to look for everyone else.

I first found Sean, and as he was grabbing his chip he found the rest of the group and we met up prior to heading out to the start. We lined up about 80' from the starting line as no one was really planning on pushing too hard and waited for the start. While there, I ran into Walter from my half marathon clinic (who was also at Around the Bay) and after a brief conversation we wished each other good luck and the race was started.

1K 4:51.2 159bpm

At the start of the race, the hamstring was a bit sore but as it warmed up it got progressively better and after about 500 meters the pain was almost completely gone. I still didn't want to push too hard, but it did give me the confidence to stick with the rest of our group as we were maintaining a pretty comfortable pace. Traffic was pretty light as this is a smaller race, and wasn't much of an issue at this juncture.

2K 4:35 169bpm

After we rounded the curve and started heading downhill, we picked up some speed and I settled in with yumke as his pace was about right. As neither of us was going all-out, we were able to comfortably talk durring this segment. While he is a significantly stronger runner than I am, he had run the 8K race a little over an hour before so he wasn't treating this as a competitive race either. Sean passed us on the hill and remained just in front of us for most of this segment of the race.

At the end of the second kilometer is the start of a pretty massive downhill (~300m/-10.7%) that was pretty hard on me last year. I held off on the brakeing as much as possible and let myself barrel down the hill and it worked a lot better this time around. Average pace for the hill was 4:17/km, with a cadence of 102spm thanks to my shortened stride.

3K 4:30 175bpm
4K 4:30 178bpm

About half way through the third kilometer we passed Sean and continued forward along the course. This is a relatively flat segment, with a few small rolling hills but with the big hill comming up at the end of the race one has to keep things under control so that there is enough reserve left for that final push. As the leg wasn't giving me any trouble though, I pushed a little harder in the fourth kilometer to increase the challenge a bit.

5K 4:36 185bpm

After the 4K mark, my breathing had become a bit more laboured (as it usually does in a short race like this) so we weren't talking nearly as much as we did in the early kilometers. Before we hit the incline, we were averaging a 4:21 pace and it felt a lot more like this sort of race generally does. With the hill comming up, however, I couldn't push too hard as I had to make sure that there was enough left to get to the top.

For the first 250m of the hill, I managed to maintain my speed but as the grade increased (+3.2% to 8%) so did my heart rate and I had to back off a bit. At this point, Kenny was breaking away from me but I had little choice but to slow down to make it all the way up. I managed to keep my pace above 5min/km for this segment, but that's a far cry from the 4:21 that we were doing leading up to the hill.

Once I crested the hill, I made the right turn and then opened up for the last 20 meters - hitting the finish line at an even 4:00 pace. In the end, I covered the 5K course in 22:56.4, about four seconds slower than Kenny. Sean finished a little under a minute afterwards, and after we caught our breath we grabbed some gatorade and our finisher hats and headed out of the chute. Frank caught up with us as well and we headed back to the staging area where we agreed to meet up.

We got our bags, did some stretches and after the rest of the group made it down to us we headed out to breakfast. The restaurant (Dr. Generosity) was quite busy thanks to the crowds generated by the race, but once we got our table the food was great.

Chip time: 22:56.4 (overall results)
Gun time: 23:06.3
Pace: 4:35K
Place overall: 90/1359 (93.4 percentile)
Place in men: 81/653 (87.6 percentile)
Place in age group: 11/117 (90.5 percentile)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Around the Bay: Elevation

As mentioned in previous posts, my elevation data from the Around the Bay race was pretty noisy due to rain intruding into the altimeter port. My previous posts on this topic have attracted a lot of traffic, so I was a little disappointed in not being able to provide better information after the race. Thankfully, another blogger (Arcane) gave me a shout and supplied me with his altitude recordings so that I could properly close off this topic.

The following is a clean and accurate recording of the elevation of the Around the Bay 30K course (click on the image for more detail). The only downside is that the footpod wasn't used, so the x-axis is plotted against time rather than distance (so grade calculations are impossible). Fortunately, he manually added kilometer markers and his pace was pretty consistent so it still provides a much better idea of the overall elevation of this course than my previous posts.

The other plots incorrectly showed additional hills in the 26-28km range of the race that weren't there, and fortunately this one doesn't have this issue. That segment of the route consists of a road cut into the edge of a hill, and then crosses a large bridge, so the extrapolated plots were likely following the contour of the underlying terrain rather than the man-made roads. There were a few other inconsistancies through the route (eg 21-22km), however this data reflects my memory of the course a lot better than the others.

Either way, a big thanks goes out to Arcane for generously supplying the necessary data so that I could finish off this topic on a proper note!