Week Eight, Feeling Great

26km on Sunday (and a hilly route it was). Battled a cold and still put in 42km for the week. Nothing major in terms of aches and pains, just a bit of soreness in the shins – normal for me at this point in the training program.

This Sunday features a step back run – just 19km. Is that all? It’s come to that…19km is an easy Sunday run.

Week Seven…done

One more week behind me – this one featured 47km of running, including three runs in Florida, and five runs total.

We’re up to 23km on Sunday with more to come next week. Hills started this week signalling the beginning of the middle phase of the marathon program.

Things get tough now with pretty much every Sunday in the high 20’s or low 30’s for distance. On the bright side, the weather should start getting warmer and the days getting longer.

Running on Business

Training rolls on. 19km on Sunday was really just shy of 20km when all was said and done. The weather wasn’t ideal, but we got it done and I felt great at the end.

This week I’m in Orlando for business so that means some treadmill running and a chance to do a bit more running than usual. I did a 6km tempo run this morning at the fitness centre. It was just a bit cool outside and I didn’t pack anything other than a t-shirt and shorts.

Tomorrow I start the hills with 4x600m repeats plus a warm up and cool down. I’ll do that on the treadmill as well, as there are literally no hills around here to run.

Thursday morning I should have time to get out for 8km in the sun and warmth. Looking forward to that.

Long Sundays, Lots of Hills

Just 12 weeks to go until BMO Vancouver Marathon day. That means just 11 more Sunday runs, all of them 19km or more.

After tomorrow’s 19km LSD, it’s at least a half marathon every Sunday until race day, with the exception of one step back week in early March when I have a mere 19km run scheduled (and the taper the weekend before).

I’m also now done with the 10km tempo runs I’ve been doing on Thursdays. The transition to hill repeats is here and that means I’ll switch to 6km on Tuesday, then hills on Wednesday or Thursday (depending on what’s going on in my life).

Hill Repeats…Ughhh

I haven’t been that committed to hill training in past years. I really don’t like doing them and I always figured that they wouldn’t make much difference. But last year in Vancouver I could have used the extra strength – it was a hilly route from start to finish. That’s the Burrard Bridge picture above and it was a killer, coming at the 39km point in the race.

This year I’m going to do them all, every week. I’m hoping that pays off with an improved performance this May.

On the schedule this week is a mere four repeats, and then I add one a week until I’m at ten by the end of March. Weeks where I’m travelling and I can do it, I’ll add in the fifth day of running during the week and do Tempo Tuesday, hills on Wednesday, a steady run on Thursday and Saturday and the LSD on Sunday. If I’m lucky that will happen maybe three or four times.

I’m off to Orlando on business this week so I should be able to get in more running, although it’ll will all be treadmill at the hotel. I’ve been to this hotel before and there’s no good roads or sidewalks around to run outdoors. It really sucks.

Selling Out

Have you noticed that your favourite race is selling out faster than ever before?

  • The Chicago Marathon sold out in 6 days this year. 45,000 spots. In six days.
  • The Ottawa Half Marathon is sold out four months before race day. 11,000 spots.
  • Around the Bay Road Race 30k sold out weeks ago. 8,000 spots.
  • The Vancouver Marathon is already more than 70% sold out three months from race day. 5,000 spots.

Running is definitely a sport that has been on the rise over the last few years. Races have been getting bigger, and selling out sooner. And more and more events are being added all the time with plenty of runners willing to put up the cash and run.

There is a downside to all of this popularity. Some runners are missing out on races because they don’t get registered in time. And some races have hiked fees as a way to try and temper the enthusiasm of those who want to run. Want to run the New York City Marathon and you live in Canada? First, you enter the lottery – that’s $11US with no guarantees. Then, assuming your name is pulled from the hat, you get to pony up another $347US to run the race. Crazy! Yet every year there are still three times as many people who want to run the marathon as there are entries available.

Boston has a similar problem – even if you manage to qualify, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll be able to get in thanks to the huge number of runners who are all vying for a limited number of spots.

What do you think? Is running getting too popular? What can be done to help keep race fees down and races accessible to the average runner?

A Good Time vs. A Good Time

I was talking with Ginny today about running, and about the focus that a lot of runners have on racing and achieving personal bests.

Eventually the conversation turned to running for fun – having a good time. The Running Room training programs always end with a goal race. That’s great in terms of motivation, but after a while, the focus on racing can often take away from the fun of running.

This year I’ve been really thinking about just enjoying each run and not worrying too much about times and personal bests. I’ve chosen one goal race – the BMO Vancouver Marathon – and that’s it for races for me in the first half of the year.

That means no Around the Bay 30k, and no Chilly Half Marathon for me. Instead it’s just some fun Sunday training runs with friends and a bunch of enjoyable runs during the week. That’s my approach in 2012.

We also came to the conclusion that focussing on having a good time running was a great way to end up with a good time on the results sheet. My best runs time-wise are often on the days where I’m just enjoying running a lot. The same goes for racing. When I’m having a blast out there on the course, it usually means I’ll come across the line with a nice result.

Personal Awesome

Personal bests are great. Personal awesomes are even better (my running buddy Nicole coined that term and I love it). Despite the fact that it was my slowest time by a few minutes, I still point to Vancouver in 2011 as my “best marathon” of the three I’ve run. A personal awesome every way you slice it.

You can’t run a PB every race…it’s just not realistic to think you’ll improve every time you race. But you can run a personal awesome if you remember that racing and running is fun and put having a great time at the top of your list of goals.

Negative Splits

I’ve been focussing more on consistent running these days. That means slowing down a bit off the start and trying to keep the pace and effort consistent throughout. Running the second half slightly faster than the first half – a negative split – is proof that I maintained that consistent pace throughout and I’ve done that a few times since training started in earnest.

I’ve never run a negative split on race day, although I’ve come close. I ran the second half of the Ottawa Half Marathon in 2011 within a couple of minutes of the first half and finished with a solid personal best that day.

The reason I never negative split on race day is that I usually start too fast, because I choose a goal time that is a bit on the optimistic side. Last year in Vancouver I started well with a 3:50 goal time in mind but faded in last few kilometers (thanks for nothing Burrard St. Bridge).

I’m determined to negative split a marathon at some point and maybe 2012 will be the year I do it. I’m definitely training differently this year and I’m hoping that pays off in Vancouver on May 6.

This week’s Sunday run is 16km and we’re doing a north-south route once again. That means an uphill start, with a downhill finish and it also means another opportunity for a somewhat easier negative split.

13 weeks to go until the BMO Vancouver Marathon.

Don’t Panic

I was chatting back and forth with another runner last night on Twitter and she said something that immediately made me think, “that’s a blog post.”

@JamesKoole thank you. It’s so hard not to go panic mode.
— jess howard (@jess_howard) February 1, 2012

She, like I am, is training for the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May. Like most runners aiming for that race, she’s in the midst of the mileage ramp up that comes at the beginning of almost all marathon programs.

That increase in mileage usually brings along with it some aches and pains as the body adapts to the new normal of running 35 kilometres a week (or more).

When those aches and pains come, it’s so easy to go into panic mode. What if these shin splints get worse? Will this IT band prevent me from doing my long run this weekend? My knees are angry but I can’t skip this tempo run.

I’ll put here what I told her on Twitter:

@hopebombs No need to panic. Goal #1 is to get to the start line in good shape. The race will take care of itself – it always does.
— James Koole (@jameskoole) February 1, 2012

As mentioned in the priorities post a few days back, missing a run or cutting back on the miles a little bit will not cause you to miss your race. On the other hand, left untreated, an injury very well could.

So if you are worried about your shins, or struggling with some sore hips or knees, the very best thing you can do is to slow down, and back off on the training for a bit.

This is your body telling you that you’ve gone too far, or too fast, or both. Listen to what it is telling you know so it doesn’t really start yelling at you later in your training program.

Most of all, don’t panic. You spring marathon is probably still 3 months away and that’s plenty of time to build up the strength and fitness that you’ll need to complete it. Job one right now is to get to the start line uninjured and ready to give it your best.

The race will worry about itself.