Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Around the Bay Race Report

So, my first Around the Bay!

My parents and I arrived on the Saturday, went to the expo and found my sister there. We looked around a bit then went to scope out "the Hill". My sister said it didn't look "too bad" which, when you haven't really done anything all day except walk partway down, and then back up that hill, it doesn't seem "too bad". I suspect she re-evaluated that assessment during the race. We then headed back to the hotel. Around 5 pm we went and had dinner at the restaurant at the hotel (baci ristorante - Good food! Would recommend), went back upstairs and eventually went to bed. Didn't say this first day was interesting! But, I suppose the day before a race should be boring. The most interesting thing was all the things my sister didn't bring that I provided her with - oatmeal for breakfast, a toothbrush, face wash, beer (okay she asked me to bring it for her), sunscreen and a protein shake.

My sister and me. We look happy because it's near the beginning of the race

Anyway, come race day I was questioning why we were even running the race (apparently, my sister had been asking the same question the last few weeks), but got my stuff together and we headed out to Copps. My game plan was to run between 2:40 and 2:45 for the race, which I felt was do-able. I thought the conditions were pretty good - a little breezy, but overall nice! My sister and I started out together, which was nice - we were a bit faster than what I wanted but we settled into a pretty good pace. Soon after the start I nearly ran into a pylon on the inside corner, which was a bit scary - wouldn't want to go down so soon after starting. Because it was so crowded, I did see one person run into one of the pylons in the middle of the road. I get that the race organizers want us on one side of the road but in the first few 5km it just was not feasible - it was way too crowded.

Almost there! Maybe.
The first bit of the race went well - the lift bridge was a little uncomfortable on the feet - I felt for anyone in racing flats or minimal shoes (or barefoot!), and I'm pretty sure there is a couple of wee hills at the beginning I wasn't told about. I wasn't quite prepared for the waterstop situation, which was my own fault, so my fueling was a bit off during the race. Still, I don't like it - the spacing is all over the place, and most, if not all of the stops seemed to only give water on one side. I would have loved it more if the stops were a bit more evenly spaced and had a few more volunteers at each stop. Perhaps it was my pacing, but it was always quite crowded at the stops, and one or two more people would have helped. Still, the volunteers very good about telling you what they had, and tried really hard to make sure everyone that wanted something got it.

One of the things that surprised me was the number of (male) runners that had to pee on the course. Admittedly they were far more visible than any females (who I suspect hit the port-a-pottys), since they tended to go...wherever they felt like it. I don't recall seeing so many people urinating during race before.

I don't remember much of the race before the hills - I think I was pretty lucky that the weather was good, because there seemed to be a lot of people out to watch the race (I'm pretty sure I gave out some high-fives near the beginning when I felt pretty good) - definitely helpful! Particularly when we got passed about 21 km or so, since a half marathon was my longest race prior to this one. After about 20 km I started hearing "Keep going you're almost there" periodically which, I mean, technically yeah, I'm closer to the end than the beginning, but my idea of "almost" is clearly different than those spectators' idea.

If the first part of the race felt like it went by quickly, the last 10 or so kilometres felt like the longest, thanks to the hills. I think I spent a lot of time wondering who designed the course like that! It was also around this point where I could tell that my digestive system was going to pitch a fit, and wasn't best pleased to have anything put in it. Somewhere around 24 km or so, my sister and I split up one moment she was near me, and the next I looked over to see her, and she was gone.  I was kind of relieved when we reached The Hill, though I miscounted the number of curves in it, and how many I had done, so when I thought I was near the top, there was actually more hill. I swore (rather loudly) and then saw Sherry (Hi, Sherry!), which may have been more embarrassing if I wasn't so ready for that hill to be over.  I was just happy I didn't have to walk it. And I'm pretty sure I saw somewhere that swearing can help with pain tolerance, and as we know, anything we see on the internet must be true. It certainly made me feel better. I'm pretty sure there weren't any children around. I felt kind of winded when I reached the top, so I slowed a little until I caught my breath, and soldiered on. 

Grim Reaper: Ahh! My next customer!

Although I think it was technically still uphill, the way to, and beyond the Grim Reaper felt flat.
I think it was around the last km when I was running into a bit of a headwind, though I think it was downhill at that point. I wasn't thrilled about either. There was a guy, I think named Steve, who had some guy trying to encourage him, and get him to sprint, so of course I said "This is my sprint", and some woman near me said "It's always easier on that side of things" - which...true. I did pick it up a bit in that last kilometre - it was cool to see all the people, but sprint would be stretching it. I wasn't too impressed with how long I could see Copps (and not seem to be getting any closer), then having to round the corner before entering it and getting to the finish line. Down the ramp, into the building - I tried to jump over the finish line, but I don't think I jumped very high, and all my photos look like I'm falling over at the line. I walked a little and then waited for my sister who was only about 30 seconds behind me!

We went and got food and our medals, and got our pictures taken since there wasn't really a line. At this point, I could feel my calves starting to get unhappy and about to show their displeasure by cramping, so we kept moving, albeit slowly. Up the escalator (which I made my sister walk up a bit, which I don't think she liked), up the stairs, and met with my mom to get our bags, so we could get changed. The bathrooms were surprisingly not too busy, which was really nice.  Tried to clean up a bit with a damp wash cloth and did my business, got changed. Met up with my mom and now my dad was finished!

After the Race. We look happy because we are done running

This race was also the Ontario Master's 30km championships, so I stopped off at the table (which took a while to find - it was not set up initially, but it was there after a second bathroom break), and ended up winning my age group (30-34). I later learned that I was apparently the only person in my age group. I am fairly certain that I will be bumped to second, as I'm fairly sure there is one woman in my age group that finished much further ahead me that is registered as a master. Still, extra bling!
The Bling!

Friday, March 15, 2013

One week to ATB!

It's taper time! Which, a part of me is like "Finally!", but another part wants to go out and run because the weather is slowly starting to move into Spring. After Around the Bay, I am planning on doing  a local half marathon about a month later. Also, after Around the Bay, I have a local race on the Friday, which I will be running, but definitely not 'competing'. I don't think I'll be recovered enough, and I don't want to risk injury. Unless AtB, goes poorly, and I end up not racing, and just go for finishing, this 5km on the Friday will be one of those 'just finish' races. It'll be hard though, I think - the course is flat, so it's a fairly fast race.

I'm starting to incorporate strength training into my training, and I'm hoping it will help with my speed. I don't particularly like doing it, but if it will help my running, and help prevent injury, I'll suck it up. Hopefully, it will help bring my weight down a bit as well, which may or may not help with my speed.

I am hopeful that I will have a good season - training has been going well lately so here's hoping for a good Around the Bay!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Can't move legs will hate me

Had to do a run that was longer than I've gone in a while.  The footing was okay in some places and terrible in others making it a long, hard run.

One of the things I hate doing is running on the road. Absolutely hate it. Even on roads with little traffic I am Not A Fan. So naturally, my group run route has me going down one of the busiest streets in the city, part of it with no sidewalk, and where there was sidewalk, completely unplowed. I spent about 45 minutes of my run thinking I was going be hit by a car and die. Not exactly a pleasant experience. The other major roads we were on were not as busy - I'm not sure if that had to do with the time of day we were on them though. But at least those were ok. Some of the side streets had some not great footing, which when you are 26km into a 30km run isn't ideal, but I kind of prefer it to the near death experience of good footing, but cars zooming past you.

Around the Bay, you better be worth it.

I forgot to mention this in my previous entry, but I recently (as in...in the 3 months or so) ordered (more) headbands from Sparkly Soul. Because apparently, I didn't have enough. They have some of the best customer service I've had in a while. I emailed them about it, and they got back to me quite quickly to say they were looking into it, and later that they were sending out a brand new parcel with my headbands, and an extra one for having to wait so long. I was so happy! I was hoping (and figuring) they would send out a new package with the headbands, but I was pleasantly surprised that they would include an extra one, and that they would send it using the faster shipping option. It pretty much made my day. It's the little things - like prompt and friendly emails and fast resolution that make me happy, and anything else is icing on the cake. So thank you, Sparkly Soul for making my day!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It's Sunday Runday!

First - long runs are back! 20km today since I'm coming off a 'down' week. It's going well so far and it's nice to be back in the routine again. What I'm finding less fun is waking up early on my weekend, but I'm getting back into it - I miss sleeping in though! There's always naps, I suppose.

I'm hoping that everything goes well, and Around the Bay will be successful. So far so good, and I'm trying to be a little more committed to my running, and having fewer half-assed workouts.

I've also downloaded the zombies, run! app for my phone. It's pricy (about $8), unless you get it when it's on for 50% off. I wasn't sure when I was going to use it, but I've found it good for my Saturday runs, since I usually do those by myself. I don't run with music, and that is an option for this app, but you can also put together a playlist for it, if that's your thing. Also, you kind of get sucked into the storyline. I've been impressed so far. My Saturday run was the one I was most likely to blow-off so for me, it's really good to have something that I look forward to, and gets me out for the run.

Monday, December 10, 2012

And so it begins

After the end of October, I decided to take a month or so break. I took two weeks completely off, and then ran "when I felt like it" which ended up making my two weeks off into about 4 weeks off. Yeah. Apparently, I didn't feel like running at all. This is basically the reason why I have a coach - if it was left up to me, I would be a lot less diligent about my training.

The time off was nice though, and with the time change, it was nice not to have to go out running in the dark by myself. I ran some Saturdays and Sundays, but nothing substantial...so I guess I did do a little bit of running. After 11 months of basically non-stop training it was nice to just relax, and just let my body and mind recover. This past Sunday (Dec 9th), I did 10km for the first time since October, and it was a good run, but man, am I feeling it today! It's like I ran a race! All these muscles that I haven't been using since my running sabbatical are none to pleased today. The legs felt fast, and didn't want to do an actual 'long run pace', but I felt pretty good. I could tell I lost some cardio, but that should come back.

My first goal race of the season is Around the Bay, and it will be the first time I'll be racing over 21.1 km. So that will be exciting. I'm looking forward to it and if I can stay healthy I think I can do ok. I'm want to be under 2:40, hopefully around 2:35, but we'll see how the training goes, and how the body feels.

Recently I've added a daily reminder on my phone to keep me stretching and doing some strength exercises that I'm supposed to do. So far, so good! I may not do them every day, but I'm doing them multiple times a week so that's a start. Anyone else have an idea to do those things that you don't really like doing?

Overall, looking forward to the upcoming season!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What, time off?

At the advice of my coach, I have been taking 2 weeks off from running. Completely.  It has been kind of weird, truth be told. Mentally and physically I knew I needed a break, but it was kind of hard to do without getting 'permission'. It is weird actually being home and eating dinner before 8 pm most nights, but I'm coping :) After 11 months of pretty much straight running, the body needed a break, and I'm not sure if it is just the fact that my body is being allowed to heal, but I've actually been pretty alert in the morning soon after I wake up. This was not the case at the end of the season when all I wanted to do was just roll over and fall back asleep. I'm getting back on the road this upcoming week, but with no training schedule, and *gasp* just running for fun. Then December will be here and training starts again - this time for Around the Bay, which will be my first race over 21.1 km. So, automatic PB for me!

Being honest, it is nice to have the downtime, and I am kind of looking forward to running again. I'm not as burnt out as I was at the end of last season, but I did need the break, and I don't think missing the training will affect me much speed-wise. I'll probably be sad at how slow I feel when I start up again, and that my cardio will be down a bit, but that'll come back quickly. Actually I might be "racing" this weekend on Sunday. It's a club championship that my parents belong to (and me, technically), and I may run as a training run. I haven't decided yet. I am supposed to go out that day anyway, so it's a possibility. That being said, I'm crap at running a 'race' and not racing it, and considering I haven't done anything for 2 weeks, it could be a recipe for disaster. We'll see. Of course, the weather might be crap, and I'll just say screw it to going out for a run.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Doping - My thoughts, let me show you them. TL;DR

Be warned - this is long, and rambly and I'm pretty sure it doesn't really go anywhere.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to post anything about the recent revelations of doping in cycling, or about Christian Hesch the runner that has admitted to doping. But, the more I keep reading the more fascinated I became with all of it. Of course, part of the reason I got interested in science was because I when I was young, I thought it would be interesting to work for an anti-doping lab. Other people watched the Olympics for the athletics, and I was more interested in how they catch cheats. This career has sadly not come to fruition, however.

Anyway, I think the other part of the fascination comes from the fact I feel so far removed from it, that it seems like a completely different world. I ended up talking to a few people who said that we'd probably be surprised at what happens even on the local level behind the scenes. I can't help but wonder what they know that I don't, but no one was divulging anything. As an outsider, it seems kind of crazy to have someone inject you with something, claiming it's "vitamins" and not know exactly what it is. Or just doping in general. But then, these people are competing at a level I can't ever hope to be at, and I can understand having to trust the people around you. The idea makes me uncomfortable, but I'm so far removed from that sort of competition level that I don't know the atmosphere or pressure they are under.

Prior to the USADA Armstrong report I more thought of doping as an individual thing - more with individual track athletes than with entire teams of people. I knew in a vague way that cycling has had issues with doping in the past, but I had thought that it had more or less stopped, and if it was going on, it would be individuals not entire teams. I am still very anti-doping, but this whole affair has just made me...kind of sad. Sad for the people that felt that they had to dope to stay on the team, to keep riding, that were intimidated and bullied into doing it. I realize that they still had a choice, but not being under that sort of pressure, I am trying to understand how one could get to that point. I suppose you could argue that individual athletes have their own sponsors to keep happy, and to keep competing, but at least then it feels like the choice of the individual, and you are only bringing yourself down in the end. It's not like the domestiques in cycling get much recognition - who the hell remembers all the riders that were on Lance Armstrong's team when he won? I don't know, I guess in the end my thoughts are if you want to fuck yourself up, go ahead, but pushing it on other people is just not cool.

I find the argument that if people took drugs it was to level the playing field aggravating, because 1) it doesn't make it right, and 2) there are naturally gifted athletes that wouldn't benefit as much (like if you naturally have high hematocrit, EPO won't help you as much as someone who had naturally low hematocrit), so it's not really leveling anything. It makes less talented athletes able to compete with more gifted athletes, and possibly outperform them, or in the case of the runner, able to compete enough that he can make a living at running. For people that know that they aren't going to win any big races, being able to essentially cherry-pick some races that you are fairly sure you can place in because they small field, and a decent purse, I can see how it could be tempting to take something.

Admittedly I am a bit of a sucker for those that seem genuinely remorseful and admit to fucking up. In that, it was interesting to read the affidavits of the cyclists that came forward. I'm curious of those that came out as dopers in the case, what they will do next - will they go the David Millar route, and be an anti-doping advocate, or will they keep their head low, and hope to never answer questions about it. Myself, I'm hoping it's the former rather than the latter, because I think that in this case, it's not just about owning your mistakes, but showing how you aren't going to repeat them. Especially with the reputation that cycling has. Part of my issue with some track athletes is that they are content to serve their suspension and come back and no one ever asks them anything about it, they don't make any substantial statements about it, their regrets, how they want things to be changed etc. It doesn't make me think you changed, and that's what I want to see. Sponsors come back and everything is just swept under the rug, it's like no one cares.

I think it is that thought - that people are just trying to close their ears and not talk about it, how they "just want to move forward", that makes me frustrated. I realize it is in the past, and that people want to move on from it, but I think that there is some value in, at least, acknowledging it, rather than every time it comes up saying "we want to move on, it's in the past the sport is different now". Tell me how it is different. Tell me how your team is going to prevent doping. Simply put, prove your statement(s) to the casual fans because otherwise, why should they come back to the sport? Cycling is so damaged at this point (though why track isn't despite the numerous doping convictions is beyond me), that you have to show us that you changed. Granted I live in North America, so admittedly cycling coverage is scant, but google is a wonderful thing, and most of what I'm seeing is people shoving their heads in the sand and stubbornly not talking about it and saying it's because they want to 'move on'. I don't know, one the one hand I can see how being asked about in constantly, particularly if you weren't a rider during the time it was going on, how that could be annoying and frustrating, but on the other, it's not a topic that is going to go away, so at some point someone is going to have to find a more effective way of dealing with the topic when it comes up.

I'm not sure that Sky has the right approach here, having their riders and staff sign something that says they have never doped. While I appreciate that they want to be seen as a 'clean' team, I'm not convinced that this is the way to do it. If someone doesn't sign, they are fired, if they lie, and sign, if they are found out, they're fired. They aren't following up beyond interviewing their staff and having them sign, so it feels more like lip service than anything. I don't know. Put in that position, if someone on the team had doped, they're screwed either way. There is no benefit to coming clean, and if they have lied this long, what will prevent them from doing it again? I don't know. I kind of see both sides, but at the same time, Michael Barry showed that you can have doped, not been caught and be signed to a team that says they won't have riders that have ever doped. So clearly that system isn't fool-proof, and signing an extra piece of paper won't change that. I totally get where Sky is coming from -  how do you trust someone that has been involved in doping, how do you know if they won't bring it to your team, and athletes, but I also think people can change, and can offer some sort of support, knowledge and insight into it that can be helpful. It's a difficult situation to be in, I guess. But I think that if someone comes clean voluntarily that it means something. If they change, and advocate against doping - I think that means something. These people have knowledge of how athletes can get to the point where they have to dope, how they could hide it, how they could avoid positive tests, and that knowledge could be valuable. I don't know if there is a 'right' way for teams to proceed. I do think being public with your team policy is helpful, since it does show that you are trying to change, at least.

Anyway, this got long and rambly. I find the topic interesting though, and sad. It's easy to look in as an outsider and judge people, but if nothing else, at least now I have a glimmer of understanding of how some people could get to that point, which is more than I could say before. It turns out even elite athletes are only human. I still hate it though, and I want to think that most athletes are clean, but I know that every time I hear of any elite athlete being accused of doping, I'm less surprised than the time before. I'm going to try to be optimistic though that things will be better in the future.