Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Running the Chuckanut Mountains: A lesson learned over a year later

From the Ridge looking to the north east. A long way down.

In 2013 I took part in the Knee Knacker, a race I said was "THE HARDEST RACE".

On Tuesday, I think I may have figured our why I made that run so hard on myself, let alone how hard the course was on me. My brother-in-law Sean and I made our way down to Larabee State Park to do a 21k run in the Chuckanuts, with the focus on running up Rock Trail and along the Ridge Trail.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

2014 Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon

One year ago, I posted a PB at the Victoria marathon, cracking the 3:10 BQ threshold for my age category, and thus, earning a qualifier to the 2015 B.A.A Boston Marathon. Just last month, I was accepted into the marathon and will be travelling in April. However, the two pronged goal last year was not achieved: earn a qualifier, and run the marathon in under 3 hours.

I had another chance this thanksgiving to do just that--go quicker than I have ever over 42.2kms. The Victoria Marathon was my 7 marathon since 2011. So far, I have raced Vancouver 4 times, Kamloops once, and with this one, Victoria, twice. Of them all, Victoria is a challenging, undulating course, rolling along the seaside. It doesn't grind a running down like Vancouver, and is not flat (read:boring) like the Kamloops course. Victoria is my most favorite course of the three that I have done.

Friday, 19 September 2014

2014 Gran Fondo Whistler: Double Fondo Day!

In early August, my brother asked if I was interested in riding the Gran Fondo Whistler with him. We would be riding for the RBC team (which I did not realize until after I saw the results). This event would mark my second time participating in the ride up to Whistler. One stipulation that I had for my brother was that if we were to do the Fondo, then there would be no driving back. We would have to do the Fondo-return, riding back after the event. He agreed, and I was game.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Time off to Heal: My declining fitness, my time away from the blog

Over the past four months, I have watched myself lose my run fitness, and my mojo for blogging. M.Ed work at SFU, coupled with the BCTF teacher's strike, and the BCPSEA lockout all have added up for me not wanting to put much effort into this online journal. Motivation waned, run training came to a halt, and I managed to get Shingles. AND put my neck out. So much for exercise and training as preventative medicine.

Truth be told, I essentially stopped running steady after the BMO Vancouver Marathon, swapping my bike out for running shoes. The bike, as I have said before, is forgiving. It is smooth on the road, adventurous in the trails. I can bike for hours and hours, and then go our the next day for more.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

2014 BMO Vancouver Marathon Race Report

It has taken me a while to process this race, let alone finish this post and RR....

I am humbled.

For all my training, discipline, early morning training sessions, training races, ambitions, and sacrifices, I am humbled.

The 2014 iteration of the BMO Vancouver Marathon is the same course that has been since 2012. Three years of running the same course. And although my fitness is better than 3 years ago (stronger), my mental stubbornness more acutely refined (tougher), my speed improved (quicker), my experience!?) (wiser), this marathon punched my ticket. 


In fact, no matter my hopes for a strong finish, consistent pace, and conserving my energy, I was again struck on this very taxing, very difficult course with giving up my time goals when the writing was on the wall. Just after I hit "the wall".

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Sun Run 2014: A new PB, but just off the pace I wanted

I have been a bit of a whiner with this one. Both pre and post race. Approaching these two weekends, the Sun Run and Marathon respectively, I posed a question to myself:

  • Is it smart to go balls out for the Sun Run this weekend, then try to PB the marathon next weekend
  • Would running hard and fast interfere with my taper, and have me in recovery mode instead of taper mode?
  • Am I over thinking this little fabricated first world dilemma of mine? 
  • Should I just go out and race both and be smart during the week with sleep and meals?

Race morning had me putting on my usual routine, 6 AM wake-up, out the door by 7, on Canada line by 7:30, at the race start by 8:00 am. Not many other souls were on Georgia Street by that time, but it filled up quickly. I met up with Hans Zimmerling, and we did a warm-up with some strides. A full cast of characters made it out to this one: Chris Barth, Tim Abercrombie, Ryan Hayden and his group from our corporate team were all at the start in the elite corral. Finishing my warm-up, the goal was to turn out 3:30/km's for the duration, putting me in for 35 minutes. I thought that to be a lofty goal, but hey, I set lofty goals.

The gun went off and it only took a second or two to get over the start line. Hans, Tim, and me ran down Georgia Street into Denman. We stayed fairly close together through 3k. KM 3 to KM 5 started to wear on me and I could tell that my pace was dipping every so slightly on the false flats. In fact, I do not really remember much from those two kilometres. Hans started to pull away from me here, and I let him go. I slowly climbed Beach Avenue up to the Burrard Bridge, passed by a spectating Alex Lea, and began climbing the Bridge. On the downward slope, my buddy Darbara caught up to me. We ran together from 6 to 8.5 when he slowly began to distance me slightly.

I went into a pretty dark place between 8k and 9k. The Sun Run, or any 10k, is a very short, very intense effort that is almost over before you know. Having said that, there is enough time for a runner to question why they are doing what they are doing. That happened for me in a short distance near the end of the race.

In fact, the Cambie Bridge, albeit uphill then with a nice run out into the finish, was a welcomed sight that snapped me out of my "Luke Skywalker in the cave on Dagobah" funk. I managed to get some time back on Darbara and close the gap to 8 seconds. Hans finished a full 24 seconds in front of me, with Tim "the Terminator" Abercrombie coming in at 35:04! And he is not a runner, he is a cyclist! And years ago, a triathlete! So I guess he is a former runner. He has an engine, a big engine at that! Chris Barth came in at 34:

It has been a long time since I did a Sun Run. I think the last one I did was in 2005 or so, in 45:22. Good enough to be the 1614 finisher across the line. Coming back to the Sun Run this year I had some high expectations for myself. As with any race, I tend to try and shoot for a PB. This race was no different--I jogged out 36:54 bettering my PB from last year's Sandcastle 10k by 22 seconds. Good enough to get across the line in 134th place. I missed my goal mark by over a minute, but that is for next time. I know how 35 minutes will feel, and know what I need to get there. Chris Barth told me back in the autumn to focus on the shorter speedier races, and it seems to be paying off!

This one was a very fast 10k race that almost does not justify the race entry fee for the time I am out there, but the competition, festivities and roads to run on were awesome! I will definitely be returning to the Sun Run next year. This is a very smoothly oiled monster-machine to be able to support 45,000 finisher.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

March (and February) Training Recap: Racing and Fatigue, Recovery, and More Racing!

March started off like a lion, and went out like a lamb. My training at the beginning of the month was bonkers, as I hit out for 184 in the first two weeks of the month.

But then a little thing called spring break happened. I had high hopes to run 2 hours a day, and nail down two solid weeks of training. Like all good plans, that one took a dump, and I ended up drinking more beer than the first two months combined, running in Kelowna with little motivation, raced and rested instead.

On a side note, I attended a talk at the New Balance North Delta store. The speaker was this guy:

Yep, Rob Watson showed up to talk about his Boston Marathon experience from 2013. He finished the race in 2:15, running 11th across the line. But even better is the face that he lead the race through 16 miles. He was pretty open to any questions: nutrition both on the run and for race prep, training miles and hours, sleep patterns, telling stories about nearly crapping himself in that Arizona Rock N Roll Half (Sorry for asking about that one man!). A pretty informative night with a pretty amazing runner. 

Listening to him speak about Boston, I have pretty much made up my mind that I will be going,  confirmed my appearance for next year at the big show. I don't know how many more chances I might have in life to qualify, and it is something I would like to be a part of. 

Me and Rob at the New Balance North Delta Concept Store
March finished up with a week in Kelowna running on Knox Mountain, and a Dirty Feet Race in Kamloops. Some pretty good times were had trail running in late March.

Way back in February:

February was a month of fast, tired running, fewer kilometers, and a bunch of races--the focal point being the First Half Half Marathon and a sub 1:20 finish. That did not happen due to a bit of illness, lack of recovery and all around not treating myself the best in preparation for the half marathon.

I did manage to run a solid Aldergrove Mud Run 8k for second place, just off of Ryan Hayden's win, and close out the month hurting at the Fort to Fort 8k, running slower than at the beginning of the month. I take all this in stride, and in the past two weeks, I have taken some downtime off of running hard, and hit it back up again with a solid 5 days at the beginning of March.

The next few weeks I see as being crucial for more volume and to get my speeds up during my distance runs. With 4 weeks before the Vancouver Marathon, cranking up in the next two to build on the last 3 will help with the strength I need to reach my goals.

April is already in full swing, the sun is out longer, and I just want to get out on the trails any chance I get!

February Beer Tally: 24
Races: 3
Running KMs: 198

March Beer Tally: 57 (Ugh!)
Races: 1
Running: 268 kms

YTD totals:
Beers: 109
Races: 6
Total Kilometers running: 732

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

2014 Dirty Feet Trail Race #1: A mixed bag of weather and terrain.

After the 8k Fort to Fort trail race, I was a bit mentally and physically exhausted. Enough for me to hit the reset button and try my hand at a consistent block of running and having some fun. Less structure, more volume, short, long, all of the above.
Mud all packed up in the lugs after the first Dirty Feet Trail Race of 2014.
Thank goodness Spring Break arrived, and with it, a trip to the interior. We had planned some time in Kelowna instead of the usual Kamloops for a change, someplace to make us feel like we were on vacation. I had scouted out Knox Mountain for a neat place to get some trail running in. The night that we arrived, we took the kids up the Apex trail to the lookout over the city. This proved to be my recon for the next few days of running. Paul's Tomb, Apex Trail, and Knox Summit all factored into my last few morning runs setting up for Sunday's Dirty Feet Trail Race. I loved the fact that the climbs started straight up right from the base of the hill. Running in a place that I had never been before made for some rather exciting efforts! Knox Mountain park is the jewel of the city. Every city needs some wicked terrain like Knox. The best part too is that it has so many friendly users who don't mind getting out there an hammering up this hill. The Gordon Trail climb off of Paul's Tomb trail was my favorite--steep switchbacks, not a soul in sight--a good challenge for a 8-10 minute well paced climb.

The Base of Knox
Apex Trail Summit at sunrise, filtered.

Apex trail lookout.
The trails high above Lake Okanagan.

Looking across to Bear Creek Prov. Park. Some more good trail running in the canyon, so I am told.

Looking to the Westside.
Sunrise on Knox Summit.
But enough about Kelowna...On to Kamloops.

Dirty Feet always seem to put on an amazing grass roots event, whether running or cycling. Both Phil and Grace Hiom are racers themselves. The events that they put on are the sum of all the other events that they have done as racers. It is clear that they they parlay those experiences--what other races do well-- into making a Dirty Feet events a super fun, racer centred experience for all that toe the line.
Walk to the start from the shuttles.

Snow dusts the ground, but by mid race, it would all be gone, replaced by mud.,
 The first DF trail race of 2014 was no exception. Set in Bachelor Heights on the north shore or Kamloops,  the course consisted of a short 5k opening loop, followed by a pretty awesome 10k loop with some serious climbing, finishing with the same 5k loop as the start. My Ambit recorded 20k, not the 21.1 as advertised. That may be a function of some dropped signals, or a mis-advertised race distance. Since there was no tree cover at all on this course, I suspect the latter. Anyway, a trail half sounds better than a 20k trail race....

The Course Layout
...and elevation profile

I approached this race having looked at the registration list, recognizing a few familiar names:

  • Hans Aabye--I have race with him before--he is a lithe, lanky, and graceful runner. One of the most graceful runners I have seen! 
  • Matthew Fortuna--I raced with him in 2011 on this course. I remember the exact spot on in the race that he passed me then. I thought I might have a chance to keep with him, but his Athlinks page shows that he has gotten speedier since then, as well as taken on more ultra marathons. 
  • Ryan Day-- He is a 2:16 marathoner from last year's Victoria Marathon, and a former 3rd place finisher at the BMO Vancouver Marathon. I had him pegged to win, being the fastest guy in the race. But like many race days, anything can happen.
The desolate beauty of Kamloops.
I realistically felt that I could finish as high as third or fourth, knowing who was in this race, my prediction went as follows:

1st----Ryan Day
2nd---Hans Aabye
3rd---Me or Matt Fortuna

So there it was: 3rd or 4th place for the race. But like Murphoffroad says, shoot for a time goal, not a placing. My time goal was to be better than 1:46 from 2011. I figured I could come close to 1:35 or so.

My pre-race prep in Kelowna and Sun Peaks had me imbibing in a few carbonated brews, but none to excess in the week leading up to the race. The evening before the race I abstained from any fun beverages and opted for the bottomless plastic cup of water, generously offered to me by Kyle and Magda Recsky in Sun Peaks. We shared a lovely evening catching up on all things family and kids....It was great to see them!

Quite literally, the coffee table book at the Recsky's Sun Peaks condo. Heavy reading, as Magda brings her work home for some study time. This textbook was 3.5 inches thick. 
The morning came, and I had to leave our place in Sun Peaks at 6:30 for the 9:30 start time. The trek down the mountain was snowy and slippery from the weather the day before, and took longer than usual. I jammed back some breakfast at my parents house, only an hour and a half before the race--not my standard 3 hours to be finished before the event. Oatmeal and a Tim Horton's coffee before the race would have to do. I made it to the shuttles (this race had participants shuttle from a designated area in Kamloops out to the race course--very cool!) on time at 8:30, and arrived soon enough to get a short warm-up in. I chatted with Ryan, Matt, and Hans, and set my plan in action. Those snowy, freezing conditions from Sun Peaks had also blanketed the ground in Kamloops.

My biggest decision of the morning was which footwear was I going to opt for the standby, relatively light, reliable Salomon Sense Mantra's--my preferred training shoe at 6mm offset. I have never raced in them, but they are my go to. Or, the Speedcross 3--a hearty, heavily lugged bomber of a shoe that would give me ample traction if the temps rose and the ground softened.

I chose the Speedcross 3 for the race, hoping that it would be the best decision. I would find our that it would, and it wouldn't.

On the warm up, I came across Ryan Day. We chatted and discussed footwear for the race. He chose my favorite New Balance MT110--I have burned through a few pairs of those. But I am not Ryan--not nearly as fast or technically skilled. Plus, I left my MT110's at home.

DF start banners.
We lined up, the gun went, and right away, I was in 6th place. Ryan took the lead, followed by Hans, Matt, and a couple of other guys that I did not know. The start was fast, as the five in front were kicking up mud and dirt into the air, landing on my face and shirt. I was officially holding down 6th. The first 5k loop was great--some downhill and undulating terrain. The front 3 steadily built a lead, while I tried to keep the next two in front of me. My shoes proved to be a pretty good choice for traction, however I had thought of swapping out just before the climb in order for something the Sense Mantra's with a smaller offset. The 5k had me feeling like I was too high in the 12 mm offset. 5km done, then into the big, steep called Lac du Bois climb. It is a bit of a leg burner. I opted to run/power hike the climb, and made up some ground on the two guys in front of me, whom I affectionately deemed "Orange shirt", and "Tank Top".

I ditched the beenie partway through the first 5k.
Coming around the backside of the tower hill and descending from Lac du Bois climb, I hit sub 3:45/k paces, and felt pretty good approaching 10k. Halfway at 47:32 Had me looking pretty good for a strong finish; I was not worried so much about time, but about catching the two in front of me. I noticed Ryan Day right in front of me, about 300m up the trail. WTF! Ryan Day was having a bad one. I knew right away that he probably ran off course (which he did). I then proceeded to use him as a carrot. However, this carrot was going to fast for me.

I made the catch on Tank Top, and we ran together through the second big climb on the course. We chatted about running as I asked him if he was a distance runner ( I knew he wasn't because of a couple of clues: 1. he was wearing TRU Wolfpack shorts, indicating he was on the cross country team; 2. he was really young). He told me he was a cross country runner, and he had done one marathon. He was a better descender than me, but I could make up ground on him on the flats and climbs. I paced us over the top of the mountain, and he took off on the descent, as I had observed prior. I knew at the base of the hill, there was only 5k left to go. If I was to make a move, I would have to happen soon.

The second catch of Tank Top happened as we started the final 5k circuit, where I left him behind. But by now, the sun was out, I had gotten rid of my gloves, arm warmers, and hat, and the ground was greasy, soft, and slippy. My Speedcross were great up to that point, but with 5k to go, my shoes were akin to a set of muddy cyclocross tires: the tread had picked up so much mud and bunch-grass that they nearly tripled in weight. I was running in shoes that weighed over 3lbs each, the debris was not clearing the tread pattern. My pace slowed every so slightly, but I still ran hard enough to keep drilling time into the young buck that I had passed at the beginning of the final circuit.

Happy to finish and hold down 5th!
I finished up the race with a well earned 5th place finish, 5 minutes behind Ryan in 3rd place. He took a sprint by 4 seconds over Orange shirt. For me, this was a good high tempo training effort. I did not want to put myself too deep in to the red, knowing that I have bigger fish to fry coming up at the start of May. This race confirmed to me that I am heading in the right direction for the BMO Van, and enjoying the process along the way.

From Left: Ryan, 3rd; Hans, 1st; Matthew, 2nd.  Photo: Hans Aabye

Official results for the Men's 21k race.

My HR was about normal.

Movescount Data. 

Signing up for Strava Premium has given me the ability to see my race data in a pretty concise format. I don't know if I would switch from using Movescount, but this is kinda neat.

Things look pretty good from here.
A bit of a muddy affair back there.
Mud. A disastrous mess.

Catching up with a very inspiring and  recently retired Jim Fulton! Well done Jim!
Yet another great race put on by Phil and Grace. If you are ever in the interior and find yourself jonesin' for an awesome race experience, check out Dirty Feet. They put on a many races--trail running, ultra's, snow shoe, and mountain bike--throughout the year, and have dialed in their product to compete with the other best race organizers around!! Truly superb!

Thanks to all the volunteers and sponsors for making this race very, very fun! I will definitely be checking out Wild Mountain next time I am in Kelowna!

All of the results are HERE!

This spring break has been a good one, in both Kamloops and Kelowna!

Next up: the Vancouver Sun Run, and the following weekend: the Vancouver Marathon!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Fort to Fort Trail Race, 8k: A tired finish to the series!

Taking place just off of Allard Crescent near Ft. Langley, the Fort To Fort trail race is the final event of the Fraser Valley Trail Series for 2014. Last year I took on the 30k event, but coming off of the heels of last week's Pacific Road Runner's First Half half marathon, and still feeling the lingering fatigue in my hamstrings, I decided to run the shorter distance on this beautifully golden and white morning. Golden for the fact that Canada clinched gold in men's ice hockey in the wee hours of the day capping a great Olympics in Sochi; white for the fact that snow covered much of the ground as I woke up. This used to be called the Houston Footrace, but was changed last year as the race organizers wanted to branch out and accommodate a long run in the series.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

25th Annual First Half Half Marathon Race Report

After a month of XC trail racing, the big test went down on Valentine's weekend: Pacific Road Runner's First Half Half Marathon. My first running in this race was 10 years ago. From the 16th annual to the 25th annual, much has changed for me, but little has changed with this event. Once again, the organisation, the post race food, the course, the scenery, all of is is top notch. The race remains a flat, fast course that brings out Vancouver's best runners in February.

Over those ten years, I have transformed myself into somewhat of a runner--my times on this course have gotten faster, expectations have gotten higher, and my love for a race that once was one of the most scenic races showcasing some of the best Vancouver has to offer has become something that resembles strictly business. The goal of PB'ing every time at the First Half has become the annual objective. See my report from 2012.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

January Training Recap: A couple of solid races!

January totals are setting me up for the First Half.

A pretty good month of running with a couple of bike rides thrown in there for good measure. I am pleased with the numbers, and the specific types of workout session that took place.

All told, running took up the bulk of type of exercise for the month. 267 kms run is not bad, but the quality of the runs were what made this a good month. A couple of course P.R.s and high finish placings in the Fraser Valley Trail Series on January 1 at the Resolution Run, and at the Campbell Valley Stomp, some Yasso workouts, and some longer runs made this a productive month. Right now I am feeling pretty good about the intensity I put into my autumn races. It seems to be paying dividends.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Aldergrove Mud Run 2014: My best effort this year!

Mike Murphy emailed me race day morning after I sent him a message asking if he would attend the Aldergrove Mud Run. The correspondence went like this:

Josh: Hi Mike. Are you running in Aldergrove tomorrow? I will be. Hope to see you there.

Mike: Morning Josh,

I am going to skip the race this morning. Instead, i'm doing a long run on the DiezVista 50 course.
I know you have another strong run in you, so lay it all out there. Try my little trick of 'promissing' yourself to throw in 6 or 8 matter how crappy it feels.
Tweet a recap afterwards, so i know how it went once i wrap up.

I listen to Mike. I respect Mike. He knows what he speaks of. So, my race plan was born just before the race: surges, and lots of them. Sort of like intervals within a tempo run. Only intervals while running at race pace.

It took no time get all the way out to Aldergrove Lake this morning. Without Mike or Chris there, I knew that I had a good shot at a high placing based on who had been showing up to this series. But as Mike told me at the last one, you never know who is going to show up at the race. So true for this race.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Campbell Valley Stomp 2014: Raised Expectations

The 16th annual Campbell Valley Stomp went off today, and I had high hopes after my New Year's Day result of 2nd place at the Resolution run. This is my fourth running of this race, after completing it in from 2011-2013. I figured at best, I could run a 3rd place finish, knowing that Mike Murphy and Chris Barth were in the race. Those guys are a different breed of runner from me, but over time, I am closing the gap (note: the gap is still wide). I had no idea who else was going to show up to the party, so 3rd sounded reasonable as a best case scenario.

Monday, 13 January 2014

What is the cost of staying fit for a year? The money that goes into running, cycling, and racing.

Recently, Christopher Taylor's article about the real cost of running a marathon was published in the National Post. In it he details the monetary cost of running one marathon in terms of total dollars expended, beyond the entry fees. Shoes, training programs, travel costs, accommodations, souvenirs, and nutrition, among other things, are detailed by Taylor in determining what he spent on getting him through his first marathon.

This article got me thinking: I ran over 17 races in 2013, many of them without a care for the cost of the registration fees, money spent on gear to do the events, or travel costs. I was ignorant to what I spent my money on for 2013. If I wanted to do a race, it fit in the calendar, and was relatively affordable, I would sign up for it.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Resolution Run Race Report, January 1st 2014.

The last few weeks of 2013 had me travelling to Kamloops to take a couple of days after Christmas to ski at Sun Peaks and to partake in some trail running in Kenna Carwright Park. Both activities had snow.Good thing, too.

I decided to sandwich a trail run in between two ski days.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year: 2013 In Review!

Without going through every painful detail from 2013, I thought I would share just the mullet of the year, the short-long, the cole's notes version of 2013, before moving onto the 1st day of the year, and my Resolution Run race report.

2013: The year of PBs

What is left over from the year of races. These, and memories.
This year was certainly the best year I have had for improvement gains. I socked it to my 8k (30mins), 10k (37 mins), 21.1k (1:24), and marathon times (3:06). I managed to run in 3 ultra's (and finished two), complete two marathons, and I learned how to get faster by running short course xc races. I won an age cat. national championship; won the age cat. for the lower mainland XC Series; I finished a Gran Fondo, and did not race any cyclocross at all (CX was my passion as of last year--how things change). 17 running races, 10 pairs of running shoes purchased, and a couple of bike races for 2013 make for a very good year!

Here are the stats: