Oct 31, 2014

Misery Loves Company

Yesterday after a long day at work, I went home to do the dreaded “long run.” I find I have to mentally prepare myself for any long run, but doing one on a work day by myself requires even more mental preparation. Plus, it was my longest “long run” this year (20 miles) and half of it was at marathon pace or better. A run of that nature is typically less daunting when you have someone to run with. For whatever reason, the pain and suffering experienced when we are running at lactate threshold pace is much easier when we know there are others experiencing similar pain and discomfort – hence the title “misery loves company.” Ordinarily long runs in my schedule are reserved for the weekend, but the schedule I’m following has as long run every 4-5 days (for the 3 weeks leading up to taper), so unfortunately some have to be done during the week. I’m hoping that doing some of them while I’m not fully rested will help to make marathon pace on race day feel more comfortable (in the early stages anyway).

In addition to doing long runs more frequently, another aspect of my training that has changed this time around are the tempo runs I’ve been doing twice per week. In the past, with only 3-4 weeks to go until the marathon, I was thinking more about tapering and did not run any miles at faster than half marathon pace. These tempo runs consist of 5 times 6 minutes at a pace 30-40 seconds quicker than marathon pace (5:40-5:50 per mile). These are tough workouts, but manageable, and are intended to build power in my legs, improve cadence, and ultimately make marathon pace feel much easier on the body. I figured it was time to try something new seeing as I have come within a few minutes of breaking my goal marathon time six times – obviously something needed to change.

To get back on track – I guess the moral of this story is, for those runners who have never tackled a marathon before, or for those that want to run another, it’s much better to do your long runs with a friend, or even better, a group. From my experience, the other runs each week can be done alone, but the long run can be tough to do, week in week out, alone.  

Oct 23, 2014

Shipping Off to Boston

I am very much looking forward to running the Boston Marathon again in April. I’ve ran Boston a few times before, but this year is different because there were so many Cape Bretoners (some of which are close friends) who qualified for the first time and were planning to run. I know how exciting it is to run in Boston for the first time and I want to be able to share the experience with the first timers from Cape Breton. By my count there are 18 Cape Bretoners registered for Boston including eight first timers: Justin Lalanne, Herbie Sakalauskas, Joey Tetford, Lee Ann Astephen, Carol Dakai, Gary Ross, Denis Lanoe, Donna Burns, and Renee MacDonald. Also making the trek to Boston from Cape Breton are:  Lauchie McKinnon, Terry Morris, Peter Hanna, Jerome Gerrior, Tanya Brann-Barrett, Kenny Maxwell, Kathy Sparling, and Kim Scattolon. I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think we’ve ever had stronger representation at Boston from Cape Breton.

People often ask me: What is it about the Boston Marathon that makes it so special? It has a lot to do with history – the Boston Marathon was first staged in 1897. It also has a lot to do with the fact that you need to qualify for it that makes it so popular/special.  However, for me, Boston is so special mainly because of Johnny Miles – who was born and raised in Cape Breton and won the prestigious race not once (1926), but twice (1929). Only 11 Canadians have ever won Boston and I am proud to say a Cape Bretoner is one of them.

If Mother Nature has the effect she’s had on Cape Breton in recent years, training for Boston will no doubt be challenging. Training for any marathon is a challenge, but training for a marathon through January, February, and March is even more of a test. Once I complete the Philadelphia Marathon in November, my focus will shift entirely to the Ironman. To maximize success at the Ironman distance, it is best to devote several months of training to it. As a result, biking and swimming will be as much of a priority as running. None the less, I’ll prepare as best I can for Boston, and enjoy the experience regardless of the outcome!

John MacKinnon and I after my first Boston Marathon in 2008.

Oct 22, 2014

Fiddlers Run a Good Test for Philly

This past Sunday I completed the half marathon distance at the Cape Breton Fiddlers Run (the Fiddlers). Since it began in 2005, the Fiddlers has always been my favorite race of the year. I have completed the half marathon distance and the marathon distance several times each. This year the decision was made for me – the committee, for a variety of reasons, opted not to offer the full marathon distance (a smart move if you ask me). Also, the half was a much better fit with my schedule, which is geared towards the Philadelphia Marathon on November 23rd.

Although my main goal right now is preparing for Ironman Lake Placid (July 26), I decided to take another crack at going sub-2:50 at the marathon distance. I have come within three minutes of breaking 2:50 six times – the closest being at the Fiddlers in 2010 (2:50:37). Based on my race this past Sunday, I feel that I am in good shape and hopefully on track to finally break 2:50. I had hoped to average 6:06/mile in the half on Sunday, and was right on track until the nine mile mark. A pesky head wind and some chest pain caused my pace to slow slightly, but overall I was happy with the effort (6:10/mile).

I have five weeks left until marathon day. The main priority will be to improve my ability to run marathon pace for an extended period of time. If all goes as planned, I’ll complete five-six long runs over the next four weeks with lots of miles at marathon pace. Being able to run for close to three hours is not going to be a problem. It’s being able to maintain my goal marathon pace (6:25/mile) for all 26.2 miles – something I have not yet done. In the past, I have been on target to break 2:50 each time when I arrive at the 20 mile mark – but my pace has slowed significantly over the final six plus miles (for a variety of reasons). As with any race, I cannot control the weather. All I can do is train hard and hope for the best come race day!  Stay tuned for updates on my training leading up Philadelphia.