Friday, December 31, 2010

Setting Goals for 2011

In setting your goals, try to be objective. Be reasonable but challenge yourself as well. Keep the fun in everything you do if it's at all possible, and where it's not fun try to see quirks and foibles that make it a bit lighter. Even in the most solemn of endeavours there are moments of encouragement and accomplishment that make it all worthwhile.

I find that most of my goals are very easily met, but that the challenge is setting the timeline appropriately. This is true of destination trips I have in my sights, as well as renovation projects that need to be done, upgrades of things around the house, and, longer term, retirement strategies.

So when I see people who have just started running, for example, I know that there are many things that they have to discover on their own in the course of time, even if they read everything there is to know beforehand. People progress at different speeds. When I ran a 10km race three years ago in 53 minutes, I thought there was little chance I would ever run as fast as my buddy who nailed that race in 49 minutes. Well, I hit the 49 minute mark this year in the Terry Fox Run, so it went to prove that anything can happen if you persist.

So don't be discouraged by setbacks or injuries. Keep at it; you'll be amazed at what you can achieve. Happy trails in 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 of '10: My Top Ten Achievements of 2010

10. Completing the Sunburst Marathon without dying of heatstroke. Very cool bling, excellent finish area venue (Notre Dame Stadium), great little weekend jaunt.

9. Completing the Quebec City Marathon without getting heatstroke. You'd think I'd learn: August is not the coolest month to run a marathon. Oh well. Excellent trip, fun with the kids, amazing restaurants, great beer.

8. Completing the Las Vegas Marathon... no, no heatstroke possibilities this time. Perfect weather, excellent tunes, topnotch organization, and a city that needs to be seen to be believed.

7. Gradually increasing the consistency of my daily run pace and speed. I'm constantly challenging myself to work my speed up just a little all the time. This means brushing off the bad days where the energy or the push just isn't there. Kinda like life in general I guess.

6. Keeping my weight at a consistent 160 pounds. This is a record low weight for me in my adult life, and it's a very healthy weight. I very rarely get sick or injured (knocking furiously on wood as I type that), eat a varied but considered and consistent diet, include very little meat in my meals... it's working very well. And what amazes me most of all is just how significantly over-sized the portions that are served in restaurants or on average tables truly are.

5. Attention to working my core is paying dividends. Ok, so I won't be doing stomach modelling any time soon, but I truly feel the increased strength and stability in my core. I believe this has been very instrumental in the low number of injuries I've incurred in the past year as well, and the faster recovery time after races or long runs. Pay attention to your core, people, it's critical!

4. Making relatively regular entries in this blog. Essentially talking to myself is what it is, I know, but it helps to articulate goals, milestones, strengths, weaknesses, triumphs... anyone reading this who doesn't keep a blog, should. A very positive exercise.

3. Taking more pictures. My sage advice again: you can never take too many pictures. They cost nothing anymore, SD cards with space to store all of human knowledge cost about $10, and a 1.5 terabyte external hard drive ( a terabyte is bigger than two universes, approximately) costs less than $100. And when you page back through those thousands of pictures you'll relive those glorious moments that passed like a heartbeat, and your overwhelming thought will be: I should have taken more.

2. Completing the Goodlife Toronto Marathon with a friend who had a very bad year and didn't really want to run this marathon alone. We had a great 4 hour and 38 minute chat, and it was a really good day and a really good experience. Cameraderie: establish it, build on it. There's nothing like it.

1. Running the Around the Bay Road Race in Hamilton, for two reasons. I finished it in 3:05 (30 kilometres) which is like lightning for me. More importantly, I found out afterward that a friend had also run it and was consistently two minutes ahead of me, start to finish. I found this out at his funeral a couple months later (he died in Nepal, a freak infection issue, still a young man not even 40).Which was a whole lot of metaphors for life in general... pick them out as you wish.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Happened in 2010

I ran four marathons in 2010, the second year in a row that I accomplished this feat. No PR in the 42.2 (that happened in fall of 2009 at the Niagara International Marathon, 4:12), but I added the 30km Around the Bay race to my list in March 2010. I also ran the Terry Fox 10km Run in September for the first time in a few years, and PR'd at that distance in that race (49 minutes). So yes, I feel like I had a very full, very productive year, gathering a few more bling that have excellent stories attached to each of them.

I had never been to Michiana before, but the Sunburst Marathon gave me the opportunity to explore that area. I also took along guides: my mom and aunt know the area, have friends there, and took us to places we wouldn't have otherwise thought of, Amish places that were pretty cool and didn't all smell like horse shit.

Quebec City was a very impressive marathon (I have earlier blog posts on all of these races, so check them out) in that it was very scenic and the crowds were extremely enthusiastic. Any opportunity to mix with French speaking fellow Canadians is positive, challenging stereotypes and reinforcing the fact that we're all just folks trying to get along. And if it means more crepes and poutine, then count me in.

I ran the Goodlife Toronto Marathon in September, my fourteenth marathon and the first marathon that I had done a second time (October 2005 was my first Toronto Marathon). That was a great experience because it was also only the second time that I ran the entire route in the company of another person, the first time being with my daughter and this time with a good friend who was having trouble psyching herself up to run it.

And then there was Las Vegas. Two weeks of adventure with a marathon in the middle. Hard to cap an eventful year in a better way than that.

I doubt that 2011 will be quite as memorable as 2010 was, but we've got some fun stuff lined up if all goes according to plan. Stay tuned.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Las Vegas Marathon 2010

We arrived in Las Vegas a week before the marathon. We executed the strategy exactly as planned: a day trip to the Grand Canyon, some shopping (ok, a ton of shopping, inevitable when you arrive the week following Thanksgiving), and some casino/hotel sightseeing with a minimum of indulgence in food and drink. Importantly, I managed to sync somewhat with the three hour time difference between Toronto and Las Vegas, helpful for being prepared on marathon day.

However, it was tough to be cautious on the walking when there is so much to see and do and so much shopping to be done. So every night my feet were sore, and I was a bit fearful that the marathon would be a bit shaky (even disastrous) as a result. However, I kept focusing on the positive factors, such as the fact that my weight felt perfect, my muscles were absolutely fine apart from the fatigue, and my cardio fitness seemed fine. My training runs in Vegas were fast and effortless. By the way, training runs in a new town are an amazing way to recon the vicinity and were an immense help in finding great spots to check out, routes to drive, access to hotels, etc.

 Our resort space had a kitchen, laundry, etc., so we could cook most of our meals and thus avoid any of the gastronomic risks associated with travel pre-marathon. We soon felt completely at home and I was really psyched about the upcoming marathon. I think the fact that there were so many distractions really helped me stay loose and relaxed leading up to the race.

The expo was incredible. Every aspect of this event, from the sizes of various spaces to the placement of booths was very well done. The fact that I won a pair of Brooks Glycerin 8's sure didn't hurt. The little cafeteria area right in the middle of the expo was an excellent idea that I haven't seen in an expo before, and addresses the fact that many people rush through expos simply because they need to go somewhere to eat.

The following day, Saturday, the day before the marathon, I decided to run the local Vegas Santa Run. It was gloriously chaotic, hilariously variant in the shapes and sizes, ages and fitness levels of the participants. I think we raised a shitload of money for some local charity, so that was good. There was good grub and fun entertainment at the end, so if that 5 kilometres affected the outcome of my marathon... so be it.

The morning of the marathon was a bit chilly, pretty much as expected though, and eventually the temperature rose to the high teens Celsius. Yes, a perfect day to run a marathon. Parking around the start area would be tricky if we chose to drive down, coupled with the fact that I intended to take advantage of the free beer at the finish line, so we walked down. We walked all of the four plus kilometres. That was going to hurt on the return trip, but the beer would ease the pain.

The start time of 7 am meant that the sun was just above the horizon when the race started. I was in corral 14, and there was a little over a minute wait time between the corral releases so I crossed the start line almost 15 minutes after the race began. The race was far less crowded than 30,000 runners and relatively narrow streets would indicate in most runs, so the staggered start certainly helped.

Most of the bands on the route were excellent. the Blues Brothers types at the start were really cool, the Led Zeppelin guys further down the strip gave me goosebumps, and the Jimi Hendrix guy was a real energy boost as well. And yes, Bret Michaels and his band rocked the finish area at the end like only true pros can do. There were so many Elvi running that I don't think they could find a spare to perform.

The course itself was quite flat. Running up the strip, which I had cruised in our rented Mustang convertible all week, was really cool. One of my only regrets is that I didn't take the glass of beer offered by a bum about half an hour into the run since that would have made a great story. I hope someone took him up on it. The guys in the fake leather jackets, hair greased back, holding beers outside a seedy downtown bar at 8 am were another memorable sight.  When the course veered off into Nevadan suburbia, the view changed dramatically with a greater emphasis on the surrounding mountains. Quite a bit of back-and-forth criss cross stuff, but it was all good. Chatted with some fellow runners to pass the time, struck by how many fellow Canadians there were.

I was on a record pace up to around mile 22 when I started to struggle. I felt cold and a bit dizzy, so I took longer walks at the water stations just to ensure I wasn't going to pass out. My shoes were only in their thrid run, having been purchased earlier in the week. They were exactly the same brand and size I always wear, so if anything they were a huge help (Nike Zoom Vomero 5's). I always wear the same socks as well, Nike microfibre things. And again as always I wore the official marathon shirt, which in this case was excellent (some marathons give out shirts with seams and such that cut and chafe). As a result my finish time was 4:21, which is still pretty damned good for me.

Food at the finish area was perfect, the standard stuff which is all I want at that point. Lots of water and carb drink (which I am always thoroughly sick of by the last water station, although I never fail to drink it). The pics  taken with the show girl as you exit the finish area were pretty neat, but I felt sorry for the show girls because they must have been nauseous from the smell of all those runners at that point.

Bret Michaels and his band totally rocked at the finish area. I was impressed. The beer was very good. I couldn't believe how everybody was getting right into the concert considering that they were completely wiped out. Even though they waved and yelled and pumped fists, there were very few feet that left the ground in anything resembling jumps. It just goes to show ya.

The after party at Club XS in the Wynn was excellent. The dancing was crazy, the drinks flowed, and everyone was completely wiped out by ten o'clock. Our waitress was amazing. She was a pretty good server, too. We had a riot with the little bit of energy we had left.

So that was marathon number 15 relegated to history. The bling was thick and heavy, very satisfying. My opinion is that every marathoner should run this one. It's as perfectly seamless as every other operation in Vegas and how can you possibly resist that? 

Besides, there are at least four In N Out burger locations in town, and if you've never had one you simply have lived an unfulfilled life.