Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Zooming along

Yesterday I went out for the Tuesday night speed work session with the Calgary Road Runners. I have come to look forward to Tuesday nights and I am enjoying getting to know people in the group.

Last night we did 2 x 2miles, along with a warm up and cool down. I ran hard. Nearly puked my guts out. It was most excellent.

Today I was too tired to run, but my yoga class started up again for the fall and I thoroughly enjoyed that.

The writing is coming along. I have finished a first draft of my Analysis chapter - emphasis on the "draft". But it is something to start with. I started the Discussion of the Results. I've got a basic framework for the chapter sketched out and 16 pages of notes to get me going. I am determined to have a draft ready for when I meet with Tim. I question myelf along the way, but that is part of the process, I suppose.

In general, I am working hard and enjoying every second of it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm going to see a man about a thesis

Thanks for all the feedback on the heart rate monitor. I asked around at the U of C Fitness Centre, too, and I think I'm going to go with the idea that it was interference. Apparently Garmins can pick up the heart beats of people around you. So, if you are running shoulder to shoulder with someone, it can pick up both people's heart beats. Since both of you may have a heart beat at nearly the same moment, that would register as a single beat. The ones that are out of synch get registered individually, so the oveall HR seems to go up.

Apparently there can also be interference from external factors, too.

Since I felt just fine (well, you know... "interval fine", if that makes sense), I'm not going to worry about it.

This week I got some great news. As you know, my supervisor and his family moved to Canada's east coast this summer so he could take a job at the University of Prince Edward Island. He's still going to supervise my thesis and see me through to the end, but it'll be at a distance.

We thought it would be beneficial if we could meet in person to go over some of what I'd written. He and his wife offered me their guest room and meals, if I could get myself down there. I have a room mate now and she would look after the house and the cats while I'm gone.

This week I met with the Vice Dean of the faculty. She was happy to hear that my research work is progressing and thought that it would certainly be beneficial if I could spend some time with Tim in person going over what I'd done so far. And so, she agreed to support the endeavour by supplying the plane ticket.

How lucky am I?!

This means I've got to work like a maniac and write as much as humanly possible before I meet with Tim next month. It will likely be my only opportunity to have face time with my supervisor before the defense, and I want to make the most of it.

It just happens that while I'll be there, it's a big race weekend. I may just have to round out the season with a little run on the island.

Now if you'll excuse me, I must return to my thesis... :-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Racing heart

Well, folks, no sooner had I said that I'd never done 400s or 800s than I went out for a run with the Calgary Road Runners and we did -- 6 x 800s. It was great fun! I did feel like I was going to puke, but I pulled back just enough to stave that off.

When I got home and plugged in my Garmin, I got a heck of a surprise though. Yes, this was the fastest I have worked this year. That's all well and good. The overall pace was about race pace for me. My average overall heart rate was 155, which is lower than what I race at. I usually sustain an average heart rate of about 163 for over two hours in a half marathon, with a maximum HR around 181. Is that normal for a 37-year old?

I'm asking because tonight my maximum heart rate varied from 182 to... get this: 226. WTF???

Twice before I've clocked a max HR at 255, but I assumed the Garmin malfunctioned for a second or two. But tonight I saw the max HR change for each interval and for three of the six intervals, it maxed out over 200 - once at 200, once at 202 and once at 226. I backed off a bit for the last three and maxed out in the 180s.

My resting HR, from what I can figure, is about 59 or so. My blood pressure is generally on the low side of normal... 111/70 or so is about average for me. I had my annual physical in May and I'm fit as a fiddle. And I feel great - especially since I finished off the Accutane earlier this month.

So, running friends, what do you think? Was it a Garmin malfunction? Should I try again next week and see if it continues? Should I go to the doctor, go directly to the doctor, not pass Go and not collect $200?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Speedy thoughts

What does it take to be fast? How do you get faster?

These are questions I have been asking myself lately. I've spent the year building miles - safely and injury free. I've also been thrilled this year that I haven't puked once, either in training or racing. I've come close, but I haven't crossed the line this year, so I'm getting the nutrition and hydration issues under control.

My mind wanders to the next challenge... getting faster. I've been scouring websites reading all about speed workouts, most of which boggle my mind. I've never done any workout with the numbers "400s" or "800s" in it. I monitor my stats on my Garmin, but I wouldn't have the foggiest idea how (or where?) to go run 400s. Is that even important for an aspiring marathoner?

Is it mental? Bio-mechanical? Genetic? All of the above?

What percentage of time can you expect to shave off a race with speed work (once you figure out how to do it)?

So many questions... Very little in the way of answers.

Let's be clear though... It's not that I think faster runners are better. It's that I am a challenge junkie and this is my next challenge. For now.

Sigh. If only I'd been born Jamaican. Ya, mon.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Canmore Rocky Mountain Half Marathon Report

Race report

What a fantastic race I had today! The weather had a fall crispness to it that I just love and the course was, bar none, the most breathtaking I've ever experienced.

Here's me at the start line. Don't I look happy?

I had previewed the course a few weeks ago and as always, that made a huge difference. I knew the second half of the course was all hills.

I had two non-time related goals for this race:
1) Run the whole thing.
2) Run according to how I felt (listen to the body).

The first goal was not achieved; but that's mostly because the second goal was achieved.

The first 10 km, was the fastest I've ever done, faster even than my one 10 km race, which was run at sea level this May in Vancouver. That was the only time I looked at my watch and I thought, "Holy moly, if I can keep this up, I'll have a PR!"

But it was not to be. The rolling switchback hills in the second half reduced me to a walk at times. My Garmin later told me that my average HR through the race was 166, with a max of 181. I felt great the whole way through, but it was the fastest HR I've ever had during a race. That max was pretty near 100% for me, I figure. I worked hard and felt great. It was my fastest race time this year!

The course was spectacular - mountain views, a gorgeous river, green grass. Wow. At about kilometre 16 we were running along a river path and saw three large animals crossing the river.

Now, mountain friends, don't laugh, but they were too far away and the sun was at an odd angle, so I wasn't sure if they were moose or elk, though I'm opting for the latter. Anyway, they were big. Runners were pointing, gasping and making "Oh wow!" comments. It was a very special moment.

As for my time, I've now run 5 half marathons. Today's time was right smack in the milddle of them. Given the hills, the Accutane I was taking all through my training and most of all, the fact that I ran hard and still finished without puking, I was very happy with it. I wasn't expecting a PR today, though I do think that there will be more hill training in my future. One day I hope to conquer the hills, not the other way around.

Oh yeah, and see that finish line photo? I managed to keep my shirt on! That's also a first, I'll have you know. It was mostly because I was too busy enjoying the scenery and the race itself.

I started out wearing a tank top today, but changed to a t-shirt after we arrived in Canmore, since we could see our breath in the morning air. It all worked out just fine, eut I have a new race rule: If it's above the freezing mark, I wear a tank top.

Fun with A.

As many of you know, my friend A. appointed herself my crew member for my first half marathon in July 2007. She's been with me at every half since. I know, I know. Half marathoners don't need crewing. But it's not like I'm going to say no!

She doesn't run. In fact, she hates running. And yet, she hauls her butt out of bed at ungodly hours voluntarily to be there for me during races. I got a chance for some payback this June when she asked me to be her maid of honour when she got married. I joked then that I finally got a chance to crew for her. As far as I can figure, planning a wedding is somewhat akin to training for a distance race. The big day isn't that different from race day. Except you look a whole lot prettier throughout, and you finish up married, of course.

Here are a couple of priceless moments from today:

Anecdote #1: During the drive to Canmore, which takes just over an hour from my place, I got a pep talk from my dear friend, who is a high-powered labour relations officer by day. The pep talk included advice like "Just say to yourself, 'I know it's hard. Now get on with it! You're not here to slack off. Go harder!'" Gotta love friends who are blessed with the gift of inspirational words.

Anecdote 2: After changing into a T-shirt, and doing some general dithering, I said to A. "I know, I know... runners are neurotic."

She laughed and replied, "Not runners, Sarah. Just you!"

As we were in the high school gym before the race, I pointed out that most of the runners it the room were fussing with something or another - shoes, race numbers, etc. Really, aren't we all a little neurotic? (Someone please agree with me here!)

Anecdote #3: After the race, we were at the car and I was taking care of my foot. Unfortunately, I got a blister on my bunion that bled and soaked through to my shoe. Oh well. So it goes. There we were inspecting it with A. making comments such as, "Oh, that doesn't look bad at all! It looks pretty good really! It's usually way worse than that!"

I couldn't help thinking that two people inspecting a bleeding foot could assess its state relative to other times it has gushed with blood. Now isn't there something just a little bizarre about that?

Anecdote #4: We went back to the gym for some post race refreshments. I was stretching and I said to A., as we nibbled on cookies, "You know, I feel great! I know this sounds sadistic, but I feel like I could go for a run right now."

She looked at me and snorted, saying, "Yeah, OK, whatever. Keep stretching."

Ah, blessed moments with good friends,no?

Meeting She Who Makes Waves

For the third time this summer, I've met bloggers at races. First it was Michelle and Eric at the Death Race. Then I met Leana at the Stratmore Women's Tri where I was cheering on friends and today I met She Who Makes Waves.

In a brilliant moment of post-race delirium I introduced her to my friend by the wrong name (Duh!), but it got better from there and she has pictures of us on her blog, so stop by and visit. What a bright bundle of energy she is!

Other tidbits

I ran into one of the trainers from my gym at a coffee shop after the race. Again, in another moment of stellar social grace, we hugged each other and I gasped with envy saying, "You've had a shower! You smell great!"

She confessed that yes, she had had a shower where she's stayed over night. We chit chatted and congratulated each other on our races. Later all I could think was, "Inside voice, Sarah. Inside voice!"

Other than that, I don't really have much to report. I had a blast. I am grateful for a fantastic race experience.