A long and rambling recap of the highs and lows from the amazing Chicago Marathon experience

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It was a tad congested as we made our way to the start line of the Chicago Marathon.

Close your eyes and imagine a race where all your family and friends are cheering you on, loudly with horns and drums and wild shouts of delight.

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Popular photo spot at Expo site.

Now imagine you are running 5k, then 10k and this support does not end, seemingly increasing in volume and intensity along a 26.2 mile route, not stopping for more than four hours.

Now imagine that enthusiasm takes place on a gorgeous Sunday morning with an infinite amount of signs and cheers and food and drink (yes, beer was offered) and encouragement every step of the way.

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Another popular photo site.

But imagine that instead of family and friends, these shouts and cheers and music and passion are from complete strangers, an international brethren who have bonded in one goal, your goal, regardless of how fast, how slow you are going. Continue reading

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The Running Whys – Carla Harris

Carla Harris started running at age 40 and became hooked, competing in many distances and has branched out to triathlons as well.

Carla Harris started running at age 40 and became hooked, competing in many distances and has branched out to triathlons as well.

This is the third in a series of stories featuring athletes who will take part in Marathon by the Sea.

 Carla Harris has generally been active all her life but did not start running until she was in her 40s. That leap was inspired, in part, by volunteering at a water station during one edition of Marathon by the Sea. There, she witnessed the determination of the competitors and felt if older runners could tackle the course, so could she. It changed her life. What follows is her story of her impressive progress, extensive competition and her journey into the triathlon disciplines as well.

 Enjoy.

by Carla Harris

I have been running for about 15 years but was a late starter at the age of 40. I am now 56 years old. I was pretty active as a kid, running a little, broad-jumping and I remember how much I liked being outside. Once I competed in a junior high school running relay team where I got a ribbon.

In my early 20’s, I started Continue reading

The Running Whys – Victoria Hitchcock

This story ran in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner on May 2.

When Victoria Hitchcock crossed the finished line in her first 10-kilometre race last Mother’s Day, she wept for joy.

She hugged her friend Laura McLeod.

She embraced her family and took a moment to savour her athletic feat.

Victoria Hitchcock, right, and her friend Laura McLeod show off their medals after completing the 10 kilometre race during the Scotiabank Fredericton Marathon last year. Photo Submitted

Victoria Hitchcock, right, and her friend Laura McLeod show off their medals after completing the 10 kilometre race during the Scotiabank Fredericton Marathon last year. Photo Submitted

For the then mother of two, completing a distance as part of the Fredericton Marathon that seemed so daunting, so out of her comfort zone when she set her initial running goal – the emotional response reflected pride in a monumental personal accomplishment.

It was something I never dreamt I would do,” said the 31-year-old Lincoln Heights resident. “I was never athletic, I never did any sports and I had never ran a day in my life.

Now, after her third child arrived in February, she’s returned to running, in the final stages of a couch to 5-km program that will lead her to this year’s Fredericton Marathon once again. She’ll race in her event as part of a crowd of approximately 2,000 other runners in various distances ranging from the full marathon to the 5-km walk.

I cried when I crossed the line because it just seemed like such an accomplishment,” she said. Continue reading

The Running Whys – Ryan O’Shea

Ryan O'Shea of New Maryland crosses the finish line to win the 20th anniversary running of Marathon by the Sea in Saint John. Photo: Marathon by the Sea

Ryan O’Shea of New Maryland crosses the finish line to win the 20th anniversary running of Marathon by the Sea in Saint John.

Here is the latest edition in The Running Whys series that ran in the Daily Gleaner earlier this month. It features Ryan O’Shea of New Maryland, who captured his first-ever marathon win with a victory at Marathon by the Sea on Aug. 10. We caught up with him after the race. Here are his answers to some questions we fired his way.

1. First, tell me a bit of your background. Where are you from, what do you do for a living?

I am originally from Miramichi, but have been living in the Fredericton Region the past 13 years and currently live in New Maryland. I have a very supportive wife (Natalie O’Shea) and a 3 year old son Liam, and we are expecting in October. I currently work as an ESL instructor at the Multicultural Association of Fredericton, and also work as a Regional Coach for the Canadian Centre for Language Benchmarks.

2. Tell me a bit about Marathon by the Sea. (What was hard? Did you lead all the way? Did it go according to plan? Did you hold on at the end? What did it mean to you? Is it your biggest win?) Continue reading

The Running Hows with Daryl Steeves

Running coach Daryl Steeves says runners should stay calm and enjoy the MBTS experience after logging many kilometres of training over many weeks and months.

Highly respected running coach Daryl Steeves says runners should stay calm and enjoy the Marathon by the Sea experience after logging many kilometres of training over many weeks and months to prepare for the annual event Sunday.

This is the 23rd story in a series profiling runners who will compete in the 20th anniversary running of Emera Marathon By the Sea Marathon in Saint John on Sunday. The stories are also running on the MBTS Facebook page and MBTS website.

Race weekend has arrived. After weeks and months of preparation, the butterflies are sure to be creeping in for runners and walkers in the final hours before the 20th anniversary edition of Marathon by the Sea.

In the spirit of the number 20, well known and trusted coach Daryl Steeves is offering 20 tips for participants to help their experience in this year’s event. Daryl is highly regarded in the running community for his expertise and experience. His positive influence was cited as a key reason for improvements by many athletes in our Running Whys series.

Here are Daryl’s suggestions. Enjoy and good luck.

Continue reading

In Bruce’s words – The Running Whys

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Bruce took on a new challenge when he competed in the inaugural Beat the Tide race on Minister’s Island last summer.

“The race was great as runners had the opportunity to explore one of New Brunswick’s treasured islands while doing their favourite activity. It was more like a cross-country race as Minister’s Island isn’t flat at all. We ran up and down hills, along trails, hugged the seashore and climbed one of the grassiest hills I have ever seen. Race organizers did a fabulous job for an inaugural event.”

During one of those phases before I picked up running regularly in 2010, I wanted to get out more but lacked the motivation to follow through. I remember vividly some long walks and run-walks with Bruce, a friend from the T-J who moved to Fredericton from Bathurst and set up a home close by. I never lasted long on those initial jaunts but Bruce did and eventually, he was running regularly on the ANB circuit, first some middle distances and then some long ones – real long ones. During one chat, he told me of the this thing called the Run for the Cycle, which consisted of a 5k, 8k, 10k, half and full marathon in the same calendar year, a feat he accomplished in 2009.  He is still going strong and in 2013, took on an interesting new event.

His story is below.

Enjoy

Kevin

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by Bruce Macfarlane
@NBMarathonman

All-season running isn’t for everyone. Some people wouldn’t pick summer as their favourite season for outdoor running.

I discovered this fact in July 2013. Continue reading

In Andrew’s words – The Running Whys

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One of the highlights for Andrew and his wife Helene was a spectacular run up to Signal Hill during a family vacation to Newfoundland.

“To me, sleep is underrated.  Particularly on weekends.  Usually, it took a forklift to get me out of bed on a Sunday!  Now, if I don’t get my long, slow run in on a Sunday, I am Cranky McCrankerson!  Funny how running does that to you. A long distance training run can fly when you are chatting about sports, family activities, kids, music, life.   I find that time to be solitude, to enjoy the company, the scenery and be away from BlackBerries and computers.”

I met Andrew Holland when I first moved to Fredericton in 1997 and we were both covering sports. We’ve kept in touch since and have both come to enjoy the benefits of running. Of all the stories of battling through health adversity in 2013, Andrew’s recovery is near the top of the list. Earlier this week, he continued his impressive strides by braving the elements in the 2014 Resolution Run. Here is his story from 2013.

Enjoy

Kevin

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by Andrew Holland

I draw inspiration and motivation from the words of fellow runners and am happy to be invited by Kevin to post a recap of the past year given some of the health adversity I had previously faced.

2013 was a year of personal growth, a lot of learning and some injury frustration.  But all in all, a very rewarding year.

Since 2009, I had really been a casual runner, typically going out three times a week doing Continue reading

Fredericton and beyond

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There were about 200 racers in the half marathon segment of the 31st Fredericton Fall Classic last weekend.

Sunday was my second and final race test before the P.E.I. Marathon as I signed up for the half marathon at the 31st edition of the Fredericton Fall Classic. The goal was to not hold back in order to gather current fitness information, so a more accurate goal for the P.E.I. Marathon could be established. It was the same course I ran back in May, 2012 with a good time, so I was excited.

My wife also entered, running her first-ever 10 km race. Great stuff.

Prior to the festivities, we left the girls with our good friends in Rothesay and headed to Fredericton Saturday evening, where we met some friends for dinner, enjoyed the evening and had an early night.

Trouble was, as it always is, it was a little tough to get to sleep the night before a race because of anticipation, etc.

We woke up at 5:55 a.m., headed to Tims for a light breakfast and then to the start area.

The half was slated to get going at 8 a.m. and when we arrived, there was a lot of activity. After a warm-up, I headed to the line and saw a few familiar faces. In addition, there seemed to be a large collection of extremely fit runners and judging by the finish times (10 per cent of the field beat 1:30 and 20 per cent were better than 1:40 see note below), there were plenty of fast, fast athletes in the field.

This was my first race with the Nike + app and I was interested in how it would work. As it turned out, its GPS capabilities were not 100 per cent accurate, off by about 8 seconds per km I figure – and that meant it registered the half marathon at about 21.61 km.

Here are the splits it recorded, which I estimate as 8 seconds faster than actual.

First third – 4:39; 4:51; 4:45; 4:47; 4:55; 4:53; 4:47.

I went out with the rabbits and it was a little too fast as evidenced by the early clocking. The fastest I had gone in tempo runs was 10 km at 5:00, so this was a test, big time. Things settled in after about 4 km but I was sliding back, getting passed by more than a few souls, particularly around the 6 km mark. I felt slightly winded but was in control and told myself to hold back, knowing it would be a challenge to stretch this pace the whole way. That was in part to the 88 per cent humidity reading and 19C temperature reading at the start. As I have noted before, humidity is a killer and I did not want to slide later in the race.

Middle third – 4:53; 4:44; 5:02; 4:57; 4:51; 4:53: 4:54.

This was all trail running, with some windy sections but, with the exception of enthusiastic volunteers at water stations, it was very quiet. We crossed a bridge as we approached halfway, and generally, I was starting to feel more comfortable, albeit hesitant to move ahead and catch some of those who had passed me earlier. But by the halfway point, I started to slow down (5:02) and then, as more and more runners were coming back toward me after the turnaround point, I opted to pick it up slightly and pass a few people.

The trail is tight at the 11 km mark for the turnaround (it is further out because, on the return leg, we did not have run the initial 800 yards or so that we did in the first lap). There was a water station, a porta-potty and several people stopped for drink or relief.

That opened space and gave me a sight line for about 10 people I was closing on. That became an in-race goal – to track them down.

Final third

4:51; 4:54; 4:47; 4:57; 4:44; 4:53; 4:52 (I do not have a reading for the final 600 metres).

The beauty of this race is the flat course, which really saves you some energy in the final stages. So over the course of kms 14-18, I managed to pass about 10 people, including one man who I went back and forth with a couple of times. It felt good to have something in reserve, while still hitting the goal of running about 5:00 per km.

With 4.5 km left, we started to meet those in the 10k race, which started 45 minutes after the half got underway. My wife and I predicted we would see one another at this segment and we were right – with about 3 km left. I tried to encourage her when we met, saying there was just a bit left. Seeing a familiar face boosted both of our spirits for the final stretch. In contrast to other races, where the athletes can be stretched out at the finish, the congestion of the 10km runners proved motivating as well.

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We celebrated a couple of nice runs after completing the Fredericton Fall Classic!

Early on, I realized I’d have to go further than the Nike app indicated and when I approached the finish, I saw 1:45 on the clock and was content, figuring I had a bit left but satisfied I could stretch that 5:00 per km pace the entire distance. That is especially so in light of very little taper and an 18 km effort three days previously. After, I walked back and met Kathy, encouraging her as she completed her first 10 km race. She met her goal time and is setting up for her first half in PEI as well!!!!!

Of note:

A) It is good to be completely prepared when you leave the house and that includes taking along everything you are going to wear. For me, I thought I was ready but in the rush to leave Saturday evening for Fredericton, I forgot running socks. We enjoyed a great evening and dinner in the Capital City Saturday, where I wore dress socks. They doubled as race socks on Sunday. No problems, other than the obvious fashion faux-pas.

B) I thought there were a lot of speedy runners in Fredericton and judging by other results, that theory was correct. In this weekend’s event, 10.7 per cent of the field beat 1:30 and 21.9 per cent of the runners were better than 1:40. At the Saint John Marathon By the Sea, six of 358 (1.7 per cent) half marathoners beat 1:30 and 28 of 358 (7.8 per cent) were faster than 1:40 while in the Fredericton earlier this year, 21 of 564 half marathoners (3.7 per cent) were better than 1:30 and 54 of 564 (9.6 per cent) were faster than 1:40.

In Moncton last year, 10 of 691 half marathoners (1.4 per cent) beat 1:30 and 49 of 691 (7.1 per cent) were faster than 1:40. So overall, the Fall Classic was fast – very fast.

This week

This is the final week before taper, which means two medium long runs, one with some speed elements. In addition, the weekend features the last and longest  run before P.E.I. – a 32 km effort. I’ll see how the weather is before I decide whether to run a portion of this at marathon pace or just opt for the long slow pace.

Next week, the plan calls for a 25 per cent reduction in training, although there are still some decent runs there. The following week is a 50 per cent dip in distances and the week after that sees 4-5 minor runs to keep active and deal with pre-marathon jitters.

Go Go gadgets

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It had to happen, right? The Garmin watch I received as a gift from Kathy several years ago has proven instrumental in my training exercises over the past few years, providing detailed information on my running – from time and distance to pace per km. That is a key component of the interval and speed training I have done (albeit, not enough as prescribed by the Pfitz 18-55 plan).

It developed into an important element of my running, which gave me lots of time to analyze what was right, what improvements were required and exactly when to begin and end tempo or long runs.

The devices are hugely popular in the running world, as many know, with nearly every competitor sporting a GPS device of some sort at the start line, one they check religiously throughout their runs.

Call me guilty of checking it too often on nearly every run.

This leads into some problems which developed after I went to charge it. Seems Garmins can break down inside as tiny port holes absorb water and sweat and over time, wires can get corroded or separated and ultimately, they fail to function.  That apparently is what happened to mine. For a fee, Garmin farms out repair work in Canada to a company in Quebec and so, after consulting with them, I sent the device to La Belle Province, where they will refurbish it and send it back.

Hopefully, I get it in the mail before the P.E. I. Marathon.

But with a month to go, I guess I am not exactly sure (They estimated two weeks to turn it around). When you factor in shipping time, it could be dicey.

On Saturday, for my long run of 29 km, I wore Kathy’s watch – yes the one with the pretty pink colours. However, I had been searching for a substitute, especially with a half marathon test slated for this weekend in Fredericton at the Fredericton Fall Classic.

Then I stumbled upon Nike+ apps, which is  free for iPhones. I have seen others use it, so I downloaded it and, unsure of how much data it would register, I gave it a test for an 18km effort Wednesday night.

I am still figuring it out but my initial impressions were very favourable. It alerts you to the pace at regular intervals – every .25, .50 and 1.0 kilometre are the options -, it plays your songs from your music file or a designated playlist, displays your distance brightly throughout the run so it is easy to check and when you reach the final stages, there is a voice of encouragement to urge your to ‘finish strong’.

When finished, it recaps everything a Garmin does – lap times, overall speed, distance travelled as well as option to post to social media and an overall Nike website, which collects your data (also stores info on your iPhone).

I haven’t figured out a few things but I plan on testing it in race conditions on Sunday.

With that, it’s been a very good training week, with a solid long run. While not at marathon pace, it was a relaxed 6:09 pace for 29 km on Saturday in the nice afternoon conditions. I took Sunday off and went 8 km on Monday and 10 km on Tuesday, both in the 5:55 range while on Wednesday, armed with the new app, I went 5:46 for 18 km on a run characterized as cool, crisp and highly relaxing. Today, Thursday, is off and I am on a mini taper for the Fredericton effort on Sunday.

That means two short runs on Friday and Saturday between 7-10 km at slow, slow pace.

Sunday is the second of two fitness tests for the Pfitz plan. The first was the Hampton 5 miler two weeks ago. The second is the half marathon in Fredericton. I have great memories of this course, the same one I ran a 1:42:53 in May, 2012, shaving more than 4 minutes off my previous best.

Not sure what to expect this time but I am aiming for at least a 1:45 and change clocking, which amounts to 5 mins per km. I am not sure if I have enough endurance to last at that pace for 21.1 km but I am going to give it a shot. The course is fast and flat and if it is not too hot – or too wet – maybe that goal is achievable. If not, I’ll try to see how many kms I can get in at that pace, which is about 35-40 seconds faster than marathon pace I have planned for PEI.

Also, hit the scale for the first time in a bit and it is under 180 for the first time in a  long long while – 179.5, another encouraging sign.

Until next time.

Mother nature

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It started slowly but just after I began Saturday on a recovery pace for my 8-km run, the skies opened up, and the pouring rain was accompanied by plenty of thunder and lightning.

Canada Day brought out a rare sight in Quispamsis Monday – the sun. For much of the past week, the prevailing conditions were rain, clouds, darkness and relatively cool temperatures. Mind you, since I had a few extended runs scheduled in my training for the P.E.I. Marathon, I did not mind the conditions that much. In fact, two of my most enjoyable runs ever happened in cloudy, cool or rainy conditions – Fredericton half in 2012 and PEI 10K in October 2010.

But this week, two runs were interrupted by Mother Nature. First, the strides workout I had planned for Tuesday was altered to a tempo run on the treadmill because of a threat of lightning. In fact, there was a tornado warning for the evening, which had me wondering just what the heck to do, if our house was strong enough to last through a tornado, do we have supplies, will we be safe, etc etc. etc. The warning lasted all of 45 minutes but was enough to keep me inside on the treadmill that night. I opted out of the strides because they are 25-30 seconds of sprinting followed by two minutes of a slow jog – repeated 10 times. I just felt so much button-pushing on the treadmill was not worth it, so I switched to a 3-7-3 tempo format with the 7k run at 5 min pace.

Thursday, it was overcast and cool but at 13-15C, it was a beautiful evening for a run when I got going on a 16k effort. I tried to keep it at 6:20 per km but came in at 6:10 per KM. I read that the training pace needs to keep slow in order to 1) log the time and get your body burning fat on the aerobic jaunt and not producing lactic acid (more on that later in the process – when I figure it out! and 2) not burn out.

But the temperatures made for a comfortable run on my favourite route, which takes me adjacent to the Kennebecasis River. Ironically enough, as I ran, Saint John-like fog had rolled in and the river was a blanket of white.

Saturday was a crazy day at our house as were prepared for my oldest daughter’s 10th birthday party – Double digits, big time effort. So we hosted a sleepover for eight of her friends and my youngest daughter. It all went well as could be expected and I even had time for an 8k recovery pace run starting at approximately 4:45 p.m. before everyone arrived. I got going on a nice pace, again a little quick but not too bad. After just one km, the clouds opened, sprinkling with a light rain. Not bad, I thought. Refreshing even. At 1.5 km though, it really started to pour and at 2 km, I heard the first rumble. It was distant but distinct. I thought I’d go 500 more metres, possibly another km and turn around to cut it short to 6km overall.

A 2.5 km, the rumbles grew in volume and at 3 km, there was a none so subtle ‘BANG’. I sprinted for cover outside a local restaurant, and waited and waited and waited for the storm to let up. Finally, after 20 minutes and with no relief in sight, I called for a drive home. The rain was so intense, it was streaming off the roof of the restaurant – see the picture above. The rumbling lasted another 30-45 minutes but by then, the birthday guests were arriving. So I cut it short – 3km run.

After the excitement, came another one of those Pfitzner tests – a 21.1 km long run with 13 km at marathon pace on Sunday. For me, that meant a 5:36 km effort from the 4km mark to 17 km, achievable but after not doing that pace for that distance for a while, not a given. The key was to hit the time pretty well right on and not attempt to bank time, as I did in Moncton last year, a strategy where I ultimately paid dearly. But when you are feeling good and can go with the speed of the day as warranted by conditions and your energy level, it is hard not to run at the faster pace. This will be the biggest challenge in training, I figure – running disciplined.

Safe to say, this is a lead in to report I was not disciplined Sunday, completing the entire 21.1 km route, warm ups included at 5:36 or 1:57.4x.

My warmup 4 k splits were 6:01, 6:13, 6:08, 6:07 – a tad faster than the 6:25 I was hoping for.

The 13 k splits (again aiming for 5:36) were as follows:

5:34, 5:31, 5:45, 5:24, 5:24, 5:16; 5:26; 5:12; 5:16, 5:18; 5:13: 5:09; 4:55.

This was about three minutes, 35 seconds, or almost 16 seconds per km, faster than I should have been. It might not seem like a lot, but over the course of a full marathon, this will be a killer. I know first-hand. Looking at the splits, I suspect I felt nervous after that 5:45 time and decided I did not want push it so close the rest of the way. The final 4 k were a shade under 6:00 coming home.

Overall, I felt good, really good for the first half I’d run in more than 6 months and 8 k of that half was at a slow pace. But after the 17th K, I was feeling it and was more tired than possibly I should be to end Week 2 of training. So the next big test for marathon pace is in three weeks. We’ll see if I can use this lesson and come closer to the goal of 5:36.

Last week

4 runs, 53 k

This week

5 runs, 64 km, long run 23 km