The Running Whys – 2016 Marathon By the Sea previews in review

White concrete room. Grungy urban wall and floor

White concrete room. Grungy urban wall and floor background interior

One runner lost 70 pounds. Another dropped more than 45.

Several used the sport to deal with the stress of difficult family situations.

Two others detailed their reasons for volunteering at Emera Marathon By The Sea.

And one extremely special woman encouraged us to Never, Never, Never Give Up. Demonstrating determination and a strong will allow you to accomplish anything. Continue reading

The Volunteer Whys – Joe Comeau

JOe photoAt 25 years old, Joe Comeau is ready to celebrate a major volunteering milestone.
Next month, Joe will take part in his 10th edition of the Marathon By the Sea, part of a loyal and dedicated core of supporters who help to make the race rock.
He assists with everything from course set up to taking a lot of outstanding photos that capture the spirt of the event. As a result, he transformed into one of the biggest boosters of Saint John’s grand marathon race, which runs Aug. 12-14 with a packed weekend of activities. Continue reading

Marathon by the Sea – 2015

The 2015 Emera Marathon by the Sea will take place in August. As was the case in 2014, we will profile runners and their stories of inspiration from now until the event gets underway.

The 2015 Emera Marathon by the Sea will take place in August. As was the case in 2014, we will profile runners and their stories of inspiration from now until the event gets underway.

The countdown is on to the 21st running of the Emera Marathon by the Sea as already, high enthusiasm levels have been sparked by the at times improving temperatures and the 2015 running season, now in full swing across the province and the region.

As was the case in 2014, we are featuring a number of stories from runners of all levels and abilities who will be competing in the various divisions during the weekend of Aug. 7-9.

Last year, we highlighted runners from all walks of life and all levels of ability.

They lost weight, gained speed and inspired their family and friends but most importantly, themselves, as they conquered various goals.

Their post-race comments are captured here – while Continue reading

Midweek madness, more Garmin info and a weather forecast

It is hard to believe but the final stage of training is well underway, with all the predictable anxiety, doubt and apprehension levels creeping higher and higher.  Some of the final adjustments include setting up the music playlist, finalizing a spot for our dog to stay on the weekend and getting all the gear cleaned.

As it applies to music, four-plus hours is a lot to pre-program so I think I’ll load the music into one play list and hit  the random setting. I think it will be too much to predict what energy music will be appropriate for specific spots, so a bunch of decent music of all genres (there will be some of the girls selections in there, I am sure) will do just fine. Continue reading

Time trials, advice and the height of marathon season

The long runs – and short runs – provide plenty of time for thinking and as a particular race approaches, plenty of time for reflection. Saturday, according to the Pfitz 18/55 plan, called for a 10-k race. Since there were no events close by – not that the schedule would have allowed it mind you – a 10k time trial is recommended.

The ideal setting is a flat venue, such as a track.

So that was the setting for Saturday’s 10k trial and as I ran around the track at the qplex in Quispamsis, it got me thinking of those days in Grade 7 at the Victoria Park oval in Charlottetown. Unlike the modern facilities that exist today, such as the new track at UNBSJ or the one at UPEI that was used for the 2009 Canada Games, Victoria Park, the standard of the day, featured, if recollections are accurate, a gravel base track. It was the location when Queen Charlotte Junior High students ran their annual track and field day.

I’ve never been much of a sprinter, so I recall signing up for a 3,000 metres and nearly dying with exhaustion, watching my peers race around the oval with ease.  It was an introduction to the sport that eventually led to membership in a school running club, that I think built a positive foundation for the sport – albeit with a 20-year interval!

In the day, Victoria Park was the go to place for provincial championships at the club and school level and the site for numerous recreational and competitive activities, including softball and baseball.

So Saturday, the track at the qplex reminded of Victoria Park in some ways – with its gravel paths in the hub of our community’s recreational setting.

With just two weeks remaining before the Prince Edward Island Marathon, the countdown is in high gear and the number of training runs is dwindling. In fact, in the Pfitz plan, there is a heavy emphasis on regular evaluation of progress. That started in Hampton on Sept. 8, continued in Fredericton with a half marathon and essentially ended Saturday with the time trial.

The results, along with hitting regular training mileage, serve as predictors of the big race in two weeks time. In fact, there are a host of areas where you can plug in your times from these tests and get a predicted result. The results of those can be pretty flattering but are estimates based on a heavy volume of regular training in the 50-60 mile range and a number of marathon training cycles.

So for relative marathon newbies, the predicted results are often overly optimistic – because the mileage is often lower than required.

Another interesting predictor – which I have not tried – are Yasso’s 800s, a series of ten 800 metre repeats, with a break in between. In essence, two laps take me approx 3.5 to 4 minutes.  The theory goes if you run 10 of these and average the times, you will have an accurate predictor.

For example, if your average for the 800 minutes runs is 3:45, you should be able to run a 3:45 marathon.

Another area for feedback and advice exists on forums at places such as Runner’s World, where you can provide experienced runners, coaches with assessments of your training log and these test results to get their thoughts on a potential goal time. You better be ready for the feedback as it is not sugar-coated. Ultimately, that is good.

For example, I gave my info, told of my lag in August in addition to my test times. Their assessment was consistent – breaking four hours is possible, but not by much. And I can blow it in the first 20 miles by going too fast – even by 10 seconds a kilometre. Do that and I’ll be toast. They figure while 3:59 is possible, 3:50 is definitely not.

And there was concern in the drop off of pace from my 5 miler (approx. 4:37/km) to the half marathon (approx. 5:00 per km).

This contrasts my predicted times – in the 3:40-3:45 range – for the McMillan Race calculator. Given how I feel, the forum experts seem to be bang on, I figure.

So back to Saturday and the time trial at the qplex. My goal was to try for a new PR in both the 5 k and the 10k. To accomplish this, I wanted to run at a pace at 4:42 per km or better for the 5 km and 4:47 or better for the 10 k.

The temperatures were right – cool, crisp – and while there was a wind, it was at my back on the front stretch and facing me on the front stretch, essentially evening out.

After a 4:24 first km, I worried about burnout and as it went on, I did tire each km.

But the results were positive and encouraging.

5 k – 22:19 (4:24, 4:25, 4:26, 4:29; 4:33)

10 k – 45:18 (Final 5k 4:35: 4:37, 4:34; 4:37; 4:34)

That took about one full minute of my previous best 5 km time (in training) and 2:41 off my previous best 10 k time (in a race in P.E.I. last year).

I am not sure I want to trust the results but it was a great run.

Sunday, capped the week with 27 km run, easy pace in 6C weather. It was a nice run, no problems, very encouraging.

This week, the taper continues, with a decline in the length of runs. One this week has a 13 km easy effort with 3×1,500 metres at 5 km pace. Long run of 19 km on Sunday, the lone distance above 13 km in the upcoming two weeks.

There are fewer than 10 runs remaining before the big one.

Finally, the marathon season is well underway and Sunday, the Maine Marathon in Portland kicked it off. There is the final running of the Kennebecasis Challenge this weekend in Rothesay as well as the Valley Harvest in Wolfville, then PEI and finally the Legs for Literacy in Moncton the final weekend of the month. Let’s hope the weather holds up.

Taper, new shoes and the return of my Garmin

That number to the left is clicking lower at an alarming quick rate.

For a while, it read 4 months, then 3, etc.

Now, it is a daily clicker at 18, seemingly speeding faster each passing moment. In some ways, it reminds of that difficult final exam so far in the distance that, while you worried about it, you also never thought it would come. Let’s just say, it’s coming.

With the advancing time comes the final stage of the training program – the taper. In short, you reduce the length of the workouts but try to keep the intensity, meaning tempos, strides and hills are still there, just not as long. The reductions are not that significant this week but after this upcoming Sunday’s run, they will slide big time.

Lots of theories out there for handling the extra time, which can be characterized by worries about training – length and quality -, paranoia about sudden injuries, weight gain, illness and a host of other concerns.

It seems like taper madness will develop into its own topic to discuss later.

I just put together a few notes on the past week before advancing too far:

New Shoes

When I left my former job, I was kindly given $100 gift certificate for the Running Room, which translated into a new pair of running shoes. That was in March and while they gave my right foot more than a few problems, I went with them since then – yup, way too long. I rectified that Tuesday, with a new pair of adidas shoes, which after one run, seem to fit and feel perfect. It was about time. As the miles accumulated, the old shoes were feeling great – just holes were popping everywhere. They needed to be replaced and the slight aches in the back of my legs may disappear soon as a result.

Watch update

It turned out that my Garmin needed a checkup and after some calls, I learned Garmin gets it service work done in Quebec. The turnaround was quick, relatively speaking and less than two weeks after I sent it in for repair to fix some of the internal components, the watch returned, cleaned up and ready for action. The settings all had to be restored but that took all of 5 minutes and I got it back to full working order for a tempo run Tuesday. During the interim, I enjoyed trying out several apps (Nike +, RunKeeper) to chart my runs but both were off significantly in measurement. Therefore, I enjoyed the return to the reliability the Garmin affords.


Our Livestrong treadmill, a great alternative to running in grimy weather, has been acting up for almost a year. It conked out in August and after a quick repair, needed more work, significant work. The company sent us a replacement belt, floor and motherboard components to deal with various issues, along with training videos on how to install them. So, that is where we are at – do I fiddle with it and learn on the go from the videos or contact a local treadmill repair shop – at my cost – to put it together. That fee will be more than $100. More than a little frustration with this company and product that is less than two years old. When working, it is amazing. Problem is it has not been functioning properly for some time.

Long run

Sunday was the final 32 km effort in preparation for the P.E.I. Marathon and when it ended, the taper phase started. I am not sure what it is with the 32 kms, but there always seems to be something. I was fine endurance wise on this afternoon run in 21C heat with 54 per cent humidity, but my stomach was doing cartwheels at several points. Probably a reflection of poor eating and not enough water during the previous 48 hours. I had several emergency stops. Those aside, the run was clocked in almost 3:30 hours, which looking back, was about 15-20 minutes slower than the runs from last year’s training. And from what I read, slower is better in training – at least the long runs. It is more about the total time as opposed to the distance. So while it can be hard to believe that slower will result in faster, I went with it.

Tempo Tuesday

The first run of taper phase was a 13 km Tempo Tuesday effort that included 5×600 at 5k pace. I must say the speed work pays off but there is a certain amount of dread associated with each effort, until you get going. I have never run a full 5k at 4:30 per k pace but I was feeling good once I got going. So my goal was to go under 4:30 for each 600m leg and I got that done.  I am not sure how I will do in terms of my marathon goal but I am confident I could take a real run at cracking 23:00 in a 5k right now. MY PB is about 23:30, set last year.

On deck

The week-day load is light, with 10 k on Wednesday, an off day Thursday and 6k on Friday. Saturday calls for a time trial over 10K, the final fitness assessment before PEI (more on that later in the week, as I give details from an online conversation regarding potential pace). Sunday sees a 26 km long run.