The Running Whys – Laura Lee Mullin


laura-5Among Laura Lee Mullin’s most memorable runs was the one that happened before she was married, when she brought her future husband Robert along for what she described as a test run.

They had been dating just a few months and decided to go for a 5km jog together when Laura Lee, fuelled by her ‘competitive spirit,’ decided to take Robert on a little loop.

At least that’s what I told him,” recalls Mullin, a physiotherapist with the Department of National Defence the past 13 years. Continue reading

A birthday party, family runs and going out a little too fast

The biggest week so far in the Pfitz training cycle for the P.E.I. Marathon ended Monday with a 29 km long run, that was great for 25.5 km and not so hot for a walk-run portion in the final 3.5 km. Still, after racking up 80 km for the week, it was a solid series of runs, efforts that took me to the halfway point of training for the Oct. 20 event.

Most notably, we celebrated my wife’s birthday and enjoyed cake, ice cream, a few other treats and cheered her on as she hit 14 km in her training regiment for the half marathon in P.E.I . as well. To put that into perspective, her longest race to this point is the Hampton 5-miler last September and prior to a month ago, she had never run further than 9 km. Her determination is outstanding. So her progress to P.E.I., a sentimental journey of sorts for both of us, is fantastic.

In addition, both my daughters are gearing up for the Spud Run, which is a one or two lap race (depending on age) the day before the big show gets underway. We went to the local school and banged off 1.0 and 0.5 km respectively. We are not sure how many times we may train, but it was a start!

As for me, I took a while to recover from that successful tempo effort Wednesday, struggling through an 18-km effort Thursday and then enjoying two straight days off (so tired, both nights). That set the stage for an 11 km general run on Sunday, with 8 x100 strides near the end. It went well. The strides are difficult but I worked out at the track (trail-like surface) close to our house and it was a neat way to knock those repeats down. Still, the legs were pretty heavy but I seem to be getting the knack for doing them better each time out.

It was a bigger effort than I anticipated and that caused me to worry some about the long run Monday, where the goal was to go out in 20 per cent more than marathon pace and then come back in 10 per cent above projected marathon pace. That meant about 6:30-6:35 for the first half and 6:00-6:05 for the second half. The temperature was cool at the start and there was a slight breeze. After doing some reading about the importance of closely hitting the splits in the big race, even though it may seem slow, I went out and messed that up as I was ahead of pace the entire day. I took some gels and had some water midway through and then hit the second half in fine style, cruising until the 25-km mark, where facing a large hill (70 metres elevation in 750 metres) I went to walk-run style, walking for 250 metres and then running for 500-750, the rest of the way.

I finished and felt too tired, a tell-tale sign I blew the pacing, especially with slightly tired legs after the stride show.

But it was not that bad, considering I never stopped totally, walked four times and had one break for the washroom. It was the longest run thus far and the first of 4-5 runs at that distance in this plan. I have 32 km slated for Sunday and we’ll see how it goes in the pacing department that day.

Recap Sunday 11 km with strides.

(1-7 km) – 5:46; 5:54; 5:47; 5:47; 5:49; 5:53; 5:48

(8-10) (with 8 strides) 4:51; 5:15; 6:06

(11) – 6:05.

Sunday 29 k – 3:00:33

(1-10)  6:31; 6:16; 6:16; 6:19; 6:24; 6:29; 6:18; 6:17; 6:25; 6:20

(11-20) 6:10; 6:04; 6:09; 6:05; 6:17; 5:59: 6:05; 5:55; 5:56; 5:51

(21-25) 5:54; 5:59; 5:55; 5:54; 5:56

(26-29) 6:39; 6:47; 6:46; 6:24.

On deck: Tuesday-Wednesday – one 11km recovery run and another 18km medium effort run.


11 down, 11 to go

Still recovering from 29 km long run that was great at times and brutal at others. Will have more later but after an 80km week, I hit the mid point of training for P.E.I. Marathon . Some challenges ahead but the 80 km was a significant hurdle. MORE LATER…

The Long Run – three weekends and more of bringing our once tired deck back to life.


“Oh, about 4-5 hours,” I said with confidence when asked how long it would take to rejuvenate our somewhat neglected patio deck.

Well, after three weekends and with another 5-6 hours of labour in the forecast, it is slowly coming together, transforming from its previous grey and faded state into a sharp Redwood colour. It is getting close to 30 hours now and definitely adding a challenge to the weekend running. That is especially so for the long runs, which for the past two weekends, started at or around 9:30 p.m.

The deck has a number of detailed challenges and I think running has assisted my energy levels in tackling them in the various stages. But this Sunday was a big one, as the first two gallons of stain were applied in the heat of the afternoon. Considering my previous long run was an exercise in fatigue through heat and humidity, I wondered if this week’s effort would develop into the same thing.  Working in my favour was a significant temperature decline of 8C to a reasonable 19C, and a slight wind off the river, which translated into a nice run – after the staining exercise.

Building on the poor performance a week earlier, I started slow and took it easy on the first 12k of a 24k run, averaging about 6:29 per km (aiming for 6:35-6:40). I read last week that controlling your speed is easier in a group setting and that is something I may want to entertain in the coming weeks, when the volume eventually hits 32k. Feeling good at halfway, I opted to try and increase my speed from 20 per cent above Marathon Pace to 10 per cent above MP, or 6:00-6:05 per km.

I broke that 12k into four 3km segments, and for the most part, it was pretty evenly paced, if not slightly fast at about 5:50-5:55 per km. Overall, though, I was happy with my effort this time, despite worrying about energy lost on the deck. It did not seem to have a dramatic impact as my 6-km splits were as follows 39:10; 38:43, 35:16 and 35:04. The last split was nice because I have to prepare for the P.E.I. Marathon and its tough finish of three significant hills, starting around the 35km mark. I plan to finish the long runs with two big climbs at the end (eventually three) to prepare for that late Island challenge.

Also, the long run produced a nice negative split of more than seven minutes, so all in all, a decent result. Now, if I can just finish that deck.

Saturday – Recovery run, 8km, approx 6:45 per km

Sunday long run – 24km @6:11.

First quarter 6:38; 6:39; 6:27; 6:29; 6:36; 6:23.

Second quarter 6:25; 6:33; 6:24; 6:30; 6:31; 6:21.

Third quarter 5:57; 6:02; 5:48; 5:50; 5:46; 5:53.

Final quarter 6:01; 5;45; 5:51; 5:42; 6:0; 5:43.

This week

Other than volume associated with the long run, which I do not really fear, the most troubling  training session right now is the Tuesday session or Lactate Threshold run, where you – in this case – run 8km at half marathon pace as part of a 14km effort. That pace, for me, is 5:00 per km and judging by earlier efforts, represents quite a challenge. I have gone 6, 7 and 8km in this format to date and it is a great feeling – when it is over.

Wednesday has an 8km recovery and Thursday sees a 16km general aerobic run on the slate.

Day 36 – rest

And then there was rest. Actually, I thought the first week using the Pfitz 18/55 plan for training for the P.E.I. Marathon might feel more taxing but after a nice long run Sunday evening, I felt great. Again, I feel the regular aches but nothing too serious. Through the first few weeks of base training and now the actual training plan, I have been running at night, save for the long run. However, after a weekend of celebrating the end of school, start of summer, youngest daughter’s birthday and the associated indulgence (birthday cake is hard to resist and for some crazy reason, we have-had three of them from one party!), Sunday’s 19k run started at approx 8:45 p.m.

I must admit, it is getting more difficult to get out the door after 9 p.m. for long runs. For example, given the pace goals for Sunday’s run, I was out just short of two hours for 19k. And that is basically the beginning, as some runs in late August, early September call for 32k jaunts.

As a former sports reporter, I am accustomed to later hours, so while I have switched to a more traditional work schedule, I still can’t get to sleep until after midnight. So the question is to just go with that, run at night (and in the dark) or make the switch to the a.m. run. The transition to morning runs is alright on the weekend but that mid-week long run (this week it’s 16k) presents a challenge. Over the coming weeks, I’d like to switch that medium long run to the morning, which, of course, means a brutally (for me) earlier wake up. We’ll see.

Overall, I hit the goals this past week with four outings and 52-53 k.

This week upcoming, the schedule is again for four runs, this time totaling 58k and an introduction to strides speed work, a series of 100-metre sprints as part of an 8-mile run Tuesday.

Saturday – 6k at recovery pace (6:46 per km)

Sunday 19k first half @approx 6:33 per k; second half @approx 5:52 per k

Finished with two steep hills (we call them Will Hill at our house – 700 metres with elevation gain of 42 metres on first, then 500 metres, with elevation gain of 30 metres on the second.)

Total distance for the week – 52.6 km

Weight 186.5

The week in review

Mental strategy is an interesting beast in the quest to run slightly under four hours in October’s running of the P.E.I. marathon. Music is a major help and developing a running music list is an enjoyable and required task of marathon preparations, it seems. Another factor for me is not looking too far ahead on any run, regardless of distance. I am not sure about others, but thinking about running 20k, when you are 250 metres into the first km, is a recipe for a poor effort.

As a result, I usually break down the run, whatever it is, into manageable stages and also the time components into 5-minute blocks, all of which have 1/4 mini barriers 75 seconds apart. It seems like constant shifting – Checking where I am at in distance to where I sit in regard to time stages to how many songs until the halfway point! Reaching half is a major psychological boost in many a jaunt!

Currently, I am at a point on long runs, where I have 6 stages of 3k. There are rewards (water at every stage, food – chocolate gel – at every second stage). But I got to thinking – what else – about other things I do when out for Sunday’s LSR. It may be crazy, but I also I count the people I encounter to help pass the time.

Last week, for example, I met 23 other runners and 22 other walkers, a close battle. Also, I met six dogs (who were with the walkers, not loose without a lease) and five cyclists. I want to be mentally fit at the end of the marathon and not too wonky, so this exercise helps a bit in, for lack of better term, helping me not lose it. (Some might suggest this is an example in the fact I have lost it!)

Last week

Sunday’s long run was a bit laboured as I went 18k on a sunny morning. In the first half with a pace goal of 20 per cent higher than marathon pace, I was slightly faster than the anticipated 6:41 per Km – clocking (Approx 6:25-6:28 per km). That was too fast. I run past a golf course in the area and back. Temp was approx 17C, with sun and no wind.  A glorious start to Father’s Day.

On the back half, the plan was to run at 6:09 per km or 10 per cent of marathon goal pace and I was all over the place in a 5:42-6:03 range. But the feel was not as positive as the week previously and I labored at points with hills and while I did not wear a heart rate monitor, it was a struggle. I attributed it to just one of those runs. Also could be due to a 4k run Saturday evening to help reach the weekly totals. Or the quicker pace.

Last week: 50 km, five outings, including 18k long run.

This week: (First week of Pfitzinger 18/55 plan) 53 km, four outings, 19k long run.

This week’s weight 187.5 lbs.


Liking the new approach to the long run

Both good and bad to report as the third week of a four-week base training plan finished up. Now, it is the last bit of ‘preparation’  and the homestretch of the first stage of getting ready for the P.E.I. Marathon.

The good was my developing admiration for the Pfitzer approach to dealing with long runs. That is breaking them into two segments; the first at 20 per cent above goal pace and the second at 10 per cent above goal pace. Sunday’s LSD was 16k and with various scheduling options, I got out for a nice afternoon run, with temperatures in the mid teens C, not bad humidity and a slight wind that was at my back for the first half and facing me in the second half.

The goal for the run equated to 8K @6:41 pace to start , followed by 8K @6:07 to finish. As has been the case, I have been struggling to hit the targets. Slow is good for these lengthy runs, the run doctors say. Over stressing on the long runs can lead to problems and fatigue through the week on other runs and eventually, injuries or other factors will kick in to curtail training efforts.

The result Sunday was an opening half in 6:29 per k and the second half in 5:48 per k, for a nice negative split. There is quite a hill (the girls and I call it Will Hill) in the final 500 metres of this course, and last week I walked a small part of the way. This time, I made it all the way, which was a nice way to end.

The bad was just four runs for 41K – 9K and one outing short of the weekly goal. I was going to run Thursday and Friday evenings but each night, once I crossed the 9:30 p.m. threshold, I was too tired. I really have to deal with this soon, especially in the second week of the actual plan, when Kms take a decided increase.

Another bad note was eating – see note on weight below.

Week 3, 41 k, four runs, including 16k-long run

Week 4, goal 50 k, run 5 times, get in 18k-long run.

Weight – 188 last week; 189 this week (too many of those tasty Tims’ cinnamon rolls this week as well as Pizza two nights for supper)

The art of dealing with distractions

I recently changed jobs and among the biggest benefits was an opportunity to ease back into the volunteer sector. At my previous post, while the hours were reasonably regular, there were enough irregularities that you could not firmly commit to something like coaching. Many a night last summer, we arrived at the soccer field with just enough time for a goodbye wave before the girls quickly sprinted to meet Coach A or Coach B.

So this summer, I have, thanks to better timing, opted to coach Avery’s under 7 girls soccer team. When I was younger, I coached a decent amount but since the move to New Brunswick a way back when, my soccer involvement has essentially been limited to several seasons in a Sunday night league in Fredericton (A masters loop that was quite enjoyable) and one interesting summer on a B-Division squad named the Grim Reapers. Grim was our record but the team featured a bunch of interesting people I really enjoyed competing with against, often times, superior opposition.

So what does this have to do with the P.E.I. Marathon?

Last week, plenty.

As part of the preparation requirements, each coach at the U7 level was encouraged last week to take a 7-hour community coaches clinic – 3.5 hours on Tuesday and 3.5 hours on Wednesday. Because of the timing, I stayed in the city after work and headed over to the sparkling UNBSJ turf soccer field for two worthwhile nights of learning, drills and a bit of peer teaching.  Energetically, and somewhat optimistically (foolishly?), I ran after work Tuesday for 7k through the hills of the city prior to the clinic. I skipped the run Wednesday but thought the clinic hit a number of good notes that night, preparing all for the rush of U7 activity on the pitch, beginning June 4. The only problem, from the running point of view,  was the carryover effect, which ate into one of my long runs on Thursday because I was pretty tired – sapped actually – and I was asleep early.

On Friday, by the time I was ready to run, it was 9:30 p.m., so I rescheduled things and opted for a 10 k run Saturday and the 14-k long run Sunday, on plenty of rest. It worked out well. I felt content with both those runs. Overall, there should not be many evening-clogging events all summer – or at least in huge midweek blocks – as soccer night is about 1.5 hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

However, the soccer-running combo last week provided a good lesson in discipline and time management. One thing about this training is the focus requirement; the need to hit the mini goals along the way and plan accordingly to meet them. It is early, but I’ll need to improve in dealing with potential curve balls that could and will impact or hamper the running schedule.

That said, I hit 41 k for Week 2 of the 4-week base-level training plan and put together a decent 14k run Sunday at 6:31 for the first 7k and 5:56 for the second 7k. Just two weeks away from the first true stage of the Pfitz 18/55 Marathon plan, I am confident I can hit comfortably meet the early weekly demands. The first week calls for 53k overall, ending with 19k run – the shortest long-run of the 18-week training period.

Last week – 41k, long run 14k.

This week – 50 k, long run 16k.

A week in review

Just a quick hit here, more to come later.

Ran plenty on the weekend, including 14 k Sunday, using a new approach – slow and steady.

First half of that long run was 7k in 20 per cent above marathon pace and then the back half in 10 per cent above marathon pace.

Worked out nicely, albeit a bit faster than intended going 6:31/k in the first half and 5:56/k in the second half.

Goal marathon pace for now is about 5:40/k. Did not hit the desired mileage for the week with 41 k. More on that in a later post.

This week, we will try for 50k again, with 16k slated for the weekend at some point. One of the goals is to lose weight, as it always is. We will see how that goes but last week was 190; this week 188.