Running Upstream with Salmon

Salmon are an important resource in British Columbia; for the last thirty five years there has been a 14 km (9 mile) Coho Run that starts at Kitsilano Beach then follows the edge of Stanley Park, heads north over the Lion’s Gate Bridge and finishes at Ambleside Park where the annual Coho Festival is.

This year it coincided with the Grouse Grind Mountain Run which I have participated in several times. Since, my long-term goal is a 3:30 – 3:55 marathon I decided to enter the Coho Run for a new challenge. It was also an opportunity to gauge my training.

Finally a running event that starts at a reasonable time – 9:00 am on a Sunday! The sun was shinning when I arrived at the start area over looking the North Vancouver mountains with forty-five minutes to go to the washroom, warm-up and drop my bag at the bag drop.

Coho Salmon Head

Coho Salmon – Shutter Stock

10 Km Time Trial

To keep my running tempo at or near threshold (172 bpm) pace my heart rate monitor was set beep at anything below 167 bpm. The race strategy was to push for the first ten kilometers  The first little bit looped West around a narrow paved trail and past the pool.  It was difficult to pass.

We traveled along the seawall to the south end of the Burrard Street bridge which was my nemesis a few months ago. This wasn’t so this time around. Quick legs paced me over in 07:49 min/mi. After the bridge the course took a sharp left back down to the trail along Sunset Beach, to around the Stanley Park seawall.

It culminated in Merileese’s Trail, a mile long hill up to the Lion’s Gate Bridge which slowed me down to 10:15 min/mile. A bit of mental fortitude drove my legs forward to the start of the bridge and the end of the first 10 Km in 50:49 min.

4 Km to Home

Left rib cage fatigue prevented a full breath and slowed the pace over the Lion’s Gate Bridge. With each passing participant I valiantly made thirty-second sprints to challenge my slowing pace.

Recent research is showing that the brain regulates our ability to push our physical boundaries. Our attitude and self-talk can either be hindering or beneficial. Mantras like:

Steady Legs. Run Your Own Race. One Foot In Front of the Other.

kept my efforts high and me moving forward with a smile on my face.  There was one other person tailing me on my right side to the finish, not to be out done the jets were fired in the last 100 meters; he finished three seconds behind.

View the Training Peaks COHO Run Race Log.

Post Race Pancakes and Prizes With Friends

By finishing within a predicted time of 1:05 to 1:15 hr and 26th in my age group this run result was one that I am happy with. It also wasn’t an A race which means I wasn’t fresh nor did I taper for it.

The is the only event I know of that has a pancake breakfast at the end of it! Perfect for refueling post-run.  During the last few years of climbing the Grouse Grind I have made several friends who have also expanded their endurance activities to longer runs.  A few of them also participated. We all met up at the end to catch-up and have breakfast.

During the awards ceremony the organizers handed out draw prizes, not by bib number but by enthusiasm. The announcer had to see your bib number to for you to receive a prize.  The goodies included gift certificates to the Scandinavian Spa in Whistler (highly recommended) and a dual water bottle carrier for those loooonnnnggg runs.

When he asked who “REALLY REALLY Likes the long runs?” I jumped up and down with great abandon while waving my bib that was still attached to my shirt. I knew that my single bottle carrier was getting ratty and wouldn’t carry me much past 13 miles. Relieved to be selected I ran up to the stage to retrieve my prize. Earlier one of my friends received one of the gift spa gift certificates, while a second spa gift certificate was given at the end via a kissing contest for those who had their partners in attendance.

Running the for Long Run

At 80 years old, the inspirational Senior’s level runner Betty Jean McHugh, who has set numerous records for age group, is the author of My Road to Rome and is a North Shore resident finished in a blistering 1:41:43.  Can I be that fast in 40 years? Will I still be running at 80?

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Regaining 10 Years of Fitness

Learning How to Run Again with Neurokinetic TherapyIn 2002 I decide it was time to train for a half marathon to prove to myself that my knees were strong and I had recovered from a decade of persistent knee pain. Thankfully the pain didn’t prevent from cross country skiing or competing in biathlon while in university.

The Vancouver Half was what  I chose  as my destination and  as my greatest endurance challenge post retiring from competitive biathlon. Rain started to fall just after crossing the finish line in 1:50 at the Plaza of Nations. A year later after training for the half and unable to register due it being sold out I signed up for  the full marathon. My stubbornness  dictated that I couldn’t  run/walk despite my better judgement. The goal of finishing under 4 hours slipped away gradually.  Instead my body stumbled through the last 10 km to completed the full in just under 4:09.

A sub four hour marathon and a sub 1:45 hr half marathon are still eluding me.

Regaining Fitness After 10 Years

Several years later in 2012 it was time to challenge myself again on a new course for the Vancouver Half. Kudos to whomever designed the BMO Vancouver Half marathon course because it showcases our beautiful city very nicely. Knowing that my fitness wasn’t great I still wanted to see if I was at least as fit as I was in 2002.

This half marathon was grueling. and after finishing in 1:55 I cramped up so much that I had a difficulty walking for the next week. While happy to finish in under two hours the sub 1:45 was still out there for me to grab!

Finishing a Half Marathon with Grace

The Scotia Half Marathon has been on my list of events since 2006! Since it was week after Seek the Peak which I had started to train for in February all I wanted to was finish in a decent time while being able to walk reasonably well the next day.

A last week registration was necessary because I wasn’t certain how my energy and legs would recover from Seek the Peak. We often hear of or see people finishing endurance events with nothing left in the tank and being proud of the post run hobble. This was not going be me this year.

As a non-elite runner who also has zero chance of being an age group medalist it wasn’t necessary to run myself into the ground.

The Scotia Half was an opportunity to execute a race plan that would test my current limits and keep me walking the next day. The first 10km was a steady 5:00 min/km. Many people passed me, I kept repeating the mantra

Run Your Own Race

, a mantra that led me to three gold and one silver at the BC Winter Games for biathlon.

It was more humid than warm. I made sure to take sips of my drink electrolyte/carb drink every 15 min and one GU gel at 45 min.

The water stations couldn’t come soon enough. Splashing water on my head and arms was the only way to stop from becoming dizzy. The pace held up to about 14 km which is the furthest I ran in training.

From there it was a matter of holding on and preserving energy for the last 8km. Each kilometer was clearly marked with big red signs. Eventhough 13 miles and 22 kilometers are almost the same distance there’s a big pyschological difference with the smaller number!

While the course is a net downhill climbing the Burrard Street bridge was a bit tedious and longer than anticipated. The earlier pace was not to be kept.  I was unable to keep a pace where my heart rate was at my threshold of 172 bpm and it dropped to 160-165 bpm. A hard left at the end of the bridge brought us onto Beach Avenue and the finishing kick.

At this point it was a matter of adding a little more push to each stride to boost the pace. When the finish line was in sight I kicked into high gear to drop a few precious seconds and come in 1:52:39.

This race was finished in a respectable time that I am happy with. It was an opportunity to learn where some of my fitness limiters are. Walking was a bit of problem after but resolved a few days later.

Fitness Limiters

Fitness limiters are components of fitness that are limiting or preventing a goal from being achieved. During my training the focus was too much on a high aerobic fitness. Discovering fitness limiters helps runners fine tune their training.

Areas of Focus

Fitness

  • Build aerobic endurance up to 22 km or 14 miles
  • Complete more supra threshold runs that are also longer than with longer intervals
  • Train for longer uphills of 2-3 minutes
    Train foot and ankle
  • Strategy – figure out a new pacing strategy
  • Review the course elevations and break the down into pace sections before

Unfinshed business

Retirement from biathlon left me feeling  as though there was more potential left in me as an endurance athlete. In two years I will officially be Masters (40 years old +) level athlete. This is a category that I want be in the top 25% of at the very least; to do so leaves me with five intermediary goals yet to accomplish

  1. 3:45 marathon
  2. 1:44 half marathon
  3. 44 min 10 km
  4. Seek the Peak 1:55 hr

 

Getting a Foothold on Road Running in Vancouver

The first time my feet hit the pavement to go running on the road is always tenuous. Perhaps it is the memory of having knee pain for nearly ten years while running but not while cross country skiing. I proved to myself long ago by running one marathon and several half marathons that I can run easily without knee pain.

Each season begins with six to eight weeks building up to a confident 60 min treadmill run as well as two to three days of lower body strength training to build durability. The concept of using the treadmill to run on first is that if something does go sideways it easier to stop instead of being stuck somewhere on the road and needing to hobble back.

On Friday the sun was shinning with clear skies that gave way to a good view of the Vancouver mountains.  It was time for the rubber to hit the road.  The Stanley Park Seawall is a fairly flat run with a beautiful of view of the city for all runners and walkers.  There were many dogs and owners traveling the same route as I (some dogs were running their owners).

Setting the Running Goal

This run was primarily about seeing how my legs felt running along pavement instead of rubber under my feet.  There was a nice breeze to start from just in front of the Vancouver Convention Center.  The 4.0 miles (6.4 km) tempo run set to be a series of four intervals at 5 minutes at a 7:30 min/mile pace with  2 minute rest periods at a 10:00 min/mile pace with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down on either side.

Getting the Feeling of Running Faster

With fresh legs I started the first interval right on pace before I heard someone gradually catching up with me. Time push the pace! Legs turnover more quickly and breathing rate kept pace. Beep, beep, beep ended the interval. Looking down at the watch face the pace was 6:30 min/mile. Just a little faster than planned. As my legs slowed down she passed me wearing a “Ran Van” long sleeve shirt; she is probably training for the Vancouver Marathon in a few weeks.

The turnaround at mile two happened to be Deadman’s Island. A nice landmark for future runs.  Paces for subsequent  intervals gradually slowed down indicating fatigue.  The positive side is that the recovery pace was around 9:00 – 10:00 min/mile, which was a goal set in February.

Run Analysis – Training Plan Adaptations

First outing on the road went very well. There was no knee pain and my energy stayed fairly high for the rest of the day. Although  a race pace of 7:30 min/mile is just at my anaerobic threshold heart rate of 170 bpm and not sustainable, it is comfortable. Training is on track but, the next tempo runs need to have longer intervals and/or be longer runs.

Now that spring is here have you started to run on the road more frequently?

Photo credit – Ted McGrath via Flikr