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2015 Long Beach Marathon Race Recap

Image result for long beach marathon

It’s been more than three weeks since my last race, a marathon, of 2015! So why it took me this long for this write up, I guess I finally feel settled and mostly recovered from this major suffer fest! I had a great race in the Boston Marathon this year and that really motivated me for another marathon in the Fall.

 

There were actually some other great races out there including the Victoria, Chicago, and Toronto later in the month of October. The problem was I needed to do this as a family trip with my wife and my little boy. None of these places would match what Disney in California could offer! Hence, I chose the Long Beach Marathon in the beautiful Long Beach of California. The race happened on the same day as Victoria and Chicago. This was my 5th marathon build up and it was by far the most satisfying one for few good reasons.

 

This time I trained with two other Mile2Marathon runners on most of my long and tempo runs each weekend. Kat trained for the Chicago and Sean for the Victoria. We were virtually of the same pace. I did aim for a faster finishing time (sub 2:50:00) but ended up running the slowest among the three . The second thing was I had never fallen ill during this buildup and never missed a day of workout. I think the only day my workout didn’t go well was when I had to do a workout on a Friday after work at a temp of 30oC with very strong head wind. I felt tired and drained going into that workout. I needed to hit 4min/k for 3K for 4 times. That was the only workout that I got side stitches because I couldn’t breath with the sand blowing right into my mouth . Otherwise, my past four months had gone really well. I was en route to achieving another PB for sure!

My wife, son, and I had already flown numerous times in the past year. This current  less-than-3-hour flight should be really a smooth journey. By now, my little guy was behaving much better than our flight to Boston. Nonetheless, the moment we landed and stepped foot at the Los Angeles Airport, I knew the race would not go well. It was like an oven and it was at 38C even in the late morning! Oh well, there was really nothing I could do now but just hope for the best!

 

Race Day Morning

I’ve always woken up at least three hours prior to the start time of my races. This time, it was brutal. The race started at 6am and I woke up at 245am to get my usual routine going. I was most grateful that we stayed at an apartment that was less than 15mins jog to the start. The apartment however was old (over 100 yr old) and by far one of the most filthiest places we had stayed. The floor was so dirty that I felt reluctant to use my foam roller on it and I never did!

I got out the door at 315am for an easy 10min shake-out run to get some blood flowing and calm the nerves. There was a slight breeze in the air and it felt good even though it was already at 21C. Honestly, I was still feeling optimistic about the weather staying cool that way and I’d hit a PB that morning.

Realistically, however, my last run in Vancouver was at 16C and I remembered complaining to myself that it was warm! I sneaked back to the apartment without making a sound to startle my wife or the little man for breakfast, stretching and etc.

I sneaked out the door again at 5am. It was funny the moment I stepped foot on the street I had a guy immediately asking for direction of where the start would be. It turned out that he didn’t want to stay a night at Long beach and took Uber in the morning from LA and the driver was lost. He also just arrived the US from Africa. We chatted a little as we walked towards the start. I had actually planned to run there as a warm up but I figured I’d have plenty of time to do it there anyway.

The atmosphere at the start was great and loud! Many runners, cyclists, volunteers and spectators had already showed up at this early hour. The amount of port-o-lets were satisfying. The wait for one was less than few minutes. As I was in the line-up, I noticed something I don’t normally see in other races. There was a Christian group called the Run Chapel in the middle of the crowd and the pastor was preaching and praying for the runners out there! I joined in to receive some blessing!

With less than 15 mins to the start, I noticed the crowd was getting thicker in the corrals. I knew getting to the front would take me some time and effort so I slowly found my way up there. I was standing at the 2nd row and saw another Vancouver runners there (Jeremy and Sarah Cuff).

I had seen comments on social media that this race in the past had started late and as late as 20mins long. It appeared that this time not all wheelchair athletes were ready for their start. Some of them failed to make it on time to the start-line, causing a delay of  8 minutes. Thousands of runners had to make room for these late athletes. Once that was cleared up, we were all set to go. At this time, the sky was still dark, very little to no wind, and the weather wasn’t too bad (probably about 22-24C).

Now, this race was originally organized to have a 1.5 h staggered start between the half and full marathoners. Three days prior to the race a heat advisory email was issued and the organizer gave an option of early start (same time as the full) to the half runners. It turned out about 7000 people took that option. The half and full shared about the first 15k or so before splitting into two different courses and eventually merged again in the last two miles or so crossing the same finish line. For me, the start was great but the end was horrible. I will explain more later.

The great part about running with the half was that it felt great and motivated to have so many people around you. It  was also good to have few fast ladies to pace me for that distance. Of course, I had no idea who would be running in the half or full until I could see the colour of their bibs (red for half and yellow for full). I realized later that none of the people who “paced” me, however, were in the full. That also meant that after we separated, I was pretty much on my own.
Image result for long beach marathon
The first 15K or so was pretty much looping back and forth in the streets around the start. So, I got to run pass the start line again, only on the opposite street. During this first stretch, I got to run on the road, the bike path, the highway,an overpass and the promenade along the beach. I didn’t like running on the bike path nor the road along the beach at all. I was facing the rising sun the whole time. The path was blocks of solid concrete that were really hard on the legs. It seemed very long and dull. I think this path would be really great for an easy long run, however!

Towards the end of the bike/beach path, I made an U-turn and ran back on the road. I felt relieved. There, in less than 400m, I saw Jeremy working on his own. I caught up to him, gave him a thumbs up, and moved on. This is the part where the two races separated. It became a lonely game from there onwards. I was right on pace. I did try to run a bit more conservatively to conserve energy for the second half. My Garmin had been consistently showing a slower pace than actual and that was the case during the race. I later found out for at least two Ks I was running about 10s faster than race pace. May be it’s time to look for a new watch or even a new brand name? I ran the first half at about 1:24:40. I felt good until I hit 25k. The weather by now was really warm and I felt very drained. I pretty much stopped by each water station and had a small sip since the start. To prepare for this race and its predicted very warm weather, I chugged in three 1L bottles of Gatorade/day since day one I started carbo-loading.

Image result for long beach marathon course map
The course was described as a very flat course. I didn’t find that so. The biggest hill came at 18mile in a college campus. After seeing few cheerleaders at the entrance, the place seemed very deserted and no support was found anywhere therein, whatsoever. The temperature at this time was probably reaching close to 30C.  I was sweating excessively and began to feel my calves to seize up at times.  It was definitely a terrifying moment. I ran at an easier consistent effort up the gruesome lonely hills before finally reaching the top and cruised down a long stretch of steep decline.

After leaving the campus, the course was pretty much around the residential streets (which I liked very much) and later moved onto the unforgiving unshaded main roads.  At this point of time, I had no idea how I was ranking.  I remembered passing about 3 marathoners with one that was already walking and calling it a day.  I could only imagine everyone was taking a big toll from this brutal weather physically.  And, I am no exception.  From here, my calves began to seize up every K onwards.  The word “quit ” came across my minds a million time!

My ultimate goal for this race was to run sub2:50 and I knew this was not possible even before this race had started.  My secondary goal was to run a PB (any time less than 2:53:45) and with my calves seizing like that, I knew I’d need to fall into my next goal.  The 3rd one was to run sub2:55 and my 4th would be to run a sub3. The last one is DON’T QUIT and finish the damn race!  I had a strong feeling that I’d have to resort to my final goal today and it was a sad feeling.  With all these goals in mind, however, they kept me going.

As I reached the last 5 ks of the race, my fear for a full cramp was growing immensely.  I was on survival mode at this point of the game.  I could maintain a certain stride and rhythm that would prevent me from seizing up.  As mentioned earlier the two races merged again, and here it was the worst part of the marathon.  As I reached the last stretch of the race, there were thousands of walkers/slower joggers from the half marathon on the course.  I had to both dodge and yell out to find my way through.  Few times my strides was interrupted and a cramp on the calves followed.  For that reason, I had no desire to stop by any water station even when I knew I was dehydrated.Runners head west on Shoreline Drive at the start of a Long Beach half marathon in Long beach, Calif., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013.

I ran my slowest splits in this last stretch (e.g. 4:37’/K) and just really wanted to get home.  The next confusing part was that there were two paths of the finish for the races.  The full was on the left and the right for the half.  I ran only on the opposite street while spectators kept telling me I was on the wrong side. Boy! was I frustrated!

 

 

With less than 500m to the finish line, I squeezed out the last bit of juice in me to finish off the race strong and with a brave face on.  It was 2:56:32! The finish for the full was just adjacent to the half. The atmosphere between the two however was drastically different.  People were loud and cheering at the half side and volunteers were handing out finish medals and towels to the runners.  The full side, on the other hand, had not support whatsoever.  I just picked up my own medal laying on the table.

Post Race

Actually, the moment I stopped running I could also feel that my body was about to collapse. So, thank God for that table because my body was shutting down and I was about to black out.  I stood there for couple minutes before I could carry on.  Thank God, there were buckets of ice cubes and towels.  I took some and placed them on my head.  That was awesome and I felt an instant relief.  As I walked down the finish chute, I found a beer tent offering free beers!  This is something I don’t do normally and had never done so.  I chugged a full cup of beer and that was awesome!

My ‘family’ vacation began literally immediately after the race.  We were all over LA venturing all the theme parks.  My tired marathon legs endured few more days of strenuous activities including waiting hours and hours under the unforgiving Sun at Disney and chasing after my little man who would often run away from us!

In retrospect, I am very happy that I completed the race and never quitted.  This race humbles me and also motivates me to know I am strong enough to endure in this extraordinary tough conditions.  The moment I left the race site I asked few spectators to check for me of the current temperature and it was 90F (about 32C).  That’s insane!  When I got back to my apartment, I realized I actually came in 15th place overall and 2nd place in my age group…not too shabby at all!

Thanks for reading my race recap and onwards to my next marathon in Tokyo 2016

 

 

2015 Inaugural VanRace 30KM Race

VanRace Logo
 The inaugural 2015 VanRace 15/30KM was an absolute blast, a great race that was meticulously planned and created by a group of dedicated runners of Vancouver.  It’s hard for me to fathom the amount of work and hours these great people had contributed to making this great event alive! Special shout-out to all the volunteers and event organizers in the VanRace! Great job!
The race course is where I normally train daily, so I know very well of each twist and turn and even where GPS signal might fluctuate. In short, the race begins at the Jelly Bean at Charleston Park, the 30K runners first go west on the Seawall towards Granville Island, turnaround, and continues around the Stanley Park.  The course continues to part of Coal Harbour before looping back onto the path beside Lost Lagoon and eventually leading back to the start.
So, with about a month to go before our (Mile2Marathon training group) big marathon and probably the last race of the year, Coach Dylan suggested us to do this 30K race as a marathon simulator/tune up tempo run.  Kat will be doing the Chicago, Sean the Victoria, and I the Long Beach, Ca marathon.  The plan for us was to go progressively faster but nothing too brutal.  We aimed to run the first 10K at 4:15‘/K, second 10K at about 405-10’/K and the last one at 4:05‘/k or faster.  None of these paces prescribed were at race pace, however.
I knew this was going to be a training run and should take it lightly.  Nonetheless, I still got up at 4am for a shake-out run as if this were the actual marathon.  My race at the Long Beach, unfortunately, starts at 6am so my shakeout run will likely be 3ish…yikes!  I still got the nerves as I normally do in other races.  So it was a good 5,6,7 times of washroom visits before the actual race commenced.
 VanRace FinishLineEmpty
 From my race shoes and race singlet to my 6 Power-gels, I actually put on virtually everything I plan to run with at the Long Beach Marathon. The only thing I was reluctant to wear was my compression sleeves as the weather might become too warm.
 VanRace Start Saucony
Race morning was beautiful.  It was slightly overcast with very minor drizzle at 630am (1 hour prior to gun time), and almost no wind. I must say that was the most ideal race condition.  The temperature was at about 12-15 degree Celsius.
My body always acts weird within race week.  I thought this time would be an exception since I knew this was a practice run but the same fate continued.  The night before race day my left calf became so tender that it was sore even to touch for no apparent reason.  I was worried that it would cramp up during the race.  When I saw my training partners at about 7am, our conversations took these worries off my mind and allowed me to focus on getting the workout/race done.
VanRacetheGang
The race began promptly at 730am.  My conversations with others took me off guard and when I heard the countdown it was only less than 5 seconds to go.  I was like…okay…let’s do it!
The first 5K was fun and felt easy.  I had conversed too much which led to some minor stitches.  I met the running juggler, another runner who will be running the Berlin Marathon in less than a month, and few other people. By 15K in, I started to remember my tender left calf as it was feeling a little tighter than usual.  I wanted to let Kat and Sean know to go ahead if I do cramp up.  Thank God, that conversation never happened.  It was great to have my training partners with me as my Garmin was constantly showing a slower pace than others.  Without them, I’d be running faster than I should.  I stuck with them and stayed relaxed for a good 20K.   Our pace was going well as prescribed.
VanRace1
As we headed into Stanley Park, we caught up to the 2nd runner Allison Tai! I’ve seen her name many times on MeetUp but never had the opportunity to get acquainted.  It was an interesting experience meeting up with someone in midst of a race.
VanRace HalfWay
I grew slightly impatient after the 20th K and began running slightly faster leaving my training partners behind. I was pretty much running solo from this point onwards.  David Palermo ran past me at about 24th K and gave me a shoutout! I was motivated and started to pick up my pace in the last 5k.  I probably ran a little too hard as I went in few KMs 15-20s faster than the prescribed pace. Oh well! I didn’t realize I was working that hard until later when I had a chance to look at my splits on Garmin Connect.
VanRace 2nd place
I past the Jelly Bean and saw the finish line near in sight.  I raised my hands up and tried to put on a big smile crossing the finish line.  Euan, the race director, came up and gave me a firm handshake!  To my surprise, I came in overall 2nd place with a time of 2:02:37.
The finish area was situated on a park where tents of various sponsor were set up.  Great drinks and refreshments were offered and in abundant supplies!
The only suggestion I wish to make here is that when I was running along the path beside the Lost Lagoon, I was slightly confused as to where to go because before me was three different paths that would all lead back to the seawall with various distance.  It’d be great if the right path was indicated so I didn’t have to guess.  Thank God, I picked the right one.  There were of course few minor ones like that along the course but at least I was able to ask a volunteer stationed at those points.
VanRace Me Finish
It’s been five days now since the race. My overall impression for this race is a very positive one.  I’ll definitely add this race onto my 2017 race schedule!

The Guide to Boston Marathon (6): Race Day

RACE DAY MORNING

Unlike most races where you’d get to go through your regular morning pre-race routine, the pre-race arrangement for the Boston Marathon might throw you off slightly.  If you plan to take the official bus (free for runners but unavailable for friends/family) to the start, the chart below shows the time you’d need to arrive at Boston Common (very close to the finish line) to board the bus.  Also, at the Boston Common, you can gear check (Using the official gear check bag received from your race packet only) any items you wish to pick up after the race.   NOTE: The walk from the finish line back to the gear check is a good 1mile after 26.2miles of grinding.  It was a horrible day for me to walk back as the weather was at its worst of the day.

WAVE BIB COLOR BIB NUMBER BUS LOADING TIME ARRIVAL TIME
1 101 – 7,700 6:00 – 6:48 a.m. 7:07 – 7:55 a.m.
2 8,000 – 15,600 7:00 – 7:48 a.m. 8:07 – 8:55 a.m.
3 16,000 – 23,600 7:55 – 8:43 a.m. 9:02 – 9:50 a.m.
4 24,000 – 32,500 8:45 – 9:33 a.m. 9:52 – 10:40 a.m.

 

 The logistics is as follows:

1.  Bag Check

Gear Check

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Board the bus at the stated time (see above chart) at the Boston Common (1mile from the finish line)

Boarding Bus

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Arrive at Athlete Village at Hopkinton  (~60mins ride)

Entrance of Athlete Village

 

 

 

 

 

4.  Stay at the tents for about 2 hours if it was raining like mine in 2015 or in other years people get to do some forms of warm up on the beautiful dry field.

athletes_village_2015

athletesvillage 2014

 

A question I had before getting there was would I be able to warm up at all before the race?

The answer is:  if the day was raining cats and dogs like 2015, then the answer is NO.  I wasn’t able to do any form of warm up because all runners (see top left photo) were packed in this little tent and other ones. There was virtually no space for any sort of drastic movement.  Could you go out for a easy warm up run? Not really, the field was muddy and once you left the tent your spot would immediately be taken by others. If the day was sunny, I’d think it’s quite possible to do some easy stretches on the field and perhaps some short light jogs around the field.

So on a rainy day, my advice is to do a shake-out run of 10-15mins the minute you woke up.

Another advice I give is to use the pot-o-let as early as possible.  My first stop was when I first arrived there and there was no line up.  My last stop was at 830am (about 30mins before being escorted to the start), the wait was about 30mins!

 5. Marshalled out to the Start line 

There is also another washroom stop just 400m before the start.  Actually, the distance of which  would really depend on where your corral is.  One advice I learned from fellow runners (only applicable to guys) is to bring along the warm sheet you get at the Athlete village and an empty Gatorade bottle for any last minute flush out of the system you might require.     start line 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Based on my experience this year running on a day that was extremely cold, wet and windy, my suggestion of items to bring to race site is divided in two categories as follows:

A.  Items You Will Race With 

Race shoes in plastic bag; race socks; arm warmers; GPS watch; Compression sleeves; Race cap (water-resistant); gloves (water-resistant); gels or any race specific nutrition

B.  Items You Will Donate  

2-4 layers of warm clothing (weather dependant); old socks; old shoes; old jacket; old beanie; towel (for stretching or wiping dry yourself if raining); vaseline (travel size); Body-glide (travel size); Bottled water/Gatorade; something to munch on (e.g. Cliff bars);and; 1-2 large garbage bags to sit on.

That’s all I could think of…my apologies in advance if I have missed out any details or if the event itself has made any changes that did not reflect my experience written here.  Please feel free to ask me a question or two in the comment section below.  All the best!  Lastly, if you are interested in my race, please kindly see my post on Boston Marathon 2015 Race

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The Guide to Boston Marathon (5): Before the Race Day

AT THE BOSTON MARATHON EXPO

 

This is by far one of the biggest marathon expo I had ever been to.  It’s probably four times the size than the biggest one I had attended and the crowd was probably twenty times larger!   It’s also the first one for me to go through security checks at the entrance of the building before entering a race expo.  Few runners warned me beforehand to just go in and out immediately after retrieving my bib and race packet.  The expo is so enticing that one would stay there for hours and hours without realizing the next day their legs would end up so exhausted from all the standing and walking.

I am grateful that I arrived at the Expo on Saturday and so I had at least a day to rest up on Sunday before the race.  I mean this is a life-time experience and it’d be pity for me to miss-out completely.  I decided just to walk the parameter of the expo and would only venture into the core if I saw something that interests me.  At the end, even with this strategy, my family and I stayed there for at least 2 hours.

BUYING BOSTON MARATHON APPARELS/SOUVENIRS? 

Yes, I realize everyone, including myself, has this strong urge to buy the Boston Marathon jacket (~$110).  You could save all the line ups and weaving in & out of the crowd by buying them online.  The disadvantage of which is of course you don’t get to try and feel it and also the lack of seeing other products.

Most people buy their Boston Marathon Apparels at either the EXPO or at the Marathon store just located across the expo.  Both are situated on the Boylston Street. In my opinion, the line up at the expo was long and the store had virtually no line up.  What most people don’t realize is that these apparels can also be found in most athletic stores in Boston Downtown at the same price and with virtually no one inside.  Even better, I saw great deals at the running warehouse on-line store!

At the end of the day, it’s your personal choice what you plan to do and buy.  I didn’t get the jacket because the trip itself cost me already an arm and a leg but I did purchase a 2015 Boston Marathon Cap ($20) as a souvenir to bring home.

There were definitely some great deals at the expo.  However, just remember the adage that never try something new on race day!  One of the booths that drew my attention was the Timex where they displayed their newest GPS watch with email/texting functions without connecting to any smartphone. They were offering a very nice discounted price of less than $100 than what I would pay here in Vancouver.  Owing to the lack of prior research on this product,  I decided to walk away and forget about it.

Also at the expo, if the timing is right you might see some of your favourite running book authors doing book signing and elite runners talking to their fans.  Please see schedule ahead of time if you do plan to find someone to meet for autographs.

Picking up your race packet/bib

If you decide not to do any shopping, you could take the escalator to the 3rd floor.  Once in there, you’ll see numerous volunteers distributing your race packet according to your bib#.  The process was smooth and took less than 3 minutes. Unlike some marathons I attended, the chip/sensor on the Boston Marathon bib did not require any activation.

Once you’ve received your race packet, you should head into the big conference room to pick up your shirt.

This is also where you will purchase additional tickets if you plan to bring a friend or family member to the pre-race pasta dinner ($20/person) and/or the post-race party.

PRERACE PASTA DINNER

Every runner will receive a free coupon in their runner’s passport for the pre-race dinner on the night before the marathon.  See above for additional tickets.

There were two lines to get into the building at the City Hall Plaza.  One was short and the other was tremendously long. If you wish to save time, REMEMBER DO NOT bring any bags/luggage/backpack/small purse/stroller/diaper bag  into the pre-race dinner; otherwise, you’ll need to go through the super long line up and subject to a security search.  So how bad was it?  My family and I lined up at about 5pm on an evening that was extremely windy and chilly.  To make matter worse, my little guy of 2yo lacks the patience to stand still and would run away from the line in several occasions. You can actually find me in the above picture  (hint: stroller).  We finally got seated at 630pm and left at 730pm.

 

I’d say the event was a great experience but I’d likely never do it again.   The best part was the chance to meet up with different runners at the table.  However, I’d prefer to stay home/hotel next time for a more quiet rest time and probably enjoy a dinner more of my preference. Special thanks and kudos to all the volunteers putting up a great show!

Please continue reading Part 6

The Guide to Boston Marathon (2): Training Strategy

MARATHON TRAINING 

I respect that everyone has their own unique way to tackle the beast.  Therefore, I will not fully discuss about my training herein.  However, I wish to discuss few things I did and did not do for training that might be good reminders for most.

Hills training

One of the most popular topics I came across while training for the Boston Marathon was whether or not to do hills training.  If you go on any runner’s forums (e.g. Boston FB page, Runners’ World, and etc), you will see the majority of runners would suggest doing hills training, especially downhill running.  I live in a city where hills are everywhere!  My coach had only prescribed 1 workout that was elevation specific/downhill for me to do; otherwise, all my training were pretty much running around town in rolling hills.  I never had the time to train on the track and had done all my speed workouts using a GPS watch on the roads.  So for me, I didn’t really do any downhill/hills training for the Boston marathon.   Honestly, I did not find the hills/downhill that bad in Boston comparing to the hills I have run here in Vancouver.  It is most likely the placement of the four hills starting at 25th K and ending at 33K that makes it a beast to run!  In retrospect, I think I have prepared myself very well for the race by running many race pace specific training, especially on my long runs.  If you live in an area that is pancake flat, then it might be worthwhile to look into some form of hills training.

Nutrition

If my memory serves me correctly, there was only one gel station at the entire course of the Boston Marathon.  It was also situated later in the race at around 20 mile? I highly suggest to practice taking gels during your long runs and familiarize with a particular brand that sits well in your stomach.  I carried 8 gels on the day, aiming to take 1 every 5km.  I lost one right at the start so I figured I’d take one of the gels at the course.  That station happened to be somewhere along a hill before Heartbreak and the gel tasted extremely awful in flavour and the texture was at least 10X thicker than my normal PowerGel.  The moral of the story is to bring your own gel and perhaps bring extra ones as backups! I’ll talk more below about what to bring on race day!

Course Map

I used this course map as my desktop wallpaper at work and whenever I had a chance I’d just stare at it.  I find it to be important to really understand the placement of the big drops as well as the hills.

Boston Course Video 

For those who wish to better visualize the course, here is a video link of approximately 20mins of the entire race course: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjJw3fRS5xM

Boston Marathon Mile-By-Mile Description

Here’s a great link (http://boston.cbslocal.com/guide/mile-by-mile-guide-to-the-boston-marathon/)for those who might want to know more what happens at each mile on the course.  The condition on the day I ran the marathon was quite horrible so much of my memory of the course was pretty much a blur.

Please continue reading PART 3 

Boston Marathon 2015 Race Day

Vicar Finish Line

PRE-RACE

Things didn’t go as smoothly as I wished prior the big day!

1. I was coming down with a sore throat two days prior to take off. It’s funny that I still have the same  soreness with less intensity now as I write this post. I don’t know what it is because it just stuck and hasn’t worsen.

2. We flew a red eye on Friday and arrived on Saturday at 6am ET. It was a horrible plan which deviated drastically from my original wishful thinking. My little guy wouldn’t sleep until 4am ET and sang “Happy Birthday” non-stop for hours on the plane. In the end we slept for only 2 hours that night!

3. Carbo-loading was probably slightly over and out of controlled as our hosts brought us to restaurants that were too delicious and tasty. I might have gained like 7-8lbs.

4. Travelling with the entire family and some enthusiastic hosts isn’t easy, I had probably walked too much around town! The pre race dinner was interesting but I wouldn’t do it again. The wait was horribly long with too much standing on the feet!!!

5. The night before the race I somehow got too nervous and wouldn’t sleep until 1am and woke up at 4am.

Race Kit

skech739148_128028_jb

RACE DAY MORNING 

weather boston marathon

I got up at 4am and went out for a 10min shakeout run at 415am. I think I’ll do this for my future runs as it calms the nerves!

I am very grateful for how the whole day turned out but I did find the pre-race arrangement a painful ordeal!  First, the weather was horrible on the day with ~30km/h of head wind, cold rain and a temperature of about 5-6 degree celsius.

For us Wave 1 runners, we’d need to board the school bus from Boston Common at 6ish and be dropped off at Hopkinton at 7ish until 905am before being marshaled out for a mile walk to the start.  For two hours, 7000s of us were all cramped in the tents. Some later comers were left to stand outside in the rain. Even worse for the unprepared, they were already in their singlet freezing. I was put on several layers of clothings and still shivering.  There was absolutely no time and space to stretch or do any form of warm up.  The good part, I was with Ben and Yuki (who flew from Tokyo with injuries and later walked a 5h10min to finish!)to pass time and later bumped into Katherine at the potty line up!

2015_bostonmarathon_coursemap

From Start to 10K

start line 2015

The road was narrow and it was packed! I ran easy at about 4:10’/K.
The pack thinned out after 10k or so.  Running here was easy as my body was still warming up and settling into a good groove. Finding a good pack to run with in this race was easy.

11k to 25k

I felt slightly impatience after seeing too many times my pace was far from goal pace. I sped up a little and latched onto faster groups. I blame my Garmin for showing a slower pace.

The course was great and the crowd was loud and supportive. As you can see in the splits I attached I ran few Ks under 4’/K.  I knew this was the stretch to push just a little.

The weather fluctuated often with strong head wind and cold heavy rain, I knew it wasn’t the day for the original 4’/k pace. I just stuck with a group that ran at about 4:05-4’/k pace and felt pretty good most of the way.

25k -32k

I ran well in the last 10k or so and knew the upcoming big drop was up and more so the series of terrible hills.  I ran easy down the steep hill and cruised slightly under 4’/k.  I lost a gel at the start and took one of the Cliff gel from the event. It was by far the worst thing I have ever tasted. It was so thick you couldn’t imagine!

The first Newtown hill was long and kind of steep. I ran with an easier effort and just focused on the people in front of me.  I did the same with the following hills.  I think after running the hill before Heart break I felt something funny with my quads and my left calf.  I changed my stride and gait a little.  It felt like a long stretch between that hill and Heartbreak. I probably asked more than few runners if we had run it already. The crowd at Heartbreak was huge and very loud.  I knew it was my last grind. So many runners faded and walked there. I passed Katherine there as well.  I slowed down to about 4:30pace and knew it was ok as long as I didn’t hit the wall.

33-37k

There were signs everywhere held by spectators at the top of the hill saying it’s time to go all out! I slowly eased back into a faster pace and latched onto a Black Lungs runner. We ran at about 4:10-15pace.

At this point of time, I just focused a k at a time. My mind was feeling tired at 37k but I reminded myself to be strong and pushed through it with the last 5k or so. My calf acted up few more times but never went into a cramp, thankfully.  I think throughout the race it was my forearm and fingers that actually cramped up a little…funny and weird! Good thing I didn’t need these muscles too much to run fast!

37-42.2k

Finish Line

The last five Ks was hard on the mind. The weather was still horrible with stronger head wind and heavier rain. I just made sure I was with a pack the whole time and wouldn’t run alone.  It was unfortunate to see numerous runners to drop out at that point of time.

Once I reached Boylston St, I knew the end was near. I sped up slightly. I think at 40k or so my time was 2:40ish and doing a quick math in my head even if I ran 5’/K for the last 2k I’d still PB.  So I ran without paying too much attention to my Garmin.

In the last 500m or so, the crowd was deafeningly loud. I just roared and held my hands up to the finish! It was a strong beautiful end! Viola! It was a personal best of 2:53:45 and ranked in the top 5%!

Volunteer at Finish Line

Finish Medal

27th mile

runners walking back

Funny, the toughest stretch of this Boston Marathon was the final stretch of more than a mile walk  back to the gear check at Boston Common. Few runners collapsed and required medical attentions. I stopped in the middle of the road because my foot was cramping up. The medics were concerned and ready to offer me a wheelchair! It took me a good few minutes to continue. Everyone cussed and cursed big time. It was actually quite funny. Everyone looked so pasty like a zombie. The weather was probably at its worst since the day began.

Please also read my post on “The Guide to ‘Everything I know’ About the Boston Marathon” if you plan to run the race.

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EASTSIDE 10K 2014 RACE REPORT

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After a month of training since my last event at the Summerfast 10K on July 19, I raced again this past weekend at the Eastside 10K by the Canada Running Series.   I have had some decent training in the past month with Coach Dylan helping me to speed up my pace.  I had high hopes of doing well at the Eastside 10k but the reality was I probably needed more training to be more solid and confident at the pace (~3:35-3:40) I wished to persist in throughout the entire race.  
This is the 2nd year of the event. It commenced in 2013 and its inaugural event had brought some special meanings to me.  First, it was my first race coming back as a young father. Second, I ran as a Skechers Sponsored Athlete, though not entirely official at the time. Third, it was an event that runs through the toughest DTES neighbourhoods including their supporting NGOs (e.g.Mission Possible, one that I have supported and collaborated with for many years).  
For 2014, the Eastside 10k sets a year milestone for my training with Coach Dylan Wykes, a father of 17months and a year working with Skechers.  All is great! 
Let’s find out how I did on the day…
RACE DAY
The weather was beautiful with clear skies and of about 12-15oC. I do find it a little warm but not going to complain too much here. I arrived at race site around 7:30am about an hour prior to start.  It was great to see many familiar faces already there. Trying my best to minimize too much conversations with others,  I quickly got changed, bag checked and got into my warm up routines. 
I realize this year’s elite listing wasn’t as exhaustive as last year’s.  I suspect few were succumbed to injuries and others might be at other events. Among the elite guys, there were Kelly Wiebe (the eventual winner andCR breaker @29:20) and Rob Watson as the favorites.  For the elite females, there were Natasha LaBeaud (the eventual female winner) and Lioudmila Kortchguina (last year’s winner). 
The RACE
 Eastside10K_20140913
I lined up at the 2nd row just behind the elite pack at about 15mins before gun time.  At this point, the race directors were having some fun with us runners by messing with our minds about when the gun would go off.  It was within a minute or less before everyone dashed off. 
Coach D advised me to run easy for the first two Ks and race against others in the remainder.  I went out easy and felt controlled at a good comfortable effort.  Given the first K was a quick decline, my pace (3:39/K) was slightly faster than I wanted to be.  I think within 800m into the race, there was a swarm of people went past me including a senior (80?) runner.  It certainly never feels good when so many have past me but I knew it was just the start. 
Once the initial rush was gone, most runners found themselves going up a slight incline before hitting a sharp short hill.  I kept at an even pace and effort going up those hills and began to weave through many of the runners.  My pace for 2nd K was at 3:46/K.
The race itself is not only of rolling hills but also quite twisty.  By 3rd KM, I was surprised to see few runners from the elite pack were walking.  I knew my best strategy to run fast was to latch onto a fast group. For the following few Ks I kept my pace by  moving up to different groups.  I actually ran pretty well up to the 8th K.  My splits were: 3:45@3rd K, 3:38@4th, 3:37@5th, 3:39@6th and 3:43@7th.
The course itself is sort of an outback.  The route coming back isn’t identical per se but was on a street parallel to the one in the first half.  All in all, the first half was like a mirror image of the second half.  In essence, however many downhill we did in the first, there goes the same number of up-hills to grind in the 2nd half.  There were also few ‘obstacles’ like rail tracks and pot holes that I had to look out for during few of the rougher stretches in the race. 
eastside-map-lg
By the 8th K I was probably in the top 20s, I found myself in a no-man’s land.  Without anyone or group to latch on, my mind goes weak.  My pace slipped to 3:48/k.    At the 9th K, I finally saw three runners about 400m in front of me.  I picked up my pace and hoping to catch up.  At this point, there was a guy (Alec Smecher) who turned out to be one of my running buddies cheering with a duck call standing outside of his house with his family in the Strathcona area.  I was too tired to wave back and knew I had to be focused grinding up the last two hills before crossing the finish line.  I caught up with the small group of guys.  Two of them were actually chatting. It wasn’t a conversation about the race but more like what they will be doing in the next week or so.  I tried my best to stay with these guys.  At the final stretch,  I found myself in some trouble to maintain a good pace while running up the sharp ramp back onto Dunsmuir Viaduct.  The guy (Cody Callon) picked up the pace to about 3:30/k and I probably made a dumb move by sticking with him.  I was able to keep that pace for may be 500m before started feeling to collapse.  I slowed down so much because my legs were heavy and my diaphragm was in pain.  
At this point, the two guys behind me had past me.  I felt terrible!  I cleared up my head and tried my best to run the last few hundred meters.  This was probably the only race I didn’t finish as strong as I could.  I simply struggled at the end.  I was so exhausted that I didn’t hear Coach D was cheering loud for me at the side.  I must say I am not completely thrilled with my time but after all it’s still a PB@ 37:29 ranking overall 31st.  It is almost 2 minute faster than last year and over 20th place ahead!
Thank you all for reading my post and special thanks to Skechers Canada Performance Division and Coach D for their invaluable support! 
medal14_lgVicar Eastside 10K 2014
 
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I WILL RUN 2014 Mid-Year Newsletter

Greetings Everyone!

I Will Run - logo squareThis mid-year newsletter highlights few exciting things happened at the program in the past six months and how we have continue to uphold our motto: “Learn to Run for Free, Make a Positive Social Impact,and Live a healthier Life”.

First of all, A BIG THANK YOU to everyone for raising over $1100 to missionPLogo4support the good works done in the DTES community by Mission Possible, an agency that “transforms lives by helping those challenged by homelessness and poverty achieve a renewed sense of dignity and purpose through meaningful work”.

 

Our Sponsor: Skechers Performance Division

Another BIG THANK YOU to our program sponsors Skechers Canada Performance Division and their awesome western Canada representative Alex Strote for conducting Skechers Demo Day with us and giving out free Skecher shoes to our program participants draw winners.

 

running-with-strollerIn the past six months, I WILL RUN has conducted two complimentary running programs including two beginner clinics and two immediate Ran10/21k groups.  In total, we have attracted 47 participants and of those nine were kids under the age of five.  It was certainly a great success and  joyful experience to test drive our new “stroller moms/dads” in the beginner program.   For me, it was amazing to have witnessed the commitment and enthusiasm expressed in these young families . No matter what the weather was like, baby crying or fussing, they just simply showed up at the clinic.    This has certainly helped many, including myself (a new dad of 15months!), to remove the deep rooted stigma that family with newborns or young children cannot exercise as a whole unit.  It was exciting and fulfilling to see that some of these parents have adopted running and walking since the program started as their daily routine.  Many have attested that the health benefits derived from running were significant enough to make positive impacts in their overall well being.

poing grey trackThe Ran10/21K group comprised some great dedicated runners this past season. Everyone was diligent to show up on time for our 8am clinic.  In 2014, the program re-focused primarily on the running basics.  A special 6- weeks program was in placed to re-evaluate proper running forms and bio-mechanics.  This was done in an effort to minimize any running related injuries owing to improper running forms.  The result was significant that many participants began running more efficiently while complaining less on their past injuries.  In conjunction with form building, basic speed workouts were also introduced.  As a result of all effective training, many have achieved their personal best for 10K and half marathon events in 2014.

boston marathon logoOn the personal note, I have participated in 8 races thus far in 2014 ranging from the distance White Rock Race 1 (3)of 5K to full marathon and with three more in the upcoming future!    With the continual support from Team Skechers Canada Performance Division and the invaluable coaching from Olympian Dylan Wykes, I have made some major accomplishments.  In May, I ran the Vancouver BMO Full Marathon at a time of 2:58:06 ranking in the top 70s, which enabled me to obtain a personal best, enter the “sub-3 marathon club”, and qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2015.  Recently, I have also run a great 10K race at the BC Championships Series Summer Fast with a finishing time of 37:31 ranking in the top30s among a very competitive field. This has further allowed me to qualify as a seeded athlete running with the elites in the first pack at the Vancouver Sun Run in 2015.

IWILLRUN2014-03Starting in the first Saturday of August, we will begin our FINAL beginner program of this year.  This 7 weeks program is suitable for those wishing to learn to run their first 10K.  Sign up Now!

In mid-August, we will also have our final Ran10/21K program to train for the upcoming Vancouver Rock’n Roll Half Marathon in late October. Stay tuned!

That’s it for now.  We are half way through 2014 and it’s not too late to start running again! Stay active, lace up and see you out there!

Your running buddy,

Vicar

Run to Inspire and to be Inspired. 

 

 

 

 

 

CEP Calf Sleeves Compression 2.0 Short Review

Few months ago I was given a pair of CEP compression calf sleeves for testing from the courtesy of CEP Canada.  I’ve put these sleeves on several occasions including few longer runs (20K+), a half marathon and during recovery after these workouts.  I wish to write a short review and hope to offer my first-hand experience in this post.  I must emphasize here that this is all based on my sole subjective experience and I have not performed any objective measurement per se to write up a non-biased evidence-based review here.

 

 My first hand experience with CEP Compression Calf Sleeves

CEP BOX

 

It was really great to receive the latest version of the 2.0 CEP progressive compression calf sleeves.  The model I received was the night version with a very nice neon green colour and lined with reflective lining.  They should be great for those who run later in the day for better visibility.

CEP GREEN

 

They were made of 79% nylon and 21% spandex.  Unlike some of the previous compression calf sleeves I have used in the past, the CEP appeared to be very well made.  The ‘pores’ were tightly knitted.  They felt really thin and compact.  They were also made in Germany.

Since I have small calves of a circumference about 12.5″, I received their size III.  The sleeves fitted well on my calves.  They were tight but in a supportive way without a feeling of constricting blood flow.

Upon a few long runs and a half marathon race using the calve sleeves, I felt very positive wearing them. I’d be eager to test them out for a full marathon as that’s the distance when my calves would go screaming.  Wearing the CEPs for recovery felt great as well, I found them helped me to recover better when there were times I wasn’t able to stretch immediately after a long workout.

In terms of durability, I have worn them in sunny dry conditions and they were subjected to machine washing for five times.  The material remained to be very sturdy like when it was new. I have had other brand that didn’t hold well after few washes.

Conclusion

My overall experience with the CEP calf sleeves was excellent.  I enjoyed wearing them both during my run as well as during recovery.

There exist a plethora of research on the efficacy of compression garments.  I have taken pains in one of the graduate courses (Evidence-Based Medicine) I completed earlier this year to critique on the evidence and claims on some of these papers.  I shall not go into the details here. In summary, I find that there appears to be some benefits in the use of compression garments in some of the research conducted on runners and cyclists for muscle performance as well as during recovery period.

On the other hand, there are also papers that did not show any significant effect on muscle performance nor recovery.  Thus far, however, I have yet to come across an experiment that showed detrimental effects on the athlete using these compression garments.

So, whether it’s evidence based or merely psychological effects on performance or better recovery, I say it doesn’t hurt to go with your first hand experience. CEPs is certainly one of the best brands on the market.

 

Any question?

 

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SummerFast 10K Race Report


Stanley Park Seawall View

Hello Runners,

If you followed my blogs lately, you should’ve probably noticed I’ve had quite an eventful month.  I raced three events all over the town in the past five weeks. Finally, I am happy to say that I am feeling strong and healthy to race this last event at the Summer Fast 10K around the Stanley Park Sea Wall. I was probably at my 90% performance on race day.  Honestly, I didn’t train well enough coming into the race.  On most days, I was only able to complete partial of my speed workouts before succumbing to the summer heat and my own frailty. Nonetheless, I am glad that I was able to persevere in spite of all the shortcomings. Let’s get straight to race day.

 Race Day

After a full month of heat wave, the weather really cooled down this weekend owing to the abrupt wet weather.  The morning felt much cooler than most days.  I got to race site an hour before gun time.  I knew this race has had attracted many competitive runners in the past, so I was expecting to see some running celebrities in today’s field.  After bag check, I was ready to head out for a warm up.  I spotted some of the elite females including Catherine Watkins and Sabrina Wilkie, as well as some other runners.  They were also ready for a warm up run.  I kept my jacket on because the breeze was actually giving me some chills.  I began running and saw two tall lean guys running towards me.  Aha, I slowly recognized them as Dylan Wykes in full Mizuno race gear and Kelly Wiebe in Saucony outfit.  Coach D gave me a pound and asked how I was doing as we were jogging together.  We chatted for few more words and I wished those boys good luck before heading on my own way for some easy warm up.

I ran along the seawall and heard another group of runners chatting behind me.  That group included Sabrina and Catherine.  I was running very slowly but the group behind never really got past me.  I made a u-turn at about 10mins in and went back for another 10min before getting back to the start.  I did a few drills plus 100m strides to conclude the warm up.  There, I saw few more elites including Rachel Cliff (the eventual female winner), Nicholas Browne, Mark Bennett, and few others.

 

As I saw people slowly moving to the start line on the opposite side of the road, I was eager to get myself a good position at the start line.  I was warned by Coach D that the first mile or so would be quite twisty and narrow.  I definitely didn’t want to be bogged down by slower runners.  I found a good position at about fifth row from the start.  The elites were still doing strides with less than 5mins before the gun.

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After a few announcement from the VFAC host, the runners dashed away as the gun went off.  I love running with a pack of fast runners.  The road was so narrow and twisty that I felt a river of people was pushing me ahead.  There was absolutely no way to stop the flow.  The first few mins went by very quickly as I was pushed to run at sub 3:30 pace, one that I knew I would get into trouble later on if I had continue to doing so.

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Once the twist and turns were over after the 2KM mark, I finally found my own rhythm running at a much easier pace of about 3:40-3:50. We were now running along the seawall finally. This is definitely a turf that I am fond of and very familiar with.  I maintained a good pace of 3:45 by following a group of guys of similar speed.  In particular, I followed this runner, who dressed in complete black outfit from top to bottom including his calve compression, socks, and shoes.  I had no idea who he was at the time and didn’t have a chance to see his face until the race was finished.  This guy is definitely a machine. He kept a well steady pace of 3:44 throughout the entire race.  There were times I felt he was loosing me but I would make sure to stay close.  He sure helped me to pass many guys and girls.  At the end of the race, I met up with him while I was running a 15min cool down run.  I actually thanked him for ‘pacing’ me that is of course without his prior knowing.  We chatted as we ran back to the event.  I also found out that this amazing runner Philipe Edora is almost 10 years older than me.  He encouraged me that I still have so much more room to improve as I am still a fresh runner.  It was really great meeting such an inspiring runner.

Summerfast Vicar 1

At the end, I ranked at 32nd or 33rd.  I am not really sure because the timing team actually lost me in their system.  Good thing I had my Garmin that morning to prove my time Summer Fast Vicar 2to them.  There was an urge for me to run “naked” that morning…good thing I didn’t leave my Garmin home.  I guess anything is possible.

Despite all the ups and downs in the past two months, I am happy to hit a really good one today at the BC Championships Summer Fast 10K running a PB of  37:31min and ranking at top30s among a very competitive field.

Thank you for reading my post!  I’ll be training more diligently in the next little while before my next race at the Eastside 10K in early September!  Stay tuned!