Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Chase the Race

There are so many different takes on racing in the club. Some love it, some hate. A lot of my friends do it for “the bling”. I personally love racing. There’s no better felling to me than crossing the finish line.

Sue always said “Andrew, you are so competitive, that’s why you like racing so much”. And at first I would deny deny deny. I thought I am not competitive. I don’t care if someone beats me, I am one of the slowest males in the races most times, if I was competitive I wouldn’t race because there’s no way I can compete with most males, especially in my age category.  But one day I realized, I am competitive, but not with anyone else, but with myself. I want to be the best me I can be so I compete with myself to get there. If that means I throw in some friendly competition with Brenda, Derek, or Erin, so be it. If they beat me, they beat me, but at least it pushes both parties to reach their full potential.

To me races are a measurement for improvement. People can tell you, you’ve gotten faster or stronger, but you don’t know for sure until you race and find out for sure. 
I love everything about the race process: going to get my bib, putting the bib on my shirt 5000 times until it’s centred and straight(ish), putting my clothes out the night before, making the strategy, the dive to the race, the prerace atmosphere, and then of course the race.

When that gun goes off I turn into a different person. People are now targets (ok ok maybe I’m more competitive than I thought) and the only things that matter are me and that watch. When the race starts I hit paces that I can never hit during a regular run, maybe it’s the atmosphere, maybe it’s the competitor in me, or maybe it’s the face it’s being recorded. I have no idea.  I do know that it feels awesome to go out there and run like I can’t normally run.  When I cross that finish line, I feel such a great sense of accomplishment, whether I hit my goal or not, knowing that I did my best and I gave it my all.  Race season will begin in just over a month, and I’m super excited to get back at it! See you all at the start line!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Watching the watch.

There are many different views on the running watch. Some people wear them just to record their training, some to find out how far they are going/have gone, some people use it to track their pace and others don’t wear one at all and just trust their body.  Each of these and more are totally excellent reasons why to or not to wear a running watch.

For the first year I ran with the club, I didn’t have a watch at all. I did have an ipod nano on a watch strap that I would use from time to time, but because it didn’t have a gps, the pace was never right and the distances were always a little off. I mainly used it for time during big races with km markers, but didn’t rely on it a whole lot. I mostly relied on my body but without know how was I have gone or how far I had left, it didn’t always work in my favour.

So after a year plus in the club, I decided that it was likely I was going to keep up with my running, and bought a running watch. One of the main purposes of buying it was to try to help my break 30 on my 5k. However it took a lot of training and learning how to use the watch before I could make this happen.

I did the first 5k of the year. The Holyrood Chilly Dash. I mainly used it to see what pace I was going. I was on track for my 5k goal and then the last km and a half I died, and ended up with 30 and change. BP 5k I did the same thing but died in the 3 km. Mundy Pond I followed my watch and died in the 4th k and picked up for the last one for a time of 30:08. The closest I have gotten thus far. By the time we got to the Provincial 5k in August, I figured out how to use my watch to strategize, I also learnt that the reason why I couldn’t break 30 on a 5k was because I went too fast at the start and would die in the middle. So with this strategy in mind and a little help from sugar’s magic headbands, I went to the Provincial 5k, with the goal to break 30 finally. 

The Plan was to do the first two kms at a 6:05 pace, the next two at 5:55. That would put me at net zero for 30:00 and I could use my famous sprint at the end to break my 30. I did the first km at 6:06 and then went to 5:54, 5:50, 5:56 for the next 3, so a little better than planned. I was watching my watch the whole time to make sure I did not cross the 6:00 mark on my pace. When I did, I would dig deep and cross back over to the 5’s. I then went all out for the last km and finished it in 5:21. For a time for 29:22. See how fast I was running at the beginning and then making myself hold back, made all the difference.

I now do this for all races, I strategize my time and the pace I need to do for it. I then break it up so that my first km is the slower and my last is the fastest. For the most part this has worked out. Of course depending on the route, I will change it up a bit. I also look back at my paces for that race from the previous year to help me figure out my plan. Now that I have a plan, the watch does what I need it to do.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Running with the Gazelles

I’m sure most of us have been in this situation. Going to a group run, knowing that most of your running buddies cannot make it, but you think, “well I’ll go anyways, I’m sure there will be someone there who is around my pace.” When you get there, all that have shown up are gazelles.


Now for this purpose about, a gazelle is someone who is significantly after than you. I may be a gazelle to someone, and there are many people who I call gazelles. Hallet likes to call them jackrabbits, but I like to give them a term that make them sound more majestic.

 Now running with a gazelle is not always a bad thing, but there are two factors that must be considered first.

11.       You must be willing to run with them
22.      They must be willing to run with you.

For the majority of the time, I find that gazelles usually welcome your company and do not want you to be alone. They’ll usually run at your pace but at the very least, they’ll wait for you a certain points to make sure you are ok and don’t get lost. 

A lot of people are afraid to run with gazelles because they are worried about slowing them down, or they’ll get lost or they just find them intimating. But gazelles are very friendly creatures that want you to do well with running as much as you do. Sometimes the gazelles will decide that they want to run with you regardless of you having pace buddies, but you should still welcome the gazelle into the herd.

I have ran with the gazelles several times and it has always been a great experience. I always leave the run learning something new. Some have helped me with my breathing, some with my posture and technique. Others have just simply pushed me to my limits, which made me realize how much I could actually do.

So I ask of you, if you are planning to skip a group run just because your friends cannot make it, please go anyways.  It could result into two things. Either you run with a gazelle and become a better runner from it, or you become somebody else’s gazelle and you make someone a better runner. Either way you look at it is a win.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Biggest fan

I know this wasn’t in my list of things I wanted to talk about, but I decided I wanted to give a little tribute to my mother.  Unfortunately my mother lost her battle to cancer on January 30th, 2017.  I don’t want to get into anything about her illness or the journey, because this is not the time or the place, but I did want to share a little bit about her.

I remember mom telling me a story once, I had a concert in kindergarten, and she did anything and everything to get time off work for it. But alas she could not. At the end of the concert they asked the families to come up on stage and dance with their children. As Dad was away, I ended up dancing with another family. Well mom was livid (her word) when she found out and gave it to her boss. She then vowed she would make every event her sons had.

And she did.

Mom was there for bowling tournaments, end of the year soccer games, every regatta in St. John’s, Portugal Cove and Harbour Grace. She was at my first Tely and only never made it to the others because she couldn’t get the bus down to the finish line.  And when I would check my phone after every road was, there was always a message from my mother asking me how my race was.  Even when she found out she had cancer, she waited to tell me until after the Cape to Cabot because she wanted to make sure I did my best and wasn’t distracted by the news. She was truly my biggest fan and I will miss her dearly.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Frosty 5K

Today was the Frosty Festival 5K. I decided to register for it for the same reason as last year, to kick myself a kick in the butt to get back at running regularly.

Once registration was sold out, I took at look at who was registered. Last year I won a medal in my age group so I had to see if there was a chance this year of course. I look at the list and the first name on the list: Marc Alivio.


Well there goes one medal in my age group. As I go through more of the list I see 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in my  age group. None of them are me. Ok no medal, no big deal. Now with that out of the way it was time to decide on a goal.

Based on the fact that I haven't ran much lately, my pace from Thursday, and knowing the course, I knew that breaking 30 minutes wasn't in the cards for this race. Last year I ran it in 33:54 so I wanted to beat that.

Got to the start line and boom we're off. Tanya was flying and I decided to go her. I felt like we were going too fast but I knew the course and after the first two kilometers, it's all with ill, sup ho I decided I should get fast ks in while I could, it's the only way I was going to beat last years time, and no matter how much energy I saved, I don't think Commonwealth would be any easier. So I said screw it.

1st K: 5:39
2nd K: 5:28

The biggest pain of this run was that the people with the mile markers weren't even close. So I wasn't sure what was going on. I couldn't remember the actual distance from the year before, so I wasn't sure if the race was 5 or 5ish or not even close. The first k mark was at .8, 2nd at 1.75, 3rd at 2.75 and then the 4th km wasn't even at 3.5.

Anyways went up Commonwealth and it was brutal. Tanya pulled ahead for a while and I caught up for a bit.  I think she let me catch her, but that's ok. She then told me to make sure I was taking deep breaths. I guess she could hear me struggling going up the hill. Like any smart man, I did what I was told and it certainly helped me, Tanya pulled away again, she was always in sight but I just didn't have it in me today to catch her. The rest of the race went like this.

3rd k: 6:30
4th k: 7:15
5th k: 6:52

Usually I turn it on at the end of a race but with all the hills, I couldn't get any momentum. I finished 31:43. A much faster time than two years ago. Given that the conditions were poor last year I feel like I'm at least close to the same place as I was last year, maybe a little faster.  And for those who were wondering, I didn't see Brenda or Derek the entire race, they both smoked me. But that's ok I'll get them soon.

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Look back at 2016

2016, running wise, was a very good year for me.  While not all races were PB most were at least course bests for me which made me really happy.

Between 2014 and 2015 I did almost every NLAA race in town, (with the exception of the USR, one day I’ll get that one done), so I had an idea which ones I wanted to tackle and which ones I didn’t.  Having said that not everything went according to plan. I didn’t want to do the Harbour Front 10k but the Rice Krispie Queen herself, convinced me to do it. I also love the ANE mile, but I had a wedding the night before so that one didn’t happen.

Disclaimer: There’s nothing wrong with any of the races I didn’t do. I chose to do races based on which ones I liked the most and which ones fit my schedule the best. For example I didn’t do the provincial 5k because I was in the middle of C2C training, even though I enjoyed that race and it gave me one of my best 5k times, and I didn’t do the URS because I was in PEI. I encourage everyone to give each race a shot. The ones I love might not the same as the ones you might love, but you won’t know until you try.

So with that out of the way let’s look at some of the races I did in 2016.

2016 Time
  Course Best prior to 2016
PB for that distance
Frosty Fest 5k
Mundy Pond 5k
Harbour Front 10k
Mews 8k
Tely 10
PRC 5 and Dime (5k)     
Cape to Cabot

Not too shabby hey? With the exception of the Tely I improved in every race I did this year. I’ll talk about each race but I’ll try not to go into too much detail, otherwise I’ll still be writing this one blog by the end of February.

Frosty Fest

I wasn’t going to put this one in because it wasn’t an NLAA race and it had a horrible time for me. However I decided to put it in because I got my first medal for my age category and because it shows how a bad time can kick you into gear and get you back to where you want to be. This one was after a snow storm so it was a slippery, snow covered, uphill battle, but I got through it. It wasn’t by best time but I wasn’t long back on the road,(I generally find December and January really hard to get out to run) and the course and conditions were tough, so in the end I was happy especially considering I received a placement medal (I thanked David Freake on Twitter for bailing). The race was supposed to get me back on track, and that’s exactly what it did.

Mundy Pond 5K

There’s two 5ks in April, but I decided since this one was later and I always get a better time on it, I would skip the Flatout 5k this year and just do the Mundy Pond. This gave me some extra time to prepare as well. I was really nervous about this race, as most people who know me know, I was struggling for 2 years to break a 30 minute mark. I finally did it in August 2015. So after the Frosty Fest 5k and knowing I didn’t keep my training up after the Huffin Puffin as much as I would of liked to, I was worried that I wouldn’t break 30 and it would be a struggle to go it again for the rest of the year. However I went in with a strategy and it paid off.  It wasn’t my best 5k but it was the fastest I’ve done on the course and it was the confident booster I needed.

Harbour Front 10k

Like I said I had no plans on doing this one. The year before I did it for the first time and I had to leave a birthday party early because of the race the next day. I didn’t want to leave the party and I wasn’t mentally prepared for Waterford bridge road.  This year the birthday party fell on a different week and with pressure from RKQ (Rice Krisipe Queen) I ended up registering. Once again I starting to struggle on Waterford bridge road, the further I went the more I thought the turn off was much earlier last year. I also remember Southside road being downhill, it wasn’t. I was losing steam on southside road and then Derek passed me. I was like no way, not Derek, if Derek beats me that means I’m the slowest male member in the club. I was not having it. I passed him shortly and then he passed me again. It got to the point where he got out of sight and I also didn’t think I was going to make my time from the year before. I passed Marc who was on the sidelines cheering, I shook my head at him as he told me I was going great. I did not think I was doing great and I didn’t feel great. But right after I went by Marc, I looked at my watch and said hey I can still beat my time from last year if I boot it now. So I did, and just as I was approaching the finish line, I saw him, Derek, I found more energy deep inside me and tapped into a gear I didn’t know I had. As I zoomed by not even 100 metres from the finish line, I let out a “sorry Derek” and completed my two goals. It’s great to have a friendly rival for races, it pushes both parties. Though I don’t know if Derek knew he was my rival. Sorry Derek, you’ll know for next time.

Mews 8k

Another race that didn’t start off the way I wanted it to. I love love love this race. It’s probably my favourite race and I do it every year. In 2014 when I did it I didn’t take my fuel belt and regretted it.  2015 was even hotter and I was glad I took it. 2016 was not hot at all but I took my belt feeling like I’d regret it. However I regretted wearing it in the end. Brenda was running this one, pretty much every race Brenda beats me. When she bet me at the Frosty 5k I told her one day I would beat her. I bet her at Mundy Pond. I ran into her one day and she said it was on for the Mews. I struggled for the first 5k or 6k of this race, feeling my fuel belt weighing me down. I was looking around for someone I knew to take it but could not find anyone. I was running but I knew I wasn’t running at the pace I was the year before and didn’t have any hope of beating my PB or Brenda. Then I saw a beacon of hope, 3 PRCers, Pam, Wendy and Kiley. I yelled at them that I was dropping my belt and they said no problem. As I dropped it I could feel my legs lifting higher and myself getting lighter, it was an amazing feeling, I quickly caught up to running buddy Tanya. At one point she said go on Andrew so I went. With no Brenda in sight I focused on one thing, beating my PB. When I got to the finish line I saw Brenda, with me nowhere in sight the entire race she didn’t think I was a threat or right behind her. As she got to the finish line I came behind her, she extended both arms out just in front of the line and I reached my leg out and put it underneath her arm and in front of her so I crossed the line before her. Brenda was shocked but loved it. In the end we had the same gun time but she had a better chip time so she still bet me, but it was still wicked.I just wished there was a picture oh us at the finish line.

The Tely 10

The Tely didn’t go as well as I planned. It was probably the worst race I had all year, but it was a good lesson learner for sure. In 2015 I took a whopping 10 minutes off my first Tely time. I knew that a lot of that had to do with the weather. 2014 was really hot, 2015 was not. My first time was 107 minutes and my second was 97. I decided after looking at the forecast I would aim for 100 minutes. When we started the weather was similar to 2015, so I ran like it was 2015 and I was doing wonderful. After 5 miles I had over a minute and a half banked to reach my goal. So I figured even if it got warmer and I slowed down I still had a decent shot of reaching my goal. I was wrong. What Happened? Mile 6 happened, the sun came out and it was brutal. I lost my banked time and then some, I thought about throwing in the towel, thinking about Mark Dinham two years ago. But I decided that if I didn’t try, I’d never know and would regret it forever. So I kept going, at this point my only goal was to finish. By the time I got to mile 8 I was feeling somewhat better and realized while 2015’s time was nowhere in sight I could still beat 2014’s time, so I went and did, 105 minutes. I was pleased because I knew that that was the best that I could of possibly of did that day. The lesson here was no matter what you plan, things change instantly and you have to adapt.

PRC 5 and Dime

PRC 5 and Dime was the next race I did. I was debating whether I’d do the 5 or the 20 but after talking to people I decided to do the 5. Because the route starts off downhill, I had to change my normal strategy for a 5k (more on this later). After talking to Mark Dinham, we came up with a plan. It paid off, I took exactly a minute off my PB 5k. I was so pleased. I can’t wait to do this one again.

The Cape to Cabot.

The C2C is one of my favourite races, I haven’t done it since 2014, so I was really looking forward to it. After a few training runs I wasn’t overly confident on getting under 2:30 but decided I would make it my goal. About a week before the Tely I was running with Erin. In 2014 I passed Erin on the top of signal hill and bet her by about 30 seconds. She was so rotted at me. So this year she decided she had two goals. Goal one was to break 2:30. Goad Two was to kill Andrew. Let me focus on this for a second, not pass, not beat, not even destroy, no, kill Andrew. Going in I really didn’t think I would beat Erin, she is a really good runner and in the past two years, she has improved drastically. But I decided that I would aim for my goal of 2:30 and at least give her a run for her money. I spent most of my race looking over my shoulder for Erin. She caught up a few times but I would go ahead for a while until she’d catch up again. When we got on southside road I could see that I had widen the gap, she told me I had this, but I wasn’t counting her put yet, so I picked up the pace. When I got to signal hill I was constantly looking over my shoulder, thinking she would pass me the same way I did to her in 2014.  In the end I took a whopping 11 minutes of my time and beat Erin. However I am very happy to report Erin also broke 2:30. Just goes to show you what a little friendly competition can do.

So what’s in store for 2017? I honestly have no idea.  I have a wedding the night before the Tely, so I doubt I will be doing that this year. I would like to do the ANE Mile again, and to keep my on track, I am looking at doing the USR Half Marathon, seeing as I won’t be training for the Tely. I would also like to do the Cape to Cabot, the Mews and the 5 and Dime again. I was also thinking because I am not doing the Tely I might do the Bay Roberts Craved by the sea 10k. This race is always the week before the Tely so I've never done it, because I didn't want risk injuring myself before the Tely, but as of right now, there’s no real goals or anything set in stone. I haven’t been hitting the pavement as much as I would like, so first off is to get back into that routine. Once I get there, then I’ll probably look more at what I would like to focus on for this year. Whatever I do plan, I am certain it will be a challenging and reward ride in the end.