“What’s a good 10K time?”

God, what a stupid question. But I asked it.

Idly whiling away the time on The Oracle recently, I submitted said query, and was pretty amused by the results. Let me say first that I understand “good” is entirely subjective. I don’t know what I expected to find, but it seems there are a lot of people with unrealistic expectations of how “good” should be defined. Some examples:

From Reddit: [Around] 32:00 is universally regarded as a decent 10K time. (underscoring mine)

Dude, WTF, are you kidding me? You and I obviously have rather different notions of what the word “universal” means. Note that this poster went on to say emphatically that he was not trolling. Uh huh.

From Runner’s World: My dad always said 42 minutes was what everyone at his running club considered a ‘serious’ time.That was 30 years ago though, and I suspect 42 minutes would now be thought of as rather slow by the serious runners at my club. 

Have runners’ times really gotten that much faster in 30 years? Maybe at the elite end, but I’m not so sure about the average club runner. I can tell you that at my club 42 minutes would be considered reasonably fast, at least for someone older than 35.

From the same Runner’s World thread: 40-45 minutes is a respectable time but to be classed as a good runner…you need to do a sub 40 for it, dont [sic] you….

Um, no, I’m pretty sure you don’t.

From community.myfitnesspal.com: For serious runners a sub 40min is considered a good 10k time. Obviously age, genetics,weight, dedication etc play their part. Decent club runners will be in the low 30’s.

Where the hell is this notion coming from that a sub-40 is “good”? I saw this a few times. There was one poster who considered a 40-42 minute 10K to be a good time for “hobbyists”. Christ almighty. Look, at my age, a sub-40 is about a 75% age grade, which is, in my estimation, better than “good”. Personally, I feel that age grading is the only real way to gauge how well one runs, but translating that into good vs. not good is utterly arbitrary. If I run at a 70% age grade and I can beat 95% of the other competitors in most races, shouldn’t that be considered “good”? I think so, but of course that’s my own interpretation.

I’m aware the counterargument to this is that running times are getting slower due to the people who enter races mostly to walk, or slowly jog, their way to the finish line. And of course, there was some additional claptrap about what constitutes a “serious runner” that I found in various threads. People were actually arguing about this. Really, who cares? We are a nation of sedentary, overweight, carbohydrate-addicted people, and we’re getting sick because of it. Why would anyone want to disdain someone as not serious when they, unlike many of our citizens, are actually making an effort to get out there? I’ve heard certain people lament the “state of the sport” because of this, as if some sort of purity needs to be maintained in running that is being sullied just because Joe Six-Pack wants to say he did a 10K. Come on. Stop being ridiculous.

I think it’s important for us, as a community of runners, to be as welcoming as possible. I have never maligned another runner based on appearance or ability, and I never would. I think, by and large, we are a group that understands and supports one another. So, for those with their noses in the air about how “serious” one is about the sport, let’s consider being as inclusive as we can, shall we? It’s my belief that we, and our sport, will be the better for it.

Advertisements

Races, and goals, for the coming year.

So, it’s January again, and I’ve been back into the weeds at work, but I have been thinking a lot lately about running plans for 2017. I’m shooting for ten races of varying distances, and have put together something of a tentative schedule for the first part of the year. I’m sure this will change, but for now, it’s as follows:

January – No Events

This of course is the month where I choose to run inside to prevent being flash frozen. Our winter has so far been up and down, but the last three weeks have been pretty cold. We are going to get a thaw starting this weekend, so there is a slim chance I might be able to get outside for a run early next week. I will also get a reprieve due to a conference trip to San Francisco later next week, so I plan to at least do a couple of runs there. Although, I guess Northern California has been pretty rainy so I might get wet. I’ve already started a new training cycle for my next half marathon in March. It just sucks that I have to do a lot of it on the treadmill.

February – Re-Fridgee-Eighter 8 Mile

2017-01-11 20_52_37-2012-10-29_19-18-48_uid139.jpg (JPEG Image, 200 × 200 pixels).png

Running in Southern Ontario in February is no picnic either, but it’s a bit better than January. In the past, I’ve always been somewhere south on vacation during the Re-Fridgee-Eighter, but this year it fits into my schedule. There’s an 8K and an 8 Mile – I’ve never run an 8 mile race before so I figure it’s at least good for a PR. Going to shoot for under an hour but I guess it will depend on the weather. Also, I get to complete my training cycle for the March race in Cuba at the end of February, which will be hot and humid and will prep me for the following month, where I will be taking on…

March – Puerto Rico Half Marathon

2017-01-11 20_59_05-Puerto Rico Half Marathon® & 10K _ Official Site.png

We’ll be in Puerto Rico for the first two weeks of March, and I plan to make the most of it. The main worry I have is that I might, erm, overindulge before the race. I mean, mofongo! Lechon asado! Puerto Rican rum! So many temptations. I’m definitely going to shoot for a PR despite the fact that I will likely eat my weight in suckling pig and chicharrones. I think with the way I finished last year and my 10K times I should be able to crack 1:35.

April – OE Canada INC Run For Retina Research 10K

2017-01-11 21_10_46-run for retina research - Google Search.png

I have some unfinished business at this race, because last year I wussed out. There was a big early spring snowstorm the week it was on and I just couldn’t get myself interested enough in running in the cold. Weirdly, we got more snow last year in the first two weeks of April than we got in January and March combined. Doubt that will be the case this year. Will also be starting a second training cycle this month for my June event. And it finally gets warmer at home!

May – GoodLife Fitness Toronto 10K

2017-01-11 21_18_12-GLFTM-EPS-logo.png (PNG Image, 267 × 118 pixels).png

No real reason why I chose this one, other than it fits into my schedule, and it’s always fun to come back to Toronto to run. May is usually beautiful in our neck of the woods, which is good, because I’m going to be doing a lot of preparation for…

June – Conquer the Canuck 25K

2017-01-11 21_21_31-bcf2a96ec18b542b45d7206336d105f2 (PNG Image, 227 × 104 pixels).png

This is put on by my club the Cambridge Harriers, and I couldn’t do it last year because I was out of town (and pretty bummed about it). It’s a trail run through Shade’s Mills, our local conservation area. June was super hot last year, and the course is pretty challenging. I’m stoked about this one and my goal is to break two hours. The weekend also includes a marathon, a 50k, and (for some reason) an 8.33k race. The marathon and 50K can also be run as a two-day staged race. No, I’m not doing it.

Still have to figure out the latter half of the year, but I think there will be another half marathon in there and at least a couple of 5K runs (gotta bust that 20 minutes).

Happy running everyone.

Running to music – why don’t I do it?

I was having a conversation with a co-worker the other day. She is also an avid runner, and at some point the conversation came around to music. “What songs do you like to run to?” she asked me.

“Actually, I never run to music,” I replied.

She stared at me, aghast. It was as if I had just told her that I was an alien being from the planet Glorrtaxx and was trying to fondle her with the tendril of ectoplasm extruding from my forehead.

After she had composed herself, she asked incredulously, “Why not?”

And actually, I had to think about this for a second. Because I love music. I had a 600 strong CD collection before CDs were rendered passé by streaming. I have thousands of mp3s. I have Spotify on constantly in my office. So indeed, why not?

There are a few reasons, as it turns out.

6cfeb83d4f4b6bc5623b66a9efa286cf

I am not this guy.

When I first started running again, I tried to run with music, and I found that it really screwed up my running rhythm. Basically, I was constantly trying to run with the beat, because my legs were being jerks and weren’t doing what I was telling them to. So, I would slow down for the songs with a slow beat, and speed up if the BPM did. Now, apparently this is pretty normal, and I guess it’s OK if you’re doing fartlek or something, but it was annoying when I was trying to run at a steady pace. And the damn earbuds kept slipping out because I’m too much of a cheap bastard to buy ones designed for running.

Also, I kind of like to hear what’s going on around me for reasons I detailed in my last post (keeps the octogenarian grandmas and killer clowns from sneaking up on me).

Finally, running has become sort of a zen activity for me, and I like the fact that my mind can go nowhere while I’m focusing on my breath, and music would probably disrupt that for me.

Now, I’m the type of guy who likes to look at an idea from different angles rather than dismiss it outright, so I did try to come up with some solutions:

 

1. Put together a playlist. It turns out there are some websites out there that will tell you what the BPM of various songs are so that you can put a playlist together, including

http://jog.fm (what was it I said about calling us joggers?)
http://jogtunes.com (seriously. stop it.)
http://goingjogwild.com (ok – i admit i made that one up.)
http://shape.com
http://dailymile.com

et cetera.

I guess there’s a way you can do it with iTunes too, but whatever. I’ll leave that to the Apple nerds.

First problem with this – I have no idea what my stride rate is, and I’m waaaayy too lazy to measure it. It could be 200/minute for all I know. (It’s not.) Then, I found a blog post with a chart converting stride rate into speed, which made me wonder, how the hell do these people know how long my legs are? Did they sneak in and stick a tape measure in my crotch while I was asleep? That’s peculiar, and slightly disturbing.

I kid, of course, but after all, I could be built like Manute Bol, which would render the chart pretty invalid. (I’m not).

So I decided to take the chart on faith, and went to jog.fm to look at the playlist for 175 bpm, which supposedly corresponds to a 7:30 mile, my usual tempo running pace. The first three songs were “Chattahoochee” by Alan Jackson, “Come Over” by Kenny Chesney, and something called “Backroad Song” by someone named Granger Smith.

Ooooooookay. Country. Huh. Ummm, what else ya got, jog.fm?

Oh, there’s “Pictures of You” by the Cure. “Yellow”, by Coldplay? We’ll put that in the maybe pile. A bunch of songs from the cast of Glee, eh? Pass. Jimmy Eat World… ehhhh…..

Ok, screw this. It’s too damn complicated.

snob

Hmm. Seems about right.

2. Listen to music without a beat. This might seem a bit odd, but I do have some music that would qualify in this regard. An album I particularly like is called “And Their Refinement of the Decline“, by Austin-based Stars of the Lid. It’s this incredible collection of warm, droning tones that make you feel as if you’re floating in the womb or suspended in quince jelly heated to body temperature or something. Problem: I like to listen to it when I’m ready to go to sleep. Sleeping ≠ running, last time I checked. I have this sense that I’d either fall asleep and wander into the path of a meth-addled truck driver, or my legs would go all Pavlov’s dogs and jimmy all night while I was trying to sleep. Pass.

runningman

Ha! If the shoe fits… oh god, another bad pun…

3. Listen to something meditative, like Gregorian Chants. Remember in the early 1990s, when Gregorian Chant CDs were a thing for about 3.4 seconds? Nah, neither do I.

Gregorian-Voices

What the HELL do you mean we’re not getting royalty checks anymore, Brother Alfred???

4. Train myself to ignore the beat. I told you guys my legs were wankers, so this is out. I’d probably look like I was having some sort of seizure as I tried to do this, too. I don’t need the fire department rushing to my aid, so forget it.

I guess we’ll leave the headphones off, at least for now. Maybe I’ll make a list of good podcasts instead…

My Running Route, or, Cars and the Occasional Moron Who Drives Them

We are blessed in Cambridge with a pretty great trail system. It runs along the Grand and Speed Rivers which meet north of the city, and provides a nice little piece of parkland in a relatively urban landscape. There’s a surprising and constantly shifting variety of things for a runner to see along the way. For example, this weekend I ran past a raucous, roaring group of South Asian Canadians who had set up a cricket match in the middle of one of the baseball diamonds as a couple of guys fried up samosas and other street snacks nearby. At the extreme other end of the spectrum, there’s a guy around here who has a car which is an exact replica of the General Lee, and he likes to drive it at 10mph around and around the park sometimes. Which seems kind of weird for Canada, but I guess the Dukes were a cultural touchstone even up here. (Note: the owner resembles neither Bo nor Luke, but would fit right in with the Robertsons on Duck Dynasty. Not that I ever watch that show).

bo-general-lee-876

Well, way down yonder in the land of… uh… pine trees?

I once had to stop dead in my tracks when I came around a bend and an obstinate deer was standing astride the trail. It didn’t even spook, just gave me a haughty look as if to say “I’m a miracle of nature, and you’re a ridiculous looking sweaty hairless ape in in a neon tank-top”, and flipped its tail at me as it sauntered away. Whatever. Stuck up prick. What’s worse, it was a doe, and my brain sang “Doe, a deer, a female deer” at me for the rest of the run.

2609100-Doe-a-deer-a-female-deer-2

Yeah, we get it, you’re a cute woodsy animal. Bite me.

Then there was the time I came across a clown in full regalia walking towards me on the trail. Seriously. He was sauntering along, mellowly smoking a cigarette. He didn’t seem to have a machete or a chainsaw, so I tipped him an uneasy wave, and, no word of a lie, he HONKED HIS NOSE AT ME. (I spontaneously decided to do a bit of speedwork for the next couple of miles). I did feel better when I noted that there was a carnival setting up in Riverside Park along my route and that it seemingly wasn’t some random Pennywise clone wandering the forest.

bald-clown-cap-64403

You know, I’m not buying the smile. You’re still creepy.

There’s all kinds of nature and other crap along the route as well, and the usual coterie of runners, and of course it’s always fun to give the biker-style two-fingers-down bro wave as I pass the dudes, and puff my chest out, speed up, and do my best impression of Ridiculously Photogenic Guy for the ladies. (Y’all do this shit too. Come on, admit it.)

So, the trail system is great, except for the brief period in spring when it floods because of the river overflowing. What’s not great is getting there.

See, Cambridge has grown from 85,000 people when we moved here in 1996 to 135,000 people. Which means the roads around here have turned into snarled traffic nightmares a lot of the time, since the infrastructure hasn’t kept pace. What’s worse, approximately 1/3 or so of Cambridge drivers are seemingly either assholes, drunk, on Quaaludes, or some combination thereof. Seriously – our region has some of the worst drivers I’ve ever seen, and I’ve driven in some very hairy places around the world.

Which is a problem, because I have to run on said roads to get to the trails. And it can raise the hackles a little bit, so to speak.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But, why don’t you just drive to the trails?” Well, aren’t you just the contrarian.  Frankly, it always seemed like a dirty cheat to me to drive somewhere in order to go running, when I could just run there and save the little bunny rabbits by keeping my polluting auto ensconced in the garage. And also, there’s the big puddle of sweat that invariably forms on the leather upholstery of my modestly priced chariot on the way home. Really, who wants that? It’s gross.

Thus, I end up running the gauntlet, if you’ll pardon the extremely poor play on words. Usually it’s fine. But I have almost been hit by cars on five separate occasions in the last year. It’s funny how it tends to usually be some skinny cretin in an Ed Hardy t-shirt driving a clapped out Honda Civic with a straight pipe that you can hear two counties away. But at least once it was an octogenarian grandma who missed me but proceeded to knock down a poor kid on a bike who was crossing the other way. My reaction to these rather unwanted incursions into my route varies; usually it just involves a shouted “watch it!” and a derisive shake of the head, but I’ve been known to react rather more, um, forcefully.

With the guy who shouted “Goddamn jogger!” at me, for example.

Just a note to you drivers who may read this and get pissed off at a runner one day for some reason – try calling the individual in question a jogger. Often, it will make them lose their shit. I believe my response was to call the guy a “fucking asshat”. I don’t usually like to do that, especially since escalating the situation is never good, and I might be at a disadvantage in a fight if the guy’s bigger than me and I’ve just run 12K. Although, at least in Canada people don’t carry 9mm handguns in their glove boxes which makes mouthing off slightly safer. In this case, and probably luckily for me, the dude wasn’t looking for a dustup and simply screeched his tires and drove away. Not one of my finer moments, to be sure.

I felt bad about unleashing the finger on the octogenarian grandma as well, after some reflection. But that’s another story.

Anyway, if you’re driving, please look both ways before turning a corner. Thus endeth the public service announcement for today.

what-if-im-a-really-bad-driver-and-nobody-told-me

Facing down marathon training… again. And a happy 4th of July.

I’ve had to make a few changes to my running schedule lately. I had planned to do the Peach Bud 10K in Grimsby, ON, along the shores of beautiful Lake Ontario, on the 28th of June, but the University oh so helpfully scheduled a doctoral defense for the exact time and date of the race, and I had to attend, so… that was a no go. Then I thought I would do the Guelph Summer’s Night Classical 5K this Wednesday. It’s so called because they have members of the Guelph Symphony Orchestra playing at various points along the course. It turns out, though, that it’s gonna be 90+ degrees at race time. So, uh, nope. Although it would be interesting to see how well one can play the cello with heatstroke.

I ended up adding the Tannenbaum 10K in Toronto in December to the schedule instead. Some seriously fast runners in that one, so maybe it can spur me to a PR. I’ve also started thinking about next year, and which major events I’d like to shoot for. I have unfinished business at the Mercedes-Benz 10K in Oakville, which I couldn’t run last year because I was hurt. We also plan to be in Puerto Rico in March, so I’m definitely going to run the Puerto Rico Half Marathon, which is March 12th. All my other plans are kind of tentative, but assuming all goes well with the Hamilton Marathon this year, I’ll be looking at a fall marathon for next year too.

So, here we go. Back to marathon training. I’m feeling good about it this time though. I’ve worked my base up to 25 miles per week and will be starting to ramp up the distance in about six weeks. Gonna give myself lots of time and fix the mistakes I made in the last attempt. No running through injuries, no overly fast long runs, no exploding groins. Will be documenting as I go along. Should be an interesting time.

Finally, hope all my Canadian friends had a great Canada Day, and happy Independence Day to my American friends. May there be plenty of relaxing with family (and beer and barbecue if that’s your thing – it’s certainly mine).

usa_canada_map

A Perfect Run.

If Heaven is a perfect run
through a sun-dappled wood

Motes and dandelion seeds whirling
through the air
One’s lungs a joyous bellows
roaring breath
in
and out

A breeze, softly stirring the emerald boughs
(but always at one’s back)
Feet, aloft,
on Mercury’s wings

If Heaven is a perfect run
through a sun-dappled wood,
well then

when the time comes
to lay down my head
I should not fear, or rage
or mourn a life thus past

But instead
only thrill

in anticipation
of the race to come

5238812-a-sun-dappled-path-through-a-lush-green-forest

Garmins, Gear and Groundwork – 3 weeks to Buffalo

Prepping for a 12 miler today. I’ve fortunately been pretty healthy over the last 6 weeks. Today I have a little bit of a tweak in my left shin, so hopefully that won’t blow up into more of a problem. Figure I’ll just tape it up and get a wrap on it.

ChappelleWrapItUp

I am a little concerned that I haven’t been putting enough work in though. I tend not to do quite the kind of mileage that you find in the half-marathon training plans. I mentioned in a previous post that I ran my fastest half last year on 20 mile weeks, but of course as runners we are all concerned with getting that PR, and so I have to wonder if maybe I’m doing myself a disservice by undertraining. Lately I’ve been sticking mostly to a schedule of 2-3 road runs, 2 shorter treadmill runs, a couple of XT sessions on the bike, and a couple of core strength workouts each week. I’ve slowly worked up my mileage to just shy of 30 per week running and 12-15 miles of cycling. This is a little less than the 35 miles of running suggested by Higdon, as an example, but they are quality miles I think. My shorter road runs are generally done at a pretty fast tempo, about 90% of full on. So a typical week has looked like this:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 4 miles treadmill (run at 8:00/mile),  XT cycling 6 miles, core strength x 20-30 mins
Wednesday: 6-7 miles tempo (generally run at about a 7:30/mile pace)
Thursday: XT cycling 6 miles + core strength x 20-30 mins
Friday: Rest or speedwork x 4 miles (depending on length of Sunday’s run)
Saturday: 4 miles treadmill (run at 8:00/mile)
Sunday: 8 or 12 miles (alternating weeks, run at 9:00-9:15/mile)

There have been some ah, deviations, from this.

tumblr_m085rdqjwN1qio0aso1_500

When I say deviations, I mostly mean that I’ve been a bit lazy with the XT some weeks. And the core strength. And sometimes the running (but not as much).

Anyway, times in the shorter races have been good. Buffalo is flat, so that’s a big plus for me. I plan to do one more 12 miler about 10 days before the event, and hit 30 miles for the week prior to it, then taper. We’ll see if I manage a PR or not.

I have been considering breaking down and buying a Garmin before the race. I just don’t know if I need it. I can pretty much go out with Strava on a smart phone and without looking hit almost exactly a 9:00/mile pace by feel on my long runs. The problem, I think, will be that adrenaline hit at the start of a long race that screws up one’s ability to do that. For a PR I’m going to need to maintain about a 7:20 pace. In the first half of the Toronto Waterfront, I was under that at about 7:10. The plan, I think, is going to be to stick with the 1:40 pacer for about the first 3-4 miles or so and then crank it up and try to run negative splits. In other words, no blowing past the pacer after a mile like I did last time.

Curious to see what the weather will be like, although I’ve run in all kinds of weather this year with no problems, so there’s that.

And finally, I gotta give a shout out to Asics – I switched from Saucony to Asics GT 2000s earlier this year and I don’t know if I was picking the wrong Sauconys (a pair of Guide 7s and a pair of Hurricanes) but the difference has been unbelievable, at least for me.

Can’t wait to get to the Queen City and hit the road.