Archive for Running

Here we go again…

I get these hare-brained ideas from time to time. I’ll talk about the tattoos in a separate post (and these two will likely intersect later, but all in due course). For now, though, last night officially marked my kickoff to running a marathon before I turn 42.

I signed up for the Frontrunners clinic, and last night was the first “workout” session. I got the chance to meet up with some really great people, got introduced to Kristin, who will be my pace leader, and gained a pile of information about how this is going to work for the next several months while I prepare to run a rather long way.

I’ve talked a bit before about running, and how I got back into it upon my return to the army in 2011. Over that time, my pace has been increasing, as has been my distance. Current bests right now are 1:36 for a half marathon, just over 44 mins for a 10k, and 20:17 for a 5k. Compare that to only being able to sputter through 2.5k at 7:30/km when I first started, I’m quite proud of where I’ve ended up.

Last night’s run went great. I placed myself near the front of the pack, had some good conversations with a couple of people, and really barely cracked a sweat with a 7:08 average pace (we were averaging about 6:00 while underway, but there were obligatory photo stops, catch-up points, street crossings, etc). The run took us from the downtown Frontrunners through the edge of Beacon Hill Park, along Dallas Road, before hooking back down Richmond to the store.

Given my recent IT band pain, I was a little nervous about stepping off and running into difficulties along the way, but the slow pace really did it for me. I didn’t have a hint of soreness at all, and was essentially able to nose-breathe through the whole affair.

The training plan looks good – it’s very similar in scope to the plan I did for my half-marathons, though it starts up a couple of miles on the long runs from where I am. I can already feel my self-competitiveness kicking in, so it’s going to take all the restraint in the world to really slow down these long runs. The first one is 14km on Saturday. I also have to pay a little attention to what’s going on with the schedule over the coming weeks as I won’t be at some of the distance runs due to being away (and in snowy climes, which is going to also present a different challenge).

So here we go again. More zaniness. Can’t wait to see where this takes me.


I wrote earlier about challenges of writing at night, and how the 9pm brain varied from the 6am brain. While that maxim holds true, I discovered an additional layer to this one over the course of this week.

I love playing hockey. From the time that I got posted to Edmonton, I have been lucky enough to have picked up the sport as an adult, to find acceptance from my teammates, and to be able, even if for just 90 minutes at a time, to focus on nothing else but trying to stay alive and in the moment.

On Monday night, during league play, in the last 5-10 minutes of the game, I was back in the faceoff circle, having a great time occasionally winning draws and garnering laughs from my opponent as we tried to outfox one another. On this particular play, he won (and rightly so), but in doing so, I ended up taking a blow to the head, and my neck twisted sharply to the left. I heard some crunching noises, and I will admit it didn’t feel great, but it wasn’t enough to prevent me from finishing my shift, or the game, and I thought nothing of it. It was a hard-fought game against our divisional rivals, and I played harder than I have in a while. When I got home, the usual muscle soreness had kicked in. A soak in the hot tub and a shower, and off to bed for me.

In the morning, I woke to neck soreness (not unexpected), so I decided to take myself to the clinic and get checked out. Besides, my back had been giving me grief from so much air travel over the last few months.

I walked in and had a chat with the Med Tech who was on duty that day, and the words out of my mouth were “I don’t think I have a concussion, I just wrenched my neck”. He went along with that, and I got a referral to physio. Doc commented that “age and responsibility are starting to catch up with [me]” and we left it at that.

I went to work, and proceeded to have a terrible couple of rehearsals, first with my own group, the other with the UVic group. Lots of confusion, stupid mistakes on my part. I was also very fatigued. This fatigue carried on through the next couple of days. Concurrent to this, food started tasting different (or not at all). By Thursday, I remarked to Kristy that the broccoli that we’d eaten didn’t really taste like broccoli – texturally, it felt like broccoli, but the flavour wasn’t there. I could taste certain things (soy, garlic) but not others (fresh, raw veggies). She said “hmm, sounds like you’re concussed.”

Come morning, I took myself back to the clinic, saw the same Med Tech and started explaining my symptoms. He did a check and the military concussion protocol, and his assessment off the top was that I was concussed. He needed to confer with the doc to see how we’d proceed. My usual doc wasn’t available, and so I got the tag-team of one of the other docs and her resident. He was very, very thorough, and I ended up going through a much more in-depth concussion protocol and discovered that my balance was off, and that my short-term memory was fried.

The recommendation was to send me to the hospital for a head CT. I was barred from driving, so I had my best friend come pick me up and cart me over to VGH, where I got poked, prodded, IV’d, and finally sent for a contrast CT. Thankfully, the CT scan came up mostly clean and I was sent home with instructions to go back to the doctor on Monday.

Things are definitely up-and-down for me right now. It feels largely like I’ve got a wet blanket over my brain, and certain activities are more difficult than others right now. I just rewired a telephone jack in my kitchen and it took way more brain power than it ought to have in order to just make the colours line up appropriately. Conversely, the music side of my brain doesn’t seem to be affected. I’ve still got my dexterity, I still can play. Today I’ll attempt some score studying and conducting practice and see how that translates between the visual and the physical.

Suffice to say, I’m off hockey for a while. Just at a time when my fitness was getting back to where I feel it belongs, that’s taking a sideline, too. Challenge for the next couple of weeks is going to be to heal, and to find ways to stay active while doing so.

If any of you, dear readers, have any advice on how to maintain fitness while dealing with a concussion, I’m all ears (even if they’re ringing). Leave a comment or track me down on social media.

Well, that was a thing.

So nine weeks ago, I leaned over to Kristy and said “yeah, I think I’m going to run a half-marathon.” I knew about the Oak Bay Half from my friend Roy, so I went online, paid the fee, and promptly looked at the calendar.

Nine weeks to go.

Next stop: Google. “9-week half marathon training plan”.

Ignore the safety warning that said you should only do this plan if you’ve got at least a half-marathon under your belt and have been logging steady miles. Check. (yeah, I’m that kinda stupid – oh yeah, and it was still hockey season for the first month of training, too, so bonus!)

Started running. Felt good. Started running more. Still felt good. Ran a hell of a lot. Felt awesome. Started running less. Tried some new shoes. INJURY. Like, WTAF.

Stretched, debated, freaked out, stretched more, talked to people, stretched again, got out my old shoes, arrived nervously this morning, ate a banana, stuffed a gel down my neck, turned on the tunes, and ran.

And ran.

And ran.

Vital stats:

1:38:27 total time (from the gun)
1:37:51 tape to tape
66/628 overall
20/71 AG bracket
55/289 by gender
4:39/km average pace


5km: 23:09
10km: 45:51
20km: 1:32:01 (+46:10)

I texted my friend Jas, who lives in Oak Bay, and mentioned to her that if she happened to be out and about on Sunday morning that I’d make certain times at certain spots for viewing. Jas and her gang were there in full force, cheering me on, and it was such a boost to how I was feeling through the race, especially as the kms started to pile on, especially the last sighting just before the 17km mark (the final hills).

I definitely ran this faster than any of the training I’d done. All the way along, whenever I did my long runs, I always felt like I had lots of gas left in the tank. Today, I got over the line on fumes, which tells me I did something right.

Got a quick message a little later from my friend Beth in Halifax, who is a running/triathlon/awesomeness machine. She sent me a copy of the rules and minimum times for the CAF running championships, and yes, I did cross the line in time. Going to submit my time to the base gym and get myself onto the team going to Ottawa next year!

I really couldn’t have done it without all the encouragement from so many people. From Kristy, who gently provided all kinds of support, to Roy, Shawn and Robyn who peeled me off the ceiling when shit was going sideways, Andrea, who provided some good framing to some of the problems I was facing, and so many others along the way. I feel good about this.

I’m Ready

So here it is, the weekend, upon me after just nine weeks of training. I always looked up to those who had done serious distance running. I just never figured it was something that I would ever a) get into; or b) actually enjoy. Turns out that the lessons I learned a few years back when I used running as a means to keep my brain and emotions in check hold true at longer distances.

I’ve loved the feeling of getting up and out and hitting the pavement. I’ve loved the experience of running to places that I didn’t think I would run to. I’ve been on pre-dawn runs, rainy runs, windy runs, and lately, an abundance of sunny ones. I’ve seen hundreds of other people out early in the morning, some commuting, some running, some walking, all just being outdoors, getting some air into their lungs. I’ve (thankfully) avoided injury, I’ve carefully prepared, I’ve made running something that fit into whatever I was doing, wherever I was (camping, touring, whatever).

My body likes what I’ve been doing. I’ve been lucky in that everything has just worked as I’ve progressively stacked on the miles. I’ve run more in the last nine weeks than I did in the last two years. I can see the difference in how I look, I’ve adapted to the food needs, I’ve balanced things out with other sports and activities I enjoy (cycling, hiking, etc). Running has been good to me.

So now, I’m headed into this race. I’d set a goal of hitting sub-2:00 on a marathon, a pace that I know I’ll beat by a long shot. The question is now, can I get the pace down to run a 1:45 half? Or even a 1:40? That would mean running a half at the pace I’ve lately been running my 5k. Given how I’ve been feeling these last couple of weeks, it’s not impossible. I guess it’s time to find out.


Jinxing Myself

Why, oh why, did I have to mention injury?

After my last long run, I commented that unless I injure myself, a sub-2:00 was all but certain, and that I was likely going to crack the 1:45 mark, maybe even trying to ratchet down to 1:40 if I could.

Well, a couple of things have popped into play here. First, I bought some new kicks last week, thinking that the 20ish km that I was going to run this week would be enough to break them in before I launched on Sunday.

They’re Brooks Ghost 10s. They feel pretty damn good.

Thursday rolled around, I get out, run a 5k, go to work, everything is good. For some reason, though, and for no obvious physical (accidental) reason, my left knee started to hurt. Just a nagging behind-the-knee pain. Didn’t put too much thought into it, just went about my day.

On Friday, however, crisis mode leapt into mind, as the back of my knee was around a 7/10 for pain when I was walking or going down stairs.

I was absolutely gutted. Here I was, sitting in my office, after all this training, thinking I’m not going to be able to run this race.

Thankfully, I was able to get a quick call in with my doc, who happens to be an extraordinary athlete, and we talked briefly about factors for/against, recommendations for what to do, and ultimately, his advice was to take it easy the rest of the day, take some ibuprofen, roll it, and go for my planned easy run, just to see how it felt, but to do it in my old shoes. It could easily be that the Ghosts just aren’t doing it for me on such short notice, he figured.

Well, I ran. I did the first part with Levi, running around 5:45/km, and after I dropped him on the trail home, I cranked things up a little, doing more like 4:45/km for the rest of the run. Things felt good, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

I’m going to take it easy for the rest of the day and just keep rolling it, resting it, stretching gently, and then going for it tomorrow.

Smashy Smashy

The mid-week runs this week were good. Like, real good. This is my heaviest week of training runs – from Mon-Sun, it was supposed to be off/8/9.65/8/off/16/5 (or, in miles, 5/6/5/10/3).

Things got going in a hurry with my Tuesday run. The GPS in my phone was wonky, and it gave me some erroneous readings, but the numbers that I was being fed as far as pace went just encouraged me to run faster and faster. I wound up at a 4:35/km pace, which is well faster than what I would run my quick 5k at. This run was interesting, too, as I was experimenting a little more with being looser in the hips. I saw in my shadow how I was running, and saw just how stiff I looked and so was able to make an adjustment and it really helped with my pace.

The 9.65km run (Wednesday) didn’t exactly go according to plan. I went to Vancouver with Elijah to go see the Takashi Murakami exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which required a way-too-early wakeup. If I was to run, it would have been a 4:30am start, which I’m just not down with. Instead, I opted for an evening run, and I kinda ended up chasing Levi to Saxe Point Park and back. As I discovered that my pace was on track for a fast 10k, I decided to add the extra 350m and just make it pay. I’m glad I did. My fastest 10k up till that point was 47:12, which I ran with Jeremy Duggleby in 2015. With that one, we sprinted the last 400m, so realistically I was probably closer to 48:15 or more. With this run on Wednesday, I was steadily running 4:40 or thereabouts per km, and clocked it at 46:40. Shaving 30 seconds off your time feels pretty good.

Saturday is my long run this week and I’ll be switching over to Sunday long runs next week. Plan right now is to run from my place around both upper and lower Thetis Lake, coming back via the Galloping Goose. I’ve never run this far before, but I’m confident I can do it.


Starting to notice (and be noticed for) changes in my body now that I’m really running with some consistency. Probably the biggest change is that running has given me a decent level of buoyancy in my life these days. On days where I don’t run, I really notice a difference in my energy levels (even though I know that I need those days off for recovery). Most runs (ok, almost all of them) have been just fine in terms of aches and pains (see below), and I often find myself with a smile on my face as I’m heading down the road.

The food aspect, though, I don’t think I’d really considered. I’ve always been generally active, but not since I was bike commuting almost 50km a day have I been running my body like this. The constant need to feed is something I didn’t quite expect. When I was riding, sure, I was eating two breakfasts, a sizeable lunch, a good snack, dinner, and maybe an evening snack. Nowadays, I’m pretty much ready to murder a buffet or two, twice or three times a day. Today was one such day – I had eaten a small breakfast (toast with PB and a banana) before heading out for 14.5km/9mi. Got home from my run, ate a second breakfast (eggs with veg, bagel, smoothie, coffee). My hunger was satisfied for a couple of hours, but as I was on the bus to work, everything was fine, fine, fine, OK I NEED FOOD RIGHT NOW AND LOTS OF IT OR I WILL EAT MYSELF FROM THE INSIDE OUT OK THANKS. Same again tonight, I ate a good-sized dinner (even with seconds!) and 2 1/2 hours later, my body is begging for food. Nobody said it’d be like this.

Kristy paid me a rather nice compliment – she’s noticed a difference in my physique as I go through this process. I recall chatting with a colleague years ago, and her husband was my supervisor at the time. Her comment was that he could work out for a couple of days and the extra pounds would just melt off of him. Granted, this guy would get up and work out for two hours before riding his bike from PoMo to downtown Vancouver and was one of the fittest dudes I’d ever met. At nearly-40, I’m feeling good about how my body is reacting to what I’m throwing at it.

As for aches and pains, they’ve been relatively minor, and thankfully not long-lasting. The worst so far was a knee ache after a long run (felt like it might have been a slight hyperextension), and I’ve been experiencing a very minor shin splint on the left side, but only when I’m pushing hard. Maybe the odd foot ache here and there, too.

Up next is a new pair of kicks – I’ve outlived my recommended mileage in the pair I’m in right now and would like to be in some comfy new Cadillacs for game day.

Trudging Along

It’s just a matter of numerics, really. I’ve survived nearly four decades on this planet. That being said, there are a few things that I feel I need to get done before (or around) when I turn 40 later this year.

I feel kinda blessed – I get to spend my 40th birthday on the road. Some folks would lament the fact that they have to work on their birthday, especially on such a milestone. I am lucky because I get to do what I love to do (make music) with an amazing group of friends and colleagues, and for this I am thankful.

That said, I’m still going to throw myself out of a plane on the morning of my 40th birthday. Yes, I’m going skydiving. No, I can’t wait.

More than this, though, as 40 approaches and I wax somewhat nostalgic about not being all that young anymore, I can look back on these four decades and realize that I’ve done and seen some cool stuff, and I’ve (certainly in the last few years) made a bid to push myself to do new things.

When we moved back into the city and started a family, I started commuting by bike, which rekindled all kinds of love for cycling. When I got posted to Edmonton, I took up hockey as a 32-year-old, because, hockey. I also took up running, and that leads me to my next best/worst idea.

I’m going to run a half-marathon before my 40th birthday.

I’ve done *some* running before. I’ve done the Vancouver Sun Run, the Navy Run (both 10k), but I’ve never done anything longer than just shy of 12km. I’ve got my eye set on the Oak Bay Half Marathon at the end of May, which gives me just over two months to get ready.

Today was my first training run – an easy 5k that I ran in just over 26 minutes. Slower than my preferred 5k pace (I try to run 5k in 25 minutes, as a course of habit).

My goal for this race is to finish the half in two hours, which, by the magic of internet calculation, is 5:41/km – much slower than what I’m running right now, but also averaged over a much larger distance.

All kinds of physiology, kinesiology and psychology involved in this one. I’ve heard lots of stories about people hitting the wall, bonking out, etc. I’m curious to see where this journey will go and what kind of successes (and challenges) I’m going to have along the way.

The training plan I’ve selected is fairly basic – speedier runs Tuesday to Thursday (starting at 3/4/3 miles, ramping up to 5/6/5 miles by weeks 5-6), with long, slow runs on the weekends (5 miles this Sunday, increasing by one each week until the main event).

Thankfully, I’m well-supported in the physio department – I’ve been in lately for tight hip flexors, and he’s aware of my plan to run. We both feel like it’ll be ok, and by starting out “slow” with not a ton of mileage to begin with, my body will be able to adjust fairly quickly to what I’m tossing at it.

So here I go. One run down, 88 to go till race day.