According to the latest edition of the British Journal of Medicine, the best remedy for a dodgy hip is to begin an immediate eight week summer vacation, with the first three weeks spent beach-laying, tandoori-eating, giant turtle-watching, and hanging out with the likes of this Iban headhunter in the wild climes of Sarawak. I'll work today, since I'm already in the building, but then this sounds like the kind of medical advice I can get behind, starting 474 minutes from now.
All of that is girded by a strong sense of running community. A trusted partner, clubs, teams, a cyber-network of folks you like but will likely never meet - these imbue the solitary with the social. Running then becomes a tool to take on a more global sense of purpose, something outside the personal. One need only look at the money and awareness raised by different runners for a multitude of causes and charities to understand this need to make connections where once there were none.
Last week I read on Jamie Donaldson's blog that she had chosen the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association as her charity of choice in the run-up to Badwater in July. I have been reading Jamie's blog since her huge Badwater win last year, and had a chance to sit and chat with her husband David in October, as Jamie braved the heat and horrendous air quality that day to finish fifth in the 24 Hour World Championships. Reading about Tay-Sachs, and specifically about Elliott Schotz, the adorable little gaffer with an ultrarunning dad, moved me considerably.
Nothing beyond the idea stage yet, but look for the SBRC [Far East Chapter] to host some events in the near future to raise a pile of money for Elliott and NTSAD.
And in an editorial flourish, and since that was one of the most ungainly paragraphs ever written, I'll go newswire style from here:
- "Ultramarathon Festival" means just that in Korea. From the organizers to the volunteers, from the spectators to the other runners, everyone was very warm and went out of their way to make sure we always felt supported.
- Covering 100km was hard. Doing it overnight was really hard. I'm an early-to-bed, early-to-rise kinda guy, and have been for as long as I can remember. At 9:30, my usual bedtime, I still had miles to go before I slept.
- I massively overpacked. In my small running backpack, I crammed the following: my phone, my ID, a wad of cash, some ibuprofen, a flashlight and spare batteries, a stick of BodyGlide, four PB and Js, a huge bag of homemade Trail Mix (my recipe - heavy on the M&Ms, light on the nasty raisins), two bananas, a package of chocolate-covered espresso beans, a pack of tissue, two bottles of Gatorade, and a bottle of water. I needn't have bothered. There were more aid stations - each well-stocked with a goodly range of food and drink - than we thought there would be, and I ran past dozens of convenience stores.
- The organizers of this race have a fundamentally different working definition of the word flat than I do. On this particular flat course, I estimate that roughly half of it was legitimately flat - that is, flat according to my definition of the word. I usually don't require scientific precision in my choice of course descriptors, but flat to me means something between a tabletop and a slightly lumpy pancake. I'd have gone with mostly undulating, with periodic spikes of madness. There were rolling hills and plenty more rolling hills, and according to the road signage, five gradients of 7%, two of 10%, and then the heartbreaker at the 93rd km - 30% grade up for 2km, then 40% grade down for 1.5km. My dearth of hill training was very apparent.
- The three weeks of rest before the race seemed to be exactly what my knee needed. The first 22km of this run was flat, and I didn't even feel a twinge. Even as I walked up and down the hills through the night, my knee ached, but more from the distance and not from injury, I think.
- Of the 100km, I reckon I walked half and ran half. I actually sat in fifth place, just metres behind the leaders at the 22km aid station, running at the 58-60minutes/10km pace I knew I could hold for at least six or seven hours. The hills kicked in at 22km, and I crumbled like a stale cookie shortly thereafter.
- Carrying a phone and checking in with Deanna to see how each other was doing was an excellent [her] idea. We chatted plenty, and it was more than a bit of solace to know that she was dodging the traffic on shoulderless roads as adroitly as I was in the dead of the night.
- My legs hurt on Sunday and Monday, but by Tuesday felt no different than they do a few days after a marathon. I do know that I need to get back into the gym to work on my overall strength and flexibility, particularly my hamstrings and thighs.
This was the best running experience I've had in the fifteen years since I ran my first marathon. I liked how the distance negated the need to hurry. I liked that I had so much time to focus on nothing more than taking another few steps. I liked that the runners took time to take pictures, to chat, to eat, to laugh together. I liked that Deanna and I did this run and the training for it together - well, technically not side by side, but certainly together. I liked the challenge and I liked feeling small in the landscape. And I liked thinking about how to get ready for the next long run.
- Haruki Murakami
I've been happy with the long runs I got in after the Seoul Marathon, and, up until last weekend, have felt that my fitness level would allow me to get to 70km in 7-ish hours. After that I would be in uncharted territory and hoped just to make it to the finish before the fifteen hour deadline, which seemed imminently possible. But since my knee went sour last weekend, plans have changed. I've been trying not to let my mind wander into WorstCaseScenarioville, where my joint is irreversibly damaged and I can never run again. Instead, I will take it very easily over the next few weeks, run more slowly on race day than I had previously plotted, take many more walking breaks, get as far as I can into the 100km before time expires, and plan to run another day. We'll see what happens.
Though they are technically not yet members, Sea Bass [Far East Chapter] is excited to welcome my colleagues - Meyer, Shaw, McCord, and Carver (no first names required, just like Beckham) to the ranks.
More importantly, I was exceedingly proud of Deanna, who officially unofficially ran her first ultra, as she too ran for the six hours. She, however, had the gall to look like she had energy to spare when we met at the end, as opposed to me, who looked and felt like the proverbial canine's nether regions.
After a very long hiatus, Deanna put some photos of last weekend's sojourn to Busan on OOFALWO.
The 100km run is now only 31 days away.
It is in this vein, and in homage to some guy I've never met or communicated with, but have read faithfully for years (first here, then here, and now here), that I start my own Training Break series. A few words, a short verse, a particular song lyric stuck in my head, a quote without context, sometimes about running, sometimes not, ideas germane to something, ideas germane to nothing, things that just are. And so it begins...
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.
- The Incomparable Bob Dylan
And if there isn't yet an official Ray-Zahab-is-The-Coolest-Guy-on-The-Planet fan club, I want to start one.
Allegedly, photographic evidence of Deanna's run exists too. Knowing me as she does, I opened my email at lunchtime to this, verbatim and unmistakable in tone: I do not give you permission to put my photo on your blog. Not much room for interpretation there.
And while no photographic evidence (that I have) exists, Greg had an eventful time in Hangzhou. From cobbled-together post-race email reports of dehydrated teenagers, muddy mountain trails, wrong turns taken, diesel fumes, and idyllic temples, it sounds like the ready-for-boar, tonic-drinkin', Snickers-eatin' runnin' fool had a fine day.
This event, like the other races we've done in Korea, was well organized and well supported. Thousands of volunteers and spectators kept our energy levels high with stocked aid stations (bananas - yep; sports drink - got it; choco-pies - check; cherry tomatoes - of course; acupuncturists - naturally) and screams of encouragement. The course is flat, which is great for these transplanted prairie folk, and the road closures ensure near silence on usually chaotic Seoul streets.
We haven't received our official chip times yet, but our trusty watches have Deanna taking ten minutes off her PB to finish with aplomb in 4:16, and me crossing in 3:26, also ten minutes faster than I've gone before. My colleague Altay managed to run 18k, which was about 8k farther than he had ever run before, and felt justifiably proud of himself.
We look forward now to May 9th, when we undertake our first 100km run. As if the distance was not daunting enough, the race is also done at night, starting at dinner time on Saturday and finishing at noon on Sunday. With that run only eight weeks away, we'll have to eliminate our usual post-marathon recovery fortnight in order to get our weekend miles in. Next week will see us adding a fifth run to the weekly routine, all but eliminating what meagre social lives we already had. But we're very excited for this new challenge.
But I count us lucky. With only Mother Nature to contend with, we have nothing on our friend Greg. This Sunday finds him in the woolly wilds of the Middle Kingdom to run the Hangzhou Mountain Marathon. Meteorologists there have also promised wind and rain, while race organizers have advised runners to carry a sharp stick, lest they meet up with a porcine 朋友 on the trails. And for once, Greg's years of whittlin' pay off.
Next weekend we'll join about 21000 of our closest friends for the Seoul Marathon. Last year's edition was a great time, due in most part to being joined by Chris and Ali. Despite our pleas to continue the streak this year, Ali decided to follow the advice of her obstinate obstetrician and forego the twenty hours of travel time required to get here from Calgary. Since she's got identical twinlets in there, we'll let it slide for now. Next year, she better come up with a decent excuse.
I started counter-clockwise, switched after an hour to clockwise, then after 120 minutes back to the way I started. After two and a half hours, I felt dizzy, which really was an odd sensation given that I was hardly running a tight circle, was getting plenty of fresh air, and was nowhere close to setting any land speed records. I was going to try and just stick it out until the end, but thankfully Deanna came by and I joined her on the paths of the mighty Han for the last thirty minutes or so.
All this to say that I now have an even deeper respect for those ultrarunners who compete and excel in the track races. I'll take the non-vertigo option anyday.
I meant to add up the February numbers to post here today, but forgot. It will have to wait until I get home and get off The Company dime.
I seem to have settled into a nice routine this month. Four runs, one of them long, a day to do some arm-pumpin', sweatband-wearin' walking for recovery, a few trips to the gym for weights, and two days off to make sure the mighty Achilles doesn't get agitated again. Weekday runs done between 4:45 and 5-ish minutes/km, and the long weekend run up around 5:30/km. The plan is to post numbers here at mid- and end-month. History has shown, however, that I am much better at making plans than following through with them [see: scuttled attempts to learn Russian, become a veterinarian or the Crown Prince of Denmark, grow my fingernails longer than a metre, and the like].
I'm six runs back into it, after almost seven weeks off. My heel doesn't quite feel normal, just rusty, and thankfully is pain-free. I'm easing back in, nothing fast (speaking in relative terms of "fast for me", which is a brisk walk for many) and so far nothing more than an hour. After this weekend's action, I'll post some numbers here, as I had instinctively gone back to the paper on the fridge. I did decide to complete my registration for the Seoul Marathon in mid-March by sending those fine folks some cash, cutting my usual 16 week program in half, and altering my goal from sub-3:30 to not finishing after the course closes.
Erratum: It was brought to my attention recently that a goodly number of Sea Bass members live in Calgary, which nestles into the foothills of the picturesque Rockies at an elevation of 1048m. I'm officially adjusting the criterion to snag the prestigious Lungfish Bassie to 2000m, as it seems unfair that one may technically earn the award by going on a slurpee run.
Happy New Year, or as is said in these parts, 새해 복 많이 받으세요!