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Race Report: Boston Marathon 2017

This is a race report I have been waiting a long time to write. There is so much to say about my experience in Boston that I will leave tonight’s post to my race day experience and I will likely post additional thoughts on marathon weekend in Boston later this week.

My day started off at 5:30 when I got up and had breakfast consisting of a bagel and a banana. Following that I slowly got ready, said goodbye to my family and left the hotel room just before 7:00 to catch the subway to Boston Common where I would catch a bus to Hopkinton. Since I was in wave 2 I was instructed to catch a bus between 7:00-7:40.

The process for getting on the buses was my first indication of just how well organized the B.A.A is on race day. Within 5 minutes of getting off the subway I was sitting on a bus waiting to take runners to the athletes village. Shortly after we pulled away, drove past Cheers on Beacon St and headed down the highway.

The bus ride took roughly an hour. Not that I needed one but it was a reminder of just how long a marathon is. It was also gave me my first visual of some of the communities along the course (Newton, Wellesley, Natick) that I had heard so much about since I took an interest in the Boston Marathon.

At the athletes village I took advantage of the food that was available and had a second breakfast consisting of coffee, a banana and half a Clif bar. I had a couple of magazines with me to help pass the time but I really could not focus on them.

Fortunately my time in the athletes village went by quickly. Before I knew it my wave was called to the start area and it was time for me to drop my throwaway clothes in the donation bins and head down Grove St. toward the starting corrals.

The walk down Grove St. is just under 1 mile long. It is the first glimpse you get of the downhill nature to the start of the marathon. I made a point of heading to the left side of my corral because I read that T.J. Spirits, a biker bar in Ashland,  was the first area with vocal crowd support that the marathon passes. It is located along the left side of the course at mile 2 or 3.

I was in the corral for about 15 minutes before wave 2 started. Due to the downhill nature of the first portion of the course my plan was to try and run conservative for the first 5 miles in order to keep my legs in shape for the uphill portions in the late stages of the course.

The fact that it was a warmer day than expected (18C at the start) was another reason not to go out too hard. I was later told that this year’s marathon was the second hottest Boston Marathon in the last 10 years.

T.J. Spirits did not disappoint. There was a large and boisterous crowd as we passed by. I felt good as we passed through Ashland and into Framingham where the course started to flatten out a bit. My initial plan was to try and pick up the pace in Framingham after a conservative start.

My first indication that I might have a tougher second half came around 15 or 16 km into the marathon when I started to feel tightness and twitching in my calf muscles. Based on my previous experience this is usually a precursor to muscle cramps later on.

If you have heard anything about the Boston Marathon you have likely heard about the scream tunnel at Wellesley College just before the half. I am not sure how far away I was but I could hear the noise coming from a distance before I reached the college and the boisterous crowds of students. Here is a sample of what runners encountered this year.

After the scream tunnel we went through the city of Wellesley. It was at this point where I decided to make the most of my experience and have some fun. I began giving high-fives to as many of the smallest spectators along the course as I could. I also offered encouragement to the military veterans running on artificial limbs I passed along the way.

Between 25 and 26 km there is another lengthy downhill portion as the course moves into Newton. Once I got to the bottom and made the right turn onto Commonwealth Ave. and passed the Newton Fire Station I knew that I was about encounter the Newton hills,  a series of 4 uphill sections culminating in Heartbreak Hill at 32 km.

At this point I knew I was getting slower and losing time. Despite that I was determined to push ahead and not take any walk breaks on the hills. Although I was moving slower I survived the first 3 hills without stopping.

At some point on Heartbreak Hill I started to get cramps in my left calf. Since they were not yet as bad as cramps I have experienced in the past and I was still determined not to take a walk break I decided to slow down and keep going in the hopes it would go away.

My plan worked and I crested Heartbreak Hill knowing boisterous crowds were coming up at Boston College and the course was mainly downhill the rest of the way. The support of the BC students and the downhill nature of the course gave me a boost I needed at that point.

The next boost I received was the appearance of the famous Citgo sign on the left side of the course. From there I knew I had roughly 2 km to go until I crossed the finish line. The final portion of the course involves a right turn on Hereford St. followed by a left turn on Boylston St. for the final 0.5 km.

About halfway into this final stretch I saw a runner in front of me in need of assistance. Two runners in front of me stopped and were holding the runner in difficulty up by her arms when I got closer. I stopped to see if I could be of assistance in getting the runner to the finish.The runner was experiencing cramping in her legs and did not want to be carried to the finish line at that point.

I did what I thought was the next best thing and hurried to the finish line and alerted the first medical official I saw to the fact that a runner nearby was in need of assistance. Based on this article it would appear that what I observed was not an isolated incident and given the warm conditions I am not surprised,

As I walked away I turned around took a last look at the scenes on Boylston St. before I to collect my finisher’s medal medal and put an end to my Boston Marathon experience.

Week 14 of Training for the Boston Marathon

Week 14 did not go quite as planned but that ended up being by design in the end. Coming off two consecutive 90 km weeks my initial plan was to do the same in terms of mileage and workouts this week. In the end I opted for a recovery week so I could aim for my biggest week of training in week 15.

The weather had an impact on my overall mileage this week. The first half of the week was impacted by freezing rain, a very easy run home from work on Monday and a treadmill run Tuesday night. The second half of the week was impacted by cold and windy weather..

With my nephew visiting from out of town this weekend and the cold temperatures yesterday morning and this morning I opted to push my long run to tomorrow since I have the day off work. This decision meant much less mileage than planned for this week, 52 km, but an opportunity to have my biggest week in terms of mileage next week since I will be adding 20 km to my usual Monday routine.

Looking at the weather now it looks like I may have lost the gamble on waiting an extra day for better weather for my long run. However, getting in my biggest week of training with only 5 weeks to go until race day should provide a needed mental boost. 

How was your week?

Week 6 of Training for the Boston Marathon

Perhaps appropriately I ended off week 6 of my training with a long run over 20 km this morning followed by going to watch Patriot’s Day tonight. I was pleased with both. It felt good to get In a run of over 20 km since I had not completed one in a while. As for the movie, I found it to be better than I expected.

Overall, my week saw a slight improvement in terms of mileage over last week. Last week I finished with just under 55 km while this week I finished with just over 60 km. Ideally I would be getting in more mileage at this point in my training but given I had to take a break over the holidays I am not concerned. 

One positive for this week is that I managed to get out for my first set of indoor intervals. This week my workout involved a series of 600m repeats due to a temporary track configuration I mentioned the other night. As a result my overall mileage for the night only came to 3.6 km. It was still a positive workout since I will be continuing to add weekly intervals to my training…


As for this morning, it was cold but not as cold as I expected it would be. It actually turned out to be a great morning for a long run. I managed 21 km this time…


My goal for week 7 will of course be to add more mileage to my totals. 

How did your week go?

 

Indoor Intervals During the Winter

For the last 5 years I have been going to an indoor track to do my speedwork during the winter months. It is a great option that has allowed me to do speedwork as I train for a spring marathon when the conditions outside are not ideal.

Last night I went for my first session of indoor intervals of the year. Once again it was a welcome change because weather here recenntly has been alternating between cold and warm days leaving the sidewalks either covered in ice or large puddles of water and slush.

Having access to an indoor track allows me to do a variety of workouts that are beneficial to my marathon training. The most common workouts I do are 400m and 800m repeats but I do also fit in repeats at other distances when I want a change of pace.

Last night due to construction my workout was a series of 600m repeats because the last 100m of the track was closed. Since the last corner was off limits I did a series of 6 out and back repeats of a u shaped track.

Not surprisingly that workout was a first for me. It will also likely be the last time since it is easier to not do out and backs along a track that is being used by others. That said, it was good to get in some speedwork without the weather conditions having an impact. Like usual the toughest part was getting a feel for the pace I could/should run when I went out for my first repeat.

How do you fit in speedwork over the winter?

2016 in Review

With a new addition to our family due in late June 2016 was always going to be a quieter year for me in terms of races. That said I think I managed to have a decent year although it ended on a disappointing note with me being unable to run the last week of the year, more on that later.

You may recall that I finally qualified for Boston at the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon. However, since I only beat my cutoff time by 2:31 I would have to wait until this September to find out if I would actually get to go. As a result, I planned my usual preparation for May’s Ottawa Marathon with three 10 km races and a half-marathon as part of my marathon preparation. 

My shorter races went as expected with all of the 10 km times being under 42 minutes (41:06, 41:31 and 41:09). A 1:28 finish gave me my third straight sub 1:30 result in April’s Run for Reach half-marathon. Those times had me satisfied with my preparation for the marathon in May.

Since I was not guaranteed a spot in Boston with my Philadelphia time my plan for Ottawa was to try and improve my qualifying time (3:15). Unfortunately, a heat wave hit Ottawa in the week leading up to Race Weekend. While the conditions for the marathon were better than the conditions for the other races that weekend it was still hot and humid. I went out at a 3:15 pace but ended up backing off the pace during the second half and finished in 3:26. The best part of the race was getting to see my two oldest daughters cheering for me right before the finish line.

My final scheduled race of the year was the Army Run half-marathon. Once again I volunteered to be the 1:35 pace bunny for the event. It was a lot of fun helping other runners as they tried to meet their goals. I crossed the finish line in just over 1:36 this year…


The day after the Army Run was my opportunity to finally apply for entry to Boston. Just over a week later, on the day before my birthday,  finally received an email I had been waiting a long time t receive…


As for not being able to run this past week the short version of the story is that I was on pace for just over 3000 km in 2016 then came down with shingles and had to make an unexpected trip to get a prescription on Christmas Day. I am finally feeling better now and may go for a short run tomorrow to end the year. 

Despite the past week I have to be pleased with 2016 as far as running goes. I was healthy enough to run another marathon,  successfully paced a half-marathon and had my entry for Boston accepted.

I hope your 2016 was also a good one. All the best in 2017!

Fall Running

This time of year might be the best time of the year for running. I find the weather is often ideal for running. It is still warm enough to run in shorts and despite the fact that I have had to break out long sleeve shirts a few times over the past week there are still occasions where it is warm enough to wear short sleeves. 

As I mentioned on here recently I am currently running without a training plan or goal until I start training for Boston in December. This is new for me because I have run an October or November marathon for the past 6 years. Instead of tapering for a run I am just running when I can and basing my pace on how I feel. 

The other benefit to running at this time of year is that it provides great opportunities to take photos during my runs..

Race Report: Ottawa Marathon 2016

Yesterday was my 8th consecutive Ottawa Marathon and 14th marathon overall. Initially my plan for it was to try and beat my time from November and in the process improve my Boston qualifying time. Once it became apparent that we were in for a hot and humid weekend I changed that plan and decided just to run based on how I felt.

After watching my daughters run the 2 km with their grandparents Saturday afternoon I went home and made my usual pasta meal for dinner. I managed to get to sleep early and was ready for my 3:30 wake up call for a breakfast consisting of orange juice, oatmeal, a banana and a bagel. Finally, I ate a handful of raisins before I headed out the door to top off my glycogen stores.

Since I live close to the start line (2km) I opted for an easy run down there to serve as a warm up. It was already 18C (64F) before the start although there was a cool breeze to help. I decided to start out at a 3:15 marathon pace (4:35/km) and adjust accordingly if needed.

Figuring it wouldn’t be long before I started to feel the heat and humidity I settled into a routine of dumping a cup of water over my head at every water station and made sure to run under every misting station set up along the course. I figured it was best to get started on making sure I took efforts to stay cool before it was too late.

In response to requests from the organizers many residents living along the course also set up sprinklers and hoses to provided more relief for runners. The crowds supporting marathoners are usually strong  along most of the course but this year the support seemed even stronger than usual. As mentioned people had sprinklers set up all along the course, there were several locations where people were handing out freezies and there were even a couple of locations in between water stations where people were handing out bottled water.

My 4:35 pace felt fine through the first half but as I passed that point I knew I was going to start losing time due to a combination of a stomach cramp and the heat. By the time I hit 25 km I was now on pace for a 3:23 finish. From that point on my goal was to maintain a steady pace to get myself back to the finish line. My right calf also felt tight at times throughout the second half. I expected to have to deal with a cramp at some point but was fortunate to avoid that.

Around 37 km the 3:25 pace bunny caught up to me so I knew if I held on at that pace I finish in around 3:25. That task became a little more difficult when we made it back downtown to the point where the marathon and half-marathon courses merge. Normally the half-marathon starts at 9:00 and by the time I reach this point only the fastest half-marathoners are coming through (last year the lead male runner passed me at this point). This year, due to the heat, the half-marathon started at 8:15 and there was a large crowd of half-marathoners merging with the marathon course.

I probably lost some time over the last 3 km as I tried to make my way through the crowd but by this point but it did not matter. My goal for the day was just to have the best run possible given the conditions and I had already accomplished that. In addition, this change was necessary in order to make the day as safe for as many runners as possible.

I had the advantage of knowing exactly where my family would be watching for me to come in. As I rounded the corner to take on the final 1 km stretch I worked my way over to the west side of the road to be in position to see them. I slowed right down to give my girls high fives and my friend Greg who has been at the finish line for at least 6 of my 8 Ottawa Marathons was there to capture the moment with this photo….


I crossed the line in 3:26:37, not quite the time I was hoping for when I started my training but I am pleased with it for reasons mentioned above. Marathons are not easy and many things have to  come together on race day to reach your goal. If my current Boston qualifying time is not sufficient when registration closes in September I’ll just have to go after that again next year.

I went home and celebrated with a beer…


And lunch from Five Guys…

In a way I am sad to see Race Weekend come to an end. It really is a great weekend to be in Ottawa and an event I think is the best race weekend in Canada. Hopefully I can continue my marathon streak here going next year…

Week 12 of Training for the Scotiabank Otawa Marathon

With 6 weeks to go this week was my biggest week of training so far. It was my first week of over 100 km with a total of 102 km done this week.

Coming off last weekend’s half-marathon most of this week’s runs were done at an easy pace. Thursday’s speed work was my only workout that did not come at an easy pace.

My speed workout involved a 3.2 km warm up, 6 x 200m/200m easy, 3.2 km @ 4:30/km, 6 x 200m/200m easy followed by a cool down. It was actually my second run of the day following an easy run at lunch, a necessity in some days in order for me to be able to run 90-100 km weeks.

The bigger news this week was that spring seems to finally be here. Last week ago I was still running in snow..

Meanwhile this week looked like this..

and this..

This week’s weather was much more appealing to run in. If it continues this way it will certainly help keep me motivated through a few more weeks of heavy mileage and tough workouts.

How was your week?