Wednesday, 30 June 2010

How fast can you run a mile?

95 days until my next attempt to qualify for Boston.


Last night my Work Friend and I ran "the hill" behind where I work (and pictured in the heading of this blog), one of our usual training runs. It's a total of 5 miles up and down, and on a pleasant Scottish summer evening, it was particularly enjoyable.

The climb is steep and tough, but the descent is where I make my money. It's been dry lately, so I wore my road running shoes, and didn't go all out - athough I did stretch my legs a bit as I ran downhill.

As I descended I again had the thought of how good it was to be 44 years of age, running in the hills, and feeling good on such a nice evening.


When we got back to the campus, I asked my Work Friend if he'd like to to a mile on the track. The track is behind the sports center on campus. I wanted to see how fast I could run a mile - four laps around the track. He was willing to tag along.

I went out hard, but eased up in the second hundred meters. At the beginning of the second lap, I felt like I was going to be sick, but kept going. It was warm and humid out, and the sweat ran down my forehead freely.

The third lap felt ok. It seemed like I was getting a bit of my breath back, and finding a rhythm.

I picked it up at the beginning of the last lap a little bit. As I rounded the final bend, I started sprinting - kicking my legs out off the rubberised track.

I finished in 6:12. That's how fast I can run a mile.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Baxters Loch Ness Marathon: my next attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon

102 days until my next attempt to qualify for the Boston marathon.


In my previous attempt to qualify, a month ago today, I failed to do so by about 15 minutes.

(Was it just a month ago? It seems much longer than this already.)

I was chastened by the Edinburgh marathon. I think I might be able to qualify for Boston, but I'm no longer as confident. Maybe I can't run a 3:30.

But I'm going to give it a good try.

I had a good chat with a professional colleague a few months ago, and he said something that stuck with me. He said his philosophy was to live life to its fullest. And if you knew the guy, you'd know it's true. It's not a showy, hedonistic thing. Basically, it's a choice: when given the chance to do something or not, he always chooses to do it.

So that's a bit what I want to take on board. I want to do stuff, not just stand by.


So my next chance to qualify for the Boston Marathon will be the Loch Ness Marathon. It's hilly, apparently, but it does seem like there's lots of downhill in the first several miles. On paper, it might not be as fast as the Edinburgh Marathon, but hopefully, being in October in the Scottish highands, it won't be hot.

I now feel like I know what I want to do training-wise. There's a running loop in my town that's 5.4 miles long (it's an abbreviated version of the 10k race loop that runs in the fall). I want to build up to running the loop 4 times, for a distance of 21.2 miles.

Surprisingly, I feel like I have a ways to go to get there. The first time I ran the loop twice (a bit over a week ago), I was deeply fatigued the next day. So, I may have some deep, residual fatigue from Edinburgh yet. Again, I feel like I might not have done enough distance-wise for the Edinburgh marathon.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Pictures at an exhibition

104 days until my next attempt to qualify for the Boston marathon.


Today at work I had to process some data and run some statistical analysis on them. Largley, this work requires doing the same thing over and over again, and doesn't require much thought.

The place where I work was relatively quiet today, as the students are now gone. It seems like many of the staff have chosen this time to take their holidays (vacations) as well. The sun was out, and it felt relaxed. It was like being at work on a Saturday.

To help pass the time when doing repetitive stuff on the computer, I sometimes listen to the radio over the internet. I like to listen to Vermont Public Radio, a favourite from when I lived in Vermont. I like hearing the weather forecasts - the "eye on the sky" from St. Johnsbury - a regular feature from my few years there.

My analysis, however, required just enough of my attention so that I could only have music in the background. Thus, I chose the Vermont Public Radio Classical feed.

At some point during my work, I heard the haunting promenade of Mussorsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. It was played on a piano.

Somehow, the breeze through open office window, the sunny summer day, the music, brought a strange sense of contentment. I was taken back to my time as an undergraduate student - reminded of my time spent taping music in the music library while I studied - of the summer days at the university when I stayed on to work, and then walked through the leafy campus in the evening, with the breeze in the trees, and very few students around - of finding a good book in the basement library of the English Department.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The Dechmont Law 10K Trail Race

There was a fine mist falling at the start of the race, and the temperature was cool, but not cold. In Scotland, this type of weather isn't unusual in the summer - indeed, in some of the summers I've lived here, it seems like it has rained almost every day.

The start was in a grass field in a park. I went out medium fast. The route wound up, off the wet grass, and onto a trail through the woods. I was a bit out of breath, but realised that there was lots of race left, and there was no need to push too hard too early.

After a downhill stretch we climbed again, and then had another descent through some pine trees. An aquaintance, M., eased past me here. M. and I are comparable running-wise; he's definitely a faster 10K runner, but I've once beaten him in a hill race.

I decided to try and stick with M. He was running a good pace.

As we ran along the trail M. started picking off runners. I followed each time. On a flatter stretch, I was feeling good and drew even with him. I suggested that we try and catch a runner in a white shirt who was about 50 meters ahead of us. He agreed. A sign informed us that we were 2 kilometers from the finish.

I focussed on the guy in the white shirt and picked up the pace. He might have been slowing a bit. On a slight rise on a bridge I sped up slightly and passed him, and the used the descent on the other side of the bridge to pull away.

There was a climb through the woods and over a grassy slope before the last descent to the finish. I knew M. wasn't far behind me. I thought that if I was able to stay in front of him on this last climb, I could sprint to the finish.

I did so, and finished in 41:19, a personal best. I was 32nd out of a field of 135.

(Later, M. checked his Garmin and noted that the distance was only 9.5km, so my time might not really count as a 10k personal best.)

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The Cort-ma law hill race

I started the race slow, and chatted with a guy I recognised from where I work. The start followed a decent climb up a grassy slope, populated by sheep. I knew from last year that this was a deceptively long race, so I didn't feel any need to go out too hard.

It was a little cool and breezy, and I wore a short sleeve running shirt, shorts, and my fell running shoes. I also had a bum bag with a waterproof jacket, running trousers, a map, compass, and whistle. Runners were required to carry this equipment for this race.

As we reached the top of the first climb, I eased past my work colleague. There was a flatter stretch, but the wind was stronger now. There was another gradual climb, then a little descent, and then a not-to-stiff climb up to Cort-ma Law.

From the Cort-ma Law summit I descended and started hitting bogs. A guy in front of me disappeared nearly up to his waste in the sphagnum(?). The bogs look solid, but they are immensely squishy underneath, and the water is cold. I try to keep dry when I can, but here there was no option. Once you went in your shoes and sox were soaked, and your legs a bit muddy.

We bashed through bogs and brush and climbed to the summit of a second peak, Lecket Hill. Here, the descent was steeper, but the ground was more solid under-foot.

I picked up the pace, and passed a guy who was running well. Now it felt like running.

A steeper descent followed, and in my eagerness to go all out, I took a tumble. It was, literally, a tumble, and I was quickly on my feet again, wondering if anyone had seen me.

After jumping across a small stream, there was another stiff climb. I saw a colleague a few place in front of me, and thought that I might try to catch him on the final descent. The climb was steep enough that it was walked by all of the runners.

After the steep climb, I crossed a fence, and was retracing my route back to the start. There was a brief uphill stretch, and then the long descent to the start. The sun was now out, and it was a lovely early summer evening in Scotland.

I tried to catch the runner in front of me, but he was a good descender. I picked my way through the grass and occasional rock outcropping in my soaking wet shoes, running as hard as I dared. Last year I had taken a tumble here.

I crossed the finish at 1:01. I was 39th out of a field of 79.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Kilpatricks hill race

The start of the race was along a country road on the outskirts of Glasgow. I was lined up towards the front of the 117 runners in the race, but didn't go out too hard. On the road, the studded fell-running shoes of the many runners made a light clomping sound as we ran.

After about a kilometer, the course left the road and began to ascend through a grassy field. It was warm, and as I climbed I quickly found sweat dripping from my forehead into my eyebrows.

The first climb in a hill race always seems to be a a shock to the system. I was breathing hard, and on the steeper portions of the climb, walking. Runners have different techniques for walking the steeper climbs. Some bend over and put their hands on their legs for extra effort. I tend to stand a bit upright and put my hand on my hips. My thinking on this is that it allows me to get a bit more air in my lungs.

Once I reached the top, I started running. I think that one measure of fitness is how quickly you recover from the climb and start running the runnable portions.

The trail which the race followed rose and fell, and dipped along a loch. It was a pleasant Scottish summer evening, and to the north all one could see was hills.

After a bit, my body seemed to overcome the shock of what I was putting it through, and I started to feel in control.

I was on the tail of a runner wearing a yellow vest with a "W" on it - for the Westerlands hill running club. In front of him was a guy in a long-sleeved blue shirt.

They were both tearing along on the flat and downhill sections. It was a pleasure to run fast through the heather and grass. We lept over burns, and squelched through the occasional boggy bit.

We reached the summit of the last hill, and began our final descent back to the road. Immediately, the two guys in front of me picked up the pace appreciably. There was a panoramic view of Glasgow beneath us.

I stretched my legs and passed the W runner. I closed in on the guy with the blue shirt and passed him on a steep stretch.

I was now running all out on the descent. I picked my feet placements to avoid the occasional boulder in the field.

I hit the road, and could hear the guy in the blue shirt right behind me.

I was running hard, but the road's gradient was nothing like that of the hill, so any advantage I had in reckless descent was lost to runners who were simply faster.

The guy in the blue shirt was right on my shoulder. Our feet hit the road at exactly the same time.

I knew he was going to pass me, but I thought to myself, I'm going to make him work for it.

As he started increasing the pace to pass me I increased my pace. He didn't pass.

We both shifted to the inside portion of the road as we rounded a curve.

I could see that we were gaining on two runners in front of us. The end of the race had to be near.

I edged up the pace just a touch now, and the guy behind me, surprisingly, now sounded just a step or two back from where he'd been.

I could see that the finish was very near, and started sprinting.

I crossed the finish at 56:57, 52nd out of 114 finishers. I shook hands with the guy in the blue shirt, who finished a few seconds after this.