Friday, June 29, 2012


Well, it has been a while since anything was posted here, more than two years by the look of it. How time flies! Since Longboat runners have started ramping up their training for the fall racing season, I thought it would be a good time to start Running Tangents again. But, as our most prolific blogger Dan Way has observed, blogging about running can be harder than the running itself at times, so I will make no promises, other than to try and make the occasional post between now and the end of the racing season.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Training pays off in Peterborough

It has been an interesting two weeks. Vancouver was hosting the winter Olympics and we had the opportunity to see athletes from all over the world compete at the highest level. Of course there was heartbreak along with the celebrating, but when you commit whole heartedly to one goal four years in the future, it can't be much fun losing by a few hundredths of a second. Our runners are not generally competing at the highest level in our sport, but they still bring an enormous amount of passion and dedication to their running. As a coach this is wonderful to see, and this past weekend, I saw some of the results of all the hard work.

A group of us went to Peterborough, Ontario to run the Peterborough half marathon. Coming as it does at the end of February, the conditions can be awful. For example, last year I warmed up in a blizzard, which fortunately stopped before the race got underway, but still left a dusting of snow on the course and slowed us down a little. However, this year was much better, with above zero temperatures and the sun breaking through the clouds every now and then it was good enough to run in shorts and a t-shirt. At least I thought so! I won't go into detail about he actual race, you should check Chris McPeake's blog for that, but I do want to congratulate our Longboat runners for their performances at the race.

First and foremost is Rob Campbell who ran with me most of the way and went on to break the club record for men 50-54 for the half marathon in a time of 1:20:54. Not surprisingly, Rob was also the first in his age group. Next across the line was Lynn Bourque, first in the Women's 45-49 category in 1:35:34, followed by Chris McPeake in a personal best time of 1:38:46. Kelly Chase arrived 3 seconds ahead of Gregoire Bonhomme in 1:39:48, to take second in the women's 30 to 35 year age group. Both Kelly and Gregoire posted personal bests, breaking 1:40 for the first time. Fellow Longboat runner Tory Hoff came 3rd in the male 60+ category with a time of 1:47:38 and John Lyng ran to a 1:53:41 finish. Rounding out the half marathoners was Kim Diamond, who overcame some early race difficulties to run 2:23. There were also a couple of 5k runners at Peterborough. Donald Cole ran 22:33.6 for first place in the Men's 55 to 60 age group, and Jennifer Penny ran 25:41.7 to claim first in the women's 60+ category. So, Peterborough produced good performances by Longboat runners, and the dedication and commitment to training is clearly paying off.

I have been thinking about the Longboat runner I should name Coach's choice for a while now, and although, based on this weekend's performances, it would be easy to choose Rob Campbell, I'm going to go with Chris McPeake. Chris has been determined, some might say dogged, in his training, taking the mileage to ever higher levels. He has also posted personal bests in both races he has run so far this year and I'm sure he will see more before the season is over. While I am frustrated by his lack of commitment to a goal race other than some 100 mile trail race, I was impressed when the mileage junkie realized during a long run that all was not as it should be and decided to cut it short. I know this must have been a tough decision, but it was the right one, since Chris was still recovering from a bout of flu (not sure which animal or bird variety). So congratulations to Coach's Choice for February - Chris McPeake!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Caution - bumpy road ahead

Many of our runners are currently enjoying the benefits of good aerobic base training and realize they are much fitter than they have been in a while. Unfortunately, this is also a dangerous time of year as runners try and capitalize on their fitness by training too hard, too often, or by training through injury. We've had examples of both in the last week, and neither worked out very well.

In the first case, pushing it hard on a treadmill on easy days resulted in an inability to perform properly on days with scheduled quality workouts. Clearly this is counter productive, since it is exactly those quality workouts that are the bread and butter of our training. We have to show up for those workouts rested and ready to work hard. In between the quality sessions, easy recovery runs allow us to assimilate the effects of the hard workouts while adding to our mileage base. While it may be hard to keep the recovery runs easy, especially when we are feeling good, it is essential to hold back so that the next workout doesn't suffer. Don't turn those easy miles into trash miles.

The other case we experienced this week was running through injury. While most of us continue to run with minor aches and pains, deciding when to take time off is a more difficult decision. Whether an injury needs time off or not, it is generally not a good idea to perform hard workouts while nursing an injury. Far better to run easy, as long as the injury doesn't get worse, than risk an extended lay off by training too hard.

A third case was an example of a runner making exactly the right call after being off sick for a few days. He cut short a scheduled 32km long run, feeling weak and unable to run well. Clearly he was not 100% recovered and made the right decision to terminate the run. Common sense and caution are the watch words at this time of year.

I'm going to leave you with "The Great Secret" as divulged by Keith Livingstone in his book "Healthy Intelligent training. The proven principles of Arthur Lydiard"

"Whatever you do that is very intense has to be balanced out with a reasonable volume of easy work. The harder you go, the more the volume of easier work required, and the easier the better. Total rest wont do it. Easy aerobic activity will. That's the secret."

Pretty simple eh?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Hills Galore

Having spent the better part of two months building an aerobic base, our training focus has now turned to hills. The idea being to build leg strength by running, bounding and springing on hills. This was a core part of the training of Arthur Lydiard's athletes and remains an important part of many training programs today. While our runners are encouraged to run on hills several times a week, we have also started a specific hill workout modeled on the Lydiard hill circuit. The basic elements include a section of hill running, bounding or springing up a hill, a recovery run of a few minutes along the flat portion at the top of the hill before running fast downhill and completing a series of strides along the bottom. This is a tiring workout as our runners discovered after completing two circuits last Friday. We will continue these workouts for about six weeks, by which time we should be in great shape to take on the hills at the Around the Bay race.

Another new idea this month is the "coach's choice" which will recognize the efforts of a Longboat runner each month. The choice is somewhat subjective, in that it will not be based on race performance alone, but also on participating in training sessions and general enthusiastic participation. So, the Coach's choice for January is John Chou. After a slow start to the season John has been out at all the training sessions, and has been running from the YMCA on Sunday's. The enthusiasm with which John has embraced the training paid off at the Robbie Burns race last week with a huge 6 minute personal best. I expect John to continue to train consistently since he has also won a spot for the 2010 New York Marathon. Congratulations John.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Longboat at Robbie Burns

Sunday saw the first results of our training to date - the Robbie Burns 8k race in Burlington. Longboat Roadrunners sent thirty eight runners to Burlington, most of whom traveled on the bus organized by Bob Nagle - Thanks Bob!

I didn't have high expectations this early in the season, since our training has focussed on aerobic base building, with only a few long intervals at sub-anaerobic threshold. The results were therefore somewhat of a surprise - more than half the runners ran personal bests (PBs)and quite a few placed in their age group.

Here are some noteworthy performances:

Robert Campbell knocked more than a minute off his previous best time and ran the race in 28:47 just 9 seconds shy of the Longboat record for males 50-54 years old. There was some consolation though as Rob won the Grandmasters trophy for the first runner over 50 to cross the line, beating last year's winner by just 10 seconds.

John Chou ran 39:14 to take a massive six minutes off his previous best time.

Maureen Mancuso, the one time teen marathon sensation, ran a PB 36:13 to place first in the women 55-59 category.

Claire Prest was also the first woman across the line in her 65-69 age group.

Kim Diamond and Chris McPeake both took 4 minutes off their previous best times, running 48:55 and 34:50, respectively.

Daphne Tran managed to finish in 38:51 to knock three and a half minutes off her previous best.

In addition to Maureen, new members Charlotte Brooks, Kelly Chase and Wendy Chen all ran personal bests in the race.

Results for all Longboat runners can be found at Longboat Express.

With the first race of the season over and our base building complete, we will start the strength phase of training in preparation for the Peterborough half marathon in February and, in particular, for Around the Bay in March. There will be lots of hill running over the next two months to prepare our runners for the hills of Burlington.

Well done to all those who ran so well at Robbie Burns, it bodes well for the upcoming road racing season.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Longboat Training Kicks Off

January saw the introduction of new training sessions for Longboat runners. Two of the workouts were aimed at preparing runners for the Robbie Burns race next Sunday (January 24th) while the third is a long run over a hilly route in west Toronto. While the training sessions are open to all Longboat members, a core group of runners are making use of the sessions to prepare for early season races.

Wednesday nights traditionally feature a club run along the Martin Goodman trail that hugs the shore of Lake Ontario in Toronto's south end. So far this year the run has evolved, for some members, into a long fartlek session of 6 minutes on and three minutes off, which equates to about a mile for the faster runners. Because it's still early in the season, these sessions are targeted at just under anaerobic threshold pace. A similar session was held on Fridays at High Park, where runners ran mile repeats at a comfortably hard pace, working up to a maximum of 5 repeats. The repeats were run clockwise around the ring road and featured a slight hill at the end of each mile, so the runners appreciated the recovery (2 to 3 minutes).

The Long run was set up to allow runners a common indoor meeting place (important in Canadian winters) from which to start. We eventually settled on the local YMCA and we now have routes ranging from 13km to 28km and a core group of runners out running the various routes. The main attraction, from a training perspective, if not from the runner's perspective, is the number of hills that can be included in each route. Even the shortest route features several significant hills, whereas I have yet to figure out how many hills are on the 28km route. The upshot of it all? Excellent training for leg strength and early training for the hills in the Around the Bay race at the the end of March.

It has been an inspiring first two weeks of the year and I'm really looking forward to some good performances this season. Congratulations to all of you that have bought into the training; I hope you will get the results you deserve.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Or Keep It Simple Stupid! This was the advice of my thesis supervisor prior to me giving a talk on my research. Apparently an audience, even an academic one, is really only capable of concentrating on a few key points, and then for only a few minutes at a time. So the idea is to limit the number of points made and repeat them throughout the presentation. I found that 3X3 worked well - three points repeated three times during the presentation.

This holiday season while putting together a running program for myself and fellow Longboat Roadrunners members, I realized that the same can be applied to training. There are an incredible number of types of runs and variations on these types, but when all is said and done, there are really only a handful of runs that, regularly performed at the right time, are needed to reach your potential as a runner. So, in an attempt to keep it simple, here is my list of Top 5 runs that should be on everyone's training schedule at some point. In future blogs, when specific runs are being introduced into the training, I'll go into each of them in more detail.

5 Intervals: These are short runs (typically less than a mile) done at a pace faster then goal race pace. The goal is to improve the bodies ability to transport and use large amounts of oxygen to produce energy aerobically (i.e. to increase VO2 max).

4. Hills: Hill runs are the best way to build up leg strength outside the gym (and even better than the gym for runners because it is running specific). Regularly running on hills, either as hill repeats, or over hilly courses, has been shown to reduce the risk of running related injuries.

3. Tempo/Anaerobic Threshold runs: As the name suggests these runs are run at a pace at, or just below, the anaerobic (lactate) threshold, which for most runners is a pace that can be held reasonably comfortably for about an hour. The anaerobic threshold is described as the point above which lactate and associated hydrogen ions start accumulating in the muscles and blood. This results in decreased ability of the muscles to produce energy, forcing you to slow down.

2. Easy/Recovery Run: The easy run rates right up there at number 2 because I believe that as soon as you have a hard workout, you have to follow it with an easy day. While the easy run has had a bad rap in the past often being referred to as simply adding junk miles, the recovery benefits of an easy run are now better understood. As has been said many times elsewhere, it is in the recovery after hard workouts, that the real progress is made. The stress/recovery system works well, but only if both parts are used. But beware, those easy miles can turn to trash miles if done too fast. In that case, you may not be ready for your next hard workout which will, effectively, be trashed.

1. Long Run: This really is the most important run for pretty much any runner. It is essential for increasing aerobic capacity and, since even at the 5k distance the running is 95% aerobic, this is the number 1 run on the list.

So there you have it, five simple runs to include in your schedule that will get you in good shape for those Spring races.