2018 week twenty eight

Book Read:
35. Runner: Harry Jerome, World’s Fastest Man — Norma Charles

Kilometres Ran:
week twenty eight — 47.0

To date: 1,414 KM

Weeks like these I’m very glad to be ahead in my reading goal. I didn’t know this was a children’s book. I just knew that it was nominated for a 2018 BC Book Prize. That it is a children’s book I figured out in the first few paragraphs, unlike, for instance, by the fact that it was nominated for the Sheila A. Egoff Children’s Literature Prize. Anyway, the book is a biography-as-novel that tells the true story of Harry Jerome, a kid from Winnipeg whose family ends up in Vancouver, and who goes on to crush the 100 metres in the 1960s, earning the title World’s Fastest Man. There’s an excellent bronze statue of him at the 1 mile marker on the Stanley Park Seawall. I liked this book because I like Harry Jerome. I also like how well Norma Charles did capturing and presenting the ugly racism that Jerome faced throughout his career, and especially her presenting it in a way accessible to young readers. The book is a quick read–it is a children’s book after all. I think it’s worth reading at any age. I’ve made habit of late of linking the book I write about back to its publisher’s page whenever possible, and I have here as usual. I wanted to buy my copy straight from Red Deer Press. The problem is that the list price for the book is $12.95 but the shipping was an additional $19.07 so I bought it from the devil for $12.95 plus free shipping. I still feel bad about it. Sort of.

Slacking off in the sunshine.

Weeks like these I’m very glad to be ahead in my running goal. I’m 331 KM ahead of pace to reach 2,018 KM this year. However, I am 329 KM behind pace to reach 2,018 miles this year. And if I’m going to achieve my BQ goal in twelve weeks I’m going to need to have no more 47 KM weeks for at least the next 10 or so. The excuses for the paltry running this week are threefold. First, I spent today, AKA long-run Sunday, at the office, and now I’m typing instead of running. Second, instead of 8-12 KMs of hills on Thursday, I did the Grouse Grind, which is only a couple KMs. Or, according to Garmin, 1.9 KM. And third, my knee is acting up. This is the very frustrating since bad knee is right, but current acting up knee is left. So I’m trying to be careful with my load, while at the same time loading for Victoria Marathon, and staring down a 21.1 KM race in Kamloops in seven days. I was born and raised in Kamloops, but I’ve never run there unless you count my single day on the high school track team where I ran the 200 and 400 metres 25 years ago. So we’ll see what happens on July 22. The course is flat and fast, but it’s at elevation (only 345 metres, but that’s about 300 more than I’m used to) and, as usual for summer in B.C.’s interior, it’s going to be about 34 C and forest fire smokey. Should be great fun.

2018 week twenty seven

Book Read:
34. Less — Andrew Sean Greer

Kilometres Ran:
week twenty seven — 78.6

To date: 1,367 KM

A few weeks ago I saw David Sedaris read at the Vogue Theatre here in Vancouver and after he read for a bit he took questions from the audience and someone asked him to recommend something that he’d read recently and he recommended two books, Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh and Less by Andrew Sean Greer. I haven’t gotten around to Eileen yet but I finally got around to Less and it was fine like 3.75/5 fine but I was probably expecting more from a Sedaris recommendation and Pulitzer winner. Less tells the story of Arthur Less, a writer who has a bit of a life-crisis as he turns 50 and takes on a trip around the world. Less is a likeable character. Well, pitiable. But for all his assumed misfortune I couldn’t help but think that he’s having a pretty good run of things. I kept expecting something spectacularly terrible to happen to him. The book is good but it’s just not really great.

I couple weeks ago I got to test the new On Running Cloudace for its launch and longest day, around-the-world relay run. The gimmick was the shoes would launch with a run at locations around the world on June 21, the longest day of the year. Each leg of the relay started at the same time in its own timezone, hence the relay across timezones. I’m explaining it poorly. Regardless, the second last timezone was Vancouver, and Forerunners on West 4th hosted the launch with a 5 KM loop. The Cloudace are their new long distance runners. They look very nice, but when I put them on it felt like I was lacing bricks to my feet. At 335 grams they are so much heavier than I’m used to. They have nice cushion and support, but I couldn’t get past the weight. I’m pretty staunchly on team Adidas since my first pair of Bostons. At 244 grams they’ve been my go to shoe. I currently have three pairs on the go. My option two are the Adios, which I train in sometimes and race in always. They’re just 226 grams. I want to like On shoes. I have a pair of On Cloud for walking around Scandinavia and the Baltics this spring, and I really like them. They’re just 230 grams, slip on like a sock, and have great bounce. I’ve run in them a couple times, but I wouldn’t for farther than 10 KM. I want a Cloud that can take me 42 KM. They do not exist, yet, so I’ll stick with my Adios.
And then this past week I got to take for a test run currently the lightest shoes in existence, the Reebok FloatRide Run Fast Pro at their Western Canada launch hosted by Vancouver Running Co. (the exclusive dealer). As you may have noticed weight is something that I seem to care about. These racing flats come in at just 99 grams. Which begs the question, perhaps, when does weight stop mattering? The answer, for me at least, is somewhere around 230 grams. I ran down to VRC for the test run in a pair of my Adidas Adios to try to really feel the difference. The Run Fast Pro didn’t feel especially lighter, nor did the Adios feel especially heavier when it came time to run back home. But the upper was a huge difference. I like Adidas (and many don’t) because they are a narrow, tight fit. The Run Fast Pro’s upper is narrow and tight but is ridiculously thin and has a bit more give than Adidas. It feels amazing. I was really impressed with these shoes. But they’re not going to take me 42 KM. Sure, Nicole DiMercurio placed 6th in Boston this year wearing these, but I’m not running a 2:45 marathon anytime soon/ever. The Reebok rep on hand suggested 5 to 10 KM races for these. I’m curious how they’d do chasing a sub 90 Half. But at $300 I do not expect to find out. What I am the most curious to see is how Adidas responds. If they bother to. I hope they do.

2018 week twenty six

Book Read:
33. Blown — Mark Haskell Smith

Kilometres Ran:
week twenty six — 56.2

To date: 1,288 KM

I picked up Blown because, well, I received a review copy from Grove Press, which happens a lot and I don’t mind at all. I liked this book a lot. It’s a fun, easy read, with a, captivating, entertaining story and likeable, interesting characters, most of whom I’m rooting for, in spite of knowing that it’s not going to end well for everyone, or potentially anyone. There’s decent suspense, and I’m not going to give anything away. The book opens and we meet Neil and Chlöe on a boat, and a lot of money, which Chlöe is very interested in knowing how Neil came about the cash. So begins Neil’s story. Is Smith a Conrad fan? Who knows? It doesn’t matter. The story of embezzlement and sex and high seas highjinx was, for me, a fine long weekend read. Experimental lit this is not. Trashy? Maybe. But good characters, great story, really well written kind of trash. Enough that it’s made me curious to check out more Haskell Smith work. Thanks to Grove Press for the copy.

Wouldn’t be a trip to Oak Bay without running into one of the local landscapers.

It was a busy week that included my first Grouse Grind, which I’ll probably revisit soon, when I revisit it soon. Initially I figured it would be a one-and-done, but I want to do it again so I’ll write about it then. I spent the long weekend in Victoria, lounging in Oak Bay, watching world cup, drinking spicy ginger beer, and doing reconnaissance missions on the Victoria Marathon route. Saturday the weather was rainy, so I stayed close to home and ran the middle bits through Oak Bay. Happily, there were no surprises or concerns. Heading north on Hampshire the route turns left onto Granite at about the course 14 KM mark a short but not so subtle hill that will get noticed on race day. I was a bit more worried about the hill heading north along Beach just past the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, but then realized I’d gone a quarter kilometre too far; the route turns back south at Loon Bay Park.
See you in fourteen weeks.

Sunday, Canada Day, I took course’s last 10 KM along Crescent Drive, then Dallas Road and around the Inner Harbour to the “finish line” on Menzies Street next to the Provincial Legislature buildings. There’s a bit of a hill coming up Dallas (fittingly) near the Ross Bay Cemetery to Clover Point, but then it’s pretty much downhill for the last 4.5 KM to the finish. After finishing, I traced the first 14 KM or so from “start line” at the Legislature, up Government Street onto Wharf, right onto Johnson until Cook, then down into Beacon Hill Park and a loop around Circle Drive (clever name…). I finished the scouting mission back on Dallas, onto Crescent, and back into Oak Bay. I think I ran about 95 per cent of the course, and I feel really good about it. It’s not going to be easy, and I have a lot of training to do between now and Thanksgiving. But I definitely have the mental angle nailed down. Confident but not overly, with fourteen weeks until race day.

2018 week twenty five

Book Read:
32. Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance — Alex Hutchinson

Kilometres Ran:
week twenty five — 52.3

To date: 1,232 KM

Last week I blathered on about some running book that I didn’t think was very good and then I noticed that there was another book that I think is pretty great and for some reason I haven’t written here about it yet, so time to solve that mishap. Hutchinson is an athlete and journalist and has a PhD in physics and is a regular contributor to Outside, and has written for Runner’s World, The New Yorker, the Globe and Mail, and elsewhere. Malcolm Gladwell thinks “This book is AMAZING!” which is nice, I guess, if you like Gladwell. The first thing I read about Gladwell and running, he made some asinine statement that running with music is “soft.” I don’t run with music, but that doesn’t make me “hard.” Also given that women are twice as likely to run with headphones* as men, Gladwell’s statement comes off a tad misogynistic. Anyway, enough about Gladwell, because while I do not agree on headphones (and some other stuff) we at least agree on Hutchinson’s book. There is a ton of information in this book and I’ve started trying a few in training and races, with good results. I’ve revisited bits of this book numerous times. I believe it’s a must-have in any athletics books library.

Endurance Tap & Neuenergy & Adidas Adios

Today was the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. I’ve run it twice before and both were disappointments. Last year I was coming off my first full marathon, healthy and in excellent condition and wanted to break 1:40. It was a sweltering day and I finished 1:40:26. My first crack at the Scotiabank course was 2016. I had just run my first ever half marathon — the BMO Vancouver — and finished 1:46 flat. I was sure I could break 1:45 but was disappointed with a 1:46:31 result. Not only was I drinking way to much then, I was also smoking semi-casually (or -regularly, depending on your point of view…). A cigarette or two on race day served dual purpose, calming pre-race nerves, and, well, nicotine is well known for its laxative qualities. First Scotia Half would also be my last tar-loading. Smoke free and sober, I really wanted to beat myself.
“Soft” at the starting line.

But going into this morning I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I’m coming off a very near 1:40 in Helsinki a few weeks ago; I cut down a bit to try to heal up a blackened big toe and nagging shin splint, and to top it off I picked a fight with a stomach bug on Friday. Plus this course kicked my ass twice already. So I decided it would be a training run. I’d go out and run 4:37/KMs and nail a very respectable 1:37:24 and be happy with that. I had zero intention of chasing the PR I set at the BMO Half at the beginning of May. I went out with cumulative split times for 5, 10 and 15 KM and just ran. At 5 KM I was a bit quicker than planned, and I felt great. I missed the 10 KM split but my per-KMs were coming really fast and still felt great. When I hit 15 KM I checked my watch and I really surprised to find I was a few seconds ahead of PR time. That’s when I decided to just go for it. As I came up Beach Avenue into Stanley Park I saw the finish and the clock and all that registered was 32 and I put my head down and sprinted for the line.I finished 1:32:37, shaving over two minutes off my personal best, and nearly eight minutes off my best on this course, and I could not be happier. I watched and cheered on the other finishers for a bit then walked home, full on running high. Along the way I passed someone lingering in front of their apartment. “Can you spare a cigarette?” they asked. I smiled and replied, “Nope.”

*Sure it’s not a scientifically rigorous poll, but neither is arbitrarily equating earbuds with escapism.