I had the pleasure of getting to meet Roger Robinson when he and wife Kathrine Switzer were touring When Running Made History and made a stop in Vancouver at Forerunners on 4th (and the following night at the Main Street location). The book could be considered semi-autobiographical, although I’m not sure that Robinson would characterize it that way. The book chronicles some of the pinnacle moments in the history of the sport, with the caveat that Robinson only includes those events that he was physically there to witness, or participate in. It’s a great book not just for the compiled history of the sport, but because Robinson, also an emeritus professor of literature, is a pretty great writer. I found the book inspiring as I stared down my racing my second marathon this weekend in Victoria.
It did not go well. Well, it did not go according to plan. The plan was good: open with 3K at 4:44/KM then 4:40/KM to kilometre 14, 4:37/KM to kilometre 28 and then the final third at 4:33/KM for finish time of 3:14 give-or-take and a slight negative split. And it was going well at 10 KM I was on plan to the second. I had some pacing consistency issues (as usual) and hit midway off by only half a minute, but Victoria’s rolling hills and the not so great conditions, not to mention my not so great condition, really started to take their toll. By the time I reached the final hills at 36 KM I was done and there was no recovery. All that was driving me was to finish without walking and not get passed by the 3:30 pacer.
I went into this marathon with three goals. First, to run a Boston Qualifying time of sub 3:15 for my age group. Second, to beat my first marathon time. And third, to finish without dying. The first was admittedly really ambitious. Perhaps too ambitious. Perhaps I had a bad day, or perhaps in my current condition I am not a 3:14 marathoner. I know my training was better overall than my first attempt at 42 KM, but I did not come out of training feeling the confidence I felt before my first attempt. Part of that was, and is, the fact that I had no business running a marathon yesterday with my knee in the condition that it’s currently in. Some thirty six hours of icing, epsom salt bath and copious anti-inflammatories later it looks more like a football than a knee and I can still barely walk on it. It was dumb. Pride is dumb. I won’t say that I won’t do it again but it wasn’t smart.
I passed the 3:30 pacer on the mid 20 kilometre out-and-back section of the course. I still recall the slapping sounds as his feet hit the wet asphalt in the rain. For the next 18 kilometres I listened and dreaded hearing that slapping coming up behind me. It never came. I finished my first marathon in 3:34:40 and this time, with experience and sobriety on my side I was determined to beat that time. A funny thing happened along the way. Although I faltered hard at 36 KM, when most people hit the wall I didn’t want to quit. I knew I wasn’t going to come close to 3:14 but I also knew that I’d finished once before, and I would do it again, and I’m definitely better now, even running with an injury, than I was running hungover. I kept listening for the slapping feet behind me but they never came. I crossed the finish line at 3:25:59 for a new personal best. I beat myself by 8:41, which I think it pretty great. Now to recover, get healthy, and get back to chasing my BQ.
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.
Sapiens seemed fitting to follow Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry (except for the hurry part), not to mention that they both go by three names. Astrophysics talks about how we got here, and then Sapiens talks about what we’ve done since we got here. Which is basically just ruin everything. It’s not a happy book, in spite of the (rather failed) attempt to inject a happiness principle into the work in the second last chapter while at the same time attempting an argument that history should be concerned with happiness. I was not convinced. This book started great and then went steadily downhill. I appreciate that he labels capitalism a religion, less so his praise of it. The author’s abject cynicism builds throughout the book, culminating with his trepidation around genetic engineering and AI. I get that humans are awful but I don’t think I needed the last three-quarters of this book’s (rarely substantiated) opinion to get me to awfuller.
Pacific Road Runners First Half half marathon week. It started out pretty great. Physiotherapist suggested I stick to the trails for a bit. I opted for some hill work on the Avison Trail, and on Wednesday in the rain at the trail peak where it crosses the Causeway I found a $100 bill dropped no doubt by some poor well-heeled (oxymorons ftw) tourist. Friday and a 13.5 KM round-trip to Forerunners on Main to pick up my race package. My legs felt great. Saturday morning, my cold still above neck I went for a short shake out. My recovering right knee and left shin both felt great. Race morning I jogged down to the start line at the Roundhouse in Yaletown, checked my bag and made my way to the start corral with 10 minutes until gun. The corral was crowded as to be expected, when dude next to me pulls his shorts to the side and takes a piss on the ground then casually moves a few feet forward. Gross dude. Humans are awful. Guy behind me says, “Been racing for 40 years I’ve never seen that before.” (Waiting for race photos to be posted; if I can find him and I’m sure it’s him some shaming may ensue.)
My training has been weak with these two injuries and I was expecting this to be a slow race. I really wanted to be around 1:45 but was prepared to be close to 1:50. What I hadn’t considered, and really should have known considering the hours and KMs I’ve put on the segments, is that this is a very fast course, and the weather was perfect for a race. I’d written on my arm some somewhat ambitious distance times and was pretty happy to reach 10 KM about 30 second ahead of pace. Then disaster. Into 14 KM just past Siwash Rock, I still don’t know what happened but I had a little stumble. It felt like the inside of my knee gave out, or I twisted it, or I don’t know what. But it hurt a lot. I kept going. I don’t know if I would have if it had been just another day on the Seawall; I wanted to finish the race. I fought through the pain and kept going the last 7 KM with a sprint to the finish and crossed the line at 1:43:04 chip time.
Within minutes of finishing I could barely walk. Now 24 hours later and it’s still pretty bad. The pain kept me up all night and no amount of ice pack, heat pack, Advil, or Voltaren seems to do much. My physiotherapist said no running this week after the race. That’s fine because I can’t. I’m signed up for the West Van 10 KM in three weeks, and now 12 weeks out from the BMO Marathon. I think both are in serious jeopardy.
week thirty — 58.3
week thirty one — 56
week thirty two — 69.7
week thirty three — 56.6
To date: 1,922 km
So rather than read and write about it I decided that since I’ve barely read anything there wasn’t much point in writing about how I’ve barely read anything. So I didn’t. As you can see. Does anyone enjoy reading Nelly Arcan? Are you even allowed to enjoy reading her? I think I have two left to read of hers. Her work is so good but so heavy and depressing. I got to see and hear Weyman Chan read at the Talonbooks launch for Human Tissue, which I also purchased along with Chinese Blue but haven’t read yet. But I will, not least because Chinese Blue is so damn good. Trudging through nearly 400 pages of MS Word manuscript is rarely enjoyable, but I find the subject matter very interesting. I hope it gets published. And properly edited. You know, unlike this blog.
In three week I fly to Copenhagen for the Copenhagen Half Marathon on September 17 and I’m pretty excited about that. Travelling gives me an excuse to update my wardrobe, so travelling for a race must mean new running gear, right? It’s not like I need a new pair of racing flats but that didn’t stop me from picking up a second pair of the Adios 3. Plus they were on sale. I’ve been very curious about On Running shoes since their propaganda somehow started ending up in my Gmail inbox. They’re a bit pricey to just take a chance on, which makes me lament that there’s no test drive for running shoes. And then, as if my mind had been read, on Thursday at Forerunners on West 4th’s sunset run On was supposed to be on hand to demo their line up so I showed up. On, however, did not. But I had a good time anyway, with a short 9 km out to Spanish Banks and back to the store. The group is really friendly, and the run met at 7:30 p.m. rather than the typical 6:00 p.m. that every club seems to love but precludes me from being able to participate. I make it sound as if I would if I could. I’ve written here before, and numerous times, how I enjoy running for its solitude, But once in a while it’s nice to get out and be around people that also like to run. I do not know very many.