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.
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.
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.
19. The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements — Sam Kean
week twenty four — 61.2
week twenty five — 56
To date: 1,399 km
And so continues the ongoing debate I have with myself regarding when reading non-linear non-fiction or essay collections what does read really mean. Such is the case with The Disappearing Spoon, which I did not read cover to cover (which raises another question since I read it on my iPad…). Anyway, I “read” it and enjoyed most of it. I liked Kean’s ability to dumb down hard science without it feeling dumbed down or condescending. From what I can tell there’s some chronology going on in the book with regards to periodic elements’ discovery and I really enjoyed stuff from about 1912 until about 1950 mostly due to my fascination with the science around mechanized warfare. Cheerful, I know. But I like what I like.
What I don’t much like is racing a half-marathon in mid 20 degree weather. But it turned out okay. I recall 2016’s Scotiabank Half Marathon being warm, but 2017’s was a scorcher. My goal was to run sub 1:40, which I was sure was possible but a bit ambitious. Last year’s Scotia Half I ran 1:46:46. Sunday morning was pretty typical pre-run routine except for the near hour long bus ride out to UBC at 6:15 a.m. I considered Car2Go but was worried about finding parking. I arrive and the start area was already full and the line ups for the entirely way too few port-o-lets were absurd. I opted for dehydration rather than excretion. The corral was full when I squeezed into the back at 7:25 to wait for the gun, and then we were off. I turned my Garmin on to indoors since it hasn’t managed to find a GPS signal in a few weeks (and I haven’t gotten around to contacting support). Just before 3 km I passed the 1:45 and 1:40 pacers who where running side-by-side. I don’t know either. I wanted to reach the 10 km marker in 47:30 or quicker, and when I crossed my stopwatch read 47:00*. I was right where I wanted to be, but knew from all my training on this route the next 8 km are the worst. (The hill just past 12 km up to West 4th is the worst-worst.)
I was just under 5 min/km at 17 and 18 but picked it back up going onto Burrard Bridge and then really turned it on just before 20. I crossed the finish at 1:40:26. I gave it everything I had. I think I could have broken 1:40 if the temperature had been cooler, but I’m pretty satisfied with my results: a new personal best, negative split, and 27/229 in my category. I was 397/4253 overall at 10 km and I finished 290 overall. I’ll take it.
*Sportstats says I crossed 10 km at 48:26. I understand GPS discrepancies, but I was using a stopwatch and it read 47:00. If anyone reading this can explain that to me I’d be happy to read your explanation. Otherwise ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
week twenty two — 51
week twenty three — 75.7
To date: 1,281 km
I started reading White Noise once a while ago and didn’t get past the first part which is a shame because well no. I wanted to like this book. It’s okay. If you’re trying to decide if it’s okay that I wanted to like this book, or if the book is okay, or if it’s okay that I didn’t like this book, then have fun with that. I picked up 3 Summers and was holding onto it until summer finally arrived and then it got kind of nice so I read it and then it turned awful again so my bad I guess. Kind of like when my landlord turned off the heat in my building and I took that as a sign to take my air conditioner out of storage. Premature. Also, 3 Summers is not nearly as summery as the title claims. But Robertson is a gem and everyone should read everything that she writes, he writes with minimal exaggeration but weirdly in the third person.
I don’t have a photo to go with this entry.
The Scotiabank Half is in two weeks (well two weeks from the date that I’m going to tag this as posted but that’s another story) and I’ve been hitting the last bit of it a couple times which involves a bit of get to the route which involves me running over Burrard Bridge and then along Point Grey Road then up West 4th to Chancellor BLVD to North Marine Drive which is about 11 km from my home and that point is about the 8 km point of the Scotiabank route so I’m doing this and running down Marine to Spanish Banks and PS I don’t run with headphones and just as I’m passing the off leash part an Ice Cream truck meets me and so for the 10 km or so I have It’s A Small World After All It’s A Small Small World stuck in my head on repeat over and over and over and probably now you do too.
Sitting in YVR waiting to board KLM to Prague by way of Amsterdam for a week and a half in the Czech Republic and I’m optimistic that I’ll finish Lerner on the plane. But I also have the new issues of Playboy and The New Yorker. So we’ll see. I’m way behind. I think at this time last year I was in the 30s for books read. Mind you I read a lot of poetry and so far this year I think that I’ve read none. I have a few on the to read pile. I think that The Hatred of Poetry is the shortest book I’ve read so far in 2017. If your reading recollection is better than my writing recollection then feel free to correct me. PS — the YVR Wifi is awful.
It still feels as though the BMO was yesterday. Feels is probably the wrong word, because I think that my body has mostly recovered. I just find it strange to think that it was ten days ago. I haven’t been running quite as intensely, or as often, or as far, but they’ve been relatively quick. Quick for me. I’m looking forward to running around Prague and maybe Brno, and then when I get back I have four weeks before the Scotiabank Half, and I’ll rather ambitiously shooting for a 1:39, which would be a full seven minutes off my race PR. If Strava is to be believed, I did 1:41 in training for the BMO, and 1:41 in the first half of the BMO. So it seems within the realm of possibilities.