2020 week twenty

Stuff Read
Why Hard Exercise Feels Worse When You’re Alone – Alex Hutchinson
We’re Betting on Athletes – Mark Gainey & Michael Horvath
Strava Cuts Off Leaderboard for Free Users, Reduces 3rd Party Apps for All, and More – Ray Maker

Kilometres Ran
week twenty – 60.3

2020 to date: 1,280

I really didn’t need Alex Hutchinson to tell me that going hard solo is hard but there it is. I’ve missed the Mile2Marathon Wednesday night group workouts a lot. And while I’ve managed to pull together a pretty consistent solo workout Wednesday regiment with the help of my coach, I have noticed that I’ve under performed and more than a few times tapped out a rep or two early, which I would have never gotten away with on a “normal” Wednesday. If you’ve followed along on here at all, you probably know I’m a bit of a Hutchinson fan, so it was an extra special treat to have him come out for a Q & A on the M2M athlete’s Zoom Tuesday this week. Then this morning (Monday, because it’s a holiday long weekend), Strava dropped the anvil onto its millions of users by announcing that a swath of key features were going behind a paywall and I’ve been spending the afternoon trying to figure out what that all means. The DC Rainmaker blog (although cycling focused) provides probably the best run down that I’ve seen (I didn’t look too hard, but Ray Maker goes pretty deep dive on this one). The biggest changes are to Segments and Route Builder, the latter being that it’s no longer free (which is pretty huge). The Segments piece is a bit more nuanced. As I understand it, free-users will no longer see deep analytics into their own Segment achievements and will only see the Top OA and Top Women for each segment. So, no more clicking “People I’m Following” or selecting your club to see how you’re measuring up. Now you have to pay for that. And while that’s annoying, it’s less annoying for me…potentially. I’ve been a premium subscriber for almost as long as I’ve been running. It just seemed like one of those things that you just buck up for when you start getting serious about this stupid sport that everyone reminds you how free it is except for three or four pairs of shoes per year plus race entries plus that one time you happened to be in Paris almost exactly a year earlier and picked up a ridiculously overpriced running top because you saw it and while you’d never actually heard of Satisfy you had to have it and now you’re addicted to all of their gear. But I digress. My point is that since I’ve been paying for Strava for a while so I’m not sure that I’m going to notice except if this new paywall causes an exodus of the people I enjoy following. I’m already curious to see how many people never actually read the announcement, and won’t even notice the features they’ve lost. I’m just happy that Strava finally created an algorithm to auto-flag impossible segment efforts, because the amount of flagging I’ve done this pandemic has been exhausting. Now if only they could collate top 10 personal efforts (I’d be happy with top 3 to start…I mean, they’re already doing it anyway…just show it to me) and make Beacon actually reliable, I’d be reasonably happy. After all, it costs like two Maurten Caf gels per month. Speaking of which….

With the cancellation of the Berlin Marathon I suggested to Coach that I run a marathon time trial and he replied, “nah.” Well, not really. He replied with a few questions that I hadn’t thought about and that made me rethink a marathon casual, let alone a TT. So I decided to go try to PB the half marathon distance, and set Wednesday as the day. I treated the whole thing as much like a race as I could, proper taper, my typical fueling routine, neurotic weather app checking…I’d planned the route and set the race start time under the Burrard Bridge as 7 a.m. rain or shine. I took a warm up jog from my house and got there about ten minutes before. What looked like a drencher had stopped and conditions were what I find pretty ideal. It was damp but not raining, cool but not cold, bit of a breeze. A bit too humid (mid 90s) but I can’t have everything. At 7 a.m. on the nose I set out for a clockwise loop around Stanley Park, followed by a clockwise loop of Lost Lagoon, then back onto the Seawall for a counter-loop of the Park and finish on the Seawall south of Second Beach Pool around the 8.5 KM plaque. I had a great start and stuck to my game plan to hang around 4:05 pace, but I pretty much knew it wasn’t going to be my day before I got to halfway. I hit 10 KM and was right in between the 10 KM splits in my fastest and second fastest half marathons but I had a bit of a struggle looping the Lagoon. At 13 KM as I started into the counter-loop I took a Maurten Caf and then for the next three kilometres I tried to hold it down. It was awful. I know the run-till-you-puke feeling and this was something different that I’d only experienced once before…at CIM. It sucks to finally figure it out now but there it is. Between Brockton Point and the Girl in a Wetsuit I passed a cyclist out with his camera taking photos of a humpback whale in the harbour (I missed it). He would catch up and pass me a bit before Siwash Rock and we had a short chat as he did. He had a pretty nice Canon slung on his back, so I told him about where I expected to finish and said if he got a couple shots of me there I’d pay him for his trouble. I was struggling quite a bit by now but I managed to keep it together and not completely bonk. I let my watch roll over to 21.12 KM before clicking it off at 1:30:02 for my third fastest half marathon and fastest one solo.

Brian Powell (Insta: vancouverotter) was there with his camera. He emailed a few shots to me (including one of the whale I’d missed) but wouldn’t accept any payment, so I asked him to choose a charity from the Scotiabank Half Marathon Charity Challenge and I made a donation in his name to CLICK per his selection. A few days before I’d received an email from those Marathon Photo shysters offering me 30% off photos from my 2019 races. I donated the undiscounted amount.

As I’m apt to do, I took a bit of a dive into my race and came away with a few insights. While I was disappointed to not get a new personal best, I was pretty happy with my performance, especially considering it was completely solo. I took a 20 – 30 second break at 10 miles to give my stomach a chance to settle, and that seems to have been the difference between this being my second (at First Half this year) or third fastest half marathon. This one had a bit slower start but a much better second half than First Half. The other thing I did was to turn this route into a Strava Segment, and I was a bit surprised to find that there are a few other people who have run it (or at least through it) including one name that I recognize (who is much quicker than me). But in making this Segment I also gave myself another Crown and I thought it might be fun to challenge some other M2Mers to take it away from me, what with the virtual RunVan BMO Half Marathon* race currently going on, and the virtual Scotiabank Half Marathon** coming up this summer. It is going to be very interesting to see how that pans out with Strava’s new business model launching today.

PS – I should also mention that I have *most of* a crate of Maurten Caf that expires at the end of September that I’d be willing to trade 1-1 for Maurten regular or Endurance Tap Caf if anyone is interested.

*I submitted this activity as my virtual BMO Half Marathon and as of writing I’m currently top in my age group and top 10 overall, which is weird because I’ve seen Strava activities a lot faster than mine tagged as their virtual BMO, but they aren’t on the leader board. I’ll take it for now, but I don’t expect to still be there when the virtual BMO window closes

**I am seriously considering taking another stab at this route for my virtual Scotiabank Half Marathon later this summer. I just need to find the right window amongst the M2M Virtual Race Series (that you should totally check out).