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2011 Race Calendar

This is the time of year when I build my race calendar for the coming season. More accurately, this is the time of the year when my race calendar sort of forms itself. Some are races that are a more-or-less permanent fixture for me; some are similar to races I’ve done previously, but in different places or on different dates; others are the results of suggestions or invitations from other runners; some are entirely new initiatives.

My 2011 calendar is a mix of all of the above. Here’s what it looks like:

Around the Bay 30K, March 27, Hamilton, Ontario. I’ve done this race twice. It’s a challenging route, it’s got lots of history behind it (first run in 1894, three years before the Boston Marathon), and it’s well organized. In 2009, I ran it in “regular” running shoes and with a small group of friends. The weather was dreadful (6C and torrential rain). I finished in a time of 3:02:45. This year, I ran it solo, in my VFFs, and the weather was better (3C and partly cloudy). I finished in 3:16:23, but without the pain and cramping I’d experienced the year before. This year, I’ll do it in my VFFs (unless I get really crazy, and try it barefoot), and would like to finish somewhere close to 3 hours.

Mississauga Half Marathon, May 15, Mississauga, Ontario. I haven’t done this one before, but I know the route well, as I did the full marathon in 2009 and again this year. I had a horrendous crash and burn experience at 27K in 2009. This year, I completed the race In my VFFs with an “I’m just cruising” time of 5:26:29. I’m going to do the half this year, barefoot, and with a goal finish time of around two hours. (My PB for the half is 2:02:55.)

Next up will be something new, the Self-Transcendence 6 Hour, June 4, Kingston, Ontario. This is a time-based rather than distance-based race. It’s a variant of the the Niagara 50K Ultra, which I ran in each of the past two years. In 2009, I ran the 50K Ultra in conventional shoes and a heavy rain, and finished in 6:19. This year, I ran the Ultra barefoot, and made it to 35K. I’m going to do the Self-Transcendence 6 Hour barefoot. If I get close to 50K in the alloted six hours, I’ll be happy.

At the end of August, for the third time in a row, I’ll do- the Toronto Underwear Affair 10K. It’s a cancer fundraiser, it’s lots of fun, and it’s the only race I do each year where I ask for pledges. I ran it barefoot this year, and finished in 1:04. Next year, I’ll be barefoot again, and will try to finish under the one hour mark. (My PB for the 10K is 58:18.)

Then it’ll be time for another new one – the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon, October 16, Toronto, Ontario. This will be my first barefoot marathon, and one I’d like to finish in about 5 hours. (MY PB for the marathon is 4:30, set way back in 1980.) In some ways, this race will be an even bigger challenge that the 6 Hour race in June. There’ll be a lot more people running in the event, and much more a feeling of competition.

That’s a pretty ambitious program for a nearly-senior citizen with metal in his leg and cancer in his prostate. It may or may not turn out as planned, depending on training and external factors. (John Lennon once sang “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” How well I know the truth of that!) But it’s a good calendar, and I think it will bring both a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction.

Catching Up

It makes some sense, I think, to bring things up to speed on what’s happened with me since mid-August, when I temporarily stopped posting here.

At the end of August, I ran a 10K race. It was a good one for a number of reasons. First, I ran the event barefoot. Second, it was a cancer fundraiser. Third, I did it only two days before I had the first of two new cancer procedures. The race was, therefore, both a celebration and a preparation.

It worked well in both respects. The race – called the Underwear Affair – is always kind of a giddy party with a very serious undercurrent. Almost everyone running in it is either a cancer survivor or has a relative who has or has not survived a “cancer below the waist” (hence the event’s name). It features silly costumes, much laughter, some tears, and a pretty decent course along a Toronto waterfront park.

Race day featured my kind of weather – hot and humid – so I ran in just an old pair of running shorts, my sunglasses, and a “cancer survivor” bandanna handed out by the race organizers. The weeks before the race had been pretty busy with medical tests and consultations, so I didn’t really train for it – but still managed an almost respectable finishing time of 1:04.

Two days later, I had a cancer treatment. Ten days later, I went back for another one. Both procedures involved a rather cool technology called MRI-imaged high dose rate brachytherapy. Cool tech, yes, but invasive and pretty wearing. I was off work and away from running for the next three weeks.

After those three weeks, I started running again. Good news for me, as the physical and psychological benefits kicked in very quickly. Good news, too, for my loving wife, as I’m not the easiest person to live with when I haven’t run for more than a couple of days. (Thank you, JoAnne, for all the love and support.)

After that, I simply ran. Not very far, and not very fast. But I ran. Barefoot as long as the weather was warm, and then, when it got colder, in my Vibram Fivefingers. And things got better. Now, I’m up to about 25K a week, divided into two tempo runs on the treadmill, one steady pace run outside, one long run outside at an LSD pace, and three strength/stretching sessions.

Three weeks ago, I got another tattoo. I’ve got six now, three of which are cancer “markers.” I got the first of the three when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer four years ago, the second at the beginning of that first round of radiation therapy, and the last of the three shortly after I had after the most recent set of procedures. (The story of those tattoos probably deserves its own post. Stay tuned. )

And I’m heading for another 10K race. This one will be the Tannenbaum 10K, on December 12 in Toronto. It’s a small event, and is a fundraiser for a local community centre. I won’t be barefoot this time, naturally, but I’ll be running with my friend Simon, who recently suggested a winter run together. I’m delighted he did.

Simon’s a much stronger – and faster – runner than me, so I’ll be chasing him the whole distance. But that’s good. It means that I’m a runner again.

And that matters. It matters a lot.

Tired, Tired, Tired

I ran 15K this morning, in my VFFs and at a slightly faster than my target ultra pace. What with my father in his last days and the new greyhound taking up a lot of time, I haven’t had nearly enough sleep in the last couple of weeks. I’m bone tired. But I’m glad I ran anyway.

I have to find some way of getting some rest in the next few days, or Saturday’s 50K ultra is going to be a disaster. I can’t see how, though. Simply too many responsibilities and far too little time.

Good Weekend Runs

Non-running things kept me busy this weekend, but I still managed a couple of really good runs.

Saturday’s run was 15K barefoot, at an LSD pace, on a mix of asphalt and sidewalks. I stayed to my ultra pace, and managed to nose-breath the whole time. It was 18C and sunny at 7:00 AM, but not as humid as previous few days had been. On Sunday, I switched to my VFF KSOs for a similarly-paced 25K run. Once again, I set out at 7:00 AM or so, which seems to be my default running time these days. It was a lovely morning to run, bright sunshine and 23C.

I ran in the VFFs yesterday because that small bruised spot on the ball of my right foot opened up again. About three weeks before the Mississauga Marathon, I got a small cut there from running over a sharp stone, and the skin, though well healed, is still a bit thin. So every time I run for more than 15K, it opens up very slightly. There’s no real pain, and I can still run barefoot, but I’m afraid that if I keep running barefoot on it, it will open up further. So it’s back to the VFFs until the skin heals completely again.

This wouldn’t be an issue if I weren’t preparing for the Niagara 50K Ultra on June 19. I could simply allow the healing to happen, then run only short distances until the skin on the ball of my foot gets wholly conditioned again. As it is, though, I need to keep my distances up in preparation for the 50K. Maybe I’ll get it all sorted out after June 19.

In the meantime, I’ll run in the VFFs when I need to, and barefoot whenever I can.