Blue Nose Report

18 05 2008

[Greetings intrepid readers! I am happy to see that beyond all reason, I still get a few hopeful visitors almost every day. My apologies for the infrequent posts, but if you have been this patient so far I hope I can at least keep posting a couple times a month over this running season. ]

Today was the 5th annual Blue Nose International Marathon in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada). I had been looking forward to this event ever since moving to Halifax last September. Originally, my optimistic plan was to run the half marathon and use that as a launch pad for an eventual 2008 marathon. Then last October, as I have too frequently complained about here, I seriously injured my left knee in a non-running situation. For months afterward, I would experience clicking/sticking tendons and sharp pain on long climbs (despite multiple physio visits). In February I realized that my local drug store carried a $20 solution: a knee brace (duh!). Since then I have cautiously resumed being optimistic, and signed up for the 10k in the Blue Nose rather than the half marathon. Another great motivating factor on my last two races (New Year’s Eve 2007 Resolution Run, and the un-blogged-about Spring Tune Up in April, 2008 ) has been that my wife has joined in the running, and she signed up for the Blue Nose 5k as well.

The first thing that impressed me about the Blue Nose was the sheer scale of the event. The biggest event I had run in previously was the 2007 Bread and Honey Run in Streetsville, Ontario, which had about 1500 participants. The Blue Nose had over 8000 participants in all categories. The whole city of Halifax has been abuzz with running-related events for the past three days. At 9AM, my wife and I got to watch the full and half marathoners start to the crack of a rifle shot from a Scottish Highland Guard. It was very dramatic and exciting to witness my first marathon ever.

The 10k started about at 9:30AM and I was crossing my fingers that I don’t re-injure my knee on the dreaded hills. I got away to a quick start, running at about 4:40/km pace for the first 600 metres and then reigned myself in by remembering that it’s twice as long as the 5k runs that I’m used to. From that point on, I pretty much settled on about 5:20/km pace. The coolest thing about the Blue Nose course is that it involves two crossings over the MacDonald Bridge which spans 1.6Km (1 mile) across the historic Halifax Harbour. The first crossing arrived at about the 2k point in the race, and I was pleasantly surprised that the climb didn’t feel too bad even though it seemed to last forever. The view from the top of the bridge will definitely be my biggest memory of the whole race. It was a beautiful sunny day and impossible to beat the view of all types of ships (commercial, recreational, military) bustling about the harbour hundreds of feet below.

The MacDonald Bridge took the 10k participants over to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where we were greeted with yet another long climb and a fun little 2k loop on a slightly lower incline before descending for the return crossing. This return climb somehow looked far more ominous than the out-leg. It was a long, steep-ish climb into a strong headwind and about halfway up the bridge, I caved in and walked. Argh! Such frustration, but such sweet relief as well. I was starting to feel a stitch on my right side, so I consoled myself with thoughts that the walk break was absolutely necessary and would actually improve my time compared to soldiering on and aggravating the stitch.

Returning down the bridge, I held back my pace. We then turned and faced the final 1.5k uphill battle to the finish. The final 500m were especially brutal, with the finish line in sight and the climb slowly exacting its toll. Thankfully, by this point I could also hear all of the fans at the finish line and that is what magically pulled me up the hill to cross the timing mats. Final time: 53:57 (according to my Forerunner, although somehow my official shoe chip robbed me of 14 seconds and says 54:11). I have to say I’m quite happy with this time considering that it was my first 10k race, that it’s a notoriously difficult course and also given my uncertainty about my knee heading in to the event. Eventually, my goal is a sub-50:00 10k, just as I still continue to aim for a sub-25:00 5k. More than anything, I’m ecstatic that I can now register for other events this season without worrying too much about my knee.

I didn’t do a great job describing the atmosphere, but the fans along the whole course, live bands and DJs all created a party atmosphere; this, combined with the amazing route and scenery makes the Blue Nose a very highly recommended event. If you’re from nearby or far away, definitely consider making the trek and checking it out next year!


The Great Outdoors

4 03 2008

I ran outdoors yesterday for the first time this year. The New Year’s Eve “Resolution Run” was pretty rough on my knee, so I had been sequestered indoors on a treadmill ever since. Yesterday’s run went amazingly well, and it felt great to be outside again and taking in the cool fresh air. I went out at a very slow and deliberate pace, knowing that running outside adds myriad subtle strains not included with the virtual reality of the treadmill. The sidewalks were all clear and dry, but my usual gravel pathway was a complete skating rink. I had to walk on and off for most of the run, and I kept it short to avoid any re-injury, but I was pleasantly surprised to come home and see that I had run just over 4k in just under 25:00. Take out the walk breaks, increase the effort a little, and I think a sub-25:00 5k is entirely within reach again (I had only achieved this a couple of times in training last fall).

While the optimism is still coursing through my veins, I’m also happy to announce that I officially signed up for the 10k race being held in May at the Bluenose International Marathon. I was also glad to read that they allow you to upgrade or downgrade your registration up to the day before the race, so if I’m injured I could take it down to a 5k, or if I’m feeling particularly energetic I could ramp it up to the half (which had been my pre-injury goal for the Bluenose).

Bracing For It

21 02 2008

Hello… well they don’t call it the off-season for nothing! I was shocked to discover I’m still getting some readers despite the two-month wait since my last post. Things are looking up now and it feels like spring might be around the corner. I should be a lot more active on the blog again soon. For those who are curious, here’s the “keep it short” version of the past two months:

1) Ran a race with my wife for the first time on new year’s eve (Resolution Run, Halifax). It was in the dark, after a major ice/snow storm (those running types are loathe to cancel anything), over 5k of icy sidewalks and shoe-soaking puddles of slush. Around the 3k mark I also realized that my left knee injury was here to stay, so I had to walk at least half of the final 2k. I don’t think I’ve marked down the time anywhere, but it was over 30:00, which is slower than my first-ever 5k back in May, 2007.

2) Depressing realization that my left knee still hurts (yes, it warrants a separate item). I haven’t run outside at all since the Resolution Run. Since the original injury at the end of October, 2007, the treadmill was a part of my “take it easy on the knee” strategy, but I realized at some point this month (February) that even on the soft, flat treadmill my knee will still start to hurt after about 22 minutes of slow running. I have subsequently been doing only about 10-15 minutes of treadmill mixed with 20 minutes on a recumbent bike

3) Glorious revelation that a knee-brace actually helps. Last night, I picked up a lycra knee tensor with plastic bracing on both sides. I have no idea why I waited so long, because this had my knee feeling downright bionic. Previously, I would mope and concede to my wife that a brace might help a bit, but I felt certain that something more drastic (surgery) would need to be done to either repair a torn tendon/ligament or remove a bone chip. Surgery might still be the only long-term solution, but I ran a solid 25 minutes with the brace on last night and it was fantastic.

4) Re-kindled dreams of the Bluenose International Marathon. Well, not the marathon itself, but I had indicated in a previous post that I would like to run the half marathon at the 2008 Bluenose in Halifax. This would be a lofty goal even without a bum knee, as I’ve only raced in 5ks before and only run a full 10k in training twice. With the knee problem, this was a complete impossibility. 20 pain-free minutes doesn’t buy much progress in a 21.1Km race. With my trusty brace (need to think of a name for it or something), I’m thinking big again. Maybe the half is still just a bit nuts, but I think I’ve got a couple weeks to decide what type of training plan I’ll be on. I would love to do the half if I can ramp up to it without further damaging my knee, but I think a 10k would be a nice goal too since I’ve never raced in one.

Well, there you have it. Two months of pain and pessimism, undone by one run with an elastic around my knee. My short-term goal will be to test the knee by running outside (with the brace of course) at least once over the next week. Stay tuned!

Be It Resolved

20 12 2007

My apologies to my regular and semi-regular readers; my running has dropped off since my last race on December 1st, and the blogging even more so. Have no fear, I am as resolved as ever to meeting my running goals for 2008 and look forward to blogging much more frequently when the race season begins. For now, there is certainly more than a little off-season apathy going on here, coupled with plenty of seasonal- and career-related distractions. But also lingering back there is my fear that my left knee is as messed up as ever. I had a great training month of October, but a non-running injury to my left knee really slowed things down in November and the pain was still present on the climbs at my December 1st race. Now I’ve only run a couple times this month so far, and have another 5k lined up for December 31st. Appropriately enough, it’s called the Resolution Run. We’ll have to see how the knee holds up. Either way, I’m expecting an off-season type of performance but hopefully completing the race will give the ‘ole motivation a little boost.

Santa Shuffle 5k Mini-Report

1 12 2007

Woke up today with my back feeling much improved, and decided I was ready to give today’s 5k race a shot. Got to the event site and there were over 500 runners, most of whom were dressed in elf ears, Santa hats, or jingle bells. This was a multi-city event being held across the country, and there was a 1k walk as well. The unfortunate thing was they decided to let *all* the 1k walkers do their thing first before corralling the runners into the chute. This resulted in hundreds of runners jumping around in sub-freezing temperatures (with a light dusting of snow for good measure) for a good half hour while waiting for the walkers to finish. Nothing against the walkers here, that’s just poor organization. I felt like whining with the other runners that this was “the worst organized event I’ve ever been to”, but then I realized that even though I’ve only done 6 races, I’ve heard that said each and every time by some wily road warrior or another. So this just made me laugh – every race is the worst organized! Yahoo, let’s go!

The bottom line: back was a little tender, knee hurt a bit on the uphills, fought stitches from eating too soon before race time, two walk breaks and a nothing-to-brag-about 28:04 finish that still felt like one heck of an accomplishment given the disaster this past month has been.

Back On Track

29 11 2007

Hmm, well my lower back was absolutely killing me yesterday after placing bread in the fridge the ‘wrong’ way.  It was very painful to even roll over to sit up. Slept not so well last night, but felt somewhat better this AM. At least I could walk around without looking like I need a cane. Now I just got back home from an appointment with the chiropractor who helped me out with my sore neck two months ago, and things are feeling great. I avoided seeing a chiropractor nearby yesterday, and the wait was worth it. This guy is not your typical back-cracker. He’s rather cynical of the traditional practice of chiropractic, and focuses more on deep connective tissue rehabilitation and massage. I was used to the 5-7 minute ‘adjustment’ sessions, but I just spent 75 minutes having my back muscles worked over every which way without a single ‘pop’. I told him I was skeptical about whether I could run my race on Saturday, but by the end of the session he was confident that I’d be ready to roll. Of course I’ll wait until Saturday to decide for sure, but the way my back feels right now, giddyup! My expectations won’t be high given how light my training has been this month, but just the idea that I should be able to complete a 5k within 72 hours of that crazy back spasm would feel like a tremendous accomplishment in itself.

Change Of Plans

28 11 2007

I was supposed to be going for an easy outdoor 5k today in preparation for my Dec 1st race. Unfortunately, whilst putting bread in the fridge, I just threw my lower back out. You have got to be kidding me! At least I can use the same ice pack I picked up for my left knee pain (which seems to be doing fine). I’ve had a history of throwing out my back/neck while doing stupid things; case in point: this is not the first toast-related injury. However, this now makes three separate incidents over the past three months. First, I injured my upper back after two days behind the wheel at the start of September. Then just a couple weeks later I wrecked my neck while stretching and changing positions in the middle of the night. Both of these got better with time and a few visits to the chiropractor. I wish I could remember whether I felt significantly better within three days or not, to give me an idea of whether I might be able to run/walk/crawl on Saturday. If there’s any lingering pain in my back, I may have to call it off. Argh! I’m not entertaining the notion that “running is bad for your back”; I’ve thrown out my back/neck on average about once a year for the past 18 years and only been running for 8 months. I do agree that if my back is susceptible to injury, then running probably is an added stress. I think I need to be a bit smarter in terms of prevention like doing exercises aimed at strengthening my back muscles, as well as working on stretches to help my flexibility. Making toast shouldn’t hurt this much!