For today’s post, I elaborate on my second goal in my “Race to 40!” challenge, which is to accomplish one minor goal and two major goals on/before my 40th birthday on June 26th.
My second goal as part of my “Race to 40!” challenge is to:
- Compete in my first half marathon;
Most people could compete in a half marathon and complete the race, perhaps by walking a good bit of the way. I am targeting a fairly challenging time of less than 2 hours. Simple math suggests that to complete the 21 kilometers in a time of 2 hours or less I have to run at a speed of 10.5 kmph or be on pace to complete a kilometer every 5 minutes and 43 seconds; this is a fairly quick pace for an occasional runner.
Given the time target I have set myself and as I have never run more than 10 kilometers before competitively (and only once more than 10 km in practice), I consider this a major goal.
Making the decision to run
Though I completed the Vancouver Sun Run in April, my real fitness goal for the year was to run the half-marathon. I had almost signed up for the half-marathon as part of the BMO Vancouver Marathon event on May 1st but then backed out when I found out that the event was very strict about listening to music while running (it’s banned). This was a big no-go for me. No music, no run. I must have a beat to keep my legs pounding the pavement. My preferred playlist comprises psychedelic trance and Goa trance tracks with a beat that matches my heart rate while running (140 to 150 bpm).
The Vancouver Sun Run, which does not have a policy on listening to music was the substitute. The Vancouver Sun Run is a fun run, where people dress up and run in costume while the BMO Vancouver Marathon attracts the best long distance runners from around the world, so makes sense. I note that listening to music is generally not considered good etiquette by serious runners since a runner should be aware of other runners around them, give way to faster runners, may need to obey the instructions of marshals, etc.
After completing the Vancouver Sun Run, I had been quite satisfied with my time but still felt that I had more to achieve. A week later, a friend (Trevor Josh) informed me about the Scotiabank Half Marathon which is part of the Canada Running Series.
I eagerly checked out their website to see if this was the half-marathon for me. Though they discouraged listening to music it was not banned. So far so good, but I wasn’t totally convinced. Then I saw it. The date of the run was June 26th, the date of my 40th birthday. I signed up on the spot.
Details on the run including the course map and elevation changes can be found here. The course is from UBC to downtown Vancouver.
My history of running long distances
To date, I have completed four 10 kilometer races. Three of them have been in Dubai; the 10 km race in Dubai is part of the prestigious Dubai marathon event. The fourth was the Vancouver Sun Run. You can see a picture of me just after I completed the Sun Run with a funny zonked out look on my face in the featured image as part of my “Race to 40!” post.
My performance at the four events follows; note: my completion times are rounded to the nearest half minute.
Note: Line 5 presents the time, speed, and pace I am targeting for the Scotiabank half-marathon.
The average speed I have been able to maintain for the previous 10 km races that I have run suggest that I should be able to complete the 21 km in 120 minutes (2 hours) or less; furthermore, the trend over the years has been positive, and I have completed the races progressively faster except for this year when I was about a minute slower than the last time I ran it.
However, as many long distance runners are aware, during runs over an hour you are susceptible to “hitting the wall”. The “Running for Fitness” website describes it as “a quite distinct (and unpleasant) feeling, and it has the same effect on your running performance as a large bear climbing on to your back.”
The reason for this is because:
“during the first hour of exercise, most of your energy comes from glycogen stored in your muscles. After about an hour, the muscles begin to draw their fuel from the blood sugar, which is in turn supplied by glycogen stored in your liver, as well as from their own stores. Your liver glycogen levels are also finite. So when your liver glycogen is depleted, your blood sugar level falls, and you are unable to carry on exercising. This low blood sugar (called “hypoglycemia”) induces a feeling of tiredness and light-headedness, and your legs begin to feel very heavy.”
To avoid “hitting the wall” you have to top up on carbohydrates during the run usually in the form of a gel. I haven’t bought any gel as yet and am considering eating dates while I run, though it may be a bit difficult to chew while breathing through my mouth!
Training for the run
This is the training program that I am following:
This training program is specifically designed for participants of the Sun Run who have enrolled in the Scotiabank half marathon.
Last week, during my first practice run over 10 km – I ran 14 km – I experienced “hitting the wall”; cardio wise I felt fine but suddenly after about 12 kilometers my legs began to feel leaden. Also, my knees and feet really began to hurt. I didn’t stop and completed the 14 km regardless. Once I got home, in addition to joint pain, I had a cut on my toe (a burst blister perhaps) and one extremely painful toenail as well.
Just as a side note: I have had joint issues on and off throughout my life. I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as a kid; fortunately, it only manifested itself seriously twice in my life and is no longer an issue. However, an issue that I have struggled with over the last 1.5 years is impinged tendons in my shoulders. Last year it was the right shoulder but the left shoulder is particularly bad at the moment.
The condition can be painful enough that I can only sleep in fits and starts and only on my back in spite of strong painkillers and anti-inflammatories. I will be getting a corticosteroid injection into shoulder soon which should help considerably by reducing the inflammation in my shoulder.
Please note: I do not advocate anyone with an injury trying to push through pain from the injury while exercising. Pain is a mechanism the body uses to protect itself and “pushing through” may cause serious injury. I am making a deliberate effort to be very aware of my body and moderate and manage the issues with my shoulders in particular. I have adapted my running style so that I hardly move my arms at all; I kind of hold my arms close to my chest like a Tyrannosaurus and don’t swing them as I run 🙂 This minimizes the discomfort though the occasional jarring step (e.g. while running downhill) sometimes causes shooting pain.
According to the program, I should have run 6 km with hills yesterday, but I skipped that practice run to give my joints and feet time to recover.
Tomorrow is a “cross-train” day; I intend to go on a long walk / short hike with my wife, which meet the “cross-train” requirement.
Then comes Sunday, which is supposed to be a 16 km run this week. I am already starting to feel a sense of dread and not looking forward to it at all, especially as my shoulder has been very painful this week.
If nothing else, I am determined. Achieving grand goals, like completing long runs, can only be accomplished step by step. Come Sunday, I will put on my ipod, pump up the volume and take that first step.