Checking In From Vancouver (4/29/2022). Vancouver 2022 Looms

Good morning from Vancouver BC Canada.

Arrival at Vancouver Airport on Wednesday began with a relatively harrowing experience. First, I get off the jet and noticed I couldn’t find my keys in any of my bags. I even went back to the aircraft to verify I hadn’t dropped them at my seat (which I hadn’t). I usually keep the keys chained on my belt with a watch lanyard, but though I remembered transferring them to my duffel bag for safekeeping I didn’t see them in the bag. Had I dropped them at security in Vegas or elsewhere?

I left that behind for the moment and walked down to Customs at YVR. The kiosk ticket spit out an ominously vague number 00 ticket, and when I got to the border agent (fortunately that wasn’t a hassle as it was in prior trips) he handed me a colorful placard with my ticket and told me to take it to the exit. I was among the (un)lucky few to be selected for a random mandatory COVID test.

I figure, no big deal, we’ll knock this out, I’ll get the results and be out of here soon. Uh, no. Lest I forget, I’m in Canada. And any government functions don’t move particularly efficiently in Canada.

I’m directed to the Covid test aisle and walk through the double doors… into the back of a long line remininscent of the airport security checkpoints during holiday season. Except that line moved like NASCAR compared to how this line was moving. It was more like a Chicago expressway in mid-afternoon. Ten minutes passed and I did not move.

I curse my fate wondering… did going back to check for my keys lead to being randomly selected, whereas if I just walked straight down it wouldn’t have happened? Did stopping to let that couple of young girls pass ahead of me out of the kiosk section, that if I walked ahead of them one of them would have been picked instead? Had I been randomly selected by my kiosk number, and I was going to be “randomly” selected by the kiosk no matter what?

After that ten minutes (and some choice grumbling from the other visitors ahead of me), the line began to move a bit faster. After about 30ish minutes of waiting I get to a counter, where a nice lady had to manually enter my information into the Canadian federal health system (so I have that going for me, I guess).

I was given a slip and sent down another aisle to another line (fortunately nowhere near as long) where I waited another 10 minutes or so before a nice Chinese attendant led me to a much less nice, rather surly Slavic doctor who asked me some basic questions with the hospitality of an FBI interrogation opener, swabbed my mouth and then right inside of my nostrils (way better experience than prior Covid tests), told me I’d have results in 1-3 days and sent me on my way.

I walked out about 45 minutes after I expected to, with the following knowledge:

  • Instead of a comfortable amount of time, I now had less than an hour to get to my currency exchange spot in Downtown before they closed today.
  • Unless they were in my duffel and I missed them, my key ring was likely completely gone. Unless airport lost and founds got substantially better in the last 10 years, I’d have to get several new keys and a couple of new tags, including my gym membership tag.
  • Most of all, if for some reason my Covid test came back positive in the next couple days, this trip was basically over and I would not be running Vancouver 2022 after all.

So, whatever excitement I had that morning heading to the airport was understandably dampened. Oh, and I still had to get to the hotel and check in, still get Canadian currency, still go and get something to eat, still get some basic groceries for tonight before turning in, and maybe get some sort of a run in before the last one. I was hoping to do my traditional Stanley Park seawall scouting run after arriving, but with all this it was going to have to wait for tomorrow.

I was exhausted. I still got out and ran about 1.4mi before getting dinner and groceries. Running at sea level in cooler climes definitely felt much easier, even though the trails and park were super busy because (if you didn’t know) it had been raining for the last month straight in Vancouver and the weather had finally cleared today. People were definitely happy to be outside, at least.

Yesterday I did some more bag searching first thing, and fortunately found that my keys were hiding in a compartment I had checked earlier. So that crisis was averted.

Siwash Rock along the Stanley Park seawall in Vancouver

I got out for morning coffee and breakfast, waited out some abundant sunshine before some clouds returned, then headed out in mid-afternoon for the seawall run. A sizable portion of the seawall had been closed for months due to storm damage in January, and it had JUST re-opened fully the day I arrived. So, lucky me.

I stopped along the way and took a ton of pictures (by request back home) on a very easy 7mi+ run, and am actually a bit sore. I had managed to keep my run streak going up until my flight (it’s now at 59 days), but it may be time to end it today so I get some extra rest.

This morning I finally got the news that the Covid test was negative, clearing the final hurdle for this race… well, aside from weary legs. I’ve mostly rested this last couple weeks, but true to form, Vancouver has required quite a bit of walking.

Garmin’s a lot better at tracking my Vancouver walking than my old Fitbit was the last time I was here, and yesterday alone I walked over 7 miles, not including my easy run around the seawall. Over 14 miles total! Much of the walking was out of necessity: To get to the store for necessities or to key eating spots I had to walk over a mile one way. I’m taking it easy however much I can on these walks, but it’s still time on my feet.

I’m fortunate this morning to have found a good coffee spot open early only 4 blocks from my hotel, plus there is a coffee place right next to my hotel (which is alright) for tomorrow morning. I can venture about 20-30 feet in steady rain much better than a mile or so.

Good thing too (and this may help with compelling me to rest) that tomorrow morning it’s supposed to rain somewhat heavy, so I won’t want to be outside at all until that’s done. There are a couple of okay dining spots near the hotel, so once I finish business at the expo I’ll probably stay close to base until Sunday morning’s marathon.

Runalyze’s numbers on my training and fitness have settled the last couple weeks, and now I’m thinking I’ll just run this marathon out and not worry so much about goal times. Training went okay at best, with some clear base training gaps I want to work on filling in this summer (whether I run another marathon in the fall or not). Though I did a good portion of what I wanted to do in training, I left a lot on the table, as my body just couldn’t do much more than I ended up doing. But I also learned a lot in the process, and have a much stronger idea of how to get it done sustainably next time.

If I have one actual regret, it’s that I wish I thought to bring more Tissue Rejuvenator than I ended up bringing.

Last long run of Vancouver 2022 training complete

I’m now tapering for Vancouver 2022.

I got this weekend’s long run to 3 hours, and stopped shortly thereafter at a bit over 17 miles. I had hoped to stretch it to 4 hours and maybe top 21 miles. But, even though aside from expected laboring I was running just fine with no serious pain, I saw a sign that I had to stop the run early.

I wore and salt-stain sweated through my singlet during last weekend’s treadmill 20 miler. I had done the same on the treadmill with this weekend’s long run singlet.

However, along with feeling uncomfortably warm, I noticed about 2.5 hours in that the sweat coating my singlet had began to dry up. This was a sign that I was overtly dehydrated, and that continuing much longer would be a bad idea. My singlet last time was soaked pretty much throughout the entire run, and I didn’t certainly feel cool or relaxed through hour 3 of this run.

I was certainly hydrating throughout the run. For both long runs I infused Nuun tabs with a liter bottle of Smart Water, which itself has added electrolytes. I had been drinking from both this and an additional 17oz bottle of water, the latter of which I mainly used to wash down the Xact Nutrition bars I was practicing with during the run (as they’re the fuel for the 2022 Vancouver Marathon). That said, could my hydration before the run have been better? Maybe, but I certainly didn’t feel dry going into the run.

In any case, that was the last long run before Vancouver 2022, and now all taper running will be short-medium runs at marathon effort/pace or harder. I used this approach before Chicago 2018 and was in great shape for that race (before the hiccups derailed it). So the plan is to use it again.

Runalyze has my current Marathon Shape at a relatively disappointing 62%. And the taper will unfortunately take that number lower, though (in no small part because) the shorter pace running will conversely buoy my EVO2max somewhat higher.

I had been hoping for 70% shape, and if I had acquired a Runalyze account months before I started training for this marathon I would have understood how to effectively get it to 100%. But that’s a lesson learned for next time, and water under the bridge.

At my current VO2max fitness, I’d have the fitness to run sub-4 hour at sea level if in 100% marathon shape. But with only 62% shape my prognosis is more like 4:25, and presuming it drops the upside will be more like 4:30-4:40, a bit slower than my original goal. That I can live with: When I started with Runalyze my shape at the time allowed me to run a 5:30-6:00, so where I’m at now is much better. Plus, associated issues throughout the months limited my training, and there was only so much I could do this time around.

I also learned quite a bit through training about training, and have a much better idea of what I can feasibly, consistently handle (I’ll discuss it all down the line). I had to deal with sleep issues, earlier than expected rising temps in Vegas, having to figure out treadmill training. Speaking of which, I finally got a handle on effective treadmill training, what adjustments to make to get equivalent workouts, and could actually train through summer without overexerting myself or causing other problems.

Weather in Vancouver is expected right now to be at least overcast in the 50’s, possibly some light rain. The forecast for rain on race day has receded a bit, so it’s possible there may be none on race day. It has been raining in Vancouver almost literally for the last month straight, so I’m sure they’re getting tired of it and wouldn’t mind it going away. Even if the sun does come out after all, temps should hopefully stay a bit lower than they were when I ran in 2019.

My first 20+ miler in three years

It took a good deal of patient, steady effort, but I knocked out 20 miles on the treadmill this Sunday afternoon over 3 hours 45 minutes. Along with being the single longest treadmill workout I’ve ever run, it’s the first 20 I’ve done since the last time I trained for Vancouver in 2019.

One big help was ironically a pair of shoes I had bought but left mostly unused. On some recommendation I bought a pair of New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2’s this January. Like my Altras, they feel unsteady unless your form is sound, though unlike the Altras they’re lighter, and they have a very spongy cushion. They were a bit weird to walk in, and they’re actually a bit more of a pain to slip and tie on than my Topos/Altras, so I didn’t use them much.

But last weekend I wore them on both my runs, feeling really tired, and discovered that the cushion and ride was actually quite a bit more supportive than my typical minimal Topos. realizing the 20 was going to be brutally long and challenging I decided to wear the NB’s on the treadmill, and they made a huge difference in how the last couple hours of the run went once I began to tire. I underestimated the importance of the cushioning and support once I began to wear down.

So I not only plan to wear the NB’s on future long runs, but I decided I’m going to wear them as my race shoe at Vancouver, mildly ironic given my devout loyalty to Topo over the years (in fact I ran Vancouver 2019 in Topo ST-2 flats).

I have one more critical long run this next weekend. Runalyze’s marathon shape metric (which through some research I’ve somewhat cracked) indicates that going 21+ is critical to getting my overall shape above the minimum 70% threshold I need this time around to make my Vancouver time goal feasible. The metric logarithmically weighs the long run, so going 10-17 miles isn’t a huge deal, but getting the long run to 20-22 is much more of a big deal. And no, doing two 10 mile runs back to back (instead of one 20 miler) is almost worthless to the metric’s long run cofactor. You need your long run to go very long to have an impact.

I could just surrender, do a shorter long run and begin the taper now. This would set me around 59% (I’m at 57% now) and make my B goal my absolute ceiling. If I’m in condition to go 4 hours on the treadmill this weekend (which itself would be the prime objective), then I could go 21-22 and that would get me above 70%.

In fact, though I won’t currently get into how the marathon shape metric does this, it turns out it’s more valuable to add a mile onto a 20 mile run than it would be to run an additional 25 miles elsewhere during the week!

(Obvious caveats: If that extra 25 is mostly part of another single long run, that’s a different story; my premise above is the 25 are spread between multiple non-long runs and recovery days)

In any case, having a shot at my A-goal depends on this next weekend’s long run, just as much as it depended on yesterday’s 20 miler. That’s partially my fault: Had my previous training included more, consistent mileage, perhaps these runs aren’t as critical ahead of the taper. Maybe I’d need only one 20 in April. But here we are, and next time around the final month should be a bit easier (though not by much).

As I mentioned earlier, my midweek workouts while still 90 minutes shouldn’t be as long as last week’s. In fact, if indeed the Vegas weather cools off as expected this week, then I can even do those runs in the park. Then I’ll aim for a 4 hour long run this weekend, and then taper from there.

That’s all for now.

Final Descent Into Vancouver 2022

23 days until Vancouver 2022.

I have finally settled into a 3 day weekly training pattern, all brutal workouts on the treadmill. I ran 100 minute workouts on Tuesday and Thursday in a fairly humid Planet Fitness gym. These modified workouts come out to 9+ miles, and meant I was returning home shortly before 8pm, right around when I typically head to bed.

Given that, and given my trouble sleeping after these workouts (after last night’s workout I got maybe 6 hours sleep last night despite heading to bed at 9pm), I’ve decided that while I still want to aim for 10 miles on these days, the treadmill workouts no longer need to be this long.

On non-training weekdays I’ve been taking one or two work break runs during the day, which has helped quite a bit with recovery and feels much better overall than taking those days completely off. Because of this, I didn’t actually end my run streak, which is now at 39 days and counting.

What I can now do is take one or two work break runs, most likely a 2 mile lunch break run. Then after work, even if a bit tired from that lunch jog, I go to the gym and knock out an 8 mile workout, which I’ve done quite a bit in the parks during cooler weather. It might be cooler next week and allow for this, but I can easily do these on the treadmill at the gym if it’s warm.

I had aimed for 10 miles and the 100 minute workouts because Runalyze metrics noted you experience a long run specific training benefit at 9+ miles (marathon shape’s long run effect does begin measuring at 13K, 8.07 miles, but the impact on marathon shape in the 8-9 mile range is near zero). So I initially wanted to try and nail some midweek 10 milers to boost that. However, the marathon shape benefit from these long, brutal single sessions was also negligible, though measurable.

So I saw much more benefit in shortening the midweeks back to 8 and boosting the mileage total plus shaking out with work break runs earlier in the day to get 10 miles on the day, even if it doesn’t count in metrics as a 10 mile run (The miles still count in the metric in different fashion). This, along with making those evening workouts shorter and easier, also allows me to leave the gym by 7pm and get home at a better hour, perhaps making sleep a bit easier as well.

During yesterday’s brutal 100 minute session I went ahead and made it an Easy Interval workout, a warmup followed by six 1000m intervals at goal marathon pace (which effort-wise on the warm indoor treadmill converts and requires an effort closer to lactate threshold), each followed by a 1000m jog cooldown with walk breaks.

This not only got me running some faster interval work, but some much needed practice physically running goal pace, which should be easier at sea level in cooler weather after practicing it in short bursts in these more difficult, higher altitude conditions.

Pretty much the last workouts that will specifically benefit my marathon effort will be the midweek of April 21-22. Anything after that simply serves to maintain existing fitness and avoid fitness loss, while engaging energy and hormone pathways enough that I don’t lose sleep from lack of exercise. I’ve never had any problems with “taper madness”. By the time the taper arrives, I usually find the lack of volume welcoming.

The goal this weekend is to finally, by hook or by crook, get to 20 miles on the long run, as well as pace the treadmill workout to loosely match the timing and demands of the course’s first four hours. While obviously I won’t run the full 26.3 miles (Vancouver is a slightly long marathon course), the timing of my slower easy pace will follow a written schedule where I’ll not only slightly change the speed and incline at defined points, but also take fuel and fluid at points where I expect to cross aid stations.

The paces were converted per my last post, to account for the air conditioned room temperature and my gym altitude versus the high end temperature expected in Vancouver along with the sea level altitude (… okay, actually about 33 meters, which is the average altitude for the rolling course). I will vary the incline between 0 and 3.0% (the incline along Camosun Street), though downhills obviously can’t be simulated on a gym treadmill so those sections will just be done slower with a conscious forward lean to simulate downhill running pressure on my legs.

From experience with the paces… yes, this workout’s going to be hard, though it should all be do-able. The interval workouts and other faster sessions should help bridge the gap on this.

Marathon shape right now is still just coasting at 44%, largely because the metric takes a 26 week sample and most early weeks (pre-marathon-training) were very light on mileage. As the next few higher mileage weeks replace these 10-20 mile weeks, and I bank a couple of 17-20 mile long runs, that number will go up and I expect it to hit 70-72% at about 10 days out from Vancouver. For comparison, Vancouver 2019 training peaked at 68% (extreme cold weather and the flu derailed much of that), and Chicago 2018 peaked at 71% (great shape but hiccups blew me up). However, my VO2max is such that at 100% it would estimate a sub-4 hour marathon. So my 4:15-4:30 goal should still be in reach at 70%.

If this approach works out great, and Vancouver goes great… this opens the door to summer training, and the possibility of a 2nd marathon this year.

I had previously intended to just strength train, cross train, and do shorter workouts throughout the hot Vegas summer. But this template creates the possibility that I can stay stretched out with my long run and aerobic endurance.

I’m inclined to just run shorter races and maybe a half marathon in the fall (I haven’t run a half since 2019). Most good-fit races would require travel, which would get expensive, and with pricey marathon travel plans I have in mind for 2023 I’m somewhat averse to spending a bunch for a December marathon. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, the marathon I’m currently planning to run is now a bit over 3 weeks away. I don’t like getting excited before I’m physically there and it’s clear it’s about to happen. So right now I’m just focused on continuing to work on training and getting ready.

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Finally Figuring Out Treadmill Training

March was a tough marathon training grind. I finished with about 134 miles, barely more training miles than January. I only stretched my long run out to 17 miles, and each of my longest runs was a slow, very tough effort.

The key issue wasn’t a surprise: Las Vegas got warm. Winter’s over, and Vegas wasn’t going to stay cool forever. It’s not desert-hot yet, and we should avoid the worst heat before I shove off to Vancouver 2022. But temperatures got hot during stretches the law few weeks and the last weekend of March they topped 90°F. I also had trouble sleeping over the last few weeks (though I’m hoping to have nipped that). Even in the evenings, running was hot enough (temperatures in the high 70’s F) that I had to slow down and cut down the length of runs some.

I experimented with changing locations on my weekend runs, but ultimately my best options has once again become the gym treadmill. However, in the interim my research discovered some new hope for a previously hopeless training apparatus:

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Vancouver 2022 Training Midpoint, Rambling About Recovery and Training Volume

Today my sister, brother in law, soon to be sister in law, and I ran out an over-long 12K that was more like 13K. I had considered racing this full out (and not knowing the course was long I’m glad I didn’t), but eventually settled on running this as a marathon-effort run. I had no trouble maintaining the necessary run power over the entire run, and even went a bit harder/faster in the last mile.

After taking it easy on long runs the last couple weeks ahead of this (longer than) 12K, focused instead on maintaining longer midweek runs, I’m now focused solely on Vancouver 2022. I spent the last few weeks looking at how I responded to different combinations of midweek runs, weekend running, long runs against other runs vs rest days, running daily, etc.

Speaking of that last bit, I generally avoid run streaking, having made a point to take more rest days. But after March started, I decided to run every day, doing easier recovery running instead of days off, and seeing how I handled that. The answer: At this point, I actually handle everyday running fairly well, and I’ve run somewhat better doing work break runs or shorter runs instead of a full day off from running.

It actually started because after taking a full day off following my last 16 miler two weeks ago, I could not get to sleep. This was despite having slept much better in the last couple months since starting this training cycle.

As has happened before, my body had gotten so used to daily activity that if I finished a day without exercise I basically had energy “stored up” and I could not easily get to sleep. My body expected to end the day having some sort of exertion to recover from. Without it, my hormones basically sensed no real need to get to sleep.

I had to make sure then to get some sort of demanding exercise every day, even if as simple as going on a long walk or going on my work break walks.

The easy way to ensure this exercise was done was to do some bit of running everyday. It started as an experiment, thinking if I was having a hard time or hurting at any point I would just not run that next day. But that next day hasn’t ever come. Even after tougher, longer runs, I’ve been able to at least take work break runs, and those have gotten easier, faster, stronger.

Runalyze advises me that my rolling estimated VO2max has improved somewhat, and my individual workout VO2max estimates have been quite strong, a product of not just running faster/stronger but with a lower average heart rate and along rolling terrain to boot.

I did have a tough time with a long workout last Sunday, which I cut short after an hour and filled in with an extended walk, followed by strength training. I felt rather good the next day, and after filling that day with work break runs the following longer Tuesday run went quite great.

A common mistake in marathon training is to fixate on the long run, without paying mind to the aerobic quality of the midweek runs. Often a runner will kill themselves on a brutal long run, at the expense of subsequent midweek workouts that get ditched for rest days and recovery from a long run that was overextended.

It would often be a better idea to run at least into the 2 hour range at an easy effort, and if it’s getting to be too much then cut the long run itself short, then chase it with some easy low-impact effort like walking, or if available cross training, to comfortably extend your body aerobically and neuromuscularly. You may not get the full impact of the desired long run, but you still derive some long distance endurance impact from continuing your “workout” in some lower-impact aerobic capacity. It can help set the table for a subsequent long run attempt at the desired longer distance.

But this digresses a bit from another important point, that by stopping short of substantial damage or exhaustion from a long run that’s beyond your capabilities you avoid derailing your ability to complete quality midweek workouts that are just as if not more important to your training for the goal race distance. Your endurance for the long run in no small part depends on the volume and quality of your midweek workouts. And if you’re falling short on those long runs, then the solution lies in improving your ability to nail longer, endurance specific midweek workouts.

This is not to say turn your midweek workouts into 2-3 hour long runs. Unless you have all the time in the world and can comfortably handle that (a la the late Ed Whitlock or the still alive Jonathan Savage aka Fellrnr), this is not practical. However, observing the optimal midweek endurance workout length of 60-90 minutes, you can still substantially improve your endurance by summiting the peak of this endurance bell curve in your midweek runs.

But if you go too hard in your long runs when your body’s telling you you’re not ready and need to stop, this becomes difficult to consistently do.

Yes, eventually a marathoner’s got to power through and max out the long run. But base building remains a valuable phase and component of marathon training. And if struggling to get through 16 miles, you’re often best off becoming more consistent at completing 7-10 miles during midweek. I struggled with my last couple long runs because my ability to complete 8 in midweek still needed improvement.

Now, all of that said, recovery remains important. And one of my issues was that I was cramming too many 8 milers together without providing space for recovery. I either wasn’t doing enough midweek quality volume, or I was doing too much at once. This coupled with my issue of not being active enough on rest days meant that, while I usually shouldn’t run 8 miles the day after an 8 miler or long run, it’s still a good idea to run at least 2-4, whether broken up as work break runs or as a shorter, maybe fast-finish 3-4 miler after work. This way, I’m still building quality endurance volume, even if it’s not a full 8 miles or 90 minutes.

So now I think I have a good weekly training template in place. Of course I want to do a long run on the weekend… probably Sunday, as I find when I try to do it Saturday morning I’m often somewhat tired and could use an easy training day with my day off before attempting a long run. Of course, I want to do multiple 90 minute midweek runs if possible. But instead of doing a bunch back to back, or just doing one between a bunch of shorter running, I can pencil in Tuesday for a 90 minute run, bookend Monday and Friday with work break runs totaling 2-4 miles as recovery days, and then let Wednesday and Thursday be “swing days” where I can go easy (4ish miles) or a full 8 miles if I’m feeling great. If Wednesday is easy, then Thursday will be a full 90 minutes. If I feel feisty and go 90 minutes back to back Tuesday and Wednesday, I can go easy Thursday and Friday, or if it turned out I’m feeling really great in peak training I can go 90 minutes on Thursday too and just take Friday and Saturday easy.

Saturday can be a shorter, easy run, and strength training as needed. Sunday can be the long run day, with Monday once again being an easy day to facilitate active recovery. Plus, as I previously mentioned, I wanted to avoid heavy fatigue on both weekend days from training, and an easy Saturday will minimize fatigue will providing enough training stimulus to avoid sleep problems.

This should make a 16+ miler on long run days more do-able, easing any midweek fatigue as well as buffering Saturday as an easy day to set it up. Fatigue made the last one real difficult (and admittedly it was an impulse decision to run that last one on Saturday).

So now we enter the long final descent into Vancouver 2022, and it’s time for some consistent serious training. Plus, I now have a 12 day run streak, and like Chicago 2018 I think I’ll try and take it all the way into race day.


John Hadd, A Long Run, and Simplified Marathon Training

After cutting last week’s long run short at 13, bonked and exhausted, it was clear I had been training too much in some way. The mileage wasn’t necessarily the problem.

My midweek runs are now extended to about 8 easy miles along a hilly route several times during the week, and each of these feel reasonably comfortable, even tired at the end of a workday, even with walking up to 3 miles during work breaks throughout the day in addition to the runs after work.

Lately I’ve repeatedly come back to the work of John Hadd (RIP), an old running coach who in the early 2000’s dropped into the old Let’s Run message boards and dropped a ton of wisdom on keys to successful marathon training. This lengthy collection of posts have since been compiled into its own website, and PDF/Word copies of the posts are also floating around the internet.

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