Monday, December 26, 2011

GPS Watch Can Be an Unreliable Running Partner

I'll put it out there, up front, I have a Garmin Forerunner 405 watch and  I wouldn't be without it.

I find this article to be very misleading. Let's be honest here, GPS technology is amazing and it is no less amazing once you know how it works, see here for a good introduction. The fact that you can have a device that sits on your wrist and can tell you where you are, anywhere on the planet to within 5 meters is nothing less than astounding.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Almost-barefoot running gains a toehold

The US air force finally decides that there may be something in this whole barefoot/ minimalist running thing after all -

The US army kinda does the exact opposite -

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reflections on running 2011

Let's start with a quote, a simple quote, but one with huge implications...
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu
Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)
So here we are, I've finished my last official run of the year and hoping that I can keep my training up over the winter and start the spring with a bang.

I ran quite a few races this year, mostly 10k's, with a couple of 5k's in there for good measure. Like I have said previously, this time last year, I had no intention of ever having done this. Would I have liked to have thought that I would have, most certainly, but I am a classic for wanting to do stuff but not actually getting around to doing it. I have also mentioned my motivators along the way; firstly the doctor for pointing out that I was sending myself to an early grave, my friend and mentor, Stuart, for showing me what can be achieved by simply starting and lastly but most importantly, Bren, for being there, putting up with my sh!t and being so supportive along the way.

So here are a few stats; my cholesterol was 503, after three months it went down to 157, it hasn't been checked in a while though. When I started my weight was 226lbs, it has gone down to 190lbs (on a good day). On 28th May 2001, I managed to run for almost 2 minutes without needing to stop, by the 20th November 2011 I ran for over 1hr 35mins, without stopping - 176 days from one to the other. When I started my pace was ~11 minute, my fastest 5k had me coming in at 7:57, with my fastest single mile is 7:43, although average running pace for a 10k is now about 8:32. Within a couple of months of starting I could just about manage 5k (3.1 miles), without stopping. I ran my first 10k on the 11th August 2011, and my first 10k race nine days later. On the 7th December I managed my first half marathon, something I would never have contemplated previously, 194 days after I first started.

So what's to come for me. My first official half marathon in the early spring, maybe this one - The Martian Run. I'm all but committed to doing an off-road 15k in New Zealand in late February, called the Opouahi Station Challenge, it looks much hillier than I'm used to, but what the hell. I want to follow up the half with a full marathon or two in the summer, this one looks cool, the North Country Trail Run through Manistee National Forest, which looks fun and gives out the third biggest medal in the US, apparently, but what the hell there are quite a few to choose from. I'll keep on running the 5 & 10k's though as they are fun and Bren & the kids want to get into doing them as well.

Over the winter I want to use some time at an indoor track to work on my running technique. I am a heel striker, ie I land heel first when I am running, this is not a good thing, I want to migrate to a mid-foot strike. This is going to take some time and will involve running short distances, barefoot, for a few weeks. Once I migrate to a mid-foot then I can start wearing minimalist style running shoes and start working on speed again.

I'll finish with a silly quote, but maybe just as deep;
Build a man a fire he'll be warm for a day, set a man on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life
Terry Pratchett

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Run Like The Dickens, 10th December 2011

I decided to run this race due to karma, huge karma. I decided on the previous Monday to read 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens, and then this race rears its head, and just to confirm this, we ended up sitting watching A Muppet Christmas Carol the night before the race, great innit.

Up bright and early for what is definitely my last race of the year and it was cold, damn cold, mind numbingly cold. I had my usual banana, eat some cereal and then we hit the road. Neither Bren or myself had ever been to Holly before either, but I had heard that it was a cool little town, so I was looking forward to it.

When we got near the start, it was bedlam with cars everywhere. I had to go and find where to pick up my race packet, but it wasn't too difficult as everyone seemed to be heading to the local middle school gymnasium. I was glad that I had decided to get wrapped up for this as it really was damn cold. Packet pickup involved going and finding what my bib number was on a board and then going and getting my stuff. The free shirt was a grey tech shirt with a custom logo on it, with what seems like scratch mitts on the arms, just like you give babies, probably due to the extreme bloody cold. Now all we had to do was walk around a bit and grab some free stuff and wait for the start.

Cool tech shirt, with unusual fold down ends on the
sleeves, much like baby scratch mitts. Too tight...
After a few minutes they called the 5k to the start, with the 10k starting 5 minutes after, so we headed out. The race marshall warned everyone that it was a little slippy out on the course, for a couple of miles so today wasn't going to be the day to shoot for a new PR, which I had already decided was going to be my plan. I was still getting over my failing to beat my PR in the Plymouth race by as much as I should have. I can't stress just how mind numbingly cold, but still, that it was. I just wanted to get moving, just to get heat into my body, and shortly after the 5k, we did. I felt good and decided that I would see what conditions were like before heeding the race Marshall's advice, after all, this was my last race of the year. Admittedly, there were some dodgy moments but as long as you could find a car track to run along, you were in pretty good shape. The town is very picturesque and nice to run through with many good photo opportunities, but I was too focused for any of that nonsense. I felt really comfortable and kept a very close eye on my pace, knowing that I wanted to maintain a solid 8:36 mile pace.

Jeez, this post has taken waay too long to complete, just want to get the bloody thing done.

I came in at 53:02, almost 1:40 ahead of my PR, very cold and very chuffed.
Normal sleeve

Sleeve folded down to keeps hands warm

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My First Half Marathon - 7th December 2011

I had checked out the weather for the week and decided that Wednesday was going to be the day that I would go for it. I had also run around Walled Lake a few times before and decided that if I was doing my half then it was as good a place as any. It would take three laps of 4.7 miles each to give me my 13.1 with room to spare. Another benefit would be that, as I had to run past the car twice during my run, I would have a handy drop point for picking up of dropping stuff off, like hat, gloves, etc.

From The Bayside car park looking south -
I got down there, took a couple of pics, done a few stretches and then got on my way. I've been doing some reading about mental attitude during runs and decided that I should try and focus more on enjoying the run and less on my time. This was also the first time that I made a conscious effort to fuel up during a run, by carrying some snacks and I had already decided where I was going to refuel. I had decided to wear my compression/ running tights, a long sleeved tech shirt, hat and gloves.

I was on my way and probably for the first time looking around a lot at the scenery. Don't get me wrong, I don't normally just put my head down and go for it,  but today I planned on enjoying it. The first lap went well, I passed the car and got to the hill I had planned on walking up while grabbing my first snack, a mini Baby Ruth bar, not classic runner food, but ithe pickings were slim in the kids Halloween candy bags. Starting again after walking is tough, but it was part of the plan so I was good to go. The second lap was fairly uneventful too, apart from some tightness in my calf and niggling muscle pain, not altogether unexpected though, so I pressed on. I also made a conscious decision to walk up another hill on my route, just to give me a break, it all went as planned.

South side of the lake looking north -
At the start of the third lap I snacked at the same place, this time on chocolate M&Ms, courtesy of the Halloween bags once again, but I had to start walking earlier, I walked slower and starting again was much tougher, but start I did. There was another hill that I decided to walk up, starting a little earlier and walking slower. It was at this point I realised how close I was to my goal, so I dug in, told myself to stop bloody whining and get on with it. I passed 13.1miles without much fanfare, I looked around, raised my hands in celebration , let out a small cheer and realised that I had another bloody mile to go to the car and that last push wiped me out. Done.

Completed in 2:04:02, about as good as I hoped for. I also PR'ed the 15k with a time of 1:25:39, and felt way better than I did at the end of the previous one. 194 days after my very first run...

How the Garmin saw it -

The run in Endomondo -

Thursday, November 24, 2011

29th Fifth Third Turkey Trot; 24th November 2011

This was to be my final race of the year and my biggest start to date, right in the heart of downtown Detroit. Gordon was signed up for it too and it was to be his first 10k. We had accepted Roger & Sharon's offer of carpooling down there as they had been down to the event before and knew the lie of the land,etc. I got up at 4:30am, which is amazing as I set my alarm for 4:15am, but forgot to switch it on, so that was damn lucky. We got on the road by 5am, planning to meet Roger & Sharon at Sharon's house by 5:30, hoping to get downtown by 6am, I think. We got there no problem and ended up hanging out in the Compuware building at Campus Martius while waiting to start.

Myself, Gordon & Sharon, before the race
We decided with about 20 minutes to go that we should try and find our start corral, Gordon and myself were in 'Dasher', which meant we had a pace of between 8-9:30, we couldn't find out so we just found a place in the middle of the pack to try and hide from the cold wind. Once we got the obligatory national anthem out the way and they started the race, it actually took us a few minutes to cross the starting line and then we were off. I wasn't managing to track pace very well as my Garmin was having some satellite acquisition issues, so we just kept up with everyone else and got on with it. Gordon was keeping great pace so I just ran beside him or a little in front or behind.

Gordon kept going strong, I think he was enjoying being out there. I could tell after about 20 minutes that he was struggling, but didn't want to let me down, so we walked for a little bit just so he could recover. I think we had four short walks throughout the whole 10k, which is really good going as it was his first. I made him promise me one thing, that he had to beat me, which he did with pleasure I think, maybe a little too much. We wanted to come in about 1 hour, which we did. All in all it was a great run, kinda cold, but I'm glad we did it.

I was two seconds behind him, and seven people, just as an indication of how busy it was...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The McWilliams Frankenrace

I'd like to point out some good and some bad points of the various races that I competed in, maybe between them an awesome frankenrace can emerge that would suit me right down to the ground.

Run For The Hills; Farmington Hills - My very first 10k and only it's second year. Packet pickup was quite annoying as I had registered the week before online but they didn't know anything about me. The course was well sign posted and marshalled, although it could have done with at least one more aid station. Pre and post race they had a good selection of snacks. They had a graduated start with the best paced people at the front all the way back the walkers and me at the back. One thing I didn't like about the course was that you could see the finish line from quite far off, which I found quite demoralising, as it feels like it took an age to get there. Got a tshirt and bought a tech shirt.

Milford Labor Day 10k - Packet pickup was at Bakers, which went very smoothly, they even had a small expo where you could buy running gear, etc, and what with it being at Bakers, I even managed to grab a quick beer. Getting to the start line in the morning was a nightmare, but once there, it was very well organised. We started the race to the theme tune to Rocky, which got me chuckling. At mile 1 someone was shouting out your first mile pace, which was kinda cool. The course was beautiful and very challenging. Crossing the finishing line you got given your medal, a bottle of water and the snacks were right there too. Once we grabbed a seat we could help ourselves to free beer and, as a runner, I got a free lunch as well. Kinda cool tech shirt & a medal.

Detroit Zoo Run For The Wild - By far my biggest race so far. Packet pickup was easy, we went the previous day. It was quite a walk from the car park to the starting line, which was a little annoying. The course was very flat and very nice to run around & extremely well marshalled. According to my Garmin, the race wasn't quite a 10k. The finish line was a wee bit confusing for some I guess, but it was nice finishing at the gates of the zoo. Post race, it all fell apart, I struggled to find water and we had to go into the zoo to get any snacks, which was expensive and annoying. Got an ok tshirt.

Oakwood Red October Run - Jings, this was a cold one. I picked up my packet on the morning, which went flawlessly, They had a small expo which kept us going for a few minutes. Find the race start line was challenging. The course was flat and not much to look at. Random people joined the run on a couple of occasions, which was bizarre. At one point a race marshall asked the runners to stop so he could let a car through, which got me furious. The last mile or so was a pain as we finished on the same course as the slow 5k walkers and they wouldn't get out of the way. Post race snacks were good. Got a long sleeved shirt and a medal, I also bought a nice t shirt and baseball hat.

Detroit Free Press Marathon; leg #3 - It was a helluva event, but I have never felt so neglected either before or after a race, no pre or post snacks or drinks, and a really disappointing post race party. The live music and offers of free beer along the way were fun. Really nice tech shirt and medal though.

Plymouth Wicked Halloween Run - Damn cold morning. Packet pickup, parking were a doddle. Pre race we just kind of milled around. The pre race Thriller performance was a nice touch. The start line wasn't quite wide enough and the promised graduated start failed to materialize, which meant that it took a long time to get started and when started the race was really congested for the first mile. Course was very pleasant. Post race I got handed my medal and a bottle of water, I then had to queue for 10 minutes to get a snack, which kinda sucked. I found out later that not all of the medals were colored, but mine was. The tech shirt was cool.

Outrun Hunger - A last minute decision and it's first year. The course was nicely done and very close to home. I ran this one with Iona. Didn't get anything, no electronic timing either.

Ann Arbor Turkey Trot - Getting in to the park was hellish, we had thought we had left plenty time but ended waiting in line for about 40 minutes. Packet pickup and startung line organisation was a breeze, once we got there. The course was very picturesque. Between the 5k & 10k races I had about 30 minutes to kill, I spent most of it waiting in line for the bathroom. Snacks were available between races. Received two shirts, one for the 10k & one for doing the Iron Turkey Trot (5k & 10k races), the post race medal was an unexpected surprise.

Detroit Turkey Trot - Really busy, and I mean really, really busy. The starting corrals were a little confusing, but we found it ok. The course was as good as it could be considering that it was downtown. One thing I didn't like was watching people run down the road that you are running up, as it just goes to accentuate how slow you are going.The end was bedlam, and we didn't even try and get any snacks as it was just too busy.

My perfect race, ladies and gentlemen, I give you, The McWilliams Frankenrace
  • Online registration
  • Plenty parking
  • Previous evening packet pickup as well as on the day
  • Put some stuff in the packet, info on upcoming races, free samples
  • Customized tech shirt,
  • Electronic timing, in bib
  • Pre & post race expo
  • Pre race snacks
  • Graduated start based on pace
  • Cool route with plenty marshalls and no bloody cars
  • Mile/ kilometer markers would be nice and make them accurate
  • Make the route the distance that it is supposed to be
  • If there is a simultaneous 5k, have it start approx 1/2 hour after the 10k
  • Live music around the course as well as at the end
  • Medals for finishers
  • Post race snacks, with free beer
  • Free lunch for finishers

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ann Arbor Iron Turkey Trot; 11/12/11

This was, again, a last minute decision. A colleague was running the Iron Turkey and was all over me to do it, I wasn't sure but it was going to be my last chance of a race before the big Turkey Trot so I decided to go for it, even though it was going to be a farther race than I had ever ran before. The race was being held at Hudson Mills Metropark, so we thought we would leave nice and early and get there in plenty time.

The Iron Turkey Trot means that you run in the 9am 5k then the 10am 10k, totaling 15k, so all we had to do was get in there and go for. The first bloody problem of the day was actually getting into the park, we queued up for at least half an hour to get within sight of the park, traffic was a nightmare and traffic control, almost nonexistent. We got parked and I had to sprint over to the registration area to collect my number, forgetting that I also had, as it turns out, two bloody tshirts to deal with, one for the 10k & one for the Iron Turkey. I ended up running back to try and meet Bren, who was parking the car, dumping the shirts and running back to try and catch the start. It was a hellish way to start a race.

Anyway, got to the starting line of the 5k with a couple of minutes to spare. as they delayed it due to the traffic fiasco going on. The start was incredibly fast and I put in 7:56 for my first mile. The course was tight, but very scenic as it meandered through the park and across a couple of bridges. There was one lingering hill that I never really enjoyed, but what the hell. The 5k was one revolution and I finished in a respectable time.

I had about 30 minutes to kill between races so I grabbed a quick snack and spent most of the rest of it trying to get into the restroom, again not much fun. The 10k start was mobbed, more so than the 5k even. I wanted to start a little slower as my legs weren't quite recovered from the 5k, but I got into the swing of things and kept going. This time we would be doing two laps of the same course as the 5k, which would be my first real experience of multiple laps on a long course. It was cool seeing Bren half way through, I managed to throw her my hat and it buoyed my spirits. The same long nasty hill awaited me, but twice this time, and knowing it didn't make it any easier. The nice race director decided that the final 200m should start uphill on a scree path, which really sorted the men from the boys. I finished, I was knackered.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Outrun Hunger 5k; 11/5/11

This was a very last minute decision to do a local race in its inaugural year. It was getting held at the Commerce Township office, just a couple of miles from the house. As it was so close to the house we decided to make it a family affair, although having learned our lesson at the Plymouth Run, no dogs this time. I went over early to get us all registered which involved me filling out fourteen bloody forms and I hate writing so it really was a blast. We decided that Bren was going to do the mile with Liam, Chris & Emma, while myself Gordon & Iona were going for the 5k. Gordon found a school friend and was going to run with him and shoot for a good time, while I was going to run with Iona.

The kids (L to R); Emma, Chris, Iona, Liam (back), Gordon
 It was a damn cold, but beautiful morning for the race. The course was going to be travelling through Martin Parkway, luckily on the weekend before the new road was due to open. This was Iona's first attempt at a 5k, so I was just pleased that she wanted to try and I was looking forward to being out there. The course was lightly marshalled and well signposted. There wasn't any electronic timing or shirts or anything, but it was a nice morning to be out and about and great to be with the kids.

Just a nice morning
Me in the Detroit Marathon shirt
& Iona in pink pants and a purple jacket

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Plymouth Wicked Halloween Run, Plymouth MI, 30th October 2011

Today was going to be a little different as Bren had decided to sign herself up to walk in the 5k with the dogs - a horrible prospect for me, but she decided to go for it all the same.

The day started bright & early, as usual, for a race day, but cold. I'm not sure exactly how cold, all I can say is that it was damn cold. We got down there with about 45 minutes to spare as we wanted to make sure we could get a half decent parking space. The city was buzzing and filled to the brim with runners, all very strange for 7:30am on a Sunday morning. A stage had been setup so that a local dance troupe could start the racers with an all singing, all dancing rendition of Michael Jackson's Thriller. There was about 1,300 runners in the 10k, which considering this is it's first year, is pretty incredible. I decided to start a little down the pack, just to let those that stand a chance of winning get away. My plan was to try and average under 8:51 so I could break 55 minutes. I started out beside Chris, but I had my plan and a Garmin watch that would be nagging me the whole way about my pace, so I wasn't going to hang around too long.

So the starter gun went off and so were we. Initial starting was very slow, the pad you had to cross to start the timer was small and it was taking the field a while to get across. I was hoping that the field would start stretching out very soon after we started, after all, I had a time to work on, and quite an ambitious one at that. So I eventually got to amble over the line a minute or so after the gun, the place was mobbed. I knew I had to try a set an 8:51 pace and stick to it but the race was so busy that I struggled to find any space to run. I was constantly crossing behind people, slowing down, speeding up, trying to get some space, but nothing I did would get my pace down. I ended up putting in 9:26 which was almost 40 seconds off what I needed to try and beat the 55 minute target that I needed. Luckily I had set the Virtual Partner pace on my Garmin to 8:43, which I had set the previous week, while running around Walled Lake.

The course was nice and flat, and what with it being mid-fall, very pretty to look at. Plymouth really is a very pretty town and I think that helped calm me down. I was still having to jostle to find a gap to run in but the field was spreading out and I managed to find my stride, putting in a respectable 8:42 for the second mile. I had now resigned myself to missing my target, the choice was now, by how much.

I had been getting concerned that I hadn't been pushing myself enough and that I can do better than I have been. My first competitive 10k, had my heart rate peak at 192bpm, whereas the following runs were nowhere near. I realize that when I run myself, it is easy to fall into a slower pace and slack off, but during races it should be easier to push myself. My conscious effort to use the Virtual Partner had started to pay dividends though.

I decided that I had to keep going, I would do everything I can to try and maintain the 8:43 pace, as set on the watch. the aid stations came and went, I had at least a sip of water at each one. I now try and walk while sipping due to myself almost drowning while trying to drink and run. I know it loses a little time, but it is minimal compared with the embarrassment of almost drowning while running, nowhere near any large body of water. I also don't take anything from the aid stations that I don't normally take during training runs, a race is the wrong time to try anything new, so the Gatorade, from GU and M&M's were dutifully ignored. The third mile of 8:48 disappointed me a little as I feared I would start with my pace creep, so mile 4 brought another conscious effort to speed up a bit, when it came in at 8:44, I was pleased. I lacked the mental capacity to try and work out what my predicted finish time would be, but all I was hoping for was ~56 minutes and a new PR. Mile 5 & 6 came in respectably at 8:47 & 8:45. Mile 6 looked good as I kicked it up a notch to try and finish strong, with about 1/2 mile to go, I realized that I might just make the 55 that I was looking for. I knew we must be very close, but my knowledge of downtown Plymouth is very limited, outwith where the pubs are, of course. But there the finish line was, I kicked it up a notch again, crossed the line and stopped my watch at 55:03. It wasn't until I saw the official timing that I knew I had done what I set out to do, 10k in 54:59. If it hadn't been for that first mile, I could have done way better, so who knows.

So with my new tech shirt, my medal and some snacks, I settled down to the tough job of recovering and looking for friends to finish their personal battles.

I finished 51st out of 90 in my division, 426 out of 1264 overall, I'll take it

A great big thanks to Bren for being there, being supportive and doing the 5k with our crazy hounds...

Video of the start of the run -
Official results - 8

How the Garmin saw it -

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pleasant run around Walled Lake - 10/22/11

I just got my Garmin Forerunner 405 back after I sent it in for repair so, to celebrate, I decided to go for a run around Walled Lake. It is a run I have done three or four times now, with varying degrees of success, with my best so far being 43:55. My previous effort was ugly, with me even having to walk a couple of times and finally finishing a fairly dismal 50:41, giving a pace of about 10:43. I made a conscious effort on Saturday to set my virtual partner on my watch to the pace that I need in order to finish the Wicked Halloween next week in under 55 minutes ~ 8:50. The stars aligned and everything just seemed to click, my legs felt fresh, it was a beautiful, if a wee bit chilly, morning. I ended up PR'ing my pace (8:43) & my 5k. All good signs for next week, so we'll see what happens.

How the Garmin saw it -
How it looks in Endomondo -

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Detroit Free Press Marathon, 16th October 2011

Detroit Free Press Marathon, leg #3 - 16th October 2011

So this was a race that I never really thought about or intended to actually do, mostly because 5k is too short for me and a half of full marathon are quite a bit off in my future right now. My company was trying to put a group of runners together to raise money for a local charity and were covering the entrance fee for the race, so I thought I'd have a look at the website anyway, just for the hell of it, it was then that I saw that you could run the whole marathon course as a relay team and that the first leg, which crosses from Detroit, over the Ambassador Bridge was in my sweet spot, 6.2 miles, a 10k. I approached the coordinator to offer my services to any team that needed someone, at which point I was told that there weren't any, and I was a little disappointed. I kicked the thought around in my head for a few days, spoke to Bren about it and decided to try and put one together, with me running the first leg.

Getting the gang together...
I decided to put a post on Facebook, just to see if I could generate some interest, I wasn't really sure, which of my FB friends ran, but what the hell. Within a few hours of posting, I had two bites, both from colleagues/ former colleagues, neither of which I knew ran, but what the hell, we were on our way. Right from the start I knew I wanted the first, Sean said he wanted nothing over 6 miles, so the second leg suited him down to the ground, Derek didn't want anything too big but has been running 5k's, so the last leg, might be a small stretch for but he was happy to give it a shot, now just needed someone for the longest leg, #3 at 6.7 miles, and the shortest leg, #4 at 2.9 miles. I tried contacting a few other guys but I was struggling to get someone to commit. It was at that point that Bren suggested I ask my son, Gordon, how he felt about doing the fourth leg. Gordon has been running 2-3 miles daily at school as part of his cross country practice and he was keen, so now we had four. The fifth was proving to be a little more challenging, but I had a lead and while he said he was going to do it, I wasn't convinced. So I decided that it was time to commit to the team and actually register on the site. The process is relatively painless and is done through the website, much like many of my previous races. Eventually the runner for #5 decided to commit and we were just waiting now, until, with about one week to go, leg #3 pulled out, due to injury. So now the bedlam began. Very quickly it became obvious that another colleague could step in, but only if he could do legs #1 or #2. I wanted to do #1, but not really a big deal, all that was needed was to go to the expo and arrange it with the American Department of Homeland Security. So now we were set, we had all five and they were;

  1. 6.2 miles   Kevin Power
  2. 6.0 miles   Sean Luce
  3. 6.7 miles   David McWilliams
  4. 2.9 miles   Gordon McWilliams
  5. 4.4 miles   Derek Pratley

I was now predicting a ~9am start time for myself, so we decided to leave a little later on and drop myself off first then Bren could take Gordon to his starting line at Belle Isle. I had a couple of minute walk to the start of my leg and got there at almost dead on 8am. I was thinking that the race was about one hour old and Sean would be running. I was anticipating a ~9am start

The official results
The results is a great one but also very confusing. My phone, running the Endomondo application had me down as doing 6.82 miles in 1:03:11, whereas the official website said my leg was a 6.7 mile leg and their timing has me down at 59:58 - giving me a pace of 8:57. Sean's running app on his iPhone also gives equally baffling results, but we'll take it. I was hoping to be somewhere in the 4:05hrs region, so 8 minutes inside that isn't too shabby.

On reflection a couple of things come to mind; no drinks or snacks for relay runners at the end of their stages. kinda makes you feel like a second class citizen. The end of race 'Conquered' party was very disappointing. The organizing was a hassle, getting to and from the leg start/ finish points was a major pain as well, especially without anything to drink. Cool shirt & medal though.

The team, from left to right; Derek Pratley, Sean Luce,
David McWilliams, Gordon McWilliams. Kevin isn't in the picture.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Oakwood Red October Run 10km, Wayne, MI - 1st October 2011

I foresee another short write up one for this one too. I had been getting a wee bit concerned about the temperature for my morning run so, on Stu's advice, I picked up some running tights and a long sleeve tech shirt and just as well - weather conditions, damn cold, cloudy and windy.  The race wasn't due to start until 9:50am, so we didn't have to rush around trying to get there on time, although I did want to be a little early as I hadn't picked up my race packet yet and we weren't totally sure where we were going.

After standing around in the cold for what seemed like an age, we finally got started. I started out at an ok pace, if anything a little slow.

A few really annoying things;

  • One fellow racer boxing me in as we ran up on someone in front
  • The same racer elbowing me
  • Running for a mile or so with a young boy who was wondering where everyone was running to and why, he ended up finishing the race and even getting a medal
  • One race marshall, stopped us to let some cars pass through, I was incensed
I averaged 9:14 per mile, finished the 10km  in 57:01. According to my Garmin the race was actually 6.24 miles, so just a little over 10km.

How the Garmin saw it -
Endomondo -
White cotton, long sleeved

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Detroit Zoo Run For The Wild 10km, Huntington Woods, MI - 18th September 2011

Detroit Zoo Run For The Wild

This won't be quite as detailed as previous race posts as it wasn't quite as eventful as the previous ones have bee.

Up bright and early as usual for race day although my preparations, which involved carb loading a few beers the previous evening were less than perfect. The weather was gorgeous and we headed out to the zoo. I was a wee bit concerned about parking as the 5km was starting at 8am, while the 10km wasn't until 8:45am, but they were completely unfounded as we got parked in the multi-storey, no problem.

The place we bedlam, with people milling about all over. 5km  runners were starting to appear and we decided to just head down to the starting line after a short sojourn to the rest room. I was feeling pretty good about the run as myself and Bren had decided to drive the course the previous day, when I was picking up my packet. The course is very flat, through a nice residential neighborhood of established homes, all in all very civilized. This was going to be my biggest race to date, with over 600 runners expected in the 10km.

At exactly 8:45am, the race got underway, I started quite near the front which I suspect was my undoing, psychologically. I didn't start particularly fast, but I wasn't concerned as I planned on keeping some energy in the bag for my big kick, later. The first mile was nice and straight, I put in a solid 8:44, which works fine for me. The bizarre thing is that people kept passing me, I must have started in front of the faster runners and they were catching up. I then started something that I have managed to avoid over the past few weeks, what I like to call pace creep, when my pace gets slower and slower with each mile. Mile two comes in at 9:09, three at 9:29 then four at 9:38, five comes along at 9:49. Now this isn't as bad a creep as I used to do, which was a solid 30s per mile, but it is still concerning. For at least the first four miles, people kept passing me and I think it was getting to me, I even had a couple of minutes of doubt, around mile 3.5, when I wondered if it should be out there at all. When I start mile six I decide that this can't continue and I make a concerted effort to try and up my pace and finish strong as opposed to my usual finish that typically involves the use of defibrillator. I did manage to run the whole way, which has been a goal of mine, which was nice.

A couple of general comments on the event as a whole;

  • Three water stations was nice and they were perfectly situated
  • Plenty course marshalls kept the traffic away
  • Beautiful area for running
  • A tech shirt as opposed to a regular t-shirt would have been nice
  • What was the deal with running out of water just after I crossed the finish line, it also took me a good two or three minutes to find water? The info that there was plenty inside the zoo, a ten minute walk away wasn't much consolation.
Cotton shirt
I'd do it again, though.

Here's how the Garmin saw it -

Results are in - I'll take it, overall 293 out of 630, 183 out of 256 men, 29th out of 41 in my age group,

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Light run with many aches

So I decided that since I had to take yesterday (Friday) off work anyway, that I may as well see if this pulled muscle in my chest was going to stop me from running in a race next week. I thought I'd go back to my favorite haunt, Richardson Park, and try to see how I go. I wasn't planning on PR'ing anything, just surviving, which I did. Any really big breaths were a strain, but the normal run of the mill stuff was fine, so I'm good to go in my book. Incidentally I did 3.13 miles in 30m43s.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My exercise regimen

In an ideal week - Up at 6:15am'ish, exercise bike on maximum resistance for approx 10 miles, followed  by three yoga planks of one minute each with one minute break in between.

Lunch at 11:30'ish, walk fast for approx 50 minutes/ 3.6 miles

Saturday morning, out at approx 8:30am for 1 hour/ 5-6 mile run

Sunday morning, same as Saturday

It isn't a routine that I read anywhere, there isn't some magic to it, it doesn't purport to do anything clever. This routine does a few things and it does them well;

  • It gets me actually doing something
  • It is better than nothing
  • It can evolve into something more structured over time
  • I sweat a lot...
Note that there hasn't been an ideal week in quite some time, due to time off, aches and pains and just life in general.

Injuries, the stupid things that happen to slow you down...

My latest injury is a pulled muscle in my chest, upper left and it is damn annoying. It came when I was helping clear away some of the dirt from around the Hangi pit, not working particularly hard, as anyone that knows me will not be too surprised to hear, and now I'm struggling to cough or take a big breath or do anything that puts any kind of strain on my chest cavity, damn it's annoying.

Over the years I have managed to damage myself in not very impressive but mostly annoying ways. I cut my scalp bending over near a handrail and getting up while hitting it. I blew out my knee while using my snowblower in under 1" of snow. I rolled my ankle walking down two stairs in a bar, while sober. I stuck a steak knife into my thumb while carving pumpkins for the kids. I hurt my back while combing my hair. I cut my heading while standing up at a customer site. I hurt my back while sitting down at dinner (not very comfy seats).

I am a bloody disaster.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Milford Labor Day 10km, Milford, MI - 3rd September 2011

Milford Labor Day 10km

The race starts and finishes at Bakers of Milford, a place I used to frequent every time I played disc golf. We arrived about 30 minutes before race time, just enough to get the general lie of the land, have a look at my competitors and get in the zone. Again, the starting field looks good and fit and I don't, but I feel like I am supposed to be there this time.

We all grouped at the starting line and at 8:30am, just before we get started some bright spark decides that the Rocky theme would be suitable. So with a smile on my face, I get going. Not being very sure of the route, I'm really not sure what I'm going to be up against. I start out with a good pace, I was hoping for approx 9 minute miles for the duration, and beating my previous best. It is a long gradual uphill, towards Milford, but I'm feeling good, as we pass the mile marker, someone is standing shouting out the time, which I thought was kinda cool for people not actively tracking their time, on their handy dandy watches. I pass mile one at 9:01 minutes, on schedule.

Mile two is still a gradual downhill, still heading towards GM Road, the first water station is right at the corner of S Milford Rd. I continued the run towards downtown Milford, this time the route is rolling a little, but I'm still feeling good and put in a very respectable 8:39, which will be my fastest of the day.

Mile three takes me into the centre of Milford and as we turn onto South Hill Rd (very aptly named), at approximately 2.4 miles in, I see the foothills of the Andes stretch out in front of me, and then the hell began. The hill starts slowly, but it doesn't take long to start kicking my ar$e. I see the first person start walking and again, I'm glad it wasn't me. I had been keeping pace with a woman who had a jogging stroller, once the hill started, she was way out in front. I started running slower and slower. At 25 minutes in, quite near the top of the hill, all the fooling myself into keeping on going, fails and I start walking. I'm the fifth or sixth person I see walking, so I don't feel too bad. I eventually finish mile three in 10:14. The amazing thing about this mile is that I dropped all the time in that half mile uphill stretch, I was actually doing really well before the Andes hit.

Mile four continues with the whole increasing altitude thing and I suck at it, my practice routes are almost exclusively flat and you can tell. The route actually goes down for a little at one point, but it is too little, too late, I end up walking again at one point and I'm starting to get a little demoralised by the whole 'hill' thing. The scenery is very pleasant though, which I really get to appreciate, as I am passing it so slowly. Another water station passes by. As an aside, I may turn out to be found, drowned, on a 10km track somewhere as I am so bad at trying to drink out of those little Dixie cups while moving, the water goes in my eyes, up my nose, everywhere apart from where it is intended, this is not something that I was expecting to have trouble with. Slowest mile of day at 10:39.

Mile five ambles along and starts by giving us a couple of gradual downhills, but I really don't get any great benefit from them as I'm done in and running on empty. I turn the corner onto Buno Road, at last heading towards the finish. Buno Road has a couple of nice little uphills in store for us. On one of these hills, I again take a stroll, my legs are on fire and I'm ready to be done. While walking I keep pace with another runner, actually running, so I'm not the only one that is struggling. I finish in 10:08, so at least my mile pace wasn't on a full scale drop down the toilet.

At the start of mile six I decide to try and see if I can speed up a little and finish strong, unlike my last one. I try and crank it up a notch when I make the turn back onto Milford Rd. I know the end is close and it buoys my spirits. Not much else I can say about this one, apart from 'no more bloody hills' and I put in a, not too shabby, 10 even.

Mile seven starts and I know I'm not going to beat my previous record, but I completely underestimated the route. I can see Bren, Liam & Iona were waiting for me as I get close, I feel better than I did at the end of the Farmington Hills race. I don't get passed in the final stretch, but I guess there were quite a few behind me. I cross the line at 1:00:53, I'll take it.

Post race there was free beer, snacks, plenty drinks and free burgers for the racers. I even got a medal and the obligatory tech shirt, kinda cool though.

Blue tech shirt with yellow
side panels
This is how my Garmin saw it -

Results are in, 75th out of 166, 11th out of 20 from my age group -

Race video courtesy of Michigan Runner, I can be seen at 0:23 & 2:23, in the white shirt -

Race photos courtesy of Sadler Shots can be seen at

Monday, August 29, 2011

The tools that make it fun

A friend asked if I had saw any of the exercise tracking apps for my new BlackBerry smartphone and always one to tinker around with a new toy I decided to have a look around. It was then that I found Endomondo ( Endomondo uses the internal GPS of the BlackBerry to keep tabs on your route and hence distance travelled. Once it knows the type of exercise you do and the distance it can calculate the amount of calories burned, it is by no means hugely accurate, but it does help. It also tracks on a whole lot of stuff like total calories burned, fastest mile, 3 miles, 5 miles, etc, total distance travelled, etc. They also have monthly competitions to track total calories burned, or distance cycled or whatever, for that month. Its not that I ever think I might win but it is fun to track, daily, where my position is in the stats, did I go up or down. It really appeals to my geeky side, but more importantly it motivates me to keep on going and helps me keep track of how my friends, even those very far away, are doing, and vice versa. Endomondo will also allow tracking in real time, the person viewing the website can also send 'pep talks', assuming you have headphones plugged in, very handy for stuff like, 'you're doing well', 'did you fall asleep' or 'can you grab some milk on your way home'. It is all good fun and adds just a wee bit of motivation. Sometimes the GPS in the BlackBerry can be very inaccurate, moreso when the device is doing other stuff, it doesn' happen often, but when it does it can lead to interesting results, see here -, just for the record, I did not decide to go for a stroll across Southfield freeway one lunchtime, or run around like a crazed idiot.

My next, even geekier toy, came after one of my early discussion with my mentor, buddy & fellow runner, Stu, a Garmin Forerunner 405 - I ended up buying a rather fetching green refurbished unit on eBay, although it does come with a 1 year warranty from Garmin, so that was good enough for me. It has a number of nice features, built in GPS, etc. The watch does way more than I use it for, but I will grow into it over time. One feature I have started using is Virtual Partner. Basically you put in the pace you want and it will show you how you are doing with respect to that pace, ie amount ahead and behind in time & distance. It is kinda cool when you are shooting for a particular time.

If there is one thing that sometimes can be a pain is staellite acquisition time, ie the time it takes get a good position, there is a nice screen that shows satellite status and GPS accuracy, if it isn't homing in, I can switch off & on the GPS and it gets better. When going out running  I tend to switch on the GPS when I leave the house and by the time I get to where I start running it is all ready to rock and roll. Garmin is a GPS company so I'll trust them, it does seem more accurate than the BlackBerry.

Here is my profile on Endomondo -

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How My Running Began...

So I completed my first 10km race. I would never have thought, even a couple of months ago, that I would ever decide to run in a 10km, let alone finish it, but I guess I did. It all started as you know, with a high cholesterol phone call from the doctor. I started out on the exercise bike and walking regularly but I knew I needed something else to get my heart rate up. Let's face it, exercise bikes are all very well, but it is very boring sitting watching the numbers fly by. The next logical thing to do would be to take my walking to the next step and try running.

On May 28th 2011 I decided to go for my first run, (, and it almost bloody killed me. It was a round trip of just over two miles, straight up Welch Rd, to Oakley Park and then back down. In my defence, running at the side of this road is very nasty, there is a helluva camber, the surface sucks and the cars fly by. I manage a whopping two minutes of solid running before I had to take my first break. If you look at the workout, you can see that this is pretty much the pattern I stick with until a few minutes before returning, when I am just walking. I arrived back at the house, demoralised, knowing that I was a wreck.

I decide the following Saturday that I'm going to try again, this time at Hiram Sims Park. There is a nice little route around the pond there and it measures out at 0.54 miles per circuit. I really wanted to see how long I could run for without stopping, hoping for one mile but not expecting a whole lot. This time I managed a whole five minutes without stopping, it was progress and progress was all I was looking for. It was at this point that I decided that running, while holding a phone and water is incredibly annoying so I had to come up with a solution. You can see the run here -

The following Friday night I rolled my ankle which buggered me up, I didn't really rest it for long enough and it still bothers me a little. It was around this time that we found out that my friend Stu was coming back for a visit, we hung out and talked about his progress and what I wanted to do. Since that night Stu has been very supportive and helpful, passing on advice and general encouragement. On August 1st he floated the idea of me doing a 5km or 10km, I think I had signed up for the Farmington Hills Run For The Hills race, within a day or so, the rest is history.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Some background

So why am I doing this? Basically as a friend of mine said, 'hey, you start one, and I will too', so here it is.

The story so far. Born is Scotland, went to university, got married, went to the US, three kids and one divorce later and I'm facing forty five and a cholesterol level that would make most people cringe. I used to be fairly active a few years ago. I used to played badminton with a friend once or twice a week. I then went to playing squash in a group of four once a week for an hour or so. After that I went to playing five-a-side football (soccer), once a week. On moving to the US, that all went by the wayside. I eventually started playing disc golf a couple of times a week and then moved onto regular golf on a league, but lately, not a lot of exercise, really.

One day I get invited in by my doctor for my annual physical, etc, this involves the obligatory 'you need to lose weight and get more exercise' warning. I get a call at work a couple of days later to say that my triglycerides are 503 so whatever I'm doing, I need to stop and whatever I'm not doing, I need to start. Big wake up call time, time to start doing something about it, so here I am, let's go...

But first I'll give a couple of numbers as I guess people tend to do so. I'm 5'9", as of 22nd May 2011, I weighed in at 226lbs (16st 2lbs), my cholesterol (tri-glycerides was 507). Too heavy and too high...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Run For The Hills, Farmington Hills, MI; 20th August 2011

Run For The Hills

So here goes; the story of the day.

Pick up of race stuff was the previous evening between 4 and 8pm. Traffic was a bitch up Grand River due to road works, but got there in plenty time. I walked up to the desk and they didn't have my info. I had filled it out online and they had no record, but no big deal, I filled out the forms and they gave me the stuff anyway, I was #185 and kinda committed now.

I was a wee bit nervous on the morning of the race, just not wanting to make an arse of myself and a wee bit concerned that I had bitten off more than I could chew. I got up around 6:30, planning on leaving the house around 7:15. Drank some water, eat a banana and waited. Myself and Bren got on the road as planned and we were heading down. They wanted everyone there an hour beforehand, so we milled about and I grabbed a free banana at about T-30mins. Bren attached my number and I surveyed the competition, a whole lot of fit people and I was sure I had made a mistake. Miss Farmington Hills sang the national anthem and then we headed to the starting line. I gradually moved further and further down the field as it was separated into projected mile pace, so I was very near the back at due to my >10min miles.

Cotton t-shirt, kinda crappy, now donated
The race started with shotgun blast and we were off, and damn was it congested. So much so, that I spent the first 3/4 mile actually trying to get away from people and find a space I could run in without getting boxed in. This was when I first looked at my watch and realized that I was in danger of committing the cardinal sin of starting too fast, I slowed a little but I only got my pace down to 9:19, after planning on 10:15, I was concerned, but feeling good. When the 5km route split off I was thinking that my fellow 10k'ers looked kinda hard core and a whole lot fresher than I did, again I wondered what the hell I was thinking when I decided to do this bloody thing.

About 2/3 of the way through the 2nd mile, we see the 10km leaders coming out of a subdivision that we are entering and, bloody hell, they are sprinting, but c'est la vie, I know I'm old, fat and out of shape, so no surprises there. Mile 2 finishes a little slower at 9:40, but still quite a bit faster than I would normally expect.

Mile 3 was spent running around a good sized sub division on the way out, we passed some people running in, putting me about 1.25miles ahead of them, which buoyed my spirits a little. It was at this point I saw the first person starting to walk, at least I wasn't going to be that guy, but I still felt ok. Mile 3 came in, rather inexplicably, at 9:25. Generally, when I run, my pace gradually slows over time, so this is quite the departure from the norm.

We finally saw the water station at about 3.2 miles, way too long in my opinion. I had toyed with taking my water belt with my but dismissed it. Took on some fluid, poured some over my back and kept on going. My previous record for duration running is a solid 35mins, but I still felt fresh and my pace kept up. Running with others around you I guess, makes a huge difference. Mile 4 was a long slog up a gradual incline, which took its' toll and hence my slowest mile of the day at 10:03, still better than my projected pace though.

The next mile was a complete opposite, down a gradual decline, through a nice, exclusive sub division, not too much to say really apart from, running downhill was not as big a break as I anticipated. My legs were starting to hurt but I was determined to run for longer than 35mins, which I did, I kept asking myself to run to the next corner, or the next big tree, or another minute, just to keep on going. The next water station came which involved me, again, liberally dousing myself and drinking what I could, although not too much. I slowed as some friendly people were holding a hose on fine mist and hence the pace drop around 45mins. Still determined and knowing that the end was nearing I put in a, not too shabby (for me anyway), 9:48.

Mile 5 and I'm struggling even though we are on a gradual downhill pretty much all the way to the finish line, I had hoped to feel better because the end is so close, but I don't. I finally decided to take a short break at 55mins, but the thought of having people pass me is too much, sot I start running again after only about 20-30secs. Getting close to the end and it is all downhill, until the last 1/4mile which is dead flat. I decide that I have to try and finish strong, but my legs are killing me, but the end is right there and I just keep on going. Mile 6 goes by at 9:28, I cross the line at 59:08.

I survived.

Results for the 10km -

Here are the age graded results, what ever that means -

This is how it looked from my watches point of view -