Canadian Comrades

Canadian ComradesAndrea Moritz (center) Canada’s official Comrades Marathon ambassador, brought the spirit of Comrades to Vancouver this weekend. Andrea, visiting from Ottawa, organized a get together for aspiring Comrades and Comrades veterans. It was great to meet new running friends and to experience the wonderful comaraderie associated with this great ultra race. The BC Comrades contingent is seems to be few in number but there are a total of 61 Canadians registered this year.

Susan Hui, second from right and Andrea have run three and four Comrades respectively. Note Susan’s Canadian Comrades team shirt from last year. The Canadian team’s shirt for this year also looks amazing and I love that it includes a polar bear.

Comrades may be the Ultimate human race but it seems like no one is satisfied doing it just once. I’ve now been warned that once will not be enough and this could be the beginning of a never-ending race.

Andrea and Susan shared lots of useful information and advice, and told some amazing stories about their experiences. As if I wasn’t excited enough already.

Mervyn, above right, an ex-South African and I, both novices, are the only ones from the group above planning to run Comrades 2015. Unfortunately, for various reasons, the others can’t be there this year, but I don’t doubt that I’ll be seeing them all again.

shirtAndrea brought some beautiful Comrades supporter technical shirts for us from the 2014 race. I think these shirts are similar to the finisher shirts. New Balance is a big Comrades sponsor and they do make nice shirts. I haven’t earned the right to wear a Comrades supporter shirt just yet. I’ll wait until I’ve distributed the Comrades Marathon brochures Andrea gave me, to various running stores in town. Although the regular registration period closed in November, there is an entry substitution period coming up in April.

Oh yes, Andrea also brought some other fun Comrades gifts- stickers and beadwork in the colours of the South African flag. I plan to wear the little bead necklace when I’m training to remind me of why I am running. Not that I need a reminder.

My selfie attempt was a failure but the effort was nicely captured by Pat Cheung (left in the photo above):

Photo by Pat Cheung

Photo by Pat Cheung

And so with just 13 weeks to go- here is what my training looked like last week.

DayTraining SummaryElevation metresAvg PaceTotal Kms
MondayGym- 1 hour strength, core, dynamic stretch, balance,
Tuesday Hill intervals on treadmill- 4%, 6%, 8%, 10% grades7:1210
WednesdayRecovery run Gym 20 min416:146
ThursdayTempo, including 14K @5:16 pace1105:3118
FridayGym 20 min
SaturdayHilly road- practicing some Comrades elevation8786:2535
SundayRecovery trail run1917:2010
Week totals1,22079
Total kms Year-to-date511

The highlights of the week were my tempo run in Tofino and my long Bowen Island run where I managed to cover 35 kms including 878 metres of elevation. I felt good and strong at the time but by Sunday’s 10K I was tired. Sunday’s run, the second and shorter of key back-to-back runs, is going to start getting longer now. Running on tired legs is the point.

I’m resting today after some gym work and hoping I’ll be recovered enough to start the process all over again on Tuesday.

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14 Weeks to go

My training from last week. More emphasis on hills.

DayTraining SummaryElevation metresAvg PaceTotal Kms
MondayGym- 1 hour strength, core, dynamic stretch, balance,
Tuesday Trails, Easy recovery run after Half Marathon race1066:305
WednesdayTreadmill 6:008
ThursdayTrail loops Fartlek X 82106:0010
FridayGym- 1 hour strength, core, dynamic stretch, balance,
SaturdayHilly road3306:5210
SundayLong run including hilly trails6396:0830
Week Total1,28563
Total kms Year-to-date432

A note about treadmill running: I love my Precor treadmill and run on it at least once a week. Like trails, the treadmill provides a soft break from road pounding. It is a convenient time-saver, and I get to listen to my favourite running playlist, something I never do outside. The treadmill also gives added control over hill grade and pace. I don’t mind running in the rain but weather protection is another benefit. I imagine that for anyone training for Comrades in colder climates access to a treadmill must be essential. OK so it can be boring but the boredom factor can be controlled by mixing up the pace and grade, listening to some good music, or using the opportunity for running meditation.

The only treadmill negative for me, is that Strava refuses to recognize treadmill mileage, whether I do a manual entry to Stava or attempt to upload from Suunto’s Movescount. As far as Strava is concerned if there isn’t a GPS record, you haven’t proved it. Slightly annoying to us obsessive types.

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What, me worry?

The up route course profile. Maybe I am a bit mad.


Comrades up run

Comrades up run

steep gradesJust one week left in my second month of Comrades training. In January I ran 300 kms. I missed a week being sick in February and then, because of the half-marathon race I had another lower mileage week, so the volume for February is likely to be closer to 200 kms. But from now on it is onwards and upwards– lots of upwards. 

Comrades has over 800 metres of elevation gain and I am training specifically for that. In addition to hill repeats, I have to start including significant elevation in my long runs. Mainly long gradual hills. Although Comrades has the famous big five named hills, those are so crazy steep that I’ll be power walking up them. Most of the elevation gain is from the long hills. For the first half of the up run, the equivalent of a marathon, you are running up hill.

slowIt’s not that I fear hills, it’s more that I fear going slow. My time goal for Comrades is around 10 hours. This requires an average pace of just under 7 minutes per kilometre for around 88 kilometers. Training for an ultra like this is a bit different than training for a regular marathon. When you train for a 42.2 km race you probably only run your marathon pace in shorter tempo runs. Training for Comrades I’ll be almost always running faster than my Comrades pace. Well except if I’m doing a super hilly run– like today’s.


Fortunately hills aren’t hard to find around here. My 10k run today had over 250 metres of elevation gain, according to my lovely Suunto Ambit 3 ( more on this watch later). Ignore Strava’s  exaggerated elevation gain- for some reason- they don’t use your device’s elevation data but instead use your route’s elevation data from their own database.

Tomorrow my training plan requires a 30 km run. I have the feeling it is going to be a tough slog after my hill run today. But two long back-to-back runs are key to ultra training. One is longer than the other but they are both going to go up and up over the next few months. I don’t even want to think about what is ahead. I’m just following the plan and doing what my coach tells me to do.

Usually I do the longer run on Saturday and the shorter log run on Sunday but this week I’ve switched it around so I can run with my two step daughters who are training for the Vancouver Marathon. I’ll just have to tack on a few more kms.

From now on I hope to start posting more often about my training. I think things are going to get more interesting– if you like this sort of thing– crazy old lady training for Comrades.

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Pacific Roadrunners 27th First Half Marathon 2015- Race Report

My first half, and my best half – so far. I’m not sure when I first ran this race – maybe in 1989– my memory of those days is a bit fuzzy and I didn’t keep my training logs. But I know that I ran it in 1991 because my result is on the Pacific Road Runners website– 1:41:31. 7th out of 34 in my then 35-39 age group. It was a much smaller race back in the last century.

This year, after 24 years (20 of which I didn’t run at all) my time was 10 minutes slower–1:51:21. Not the sub 1:50 I had wanted, but not too bad considering I had just recovered from the flu. Good enough to be a very close 4th out of 35 in my 60-64 age group. I’ll be back next year!

Somewhere on the seawall photo by Domi

Somewhere on the seawall photo by Domi

There are many familiar names from 1991 still running this race and it is kind of interesting to look back and see how the demographics – and the results have changed. (Thanks to whoever at Pacific Roadrunners went to the trouble of posting the historical results! Yet another thoughtful detail which make this race so perfect) One of the familiar names running in 1991 was Betty-Jean McHugh. In that year she was in the age group I’m in now. As a 60-something her time was an incredible 1:39, and she was the only woman in the over-60 age group. On Sunday, at age 87 BJ achieved yet another world record with her time of 2:43. Such an inspiration and a role model for all ages.

Thanks again to the fantastic organizers at Pacific Roadrunners, Dan Cumming, the day’s MC, and all the volunteers, for putting on an amazing race. How fortunate we all were to be in Vancouver, running a race through Stanley Park in perfect weather conditions. The views from the seawall of the North Shore mountains were incredible.

My family was there to run (three of us) cheer, take photos, and discuss the race, and that made it extra fun. One of my step-daughters ran an amazing PR. I ran into some old friends and met new ones. I even got to chat about the race with my Comrades coach, the awesome Ellie Greenwood. Ellie’s positive attitude was just what I needed as I was trying to stop kicking myself for some pacing and tactical mistakes.

It was also great to see coach John Hill at the finish line. I miss his Tuesday night interval sessions. It isn’t easy doing speed work by myself. But I’ve been spending more time on the island and the ferry schedule makes commuting difficult. I am going to have to figure something out.

Fun with family and friends- photo by Domi

Fun with family and friends- photo by Domi

My next race, and the only other race I have planned pre-Comrades, is the April Fools Half-Marathon on April 12th.

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On second thoughts..

What a difference a few days make. I’ve decided to race this coming Sunday’s First Half Marathon after all. Amazing how we can rationalize decisions which, if we are honest  with ourselves, are based on emotion rather than reason. All it took for me to revert back to  race plan was 1. full recovery from flu, and all the negative emotions that go with being sick; and 2. an email from the race organizers advising that I was going to get a seeded bib on account of my estimated finish which would put me near the top of my age-group. I admit that was a bit of an ego-boost, though my time will be embarrassingly slow compared to the other seeded runners – when the gun goes off I will have to be extra careful not to get in the way. On the other hand, I suddenly felt pressure to perform. But it was a good kind of pressure. The self-induced kind. No one cares about my time but me but no way was I going to just jog this race. I’m setting myself up for a finish-line feeling somewhere on the scale between disappointment and elation.

After missing a week of running and only just starting to get back to my training this week, I don’t know how I’ll do. Speed is the first to go when you miss training sessions. My goal time is under 1:50 and so I plan to start out at a 5:10 pace. Regardless of what happens, it will be a fun day. Two of my daughters are running as well as a few friends and my coach.


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