Please note my Trainharder blog is no longer updated, and has not been for a few years. My current blog is: Lessons from the Peloton. I also loosely maintain the following blog:

I’ve created a new blog to document my travels to Borneo, leaving May 23.

Well, now having emerged from the ignominy of it all and that most profound well of self-loathing, I can write more about this event. Haha! of course I exaggerate the disappointment, I just needed an excuse for putting thoughts-to-screen when the marathon itself is old news!

Admittedly I had some disappointment at the 2:55 finish, but the truth is I was simply relieved when the race was over, and actually quite happy that I finished in under 3 hours after stopping with a foot of flames that prudence warned me long ago to make the pounding on it stop (correction: prudence warned me of the consequences, but the foot itself cried out, “make it stop! make it stop!”); happy that I was still able to walk without crutches or assistance to the buses that returned us to Poydras Street downtown New Orleans from the marathon finish; happy that I had, from the moment of the finish forward, more than a week to learn of New Orleans and Louisiana and of the deep-south American culture which I find fascinating.

But having learned that blog posts are ideally kept under 500 words long, lest the readers’ eyes loll upward left or right, thus disengaging attention from the page to much more interesting plans or fantasies or recollections, or what have you – having so learned, I will not indulge too much in verbosity or the experiences of New Orleans and its Katrina devastation, the warmth of the people and the air, the famous musical scene and Preservation Hall, Bourbon Street and the French Quarter; the levee bicycle rides and the levees that broke during Katrina; the alligators and the Cypress trees and the Spanish Moss; the cafes on Magazine Street and St. Charles, and the street-cars and the plays, and the first of the Mardi Gras parades. A cold coming we did not have of it, except for the first two days when winds howled at below freezing, and the start of the marathon at four degrees celsius.

Ah, the marathon! That is what I was writing about. Yes, it was a cold start, much to my chagrin. And having gone for a short jaunt the day before on the grass between the street-car rails, I knew my heel was marginally functional. Still, having journeyed all that way I was compelled to start the race and to finish if possible. The topography in New Orleans is pan-flat, and the course was not so twisty as the marathon in Albany, Georgia two years ago, and so it held the prospect of being quite fast. Apparently, the top woman in the half-marathon ran the fastest Half on American soil, at 1:07 and change – so the course was not slow, that much we can be certain of.

But it was a cold start and the separation point for the half runners and the marathon runners was not well marked, and momentarily I ran off with the Half runners at the turn. Not that that mattered a jot, since increasing foot discomfort saw me through a 38min 10k and a 1:02 something 10mile, gradually decelerating to a 1:22 half, I was well on pace for my slowest marathon ever. Granted I think I was actually in 10th place at the half, but there was large group closing on me thunderously. Further slowing and foot-favoring saw me to a stop at 18 miles when the many ibuprofen and the heel-tape could hold it no longer and it cried out, “I can no more”.

And there at 18 miles I could have hobbled off the course, crossed the road to the finish, and caught the first bus back, but I convinced myself to continue the fight, and after some walk-shuffling for two miles and sufficient residues of ibuprofen, I continued on and ran the last 10k. Funny how one’s perspective changes: having gone from 10th to about 45th in the space of two miles, I was full of competitive zeal to bring back about 10 of them before the finish. That said, I have always found the last 6 miles of the marathon to be a battle solely with the will to finish, and there is very little satisfaction in passing people or little concern if others pass you – there is only profound respect for all those with the fortitude to keep on going.

That said, I’m way over 500 words. Which ever way you parse it out, the ways to a marathon are really not that deep, and the weather not that sharp.

Before a dawn raid by a band of Pictish marauders, reputed to be highly trained and whose tactics were not well-understood, Georgas Gregovias and Abelias the Arab spoke into the earliest hours of a hot July morning. The heat for its ubiquitous burden, ushered on the wind long past sunset’s last fringes on the jagged horizon, was of little concern for Abelias and Gregovias.

When Abelias remarked earlier that evening about how unusual was the air in this northern climate, Gregovias merely shrugged. There were more important concerns, but for the two men their concerns were not regarding the impending attack. For Gregovias and Abelias, having both survived uncounted bloody campaigns and each having slain so many of their foe, they were already well-prepared, and a raid at dawn meant there were several hours between now and then. And even when a sentry entered their pavillion to annouce the enemy was seen to be within one hour marching distance, and sooner if they charged, Abelias muttered to Gregovias, “The attack will fail, of this I now know.”

Without surprise, Georgas acknowledged Abelias’ comment. Then Abelias, once a captive, now respected lieutenant to Georgas, continued to speak, his hand gesturing across the hot air like a blade: “Consider a time, my good friend Georgas, centuries in the future, when a man named Jorge Luis works as an Information Coach. In that time, so far into the future, there is no government as it was known in the centuries before, but only Information Coaches who are suppliers of information to those in contract negotiations, of all kinds.

“You see, Georgas,” Abelias continuned, “it was that the state had withered into obsolescence because its true function as an assymetrical information equalizer lost relevance when all information became instantaneously and universally available. And the era of the Information Coach was even beyond the time of universal access to information, a point that marked the end of the state and nationhood. In the era of the Information Coach, all ideas and goods and services flow completely without barriers, entirely unregulated by government, and Coaches are merely facilitators of the best information. In this future, without nations, alliances of interests shift in constant organic ebb and flow.

“But I note this about Jorge Luis. In the years just prior to state obsolescence and the rise of the Information Coach, Jorge Luis works as an adjudicator for the Policy Court and Conflict Registry, where his job is to weigh government and corporate policies, review the arguments, identify biases in reasoning and find conflicts among the writers. Adjudicators post their decisions in a registry for all to see.

“One day, Jorge had finished his adjudication files for the day, and he said to a colleague: ‘I had a submission today from a man who regaled me with strange histories, much to my dismay. He said, ‘In ancient Rome, Abelias the Arab had been taken captive during a Roman raid on Persian soil. Instead of enslavement, Abelias ascended the Roman bureaucracy because he was profoundly adept at predicting the outcomes of attacks made on Roman outposts. Abelias would tell Georgas Gregovias, a high Roman general, the outcomes and formulate plans to best manage the needs of the conquered; or if Rome was forced to retreat, the re-evaluation of imperialist objectives.

‘One hot night, Abelias and Gregovias were awaiting a raid by a band of Pictish marauders, and Abelias foretold that the attack would fail. Both men were unconcerned, and Abelias continued to regale Gregovias with a story that carried on until moments before the arrival of the Pictish marauders.

‘On that hot evening, Abelias and Gregovias abandoned their soldiers and fled into the darkness. The Pictish marauders had arrived forty minutes before the sentry had predicted and slew the entire Roman outpost, except for Abelias and Gregovias.’ Then Jorge Luis paused”.

Then Abelias paused, but only for a moment.

Abelias and Gregovias stood as the cries of a thousand Pictish marauders thundered into the outpost. The heat for its ubiquitous burden was ushered in on the wind, and Gregovias and Abelias gathered their belongings and fled into the night.


Tour de Exoplanets – The Pre-Race Protest.

Hugh describes his first interplanetary bicycle race to his friend Jane.

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The heat was general and relentless all over the lower half of Vancouver Island on Sunday. I felt this intimately, having travelled it by bicycle exposed and unshaded over 320km between Tofino and Victoria.

I can’t remember experiencing such heat anywhere north of Mexico, and even for the times that I have been that far south or farther, I did not experience the raging intensity of the sun that I felt yesterday. Yes, the coasts of Mexico are humid, for example, and the humid heat is arguably harder to bear, and certainly at the hottest times of the year the southern heat will be at least what we had on the Island yesterday. But yesterday it lashed my skin over the course of twelve hours in the saddle from its rise at dawn to its furious descent in the evening, from every arc and tangent over every slope of hill up and down, in the saddle and out; from every direction around corners wide-sweeping or tight, and at every angle sideways between 40 degrees and 90 while I leaned into the turns and the hot wind shriveled my lips and sucked the moisture from my eyes.

The heat was raging not only because of the sheer high temperature or the intensity of the sun, but for me it was general and relentless through the combination of temperature and sun and sustained power output, the water loss and energy spent over sharp climbs and long ones from the vast sands of Long Beach past Kennedy Lake, wide like an ocean inlet, over Sutton Pass just past the corkscrew climbs, and then past Sproat Lake to the Alberni Valley where it shimmered heat like an Oregon desert, up the Port Alberni summit at 1200 feet, and down again through Cathedral Grove, the majestic forest, then down further yet to thatched rooftops of Coombs; then to Parksville and onto the Island Highway with a slight tailwind that swept me past Nanaimo, through to Ladysmith where I stopped to help a couple with their fifth flat tire on the first leg of their journey to San Francisco, and where Kris’ uncle James stopped to see if I was okay – which I was, but tired and beginning to look forward to the end – then through to Chemainus and Duncan, where I made my last stop, and then along Cobble Hill Road past Shawnigan Lake and then up the last major climb of the day! Then it was down the Malahat past a line of traffic backed up nearly to the top behind me, and only a short way home from there and past two fellows on their way to Mexico on recumbant bikes, all to remind me that I was a tourist like them, and not, on that day, that hot day, a racing cyclist.

On Thursday I made the trip to Tofino, in roughly the same time, but it was not as hot. And for the last leg to Tofino from the T-junction between Ucluelet and Tofino it was actually foggy and cold. Indeed, on my arrival finally at the Bella Pacifica campground just this side of town, the possibility loomed of weekend rain. But how wrong that turned out to be under the sun. Then there were the beaches and the company and the company and the beaches and the sun… between two very long and glorious rides.

In view of a lengthy absence in blog-posting, the Tour de White Rock this past weekend seems to mark an appropriate time for an update. The race is one of the oldest and well-supported races in the B.C. and Canadian road-racing calendar. It has been around for decades now, though I haven’t done the Google search to determine exactly how old it is. It predates my racing days, and I’ve been bike racing since 1988, so that makes for one helluva an old bike race!

For the Pro/Cat 1,2 field, the race is an omnium format, meaning points are acquired for placings in each of three races, but each race may be completed individually, and there is no requirement to complete one before being allowed to start the next, as in the case of stage races. I have never done the short hill climb on the Friday evening, but have now many times competed in both the criterium on the Saturday evening, and the road race the following morning. It has frequently marked the highlight of my road racing season, and it comes at a time when the weather can be counted on to be good and when I am generally in good form.

The Tour de White Rock is sufficiently prestigious to attract professional teams, including, this year, riders from Garmin-Transitions (Svein Tuft and Christian Meier, who ride on the same team as Ryder Hesjedal), Kelly Benefit Strategies (Ryan Anderson and others), Jelly-Belly (Will Routley, 2010 Canadian road race National Champion), Health-Net (Andrew Pinfold and Roman Kilun). In addition strong BC based teams like Red Truck Ale, Team H & R Block, Total Restoration, Garneau-Evolution, among others, made for a very strong field all around.

My road racing season has actually been quite sparse this season. Since running the Vancouver Marathon on May 2, I have done only a handful of cycling races. Though the races have been sparse, I have found reasonably good form in recent weeks.

For the criterium on Saturday, at first I found the fast pace manageable, despite the hard efforts up the incline on one side of the 1km course (done 60 times). However, just past half way I made the bold mistake of taking a hard pull on the descent when the pace had eased, and paid the price by being unable to recover over the next two laps when the pace was high, at which time Svein was soloing off the front at 1’07 laps, or something around 55km/hr. At that point I popped off the back, and rather than riding around off the back, I retired immediately, partly to save myself the ignominy of riding past the start-finish line off the back in full view of all spectators, but also with the remote hope that by retiring immediately I might save my legs a little for the monstrous 134km road race the next day – a course which Svein Tuft himself has described as one of the hardest he’s competed on.

Not feeling terribly optimistic about my chances for finishing the road race, let alone garnering any sort of respectable finish, I discovered to my pleasant surprise the legs were reasonably fresh on the morning of the road race. Off the gun it was fast, and the first two of the long loops marked perhaps the fastest first two laps of that race in my experience of 7 or 8 times racing this race, which consists of 10 of the long loops containing the tortuous 16% Magdellen climb and the 9% Columbia climb, and 6 of the short loops, with only the Columbia climb to sap the spirits, for a total of 134km. With the likes of Tuft, Meier, Routley and Pinfold (one of the winningest riders on the North American continental circuit), in attendance, the race was predictably painful. By the second time over Magdellen the field had shattered, and I was fortunate to find myself among a group of 14 who were slipping behind a small chase of about ten who were, in turn, chasing about three breakaway riders, including Routley and Christian Meier. Tuft stayed back in the first chase group.

We were told prior to the start that those who fell beyond 4 minutes of the leaders were in danger of being shut out of the short loops. This is literally a physical barrier, which, if erected before you are inside on the short loops, your day is done. It has happened to me before, and it is the most disheartening feeling to come up against a wooden barrier on the road while all the spectators have their eyes on the short loops as if you were never part of the race in the first place. But this year I made it in.

At about lap seven of the long loops, commissaires informed my group we would be allowed onto the short loop, while those behind us would surely not make it. There were less than 15 riders ahead and the next group on the road was still reachable if we continued to chase. But somewhat enlivened in morale by this news, our speed dropped inversely to the mood, and to my chagrin much of the remainder of the race for us was like a training ride as few chose to contribute to any sort of chasing effort, despite that we were still in the running for top 10-15 placings if we could have sustained the pace.

When we hit the short loops we were actually neutralized for a portion while the leaders finished their race, and we were told to stay together as a group so as not to confuse finishing places. Despite these instructions a few of our group had slipped away and passed the group of 10 that were just ahead of us on the course, which group was a short lap ahead.

In the end, as Svein Tuft, Will Routley and Christian Meier took the top three places, I gave one last effort to escape over Columbia from the few riders in my group, who seemed content to ride comfortably to the finish. With 20th I am happy with this result, particularly after not finishing the criterium the day before. Most of the field of about 55 starters dropped out or did not make the time cut. The road race is perhaps the hardest of any course I have done, and to make the finishing circuit and to be counted among the finishers is, for my humble aspirations, a fantastic result.


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Here’s a little tribute to bicycle racing. Apologies to Bob Dylan, whose lyrics from his great song “The Times They Are a’ Changin’” I have adapted somewhat (and possible copyright issues noted). I had some fun with new software that allowed me to add a little reverb and some percussion to my version of Dylan’s song, as well as fun with software that allowed me to create the photo/video collage.

One photo of me and others in a tumble, and another of me being helped off the course, were acquired from Tony Austin. The rest of the photographs are Duane Martindale’s, from his site, who has, in previous conversations, indicated his photos are currently public domain.

Many of Duane’s photos were from races last weekend, which included the 145km Provincial Road Race Championships, and the Bastion Square criterium. Other photos are from other provincially sanctioned races, Victoria Cycling League, or BC Masters Association races.

As a note, I competed in the road race last Saturday and hung on to finish in miserable conditions, which was all I had hoped to achieve on the day, given that I’ve just begun training this month (of course with a lot of aerobic fitness acquired from my running season). Came down with a with a cold on Tuesday which I am still fighting.

Not ten days prior to the Vancouver Marathon yesterday, I tweaked my left Achilles tendon. The term “tweaked” of course could mean any number of things, depending on one’s tolerance for pain and relative tendency toward understatement or hyperbole, but in my case it means some kind of slight tear, likely to the tendon sheath – no where near a complete rupture, but sufficient to cause discomfort and require treatment to prevent deterioration.

For me this tweaking followed on the heels, so to speak, of a kind of oscillation cycle between plantar fasciitis of both feet – as it cleared from one foot, it seemed to switch to the other and back again. Nonetheless, over the course of a year of tolerating a general sort of annoyance with the condition and various treatments, I have managed to keep running pretty consistently. The Achilles issue was one that I had actually staved off for a few years, and it finally returned following a hard session of 200m sprints, which in turn followed a couple of weeks after a few weeks building toward one single week in which I logged over 200km.

After tweaking my Achilles in a new pair of shoes during a fairly easy run around the lakes two Fridays ago, I eliminated from my thoughts the possibility of running the Times-Colonist 10k, and considered there to be a high chance I could not run the Vancouver Marathon yesterday, which had been my focus for a few months prior.

But with another switch of shoes, and some taping and icing and easy treadmill running, in a few days the heel seemed in reasonable condition to go ahead with the marathon, though there was measured trepidation and only a slight denial of the game of Russian Roulette that I played: possibly a complete rupture which could sideline me for weeks from not just running, but from cycling too.

It has been my plan for some months to cease running after the Vancouver Marathon and to begin my cycling season. In recent years, I have made the switch to cycling sooner, in late March or early April. This switch from running to cycling is not calculated to stave off injury, but rather occurs because I yearn for the bike when the days are long and warm. Still, the change has in past probably helped to keep me fresh for running when I have returned to it by the fall. This year I was lured by the possibility of prize money for the top Master at the Vancouver Marathon, sufficiently so as to experiment with high volume and to keep me running straight to the beginning of May.

The marathon itself began to a light drizzle that turned to hours of incessant rain. This played havoc with my clothing decision and, in the end, I wore too much, I think, as it all became soggy and heavy without helping much to keep me warm. Together the extra insoles I use, which became like lead beneath my feet, the gloves, hat, long sleeve undershirt, singlet and underwear to prevent inner-thigh chafing, made me feel like I was stumbling through the race and could barely keep myself from tumbling face-first onto the road. Of course everyone was in the same boat with the rain, but I’ve never felt comfortable dressing with minimal clothing when it’s cool, and so for me it seemed wise to err on the side of warmth rather than lightness. Whether lightness was preferable over cold wetness, for this race I will never know, though there were certainly plenty of people who opted for only a singlet and shorts.

From the start I slotted in with Paul Slaymaker and Thomas Tissel, two Masters whom I knew were aiming for the prize money. Funny how we ended up together, since I had not seen them on the start line – it was only that we happened to be running the same pace at the start, and only from the lick of gray on their necks did I realize they were Masters runners.

When the top woman came up from behind at about 5km and gradually pulled ahead, Slaymaker went with her, while Tissel and I held back. Slaymaker paid the price though, since he fell off the pace when Tissel and I reeled him back at 10k, which we were through in about 36.40. Tissel gradually accelerated, and by about 19k on the uphill into Stanley Park, I could not hold his pace, and as the pain in my heel and Achilles increased, so did my water-logged clothing feel incessantly heavier and my speed diminish.

I lost seven minutes in the second half. Granted there were more hills in the second half and it was, well, the second half of a marathon. Even so it’s usually a bad day when I slow from a 1:17 half to 1:24 second half. I think in Georgia last year I was 1:18 at the half and ran 2:37, and in Victoria I was 1:17-high and finished in 2:38.

The course in Vancouver, a new one since the old one I enjoyed in the mid 1990′s that crossed the Lions Gate and the Second Narrows bridges, now snakes through downtown, through Stanley Park back through the West End, over the Burrard Bridge, along English Bay nearing UBC and then back and over Burrard to the finish. There is a lot of off-camber road in the last 10km and with my heel and plantar tightening like vices, it felt like was tip-toeing along the off-camber pitch. Finally, around one corner at about 35km, there was a twinge in my Achilles I could not ignore and I nearly pulled up then. Slowing, and then continuing on I realized there was no other way to the finish line but to keep on running.

And so I finished in 2:41.30, happy to have made it and glad to have held off Paul Slaymaker for the second Master and to be in the prize money, but within a few strides of the finish I was reduced from something just over six minute miles to no-minute miles and virtual immobilization.

Today I limped around straight-legged with the painful incapacity of a very old man with spinal stenosis and generalized arthritis. Fortunately I discovered that the Achilles is not in fact ruptured, since by squeezing my calf with my foot relaxed, there is resulting movement to my foot. If there is no foot movement in response, the Achilles is likely ruptured, I learned.

So now there is only hope for a quick recovery, and I am fortunate in that now I think I can at last spin the wheels of my bike, and no longer the Russian Roulette.

Since I have just managed to complete my highest ever volume of running in a seven day stretch (204km), it seems I might as well document the process.

I had decided to take this week off work specifically for the endeavor, though with a flex day Thursday and a stat holiday Friday, I was fortunate only to need three vacation days for the week. In any event, the goal was 200k of training in one week. Leading up to this I managed a couple of weeks of fairly high volume as well (for me, that is), though I haven’t gone back to tabulate the exact figures.

Here are the figures for this last week, beginning last Saturday:

Saturday: 32km, consisting of 20k am, easy; 12k pm with 5x500m on treadmill at 3min/km pace.

Sunday: 39km easy, consisting of a run from home out to Elk/Beaver lake, one loop (10k) plus a little over 6km; then run home. Having checked Google distance maps, I discovered it is little over 11km from home to the Lakes.

Monday: 20km, consisting of 11km easy am; 9 km easy pm

Tuesday: 37km, consisting of 25km easy in the am, and 12k pm with 5X1000m at 3:15 pace on treadmill

Wednesday: 30km, consisting of 15km easy am; 15km easy pm

Thursday: 26km, consisting of 16km morning with 1X18 min tempo and 1X15 min tempo in the morning; 10k easy in pm

Friday: 20km easy.

Total: 204km.

So, in that period most of the mileage was at a slower pace, but I did get three interval sessions in as well. For recovery I had cold water baths after each run, and on a couple of days I also had cold water baths immediately upon waking. I avoided ibuprofen for the most part, though I did take it on at least two of the days. I managed to get naps in between runs, though any stretching was pretty minimal. I avoided a lot of extra walking. Generally, my legs feel quite good, and my plantar fasciitis seems well under control for now.

In any event, we will see what becomes of it. The primary objective is the Vancouver Marathon on May 2, with the Merville 15k this Sunday, and the Gibsons Half marathon next weekend. I may consider a 10k in there somewhere as well, but the idea from this point will be to take a mostly easy week after Merville, and then, with substantially less weekly mileage, to increase the length of my tempo runs leading to the Marathon over the next three weeks.

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