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May 12, 2012 / Patrick

Blog switch!

WordPress was limiting in just about everything, so I’m switching to Blogger. Here’s the link to the blog I’ll be posting to from now on: http://patrickmackinnon.blogspot.ca/

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May 5, 2012 / Patrick

Story time: Charizard was awesome because it was rare

For those that can’t be bothered with the personal anecdote in this blog, here’s my training summary.

Sunday: 70 minutes in Dundas Valley (9 miles)

Monday: 4 hour bike ride around KW in the rain

Tuesday: 4.8 miles am + 15 min w/u, drills, 5x(3 min on, 1 min jog, 5 min on) w/ 4 min jog b/w sets, 18 min c/d (slow) ~26k total

Wednesday: 60 minutes am (8 miles)- foot was sore at turnaround until finish

Thursday: 30 min w/u, 2x(600, 200 jog, 3×300 with 100 jog b/w) 200 jog b/w sets- missed first 600, had to run it at end of workout

Friday: 60 min am (~ 8 miles) + 60 min bike PM

Saturday: Off

The IT band issue from last week seems to have resolved itself, so instead my foot felt like complaining on Wednesday, and has continued to do so since. I also had a first for my running career: I showed up at the wrong workout venue, which meant the warmup was longer (and faster) than expected Thursday, which resulted in me missing the first interval. The rest of the workout went predictably terrible- while I might have been able to hang on Tuesday at threshold paces, Thursday I was exposed for what I currently am- woefully unfit for track racing. Running Friday morning was a bad idea, as the foot pain crept up after 20 minutes. I woke up with my foot still bothering me today, so I decided I needed to play it smart for once and shut it down for the day while doing my work term report.

Personal anecdote time:

When I’m this out of shape, I can barely imagine being competitive in a race, never mind attempting to win one. Which really is unfortunate, because I’ve won so few as it is. As a result of an unfortunate combination that includes bad luck, poor race selection, and lacking fitness at the right times, I can count on two fingers the number of times I’ve won a race in my life. This is coupled with a rather cruel twist of fate that Sileshi Sihine can appreciate: I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve finished second in a foot race. When I was in the 12th grade, I finished second three times in two days at my local association meet, even after trying to steal a win by making bold move with 600m to go in the 1500 (I was mowed down in the home straight). Naturally, finishing runner-up is nothing to complain about, but when you win so little, it’s understandable that you might be a little miffed when some random out of town guy shows up to steal your glory at the local Hanukkah Hustle.

The side effect of this exclusion from the winner’s circle is that when I do win a race, I’m pretty amped up about it. The rarer the flower, the sweeter it smells, or something like that. I imagine you might forget the details of some of your victories if you stack them up like blocks in Jenga, but since I can’t even fill one row with mine, I can remember them pretty clearly.

In the 9th grade, as might be expected, I was pretty green about the sport of running as whole. I somehow qualified for OFSAA cross country in a weak conference for my year, and after stating my pre-race goal of top 100 in the province, I crossed the line in 101st (but as they say it on Letsrun- I did it in trainers! Gotta be worth 10 spots, right? No, not likely). Following that performance, I turned my focus to badminton for a while before gearing up for track around April.

I can remember doing one or two meets that spring before getting ready for GHAC, our conference meet. By this point, to go along with my new light-as-air Brooks spikes that replaced the trusty New Balance trainers, I had decided that I had a rival in running. I’m not quite sure where the need to proclaim someone was my rival stemmed from, but regardless of the catalyst, I decided that Thomas Faulkner, a small Notre Dame Burlington kid who had qualified first ahead of Acton’s Matthew Bigg and myself at GHAC in the fall, was the chosen one.

I was entered on the two longest flat races on the track, the 1500 and 3000, like any distance donkey would be. The 1500 was up first, and was an altogether lacklustre affair on my part. Despite thinking I was good for second or third, I finished 5th, a full 5 seconds behind Faulkner, who was himself 3 seconds behind Bigg. I qualified for the South Regional meet, but otherwise it wasn’t much to write home about. But since I was the first Hamilton Catholic finisher, I got a medal- instead of awarding medals to the top 3 finishes, GHAC had an odd system of giving medals only to the top finisher from Halton (both public and catholic boards) and the top Hamilton Catholic finisher (the public board raced in a different association…I’m not sure how this made any sense but it remains this way to this day). If you won the race outright, you also received a GHAC medal, identifying you as the overall champion.

Following the 1500, I had the rest of the day free since the 3000s were on Day 2. The meet schedule was set up so that immediately before the 3ks, the 800s would be run. My self-appointed rival, Faulker, was racing both, and started off his ambitious double by once again losing to Bigg.

Now normally you might think that I would look at the fact that Faulkner had just run a hard 800 and say to myself “hey, he’s tired- if I take it to him early I can maybe steal this thing”. But that wasn’t my thinking at all. I was scared- I still get nervous for races, but in high school I was an absolute basket case. I might have called him my rival, but I knew he was much better than me. It was going to be plainly obvious once we took each other on over 3000 metres.

The fields for the the midget and junior men’s 3k’s were small, so the meet officials decided to run us all at once to save on time. As a result, I don’t remember much about the early laps after the gun had gone off- I settled in with the rest of the guys and tried to hold on. I do however remember being completely conscious of who I had to beat to qualify for South Regionals.

When the faster junior runners took off, I was unable to move with them. Faulkner opened up a gap, and as the race wore on it got bigger. Coming into the final lap, I knew I was good for second despite feeling incredibly tired. If there’s one thing I can remember about my early high school races, it’s that every race, no matter how big or small, I always seemed to run to the well- I was always hurting badly, so much so that my pre-race nerves were compounded with the fear of how much I was about to hurt myself.

As I finished the penultimate lap, I looked around the bend to see that Faulkner was slowing. I began to churn the legs quicker, spurned on by the bell. I was chasing down the back straight, oblivious to the junior runners around me- I was focused on one back, and one back only.

In the final straight, I accelerated again. While it might be funny to those that know me as a complete distance donkey now, I actually had a somewhat reasonable kick when compared to others my age at that stage of development, so much so that my ridiculous bursts at the end after letting gaps open during races became known as “pulling a Patrick”.

As I blasted towards the line, I became excited by the prospect that I could beat him- but it was going to be close! 50 metres out, still gaining, 40 metres, yup, closer now, 30 metres, alright I’m definitely getting you, 20 metres, we’re even, now we’re not, 10 metres from the line, I’ve got you beat, I’ve won it, I’ve won it!

The exultation of that moment has mostly stayed with me, only dulled a bit by the years that have passed. It wasn’t perfect, to be sure- to the causal onlooker, I had finished behind 3 others, those juniors that had broken away. And with my surprise finish, the stadium announcer had missed that I was the top midget, and instead announced Faulkner as the champion immediately post-race (which would be corrected later).

But a victory was a victory, and this was my first. One of my coaches later told me that she was seated in the bleachers facing the home straight and that it was the most exciting finish she’d ever seen. I doubt she knew who Billy Mills was, but I was on cloud nine and happily took her comment in stride.

The next week, I spoke with Thomas at South Regionals. I noticed that he had scratched from all his races- had he hurt himself in training that week or something?

“No, I tore a muscle in my calf on the last lap of the 3k at GHAC.”

…darn.

 – Patrick
May 1, 2012 / Patrick

Returning

I know I said this blog would be about running, but since my academics are tied so closely to my running, I figure I need to address one of my classic school-term “rituals”.

For anyone that knows me well enough, the fact that I crawl into a hole and disappear without a trace for weeks on end during exams comes as no surprise. If I believe my academic outlook is positive, I leave the house for practice or easy runs once a day, then descend back into my basement room to study during the remaining time. During terms where I am more concerned about my grades (and this is the majority), I completely disregard physical activity and by extension usually get fat- I am no monk when it comes to choosing between running or school, as school will win every time. This is followed by a period of about a week where I try to start running again, hating myself for being so out of shape, while worrying intensely about my grades and appealing to all the higher powers in the universe for scholastic mercy.

Once the grades do come in, I partake in what has become a silly and slightly embarrassing tradition since first year: I commence admitting to everyone I’ve previously told that I’m going to fail that I’ve instead somehow managed to pass the term and won’t have to take 8 months off. Everyone I tell responds with something like “I told you so” or “you worry too much” or “why do you always think you’re gonna fail?”. Frankly, after 4 years, the entire routine is getting a little old. But as long as I stay afloat academically, I’m willing to let it play out.

I imagine I’d be less concerned if I’d entered into a program that emphasized my strengths, whatever those are…but instead I picked engineering when calculus was my weakest subject in high school. Because, you know, you don’t need that much math in engineering.

As punishment for my decision, the gods of academia allow me to pass on the grounds that I become fat and slow every exam period. It’s a fair tradeoff, but not one conducive to becoming a better runner. A return to running means everything aches, and what once was an easy 40 minutes becomes a slogfest. I feel like a factory-farm cow suddenly forced to graze; weak legs and excess weight are in abundance.

Running will not be altogether enjoyable for at least a couple weeks, but I’m making progress. I went from averaging 5-10 miles per week over a period of about a month to around 50 last week, by increasing the time on my feet by roughly 10 minutes daily. I had a slight hiccup on Friday, when my IT band decided I needed a day off, but recovered with my longest run in quite some time the next day. I plan to be hitting over 100 miles per week in two weeks time. That may sound like a recipe for injury, but I believe listening to what your own body tells you trumps the 10% rule.  If the body doesn’t protest, I don’t worry. If it does, I listen. Simple. Running is simple.

I’m hurting today though. My foray back into running last week did not include workouts since even-paced slogs were difficult enough. Today workouts were re-introduced in a big way: 5x(3 min, 1 min jog, 5 min) at threshold pace with 4 minutes jog between sets. I struggled mightily from set #3 onward- Devon and Justin were stallions dragging me along North Campus. Add in the fact that I did an easy 40 minutes this morning, and…well…it hurt just to eat dinner afterwards.

Last week’s log:

Sun: 60 minutes

Mon: 56 minutes

Tues: 30 min AM, 45 minutes PM

Wed: 37 minutes AM, 46 minutes PM

Thur: 40 minutes AM, 45 minutes PM

Friday: IT band hurt- nursed it all day

Sat: 90 minutes

– Patrick

May 1, 2012 / Patrick

You have to live like a monk if you want to be in the monastery

I told myself that if I somehow managed to pass the term that I would start a blog. Regrettably, bound by that criteria, I had to wait until now to get the site up and running, which means I am once again behind Charly and Michael (http://urbanbunnyproductions.blogspot.ca)- but that isn’t shameful in the slightest so let’s get this thing going!

This is my (mainly) running blog. You are here because you have some sort of interest in running. If you don’t, I once again direct you to Charly and Michael’s blog, which will provide a taste of high art, hyperbole and humour that I simply can’t generate.

The title for this entry is, to my knowledge (and Google’s), original. It sums up my current philosophy about training, and is something I have muttered once or twice to some people I have run with. Sacrifice is necessary for anyone who wants to live a certain lifestyle- a separation from the average person on the street. In running, that might mean going to bed earlier than anyone else you know, or waking up early on a Sunday morning hungover and grumpy to trudge 15 miles in freshly fallen snow. Regardless of the method, it is all surely madness to those who are content with mediocrity. But for the University of Waterloo Cross Country team, I have higher hopes than mediocrity this fall.

For my part, my primary goal this summer is to run more miles cumulatively from May to the end of August than I have run previous. I hope that for myself and the people I am training with, this will result in a physical separation from some of those who were close to us in races in the past. I also hope to have some success on the track…success being entirely subjective based on my own estimate of fitness. Where the blog comes in stems from the motivation I often get reading the blogs of other runners who make great gains from modest beginnings. On my own wannabe semi-sub-elite level, if I can motivate someone, especially those from my own team, in any way, I will consider this endeavour a success.

I have to be honest- I have some anxiety about writing about myself since I don’t have any particularly good stories (à la Rob Watson) and I don’t race nearly enough to fill my blog with race reports alone. But I’ll give it a go and keep it up as long as I can. If I check out of the blog game any point, I’ll let you know- I can’t stand it when someone has a blog and suddenly disappears off the face of the earth without a keystroke to explain why.

For those that are interested, I plan to open up the spring season on May 12th at the Terry Goodenough Memorial Run in Waterloo, and quite frankly I care far more about the meaning of the event than I do about the race. I will be fat and slow and getting crushed by former  and current team members, and it will be lovely.

Finally, I’ll try to log my training every week here so that it’s available to view for those that care.

Thanks for reading.

– Patrick