Monday, May 31, 2010
Still, I'm feeling good about the way things went, and I can now focus on getting enough work done to be able to enjoy our upcoming vacation. We leave for Panama in five days!
Cool cars spotted:
Lotus Esprit Turbo
Ferrari F430 Stradale
Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Aston Martin DB7
Audi S6 V10
Audi S8 V10
BMW M6 (new)
BMW M6 (1987)
Porsche 997 Turbo
Nissan Skyline GT-R R32
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Alex and I left for Ottawa around 11:00 am Saturday. I had until 4:00 pm to pick up my race bib and timing chip at the race site. As soon as we exited the highway, we were stuck in traffic. There are 38 000 runners who participate in the Ottawa race weekend, in distances from 2 km to the marathon. There were more than 4 000 people signed up for the marathon. We parked at the Pfizer Health and Fitness Expo site at Landsdowne Park and I picked up my bib. I thought it was neat that our names were on the bib, so random spectators can yell "Go Vince!". I did a bit of shopping at the expo and then called my training partner Franck, who was hanging out in downtown Ottawa with his girlfriend Valerie. She explained to me where we would be able to meet up, near the Parliament buildings, and we headed out on foot (initially, in the wrong direction, thanks to my sense of direction). I hadn't realized that the expo and the start-finish area were separated by a distance of about 2 km. We walked more than I would have like to (over 3 km), but as soon as we met up with Franck and Valerie, we sat down at a Café in the Byward Market, where we spent a good part of the afternoon before looking for a restaurant where we could eat a pasta dinner (we chose the Grand, not bad). We ate early, around 6:00 pm, before dropping by the start-finish area. We chose a meeting point to meet the ladies after the race. After that, we accompanied Franck and Valerie back to their B&B on foot. While walking around, I stupidly banged the side of my knee on a fire hydrant. I hoped I would not regret this on race day. We then called a taxi to take us back to our car ad drove to our friend Hai-Dang's house, as he had generously accepted to accommodate us. We arrived there at 9:00 pm and I went to bed at 10:30. I had eaten a couple of Chips Ahoy cookies and drank a bottle of Gatorade before turning in. I wasn't too worried about lack of sleep, as I had slept very well the previous night. I checked the weather online and was happy to see that the forecast was for 22 degrees, and not the 27 degrees that had been predicted on Friday. The race started at 7:00 am and we had planned to meet Franck and Valerie at their B&B, where we would leave the car and then walk to the start area about1 km away. There were no more formalities to take care of before the race so there was really no reason to arrive more than 45 minutes in advance.
I had woken up at 4:55 am (in fact, I woke up at 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30, always thinking I had missed the ring of my alarm!). I had slept quite well. Just after waking, I ate a bagel with peanut butter and a couple more Chips Ahoy and started another bottle of Gatorade. I took a quick shower to try to wake up a bit before getting dressed: Fox River Triathlon socks (the same ones I wore at the XTrail), medium-length all-in one shorts (no need for underwear), Brooks shoes bought 3 weeks ago (updated version of the same model as my old shoes, 130 km of break-in), my lightest New Balance tank top, my Bollé sunglasses (bought in 1990!), my Garmin GPS watch and my Casio G-shock (just in case). I wore a heavy hoodie over all this, which I would hand to Alex before the warm-up.
On the way to meet Franck and Valerie in the car, I set up my GPS watch so that, instead of just beeping at every kilometer, I would get the time for that kilometer. This was the way Franck had set up his watch and it seemed a much better system than mine, which was to check my instantaneous pace and my overall average pace. I needed to test the setting to see if I had done it right, so I did simulations while we were driving. Thanks for the tip Franck!
Waiting in front of the B&B
Runners were corralled in the start area based on their predicted finishing times. Franck and I had chosen the 3:00-3:30 group, the second fastest group (after the under 3:00 group). There seemed to be only about 200-250 runners ahead of us, leaving 3 800 runners behind us! I think we got to the starting line 12-13 minutes before the start time. I ate my first gel 5-6 minutes before the start. I was a bit nervous, but I was not really afraid of having a poor race. I was mainly curious to see what the marathon distance was all about, compared to other distances, and to see if it was really so hard. I was eager to see if I would perform to what I felt was my full potential.
I wished Franck a good race. We had no plan to run together and I figured it was unlikely I would see him before he end of the race. Franck is faster than me at every distance and has a best marathon time of 3:07. The start was given at exactly 7:00 am and I headed off, surrounded by hundreds of runners. This was the biggest race I had ever run in. I found that other runners were getting in my way, but at least this prevented me from taking off too quickly. I felt full of energy and, when there was room, I would accelerate. When the watch told me I had completed the first kilometer in 4:39, I was happy to only have lost 9 seconds versus my ideal time. Also, I was no longer afraid of being unable to catch up the time lost in the first kilometer. At this point, I noticed that Franck was only a short way ahead of me on the right. I didn't try to catch up to him. I managed to stabilize my times (kilometers 2 to 12 were all between 4:26 and 4:31). I went by one of the elite African runners who had dropped out of the race quite early. He must have been injured, which is sad. I felt pretty good, and my heart rate dropped from 150 to stabilize at 146-147. The course was quite flat and my biggest challenge was to refrain from accelerating, despite my enthusiasm, the crowd and the fact that I felt I was in top form. I wasn't hurting anywhere and all was going well. At km 12, I caught up with the 3:10 rabbit and his group and though that ideally, I would leave them behind and never see them again. Although I felt great, I knew I was supposed to feel great at least until km 30, or otherwise my race would not end well. When I saw my pace was too fast, I would tell myself "slow the pace, slow the heart". This became my mantra for the first 30 km.
I managed t run km 24 to 30 with times between 4:21 and 4:31. I was happy that I was still turning in consistent split times. My heart rate was approaching 160, but I felt I could handle it until the end of the race. I was starting to feel some pain in my left knee (maybe where I had bumped it?) and my right hip (just like in the 70 km charity run in December 2009, the only other time I had hip pain). I was concentrating on km 32, the point where there would be only 10 km remaining. 10 km is not a negligible distance, but it was a number I could get my head around and it meant the race was over 3/4 done. The kilometers seemed to be going by mush more slowly, and when I checked my pace, it was often over 4:35. Despite this, for km 31-39, my split times remained between 4:27 and 4:34. Cardio-wise, I still felt strong. My legs were beginning to tire, however. Still, I knew that with the average pace I had maintained, only a disaster could stop me from beating the qualifying time of 3:15:59. In fact, I wondered what form such a disaster could take.
At precisely km 40, I felt a sudden burning from the second toe of my right foot. It was not intense pain, really more of a burning feeling. I figured I had just suddenly lost a toe nail. Luckily, the pain did not worsen. Also, I crossed Alex and Valérie for the second time. There were only 2 km remaining.
I really have to thank the two people who supported me through this: Alex, by accompanying me on many runs, understanding my sometimes crazy schedule and coming along for the race weekend, and Christian, for preparing a rock-solid training plan, giving me general marathon advice and answering all my rookie questions. I also have to thank my training buddies Franck, Nico and Nolin.
Advice that I should have followed:
What I learned:
Friday, May 28, 2010
I talked to Pascal about my transmission problem and he thinks it is simply the new tranny oil that has not taken yet. When I have time, I will try to put some street miles on the car to see if there is any change.
It took me all day Monday, but I managed to find a camera setup that worked for the race car. I ended up mounting my regular digital camera (Canon Powershot A480) as low as possible on the roll cage in the center of the car. I am really happy with the result:
The lap times in the video are not great, but my tires were toast by then. Here are some photos of my car taken by Sylvain Perreault on Monday:
Cool cars spotted:
Porsche 997 GT3
Rolls Royce Phantom convertible
Lancia Fulvia 1600 HF (!!)
Monday, May 24, 2010
The Civic at the time attack today
After having driven the race car for the first time of the year last week, I was looking forward to today's time attack. I had run a best lap time of 1:04.63 at St-Eustache last week and was hoping to dip into the 1:03's today. Alas, it was not meant to be. The car felt fine, but it was 30 degrees outside pretty much all day. My old tires never really felt good. At least I managed to turn my best lap, a 1:04.19, during one of the timed runs, and not during a practice. Late in the day, the transmission started to grind in third gear. This is not encouraging at all, as I just spent 600$ rebuilding this transmission, including the synchros. It was hard to shift into fourth as well on the driver home, which makes me think it might be the clutch (also new!). Rob came for the evening lapping and, happily, he found the unbolted ground that was causing the lighting glitch. Thanks Rob! While moving the tires around, I noticed that I had run most of the day with a 225-25-15 on the front right and a 205-50-15 on the front left. Oops! It didn't really make a difference. The front right works much harder at St-Eustache, so it was the right side to have the wider tire. As the day progressed, my lap times got progressively worse. In the last session, I had trouble getting down into the 1:05's! At least I finally found a good video setup with my Canon Pawershot A480 on my camera bracket. I will try to post some video when I can. Anyways, I'm not really happy with the tranny issue and I need to sort out some better tires if I want to get some decent lap times. The fastest overall car was a Civic that lapped in one minute flat. Quite impressive!
Only 6 days until the marathon... AAAHH! I've pretty much completed the training plan and now it's time to hope for the best. I hope the weather is not as hot as today!
News of Alex:
Alex has an interview for a job as a university professor this week. I just listened to her interview presentation and they would be fools not to hire her! We bought our vacation tickets and will be leaving June 5th for 2 weeks to Panama. This should be a good combination of exploration and beachy relaxation. Less than two weeks away!
Cool cars spotted:
Dodge Viper SRT10
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
As for driving, I planned to take it easy, as this was my first outing of the year. The car was essentially the same as last year, except there was a new final drive in the transmission. Rob and I put on some Toyo R888 race tires, worn ones in front, somewhat less worn ones in the rear. We set the shocks at full soft plus one full turn. Last year, I was lapping around the 1:04 mark, with 1:03's on a good day. Pascal and JP managed some 1:02's in my car at the bonus lapping day that was held in November last year (I wasn't there, I don't remember where I was). I therefore figured I could hit the 1:05's relatively easily.
In my first session, I didn't get many clean laps, but I was in the 1:06's in the few laps I ran. I came in the pits because I was stuck behind a new Subaru STi who would not let me pass in the straightaways (in a yellow group session where passing is only allowed in the straights). I told Rob that all was good and headed back out, hitting 1:05's. The final drive change was good for the car, which has no torque. However, I don't know how useful it will be at St-Eustache, as it creates two extra upshifts and two extra downshifts per lap.
Rob went out in the following session and was taking it easy. He managed to hit the 1:08's. In the next available session, I drove with Rob as a passenger and he says he picked up a few things. Despite the extra weight, I hit a 1:05.2. I tried the "oval in" turn flat out once, and the car felt pretty stable, although it understeered. After a few laps, the front tires felt pretty crappy. I had told Rob to set them at 28 psi, but maybe this was not low enough. With my instructing duties, I didn't really have time to work on the car at all. Rob was able to find the source of the lighting problem: it was related to the central console where the button for the 4-way flashers is. It shouldn't be too hard to track down the faulty wire when we have time.
In my last session, I managed a couple of good laps, including a 1:04.63, before the front grip started to fade again. I came in before the end of the session, knowing I would not improve my time as the front end was simply not gripping. This is really not good for front-wheel drive car with only 111 ft-lbs of torque. I thought I might have corded the front right tire. When we swapped the wheels, we noted that the tires were still intact (although they had no tread). I discovered, however, that Rob had not actually set the tire pressures. Even now, I don't know what we were running, although when I had the front tires mounted last week, I asked for 32 psi. If that's what we had today, it might explain the poor front end grip. This is what happens when two people are sort of in charge of the car, instead of one person. We still have to work out who will be in charge of what in the future. Still, over all, it was a fun night without incident and it felt good to shake off some of the rust off, as a driver.
Here are a couple of pictures of the car after the final session. It's dirty, but functional.
Here is a picture from the other day. I don't remember if I mentioned it, but Pascal showed me how to balance wheels (not mount tires, just the balancing part).
Thursday, May 13, 2010
It's been a busy few days. The weekend was long and not all fun. We left home for Calabogie at 4:30 am and arrived there around 7:30 for the school. The conditions were not great, as it was cold and raining. A student crashed his car heavily near the end of the day and both he and the instructor riding with him were taken to hospital. The student had a cracked rib and the instructor, a concussion. This caused us, as instructors, to more thoughtfully consider what kinds of risks we are taking when we get into a car with a student. Calabogie is a big track. There are many students' cars that have 500 or more horsepower. It's definitely something to think about.
I had brought my running gear to Calabogie, as I am supposed to run every Saturday and Sunday, but didn't feel like running after a day of instructing in the cold. Also, it was starting to snow by then. It ended up snowing most of the night and we awoke to winter conditions. I actually had to borrow a scraper to clean off the car!
Sunday was uneventful and the students made progress. There were no more on-track incidents. I left as early as possible for Montreal because I wanted to get in a run before turning in.
On Monday, I decided to skip the lapping at St-Eustache so I could go on the 29 km run I was supposed to have done on Sunday. Alex joined me and it was quite pleasant, although not that warm. This was the longest run of my program and it was quite tiring, even at an easy pace.
On Tuesday, Alex and I found out that she would be attending a teaching workshop in Portland, Maine on the following day. There had been some sort of misunderstanding that led Alex to believe, until the last minute, that she was not going. Well, it turns out that she was invited after all! I decided to take a day off and head down to Maine for the day. The plan was to leave at 6:30 so that we could arrive there at 12:00 for the workshop that started at 1:00. The plan was working well, until we realized after 50 km that we had forgotten our passports. We could not head back into Montreal, because it was rush hour. A quick call to Alex's cousin, who live not far from us, has a key to our place, and works on the South Shore, meant that we had our passports by 8:45. We got going again but it seemed to take forever on the single lane highway that you need to take for 200 km. On top of that, there was a forest fire that forced us to find an alternate road at one point. Alex was an hour late for the workshop, which is not too bad, considering it was five hours long.
I brought my running gear, since I was still a day behind schedule on my runs and I had a few hours to kill. I found a running store online that was nearby and when I arrived there, I was happy to see that they had my shoe (Brooks Adrenaline GTS 10) for only 99$. I think the store employee did not believe I was a serious runner for a couple of reasons: 1) I asked her if the shoe came in any other colours. This was a legitimate question! I had seen other colours online! and 2) I told her that my current shoe was the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 6, which technically is a 3-year-old model. If she thought I only bought running shoes every three years, she must have also thought that I don't cover many miles running. In fact, I bought my GTS 6's last year at Winner's, not three years ago. Also, I had two pairs in rotation. Anyway, I bought the blue/white ones, which look like this:
Friday, May 7, 2010
Cool cars spotted:
Porsche 997 GT3
Porsche 997 turbo
Nissan Pulsar GTi-R
Acura TSX Reatime Racing replica (!)
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The Ottawa marathon is in only 3 weeks. It's now sold out: there will be 4500 marathoners! I'm a bit nervous, but I'm still following my training plan (I will be heading out for an 18 km run tonight), which gives me confidence. On Tuesday, I had trouble keeping up with the program, which called for 3:50 km's with a 2-minute break between each. Still, it's going well over all. I just feel like I don't have much free time, with the race schools, basketball, Monday night lapping, getting the race car ready, and training 4 times per week.
Monday night lapping at St-Eustache has begun. I headed over there with my friend Ray in his new BMW Z4. Modern BMW's are really nice cars. The folding hardtop is brilliant. I instructed one of our regulars in his mid-90's BMW 328. It was a pleasant car to drive. I had a student with a near-300 hp Chevy Cobalt SS Turbo. The car is quite impressive and does not feel out of place on the track. I had a student with a Civic hatch like mine, but with a Type R engine... nice. My last student had an E46 M3 convertible. Even in convertible form, the car is a pleasure to drive. I hope to have my race car by next Monday, but it's not a sure thing. There are photos of the evening taken by Jeremy here:
Cool cars spotted:
Porsche 996 turbo
Dodge Viper SRT10