Thursday, September 29, 2011

It took a few days, but I have recovered.

It would have been nice (and maybe a good idea) to take a couple of days off after the marathon. Maybe next time! The recovery has not been too bad, although I feel that it was only yesterday that I felt I had caught up on rest and relaxation. My body feels fine, as I have no real aches and pains. I wasn't bleeding from anywhere after the race and I was able to walk the 3 km to work on Monday.

Because I feel fine, I was toying with the idea of doing another marathon in a few weeks to see if I could a) take advantage of the fact that I am still in pretty good shape after 12 weeks of training and b) qualify for the 2013 Boston Marathon with a time under 3:10. The bit of research I did suggested that it is unlikely one will turn in a top performance in two races only a few weeks apart. Also, I did not find any flat races nearby in late October or early November. I guess I am suffering a bit from the post-marathon down. I should be glad to have all this free time during the evenings and weekends! Also, the auto racing season is not quite over yet, with the ASE Lapping club organizing track days on October 1st and 8th at St-Eustache and the 10th at Mosport. My race car is at Marc's getting a new rad and axle. Hopefully, it will be ready before the weekend.

The girls' basketball season is underway and it is to refreshing to have a great assistant coach. Darlington really knows his basketball, despite his young age. He coaches two other teams, so I should't be too surprised. We will soon know when our first game is. My first practice in the men's league will take place Friday. I guess we will then see if I have recovered from the marathon or not!

Cool cars spotted:

Ferrari California
Ferrari F430
Aston Martin Vantage
Porsche 997 Turbo
Maserati Quattroporte
Maserati GT
BMW 635 CSi
BMW E30 M3
Bentley Continental GT
Buick Grand National
Corvette C6 Z06
Nissan Skyline GT-R R32

Monday, September 26, 2011

3:14:40, but not easy…

Anyone who has read my report of the Ottawa Marathon last year might get the impression that I found the race to be quite easy. Well, compared to yesterday’s Adirondack Marathon, it was easy.

The story begins a couple of weeks ago, when I realized that I had been too slow to register for the Montreal Marathon before it sold out. I decided that it would be crazy to waste all that marathon training and found that there was a marathon only 217 km away in Schroon Lake, New York. Instead of an urban course, I would be tackling rolling hills on the roads surrounding Schroon Lake. I figured that this would disrupt my rhythm as it would be more than a matter of maintaining a pace on a flat course (which was all I really had to do in Ottawa). I had not really trained on hills, so in the past few days, I made sure that all my training runs took place on Mount Royal. Was it too little, too late? At least it was something.

Alex and I found a motel a couple of towns over from Schroon Lake. We headed down on Saturday afternoon so I would have time to complete my registration and drive the course before the pasta dinner for which we had tickets. After registering and walking around the lovely town of Schroon Lake, I decided I did not see the point in driving the course. I preferred to just take the roads as they came during the race. We enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Word of Life restaurant and drove around the area a bit on the way to our hotel. The drive to the hotel took me on the road that would make up the last 10 km of the race, albeit in the opposite direction. I noted that there were not many flat areas and that we runners would almost always be climbing or descending. At the motel, Alex did some work on her laptop while I ate Chips Ahoy and corn chips while watching reality cooking shows. I turned in at 11:15 and set my alarm for 7:00 am. The plan was to wake up, eat, and head over to the race site, where the marathon would begin at 9:00 am. As was the case last year, I had a lousy night’s sleep. When I woke, I immediately ate a piece of carrot cake and a honey-dipped donut, and drank a bottle of chocolate milk. The plan was not to eat anything more until the race, to avoid that heavy feeling. I also planned to eat a Powergel 5 minutes before the race and another at every 45-minute interval. I wore my lucky socks, my almost new Brooks Adrenaline GTS11, a running tank top and all-in-one shorts. I also wore my old Bollé sunglasses and a white running cap (lesson learned last year, always wear a hat!).

 When we arrived at the site of the race, I was feeling quite fit and motivated, but I can’t say that I was full of energy. The temperature was warmer than expected, maybe 18 degrees, and it was supposed to climb to 25 later in the day when the clouds cleared. Everything went smoothly, except that there were not many bathrooms available and I had to wait in line to use one. Luckily, I had time to spare as we had arrived quite early. I was not that motivated to warm up, but I went out for about 5 minutes at a medium pace. There were about 250 runners lined up at the start, and I saw the pace-setter for those who wanted to run 3:30 near the front of the group. I placed myself in front of that group, and realized that there were not that many people near the front. I was not sure what to expect time-wise, but I figured it was extremely unlikely I would be my Ottawa time of 3:09:45 due to the nature of the course. I really had no idea how many minutes I would give up due to the course. I had looked at the results of previous years and noted that the winner usually came in around 2:40. I didn’t know if that time (not that fast for a race winner) was a reflection on the quality of the field or the difficulty of the course. I figured that if I could come in under 3:15, it would be a strong performance.

The race started right on schedule and immediately, I found myself blocked by slower runners. I had to dash around them before I could find some open area. After a short while, I was able to hit my normal pace of 4:30 as the small field spread out. There were only about 20 people ahead of me. I noticed that in the first couple of kilometres, the pace was on, but I was unable to keep my heart rate under 150, as I had planned to. Also, the elevation began to change very early on and my pace in the first few kilometres was all over the place. I felt that I was probably going a bit too fast for the conditions, but it’s not easy to just tell yourself to slow down, especially when you are in a race. I could still see the leaders in the distance at the 3km mark, which I took as a bad sign, as those guys would be finishing 30 minutes ahead of me. Part of me wanted to see if I could handle a whole marathon at a heart rate of 150 bpm, so I did not slow down too much. Most other runners seemed to settle into a rhythm and only a single runner passed me after the 30-minute point. I noticed he was gaining on me in every single hill and eventually, he passed me after a long hill. The downhill portions were not that helpful, as they were quite steep. This meant that they were over too quickly and that you had no real choice but to take big steps and get pulled down the hill. I would have preferred a long gradual downhill slope. In the first part of the race, my kilometer times varied between 4:09 and 4:57. I occasionally checked my average kilometer time on my watch, and it was in the 4:33 range. I was not feeling strong, but it was hard to know if it was because I was pushing too hard or simply because of all the hills. I had noted on the elevation map that most of the hills seemed to be in the first half of the race, but I knew from my drive to the motel that there were long, gradual slopes on the final 10 km stretch. I was taking my gels on schedule and drinking water or Powerade at every station, slowing to a walk for a couple of steps to make sure I was drinking properly. Often, I would gauge my speed by comparing it with the speed of others. I was almost always in sight of at least one other runner, either gaining on them or watching them pull slowly away. Just before the halfway point, I spotted Alex, who had taken a bus for the half-marathoners (they started at the halfway point one hour after us) and was waiting on the course to cheer me on. As usual, this was quite a boost. At the halfway point, I was feeling OK, partly because I knew the toughest hills were behind me. My half-marathon time was 1:36:46, which was not terrible. However, I knew there was absolutely no chance for a personal best. Still, I felt I was not too far behind the top ten and no one had passed me in a long time. Looking at the results, I can see that at the halfway point, I was in 14th position. I eventually caught and passed the guy who had passed me on the hills. I was not too happy when the sun popped out from behind the clouds, as this was not supposed to happen until the afternoon. I had not expected the heat to factor into the race, but it looked like it would. I was glad I was wearing a hat and sunglasses. As I ran on, I was beginning to suffer and feel that maybe I had pushed too hard on the hills. A spectator announced to me that I was heading into 5 miles of flat and, luckily, this turned out to be true. I put in 6 kilometers in a row between 4:29 and 4:33, but by kilometer 28, I could no longer keep up the pace. I was really hoping that I could keep a reasonable pace until the end of the race and was looking forward to the 32 km point, when there would be only 10 km remaining. I began to catch the slower participants in the half marathon (there were 499 of them) and, as the runners I caught were faster and faster, it began harder to distinguish if the people I was passing were marathoners or half-marathoners. The number bibs allowed to know with a quick glance, however.

As my kilometer times slipped into the 4:40’s and once to 4:54 (km 32), I was in damage control mode, just trying to survive until the end of the race. I was feeling quite tired, but not to the point where I was hitting the proverbial wall. I was not in any kind of pain. No one was passing me, and every once in a while I would pass another marathoner. One guy was dressed all in black with a shaved head and no hat. I was glad I was not him, as the sun was unrelenting. I found myself looking for patches of shade to run in. Luckily, there were quite a few, as there are many trees along the road around Schroon Lake. Many half-marathoners had encouraging words for me, and I was so tired I could not really thank them, except with a thumbs-up.  In the last few kilometers, the road was constantly sloping gradually up or down. I was managing kilometers between 4:36 and 4:48 and each time I came upon a long gradual uphill slope, I hoped it was the last. Only when I hit km 40 did I realize there would be no more long slopes. There was a long downhill slope into the town and I managed km 41 in 4:23. I was feeling like crap and there was a final shorter uphill slope into the town. I did not have anything left in the tank that would allow me to accelerate into the town, but I wasn’t slowing down too much either. I glanced over my shoulder to see if any marathoners were catching up to me, but I didn’t think any were. I spotted Alex on the side of the road and she began to run alongside me. I was happy to see her, but afraid she would injure herself running with her leather boots (she did not, and later reminded me she was used to running faster than that to catch buses). I managed a 4:39 for kilometre 42 and I saw the 90-degree turn to the finish line up ahead. I cannot remember ever being more glad to see a finish line as I completed the turn. I managed a pace of 4:16 for the last  stretch and crossed the line. A girl asked me if I needed help removing the timing chip from my shoe, and I could not imagine a harder task at the time than doing it myself.  My time was 3:14:43 on the clock (3:14:40 chip time), which meant my second half-marathon was a 1:37:54, a little over a minute slower than the first half. After my chip was removed, someone handed me a water bottle and I was greeted by my parents, my brother and my sister, who had decided to come down to Schroon Lake to see the race finish. I was exhausted and needed to sit down on the grass near the finish area. I barely drank any water as I just lay on the grass for a while. I recovered after a couple of minutes and was able to sit up and talk. I was not at all hungry, probably because I was full of Powergel, water and Powerade. Alex joined us and filled out the medical form so I could get a free massage. I was feeling better and better, although I was still not hungry. My legs were stiff, but I didn’t have any knee or hip pain, as I had had in Ottawa. I was anxiously awaiting the results to see if I had made it into the top ten.

When the results were posted, I was shown as 7th over all (this was later corrected to 8th) and 2nd in the men aged 35-39. The winner had done a 2:41, with 2nd through 4th in the same minute at 2:57. The next runner ahead of me was three minutes ahead and the next behind me, the top woman, almost three minutes back. There were 255 finishers. In lieu of a trophy, I received a bottle of maple syrup for my class podium finish.

I am really quite happy with the result. No one had caught me in the whole second half of the race. I managed not to slow down too much despite not feeling too hot for a good portion of the race. The training paid off (thanks again to Christian for preparing a tough but super useful training plan) and allowed me to achieve what was maybe the best physical accomplishment of my life. I also have to thank Alex for supporting me not only during the training period, but during actual training sessions while accompanying me on her bike. I am not qualified for Boston, but there are still 11 months left to get that done, right?

Here is the table of my kilometre times and info:

Waiting for the start (that's me in red)

Coming up on the halfway point

At the finish with Alex

At the trophy (syrup) presentation

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

War Bonnet Enduro Race Report

A couple of weeks ago, Pascal suggested to me that we should share a ride in the War Bonnet 3-hour enduro at Mosport. We decided to use my car as Pascal was more used to it than I was to his Civic. Also, there was no chance that my car would be faster than the GT5 class time limit (1:41.00), whereas his car could surely beat that time and put us near the back end of the GT4 class.

Marc N. got the car ready by changing the pads and I picked up some used Toyo RA1 tires that should be able to last three hours. We decided Pascal should bring his Civic to the track so that we could have some spare parts and, if needed, a whole spare car. I drove to the track in the race car, as usual. I noticed another race car driving to the track, an old GM Player’s series Camaro. Cool. We registered Friday night for the enduro and the three sprint races, two of which would be held on Sunday. This would be my 8th enduro at Mosport with the Civic. We were used to having a bunch of time between sessions, but the practice, qualifying and sprint race added to our usual Saturday schedule really put a new twist on our race day. We decided Pascal would run the Saturday sprint race. This meant that he would go out first for the sprint practice. Pascal did not take long to get a feel for the car and, in his first session, managed a best lap of 1:42.122, a tenth faster than I had ever been before with this engine. The pressure was on for me to lay down a good time in the enduro practice. However, the car overheated on the starting grid for my session and we had to rush back to the paddocks. The session had been delayed due to an on-track incident, which allowed us to change the radiator (it was leaking) for Pascal’s Civic before the end of the session. By the time we were done, I only managed one lap, with a crappy time of 1:49.079. It was going to be tough to be fast with so little track time.

There was a major incident where a Porsche took out a section of guardrail and the track had to be shut down for two hours. This gave us time to bolt in the passenger seat and drive to Canadian Tire to get some stop-leak for the radiator, which I would be needing on Sunday. We got back just in time for the driver’s meeting. Pascal went out to qualify for the sprint race and managed a 1:41.876. The car was running fine. I went out to qualify us for the enduro, but only managed a 1:43.650, which put me in 26th place out of 35 cars. I briefly got stuck behind fellow Quebec racer Mark Gawronski, who is usually much quicker than me. It turned out he did not have an early night the night before the race. I was a bit disappointed with my lap time, but I knew that I could improve during the race.

Pascal went out for his sprint race and managed to finish second in GT5 behind a beautiful Mazdaspeed 6 (a GT4 car, in my opinion) and again improved his best lap to 1:41.342. Ouch. That was not going to be easy to match!

There was only one session between Pascal’s race and the enduro and by the time we loaded up the car with stuff we might need in the pit lane, people were already lining up for the race. We had not discussed pit strategy or anything, but our plan was to fill up the car to the max and go for a one-stop strategy. I rushed back down to the paddocks to fill up the car. I poured in one of our four jugs and the car was not full. I picked up a second jug and it was empty. The 3rd and 4th jugs were already up in the pits. I drove the car to the staging area and asked if I could add fuel there. The answer was no. Doh! I would be starting the race with a tank that was less than full do to bad planning. I had done one hour and forty minutes on a tank in the past, and I hoped there was enough fuel to get close to the halfway point.

I lined up for the race start and headed out on the pace lap. The car beside me had a problem and I headed out with no other car beside me. The start was uneventful and I held my position without gaining any positions. There were a few cars that had not qualified that caught and passed me and, before long, I was already being passed by the leaders (Nascar trucks, Porsche GT3’s and insanely fast Subaru’s). I briefly pulled ahead of a GT5 Miata, but he managed to re-pass me. I was in 20th position for many laps and my lap times were steadily improving. The silver Miata that had been steadily pulling away from me spun in corner 5 and I passed him. I was just trying to drive consistently and stay out of trouble. It took me until lap 25 to drop into the 1:41’s. I was finally getting into the groove. I only had one somewhat scary incident: a GT4 Chevy Cobalt SS and I were both catching a slower Nissan 240 SX at corner 3. Our closing speed was pretty big and the Cobalt decided to pass on the inside. I decided to outbrake the Nissan on the outside, but he had not seen me and when the Cobalt passed him, he jerked his car to the left. I had to put my two left wheels on the grass to avoid him, but I got things collected in time to get back on the asphalt and brake. The whole incident only cost me two seconds. On lap 39, I had my best ever lap at Mosport, a 1:41.261. I was driving smoothly, no longer braking for turns 1 and 8, not even lifting in turn 4. It took me a while to get comfortable in turn 2 (tap the brakes, then immediately part throttle, squeezing to full throttle by the halfway point of the cement patch) and the data would later show that Pascal was faster than me in that corner all weekend. On a good lap, my shift light would come on (= 8000 rpm) in 4th gear before turn 2 and then again before turn 3. By lap 46, I was beginning to get fuel starvation before corner 4 and on the straight. I signaled to Pascal that I was coming in in two laps. The starvation got much worse and I short shifted when possible to make it the two laps.  By the time I pitted, I was in 17th position over all.

My role during the pit stop was to hold the fire extinguisher while Pascal poured the fuel. Someone reminded me to close my visor, which I did. Only after Pascal began pouring the fuel did an official point out that his visor was up and that we would be penalized. I was a bit angry, but I could hardly blame Pascal for forgetting the same thing I had forgot myself. He finished pouring the fuel, I poured in a small quantity of oil while Pascal strapped in, and he was off.

Unfortunately for us, there was a full-course yellow four laps later that lasted several laps and the cars that pitted during that period lost a lot less track position than we had. Still, Pascal was driving well and had us in 19th over all and 2nd in class. Then, on lap 79, Pascal pitted unexpectedly. I asked what was wrong and he told me there was coolant all over the windshield as another car had blown its engine right in front of him. This had caused him to go off track because he could no longer see out the windshield, I grabbed a rag and someone’s half-empty water bottle from the pit wall and began to clean the windshield. Pascal headed back out, but we had lost a full lap and dropped from 2nd to 5th in class just like that. I was a bit pissed off, because race cars are supposed to run water in their cooling systems, and not glycol-based coolants. I tried to remain calm and enjoy myself. After all, we were there to have fun. Pascal had a mostly uneventful stint after this and was also suffering fuel starvation by the end of the race. The checker dropped and we finished 5th in class, 16th over all. No trophy for us. Still, I was happy with my new best lap time at Mosport, I was happy with Pascal’s performance (consistent good laps with a best lap of 1:41.541) and the car was in one piece. The race was won by a Nascar truck, and Serge Tousignant and Seb Rochon finished 2nd over all in Serge’s E36 M3… pretty impressive. We reinstalled the passenger seat to drive back to the hotel, exhausted.

The following day, after switching the dead front tires for spares, Pascal won GT5 in the first sprint race and I decided to let him run the third race rather than start in last position (due to a driver change). It was the right call as he won the 3rd race as well, which gave him the GT5 trophy for the weekend (and a new best lap for him: 1:41.293). We changed the radiator back into Pascal’s car and headed home. On the way home, I began to feel a big vibration (probably an axle) and the check engine light came on, but we made it home by 9:00 pm. The weekend was over and, for the 8th time in a row at one of these Mosport enduros, the Civic had performed like a champ. 

Photobucket Photo by Elizabeth Somers

Monday, September 19, 2011

Busy and tired!

I have been so busy I haven't had time to post. Here are some updates on various topics:

The Marathon: the training plan continues. However, I stupidly waited for the last minute to register and the event sold out. I decided to find another marathon as close as possible to the same date as Montreal's and I lucked out: the Adirondack Marathon is only 217 km away and is held on the same day as the Montreal event. It is going to be much hillier than the Montreal event, but the scenery should be a lot nicer. It is too late to qualify for Boston 2012, but a time under 3:10 would qualify me for 2013. This is probably not realistic, given that this looks to be a tough course, but I will do what I can. I have started to train a bit on Mount Royal to work in some elevation changes. Yesterday, I ran on country roads near Oshawa, where I was staying because of the Mosport race. I got to try out some almost kilometer long hills to get a feeling for them. There are only a coulel of short runs left in the training plan before Sunday's race.

Basketball: I have been assigned Darlington as my assistant coach and we have pretty much selected our team (grade 8 and 9). After a couple of practices, I em enthusiastic about what we can do with two coaches and the girls we have chosen.

Racing: I haven't written my full report yet, but the Mosport race weekend went quite well. Pascal and I and the car are in one piece, I recorded a best lap of 1:41.261, a second faster than in the spring, and we finished 5th in class in the enduro, due to a bit of bad luck. More details to follow.

Cool cars spotted:

Ferrari California
Ferrari F430
Ferrari 360
Ferrari 308
Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera
Aston Martin Vantage
Porsche 997 Turbo
Nissan GTR
Nissan Skyline GTR R32
Nissan Pulsar GTi-R
Maserati Quattroporte
Maserati GT
Audi R8
BMW 633
BMW M3 (E30)
Flat black Bentley Continental GT
Bentley Arnage
Audi Uber 8
Audi R8
Triumph TR3

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The marathon approaches...

Last Sunday was the longest training run before the marathon: 29 km. Not only was this a long one, it was raining. Still, the near 2 and a half hour run went off without a hitch. I discovered that you can run from Verdun, across Île-des-Soeurs, across the ice bridge parallel to the Champlain bridge, then along a man-made road in the St-Lawrence until you arrive at Île-Notre-Dame. Doing this loop from home was a 28 km route, to which I added a kilometer at the end to make 29. On these long runs, you can really get around the city, and even off the island. The race is in 18 days, and training is on track.

This afternoon, I will head to Reine Marie for the first tryout session for my high school girls' basketball team. I am happy to see that of the 11 girls who are still at the school from my 2010-2011 team, ten have signed up for tryouts. The other coaches and I will decide who will coach which age group.

My race car has been parked as there have been no events in the past couple of weeks. I got a sweet deal on some used race tires and wheels, but I am still waiting for the parts I ordered to rebuild my 4th gear. I will be participating in the War Bonnet Enduro at Mosport on September 17th with Pascal, but we have yet to decide with which Civic, his or mine.

I have been driving the M3, despite the fact that the very intermittent suspension issue is not resolved. I will be taking the car to a specialist next week to try to find out what the problem is. The car is an absolute pleasure to drive when I can just forget about the small issues. It turns a lot of heads for an eight-year-old car that can be bought for the price of a new economy car. Also, the power delivery is silky smooth and the interior is a really nice place to spend time. Alex refuses to discuss any future cars we might own, as she plans to keep this M3 forever.

Speaking of Alex, her semester started yesterday. She will be teaching two classes this fall, and two more in the winter semester. She is still very much enjoying her new job, although she is also very busy.

Cool cars spotted:

Ferrari California

Ferrari F430
Ferrari 575
Dino 308 GT4
Lamborghini Gallardo
Aston Martin Vainquish S
Aston Martin Vantage
Porsche 997 Turbo
Porsche 993 Turbo
Porsche 944 Turbo
Nissan GTR
Datsun 510
Maserati Quattroporte
Maserati GT
caged Toyota Celica AWD
Audi RS4
Audi R8
BMW 633