On May 31st 2019, having just turned 38, I did my first ever outdoor track race. It was a mile at the UBC track in Vancouver, and I ran it in 4:40.11. A little over a week later, at the York University Twilight Series Meet #1, I ran a 1500 in 4:18.50. Five days after that, last night, I ran another 1500 at the London 1500 night, in 4:17.95.
What follows is the story of those two 1500s — how I raced them, how they felt, and what I learned.
I always plan trips at exactly the wrong time — during stretches of beautiful weather in Toronto, or the exact date that a band I like is going to be in town playing a show… or the weekend of a bunch of great races. Of course that was the case for late May/early June, when I had to be in Vancouver for a series of conferences, and when two really interesting races happened to be planned: a meet at U of T with what would have been a perfect season-opening 1500, and the Streetsville Mile road race a few days later.
I was a bit bummed out until searched around and saw that there would be a perfect race while I was in Vancouver: the Vancouver Distance Series’s Mile Meet. The prospect of running a proper mile on the track is inherently interesting to a newbie runner like me — Bannister associations, etc. — and this looked like a particularly good one, with lots of runners organized into several heats, so that there was a good chance someone would be running my pace.
My partner’s parents live near the Dixie Outlet Mall in Mississauga, and we stop there fairly often. Much of my wardrobe consists of weird castoffs that Tommy Hilfiger couldn’t sell in his normal stores, Levi’s 501 jeans purchased at 50% off markup, and weird odds and ends from Winner’s.
But for some reason I’d never thought to investigate the Nike Outlet Store. Until one fateful day in February, that is.
I went in expecting to find a bunch of “lifestyle” sneakers and basketball shoes. I definitely wasn’t expecting to find running-nerd shoes like track spikes. But the first thing my eyes landed on when I entered the store was a pair of Nike Zoom Victory Elite 2s. I’d just read a review of these a few days before — I was thinking about buying my first pair of spikes for my indoor track training, and I was curious to see what the equivalent of the Vaporfly was (you know, something ridiculously fast and ridiculously overpriced). What I came up with was the Victory Elite 2s, which have a carbon fibre plate and cost in excess of $250 CDN.
Well, the ones in the Outlet Store didn’t cost $250. They were a totally reasonably-sounding $79. I texted my club mate Jay to make sure these were good spikes and this was a good price. He replied that they were, and it was, and asked me to pick him up a pair as well.
This morning, I ran my first serious race of the 2019 outdoor season: the Bum Run 5k.
I’d first heard about the Bum Run from Alex Hutchinson, who won the race for three straight years in 2015–2017. Apparently the race had big cash prizes but was somewhat under the radar, so these prizes were within reach for runners like me. I was curious, but also a little leery of stepping on toes. But a few weeks ago Alex told me he didn’t plan on running it this year. Then Jay, Simon, and Phil from my club expressed interest in forming a team and running it together. I was in.
The prizes weren’t so great this year — in fact, it wasn’t really clear what they would be, beyond possibly involving Saucony shoes — but there was plenty to get excited about nonetheless. The route was appealing to me: starting in Queen’s Park, then heading around the U of T campus before looping back along Bay Street and St. Michael’s College, it was close to home and passed many of my favourite spots in the city. My friends would be there. And the race, which is run in support of colorectal cancer research, has a very good sense of humour. For instance, there was was a gigantic inflatable rectum at the start/finish today, big enough to walk through. Truly “a 5k to get behind,” as their tagline goes.
After a great (fun and fast) Spring Run-Off last Saturday, I was feeling pretty great. I felt really tired the next morning, but not sore. Then I went for an easy run — it was warmish out, but I definitely under-dressed — and I came home and felt horrible. My partner had been sick all weekend with what we thought was food poisoning. But maybe it was a virus, because when my immune system dipped after the race and that chilly easy run, I picked something up. For two days, I had chills, I was nauseous, and all I wanted to do was sleep.
Of course, running addiction being what it is, I still really wanted to run. Thankfully, I pretty much literally couldn’t. I sat out a UTTC Masters workout on Monday, then took a day off easy running. By Wednesday, I was feeling somewhat decent, and decided to try out a treadmill run. It was mildly unpleasant, but I made it through. I ran a somewhat sluggish track workout Thursday night (followed by a very fun pub night), by which time my flu-like symptoms were morphing into a chest cold. This never got particularly severe, but my usual Mount Pleasant tempo on Saturday felt harder than usual. It was still kicking around for the track workout tonight — there was still plenty of phlegm to jettison — but I’m mostly over it.
On Saturday, I ran the Spring Run Off 8K in a time that struck me as surprisingly fast. I took it relatively easy until the last 2km, but still finished with an average pace of 3:25/km, on a very hilly course, which is faster than I ran similar cross-country races in the fall. So either I’m fitter than I was in the fall, or I was just having a good day, or… it was the shoes.
Because, yes, I was wearing Nike Vaporfly 4%s.
I really debated whether I wanted to spend $330 on a pair of shoes. For a while, the scarcity of the mythical Vaporflies (can I pluralize you like that?) took care of the problem — I couldn’t find any, and if I was undecided about paying $330 in store, I was definitely not going to pay $500 or more on eBay.
Having gotten all the heavy lifting posts out of the way, I can finally write the kinds of weekly reports I had in mind when I started this blog.
This week: the Spring Run Off race in High Park, which I ran this morning.
I signed up for it a couple of months ago, before I’d actively started planning my summer season. At the time, I was thinking of it mostly as something to look forward to, since I didn’t have the Indoor World Championships to motivate me, as my clubmates did.
It started looking a bit different once I started planning. According to my periodization approach, which is focused on a goal 1500 race in July, it doesn’t make much sense to race hard so early in the season and risk injury. This is especially so since I’m still ramping up my volume (I’m up to 95km or so) and shouldn’t be pushing too hard.
Plus, a few little injuries have been nagging me for the last couple of weeks — something in my hip flexor, and something in my adductor longus (the two are definitely related). These muscles have to do with lifting legs — and the Spring Run Off is a very hilly course, with lots of extra leg-lifting.
I had a sense of this, but really hadn’t processed it until I previewed the course last weekend. It’s really hilly — like, much hillier than the cross-country courses I raced last fall. Particularly worrying for me were the two super-steep downhills, on which my slightly injured muscles made their displeasure very clear during the preview.
When I started running, I got directly into marathons, which made season-planning easy.
Marathons are hard on your body, so you can only run one or two per year. Pick a book (I mostly used Hansons Marathon Method) and follow the five-month schedule. The rest of the year, run a few 5Ks or find some other way to occupy your time.
One of my reasons for starting this blog was to get away from the yearly catchup posts I previously made on my professional blog, and to move to more frequent, shorter, less burdensome updates. But since I haven’t posted anything since I wrote about the Boston Marathon in April 2018, and it’s now almost a year later, another big catchup post is in order.
The actual motivation for the title of this blog is completely silly and random and doesn’t have anything particularly to do with vampires. In March 2019, all of my friends from my running club were getting ready to head to the Indoor Masters World Championships in Poland. I wasn’t going, and I was bored. I decided to fill my spare time reading every book about running that I could get my hands on. This then presented a problem: my head was filled with ideas about these books, but I had nowhere to put them down. Well, I could have written about them on my professional website, but then my colleagues and students would be forced to read through them, and they weren’t really my audience.
So, obviously I needed to start a proper running blog. But what would I call it?