Barefoot Spring Run Off 8K

HSRO 8K - leading the pack

Leading the pack

This was a good race, for all kinds of reasons. To start, it was a return to a race that I did five years ago, after getting back to running after an absence of almost thirty years.

Second, it was a chance to pay back. Late in 2005, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Since then, I’ve had very good care from the good folks at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital. For this year’s Spring Run Off, I raised just over C$1,500 to support PMH’s research and treatment programs. It’s only a drop in the bucket, given the prevalence of prostate cancer these days, but it’s something.

As if that weren’t enough, I managed to set a new personal best time for the 8K. My chip time was 44:12.8. That’s a 6 minute improvement over my finishing time in 2008. I placed 6/21 in my age category, 649/1173 in my gender group, and 917/2244 overall. It’s a good result, and one I’m very pleased with.

Just before the race start, I had the pleasure of meeting with some fellow dailymilers. It was a very pleasant way to start race day. The weather was good, though a touch on the cold side to start: 2C, sunny, 11 km/h wind, and 55% humidity.

The Spring Run Off course is interesting, and a tough one if you’re trying to do it quickly. As you can see from the map below, it’s a double loop, with a smaller one within the larger. The roadways are narrow, which can make mid-pack running somewhat crowded, especially as many runners optimistically start well ahead of where they should. The route includes two rather steep descents and two comparable climbs. The second climb, a short but brutal 400m, occurs just before the finish line. This is where elite runners make their final strong kick – for the rest of us, it’s a bit of a slog. In either case, it’s a great location for spectators, and makes for a very exciting finish line atmosphere.

Spring Run Off 8K map

The man's alright!

The man’s alright!

I ran this one well. (No false modesty here!) I knew that if I kept to an average pace of 5:30 min/km or so (which, given my recent training, was eminently doable), I’d be able to finish in a respectable time. So I pushed the pace a little on the flat bits, took the descents fairly gently (not so easy to go downhill quickly when barefoot, and my left hip doesn’t like downhills), and did my best on the climbs. As I was running slightly ahead of mid-pack, I didn’t feel as crowded as I had five years ago. Also, I’m much more confident than I was then, so could move through the crowd fairly easily. In fact, except for the descents, I managed to pass other people quite steadily throughout the race. An unusual occurrence for me, and a very pleasant one! Overall, it was a good strategy, and one that worked well.

A confident finish, for all the toughness of that last climb, and all that was left was to bask in some spring sunshine.

Mission accomplished

A heartfelt thank you goes to everyone who supported me to raise funds for this event. That’s the real cause for the great feelings and the celebration!


Coming Up: Spring Run Off 8K

Harry's Spring Run Off

It’s the beginning of February, so it’s time for start looking forward to Harry’s Spring Run Off 8K, which takes place on April 6. It’s not one of my goal races for the year. It’s not a distance I’m good at (I’m a slow-twitch, not a fast-twitch, kind of guy). It’s a very hilly route (and I’m definitely a flat-lander). But it’s going to be a rather emotional race for me, for quite a few reasons.

First, it’s a fundraiser for prostate cancer research and treatment, specifically at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital. That’s where I’ve received my care and treatments since I was first diagnosed late in 2005. (Yes, it’s been a long time, and the journey isn’t yet over.) The fact the funds I raise are going to be steered in that direction does my heart no end of good.

Second, I ran this race in 2008. It was the first race I entered after my return to running, after a 30 year absence. Being able to run at all was, at that time, a remarkable achievement for me. In May of 2005, I had been run over while cycling, and had a stainless steel rod inserted in my left femur as a result of the damage done. Here’s what my “hardware upgrade” looks like in a x-ray photo taken shortly after the surgery:

Left hip

After the surgery, I was told by an orthopedic surgeon that, while I could expect to walk without difficulty, I’d probably never be able to run again. So, I started what turned out to be 14 months, three times a week, of physiotherapy. By the end of that, I was, in the words of my therapist, “functional,” though I walked with a slight limp and, to be sure, couldn’t run. However, my physiotherapist urged me to keep on trying. After a whole series of false starts, I got back to running in late December 2008. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t pretty, but it was running. Sort of.

My performance at Harry’s Spring Run Off, 2009 edition wasn’t exactly stellar. Sure, I finished with a somewhat respectable (given the circumstances) 50:07 finishing time. But I hadn’t counted on the hills. (You can see a map of the route, in Toronto’s High Park, here.) Sure, I ran across the finish line, but I couldn’t walk at all comfortably afterwards. In fact, once an hour or so had passed, I seized up completely, and I was in a lot of pain. It took two solid weeks of physiotherapy to get me moving again.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, my wife was there at the 2009 race to support me. It meant the world to have her there, to share a hug after my finish, and to hobble off with her so we could sit down, have a coffee, and talk. She’ll be there this time too, and it won’t be any less significant or special. In fact, it’ll mean even more than it did five years ago.

Spring Run Off kit bag

I still don’t run short races well. I still don’t do hills well. I still have that steel rod in my leg. And I still haven’t beaten the cancer. But I’m here, and I’m running. That’s enough. In fact, it’s more than enough. I’m a very lucky man.

By the way, I’ve almost reached my fundraising goal of $1,500. If you’d like to help me get there, please consider supporting me in the 2013 race. You can do so by going to my personal fundraising page. It’s for a good cause, and it’ll be much appreciated. Thanks!

It’s Payback Time!

I posted recently that I’ll be doing the Harry Rosen Spring Run Off 8K (on April 6th, 2013), which is a fundraiser for prostate cancer research and treatment. I’ve just set up a personal fundraising page to raise funds for that effort here.

My goal is to raise $1,000 for prostate cancer research at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital. PMH is one of the top five cancer institutes in the world. Over the past six years I’ve benefited immensely from the expertise, care, and kindness shown by its staff, particularly Dr. Cynthia Menard and her team. I can’t do this without your help, so I’m inviting you to join me in the fight against prostate cancer by sponsoring my campaign.

Please consider donating to this very worthy cause and help me pay back in a small way. Thanks much!

Spring Run Off 8K

Harry Rosen Spring Run Off

Having just gone through yet another prostate biopsy (my fifth in six years), I’m reminded of how much I (and thousands of other men) benefit from the ongoing research into the causes of prostate cancer and its treatment. So I’ve decided, once again, to run the Harry Rosen Spring Run Off 8K in Toronto’s High Park.

I did the race in 2008, after my first set of radiation treatments for prostate cancer. That was also my first race after returning to running after an absence of 30 years, so it means a lot to me. This time, as before, I’ll be fundraising for the Prostate Centre at the Princess Margaret Hospital, where all my treatments have taken place. PMH’s Dr. Cynthia Menard and her team have taken exceptionally good care of me over the past few years, and I feel I owe them at least this much. I also owe something to all those men who have – and will have – prostate cancer.

I’ll start fundraising early in the new year so stay tuned. I hope you’ll support me.

The Road Goes Ever On

I’m 63 years old today. I started the day, of course, by going for a run. it was a lovely early summer morning, 19C and sunny. The neighbourhood streets I ran on were almost deserted. (Early on a Saturday morning in the suburbs is a great time to run.) I did a good 8K run at a brisk pace, enlivened by the morning air and a sense of wonder that I’ve actually made it to age 63.

Not that my life has been very different from that of most other middle-class Westerners. I haven’t had to live through the burden of grinding poverty, the horror of war, or the devastation wrought by tsunamis, tornadoes, or volcanic eruptions. I’ve been fortunate in that, simply because of the accidents of where and when I was born.

On the other hand, like everyone else who’s lasted 63 years on this earth, I’ve survived a variety of conditions, circumstances, and happenings. I made it through the hoopla and giddiness of being young in the 1960s, for example. I survived being run over by a truck six years ago. I’ve made it through two bouts of prostate cancer and the two series of radiation treatments that went with them. I’ve begun to sort out what it means to have Asperger’s Syndrome. Last but certainly not least, I have, though nominally an intelligent person, survived not a few periods of my life when I’ve simply been as dumb as a box of hair.

What have I learned? First, as the title of this post says, the road goes ever on. (Thank you, J.R.R. Tolkien, for that wonderful phrase.) It really is a journey, folks. The beginning and the end are pretty clearly defined, so it’s up to us to take the potentially empty middle and give it some purpose and meaning. Second, I’ve learned that there’s no point – and no value – in either whining or boasting. It’s not all about me, and the world really doesn’t owe me anything at all. Third, I’ve learned that there’s no reason to hurry. The road is there, for whatever time I’ve got left, so I might as well enjoy it while I can. Last of all – and perhaps most importantly – I’ve learned that I’m loved. That, for a variety of reasons, has been the most difficult lesson of all for me. I’m grateful that it’s happened at last.

I feel old. That’s not a bad thing at all. 63 is old. I’ve got the wounds, the scars, the memories, and the wisdom to prove it. They’re all reasons to celebrate.

Nutrition Tweaking

As regular readers of this blog know, I’m a bit of a nutrition freak. It’s always made sense to me to pay attention to what I eat, but I’m probably more attentive to that than many people. And for good reasons – I run long distances, I’m a vegetarian, and I’m a cancer survivor. Plus, I’m 62 years old, and I want to deal creatively with the inevitable consequences of aging.

Until now, my nutrition program has been a matter of trial and error. My fancy name for that is “an experiment of one.” It hasn’t been the most effective or efficient way of fine-tuning the way I live, though, so I’m now doing it with some help.

I’ve started working with Vanessa Rodriguez, a soon-to-be-certified holistic nutrition counselor, to tweak my nutrition program. (Vanessa recently guest posted on this blog about natural sports nutrition.) Vanessa and I are working with the following goals in mind:

  • counter the effects of the radiation treatments I’ve had over the past four years
  • optimize my physical energy levels
  • enhance my psychological and emotional levels
  • minimize the consequences of Asperger’s Syndrome (I’ll expand on this in a later post.)
  • What Vanessa and I are doing now is looking at how I’m doing in a number of body systems, and then having Vanessa suggest tweaks that will improve or enhance functioning in those systems. My role in this partnership is to track what I eat, to report on my energy levels and psychological states, and to implement Vanessa’s recommendations. It’s a holistic process, that is, it will look at all my nutrition choices and how those choices work (or don’t work) for me. It’s going to be quite an adventure!

    More news in later posts. I’ll keep you updated.

    My Bio

    If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll have noticed three major threads: running, barefoot running, and meditation. To put those in context, here’s a brief bio I wrote recently for another project. (I’ll post more about that project later.)

    I started running in 1978, at the age of 30, in order to lose weight. I ran for the next couple of years, completing a couple of 10K races and two marathons. Then life happened, and I was away from running for about 30 years. I got back to it late in 2007, at the end of 14 months of physiotherapy for a broken hip. (I’d been run over by a truck while cycling, and now have stainless steel rods and pins in my left hip.) I’ve survived two bouts of prostate cancer, in 2006 and 2010, and am planning to live for a very long time. I’m a vegetarian and a nutrition freak.

    I started barefoot and minimalist running in the summer of 2008, after reading about it, trying it, and finding it to be a natural way of running that fits me perfectly. Since then, I’ve run a number of 10K races, a couple of half-marathons, two 30K races, two marathons, and two 50K ultras. I’m currently training for a 6 hour race, with a 30K and a half marathon as training races along the way.

    I first started exploring meditation when I was 15 and became interested in Buddhism, particularly Zen Buddhism. Later influences included Hindu philosophy, the Human Potential Movement, depth psychology, and Christian liberation theology. I have an undergraduate degree in Latin and Greek, and a graduate degree in theology. I don’t consider myself a religious or spiritual person, just someone who’s exploring what it means to be fully human.