STWM Training in Review (Week 1 of 20)

This was the first week of a 20-week training plan for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. 65 of those km came in the last 4 days, including a sub 1:44 solo half-marathon on Thursday night. If it wasn’t for Strava’s monthly training series and its ability to motivate me to go above and beyond, I would not have run 18km this evening.


Because I hit the road this evening, I got to 200km for the month of May. The month of May is typically a dead month for me, coming on the heels of a marathon the first weekend. Not this time. So I earned the May challenge badge.


The last 4 weeks look like this. As you can see, no biking this past week. Still getting over that nasty 130km bike race and the 8 hour drive back to Montreal that got me to bed past 2 am on Sunday night.Strava-week-2015-05-31

Ok. I’m tired. I have a marathon coming up this Sunday, followed by a 3-week of serious climbing on the bike to get me ready for a 200km ride with 16,500 feet. I also need to get back into cycling more. And I am thinking of signing up for the Quebec City Marathon in late August too; that would get me 4 marathons for the year.

Did I mention I was tired ? Not like it changes much.

A week in review

Strava had this to tell me at the end of the day on Sunday.

Activites ending 2015-05-24

As you can see, I have been pretty busy during this awkward period of being in-between marathons. The GoodLife Fitness Toronto marathon was at the end of the first week. I ended this past one with a 130km bike race in Grey County, Ontario.

As a result of Sunday’s bike race, I scored the right to purchase that awesome jersey for climbing 6000m or more in June. Guess who is about to place a birthday present order.


I am currently at 7156m and could add another 2200 more this coming Sunday if I wanted to but I might take a pass in order to get some rest for my marathon on June 7th.

This Monday (today) marks 20 weeks until the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon for which I am digital ambassador. I saw my picture featured in an ad on Facebook and took a screen capture. That’s me in the middle of the bottom row.


My training plan covers 18 weeks, so technically speaking, I still have a few weeks off but I’ll be continuing to build base miles in there nonetheless, while also making the most of the cycling season. (I have a major cycling goal event on June 27th in western Maryland.)

Ode to gear inches

The late Sheldon Brown’s web site is still THE resource for understanding the mystery that is gear inches (as well as a lot of other bicycle-related facts). What are gear inches ? It’s a fancy way of figuring how much a given combination of a bicycle crank ring and a cassette will move you with a full turn of the pedals. (I am really simplifying!).

Shimano Dura-Ace 10-speed cassette

Why would I care ? Well because I have a bike race on Sunday and the last time I was out riding in a group with a tail wind, I couldn’t mash the pedals fast enough, even at 125 rpm, to keep up. I was using a cassette with between 12 teeth and 25 teeth. I have another one, a much friendlier one for flat land, with between 11 and 23 teeth. I wanted to know if the difference between was significant enough for me to want to unmount the wheel, pull out my chainwhip and other tools, and change cassettes.

Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator told me that I would be about 10% better off with the smaller, more aggressive cassette, in the toughest gear.

The first chart is the easier of the two cassettes:

Gear inches for Shimano 12-25 cassette
Gear inches for Shimano 11-23 cassette

That being said, the question is more along the lines of how often I expect to be riding in the highest gear. Since this is not a time trial, but a more bursty road race, it may not make as much sense. More likely than note, I will be riding in the middle of the cassette, as per usual. And this is a hilly course, so the extra easier gear at the end (25 teeth instead of 23) will be appreciated.

I still have most of the evening to think about this. So I’ll give it some more thought.

10,000 km of running .. oh my !

Went for a 15km run this evening. When I got home and uploaded it to Strava, I realized that I crossed the 10,000km mark, for 831 recorded runs in all. That kind of snuck up on me, to be honest. I was running outside for at least a year before I got my first Garmin GPS watch, but judging by the training volume I had at the time, I am maybe 1500km out in terms of captured volume.

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.19.29 PM

3400km of that have occurred in the last 18 months as I have seriously increased my mileage due to the 6-days a week training of the Hansons Marathon Method as well as a general re-dedication to running after having a number of disappointing marathon results in 2012 and 2013.

Here is tonight’s solo 15km run:

I also have over 31,000km of riding since the fall of 2009 (though maybe less than 150km of riding that year; most of the riding started in the spring of 2010).

I’m a sucker for gamification

I am currently in that awkward period known as ‘between marathons’ and so I have to fill the time. This time of year that usually means cycling, though I added an opportunity to be a pace bunny at a marathon in early June and complete marathon #20 in six years, so I have been running lately as well.

I use a Strava a quite a bit and have been a member since October 2010, soon after the service launched.

At some point, Strava launched a challenges feature and I have been hooked ever since. When it comes to riding, challenges include how much you climb (metres), how long you can ride (in metres), or how often you can ride (hours). As for running, challenges are often how much you can run in a month, as well as running a 10km or a half-marathon distance in a given month.

Needless to say, I often find myself putting in that extra 10-20% effort for the sake of a digital badge that goes in a digital trophy cabinet. It’s crazy but it works. I am Exhibit A when it comes to the effects of gamification, at least when it comes to physical activity. (I have no issues resisting the allures of casinos or gambling.)

This month’s challenge for cycling is to climb 6000 metres in the month of May. And so I have been making a point of seeking out hills and mountains to climb, instead of the typical flat in the Saint-Lawrence River Valley. After 1120+ metres on Monday night, I added another 720m this evening after work. Now sitting at 4816m, with a bike race this Sunday that will get me at least another 1700m, putting me over the top. My reward for all of this effort: in addition to a digital badge, I have the opportunity to buy a smoking hot pink — in honour of the Giro d’Italia— cycling jersey from Cuore of Switzerland. I have a few of their Strava challenge jerseys already and the materials and tailoring are wonderful.

Here is the jersey:


Here is tonight’s outing that got me to 80% of the way there.

Tomorrow night is all about running. There is a Strava Challenge—200 km in a month—for that too. 😉