Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Manitoba Marathon Race Report # 2

Wikipedia defines rubric as...
...a scoring tool for subjective assessments. It is a set of criteria and standards linked to learning objectives that is used to assess a student's performance on papers, projects, essays, and other assignments. Rubrics allow for standardised evaluation according to specified criteria, making grading simpler and more transparent.  It allows teachers and students alike to assess criteria which are complex and subjective and also provide ground for self-evaluation, reflection and peer review. It is aimed at accurate and fair assessment, fostering understanding and indicating the way to proceed with subsequent learning/teaching. 

Several weeks ago I blogged a request from Shel for some feedback on the Manitoba Marathon. I've designed a very simple rubric to frame my thinking in response to Shel's poll.  Here's goes:

5 points:  exceeds expectations
4 points:  consistently meets expectations
3 points:  usually meets expectations
2 points:  rarely meets expectations.
1 point:   unacceptable quality
0 points: not applicable/ not observed

On-line registration: (3 points)  The online registration for the general public is excellent, but for school groups it's complicated and time consuming.  This year I gave up after registering 10 students and ended up having to manually register the remaining ten.  The system kept locking me out for 24 hours at a time due to some hyper-sensitive security issue with me registering children.  I respect the issue of safe-guarding children, but man, it's not at all user friendly and many would have given up.  I wasted approximately 3 to 4 hours.  They gotta work the bugs out.  It's presently a time waster.

Countdown 26 Program: (5 points).  This is where the MB Marathon really shines!  Their commitment to education and fighting childhood obesity is second to none.  They provide incentives to student runners and teacher kits to school coaches.  They offer subsidies for financially strapped families.  Upon request they will send a team into the school to drum up some excitement.  They provide the coaches (me) with prizes, tee-shirts, and coaching kits.  The course is accurate in distant and appropriately challenging for the young people.  Many of my students have participated in the 10 k run or 2.6 Super Run  for many years.  I have them track their chip time on the back of their bib to compare times from past years.  They are always challenged to shave 10% (math) off their time.  This helps them with setting achievable goals.  I've had three 14 year old students run the half-marathon.  The phone support is fabulous and the workers are always friendly, always cheerful.  Of the 14,000 runners, I estimate at least half are under 18.  A shout out to School Coordinator, Tiffany Cooke, for a job well done.  The FUN RUN is fun and inclusive of all children.
Cost:  (4 points)  I just paid $125 for Chicago Marathon and about the same for Minneapolis  so $70 for a running event of this calibre is affordable and more than reasonable (talk to me when it reaches $100).  The trick is to get the early-bird price. Also, remember this is a charitable event to raise funds for Manitobans with Intellectual disabilities.  It's a good cause!

Shuttle Transport: (5 points)  This is the first year I tied the shuttle service and it ran like clockwork.  I was completely impressed with the efficiency, the cheerful driver, the bus cleanliness, the on-site port-a-potties, and being waved past security barricades was cool.  There's three shuttle locations all within a couple of miles of the start line. Combined wait-time and travel-time was about 20 minutes.  As a reference I ran the Toronto Good-life Marathon last year and the shuttle service was inefficient, crowded, and just plain unpleasant. Combined wait time and driving time was well over an hour in Toronto.  

Start Line: (3.5 Points)  It's a little tired, but it works.  I love the traditional Chariots of Fire theme song.. a little corny maybe, but it does set my skin a-tingle and my heart a-flutter! The start seems to be better organized than in previous years.  I like the way the full and half marathons are separated to ease congestion.  They seem to be moving toward corral starts, but they're not fully organized (shame).  I love the the attention drawn to the mightiest of athletes; the wheel chair participants.  In previous years there were dozens of walkers who seemed content in walking 5 or more abreast causing runners to go around.  A little course etiquette is needed.  I loved the singing of the National Anthem.  I couldn't see the singer, but she sounded young.  I hope it was a student.  Most runners removed their hats.  Personally, I'd like to hear a little more music at the start while we're all milling about... BTO's Taking Care of Business comes to mind, but I'm showing my age.  

Port-a-potties:  (3 points)  This is a difficult one to mark fairly.  There will never be enough port-a-potties at the start because there's way too many runners with nervous pee syndrome.  At 6:45 the line-ups are 20 deep, at 7:15 you can have your choice of ten empty port-a-potties.   I think the race committee does a good job in the port-a-potty department at the start line, but it would be very helpful to have more along the course.  Would it be elite to designate some port-a-potties as "full marathon only"?  I suppose it would be impossible to monitor, but the point being that most port-a-potties on the course are lined up 10 deep by relay runners and their parents.  Some relay runners will give full marathoners cuts in line, but many won't.  Any full marathoner with a time goal often will pass the port-a-potties because of the long line.  Then they stop hydrating because they're bladder's full causing dehydration.  Not pretty.

Manual: (5 points)  I love it.  It's the only race I've been to that gives all race information in a nice little booklet.  It's detailed, interesting, and tracks the winners of the full and half (male and female) annually. It's also a nice keepsake for my student runners.  

Web Page:  (4 points)  No complaint from me, but I have heard grumbling about it not being current.  I have always been able to find everything I've need including answers to some of the more complicated issues around registering school groups.  I'd be interested to hear your beefs if you have any.

The Course: (2.5 points)  The course winds through some of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in the city; stately Wellington Crescent, Assiniboine Park, the foot bridge, Wolseley, Broadway, and River Road to name several.  These neighbourhoods rival the best of Minneapolis, Chicago, and Toronto Marathons.  Unfortunately, there are a few ugly bits that seem to fester a little deeper and grow a little longer with each passing year... Portage Avenue, Bishop Grandin Boulevard, and St Mary's are completely exposed to the elements and just plain buck-naked ugly.  I appreciate there's only so many roads and setting the course is very complicated and challenging, but it's long overdue for a makeover.  This is perhaps the most common complaint one hears about the MB Marathon.  

Connection to Father's Day:  (5 points) Many runners feel the date of the race should be changed to the fall when the weather is cooler.  After all we train in some of the coldest weather on the planet and then, come race day, we're running in a tropical heatwave.  Personally I like the connection to Father's Day; it's a wonderful family tradition that I would like to see continued for another 32 years.  The Father's day connection attracts thousands of runners and their families.  Let's not mess with this; it ain't broke, don't fix it.  The weather is what it is... sometimes hot, sometimes really hot, and sometimes just ideal. We can't blame the weather on the race committee.  Instead of changing the date I would like to see a second marathon in Winnipeg in the fall. Rumour has it that it's in the works.  Be patient and keep your ear to the ground.  You heard it here first.

Vibe/ fan support:  (2 points)  This is a difficult one for me because I love my city, but sadly our community has not embraced the marathon like Fargo, Regina, Minneapolis, Chicago, and other cities of similar populations.  Heck, the entire community of Treherne (all 900 of 'em) shows up on race day!  I don't think there's 900 fans along the entire marathon course in Winnipeg!  There's pockets of community spirit (yeah Wolseley), but it's far and few between.  Full Mary runners thrive on the vibe because it lifts our sinking spirits.  When we see and hear a noisy crowd, or drums beating,  or funny signs, we instinctively straighten our postures and slap on a goofy smile, it may be a fake smile, but it's a smile nonetheless. The vibe pulls the tired runner.  It makes us forget the pain and focus on the good.  The vibe is good for the community; it makes us one.  I encourage the Race Committee to take leadership in this area, advertise, get on talk shows,  drop off pamphlets on the route a week ahead of time,  offer prizes for the best community spirit, encourage school groups to get involved, have a competition with Fargo and Regina (a little friendly trash talk between communities is fun and team building).  We're a good community, a caring community, we all know that, but we just haven't yet learned how to embrace this amazing event and call it our own.

Medal:  (3 points)  It's a good medal... not outstanding, but it meets criteria: attractive, solid, heavy, with a sizeable lanyard.  The half-marathon is similar, but smaller.  Now Ottawa... there's a medal worth 5 points! 

Tee-shirt: (3 points)  I like it this year.  It's technical quality and attractive.  It's a little "potato-sack rough", but it a good one.  Many people thought the sizing was small, but mine fits perfectly.  In previous years the tee shirt has been on the boring side and the fit was large.  I also like receiving the tee-shirt after the race.  You really feel like you earned it.  

The Volunteers: (5+ points)  I can't say enough good about the volunteers.  They were plentiful, cheerful, and very encouraging.  We have the best volunteers ever... take that Fargo!

Organization:  (3 points)  Any committee that can organize 14,000 + runners and another several thousand parents is ok in my books.  Sure there's things that could be better, but nothing really comes to mind.  Last year I had significant difficulties with 30 student chips not matching the bib numbers so the times were inaccurate.  That was frustrating and no-one apologized for the error, but that was last year.  This year things went off without a hitch.  

Finish Line(5 points):  The finish line is exquisite.   As you enter the stadium your name is bellowed over the p.a. system.  As you approach the finish line there are volunteers every 40 or 50 feet monitoring the runners looking for signs of dehydration and exhaustion.  As you approach the line all you can hear are hundreds (thousands?) of fans cheering from the grandstand.  As you cross the line you're immediately embraced by one of a dozen or more smiling high school kids from Dakota Collegiate.  They congratulate each runner and escort them down the shoot to the medal stand.  The whole while they provide support and ask critical questions: how do you feel?, are you ok?.  These amazing teenagers then pass you off to a waiting medical person who checks you out a little closer and asks a few more questions.  You then enter the field which is reserved for full marathon runners only and, in my case, head directly for the popsicles!  At the Toronto Marathon you cross the line and there is NO official person other than one lonely volunteer handing out medals.  No medical, no volunteers directing traffic.  No nothing.  You empty out into Queens Park with thousands of others.  I felt lost and confused after the Toronto Marathon and cared for and embraced after the Manitoba Marathon.  A huge shout out to the Dakota teenagers!  

Police Support:  (5 points).  Excellent, excellent, excellent!  Some of them even smiled this year!  

Medical Support: (4 points)  Fortunately I've never needed the services but It's comforting to know that they're there if needed.  Medical support is all over the course from para-medics on bicycles, to fire fighters, to ambulances, trained volunteers, and a full blown emergency hospital on site.  Most of us have never seen the hospital because it's situated off the track behind the stadium.  I had my echo-cardiogram taken there after the race (I'm participating in a research study on the effect of full marathons on the heart.).

Total Score:  70/90 or 77%

After Burn:  Is there room for improvement?  Yes.  Is the Manitoba Marathon good for our community?  Absolutely yes.  Is it easy to be critical and focus on the negatives?  Unfortunately, yes.  I hope this rubric has presented an objective and fair assessment of the Manitoba Marathon.  Did I miss anything?  I'd be interested to hear you opinion.

It's a good day to be alive.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Letter to the Editor of the Winnipeg Free Press

I agree with Kelly's letter to the editor below.  The volunteers are awesome, the fans, although sparse, are enthusiastic, and those karaoke guys rocked!  Mike

Dear Editor;  As a participant in the 2010 Manitoba Marathon, I feel it is crucial to send out a huge thank you to, first, all of the hundred of volunteers who make this day such a great event, from handing out water, to making sure all participants are OK at the end of their races. These people are amazing.
Second, to all of the citizens of Winnipeg who get up at the crack of dawn to cheer on and encourage all runners, you truly make a difference.
Third, I want to say a huge thank you to the homeowner on Harrow Street, who, for the last two years has set up his karaoke machine and delighted the masses with his talent.
I look forward to seeing him each time I run and he does not disappoint.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Manitoba Marathon Race Report # 1

It was a good day to run my 5th marathon.  It was hot, but not too hot.  It was humid, but not too humid.  The cool breeze was soothing and helped keep the core temperature comfortable for the return.  My time wasn’t anything to write home about, but I’m not at all disappointed.  I’m just happy to be alive and kicking; alive with such an amazing family and group of friends supporting me every inch of the way.  I am fortunate to be alive, and so well cared for.  I am humbled with the love that embraces me.

My 22 year old son, his girlfriend, and my wife cycled the course from mile 14 to the finish.  Every four miles they handed me fresh, ice cold Powerade and some gels mixed with cold water, and snapped some incredible photographs.  My sister, her partner, and her daughter met me several times on the course to cheer me on.  Many friends along the way shouted out good cheer at different points along the course.  It was a day of positive energy and good vibe.  I can’t thank you enough for your support.

I joined up with a 4:15 pace group led by and amazing young man named Oliver.  He held a rock solid pace and kept us all safe and believing that we are capable of reaching our potential. I had to stop at mile 16 for a pee-break and I couldn't quite catch them after that point. I met up with Oliver after the race and thanked him.  Oliver, if you're reading this, thanks!
I developed a serious stitch from mile 18 to about 24 which was uncomfortable and slowed my pace a tiny bit.  I walked and stretched and did some self-massaging.  It finally disappeared and I could refocus on the race.  At mile 22 a runner joined my side and offered some grapes.  I took three... they were unbelievably delicious.  (Memo to self... bring some grapes to next marathon).

At about 120 feet from the finish line I noticed a young women runner wobbling on the track  I ran to help stabilize her, but before I could reach her she stopped and vomited.  Still thinking I could help her across the line I reached for her arm, but again she vomited and a couple of volunteers rushed to her aid.  I stepped around the puddle and zoned in on the line.  My family was in the stands and they yelled. I crossed the line happy, smiling, and on my own two feet.  I went directly to the popsicle stand and devoured two popsicles.  Then off to the bag check, and finally to the tee-shirt stand.  It was a great day!

I'm participating in a cardiac study for age 50+ marathoners.  The medical team was at the finish line and whisked me off to an onsite portable hospital where they took a second echocardiogram and then transported me and 15 other participants to the St. Boniface Hospital for another series of tests.

Stay tuned for the second race report and thanks for reading!  It's a good day to be alive, but you already figured this out.

Cheers, Mike

Friday, June 18, 2010

Manitoba Marathon: Manic Thoughts as the Clock Ticks Down.

Friday 10:30 AM

I'm taking a personal day from work to prepare myself and rest for the marathon on Sunday.  Last night I had a nightmare... it was race morning, I'm behind schedule, can't find my running shorts, find an old bathing suit from the 70's, strap that on, it's SO tight, heart palpitating...  I woke up feeling anxious and tired.  I now have all my running gear neatly arranged on my desk.  Whew, hope I sleep better tonight!

Friday 11:00 AM
Went for race day hair cut.  Consider dying my hair.  Smack my head with open palm.  Instead decide on the same-old-same-old hair cut... #4 buzz, thin the brows.  Feeling smart.

Bought a new ultra-white Saucony technical tee-shirt.  It's very light weight, almost see-through.  I'm anticipating high humidity on race day.

Headed down Route 90 to attend the Marathon trade show at the U of M.  After crawling along for 20 minutes I decide to ditch that idea and go for lunch.  Where the heck did all this traffic come from?

Went to the new long anticipated Boon Cafe in my neighbourhood.  The menu looks simply amazing.  At last!  A vegetarian restaurant in Winnipeg with an interesting menu.  It's the only restaurant that I know that has a drive through window for bicycles! Unfortunately it was closed because, as the sign read, "... after yesterday's hugely successful opening we have to restock our supplies...".  They promise to reopen on Saturday. Opening day glitches.  I will return!

1:00 PM:
Returned home for lunch... a big bowl of cold pasta with fete, baby tomatoes, two slices of bread with a little jam.  Followed up with a big bowl of fresh strawberries.  Yum... time for a nap.

1:30 to 2:15


Continued reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  What an amazing book.  It's a must read for any runner.  Chapter 28 is my favourite.  The first sentence reads... "Twenty years earlier, in a tiny basement lab, a young scientist stared into a corpse and saw his destiny staring back".   Now that's literature!  The study discovered that starting at age 19 runners get faster every year until about age 27.  After age 27 they start to decline.  The question posed is "how old are you when you're back to running the same speed you did at 19?".  I won't tell you the answer, but I promise you will be surprised!  

5:00 PM
Had a light supper (more of a snack):  trail mix and a PC brand Ultra Shake.  Watched the news.  Read some more.

7:00 PM
Sipping a glass of perky Chilean red.  At my computer writing this summary thinking "does anyone even read this?".  Think I'll stop for supper # 2.  My son's downstairs with his buddies watching Shakespeare.  Jennifer's off to some retirement party.  It's just me and Born To Run tonight!

It's a good day to be alive and all that stuff.

Do come back.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Embrace Life

This is a good one to share. Buckle up on the way to the race! It's a good 
day to be alive. Mike

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marathon Running and the Heart

I am participating in a research study entitled The Impact of Full Marathon Running on Cardiovascular Function.   Ok, ok, I lie... the study is really entitled The Impact of Full Marathon Running on Cardiovascular Function in the Elderly, but I struggle with the elderly reference.  I don't feel elderly, don't look elderly, don't think elderly, but I suppose old Neil Young is right... rust never sleeps. Life doesn't run, it creeps along, slow like a snail.

The study examines the impact of endurance running on the heart in men and women, 50 years and older who have run at least two marathon in the last two years... that me!  The opening paragraph in the 5-page waver form reads in part:

Full marathon running has become an immensely popular sport throughout the world.  But can too much exercise be harmful to the heart?  Physical fitness has been shown to be a long time predictor of reduced illness and death from cardiovascular causes.  Although the cardiovascular benefits of moderate exercise is well known, the cardiovascular effects of prolonged physical exertion is less clear.  Even though the risks of sudden death associated with participation in endurance sport is small, participation in such events consistently associated with biochemical evidence of heart damage and dysfunction.

Heart Damage? Dysfunction?  Gulp!  And I thought it was all good.  

Don't get your shorts in a knot... don't panic, running is good for you, but like any overconsumption there are worries.  So be smart, don't over do it, but don't stop running... now THAT would be bad for you.

One week before the marathon I give a blood sample and receive an Echocardiogram of the heart (basically, a real-time video of the heart with sound in action, tres cool).  Tomorrow I get a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI).  On the day of the marathon I'm kidnapped from the finish line and driven to St. Boniface Hospital where I get more blood drawn and a second Echocardiogram.  Later that week I go in for a second MRI and seven days after marathon day I go back for a 3rd blood sample, and a 3rd Echocardiogram.  Finally, 6 months later, I return for a Cardiac Tomography.

Oh, and one more thing, I have to provide a very detailed food record for the three days leading up to the marathon.  We're talking VERY detailed itemizing of everything I consume except water.

What's in it for me (besides the fame and glory)... nothing actually, other than if a irregularity is detected, I would get immediate access to medical professionals.  Also, the food record is carefully analyzed and they will provide me with a list of what enzymes and vitamins my body lacks.  I'll also have access to my results once the research study is completed.

Now if I could just convince them to pay for the parking I'd be one happy camper... errrr, make that runner.  Stay tuned.

It's a good day to have a ticking heart.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Manitoba Marathon...the good, the bad, the "what the heck are they thinking?".

The Manitoba Marathon race committee is looking for feedback from the running community (that's you) to improve their race. After 30+ years it's ripe for a change.  Think...  What's good about this race? How does it contribute to our local running community?  What's tired and needs changing up? What makes you shake your head and say "What the heck!?".  How can the committee make this annual running event even better.  

Like you, I know this race is a little tired and needs new energy.  Like you, I have opinions.  Like you, I want this race to continue for another 30 years.  

Please send your comments directly to Shelley T. by email and she will coordinate the ideas and forward them to the Race Committee.  If you don't have Shelley's email address please leave your comments (below) and I will forward them to her.

On another note I logged 24 miles this morning... the last long one before the slow-dance on June 20.  Feeling good, but I picked up a little Charlie Horse (Charles Horse for my friends in Tuxedo) which I'm nursing with Vitamin I (ibuprofen) and a glass of Pouilly Fume. Ahhhh....

It's a good day to be alive.