Project X

Day 1

Distance: 13 km

Heart rate: Zone two

Weather: Minus 3, no wind

Course: Downhill to the half, sharp climb up and then gradual climb back.

So it begins: Project X.

In the north end of Halifax exists a secret laboratory where a lone scientist uses his knowledge to train his charges.

Some call them mutants because they have long sharp talonslaser vision that can melt objects, can run moderately fast.

Away from the prying eyes of the public, Professor Charles Xavier Jeffery Zahavich is training a new breed of…runner.

Zahavich approached me several months ago, and recognizing in me the dormant, untapped ability to run like the human Flash jog slightly faster than an injured turtle, proposed that he help me realize that amazing, turtle-like potential.

Zahavich owns and operates Kinesio Sport Lab, where he offers a combination of personal training and group programs, all of it science-based and providing blood lactate testing, heart rate training, strength and mobility classes and nutrition education. This combination is aimed at athletes of any level who wish to improve and, as several individuals would testify, Zahavich has helped a number of people achieve personal bests.

We’d talked about doing a “Project X” for some time now.

Well, Project X finally arrived today. Zahavich is running a 16-week half-marathon training program incorporating all of the above components and I signed on to test his methods,  push myself to train in a methodical and guided way and report back on the results.

If I stick to the plan, will I shatter my PB? I’ve run for seven years now, as a vegetarian am relatively clean about my nutrition, and do some stretching and strength training. That said, I’ve never used heart rate training and am interested to see if it would make much of a difference. Also new this time around is the idea of training by time instead of distance; I’ll run for an hour instead of being told to do “X” distance, for example.

About 10 runners are signed up for the half-marathon program. We gathered at Kinesio this morning to run varying distances in small groups. I found myself with a 23-year-old who runs a 16 minute, five-km and a 39-year-old who hopes to do a 3:10 marathon.

Another individual in the program is preparing to run one of the Disney events in February.

Today was an easy “zone two” run meant to burn fat and build aerobics. We burnt a little more fat than we meant to when we inadvertently set out in the wrong direction (this was not my fault for once, honest!).

I quickly discovered two basic truths about running on a Sunday morning: One, it is good to eat something other than a gel beforehand; two, a good sleep the night before is not a bad idea.

My suffering was Biblical in proportions. I’m talking unimaginable pain. You hear people talking about “gutting it out” in a race. Half-way through this marathon of endurance (think about that: it’s not just a marathon, but a marthon of endurance!), I summoned up every iota of my physical and mental strength – placing a lot of strain on that single cell – and gutted through that six kilometre mark.

Running that six kilometres was the longest eight hours of my life.

But when I reached Kinesio, the torment wasn’t over – far from it. “We’re going to do some ‘mobility,'” Zahavich said.

Ha. Mobility. That’s what torture is called these days.

“It’s okay to cry,” Zahavich told us as we sank our weight and glutes down on rubber balls and rolled out our quads and IT bands with foam sticks.

But I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of a single tear.

Better luck next time, scientist, I sneered.

Over the next week, I’ll be completing my heart rate testing (my blood lactate test showed an odd result – should this shock anyone? – so we need to do a bit of extra testing to nail down my results. And I’ll be getting more details on the program itself as well as beginning the first full week.

Watch for a full report next week.

About subthree

A multiple award-winning journalist, I'm currently a contributing editor with both Canadian Running and Canadian Cycling magazines. My articles have appeared in Explore, Canadian Geographic, enRoute, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and many other magazines and newspapers. Formerly a competitive cross-country mountain biker, I switched to running in 2006. I've run seven marathons, qualifying for Boston five times (and which I've run once). Generally, I've placed or won in my age group in races, in distances ranging from five and 10 kms to half and full marathons. I've also taught spin classes at a number of leading Eastern Canadian gyms. Sub-three was a 2012 #Runchat finalist for Best Overall Blog.
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5 Responses to Project X

  1. Steve says:

    I will be very curious to follow your progress Charles and you are far too self deprecating… that or I am a really sad case when it comes to running.

    • subthree says:

      It’s going to be an interesting experiment for sure, Steve. I have a set of exercises tonight that I don’t normally do, and a challenging schedule for the week ahead.

  2. sjpc14 says:

    Sounds very interesting , I cant wait to find out how it all goes and look forward to future posts.

    Also yes do eat and sleep before Sundays long runs. You can get away with setting off on smaller runs with an empty stomach but not on the long runs

    good luck

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