23 January 2019

Washing away the grime of 2018

I can hardly believe that I've not posted anything since last September.

But with January quickly winding down, I thought that perhaps I'd better provide a bit of a wrap-up on how my 2018 went ... so if I could describe it in just one word it'd be:

disappointingfrustratingconfusingdeflatingfutile

(c'mon ... I bet that someone would want to use that every now and again to describe their feelings 'in one word')


My single focus, my one all-consuming goal for 2018 was to cross the finish line in a marathon before the race clock read 3:00:00.  To that end I worked once again with a coach (who happened to also be my friend and RunNinja leader Mike MacInnes) to try to make me sub-3 ready for last year's Mississauga Marathon.  Under his guidance I incorporated strength work that I'd not put in since my university days, and bumped my weekly mileage as high as it had ever been (to 100 miles in a single week).

Alas, my efforts were fruitless ... I bumbled my way to a gun time of 3:19:58, one of my slowest efforts in a long time.

Less than two weeks later, out of sheer stupidity, I ran the MEC London Marathon in 32°C unbridled heat, and it took me 3:32:02.

It was getting worse.

Trying to reinject some speed I tackled a couple of 10ks over the summer, not being able to log anything better than a 45 minute gun time.

In an effort to keep the streak alive, I went back for a fifth time to perform pacing duties at The County Marathon (as the 3:30 bunny), wholly unsure that I was able to actually complete the job this year.  However I managed somehow to keep it together to peg a 3:28:58.

Feeling like maybe I had one more kick at the can I accepted a bib transfer from my fleet-of-foot friend Jeremy Grampola and took on the Hamilton Marathon (a race that I've never really enjoyed or performed well at) - and sure enough, the best that I could muster was 3:17:16.

Whatever balloon I had, had burst.

Caveat:  I completely understand and appreciate that running two Boston qualifying times (for my age group) in one year should provide enough satisfaction to anyone.  I don't want to diminish the objective accomplishment, nor cast any judgment on anyone else's performances or capabilities relative to those times.  It's just that in comparison to my goal, and what I felt like I was fit and healthy enough to accomplish, I fell flat on my face.

Perhaps I've gotten too old for fast racing.  Maybe I fooled myself thinking that I had the right stuff to go sub-3 in the first place.

The truth may lie somewhere in-between or elsewhere.

So with the books closed on 2018, my 2019 plans have shifted away from the marathon.  Time to circle back around to the race that I bailed on back in 2016.  It's time to go after that belt buckle again.

I've resolved to focus on running ultras this year - so far I'm registered to tackle:
Needless to say this means that I will be shifting my focus from road-speed to trail-endurance, and testing my mental limits perhaps more than my physical ones.  

Also by way of a mini-update, I've elected not to renew my ambassadorships with Salming Running and Endurance Tap.  Please don't get me wrong - I believe that both organizations and their respective product lines are great, and I would happily endorse them with anyone interested in stepping up their running performance.  However I found that I personally did not have the best feel and feedback with my Salming running shoes despite the great technology and design elements integrated into their footwear, and even though many many people do experience them to be fantastic weapons in their arsenals and leading them to new personal bests.  As for Endurance Tap, I'll probably still be packing my running vest pockets with their gels but I'm also looking to experiment a bit with Maurten as a number of friends have given it a big double-thumbs up.

That's a wrap for now - looking forward to turning a corner in 2019, and hoping all the best for you in your running and life adventures!
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25 September 2018

[Guest Posts] Road review - Reebok Floatride Run

Thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of my contact at Reebok Canada I was able to help hook up a few of my RunNinja club athletes with a pair of their Floatride Run shoes for testing and review.



Did I lose any friends over this?  Read on and find out!
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I have been running consistently for about 6 years now, but I had never tried Rebook before. The shoes are simply amazing – very light and comfortable. They are completely different from other brands I have tried in the past, and I’m glad I got this pair of shoes. I would totally recommend these shoes to my running buddies. Thank you Reebok Canada!

[ Juan A., Ecuadorian ultra-runner, college student ]


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Reebok Floatride Run Ultraknit
Weight 7 0z. / Drop 8 mm

I tested these shoes on road runs between 5 km and 22 km.

Appearance
Stylish. I generally don’t wear purple, but the colour combo of purple and smoky grey with white soles is flashy on my feet. The geometric shapes, honeycombs and triangles, add to the shoes attractive quality.

Performance
Overall, running in Floatride is fast and light. The shoes felt seamless to my feet. The fabric knit material on the tongue, and upper section of the shoes shaped to my feet, making them very comfortable to run in. However, due to the flexibility of the fabric, my feet moved around in the shoes. The shoes made a flapping sound with every foot strike. That was remedied when I was more mindful to be lighter with each of my steps. The geometric plastic frame on the sides of the shoes have 6 holes for the lacing. It would’ve been nice to have 8, to do up the lock lacing to keep my heels in place.

Recommendation
I would recommend everyone to try on a pair of Floatride. They’re a fun pair to run in. They’re super light and have plenty of cushion and spring for the short and long runs. Just tie the laces a little tighter than usual for a snug fit.


[ Christina B.  trail runner, soccer player, graphic artist ]

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Give 'em a try yourself!  Head on over to https://www.reebok.ca/ (and why not check it out now while they're having a "VIP Sale" online ...?)!
 
Disclosure: My friends received these products from Reebok Canada gratis but was not obliged to provide anything but an objective review. All opinions expressed are those of the reviewer!

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21 June 2018

Road review - Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro

I'm almost never an 'early adopter', so this is unusual territory for me ... testing out the Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro even before it's available to the public here in Canada!


Here's my video review after about a total of 20k running in them ... but good golly I had to say something!



Disclosure: I received this product from Reebok Canada at their expense but was not obliged to provide anything but an objective review. All opinions expressed (however poorly) are my own!
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30 April 2018

Is this going to go my way?

After a long, icy winter here we are at last - week 23 of the 23 week breaking-3 (hour) marathon training plan.

It all comes down to this.

Or perhaps it's better said that it all comes together this Sunday.

That's the hope anyway - that the work that I've put in at the guidance of my coach Mike MacInnes will pay its dividends when I toe the line at the 15th annual Mississauga Marathon.  It's been a season of new training tactics - from regular strength workouts to fewer 'rest/recovery days' to greater overall weekly mileage - all in an attempt to become faster, more durable and anti-fragile.  Even though I'm still reasonably new to the running scene I do count myself as being an aging runner and the approach that coach Mike has had me take over the last few months has definitely stretched my limits.

How do I feel during this last week of tapering?  My friend Lewis asked me that exact question this past weekend and my answer to him was "honestly, I'm not sure how I'm feeling".  The reasons for that are because I've run two 'tune-up' races this season (the Chilly Half-Marathon and the Around The Bay 30k) which both resulted in disappointing chip-times, and many of the prescribed race-pace (or faster) workouts have seen me fail to come close to the speeds that I was asked to hit.  I also feel as if I've done that precarious dance on the overtraining line wondering at various times whether or not I'd actually crossed over into the dark side.

That all being said one of the refrains that has constantly run through my head during a long and dreary-ish winter has been "trust the training plan, trust your coach".  I know that Mike is a stellar athlete himself and intelligent when it comes to the ways of exercise physiology, and he has clearly told me that the entire plan is designed to culminate on marathon race day ... that the final stage of supercompensation is focused on presenting the best version of myself on May 6.


He's also been a big proponent of the mental training aspect, having recommended that I read "How Bad Do You Want It?" by Matt Fitzgerald.  I also received a recommendation from my pal Steve to read "Endure" by Alex Hutchinson - alas, being a reluctant reader I've not had an opportunity to benefit from either of these sport psychology-focused texts, but I have kept visualizing the huge smile on the face of my running icon Yuki Kawauchi as he crossed the line as this year's Boston Marathon male champion.


So I can say with confidence that I've put the work in - I'm still riding a bit of a high having completed my first 100+ mile training week just over a week ago and believing that that is going to be a big contributor to how good I will feel especially in the later stages on the marathon.  I'll also be wearing a new pair of racing flats (the Salming Race 5) which I did not have available to me for my previous two races this spring and which feel much better and lighter than the Salming Speed 6 for posting fast times (at least in my humble opinion).  And one other intangible - for which I can take absolutely no credit whatsoever but is nonetheless a mental boost for me - is that my friend Jeroen Hendrikx wore the singlet that I had in my drawer for the last year to a 19th place finish in yesterday's Hamburg Marathon, crossing the line in 2:20:45.  

Yep, that's my old race kit blazing through Germany in 2:20!

There it is - I've done my part to control what I can control.  The rest is up to the weather, how much rest I can get this week, the germs that I can manage to avoid and how smartly I control my pace out on course.  Regardless of what my official finish time will be I'll know that I stretched beyond my comfort zone in preparing for this race and am grateful to coach Mike for his guidance and support and to my RunNinjas clubmates for all of their outstanding encouragement and companionship on this journey!

#nononsense #runSwedish #teamTap #fuelsimply #werunthistown #breaking3
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12 April 2018

Road review: Reebok Harmony Road 2

The 'Bok?

As in a running 'Bok?

Yup.

Having formerly been an employee of Nike in my twenties I recall Reebok being a bit of the 'also ran' of the sports-and-fitness world ... not quite a heavy hitter like Adidas, but had still enough of a recognizable presence that people would think of the brand when it came to athletic shoes.  We wouldn't quite snicker at their employees, but we wouldn't give them much thought either.

Well, Reebok has managed to hang around all these years.  The Union Jack logo has gone, and they've also found a new niche for themselves:  the CrossFit revolution.  They've also managed to snag an exclusive contract with one of the world's fastest growing professional sport associations, the UFC.  And now they're returning to the culture of running.

After a few notable attempts with the "Zig" tech design for running shoes the designers at Reebok appear to have returned to a more traditional approach to building performance running footwear - and it looks to be turning some heads.

Thanks to a friend who works with Reebok Canada's events and partnerships division I received a pair of the new Harmony Road 2 to test drive.

 Pretty!

My initial impressions as I picked them up out of the box was that they were much more shoe than I had become accustomed to wearing - and the specs bore this out as well.  At a reported 10.8oz for a men's size 9 and a stack height of 30mm-to-20mm (or 37.3mm-to-22.8mm if you take Runner's World at its word - which is it folks?!?) it is definitely one of the beefiest shoes in my rotation with the most significant heel-to-toe drop.


What contributes to it's weight?  It could be the carbon rubber applied to the outsole's 'impact zones' or the plush synthetic upper (which by the way provides a really nice wrap-feel on my foot).  But truth be told the empirical data may tell one tale while the subjective experience reveals another ... and in this case the actual ride of the shoe was not nearly as cumbersome as other shoes that I've had on which may have been equally as robust or even lighter.  My first outing in them involved a series of hill intervals with the RunNinjas and I was most pleasantly surprised at how they allowed me to pick up the pace and hold half-decent form.


The anticipation was there that a 10mm or more drop that I would find myself inadvertently heel-striking especially during easier effort segments but that didn't turn out to be a reality.  I was able to stick with a forefoot (or at worst, midfoot) strike even while going at recovery paces, which is all the more surprising given that the Harmony Road 2 doesn't quite pass the one-handed roll-into-a-ball flex test.

I cheated - pressing down against the top of my dryer!

Here's what I liked about the Harmony Road 2:
  • Looks - Call me superficial, but the simple design of the HR2 actually appeals to me.  Normally I like glitz and glam on my footwear, but something about these kicks say 'dignified' and 'efficient'.  Plus there are just enough reflective accents to help keep me safe on the roads.
  • Fit - True to size, suitably wide for some toe splay on impact, no heel slippage.
  • Feel - The upper is comfortable without any noticeable seams along the top of the foot or around the sides/edges.
  • Ride - There is an ample amount of cushioning thanks to their TriZone midsole design featuring the KOOSHRIDE TPU foam core, and it just seems nice and smooth without being marshmallowy/energy-depleting.
  • Traction - Probably due to the amount of rubber on the outsole, but add to that a decently grippy design these shoes have fared well so far even on the slushy/mildly icy surfaces that I've use to test them.
  • Durability - This is just going to be a guess of mine but based on my initial runs but there seems to me to be enough heft to this shoe to last well past 500kms of wear, so I should be keeping it in the rotation for a while.
 And what would I change?
  • Weight - This is definitely the downside of the 'traction' and 'durability' pros that I listed above ... if it could come down to something closer to 9oz. then it would be what I would consider a great everyday trainer (but then it might just have to be called the "Floatride Run" ...!).
  • Drop - As much as this doesn't feel quite like a shoe with a 10-14mm drop I believe that it would promote a better footstrike and running dynamic if it were closer to a 6mm heel-to-toe ramp.
  • Flex - The fact that the shoe doesn't pass my 'fold in half with one hand' test means that it probably isn't conducive to a full range of proprioceptive feedback via the footstrike.  I'd like my shoes to work a little more with the flex of my foot and less against it.
  • Price - At $145 CDN it's not cheap, but if it does last as long as I think that it will then it might pay for itself in the long run (no pun intended).
All things considered I would happily recommend that you give this shoe a try if you are looking for something to use for your easy run days or if you need one pair of shoes to last you a good while - I give the Harmony Road 2 a solid four footprints out of five:


Here's my video review for your entertainment:


So it looks like this player has re-entered the game ... and the other models in their current lineup (plus a crazy-light racing flat due out this summer!) lend credence to the fact that Reebok is a serious contender when it comes to what's shodding the feet of runners.  Welcome back, 'Bok!

Disclosure: I received this product from Reebok Canada at their expense but was not obliged to provide anything but an objective review. All opinions expressed (however poorly) are my own!
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