18 July 2016

Why the 100-miler is not for me (at least this year)

I have scrapped my plans to try to earn a 100-miler belt buckle.

If there was anything that I was gunning for in 2016 it was to try to complete my first hundie and earn a ballot into the Western States Endurance Run lottery.  But even having percolated this plan for about 12 months now, I've now decided that it's just not for me.  For now, at least.

The race that I was eyeballing was the Run Woodstock Hallucination 100 miler in September.  As a Michigan-based event, it would have been simple enough to stay with some friends in Windsor, Ontario and hop the border for to compete, thereby saving myself a few $$$ in accommodation costs.  Plus the placement on the calendar made this a palatable option with plenty of time to get my training in.

With so many friends who are not only embracing the trail ultra challenge (e.g. Keith completing his first WSER, Bill who ran as part of Team Asics in the Beat The Sun race, Joy, Lindsey and Becky who prevailed over the mud at the Limberlost Challenge and and Mike, Rob, Robert and Crystal who crushed it this past weekend at The North Face Endurance Challenge Series event at Blue Mountain) it would be straightforward enough to ride the coattails of their energy and discipline.  But after taking a hard look at why and what I'm running these days, I've come to understand that entering to run a 100-miler wouldn't be about

reaching my goals

testing my limits

experiencing a new level of being alive.

Right now, it would be about proving myself to everyone else.

There's a big part of me that hates the fact that I'm driven by comparison.  I know that deep down I've never felt good enough, worthy enough, talented enough, smart enough, accomplished enough.  On the one hand it's helped me to try to push forward and explore so many different avenues and activities in my lifetime ... but it's also proven (at least in my case) that the old adage of 'jack of all trades, master of none' can be true.

So right now I think that I've decided that I'm tired of trying to earn another medal or cross another finish line so that others might respect me.  I've often told myself that it doesn't really matter to me what other people think, and that I've just got to be true to me.  Sadly, that's easier said than done, and too often the kind of monitoring of others' opinions that takes place gets deeply embedded in the psyche and you just can't quite tune it out or turn it off.

Whatever I am - chicken, poser, delusional, hypocrite, failure - I'll not be a 100-mile finisher this year.  

And you know what, I think that I'm going to be ok with that.


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14 July 2016

Gear review - Epson Runsense SF-810 GPS Watch

Go ahead - call me a Meb junkie.

Not only do I run for Skechers Performance Division, but once I heard that Meb was reppin' an Epson running watch, I knew that I had to check it out.


But it's not only about being a fanboy ... my up-to-recently trusty Garmin Forerunner 305 had been supplying me with all the signs that it was about ready to give up the ghost, even after having replaced the battery in it.  Having been nearly bulletproof for several years I felt like it really owed me nothing and so I was legitimately on the hunt for its successor.

Enter the Runsense SF-810.

Let the unboxing begin ...!
 
My thanks go out [legal disclosure] to the Epson America marketing department for providing me with this watch for review, and in particular to Jason for his assistance in connecting me with the Epson team.

I have to admit that having read some of the reviews that others had posted about the SF-810 (including some friends of mine) after having gotten their hot little hands on this item first I was prepared for a less-than-stellar first foray from Epson into the running tech market.  However, keeping an open mind I will say that even the initial touch-and-feel survey of the physical hardware made me think that this was a quite a decently constructed piece of equipment.  Nothing about its physical design or crafting communicated anything less than quality workmanship to me, and so the first impression was a good one.

The SF-810 employs a straight-forward four-button navigation system like many digital watches, and you'll find no complaints from me about that.  I've known too many other people who have fumbled and struggled with the sensitivity and responsiveness of touchscreen watch displays that I'm happy to stick with something a little more 'manual'.  In terms of setting up the device to suit my personal configuration preferences there was ample direction provided between the quick-start paper instruction manual included in the box and the online Epson video library.


After having now put the SF-810 through its paces for over a month, here are my impressions of what's working and what's improvable:

Pros:
  • GPS acquistion - Yes!  No more having to wait two or three minutes to figure out where on the planet you are actually located!  I found that this watch is quite quick to lock on the appropriate satellites, which means that the workout can start pretty much as soon as I'm ready.
  • Distance tracking accuracy - I think that this watch is actually more accurate than my late Forerunner 305.  In the last half-marathon that I ran the watch auto-lap pinged pretty much exactly at each kilometre sign marker!
  • Integrated heart rate monitor - The optical HRM is a nice feature, and I definitely appreciate being able to track that metric without constricting my ribcage with the band that has to be paired with most running watches.
  • Workout stop/start - I like that I'm able to close out a workout and start a new one without having to upload the information off of the device.  That was always something that frustrated me about the 305, as I could 'stop' a workout but even if I powered down the device and then powered it up again any new press of the 'start' button would effectively recommence the previous workout.
  • Battery life - It's touted to be 20 hours between charges, which would make it about double the projected life of my previous watch.  So far I've not come close to running it dry while only letting it sit in its charging dock for as long as it takes to upload data - I'm hoping to use it for a planned 100-miler this fall so we'll see just how far/long it will go.
  • Quick upload - Speaking of upload, the Epson Run Connect desktop software fires up super-instanteously when the watch is snapped into it's dock.  I don't have a data plan for my phone so I've not used the Run Connect mobile app (which some reviewers have really disliked), so I've no complaints.  Plus I do like the fact that the Run Connect interface easily communicates with Strava.
Cons:
  • Heart rate tracking accuracy - Huh ... maybe I'm truly more out of shape than I think that I am, but to hit 211 beats per minute at least once a week during a medium intensity run?  Just not sure that these readings are as bang-on as they could be, and tracking does have a habit of cutting out in the middle of a workout.  I may need to slide the watch a little bit further up my arm than I'm used to to maintain solid contact between the optical sensor and my skin.
  • Relentless auto-lap feature - Generally speaking I like knowing my pace per kilometre for each kilometre I've run; however, when I deliberately press the 'lap' button not only would I expect that that would trigger tracking for a new lap, but that the auto-lap on-the-kilometre would not override the new lap's starting point!  Yessir, it seems that if I want to run an 800m interval and hit the lap button at 4.7km into my run then I'll still have a lap split at 5km (so 300m into the interval) and then will have to add in the additional 500m that follows.  It would be nice if the use of the lap button triggered a new kilometre count.
  • GPX file configuration - Even though there's the ability to stop and start a new workout, I noticed an interesting downside to how the data is captured.  The other week I ran trails with a group and then stopped the workout, got in my car, drove a short distance and then got out and continued my evening workout.  While the Epson Runsense view website tracked the actual time spent in workout mode correctly, when it pushed the data to Strava it actually included the distance that I'd driven (and at the rate of speed that I'd traveled) as part of my run.  Now I'd like to say that I averaged 1:52/km for my workout but that simply wasn't the case ... so something funky must have been communicated in the GPX data when it was transferred to Strava.
Here's the video review:

 
All in all I've got to say that I'm pretty happy with the look, feel and functionality of the SF-810 and think that Epson has got a solid product on their hands.  It may take some time to woo die-hard users of Garmin, Suunto or Polar tech but honestly I think that it's definitely a competitive piece of hardware.  I'm going to happily keep on using it and will be looking forward to where Epson goes next in the world of running devices!

Disclosure:  I received this product from Epson America 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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13 June 2016

And the cat came back ... (post-injury update)

Well, it's been two weeks since I last ran any distance.

Really, it's been two weeks

without exercise

of sleeping in

eating whatever I wanted (in whatever proportion)

being off of the running radar.

I'd like to think that I learned a few things during this mini-break:
  1. It feels really good to take a rest.  Like I got to do things with my family a bit more because my schedule wasn't so structured.
  2. My body seems to be thanking me for the off-time ... I feel much better physically, and I hope that I'm ready to resume (basic) training workouts.
  3. I missed running - but not as much as I thought I would.  I think that I actually missed the people I run with (shout-out to the RunNinjas!) more than the activity itself.
  4. While I did gain weight, I didn't balloon up like I'd anticipated I would - I think that I actually only put on about two or three extra pounds, although I can see that I've lost a good bit of tone.
  5. It's hard to break the exercise habit - I did feel like I was missing something most mornings by getting up so late (i.e. 7:00 am) and not having walked in the door with a good sweat going on.
  6. There's nothing like a bit of new tech to get you itching to climb back into the game - and that's exactly what the arrival of the Epson Runsense SF-810 did for me.

And now I anxiously await tomorrow morning when I will be back on the roads again, and a reunion with my running family!

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02 June 2016

Race report - 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon

Well, it all finally caught up with me. 

Despite putting in a full winter season's worth of training, I cannot honestly say that I arrived at the start line of the 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon healthy - and I paid for it.

The events surrounding the event were all great enough - being able to join Jim Willett as he wrapped up his #Marathon2Marathon escapade, sharing the race weekend with so many of my RunNinja compatriots, and participating in the largest and most prestigious race in our country (and at the nation's capital, no less).  But alas, the hopes and dreams of becoming a sub-3 hour marathoner were not to be for me.


 Our tribe of RunNinjas (aka "The Beautiful Freaks") - photo by Miranda Wade Cudmore

With the temperatures soaring well above 30°C (factoring in the humidex) the long walk from our cars to the expo in downtown Ottawa on Saturday afternoon (after having spent the entire previous day moving our home with the assistance of RunNinja friends) didn't help matters much.  While feeling mentally tough I tried to suppress the sensations of being physically depleted on Sunday morning.  I ran through the standard routine that I follow for any go at a serious race, including the pre-dawn shakeout run, solid breakfast, and arrival at the start/finish area with at least an hour to spare - and I must say that feeding off of the energy of the likes of RunNinjas Rob, Robert, Lewis, Rick, Mariana and Crystal made me feel like I might actually be able to pull off something decent.


Pre-race hopefulness ... photo by Crystal Oakley

There was an additional boost when I lined up in the Blue (anticipated sub-3:15 finish time) corral and not only met up with fellow Skechers Performance Ambassador Dave Liu (who was going for a 2:30ish gun time) but I was separated just by an arms length and a barrier tape from the elite athletes who were warming up in their cordoned-off front section.  Just being that close to so many great marathoners made me feel fast and ready ... I even tried to hype myself up by standing tall with my hands on my hips a la Amy Cuddy's TED talk.



But it was all for naught ...

With no 3:00 pacer I started out with the 3:05 pacer and immediately found that my legs were lumbering and heavy.  I managed to stick with this group for about the first 10k but then slowly found myself falling back, until the 16k mark (oh no - shades of the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon!) when my right knee immediately went into full-out rebellion mode.  Pain radiated across the bottom of my kneecap and would buckle every time that I tried to open up my stride, and my pace fell from 4:25/km to 5:00/km. 

I continued to hobble my way forward with no ability to pick up any steam without incurring the wrath of my knee - all the way up to about the 22k mark where I decided that I needed to stop at the roadside medical tent to get some attention.  After a solid wrap I rejoined the fray (as best as a lame duck can) and continued to semi-limp along until all of the compensating that my left knee was doing finally ground to a halt and it gave way, radiating the same sort of pain transverse-wise from the bottom ridge of the patella.  Through some force of will I carried on one foot in front of the other (now clicking off 6:00+/km) until around 33k when a subsequent medical tent stop was made to tensor-up the now-aggravated left-knee.

It was quite a sight.  I even heard at least one onlooker comment "Look - both knees taped up" as I attempted to finish up the race.


The agony of defeat de-knees

What was perhaps the most frustrating was that my cardio was all there, and my muscles were feeling otherwise fine.  Even psychologically I was still with it, as at around the 38k mark I decided to give my regular finishing kick a go, managing to drop from 6:00/km to 4:27/km while weaving through the sea of humanity as full and half marathon runners merged down the finishing stretch along the Rideau Canal.

I crossed the finish line in a disheartening time (to me) - but was still able to celebrate so many victories by my fellow RunNinjas, including a number of PBs (including Mike's sub-3 BQ), first-time marathon finishes and the conclusion of Jim's east-to-west journey.

So what did I discover?
  1. I'm pretty slow - I may have to rethink my potential to post a sub-3 marathon finish.
  2. I'm pretty stoopid - for all the talk that I've spouted to others about taking appropriate rest and avoiding overtraining, I managed to blow straight through that stop sign.
  3. I'm pretty tired - it's time to take a step back.  A mini off-season is long overdue, and will provide me with an opportunity to re-evaluate what I'm going to do with this running stuff in the future.  
For now, a hearty congratulations to all who toughed it out over the course of the Ottawa Race Weekend - you've earned a real 'pat' on the back (the inverse of what is depicted below, especially if my knee issues turn out to be chronic and not acute)!



Race gear for the 2016 Ottawa Marathon:

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26 May 2016

Anticipating my first one-legged race

The weekend is almost here - and not just any weekend, but the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

I've been looking forward to being part of the biggest road running event in our country for a couple of reasons - first because it's the terminus of our RunNinjas sensei Jim's epic trek from the Fredericton Marathon to the Ottawa Marathon, and secondly because I'd targeted this marathon as my goal race for the spring season (in hopes of attaining a sub-3 hour finish).  Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray ...

Jim is doing just fine, and managing to capture some fascinating people and experiences as part of a video documentary that he is compiling along his journey's route.  We RunNinjas are going to be over-the-moon to be able to reunite with him and celebrate this phenomenal and superhuman accomplishment!

On the other hand, I will have see what Sunday brings, and celebrate just being able to get to the starting line.

Since my last adventure running with my friend Nav at the GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon I've been battling some knee issues, and as I've discovered just recently a strain of the short head (lower part) of the biceps femoris.  Tenderness, weakness and pain led to me taking almost a full two weeks off immediately after the GoodLife Marathon and then resuming training/tapering with modest success.  As such I'll be heading into Ottawa with a bit of a busted wheel that will be taped up like Red Green had attacked it.




If that wasn't enough, the one thing that I've heard about racing in the Ottawa Marathon is that while the course itself might be conducive to decent finishing times, the ambient conditions may not ... and this weekend is shaping up to be a messy scorcher.

http://www.theweathernetwork.com/ca/weekend-weather-forecast/ontario/ottawa

I've been heat training this week (layering up for workouts on even the warmest days) to try to acclimatize but I'm not sure whether or not it will have any significant benefit based on the projected forecast.

As such it will be a real roll of the dice in terms of how things turn out.  If there is a silver lining in this (thunder)cloud it could be that the one mitigating factor might benefit the other, as the heat seems to alleviate the tightness and pain that I have been feeling in my right knee.

I'll get to the start.  I'll be excited to be putting my fluorescent orange Skechers GOMeb Speed 2016 through their first race.  It'll be awesome to share the experience with all of my RunNinja tribe (some of whom I've helped coach in preparation for their first marathon) and reconnect with Jim.

One way or another, it will be a memorable weekend ...!

#GOlikeneverbefore #RunJimmiRun #RunNinjasCapitalTakeover
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