22 January 2016

how to be the early bird that gets the worm!

recently i've had some of my RunNinja friends query me about how i manage to fit in all of the running that i do (and believe me, i don't consider myself as someone who gets in a lot of training week over week), and my normal answer is that as part of the 'covenant' that i have with my family i have to run on my own time and not interfere with responsibilities as husband and dad.  that means that five days out of the week i get up a few hours before everyone else, get my workout in and make sure that i'm home in time to make breakfast, pack lunches and see kids onto their respective buses.

what you need to know is that i'm not naturally a morning person - although i have always enjoyed the times that i've gotten up early in the morning for whatever reason, for most of my life i have been a nighthawk.  and who needs a snooze button?  i just used to set my alarm for as late as reasonably possible.

not anymore.  now being out on the roads when day breaks is a regular part of my routine - and my body has gotten used to waking up somewhere between 5:00 and 5:25am on its own, alarm clock or not.

some of you are cringing right now.

i've had many a conversation with runners who wish they could be up and at 'em before dawn but have no idea how to go about it.  well, this is my own feeble attempt at explaining some of the keys that have made it possible for me to transition from a late-nighter to an early riser..
  1. go to bed earlier - duh.  i realize that that for many people this is easier said than done - depending on the sleep schedules of everyone else in your house, the tasks that get left over for when there's finally some peace and quiet.  that's why i deliberately chose the word "earlier" as opposed to "early" - because i firmly believe that everyone can choose to be in bed earlier than they might otherwise be.  and if you begin to do this with some consistency you can begin to shift the expectations that everyone else around you has of you ... they will soon realize that if they want something from you then they will no longer be able to drag it out at their convenience and unload it on you at the very end of the day (when most people have their lowest energy levels).  and as for the tasks that seem to always wait to ambush you at the end of the day as well?  guess what - they'll still be there at the start of the next day, and the world will have kept on spinning in the meantime.
  2. get a better sleep - this also sounds a bit glib, but there are small things that you may be able to do to help with this.  you want to try to get a better sleep so that the hours that you spend in bed are quality hours, enough to refresh you so that an early start in the morning seems less like dragging your butt and more like being recharged and ready to fire up.  so here are a couple of ideas that might help with the quality of your shuteye:
    • a sleep mask - i've worn one every night now for the past two years, and just blocking out that extra bit of light helps me to get to sleep faster and stay in a deep sleep longer
    • melatonin - a natural supplement that aids in the sleep process.
  3. have a workout motivator - for me this is normally breakfast.  yup, all that i down before my morning run is a giant glass of water to help kickstart the metabolism and help with hydration, and that's it.  then i spend the rest of my run envisioning what kind of delicious breakfast i will make for myself when it's all over.  that has always worked for me, but it may not work for you - so maybe your morning motivator will be to find a fellow nut who will run with you and keep you encouraged and accountable.  a few winters ago i would get out with my friend rhonda-marie who often was looking for companions for her "stupid o'clock" runs.  you know what they say - misery loves company. 
  4. share your workouts - pride may go before a fall, but i gotta say that there's something about posting your early morning workout on social media or a fitness tracking site (like Strava) that will give you a sense of real accomplishment.  when you wrap up a solid run by the time that many people are still clearing the sleep from the corners of their eyes, you're bound to feel pretty good about yourself.  maybe good enough to do it all again the next day.
how about you?  does the morning running thing work for you?  if so, what tips would you have to share?  teach us all something in comments below!


05 January 2016

race report - 2016 CANIrunning Snowflake Series Race 3 (10k) ... and what's in store for the next 366 days

it was january 1, 2016 ... and my clock radio woke me up playing neil young's "long may you run".

now if that isn't a way to start a new year i don't know what is.

as in the previous two years i planned to kick-off another new calendar year with the CANIRunning Snowflake Series 10k.  by situating this race on the schedule it has done two important things for me: 
  1. it's ensured that i don't stay up partying too late (ok, who's kidding whom ... i was in zonked out in bed by 10pm anyway).
  2. it's given me a reading on just how slow i really am (regardless of what the course surface conditions might be on any given New Year's Day).
this year a few of my friends from the RunNinjas also registered to run the 10k, so i was able to carpool up to orillia with lewis, mariana, sarah and cher.  it was great being able to share their energy and excitement about starting off their running year this way as well - and we had great conversation on the way up about how to layer effectively for racing in the colder conditions (as i'd heard many times before, 'dress for the finish line, not the start line'!).

RunNinja powers - activate!

one of the things that i did do that was new this time around was to stud a pair of trail shoes - my ever-lovin' Skechers GOBionic Trail - as there was enough overnight accumulation to make traction a concern.  

 here's how sage (and i) did it!

this year the registration process was managed through Eventbrite as it appears that a new organization (Rotoract) has stepped up to help present the Snowflake Series for this season.  this contributed to a heightened sense of professionalism and formality (not that the race lacked anything in previous years) but it was the still an easily navigable and relaxed-feeling event upon arrival. 

prior to the start our RunNinja crew split up with some of us nabbing a warm-up run, others choosing to stay warm inside the minivan until the megaphone cattle call, and most of us making sure that we'd gone to the washroom at least once (!).  i managed to connect with a few other friends during my warm-up, including dave and cait of Team Running Free.  though i was proudly sporting my Skechers Performance Division racing singlet, seeing them in their Team RF gear reminded me of the tribe that i (for the time being) can only claim to having once been a part of.

l-r:  cher, sarah, mariana, yours truly, half of lewis

the race
the first thing that i noticed was that our resident NCAA runner was in the mix (and man, is she fast!) which meant that the best that i could even remotely hope for was second place ... but i also knew that since the running community in orillia was so strong that i would need to pull out some good stuff just to appear somewhat competitive.

after having done some reading about effective 10k race strategies i decided that i would actually plan to run positive splits.  the first kilometre turned out to be my fastest on paper - likely fueled by the desire to get clear of many of the tweener 5k runners who started like they were shot out of a cannon.  knowing that i was only going to try to push it for 10000m it felt strangely freeing to not worry too much about going out faster than race pace ... but of course time would tell.

the first 5k had me following a pack of about seven runners (including NCAA amanda) and the best that i could do was to keep them in sight.  i managed to catch up to and pass two runners over kms 3 and 4, but was also passed by one older (than me) runner who was humming along effortlessly.  being a 5k loop course one of the young bucks that i had passed decided to sprint home past me in the final 200m of his 5k race while i hairpin-circled around the pylon to tackle the home half of my race.

i did my best to hold a 'comfortably hard effort' for km 6-8 with the intention of pushing hard for the final 2 km.  the dynamic of the race was almost completely different  now though - besides greeting and being encouraged by some of the other runners as i passed them coming in to wrap up their first loop (and having one woman holler out "go rainbow!"), it got awful quiet.  as i had no one in front of me (that i could see anymore) and no one breathing down my neck so it felt like a solo workout run.  of course the upside of that was that no one passed me in the second half of the race.

always the poser!

i did manage a half-decent final push to cross in 42:22 by my watch - not the kind of result that i was hoping for but i knew that the road conditions would really dictate what sort of day i would have.  i also admit to still feeling like my legs were a little beat up from the hill repeat workout that jim led the RunNinjas through two nights before.


immediately after crossing the finish line i turned around to scoot back out onto the course in search of my RunNinja compatriots.  in turn i found lewis, then cher, then mariana and then sarah and had the privilege of helping shoo each one of them down the homestretch.  afterwards it was time for a cup of hot chocolate and a timbit (courteously provided by Rotoract Orillia) and then a warm car ride home.

all in all it was another great event organized as part of the CANIrunning Snowflake Series, and an enjoyable start to the racing season of 2016.  at this point the plan for this year's competition schedule will include a bunch of 5k and 10k races in the hope of upping my baseline speed, but i do have a few notable destinations on the radar:

plenty of fun times to pack into the next twelve months!  here's hoping that you are setting some faith- and fitness-stretching goals for yourselves as well ... lookout 2016, here we come!  #GOlikeneverbefore

race gear for the 2016 Snowflake Series 10k:


31 December 2015

no time to waist!

four days ago i was at my wife's side of the family for christmas dinner.  as it was the end of a training week, i gave myself permission to enjoy the meal (and desserts) freely.

i also weighed in at the end of the evening - the scale read 143.2 lbs., which was the most that i'd weighed in probably about 8 months.

yesterday morning i weighed in after my run, and the scale read 137.2 lbs. 

yep, back down to pretty much racing weight, and six pounds shed in about 60 hours (without employing any unhealthy or dehydrating methods).

as this is the time of year that many of my runner friends begin to feel guilty about themselves - indulging in holiday goodies and perhaps choosing to forego the occasional workout due to weather conditions - i thought that it might be helpful to share a few quick suggestions and insights on the topic of food and weight management.
1.  the scale doesn't lie ... but it doesn't tell the whole story either

when you or i snack on those extra calories they will undoubtedly show up on the bathroom scale (acknowledging of course that there are day-to-day fluctuations and that it's better to look at a broader period - e.g. a week - at a whole).  the thing is that while raw weight measurements are among the most trackable of statistics they don't necessarily indicate whether or not you're actually healthy.  you are smart enough to know that people can carry very little weight and be extremely unhealthy for a variety of reasons.  conversely, just because your body type or proportion of muscle-to-fat tissue contributes to a higher weight reading that doesn't mean that you're not in your healthy zone.  remember that healthy is healthy, despite what the scale reading might be.

2.  water, water, everywhere!
i am a huge proponent of drinking water over just about any other kind of beverage.  in terms of purity and usefulness to your body's metabolism i don't think that you can beat a big glass of water.  on top of that though i make sure that i do a couple of other things with water to help navigate my way to a healthy weight:

  • start the day with a big glass of water - as an early morning runner this is really my only pre-run nutrition six times out of seven.  it kick-starts my metabolism for the day and helps to get my hydration levels off to a good start.
  • drink a full glass of water before every meal - this helps to ensure that i don't overeat (aka 'eating with my eyes') by filling up some of that empty stomach space with liquid.  with that glass of water i'm already on my way to satiating my appetite.
3.  breakfast is big ... or (in the words of captain jean-luc picard) make it so!

after a good night's sleep your body has been fasting for maybe seven or more hours - so make the first meal of the day count!  following a study group of one (yep - me!) indications are that the more substantial your meal is during the early third of your day the better fueled (and less hungry) you are throughout the remainder of the day.

4.  whassup with supper?
conversely, if you can make the final meal of the day the smallest one (given that you do not need to load up for the overnight period) you will serve yourself well.  there's an old saying that goes "eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper" - and by and large it is a good guideline for anyone looking to effectively manage their energy levels and waistline.

5.  enough gas to get to the next stop
after a quick thumb-through of meb keflezighi's book Meb for Mortals i took note of the little eating tip that he offers to runners, which is to think of your body like a car and each meal like a gas-station stop.  you want to load up on enough fuel to get you over to the next station - this is a little mental reminder that i've also found to be helpful, especially since i tend to eat until i'm full instead of putting my fork down once i've had 'enough'.

6.  keep groovin'!
this is the 'easier-said-than-done' part.  i tend to be on the relentless side when it comes to my running, so i hope that it doesn't sound pedantic or condescending to say that if you want to manage your weight well that you should do everything you can to stick to your exercise regimen.  or at the very least do some of the little things that will help keep the ratio of calories consumed vs. calories burned from getting too out of whack.  for instance:
  • choose a parking spot a good distance away from the door/entrance of your destination
  • stand more than you sit
  • leave the car at home for small, nearby errands whenever possible.

... so there are just a few suggestions - i'm sure that you can come up with some of your own if you really put your mind to it!

so buckle in, buckle down, and here's to a happy and healthy 2016 for us all!  

29 December 2015

the 2015 round-up

as we prepare to flip the page on another calendar year i thought that it was time to share a few things from my 'best-of' list for 2015 - i hope that you enjoy!

favourite running moment
while my new marathon PB at the detroit marathon is a close runner-up, there's really nothing that holds a candle to having been able to run a race together with my wife and two of my daughters at the MEC Barrie Race Four 5k.  for too long i've had running as 'my activity' and it's definitely been something that i've wanted to not only encourage the rest of my family to take up as a means of exercise but i've also hoped that perhaps in some way it could become an opportunity for relationship building/bonding ... and 2015 afforded us that.  between having regular 'family run nights' and seeing each of these girls across the finish line i felt like running finally became more of an investment into my potential to be a better dad and husband.

most enjoyable running read
i'd have to give this to hal koerner's field guide to ultrarunning.  being still what i would call an 'aspiring ultrarunner' i found this book to be both insightful and entertainingly written.  well worth your time if you want to wrap your head around what it takes to succeed in the world of endurance running.

most exciting change in my running routine
by and large i am a creature of habit - though that may surprise a number of people who would say that they know me fairly well.  but i do crave variety and celebrate changes in my routine - and this year without a doubt the change that has been most engaging and encouraging to see has been the growth of the RunNinjas (the tribe formerly known as the Barrie Running Ninjas).

our little running community (i can say that i remember when it was pretty much just three of us going out on saturday mornings a few years ago) has now blossomed to a regular group of 30+ on saturdays, with another official workout night on wednesdays and unofficial group meet-ups happening throughout the remainder of the week.  of all ages, shapes, sizes, speeds, experience levels and aspirations, the RunNinjas are a dynamic collective focused on not just becoming better athletes but more activated human beings.  as our running sensei jim would say, "i love you freaks!".

most coveted piece of running gear
you might think that it was shoes, but it's not.

last christmas a good friend of mine (and fellow runner) gifted me with a nathan reflective safety vest.  it was mostly out of concern for the fact that i most often run in pre-dawn, low-light conditions and had nothing special by way of illumination or reflectivity that this vest came my way - and no word of a lie i wear it on 99% of my running workouts.  it's super-lightweight, completely unobtrusive and highly visible.  my only 'too bad it doesn't' observation would be that it would be great if it had even some meagre storage pockets - but it's far from a deal-breaker for me.  i love my vest, and it has likely saved my bacon more than a few times this year.

most satisfying ethical decision (related to running)
this one may confuse you - but i decided this year not to renew my affiliation/sponsorship with Team Running Free.

and it has nothing to do with Team RF itself ... this is one of those 'it's not you, it's me' break-ups.

i've loved my experience with Team RF.  their mandate, vision and mission are fantastic, and i wholeheartedly endorse them on those fronts.  their support team is top notch.  and the other team members?  what can i say - a finer group of runners, triathletes and adventure racers you'll be hard pressed to find.

so why step away?

it really has to do with the energy that i've focused on seeing the RunNinjas grow.  from the outset the homebase for this group has been MEC Barrie and truly without them there would be no group.  it's also been great to be involved with the annual Race Series hosted by MEC which has provided a grassroots-level point-of-access to running races in our region.  with all that in mind i felt like i couldn't very well (in good conscience) continue to pour the majority of my attention into MEC events and the RunNinjas while still carrying the Team Running Free banner.  it felt disingenuous on my part - and very much self-serving, as the benefit to me (in terms of promotional gear and discounts) would outweigh my tangible contribution to Team RF.  so it's not without a significant degree of sadness that i bid fare thee well to all of my friends and compatriots at Team RF ... i'm sure that i will see you all around in person and on social media, and will continue to proudly declare that i was once a member of this Team.

blog that i most look forward to reading
the blogosphere offers a fount of information - and many of the offerings that i value the most are authored by people that i actually know (i can't pump up 9run.ca enough!).  but i've got to say that out of all the online journals and teaching outlets that i've come across the one that has captured my attention more often than not has been jae gruenke's the balanced runner.  there's nothing quite like jae's post-marathon breakdown of the running form of elite athletes (e.g.after the 2015 NYC Marathon) ... it's just sooooo good.  and this top 10 list of running form cues is a must-read for anyone, regardless of experience level. 

seriously, go read it.  you won't regret it.

... and that's it for now!  i could go let this list drag on with other bits and pieces that would eventually bore you to tears (or make you wonder how many other 'best of' categories i can concoct) but better to leave you wanting more than wishing i'd quit while i was ahead. :)

thanks as always for joining me at The Rendezvoo Point, and here's wishing you all the best for an invigorating, healthy and memory-filled 2016!

02 December 2015

road review - Skechers GOrun strada

maybe i'm a sucker for advertising.

when i saw meb's name first associated with this shoe (back at the start of this year in runblogger's teaser article) i thought that it must have some merit, and that it was worth trying.

[ photo from Runblogger.com ]

i can now say for myself that i'm glad i did.

the production version of the GOrun strada (as released to the purchasing public) is a neutral training shoe - overall a more substantial shoe than just about anything else that i have in my running rotation.  i feel a much more structured upper especially with the layered synthetic material wrapping about the midfoot and structured heel - while it provides a nice and snug fit it does also add some weight (with my size 10s coming in a shade under 10.5 oz).  inasmuch as they are heftier than what i would normally prefer in a road running shoe that's also what i was looking for - something to wear on easy/recovery days that would remind me that we're not trying to ramp up the speed.  i also wanted to have a pair of shoes that might offer just that wee bit more protection from the elements during my dead-of-winter runs.

the outsole features what appears to be a dual-density resalyte configuration - the darker segments are a little tougher and seem (to my untrained eye) to follow the impact zones from heel (if you're a heel striker) through the M-strike area through to the big toe.  this higher durometer but still cushiony material lends a bit more durability to the rubber-less bottom of the GOrun strada and again is a slight contributor to the overall weight of the shoe.  at an 8mm heel (25mm) to toe (17mm) drop, it's on the higher side of what i normally like to have - but interestingly enough i have not found there to be any issues when it comes to an unimpeded forefoot landing, and i don't even have to deliberately think about it.

no swapping around of insoles this time - they're glued down nice and tacky!

the ride is comparable to the upper - on the stiff side.  that being said, i've been quite surprised that it doesn't strike me as being overly clumsy ... and in fact i've managed to pull off some paces that would otherwise seem to be uncharacteristic of such a relatively built-up shoe (and that without any undue expenditure of energy).  so while i have mentally positioned the GOrun strada as a recovery day shoe it's actually performed quite admirably delivering as a well-rounded trainer.

after all's said and done i'd have to say that i grossly underestimated this shoe - i actually do look forward very much to the days that i get to don the Strada for a workout, whatever the pace and effort level might turn out to be.  whether or not they'll hold up the way that i want them to through the mighty canadian winter is yet to be determined, but for the time being i'll enjoy them as much as i can.  four feetprints out of five and recommended for anyone looking for a blue-collar beat-up-the-road-not-your-feet training shoe.

and here's a look at the video review - enjoy!