16 September 2014

race report - 2014 MEC Barrie Race FOUR

i'm trying to finish off this MEC race season by completing as many of their series races as possible while not messing up my own training schedule - so this past weekend i was able to sneak in a 10k in conjunction with MEC Barrie's Race FOUR event.

the venue/locale for this race was around the orillia youth leadership camp which also served as the course for the Race TWO event.  this meant at least a somewhat familiar course - complete with a hairpin inclined turn and an uphill homestretch.

a few of the usual suspects were on hand for this race - several of the 'running ninjas' (so called because of our group runs with the one and only Optimism Ninja, jim willett) including lewis, rick, jason, pat, chris and jo.  also spotted darren from the barrie roadrunners when lewis and i pulled into the parking lot - a very fast and seasoned runner.

just a few of the 'running ninjas' (photo courtesy of MEC)

as they would say in pizzaville, it was a rainy day - alternating between mist and steady droplets by the start time.  this was all forecast of course, but between that, a noticeable breeze and the 12°C temperature it made for borderline miserable conditions - at least for standing around.  having already identified that darren would likely lead the pack and then noting at the start line that natasha (a girl who beat me by several minutes in the last MEC 10k that I ran) was also entered, i knew that i'd be working - and sweating - hard to be competitive.

natasha at far left and darren at far right (photo courtesy of MEC )
first three kms:  3:45, 4:10, 4:04 

i'd already determined to try to run this race 'digitally blind', meaning that i would not consult my watch at all during the run.  i'd had a couple of great workouts exceeding my expectations when i done that over the last two weeks, so i figured it was worth trying to 'run by feel' again.

from the start darren took to the front, followed by natasha and then me (with my good buddy rick hot on my heels).  the early part of the race had some noticeable elevation changes, and after the first 400m or so natasha assumed the lead position with a burst.  i managed to stay in third spot until about the 2k mark when a girl from the pack behind me put on a bit of a surge (or did i slow down?) to skip past rick and i and put a bit of distance between us.  

middle four kms:  4:08, 3:59, 4:04, 3:55

while staying in control i kept the 'elastic' intact between this new runner ahead and me - but as we hit the bends in the road i chose to take the tangents (even though it was not a closed course) while she did not.  i can't say for certain whether or not this bothered her, but what it did do was allow me to gain some ground - enough to overtake her to resume third place by about the 4km mark.

i was working off of my planned "comfortably hard" mental cue for these middle miles, and it seemed to hold me in good stead.  not having any statistical feedback on my paces, i would not have guessed that i'd put in two sub-4:00 min. kilometres during this stretch.

last three kms:  4:12, 4:00, 4:04

perhaps one of the downsides of running by feel and not by digital readout is that you do run the risk of zoning out ... in a less-than-optimal way.  that happened to me during the eighth kilometre and it took me a bit to realize that my stride had shortened and turnover was not quite as quick.  so with a shake of my head and a few bursts of driving knees i shifted into "uncomfortably hard" mode and tried to bring it home. 

i managed to pick off some of the 5k runners who'd started 10 min. after we had - what i didn't realize is that there was another guy behind me who was picking off the 10k runners in search of this third place spot which i'd held for most of the race.  by the time that i crossed the finish line i was sucking air for just two brief seconds before i felt a pat on my back and a "nice run - i just couldn't catch you". 

although the weather was sucky enough to not encourage any post-race lingering, i decided to head back out on the course to try to track down a few of my fellow running ninjas who were still working it.  i first found lewis who was trucking his way to a 46 min. 10k - a clear PB for him.  after confusing everyone at the second line with a second crossing, i turned back out to go find jason who was putting in a 15k - we connected with at about the 3k to-go mark, and i tagged along for the ride as he powered it home.  

this was again another outstanding event put on by MEC Barrie - from the loads of post-race goodies to prizes for win/place/show to free coffee and massages/medical.  the attendance numbers showed that they are definitely growing some head-turning events with both a professional feel and personal touch.

all in all i'm happy with my performance as this was basically a tempo run in my scheduled training week - plus it was an opportunity to once again race in my ever-lovin' Skechers GOMeb Speed 2 and don (for the first time) my new-to-me Skechers racing singlet (graciously sent over by my friend Stefan Albinsson).

next stop on the racing circuit is the County Marathon where i'll be an official pacer for the first time, hoping to help anyone who's interested to cross the finish line in 3:30.

see you on the roads - and as always #GOlikeneverbefore!

04 September 2014

the Skechers hit parade

make no mistake - i know just how privileged i am to be in the small percentile of runners on the planet who have the luxury of choosing from a closet full of shoes.

i also recognize that many of the best runners alive today may not have shoes at all.  and certainly not ones that fit them properly, or that they were able to select for themselves.

however, given my context in an middle-upper class community situated in a first world nation, i've had frequent conversations with people about what pairs of shoes are the 'best' to run in for particular types of workouts and/or races.  since i do run six days per week (with some doubles) and have the habit of not wearing the same footwear two workouts in a row, i have definitely developed some preferences on what shoes help me to feel at my optimal level for any given day.

so without further ado, here is my top five list of shoes, period:
  1.  Skechers GObionic

    super light, fast, zero-drop, ultra-flexible, wide forefoot - i'd take these anywhere, anytime (if only the upper didn't tear on me they'd still be in my rotation).

  2.  Skechers GOrun 2

    if i want to go fast, these are perfect.  if i want to recover, again these will do the trick.  lightweight, work-with-the-foot dynamics - i think that i've recommended these shoes more than any other to my friends.

  3. Skechers GOmeb speed 2

    these got me across the line in Boston-qualifying time. racing flats that have great pop to them and make you forget that you have shoes on your feet at all.

  4. Skechers GOrun ultra

    perfect recovery shoe - but also the pair that most encourages me to forefoot strike, so they feel primed for bursts of speed. #GOalldaylong

  5. Skechers GObionic trail

    for all of your off-roading plans.  nimble, airy, solid all-terrain traction and just enough impact dispersion material.  i should race in these more.

28 August 2014

road review - Skechers GOrun ride 3

aside from the colour and the price, i wasn't crazy about this shoe at first.

when i received a pair of the Skechers GOrun ride 3 from Skechers Performance Canada i was thankful even though it would not have been the style that i would have selected for myself.  it looked bulkier than most of my other shoes (even my GOrun ultras!) and felt a little heavier than i would have liked ... so it initally kind of fell into a no-man's land for me in terms of perceived usability.

my first run in the GRR3 was a wednesday night progression run with the Barrie RoadRunners and they performed admirably well - decent cushion without being marshmallowy-soft, and light enough to let me drop down to a spry 4:03/km pace for the final two of 10 kms.  i was sufficiently impressed - not to say that they weren't going to become a part of my shoe rotation anyway(!).

here's the lowdown:
  • fit - the GRR3s immediately felt plush (especially at the heel collar and tongue) - almost too much so for my liking, as it gave me the impression of too much shoe.  but the roomy forefoot (with supple mesh atop the toebox) scores big points in my books, and there were no pressure or friction points from the uppers.
  • stack/drop - at a measured 17mm heel, 19mm midfoot and 13 mm forefoot this shoe is designated a 4mm drop shoe - decent as a transition to minimalist footwear option.  they come with an insole for another 4mm (total 8mm) drop, but i opted to toss in some old insoles from a pair of saucony kinvaras that would provide a decent, non-sloppy fit without adding any drop.

    as for being able to get in a decent forefoot strike, the GRR3s perform no problem, and though they measure out to have a 'rockered' outsole profile it was not discernible even when standing still.
  • weight - for what is to my eye a substantial looking shoe there's no question that these kicks are lightweights.  the official stat is 8.4oz for a men's size 9, and my good ol' starfrit kitchen scale shows them in just hovering around 8oz.

  • grip - i don't normally include this as a review criteria/feature, but one of the things that i've found with the GRR3 is that they are every bit as nimble on easy-to-moderately technical trails as they are on the asphalt.  in fact i do like to have them when navigating through the local forest as the seemingly wider base provides me with ample stability while the outsole design offers sufficient traction even across damp sand/mud.
overall this is a fairly versatile training shoe - which is where i end up having a problem with it.  basically it's a 'jack-of-all-trades' piece of equipment for me that doesn't quite give me the confidence of race-pace/tempo runs like the GOMeb Speed 2, is not as enjoyable a distance/recovery shoe as the GORun Ultra, and isn't quite as 'bring it on' as the GOBionic Trail.  as such i don't wind up looking for it specifically on any given run day, but will use it to fill the gap on days that i double up and need to let another pair sit for a day or two more before use again.

check out the video review on YouTube:

don't get me wrong - this is a very solid shoe.  it just suffers from the odd-man-out syndrome in my shoe closet.  still garners four out of five footprints from me.

*** disclaimer:  i was provided with the GORun Ride 3 by Skechers Performance Division (Canada) but was not obligated to provide a positive review.  all opinions - however poorly expressed - are my own.

25 July 2014

race report - the 2014 limberlost challenge

i should have posted a DNF.

not that i wanted to - but had i been left to my own devices, that would have been the result.

this is a bit of a different race report compared to other ones that i've posted, partly because i think that as my first trail race and my first ultramarathon i have a different story to tell.

there were three defining elements to my running of this year's edition of the limberlost challenge:
  1. mud.
  2. blood.
  3. jim.
let's first get out of the way some of the ancillary details - my friend jim willett and i carpooled together up to the limberlost reserve (about 1h40min from the commuter parking lot at the north end of my city) before the crack of dawn.  the 56k race started at 8am, and given that neither of us had been there before we wanted to give ourselves enough margin for a leisurely drive and kit pick-up.

i wasn't the only Team RF member there, but i don't think that anyone else wore Skechers!

the start/finish location where we parked was well organized with volunteers, clearly delineated tent areas (for registration, bag-drop, vendor booths) and an adequate number of port-a-potties.  aside from some swatting of mosquitoes, the pre-race routine was rather uneventful - but i did notice that the trail/ultra running crowd seem to be more relaxed and friendly as a group versus the organized road races in which i've participated.  they say that trail runners are a different breed - and i began to get a sense of why that's said.

after some preliminary remarks from the emcee and then the race organizer (neil jefferson) jim and i prepared to be launched from the chute as the first wave of runners (56k @ 8am, then 42k, 28k and 14k in 20min. intervals after that).  we spotted last year's winner and lined up just at the rear of the pack that would take off after him.

the course itself is really quite pretty - with generous doses of elevation changes (the most brutal 35m hill climb coming within the first mile), plenty of shade, very few bugs and lots of scenic running beside and over four different lakes.  which leads me to the first of the triumvirate of key determinants for my race result:


this is really a general category header, but also a very specific one as well.  thanks to a well-watered week leading up to the event there were stretches of mud along the trail that started off as 4m long and 1m wide but ended up (by the fourth lap) being easily 13m long and 4m wide.  

the kind of stuff that will suck the shoes right off of your feet and drag them down to the nether regions below.

not my shoe, and not my image - but you catch the drift ...

i was thankful for the various boardwalks over the lake areas where i could dip my mud-laden shoes into the water in order to rinse off the unwanted several ounces per foot.

all this made a challenging course even tougher.  i knew that in my preparations for this race that i needed to be ready to go long - and so i respected the 56k distance, averaging between 120-138km per week.

what i didn't do was respect the course.

while i'd integrated some trail work into my training plan, i didn't run any long runs on the trails.  on top of that, i should have spent more time acclimatizing to - and planning for - the downhill sections.  i basically jogged/walked the uphill stretches but then bounded down the downhills to make up the time.  what ended up happening was that after 2 laps (28k) my quads were fairly trashed.

had i been more conservative in tackling the slopes i would not have ended up walking most of the third and fourth laps.  i opened with a 1:31:59 first lap and closed with a 3:06:45 final lap.


this had to do more with my nutritional plan (or lack thereof) than anything.  

i'd decided to carry my standard complement of four gels on me, along with a trail mix granola bar and my Nathan Quickdraw Plus handheld bottle.  i packed a drop bag (which i never went to) with additional granola bars, some Clif Shotbloks and loose trail mix ... but figured that with several well-stocked aid stations along the route that i would be well provided-for.

somewhere along the way two disastrous things happened - i failed to take enough electrolytes and my salt intake was too low.  
ah, ultrarunner problems.

the first real sign of trouble happened at the start/finish aid station after lap #3.  my pal jim had been waiting for just about an hour at that spot for me to cross, and had inquired several times with the course marshals as to whether or not i had either (a) passed him unawares or (b) been lost/injured/removed from the race.  as neither turned out to be true, he was somewhat relieved to see me ... but as soon as i stopped to load up and chat with him it all hit.

lightheadedness.  extreme (i mean extreme) fatigue.  tingling sensations in my arms.  a pressure build up in my ears.

the race doc spotted me and immediately came over to make sure that i was alright (which i clearly wasn't) - however, i managed to tell him that i was going to be ok and that i would gauge my ability to continue.  it wasn't until after the conclusion of the race that i found out that he doubted that i would be able to handle another loop of Limberlost.

digest version of what came next:  i stumbled back onto the course with jim for about another 700m before experiencing a near total physical shutdown.  jim had to check my pulse and then sit with me for almost 20 min. before i could continue any further.  i'm pretty sure that although he was able to get a pulse reading at my wrist my blood pressure had just about bottomed out.  after we crossed the finish line nearly 3 hours later i was assisted to the medical tent and not released for a good 45 minutes because my blood pressure read something like 80/50.  however, thanks to the good care of dr. gribe, stephanie, abdullah and derek (?) who attended to me in the Sportlab station i was able to take in some fluids and finally get things back up to 100/60.  

it was truly like being rescued from the brink ... which brings me to the third and most critical factor to my day.


if you've read this blog at all you will have encountered jim's name many-a-time, not the least of which was in one of my first on the run interview segments.  a high-level extreme ultrarunner, it was an honour to have him accompany me to the Limberlost Challenge as part of his preparation for his attempt at a new record for an end-to-end run of the Bruce Trail.

little did i know that he would literally get me through to the finish line.

aside from tidbits of advice and gobs of encouragement, jim put his aspirations for the day on hold for me when i had my edge-of-disaster moment at the beginning of the final lap.  i was 99.9% sure that i had nothing left in the tank, that my body was in the final stages of hibernation (as a self-preservation mechanism) and that this would be the first race that i would not be able to finish.  it was during these pivotal 20 minutes that jim told me the things that i didn't want to hear ("you're fitter than i am", "we'll walk, then jog, then walk, then run", "i've been exactly where you are now, i know that you can still go") but not in the way that was condescending or impatient.  he really wanted to see me finish - and more than that - he literally knew that i could do it.  i didn't have the wherewithal to process the fact that he had been in races where fellow runners were collapsing, being attended to, and then resuming racing - so he was not simply blowing sunshine up my behind.

but the fact that he was there with me - and would have been willing to take the humiliating walk with me back to the start/finish area in order for us to pull out together - was humbling and simultaneously strengthening.

so after enduring those 20 minutes of mosquito attack (they were merciless on motionless subjects), i got up to stumble forward.

stumbling turned into shuffling.

shuffling into walking.

walking into power hiking.

power hiking into a trot.

a trot back into a run.

all because of jim.

final result - 56km in 9:11:00.

some last notes:

  • i'd made a game time decision to switch from wearing the Skechers GObionic trail to instead work with the GOrun ultra - this was a solid decision.  the GOrun ultras worked fantastically well in terms of grip, stability, comfort (no blackened/lost toenails, hotspots, blisters, or even end-of-run discomfort), draining and drying.  more reasons to love this shoe!
  • i saw a couple of other Team Running Free compatriots at the race - i know that there was a lot of Team RF support at the North Face Endurance Challenge at Blue Mountain on the same weekend, so it was nice that we were able to represent the team at both ultras.
  • my respect and admiration for ultrarunners (especially trail ultrarunners) is through the roof.  this is an entirely different animal ... and in fact jim would find out from the race organizer (neil) that the highest proportion of DNFs at the Limberlost Challenge was in the 42k category.  apparently road marathoners think it's a cinch to make the switch over to running a trail marathon.  i now know better!
  • will i return to Limberlost 2015?  now almost two weeks removed from the race, i'm going to say yes.  we have some unfinished business ... as much as i am able to say that i completed this ultra, i'm not an 'ultrarunner'.  i'm an 'ultrawalker' at best.
have you completed an ultra?  how about a trail ultra?  what are your thoughts about this kind of event?

11 July 2014

getting ready to go long

the time has come.

after about seven solid months of training i'm about to tackle a brand new racing distance tomorrow (56km and on trails, no less).  this is my goal race for 2014 and i'm excited about venturing into new territory.

i'm thankful not to be embarking on this alone - aside from the support that i've received from the barrie roadrunners, the barrie trail running club and the MEC barrie running ninjas, my extreme ultrarunning friend extraordinaire jim willett is coming up with me to run the same race as part of his training for his attempt at setting a new record for running the bruce trail end-to-end.

as far as how i've been readying myself for this event - i've shared some thoughts before on training plans before - and like any lazy yet semi-resourceful DIYer i googled ultramarathon training plan and wound up with results that would help someone gear up for anything from 50km to 100mi.  the plan that i settled on using as a basic groundwork was the first hyperlink on the results page - the Runner's World "Ultimate Ultramarathon Training Plan".  as i'm prone to doing, i beefed it up a bit with a few extra runs here and there ... even though the plan is set out for someone tackling a 50-miler (and i'm only going 35 miles).  the one new thing that following this plan did introduce was tracking in imperial distances - i switched my garmin 305 so that my laps were no longer in kilometres.  this was an interesting experiment, as i previously found a mile extraordinarily long when being used to training in kilometres - but during the past seven weeks or so i've actually come to quite enjoy that as my baseline distance.

carboloading has been a bit sketchy for this week - work has been intense and so i've often found myself eating late and skipping what otherwise would be my intra-meal snacks.

i'm still unsure as to what shoes will be on my feet, but i think that i will start out with the skechers GObionic trail and then pack the GOrun ultra in my dropbag in case that i want to swap out partway through.  i'm also thinking seriously about wearing compression socks since i anticipate being on my feet for 6.5-7 hours, but it's also supposed to be pretty warm and i'm not sure that i want that much of a layer on my legs.

nutrition is a huge piece of the puzzle, and i think that i will rely on a combination of gels, shotbloks, granola bars and trail mix.  depending on what the aid stations are stocked with i might also pick up a few treats now and again.

i'll be using a handheld waterbottle (the nathan quickdraw plus) as i've been training with one and it seems to work well for me.

that's it for now - my goal is to finish the race.  period.  but i will in the car with jim for about 100 minutes each way and he's already been planting in my head the idea that i could finish close to the leaders.

believe me when i say this - i'm out there to enjoy this race.  

oh, and #GOlikeneverbefore!