18 July 2024

Equipment review - PCKL Pro Series pickleball paddle

 As my friend Brian has said, "it's like Christmas all over again!".


Well, for people like me who like to geek out about sports gear it definitely is!  And since we are still trying to fill out our complement of pickleball paddles (so that we have at least enough to play doubles with) I've been able to give a go with my third paddle in just over a month.  The bonus is that I was able to purchase this PCKL Pro Series paddle at 40% off on Amazon (even before Prime Days arrived), so the smile on my face is just that little bit wider.


Here are some of my preliminary (far-from-pro) thoughts on this "Pro" paddle!







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04 July 2024

Equipment review - A11N Zenith C8 pickleball paddle

I couldn't be the only one in the house with a pickleball paddle available for use - I want to be able to share this newfound-love with at least some of the other members of my family!


So here's my take on the Zenith C8 paddle from A11N Sports:


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17 June 2024

Now I'm in a pickle(ball) ... plus a review of the NXTGen Atlas paddle

As a long-time tennis player it's taken me a while to 'join the dark side' and give pickleball a try.  Not that I've had any real misgivings about it, but just that I didn't feel like I needed to add one more thing to what already seemed like a busy extracurricular schedule.


That was until I won a social media giveaway hosted by my friend (and professional pickleball player) Brian Donghui Rim.


Brian was kind enough to also provide me with a free on-court lesson when he met up with me to hand over the prize paddle - and man, did I have a lot to learn!  But I'll happily admit now that I'm hooked and am looking forward to not only connecting with the local pickleball community, but also hopefully get into some competitions in the very near future.


So don't be surprised to find some more posts popping up here related to all things pickleball ... and why don't we start with an equipment review video?!?


 


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27 May 2024

Race report - 2024 Sudbury Rocks Marathon

I would consider this to have been my real first 'post-pandemic' race, as I kind of fell out of the racing mindset over the past few years.  I could chalk it up to getting older (and slower), but I would also say that I've been very discouraged by my inability to hold the pace at my last two attempts to serve as an official marathon pacer at The County Marathon (in Picton, ON).  For both of the last two years I volunteered to be the 3:30 pacer - and while I had successfully completed that task for six years prior to 2021, the efforts that I put in for the 2022 and 2023 ended up in DNFs for me (as I fell unrecoverably off the pace both times and finished the race without actually crossing the official timing mats).

 

As such this was to be a bit of a 'redemption attempt' for me ... and I'd eyeballed the Sudbury Rocks Marathon several times before but the timing of the event (plus it's relative distance from my house - about 3 hours' drive) never quite worked out.  However this year with my responsibilities as a volleyball coach together with rehearsals/performances in "Honeymoon In Vegas" meant that this was probably the best time to give this race a shot.

 

Pre-race

My training in a lead up to the race followed basically the Hanson‘s marathon method, and while I did feel quite sluggish through it I felt also that my conditioning was actually coming to a bit of a peak - so I had some real optimism heading into race weekend. I didn’t have any solid goals, but knowing that my friend David Thompson had broken 3:20 in his Las Vegas race I decided to also use that as a benchmark.


The other thing that really helped was seeing my friend Natalie post on Facebook that she had a free pair of Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes to give away! I quickly snatched them up even though they were two sizes larger than what I would normally wear, and I had in mind that I would MacGyver them into a racing flat that I might be able to actually put to use.  But when I slipped them on my feet I didn’t feel like they were entirely like clown shoes and wondered if I might be able to actually work with them as-is. The one thing that I really liked was how spacious it was in the forefoot because of how much bigger they were … I had actually just cut out the lateral side of the upper on my Saucony Endorphin Pro 3s because the curved last was pinching my pinky toes in the most uncomfortable way.

 

You can see the Vaporfly 4% shoes (in size 12, my normal size is 10) that came courtesy of Nat & Dylan

 

Notice the cut-out section on the Endorphin Pro 3s that I loosely covered over with another piece of borrowed shoe-upper


The trip up to Sudbury was rainy and somewhat eventful as two hours into the three hour journey my car's dashboard decided to light up like a Christmas tree and the vehicle started slowing down on its own even though I had cruise control on. That lasted for about seven seconds, and then the dashboard returned to its normal status and I was able to carry on if nothing had happened (although I know that something is definitely up).


The other thing was that my GPS device ended up taking me to a gravel pit instead of the high school where the race expo was taking place. Last time I trust TomTom.


I checked in to the residence at Cambrian College (it was the cheapest of reasonable available options) and while it was nice to be able to spread out in two-suite room the lack of a TV made it difficult for me to try to watch the Prefontaine Classic which was taking place on Saturday. I went through all sorts of password gymnastics with my family trying to log into our different accounts to see if I could access our various subscription services but in the end found that CBC Sports actually had a free live stream on their website, so I was able to sit back and relax with pizza and enjoy the event. 


Race Day

I arrived at the start area with just over an hour before the starter's horn would sound, and while there was no indoor waiting space the conditions outside were pleasant enough (10°C but foggy) to sit on some concrete planters and wait for the crowds to assemble.  There was a row of about 15 porta-pottys at Tom Davies Square which made it convenient to enough to make any last dashes before the race began.


At 7:55am the marathon, half-marathon and marathon-relay runners started out together.  It wasn't quite a mass of humanity, but it did mean that we'd have people running all sorts of different paces because some were only going to be huffing it out for 5-7km in total.  And since we weren't going to be running on an entirely closed course it meant some close quarters in various sections as we were basically ushered into the roadways' bike lanes by pylon markers.  In fact during the first 2km I clipped a runner just ahead of me because we were so pressed in together - thankfully after a quick apology on my part we were all able to carry on none the worse for wear.


I must say that for the first 7km or so I felt remarkably good, running a solid 4:21/km (which was faster than my planned goal pace, and faster than any tempo run I'd put in during the training block).  I'll credit the Vaporflys for that as I was impressed at how light the size 12s were feeling and how little I had to worry about tripping myself up with the extra length.  The margin for forefoot splay was definitely pleasant and working in my favour.


The route was already proving to be quite undulating, and knowing that I'd have to navigate these hills over the next 35km I decided to take the climbs rather conservatively.  Up to around 11km I was steadily passing runners, but at 11km one of the guys that I'd gone by caught back up to me and we had a quick chat before he overtook me.  He'd run the full at Toronto just a few weeks back and was running the half-marathon this particular morning, noting "f*** this marathon!" as he happily confessed to already being into the home stretch.  Perhaps I should have clued in that the day ahead of me might offer more than I had bargained for.

 

From km 11 through to 21 I was passed by two other runners, both of whom I'd seen at the one hairpin turn on the course (have I ever noted how much I dislike hairpin turns in races ...?).  I managed to reel in one other runner at 19k as he was struggling to finish up his half-marathon, but as I went by I kept turning around to yell encouragements to him over the next 2 km.  He managed to dig deep and crossed his finish line not long after I cruised over the half-way timing mat.

 

Halfway split - 1:34:59 (which would have been good enough for 12th place overall in the half-marathon, and 2nd place in my age category).

The second half of the race is where things really got interesting - with only 67 full-marathon entrants once I crossed the half-way point I was no longer able to see anyone ahead of me.  I was obviously well behind the next person in front, and all of a sudden it got very lonely and quiet.  Those of you who know something about the psychology of racing may have a sense of how this can be quite demotivating - especially since I couldn't detect anyone in reasonable distance behind me either, and I knew that I wasn't in first place.  Still I managed to hold my pace (now at about 4:29/km) thanks in large part to seeing some of the 10km runners coming back towards me on the opposite side of the road.  Their route was something of an out-and-back and so being able to applaud and cheer them on as they were wrapping up their race (and receiving some encouragements in return) gave me some energy to feed off of.


At this point between the escalating heat (it was a full-sun kind of day with effectively no shade on the course whatsoever), the roly-poly roads and what seemed to be a consistent headwind I watched as my pace steadily crept up.  Aside from thanking the volunteers and police officers along the way there was very little interaction with other people until 30km into the race, where I came upon another marathoner (Justin) who was battling hamstring spasms.  I checked to make sure that he was doing alright, and even though he was walking as I pressed on he would manage to pass me again in about another 4km.


The final 8km was a bit of a slugfest for me, and Justin and I was leapfrog each other (as he'd recover and then be halted by spasms) through to the end, and another three runners caught me from behind.  Still one of the things that I was perhaps most pleased about was how I managed my fueling ... this continues to be a challenge for me, but at least this time around I was able to stay on track with taking my gels on-schedule (even though the GU "Cola" liquid energy gel that I took at 35k was absolutely disgusting).  I could have done a better job of actually drinking the water/electrolytes that was being offered at the generously peppered aid stations, and perhaps in hindsight I was getting a bit dehydrated but I certainly didn't feel that way.  I may have also accidentally self-sabotaged a little bit as earlier this week I'd misread my training plan and put in a 6x1mi. workout on Monday instead of an easy 12km - but who's to say?


As I crested the hill where the 40km marker was I knew that I was not going to hit a sub-3:20 time, but I was determined to try to gut it out as best as I could.  In the final 300m I was caught once again from behind by another marathoner - but he reciprocated what I'd try to do for that half-marathon about two hours before as he cheered me on and urged me to do my best to catch him.  I wasn't able to do that, but still managed to finish upright and with a smile on my face.  As far as the shoes go, they performed admirably well - I was definitely feeling like there was still some 'bounce' in my step even late into the game, and the only thing that detracted from my experience in them was a small, sharp pebble that found its way into my left shoe at that 40km marker.  But at that point I wasn't going to stop to clear it out - so just a little reminder that sometimes you just gotta push through the pain.


Final gun time:  3:21:46



Post-race

I waited in the finishing chute area for Justin to cross the line, and he managed to run it out just about 2 min. after me.  I congratulated him and encouraged him that the marathon distance has to be respected, and that he did the best he could with what was presented to him this day.  

 

I wandered through to get my medal (presented by members of the Canadian Armed Forces), my banana and cookie and bottle of water, and then stopped to check in at the Chiptime results tent.  I chuckled as I saw that I'd finished first in my age-category ... but only because the official results showed me as "1/1" in the M50-59 group.  I'd realize a bit later that there were two others runners in my division, and that at that point they'd not yet crossed the finish line.

 

All in all it was pleasant day in the nickel belt, and I definitely give kudos to the Sudbury Rocks team for a well-organized and executed event.  Not sure I'd do it again (because of the profile of the race course itself) but I'd be happy to recommend it to anyone based off of the quality of the team hosting it!

Now it's time to recover and see what the rest of the 2024 racing calendar might hold ...


Thanks for reading (and watching)!

 




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12 February 2024

The brightest lights sometimes shine for the shortest times

If you don't follow the world of professional running then this story may not mean much of anything to you ... but I was shocked to hear of the sudden and tragic passing of Kelvin Kiptum.


He was magic on his feet, and the world was his for the taking.


https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-68274984

File:2023 London Marathon - Kelvin Kiptum.jpg 

 photo credit:  Katie Chan


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