14 April 2015

burn baby burn: a newbie takes on fat-loading

i've carbo-loaded before.  a three-day focus on building up my carbohydrates stores in advance of marathons has worked well for me - and truth be told i like gobbling down all of those muffins, breads, pastas and sports drinks.  it's kind of a treat.

but this is a first.

i'm fat-loading.

after having read several articles about this recently highlighted approach to distance event competition preparation (some in favour - like here, here and here - and some not so much - like here and here), i decided to give it a go in advance of the waterloo marathon on apr. 26.  given that i'm a hack at everything i do, i thought that it would be best to consult somebody who is (a) experienced in fat-loading, (b) a high-level athlete and (c) well-studied in sport sciences.  so without a second thought i reached out to my friend stan ong for advice.


gracious as ever, stan was quick to say that he was glad that i'd asked, and then probed just a bit to find out how to best craft a fat-loading plan that would meet my specific needs (including finding out what a typical meal would look like for me, my current weight and foods that i won't/can't eat).  factoring in all of this info, stan came back with an outline of a daily menu that i could riff off of and use to map out the week's grocery store trip.

if you've followed along with my blogventures then you know that i can't leave well enough alone - i like to tinker.  the beauty with this outline that stan's provided is that it has some flex to it - he even makes concessions for the occasional 'carb craving', allowing for a piece of toast or fruit here and there.  with that in mind, i was keen to launch into this new dimension of race readying.

A photo posted by patrick voo (@pbfvoo) on
i'm now a day and a half into it, and so far i've noticed a few things:
  1. stan provided advanced warning that fats don't provide that 'full up' feeling like carbs do - and i admit to feeling noticeably hungrier after each meal yesterday and today.
  2. so far it looks like fats lead to less weight gain than carbs - maybe because carbs trigger greater water retention.
  3. it's already painful to stare at the loaves of bread and bags of potatoes on my kitchen countertop.
but i will see this thing through - and trust that there will be a pay-off come race day in terms of efficiently metabolizing fat as fuel, and staving off the vaunted 'wall'.

fat fingers crossed!

10 April 2015

taking the scenic route to rotterdam

this week i've got a cool shout-out to some friends of mine who are traveling the world with their four kids!  rob and rose meeder are both doctors but decided that they wanted to create a lasting memory and legacy by taking this once-in-a-lifetime trip.  as part of the journey rose has had the chance to train with ethiopians, and will be competing in the rotterdam marathon this weekend - how cool is that?

you can find out more about this super-cool planetary tour by watching this promo video:

so while i continue to thaw out from the canadian deep freeze of 2014-15, i'll live (and run) vicariously through my globetrotting friends. 

have a great race rose, and make sure to check out the 'marathon supporter' pixelboard at the 37K point and 500m before the finish line!

you can follow rose, rob and their kids on their trip via twitter: @TheMeeders


07 April 2015

[guest post] gear review - Skechers Midnight Running Tight

i'd shared an extra pair of the Skechers midnight running tight that i'd received from Skechers Performance Canada with my friend, training partner and fellow Barrie Running Ninja rick "rickyd" doucet - and in exchange he offered to share some of his own personal reflections on this piece of technical running apparel.

so without further ado, some words of review from the master b-boy and registered lethal weapon himself: 

rick and i from the 2014 MEC Barrie Race One
- - - - - - -

I wouldn’t classify myself as a new runner. I wouldn’t say that I have a lot of experience or expertise. Other than good footwear I have no running “gear”. So when one of my two running mentors offered me a pair of SKECHERS running tights I said “sure”. As I become more passionate about the sport, I’m always looking for ways to improve and find more advantages.

I think I wore a pair of nylons in a play in high school some 30 or so years ago. Needless to say, it felt odd just putting tights on. During my first run, I absolutely noticed them every step of the way. It felt strange being squeezed as I ran. I had to go out a few more times to make an honest opinion about their 'benefits'.

What I’ve noticed is that my knees don’t feel quite as tired afterwards. I feel like the compression kind of springs my legs back into a strait position after each step. I can’t tell you the exact math, but on a 24 km run, even 1% less effort per stride adds up. I’ll take it. Less effort and less pain = happy runner.

On the downside - the ankle zippers are very stiff. And the waistband is already starting to curl inside the pants.

But the bottom line is positive. I do like them very much and I will be buying more. I think next I’ll have to try some SKECHERS running shoes next.

04 April 2015

race report - 2015 MEC Barrie Race One (10k)

i don't think that i've ever been so happy for a less-than-PB race time.

as a proud member of the Barrie Running Ninjas (led by our sensei and MEC envoy jim willett) i was eager to participate in and support the first community MEC race of this season.  our intrepid little tribe normally meets up every saturday morning at 9am for a 10k (or so) jaunt around the city, so showing up for a race at the same time that we would normally otherwise be gathering was no biggie.  it was great to have rick, lewis, mark, sarah, samantha, and trevor coming out to represent the dojo in both the 5k and 10k. 

i'd had this race marked on the calendar but not as a target race - i'm still focusing my efforts on the waterloo marathon in three weeks' time.  so what's a marathoner in training to do when a 10k race is conflicting with a scheduled long run day?


incorporate it as a fast-finish to your planned 26k workout.


this was a hotly anticipated event for our local MEC store in part due to the fact that they had managed to 'qualify' for chip timing this year as a result of last year's race series success.  while MEC has always put forward great races (check out some of my previous race reports here, here and here) this would be a huge bonus feature - in my estimation, chip timing almost sells itself in terms of attracting registrants.  this would definitely be a boost to the already growing interest and level of competition at the MEC barrie race series.

normally registration and kit pick-up is a breeze - and to a certain extent it was again.  the one variable that played into it this time around was the fact that the race would take place on easter weekend, and that meant that the day before the race was good friday - a stat holiday.  MEC wouldn't be open, and so any pick-ups had to be on the wed-thurs prior to race day or one race day itself.  it was also a two-stage process as the timing chips (provided by Speed River Timing) would not be available until the morning of race day.  again, not a real inconvenience, but something that had to be factored into the pre-race plans.

race day
i arrived approximately two hours before the scheduled 9am start time in order to get in an easy 16-18k before the starter's horn would sound.  i knew that i'd have to pause to get chipped up, and i planned for at least one bathroom break during the early miles.  the first stretch of running would and did afford me the opportunity to scout out conditions all along the course route and they were notably varied ... with a windchill of about -9°C but clear sunny skies there were sections where i was overdressed for the conditions and other sections where i was thankful to have come as prepared as i did.  

passing by the start/finish area several times i was greatly encouraged by the groups of runners amassing at the registration/kit pick-up/chip pick-up tents.  i was certain that this would turn out to be an excellent day for MEC and for the local running community.

i tried to time the conclusion of my easy run workout portion with the projected 9am start, but i could hear the race marshal announcing that the start would be slightly delayed in order to accommodate 10k runners who were still waiting in the porta-potty lineups.  apparently three porta-potties and the other nearby facilities were not processing people fast enough.

as the race finally got started, i found myself at the back of the pack - quite deliberately.  my aim was to finish with a tempo-ish run, so trying to bump out the 10k at about goal race pace (4:24/km).  but between the log jam on the narrow bayside trail and the runners who were more interested in conversing than picking up the pace i wound up weaving a bit to get into the clear (i know, it chews up energy and is the wrong way to start a race - but consider the fact that i was well into my 19th kilometre of the morning by this point).

miles 1-3:  20:08 
i kept telling myself that i was trying to just hit "race pace" (my mental mantra), and i was monitoring the level of my breathing to make sure that i wasn't overcooking it.  but after i heard the first mile beep on my garmin and checked the elapsed time i noticed that i was clipping around a 4:12/km which was faster than i had counted on.  but i was convinced that the 'feel' of that first mile was what i was after, and i managed to cue in on a few runners that were still ahead of me and carrying out a steady effort.  by the end of the third mile i found that i'd passed these runners and could only see one guy about 300m ahead of me, effectively leaving me running alone in the heart of the race.

miles 4-6:  20:08 
how's that for an even effort?  that's exactly how it felt too - even though we'd now turned a bit into the wind.  after the fifth mile i caught and passed that guy (found out later his name was rob) who was 300m ahead and then tried to steamroll my way through the final mile - opening up my hands and bumping up the cadence for the homestretch.  by this time i'd caught up to a bunch of the 5k runners who'd started 10 min. after the 10k horn and did not cover the first three-mile out-and-back - so there was a bit of "on your left" going on, though not quite in captain america style. 

last 390m:  1:31
what a tease - just as you come into sight of the start/finish line you have to run past it, loop around the back and cross over the mats from the other side of a parking lot.  and in this twisty finale one of the guys whom i'd passed during the third mile (having assessed at the time that he was probably pacing his heavier-set but still very capable buddy) turned on the afterburners and blew past me to finish eight seconds ahead.


even before checking my splits i'd a good sense that i finished in the 42 min. ballpark with an even effort the entire way - and i was super-pumped about that.  a nice fast-finish long run which left me spent in the finisher's chute but with the knowledge that i'd sustained a strong kick for the last 10k.  i was going to check the posted chip-time results but the crowd around the board was a bit too thick, and the wind a bit too biting once we all stopped working up a sweat.  i'd find out later online that unofficially i'd placed first in my age-group.


checking in with the other ninjas, the update was that mark and trevor posted top-10 finishes in the 5k, rick managed a top-15 spot while still recovering from strep throat (although his account was that it was a 'brutal' result), lewis snagged a strong top-25 finish, sarah hit a new 5k PB and samantha rocked a fast time and the funkiest running tights around!

l-r:  jim, trevor, moi, rick, sweet lew, sarah, mark (samantha had to jet for home)

what else can i say - i'm feeling really good about today's long run workout as an indicator of how i'm going to feel in the latter stages of the marathon later this month.  it's exactly what i'd hoped for, and it was a great day to share it with my amazing training partners and friends.

if you've never hit up a MEC race before, get in on the next one(s) in your region!

race gear for today:  

03 April 2015

gear review - Skechers midnight running tight

i know - you're still trying to get over the fact that Skechers should be taken seriously as a running company.

maybe you're starting to hear about how many people are training in and racing in Skechers Performance Division footwear.

maybe you've noted that premier athlete and Skechers Performance brand ambassador meb keflezighi is the reigning 2014 Boston Marathon champion.

maybe you've seen Skechers as a feature sponsor at road races and triathlons.

but what else have they got to do with running?

how about technical apparel?

late last year i received several pieces of Skechers Performance gear to help get me through my season of winter training, and among them was the midnight running tight.

now i will admit that i'm a tight-wearing kind of guy - especially when it comes to layering up for harsh tundra-like workout conditions as are common in this neck of the woods.  when i first tried the midnights on i will say that i was slightly disappointed - i hoped that they would feel like compression tights, but they slid on more like tight-fitting yoga pants - and the ankle cuff was loosely fitted, not wrestle-over-your-heel narrow.  minor letdown at the outset.

however, they felt velvety smooth - the spandex/poly fabric has a really nice hand to them, and i could quickly tell that the next-to-skin contact would not ever be an issue.  in fact, they worked extremely well as a semi-thermal tight because they are a heavier weight than a standard technical tight.  

although not required during the winter (because i wore them underneath a nylon-paneled outer pant) the reflective detailing on them are well-placed from the appliqué Skechers logo mark on the mid-thigh to the shin-crossing sewn-on reflective strips.

so there were many functional aspects of the pants that i did like - so what didn't i like about them?

for one, i wish that there was some kind of pocket system integrated into the tights - whether an external zippered pocket at the back just below the waistband, or even a small internal key-pocket.  if i'm going to head out on a run with these tights as a single layer, i'd like to have somewhere to keep my keys or a bit of cash.

second, i had a question about quality - in particular as it relates to the rear-facing cuff zippers.  they feel solid enough, but that's in part where the issue lies - they're so solid that it's almost a two-handed job to zip or unzip them.  now given that they are pretty stretchy at the cuff it's not a big deal to whisk the pant over your unshod feet, but if for whatever reason you want to unzip the bottom of the leg for additional clearance it's not that quick-and-dirty.  better zipper sourcing next time please. 

my video review is available here:

considering all of this i do really like the midnight run tight - so much so that i made sure to get one of my running partners into his first pair of tights, and it was in a pair of these.  for comfort, function and affordability (at just $40 USD) Skechers has gone and done it again!

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