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! 


24 November 2015

the rise and fall of the no-stretch athlete

i used to stretch.

having played a number of individual and team sports through my high-school and college days i always incorporated a specific amount of time to pre-activity stretching.  it was usually of the static variety - you know, pull/bend/press and hold for a 20 count and the like.  i felt like it was a way of limbering up and helping to ensure that i wouldn't risk any real pain or injury in the course of exercise.

that was until i started running.

i remember that i was in the throes of training for my first half-marathon and happened to be at a conference in the outskirts of detroit when i first was introduced to the benefits of not stretching.  i happened to be rooming with another delegate to the event who was from south africa.  his name was hermann, and in the course of getting to know one another i discovered that he was a runner as well - and not only a runner, but a two-time finisher of the comrades marathon.  when we decided to head out for a few runs together he noted that he did not really perform any pre-workout stretching because his understanding and belief was that the best warmup and stretching for running was, well, light running.

and who was i to argue to an accomplished ultramarathoner?

i would go on to do some reading and research of my own, and based on various articles (e.g. this one and this one) and other bits of advice i decided that i would limit my pre-run routine to just a quick cycle of the lunge-matrix.

to be honest this approach of very limited warm-up has served me well - in about six years of running (at anywhere from 3000-5000 kilometres per year) i've continued to see improvements and not had to take anything more than two unplanned days off at a time from my training schedules.  i've had no significant injuries to contend with - even my knee issues earlier this year i believe can be traced to an error in running form while descending on trails (i tried to tackle downhills in slalom fashion and wound up putting unnecessary strain on some anterior ligaments).  for the record i should also say that i don't do any post-run stretching, and have never felt like i needed to foam-roll or avail myself of massage.  just a regular dose of gonstead chiropractic adjustments from my good buddy dr. brad norman ... not too shabby for a guy who's cresting over the mid-life hump and has a surgically repaired achilles tendon.

and then came yoga.

my friend and fellow RunNinja marcy (a certified yoga instructor) has started offering free yoga classes before our saturday morning group runs.  i thought that i would definitely want to support her, and as well that some guided yoga might prove helpful as a form of cross-training.  so the first week i went in after putting in some early morning miles with my friend mike, and all seemed to go well.  i was able to follow along without making a complete buffoon of myself, and everything seemed to feel good.  by the way, marcy is a phenomenal leader and was incredibly engaging and encouraging to all of us who joined in for the class - as a first-timer i knew that if she made me feel comfortable as i stuck my butt out into other people's faces, that everyone must be enjoying how she conducted things.

for the record, this was not one of the positions that marcy had me take ...

it wasn't until the next evening that the pain hit.

my best description of it is as a major strain of the rear internal oblique muscle.  it wasn't just tight - it sent radiating pain out whenever i turned to my left, and was worst when i tried to roll over to my left side in bed.  for the next five nights it would wake me up every time i shifted in that direction, and i could feel it in any transverse movements during my morning runs but would subside in intensity over the course of the day.  it also progressively felt better as the week wore on, but i (foolishly or not) seemed to have re-aggravated it by attending a second yoga class on the subsequent saturday.

i'm not sure whether or not it was just a matter of having overextended myself during that first yoga class because i entered it all warmed up.  my body may not have provided the same kind of immediate feedback that i was stretching just that wee bit too far.  however, since then i've also been reading about how yoga can be risky for the uninitiated, a category into which i would most certainly fall.

so for now i'll need to back off yoga and stick with running - but i do so reluctantly because of (a) how great an instructor marcy is and (b) my sense that yoga can still be of real benefit to me if i get a bit smarter about it.  hopefully after a bit of margin to let those hurting fibres recuperate i'll be flaunting my activewear pants in yoga class again.

are you the type to do a lot of stretching?  how much, and when?  do you focus on static, dynamic, active isolated or a combination of all of them?  have you ever gotten injured during yoga?  i would love to hear back from you in the comments section!

10 November 2015

160km to Kenya

i never thought for a million years that i'd be able to help a kenyan become a better runner.

for one thing, i'm no coach like my pal stan (be sure to check out his latest venture here: http://adaptiverunning.com/).  i pretty much trip over my own two left feet.

for another thing, i'm so removed from the kenyan running culture and general ethos that i'm not sure that any insight or advice that i could offer would be helpful.  especially after having read adharanand finn's running with the kenyans (one of my favourite running reads, by the way) i can appreciate that the success experienced by east africans in the arena of competitive running has to do with so much more than just their environs and physiological makeup.  there's simply no way for a first-world wannabe athlete to replicate the conditions of running for survival and livelihood.

but even considering all of that, next summer i will be helping to train the next great runner from kenya ... with the help of the TRANscend Running Academy and the ENDURRun race event.

the ENDURRun is a multi-stage, multi-surface race that takes place over eight days.  while there are various entry options to tackle some or all of the seven different stages, i am registered for the 'ultimate' category which means that i will be a team of one competing in all seven.  the ENDURRun also presents the opportunity for a segment of the racers to also be fundraisers, and so after some discussion with my fellow Barrie RunNinjas i am officially attempting to raise $1000 in support of the TRANscend Running Academy.

the Academy is the brainchild of elite marathoner and kenyan parliamentarian wesley korir along with the filmmaking team behind TRANscend.  their efforts are directed toward providing promising young student athletes with the ability to access a secondary school education, leadership training and running coaching - none of which would otherwise be an option to them because they are not affordable for villagers living at the subsistence-level (even the great mary keitany tells of barely finding her way off the family farm).  so in a very real way this is about so much more than just giving someone a chance to become a better runner - it's about unleashing possibilities for a brighter future in education, work, and quite possibly reinvesting back into the kenyan community.

why $1000?  that's the estimated cost per student per year in the Academy.  to us that's less than three dollars per day - and if every one of my Facebook friends donated $0.75 towards this effort i would immediately exceed my goal.

i'm looking forward to running the ENDURRun as a training segment in preparation for my planned first-ever attempt at a 100-miler (at the Run Woodstock Hallucination run).  but more than that i'm excited about the possibility of being a small part in shaping the future of a runner, his or her family, and quite possibly the entire country of kenya.

would you please consider partnering with me on this?  if so, please visit my fundraising page here:  https://raceroster.com/events/2016/6288/the-endurrun-2016/pledge?id=34&type=participant

have you competed as a charity runner at any events?  what causes move your heart the most?

26 October 2015

we can rebuild him: the nuts and bolts of post-race recovery

here's my first training-based video on post-race recovery - i hope that it's helpful to any of you who have given it your all and are looking for the best way to be ready to go do it all over again!

if you happen to have any suggestions for a 'nuts and bolts' type training talk that you'd like me to address please add them in the comments below - thanks!

24 October 2015

race report - 2015 Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon

i think that they technically call it cold-induced diuresis.

i call it an unexpected annoyance that may have cost me a 3-hour marathon.  but when you gotta go, you gotta go.


with the very real prospect of snow squalls forecasted for the toronto-windsor corridor i elected to head down on friday night to stay over at a friend's house before booting over across the border on saturday to quickly hit up the expo and nab my race kit.

getting in and out of the USA (by car) proved to be easy as pie on saturday morning - although it costs a pretty penny as the toll for exiting the ambassador bridge is $6.25 CDN each way!  i think that the sign said that the equivalent in US currency was $3.50, which really made me wish that i'd exchanged a bit of cash before the weekend.  the lineups for the border guard stations were what you'd expect - a slow grind through what felt like the grocery store cashier lines right before dinnertime.  but there must have been more than a few people like myself who declared their intention to only be in the states for an hour or two for race purposes, as the US guard joked with me about the race being cancelled due to an unforeseen bridge closure (although he couldn't play it out with a straight face), and the CDN customs officer queried me about my personal best and then one-upped me as his PB beat mine by about 40 seconds.  we also went on to chat about my upcoming trip to boston in april to run the marathon there as he made his one trip to the boston marathon some 20 years ago ... we ended up having to stop each other because our lively chat was holding up the line.

i decided to park at the MGM Grand Detroit Casino as the parking there is free and it would offer a good opportunity to test out my plan for sunday morning, which was to deposit my car there and hike the seven blocks down to the start line.  aside from my GPS navigation unit giving me a bum steer and turning me into some dead-end construction zone it was fairly straightforward in terms of finding the garage and winding a path to the center of activity (near the Cobo Center).

the expo itself struck me as being somewhat similar to the layout employed at the mississauga marathon - the race kit pick-up was lickety-split (seriously - there was no one in the line-up for bibs #101-750) and i could have been in-and-out in five minutes flat except that the flow of traffic necessitated that everyone wind their way through the maze of vendors and exhibitors in order to exit.  plenty of LRSs (local running stores) were on-site with lots of wares to be had, as well as other race promoters and various novelty companies (e.g. the 'running bumper sticker' people, medal display rack people, and even some guys who had a neat gel-pad instant hand warmer).  while i deliberately didn't bring any cash so as to not spend the money that i don't have (!), i do admit to lingering a bit at the Hansons Running Shop area because of their notoriety around the hansons marathon method and their former relationship with america's own MUT-runner extraordinaire sage canaday.

after returning to canadian soil again i spent the remainder of the day fairly relaxed, taking in my carbs and hitting up an LRS in windsor (the running factory) to stock up on my complement of gels needed for the race.  even though the gels cost me a little more than twice what they were available for at the expo, i knew that i wanted to keep the money on this side of the 49th.

race day

i'm glad that i'd gotten a decent sleep on friday night, because saturday night's sleep was cut somewhat short by a bathroom trip (oooohhh ... foreshadowing) at 1:30 a.m. after which i couldn't shut my brain off enough to actually return to sleep.  after 90 min. of fish-flopping in the bed my alarm went off and i got up for my shakeout run, breakfast and shower (in that order).

having been informed that spots at the MGM Grand Casino parking lot tend to be filled up by about 5:30 a.m. i set out just around 4:30 a.m. to ensure that i'd get a space.  i figured that i could always hang out in the car or in the casino to stay warm and rested with a couple of hours before start time.  this proved to be a smart move as the lineup just off of the freeway onto the exit for the casino lot was backed up and took some time to negotiate - but once inside the parking structure there was no problem finding a space, to my relief.

with just over an hour before the 7:00 a.m. start i joined the throngs of runners and supporters/volunteers making our way down the seven blocks toward the start/finish area.  i stopped to use the port-a-potty about halfway which seemed right on schedule in terms of me clearing out my GI system in prep for the long haul to come on my feet.

i was surprised at how abuzz the downtown core was at such an early point - it was a reminder of just how many of the marathons that i've run are smaller races.  all told there were over 17000 competitors lining up on sunday morning, plus their families and friends adding to the crowds.  it definitely made for an electric atmosphere - which was a good thing for such a chilly morning.

[and this is a good point to insert a note about the weather conditions - the advance forecast had indicated sub-freezing temperatures (about -2°C) at start time and reaching about 3-4°C by 10:00 a.m.  armed with this information i packed just about every conceivable outfit combination that i could, including split shorts, compression shorts, capris, arm warmers, calf sleeves, singlet, t-shirt, toque, thin socks, wool socks.  after consulting with some friends on facebook i chose to go with the singlet, arm warmers, compression shorts, calf sleeves, gloves and toque - which still left me shivering while waiting in my corral.]

as the starting chute started to crowd up i met both the 3:05 and 3:00 pacers - each was a capable 2:40:xx racer in his own right, but i was a bit surprised that when i inquired about their strategies for the race the best answer that i got was "to finish with 30 seconds to spare".  no plan about even-splitting or taking the 3rd mile (climbing the Ambassador Bridge) a bit slower to level out the effort expended.  there's was no question about how capable they were to cross in the designated time - i had just hoped that perhaps they would be a little more focused on coaching/encouraging the aspiring racers in their group instead of just hammering out a time.

and at about 6:57 a.m. it happened.

i had the feeling that i needed to pee.

by this time i was sandwiched in on all sides, having even forgotten to perform my lunge matrix of stretches.  i had already hit the washroom twice since arriving in detroit but the cold weather had constricted my blood vessels, elevated my blood pressure and forced a fluid dump into my bladder to try to maintain equilibrium.  i really needed to pee - but with nowhere to go, i tried to focus on just getting the race started and hoping that the sensation would go away.

alas, it didn't.

after latching onto the 3:05 group for the first two miles we hit an aid station and i veered off to make use of the port-a-potty.  i'm glad that i did as i'm surprised at how much my bladder had filled since my last bathroom break not 30 min. before (and that without taking in much by way of additional drink).  by the time that i exited i could see the 3:15 pacer had already passed me - and fearing that i would get caught in the congestion of runners on the Ambassador Bridge i decided to squeeze the pedal a bit to try to catch back up to the 3:05 pace group.


of course you don't feel like you're expending too much energy - it's early in the race.

you've got lots of glycogen stored up.

and it's easy to tap into that fuel source.

so i did - scooting by scores of fellow runners as we ascended the ramp to cross the bridge.

early speed + up up up = bad idea.

on the plus side i managed to lock back onto pacer jeff and his 3:05 congregants before the end of the bridge and decided to hang with them for another two or three miles after that.  it was quite an experience humming past the lineup of six or seven border patrol guards on each side of the race course as we entered into canada - they were there spotting your bib to see if you were on their list of properly accredited/identified runners, but they were also quite encouraging as they smiled or shared the occasional "great job" compliment to a passing racer.  there was also an announcer at the border reminding us to all ensure that the view of our bibs was unobstructed, as well as providing some entertaining commentary about how the exchange rate is so low that we can carve off nearly 30% from our time while running through windsor.  (hardee har har ...)

the stretch along riverside drive was fairly pleasant if plain - except for the one tanker ship that was navigating the seaway just as we were strolling by.  i did note that a couple of times there were some of the pace group runners who were asking pacer jeff if we were "going a bit fast", which he confirmed - and as he dropped his pace ever so slightly i decided that i would try to maintain and perhaps inch up on the 3:00 group.  while i never did catch them, i was able to tuck into one or two other runners at a time in order to take advantage of some drafting (the winds were maybe at 17-18 kph) and dialing into another person's cadence.

the tunnel back into the states was an interesting stretch for a few reasons:
  1. immediately upon entering the tunnel the temperature rose a good seven or eight degrees, which initially felt like a blast furnace door opening but then turned out to be a pleasant climate.
  2. my garmin 305 indicated loss of GPS signal about 15 seconds into the tunnel - this would mean that my distance vs. time displays would be off and i would most definitely be relying on the roadside mile markers to indicate how i was faring.
  3. the exiting climb seemed quite long - and not knowing how i was actually pacing i had to rely entirely on perceived effort.
the u.s. border patrol guards were out in similar force upon our resurfacing from beneath the detroit river checking bib numbers and cheering us on.  my initial concerns about whether or not i needed to actually carry my passport with me (as per the strong recommendation of the race officials) turned out to be quite unnecessary as the process was so well organized and painless.

the middle miles were where i was caught in no-man's-land ... not really running with a pack, and occasionally eyeballing someone who was clicking off a similar pace and trying to stick with him or her.  this became tougher as the runners of the international half-marathon peeled off to their finish line, thinning out the field - but for a good 10k after that i was able to focus in on a guy who was running pretty effortlessly with a quick cadence.  he was wearing a green tank top and every time that we approached some roadside spectators i would hear "go green!" or "go state!", which provided me with enough information to surmise that his singlet said "Spartans" on it (as in the Michigan State Spartans).

at the 20 mile mark we had crossed another bridge onto belle isle - a point in the race that i had visualized and had tentatively planned for a shift in gear to try to finish out with a real 'racing' effort.  however i was watching the mile laps on my garmin increase in time (to 7:09s and 7:11s) so i thought that i would try to slug it out until returning to the main shoreline and detroit's "riverside walk" where i would try to put in a burst effort for the final 5k.  in my head i would be simulating the negative split runs that i'd been doing all summer with the barrie roadrunners along the kempenfelt bay waterfront - a little mental trick that i hoped would help turn on some afterburners.

i can't say enough about how invaluable this video was for my race prep!

just before we started hit the section of riverside walk i passed my spartan-supporting friend and tried to urge him on saying "i've heard 'go green' in front of me for the last six miles, i don't want to be hearing it from behind!" - but he encouraged me to keep pushing and i wouldn't see him again.

i did find that my legs were able to pump it up again and found myself passing another three or four runners down the final stretch - this definitely helped to lift my spirits.  since the 3:00 pacer was nowhere within sight my goal at this point was to not let the 3:05 guy pass me at any point - and while this was made tougher by an uphill, into-the-wind turn at the 25 mile mark i channeled my inner deena kastor (who said "Today it was just putting my head down and grinding through it" after setting the new u.s. masters record at the 2015 chicago marathon) to see me through to the finish line, and a 3:04:34 gun time finish.

A photo posted by patrick voo (@pbfvoo) on


the march through the finish chute was very well organized (as was the race all the way around), with a very cheery volunteer congratulating me and donning the hefty Detroit Marathon finisher medal around my neck followed by tables of chocolate milk, bananas, fruit slices, water, hummus and protein bars.

i'd decided not to stick around for the much-touted "Conquered" after-party but instead grabbed my throwaway clothes (all but one piece - the hoodie - had remained where i'd left it before entering the starting chute) for warmth and headed back to the car for the short ride back to my friend's house to nab a shower before the long ride home.

at the border i had one more fun exchange with the canadian patrol officer who asked me how long i'd been in the states - i responded with "around six hours", to which he said "are you sure you didn't run past me just about four hours ago?" at which point i chuckled for not having accounted for that crossing.  he also quizzed me about items to declare which i'd obtained in the united states - and i noted a bunch of protein bars, a banana and some free hummus.  his response was to give me the people's eyebrow and say "anything else ...?", and i quickly came back with "oh, and this beast of a medal around my neck."  he then broke a big smile and said "you're darn right!  congratulations - have a good day!", sending me on my merry way.

as i reflect back on attaining my second marathon PB this year (with a fairly significant cut of 7:33 from my accomplishment just over months ago) there are a few key takeaways:
  1. it was great to run in detroit - i really do like the city, and it was great to sense how encouraged the people of the motor city were that they were being supported.  it's definitely been tough times and tough neighbourhoods that have dogged this community - and we ran past a few areas that seemed like they were post-apocalyptic landscapes with abandoned factories and apartment buildings - but they sure do have spirit there.
  2. i hit goal 'A' and 'B' but not 'C' - maybe i have to re-order those?!?
  3. there was a better race that could have been run out there for me - potty-stops aside, i could have made up the time in much smarter fashion without expending nearly as much energy as i did, and may not have had to pay for it as much in miles 14-20.  was sub-3 possible?  maybe not, but 3:00:xx maybe ... and that may just become my target for the 2016 boston marathon.
  4. i still don't know what it's like to experience the full benefit of running with a pace group.
  5. GU gels are getting harder and harder to stomach, especially on cold days when they coagulate like crazy.  honey stinger gels were not bad, but the packaging was a little more bulky than i would have liked.  powerbar power gels went down the easiest, but i still found myself wanting to finish the race faster so that i would have to consume fewer gels overall.
thanks again to my tribe of Barrie Running Ninjas, the Barrie RoadRunners and the Barrie Trail Running Club for all of your companionship, coaching and support in preparation for this race. i was proud to sport my Team Skechers Performance and Team Running Free colours as well in and amongst the sea of other running brands and clubs.

so it's time to embark on another off-season, and construct my plans and goals for 2016.  i'll be sharing them later, but for now i can say that i think it'll involve a combination of attempts at going longer and a bunch of attempts at going faster (how's that for obscure??).


race gear for the 2015 detroit marathon:


15 October 2015

i'm ready for you, soweto!

except that i don't have a trip booked for south africa ... at least not this year (i still have my eye on you, comrades marathon!).

i've been using a training plan (structured by coach norrie williamson) specifically designed for the soweto marathon in preparation for my first attempt at the detroit marathon.  i chose to follow this plan as part of my 'mix-it-up' year where i deliberately focused on races that i'd not run before and using strategies (e.g. running without a watch at the waterloo marathon) that might stimulate/promote improved results.  i know that many runners choose to focus on consistency consistency consistency as the route to real gains -  but when it comes to personality that just isn't me, so why not go for broke?

as i get ready to step up to the start line in motown this weekend i have to say that i'm feeling very prepared to try to bump out a new 42.195 km PB.  i've been able to execute all of the prescribed workouts at the paces that i would expect to hit ... my body has held up and my weight stayed in a good zone ... and thanks to all my friends and training partners (much love and credit goes to the barrie running ninjas, the barrie roadrunners and the barrie trail running club) i feel as if psychologically i have all the tools to meet an audacious goal.

with that being said, i'm ready to disclose the goal(s) for this sunday's race:
  • 'A' goal - finish with a 3:00:00-3:05:xx time
  • 'B' goal - clock a new marathon PB
  • 'C' goal - run a negative split.

i've had the privilege of tapping into the wisdom and experience of a couple of speedy and accomplished marathoners (i wouldn't dream of not consulting the great stan ong who will be racing at the scotiabank toronto waterfront marathon, edging ever closer to his moose mug goal - and the other is my friend 'fast' bill steinburg) who have recommended that my best ploy at taking down an 'A' level goal is to try to run with a pacer and go for even splits.  i'd thought that perhaps i'd be able to adopt a similar strategy to the one that i used in waterloo of cruising through 32k and racing the final 10k, but the prospect of benefiting from the draft of a pace group has definitely got my attention.

so here at the precipice i stand, having controlled all that i can control.  now it's just time to enjoy the scenery and run my brains out!



09 October 2015

race report - 2015 County Marathon (full pacer edition)

it was time to don the ears again.

last year provided my first opportunity to serve as an official marathon pacer thanks to an inquiry from my friend erin mcdougall.  erin was and is the organizer for the pacers at The County Marathon in and around beautiful picton, ontario, and it was through the magic of social media that we were able to connect.  when he prodded me again early this spring about possibly serving as a pacer once more i nodded agreement - and was also able to conscript my friend lewis into volunteering as a pacer for the half-marathon distance.

if you haven't already read lewis' account of the race, i encourage you to do so now - it recaps much of our experience together and my report will only elaborate on the elements of it which were particular to my pacing of the entire 42.2km vs. lewis' work with the half-marathon group.

race day
with the plan to arrive early (about 60 min. before gun time) at the start line i hopped on a shuttle bus from downtown picton and had a great conversation on the way with a racewalker named kim from ottawa.  kim was a seasoned gentleman (i'm guessing in his late 50s) who was really personable and we got into a great conversation about the ins and outs of racewalking.  having agreed that it's a very unnatural looking sport i was surprised to hear that it has a history that hearkens back to the 1800s which was rooted in military competitions.  i had no idea that it was that storied, but certainly can accept that it is a legitimate athletic endeavour - especially after hearing that the 50km world record of 3:32:33 was set just last summer at the european athletics championships.  that's a smokin' time - and when you consider (as kim pointed out) that while runners can lose form as they fatigue but still finish quickly race-walkers must maintain form or else be disqualified ... well that makes it that much more impressive.

at the essroc arena (the warm-up centre at the start line of the full marathon, complete with elevated indoor track) i met and chatted with my one fellow full marathon pacer, dave, as well as erin - who took the time to introduce me to the lone kenyan in the race, gilbert kiptoo. i don't often get starstruck - over the past 15 years or so i've had the privilege of being pretty much shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best tennis players in the world, including my idol andre agassi - but there was a bit of tingly feeling shaking the hand of a 2:08 PB marathoner.

l-to-r:  me, erin, gilbert
the race
the group that formed around me was initially about six-strong, including two guys who have the scotiabank toronto waterfront marathon and the hamilton road2hope marathon on their calendars over the next month.  aside from the one relay racer (who we ended up pacing to her 11k PB) i'm pretty sure everyone else had tackled the 26.2 mile test of endurance before.

the conditions were almost ideal temperature-wise (about 10°C at 8:00am start time) but the winds were out of the east at about 18 kph - and we were pretty much headed due east for the entire length of the point-to-point course.  the saving grace here was that it wasn't gusty but rather a steady breeze with moments of respite.

my crew hung with me through to about 30k where we began to see a couple of our new friends drop off of the back.  at 35k the pace group was reduced from three to two, and at 38k (the one notable 'hill') i lost my last two runners - nav, who had been nursing a strained glute muscle, and eldon, who felt that his ITB was flaring just a bit.  this put me in the familiar place of running alone for the final 3.5k, with crowds cheering the pace bunny on saying "you're right on target" and "where's your group?!?".

in the end i crossed the timing mats at 3:29:40 - the exact same time that i logged in last year's event.  consistency matters!

unlike last year (when the rains started falling not 10 minutes after i crossed the finish line) the weather was glorious for hanging around to cheer people in.  nav wasn't too far behind at 3:31:23, and eldon a minute back of that at 3:32:33.  janet was next at 3:37:25, and richard (whom we tried our best to cheer along by keeping the invisible 'elastic' intact) wrestled out a strong 3:43:54.

 just a beauty of an autumn day!

the champ is here!

my thanks go out to erin for again inviting me to be part of this fantastic event, and kailey ellis-chapman and her team for organizing a small-town-feel-big-deal-quality race!  i look forward to the 2016 edition and perhaps three-peating at 3:29:40! 

race gear for the 2015 County Marathon:


08 October 2015

race report - The County (1/2) Marathon 2015 [guest post]

“the people, the place and the pace”

Well this journey all started about a year ago.  My friend Patrick Voo was a pace bunny at the 2014 Prince Edward County Marathon (PEC) and I volunteered to accompany him and volunteer at the race.  I parked cars in the darkness of the morning and placed medals around finishes as they crossed the line – it was a great experience!  So when Patrick asked if I wanted to pace the ½ marathon I hesitated but remembering the hospitality and vibe from last year I said yes. After a few e-mails back and forth with the pace bunny organizer Erin we decided on 2:10 or 6:10/km.  A bit of a challenge for me as I settle in at about 5:30/km naturally.  So adjust my training, learn to slow down and we are on our way to Picton.


A four hour drive down had my legs achy and sore, but the time with Patrick to chat about faith, family, life and running (and running, and running) was well worth it.  We showed up to the expo, got our bunny ears, bibs (mine was listed as “SABO” not Lewis – Patrick says they do that for the elites?), shirts and socks and headed out our motel for the night.

Got our clothes all laid out for the race based on listening to the weather (the weather is of great concern for this particular location).  We probably put more though into this and spent more time on it then a teenage girl getting ready for a prom!

Out for dinner in scenic Napanee and somehow avoided maybe the best and biggest fish & chips in the world (every other person in this little restaurant was having them) and settled for a toasted western and a huge salad.  Back to check the weather again, write, read and lights out about 9 pm.

Race Day – Pre-Race

Rotten sleep and up at stupid o’clock (4:30am).  Patrick went out for a run! I ate, checked the weather again, got on our race gear, packed up and on the road at 6 am.  To the PEC and dropped Patrick off to catch his bus for the marathon.  Now I had three and a half hours to do something with.

Planned on sleeping in his car for at least an hour but as I settled in and closed my eyes I started to question and wonder what I had gotten myself into?  The running a ½ was no problem at all, but keeping a consistent pace and encouraging and talking to people and having them rely on me to help them cross the finish line at 2:10 started to freak me out!  I can force myself to be an extrovert and hold a conversation but really I am very introverted – “what have I done by agreeing to wear these funny bunny ears and draw attention to myself!”  There must be easier ways to give back to the running community which has given me so much?  Anyway, no rest ever came.

Up to catch to bus and people started talking to me (SABO) right away.  Come to think of it “SABO” was a nickname when I was an awkward teenager trying to get through high school alive.  Memories I did not need floating through my head at this time.  On the bus and a totally beautiful 15 minute drive on a crisp perfect fall morning.

We get to the ½ start out in the county and it was a bit breezy so I duck into a tent they have set up.  It feels like all 400+ runners are in the tent and they are starring at me because I have bunny ears on!  I make my way through the crowd, lean against a pole and nobody talks to me and I do not know a soul – a few long lonely awkward minutes!  Eventually Erin comes over to say hi, but leaves after a brief chat.  A few ladies sitting near me have pity on me and finally say hi. They ask about my plan to run 2:10(which I had not really thought of - I was just going to run?) and a couple say that they will be sticking with me to the finish.  I step outside the tent to see Patrick pace by at exactly 1:45 into the full marathon; we snap a picture of all the bunnies and line up to start the race.

The Race

Off goes the gun and I start my two watches (just in case!) but I am a good 200m from the chip time start and this takes about a minute before I cross.

And we are off!

One of the original ladies in the tent, Debbie is with me and a few others fall in close by.  Turns out to be an absolutely beautiful early fall day, mostly clear skies, about 10 degrees and a refreshing wind from the south.  The course is very flat and very scenic with water stations every two km's and many local residents out at the end of their driveways cheering us on.  I settle in to my almost effortless pace and begin to compare with my watches every few kilometers.  My watches are way off the km markers because I started then so early, so I had to always do some math to make sure I was on pace.

Debbie and I begin to chat about all kinds of stuff and it turns out she has the same birthday as me – now that deserved a high five!  After we settled into our rhythm a few runners passed us, Debbie and I passed quite a few runners, and I few times I heard “So, Sabo are you going to hit 2:10?”  Again the running itself was almost effortless for me at a 6:10 pace, but I say that very cautiously and with great respect for any other runners regardless of their finish times.  My biggest challenge was not tripping as I fumbled and checked my watches every few kilometres.

At about 19 km I was a bit ahead of schedule and Debbie felt great, so as we made a right turn onto the main street I slowed down and encouraged her to go on and finish strong.(Which she did – somewhere around 2:08 and a PB by about 3 minutes).  At the final left turn towards the finish line four other runners were just behind me so I slowed down to let them all pass and cheer them on.  I crossed the line at 2:08:41 chip time and 2:09:36 official time – not to bad, just off by 24 seconds.  Will have to be closer next time!


And there was Patrick right at the finish line cheering me on!  Found Debbie and gave her a hug, got something to drink and eat.  We took some pictures with the other bunnies, chatted with Erin a bit, stuck around for the awards and headed out home.


I write in a journal every day and at the end of almost every day I write "Good Things" and try to list a few things that stand out for the day. 

Good Things:
  • the people - the volunteers, the residents of Prince Edward County, Patrick, Erin, Debbie, and all the other bunnies
  • the place - Prince Edward County is like PEI with out the hills or red dirt yet it is only four hours away, not twenty one
  • the pace - “It’s all about the journey, not the destination” I did put in the effort and training so the pace was almost effortless.  So the 21.1 km journey from the start line was incredibly enjoyable.  Finishing at 2:09:36 was just a tiny little perk compared to how much I was encouraged by others during this race.

Buen Camino!


Trust, Love, Act – Now!


28 September 2015

race report - scanlon creek "Run For The Trails" 7k

the caution tape got me again.

earlier this spring at the Sulphur Springs 50k i wound up running about an extra kilometre because i zigged when i should have zagged, having missed the fact that a caution tape barrier had fallen to the ground.  this time the tape was tied up nice and tightly ... only it barricaded off the trail that should have been the home stretch of the race and led to me take a detour that had doing the hokey-pokey ("and you turn yourself around, that's what it's all about").

i'd wanted to participate in the 2014 edition of this race because it was the inaugural event and because my friend kate stewart was on the event organizing committee.  as a 7k trail race hosted by the friends of scanlon creek in support of a project to build an accessible trail at the scanlon creek conservation area it would fit in nicely to a 'normal' saturday workout, but last year i was out of town on race weekend - but not this time around!  even with pacing duties at the county marathon coming up in a week's time i made it a priority to participate in the second annual competition.

registration was taken care of easily enough online, and i waited until race day to pick up my kit - which included the most AMAZING goody bag including various energy bars and snacks, the race t-shirt, toothbrushes, cups, heat/ice packs, an emergency whistle, teas, vitamin drink mixes, all in a reusable fabric tote bag ... seriously, i would figure that the swag included outdid just about any other race of any other size/distance that i'd been to.  it was as heavy as a full bag of groceries and provided full value (if not more) for the $40 registration fee.

this race kit bag definitely had some heft to it!

as the pick-up took place between 8:00-8:30am, that gave me about 90 minutes before the start of my race.  the 1k and 3k races would start at 1/2 hour intervals beginning at 9:00am, so after a quick visit with my friends robin brunet, rhonda-marie avery, steven parke and amanda parlett (from MEC, who was staffing an aid station) i headed out with the intention of scouting out the entire 7k course.  my initial observation was that it was incredibly easy to follow given the number of orange surveyor's flags and regular fluorescent spray paint markers on the ground identifying just about every stump, root or rock that could potentially cause a stumble.

taking mental notes along the way, i observed that the course was fairly undulating with only short-ish stretches of flats - and the most significant section climb began with a log staircase.

it got real interesting when i was closing in on the 6k mark - looking at the time i was wanting/needing to wrap up this warm-up run in the next 5-6 min. but when i continued to follow the route i found myself doubling back on a section that i'd already run.  confused, i did a 180° and busted it across a caution tape barricade to a trail that i knew would take me back to the start/finish area (which i could tell just by following the sound of the music being played over the announcement speakers).  arriving at the pavilion where everyone was gathering i spotted my friend kate and thanked her for her work in putting together the event - and when she asked what i thought of the trails i quickly mentioned my bout of disorientation and she reassured me that flags would need to be shifted for the 7k runners and that between the signs and the on-course marshals we wouldn't have any issue whatsoever navigating the route.

the race
as we gathered in the chute the MC noted that anyone capable of a 20 minute 5k should make their way to the front of the pack, which i did.  looking back i'm not sure it was the best decision because at the gun there were about five of us who took off like we were shot out of a cannon.  yes it was a slight downhill but when i looked at my watch after about 400m the pace was a smooth 3:23/km - way too fast for my own good.  even with the prospect of blowing up by the time that i'd hit the 4k or 5k mark i stuck with the lead pack of three so that i could avoid being jammed in when the trail went single-track.

[ photo courtesy of jim craigmyle ]

over the first 5k i was only passed by one other runner - the guy who would eventually take third place overall.  he zipped past me once my launch thrusters fizzled out (at about 1.5k) but i managed to stay within about 100-150m of him until about the 5.5k mark.  that's when we went every which way but loose ...

remember how i'd gotten misdirected during my scouting warm-up?  same thing happened during the race - except that since there were course marshals helping to usher runners across the access roads i stopped to check in with them when i encountered them for the second time.  of the three (volunteer) marshals that i spoke to each one kept telling me that i needed to carry on in the same direction that i'd been traveling, even though i knew that a third loop would bring me back to the exact same spot.  in fact, between re-running this section and turning right around and running against the flow of traffic i passed the official photographer four times (although i'm sure he did have any interest in photographing my backside).  it wasn't until i acquiesced to their direction pointing that i got to a split in the trail where a caution tape barrier was clearly blocking one path, but when i paid close attention i could see the surveyor's flags running down that path as well as the other fork.  with nothing left to lose (i could no longer see mr. third-place and had already started passing people who had started in the middle section of the chute) i squeezed past the end of the tape barrier and followed the 'road less traveled'.  about 150m down this path there it was:  a sign reading "Scanlon Creek Run For The Trails - 6k".  i'd found my way onto the correct section of trail and was headed for the finish.

when the trail finally spit me out at the finish line straightaway i crossed behind people i had not ever seen ahead of me.  looking at my watch, i did the math and figured out that i'd run 7.9k, and noted that for the timekeepers at the finish line clock.  as i stood explaining to them the puppy tail-chasing that i did and the misadventure with the caution tape, mr. third-place came up to me and said "where did you go?"  i discovered that he and the first and second-place finishers each ran about 5.8k because they did not re-do the loop over and over to find the correct trail but instead cut across an open area to the finishing straightaway.  while i was a bit bummed to not have place properly in terms of the finishing order it was consolation to know that it wasn't just me who couldn't follow directions. :)

all in all it was a gorgeous day (temperature was about 11°C to start the morning, 16°C at the finish of the race) and the trails were in amazing shape.  there was an awesome spread of post-race snacks, including homemade banana loaf!  i couldn't stick around for the whack of draw prizes that they had available, but did connect again with kate who sought me out to specifically apologize for the confusion on-course and asked me if i was fairly certain that i'd finished in fourth spot.  i thanked her and let her know that it really didn't matter - it was such an enjoyable outing for a fantastic cause, and i got my workout in.

 from l-to-r:  robin, me, something protruding from my ear, rhonda-marie

kudos to the friends of scanlon creek for all of their work - not just for organizing this race but for their efforts in preserving this natural forest/marshland and providing people of all abilities the opportunity to enjoy it.  i definitely hope to get back out in 2016 for another go at the Run For The Trails 7k - this time it's personal! :)

[ photo courtesy of jim craigmyle ]

race gear for the 2015 run for the trails 7k: