28 October 2022

LT training, cluster workouts and the Norwegian secret to taking over the running world

While I still maintain that Yuki Kawauchi is my running hero, I have certainly hopped aboard the Norwegian bandwagon as I've been most invested over the past 3 or 4 years watching two of my favourite track athletes:  Karsten Warholm and Jakob Ingebrigtsen.

While they have certainly drawn the attention of the running world to Norway in recent years they are not the only Norwegian runners to have risen to dominance ... take 9-time NYC Marathon winner and the first woman to run a sub-2:30 marathon Grete Waitz for example.  So you could argue that there's been something in the water there for a long time.


But what is it?


I stumbled across this article today and wanted to share it as perhaps a peeling back of the curtain on Norwegian training approaches and what may be a big difference maker in this little nation's performances on the world stage.  I confess to not having heard about "cluster training" or training by a lactic acid meter so this is a real education piece for me.  I definitely think that it is worth looking at and sharing:  https://www.mariusbakken.com/the-norwegian-model.html


I'm getting older and slower so my best racing days are long behind me - but if this dog isn't too old to learn new tricks then maybe I'll give the Norwegian method of systematic threshold training more than a passing glance.


14 January 2022

When You Get The Itch To Use Creatine

I've not been one to use supplements to a great degree - it's not that I don't believe in the science behind it or want to benefit from the advantages that they may offer.  It's usually because (a) I'm too cheap to invest in a lot of extras and (b) I'm too lazy to stay on schedule with taking them.

That being said there have been a few things that have regularly been part of my intake:

  • Vitamin D - since I'm primarily a pre-dawn runner I don't get out for a lot of natural sunlight, so this supplement helps boost my vitamin D levels.  Plus I think that it couldn't hurt in helping to stave off COVID-19.
  • Glucosamine - over the past 12 years of running (usually 5-8 times a week) I have experienced intermittent knee pain issues so I'm trying to give myself a bit of an advantage here
  • Protein powder - a must-add to my morning waffle mix, and a boost to my post-workout breakfast.

However having eclipsed the half-century mark I paid special attention to the studies that indicate that muscle loss increases with age and so I thought that perhaps it might not be a bad idea to try to slow that rate in some fashion.  As such I decided to give creatine supplementation a go.

This is the third 'brand' of creatine that I've tried now

Since the intention was not to 'bulk up' but to just try and slow depletion I'm not sure that I expected to observe any demonstrable differences ... however to my surprise I did observe a change that coincided with the start of my creatine intake.


I understand that creatine is a naturally occurring property, and that there is creatine already in my system.  What I also know is that since I started with regular creatine supplementation I've had hives every night - starting just before bedtime and lasting through until after breakfast. 

I've worked on eliminating all of the other 'regular' suspects - changing laundry detergents, checking for bedbugs, swapping shampoos and bar soaps, buying different skin moisturizers. 

The only consistent thing during this period has been my creatine intake.

A quick Google search will of course find varying opinions on the subject, but at least a few reads (e.g. here, here and here) have reassured me that I'm not an outlier here.  Other people have wondered about the same sort of connection between creatine and allergic reactions/hives.

While I'm neither a doctor nor a detective, I do subscribe to the old Sherlock Holmes adage that "When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth".  So I'm going to put my creatine bucket away for now and see if my condition improves over the next few weeks.

Here's hoping that soon I won't feel the need to scratch that itch.


19 June 2021

A new half-marathon PB ...

 ... in Crocs.

That's right.  The slip-on, slip-off, top-aerated plasticky clogs that you can custom decorate with plug-through charms.

I confess that I've found it very challenging to keep any kind of a 'training mentality' with only virtual races as the available competition options, so when a few friends collaborated to host an impromptu socially-distanced half-marathon today I joined in on the fun.  However, knowing that I was far from optimal race-shape I thought that I would try something different ... and having recently just watched the video of Benjamin Pachev running a smokin' fast half-marathon in Crocs I told myself "why not?".  It would take the pressure off of trying to go all-out, and would provide a brand new experience.

But maybe I should have tried running any distance in Crocs first.

Even once.

But nooooooooo ....

So what was it like?

Well, it wasn't fast (at least for my liking).  I could tell that after the first 3km that my quads were getting totally smashed.  Perhaps that was due to the not-particularly-cushioned composition of the Crocs, or maybe my running form changed to accommodate the different feel of looser-fitting shoes on my feet.

I also found that since the route went along some crushed-limestone trail that there were various times that I could feel pebbles bouncing into and around the Crocs.  To be fair I think that perhaps half of the stones that I detected going in also found a way to bounce out the same way that they came - but I also found at various times that I was subtly trying to maneuver the debris towards the front of the shoes in hopes that they would sift out the top through the holes.  I'm going to guess that that tactic was mayyyyybe 40% effective as at least on one occasion I had to stop to remove a Croc and empty out the stones. 

Today's weapon of choice - only slid off of my foot once

After all was said and done I found that there were definitely sections of the run that I felt like I could have been running in any of the shoes in my regular rotation, so that's a plus.  I did find that they were 'noticeable' when climbing sections of the route, and that could have been a bit of a slippage factor given that my feet weren't locked down into them.  And upon returning home and removing my socks I did find that my pinky toes both had some significant rubbing/blistering that had taken place, in addition to 'hot spots' on the outside edges underneath my forefoot (both sides).

It takes a special kind of crazy ...

Was I glad that I did it?  For sure. 

Would I do it again?  Maybe ... but I will definitely get in some training runs with them beforehand. 

So the question is ... would you give it a try?


28 October 2020

Reclaiming purpose in running

It's been a cool 4+ months since I last showed up on Strava.

My reasons why were very personal, and it was important for me to take a break from anyone's running expectations.

Now, with a new (to me) watch on wrist I've decided to resurface.  But (despite majority opinion to the contrary) its not Strava that defines my running.

It's not racing that defines my running.

To be honest, I can't say with 100% certainty anymore that I know what defines my running.  

But it just could be something closer to this ...


12 June 2020

The mentally unwell side of running

I'm sure that this is a post that no one wants to have to read.

It's not attractive.

It's not glamourous.

It's not particularly flattering of this sport about which so many of us are passionate.

But it's brutally real.  At least for me.

I've always said that I have a love-hate relationship with running.  In short, I've never really liked running (ever since my days as a rotundly-shaped pre-teen with no cardio to speak of), but in the last 10 years or so I've been allured by the prospect of training and racing.  That's always served as the carrot that was dangling in front of me ... or so I thought.

Somewhere along the way I began to feel really proud of getting regular exercise in, especially first thing in the morning when much of the world around me seemed to be sleeping or hitting their snooze buttons.

I also began tracking my workout data with a GPS watch, as recommended to me by my first official running coach.

Not long after that I discovered Strava, and a whole community of runners that I could follow and with whom I could share my running exploits.

It was glorious!

And in some insidious way it was disastrous.

I started to become addicted ... not to running per se, but to the appearance of running.

Don't get me wrong - I was putting in the workouts.  It's just that now other people could see it.  They could track with me how far I was going, how fast, where it was all taking place and with whom.  I began to develop a bit of reputation as a rugged and relentless all-conditions runner.  Again, it made me feel pretty good about myself.

But somewhere along the way my striving to achieve hopes and dreams became a quest to continue to meet expectations.

It's not like the people around me voiced it in that way.  I'm not sure that any ever said (or even would have said) that they 'expected' me to keep running, or keeping hitting certain race times, or to maintain a certainly monthly mileage.  I think that the people around me are too thoughtful and polite to do that.

It was all happening in my own head.  I felt, and still feel the weight of other people expecting me to keep running and keep performing at certain levels (even my non-runner acquaintances who think of me as 'a runner').  When I look around and observe others running and completing their workouts and races somehow I feel challenged by what they're doing.  Not in a good way, mind you ... in a 'why can't I go as hard/fast/far/consistently as them' kind of way.

Instead of running as a means of getting healthier and stronger, it has become a means of staving off guilt and shame.

It's bad enough that I already have body-image problems, but to stack on top of that self-flagellation as it relates to my running habits/accomplishments meant that things were definitely going off of the rails.

Where this has all led me is to do a few things at this point in time:
  1. I've made all of my Strava workout entries 'private' so that it's basically for my own tracking purposes only.  I recognize that that may be unfair to some or all of my connections on Strava who may be looking to my workouts (as some have said) as motivation to get their own workouts in.  Honestly I feel like I've gotta 'secure my own oxygen mask first' before I can be of any kind of help to anyone else.
  2. I've given up stepping on the scale daily.  It's become all too depressing, even though I realize that any right-thinking human being would probably shout me down for being insane for thinking that I'm overweight.  But that's the point, isn't it ...?   There's a certain insanity at work here.  It's not unlike a conversation that I had not so long ago with a good friend of mine as he revealed that he was struggling with orthorexia (as strange as it sounds, that's defined as an unhealthy obsession with eating healthy) ... sometimes you just can't see the forest for the trees.
  3. I'm stopping running.  This is long overdue - even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown I've kept up training and running at least six times a week for the past several months.  Even as I type this I'm thinking that the amount of running that I've done pales in comparison to others who I've been tracking on Strava and well-meaning Facebook groups.  But my body is starting to provide some negative feedback, and while I'm sorely tempted to ignore it all I would probably do that at my own peril.  So it's time to switch the machine off.
This post isn't particularly cathartic or opinionated (I hope) - it just is.  

Maybe you will see me as weaker than you thought I was.  That's cool with me.

Maybe someone can relate to where I'm at, and in that way it could be helpful.  If so, fabulous!

At the end of the day I'm not asking anyone to sympathize, over-analyze or even understand.  To some degree I'm even embarrassed to be occupying real estate in cyberspace at a time like this with this disclosure when I could and should probably instead be putting more energy into sharing anti-racist information and strategies.  #blacklivesmatter

However if you've read this far then I appreciate that you have had enough interest or care to hear me out, and I wish you the best with your own journeys and struggles.

Maybe some time I will see you around, possibly running.