31 March 2013

pre-breakfast of champions ...?

this morning my friend trevor helped me to put in my longest run in my training cycle (29km), and thereby wrap up the most mileage that i have managed to log in any one week period (110km).  if you read the previous post you'll recall that this morning's run was something of a late substitute for an originally scheduled 'simulator' run of 26.2km at marathon pace.  

i'm (still) glad that i made that switch.  whether or not it will pan out as being the best move possible for attaining that elusive BQ goal is yet to be discovered.

anticipating the strain that this particular early morning run would put on my system, i decided to incorporate a few nutritional elements that would hopefully help me stave off the dreaded wall effect, and fuel me through to a strong finish.  in particular:

  1. i brought along some hydration (water) and fuel (homemade chia gel) with me.  this may not sound unusual to you, but for me it's not normal practice to take along any food or drink on training runs.  i always run before breakfast, and i find it to be of real psychological benefit to motivate myself with the allure of chocolate milk and waffles.
  2. i did carboload a bit yesterday.  sticky rice for lunch, spaghetti for dinner - yum.
  3. i started drinking beetroot juice this week.  i'd read this week that beetroot juice is apparently a natural (i.e. not banned!) performance enhancer for endurance athletes because it contains nitrates that can help your body to require less oxygen to do more work.  now, i'm not convinced that i'm the calibre of athlete for whom the performance benefits of beetroot juice will make any more of a difference than making sure to not go out too fast at the start of a race ... but i also figure that it can't hurt me.  except that i don't find beets all that super tasty - so in order to down the appropriate amount i 50/50 blend it with apple juice.  
end result?  today's run felt really quite good.  i managed (or at least think i did) to keep decent form through all 29km, and while the legs inevitably felt fatigue i can't say that i ever felt like i hit the wall.  plus i imagined that i would do well to finish up with a 5:08-5:10/km pace, and by the time i rolled back into my driveway i'd completed at a 4:58/km pace (even with walking breaks to make sure that i wasn't wearing spreading the chia gel all over to become the marathoning chiapet).  chalk it up to what you will, but i think that i just might try downing some more beetroot juice in the next few weeks, and packing a bit of fuel for the long runs.

oh, and breakfast was still oh so good when i got home. 


28 March 2013

fail to plan, plan to fail - part deux

ever had those times where you solve a problem in your sleep?

the sleep two nights was one of those nights for me.

not that i went to bed thinking that i had a problem ... but it may have been an instance of my body revealing something to me that my mind had not yet perceived.

with 5-1/2 weeks left to go in my marathon training, i have on my schedule for this sunday (yes, easter sunday) to run what the hansons call "the simulator" - a 26.2k marathon-pace training run designed to psychologically and rhythmically put one through the paces of the actual race.  only a scaled-down version.

however, what has me concerned is that i'm doing this dance with overtraining.

in the previous "fail to plan, plan to fail" post i'd noted that the program that i'm working with now operates on the principle of cumulative fatigue.  train on tired legs, and that will prepare you for running the latter part of the marathon.  i get that (and believe me, i feel that) - but combined with the 34% total mileage increase over my peak month during the last training cycle (even my first month of training for this race exceeded my peak month for my previous race) i'm concerned that i might be pressing for too much too quickly.  it's not that i'm picking up on any of the telltale signs of overtraining - my mood's alright, i'm not finding my constitution particularly rundown, and i haven't acquired any injuries - but i do think that i know enough about myself to anticipate that running a marathon simulation (even the kilomathon version) might bump me over that edge.

so, as i've ofted told myself, i'm going to trust my training.

the inclusion of the simulator was my tweaking of the prescribed plan, and not originally part of the program.  i've already doctored a number of the training runs to include hill sprints, 10x1min. fartleks, 6x100m strides as well as tacking on extra kilometres here and there.  so while it's far from unadulterated, at this point i don't feel like backing off from the simulator is a serious detraction from my training.  i still put in my regular MP run today, and will instead stick to the originally scheduled long run for this sunday.

have you ever found yourself overtrained?  what were the real red flags for you?  and how did you escape that spiral?

p.s.  make sure to check out stan's last two posts about marathon training and his progress toward boston - they're top notch.

25 March 2013

left-handed vs. right-handed running

observational data tells me that more left-handed gloves are lost than right-handed ones.


but first, a bit of context:

a couple of weeks ago i made my confession to the faith community to which i belong - i have an addiction.

i am addicted to collecting lost, frozen winter outerwear.

i do this as i'm running.  in the last three seasons of winter training (outdoors of course) i've managed to collect headwear and mittens galore.  in fact, two of my favourite toques (a billabong and an underarmour) i came across as frozen flat to the roads.  both times i had to pry them off of the pavement and carried them home, rigid as a discus.

but what i've discovered this winter more prominently than any other is that most of the gloves and mittens lost/discarded on the roadways, sidewalks and snowbanks are left handed.  easily by a 4 to 1 ratio.

while you may not care how many people are walking around with just a covering on their right hands, it has become a minor frustration to me as i try to compile pairs to be able to actually wear.

this is all preamble (necessary or unnecessary) to a quick comment about winter running gear.  i don't know whether or not it's because i've grown up in the snow belt of south-central ontario or because i'm just a little off-kilter (i definitely have been accused of the latter), but my standard winter running apparel consists of:
  • a nike dri-fit, lined shell jacket (about three and half years old now, purchased with a g/c from the local sportchek)
  • a running room canada-branded reflective nylon sleeveless vest (because my shell jacket is almost completely black with only minor reflective accents)
  • women's running room fit-wear reflective wind pant (easily 10 years old, with nylon front-of-leg panels and polyester rear-of-leg panels - bought from a goodwill store)
  • the underarmour beanie toque (found dead on road)
  • various combinations of gloves and mitts (also victims of snowplows)
  • underneath all of the outerwear is usually my standard running gear - polyester tees or l/s tops, unlined poly compression tights and poly socks (all in single layers)
this gear has served me well in all sorts of conditions, ranging from 0 deg. celsius (the point at which i usually put away the shorts) to -35 deg. celsius and 20-25cm snow days.  i try to observe the general rule of 'dress for 20deg (F) warmer' in order to prevent overheating, and the subsequent possibilities of overperspiring leading to hypothermic simulation.  so you won't find me looking like the michelin man.
i also don't tend to run with any kind of hydration or fuel.  being a morning runner, i'm motivated by the desire to get home and have breakfast.  hunger has a way of motivating me to move faster.  while i don't necessarily recommend this as a good running practice (dehydration can be a significant issue in the winter), i find that it does help train my body to burn fat more efficiently.

anyway, i'd love to hear what other outdoor winter runners wear as they combat the elements.  and it would be great to also accumulate more data to confirm whether or not other neighbourhoods are populated by right-handed only glove wearers.


21 March 2013

fail to plan, plan to fail

never having run (for all intents and purposes) prior to the spring of 2009, i can safely say that i didn't know what i was doing when i agreed to a friend's challenge to run a half-marathon on labour day that year.

up until that point, all that i'd managed to do was to make it through a music video or two (from the 1980s of course) while on the treadmill.

since then, i've managed to complete three half-marathons, one 30k race and three full marathon distances - and generally speaking, i've been progressively getting better/stronger/faster ... (cue Six Million Dollar Man music)

i'm sure that part of this has been a result of now a couple of years of conditioning myself as a runner.  last week marked a milestone as i completed my first 60+ mile week of training, and today my mileage in 2013 has eclipsed 1000 km.

but i'm also confident that part of my steady improvement in racing is attributable to the training plans that i've followed.  i find this area of conversation very interesting, as it forces me to assimilate all sorts of things that i've heard and observed about training and coaching. for instance:

  • various elite distance athletes train without a coach (e.g. jason hartmann, and until recently ryan hall)
  • the kenyans and japanese distance runners tend to run and train in groups (whereas i tend to run and train alone - maybe it's because i'm such an introvert)
  • the great haile gebrselassie once said in an interview that racers should not be nervous standing at the start line, because at that point it's just about showing off all the work that you have already done in training
  • it was said about patrick makau (current world record-holder in the marathon - 2:03:38) that he "trains to race fast, not to train fast"
  • i had the privilege of meeting and getting to know paul hefferon, who finished 2:16:46 in his debut marathon at the 2012 olympic trials in houston running with the hansons brooks distance project
  • my friend (and planned pacer at the 2013 mississauga marathon) stan ong is a sub-3 hour marathoner who trains by feel
  • if it's been said once it's been said a million times ... when it comes to race day, you have to trust your training
to date i've tried to followed three different race preparation schedules.  for my first two half-marathons, it was a training plan for the disney half-marathon that was sent over to me by a co-worker who had raced at disney world.  then for the 30k and first full marathons, i used a version of the runner's world intermediate marathon plan.  for the last two marathons, i worked with the 'ryan hall marathon training plan' as published by nissan's innovation for endurance program.  and now, spurred on by mostly positive reviews and my friend paul's association with the hansons brooks distance project, i've been using a modified form of the advanced hansons marathon method plan.

this plan that i'm currently using has (in my mind) two distinctives about it: 
  1. the principle of cumulative fatigue - the idea that every run is pretty much executed on tired legs.  this is the first program that i've tackled that has me running six days out of the week, and the premise is that training within a maintained level of fatigue simulates the final 15k or more of the marathon, thereby acclimatizing you to pushing beyond 'the wall'.
  2. the 16 miler - most programs will include a 16 mile run, just not as the longest run in the schedule.  the hanson brothers and their teams have found that making sure that the longest run in any given week is not disproportionate to the total number of miles logged in the week (e.g. not more than about 25%) emphasizes the importance of each training run (and type).
so far, so good.  i'm pleasantly surprised at how i've managed to sustain the 6-days-per-week schedule, and while i'm not clearly seeing gains in pace, i have to admit that this is really the first go at training where i've given myself specific times in which to try and complete specific distances.

i'm always curious to hear about what other training plans have worked for other people - feel free to weigh in on my experiences or your own.  for now, i'll finish out the hansons marathon method and bring the definitive update after may 5 in mississauga.


[i selected this post to be featured on Running Blogs - please visit the site and vote for my blog!]


19 March 2013

everything i needed to know i should have learned as a kid

having just read a status update from my good friend lewis on dailymile, i thought that it was timely that i post a quick little something about tying shoes.

i must admit that i was already thinking about this, as i had the experience last thursday of running a marathon pace training run with my right shoelace flopping about untied for about 3 km.  frustrated with this poor-performing technology, i went on a trusty google search to determine the best way to tie shoes for running.

little did i realize that i wasn't tying my shoes properly at all.

for the last 37 years.

i came across this video which - although it made me feel more than a bit juvenile - taught me the proper way to lace up shoes:

after having watched the video and applied the appropriate technological advancement, i can now vouch for two things:  
  1. it feels weird to tie my knots this way.
  2. my laces have not even come close to coming undone.
oh ... and if you've ever wondered why running shoe manufacturers punch an extra set of holes further up and lower than the set that would seem to be at the top of your shoes, here's why.


17 March 2013

homemade chia seed energy gel failure

with permission to turn the kitchen upside down as necessary, i embarked yesterday on making my own energy gel. 

i've often wanted to tinker with this - partly because i'm as cheap as they come (and would rather homebrew something that would price out at a fraction per serving of most retail gels) and partly because chris mcdougall's Born To Run inspired me - as it has many others - to explore the benefits of chia seeds.

so armed with the recipe from "no meat athlete" (found here) i followed the recipe down to the letter.

or so i thought.

as i tried to work my magic with the various ingredients, i got caught up in the fact that i didn't have all of the right measuring tools.  not the main problem - the main problem turned out that i can't read.

better put, that i trust my instincts more than my fact-gathering senses.

in the midst of various 1/16 cup, 1/8 and 3/4 cup measurements, i read "1/4 cup salt substitute" and "1/8 cup baking soda".

except that the clearly printed instructions call for "1/4 tsp salt substitute" and
"1/8 tsp baking soda".

i didn't realize my mistake until this morning's first ingestion of the homemade energy gel right before embarking on my 27k training run.


how's the old saying go?  "measure twice and cut once"?

new batch coming up.


15 March 2013

road review - saucony kinvara vizi-glo

i've been thinking a lot (and in fact acting a lot) on the theme of quitting.  i know that it sounds all negative and stuff - but my friend (who is a great musician and olympic-level athlete) rosanna tomiuk has some insightful comments on that.  

but in terms of running, for me it's not about giving that up - but letting go of some good friends who have served me well ... the saucony kinvaras:

these shoes joined my stable in the late summer of 2011.  they were my second pair of the first generation kinvaras (i originally had a lime green pair that really stood out when i was doing training runs through rural romania), and were purchased for $39 thanks to a coupon and the sale at the running room outlet store.

at the time (and even still) the saucony kinvara was considered the crème de la crème of the new breed of performance running footwear - lightweight, low heel drop, suitable for training and racing.  i was excited to try them out - and i remember my first impression when i donned them for a road run:  it was like wearing socks that were shoes.

these kinvaras have seen me through several races and probably well over 1500km of running now.  why have i held on to them for so long?  here a few reasons:
  1. fit - the kinvaras had (more on this below) a great shape for my foot.  true-to-size, there was ample forefoot room and a nice feel around the heel.  as i noted, like socks to run in.
  2. lightweight - at 7.7 oz in a men's 9 (mine were a 10), they were definitely on the leading edge of minimalist shoes.
  3. colour awesomeness - while they did have a variety of plainer colour combos, the vizipro orange and lime green pairs that i had in my closet rocked.
  4. traction - featuring these great outsole 'pistons', the kinvaras have been in use year round, even on ice and deep snow runs.  i've never had a concern about tumbling in them.
  5. flexible - the mesh upper/sockliner design of these shoes mean that they conform nicely to my foot as it transitions through all of the motions of the footstrike.  plus these shoes have seen me move from a midfoot-strike to a forefoot-strike pattern and have allowed me to do so without any real hindrance. 
  6. drainage - connected to the comments above, i used the kinvaras in some triathlon work and the fact that they got my feet dry quick after T1 (i didn't have bike-specific shoes) was a huge bonus.
given all of these pluses, why surrender them now?  just a few thoughts:
  • upper wear - yup, they've split open at the point where my forefoot flexes.  probably a good indicator that i'm either landing on my forefoot or at least springing off well, but the rip is widening as well.  don't know how long they'll last that way.
  • fit across forefoot - what was once a positive is now not so much.  i've gone to the extent of even skipping the bottom two speedlacing eyelets to create a bit more room for splay and flex (in addition to removing the insole, as noted in a previous post).  i wonder if transitioning to forefoot running over the last 10 months or so has actually made my foot a bit wider.
  • midsole compression - this may or may not be just a psychological thing on my part.  i have always had these shoes in rotation with at least two other pairs, so they've had adequate time to decompress/expand between runs - but i'm sure that the seasons of rain, snow and salt have not done much to keep the midsole in pristine form.
  • not my prime shoe anymore - this is definitely a psychological thing.  if these shoes were newer, this would be a weak (and wasteful) excuse to part ways with them ... but now that i have my current favourite (merrell road glove) and new race shoe (skechers gobionic) to rotate through, it may be time to bid them adieu.
my first pair of lime green kinvaras were donated to the recycling program at my local running free store.  as these puppies aren't in quite as good a shape as the first pair were, they may just find their way into our local landfill (i don't believe in trying to pawn off trash to others).
i only wish that they were biodegradable ... that would have been a fitting tribute to bury these shoes alongside some of the roads that they have carried me down.  fare thee well, kinvaras, fare thee well.


12 March 2013

just when i think i've got it bad

today was the first of my strength training runs according to the hansons marathon plan ... and i can safely say that i was disappointed with the result.  tough slugging, slow pace, tired legs.  not an encouraging day as i look at entering the last half of my training schedule.

it's days like this that i (and maybe some of you know the feeling) need to get a sense of perspective to help set me right.  and wouldn't you know that these two stories popped up on my radar screen today - and they're too good not to share.

(1) "Nine-hour marathon run on broken ankle" - i may never complain about pain during my runs again.

(2) "Brain cancer patient wins Gusher Marathon" - there are some comparisons that can be drawn here to the marathoners/competitors who inspire me the most, rick and dick hoyt.

may you (and i) run the race with perseverance ... remembering to enjoy the fact that you can run.


08 March 2013

road review - asics gel galaxy 4

i doubt that you will find anyone else writing a serious training review on this shoe. 

although produced by asics, a great athletic company (their name is an acronym for anima sana in corpore sano after all), they are like many other businesses in their industry that produce some mass-market 'lifestyle' type of footwear.  i'd venture to say that the gel galaxy 4 falls into this category.

previously i'd posted that i bought these shoes at the local value village which is a favourite haunt of mine [note:  i am an avowed thrift-store junkie] - and therefore i have no idea what kind of life they lived prior to settling into my running closet.  what i wanted to purchase was a pair of shoes that would (a) have a little more material to them to protect my feet during the heaviest winter weather (we can often see 15-25 cm snowfall accumulation on any given day, and down to -30°C windchill temperatures); and (b) have decent enough traction to cover the tundra-like terrain without the use of additional gripping devices.  and it just so happened that on the day that i dropped into the store, these were on the men's footwear shelf:

they aren't the prettiest things ... so what made me add them to the rotation?  here's just a quick rundown of key features for me:
  1. upper construction - this was definitely top criteria in selecting another shoe, especially from the second hand store.  the overlays, the toe bumper, padded tongue/ankle/heel sections - lots of added protection against the elements.  remember, i was looking for something to help me specifically with winter running.
  2. outsole design -  it's kinda funky, don't you think?

    looks a bit like a fossilized ancient squid or something ... but its precisely that off-kilter pattern and texturing, combined with the transverse forefoot flexlines that made me think that this would work in terms of providing decent traction while allowing a forefoot striker like me to still work the shoe as i needed to.
  3. weight - the shoes are essentially clodhoppers for me.  at a little more than 11oz. in size 10.5, they're almost twice the shoe that my merrell road gloves are.  it's almost like having these on your feet:

    so why does this work for me?  well, i knew that i would be selecting heavier shoes based on the kind of protection that i wanted ... but i also intended to use this particular pair of shoes for recovery runs (right now mondays and fridays for no more than 12km each outing) - and so it's in part helping me to stick with the discipline of not pushing too much on my easy days while still providing a good workout for my legs.  keeping the turnover rate high while feeling like i've strapped weights to my feet makes me at least believe that i could be running faster.
  4. visibility - while i'm not entirely sure that the asics logo design on the side of the shoes is reflective, it does provide sufficient enough contrast over a large enough area that makes the shoes noticeable while running in the early pre-dawn darkness.
  5. sizing - beggars can't be choosers, especially when it comes to second-hand shopping.  but these shoes i found in a 10.5 which provided ample enough length and surprisingly decent toebox width - no scrunched pinky toes here.  the fit set these shoes apart from a couple of other pairs of runners i was able to find at the same store.
  6. pricepoint - now this isn't fair to be sure, as i purchased them used ... but for asics footwear, i think that these shoes would have be regular retail for about $59.  i managed to pick them up for $12, and they were still in fantastic shape.  their durability has held up for me (through ice, slush and salt), and so i feel like i've gotten excellent value for money.
bottom line?  would i recommend these shoes to another runner in training?  actually, yes.  with the proviso that they should be used in rotation with other shoes.  given that these gel galaxy 4 are probably something like a 12-14mm heel drop shoe, they're obviously not helping me reinforce my barefoot-running style - but they are keeping me alert to my footstrike pattern and working well to keep me safe on the winter roads of south-central ontario.  overall i give them a 3.5 out of 5.

06 March 2013

my three sirens

i run.  it's funny, i tell people that i don't love running (because i don't really), and they find that hard to believe considering how much time and discipline that i try to put into it.  i'm more of a goal-oriented runner - i'm fairly certain that if i didn't dangle a race carrot in front of myself that i would hit the snooze button way more often and settle in with a tub of maple walnut ice cream for the midnight movie a whole lot.

i act.  it was in 2008 that i discovered community theatre (or was encouraged into it by my wife who spotted an audition notice calling for "two men, ages 30-40 for comedic roles"), and i haven't looked back since.  the stage is such a perfect creative outlet for a non-musical, drawing-impaired guy like me.  and the theatre community is comprised of über-talented, fascinating personalities.  there's nothing quite like being able to still play make-believe at my age.

i ride.  no, not as in bicycle (except for my brief stints with triathlon training and competition), but as in motorcycling.  i also came into it late - the year after i got married was when i decided to take the motorcycle rider safety course at one of the local community colleges - but honestly, as my dad was a BSA rider back in england.  oddly enough, when i announced my intention to take up motorcycling, it wasn't my wife or my mom who put up the most fuss - it was my dad, the reformed bad boy.  maybe because he knew more intimately than most just how dangerous it could be.  

there have been four motorcycles to date that have been part of my stable:  a 1981 yamaha xj650, a 1979 yamaha xs850, a 1985 honda nighthawk 750s, and now a 1988 kawasaki ninja gpx750.  if you know your bikes, you'll notice a slow transition from cruiser to sport (tourer) models - but i don't think that my evolution in riding will be complete until i land myself on top of a really nice cafe racer ... maybe something like this:

maybe one day.

04 March 2013

the biggest difference-maker in how to run

i have to give (indirect) credit to my friend trevor morgan who really was the person who introduced me to the idea of 'natural' or 'barefoot' running a little over a year ago.  i'm sure that the three races i'd run before that were heel-striking festivals.  but ever since he shared with me this video i've been dedicated to a more natural stride:

dr. mark cucuzzella is quite a phenomenal individual, and i can't help but think that what born to run has done for the running community in print he has helped to do in spades for the same community via video.

i also came across this video (isn't YouTube great?) that is equally as helpful and instructional - but i found it after dr. mark's, so it falls to second in priority and preference:

as the post title indicates, these videos have made all the difference in the world to me - in terms of how efficiently i run, how long i plan to run injury-free, and the enjoyment that i can experience in running.  watch at your own discretion - once you travel down the rabbit hole, there's no going back.

02 March 2013

unboxing - skechers gobionic

a quick post to show off my new skechers gobionics - and a commendation to the skechers team.

first, before the box there was the bag:

pretty nice eh?  a reusable nylon tote/back pack instead of just a plain plastic bag.  i would have been happy with a recyclable paper bag too, but this says something about what kind of value skechers wants to deliver to its clients.

and now the shoes:

i gather that the second release of colourways for the gobionics they term the 'prana' edition.  i got to check out the orange/yellow combo as well as the red/hot pink ones that i settled on.  these definitely look like more 'race ready' shoes that the standard colourways that were included in the original release.

the plan is not to run in these at all until the roads around here are consistently dry - hopefully within the next two to three weeks.  that'll still give me a good month in them before lacing the timing chip into them for the mississauga marathon.  so no real review details yet, although i did give them a decent workover in the store (skechers retail in the toronto eaton centre) and found that these size larger than i expected.  i was fully prepared to walk away with size 10s based on the reading i'd done and recommendations that were shared with me, but knowing that i will run without the removable insole i found that the size 10s were crazy sloppy on me when i tried them on.  there was lots of lateral and longitudinal motion in them even with socks that were a bit thicker than my race day variety.  the 9.5s that i eventually brought home were still plenty wide for decent toe splay and give me that thumb width between my longest (second) toe and the end of the shoe.

before i go i have to comment quickly on the skechers staff - they were out and out fantastic.  specific props to amar (the javelin competitor who came from india) who worked with me tirelessly as i waffled back and forth trying on size 9.5s and 10s in several colourways, as well as giving me time to compare the gobionic against the gorun 2 and the gobionic ride.  in a busy store, he managed to treat me like the queen of england (figuratively speaking).  his manager (didn't get his name) and fellow salesperson linda were also top notch - but i just have to say that for me they helped create one of the most positive customer service experiences i've had in a long time.  whatever skechers is doing - from a product design and a personnel training perspective - they've won me over.  i'm definitely recommending them on to anybody who'll listen!