27 March 2014

looking right in all the wrong ways

one of my favourite go-to sites for running tips is kinetic revolution and recently they've posted a couple of videos from south african-born olympic running coach bobby mcgee.  i'd not heard about bobby before, but after watching just these two quick clips i've become very much intrigued by what he has to share.  

while at first blush it doesn't come across as mind-blowingly new stuff (much of it is along the same lines of what i've found from mark cucuzzella and the natural running center), i was particularly impressed (maybe shocked?) to learn that one of my go-to drills - the 'high knees' - was something that i've been doing wrong for well over a year.  you might appreciate getting bobby's take on the 'right way' to do high knees from this video:

i plan on checking out the remainder of bobby's instructional stuff that is available online.  from what i've been able to scout out so far i'd recommend it to any of you as well - what or who would you recommend back?


25 March 2014

crunching the numbers

i'm more of a process over product kind of person.

journey over destination.

quality over quantity.

people over project.

which is all kind of funny when i think about how preoccupied i am with tracking my training data.

with so many options out there, my favourite tool for keeping tabs on my weekly mileage is dailymile (you can see the dailymile widget on the left-hand side column on my blog).  i suppose that it's because it's a combination tracking site and social media platform, including the option to link up with friends/acquaintances and post comments, encouragements and other notes.  it provides me with just what i need in terms of at-a-glance data:  distances for specific workouts, for a week or month at a time - even what some of my colleagues are managing to pump out on a weekly basis.  

this may or may not be a preferred performance tracking and analysis tool for runners, but many of the athletes that i follow on twitter and facebook have a profile on dailymile.

many others have taken to sites like strava or runkeeper, and to a lesser degree training peaks and sporttracks.  again, there are all sorts of alternatives available, and many times i've found individuals to be fiercely loyal to their webpage of choice.

since i use my garmin 305 to record my run data, my first digital stop is normally at the garmin connect website.  so imagine my intrigue when i was reading alessandro santuz's blog and found out about tapiriik, an open-source platform for synching multiple performance tracking service streams.

what's great about this is obviously the concept of synching - one touch consolidation of information across multiple software applications.  instead of being daunted and/or bogged down by the work of logging into various profiles and inputting information separately into each one, tapiriik offers you the ability to set-up a synching network and then subsequently making your training and racing stats available in each one.  

the one notable feature of tapiriik that is especially enticing is the ability to synch to dropbox, a virtual (shared) hard drive.  while i'm still working at configuring this so that it works optimally for me, i relish the thought of being able to have a downloadable capture of my training info for my records.

which tracking service have you sworn allegiance to, if any?  do you think that a tool like tapiriik might be of use to you?

21 March 2014

going pro - redux

the idea of being 'branded' is not one that i've particularly relished in my recent years ... particularly because of my own renegade nature and the freedom of movement and experimentation afforded by being unattached to any particular portfolio.

recently that changed with my affiliation with Team Running Free.

and now i'm officially a brand ambassador with Skechers Performance Division (Canada).

i can tell you that i'm genuinely stoked to be allied with Skechers.  i know that many runners still are dumbfounded by the mere mention of Skechers in conjunction with running/racing - but with several years of making headway in the athletic/running industry they are now a force to be reckoned with.  in fact, in 2013 the Skechers Performance Division was named Sports Footwear Brand of the Year at The Footwear Industry Awards in the UK.

in addition to having prominent american marathoner meb keflezighi as their most recognizable elite-level brand ambassador, what many people may not know is that the performance division has been headed up by kurt stockbridge and david raysse - and between the two of them they have logged several decades of work with nike, fila and adidas in their footwear and design departments.  you can watch david talking about one of my favourite all-time pairs of shoes, the Skechers GOBionic:

the details of being a Brand Ambassador include running gear for feedback and review, as well as assisting as a representative at race expos and providing social media contributions.  believe me when i say that this will all be a privilege and a pleasure.

so just know that for at least the next year (and hopefully beyond) you'll be hearing a lot of Skechers talk from me.  far from being constraining, this will be an awesome learning and growing experience for me as an athlete and a blogger.  

plus i'm 100% sure that as you get to know Skechers better through my posts, you'll come to understand or better appreciate just what Skechers Performance can do for you.


18 March 2014

why do bad things happen to good runners?

for all the great stories of people who have turned their lives around through healthy eating and exercise, we're hit in the face from time to time with stories of runners who suffer tragic consequences in the course of competition.  

this past weekend's race headlines included a couple of those sad notes.

at the Shamrock Half-Marathon in virginia beach, 16-year old cameron gallagher collapsed after completing her race.  despite receiving immediate attention from medical staff and subsequently being transported to a hospital she could not be revived.  cameron was active and athletic, competing as a swimmer.

and at the Fleet Half-Marathon in hampshire, uk, an unidentified male runner in his 40s collapsed and died near the end of the route.  again, medical staff was quick on the scene in an attempt to resuscitate the individual.

these stories draw attention and raise fears - and while not unique, they represent one of the least probable means of death.  a quote from a study out of the new england journal of medicine states "We calculated that the incidence rates of cardiac arrest and sudden death during long-distance running races were 1 per 184,000 and 1 per 259,000 participants, respectively."

by way of comparison, the National Safety Council indicate the lifetime likelihood of death by other means in this graphic:

yep, you have a better chance of dying while riding your bike or by getting struck by lightning.  all things being equal, of course - no pre-existing heart conditions, potentially fatal environmental/anaphylaxis allergies or mixed medications.

now i've had my own up-close-and-personal encounters with scary race situations.  in my first full marathon (2011 scotiabank toronto waterfront marathon) i had the runner right next to me pass out and faceplant into the tarmac at about 28k.  another guy helped me to get this man back up to his feet, and he must have blacked out completely because he didn't even remember falling forward.  aside from a scrape on his nose he was ok, and he resumed running after about 30 seconds.  however, during that same race 27-year old kale garner collapsed and died just shy of the finish line. 

personally, i've only frequented the medical tent once - and it was a short visit at that after crossing the finish line at the 2013 hamilton marathon.  the one other real close encounter with a health problem while running was my experience with exercise-induced asthma at the 2013 erie marathon - and while it was frustrating it wasn't anything close to a life-threatening situation.

i wanted to share this post to celebrate the indomitable human spirit - that in the face of adversity, whether

civil instability
acts of terrorism
brevity of life

... so many of us strive to find the way to feel alive.


10 March 2014

feel the burn!

i wanted to share a post on a few of my favourite exercises - i know that everyone will have their own favs, be it cross-training, cross-fit, thumb-wrestling or whatever.  but i know that i've benefited from being exposed to the go-to workouts of others and incorporated some of those pieces into my own regimen, so maybe this can do the same for you.

if not, no worries - i'm sure that you're more than capable of putting together something that fits your preferences and needs!

my foundational workout is the pushup - and my go-tos are always three-point pushups (i.e. with one leg floating off the ground).  i usually have a standard series of pushups that i'll work through in any given week - elbows-in, elbows-out, diamond, reverse, standard, crocodile walk and of course the fingertip pushup:

for core development, i'm still a believer in your old-fashioned stomach crunches/sit-ups ... but i do toss in some plank work, and side plank variations like these are staples for me on wednesdays:

i just came across this video from kinetic revolution about developing better balance - and i love it!

for leg work, since i only have a few free weight dumbbells at home i mix and match between basic bodyweight squats and suitcase lifts and single leg deadlifts.


there are just a few of my preferred workouts - let me know what yours are!  i'm always interested to find out about difference bits and pieces that i can incorporate into my own routines.


03 March 2014

discipline and the hurt locker

on a recent group run our 'leader' commented to me that he thought that i would surprise myself at how well i could compete in ultramarathons - partly because of the distances that i was covering in training (the week prior to our conversation i'd hit 121km/75mi) but also because of the discipline that i had in including various speed workouts and recovery days.

it reminded me of the conversation that brought me into a relationship with my coach last year - he also mentioned that he was willing to take me on because he recognized that i was disciplined enough to put in the requisite work.

whenever i hear this said of me, i'm encouraged.  

i'm also reminded not to distort the meaning or let it go to my head.

this past saturday i put in what i would consider a really tough 34k run on horrible road conditions - 10-15cm of moderately soft snow in sub-freezing temperatures.  

it felt like running through beach sand the entire way.

while i prided myself on completing the day's run, some of my joints decided to voice their displeasure with me later that night during my sleeping hours - in particular my knee.

once before i'd had this nearly unbearable pain running up the medial side of my left kneecap while lying in bed.  i couldn't stand to bend it, and i couldn't lie on my side in a way that applied any pressure to it.  it was discernibly swollen.

yup - sounds like an MCL (medial collateral ligament) sprain.  

i've had this experience once before - about four months ago, after running my first ever double workout day.  then i thought that i'd just gone out too hard in my second run.  this time i think that it was the combination of unstable terrain and breakdown in form over the course of a long distance.  regardless, it left me hurting.

the thought of having to take an unplanned rest day was far from appealing - besides, i'm 'too disciplined' for that!  but i've also learned that being disciplined is about recognizing that sometimes your body is screaming at you to pay attention - a different sensation than it nagging at you to just give it up already - and that doing so is just as important as inputting more miles into the garmin.

as such, i've banked an extra day off yesterday and taken my normal rest day today.  it feels like a mini-vacation, but last night's sleep felt like a million bucks compared to the night before - plus all swelling has disappeared and there's no residual pain standing, sitting or climbing stairs.  the plan is get back at it tomorrow.

so do you think that i'm a wuss?  would you have gutted it out where i turned back?  or do you think that i'm a numbskull for launching myself back into the fray so quickly?  

i'm no M.D. (or even B.Sc. for that matter!), so all this self-diagnosis is sketchy at best.  but i must say that i feel good about being able to deviate from the training plan with time off and not feel like a traitor.