22 January 2016

how to be the early bird that gets the worm!

recently i've had some of my RunNinja friends query me about how i manage to fit in all of the running that i do (and believe me, i don't consider myself as someone who gets in a lot of training week over week), and my normal answer is that as part of the 'covenant' that i have with my family i have to run on my own time and not interfere with responsibilities as husband and dad.  that means that five days out of the week i get up a few hours before everyone else, get my workout in and make sure that i'm home in time to make breakfast, pack lunches and see kids onto their respective buses.

what you need to know is that i'm not naturally a morning person - although i have always enjoyed the times that i've gotten up early in the morning for whatever reason, for most of my life i have been a nighthawk.  and who needs a snooze button?  i just used to set my alarm for as late as reasonably possible.

not anymore.  now being out on the roads when day breaks is a regular part of my routine - and my body has gotten used to waking up somewhere between 5:00 and 5:25am on its own, alarm clock or not.

some of you are cringing right now.

i've had many a conversation with runners who wish they could be up and at 'em before dawn but have no idea how to go about it.  well, this is my own feeble attempt at explaining some of the keys that have made it possible for me to transition from a late-nighter to an early riser..
  1. go to bed earlier - duh.  i realize that that for many people this is easier said than done - depending on the sleep schedules of everyone else in your house, the tasks that get left over for when there's finally some peace and quiet.  that's why i deliberately chose the word "earlier" as opposed to "early" - because i firmly believe that everyone can choose to be in bed earlier than they might otherwise be.  and if you begin to do this with some consistency you can begin to shift the expectations that everyone else around you has of you ... they will soon realize that if they want something from you then they will no longer be able to drag it out at their convenience and unload it on you at the very end of the day (when most people have their lowest energy levels).  and as for the tasks that seem to always wait to ambush you at the end of the day as well?  guess what - they'll still be there at the start of the next day, and the world will have kept on spinning in the meantime.
  2. get a better sleep - this also sounds a bit glib, but there are small things that you may be able to do to help with this.  you want to try to get a better sleep so that the hours that you spend in bed are quality hours, enough to refresh you so that an early start in the morning seems less like dragging your butt and more like being recharged and ready to fire up.  so here are a couple of ideas that might help with the quality of your shuteye:
    • a sleep mask - i've worn one every night now for the past two years, and just blocking out that extra bit of light helps me to get to sleep faster and stay in a deep sleep longer
    • melatonin - a natural supplement that aids in the sleep process.
  3. have a workout motivator - for me this is normally breakfast.  yup, all that i down before my morning run is a giant glass of water to help kickstart the metabolism and help with hydration, and that's it.  then i spend the rest of my run envisioning what kind of delicious breakfast i will make for myself when it's all over.  that has always worked for me, but it may not work for you - so maybe your morning motivator will be to find a fellow nut who will run with you and keep you encouraged and accountable.  a few winters ago i would get out with my friend rhonda-marie who often was looking for companions for her "stupid o'clock" runs.  you know what they say - misery loves company. 
  4. share your workouts - pride may go before a fall, but i gotta say that there's something about posting your early morning workout on social media or a fitness tracking site (like Strava) that will give you a sense of real accomplishment.  when you wrap up a solid run by the time that many people are still clearing the sleep from the corners of their eyes, you're bound to feel pretty good about yourself.  maybe good enough to do it all again the next day.
how about you?  does the morning running thing work for you?  if so, what tips would you have to share?  teach us all something in comments below!


05 January 2016

race report - 2016 CANIrunning Snowflake Series Race 3 (10k) ... and what's in store for the next 366 days

it was january 1, 2016 ... and my clock radio woke me up playing neil young's "long may you run".

now if that isn't a way to start a new year i don't know what is.

as in the previous two years i planned to kick-off another new calendar year with the CANIRunning Snowflake Series 10k.  by situating this race on the schedule it has done two important things for me: 
  1. it's ensured that i don't stay up partying too late (ok, who's kidding whom ... i was in zonked out in bed by 10pm anyway).
  2. it's given me a reading on just how slow i really am (regardless of what the course surface conditions might be on any given New Year's Day).
this year a few of my friends from the RunNinjas also registered to run the 10k, so i was able to carpool up to orillia with lewis, mariana, sarah and cher.  it was great being able to share their energy and excitement about starting off their running year this way as well - and we had great conversation on the way up about how to layer effectively for racing in the colder conditions (as i'd heard many times before, 'dress for the finish line, not the start line'!).

RunNinja powers - activate!

one of the things that i did do that was new this time around was to stud a pair of trail shoes - my ever-lovin' Skechers GOBionic Trail - as there was enough overnight accumulation to make traction a concern.  

 here's how sage (and i) did it!

this year the registration process was managed through Eventbrite as it appears that a new organization (Rotoract) has stepped up to help present the Snowflake Series for this season.  this contributed to a heightened sense of professionalism and formality (not that the race lacked anything in previous years) but it was the still an easily navigable and relaxed-feeling event upon arrival. 

prior to the start our RunNinja crew split up with some of us nabbing a warm-up run, others choosing to stay warm inside the minivan until the megaphone cattle call, and most of us making sure that we'd gone to the washroom at least once (!).  i managed to connect with a few other friends during my warm-up, including dave and cait of Team Running Free.  though i was proudly sporting my Skechers Performance Division racing singlet, seeing them in their Team RF gear reminded me of the tribe that i (for the time being) can only claim to having once been a part of.

l-r:  cher, sarah, mariana, yours truly, half of lewis

the race
the first thing that i noticed was that our resident NCAA runner was in the mix (and man, is she fast!) which meant that the best that i could even remotely hope for was second place ... but i also knew that since the running community in orillia was so strong that i would need to pull out some good stuff just to appear somewhat competitive.

after having done some reading about effective 10k race strategies i decided that i would actually plan to run positive splits.  the first kilometre turned out to be my fastest on paper - likely fueled by the desire to get clear of many of the tweener 5k runners who started like they were shot out of a cannon.  knowing that i was only going to try to push it for 10000m it felt strangely freeing to not worry too much about going out faster than race pace ... but of course time would tell.

the first 5k had me following a pack of about seven runners (including NCAA amanda) and the best that i could do was to keep them in sight.  i managed to catch up to and pass two runners over kms 3 and 4, but was also passed by one older (than me) runner who was humming along effortlessly.  being a 5k loop course one of the young bucks that i had passed decided to sprint home past me in the final 200m of his 5k race while i hairpin-circled around the pylon to tackle the home half of my race.

i did my best to hold a 'comfortably hard effort' for km 6-8 with the intention of pushing hard for the final 2 km.  the dynamic of the race was almost completely different  now though - besides greeting and being encouraged by some of the other runners as i passed them coming in to wrap up their first loop (and having one woman holler out "go rainbow!"), it got awful quiet.  as i had no one in front of me (that i could see anymore) and no one breathing down my neck so it felt like a solo workout run.  of course the upside of that was that no one passed me in the second half of the race.

always the poser!

i did manage a half-decent final push to cross in 42:22 by my watch - not the kind of result that i was hoping for but i knew that the road conditions would really dictate what sort of day i would have.  i also admit to still feeling like my legs were a little beat up from the hill repeat workout that jim led the RunNinjas through two nights before.


immediately after crossing the finish line i turned around to scoot back out onto the course in search of my RunNinja compatriots.  in turn i found lewis, then cher, then mariana and then sarah and had the privilege of helping shoo each one of them down the homestretch.  afterwards it was time for a cup of hot chocolate and a timbit (courteously provided by Rotoract Orillia) and then a warm car ride home.

all in all it was another great event organized as part of the CANIrunning Snowflake Series, and an enjoyable start to the racing season of 2016.  at this point the plan for this year's competition schedule will include a bunch of 5k and 10k races in the hope of upping my baseline speed, but i do have a few notable destinations on the radar:

plenty of fun times to pack into the next twelve months!  here's hoping that you are setting some faith- and fitness-stretching goals for yourselves as well ... lookout 2016, here we come!  #GOlikeneverbefore

race gear for the 2016 Snowflake Series 10k: