25 September 2018

[Guest Posts] Road review - Reebok Floatride Run

Thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of my contact at Reebok Canada I was able to help hook up a few of my RunNinja club athletes with a pair of their Floatride Run shoes for testing and review.

Did I lose any friends over this?  Read on and find out!

I have been running consistently for about 6 years now, but I had never tried Rebook before. The shoes are simply amazing – very light and comfortable. They are completely different from other brands I have tried in the past, and I’m glad I got this pair of shoes. I would totally recommend these shoes to my running buddies. Thank you Reebok Canada!

[ Juan A., Ecuadorian ultra-runner, college student ]

Reebok Floatride Run Ultraknit
Weight 7 0z. / Drop 8 mm

I tested these shoes on road runs between 5 km and 22 km.

Stylish. I generally don’t wear purple, but the colour combo of purple and smoky grey with white soles is flashy on my feet. The geometric shapes, honeycombs and triangles, add to the shoes attractive quality.

Overall, running in Floatride is fast and light. The shoes felt seamless to my feet. The fabric knit material on the tongue, and upper section of the shoes shaped to my feet, making them very comfortable to run in. However, due to the flexibility of the fabric, my feet moved around in the shoes. The shoes made a flapping sound with every foot strike. That was remedied when I was more mindful to be lighter with each of my steps. The geometric plastic frame on the sides of the shoes have 6 holes for the lacing. It would’ve been nice to have 8, to do up the lock lacing to keep my heels in place.

I would recommend everyone to try on a pair of Floatride. They’re a fun pair to run in. They’re super light and have plenty of cushion and spring for the short and long runs. Just tie the laces a little tighter than usual for a snug fit.

[ Christina B.  trail runner, soccer player, graphic artist ]


Give 'em a try yourself!  Head on over to https://www.reebok.ca/ (and why not check it out now while they're having a "VIP Sale" online ...?)!
Disclosure: My friends received these products from Reebok Canada gratis but was not obliged to provide anything but an objective review. All opinions expressed are those of the reviewer!


21 June 2018

Road review - Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro

I'm almost never an 'early adopter', so this is unusual territory for me ... testing out the Reebok Floatride Run Fast Pro even before it's available to the public here in Canada!

Here's my video review after about a total of 20k running in them ... but good golly I had to say something!

Disclosure: I received this product from Reebok Canada at their expense but was not obliged to provide anything but an objective review. All opinions expressed (however poorly) are my own!

30 April 2018

Is this going to go my way?

After a long, icy winter here we are at last - week 23 of the 23 week breaking-3 (hour) marathon training plan.

It all comes down to this.

Or perhaps it's better said that it all comes together this Sunday.

That's the hope anyway - that the work that I've put in at the guidance of my coach Mike MacInnes will pay its dividends when I toe the line at the 15th annual Mississauga Marathon.  It's been a season of new training tactics - from regular strength workouts to fewer 'rest/recovery days' to greater overall weekly mileage - all in an attempt to become faster, more durable and anti-fragile.  Even though I'm still reasonably new to the running scene I do count myself as being an aging runner and the approach that coach Mike has had me take over the last few months has definitely stretched my limits.

How do I feel during this last week of tapering?  My friend Lewis asked me that exact question this past weekend and my answer to him was "honestly, I'm not sure how I'm feeling".  The reasons for that are because I've run two 'tune-up' races this season (the Chilly Half-Marathon and the Around The Bay 30k) which both resulted in disappointing chip-times, and many of the prescribed race-pace (or faster) workouts have seen me fail to come close to the speeds that I was asked to hit.  I also feel as if I've done that precarious dance on the overtraining line wondering at various times whether or not I'd actually crossed over into the dark side.

That all being said one of the refrains that has constantly run through my head during a long and dreary-ish winter has been "trust the training plan, trust your coach".  I know that Mike is a stellar athlete himself and intelligent when it comes to the ways of exercise physiology, and he has clearly told me that the entire plan is designed to culminate on marathon race day ... that the final stage of supercompensation is focused on presenting the best version of myself on May 6.

He's also been a big proponent of the mental training aspect, having recommended that I read "How Bad Do You Want It?" by Matt Fitzgerald.  I also received a recommendation from my pal Steve to read "Endure" by Alex Hutchinson - alas, being a reluctant reader I've not had an opportunity to benefit from either of these sport psychology-focused texts, but I have kept visualizing the huge smile on the face of my running icon Yuki Kawauchi as he crossed the line as this year's Boston Marathon male champion.

So I can say with confidence that I've put the work in - I'm still riding a bit of a high having completed my first 100+ mile training week just over a week ago and believing that that is going to be a big contributor to how good I will feel especially in the later stages on the marathon.  I'll also be wearing a new pair of racing flats (the Salming Race 5) which I did not have available to me for my previous two races this spring and which feel much better and lighter than the Salming Speed 6 for posting fast times (at least in my humble opinion).  And one other intangible - for which I can take absolutely no credit whatsoever but is nonetheless a mental boost for me - is that my friend Jeroen Hendrikx wore the singlet that I had in my drawer for the last year to a 19th place finish in yesterday's Hamburg Marathon, crossing the line in 2:20:45.  

Yep, that's my old race kit blazing through Germany in 2:20!

There it is - I've done my part to control what I can control.  The rest is up to the weather, how much rest I can get this week, the germs that I can manage to avoid and how smartly I control my pace out on course.  Regardless of what my official finish time will be I'll know that I stretched beyond my comfort zone in preparing for this race and am grateful to coach Mike for his guidance and support and to my RunNinjas clubmates for all of their outstanding encouragement and companionship on this journey!

#nononsense #runSwedish #teamTap #fuelsimply #werunthistown #breaking3

12 April 2018

Road review: Reebok Harmony Road 2

The 'Bok?

As in a running 'Bok?


Having formerly been an employee of Nike in my twenties I recall Reebok being a bit of the 'also ran' of the sports-and-fitness world ... not quite a heavy hitter like Adidas, but had still enough of a recognizable presence that people would think of the brand when it came to athletic shoes.  We wouldn't quite snicker at their employees, but we wouldn't give them much thought either.

Well, Reebok has managed to hang around all these years.  The Union Jack logo has gone, and they've also found a new niche for themselves:  the CrossFit revolution.  They've also managed to snag an exclusive contract with one of the world's fastest growing professional sport associations, the UFC.  And now they're returning to the culture of running.

After a few notable attempts with the "Zig" tech design for running shoes the designers at Reebok appear to have returned to a more traditional approach to building performance running footwear - and it looks to be turning some heads.

Thanks to a friend who works with Reebok Canada's events and partnerships division I received a pair of the new Harmony Road 2 to test drive.


My initial impressions as I picked them up out of the box was that they were much more shoe than I had become accustomed to wearing - and the specs bore this out as well.  At a reported 10.8oz for a men's size 9 and a stack height of 30mm-to-20mm (or 37.3mm-to-22.8mm if you take Runner's World at its word - which is it folks?!?) it is definitely one of the beefiest shoes in my rotation with the most significant heel-to-toe drop.

What contributes to it's weight?  It could be the carbon rubber applied to the outsole's 'impact zones' or the plush synthetic upper (which by the way provides a really nice wrap-feel on my foot).  But truth be told the empirical data may tell one tale while the subjective experience reveals another ... and in this case the actual ride of the shoe was not nearly as cumbersome as other shoes that I've had on which may have been equally as robust or even lighter.  My first outing in them involved a series of hill intervals with the RunNinjas and I was most pleasantly surprised at how they allowed me to pick up the pace and hold half-decent form.

The anticipation was there that a 10mm or more drop that I would find myself inadvertently heel-striking especially during easier effort segments but that didn't turn out to be a reality.  I was able to stick with a forefoot (or at worst, midfoot) strike even while going at recovery paces, which is all the more surprising given that the Harmony Road 2 doesn't quite pass the one-handed roll-into-a-ball flex test.

I cheated - pressing down against the top of my dryer!

Here's what I liked about the Harmony Road 2:
  • Looks - Call me superficial, but the simple design of the HR2 actually appeals to me.  Normally I like glitz and glam on my footwear, but something about these kicks say 'dignified' and 'efficient'.  Plus there are just enough reflective accents to help keep me safe on the roads.
  • Fit - True to size, suitably wide for some toe splay on impact, no heel slippage.
  • Feel - The upper is comfortable without any noticeable seams along the top of the foot or around the sides/edges.
  • Ride - There is an ample amount of cushioning thanks to their TriZone midsole design featuring the KOOSHRIDE TPU foam core, and it just seems nice and smooth without being marshmallowy/energy-depleting.
  • Traction - Probably due to the amount of rubber on the outsole, but add to that a decently grippy design these shoes have fared well so far even on the slushy/mildly icy surfaces that I've use to test them.
  • Durability - This is just going to be a guess of mine but based on my initial runs but there seems to me to be enough heft to this shoe to last well past 500kms of wear, so I should be keeping it in the rotation for a while.
 And what would I change?
  • Weight - This is definitely the downside of the 'traction' and 'durability' pros that I listed above ... if it could come down to something closer to 9oz. then it would be what I would consider a great everyday trainer (but then it might just have to be called the "Floatride Run" ...!).
  • Drop - As much as this doesn't feel quite like a shoe with a 10-14mm drop I believe that it would promote a better footstrike and running dynamic if it were closer to a 6mm heel-to-toe ramp.
  • Flex - The fact that the shoe doesn't pass my 'fold in half with one hand' test means that it probably isn't conducive to a full range of proprioceptive feedback via the footstrike.  I'd like my shoes to work a little more with the flex of my foot and less against it.
  • Price - At $145 CDN it's not cheap, but if it does last as long as I think that it will then it might pay for itself in the long run (no pun intended).
All things considered I would happily recommend that you give this shoe a try if you are looking for something to use for your easy run days or if you need one pair of shoes to last you a good while - I give the Harmony Road 2 a solid four footprints out of five:

Here's my video review for your entertainment:

So it looks like this player has re-entered the game ... and the other models in their current lineup (plus a crazy-light racing flat due out this summer!) lend credence to the fact that Reebok is a serious contender when it comes to what's shodding the feet of runners.  Welcome back, 'Bok!

Disclosure: I received this product from Reebok Canada at their expense but was not obliged to provide anything but an objective review. All opinions expressed (however poorly) are my own!

01 April 2018

Race report: The Around The Bay Road Race 2018

I believe that the applicable word is "terribler".

Whether or not you'll insert that into your spell-checker is inconsequential ... it's been added to my vocabulary list now.

The last time that I participated in the Around The Bay Road Race was in 2016 and it's taken me a few years to try to shake some of the bad taste in my mouth that resulted from my run that day.  What stood out for me was (a) how mentally dis-engaging the first half of the course was and (b) the disappointment of clocking what I perceived to be a sub-par effort for the condition that I felt that I was in at that time.  However, eager to press out a sub-3 marathon this spring I felt like pairing the Chilly Half-Marathon and ATB this year would be a solid pre-season prep that would ready me for a PB kind of effort.

Instead what I learned was that I either have to learn a serious lesson in humility or accept the fact that age is taking its toll on me.

I had signed up for this race just shy of a full year ago as I wanted to take advantage of the earliest of the earlybird registration rates - which means that I had 365+ days to mentally prep for the event.  And I would say that as I approached race day I had just about every box checked off in terms of being psyched to run well ... from customizing my shoes for the day (more on that in a future blogpost) to taking full advantage of all my possible placebo-effect advantages (i.e. loading up on beet juice, wearing compression socks, having my favourite racing toque on my head) to resting up the day before (as my friend and fellow RunNinja Rick was willing to pick up my race kit from the expo).  The only things that I didn't feel that I had going for me were a solid half-marathon result at Chilly a few weeks prior and the fact that I was failing to hit my prescribed training paces during the workouts that my coach had assigned to me over the last month or so.  Still, all things factored in I felt like I could surprise myself on this day.

On race morning I followed all of my 'standard' pre-race routines (wake-up shakeout run, breakfast, shower) and made my way out Hwy 403 with the hopes of arriving in Hamilton with a little more than 60 min. to spare before the airhorn start.  The plan was to meet Rick in the lobby of the hotel where he was staying to collect my bib and timing chip - and perhaps this would be the first of the portents on the day as traffic got gnarly as I entered the downtown core, and the only available street parking that I could find was a good kilometre or more from the hotel.

However I did manage to find my way to the Sheraton where Rick, Angela, Holly and Sarah (all RunNinja comrades) had gathered to brace themselves for the long journey ahead.  We were far from alone in the lobby as many competitors had gathered there just for the warmth (it was about -11°C with the windchill) and also to make use of the indoor washrooms.  I thanked Rick for picking up my kit, suited up with the bib and shoe-lace chip, and took a pre-start group photo.  We then parted ways to carry on with our own individual routines.

The race
I lined up in the appropriate 'red' corral for estimated sub-2:15 racers (which as it happened to turn out was more wishful thinking than anything!), and it definitely felt like a corral as we were pretty much sandwiched shoulder-to-shoulder with little margin to even stretch out.  And yet somehow out of nowhere I felt this tap on my shoulder accompanying a "Hey Patrick" - and sure enough my pal Vicki had somehow managed to pick me out of this crowd just as she'd done at the Chilly Half less than a month ago.  Vicki is a beast of a runner and super-fast as well so lining up next to her was at the very least a confidence (if not morale) boost.

So now let me break down the actual event into some smaller, digestible segments:

--- KM 0-3
I tried to just settle into a good rhythm and find a couple of bodies to tag along with - and while there wasn't really a 'pack' that I could latch onto I did find the first few kilometres clicking by rather effortlessly.  By the time that we passed the 3k mark I thought to myself "just do this another nine time!".  Easier said than done my friend, easier said than done.

--- KM 4-15
As I had the last time that I tackled this event I took the inclines easier and tried to pick up a bit of pace on the backsides of the same slopes, but somehow this year there wasn't any acceleration as I went downhill.  It wasn't long before I found my pace trailing off despite trying to maintain a consistent 'perceived effort' ... by the time that I hit the 14k mark I was ready to walk the rest of the course, but my pride wouldn't let me throw the towel in that easily.

--- KM 16-20
It was somewhere along this stretch that I heard a voice closing in from behind me shout "Patrick Voo in the house!" - it was my friend Peter Leventis (whom I'd first met while pacing my pal Navin at the 2016 GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon).  It was great to catch up with (or more accurately be caught up to by) him as we had a brief opportunity to chat:  Peter had recently laid down a fantastic time at the Chilly Half and has just been getting stronger and faster.  He was using this day's run as a bit of a tempo workout in advance of his trip to the Boston Marathon next month, and in true Peter-fashion he made it look oh-so-easy.  I didn't want to hold him up so I let him stay in stride while I slowly but steadily fell back, cheering him forward as his disappeared into the distance.

--- KM 21-26
This section brought a few more rolling hills into play, including the one left-hand turn at the top of a hill where I recall being passed by the the 2:05 pace bunny in 2016.  This time around I was doing my level best not to let the 2:15 bunny zip by.  The only other real element of note was that it was great to once again see Stan "We Will Rock You" Wakeman in his wheelchair - once again I deviated from my normal tangent-tight route to slap him some skin with a high-five.

--- KM 27-30
The 'Heartbreak Hill' simulator was definitely another slow-down, but it doesn't last too long.  Coming into the final 3k downhill stretch into the heart of the city I tried once again to pick up some steam, but it was still fruitless - despite some goading from Tim "The Grim" (I snagged a low-five from him accompanied by the words "I like how slow you are") and even "Fast" Bill Steinburg jumping off of the curb in his jeans and puffy jacket to cheer me forward and run alongside me for about 100m.  I managed to target two runners who were ahead of me and mustered the strength to pass one of them before the finish but the other one just had too much zip left as we entered the First Ontario Centre.

After crossing the finish line I hung out in the chute/collection area for about another 40 minutes to try to catch some other familiar faces wrap up their races.  It was awesome to be able to cheer on and/or congratulate Vicki, Melissa, Jessica, Jack and Ryan as they finished up their 30k.  I even had a random stranger come up to ask if she could have a photo taken with me because her husband's favourite cartoon character (Jake from Adventure Time) was depicted on my toque.

 Me sporting my favourite lid (Photo credit:  Mike MacInnes)

Since I was getting chilled from standing around in Gatorade/water soaked gear I jogged back to the car to get changed, dodging various bicycle-mounted police officers who were monitoring a situation involving a group of 'anti-fascist' demonstrators (to whom I provided a wide berth while passing them by as they congregated).  I then made my way back to the First Ontario Centre and reconnected with Rick, Holly, Angela and Sarah, each of them elated with their finishes.  A few more group pictures and then it was time to call it a day.

So it is that I look at this year's ATB in the rearview mirror once again thinking that I won't be back anytime soon.  Don't get me wrong - the race organizers do a bang-up job of putting together an A-1 event and deserve plenty of congratulations and appreciation.  It's just that for whatever reason it doesn't seem to agree with me, and I'm the one to blame this time around ("fool me once, shame on you - fool me twice, shame on me").  But if you have any inclination on taking on a 30k race to test yourself or to prep for your own spring marathon, by all means give this event some serious consideration!

Key race gear used:


13 March 2018

Road review: Salming Speed 6

It's probably a bit premature, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on my first pair of Salming running shoes.

I may have only logged about 24 miles in them, but 13.1 of them were at the Chilly Half-Marathon ... so they're not just road-tested, they've already been race-tested.

As for the bottom line?

(Wait for it ...)

As a new Salming ambassador I must say that I was excited to get my hands (and feet) on a pair of the Speed 6.  By all accounts these shoes are a strong everyday trainer as well as potential longer distance (e.g. half/full marathon) race-day shoe.  At just around 7.4oz for a men's size 9 they clip the boundary of racing flat territory, while the 22mm-to-16mm stack height from heel to toe provides ample cushioning for hammering out the miles.

Aside from the overall lightness of the package some of the more notable features of this shoe include the aesthetics - the fluorescent yellow/black colourway wreaks of velocity, but add to that the crazy prismatic effect that comes to life when light strikes the darkened panels on the upper and, well, you've got this pre-dawn runner giggling like a 7-year old on Christmas morning.

Noticeable on the outsole of the Speed 6 is the 62/75° flex groove, situated at what's described as the "ballet line".  The shoe bends at this point (on the announced 75°angle) to help optimize the natural movement axes of the foot, with 62% of the shoe toward the rear of that line and designed with extra stability (more on that in a moment).  You can also see the word "Recoil" printed underneath the heel area and this is the moniker given to Salming's midsole material which is marketed as an extremely lightweight cushioning material that provides a 'high rebound' (or energy-return) effect.  A good deal of midsole is visible on the bottom of the shoe with really only six notable rubber-laden sections for added durability and traction, so the added weight is not significant or without merit.

The upper on the Speed 6 is a mesh with the chromatically-responsive overlays affixed to provide a bit of a structured feel - it was snug without being restrictive, and I find that my medium-wide foot didn't experience any rubbing or cramping issues at all (a vital part of shoe functionality for me).  I swapped out a different pair of laces (because my shoes didn't come with any extra anythings out of the box) partly because I prefer flat laces (to the supplied round laces) and partly because I wanted to colour-match the orangey-pink lettering already printed on the shoe.

So how'd these shoes work out?

Honestly, there's part of me that feels like my review is a carbon-copy of another review that I'd read online (which I now can no longer locate!) that made some observations about the feel of the shoe.  My initial impressions were that the shoe felt rigid and resulted in a 'slapping' effect against the ground with each step - perhaps this is because of the 62% of 'stabilized' shoe and the only real flex points coming ahead of that 'ballet line'.  The sensation made me think that I was thudding my way all around town, but when I got home after my first workout in them it turned out that my splits were faster than I'd surmised ... so feel aside the Speed 6 actually delivered.  And during the half-marathon my friend Steve (who paced me for the final kilometre and to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude!) asked me how the shoes were feeling and my unfiltered response was "well, I haven't noticed them and that's a good thing".  This was true - the shoes pretty much disappeared on my feet and at no point did I process the 'pavement-slapping' feeling.

All in all I think that these shoes will do admirably well for marathon training and some uptempo workouts, although my preference will be to slide into a pair of the Race 6 shoes for my sub-3 attempt in May.  But for sheer funkiness and and performance results I gotta give these shoes a solid four footprints out of five.

Who knows ... now that I've #runSwedish, I may never go back! :)  Give it a try yourself at https://www.salming.com/ca/running/ and use the promo code "VOO20" for a 20% discount!

#nononsense #SalmingRunning

*** DisclosureI am affiliated with Salming Running Ambassadors (North America) but was not obligated to provide a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

05 March 2018

Race report - 2018 Chilly Half Marathon

My momma taught me "if you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all".

Well, I'll say a few things anyway ...

I've had two really positive experiences at the Chilly Half-Marathon, both in 2016 and 2017.  Maybe it's because they were freebies to me, maybe it's because I managed to clock PB times at both races.  But those outings were certainly enough to entice me to go for it a third time around, and this time to actually foot the bill myself.

Alas, perhaps I was getting a bit greedy.

Having signed up a little less than a year ago (to nab the super-earlybird rate) I wanted to once again approach this race as a bit of a barometer as to my fitness level going into the spring racing season.  In consultation with my coach it was clear that this was not a target race and that the training plan would have been structured differently had this been something that was intended to be a goal-oriented event - all the same I knew that in my previous two attempts here I had not peaked for this race either, and held some faint hopes in the back of my head that I might once again pleasantly surprise myself.

The real story of this year's Chilly Half was about my friends - from Gillian (who picked up my race kit for me and saved me an extra trip to Burlington), to Stan (somehow I keep running into this guy despite the masses of people - some 3600 strong - who show up on race morning), to lining up with Jack (a fellow Trinity College alum with whom I'd had the pleasure of reconnecting at the 2016 EndurRUN) and Jeremy (my bud from Barrie who seems to PB in just about every race he enters), to finally Steve (a star Black Lungs athlete who hopped off of the sidewalk to pace me for the final kilometre of the race).  These people are the ones who really made an otherwise difficult race memorable, and who helped temper my disappointment with the result.

All in all it was a tough day - with some gusty winds, although the sun was out, the roads were clear and the temperatures manageable (at about -3°C).  The race again featured a couple of Olympians (Reid Coolsaet and Krista DuChene) and all sorts of performance-level club runners (including my friends Josh Bolton, Rob Brouillette and Tanis Bolton), so the field was fast.  It was my impression that a fast field encourages/drafts all participants to run that little bit faster, but maybe that's more in my imagination that in reality.

The short version is that my legs just didn't have any pop on this particular day, and that every time I thought that I was injecting a bit of pace it was effectively no change at all.  The strongest part of my race came as Steve Elliott jumped in to help me over the final km and I was able to pass a few of the runners ahead of me to gut it out for a 1:29:51 finish.  Thank goodness for small mercies, as if I'd clocked 1:30 or more I would definitely have walked away with my head hung low given where I thought that I was in terms of my speed, conditioning and strength.

It was still a good day out there for Jeremy (who came across in 1:24:14) and my friends Peter (who managed a PB in 1:26:46) and Gillian (a PB as well!), so I'm happy to celebrate their great achievements!  For my part I'll put my focus back onto executing my coach's training plan for my sub-3 marathon attempt in Mississauga.  And we'll see what happens when I step up to the start line again in the Hamilton region for the 2018 edition of the Around The Bay 30k in three weeks' time ...

Key race gear used:
#nononsense #runSwedish #fuelsimply #TeamTap #werunthistown #RunNinjas


28 February 2018

If I can make it there. I'll make it anywhere ... ♪ ♫ ♩ ♬ ♭ ♮ ♯

Well, it looks like I'll be Big Apple-bound this fall ...

During the week leading up to the 2018 Chilly Half-Marathon I found out that my finishing time at the same race last year has qualified me for a guaranteed entry into the 2018 TCS New York City Marathon.

I'm amped to be able to not only visit NYC for the first time ever, but to also check off another one of the Abbott World Marathon Majors.  Time to hit up some family and friends for help to make this trip happen!

31 January 2018

"S" Marks The Spot - Again!

Timing is such a funny thing.

At the end of last year I made the difficult but satisfying decision to not renew my contract as an athlete ambassador for Skechers Performance Canada.  It was my hope that in doing so that would provide an opportunity for someone else to take my spot on the squad and experience the joy and amazing support that comes with being sponsored by (in my humble opinion) one of the very best running brands on the planet.

It also left me to be a 'free agent' of sorts for the first time in over four years.

I'll be honest and say that there was a part of me that was eager and excited to try out different brands of running shoes again ... for instance, I'd heard that Hoka One One was starting to build their shoes on a wider last (the narrow fit had been a deal-breaker for every pair of Hokas I'd ever tried on), and that Swiss manufacturer ON puts out a pretty sweet product.  I was also eager to perhaps try out a running shoe designed and assembled in the land of the Kalenjin, Kenya's own Enda Iten.

And then there was the fateful evening where my wife and I were Christmas shopping at our local Winners store.

We were trying to finish up getting gifts for our kids when I received a message from my friend and fellow running enthusiast Stefan Albinsson.  Stefan and I had first gotten to know each other as Skechers Performance ambassadors, but I also tracked with Stefan as he is an outstanding athlete and shoe/gear reviewer.  A little over three years ago Stefan became affiliated with the Swedish athletic brand Salming (best known for their floorball, handball and squash products) as they were branching out into the running industry and exploring the North American market.  He's since become one of the preeminent voices on social media elevating the visibility of the Salming brand, and his text to me was an exploratory message to find out whether or not I might be interested in joining their small but mighty troupe of ambassadors.

While I hadn't really had any intentions of signing on with another sponsor, Salming had definitely caught my attention over the past couple of years - between some very positive reviews of their running shoes, Stefan's high praise of the company (but hey, they're Swedish and he's Swedish) and my own intrigue at the organization bearing the name of one of my childhood hockey heroes (Toronto Maple Leafs hall-of-famer Borje Salming), this was a tantalizing opportunity.  We exchanged several notes back and forth, clarifying expectations involved with an amabassador position (as Stefan is the lead ambassador for Salming's US team), and eventually I submitted an application as part of their 2018 ambassador search.

Well lo and behold ...

So here I am again familiarizing myself with a whole new set of hashtags, a brand new tribe of amazing athletes and fascinating human beings, as well as a new array of shoes and technical running gear.  It's like being a kid in the candy store again.

I look forward to hopefully being able to enhance the visibility and reputation of this European brand here on Canadian tundra/soil.  I also hope that a pair of Salming Speed 6 will propel me over the Mississauga Marathon finish line in under three hours!

#nononsense #SalmingRunning #runswedish

29 January 2018

My Breaking3 Project

Could 2018 be the year?

When I first started running I connected with a number of faster athletes here in the Barrie area through our local Running Room, and one of the first guys that I got to know was an ultrarunner named Keith.  It was awesome to pick his brain and learn from his accumulated wisdom and knowledge, but one of the things that stuck with me even then was how he noted that it wasn't until he was 47 years old that he finally managed to break 3 hours for the marathon distance.

Hey ... I'm 47!

And so here I am, after a few years and several (failed) attempts at completing 42.195km in less than 180 minutes, hoping to finally crack that barrier.

But you know what they say - if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got.

Which this year led me to begin working with a coach again.

At the end of the 2017 running season I knew that I had to/wanted to shake things up for me and try to stimulate some different physiological development so I embarked on a bit of a research project to assess what would be my best option for a coaching relationship.  I explored a number of options, up to and including initial conversations with some of the best coaches that I could think of:
While I'm confident that any of the coaches/services that I'd contacted would have provided phenomenal guidance and accountability, in the end I decided that I would work with my friend and fellow Barrie RunNinja Mike MacInnes.  Mike has had experience as a strength trainer, is studying currently for accreditation as a marathon coach, and has proven his own mettle by bettering his marathon time from 3:11 to 2:45 in just a couple of years.  I liked the idea of being able to work with someone locally (that I could actually spend time running alongside) as well as hopefully providing some mutual benefit to him by being just his second or third coached athlete.

The experience so far has been good, and different - Coach Mike has me focusing much more on strength workouts (lower body, upper body and core) and less on mileage.  This is definitely a departure on my previous approaches to marathon prep, but as an aging athlete I know that muscle mass is easily lost and focusing on getting stronger will not only help my speed and endurance but also will go a long way in terms of injury prevention.  Besides that, Mike has indicated to me that when we hit my peak training week my mileage will probably be hitting somewhere in the 160km department, so that'll be more mileage than I've ever put in in one week's time.  Gotta trust the coach and the system.

For now I'm getting just a couple week's worth of workouts at a time, and providing a weekly log back to my coach so that he knows what workouts I'm getting in, if I'm feeling good/bad/otherwise during them, and what else might be playing into the big picture life-wise.

I've got a few 'test indicators' coming up in the next couple of months (including a third trip to the Chilly Half-Marathon as well as another go at the Around The Bay 30k) which will serve as tune-ups in advance of my planned Breaking3 attempt at the Mississauga Marathon.

This will be my last shot at going sub-3 while I'm still 47 years old.

Let's just see whether or not I can keep up with my pal Keith in this respect.

17 January 2018

Race report(s) - 2017-18 Snowflake Series (5k/5k/10k/5k)

Redemption is mine!

Or at least a bit of it ...

You may or may not recall (I certainly do!) that last year I posted my first DNS ever - I did not make it to the start line of the final race of the Snowflake Series in Orillia, and in so doing missed out on the opportunity to vie for the top finisher spot in my age-group.  Mind you, after all was said and done I wasn't terribly heartbroken about it since my good pal James Hennessy managed to claim the brass ring for our bracket - and that left me with something/someone to gun for in 11 months' time.

Fast forward to this past December and the first of the 2017-18 Snowflake Series races.  Once again I'd decided (a bit to my new coach's chagrin) to sign up for the whole set of four (5k, 5k, 10k and 5k) and use it just as an opportunity to get in some good winter workouts.  I've noted before how strong the running community is in and around Orillia, and add to that there is often an appearance from members of the Georgian College cross-country team and you get a pretty lively and competitive field even in the dodgiest of winter weather.

And this season did not disappoint - perhaps least of all in the weather department.

At least this race took place on dry roads - I went into it with zero expectations since it came at the end of my first real week back to running after a three-week complete layoff.  The conditions were pleasant enough (just above freezing) and there were more than a few friendly and familiar faces in attendance.  One gentleman named Doug introduced himself to me, having recognized me from some church circles in which we moved around together - this turned out to be a serendipitous meeting of sorts as I basically drafted off of this 6'3'' footer for the first half of the race.  I was surprised at how steady a pace I kept throughout this race, picking off racers ahead of me from the 3km mark on.  I managed to complete the run in a slightly quicker time than I had guessed I would (20:39) and even clocked a negative split of all things.  This was solid enough to land me 10th overall, and 1st in the 40-49 age-group.

Me and the Snowflake Series AG champ!

Ah, all good things come to an end ... the temps had dipped well into sub-freezing category and this resulted in snow-packed and ice-covered roads comprising our course.  The ambient conditions were favourable enough though and all things being equal I was happy to have come across the timing mat in 21:13, especially since this was my first race since starting the strength workout plan provided to me by coach Mike.  Once again I found myself to have started reasonably strong and not to have lost any places throughout the heart of the race, although I tried my level best to catch up to the speedy Cait Foisy (not successful BTW).  Still I flubbed over the finish line in 7th overall, maintaining my top position in the AG rankings.

This is always going to be my favourite event of the series because it is run on Jan.1st, regardless of what day of the week it might be.  There's really no better way (for me) to kick off a new year, and given that I can hardly stay up past 9pm anymore there's no reason that I can't be perky for a 10:00am run on the first day after the turn of the calendar.

This was a true tundra run, closing in on -33°C with the windchill (and feeling every bit of that) and the roadways once again a combination of ice and compressed snow.  In a strange way this actually kept slippage to a minimum, but still I had in mind (and on feet) the idea to try something different and affix dollar-store traction devices around the forefoot pad of my shoes.  By now many of you will know that I will ridiculously try things for the first time on race day (against all conventional wisdom) and in this case I'm glad that I at least tried a warm-up run with them on as I quickly discovered that they slipped around and off around the top of my toes quite easily ... so I ditched them in the snow beside the starting chute and decided to give 'er without them.

The first 5 km was run fairly conservatively as I had no idea who was leading the 10k pack and who was going to wrap it up after 5k (as both were options on the day) - I ended up trying to dial in behind a man and woman who were running together:  she was shorter and slighter in build whereas he was at least 6'3" with a shuffling-type gait.  Through the heart of the race (km 3-7) I couldn't gain any ground on them and sat just about 75m on their tail, but with only 3km to go I tried to pick up my cadence a bit and found myself closing the gap on the gentleman while his female running-mate had busted out some turbos of her own and shot out ahead.

Charging the last hill with less than a kilometre to go I passed my draft-worthy friend and shouted a quick encouragement of "don't let up man!" and pressed on toward the finish.  I wouldn't catch his lady-friend (who turned out to be former Snowflake Series race director and 2012 Canadian Marathon Championship winner Lisa Avery, and was technically done after the first 5k) but held my ground despite being hunted down over the final minute.  When the (ice)dust settled, the board showed me at 3rd overall in the 10k, and still in the lead for the AG.

Again, it was a win just to show up for this race!  With the gap between the New Year's Day race and this one being only six days I confess to having felt a bit sluggish but eager to try to wrest the crown away from James (who'd been pretty much nipping at my heels all series long).  The conditions on the day were a little more favourable than on Jan. 1, though most of Ontario was still being battered by an extended polar-vortex period and the windchill provided a full-on blast of -25°C to the face.  It may have been a combination of mushy snow and ice underfoot, or tired legs, or just plain not-my-day but it was tough slugging for the entire 5k for this final outing ... and were it not for a last blast of adrenaline as I heard footsteps hunting me down over the last 150m (yes, it was James trying to strike a last minute KO blow!) I probably would have posted my least satisfying result for the series.  In the end I still clocked a slow-ish time but it was good enough for 6th overall and a lock on top spot in the series for us 40-49ers.

It was another great year of hosting by Jeff, Kyle, Harry and the other organizers with Rotoract Orillia, despite the conditions apparently resulting in a decline in registrations this season.  Although I couldn't attend the 'closing ceremonies' (which involved plenty of snacks, pizza and overall awards) I sure do hope that they managed to collect a goodly amount of food donations for The Sharing Place Food Bank over the course of the four events.

This will definitely be on my hit list again for 2018-19 (I can't not defend the crown ...)!  Thanks also to Endurance Tap for fueling these wobbly wheels of mine through the racing miles!

I hope that you all have a fantastic kick-off to your 2018 season!

#fuelsimply #keepitnatural #TeamTap #RunNinjas #werunthistown