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