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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010: Running Recap: Part Deux

As I mentioned in my last post, it's time for me to reflect on what didn't go so well in my running / health areas in 2010. There's always some bad with the good, it's just a matter of keeping it all balanced and realizing how to turn the ugly into something beautiful. Let's see if I can pull off some magic in 2011!

Stretching & Core Strengthening

This is something I had prided myself on and it was why I was finally able to join the London Runner Distance Club. I had tackled my tricky IT band with a PVC pipe as my 'foam roller' and was diligent with my stretching.  Once I got heavy into logging the miles, I wasn't making the time to pamper my body unless i had some type of pain. Always reactive, rarely proactive.

As for core strengthening, again, I let that drop once I was heavy into logging miles. Then I realized it was just this attitude towards my core that caused me the knee pain I battled with over a few months time. If all the pieces in the structure are weak, the structure is weak...regardless of how many miles that structure runs. :)

Get Involved in London's Running Community 

I was just getting back into serious running in June and when I decided to join LRDC I made a commitment to myself to help the group, the local running scene, by volunteering my services in any way I could. Online marketing. Race day volunteer. Photography.

I have still not helped out in any real meaningful way, but I've made it a goal in 2011 and with our running series on the track and on the trails, I am sure I will get tons of chances to help out.

Find an RMT

I've only been saying this for years now and since my return to running last summer, I need one more than ever.  A simple phone call is all it takes, but for some reason, here I am sitting, and I still haven't made the call.

And that my friends, is just about all I can think of that I didn't accomplish in the health and fitness area of my life. I got plenty of sleep all year, ran tons, stretched some, ate extremely healthily and had my fair share of healthy and delicious red wine. :D  The new year is just around the corner and that means a new set of goals to reach.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stretching 101: Achilles Stretch

The dreaded Achilles tendon. Besides being super awesome (it's the thickest and strongest tendon in the human body) it is also very problematic for many runners. Coupling intensity and volume can often times lead to overuse of the tendon.  I felt this very pain late summer last year and through what I can only describe as pure luck, I discovered you can actually stretch it and the benefits had me running again within days.  My wife's also made use of this stretch with great success.  It is now your turn to enjoy it!

Step 1: Sit down on butt with your legs stretched out ahead of you. Bend one leg up towards your chest and grab your heel with one hand and place the other on the bottom of your toes. You should now be able to gently bring your toes towards your shin.  View image 1 above for the proper positioning at the end of this step.

Step 2: Using the hand beneath your toes gently bring your entire foot towards your shin by pulling from beneath the ball of your foot while keeping your toes bent towards your shin as much as possible. Use your judgment here, it is more important to move the ball of the foot towards the shin than it is to have your toes bend up completely. Be cautious, if you keep your toes bent too much, it could cause some mild discomfort. View image 2 above for proper positioning at the end of this step.

Step 3: Continue holding this pose/stretch for 30 to 60 seconds and if you can, slowly bring your toes and the ball of your feet closer to your shin.  You should feel this stretch directly in your Achilles tendon and I guarantee it will take care of all your heel/calf pain you're experiencing because you've been neglecting this stretch.  Keep it in your back pocket, it's a wicked weapon to have.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 Running Recap: Part One

Well, 2010 has been a year of monumental shifts in my life. I've had changes in many, many areas of my life, but I'll focus on my health and physical shifts, and maybe I'll find the time to write about other areas of my life.

When things come to a close it's always great to reflect on what happened, today I'll be focusing on the positives of 2010 for me as a healthy human being. The next post, though tedious, will be just as beneficial as it will cover the negatives of the year. Yuck, I hate revisiting my moments of suckitude.  But we'll put that off for now...

Weight Loss

So, let's see:

Date Weight % Gain/Loss
Jan 1st, 2010184lbs0%
Jun 1st, 2010172lbs-6.52%
Sep 1st, 2010167lbs-9.34%
Nov 1st, 2010163lbs-11.41%
Dec 1st, 2010167lbs-9.34%
Dec 21st, 2010166lbs-9.80%

So, I managed to lose as much as 21lbs in 11 months this year, and currently sit at 18lbs lost since January 2010. I was never fat by any stretch, I had actually spent most of the end of last year weightlifting and was definitely at my biggest yet, so the weight I've lost since then is both fatty and muscle mass. I'm very satisfied with my weight and imagine I'll come out of the winter and spring months tilting the scale at 162lbs.


So I started way back in May/June with less than 50km per month run.  As August approached I started to build up to 20-30km per week and was feeling good doing it.  I then struggled with some knee pain in August after joining the London Runner Distance Club, did some physio and sorted it out...a bit. Then came the miles and miles and miles of training with the team. I loved every step of it. The pain. The reward. The overwhelming tiredness of it all. (I remember being in bed nearly as soon as I got back from our Wednesday night practices.)

So for the year I've clocked a total of 1110km. Yup, I hit over 1000km for the year! YIPPEE! Here's a pretty graph demonstrating my progression, subsequent break and my current rebuild as I lay down a solid base for the spring of 2011.

I'm very pleased with my mileage, I don't think I could have done much more this fall and I'm anxious to get the numbers stacking up in 2011.


Well, I started off my re-birth into competitive running with knee problems. Hurray!  I've always had a tight IT band on my left leg, and I've been nursing it with plenty of stretching and rolling since my return, but I was starting to experience pain in my left knee as the miles started to exceed 30km per week.  I spent some time getting diagnosed (as you can read all about here, here and here), found the issue (a very weak ass) and I've been doing much better ever since.

I logged tons of miles on grass, dirt paths and otherwise unsightly terrain with only a few minor ankle rolls that caused me to miss a day or two throughout the season.  I'm proud of this as I've been doing ankle stabilization exercises.

Other than my knees and IT Band, nothing more to report. My approach to my running this past season meant I could simply take some time off if I felt my body needed it. I had no real race commitments and I think this approach is one I'd like to continue using. Sounds like it will be tough to balance!

Races & Achievements

Well, I had set two concrete goals for myself this fall: To crack 20:00 for a 5km road race and 41:00 for a 10km road race.  Needless to say, I smashed both of those goals to pieces!  If you'd like to read my 5km race or my 10km race report, feel free to do so!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

And it's back on!

Well, since finishing up my season at AO's in mid November I've been taking it pretty easy. My knees were starting to feel pretty banged up and coach and I decided it was time for a well deserved rest. I took 2 entire weeks off of running and by the end, I was starting to feel all wound up and out of place.

Since the first day of December I've been working my way back with 30km of easy running each week and this week looks like I'll be close to 40km after tomorrow's long run.  I even tossed in a 20 minute tempo run at 4:05/km today and the legs felt great.

I went out last night and spent hundreds of dollars on new shoes, winter jacket, base layers and mitts to prep for my first season of winter running in I can't remember how long. At least 10 years now. Yikes.

I'm proud to announce that my knee pain is under control again, these new shoes were the key it seems. That and some new stretches I've incorporated, mostly for my hip flexors. I'm going to continue gradually increasing my mileage while keeping the knee pain under control, it's the winter months, there's no reason to go hurting myself, it's time to lay down a solid base for track season next summer. Yup, I said track season. My god, what am I getting into?

Well that's about it for now. I'll be posting a recap of my 2010 athletic achievements and failures shortly, it should make for an interesting read.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Race Recap: 2010 AO Ontario Cross Country Championships

 Well, it is all said and done. What a day this has been. Some big UPs, some big DOWNs. Here's my quick rundown.

Two weeks ago I blogged about a 5km race I did on Halloween and how I destroyed my goal time of 20 minutes and cranked out an 18 minute 5km race.  Wow, just wow. That left me on cloud 9 and to think that I am barely out of reach with my former running self was just mindblowing. I've been running with a new found confidence.

So today was my final test of the season with the Ontario Provincial XC Championships in Guelph Ontario.  The senior Men's field had a record number of entrants, with 47 runners. The weather, though not the balmy 16C we had yesterday, was still amazingly dry, warm and calm considering the date.

I'd spent the week relaxing, tapering off and getting my legs rested for once. I'd only done 32km in the 6 days leading up to this race, so I was feeling physically fit.  Though the time change had been messing with me this week I took full advantage of it all and have been getting 9+ hours of sleep a night. I was feeling confident that would help me in the long run. Pun intended.

Getting to the race was eventful as we found ourselves in a mild fender bender, but after a report with the OPP we were on our way and made it to the course with 75 minutes to spare. Thankfully none of us were physically harmed.

After a nice warm up, a quick change into race gear and laced up xc spikes, I was ready to toe the line for some strides and dynamic warmup.  At this point, the wind decided to pick and we realized we'd be racing off into the wind for a solid 400m right off the bat. Not something I wanted to do, but since I'd likely be at the back of the pack, I figured I'd be safe.

I was set to run with a teammate of mine who'd been training with the Windsor XC team over the season and we were hoping to stick together through the first 5km in 18:30.  As we were told we had 5 minutes before the start, he realized he had left his bib number at the tent. This coming from the guy who organized our team's numbers and managed to hand us all ours. D'oh! He sprinted to the tent, grabbed it, attached it with 2 pins and BANG, we were off. Dang, that was close.

We ran off into the wind and the pack picked up quickly and stayed rather bunched. We trailed near the end of the pack, and I realized that even though I was aiming for a 38:XX 10km race today, I'd likely end up being one of the last few stragglers left on the course. Sigh.

We cranked through the first km and I felt great. The course was hard, fast and very flat. I was able to maintain a good groove and by the 4km mark I had started to pull away from my teammate Ben Procter.  The midsection of the course was a little challenging as I was alone, it was the midsection (5-8km) and the wind was wicked for about 600-800m at the end of each loop (we did 4).

I came across the finish line in 35:25, not believing what I was seeing on my watch.  I had looked at my 5km split and it was just below 19 minutes, I think at 18:50.  So to see 35:25 on my watch after I crossed the finish line, I just couldn't believe. A quick chat with a few of my London Runner teammates as I walked down the chute reinforced my fear: the course was short. SHORT? SHORT?!?!?!?!?! I came down here to run a 10km race and get a time for a 10km race.

My Nike+ read 9.3km and my heart sank. Was I really that far off? Then I remembered that the faster I ran with the Nike+ sensor, the more the distance would be off, and it would be less than the actual run distance.  So I started thinking at the course and wondering, but I knew I had to come home to actually crunch some numbers.  A few things I had to figure out:
  1. Just how long did I actually run?
  2. And how short was the race, if it were short at all?
And so I present to you my lovely calculation sheet in which I find out exactly how fast I ran 10km today.  It turns out that I ran 10km in 36:31!!!!!!  WOWZA. Again, I blew my goal out of the water and obliterated it. I was aiming for 38:XX and it looks that after my 18:02 5km road race, I still had some left in the tank and nearly didn't lose any ground, pace-wise!

So, you may wonder what the heck I did on this sheet. Well, in short, I referenced an old workout of ours which was a 1km hard tempo loop we did at Weldon Park. I know the loop is nearly exactly 1km, but when we did it, my nike+ registered 0.87km. This is due to the fact that the nike+ sucks when you deviate from the calibration pace you set.

So, with that in mind I decided to find a best, worst and average case scenario for that loop on my nike plus, settling on 0.96 km as the distance the nike+ sensor would read at a pace of 3:45/km over a 1 km distance.

Armed with this I was able to calculate exactly what the course distance was, which in the end was 9.69km.  That means I had 0.31km left to run if I had actually wanted to run a full 10km. Armed with my overall time and distance, I was able to calculate my average pace (219s/km) and tack on 0.31km at this pace for a GRAND TOTAL OF 36:31 for 10km!

Wow, that was long winded. In short? If you ran the 2010 AO Ontario Cross Country Championships this would be your final time over 10km:

Overall Time (s) + (0.31 X (Overall Time (s) / 9.69)) = FINAL TIME OVER 10KM

And so there you have it. I have just run a 10km in 36:31, finished nearly dead last, had an amazing race, walked away with 3 massive blisters (first time in spike since '03) and mowed down a massive burger at Relish in Wortley Village. I don't think today could ever get any better. Time for a bath, maybe some brandy?

Race/Event Website:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Running Log: Week November 1-7 2010

This week, as per usual, flew by. I had a busy week at work, had fun photgraphing a few new subjects for some fantastic clients and logged 4 runs. My knees are starting to bother me more lately, so I'm glad my season has only 1 week left and then I get to rest!  As for this week, I ran 56km (I was scheduled to run 55km) and put in two hard speed workouts.  My legs haven't been forced to move that fast in years, so it was quite the shock.  Here's my breakdown:

Monday: Off Day
Tuesday: 12km Easy Run (4:27/km)
Wednesday: Wortley Village Workout
 - 5km warm up, 1.5km pick up
 - 4x100m strides
- 8x 600m repeats, with 90 seconds rest. 2:01, 1:57, 1:54, 1:53, 1:55, 1:55, 1:55, 1:55
 - 4x100m strides
- 4km cool down
Thursday: Off Day
Friday: 13km Easy Run (4:37/km)
Saturday: Off Day
Sunday: Solo Workout
 - 3.5km warm up
- 8 x 1km repeats, 90 seconds rest. 3:45, 3:44, 3:42, 3:46, 3:40, 3:42, 3:44, 3:42
- 3.5km cool down

That solo workout today had to have been my hardest workout yet. I did the workout alone, and spent some time last night puking up far too much beer. I definitely was out to sabotage myself, but miraculously I managed to pull through at my goal race pace for this upcoming weekend.  Now to string 10 of those 1km repeats together. :D

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Challenges are scary!

Well, I'm into the final two weeks of my xc season, with only a few final speed workouts and a 10km race at OAs in Guelph, and nerves are starting to build. I've had a great season and I've progressed leaps and bounds over the last 4 months.

My racing started in August with a 43:20 (4:23/km) 10km road race in Ingersoll, and September saw me crank out a 7.5km in 29:55 (4:00/km) and last week's 5km road race in 18:02 (3:36/km) has me in high spirits for my upcoming 10km.

The final few steps toward that race involve reduce mileage weeks, but before I can crank out a blazing fast 10km I have to get through a key workout this weekend. On my own. This has me scared.

If I nail the workout, I know I'll be able to crank out that pace for the 10km race. If I don't, I get to face the hard truth that I can't, and I'll have to adjust accordingly.

Wish me luck, I'll be pumping out 8x1km repeats tomorrow, hopefully it all stays together as I wind down next week.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bye Bye October!

What happened? It seemed like just yesterday we were looking forward to a thanksgiving trip up North and now I'm cursing the sub zero temperature we had on our way to work this morning. Time flies by faster and faster.

So what went down this month in my world of running? Let's recap to find out:

  • I ran 280km. This is by far my heaviest running load I have done in years and I would say it likely rivals my mileage back in 2001 as I came into the XC program at Western. The size of this stat hasn't really hit home yet. I still picture myself as a 28 year old over-the-hump road runner, but after the result from my most recent road race, I think the hard work is paying off.
  • I raced two races in October! After one race in August, one in September, October saw me knock off 8.5km in Sudbury over Thanksgiving weekend and 5km on Halloween. The first race was the most ridiculous course I have ever run and refuse to ever step foot on again. The second race was my best result in nearly 10 years. Win some, lose some...
  • I dipped my calves into frigid waters twice!  Once in Sudbury in the Conservation area, the other in Arkona at the foot of the Rock Glen falls.  Loved it!
  • I neglected my physio exercises and seem to have fallen off my stretching routines. I think I'm getting too excited about the actual running, but I need to put an end to that! My knees are in a little bit of pain, and I fear it's due to 1) my mileage increase and 2) my laziness.
  • I rolled my ankles far too many times this month. Another reason I need to get back to strengthening exercises.
So, what will November bring me?  1 more XC race, as my teammates and I race the OTFA Provincial XC championships in Guelph. Yay, I get to run with a full team again! :D. Otherwise, It's a low mileage month, perfect for me to spend time pampering my legs. Maybe I'll start hitting the weights again.

I will leave you with my ongoing mileage progression graph:

Running Log: Week October 25-31 2010

Well, another HIGH week has come and gone. This is my first back-to-back HIGH week segment, with both weeks made to see me log 65km in each. I ran through last week and felt great, logging 70km and coming into this week with mild knee pain. I made sure to keep my legs in check during the entire week and having only put in two workouts this week, I was looking forward to knocking off another 2010 goal of mine: To finally crack 20:00 again over 5km on the road. I managed to obliterate that goal, running 18:02 over 5km. Be sure to read my race recap from yesterday!

Monday:13km Steady Run at 4:22/km
Tuesday: OFF
Wednesday: Weldon Park 800m workout
- 4km warm up
- 10min tempo
- 6 x 800m (2:57, 2:53, 2:47,2:45, 2:43, 2:41)
- 4km cool down
Thursday: OFF
Friday: Easy 13km
Saturday: Easy 12km w/ 4 strides
Sunday: Halloween Haunting 5km Road Race
- 4km warm up
- 5km race (18:02 3:36/km)
- 4km cool down


This week is a MEDIUM load week, with 60km planned. I'm going to try and keep it no more than 60km, and I want to focus on my flexibility and the slight soreness I get in my knees.  There are only 2 weeks left to the competitive season and one race for me, I want to be as healthy as can be come that day.

P.S. You may have noticed the bar graph above has switched from a green column color to a blue column color. That is because I have now crossed the 1000km mark in my nikeplus profile. Woot!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Race Recap: 2010 Halloween Haunting 5km

Well, what a weekend this has been. I'm lying on our bed, still in my running gear (yuck!) and I'm sipping a fine '07 Syrah from France as I try and recap the whirlwind that was this weekend.

Saturday saw me judge the Halloween Costume Competition at the London Runner Distance Club annual Halloween practice. There were some creative costumes (the entre women's squad dressed as elements from the periodic table), some funny ones (a few clowns stood out) and a truly amazing display of human strength. Dylan, a runner and hockey player, decided to wear his hockey equipment to the practice, and ran the whole workout with the equipment. Helmet, shoulder pads, gloves and a hockey stick. Simply amazing! I got in an easy 12km run, some strides and stretching as I was slated to race the Halloween Haunting 5km the next day...

Saturday night was full of spooky halloween fun with friends and then I got to shoot the debauchery at a local club. It was fun being the photographer when everyone wanted their pictures taken.

Halloween Haunting 5km Race Recap

And now, the piece de resistance. I ran my first 5km road race in at least 7 years. I ran a fun run 5km in the summer of 2008, clocking in at 22:30. A far cry from my speedy days, but I was also just getting back into this running business. I was really curious to see what I could crank out today as I've been training steadily for the past 4 months and I have been getting stronger and faster at our recent workouts.

I arrived at Springbank park with the very best cheerleader I could ever ask for, Melanie. Wes, another amazing cheerleader showed up well before the race to cheer me on too! How blessed am I? VERY! I quickly picked up my race package and timing chip, but I went and forget to pick up my long sleeve shirt that came with the package. I blame the person who was tending to me. Unless 5km runners don't get a shirt? Hmmm...

Regardless I got myself ready and went out for an easy 4km run. My legs didn't particularly feel sharp, or dull, but I was a little worried I wouldn't have the speed I needed to crack my goal time of 20:00 over 5km. I logged in 4 easy strides, some stretching and spent a few seconds being star struck by the sight of Matt Brunsting doing some strides just ahead of me. *Swoon*.

I met up with some teammates of mine and the announcers call the 5km/10km runners to the line for the race. I stuck around the front, not toeing the line just yet as they told us 'elite' (hah) runners that we should wait here if we're planning on going sub 20:00 for 5km (or sub 35:00 for 10km). I felt so special, but as I was just planning on hitting 20:00, wondering if I really belonged with the bigger boys.

I toed the lined and tried to activate my nike+ pedometer, but the darn thing wouldn't work. I look down at my shoe and I realize what happened. I forgot to put my chip on my racing flats after my warmup. DAMN IT. So I quickly realize that I'm just going to have to go with my gut on this one and quickly come to terms with it and calm myself down.  Then a few seconds later the starter asks the timing guys for a 30 second warming prior to the gun going off, and I jumped on that. 30 seconds? I can run and get my chip from Melanie in plenty time. And I did, but not after scaring my team mates. I made it back with 15 seconds to spare and we were off!

0km to 2km

I know this course so well and I knew the first 1km would be fast as most of it was downhill and I used this to my advantage to unfurl a little more without any fear of digging too deep. There were tons of runners around me at this point and I had to pay special attention to not get boxed in just before the long downhill section at the 800m mark.

I crossed the 1km marker at 3:33 and thought to myself, dayum, that is fast. Actually, I said it out loud too. I still felt great, and I should have, it was my first km, and I wanted to see what I could do coming up to the 2km marker and use that to gauge where I'd take the pace from here on in. The 2nd km marker was just atop the first uphill and when I crossed it feeling great and seeing that my split was at 7:05 I knew I had managed to keep my pace from the 1st km into the second.

2km to 4km

These were actually fun kms to run, and this surprised me. At this point another runner latched on to me and we chatted about the race, the fact the 3rd marker said 9km and his goal for the 10km race. The fact I was able to chat while racing says quite a few things about the effort I was exerting at the time.

I came by 3km in about 10:40 and was still feeling amazingly good. Light on my feet. Tall through my head. In great spirits. The turn around mark was at about the 2mile mark and I got to cheer on every team mate that I ran past. Nate, Matt, Tim, Ian, Leslie, David and cheered them all on as best as I could. It actually helped boost my energy levels as when we turned around, we'd be heading up a 300m hill we had just descended. This would be the last killer hill, and frankly, the only 'real' hill on the loop, so I attacked it with gusto. I felt a little spent coming off of it, but knowing I would only have about 1.2km left I was ready to attack every step I took.

4km to 5km

At this point, I didn't even check my 4km split. I wasn't trying to balance effort with capacity, it was time to throw down and leave it all behind me. The runner I was running with for the first 4km gave me a few words of encouragement which I took and ran away with. The last 400m are fun, except for the short and steep uphill you get to negotiate with a 90 degree right turn into the last 150m straight. I caught a glimpse of the clock as I neared it and I couldn't believe it.

I finished with a time of 18:02 for 5km. Absolutely astounding. If you recall, I was aiming to crack 20:00 for the race and well, to say I cracked it would be quite an understatement. I smashed it to pieces. Not only that, but my best 5km of all time is just below 17 minutes, I'm within reach already!

I ended up finishing with an average pace of 3:36/km, and with an overall placing of 7th. I was 3rd in my age group, with the top 2 being other London Runner Distance Club teammates.

I'm ecstatic to say the least and I rewarded myself with a lovely bottle of wine and some homemade pesto pasta. Now I'm relaxing and trying not to fall asleep. And now I get to update my About Page with a new, recent PB (aka post-post-collegiate PB).

For full event details, click here:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Running Log: Oct 18 - Oct 24 2010

Well, I've gotten so busy lately that my only posts are running logs, I have to apologize for that but I'm starting up a new business venture and it's eating up a lot of my time. The good news? I'm still running! :D

Here are my stats for the week, if I can remember the details:

Monday: Easy 10km
Tuesday: Easy 10km
Wednesday: 20km total:
- 5km warmup
-6,4,2,6,4,2,6 tempo with 2min rest between each segment
-5km cooldown
Thursday: Off
Friday: Easy 14km
Saturday: 4km Shakeout (without nike+)
Sunday: 13km Easy run

Grand total: 70KM

This was my heaviest week yet and my knees felt it. They aren't getting any worse and I'm still hodling steady at 90% healthy, but they definitely do feel a little beat.  This week is another HIGH week for me and it includes a 5km race on Halloween. I'm aiming to crack 20:00 for the race and my legs are faster than they have been in a long time. The question becomes do I have the stamina....I hope so!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Running Log: Week October 11-17 2010

I can't get over how quickly these weeks are whizzing by. It's been a week since Thanksgiving and already we're merely days away from my birthday. Whoa, where has October gone to?  This week was to be a low week in mileage for me, a welcome change after a 65km week the prior week. 50km was the number this week, but I blew the doors off that in my Saturday workout. D'oh.

Monday: Rest (raced the day before), did 30 minutes of stretching
Tuesday: 13.2km Steady run at 4:30/km
Wednesday: 10km Easy Run
Thursday: Day Off
Friday: 12km Easy Run
Saturday: Meadowlily Workout
 - 4km warmup
 - 4 x 100m strides
 - Meadowlily hill work: 3,2,1,3,2,1
 - 1.5km easy
 - 6x (2min hard, 1min easy)
 - 4x 100m strides
 - 4km cooldown
Sunday: Rest with 30minutes of stretching

Total Mileage: 57km

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nostalgia On The Trails

I quite literally ran into the UWO Men's Cross Country team last night as they were crusing along through the trail system lining the Thames river on an easy run. Guy and Brandon, both now coaches on the team, recognized me nearly instantly and well, who could ever forget Guy's loud voice?

We ran for about 3km and chatted about what's been going on in our lives lately and when they turned around at their 30min turnaround point, we went our separate ways.  It felt strangely amazing to get to run with two old running mates of mine and the new UWO blood. I had a new found bounce in my step, and it was great to have my recent efforts validated by allowing me to cruise along with the team without over exerting myself.

I then started reflecting on how far I've come since joining LRDC in mid July.  Back then, my mileage was a paltry 20km per week, normally 4 5km easy runs and I was slowly getting back into the regularity and consistency of a running program.  I decided it was time to take the plunge and join a running team, enter London Runner Distance Club.

Since then I've been consistently logging over 50km per week, reaching a few weeks of 65km and though I have to keep my knees in check, I am loving every step.  I'm starting to gel with some of my team mates, though it sure would be nice to have more senior level runners out with us right now. Try as I may, there is still 10 years separating me and the juniors on the team and relating is oh so challenging.

All in all, it was great to run again with a team I cowardly left back in 2001, and again in 2003. I didn't know how to deal with my mental state, physical well being and pressure from my engineering program. Last night, though as insignificant as it was, was a stepping stone in my healing that I had to step on. Now that it happened, I can see it clear as day, but I had no idea this would be on my path. And for this I have Guy and Brandon to thank. :D

Monday, October 11, 2010

Running Log: Oct 4 - Oct 10

This week was scheduled to be a HIGH week for me as my mileage was set to increase to 65km. I felt up to the challenge come last monday and even though I had a super busy week in all areas of my life, I stepped up to the plate and delivered. Here are the details:

MONDAY: Stretching for 30mins
TUESDAY: 13km easy run
WEDNESDAY: 15km total
-3.4km warmup (15mintues)
-12 diagonal strides (1km)
-4x 1km Pond loop (4:00, 4:00, 4:08, 4:03) Consecutive
-5min rest
-4x430 small pond loop (6:15 total over 1.75 km)
-4.5km cool down
Friday: Easy 11km
Saturday: Easy 10.5km
Sunday: 15.2km Total
-3km warmup
-8.3km Turkey Trot (Sudbury) Time: 35:47
-3.2km cool down

TOTAL MILEAGE: 65km (nikeplus is missing a few as I forgot to start the darn watch a few times...)

This week is an LOW week for me, I get to run 50km and then jump right back into a 65km week the next. I'm impressed with how well my legs are recovering and reacting to all the mileage I'm logging. I'm also getting much stronger and faster, yay!

From Treadmill to Track: A few Pointers

Do you find yourself having an enjoyable time running on a treadmill but when you hit the pavement, trails or track your breathing becomes labored, legs tired and you just can't seem to get very far without stopping?

Sadly, this isn't an option...

Well a friend of mine recently commented on this very issue and I thought I could offer a few pointers to help out with this transition.  Short of finding a treadmill we can use outside, these tips are a great option if you want to ditch the spinning track and start pounding the trails in the peak of Canada's fall colors.

  1. Take it easy: You are likely to start off rather quickly once you start to pound the pavement. When I started running again last year I did so on the treadmill and once I moved outdoors my pace picked up by 30 seconds per kilometer. That worked out to an increase of about 10% and can be very hard for someone to maintain. Focus on taking it just a little slower as you begin running outside. 
  2. Run at dusk/dawn: This is key if you begin running during a hot summer season. When you ran indoors on a treadmill odds are the room was air conditioned and the humidity was controlled.  Outside, you don't have this luxury. Try and work your schedule around the cooler times of the day so that this plays as little a factor as possible.
  3. Water: If you learned to run on a treadmill with water at hand, don't expect to start running outside without water. Your body needs it if you've trained it to, so get a water belt and a water bottle. This is especially important if you can't control point #2 above.
  4. This ain't a track meet: If you find other runners on the track or on the trails, don't feel the need to pass them or stay ahead of them. When you ran on the treadmill, you weren't passing anyone because you couldn't. It made it easy to keep your ego in check. You'll have to force yourself to this time around.
  5. Find a distraction: In the gym, on the treadmill, you likely had TV to occupy your thoughts. You won't be privy to such luxuries outdoors so bring along an mp3 player or clear your mind so that you can freely flow from thought to thought. Even better yet, bring a friend along so you can chat.
I hope you can find some benefit from my pointers above when you decide to transition from the treadmill to the trails, roads or track. Happy running!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Race Report: 2010 Sudbury Turkey Trot

Wow, 6 days since I last posted on this blog. I just had a stupid busy week this past week and I guess this is the first time I get to write.  This week was a rather busy week for my running, as I was to run a HARD/HIGH week and had to 65km.  I managed to outdo that, but I guess we'll have to wait for my weekly mileage roundup, which I will post tomorrow night.

This weekend saw me and Melanie travel to Sudbury for Thanksgiving with part of our family (miss you Nat, Al and Zavier!) and it has been an absolutely gorgeous weekend filled with sunshine, family, food, running and a touch of beer.

Update: Results are now online! 


So the day started out rather normally. Up bright and early at 7:30 and a light breakfast by 8am. We got all our running gear together and by 8:45 Melanie, Joce and I were all ready to hop into our little Rabbit.

This was the first time that Joce and I have entered the same race, so it was nice to share the moments of today with her. Upon arriving to the race location, the Laurentian Conservation Area, Melanie started to realized just how grueling this race may be as we were forced to park about 500m away from the start and climb up Cardiac Hill. The hill gets its name for the fact that it will cause just about any athlete to quite nearly have a heart attack upon seeing it, and then promptly have one as they make their way up.

The race area was well organized with a registration area, a few washrooms and a nice finish line complete with timing clock. We were not expecting this as the race was billed as a fun run. The weather was perfect. By 10am the temperature was probably above 10C and the full sun was shining down on us. Given the fact today was the 10th of October (10/10/10 woot) we could not have asked for anything better.

The kids started off with a 1km race that was won by a young girl in just under 6 minutes.  After that we made our way to the start of the race where the 5km walk, 5km run and 8.3km run racers toed the line together. On your mark. Get set. Go.

And we're off!


Having run in these trails in the past, it all felt very familiar during my warmup and for the first 400m or so. Then my world got turned upside down. Let's back it up a bit and give a bit of background.

This Turkey Trot race changes location every year. Last year it was run in Windy Lake and this year the popular vote from last year decided that it would be the Laurentian Conservation Trails. Fine enough, there are cross country skiing trails to be run on. But no....the organizing committee decided we run on the snowshoeing trails. Trails that are so narrow you can barely fit your shoes on them. Trails that are used exclusively in the winter, when snow completely covers the uncovered roots, fallen trees and jagged rocks. Trails that when frozen, aren't wet, but that wasn't the case today.

I have never, ever run on such mentally demanding trails in my life. And I have done many XC runs in my past, far too many.  Within the first km I was boxed in behind a few slower runners with nowhere to pass and when I found the first opening I could I decided to put in a surge just so I could put them behind me.  Shortly after I was soaring through the woods. Jumping over water, avoiding rocks, dodging fallen trees and swatting prickly branches. At this point, about the 3km mark, I passed a fellow and thought I was in second overall.

I felt great about my position, my legs were light and springy and I wasn't over exerting my lungs at all. Then the hills kept coming. The water got deeper, colder, wetter. I rolled my left ankle but recovered so quickly I can barely remember rolling it. I didn't see anyone for at least 2 km, but then found another runner ahead of me who magically appeared from the woods. I can only imagine nature was calling.

So I trailed him moving from 4km to 5km and tried to slowly reel him in as we took in the last challenging segment of the run. More fallen trees, mossy rocks, wet leaves and a 500m hill that felt like it would never end. Then all of a sudden a runner came whizzing past me, in the opposite directions. I was surprised to see him, but then another. Damn, turns out I was in fourth at this point and had some work to do if I wanted to finish top 3, possibly 2nd. We finished the out portion of what turned out to be an out and back loop and I had finally caught up to the runner ahead of me. He let me pass him as we circled the cone at the edge of Perch Lake and I took off like a madman. I knew the large uphill we took on the way out here would be a large downhill this time around and being an excellent downhill runner, I wanted to capitalize on this to try and catch 2nd place.

As I weaved my way back through the maze of wilderness I also had to contend with the other runners taking part in the 8.3km race. Luckily, many of them politely moved out of the way, as did I, but a few apparently didn't see me coming and didn't even flinch as I had to re-route my feet at the last second. Luckily I managed to stay upright and escape rolled ankle hell.

As I was coming up to the gravel road that connected both trails we ran on I noticed a flash of red/white and I knew right then and there that I had made up close to a minute of time on the 2nd place male. Oh, what to do now?

At this point I realized I probably had another 1km or so left as I was at the 32min mark. There were but a few hills left and a wide gravel path to run on. I made up at least 100m by the time we crested the last hill and my legs were really starting to feel like lead. He started to pick up the pace, and so did I. I closed a little, maybe to within 10m. As I surged, he responded. I just couldnt get any closer no matter what I could do and my burning lungs and heavy legs didn't help my case.

We ended up finishing 2nd and 3rd, except I wasn't 2nd. He finished in 35:40 and I finished in 35:44, but a few feet behind him. All in all, it was a great race. I felt great throughout and managed to maintain a rather steady and fast pace.  Impressive considering that for the entire 8.3km there was only about 1km of what one might consider 'flat'.


We stuck around after for some of the best post race grub we've ever had. Homemade muffins, squares, rice krispies and cupcakes adorned the food tent and I was in heaven.  Once everyone finished we waited around for the award ceremony since I was to receive at least a medal. A medal I received and a door prize I won. Nothing more, nothing less.

I had a blast but found the trail to be incredibly demanding. So did Melanie and Jocelyne who both still had amazing races.

We capped off the day with a post run protein brownie that Joce made us and I dipped my feet and calves in the frigid water of some random lake at the Conservation Area.  It felt amazing, like a massive ice bath. I wish I had one of those in my backyard. Here's a shot we took with Joce's cell phone at the lake:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Running Posture and Knee Pain

I've chronicled my battle with knee pain over the past few months and just this past Saturday I declared that my pain was finally dissipating. Mysterious? Maybe. Maybe Not.  I managed to get rid of my knee pain, Patello Femoral Syndrome aka Runner's Knee, by becoming more aware of my running posture.

I've been slowly trying to land more on my midfoot when striking the ground, and I've successfully made that transition, removing any achilles/plantar fascia pain I had, but I still found that I often times would find my knees in pain after a 10km run, especially in the latter half.  Well, after a stellar 1km repeat workout last week, I think everything finally fell into place. So what's my magic secret?

Midfoot landing and proper posture will cure your knee pain! It cured mine!

So, I don't think I need to go over how to incorporate midfoot landing into your running stride, there are plenty of discussions on this online. What I found to be lacking was information on changing your stride for knee pain. The issue is, that you don't technically or consciously want to make changes to your stride. That's where I went wrong, time and time again. I would try and adjust my extension, my stride length, my cadence, but no matter what it would not get rid of all my knee pain, and I would typically strain another part of my stride (heel, plantar fascia, calves, etc).  What I was doing was slowly integrating a midfoot strike into my stride, and that is beneficial for entirely different reasons, but it wasn't the whole ticket I needed to rid me of knee pain.

So, what is Running Posture? First off, it's a term I just made up, so take the designation with a grain of salt, but in the end, it involves positioning your core so that your legs are best positioned to land properly. Landing properly involves many things, but for one thing, you want your foot to land midfoot (NO HEEL STRIKING!) and for your foot to land roughly beneath your knee. This is hard to visualize and to incorporate, but here's how I finally cracked the case.

I found that during my longer runs I would always start to get knee pain after 6km and it would last till 1 km before I was done. So from 0-6 and from Y-1 to Y (Y being the total km), I was completely pain free. But why? How does make any sense?  So I figured it had to do with my entire stride mechanics, but I just didn't know what exactly. Until my practice last week.

I had begun to notice a trend: My knees didn't hurt when I ran faster than my easy run pace. Somewhere under 4:20 would normally take care of any pain. That signaled to me that it was definitely something in my stride, and not just the fact I'm slowly getting old and may have bad knees. As I mentioned above, switching to a midfoot strike has helped, but it wasn't the whole ticket.  It turns out that when I run faster I engage my core in a manner that shifts my hips forward slightly, forcing my knees to come up and out a little further (comparatively) and force my foot to land midfoot more naturally, beneath my knee.

What a revelation this has turned out to be for me, and who knows, maybe you can take a thought or two away today and take care of any knee pain you may have too. I'm still working hard at ingraining this posture change into my running, its forcing me to become very active in my core instead of just letting it sag along with my arms and legs.  What's more, this has actually made me considerably faster when running. I just don't get as tired anymore as my posture and natural stride have become more efficient.

Here are some tips I use when running to help with my posture:

  • Imagine you are reaching for the sky with your chest. If you don't you'll start to sag and you will essentially mimic a mild sitting position. At least that is how I visualize it.
  • Start by pushing your hips forward so that they are parallel with your shoulders. This should feel a little awkward, as you'll be running fully straight. Once you've done this, tilt your chest slightly forward. Ever so slightly. Enough so that you aren't fully straight up anymore, but remain rigid and engage your core (back, abs, chest) to help you keep your boat (butt) afloat.
  • Check every few minutes, mentally, to see if you've let your core sag. If so, just re-engage. I'm finding that I have to do this, but already it's becoming much easier. Don't wait till knee pain returns for you to engage, do it ALL THE TIME!

Let me know your thoughts on what I've discovered and if you decide to try any of my ideas out, be sure to let me know. Use them at your own risk.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Running Log: Week Sep 27 - Oct 3

Well, we had a very, very rainy week in London, and it was capped off with two solid days of downpour this weekend. That didn't stop me from running twice though! Yeehaw!  Here's the breakdown:

  • Monday: 10km Steady run at 4:30/km
  • Tuesday: Off
  • Wednesday: 14km Total. Practice at Weldon: 4km warmup, 5x1km repeat with 2min rest (4:00, 3:57, 3:53, 3:48, 3:38), 4km cooldown
  • Thursday: Easy 12km
  • Friday: Off
  • Saturday: Easy/steady 16km run @ 4:34/km
  • Sunday: 6.5km (CIBC Run for the cure 5km)
My knees are essentially fully healed, I would give them 97% at the moment and getting better each day. That is so encouraging, considering I've managed to log nearly 60km this week, 58km to be exact. Now it's time to deal with this cramping left calf of mine. Maybe it's really officially seriously time to call an RMT.

This coming week looks to be a good week weather wise, it should make for the perfect running week. And then we're off to Sudbury for Thanksgiving with the fam and an 8.5km race in the Conservation area Trails.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

September Came and Went!

Well, did that ever fly by. I had a super busy running month, by far my heaviest month since competing at UWO in 2001/2003. All in all, I'm very satisfied with my month, here's my quick breakdown of what went down:

  • I ran a total of 226km, up from 160km the previous month (40% increase in mileage, that sounds rather dangerous!). I consistently did two hard workouts per week and threw in some easy miles to round things out.
  • I ran my first XC race in 7 years and it felt AMAZING! I also broke 4:00/km over a 7.5km distance, something I never would have thought I was capable of doing yet. Looks like my 2011 goals will have to be re-adjusted come the new year, and I predict some great times as I finish up the xc and road racing series.
  • My knee pain that I was battling in August, and had physio for, returned to haunt me this month.  It all started happening after a 5 day week that saw me log 65km. I wasn't ready and I was still trying to perfect my posture/form/stride some as I ran.  I immediately took the next week easy (40km) and returned to my physio exercises.  Since then I've been cautious but the knee is definitely on the mend as I think I've finally cracked the root of my knee problem, more on this later.
  • My mileage increased by 40%, but my overall pace slowed by about 2 seconds per km.  Considering the fact that I increase my mileage by such a large margin, I'm surprised to see that my performance didn't really drop much, as I would expect to see as mileage increases.
  • I keep shedding fat all over my body, but the damn scale isn't dropping much. I have a personal goal to weigh 165lbs by November 1st and it's looking harder and harder to get to that goal. I'm currently at 167lbs and have been for the last 6 weeks (ranging from 165.6 to 168.6 lately). I know I've got some fat that I don't need to carry around with me while I run, so I'm hoping to lose some more, with an ultimate goal of losing another 10lbs so I can be in the 10% body fat range.  I hear a 5% drop in weight results in a 5% increase in performance. I'm curious to test that out...
  • I've had some great speed workouts this past month and the weather has me in such a good mood. Heck, I ran 16km in a steady downpour today and was grinning most of the time. I had the trails all to myself! I love running, it's my therapy. Well that and red wine. Yum.
It was a great month of running and the weather was damn near perfect nearly almost every day. I ran 18 days out of a possible 30 this month and racked up 226km in just over 18 hours. Heck, I burned up 18000 calories, or the equivalent of  5lbs in calories.  Here's my nikeplus overview for the month, just so you know I'm 100% legit:

So what does October bring? Other than amazing weather, and for certain, too much rain, here's what I'm hoping to accomplish this month:

  • Race a smart 8.5km race in Sudbury Thanksgiving weekend. Hoping for something in the vicinity of 34 minutes.
  • Run 250km in October, including two heavy weeks of 65km. I will need to be on my best behavior on those weeks, I can't let my knees suffer again.
  • Race a blazing fast 10km on Halloween.
  • Lose 2lbs and KEEP IT OFF FOREVER. I think this is attainable, we'll see.
  • Try out a pair of CEP Compression socks and find out first hand what all the hype is about.
  • Do 4 physio related plyo sessions per week. Looks like I should get the ball going today then.
Until next time, stay healthy, smile and just keep running!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

To Compress, or not To Compress?

That my friends, is the question.  I've read so much about compression running socks over the past few months and other than the ridiculously steep price they charge, find no reason not to start using them on my hard workouts, and even while I sit at my desk for 8 hours the days following hard workouts.

Steve Magness discusses the merits of these socks on his blog, Science Of Running, and he writes quite possibly the most in depth post I've found on the topic. He covers the theory behind it and supplants it with some first hand accounts.  He concludes they are a useful tool to minimize calf/achilles/plantar fascia pain and inflammation.

I also came across Shannon Rowbury's blog, the 2 time winner of the NYC 5th Ave mile.  She also seems to use them and finds them most useful when travelling, but again, take her word with a grain of salt, she's sponsored by nike and will likely have a slightly partisan view on their products.

So it looks like I will begin my hunt for some Zensah or Sigvaris compression socks that I can wear on my long runs and during the day at the office after hard workouts.  Does anyone have suggestions?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On the mend....

Last week I complained about my knees hurting. I decided to act upon the pain immediately and cut down my mileage last week by 50%, down to 40km, and this week has started off on the right foot.

I biked 25km in 55minutes on Sunday night and the knees felt about 90% throughout.  I tackled a 10km steady run last night at 4:30/km and it also felt great, at about 90% on both knees (with a few slight twinges on the left knee as I ran). 

I've been trying to tweak my form lately, trying to eek out a little more efficiency while trying to minimize any heel striking and subsequent knee pain. Overall, I think it's successful. I no longer have any heel pain (I'm glad I avoided the plantar fasciitis thanks to my acuball mini and some plantar fasciitis stretches which I will detail later this week.) and I my knees are definitely recovering. However, there are times when I am running that if I over analyze and try and micromanage each of my strides that I find myself with some knee or foot pain that instantly disappears once I let my mind float freely and just run. So I'm taking this revelation along with my need to improve my form and am hoping I can somehow find a happy medium between controlled and natural.  I'll keep everyone posted on how that progresses.

It's officially rainy season in London and we've got back to back rainy days, hopefully I can make it out tonight for an easy 12km run.  Cheers!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Running Log: Week Sep 20 - Sep 26

Well, after last week's 65km running week I decided to listen to my body and see how I reacted to the increase in mileage. In short, my body reacted adversely.

I've blogged about my knee problems in the past and they flared up again last week (as my last blog post discusses). Well, the increase in pavement pounding last week and my involvement in the Terry Fox run took its toll and I was feeling it this week.  Instead of trying to run through the pain, which we all know does absolutely no good in the long run, I listened to my knees.

I spent time stretching my legs, icing my knees, massaging my legs and got back to my physio routing. Why did I ever stop my physio routine in the first place? Sigh. So this week I toned down the running mileage and jacked up the bike mileage, which I discovered, can be just as painful on sore knees as pavement pounding.


MON: Day Off (12km Bike Ride)
TUE: Easy 11km
WED: 17km @ Weldon:
--4km warmup
--10min tempo, 5min rest
--8min tempo, 4min rest
--6min tempo, 3min rest
--4min tempo, 2min rest
--2min tempo
--3km cooldown
SAT: 14km @ Weldon
--5km warmup
--2 x 10min tempo (4:00/km) w/ 2min rest
--3.5km cooldown
SUN: DAY OFF (Hard 23km Bike Ride)

TOTALS: 41km (RUN), 35km (BIKE)

Not running today took all the self restraint I have. I spent the morning watching the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon in Toronto (where Reid and Eric ran amazing races and the winner set an all comer record for canadian marathons!). Then it was the 5th ave mile till 1PM, and I got to see some of my fave men race in the elite men race, including a northern Ontario boy, Taylor Milne. I used to race against the guy way back in high school, though I was always too far behind. Here's the results from a 5km him and I ran back in 1999!

So I start this week with fresh legs, and knees that feel immensely better than last week.  They are still a little tender, but there is no burning/throbbing pain at the moment.  Onto another week of running!

Here's my monthly overview to date:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stupid knees

Well, seems my string of running knee pain free has come to an end, for now at least.  Last week saw me crank out 64km, the most I've run in a week since doing XC at UWO in 2003.  I did more than half of that on the road and it's taken its toll on my poor knees.

I went out last night for an easy 11km run on the trails by our place and through the run I had a constant discomfort, but nothing too distressing.  I'm now sitting at my work desk and my knees are a little on fire.  I've been neglecting my physio exercises a little, but I've picked those back up this past weekend and hopefully that will help. Guess I've learned not to ignore them. I think it may also be time for me to start taping my knee again, but this time around it seems like both my knees hurt. sigh.

Its times like these that make me doubt my reasons for running. Is this type of pain worth the ultimate gain? I've had a nearly exponential increase in mileage since June of 2010:

So this is my attempt at getting things sorted out. I am clearly abusing my body and it's responding by crying.  Maybe I should do a thing or two to make sure this doesn't come back:

  • Return to my daily physio exercises
  • Return to my physiotherapist for more advice/exercises
  • Continue to ice nightly
  • Tape my knee until the pain goes away
  • Reduce my mileage
  • Try and run on trails as much as possible
  • Stay away from racing road races
  • Work on my posture, both sitting and standing
  • Massage therapy
I need to be more attentive to the items above. If I have knee pain, I can't run. If I can't run, I get crabby. We don't want that.  GOTTA STICK WITH IT!

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Vic Matthews Open XC Run Recap

Ah Cross-Country running....the sound of spikes and wood chips...the labored breathing...the rotting leaves....the grey I love thee.

This past Saturday saw me hit the lovely Guelph Arboretum trails for a 7.5km Open Cross Country race. The race, The Vic Matthews Open, is run in memory of Vic Matthews, a well decorated Gryphons cross/track coach from the 70s/80s that passed away in 2004. This was my first XC race in 7 years and I was excited to hit the trails.

We arrived with about 50 minutes to spare before the 12:00 start time, and just in time to watch the women race (including three LRDC women) as I warmed up. This was Melanie's first time at a XC race and I was so happy to have her with me before and after the race. She made the entire nerve wracking experience much more bearable. I had not managed to find my teammates yet and was slightly worried about getting my chip and bib in time for our start time, but I trudged along the unknown trails getting in an easy 4km warmup.

I eventually found my team, got my singlet (I'm official now baby!), my chip and my bib number. Got suited up and then headed over with the boys to do some easy strides before the race officially got under way. A quick survey of the starting line culminated with a few observations:

  • Steve and I were pretty much the only guys wearing flats, and not spikes. Hmmmmm...
  • I was well above the average age of 13 for the entire field. These kids were young...or I was old. Whatever.
  • I'm not nervous at all. Weird.
 And bang the gun goes off and we're off! Let's see if I can remember much from the race, which consisted of a 2.5km loop we get to run on 3 times.

1st 2.5km Loop

Steve had informed us that the first two loops were to be a hard tempo effort, at about 85%, and our last lap should be a HARD effort during which we play the 'pick people off' game. That sounded like a good idea to me, but we all know how that changes as soon as you toe the line.

So I started the race off at a relaxed pace, not really jostling for position, unless you really wanted 4th last at the first 200m, of which I am your man! I didn't realize I was so far behind while I ran, but if you look at the picture to the left, you'll notice that there was nearly no one behind me coming off the line. Maybe I should have sprinted a tad more, I blame my lack of recent racing experience.

The start of the race, the first 150 metres or so, are slightly uphill and the course takes a sharp 90 degree right into a path that is much more narrow than the start. I felt like I was moving at a good pace, somewhere around 85% as Steve instructed. Based on my recent workouts and my 10km race 3 weeks ago, I felt that I could probably crank out 4:20 pace as an average, across the entire course. This was my pace at the 10km road race, and since then I've had a hard time really digging into my speed and since this was XC I also made the assumption that it would cause me to be slower than my road race pace.

The first km in the 2.5km loop is slightly downhill and it makes for a nice and relaxed, fast pace.  I have no idea what my km markers were, and since my watch had somehow reset to miles it was telling me my pace in minutes per mile.  I realized this during my warmup and had realized that I wanted to run sub 7min/mile, and settled on 6:30 per mile. What I didn't realize is that 6:30 per mile would equate to a 40:00 10km over XC, and I haven't run sub 40 since 2003. Heck, my current road pb is 43:27!

So expecting to be at about 4:30 per km I was absolutely startled when I came up the final hill of the loop, a gruesome 300m hill, to see the clock reading under 10:00 (about 9:55) as I ran past it. I ran my first 2.5km at under 4:00/km and I was feeling surprisingly good...

2nd 2.5km Loop

So I just finished a nice and relaxed 2.5km loop, but as soon as I saw my time, doubt started to settle in.  Did I go out too fast? Can I maintain? Will I have enough to pass people on the 3rd loop?

I quickly surveyed my physical and mental states and decided that I was feeling good enough to try and maintain this pace for my second lap and then let my guts run the last. So away I went on my second lap, passing people, tucking in behind people when we got in windy spots and trying to cruise down hills while attacking uphills without exerting too much energy. I felt pretty good on this loop and I found myself passing at least 3-4 people, and tried my hardest to maintain that 4:00/km pace I had set in the first 2.5km

I came up to that stupid 300m hill again and truly started to feel laboured. I didn't want to push too hard on the uphill as I wanted to carry my speed across the top of it and then back down for the slightly downhill km that followed.  I came through the second lap in 20:10 (10:15 for that lap) and at this point I started concentrating on my form and letting my mental toughness take the reins. And so began my last and final lap...

3rd 2.5km Loop

The final lap.  I knew I had 10 minutes left and I found it to be a perfect time to work with as I visualized this as the final 10 minute tempo for the day. Much like the last leg of a workout, I decided to leave it all on the course.

I turned the heat on considerably on the slightly downhill first km and worked my way up the pack some more. I would say I passed about 2-3 more on the first half of the last lap and I was feeling pretty good. The last km has two hills, one that is short and steep, followed by a nice downhill section which I capitalized on to drop a Humber College runner, and then a long steep 300m hill into the finish chute/sprint.

Coming up the last hill I had no idea how close the Humber College runner was.  400m back he was breathing down my neck after I passed him, and I did not want to look back so I just kept pushing the pace until I could no longer do so.

Sprinting for 100m after a 300m climb is no fun. 300m hill climbs on their own aren't any fun, let along tacking on a finishing kick after 7.4km of grueling XC racing. But I did. Somehow. I felt strong and smooth and Melanie validated my hunch. I was smooth and strong throughout the race.

I came across the finish line at about 29:55, which meant I ran a 9:45 last lap, a whopping 30 seconds faster than my second lap.  I had originally hoped to finish the race in the 32 minute range (4:20/km) and apparently I had severely under sold myself as I was able to run under 30 (3:59/km). I didn't place well, but good grief was it a competitive field. I finished 92nd out of 103 (though I don't show up on the official results) and I ran my heart out. The runner ahead of me was in 9th grade and I had to chuckle when we chatted and he asked what University I ran for...

My overall time bodes very well for my current performance based goals, I think I'm capable of obliterating them any time, but I need to keep that in check. I'm running to stay healthy and build a solid base.

A 5km cool down, a friendly farewell and we were off to downtown Guelph to find us a bistro to enjoy a lovely lunch. We ended up at Artisanale Cafe & Bistro and we had a delicious meal that included Kronenbourg beer on tap. Yum!

My next race is the Halloween Haunting 5km road race on October 31st. It should be a fun one, considering the whacky costumes it brings out.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Running Log: Week Sep 13 - Sep 19

I capped off this week with my first XC race in 7 years and I surpassed even my wildest dreams. I ran far faster than I thought I was capable (29:55 for a hilly 7.5km XC), but I still ended up 92nd out of 103 competitors. I'm on the road back though, but it looks like there's a big mountain to climb. Bring it on!

I met with my coach this week and we decided that this season would be a relaxed season during which I would concentrate on staying healthy and injury free while I slowly work my mileage up to 65km per week. Last week saw me clock just over 50km and I had planned to do the same this week. Well, that didn't turn out.  Let's review the week and see where I went wrong.

Monday: 2km warmup, 8km steady at 4:20, 2km cooldown (12km total)
Tuesday: 14.5km easy run along bike path
Wednesday: REST (knee was bothering me slightly after the 27km of road running prior)
Thursday: 10km easy run
Friday: REST
Saturday: 7.5km XC race, 8.5 warmup/cooldown
Sunday: 11km easy run

TOTAL KM: 63.4km

So that's my week and I was nowhere near my planned 50km week, and that's due largely to the easy run on tuesday which I don't normally log. Then come the weekend, I was unable to back out of the race, or the terry fox run. So I logged the miles, tried my best to stay smart and listening to my body and I think I succeeded. I will return to the 50-55km range this week and treat it as an easy week as last week saw me throw a few new things at my body running wise. 

Stay tuned for my play by play account of my XC race from Saturday. Till then!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tools of the Trade: Acuball Mini

As a runner, I often have pain in many areas, and most of those areas are sometimes hard to get at due to their small size or precise location. Yeah, that's right. I said that. Where is your mind wandering to?

This little blue ball (yet again, sigh) is a product of Canada (from what I can tell) and is actually recognized as a medical device in our great white country. It's apparently used by many professional athletes and as we were browsing the apparel at the Running Room last night, I discovered this little gem tucked away in the back area of the store.  I was immediately intrigued by it, considering my recent return to running and the mild foot pain I sometimes get in my left foot. So I purchased it and now I'm reaping the benefits.

I've only spent one night and a morning with this ball but already I am feeling immense benefits.  Here are some of my reactions after 3 sessions with this ball:
  • It works wonders on my feet for two reasons. Firstly, it promotes blood flow in the tissue in my feet (ie: plantar fascia) and increases my ability to heal.  Secondly, it massages the ball, arch and heel of my feet into a mushy heaven.
  • It's great at straightening out my back when I sit at my desk. I simply wedge it between my lower back and chair and voila!
  • It works wonders on a friend's shoulders and neck. And once again, it promotes healthy blood food and improves the body's healing abilities.
I haven't spent too much time with it but already I can sense a new level of healing, especially for my feet.  I batter these bad boys with my miles of running, it's about time I do something for them.

If you're looking to learn more on the Acuball and Acuball Mini, head over to Healthy Runner, where they have the best prices on Acuball products!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I ache

Not the typical type of ache that follows runners around. This time, though my knees are a little sore from yesterday's run in my Fastwitch4s, my ambitions ache.

I want to run fast.
I want to run on the track.
I want to PB.

So many wants to fulfill, the only question left to answer is how long it will all take.  I ran my fastest track/road/xc times nearly 10 years ago. I wonder if I will ever return to my old form. I certainly have many things against me (age, weight, health), but I also feel I am much wiser now and able to commit more fully to running and staying injury free. Plus, I've taken a long rest of 7 years, that must help with something. LOL.

I'm still as mentally tough as ever, maybe even more so now, and I am basing a lot of my drive and ambition on this fact alone.

I will run fast.
I will run on the track.
I will PB.

Its that simple. Step 1: Believe you can do it. Let's see where this takes me from here.

sidenote: summer is fading, this shot captures it. taken by me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Running Log: Week Sep 6 - Sep 12

Well, another week in the books and considering how rough the previous week was, this week was pure bliss.  I managed to crank out 51km this week, and I could have easily gone for another 10-15km today but decided to stick to my current goal of 180km per month (and at this pace, I'm looking to break 200km this month!)

So I had some great easy runs, found my speed again, did some hill work and loved the weather this week. If only the weather were always between 15 and 25 celsius. To dream...

Monday: Easy 11km
Tuesday: Easy 10km
Wednesday: 15.5 km total (hill workout + 2x8min tempo @ 4:10 pace)
Thursday: REST
Friday: 15km Bike ride
Saturday: 14.5 km total (12min tempo @ 4:10, 4x3min hard (1min rest))
Sunday: 23km Bike Ride

This week I get to iron out my goals for the next months and maybe race my first XC race in 7 years! There is a 7.5km XC race in Guelph and some of my teammates are going!

As an added bonus, here is my Google calendar screenshot of the current month. It includes my running, cross training, physio and other athletic stuff I've done.  Gotta keep it all balanced!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Life Ain't a Track Meet, It's a Marathon

Ice cube was never wiser. The past weeks of running and training have shown me that I had enough speed to push each workout, but I simply didn't have the endurance to keep it up. I was running a track meet, not a marathon.

I've increased my weeks' mileage quite substantially, especially when I think back to early July and my 20km weeks. The last 7 days saw me crank out 56km in total, something that is altogether new for me and though I am moving ahead with some caution, I don't think I'm truly prepared for it all.  I'm just still a little too gung-ho, especially at practices, so I've decided to take it down a notch and my return to the hill of hell tonight was a perfect example of just that.

Instead of demolishing my quads again I listened to my legs and I let them dictate my pace.  Once the hills were done I had a 2x8 minute tempo sessions to crank out and I managed to get the legs moving at 4:10 pace and it felt GOOD!  Since my 10km road race just over a week ago, the increase in mileage and that brutal hill workout; I have had a really hard time getting back to sub 4:20 pace (which was my race pace in the 10km). So tonight was good, except for a few things:

  • I need to start eating less food prior to running. hummus and bruschetta 60 minutes before the workout is just too close.
  • I need to stop rolling my fucking ankles. Seriously. Anyone have any great stability exercises they can recommend?
  • I need to sort out what is going on with my left leg. My stride is still a little off and recent changes have taken away the knee and heel pain I had, but now I'm left with some achilles soreness.
So now I'm taking 2 full days off of running, I just had my first 3 consecutive running day spurt, and my legs are telling me that is enough. That and the rolled ankle. So for now I will pamper my legs with stretching, relaxing, massaging, icing and some cycling. Till next time!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What do you take when you go running?

A new article on the Asics Blog discusses what you should bring on a run in terms of gear.  The article mentions you should bring a cell phone, band-aids, sunscreen, money, anti chafing products, anti-inflammatory drugs, and sometimes toilet paper.

Did I miss an intro to running class years ago because frankly, this list is absolutely ludicrous. Unless you are doing 50 mile ultra runs, most of these items are completely pointless.  I can see the merit in their use (say you get jumped on an early run as the blogger claims they did), but frankly, I'm not going to start carrying shit around with me simply because of the off chance I may need it.  And seriously, band-aids for a scraped knee? You are running, not painting your toe nails. If you fall and scrape yourself, keep running.

So what do I bring? Not much:
  • Shoes
  • Shorts
  • Socks
  • Watch
  • (in)Sanity
And that my friends is it.  There is nothing more liberating than leaving all your worldly possessions behind your front door as you step outside for a run.

If I'm doing a workout with the team, I will bring a water bottle I can use between workout segments, but that is the only time I use water. I'll go 15km and more without the need of water, I make sure I'm damn hydrated all day long, not just during my runs.

Frankly, running with anything more than my clothes and shoes defeats the purpose. Out there, its me and nature. And my clothes. And my shoes. And my watch. But nothing more.

Tools of the Trade: The Stick

I figured I should spend some time describing the tools I use to stay healthy, fit and fast....there are so many that I thought some of my readers (I do have some, right???) could benefit from their daily use.  Let's kick things off today with THE STICK.

That's The Stick. It's a tool used to massage muscles, to perform self myofascial release of the kind you normally get from deep tissue massage.  This tool has been around for years, it is by no means new and is a prized possession for any self loving runner.

You can use this tool on any muscle on your body, but I tend to focus on my tight calves (soleus and gastrocnemius) and my quads.  If I've got someone else in the room, I'll ask them to massacre my hams, but mostly, like 75% of the time, my calves get the royal treatment. It's even great for relaxation, especially if you've got a partner.  Hop on the couch and roll away as you both sit/lie/cuddle while watching tv.  The stick makes hard massages a breeze, especially for those with weak fingers.

I purchased mine, the full sized stick, at Runner's Choice (London) for $50 and I think the travel sized one, which I will be adding to my collection, runs for $30. A great stocking stuffer for that runner in your life!

Monday, September 6, 2010

My Legs. My poor, poor legs....

I wrote last week about the killer hill workout that demolished my quads and I am sad to report that today, 5 days later, I am still feeling the after effects of an ambitious week of exercise. I still can't get off the floor quickly as the instantaneous flexing of my quads causes immense pain and I find myself laying on the floor rather quickly. I can't do 100m striders to get a nice stride flowing, the speed simply kills my quads.

I can however, do a nice relaxed pace (somewhere between 4:30 and 5:00 per km) for as long as I want to. I just can't easily jump into anything fast for the moment, which is making me adjust my workout schedule. I could probably go day to day and try and eek out some sub par workouts, but in the grand scheme of things, that would be the wrong thing to do. I'll keep stretching, icing, massaging and listening to my legs.

They've already come a long way compared to how they felt last Wednesday night, it's just that I wish it would be a faster road to recovery. Just gotta keep listening to them and when they are ready, I'll be ready to punish them yet again.

In other leg-related news, I have noticed a sharp decline in heel discomfort, especially when I wake up. I was fearing the early onset of plantar fasciitis and since then have made the following changes:
  1. Changed my stride to be more of a flat foot/midfoot strike instead of lazily letting my leg fall as it pleased, normally on my heel.  I've been reading up and watching videos online, and it seems that this Ryan Hall video really nailed it home for me.
  2. I have been stretching my soleus and gastrocnemius muscles with my hands, drainage pipe and 'The Stick' (view image below).  I've also started massaging the platar fascia and my arch and though the rewards aren't as instantaneous as they are when I massage my muscles, I think this is another key reason why my heel has taken a 180 degree turn for the better
  3. Ice after runs. I spend 15-20 minutes icing my heels and knees now after runs. This helps reduce any swelling (swelling you may not see at all) and slow the formation of scar tissue, which will quickly become a pain in the ass heel.
 I will continue to listen to my legs before listening to my heart and over-zealous mind.  My legs are literally the most important part of the entire equation and to ignore them is just begging for trouble. Gotta love your legs and they'll love you back!
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