Off Season – First Steps….

With the “off season” here (so to speak) there are a few things I need to do to ensure that things don’t go off the rails. First and foremost, I want to re-commit to writing on a more frequent basis – both to share my experiences with running but to also keep myself more accountable.

It’s not that I think I have so much expertise to share or that I have thoughts that are so profound that I make the world a better place with my wisdom (or rants). I just find that when I let others in on how my training is going and how I am functioning on a regular basis, I am more likely to make better choices and stay focused on those longer term goals. I don’t expect perfection from myself but I do expect dedication and effort in accomplishing those things that are important to me.

The next thing I need to do is to look back at my 2015 running season and really evaluate how things went overall. It’s easy for me to say that the season was a success (it was), but I need to really look at what made it a success, what are the habits I want to continue and what are the things that I need to improve. I know that any season has highs and lows but hopefully I tracked enough details about training and other aspects of my life to really get some ideas on how to continue to improve.

Finally, I need to take the information and what I’ve learned from this year and apply it to 2016. I know that I need specific races and specific goals planned in order to stay motivated and focused. Right now I have no races in 2016 that I am actually registered for and it is definitely making a difference to my motivation and mental health in general. After focusing so long on a specific goal, I am definitely struggling without any particular event on my mind.

How about you? Have you started looking ahead to next year already? How do you plan on staying in shape over the winter? Do you stay focused on running or switch gears and focus on something else? I’d love to hear! Comment below – I love getting comments and questions!

A Motorists Guide to Running – Part One

An issue I deal with way more often than I really should have to is angry drivers. The number of times I have been yelled at, sworn at and received rude gestures is probably in the hundreds by now. Usually, it doesn’t bother me too much but there are times it really gets under my skin. Rather than just sit and stew or register my complaints in 140 characters or less, I’ve decided to create this handy dandy guide. Please feel free to share it with your running and driving friends alike!!

Tip # 1 – Even if you’re in a car, you actually DON’T own the road.

I know, I know you pay taxes and you (presumably) have a licence to drive, etc. But guess what? I pay taxes too but I don’t own the road either. There’s actually plenty of space for all of us and I have just as much right to using them as the next person, whether I’m a driver or pedestrian. Honking or yelling at me is a territorial action, much like a dog peeing on a tree. It’s stupid, kind of gross and I’m just going to ignore it.

“But you’re supposed to be on the sidewalk!!” Right? Well, in a word, no. Which takes me to my next point.

Tip #2 – It’s called a side”walk”, not a siderun.  

There are SO many reasons why I don’t run on the sidewalk. It is uneven. It dips for driveways (where, as an aside, many people back out of way too fast without looking) and is often cracked. It is MUCH harder on my legs then asphalt, etc., etc. But here is the main thing – I’m actually NOT BREAKING ANY LAW by running on the road – even if it’s running towards traffic. You, however, are not allowed to veer towards me – even as a joke. It isn’t funny, and it breaking several laws.

I actually run about a foot away from the curb (when there is a curb). If you are threatened by this, you are actually a) a terrible driver b) too close to the sidewalk anyway or c) both.

I’m actually safer running towards traffic on the road than I am on the sidewalk and definitely safer than when I run with traffic. I have hearing loss, so I need to see the cars. Also, if you’re going to run me over, I want you to see my face before it

To recap, let me show you this simple visual;

PERFECTLY LEGAL

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NOT LEGAL AT ALL

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Tip #3 – Encouragement is appreciated!!!

Who doesn’t like to be cheered on? Whether we runners are out for a quick little trot or in the middle of a super long run, it’s always nice when strangers go out of their way to pat us on the back. The most common ways are a hand gesture or use of the car horn. To correctly use the horn, a small tap or two is all that’s required. “Beep, beep”. I know some drivers are SO enthusiastic that they feel a long “BEEEEEEEEEEEP!!” followed by various curse words will help motivate the runner they are supporting, but believe it or not, some runners may be confused or even offended by such actions.

And all runners love to be told “You’re number one” – but make sure you use the proper finger – it’s not the middle finger, it’s the pointer.

INCORRECT

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CORRECT

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To Be Continued…

 

 

Cor

Champion CSX Compression Socks Review

It’s been a while since I’ve done a product or book review, so I have a lot of things to share and catch up on – I guess it’s just a matter of finding the time to do it all! Rather than bore you with a long and boring preamble, I will get right to the review – Champion CSX compression socks.

Champion CSX compression was kind enough to sponsor a @RunAtCan Twitter chat a few weeks back and donated a couple of pairs of their socks for a couple of random chatters. I was also lucky enough to be given a pair to try out and review to share my honest opinion on and post on my blog. So here we are!

In recent months, I’ve slowly been building a small supply of compression gear and I’m also getting pretty particular over what works for me and how I use it as part of my overall training regimen. I have some shorts, a pair of calf sleeves, a shirt and a couple of different types of socks in my collection. I am also considering investing in some arm sleeves down the road, but I’m undecided.

For me personally, I’ve tried running in compression socks (even doing a full marathon in a pair) and I haven’t noticed a big difference or improvement in performance or recovery time from wearing the compression socks for a workout or race. I’ve actually found the feel of the sock is almost a distraction, particularly in warmer temps (warmer being a relative term in Atlantic Canada, of course).

My personal preference and where I have actually noticed where compression has helped me is with recovery. I have found that if I wear compression socks after a race or hard workout that it really seems to make a difference. I seem to be less sore the next day and I have not had any noticeable issues with calf cramping or shin splints. Some of this is likely due to me consistently rolling, stretching and generally listening to my body, but I also feel strongly that compression has helped.

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Champion CSX is a Canadian (yay!!) company and I have really been impressed with these socks. There are a couple of things in particular that I really like;

1) Comfort – Out of all of the compression socks I have tried, the Champion CSX socks are the ones that seem to fit my feet best and feel the most comfortable. I really like the softer toe box and heel – to me it almost feels as comfortable as a really nice pair of dress socks.

2) Compression – As far as compression socks go, this brand has been the best for overall fit. The compression is noticeable from the get go and they have a really need band that wraps around part of the calf and I have found it has made a difference in reducing soreness and improving recovery.

In terms of things I wasn’t as big a fan of or that I feel need improvement, there are only a couple of picky things;

1) Runnability – I don’t think this is brand specific, but the more I have tinkered with compression (socks in particular) the more I have come to discover that I simply cannot run/race in them. Particularly on longer runs, I actually find longer socks almost….distracting? I can’t come up with a better way of describing it other than to say I really don’t like thinking about my calves and how warm/compressed/etc they are while running. So, I am going to stick with compression for post workout and for travel.

2) Options – I have long accepted that I am a bit of a diva and like having a variety of colours, etc for all parts of my wardrobe. This doesn’t mean that I’m a trendsetter (in fact, partial colour blindness often makes my choices questionable at best) but it means I like having more choice. I’m sure there will be more colours and styles down the road, but for now it’s a little limited.

Overall, I really, really liked these socks and they are my “go to” recovery sock for sure. They feel comfortable, go on and off with relative ease and seem to have really made a difference to me in being able to recover more quickly from longer or harder runs. Their online availability and customer service are both very good and they are becoming more available in various locations as well – you can always contact them directly to find out the nearest store carrying these socks. Big thumbs up for sure!

Happy running!!

Week in Training – March 23rd – March 29th

Three days of running last week. Four runs altogether. Over 50 km total. Best of all, my legs feel great and this upcoming week is when the Learn to Run sessions start. It almost feels like spring!!

Monday, March 23

Nothing at all.

Tuesday, March 24

Another big fat zero. I did get a lot of housework done. That has to count for something, right?

Wednesday, March 25

Continuing the trend this week, no running or cross training at all. On the bright side, I did get my new computer. Maybe that will motivate me to get off my keister?

Thursday, March 26

14km run. 1 hour of yoga.

I guess getting my laptop did the trick? Let’s go with that….humour me, ok?

Friday, March 27

12 km run with a nice tempo 10km done in just over 52 minutes. The speed isn’t all the way back to where I want it, but it’s getting there. I hope.

Saturday, March 28

No running again, although this time was planned and not a result of being a lazyass.

Sunday, March 29

Two runs – one of 21km, one of 6 km for a total of 27 km for the day. Nice and easy and really felt like I could have run much longer. That being said, I really don’t want to overdo it and have a setback. That would suck.

I’m finally over 500km for the year and will be close to (but still not over) 200 km for the month. Feeling good and enjoying the thought of warmer days and less snow! How is your training going? I’d love to know!

Happy running!!!

Up Yours, Winter!!

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We have finally passed the first full day of spring, but it seems as though rather than going out quietly, winter would rather thrash around and pummel us a little further with its final death throes. No matter, I feel confident that we can all soon exhale and dust off our t-shirts and shorts for regular exposure to sunlight.
While I don’t feel as though I have been overly successful in organizing a regular run for the local group I started quite a while back, Saturday we had our second consecutive solstice/equinox run where we said goodbye to winter with a short and relaxed group run. The last semi-official Bogtrotters group run was on December 21st, the shortest day of the year, so this seemed like a good time to do another and maybe make a tradition of welcoming/saying goodbye to each season. We had a small but mighty turnout but it was still a lot of fun!

spring

With spring here, racing season is just around the corner and if you look at any of the race listing sites (Race Event Guide is pretty darn good for all of Atlantic Canada) you can see that the calendar is really starting to pick up. While I am doing a greatly reduced racing schedule this year, I am really looking forward to having regular “mini-goals” to keep me focused.
I try not to be overly philosophical with my running and just try to enjoy it, but I do think that keeping my attention from drifting too far into the future and staying in the present with my running and life in general is going to be key to how things go over the next while. I will push myself when I feel strong, pull back or rest when my body tells me to do that and also remember that running is only as enjoyable as I find it on any given day. It’s ok to have other priorities, commitments and interests (although none come immediately to mind – haha).
So, here’s to spring, summer and warmer days ahead. Raise your toques and give yourself a salute for getting through another winter. Better days are ahead – and only memories and lessons learned lay behind.
Happy running!

Training Log March 9 – 15

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Well, winter continues to beat me down mentally and hamper some of my training plans, but I shall persist!! Even with another couple of snow days swooping in on us, I feel as though I can see a light at the end of the tunnel! Here is how last week looked for me training wise. One run skipped voluntarily, as I’m still focusing on cautiously building up mileage and the added stress of more speed work

Monday, March 9th

1 hour yoga

5 km running

Tuesday, March 10th

10 km running

Wednesday, March 11th

10 km – (2 X 3km at  4:50 – 4:59/km pace)

Thursday, March 12th

1 hour yoga

Friday, March 13th

5 km running

Saturday, March 14th

16 km @ 5:40/km pace

Sunday, March 15th

Yet another stupid G.D. blizzard. Several hours cursing the weather gods.

46 km total and two hours of yoga. Not too shabby – definitely want to get regularly past that 50km/ week total and keep building from there. The speedwork has been enjoyable so far, but I’m still feeling a little paranoid about hurting myself. Frustrating to always have that concern in the back of my mind, something to work on mentally I guess!

Hope you’re all doing fantastic as well. Keep getting out there and giving winter the one finger salute – we’re almost there!!

Happy running!

Learn to (Love the) Run

I want to make it clear to everyone who reads this – I don’t think of myself as a running coach. Sure, I’ve actually coached at the high school and middle school level and I have read a LOT about the sport. I’ve even considered at some point down the road that I may get some formalized training because I do find it interesting.

The one thing that I think I do bring to other runners, especially beginning runners is a love and a passion for running. Countless runners I’ve spoken to over the years have said to me that they used to hate running or were very resistant to the sport. Through sheer will and determination they kept at it and at some point, something in their brain clicked and they fell in love with the run.

In this aspect, I consider myself very lucky as I have always LOVED running. Sometimes I forget this and need to be reminded of it (usually by my adorable and amazing wife, Stacey) but I know it to be true. No other activity brings me joy and peace of mind as consistently as a long run. I have always thought that the sounds of nature, of my feet striking the ground and even the sounds of my breathing – rhythmic and deep on my long, slow runs – all have a restorative quality to them.

Recently, the opportunity to create and lead (NOT coach) a Learn to Run program here in Sackville came up for me and I decided it was something really worth trying. I love running so much for all of the positive effects it has on my life. The only thing I enjoy more than the personal benefits is when I meet someone who is new to the sport and is starting to catch the “fever” because I know what an amazing journey lies ahead.

Historically, whenever I have had the chance to introduce people to this amazing, healthy and truly enjoyable obsession of mine (ours!), I have jumped on it. This has always been in the form of talking to one or two people at a time (I DO like to talk…), by meeting people via Twitter or by talking to new people at events in the past. The idea of working with a group of 20 new to running people and showing them what I love about running is exciting but also a little daunting.

At the very least, I hope I help the people in the Learn to Run group to have a positive and encouraging experience. I’m looking forward to the challenge and excited to share my enthusiasm about running. If I can help some of all of these people write their own narrative about how they fell in love with the sport or even be a small part of that story, then the whole experience will be more than worthwhile!

Are you a lifelong lover of running? Did you have to “learn to love” it? Leave a comment and share a glimpse of YOUR story – I’ve love to hear it!

Happy running!

The Road to STWM

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This is a big week for me as I officially kick off my training for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as outlined by my awesome coach, Chuck Dixon. This is going to require a fairly radical shift in my training approach, but not the actual mileage per week as I will be running much more frequently but at much shorter distances.

I ran 5km on Monday morning which is not a distance I run in training all that often, so the pacing and feel of it was almost unfamiliar to me. With most of my runs being 15km or longer for the past few months, I often don’t feel warmed up or into a rhythm until I have 7 or 8 kilometres under my belt. I will also be running 6 days a week most weeks now, after running only 3 or 4 times per week since December.

There are several lessons that my recent training has taught me. Some of them are obvious – maybe all of them are – but I still think they are worth sharing.

1) Even with specific race goals, the majority of your running should be FUN. Yes there are going to be tough workouts. Yes, there are going to be days that the motivation is low and it’s hard to get your gear on and get out the door. But if you’re regularly finishing your workouts and not feeling better or at least glad that you did it, then you need to evaluate what is going on. Unless you are an elite runner who is actually running for a living, then you need to keep perspective. If running feels like a job, then something needs to change.

2) Unless you want to have bigger problems and have them sooner rather than later, you should always listen to your body. Missing a workout is ok. Shortening a run is ok. Stubbornly ignoring pain is not ok. Being a total slave to your training schedule is not ok. The fitness lost for most of us by adjusting these workouts is not only negligible, but the benefits we gain from extra rest can actually outweigh any loss.

3) Having variety in your training routine is important as there are physical and mental benefits from cross training. The best example for me is how much I have gained (or kept from losing) this winter while using my mag trainer. Stationary biking has saved a lot of pounding on my legs, improved my cadence when I get out for my runs and been a nice change of pace. I think if I was doing nothing other than biking, it would quickly lose its charm, but having a solid option for alternate days or in case of really terrible weather has been a revelation.

Those are the main things that I feel that have really been driven home by my last stretch of running. I have started the year with decent mileage, a positive attitude and what I hope is a solid plan taking me through my third full marathon in October. As I mentioned, these haven’t been necessarily new lessons, but ones I am trying to make part of my everyday practice.

Do you have any lessons that you had to learn multiple times before you actually stuck with them? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below and share your own experiences.

Happy running!

February Musings

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February was a roller coaster of a month for me. Not a dramatically terrifying one, by any stretch – closer to one of the kiddy coasters, but full of ups and downs, as well as a few sharp and sudden twists. Definitely enough to keep me on my toes – I think you get the point…

As often has happened to me in the past couple of years, anything that affects my running frequency also affects how much I write on my blog. I started the year with a very strong running month and was regularly posting. As February progressed, the running and writing were more sporadic, but rather than allow myself to spiral, I decided to focus first on getting my running back on track and to reboot my writing efforts once March began. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate!

So, here we are on the first Monday of March and I’m all hyped up to get things back on track, especially here on the blog. One of main objectives is to do my weekly training week in review, and I did that kinda, sorta in February but not really.

There was a lot of yoga, there was a fair amount of cycling and even with the sketchy weather I was able to log 132 kilometres of running throughout the month including the first race of 2015. I was hoping for a little more mileage, but overall I’m pleased to be getting out fairly consistently and getting some really good workouts in both on and off the road. I also volunteered for the Valentine’s Day run in Amherst, something I am aiming to do more of this year as well.

I am working on getting my mileage up over 200 km in March, but it will all depend on taking care of myself and not getting injured. Listening to my body has been super important and I feel as though I am managing to keep better perspective on missing a workout or even skipping one if something doesn’t seem quite right.

There are some product reviews and a couple of book reviews coming up over the next few weeks, as well as some other running related things that have been bouncing around in my brain. I’ve also signed on to team #werun2gether as part of the Earthathon Relay – a virtual race around the earth. It’s a bit of fun, helps motivate me a little more and has helped me meet even more great runners via Twitter.  As spring seems just around the corner (honest!) I feel rejuvenated and am SUPER pumped for the rest of 2015!

 

Happy running!

Volunteering

Running relies heavily on volunteers.

I know this isn’t a ground breaking statement to any of you out there who have been involved in the organization of a race or volunteered your own time on race day. I am a big believer in helping out other runners and the running community in general and I’ve made it one of goals this year to volunteer at more races.

With the convenience of a super awesome and active running group in Amherst (yay, Striders!), my first opportunity to volunteer was at the Amherst Valentine’s Day run on Saturday (Feb. 14th…duh). Running in freezing conditions at last week’s Hypo Half was a challenge – made tolerable and even pleasant by the many volunteers standing out in the cold to cheer us on and provide water, etc. While a warmer day would have been nice, the conditions were almost identical, with the wind chill making it feel almost -30 degrees Celsius. Brrrrr!!!

With over 250 people in total running 3, 5, 10 or 21.1 km (including SO many who showed up to register on race day – even in the crazy cold temps!!), the turnout was amazing. I will admit to having a bias for one runner in particular though, as my adorable and amazing wife Stacey was doing the 5 km. There were also PILES of other volunteers, including large groups of high school students from Amherst, other Striders who weren’t racing that day and many other locals.

Start of the 3. 5 and 10k races.

Start of the 3. 5 and 10k races.

In retrospect, wearing an old pair of running shoes with a hole in the toe box and not nearly enough layers wasn’t the best idea, as I was stationed with a group of people for direction and traffic control purposes at one of the more well-travelled places on the route. Standing fairly still for hours in these temps is quite a bit more uncomfortable than running in these same conditions. It’s funny how I put so much thought into dressing appropriately for my training, but in this case it was all “Meh, I’ll just wing it.” Consider it a lesson learned.

Frozen dude with sunglasses on top of his head? Me.

Frozen dude with sunglasses on top of his head? Me.

Other than seeing my wife (and giving her encouragement, hugs and kisses – hey, it WAS Valentine’s Day) – my favourite part of volunteering was definitely high-fiving the smallest runners and seeing how excited they were to get that enthusiasm and recognition. Holding out your hand and having a kid sprint towards you with a big grin is a pretty cool feeling. It was amazing to see so MANY small kids running – it would have been impressive in the middle of summer, but on such a cold day it was downright inspirational!

proud hubby and adorable wife

proud hubby and adorable wife

With a reduced racing schedule this year, I really want to volunteer as much as possible to continue giving back to the running community, to cheer on the runners and still be as involved as possible with different events. For everything the Striders have done for me and do for running overall around here, it’s the least I can do.

When is the last time you volunteered at a race? Are there any races near you that could use extra help? I’d love to hear about your plans or experiences with regards to volunteering at races. Leave a comment below.

Happy running!