All aboard the Lent train
I’ve never done Lent before.
I identify with God in an open minded way, similar to what Run Stretch Go described in her piece from yesterday. Except I don’t come from a Catholic background. My parents are Catholic and Anglican but they never practised it.
The most religious I get is by identifying with this guy, who isn’t afraid of saying how we’ve messed up with religion, despite being a champion of Jesus. His podcasts are incredibly open minded, full of heart, and thought provoking. I only started opening myself up to Jesus and God in 2012.
I don’t have the answers.
Spirituality, religion, or whatever you want to call it, is a continual exploration for me. If I ever get to the stage where I’m all “this is right, this is wrong, and there is no in between”, then I need a strong intervention!
I never want to be in a mental place of intolerance and bigotry.
Then there’s the aspect of coming from a competitive running background. I’m familiar with the concept of sacrificing comfort to get a greater appreciation of the good things in life. This is where the world of running merges with Lent for me.
So when Fueling For Fitness suggested to me on Tuesday night that we give up chocolate until Easter, I hesitated for a minute then jumped on board. Then I ate half a 100g block of chocolate so I could feel sick, as a way to make the job easier (it was all part of the plan, I swear).
There are many harder things than Lent. For instance, swimming across this lake.
Part of what helped me make my decision was that I didn’t exactly know when Easter was this year, lol. Sometimes it’s even in March…I was hoping for that! But part of me didn’t want to know. Part of me wanted to make the decision to avoid chocolate before I could hesitate for a 2nd time. Hence the fast decision making.
The main reason for hesitation was that I don’t like to be extreme with my diets. I’m a firm believer of eating in moderation, focusing on portion sizes instead of removing certain foods completely from your diet. There’s no fad word for that, so it’s not a popular diet! But every health expert agrees it’s the one that makes the most sense to be healthy.
Usually I limit my chocolate intake to the weekends - that’s right, I rarely eat chocolate on weeknights. This is because it becomes an addiction if I have it everyday, and limiting it to the weekends was the best method in containing that, but at the same time still appreciating it.
That kind of serves as the theme of my life - everything in moderation. I drink beer most nights, but I rarely drink more than 1. I know how to stop. Same with coffee. I have more of a problem with not knowing how to stop binging on chocolate, than beer or coffee.
So chocolate it is! See you again soon old friend.
Race Recap: 5k #2
5k race number 2 in the bag for 2014! I’m going to give the titles of my race recaps numbers. Yes, I’m barcoding my races.
This is because I’m very much a context kind of person. I can’t interpret something, unless I see the grand context in how it applies to everything else. In the case of races, that’ll be the year. There’s also the context of blogging, which is global.
If I was to skim over my blog posts at some stage, I have enough trouble interpreting the context of my own blog posts, let alone if I was somebody else from another part of the world trying to make sense of how important race x was in the bubble of Ontario. Anyway, enough of this digression - on with some thoughts on the Frosty 5k race!
This was my first real road race for this year. Seeing as the other one I did in January was more of a snowshoe race… without the snowshoes.
As mentioned on Friday, I didn’t expect much from this. I was aiming for somewhere between the 20:30 to 21:30 range and I got a time in the middle of that, at 20:58 minutes.
Alison and I happy and warm before the race.
Strategically going into the race, I was planning on starting out at about a 4:10 to 4:15 pace then finishing at a 4:05 minute pace for the last 2 kilometres.
The 1st km went easy, so easy. Too easy. I felt like I was hardly moving my feet, yet I was running at around a 4 minute pace. I thought:
"If this feels ok now, I might as well back off by 10 seconds for the next k, then bring it back to this pace for the last 3".
2nd km I clocked it in just over 4:10. Then the 3rd just after the turn around I had already dropped to 4:16. This wasn’t a problem I thought, as I had kind of backed off the intensity for the km 3 and I wasn’t feeling tired.
"No problem, I’ll just turn up the intensity now".
The 4th km I wanted to get back to 4:05, I felt like I was going harder, yet my Pebble said I had stayed at around a 4:15!
"WTF? How do I come back from this?"
I still feel like I could’ve gone faster, so I managed to claw back to a 4:05 pace for the 5th km. But man, I have to work on my consistency! If I can stay uninjured I can drop to under 20 minutes again, I’m looking forward to doing that but I have to put the brakes on my ambition and do it sensibly…that’s the hard part!
I ended up coming 3rd in my age group, so I got a nice free dinner voucher and a medal out of that. Results are here.
The race is pretty well run, as they started the 5k in a different location to the 21k. It’s surprisingly better than some Toronto events have been organised.
I also got to meet some runners I’ve gotten to know from the blog/tweetosphere. Mandy and Michelle are both very sweet, approachable, and inspiring people. Props also go out to Mandy who gave me, Alison, and Kenny a ride to the event!
Mixing up my stride
This week I’m running consistently again after taking 2 weeks off with mild shin splints, and it’s pain free. Coming back to frequent runs pain free is not common for me (because my body has wanted to constantly default to age 80, ever since it was born).
As I build back up to my base mileage, I’m trying to break in 2 pairs of shoes at the same time (also not common for me, again because of the fragile body thing). One pair seems to inflame my shins, and the other pair seems to inflame my ITB. So I’m mixing up both pairs of shoes on alternating running days.
Every time I now say “mixing up”, I’m reminded about a time I visited Ottawa when I first came to Canada. I was having some beers with a fellow countryman at the hostel bar, and we encouraged the bartender to combine a stout with a lager in the same pint. We chanted “mix it up, mix it up” every time we ordered a new one.
We thought we were being revolutionary and invented a crazy new drink. We loved it! Once we sobered up we learnt that it was called Black & Tan… I’m not even going to try to link this back to running, this was just a pointless digression.
Please make it stop. Ottawa 2010.
In addition to mixing up my shoes, I’m also mixing up my stride. Heel strike, mid-foot strike, toe strike - all seem to evoke their evangelists! “You must heel strike to get under this time, etc, etc”. Yes, whatever. My first issue with following a rigid strike pattern is that it affects cadence, but let’s not open up that whole can of worms. I take a more open minded mindset with striking.
That being, that you should adopt a strike for whatever the conditions call for. Now that might come in the form of race format (whether road, short or long distance, etc), the gradient (steep hills, short hills, flat, etc), or terrain (tarmac, trail, mud, snow, etc). The conditions of the day, or even across a 100 metre stretch, might call for a different striking pattern.
Having said that though, I’m definitely guilty of having adopted too much of a mid-foot strike with road running. This is from my trail running and orienteering roots for sure, off road running is what got me into road running in the first place.
Usually I’m comfortable with mid-foot striking on the road. I toe strike while going uphill or running on the snow, but other than that toe striking on the road is overkill. So I thought mid-foot was the happy medium, especially seeing as I’ve been keeping my cadence high.
If my striking pattern isn’t the cause of my shin flare up, the next thing I’m going to blame is my out of control hair.
Now I’m experimenting with something different this week, I’m going back to heel striking (or is that something common? Mind blows up). We’ll see how this goes. Being an experiment I’m not of strong opinion either way. But I have a theory that it was more than my shoes that placed pressure on my calves (causing shin splints). It could’ve also been my mid-foot strike too.
If this doesn’t work I’ll blog it. If it works I’ll blog it. So I’ll keep you updated :)
This weekend I’m running a 5k race. It’s part of the Chilly half marathon festival which attracts a few thousand people. So it’s kind of overshadowed by the more popular 21k, but I don’t really care - I need to race 5k’s at this point! It’s a little larger than the typical grassroots 5k I’d like to test my fitness with, but it’ll also be good to be part of a bigger race atmosphere again.
The main aim is to run in around 20:30 - 21:30 minutes and see how much work I have to do to run under 20 minutes. I’m ok with that because I have a 5k almost every weekend in March, so there’s plenty of opportunities to make real progress. Should be a fun prelude to Spring racing!
Finding a better way: Resuming your workouts
Let me break away from my daily running life to talk tech for a while. Hold that thought… actually I’m still going to be talking about running too!
Something I noticed when tracking my workouts was that I’d finish a run, only for someone else to suggest running another few miles.
Or I’d do a warm up to a track or a hill session, but I’d want to start a different training log when I got there. Then restart the original warm up for my cool down.
Whether it was my watch or on another app, the dilemma was the same.
Once I finished my workout, pressing the complete button or whatever button it may be, there was no way to resume it. I had to manually alter the GPS in the RunKeeper web app after training, and mathematically figure out combined workout times. I did that because I’m a nerd, and I had an obsessive compulsion for my training logs to be accurate!
Oops, I want to run more. How do I resume from here?
So when creating FitFriend, this power to resume a workout was something minor that I wanted to include. Something minor, but would make a big subtle difference.
There is always somewhere between 20 and 20 million “minor” features that you really, really, want to add into the app. If you get into the trap of thinking that every one of these is critical then you’ll never release anything, or at at least what you release will be so broken it will be unusable and ignored. Trying to fit everything into the early releases of an app is a death trap to avoid! Are there any death traps that you shouldn’t avoid? Perhaps just the campy classic James Bond death traps that never seem to work, they seem kind of fun even. But apart from that, avoid all death traps.
Resuming workouts made the cut though. That is something I wanted to have in there from the beginning.
How it works
Simple is a word that gets thrown around a lot now, since Steve Jobs turned the rules upside down a little bit. But not that many people mean it when they say simple.
To resume a workout, I really wanted to make it the king & queen of simple! I wanted it to earn a knighthood in simplicity. I want you to type in simple.com and be redirected to an image of this resume feature… you get the point.
Once you complete a workout (run or a ride) in FitFriend, a view displays all of your completed training logs. If you had GPS on your workout, your workout will have a snapshot of the area you went running in. I created this for an easy reference on the eye, for when you’re scrolling through multiple workouts:
I always wanted to find my workouts easily, so I created map snapshots in FitFriend to highlight where you’ve worked out at.
Say you’ve finished this run and you’ve had coffee with friends. Now you want to run 2 miles home. You can select your most recent run, and that’ll take you to the completed workout view that displays your time.
One of the buttons here is “Resume”. Yes, that’ll do exactly what I’m taking too long to try and say here - it’ll resume that workout right where you left off from!
So say that you completed your workout at 41:45 minutes, after pressing resume it’ll change to 41:46 and continue from there. Make a mistake and don’t really want to resume? Just press stop again.
It’s that simple, no ridiculous amount of confirmation screens or getting lost in settings!
Not only that, but the GPS also picks up on where you left off on too. As you’d expect, yes. But you’d be surprised at how many people get the small things wrong.
Just click resume in any completed workout, as long as it’s within 24 hours.
Notice that the screenshot above there’s an error message in the right screen? That’s what happens when it’s later than 24 hours since you’ve completed your log. I added that in there as a safeguard, in case you accidentally click Resume for an old workout.
If you have any questions, or suggestions, hit me up on Twitter or reblog this post with a comment. Or message me if you’d like.
I’m not crushing my runs, but I am running again
I just crushed a run on the track, somebody call the fire brigade because my shoes are on fire… No, no I didn’t. I’m not crushing anything right now, but I’m happy with my training.
Almost 2 weeks of consistent bike work has now gone by. When I got a shin flare up I originally estimated I’d need to take anywhere between 1-2 weeks off from running. I’m happy to say that that’s been pretty accurate.
I went for my 3rd pain free run today in 4 days. This sets the precedent for what I’ll be doing in the next 1-2 weeks: building up consistency of running while maintain low milage.
Not a fast pace, but the feeling of being outside again was amazing.
Strength training is overwhelming
I get so overwhelmed with what kind of strength training I should do. Then when I finally think I’ve found the right one, I get overwhelmed with how to measure its effectiveness.
All through my 20’s I didn’t see a critical need to add strength training to my routine. I got injured a lot, and eventually I got so defeated that I convinced myself that my body wasn’t made for running. I would always try to run again, because I couldn’t deny my love for it. Every 1 or 2 years I’d go through spurts of training (I got my 5k PB in one of these “spurts” when I was 24).
Over the past 4 years though I’ve been more consistent with my training, and this is partly because I’m now accepting that strength training IS part of run training! Not a supplement to it.
I don’t have a photo of me actually strength training, so here’s a photo of snow ploughs to symbolize it.
So now I know I should do more strength training.
Or should I do more?
You see, that’s the problem. Am I doing enough? Am I doing the right exercises for my body? I have no idea how to measure this. It seems that you just have to try one routine of exercises, wait it out for 6 or more months to see if you get injured, and if you do then try another one.
A workout routine that has really been working for my body recently has been Tina Muir’s set of strength training:
- There are 9 exercises here and I’ve been choosing about 4 or 5 to do per session. That usually takes me about 45 minutes to do, which I feel is enough.
- For the past few weeks I’ve been doing this once per week, as it’s been pretty hard on my body. I may boost it up to 2 times per week once my body gets less sore with these.
- Another 2 days a week I do 3 or 4 core/ab centric exercises.
- So overall, 2 core/ab days per week + 1 of Tina’s core/legs day per week.
Another routine I’ve recently come across is this standard core routine by Jason Fitzgerald, which has a lot of the stuff I cover on my 2 core/ab centric days anyway:
- There are 6 exercises here, I would do 3-4 in a session.
- Planks and side planks give me severe carpet burn and/or sore legs though. Isn’t it more efficient to workout the core more and save tired running legs?
- I prefer to do planks on a swiss ball for the reason that it is more efficient.
- I also think that leg raises are one of the best ones to do, but it’s not listed here. I usually try to slot that in.
Another good core strength workout I’ve found recently is from Kristen Curran’s awesome new blog.
Running, and measuring your run fitness, is actually so much simpler than strength training - basically run from A to B, build up your pace, and test your fitness in a 5k race or a tempo run. Boom! Simple. Sure you can get more in depth and look at VO2 max etc, but ultimately raw results speak for themselves.
But for strength training on the other hand, how do I gauge what works for me and what doesn’t? Well, just many years of experimentation I feel.
The data/technologist side of me has trouble in accepting this. But maybe because everyone’s body is as unique as a set of finger prints, it’s impossible to know what to do based on formulas or science.
Is trial and error the best way how to find out what works here? Or is strength training really just a one size fits all solution, and it’s not worth over thinking the different routines available? Hit me up on Twitter or reblog this post if you have any answers here…
Running used to be my thing, now it’s our thing
About a month ago my wife blogged a post on running with your partner:
I have anxiety when it comes to running with people who are faster than me.
When Mike and I started dating, I casually brushed off his invites to go running with him. It was exhausting coming up with different excuses each time, but I would rotate between a few (you know, to mix things up) to fend him off. I saw no reason for us to ever run together. We had enough fun spending time together in non-running scenarios!
But, the man persisted.
It opened my eyes up to see more from her perspective…I never thought of myself as being intimidating to run with :)
The way I see it is that running together doesn’t have to be a training session all the time. It can be an adventure. The element of discovery - and isn’t that what’s so thrilling about being in a relationship? Seeking out adventures together?
We’re both very comfortable with running together now, and sometimes I do push it into a training session ;) But instead of it being a dreaded experience, running is now something we both look forward to.
I still like my alone time for running sometimes, as does Alison. The diversity of running should be celebrated, and it doesn’t matter if you’re single or in a relationship - running is as adventurous as your attitude makes it.
Idea: How to avoid getting lost on a group run
Toronto is a city that actually made me enjoy running with other people. Before that, running was mainly my own thing. Occasionally it was done with some family members or friends, but not regularly.
That changed when I moved here. There are a lot of organised running group sessions in Toronto, and I started to enjoy running with other people again!
I don’t know if running groups exist to a large extent in the US or elsewhere, but in Toronto you can find one in every neighbourhood - it’s easy to run with others here.
On the weekend my wife came across a situation we’ve all been in before. On her long run the pace of the main group was faster than she was planning to run. She couldn’t match the pace, so she backed off, but then she became unsure of the route.
To save her fingers or her phone getting frozen in -10C, I could help her out here. I was on the indoor trainer at the time, already armed with my iPhone and iPad, I was able to go into CTU recon mode and give her a series of directions based on the route. But I wasn’t able to tell her where the leading pace group was, or where the pace group behind her was.
She eventually matched up with the group, and a few people pulled back to help her pace.
What if there was a way to help her without either of us having to do this work manually? Or without her having to guess where others in the group were?
You’re about to start a run at your run club (for me that’s Black Toe Running). The group is split into various paces. Let’s say for the sake of an example, the number of paces are 3 - a 7 min/mile group, an 8 min/mile group, and a 9 min/mile group.
This is pretty standard practise so far, it’s common for a lot of groups and it works. Only now before you head out, the whole group logs into the same running app…let’s call that app GroupRun (I’m terrible at names).
GroupRun will keep track of everyone in the group by displaying them on a map, and will also display a route of the planned run.
You all start your run, and start logging it on whatever device you use - your watch, GroupRun, or some other app that you use.
You’re sitting with the 8 min/mile group and you want to maintain that pace. But 3 miles in, the 8 min/mile group are matching it with the 7 min/mile group. Then you realise that nobody really wants to run at an 8 min/mile but you, so you do the reasonable thing and back off. All of a sudden you’ve lost site of the 7 min/mile group, and you’re not even sure if you’re following the right route anymore.
These pace groups fluctuate all the time, that’s fine, that’s just the nature of it. Pace groups, like everything humans do, aren’t rigid. We just have learn how to be flexible, how to roll with a changing situation. So what can help a situation like this?
Well you pull out your phone and open this GroupRun app that you all logged into before you started. That’ll display a map of the location of whoever’s running. Imagine little bubble heads of people you run with, and you can’t see them on the road, but on the map you can see that they’re just around the corner.
You can then decide whether you want to slow down for the 9 min/mile group, because you might see that they’re right behind you and running at 8 min/miles anyway.
Or at the least it’ll assist you in not being lost. By seeing a group of bubble heads in front of you, and a group of bubble heads behind you, you know that you’re on the right track.
The only people you see are the people who logged in from the same training group you run with. So in the case of the Black Toe Running group, only people who run with Black Toe can see each other.
When you finish your run you stop the GroupRun app, and it ceases to track your location. You can go about your day without people knowing that spending your post-run time at a chocolate factory.
Does This Exist?
I’m not sure if something like this GroupRun app already exists in a running app. But for anyone familiar with Apple’s Find My Friends app, it’s similar to that. Except that doesn’t allow you to do groups. Plus if this is a running specific app it would also log your time, distance, etc.
The app that I described is not FitFriend. FitFriend does not currently do this, but the app in this example could be a future version of FitFriend. Not that I’m going to create a feature like this anytime soon - right now I have 2 other major features that are a higher priority (Pebble integration and mapping tech).
I wouldn’t care if somebody else worked on this, some other app that could sync to FitFriend, or vice versa. That’s also why I don’t care about making this public. I’ve explained in my personal blog before that ideas are worthless and it’s the execution that matters.
So what do you think? Would training groups benefit by using this kind of thing? Have you ever been in this situation where you’ve lost others in your run group?