Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Training recap: week 30, 2014

I love running high mileage weeks without the goal of running a marathon. I love confusing people when they ask “why?” lol.

While the 40-50 mile weeks I’ve been averaging from June onwards aren’t crazy high, they’re creeping up towards marathon training kind of mileage. 

I still maintain that I have no interest in running a marathon though. At least not until next year. But I’ve never had the desire to run one, so who knows?

Anyway, last week I stripped it right back. On Tuesday I woke up with a sore throat and a cough. But I took a day off work so it wouldn’t drag out this time. I already felt better Wednesday, but light symptoms have hung around. 

Because of this my coach and I made the choice to take 5 straight days off - the reality is that I should’ve done this the week after the North Face event. I did this 2 weeks after, so no big deal.

Ended up with only 21.2 miles (34.1 km) this week, all on Saturday & Sunday.

Training

Monday:

REST

Tuesday:

REST

Wednesday:

REST

Thursday:

REST

Friday:

REST

Saturday:

Trail - 5.1 miles (8.1 km).

Sunday:

Long run - 16.2 miles (26 km).

Dropped back from 19 mils last week. Slightly slower pace was necessary too.

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Saturday trail fun.

Onwards

Today I have that sore feeling back in my legs - but it’s a fresh sore, as opposed to a dead & heavy sore. This is the right kind of sore to have! :)

This is the first time I’ve taken an unexpected week off without having an injury, in at least a year. I feel like that’s some sort of positive to take away from this. 

chose to take a week off, rather than forced. I’ve dreamt of being in this position for a long time! :)

Friday, July 25, 2014 Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Our brain vs our ego

We are so bad at letting our ego have a louder voice than our brain.

Yesterday I was forced to slow down after I woke up with symptoms of a cold. I slowed right down, took the day off work and rested, and am over the bulk of it already today.

It’s kind of laughable because just on Monday I was talking about the recent fluctuations in my mileage, and how I wanted to bring the consistency back.

So my ego’s saying:

Screw slowing down! You put it out there in public that you’re not going to run up & down anymore. In public! It needs to start this week. NO COMPROMISE!

It really is the anti-blerch

The ego is only interested in short term gains. It has no vision. It’s taken me many years to learn how to tune it out. I choose the vision, I choose the longterm gain.

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Treat that ego of yours to a nice hot cup of this.

Getting sick for the 2nd time in 3 weeks may be a sign that I’m over training. But it doesn’t feel like I’m over training…maybe that’s a strong sign that I am actually over training. Denial.

Since when has somebody ever admitted a problem when they’re in the middle of it?

So yesterday I asked myself this - am I over resting?

The answer for me was a definite NO!

Changing the question back to are you over training? The answer was maybe, at best. I can’t bring myself to say yes. That’s my ego talking. It restricts me from slowing down so I can get stronger. It restricts me from admitting defeat so I can learn. 

Over training is not necessarily doing too much training. Over training could be a lack of recovery.

The current training may not look that bad on paper, and you may feel that you’ve built up to it. But if my body’s already run down, I’m going to run into problems. Truth is, my body has been slammed after the North Face race, and a brisk 30k long run on Sunday put me over the edge.

Coach and I agreed today to have an easy week of reduced mileage and intensity. Some of it was forced by my light cold I had on Tuesday anyway. But that was a good thing, that triggered this whole rethink. 

My race methodology really is “listen to your body”. Yeah that saying is somewhat of a cliche now, there’s no better way to put it though.

In my opinion training plans are best served as a guide, and your coach is the mediator between your guide and your body. Listen to your body and your coach, but don’t just blindly follow a training plan…

Monday, July 21, 2014

Training recap: week 29, 2014

Lethargy. That dead feeling in my legs.

I needed rest after Sunday’s North Face trail race. So I took off Monday & Tuesday.

Then I finished up with running 46.5 miles (75 km’s) for the week.

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Dailymile training graph.

Training

Monday:

REST

Tuesday:

REST

Wednesday:

Tempo - 9.3 miles (15 km). 3k @4:10min/k, 2k @4:05min/k, 3 x 1k @4min/k plus warm up/down.

Legs were already sore going into this! But I held on and was right on target with the paces. The legs hated me the next day.

Thursday:

Recovery run - 3.8 miles (6.1 km).

Friday:

Steady state run - 6.2 miles (10 km).

Saturday:

Trail - 7.6 miles (12.3 km).

Sunday:

Long run - 19.3 miles (31 km).

First run over 30 km since 2011…and we’re back to milestones numbers again ;)

This run was all good except for tired legs, and a slight pain I felt in the arch of my right foot at 17 miles. I walked for a minute, started running again, and it was gone. I’ll keep an eye on that.

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Saturday’s trail run was at an easier intensity than usual, but it felt harder.

Onwards

Even though I’ve built up to yesterday’s 19 mile run, I’m not going to lie. I feel pretty smashed today haha.

There is 1 main thing that I’m focused on to carry me through to the Fall - bringing the consistency back.

Look at the fluctuations in my mileage since I started this training cycle in June…

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Up down up down. Recent weeks of training interrupted by sickness and races. 

I’d like to limit the amount of hard races I do, and finish out the year just building up my base.

Speed will be taking more of a back seat. With a few exceptions:

  • I’ll be aiming to run 2 half marathons in the Fall, 1 racing, 1 casual. 
  • I’d like to do maybe just 1 or 2 more 5k’s for the year. Not as many as I did in the first half of the year. 
  • I’d like to finish up the year running a hard race again - the ECS in December in California. 

I’ve been making running more mechanical this year. Saving the passion and emotion for race day instead. 

That’s something new for me, but being injured over the last couple of years has perhaps given me patience here. It’ll come. Race day will come again. But not now, not soon.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Redefining your level of hard

After getting my thoughts down on the 10k, I’ve been enjoying reading other recaps on #ESCON this week - it’s like living it again. Only without the panting.

Here are some highlights, in the order that I read them:

  • Christa ran the 21k - this is how to come back in a race and not give up! This is how to grow.
  • Angela ran the 21k - she gave some great beginner perspectives that I had forgotten about, and are worth reinforcing! 
  • Andrew ran the 21k - hilarious recap that sums up all of the feelings and thoughts felt out there, while somehow remembering the names of the trails!
  • Paul ran the 21k - “On mountain tops, nobody can hear you cry" 😂
  • Alison ran the 5k - overcoming her fears of steep descents and uneven terrain, and has already decided to run a 3rd ECS in California!
  • Ken ran the 21k - this race brought new meaning where the goal is to finish.

After reading these I think there should be a website made for sarcastic quotes on elevation profiles. Dot Tumblr. Dot com.

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"Contrary to popular belief, this is not a final exam bell curve diagram"…my wife makes me laugh!

I got to know a lot of beginner perspectives. From what I’ve seen, a gruelling trail race like this is much harder than an obstacle course like a Tough Mudder or a Warrior Dash.

That’s why I don’t bother with those events - you can get all of that stuff out in the elements on a good race course! 

One of my Pace & Mind teammates, Christa, did this as her first trail race, and she noted in her recap that she has a “a new threshold for what hard means”.

I think this is why I’ve never really found half marathons or any other road training too gruelling. Emphasis on training, and too gruelling. These races are still hard!

But I was brought up in the trails and off road in orienteering, and I draw upon those experiences whenever I go through something hard. 

From what I can gather, a lot of people asked themselves “what the hell happened out there?” as soon as they crossed the finish line on the weekend. I did too. But I think the difference was that I was aware that this doubt and shock was all “part of the experience”.

This is what I love about these recaps. You get the sense that we’ve all accomplished something really challenging, and we can all sit back and laugh about it together!

The challenges gained by trail running have been a hitherto factor until only recently, within the last year or so. People are looking for a challenge further than an obstacle course, one that pushes relentless cardio in addition to strength. 

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Wednesday night’s off-road tempo session - 3k @4:10min/k, 2k @4:05min/k, 3 x 1k @4min/k plus warm up/down - was hard with sore legs. But not as hard as Sunday! 😂

There’s something about the challenges being unknown in a trail race, that adds to the mystery - nobody quite knows what to expect. Every trail race is different.

Even the same locations have their courses varied in any decent trail race.

But previously while racing off-road, I have balled my eyes out and have dealt with every emotion in and out of the book.

I have gone through the same slippery conditions but covered in shrub so you can’t see where you’re stepping.

I have gotten lost on courses where the challenge is that there are no flags telling you where to go.

I have raced alone more often than I’ve raced surrounded by people, due to the races having staggered start times instead of a mass start.

I am no hero, I haven’t achieved even 10% of what the top trail runners or orienteers have achieved. The point is though, that doing something like this will redefine what’s hard for you in life. Christa’s point.

It’ll make training for a marathon - or whatever other former gruelling challenge you do next - seem easy by comparison. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Race Recap - North Face ECS ON 2014

I love waking up on Monday with sore legs. I really do. That feeling of having run a hard race. I love it!

I didn’t get that feeling when waking up on Monday. Despite racing the North Face Endurance Challenge Series’ (ECS) first appearance in Ontario on Sunday.

Nope. I almost woke up fresh. Then the day went on, and there was a delayed onset of a sore heavy feeling in my quads. There it was! All was right in the world again. 

On Tuesday night they were still sore, and I don’t think I was alone.

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Carmy ran the relay on Saturday.

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Christa ran the 21k on Sunday.

Now Alison and I had done this event in New York in May, and I couldn’t wait for this crew to seek out and make a course of the toughest terrain that Ontario has to offer. That’s what they do at North Face!

I was registered for the 10k again. I wanted to get a direct comparison of the differences between New York and Ontario.

It started raining heavily on the drive up, and I knew the course would be messy. Only thing that I didn’t know, that it was a different kind of messy to New York.

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There’s me starting right behind 2nd place getter, Darren Weldrick in blue. The shirtless and bearded runner to the left was the winner, Mike Bentley. Photo credit to North Face.

It was a weird situation where it wasn’t that technical. It was super slippery.

I was hoping for a lot of mess from the rain out there, so that the elements would be similarly technical to how they were in New York. I need to remember though that in Ontario no matter how wet it gets, the mud is not deep. It can’t give you that deep grip. 

Ontario mud is more of a thin layer of clay, that almost feels like melted ice. The only way to run well in this is with studded shoes!

That became apparent within the first 500 metres of the race, I had already dreaded leaving my studded Jalas shoes in the car. I tried wearing the Jalas’s for a minute when we got out of the car prior to starting but I wasn’t feeling it. They were instantly rubbing on my heel and I haven’t trained in them all year.

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The Jalas FLX studded orienteering shoes, that I didn’t wear but should’ve worn. Which are starting to show their age now because I could hardly find them on the web. 

The Jalas shoes may have superior grip but they come at a cost - they’ve given me severe blisters every time I’ve worn them in a period without training in them. No matter how much vaseline I wear. 

So I chose to wear my goto of trail running shoes lately, the Merrell Ascends. I love these shoes, but it breaks my heart to say they don’t have what it takes for slippery terrain. Uneven terrain? Yes, they fit like a glove. But we didn’t get any of the boulder covered trails, deep mud, or endless pools of water that we did in NY.

Some people might call this making excuses. I call this addressing your flaws and being open with them, so you know what to improve on next time! I’ve seen that this is new for some readers to get their heads around in the blogging world, but this is just how most athletes talk in my experience.

On to the course:

  • The 1st km started on a slight incline, but it was mostly contouring around the mountain.
  • Then it would take us up for another 2 km’s. Nothing but up. 
  • It would plateau out for the 4th, 5th, and 6th km’s.
  • In km’s 7 and 8 there was a gruelling set of uphills with moderate downhills.
  • Finally the main descent would start in the 9th km, and into the 10th, down a series of high stone steps.

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The 10k course map. I should’ve take this out with me.

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Not that you can’t tell from the contour lines in the course map, but here’s the elevation profile on it’s own. 

Long story short for the first 3km’s, there was a lot of up! The slippery surface made it harder to get a grip. I tried to maintain a steady pace and not go into the red zone, but I was still questioning my fitness towards the end of this. 

Dana Ferguson, the 1st placed female, passed me here at about 2km’s. I let her go for a bit and was hoping I could catch her once I could find my rhythm on flatter terrain up top.

But that wasn’t going to happen. At the 3km point it started to flatten and I tried to increase my cadence, but the sharp corners of the winding trails upset my speed a lot. My shoes now had a layer of clay on the bottom and had 0 grip. So I had to slow down and completely reset my stride coming out of every corner. I think you get what I’m going to say next, this wouldn’t have been a factor if I was wearing better shoes. 

Another runner caught up to me right at the top wearing a Guelph Victors shirt, Robert McRae. He would be my main tussle for most of the race. My tussle person, I always like to have a tussle person!

We would get our first taste of a downhill at about the 4th k. But it would just be a pullback into a sharp 400 metres of steep climb. This is where I started to feel that my problems went deeper than the shoes. 

Once I recovered, I actually got into a nice rhythm here. The 5th and 6th km’s were bliss to run in. I pulled away from McRae and concentrated my focus on pulling in Dana again. 

I could see her come out of some of the corners ahead, and then finally saw how far in front she was when we came out into a clearing and ran down another hill. 

Here I was thinking “could we please just start the descent already”. For the 7th and 8th km’s we ran up a series of short and steep hills, only catching our breaths on fast downhills. This is where I was running into trouble. McRae had caught up to me again. Gina Wong had also caught up to me here. 

The first half of the course I was blaming my wrong shoe choice. But as I ran further, this shifted to blaming my lack of hill fitness. I was slowly jaunting up the remaining hills, and broke into walks on the last 2. But I still had that heavy breathing like “whaaaaah ewwwhh!”. I was working hard but walking slow. 

For all my talk above saying that it wasn’t that technical overall didn’t mean there weren’t any technical challenges at all - those came in the final mile of winding steps and people as obstacles! 

It’s hard to picture this without photos. The back pack of the 21k and 5k runners had all merged onto our course at this stage. Trying to run fast down a slippery mountain on a short width trail, became a matter of luck of who you had in front of you. 

I found myself saying “on your left, on your right, excuse me, running fast” a lot. Whatever worked. 

Somehow I pulled away from Gina here. But I was then alone, there was nobody in front of me either. So I ran the final 800 metres in the clearing as hard as I could and tried to finish striding out.

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Crossing the finish line. Photo courtesy of ultraracephotos.com

I was instantly disappointed.

With my lack of hill fitness. With my bad shoe choice. With my lack of tapering coming into the race. 

I didn’t really care what I came and just wrote off the race as not my best.

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Looking back into the crowd at the start, and after the race to the right.

I had fun though, this is the kind of event I want to see more of in Ontario! It was a perfect course, and even that cluster of people at the end just added to the challenge.

So it wasn’t until a couple of hours after the race with a beer in my stomach that I bothered to look at the results. One of the guys I’ve met through Twitter, Andrew Chak, told me I came 1st in my age group and 7th overall. That was a surprise!

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Post race atmosphere by the lake, and celebrating on the podium with Alison.

It was easy to feel down about not being able to run well up the hills or on the clay. But I have to keep things in perspective - although I’m passionate about this race, this is a base building year for me. I wasn’t the fittest that I’ve been, but it was never going to be the case. 

I will be building for this next year though. This race will be a main focus on my calendar. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Training Recap: Week 28, 2014

This will be short as it was a reduced week. Culminating in a weekend of races.

Those dead and fatigued legs that I mentioned last week, got some rest days on Thursday and Friday. My legs were starting to feel fresh again by the weekend.

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Dailymile training log.

Training

Monday:

Recovery run - 5.2 miles (8.3km) in the rain. 

Tuesday:

Trail run - 8.2 miles (13.1km). 

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Last trail run before the race weekend!

Wednesday:

Tempo - 5.6 miles (9km). 

A reduced workout tonight because of the weekend’s races. 2400m + 2 x 800m with 30 secs on 30 secs easy. 1.5 mile warm up and cool down.

Thursday:

REST

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Insert appropriate “I don’t often take rest days, but when I do…” meme here. Core strength and a trip to the stretching therapist in a high tower.

Friday:

REST

Saturday:

Trail Race - 5 Peaks Rattlesnake 5k.

As part of my short-term ambassadorship duties I decided to do something fun and try out live-tweeting photos of the course. It was fun at the time and was 100% my decision. But I don’t think running a race in this way is the kind of thing for me, and it’s probably going to be the last time I do anything like that.

Sunday:

Trail Race - North Face Endurance Challenge 10k.

I’ll elaborate on this in a race recap post. The photos are in so I now I can do it! :P

Onwards

I don’t have any more major races coming up until December now. I’ve been wanting to make the San Francisco North Face trail run a goal race since 2010 now, and every time either injury or funds have gotten in the way. I’m determined to make it work this year and make it a runcation with Alison!

I’ll probably be doing 2 half marathons in September/October but I don’t plan on these being major goals either.

So now I want a break from races breaking up my training. I want to continue the year with building up my base fitness, and aiming for consistent progressive mileage instead.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Trail running is not as scary as you think

I’m scared of falling.

I’m scared of getting injured.

These are concerns I hear a lot of from runners who haven’t run trails before, or are just starting out.

Since this year, I’ve been taking trail running beginners out for intro runs with Toronto Trackers, and have been talking to regular road runners who have thought about extending their running repertoire to the trails.

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The new appeal to the trails is obvious with experiences like this - it’s largely a reconnection to nature.

At first I thought the above concerns were character traits, certain people try new things with caution (and I’m one of them actually). But then I saw that this worry was more consistent. Rather than being character based, it became obvious that it was more beginner based. 

I had forgotten about this perspective.

It’s been a long time since I was a beginner. I started trail running (as in, racing) in 2010, and have been orienteering pretty much since 1990 (a more extreme version of trail running, basically less trails and more forrest).

I’d like to try to offer another perspective. One that could help erase the fears.

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Finishing one of my first races in the 5 Peaks series, in April 2011. 

Worrying about “what if I fall?” when you’re trail running, is kind of like learning how to drive and worrying about “what if I crash, what if I crash, OMG what if I CRASH?!?” - the more uptight you are about it, the more likely it is to happen.

Seeing as I love analogies here’s another one. To take the example away from the car, it’s the road runners equivalent to “what if my shoe laces come untied?”. 

Kind of ridiculous? Not impossible to happen though.

Any runner who does a lot of mileage on the road never worries about their shoe laces coming untied, it’s just not a concern for them. But, it might be a concern for someone just starting out for the first time.

You see, beginners might think about all these things that experienced runners have either never thought of, or used to think of but have since forgotten about since they discovered it was a non-issue. 

So not only does falling happen infrequently, but the more you think about it the more you’re going to become a self fulfilling prophecy. 

That’s the 1st point that I wanted to ease some of the fears with. 

The 2nd point that I’d like to raise is this - what newcomers aren’t aware of is that trail running actually helps to prevent injuries.

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Swing those hips and dance. That wasn’t the intention when running through this thick shrub, at all. 

We’re all told now how important it is to have a strong core. Those ab and glute muscles (no autocorrect, I do not work on my flute muscles!) that power the rest of your legs. The less strong your core is, the more that you get injured. 

Guess what? Trail running - and off road running in general - is a series of burpees, lunges, shin raises, hip hikes, rocket launches (I just made that up), and every other type of all body strength exercise out there. 

All of these strength training exercises that have been conditioned for you to do in a boring way and a sterile environment, are all part of what you get every time you hit the trails. Think of it this way: fun way to do strength training vs boring way. Which would you rather do?

The amount of times that I’ve twisted my ankle, and not sprained it, is ridiculous. This is because my ankles are so strong from trail running, that they don’t sprain easily. My ankles are like Jack Bauer coming into contact with hostiles - they should be dead by now!

The more experienced you get with trail running, the more you’re going to challenge yourself with workouts too.

You’re always going to be adjusting your speed, looking for more challenging terrain, hopping over rocks with more confidence, etc. So you’re always going to be continuing to challenge your muscles even more. Runner’s World have a great article that goes into more detail on this. 

So trail running is going to make you a better runner, not worse. 

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I’ve never finished a trail run where I’m not happy, even after falling.

It’s also twice the workout of running on road, because it takes up more energy to constantly adjust your pace, cadence, stride, and the rougher terrain gives off more friction. 

…and for those who are still worried, I could talk about how not to fall, or how to fall gracefully next time. There are ways to make falling not a bad experience, but actually a fun experience! :) 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

New Update: FitFriend 1.4

The most frequent updates I’ve been giving recently are training updates. Now here’s an update of a different kind - an app update ;)

FitFriend 1.4 has been released today.

There are many things in the pipeline for this year. The 1.4 update builds on the photo feature that was introduced in 1.3, described here.

Here’s what’s new in 1.4:

1.

New colors have been added to the FitFrame photo banners:

  • Gold
  • Stonewash Blue
  • White
  • Pink
  • Rainbow

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The new Pink banner.

The Rainbow banner was made in celebration of World Pride in Toronto. FitFriend supports Pride and celebrates all kinds of diversity!

2.

FitFrame photo banner sizes have been made draggable!

You can size these to a min or max size of your choosing, simply by dragging the banner.

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This is the max size you can make a banner.

3.

GPS accuracy has been improved when in the background. 

Background processing of the GPS is very hard to get right. I’ve discovered that it always needs tweaking. If you notice any inaccuracies then please tell me. 

One thing that can really improve the GPS accuracy is to always have Wifi enabled on your workouts. I even wrote a blog post detailing why.

I’d highly recommend this, not just for FitFriend but for any iPhone app!

Onwards & Upwards

One thing I’d like to highlight is that FitFriend is optimized for iPhone 5 and up! Due to the different GPS capabilities in the iPhone 4S and lower, its recommended to use the iPhone 5 or later. 

I’d love to support all iPhones ever made, but due to very limited resources at this early stage, I can’t right now. 

Lastly, this 1.4 update is only a minor update compared to other things that are in progress this year.

The best products are always changing with the times, to suit new trends and new technologies. I’m building FitFriend to stay true to this. 

Mike Post
Co-Founder & Lead Engineer

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

spikesandcleats:

I love when I see a close-up of a player smiling before a match. Heck yes. Everyone should smile before competing because there is NOTHING better.

Just being “able” to compete is a huge accomplishment! :)