Wednesday, October 08, 2008

It's been a long and winding season

My training started in November of 2007. I wanted to accomplish a few goals as I entered the 2008 Ontario Ultra Series. My main goal was to complete my first 50 Mile trail race in April. My second goal was to compete in as many of the 50K and longer trail races as possible. These are a gruelling set of 13 races that start in April and end in October. These races not only test your ability to run long distances but also they test your ability to do these races every other weekend which doesn't allow much time for your body to fully recover.

Last season I didn't do very many trail races as I opted to do more road races instead. 2008 would be a return to the type of races that I love the most.

The training was difficult and challenged me more mentally than physically but by the time April arrived I was ready for the challenge of doing my first 50 Mile race. I was able to complete that race and then my goals suddenly changed. Instead of just doing what I wanted to do, I was talked into trying my first 100 mile race in May. Unfortunately I wasn't able to fully complete that race (I stopped after 69 miles) but this allowed me to re-focus my attention on the rest of the season.

From May to September I completed another 6 Ultra races. This included doing some races where I had to run as many miles as possible in 6 hours.

Last weekend I completed another 50K race and next Saturday I will be doing my last OUS 50K race of the season.

All in all, I have completed 9 out of the 13 races and ran 69 miles in the only race that I didn't complete (LOL). My body is starting to feel the effects of all the pounding as my knees, shins and feet are in need of some serious rest.

I thank you all for all the support you have given me this past season. Next year a group of friends and I will attempt to complete our first 100 mile race. I'm hoping that if I can focus all of my attention this off-season to that race, I will be more successful than my last attempt.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Wow, it's been a long time hasn't it?

After making daily journal entries into my blog I can't believe that it's been a month since my last post. During that time I have discovered the one thing that seemed to be missing in my own life and that was balance.

Running was, and still is, my passion in life but it was starting to become too much of a priority. I discovered that I could still run but that I didn't have to run so much everyday (10 miles).

This past weekend I completed my 9th Ultra race of the year (50K at Haliburton). I had originally signed up for the 50 Miler (80K) but I ended up running a shorter distance instead. One of the main reasons why I made that decision was because I didn't want to spend the whole weekend there. It would have taken me 12 hours or more to complete that distance and I would have had to drive home the next morning. I realized that I could still have a good time running 50K, which took me over 6 hours, and then drive home and enjoy the rest of the weekend.

The other reason was that I didn't want to be away from my kids for more days then I needed to. I also wanted to be able to run and not have to worry about taking time off after the race.

I have never regretted a "gut decision" and this one was no exception. After the race I was able to drive home and still have a great weekend with my boys. I also ran on Sunday and though my legs were tired, I managed to feel better pretty quickly.

My run today was also good and I feel like I can push myself a little longer tomorrow. I only have 2 races left (both in October) and then I'll be able to take some time off and start doing some strength training.

Sorry that it has been so long since my last post!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A time to reflect

As sore as I was this morning, I realize the importance of doing a good recovery run the day after a race. It would have been nice to sleep in for a change, and just do nothing but those who know me realize that that is something that I have a hard time doing.

My recovery run (just over 10KM) was at a nice easy pace and the main objective was just to loosen up my leg muscles. It was during this run that I was able to reflect on my race yesterday. I was very pleased with how well I was able to run considering that this was my 7th Ultra Marathon race since April. Eventually all those miles start to wear on you so I'm sure that by the time my last race is over in October, I won't have much left in the tank.

Yesterday I was able to run quite a bit with several of the elite runners. Even though I realized that they were going much slower because they were running longer than I was, it was still nice to pick the brains of these amazing runners. More than anything else, though, it made me feel like I belonged. Even though I've been running now for 3+ years, part of me still feels like I have something to prove to the veteran trail runners. All the trail runners who do the OUS races are all so supportive and encouraging and it's like a family reunion when we all get together at the races. In fact, the best part of the race is the fun we all have afterwards.

I travelled with one of my Ultra running heroes yesterday and it was nice listening to him talk about some of the races he has done. I am planning on doing an Ultra race in Texas in December and I'm hoping he can come along.

After today I will begin to focus on my next race. This will be one of the most challenging races I've ever done. Running in Haliburton is an experience that I'll never forget and I know that the 50 Miler will require me to be as focused as possible.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

An amazing day from start to finish!

I just arrived home from my race and it was the best race I've done this year. The race was a 10K trail and I entered the 6 hour portion of it. Basically I ran as far as I could for 6 hours and at the end my distance was measure, but back to that in a moment.

I felt very strong throughout the race and was even able to turn on the jets at various points. Normally I would hold back some but today I wanted to let it all out and see what I was capable of doing.

The first two loops were amazing and I felt stronger and stronger as the race went on. I probably went out a little two fast because by the end of third loop I was feeling a little gassed. A friend and very good trail runner passed me at one point and that's when I really turned it on. I was very motivated to not let him beat me so I took off after him and eventually passed him at the end of the fourth loop (40K).

He also was motivated and eventually he passed me once again and this time he was at least 20 minutes ahead of me. I figured that there was no way I was going to catch him but I continued to run at my pace. To my amazement I eventually caught him once again and this time I wasn't going to let him catch me. I really dug down deep and finished the 5th loop (50K).

I had about 30 minutes left to go in the race and the race was marked every 2.5K. I knew that I was going to get to at least the 52.5 mark so I pushed it again. I reached the 52.5K mark with 12 minutes left in the race. Unfortunately that didn't leave me enough time to get to the next checkpoint so I decided to stop there. I knew that I would have gotten at least another 1 and possible 2 K so I was very happy with my accomplishments.

I knew that I had given everything I had and my legs were cramping as a result. The weather started out nice for the first 2 hours but then it rained for the rest of the race.

As they announced the overall winner and age category winners I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had finished 3rd in my age category. Beyond that, though, I knew that I had run the best race of the season so I was very proud of that accomplishment.

My legs are a little tender but overall not too bad. I will be doing a light recovery run tomorrow morning just to get the blood circulating again, and then it's time to start training for my next race in September.

Friday, August 08, 2008


After 5 long agonizing weeks without a race I have tomorrow to look forward to. I'll be running a 6 hour race in Mansfield, Ontario. The good thing about timed races is that it doesn't matter how far you go, we all have to run the same amount of time. What that means is that pacing will be more important than ever. My legs have been rather heavy all week so I have no idea how I'll perform tomorrow. I'm hoping that the excitement of race day and seeing all my friends will give me the added boost I'll need.

I've been running stress free for the past two weeks and that has allowed me to focus my attention on other areas of my life. While I will always love running, it's nice to know that I can spread myself around to other areas equally as important.

Running stress free has allowed me to enjoy my runs much more and at the same time it has allowed me to focus on my technique a little more. Even though I have not made public my goals for this race, I do have a good idea of what I'm capable of and I'm hoping that that will pay off tomorrow. Expect a full report by Sunday!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Finally, it's race week again

It seems like such a long time since I've had a race (5 weeks) but this weekend I'll finally have a chance to shake off the rust as I run a 6 hour timed race on Saturday.
The course is a 10K loop in the trails near Mansfield, Ontario. From what I have heard, it is a challenging course. I have a certain goal for myself but for that to happen, I have to have as close to a perfect race day as possible.

My legs have been extremely "heavy" lately, despite that my weight has started to drop. I plan to do more resting than running this week as I want to be at my best for that race. Knowing how difficult that is for me, I will have to keep myself distracted as much as possible.

I really felt the trail run this morning and if I don't get more rest this week I will be in for a rude awakening on Saturday.

I've cleaned up my diet considerably over the past two weeks and have eliminated gluten from my diet completely. I have noticed a big difference with regards to how I'm feeling after a meal. I have incorporated more brown rice and brown rice pasta into my food choices. In addition to eliminating gluten, I have also decreased my intake of dairy. I have been using both almond and brown rice milk exclusively and have also been pleasantly surprised at both the taste and how I'm feeling.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Positive influences can make a big difference

One of the things that running has taught me is that I have a very strong mental "game." I can count on one hand the number of times that my mind has gotten the better of me with regards to finishing a run or race. The truth is that without my mental toughness, there would be no way I would be able to accomplish the things that I have with regards to my running.

This has also had a huge impact on the rest of my life but there is still areas of my life that need improvement. I've noticed that because I run so much I can get away with more than most people with regards to nutrition. However, I also know that I would be a much better runner if I became just a little more disciplined with my diet.

I'm lucky that I am surrounded by people who are willing to push me to limits beyond I thought possible and that has turned my life around in the past two weeks. My diet has never been "cleaner" and my body is reaping the benefits as a result. I have never felt this lean before and that has more to do with my nutrition than anything else.

We all need people around us who will offer support when we need it as well as a kick in the pants from time to time. Most people, unfortunately, surround themselves with negative influence which makes it more difficult to achieve their goals. In the end, though, the choice becomes your and yours alone. If you keep your eye on the prize and realize that without proper nutrition you will never get what you want, then things will start to come into focus.

My life has never been more complete these past few weeks and I'm running with more peace of mind than ever before. I know that things will only get better and that is something that I'm excited about.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Just that word alone brings up different memories for different people. Maybe it's something that you are afraid of or maybe it's something that terrifies you because you've never done it before. It could be an object or animal. It could be an upcoming event. Fear can do so much to ruin the psyche of so many people that you have to wonder how we accomplish the things that we do.

In my case, I try to use fear to motivate me. Each day, when I think about the Haliburton 100 Mile race, I ask myself whether I can do this or not. I am fearful of lots of things when it comes to that race but mostly I'm afraid of not finishing. It has more to do with how I feel about myself than how others perceive me. Weeks after the race, whether I complete it or not, people will go on with their daily lives. Meanwhile, I'll be the one who has to live with the memories. It's a long off season and that means lots of time to think.

There are other times, though, when I envision myself crossing that finish line and how amazing it will be. Obviously I try to think more positively than negatively. Taking on a task of this magnitude is something that not too many people are willing to attempt. I can feel proud that I am attempting another one this year. That won't be enough to satisfy me, though, as I am driven to complete my first 100 miler.

My run today was a tough one. My calves were really tight and after the first mile I wondered if I was going to be able to run much further. I did so much running and walking in the trails on the weekend and my calves really took a pounding. Thankfully I was able to block out the pain long enough to complete my 11 mile run. The cumulative effect of all the miles I've run since April (760 miles, 135 hours) are starting to have an impact on my body. My ultra friends have told me that by the time the season is over, I won't have much left in the tank. I guess I'm about to find out if that's true or not.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Memories of a first race

Reflection on 12 week Learn to Run Clinic with Greg.

-week #1, started with 1 min. running and 2 min. walking

-week #12, 10 min. running and 1 min. walking

-Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition - the most important part

-exciting and exhausting

-positive thoughts only

-must have running shoes for running only

-keep your head up - especially on hills

-heel toe, heel toe

-pump your arms, feet will follow

-Keep Hydrated

-Keep smiling

My Current regime - weight training 2xweek, run 3xweek

My goal was to run my first 5K race. As a person who never ran before and
not an athlete, learning to run with Greg at my side was always positive,
encouraging me with constant feedback during training sessions. Each
session I set the pace and he kept that pace for me, when I was tiring I
knew to keep pumping my arms and the feet will follow. When I started this
journey in 2006 I was overweight and unfit, and through your nutrition
counselling I lost 60 lbs in 9 months and became physically fit. I have
learned to step outside my comfort zone and try new things. When I am now
asked to try something new, I never say no, usually I say yes and give it a
try and see where the journey take me. My current goal was to learn how to
run and this was achieved, 5K run, July 26 at Whitby Waterfront 38.05 min
with you by my side. Next goal 10K with the best nutrition possible, can't
wait to get started.

Greg, thanks your patience, professionalism and expertise in nutrition and
running. I now know anyone can learn to run at any age.

The journey continues, stay tuned.

Karen Macfarlane

My Motto - Want it, Own it , Do it.

A night to remember

After running in the rain during my 3 hour run at the Seaton Trail earlier in the day, it was time to put my focus on someone else. Last night my first running client completed her very first 5K race at the Whitby Waterfront. Watching her get ready as the race approached, reminded me about how I felt going into my very first trail race. So many thoughts went through my head, most of them were questions about what I was doing. Even though she was properly prepared, our mind tends to create self-doubt by bringing up negative thoughts. So much of running is having a strong mental foundation so I was glad that she was able to focus on the race itself.

We kept a nice even pace throughout and she did an amazing job of following my instructions and finished very strong towards the end. Many people who know that I do Ultra Marathons will ask me why I'm teaching a learn to run group. The reason is simple. I get great job by helping people find their passion in life. Many have followed my lead and are now running themselves. It really doesn't matter if you run for 5K or 50K but what does matter is that you enjoy what you are doing.

My client is already thinking about her next goal we will resume our training next week. I'm sure she had a tough time sleeping last night and I hope that she celebrated her achievement in high style because she deserves to!

Way to go Karen, I'm so proud of you!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

This decision was easy

After a great trail run and an even better conversation with my trail running friends who I look up, my decision to enter the 100 Mile Haliburton race was an easy one. I will attempt another 100 miler and this will be no easy feet (pardon the pun). Thankfully I have secured some incredible support for my endeavour and I'll be needing them every step of the way.

I feel like my training is where it needs to be and my diet has never been better. I've been switching to eating more of a Vegan type diet and eliminating many foods such as flour, even whole wheat, and as I result I'm running much better and look leaner than I have in months.

My goal is to run the Haliburton race at 150 pounds and right now I am 9 pounds away from that goal. There should be no reason that I can't hit that target weight even when the training starts to decline as the race becomes closer.

What I need to start doing is to practice walking for long stretches of time. This is one thing that I didn't do for my Sulphur race and it really cost me as a result. Tomorrow I will be running 15-20 miles (haven't decided yet) and then I'll do a 2 hour walk in the Rouge Valley later in the afternoon.

I am so fortunate to have amazing friends who not only inspire me but also motivate me to do more and more. Even three years after I started running I still didn't think that I belonged in their inner circle. I know realize that I do and that is a nice feeling to have. The friends who I run with are in their 50's and 60's and we they joked about how I should be kicking their butts on the trails. They have no idea of the amount of respect I have for them as they have already done things that I probably will never do. Two of them will be running the same race as I am and another 2 will be helping to pace me at night. I couldn't have asked for anything better than that.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Holy Grail of ultra running

When I first started trail running I was doing the shortest distances available, usually 25 to 30 K's. At these races were lots of runners who, after I had finished my race, were still running for hour and hours more. I'll never forget one time when I had really pushed myself to finish a 25K race in a good time. I was chasing down a runner and with about 100 metres left to go I sprinted towards the finish line and overtook him. The finish line was split into 2 sections. One was for the 25K finishers and the other was for those crazy runners who were running another 25K. I noticed that the runner who I had worked so hard to pass, was heading out for another loop. Suddenly the joy I felt in passing him turned to a feeling of amazement that he was heading out for another loop.

From that day forward I decided that I wanted to be that guy who was going out for the longest races available. This brings me to this year and my decision to run the 100 miler or not. The more I talk about it, the more it becomes a real possibility. I even joked with my kids about how Daddy will be running with bears and wolves in Haliburton. They both encouraged me to go for it.

What I need to decide, and rather quickly, is how far am I willing to go to get my goal? Physically I'm in the best shape of my life and barring injury, I'm confident that I have the ability to do it. The next part is the mental aspect of the race. Do I want to walk in the middle of the night for hours and hours? Do I risk injurying myself and then not able to run for months afterwards? These are questions I really need to answer this weekend. Once I commit, there's no turning back.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What lies next for me?

We become what we think about all day long.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

These last few weeks without a race have given me lots of time to think about what goal I want to accomplish between now and the end of my racing season in November. I have already earmarked a 6 hour race in early August and then comes my biggest decision to date. I have been strongly encouraged to attempt another 100 mile in Haliburton. Each year I have increased the distance at that race and my thought was this year to do the 50 Miler. Even though I made the right decision to stop running at Sulphur after 69 Miles, a part of me is still feeling guilty for not finishing. It's easy to look back now and say that but at the time of the race I made the smart decision. However, my competitive spirit still tells me that I should have toughed it out. Had I done that, I wouldn't be thinking about doing another 100 Miler but now I am.

There is still time to find a running crew who will help me and I have enough good friends who would surely lend their support. The decision really lies within me and how badly I want to erase the memory of that last race. Can I afford to wait until next May or should I attempt another 100 miler in September? Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Forget Monday......

I say throw away Mondays because my week truly starts on Tuesday. For me, it has more to do with kick starting my running week with an amazing 6 mile run in the Seaton Trail. It certainly has all the elements that I love about trail running including soft terrain, technical climbs, a closeness to nature and because I run at 6 AM, some truly breathtaking scenery as the sun starts to rise. Today I had to deal with rain which I love, but running in the trails in the rain is far more challenging and fun than running on the roads. My trail shoes are muddier than they have been in quite some time and thankfully they have held up amazingly well. After going through pair after pair of Brooks Cascadias, I'm glad they have modified their shoe because I'm able to run in these without having to worry about them ripping at the sides.

Trail running will always be my first love with regards to running and each run is completely different from the one before. I never know what I'll encounter in the trails which makes it something to look forward to.

Running in the trails certainly helps to build up my core strength as the constant up and downs of the trails forces me to be more precise with my running. If I start to get lazy on the trails with my running, which can easily happen on the road, I know that I'll likely take a tumble. It's starting to get a little easier for me to let go of the fact that I may fall, twist an ankle or worse. The more I worry about that, the less I'm concentrating on just enjoying the fact that I'm running in a place where I love. There are lots of runners who will not run in the trails because they feel like they cannot go fast. Trail running requires you to let go of that need to always worry about speed and instead allows you to just run like you would if you were a kid again. Unfortunately many of the road races that I've done haven't grasped that concept as they are too competitive for what I want right now.

I'll gladly run a slow trail run over a fast road race any day of the week, which for me, starts on Tuesdays!

Monday, July 21, 2008

A big week ahead

After having a great 14 Mile run in the rain yesterday, I stayed on my training program and took the day off from running to lift weights instead. Even though I wasn't able to run on Saturday, I don't want to try and "make up" a run because that doesn't make much sense. Instead I did the smart thing and lifted weights. I'm starting to really feel the benefits of the weight training and today I increased the weights on my most of my exercises. Although the reps are high (30) I still get a good burning sensation in my muscles so I know it's working.

I'll be either running trails or roads tomorrow as well as Wednesday and Thursday then the fun starts. On Saturday I will be heading up to Paris Ontario to run in a training run for a race I'll be doing in October called Run for the Toad. A group of us will be running 3 loops there (37.5 K). I'm sure I will see many familiar faces there because with no race for still 3 weeks, many of us will use this opportunity to get ready for the second half of the racing season.

That same evening, one of my clients will be running her first ever race in Whitby and I'm so psyched for her. I have been training her for the past 12 weeks and she has done an amazing job throughout our sessions. This will be the culmination of all those weeks and I couldn't be any more proud.

Even though my legs will probably be tired from running in the morning, nothing could keep me from running with her as she completes her first race.

When we ran together last week, I told her about the learn to run group I taught in 2006. I'll never forget running in all of my students and they were so excited to fulfill their goal of finishing that race. Even though many of them have stopped running, I know that they'll forever remember that event. Being able to have an impact on someone's life in a positive way, makes me feel like I have accomplished something myself and it's something that I take great pride in. I often have said that I can do a great job of keeping someone motivated but that I can't GET them motivated for that lies within.

Whatever motivates you, make sure you never think about quitting and try to stay as positive as possible, even when times get tough. The world is filled with people who take great pride in what they "used" to look like or have accomplished, make sure that you are one of the few who continues to cherish the present and looks forward to achieving more in the future.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

For those about to run.....I salute you!

I wish I could truly describe how magical it is for me to run in the rain. Then again, maybe that's the point. Something that provides me with this much joy, shouldn't have to be explained, it just IS and that will have to suffice.

My 14 mile run started north along Church street and took me to Concession #5. I've been trying to increase my hill work and that certainly happened today. I headed East on Concession #5 up two hills, one of which is affectionately known as "puke hill" (for obvious reasons). I've been practicing doing "criss/crosses" while running up hills and this has really helped. I do short choppy strides and go from one side to the other instead of charging up the hill. I've noticed that I can maintain better speed this way and my focus shifts from the top of the hill to just running from side to side. It's almost like I'm cross crounty skiing up the hill if that makes sense.

After running up those two hills I come to Westney Road where I go North. I pass Greenwood conservation park, Taunton Road and then come to Williamson Road where I go East. This takes me to Harwood. There is another hill climb from Harwood to the Rossland and then I continue North along Harwood until I come to Ringer street. I head East on Ringer until it takes me to Salem Road. From Salem I run to Highway 2 and then from there I go West to Westney Road then Westney back to Rossland and then back home.

I saw a few other runners today and they also seemed to be enjoying themselves running in the rain. Throughout my 2 hour plus run today, it rained continuously and I loved every minute of it. Whether you run long or short distance, for fun or for competition, it's something that you know you enjoy doing and you can't seem to get enough of. Therein lies the difference between a runner and everyone else. We are a special breed of people, not easily defined by words. Our passion lies in our ability to push ourselves further and harder than before. Our goals are only limited by our imagination. Above all else, we define ourselves as a runner first and that's what makes us special.

Friday, July 18, 2008

You need to find what moves you

Part of what I love most about my job is the interactions I get to have with my clients. There isn't a day that goes by where I'm trying to inspire, motivate or investigate what makes my clients "tick." I would say that the majority of the clients I see go to the gym because they feel that it's the only way that they can get some legitimate exercise. There are those who really do love going but I can probably count on both hands the number of clients who fall into that category. No, I would say that one of the biggest struggles I have is trying to convince them that they must do some sort of exercise daily in order to achieve their results. I hate to burst everyone's bubble but 3 days per week is not going to get much results unless their diet is 100% accurate and very few people have the ability to do that.

It really doesn't matter what type of exercise you do as long as you find something that you like to do. Opening yourself up to new experiences is the real key I believe. It may happen when you join a sports team like volleyball or basketball or maybe individual sports such as tennnis or badminton are your thing. It may be as simple as taking your bike to the rotary park and biking for an hour each night. Whatever it is that you choose, make sure you understand that this needs to become a regular part of your life. This will ensure that not only will you get your goals you will be able to maintain them.

Yesterday I decided to stray away from my comfort zone and ran a different route. Fortunately I use google maps to outline the route that I wanted to go. Unfortunately google maps doesn't account for road closures due to construction. I ended up having to double back to find my way home.

I've been lucky to have run in rain for the last two days. Today was a weight lifting day in the morning and then I'll be running in the afternoon. I think I'm getting a little "itchy" for a race but with nothing planned until August 9th, I'll have to settle for some long runs in the Seaton Trail.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Where will these shoes take me?

Another new pair of shoes, another running journey ahead. I retired my last road running shoes on Sunday and today was the first day running on the roads in my new Mizuno's. It was fitting that the day started out with some rain, a little bit of lightning and then the sun came out. Knowing that the my favorite weather to run in is the rain, I'm sure the running Gods were smiling at me today.

My last running shoes took me through well over 600 KM's in the two months that I had them so who it's going to be interesting to see where these new ones take me. Stay tuned......

Today at the Pickering Running Room they are having a 20 minute challenge. I urge anyone even remotely interested in walking or running to come out tonight at 7 PM. It's a great way to get motivated to try a new sport. Who knows, you may end up hooked like I am. I've often told people that running has changed my life and it continues to get better and better because I found my passion. I would not have found it, however, if I had not been open to trying new things. Come on out tonight, what do you have to lose?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My favorite part of the day

This is the closest picture I could find which describes my Tuesday morning highlight of the day. It's towards the end of my trail run and has the most breathtaking view that is hard to explain. I guess there is a certain risk involved, I mean a train could come by at any time when Ken and I are running on the tracks but it's not something that either one of us even thinks about. When I'm running on those tracks it's as close to being "suspended" myself as I'm going to get all day. I truly am lucky to be surrounded by some amazing nature trails such as the Seaton, Greenwood and Rouge Valley.

Today's pace was faster than I've gone in quite some time but I seemed to have lots of energy today. I think I'm finally getting to know my way around those trails. Tomorrow I'd like to do a mid-week long run but that all depends on how early I want to get up tomorrow. The minimum I'll shoot for is 11 Miles.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Finding balance can be tough at times

It is probably the one thing that I continue to struggle with in my own life and finding the proper balance between my running and everything else can be tough. I know that my scales are tipped slightly, some would say tilted, towards running. What makes it difficult is that I know that running is a springboard to so many other positive things in my life. I also know that without running I feel empty, and I know that something is missing.

To help with my balance, I've really started to do more strength training. Although I only do this twice per week, people have already noticed an increase in muscle mass. It's something that I have to be concerned with as I don't wish to add more weight. Looking leaner, though, has the illusion of being heavier than you are so I'm hoping to achieve this through weight training.

I've made a conscious effort to cut back on my running slightly to ensure that I have a long running career. For me, though, I continue to develop my mind, body and spirit through running. It's something that I can honestly say I've never experienced from any other type of exercise. As I continue to strive for balance, I'm sure my scales will need adjusting from time to time. Thankfully I have good friends who will help when needed.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A return to my roots today

Sometimes it's nice to run without a plan and that's what I did today. I knew that I wanted to get in a minimum of 2 hours of running in but I had no idea where I wanted to go when I got up this morning. What I decided was to just start running and see where my feet wanted me to go.

I ended up doing the mileage, distance and time that I wanted and was able to return to many of the streets that I hadn't run on since the winter months. My route took me through Greenwood where I first discovered trail running and up a hill affectionately known as "puke hill" for obvious reasons. I haven't done those hills in quite some time but I was happy that I was able to run them today. I realized after I did them that I must start incorporating more hill training into my workouts.

The weather was a little humid but the rain kept it nice and cool at times. It was one of those runs where my body just felt great being out there. This was the last run possible in my shoes as the heels have all but vanished. I won't be doing roads until Wednesday so that gives me a few days to find my new pair of shoes.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Trail running never felt so good

We had a nice turnout this morning at 7 AM as we headed out for our 25 KM run. What made this run so much fun is that we all ran our own pace. Some went a little fast, some are getting ready for various races so they decided to run a little slower but it really didn't matter. The best part was just being out amongst nature. Spending the first 3 hours of a morning running through trails is something that I'll never get tired of.

I was able to tell my story of how I first started running and was also able to listen to others tell their own stories. It's really interesting to find out how we all came to our passions. It's also nice not having to explain how important running is in our lives as we all acknowledge that.

The run was challenging, as it always is at the Seaton. Coming off a tough 50K race last weekend, my legs were a little sore but not too bad towards the end. 3 hours was just the right amount of pounding today.

After our run we all gathered around and ate and talked about our various races and what we have planned. I swear that most of us run so much so that we can indulge in eating afterwards. Burning close to 1500 calories is a nice way to start the day.

I can listen to the veterans talk about their running careers all day long and it never gets boring. They have so many training tips and I feel like a sponge as I soak it all in. I know it's going to make me a better runner.

The plan for tomorrow is to do a semi-long recovery run. I'd like to get in at least 2 hours or more but we'll have to see how the day plays out.

Friday, July 11, 2008

No problem..........

I've often said that the best part of my trail races is when we all gather around afterwards and tell stories, share a drink and re-fuel. Well, even though we have no race tomorrow, I'll be running with plenty of friends at the Seaton Trail tomorrow morning at 7 AM. Many people would think that I'm crazy to get up early on a weekend but I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm sure that by the time I'm done running at 10:30 or so, many people will just be getting out of bed (LOL).

I recently found out that I will be able to do a race in early October of this year. That same race was what catapulted me into trail racing but I haven't been able to return to that race since 2005. It will be nice to come full circle, so to speak, at that race. The only difference is that this year I'll be doing the 50K run instead of the 25K. What's another ultra marathon right?

Today I did some light weight lifting and I'm proud to report that I've been able to do some weights at least twice per week for quite some time now. I definitely feel better doing some resistance training and because I keep the weight down and the repitions up (30 reps per exercise) I know that there is very little chance of putting on added weight.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Passing along my gift to others

I was given a gift about 3 years ago by an amazing person and now I'm able to do the same to others around me. I'm sure that most people who know me can attest to the fact that it's hard for me to contain my enthusiasm for running. At any point during a conversation it seems that I'm looking for a way to interject and add a running metaphor. Most times it applies and it surely is how I define myself. It's still hard to believe that I've been able to do so much in such a short period of time. What strikes me most is the amount of people I've been fortunate enough to meet since I started running. I've met people from all walks of life and have even had a chance to run with the former Minister of Finance. Running truly knows no boundaries and I've been welcomed by a host of individuals and it just keeps getting better and better.

Today I taught one of my clients in my learn to run clinic. This woman has done an amazing job and continues to impress me each week. We are now fully into the 10 minute run and 1 minute walk. Hearing her talk about her goals this morning literally gave me chills. I know that she and anyone else can achieve anything they put their minds to. I have not met a person who I feel cannot run unless they have already given up in their own mind (outside of an injury of course). If you are defeated in the mind then running will never be for you because most of it is mental.

Our minds constantly try to talk ourselves out of doing something, even if it's something that is healthy for us. The people who I run trails with are some of the most mentally tough people I know. Most of us are not the fastest of runners but we compete nonetheless because we love being out there in the trails. Knowing that it might take us twice as long as the winners, you would think that it becomes even more difficult to get motivated. Then you realize that the real competition is the one that takes place between your ears and suddenly it becomes a whole new ballgame.

This weekend my thoughts will be all about running in the Seaton Trail with some amazing friends. This will be our "mini-race" as we don't have a real one for 4 weeks. The best part will be when we all sit around afterwards and talk about how much fun we had in the trails. I can't imagine a better way to spend the weekend.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

It's H.....nope I can't even type that

I swore that I would never complain about how H.. it is outside(see I can't even type the word). After running through -26 or worse conditions in the winter, I longed for the day when all I had to do was throw on a shirt and shorts and head outside for a run.

I'll take a slower pace over freezing my extremities any day of the week and twice on Sundays. I think my slower pace today had more to do with tired legs than anything. I'm starting to feel the effects of last weekends race so I'm running smarter this week. With no race for 4.5 weeks, it will allow my legs to heal, that is if I decide to let them. I already have visions of my next race which will either be a 6 or 12 hour run in early August. I may enter a few shorter races between now and then just to keep from getting too bored.

In any event, no matter how high the temperature gets, you won't hear me complain about it because all I have to do is think back to those runs in January, February and March and that brings me back to my senses.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I don't need to go to the zoo to see nature......

Part of what motivates me to run in the trails instead of on the roads is that I get to be up close and personal with nature. Today was yet another example of that. Sure it's tough getting up at 5 AM to go for a trail run but it's also an amazing way for me to start my day. Just minutes into my trail run we came across a deer. He stared at us for what felt like minutes. Finally, as we walked closer to it it ran off. It never ceases to amaze me at how lucky I am to see things like that. Whether it's seeing a deer, beavers or turtles, it makes me appreciate life more and more.

The other favorite part of my trail run has got to be the run across the railroad bridge high above the Seaton Trail. Sure, there's the added element of danger as a train could come by at any time but it's not something I think about. As I'm running across the bridge and look down at the water, see the trees and the nature around me, I can't help but think that I'm lucky that I get to start my morning off this way.

Before long the trail run ends and I'm left with this feeling that I want even more of it. It's like a positive drug, I suppose, and I can't wait until I get some more of it. So, you can have your zoos, I'll take a run or walk in the Seaton Trail or Rouge Valley instead. Discovering nature is more exciting than having it handed to you.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Going out to eat doesn't have to cause panic

There are two ways you can look at things when you make the decision to go out to a restaurant for dinner/lunch. The first is to just realize that you will be eating more calories than you should and are OK with this decision. The second is to do some researching on the restaurant before you go out to eat.

Both decisions are perfectly fine and they each have their own consequence associated with it. There's nothing wrong with treating yourself to a meal every once in a while. There's also nothing wrong with deciding before you leave to look at the nutritional content of the restaurant you are going to.

Last night I took my kids to the Keg for dinner. Before I left the house I checked out their website and found that they had all the nutritional breakdown for their meals. This helped me plan what I was going to eat (I didn't worry about the kids). What I found was that their sirloin steak was 8 oz. and had just over 500 calories and 30 grams of fat. This was their leanest choice. Their baked potato with the skin was 350 calories. These were the lowest choices on the menu so it's what I decided to get. I actually gave some of my steak to the kids as it was more than I usually eat at one time and instead of butter for my baked potato I asked for salsa on the side. I ate the "meat" part of the potato and left the skin behind.

After dinner I was happy with the choices I made and my stomach appreciated it as well. There are times when I'll go out to eat and won't do this type of homework ahead of time. What's important is that YOU have to make that choice for yourself on whether to splurge or be good. Just be happy with whatever choice you make and don't feel like you are eating something to make somebody else happy. A friend once told me that food tastes much better without a side of guilt!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

5 Weeks is too long for me without a race

After doing one race every two weeks for the past 3 months, I suddenly have no race to look forward to until August. This is simply unacceptable (LOL). I'll probably go through withdrawal at some point so please bare with me.

In all seriousness, though, it will be nice to get my body some much needed rest and heal itself for the final stretch run in my running series. I currently am 6th in my age category and there's a good chance that once the standings are updated, I'll be in the top 3. My goal for this year has been to do as many of the Ultra races of
50K or better, as possible and that's what I've been able to do.

I wore a new pair of trail shoes yesterday, the Brooks Cascadia and they performed amazingly well. I've had trouble with the previous model of this shoe as it would tear easily on the sides. After doing some major hill climbs and running on dirt roads yesterday, I'm happy to report that the shoes are still in one piece.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Now THAT was a vertical challenge!

To sum up the race today with one word I would use "hilly!"

My race day experienced started with my alarm going off at 3:30 AM this morning. I picked up a friend at 5:00 AM in Scarborough and we headed off to the race which was about 1:45 minutes away in Creemore.

I completed my 6th Ultra race in the past 11 weeks today and it was every bit as tough as advertised. They really did mean vertical challenge as there were 4 monster hills and a few mini ones which felt like monsters towards the end of the race. One of the hills was nicknamed "oxygen hill" because you really did need some after climbing it. It seemed to go on forever.

The race was a 25K loop which I did twice which meant that I climbed 8 major hills in total. I haven't done any hill training so that put extra pressure on me today. I did the smart thing and loaded up on salt pills and advil and it seemed to help as I avoided any cramping issues. Many runners were not as fortunate as the heat really took its toll today.

I ran the first 25K very conservatively in just under 3 hours. The 2nd loop was very difficult as I was left alone for long stretches of the race. I finally was able to catch up to a few runners and this helped to keep me motivated. I got a great boost of energy at the 35K mark and this carried me home. I actually felt very strong during the last 15K of the race and wished that I had had this energy earlier.

I was happy with my finishing time but the best part was hanging around afterwards and sharing stories with the other runners. Because there is 5 weeks before the next race, many of us are trying to arrange a fun run in a few weeks. We all wished that there was another race right around the corner.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Another race, another new challenge

Tomorrow I will be doing yet another race (50K) and this one promises to be pretty tough. It's called the Creemore Vertical Challenge and it will consist of doing 60% hill climbs. It will definitely put my quadricep muscles to the test.

I haven't really looked back to see what I have accomplished over these past 3 months but doing 6 Ultra races of between 30 Miles to 68 Miles, is something that I can truly be proud of. I knew that this year would be tough on me physically but so far I've been able to remain injury free and have maintained my running base mileage. I've also been doing a minimum of one and sometimes two days of weight lifting and I think that has helped strengthen my core muscles.

It will be a long day tomorrow as I'll leave my house at 4:00 AM and probably won't return until sometime in the evening on Saturday. It will be nice to see so many of my friends tomorrow at the race.

As is customary, I took yesterday off from running and did my 2nd day of weight lifting this week. I decided not to do any lower body lifting because of my race on Saturday. I've recently started to do some Tae Bo type training at the end of my weight training workout. I start off by using 5 pound weights in my hand as I simulate some boxing movements. Towards the end of the workout I drop the weights and just punch with my hands. This has increased my speed and overall muscle endurance.

Although my first love will always be running, it's nice to throw in some different workouts to keep the body from getting too accustomed to the training. My body is so used to running 10 or more miles daily that if I don't do at least that much it's almost like my mind and body feels letdown.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The more you do the better you feel

I was expecting to be very sore this morning after running for 11 miles and biking for another 16 miles. What I found, though, was that this morning I had one of the better runs I've had in quite some time. I was able to run 8.5 miles in 1:10 which is the equivalent to a 5:10 Kilometer. When I was training for the 2007 Mississauga Marathon, Ken and I would routinely do sub 5 Kilometers but today was the closest I've gotten to that pace.

It doesn't feel like I have a race this weekend but since I've been doing so many Ultra Marathons, I feel like my body has been able to bounce back quite nicely. I haven't really had a rest week since my first race in late April (50 Mile Seaton Trail Race). Saturday will mark my 6th race in the past 11 weeks. The veterans who I've talked to about this have told me that by the end of the race season, in late October, I won't have much left in the tank. I'm hoping that because there is a month between my race on Saturday and the next one in August that I'll be able to do more speed work.

The race on Saturday promises to be very gruelling with lots of hill climbs, hence the race is called a vertical challenge. My goal, as it is with all the other races I've done, is to finish. I'm sure that knowing I won't have a race after this for awhile I'll push myself a little bit more on Saturday.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A chip off the old block

After finishing my 11 mile run today I still had plenty of energy so I decided to bike to Whitby to see my kids. I promised my oldest that we would go biking together and he was so excited when I got there. He didn't just want to go biking, he wanted to bike back to my house. To put things in perspective, I live in Ajax near Church Street which is about 8.5 miles away from his house.

The quickest way to get back would be to travel along Bayly to Harwood, Harwood to Rossland and then Rossland to Church Street. While this is the quickest way, it isn't necesarrily the safest way. Bayly is a single lane road and my son hasn't been biking that long on the major roads. After thinking it over I decided to let him do it.

He followed all the instructions I gave him and did an amazing job. Once we hit Harwood we were able to ride on the sidewalk which I was happy about. He only had to stop two times as his legs were tiring. I had the biggest smile on my face as he kept pushing himself along the way. I knew it was going to be tough for him but I was so proud of what he did. It took us about 1 hour and 20 minutes to get home and he said he wanted to do it again.

This is one Canada Day I'll never forget!

Create your own "bucket list"

I recently watched the movie the Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The story is about two men who are dying from cancer and they decide to create a list of things they want to do before they die. This included climbing to the top of a mountain peak, skydiving and riding a fast car.

After the movie I thought about my own list and also thought about what Dan Millman says in his book the Peaceful Warrior. We all have a terminal illness, it's called birth. I have my own list of things that I want to do and at the top of it is running an ultra marathon (minimum 50K, maximum 50 miles) on every continent. It is a lofty goal that's for sure but it's something that I know I can achieve.

My attempt at trying to sleep in this morning met with mixed results. I was able to sleep until 6:30 but that's about it. I hit the road for an 11 mile run at 8:00 AM. It was nice not having to worry about too man cars on the road as most people I assume were sleeping. I'm sure I must have woke up some of them with my singning during my run (LOL).

I hope your Canada Day includes some kind of exercise, it's probably the best way to honour one of our most beloved heroes, Terry Fox. Everytime I think that I can't complete a run, I think about people like Terry and how he was able to accomplish what he did on one leg. Suddenly my aches and pains don't seem as bothersome anymore.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy to be living an active lifestyle

As I drove to meet some runners yesterday morning I saw so many people running, walking and biking. I knew that these people all lived an active lifestyle. It was early on a Sunday morning and yet these people put exercise high on their agenda of things to do. I've always said that if you don't put a priority on exercise and healthy living, you will never achieve your fitness goals.

I ran with one runner yesterday who just one year ago didn't even know if he was going to be able to walk again let alone run. He's suffered through torn achiles tendons and fused neck and yet he still continues to run. He may not return to the speed he once had, although I'd never count him out, but he's happy doing the thing he loves.

When I describe myself, the one thing I'm proud to say is that I'm a long distance runner. It reminds me of what kind of dedication I have to the sport that I love. One of the most common questions I get is how do I find the time to run so much? The answer is easy, I don't wait for an opportunity to run I create my opportunity to run.

The clients I see at the gym often feel like they can't get to the gym more than once or twice per week because of their busy schedules. To me, that really is the problem right there. We all live busy lives but you need to schedule in your workout times as you would a business meeting. This doesn't mean you have to rely on going to the gym for your exercise. I'm a good example of someone who hasn't worked out in a gym in over a year. Instead I've found my passion in running. There are many forms of exercise and all you have to do is keep an open mind and allow yourself to experience new things. You'll be amazed at what you find when you do.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Twice as nice

I knew that running in the trails yesterday that it would have to take a special run on Sunday to come close to that feeling. I'm happy to say that even though I ran on the road today, it was still a very good way to cap off a great weekend of running.

I met a group of 5 experienced runners this morning at Bayview and York Mills. I had forgotten how beautiful that area was. Three of these runners were quite faster than I was but I was happy that I was able to keep up with them for most of the run.

Because of all the races I've done recently, I haven't had a chance to do back to back long runs which were a staple of my training in the winter months. After running for close to 3.5 hours in the trails on Saturday, it was nice to push myself to run 2 hours today.

What made the run even more special was the fact that I was able to get even more advice from people who I look up to in the ultra running community. All of them are so helpful and willing to give any advice, tips on training or whatever I need from them.

I'm debating whether to do another 10+ mile run tomorrow or do a light weight training workout. I guess I'll make my decision in the morning.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

It doesn't get much better than this!

At 7:00 AM this morning a group of 12 runners decided that the weather wasn't going to affect our run in the Seaton Trail. Despite the muddy conditions it was an amazing experience and one of the better runs I've had in quite some time.

The best part was the stories we shared after the run was over. It was a great chance to catch up on everyones lives and see what races we were planning on doing next. The Ultra Runners that I know are so much like a family it's amazing to me and it keeps getting better and better.

Today we did just over 3 hours and chatted and ate for another 2 hours. I don't think there is much that is going to top this today.

Tomorrow I will be running with a different group of runners called the Warriors. It is a group that one of my Ultra friends has been telling me I have to run with so I'll be doing just that tomorrow. I'm a little worried because I've never run with these people before and they may be somewhat faster than I am but I'm going to give it a try anyway.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Looking the part is very important

I had my 2nd run this afternoon with a client who continues to amaze me. I have been teaching her how to run for the past 9 weeks and today was her first attempt at running 10 minutes without stopping. It truly was a milestone event for her and I couldn't have been more proud of her and what she has accomplished.

Way to go Karen!!!!

After our run I was approached by a gentleman who saw me stretching. He commented that I must be a long distance runner. This caught me off guard as I know I am very hard on myself. I still have a hard time believing people when they say that I "look" like a runner. It's a compliment that I love to hear though.

Because I'm in a field where there is plenty of skepticism, I need to ensure that I stay in the best shape possible. I mean, who would take me seriously when I talk about living a healthy lifestyle if I spent most of my free time watching tv and eating potato chips? It's not always easy living up to high expectations, and I know that I place huge expectations on myself, but I'm pleased when people stop and take notice. It makes all those hours of running seem worth while.

I like to move it, move it, I like to move it, move it....

After taking yesterday off to rest, I was back on the roads at 6 AM this morning. The plan was to do anywhere from 8 to 10 miles and I had no idea what pace to run it at. Instead, I just ran! What I found out was that I was quite a bit faster than I've been in a long time. I tried not to look at my watch too often to see how I was doing but each time I did glance at it I was surprised at the pace I was running.

The route that I do daily is one that has just enough small hills to make it challenging and a few nice flat areas where I can really speed up if I want it to. In my mind, it's a perfect route for me.

On the way home I saw a mama racoon and 6 babies all walking behind one another. As I ran by them they turned their heads to look at me. I'm sure they were probably wondering what I was doing. When I got home I couldn't wait to tell my kids all about it and they were excited and a little jealous I'm sure. Seeing nature up close, whether it's baby raccoons, large turtles or my favorite, deer, in the wild makes my running all the more special. I'm sure I see things early in the morning that others will never get a chance to see.

My weight has dropped to about 162 pounds, which is still about 5 pounds heavier than I want it to be for my next race. I should be able to get it down to 158 or so by the time my race comes though so I'm not worried. It's no coincidence that my increased speed has happened as my weight has dropped. I often wonder how fast I would be if I got down to 150 pounds.

After my race next weekend, there will be a month before the next race so that will give my body plenty of time to heal itself. These past two weeks I've started to push myself a little bit more and it's starting to pay off. I'm hoping that it translates into a better race times.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Still learning 3 years later

Although I feel I've come a long way in the three years since I started running, I realize more and more that I still have a long way to go before I really know what I'm capable of. To me, running is more about learning about my mind and how it works than simply how to put one foot in front of the other. To me, that's the easy part. The hard part is dealing with my mind and how it works during my running. There are times when it tells me to stop and I have to fight it and other times when my running seems effortless and I could run forever.

Finding out what I'm truly capable of means that I need to train with people who can push me harder and harder. I'm lucky that I have plenty of people to lean on for this type of training. When I go trail running on Tuesdays, Ken sets a pretty good pace. I'm nowhere near where his is speed wise but my main goal is to make sure that he doesn't get so far ahead of me that I can't see him. If I run with slower runners then it's easy to fall back to their pace. Running slowly has it's advantages, especially for long distances but it's also nice to push it every now and then.

I noticed that ever since I did that mini-tempo run last Tuesday, my speed has increased slightly. My 10 mile run this morning was one of the fastest I've done in months. I seem to walk a fine line between wanting to run a fast race and wanting to continue running long distance races. Some of the really good runners are able to do both but I'm not there........yet!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A few minutes is all that it takes

I constantly hear my clients tell me that they have no time to prepare healthy food. The answer, though, lies not in waiting for time but finding time to make and keep healthy alternatives around in your fridge and kitchen.

The first thing you need to do is creat a healthy shopping list. Your fridge should contain the following types of foods:
low fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese,cottage cheese)
lean proteins (eggs, egg whites,sliced chicken and turkey breast)
whole grain breads (multi-grain, rye, buckwheat, pumpernickle)
vegetables (celery, baby carrots, ready to serve salads)
natural peanut butter
fruits (berries, melons, apples,peaches, pears, kiwis)

In your cupboard should be things like:
canned tuna or salmon, nuts and seeds, rice cakes, brown rice and brown rice pasta, sweet and red potatoes

In your freezer should be:
chicken breast, ground turkey or chicken, fish, lean beef or pork and prepared dishes like casseroles, frozen vegetables

This may sound like a huge undertaking but all these can be purchased from any grocery store and kept in your fridge/freezer or cupboards.

Now that you have your food, the next thing you need to do is decide on a plan. I know that most people are reluctant to do this type of planning but I've found that the ones who truly are successful, don't wait until the last minute to decide what they are going to feed themselves and/or their children or spouse. If it helps to put a menu on the fridge then go for it. Do whatever it takes but try your best to stick with it.

Having healthier foods around may not guarantee success but not having healthy food around will make it very difficult to achieve your goals.

Monday, June 23, 2008

On to my next challenge......Creemore on July 5th

I took yesterday off to rest and reflect on my race and now it's on to my next race on July 5th. It's called the Creemore Vertical challenge and it promises to be a hard race. Since this will be my first time doing it, my main objective is to finish.

I did some weight lifting today and feel much better because of it. I've increased the weight a little bit on most of the exercises and have been paying close attention to strengthening my quads and hamstrings.

Tomorrow I'll be back onto the trails and into my regular running routine. I'm still amazed at how I've been able to bounce back from each race without missing a beat. I may have lost some speed but my endurance is better than it ever was when I was strictly doing 1/2 marathons and marathons.

In prepartion for my next race, I'm going to be doing some hill work which will consist of doing a few sets of running up and down some hills. I'll either do this at the trails or on the roads. Usually this would have been done weeks ago but I figure it's never too late and this should help to improve my ability to run some of the hills at my next race.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ultra trail runners are a special group of people

When I went up to the race yesterday in Niagara Falls with my fried, I was immediately greeted by most of the people who were running yesterday. I think this startled my friend but because I have run so many ultra races in the past 3 years, I've come to know many of these runners very well. We all share the same passion for trail running and our #1 goal is to finish the race. Most of us don't have specific goals but the ones who do are very private about them. We are all supportive of one another and it's something special that I rarely see at a marathon race.

Yesterday I was able to talk to many veteran runners who have done these Ultras for 10 or more years. They have guided me along since I started running. One of them, who I really look up, told me that he had to walk 16 hours during his first 100 mile race. He told me that it's all about learning what your body can handle. He also told me that because I've done so many ultra marathons that it's hard to do really well at them consistently. This was important for me to hear and made me feel better about my recent race results.

One day after my race and I'm feeling pretty good and would like to go for a run but cannot because I'm watching my kids today. My next race will be in 2 weeks and it's another 50k trail race called the Creemore Vertical Challenge. As the name implies, it will consist of many hill climbs. Apparently last year it was extremely hot. My goal this year is to compete in as many Ultra races as I can. So far so good.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

50K race report

Toda was not quite what I had in mind but it was fulfiilling nonetheless. The good news is that I completed my 5th Ultra marathon race since April 19th. The bad news is that I didn't come close to achieving my desired time.

I realized fairly quickly that today was going to be a struggle. When we arrived at the race site we were informed that the route had been changed. Part of the fun of this race is that we normally get to run to the great falls and then turn around and run back to the start of the race. Unfortunately we didn't get to run to the falls so we had to do a detour. This meant that we ran to the 20K mark, then back to the 15K mark, back to the 20K mark and then to the start of the race. If that sounds confusing to you, imagine what it did to me.(LOL)

Sometimes you just don't have "it" on a particular race day and that was the case today. I had to do more walking than I'm accustomed to which aggravated me and towards the end I could feel a "twinge" in my hamstrings. It was pretty hot today but usually I handle the warmer temperatures without too much difficulty. Today I was feeling nauseous at times. I know that I didn't take enough gels today but I doubt that my stomach could have handled it.

I have resigned myself to the fact that until I change my training program in the fall, that my speed will suffer. In addition, I have to keep reminding myself that I have done more distance races than I've done in my life and they all have been done over a short period of time. I've done a race every two weeks which hasn't allowed my body to heal. There are others who are doing the same thing so I don't want to make it sound like I'm making excuses but the fact is that I'm still learning much about my running.

I'll take my customary 24 hours to reflect on this race and then will leave it behind in my rearview mirror. I may do another race in a few weeks but that will depend on how I'm feeling after a few days off to rest.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Back to where it all started

In 2006 I decided to try my first Ultra Marathon. I had completed my first Marathon in May of that year and knew that I loved it so why not try a little longer distance. Any distance over 42.2 K or 26.1 Miles, is considered an Ultra Marathon. Typically these races are anywhere from 50K to 160K. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and thought that doing another 8K after the marathon distance shouldn't be that much of a problem. I found out how wrong I could be.

The Niagara race is considered a trail race and is part of the series that I'm in. However, it is run on a bike path from Niagara on the lake to the falls and back again. We run to the great falls (25K) and then head back the same way. It's interesting running among the many tourists there. Many of them are taking pictures or mingling with friends and we have to dart in and out of them along the way.

There are aid stations every 5K and when I ran this race in 2006, my friend and I would run to each aid station, stop for a few seconds and then head off again. Thinking about just running 5K at a time is better than thinking about running for
50K. Towards the last 15K of the race I really started to feel the heat and suffered a little bit of cramping along the way. That race taught me how difficult running an Ultra is.

Tomorrow I will be running in my 8th Ultra race since 2006 with 5 of them coming in the past 2 months. I feel that my conditioning is better than it ever has been and that should help tomorrow. I've also had one of the better eating weeks I've had in a long time and I should enter the race tomorrow at or near the 160 pound mark.

I've decided not to carbo-load too much this week just to see if it will make a difference for me tomorrow. My strategy will be to fuel up every 10K (gel) and carry two bottles of fluids with me (1 with water and 1 with an electrolyte drink). I'll also carry some salt tablets just in case it gets too hot.

Tomorrow starts bright and early for me (3:00 AM) so I need to get as much rest tonight as possible. Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Identifying your "trigger points" is crucial to long-term success

Today's Weight: 162 Body Fat%: 13

We all have them. It's that certain time of the day or perhaps it's an event that occurs. Whatever it is for you, you need to figure out why you turn to certain foods for comfort. No matter what eating plan you are on, there comes a time when your body craves something. We are all conditioned this way in our early years and many of us continue this pattern as we get older. Many people fail to recognize why they eat the way they do and until they determine that, it will be an uphill battle for long-term success.

I see many clients exhibit the following pattern:
They usually do well with their eating until dinner comes. After putting the kids to bed the sit in front of the TV and reflect on their day. This is where the conditioning sets in. It is almost as if they are rewarding themselves with food for getting through a stressful day either at work or with their kids. It's easier to suppress our feeling when we are at work because we have so many other distractions but when we get home and sit down in front of the TV it comes back again. Unfortunately some of those distractions are not there and food is readily at hand and willing and able to provide relief.

I am not immune to having my own triggers and have been fortunate because of all the running I do, that I'm able to compensate for some inconsistent eating. However, that doesn't mean that I can't make improvements. What has helped me most is setting a time for bed and not deviating from that. Another important thing that has helped me is to use a training log where I can input my running and also asks me my weight. This has forced me to use the scale on a daily basis. While I'm not a big fan of the scale, it does allow me to take a critical look at my eating.

One of the most common questions I get from clients is when to stop eating. I tell them that it's more important what you eat late at night as opposed to what time you are eating. I will have protein right up until bed and lately have been using hard-boiled egg whites with a small bowl of oatmeal. This is providing my body with just enough fuel for my early morning runs the next day.

Eating frequently is so important for weight loss/maintenance and it has been a struggle at times for me because I see as many as 12 clients in a row without a break. I've become more disciplined by taking more food with me and making sure that when I'm done work, all my food is consumed.

When you become more disciplined with your eating, you automatically become more disciplined in other areas of your life. I've been more rested this week than in a long time and my running speed has never been better. When you can make the connection between healthier eating and better performance, you will want to keep that momentum going. I know that this has been a very good momentum week for me and I want to keep pushing it further and further.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What is your measuring stick?

Most people who know me understand my dislike for weight scales. The reason is that they don't always give an accurate picture of overall health. However, that doesn't mean that I don't believe in using some tool to measure progress. Whether it is a measuring tape, an increase in strength, speed or endurance, you must use something to determine whether you are going forwards or backwards. I don't believe in staying still.

In the case of my running, this week has been a real eye opener for me. I've talked about this with several of my running friends and the more I think about it the more I realize my fear. It goes back to my attempt at trying to get a 3:30 at the Mississauga Marathon. In some ways, because I had such a bad experience there (suffering from cramps, hypothermia) I've been reluctant to try again. That doesn't mean that I don't enjoy trail running because it really is the best place to run in, it does mean that I need to face my fears head on. The memory of that race still upsets me because I had trained for 4 long months for that race and was on target with everything that I was doing. Instead of attempting another fall marathon, I opted to go back to my familiar territory of the trails. I understand now that I have unfinished business so once my season is over, I will focus my attention on trying to improve on my 3:39 marathon time.

This morning I had one of the fastest runs I've had in probably a year and I know that I can do even better. Tracking my progress, as I've been doing for about a month now, I can see where I need to make improvements. It's too late to switch gears right now as I'm doing so many ultra marathons, which require more endurance than speed, but every week I'm going to start doing a tempo run, hill training or speed work on the track, just to keep my speed up.

Whatever your goals are, don't sell yourself short and be prepared to face tough challenges everyday. It's not easy to reach goals but that's what separates those that "do" and those that "talk about doing." Don't be a talker!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Getting help to unleash my full potential

If I had to describe my run this morning I would say it was an "awakening." Because I have run so many ultra races in the past two months, my speed has taken a beating as a result. When I ran with Ken he pushed it a little faster today than I was expecting and even asked me when my last tempo run was. I joked to him that it was probably over a year ago.

I've been going into each race with the mentality of just finishing. I've been fortunate that I've done well with this philosophy but it is the best that I could have done? I really would have to say no. I've been leaving something on the race courses and it has started to bother me.

It's a fine line, for me, between running "smart" and running "safe" and I think I've been running more "safe" lately. Sometimes it takes the help of a friend to remind you of where you were and what you are capable of and that happened today for me. I have to start bridging the gap between running safely and smartly and that will start this Saturday in Niagara Falls.

I enjoy pushing myself to new limits and I'm driven to accomplish new goals. It used to be enough for me just to say that I have completed a race and that's what I've done for the last few races I've done. Sometimes the fear of the unknown makes us cautious in our approach to things. I truly believe, though, that to do my best, I need to let go of the fear that I have and just push myself through those pain barriers. I know that if I'm not feeling pain after this Saturday, then I would not have pushed myself as hard as I should have.

Getting mentally focused requires discipline

When I do my race on Saturday (50K in Niagara Falls) it will be my 5th Ultra race since April 19th. I've been doing more distance races than ever before and my feet are taking a beating as a result. I'm seriously considering having my remaining toenails removed to avoid the inevitable.

Although I have done well at the previous races, I seem to have left something on the course at each of them. Somehow I feel that complacency has set in. This weekend I really want to push myself a little harder than I have.

There really is no reason for me not to have a good race, other than outside influences of course. Part of that means getting more disciplined and focused this week. I know what I need to do, as I spend the majority of the time telling this to my clients. What I need to do this week is start taking more of my own advice.

A big part of that means getting more sleep. It also means eating a little healthier. Both of these have slipped a little over the last few weeks. The important thing to remember when these times happen is to become more accountable. Even though I don't like using weight scales, it's important to use something to motivate me. Although my body fat is low (12%) my weight has gone up a little (165) and I know that I run my best at around 160. Knowing this I will become more diligent with my eating as the race approaches. This is all part of the mental focus that I need to have.

Because I've done this race twice before, I know the trouble spots and the strategy that I need to employ in order to get the result I want. I have a goal time that I want to reach but I will save this for later in the week.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Running slower to ensure that my passion continues

Yesterday I was able to mingle with a diverse group of runners. In the morning I met with my trail running friends and in the evening it was runners who mostly do road marathons. It was quite interesting listening to the different conversations about running. There is no good/bad, right/wrong way with regards to running. Some prefer the marathon distances where they can push themselves to run faster and faster. Others like to see how much endurance they can squeeze out of their bodies. The two groups are not necessarily mutually exclusive as I have done both speed marathons and now ultramarathons. When I listened to a few of the runners last night talk about their injuries, however, it made me realize that for now, speed isn't something I'm concerned with.

I'm sure the allure of running the Boston Marathon will get to me sooner or later but my timetable for trying to qualify for that race is when I turn 45 in 2012. Until then, I want to be able to ensure that I'm able to run at least 5 days per week.

It was really sad listening to a few of the runners who were injured. Some have been off for months. I thought to myself how lucky I am to be still doing what I love and (knock on wood) staying relatively healthy throughout. I'm sure that running smarter has lots to do with that.

When I got up this morning I contemplated running with a group of people that I know but I decided against it. The one fear that I have is getting caught up in someone elses' pace.

I will be doing a 50 K race next Saturday in Niagara Falls and this is one race where it will be easy to get caught up in trying to run fast. The course is relatively flat and on a bikepath. Amazingly enough I was running great last year and then got lost about 1KM from the finish which robbed me of a better time. I remember how much pain I was in last year after that race. My calves seized up on me and I could barely walk. Since I've changed my approach to running slower and smarter, I have not had these same problems.

There will be so many people that I know who will be doing that race that I could probably count the number of people who I don't know on one hand. Most of them are people I run with in the OUS (Ontario Ultra Series) so running slowly won't be a problem for me.

I want to wish all the Fathers out there a very happy Fathers Day. One of the greatest joys in my life came 10 years ago when my oldest son was born on the weekend of Fathers Day. Take the time to spend some quality time with your Father today. As a father, I know they'll appreciate it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Back on the trails today

Today I did my first long trail run since my last race in Sulphur. The goal was to go nice and easy for a minimum of 3 hours. I really felt it today and the mosquitos were enjoying most of me as I have bites all over my body. I ended up walking the last few K's but that gave me a chance to talk with an amazing Trail runner. I was able to get some tips and just enjoy spending time in the trails.

The overall time was just 3 hours and 45 minutes and my feet are still recovering. It was nice to be back on the trails again but it reminded me how important it is to continue running there at least once per week.

Tomorrow I will do between 10-12 miles, probably on the road, to recover from today's run.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

An amazing story to tell

I must see about 100 clients over a two week span of work and some stand out a little more than others. There is one client who has really rekindled my own memories of my former self and I just had to tell a little bit about him today.

He is 15 years old and when I first saw him he was close to 200 pounds and stood about 5'5. Being a teenager is difficult enough but trying to lose weight amongst friends who would rather hang out at McDonalds and the video arcase cand be even tougher. He has never missed an appointment with me,which is incredible, and he works out at least 6 days per week. He reminds me of myself at that age, although I was even heavier than he is.

Each week when I see him and we do a weigh-in he continues to drop weight. The transformation is incredible and his trainer and I are constantly talking about how well he is doing. At our last weigh in he was down to 175 pounds and the look on his face was priceless. He knows that he still wants to lose more weight but he also can reflect on how well he is doing.

When I think about some of my older clients who are struggling I can always relate to them the story of this young man and it provides them with some inspiration. Each client I see has their own challenges that they must overcome but having been overweight as a teenager, I know how difficult this can be. I also know that he is changing his life around at a great time and I'm confident that he will continue to live a healthy life. Who knows, maybe in 20 years he'll be doing nutrition counseling and writing a blog like I do. You never can tell right?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Blame it on the music

Today the plan was to go nice and easy for just over 6 miles. Unfortunately my body had other ideas but I’m placing the blame squarely on my new mp3 player.

During my run yesterday my mp3 player died a sudden death, probably from getting too much water, and I had to get a new one. It’s amazing how small they are making these things. I purchased one that was about ½ the size of my old one.

Today I felt very strong and tried my best to hold myself back but it was not going to happen today. Instead, I ran for just over 9 miles and loved every minute of it. Every time I wanted to stop, a song would come on that I hadn’t heard in a long time and it made me want to run. I mean, who can stop running when they hear the theme song to “Rocky?” (LOL)

People have often told me that they are motivated by what I’ve been able to accomplish and it is flattering and overwhelming at times as I really don’t feel like I’m doing anything that lots of people do. I do realize that I’m much focused and have made a commitment to living a healthy lifestyle. To some that means sacrificing certain things but I don’t see it that way. I am constantly motivated by the clients I see on a daily basis and that’s what keeps me going. I also know that music during my running can really pump me up emotionally. I feel so energized after a run and I can’t wait until the next time I lace up my shoes.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Experience is a great teacher

Today was my first run since my race on Saturday. It seems I'm always coming off of a race but this will be my last until early July. I'm becoming very familiar with easing myself back into running long distances following a race. I've done the smart thing and not push it too much during my first run after a race and that's what I did today.

My legs felt a little tired and "heavy" for the first part of the run but my pace picked up a little bit towards the middle and end. I played it safe and ran for just over 6 miles today. The fact that my mp3 player died during my run made it easier for me not to run too far. I've had that same player for about a year now but it's time to get a new one. I'm glad it didn't die on me during my race last weekend.

Music has a great way of motivating me and the music I pick usually has a running "theme" to it. During my race on Saturday when I heard the song "Running on Empty" I was tired but I knew that I had to run while listening to that song. Walking to it just wouldn't have done it or me justice. So, today, I must find a new mp3 player. I've become so accustomed to it that I know that I would have a hard time running without one.

Tomorrow I will go a little longer, probably 8 miles, but this week will be all about just running for "feel" rather than running with a plan.

Monday, June 09, 2008

So, what's next?

After completing my last race on the weekend and giving myself the customary 24 hours to reflect on it, it's time once again to look towards my next goal.

I had hoped to do the 50K race in Niagara Falls in two weeks but family committments will not allow that to happen. That race has special meaning to me as it was the first time I completed an ultra-marathon (2006).

However, in my quest to do as many "first time" races as possible, I have turned my attention to the race on July 7th. It is called the Creemore Vertical Challenge:

Many of the trail runners I spoke with on Saturday told me how difficult that race is so the fact that I have about a month to train for it will suit me well.

My legs are feeling surprisingly good and I will be hitting either the trails or the roads tomorrow for an hour or so. I took today off from running but did some weight lifting for about an hour.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A nice "bounceback" effort yesterday

Let me just say how much I love the whole race day experience. There is something magical about it for me as I anticipate what I'm about to accomplish. It's all about the reward for all the hard work I've put in with my running.

My race day started at 4:30 AM. As is typical, I beat my alarm as my body just seems to know when it's time to get up. After my morning routine, which included two trips to the bathroom, 1 cup of tea and final check of my race bag, I was off to Kingston.

I left my house just shortly before 6:00 AM. It's been years since I've been to Kingston and I forgot how nice the drive was. We are truly blessed in Ontario with a nice stretch of highway.

I arrived at just before 8:00 AM. I immediately noticed so many familiar faces. Most, if not all, of the people came up to me to ask me how I was feeling after the Sulphur 100 mile race. They knew that it was my first attempt and congratulated me on my efforts. I mingled with as many people as I could as I prepared for my race.

The temperatures were in the high 20's to early 30's and the "track" that we ran on was an old horse track 800 Metres (1/2 mile) long. The rules were simple, each time we crossed the start/finish line we had to wave/get the attention of the table that we were assigned to so that they could keep track of how many laps we did. Each 4 laps was the equivalent to 5 KM's.

There was a group photo taken just before our race and then some final instructions about the heat. Because we were going to be running for 6 hours, there was a very real possibility of heat exhaustion. We are all experienced runners but it’s still important to stress the need for taking in fluids and electrolytes on such a hot day. I’m fortunate because the heat doesn’t seem to bother me as much as it bothers other people. In fact, I prefer to run in warm temperatures.

There was an aid/food station set up about 300 Metres from the start/finish line. I had no idea of what strategy to employ as I hadn’t run a timed race before. It usually takes me about an hour to warm up anyway, so I decided to run the first hour and see how I felt after that.

After that first hour there was an amazing group of kids who were volunteering at about 200 Metres from the start/finish area. They had buckets of water with sponges. As the runners ran by them they handed the sponges and we used them to keep ourselves cool. I could not have asked for better support during this race. I seemed to connect with one of the kids and he would run with me a little bit and then hand me the sponge. I used this on every other lap and it really helped to keep me cool and provided me with a boost of energy at the same time.

Eventually my strategy was to run 6 laps and then stop for some food and to fill up my water bottle. This worked out to every 30-34 minutes. As the race progressed the laps became more like every 4 as the heat started to take its toll. I saw many experienced runners having to walk most of the race as the heat was just too much for them.

At about the 4 hour mark my right hip started to really hurt and I had to do more walking then running. This lasted for about 20 minutes or so. After taking some Advil, I was feeling a little better and then I started to run more. I made sure that I didn’t walk anymore than I had to. My feet were on fire and I knew that I had several blisters and that I’d probably need a new toenail or two.

I was never happier to see the time on the clock read 5 hours because I knew the last hour would be run on guts. Knowing that only 1 more hour was left in the race brought out lots of confidence in me and I actually had a few good laps left in me. With about 15 minutes left in the race we were handed a plastic bag of dirt with our name on it. Once the clock hit 6 hours, we had to stop running and place our bag on the ground. This was done so that they could measure the distance we covered. At 6 hours in, or 3 PM, there was a loud honking of car horns and that signified that the race was over.

After high-fiving as many people as I could, it was time to see how I did. My totals were 54.59 KM’s which put me 16th overall and the 11th Male overall. I was very happy with my performance considering the amount of races I’ve done since April (50 Mile, 50 K, 68 Mile and today’s race). As I took off my socks I confirmed what I had suspected, another two lost toenails and two large blisters. After a quick change of clothes, I was back in my car for the long drive home to Ajax.

I’ll need a few days to heal up but I actually feel pretty good as I type this. My next race probably won’t be until July so I can do some nice running between now and then.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Thoughts about this weekend

This will be another "first" for me on Saturday as I compete in my first timed race. I will be running a 1 KM loop for 6 hours and at the end of the 6 hours the KM's will be counted up to see how far I got. When I looked at the race results from last year there were people doing crazy distances (78 K) and moderate distances (40 K) so it's hard to know where exactly I'll end up.

The best part of the race is that I'll be rubbing elbows, or in this case running shoes, with some truly great trail runners. I'll run my own race but it will be nice to chat with some of the runners while I'm at it. I do plan to run with music but will try not to use it until the 2nd half of the race.

When I run in trail races it's easier to take walk breaks because of the hills that are there but with a road race I have to make sure that I take the time to stop and walk a little. Because I've never done this kind of race before I'll use the first hour to get myself warmed up and then start doing a regular walk break every 4-5 loops. It really doesn't matter to me how fast I go because everyone has to run for the same amount of time. This will be my 4th long distance race since April so it will be interesting to see what kind of effort I can put forth.

After this race I probably won't be doing another long race until July which will give me more time to just run for the enjoyment of it. The weather is getting warmer which is just what I love to run in. All I have to do is remember some of those long winter runs and you won't have to worry about me complaining about how hot it is.