Friday, February 29, 2008

Don't let other people dictate what your goals should be

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with one of my clients. She has been doing very well with regards to her goals but her husband feels that she shouldn't pursue them anymore. Why is it that the people who are close to us try to sabotage our efforts to reach our goals? I see this far too often and I really think it's a sign that the other person is insecure himself/herself. Does anyone really have the right to tell you what your goals should be? If I had listened to all the people who continue to tell me that I'm crazy for wanting to run 50 Miles I probably wouldn't be running at all. It takes plenty of internal strength not to listen to all the people who continually try to stand in your way but you must remember that the goals you have chosen are yours and yours alone.

Don't be afraid to verbalize your goals because it will re-inforce to yourself what it is that you are trying to accomplish. It also helps to keep reminders around the house at how far you have come and where you are headed so that you can give yourself positive re-inforcements whenever you hear someone question your goals. It's unfortunate that sometimes you lose friends in the process of your transformation but then again if they were truly a friend don't you think they would want to support you all the way?

Finally, it may help to sit down with your family and friends and explain to them what it is you are trying to accomplish and how helpful it would be to have their support behind you. In the end, though, make sure that you realize how important your goal is to you and don't let anyone try to convince you that you shouldn't accomplish them.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More character building today

This cold weather has to end soon right? After running yesterday in minus 20 degrees, today I found out that it was going to be even colder. When I checked the weather network before my 5 AM run this morning the temperature was minus 26 with the wind chill. One very important thing that worked in my favour was the fact that there were no wind gusts in the forecast. I've run in this type of weather before and it really isn't the cold that bothers me as much as it is the wind.

Before my run I thought about some of the coldest runs that I've had since I started running 3 years ago. I think the coldest run was minus 23 and that was a 1/2 Marathon race I did in Peterborough in 2006. I like to think back to days like that as it gives me confidence before heading out.

As I did yesterday, I decided to let the weather dictate how far I was going to go. As I stepped outside I could feel the cold immediately and once again I knew this was going to be a tough run. It seemed like my feet were frozen for much of the run but other than that, it was actually a good run. I didn't stop too much because I didn't want to give my body a chance to cool down and I found that I was running much faster than I normally would (probably because I was trying to keep myself warm).

I managed to run over 8 miles (13 K's) in just over 1 hour and I was amazed at how great I felt afterwards. I know that had there been more of a wind, it probably would have been a much different outcome. As cold as it was, my mind never once told me to quit. I'm very proud of the fact that I am developing a very good inner strength and it has everything to do with keeping a positive attitude and having experience as a runner. I'm getting much better at switching "gears" with regards to my speed during my runs. I'm running with more confidence and I'm using my breathing to let me know whether to speed up or slow down.

I now have bookmarked these back to back cold runs so when my race at Seaton gets tough, I can look back to these runs for inspiration. I'll probably run tomorrow or Saturday and lift weights on the day that I don't run and then follow that up with a 2.5 hour run on Sunday. After running for over 5 hours last weekend, it will seem a little odd to run for 2.5 hours. With just 8 weeks until my race though, now is the time to pay close attention to my training.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Enough already with the cold weather.....

This is my third year running in the winter and has easily been the worst so far. I sometimes wonder if the running Gods are testing me as I prepare for my race in April. Getting mentally ready to run outside in temperatures twenty degrees below zero, with a steady wind at my face is something that is not easy to do.

I got up this morning at 4:15 AM. I had set my alarm for 4:30 but my body seems to just get up when I'm supposed to so I don't fight it. After hitting the bathroom to do my usual routine, I went downstairs and turned on my kettle to boil some water for my tea. I then went into the basement to check my email and surf the Internet for a few minutes. I usually check the weather network to see just how bad it is and of course I knew that today was going to be a cold one.
The temperature was -26 (when you factor in the wind chill)and winds coming from the North at 22KM/Hr and gusts up to 33 KM/Hr.

By this time it's about 5:00 AM and I head upstairs. I prepare my tea and sit down and think about my run. I try to visualize what I want from my run today. After doing over 10 Miles yesterday, I had some flexibility with my distance. The minimum I wanted to do was 8 Miles so I mapped out in my mind what that was going to look like. I decided that I was going to let the weather dictate how far I wanted to go today.

The time set aside to prepare for a run is without a doutbt my most tranquil time I'll have in the day. I tell myself that these runs will prepare me for my race in April like no other. I tell myself that I am strong and that I can do this. There is absolutely no room for negative thoughts during the time I prepare for a run. I put myself in such a "trance" that it's hard for me to think about anything but what I'm about to do.

Once I feel that I am mentally ready, I begin to get dressed. Because of the cold weather, I have to wear a few layers of clothes. Once I'm dressed I prepare my water bottle with HEED (an electrolyte drink) and today I decided to bring along an energy gel (Hammer Strength) just in case I decided to run a little longer than anticipated.

I pick the right songs to get me ready, nothing too fast, usually something inspirational. After lacing up my shoes and making sure my Garmin is working, I headed out the door. The first 5-10 minutes of my run today was nice and steady. I could feel the cold and I knew that it was going to take me a long time to get warmed up. As I reached the half-way point of my run and I still wasn't getting warm, I knew that this was going to be a challenge. Rather than risk frostbite, I decided to do roughly 8.5 Miles (13 K's) today. I tried to pick routes where the wind wasn't too strong but this proved futile. It was so cold at times that I found it hard to drink from my water bottle as it was getting frozen.

As I neared my house I was happy that I still made it out today but I also will be thankful for some warmer weather which I hope we'll see soon. My hands were still cold so I decided to do some light abdominal work in my basement after my run. This helped to get the circulation going again. Once I had completed that, I headed for my warm shower. There is greater feeling than a hot shower after a long run.

During my run I kept thinking about Seaton and how hard that run is going to be. I know that these kind of run will only help me, but I've had enough of the cold weather already! Running Gods please start sending me some warmer temperatures.....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Finding balance can be tough at times

Yesterday I posted what my typical weekly training program looks like. After looking at it myself, I quickly realized that there really isn't much time available for anything but training. What I didn't post was the fact that my early morning training program means that I need to get to bed early, sometimes 8:30 or 9:00 PM. A "treat" for me is sleeping in until 6:00 AM. I've also been paying pretty close attention to my diet and have recently started to use things like powdered calcium, hemp seeds, concentrated powdered fruits, and more green vegetables. I want my body to be as physically prepared as possible.

The weight training program I'm doing is specifically designed to improve my core strength and although my legs felt a little "heavy" during my 10 mile run today, I know it's going to help in the long run.

Coming off an emotionally charged weekend, it was interesting to see how I would do today. I was surprised at how much faster I was able to run today. It seems that every run I have with Ken, though, is my fastest run of the week. Because my training has been mostly about improving my long distance running, I haven't done any speed work in months. I'm sure I would be humbled quickly if I tried to run a fast race but then again, it's not something that I believe will help me prepare for the Seaton Trail race.

What made this past weekend so special was that I was able to talk to fellow runners who understand my passion and realize how hard the training is that I'm doing. Try as I do, it's hard for me to find balance at this point of my training. Ken and I talked about trying to find other distractions so that I don't get too consumed with the race. That will probably be my biggest challenge that I face between now and the time the gun sounds to start my race in April. Outside of my kids, my focus has never been as clear as it is now. It's something that I talk to my clients about on a regular basis. Once you have a picture in your mind of what your goal is, don't let anything or anyone get in the way of achieving that.

Monday, February 25, 2008

An inside look at my training program

It wasn't until about 3 weeks ago when I was able to overcome some terrible weather conditions to finish my 36K run. Ever since that run I've been on a "high" and my training hasn't looked back. I've been able to kick things up a notch and my life seems to revolve around my training and not much more these days. I'm not complaining because it's something that I knew was going to happen when I decided to do a 50 mile run. This was re-affirmed over the weekend as I was talking with my friends who both have completed 50 Mile races.

Here is my weekday training program:
Monday (5:00 AM): Circuit Weight training
3 sets of 30 of Chest Press, Bent Over Rows, Crunches on a stability ball rest
3 sets of 30 of 1-Leg squats, Lunges, Single Leg Extensions, Single Leg Curls
3 sets of 30 of Arm Curls, Lying Tricep Extensions, Crunches
3 sets of 30 of Shoulder Lateral Raises, Stiff Legged Deadlifts, Leg Raises

This workout takes about 1 hour to complete and I try to use the stability ball as much as possible to improve my core strength

Tuesday (5:45 AM): 10 Mile Run (16 K's)
This run tends to be my fastest run of the week

Wednesday (5:45 AM): 8 to 9 Mile Run at a comfortable pace

Thursday (5:00 AM): 8 to 9 Mile Run at a comfortable pace

Friday (5:00 AM): Repeat of weight workout. I may vary some of the exercises but the workout still takes about an hour to complete

Saturday (7:00 AM or 5:00 AM): This Run will either be a trail run for 2 hours or a 8-9 mile run depending on if I have my kids that particular weekend.

Sunday (6:00 AM): This is my long slow run. My schedule for the next 8 weeks will be as follows:
2.5 Hour Run (March 2nd)
3 Hour Run (March 9th)
3.5 Hour Run (March 16th)
4 Hour Trail Run (March 23rd)
3 Hour Run (March 30th)
2 Hour Run (April 6th)
1 Hour Run (April 13th)
Race Day April 19th

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Battered, Bruised but Breathtaking nonetheless

Now THAT is what I call a relaxing weekend!

No, my weekend didn't include much sitting around, it didn't include partying until the wee hours of the morning and it didn't include any television either. What this weekend did provide for me was yet another boost of confidence for my upcoming race as well as spending a weekend with an amazing trail running couple in St. Catharines.

My goals for this weekend were two-fold. First, I wanted to run for at least 5 hours on Saturday and do a recovery run on Sunday. Second I wanted to pick the brains of some experienced trail runners and go over my training program with them. I'm glad to say that I accomplished those goals and so much more.

As I drove to St. Catharines on Friday afternoon I kept thinking about the run I wanted to do on Saturday. Last weekend I ran for 4 hours and 15 minutes so adding another 45 minutes to that total was going to be a tough challenge. However, I knew that this was going to be the perfect opportunity to do this type of run.

When I got to my friend's house, we went over possible routes for the next morning. I brought along both my trail and road shoes as I wasn't sure what we were going to do. Because they live so close to the Bruce Trail, we decided to start out on the trails and see how far we could get. My friend is more adventurous and daring than I am but I knew that as long as stuck close by her I'd be alright.

We left just after 8 AM on Saturday morning and the weather was colder than expected. The plan was to run with her and her husband for the first hour and then her husband was going to turn around and head back home. He is an amazing trail runner but he's recovering from pneumonia and is just getting back into running shape. After the first 2.5 hours he was going to meet us with his car so we could re-fuel with electrolytes, gels and water. This was an amazing thing to see.

The Bruce Trail is a breathtakingly beautiful trail that stretches for over 700 K's but on this day it was mostly a sheet of ice. The conditions were so bad that there were times when we were running on nothing but ice. I must have fallen at least 6 times and I have the bruises to show for it. Running in these conditions was extremely difficult. We had to run on train tracks at times, just to avoid the ice. Eventually we made it to the half-way mark where we were able to re-fuel and strategize about the next 2.5 hours. We decided to run the rest of the way on roads and this was much more enjoyable. The only problem was that I was running in my trail shoes and I have never done that long a stretch on roads in these shoes. My road shoes have my orthotic supports in them so I was concerned about running for that long without the added support.

At about the 3 hour and 45 minute mark I got a great sense of energy. I felt like I could run forever. Fortunately I had brought along my music with me so I used it for the last part of my run and this really seemed to pick me up. During the last hour of the run we decided to run/walk onto a pier which was ice covered. One wrong slip and we could have easily fallen into the water. The view, though, was too breathtaking to pass up. It looked like a scene from the Arctic as there were parts of the water that had ice sticking out from it. It looked like miniature glaciers.

When we finished the run I was so proud of what I had just finished. One of the best moments was when we returned to my friend’s house. We both were tired but thrilled at what we had just done. I was able to talk about my training and what strategy I should employ for my race. The advice I got was something that I'll remember forever. It's nice knowing how helpful the trail running community is.

On Sunday we did another trail run, again in the Bruce Trail, but on a different section which wasn't as icy. My legs felt a little "heavy" but I managed to run for over an hour which was my goal. After a celebratory breakfast, I headed home and along the way I thought about how great that weekend was.

Thanks Diane and Henri!

Friday, February 22, 2008

There is nothing that you cannot accomplish

One of the things I love the most about my job is that I get to see my clients overcome obstacles in their life on their way to achieving their personal goals. I've often found it interesting that for some reason people find it easier to achieve success in the other aspects of their life but when it comes to health goals, they find that most difficult. I've seen some of the most driven people in the world have a hard time sticking to a specific meal plan and exercise routine, even if they know it will almost assuredly get them the goals they want.

In the business world they wouldn't dare do something that would jeopardize their chances of moving up the corporate ladder but they have a hard time disciplining themselves in other areas of their lives. You have to decide how important your health is to you and when you realize that without a proper mind, body and spirit you will eventually burn yourself out in other areas of your life. You can get away with a poor diet for only so long before eventually your body will say enough is enough. Unfortunately many people wait until this point before deciding that they need to change their lives. For some, the price they pay for waiting this long could cost them their lives.

Whenever a client asks me if they think they can accomplish their goals I immediately answer YES! The first part of achieving a goal is to define what that goal is and then deciding how important that goal is to you. Once you make a commitment to that, the next step is having a plan that works. As a lifestyle coach, I feel I do a great job of motivating someone to continue but I cannot "get" someone motivated. This has to come from within. It's that little voice in your head that tells you how important your goal is to you. What I provide is the necessary encouragement and proper plan, to keep you going.

I've had clients who I know are really not motivated to do what I'm trying to get them to do. To be perfectly honest, I try not to spend too much time with them because until they themselves realize that these goals are important, there's not much that I can do. Eventually some of these clients do come around but I've come to realize that not everyone wants what they say they want or at the very least, they are not willing to put in the hard work necessary to get the job done. There is no substitute to hard work so if you are willing to do whatever is necessary to get the job done then you will succeed.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Understanding what it takes to be an Ultra Marathoner

The woman who changed my life and who got me hooked on running was an amazing trail/ultra marathon runner. Angie would get up early in the morning to make sure that she got her run in. Her weekends were consumed with running distances. I remember admiring her dedication. Nothing seemed to get in her way. At the time that I met her, she was training for something called the "Ultimate Canuck." This consisted of running a 50K trail race on Saturday and then 42K on Sunday. I saw the type of pain she went through but I also got to see how happy she was because she was doing something that she loved to do.

Although I rarely see her now, I feel that she has given me an amazing gift. During my run today, it really started to click for me with regards to the training I'm doing now. I thought about how I seem to have developed into a runner and how much my life now mimics Angie's in many respects. I had no idea that I would be doing what I'm doing now but it just seems like the natural progression for me. I've done 1/2 Marathons, Marathons, 50K trail and road races and now I'm training for a 50 Mile race. Whereas other runners may be consumed with improving their marathon times or trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I'm more interested in running further and further.

This weekend I'm heading to St. Catherines to run with a good friend. She is also an ultra marathoner and we will be running 50K together. It should be interesting because she prefers to run by herself as I do. That's my idea of a "mini vacation" (LOL). It will include 2 runs, great conversation, plenty of food and plenty of laughs. Now if I can only make it to St. Catherines without getting lost........

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Other runners seem to bring out the best in me!

I'm sure if I had it my way I would convince the whole world to start running. I'm convinced that we'd all be a much happier people that way.

Yesterday I shared a good conversation with a fellow runner. She has been running for over 20 years and during our conversation I could tell that she knew how much running meant to me. When she said that I have the perfect body for a runner I almost hit the floor. It's something that I don't really think about but it's something that others have said to me in the past. It was a great compliment and obviously made my day.

She mentioned how she had the same enthusiasm that I had and it was nice talking to someone who has the same passion as I do. People who have never experienced running really will never truly understand what happens both internally and externally during a run. I find that nothing else holds my interest the same way that running does which I guess could be considered a blessing or a curse. In the past, it seemed that I could easily sit on the couch and just vegetate for hours on end. Since I started running I have a harder time sitting still, unless it's to watch a Seinfeld re-run.

When we talked about my upcoming race she understood the time committment needed and how difficult it is to find the time to train. I explained to her that when something is a priority in your life you find the time and I could tell that she knew what I was talking about.

People will often comment about the sacrifices I have to make in order to do what I do. My comment to them is that running is my entertainment. If that means not staying out late the night before a run or watching my diet the night before a long run then that's the way it has be. In my case I wouldn't call it making a sacrifice, I would call it making a choice and I'm happy with the choices I'm making.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New shoes........same attitude!

After my long run on Sunday I retired my old shoes so this morning was my first run in my new ones. I never know how they are going to "feel" for that first run. By the time I need a new pair of shoes I look at the bottom of them and find out just how badly they are worn down. I swear that sometimes it feels like I'm running with my bare feet because of the lack of cushioning I get from the shoes. A good sign for me that tells me that I need new shoes is that my plantar fasciitis starts to act up. I'm alwasy reluctant to type this as I fear I'm putting a jinx on myself BUT I've been so lucky not to have any injuries to speak of as of late. There will always be the muscle soreness and such but really nothing that will prevent me from

As I was running with my friend today I learned that his running partner has injured herself. I hope she has a speedy recovery because she has been training for an Ultra race in the spring.

Yesterday I met a client who's father in law is a running hero of mine. I'll never forget the first time I went trail running in the Seaton Trail. He was one of the founders of the Seaton Trail Mud Puppies and I felt "adopted" right away. It was great working with her but I also learned that he has also injured himself and hasn't been running in months. This is a man who lives and breathes running much like I do. I remember talking to Ken about injuries and he told me that a very high percentage of people get injured at some point within the first 18 months that they start running. It's amazing that a sprort that brings so much enjoyment to so many people can be instantly taken away.

I'd like to think that I take good care of myself and that starts with having a sound nutrition plan. I also think that as I'm learning more about the sport, I'm becoming a smarter runner. The endurance training I'm doing now puts more stress on my joints as I'm asking my body to run longer and longer each time out. I know that when race day comes, I'll be putting myself through something that I know I'll be paying for for days later after the race. My main focus is to stay healthy between now and then.

Monday, February 18, 2008

There is no substitute for experience

There was a time when I my body used to ache so badly after running a marathon that I could barely get out of my bed. I remember getting everything upstairs I needed for that day so that I wouldn't have to climb up and down the stairs more than once. Every step was like a painful reminder of what I had just done to my body. Then came day two, which was even more painful. I wouldn't be able to run for at least 3 days following a marathon.

Granted, now I'm running more slowly than I would if I was going to be competing in a race, but that also means that I'm spending more time on my feet. The best marathon time I've had so far has been 3 hours and 39 minutes in Jacksonville, Florida. Now I'm routinely running almost 45 minutes slower than that for a training run.

When I got home from my run yesterday, I was sore but energized at the same time. I had a hard time sitting still as I suppose I was still full of adrenaline from the run earlier in the day. I tried to walk as much as possible to keep the lactic acid from building up and this seemed to help a great deal.

This morning I feel great and even did an hour of weight lifting. This has now been my third weight lifting workout in the past 7 days and I'm committed to doing this twice per week until my race in April. Even though I have access to my gym whenever I want, I prefer to workout in my basement. I even flirted with the idea of going for a run later today but will hold off and stick to my training program.

I would like to increase my long run this weekend to 50K's and I'm supposed to be heading to Niagara Falls to run there with a good friend. She also loves to run by herself so this should be an interesting adventure.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Goodbye old's been a slice!

Last week I picked up my new pair of shoes but I wanted one last run in old pair before I put them to pasture. I must go through about 5 pairs of shoes a year, and each one has a different story.

When I first got into running I was using an extra wide Brooks’s shoe. This shoe was so big and heavy, though; that it's hard to believe I was able to run in them at all. After deciding that the Brooks needed to be replaced, I must have tried several different shoes before I found one that I loved. As soon as I put on the Mizuno Wave Alchemy, I knew it was the shoe for me and I haven't run in any other shoe when I run on the road.

The run that I just completed was my longest run so far and I seemed to have carried the momentum from last Sunday's run because I felt stronger and stronger as the run carried on. The weather today was perfect for running. When I left my house at 6:00AM it was minus 12 degrees but no wind. Throughout the run I never felt cold like I did last week. The better weather seemed to bring out more runners as I passed about 20 of them as I made my way back home. I was able to chat briefly with one or two of them but at the point that I saw them I was 28 K's into my run and I just wanted to keep my focus. Hopefully they didn't take it the wrong way.

I've found that these last two weekends, where I've had to run by myself, has really improved my inner strength. It was amazing how different my mind was today as compared to last week. The only trouble I had was convincing myself to take the necessary walk breaks. I felt so strong that it was hard to stop myself from running. However, I have to remember that come race day, I'll appreciate the fact that I have practiced taking long walk breaks.

There were parts of the run today where I was so happy that I started pumping my fists in the air. Then as I turned the corner of Delaney and Church I let out a big scream as I knew that I had accomplished my goal. I actually added another 1/2 K to the run as I wanted to hear the end of the song that was playing. It was a feeling that is hard to explain but it's the satisfaction of knowing that I did exactly what I wanted to accomplish.

I realized today that I'm going to have to start leaving water at various parts of my running route as I was getting very dehydrated towards the end of the run. I had to conserve as much water as possible as I only brought 2 water bottles with me. While I did have the electrolyte drink and it did provide me with the sugar that I needed, I really was craving for water more than anything else at that point.

Many of my friends who run, ask me how I can run for that long by myself. Many of them have said that the most they could do is about 2 hours. As I was running I thought about how nice it is to run by myself though. I don't have to worry about going at someone else's speed. I can listen to my music without feeling like I'm offending anyone. When I run, and when anyone runs, it's me that's doing the work. Having someone to run beside is nice but it honestly isn't going to make me run faster or further than I know I have to with regards to training for a race. When it comes to the race itself, though, having someone to compete with can be motivating but when I think about the trail race in April, I won't be trying to finish the race in a certain time. It will be about just finishing it in one piece.

When I decided that I wanted to do this type of distance I knew it would be difficult to find a training partner to run with. Most of my friends are trying to improve their Marathon times and won't be running more than 36-38 K's for their long runs. In addition, they would not be doing the kind of run/walk cycles that I need to do for my race.

I actually felt unsure as to whether or not I could do this on my own. Now, having conquered that fear for the past two weeks, I know that I'm capable of doing whatever I need to and I'm not afraid to do it on my own. In fact, at this point, I don't think I want someone to run with for my long runs.

I'm glad I could give my old shoes one last good run and I'm hoping that my new shoes bring me as much support as the last ones did.

Here are the stats from today's run:

Total distance: 25.75 miles (41.5 K's)
Total time: 4 hours 15 minutes and 13 seconds
Total calories burned: 3,125
Total songs on my mp3: 52
Total gels used: 5
Total water bottles used: 2
Total electrolyte bottles used: 2
Total bathroom breaks: 0 (still trying to figure that one out)
Total number of dogs chasing me: 2

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Remembering the Seaton trail race of 2006

After catching the trail racing "bug" in the fall of 2005, I knew that I wanted to compete in as many trail races in 2006 as I could. The first one on the calendar that year was the Seaton Trail 26 K race. In 2006 it seemed like I was doing a race every other week and being very new to trail running, I really didn't have a clue as to how to train for one. Fortunately I had run in the Seaton trail a few times prior to that race but it really didn't prepare me for how tough it was going to be.

The race was a gruelling "out and back" which meant that I started at the one end, ran 13 K's, turned around and then ran back. Keep in mind that there were people doing the 50 K that same day. By the time I started my race, they had already been out on the course for about an hour. In 2006 there wasn't a 78 K distance like there is now.

I found that course very challenging but rewarding at the same time. It had everything you could ask for in a trail race, lots of challenging climbs, river crossings, rugged terrain, tight corners and breathtaking scenery all rolled into one.

As I look forward to running the 78 K, 9 weeks from today, I have to get as mentally prepared as I will be physically prepared. When it comes to mental preparation it means that I need to keep a positive focus. I tend to avoid negative people as much as possible because I find that their negative energy can start to rub off on me. It's something that, while I'm not perfect at, I like to think I do a good job of. Likewise, if I'm feeling down about something I try to avoid people as much as possible. I know that eventually I'll come out of whatever funk I'm in, usually after a run, but in the meantime I don't want to impose my negativity on anyone else.

Tomorrow I'll be doing my own version of a marathon run through the streets of Ajax/Pickering. If you see a runner tomorrow morning looking like he is singing loudly and wearing a red coat, chances are it will be me.

Friday, February 15, 2008

An unexpected surprise this morning

Mention the word "scale" to anyone who's trying to lose weight and you immediately get a worried look on most faces. It's the one thing my clients dread the most. I purposely encourage them NOT to weigh themselves until I get to see them for their weekly or bi-weekly session. While the scale may not give a total picture of someone's health status (unless it has a built in body fat% indicator), it can be a useful tool from time to time.

With regards to my own body weight, I can usually "feel" when I've put on a few extra pounds by how my clothes are fitting. I've been avoiding the scale lately as it felt like I was putting on weight and didn't want to get even more discouraged. However, we all need a dose of reality so I decided to jump on the scale before my run this morning. To my surprise my weight was 154.5 pounds (12% body fat) which is the lightest I've been since doing the Isagenix cleanse. It's no wonder why I've been feeling lighter on my feet lately (LOL). With my weekly running mileage approaching 100 K's, it's going to be important for me to watch my diet even more closley. In particular, I've been increasing my protein and carbohydrate intake and will begin using L-Glutamine as well as my regular multi-vitamins as part of my regular diet.

The extra protein will help repair the muscle tissue that I'm destroying each time I go for a run (especially during my longer runs of 4 hours or more). L-Glutamine is a conditionally essential amino acid because while our bodies produce it regularly, it becomes harder to produce during heavy bouts of exercise. A deficiency in L-Glutamine could result in an inabiltiy to build and repair muscle tissues.

I've also decided to start doing a twice weekly weight training session and will be doing some abdominal/lower back exercises three times per week. Ultimately, I'd love to run the race at 150 pounds as I've noticed that my running becomes easier the lighter I weigh. I don't want to sacrifice muscle, though, just to be lighter so again it's something that I'll have to pay close attention to.

Training for the 50 Mile race is becoming a full-time committment but it's something that I need to do in order to get the best results possible from the race. With 9 weeks left until the big day, I can't afford to let up my intensity now.

Tunnel Vision

Yesterday I stopped off at the Pickering Running Room to order my new pair of shoes. I spoke to the store manager and we shared stories of what races we were doing. I soon realized how many races I've forgotten about. Ever since I started running, this was the time of year when I tried to map out my upcoming races for the spring.
I would normally do a 1/2 marathon race in Peterborough, followed by a 30K race in Hamilton (Around the Bay) and then a spring Marathon (Mississauga). I've been so focused on my 50 Mile trail race that I forgot about these races. They probably could have helped my training but because my goal for this race is simply to finish, I don't want to push myself and risk the chance of an injury, before the race in April.

I guess this is a sign that I'm getting wiser as I become more experienced with running. The 1.5 years I started running I must have completed close to 30 different races. Now I'm going to be a little more selective when it comes to the races I pick. After my 50 mile race is completed, I'd like to do at least 1 race per month from May to November but right now the only thing I can think about is the trail race.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's nice to ride that positive wave

Ever since my long run on Sunday morning, I've been on an emotional high. It's had a huge impact on my running this week. I suppose it has something to do with overcoming my own personal demons and not quitting but honestly, I'm trying not to look for too many answers. Instead, I'm just enjoying the ride.

I believe in fate and also that things happen for a reason. I know it's cliché, and we've all used that phrase to make us feel better whenever something goes wrong in our personal or professional life, but I really do believe in it. Whenever I get into these "grooves" I like to run as often as possible. I had a hard time sleeping last night as I couldn't wait until the clock showed 4:00 AM so I could get up and prepare for my 5 AM run.

The run that I had this morning was something that I like to call "majestic." Every song that came on my mp3 seemed to carry me further and further. Every time I should have stopped for a quick walk break I found that I just couldn't do it. Whereas, there are some runs where I simply have to stop for a brief moment, it's almost as if my mind was telling me to keep running. What surprised me more than anything else was the fact that I found that I was running faster than I've run all week.

It will be hard to not run tomorrow morning so I may forego a day off and run even though I have a scheduled day off. If I run tomorrow I'll take Saturday off and then run my 40 K on Sunday morning.

I've been thinking about that run almost all week. I know that by running alone it will force me to dig down deeper than I'd have to if I had some company. However, I think that by doing this, it will better prepare me for my trail race on April 19th. The lesson I've learned through all of this? Don't be afraid to lean on the one person most important in your life.....the person staring back at you in the mirror!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Every race that I do I usually give myself a theme. It's usually a catchphrase I've heard that is symbolic with where I am with my running and life, for that matter. It's not something that I can search for, it's something that just hits me at a special time in my training. For my 78K trail race on April 19th, the song "Breakaway" by Kelly Clarkson, really sums it all up for me.

It's hard to believe that it's been almost 3 years since I did my first trail run through the Greenwood Conservation Park. It was a run that literally change my life. That run catapaulted me to want to do more trail running and eventually I did my first two 25 K trail races in the span of 3 weeks in Setember/October of 2005.

While I was happy with doing the 25K trail races, there was always something inside of me wondering if I could do more. At these trail races there were people doing 50k, 50 Mile and even 100 Mile races. Whenever I finished my race, there were lots of people who were still running. At that point I made it a point to train harder and try to do a 50 K trail run.

In 2006 I accomplished two things, my first marathon and my first 50K road race. I also competed in the OUS 25K trail series and was pleasantly surprised with my 3rd place finish. While I was happy with these accomplishments I still wanted more. It wasn't until last year that I was able to complete my 50K trail race in Haliburton.

Now, almost three years since my first trail run, I will be trying to finish my first 50 Mile trail race. I'll be using this song for my inspiration. To me, the song represents never giving up. It also represents my validation that I do belong with these trail runners, many of whom I have looked up to for years. They all have been so supportive and I know they will be cheering me on on race day.

Here are the lyrics:

Grew up in a small town
And when the rain would fall down
I'd just stare out my window
Dreaming of what could be
And if I'd end up happy
I would pray (I would pray)

Trying hard to reach out
But when I tried to speak out
Felt like no one could hear me
Wanted to belong here
But something felt so wrong here
So I prayed I could break away

I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly
I'll do what it takes til' I touch the sky
And I'll make a wish
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway
Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won't forget all the ones that I love
I'll take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway

Wanna feel the warm breeze
Sleep under a palm tree
Feel the rush of the ocean
Get onboard a fast train
Travel on a jet plane, far away (I will)
And breakaway

Buildings with a hundred floors
Swinging around revolving doors
Maybe I don't know where they'll take me but
Gotta keep moving on, moving on
Fly away, breakaway

I'll spread my wings
And I'll learn how to fly
Though it's not easy to tell you goodbye
I gotta take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway
Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won't forget the place I come from
I gotta take a risk
Take a chance
Make a change
And breakaway, breakaway, breakaway

Monday, February 11, 2008

A positive "high" can last a long time

There's not much that I cannot relate to with regards to running. Every mile I run further than before makes me stronger mentally and physically. It also has a trickle down effect on other aspects of my life.

As I made it to work this morning I made sure I told whoever would listen, about my running adventure on Sunday. I got the same puzzled look each time. Most think I'm crazy but I know that they also realize how difficult it is to do.
I don't do this looking for attention but what it does is to keep my positive momentum going. I've been able to convince so many clients to give running a try and this in turn gives me a satisfaction that I'm passing on my gift to others just as it was passed on to me.

I'm surrounded by trainers who probably couldn't run a mile if their life depended on it so I take pride in the fact that I can do things that they can't (even though I'm twice as old as some of the trainers).

I've been able to use the positive momentum from yesterday as a conversation piece for my clients. My main focus has been on dealing with our inner demons. It's the voice in our head which tries to convince us to make the unhealthy food choice, stop going to the gym, or in my case, stop running. Everyone can relate to this and as I was talking to my clients today I could see that they were grasping what I was explaining to them.

My positive momentum is so strong right now that I even did an hour of weights. This is something that I haven't done in months and I'm glad that I did. As a runner, it's always been a question of whether weight training will help or hurt my running. I've read so many conflicting studies that I've decided to try a little bit at a time and see what happens.

An inside look at my training for the 50 Miler

It will be a race like no other. 78 K's of up and down/hill climbing/water crossing adventure through the Seaton Trail. It is one of the most challenging yet breathtaking areas to run or walk in. Whereas road races have specific training programs geared to a specific time that you want to achieve, trail running is more about conquering the terrain as opposed to finishing in a specific time (at least it is for me).

I cannot extrapolate a road training program and make it work in the trails. Because of the weather, though, I've been forced to do most of my training on the roads. For my long runs, like yesterday, I purposely pick hilly routes so that my body can get adjusted to them.

Every two weeks I've been slowly increasing my long runs. It started at 20 K's and now I'm up to 36 K's. I will go as far as 50 K's for a training run and possibly 55 K but that's it. I want to save my body for the actual race.

What has forced me to be more disciplined is the fact that I have had to practice a different running strategy for my longer runs. In the past I've done everything from 10 minutes running and 1 minute walking (10 and 1's) to 20 minutes running and 1 minute walking (20 and 1's). For the trail race, however, I have been able to pick the brains of several accomplished ultra trail runners. They seem to agree that a running/walk combo of 20 minutes running and 5 minute walking has served them well. They also agree that it is important to walk every hill to conserve energy even if it comes before a scheduled walk break. The other lesson I've learned is that the really good trail runners are consistent throughout the race. They take that walk break even if they are feeling good.

Yesterday I practiced my own version of this for the very first time. It was difficult because some of the walk breaks came right as I was heading into a strong wind gust. I was not used to taking such long breaks so I developed my own run/walk strategy. As I was listening to my mp3 player I would run for 5 consecutive songs. This usually lasted anywhere from 18-22 minutes. Then I would walk for the entire length of the 6th song. Sometimes it would last 3 minutes, sometimes it would last 5minutes. I found this strategy very helpful.

Taking walk breaks when physically and mentally you want to run, is something that I'll need to practice. I know that when I'm actually doing the race I'll need to take several walk breaks as I'm anticipating a very challenging day. However, the practice that I'm doing now will only pay off for me during the race

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Today, I am stronger!

I run because it's my passion, and not just a sport. Every time I walk out the door, I know why I'm going where I'm going and I'm already focused on that special place where I find my peace and solitude. Running, to me, is more than just a physical exercise... it's a consistent reward for victory! Sasha Azevedo

I believe in the runner's high, and I believe that those who are passionate about running are the ones who experience it to the fullest degree possible. To me, the runner's high is a sensational reaction to a great run! It's an exhilarating feeling of satisfaction and achievement. It's like being on top of the world, and truthfully... there's nothing else quite like it!
Sasha Azevedo

Running has never failed to give me great end results, and that's why I keep coming back for more!
Sasha Azevedo

Running is one the best solutions to a clear mind.
Sasha Azevedo

My greatest ideas stem from running.
Sasha Azevedo

Every run is a great run!
Sasha Azevedo

People ask why I run. I say, "If you have to ask, you will never understand". It is something only those select few know. Those who put themselves through pain, but know, deep down, how good it really feels.
Erin Leonard

Today is a day that I will never forget. Although I have done many races, the run I had today and the agony I’m feeling now, is something that I will bottle and forever remember.
Today I discovered that I don’t need anyone to help motivate me during a long run. I also have never had the kind of mental battles that I had today. The wind was so strong going West on the 3rd Concession that I really believed I was going to get frostbite. The pain was so excruciating and with nobody to talk to, my mind kept telling me to turn around and go back home. Having run this route many times, however, I knew that if I could just make it to the Pickering/Scarborough Town line, I would have the wind at my back for the return trip home. The problem was, the Towline was 6 K’s from where I was and that left plenty of time for me to try and talk myself out of it. My extremities were so cold that, let’s just say I’m glad that I have 2 sons already (get the picture?). My hands were so cold that I had a hard time reaching for an energy gel or even my water bottle.
Finally, as I turned the corner at 5th concession (Whitevale) and the Pickering/Scarborough Town line, I was rewarded with the wind at my back. Just then, the Sun started to come out and I was slowly starting to thaw out. I was still 18 K’s from home and although I had the wind at my back, the first part of that run took its toll on me.
As I headed home, I started to see some familiar faces which certainly helped to pick up my spirits. Then as I was at the corner of Church and Hwy 2, with still 6 K’s left to go, I again had to convince myself to keep going. By this time the sidewalks were frozen over and I was left with mostly icy patches to run on. I kept telling myself not to give up.
As I got closer to home I realized just how hard that run was and yet I was so proud that I didn’t quit. Now it’s time for a much needed Epson salt bath.

Here are the final stats for today’s run:
• Total distance: 22.37 Miles (36 K’s)
• Total time: 3 hours and 54 minutes
• 57 songs on my mp3
• 4 energy gels
• 2 bottles of water
• 2 bottles of Heed energy drink
And the stat I love the most.......2722 calories burned!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

My favorite place to run......

I've often talked about how much more I enjoy trail running than running on the road. Here are some of the reasons why:

Despite the very challenging run this morning, I would not have traded the experience I had for anything. The snow was knee high at some points and since nobody had gone before us, we were forced to make our own tracks in the snow. Whenever my normal running motion is compromised, like today, I always feel soreness in areas where I normally would not (calves, hip flexors). The hardest part I found was getting my breathing down. It was such a workout that I was having a hard time catching my breath. Walking up hills in deep snow was as difficult as running was and while we took plenty of breaks, it was mentally a very challenging run. We ran for 1 hour and 40 minutes but covered only half of the amount of the course that we usually would do in that same time.

Still, the Seaton Trail is one of the most breathtaking places to run in, even in the winter, and I'm fortunate enough to live so close to it. Sometimes it's not about how far you go but how hard you have to work to get there. Today was one of those days where effort was the leader and distance took a backseat.

Thanks Ken!

(The Seaton Trail on a warmer day......)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Decisions, decisions.......

Let me start off by saying what everyone else is saying, I've had it with the snow!!!
Forget about all the shovelling, I'm more upset at the fact that this snow has had a serious impact on my running and what's more important that that to me? The answer, not much!

All day at work I was thinking about how I'm going to get in my long runs this weekend. I doubt that I'll be running in the trails as the snow accumulation will be so much that a long run there will be nothing but frustration. Instead I'll have to do a 2 hour run on the roads. That will be hard enough, as I'm sure there won't be many place available to run. Then comes Sunday. I need to get a long run in of at least 3.5 hours and for the first time since I started running, I'm seriously thinking about running inside. I can't fathom the idea of running on a track so I may drive to the Oshawa indoor track and do my long run there. At least I can "trick" my mind into thinking that I'm running outside.

Unfortunately for me, I've become so accustomed to running outside that anything else I do, fails to provide me with the kind of mental and physical stimulation that I need.

In the end, I'm sure I'll manage to run outside somehow but this will be one of the hardest weekends I've had to deal with in a long time. In the midst of all of this, I did receive some good news with regards to my training. A good friend of mine has agreed to run with me in two weeks. We are going to do a 50 K run near her home in Niagara Falls. This will be a great training run for my race in April. She has also put me in touch with some other dedicated trail runners and I'm hoping to join them on some runs in the near future. Now, if I can only get through this weekend........

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The benefits of running at 5 AM

Thanks to yet another dumping of snow I knew that the sidewalks would not be a place to run this morning so I decided to run along Church Street and do an "out and back."
My goal was to avoid as many cars as possible and thankfully there weren't too many on the streets at 5 AM as I headed south along Church Street.

However, the return trip wasn't as nice. There are times when I'm running that I swear a car will purposely come as close to me as possible, even when there is no other cars on the road. In any event, I'm not in a position to be playing "chicken" with them so I have to force myself to the sides of the road to avoid getting hit. I've had friends who have told me that they have been "pushed" to the snow banks by oncoming cars. I really don't understand the mentality there but I believe in karma so what goes around comes around.

One of my clients suffered an injury yesterday and will be unable to do some of the things that she loves to do for several weeks. I immediately thought about how I would handle such a situation. It's hard for me to imagine myself not running for an extended period of time. Then again, if someone had told me 5 years ago that I'd be running daily instead of lifting weights I probably would have laughed. We need to adapt to whatever is thrown at us because worrying about things that we have no control over or cannot change, isn't going to change the situation that we are in. Overcoming obstacles is something that we all have had to do at various times in our lives. It's like my football coach used to tell me, "It's alright to get knocked down but it's not alright to stay down!"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Create your own footprints and let others follow YOU!

I knew that we were expecting some kind of snowfall this morning and much to my disappointment, I was right. I also knew that the sidewalks wouldn't be ploughed which meant I either had to run on the sidewalks and run in the snow or go on the roads and take my chances with oncoming cars. I decided to stay mostly on the sidewalks but did manage to run a few miles on the road as well.

What made the run on the sidewalks difficult was the fact that the snow was deep enough so that it forced me to pick up my feet more than I normally would do. This puts added strain on the calves and hip flexors (for me anyways). It certainly made for a challenging run. All I kept thinking about was "footprints." One of the things that I've always tried to stress with my children is the importance of being a leader and not a follower. It's so easy for us to follow someone else and then blame them if things go wrong. Being a leader, however, means that the pressure is on you and nobody else.

When it comes to following a healthy eating/exercise plan it's the same thing. Don't look to anyone else to provide you with the motivation because we all have it within ourselves. It's more empowering to know that you can succeed without the help of others. I like to think of outside support as an "added bonus." If it comes that's great, but if it's not there then it shouldn't stop you from achieving your goals.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Run Down" but still running down a dream

"Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired." - Jules Renard

I suppose it would have been easy for me to not run this morning. I've been battling a cold and it feels like I have this "dead weight" on the top of my forehead which stretches down to my nose. Yesterday I literally felt like I was in a daze. After loading up on some soup for most of the day and an early night (8:30), all I could think about was running.

Sunday's run, although not as long as previous weeks, still was challenging enough that it left me feeling tired for most of the day. After taking my usual Monday off, I knew that I had to run today. With my race 9 weeks away and counting, I really can't afford to take any time off.

As I awoke this morning at 4:30, I felt a little better but still a little foggy. That was ironic because when I checked the weather forecast it was also foggy with a light rain. The temperature was 2 degrees so I decided to wear shorts, light shirt and my running jacket.

The run was better than expected and although it was tough at times, I'm glad that I went out. There were parts of the run where we ended up getting soaked along the bike path and another time when I truck sped by us and splashed us both pretty good.

Deciding on whether to push yourself or to take it easy is an individual decision and you have to know your body pretty well. In my case I also know my mind very well and the thought of not running today was something that I wasn't prepared to do.

Monday, February 04, 2008

An unexpected run of good luck

After taking a few days off from running on Friday and Saturday, I was fortunate enough to run with some good friends on Sunday. The plan was to run at least 32-36 K's but I'm still battling a cold so I decided to play it smart and run 22K's instead.

The week before I had done a long run by myself and these are beginning to become tougher and tougher to do. I'm ok with the distance but running by myself for 3.5 to 4 hours instead something that I'm looking forward to. I was able to call upon the help of a good friend and fellow ultra-marathoner and we will be running a 50 K together in Niagara Falls in a few weeks.

Yesterday taught me that although I wasn't at my best physically, I have to be able to push myself when thing aren't always "perfect." The route itself had a few challenging hills but what made it fun was the company I was with. It was nice to get caught up with all the news that is happening with people. The conversations included what training program we were doing to what races are upcoming for all of us.

I'm hoping that after an early night tonight, I'll be good to go for my run tomorrow.