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.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Pushing it a little more today

Most people know that my favorite weather to run in is rain so I got a nice serving of that this morning. It wasn't a terrential downpour, which is what I thought was going to happen, but instead it was a steady rain. The weather was warm and I was so thankful I decided not to wear my jacket.

The plan was to run a little longer today than I did on the weekend. After taking a day off yesterday to do some weights, my legs were refreshed and when I left the house there was no pain in my shins/ankles so I knew that it was going to be a good run.

I kept an even pace, except when a fast song came on my mp3, and decided not to stop to refuel. I ended up running for 9 miles and felt amazing afterwards. I would usually be in a taper mode with a race coming up on Saturday but I also want to make sure I'm not too "rusty" by the time the weekend comes. Tomorrow I want to run for 10 miles and then rest for the next two days.

I've been reading a very good website called "running for recovery." I think that those of us who do run on a regular basis would say that running is therapeutic for them. I know that it is in my case. It's a fine line between passion and obsession and I admit that sometimes I cross that line. I also know that running has a trickle down effect on my life that no other activity that I've done has had for me.
Those who are closest to me will constantly remind me about keeping proper balance. It is something that I strive to do.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Playing it smart is not always the easiest thing to do

I had visions of doing a long run today. In my mind I though about a minimum of 2 hours. Then after doing more research on recovering after running an Ultramarathon I realized how foolish that would have been. I'm sure I could have done it but at what price?

Instead, I did the smart thing which was to add a little bit onto what I did yesterday. I ran for just over 8 miles instead of the 11-15 I was going to run. As a result I feel better and my legs are almost at full strength now.

Because I have another race next weekend, I'll need to make sure I don't push it too much over the next few days. What I'll probably do is increase my mileage slowly over the next three days and then take two days off before the race to rest.

This will be a very unique race that I'll be doing. It's a 6 hour timed event. I will be running a 1 KM loop from 9 AM until 3 PM. At that point every runner stops and their distance is calculated. It will interesting to see how many KM's I can do in this amount of time but my main focus is to use this run as a way to get to know even more of the trail runners as all of them will be there.

During the end of my run today I thought back to last weekend. Although I know I made the right decision, a part of me knows that I now have "unfinished business." What that means is that I will attempt another 100 miler at some point. I thought about the mistakes I made not only during the race but my psyche as I entered it. All winter I had trained for the 50 Miler at Seaton and that was my main focus. It was only after I had completed that, that I decided to attempt a 100 miler. I know, now, that my mind was not where it needed to be.

With regards to training, I should have done more runs at Sulphur and especially at night. In fact, I hadn't done any late night runs in the trails before that race. That was a huge oversight on my part.

Having talked to many experienced Ultra runners I also know that I shouldn't have stopped for as long as I did at each aid station. When I do my next one I'll grab something and head out right away. The longer I stayed, the harder it was for me to get back into a rhthym again.

I was surprised at how well my stomach adapted to so many new foods during that race. At least now I know that I can use things like Ensure or Boost to get me through when my energy levels are low.

I knew that my competive disposition would eventually get the better of me and now I know that I must complete a 100 miler so that I can move onto my next goal. Whatever that is..............