Monday, November 30, 2015

Running Streak - Day 28

I made it to Day 28 - four consecutive weeks.  I knew that I would be running late at night tonight because I had planned to watch the entire Grey Cup and then run after.  I thought it would be over at around 9:30PM, but I ended up running at 11:15PM.  I'm not getting used to running late, but it is not as foreign of a concept anymore, compared to at time before the streak.

I ran the same pre-set workout as I did last night and, no pun intended, it was like night and day.  My run tonight was definitely smoother.  I was still tired because of the time I started, but I didn't want to continually stop and get off.  There is not much else to say.  I had hoped to get in a 60 minute long run this weekend, like the Garmin plan called for, but the schedule didn't allow for it (or I didn't make it a priority).  That is something to analyze another day.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Running Streak - Days 26 and 27

Day 27

A super busy day where I spent the majority out of the house led to 20 minutes on the treadmill late at night - 11:25PM, to be precise.  I felt great when the day started and throughout the afternoon, but by the time I hit the treadmill rolled around, I felt gross and tired and just wanted to go to bed.  I read a bit of a novel on my e-reader when running, which really helped the time go by, but I still felt like hitting the stop button every five minutes.  It's in the bag for today, at least, and the streak is still alive.

Day 26

I went to Starbucks this morning and ordered a Chestnut Praline Latte.  Normally, I order a dark brewed coffee.  What I ordered today is a little too froofy for my tastes., but I had a coupon code for 25% off and thought, "Why not?"  Once I had finished the "drink" (it was more like a dessert.), I thought, "Why?"  I checked out its nutritional information: 330 total calories, 120 fat calories and 39g of sugar.  All I can say is that it's a good thing I am running around 30 minutes today because it will take just over 20 of those minutes to offset what I has just put into my body.

Today's forecast looked warm, windy and wet, and the weather actually delivered: 13C, 30km/h winds (gusting to over 40km/h) and light rain.  The coffee sat like a rock in my stomach.  I will not be ordering another one, ever, nor any other coffee beverage with whipped cream.  I did fine with shorts, long sleeve shirt and a vest.  I wore the vest so that I had a place to stow my phone. I felt a little overdressed at the beginning, but when the rain and wind kicked up, what I wore turned out to be perfect.  It also kept the phone dry.  I ran The Bridges because I didn't feel like an out-and-back along the river with the wind in my face on the "out" leg.  I still got pummeled from the west as I crossed each bridge.

I needed my phone for Mission 5 of Zombies, Run!  I will need to decide what to do in the near future because there is a five-day delay before downloading each new mission.  If I want to do a mission every day or every other day, I will need a paid subscription.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Running Streak - Day 25

The weather was unseasonably warm today.  I think it was 10C at noon with only a slight wind.  There was some light rain, but I'm not complaining.  November has been fantastic.  I was out in a long sleeve tech shirt and shorts.  I was going to try my new Bluetooth ear buds, but the battery died just after I hit the start button on the Tomtom.  No Zombies, Run! for me today.  Mission #5 will have to wait for another day.

The run itself felt really smooth.  I didn't feel like I was running especially fast, but when I checked my run data on Strava, it looks like I ran much faster today than what I have been averaging over the past couple of weeks.  Today my average pace was 5:31/km; yesterday was 6:17/km.  That being said, my GPS was way off at the beginning and readings from my HRM were erratic throughout the entire run.  (I think my chest strap is due for a wash.)  In my mind the data is very suspect, but I still think I was faster.

I need to catch myself here. I have seen improvements in my gait, pace and weight, but I can't let myself get caught up in this and start pushing harder.  I have been prone to do this in the past.  If my primary objective is consistency and completing this streak, I need to run in such a way that I complete the streak, i.e. not get burned out or injured.  This is a prime opportunity to set a good base.  Speed and endurance can come later.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Running Streak - Day 24

I started feeling a twinge in my right knee last night and I woke up with some soreness this morning.  It's not a good sign, but I'm hoping that I will be able to run through this.  It very well could be some adaptation.  I will be mindful of it over the next few days, and I'm musing if it is time to change the shoes.  There are only just over 300km on them, but they were designed as a racing flat and they are around 5 years old.  Perhaps the materials are breaking down.

In spite of the knee pain, today's run went very well.  It was a Garmin plan day (W02D4-Easy Run) so I was set to run 40 minutes in Zone 2.  I have been really enjoying running without my HRM chirping at me; therefore, today's run took a bit of getting used to.  It was colder than forecasted (actually -8C with the wind, rather than 1C) and I was a bit underdressed (Peak Performance jacket, long sleeve tech shirt, pants, Adizero Manas).  There was no risk of frostbite; it just took longer to get warmed up, which meant that I had no HR readings for the first 10 minutes or so.  I enjoyed the blissful silence from my 301XT, and the uninterrupted playing of Mission 3 of Zombies Run!  When the HRM finally kicked in I had just put in a burst of speed, as instructed, to escape a pursuing hoard of the undead.  Needless to say, I wasn't in Zone 2.  I settled down after a minute or so and made sure that I stuck to Zone 2 for the remainder of the run.  It felt painfully slow, but I know that it was good for me.

I was talking about the streak with a couple of work colleagues yesterday and when I said I was at 23 days, the number sounded pretty impressive to them (and to me).  Before this, my longest string of consecutive days was 11 (to the best of my recollection).  Also, I did a weigh-in this morning - the first since Day 2 - and I am down 4 pounds.  To be honest, I was surprised that the number had changed at all.  Not too shabby...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Running Streak - Day 23

The game is changing.  This is what greeted everyone this morning. 

Snow on the ground

The forecast tells me it will not last beyond the next day, but it is a warning of what lies ahead.  Even with this stuff on the ground, I got outside for a run...

The footing was terrific.  For 95% of the run, the route was clear.  The paths and sidewalks were salted.  The only trouble spots were some isolated patches of snow/slush/ice along the river on the Quebec side and on the grass next to the locks beside the Chateau Laurier.  The forecast says 5C for tomorrow and 12C on Friday.  This snow is toast.

At -8C with the wind chill, I elected for pants, a thermal base layer shirt, long sleeve tech shirt and a light jacket.  I also wore my Mizuno Breath Thermal gloves and a Gore Tex ball cap.  It was a perfect get-up for the conditions.  I was a little hesitant to wear the Adizero Mana's because they have almost no tread, but it turns out I didn't need much traction.  I clipped along at a pretty good pace throughout. I didn't feel fatigued or sluggish.  I think the consistency is really helping bring me back into running form, and restricting runs to 20-35 minutes is keeping me in a good place physically and free from injury.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Running Streak - Day 22

I was on the treadmill this evening, and no, it was not 11:30PM.  For this run, I had a whole bunch of things going on.  I found my Garmin transmitter/Polar HR strap combo* over the weekend and I paired it with my 310XT to use tonight.  I clipped the Garmin footpod on my NB Minimus WT20GG2's.  I picked up a pair of Bluetooth earbuds and used them with my phone to complete Mission 3 in Zombie Run!  Finally, I used a 30 minute hilly preset workout on the treadmill that  I actually rather liked.  It really pushed me more than grinding out steady minutes.  I wasn't very distracted by all of the technology, except the earbuds because they kept nearly falling out.  Gotta find a solution for that.

The WT20GG2's are starting to feel good on my feet.  I think it is a case where I am adjusting to the shoes more than the shoes are adjusting to me.  My best guess at a reason is that there is hardly anything to them.  I think I should be OK to start using a flatter shoe from now on.  Yet another experiment...

* I learned this trick from DC Rainmaker and numerous accounts on the Garmin forums. The transmitter from the Garmin premium strap, which caused me (and many others) no end of discomfort, fits perfectly on the Polar strap, which is very comfortable.  Very highly recommended.

Running Streak - Day 21

The closest call to date.  I was busy with other work today and couldn't run until well past 11:00PM, managing to squeak in 20 minutes on the treadmill that finished at 11:59PM - not exaggerating.  I must have missed the start button on my TomTom, and the treadmill's opinion on how far or fast anyone runs leaves much to be desired, but I managed to record the run for posterity in (What else?) Zombies, Run!  I finished Mission 2 today - no zombie chases, but I picked up quite a few items.  Abel Township is growing quite nicely.

The run was just a checkmark run.  20 minutes at an easy pace to get the run in for the day.  I'm feeling stronger and a light day every once in a while must be good for recovery.  I have been doing many, many hours of work on the computer over the past couple of days and tonight my neck went on strike.  It was nearly totally seized by the time I tore myself from my desk to run, and just after I started on the treadmill, it loosened it up straight away.  I love the side benefits that running offers.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Running Streak - Days 19 and 20

Day 20

I fully intended to get out for my run early, but I was a slow moving vehicle this morning.  I should have followed my own advice.  I did, in fact, make it in time for 60 minutes of Power Yoga and got in the run mid-afternoon.  The temperature had warmed up from the morning and the conditions were cloudy with a slight wind.  I ended up a little overdressed because I overestimated how cold and strong the wind was, but it wasn't really a big deal.  I think the white stuff is coming tomorrow, but I bet it won't last.

Over the past couple of days, I started wondering if things may get a bit too routine at some point.  In an effort to keep things interesting, I ran with my phone so that I could check out a new app, Zombies, Run! (IOS, Android).  It is an is "an ultra-immersive running game and audio adventure" where you run through missions to collect things to strengthen your home base.  I left the "Zombie Chase" enabled, which turns the run into a Fartlek because you need to run away from pursuing zombies that will take the stuff you've collected.  It made the run hard at times, but a lot of fun.

Day 19

The weather was terrific today: a bright blue cloudless sky, a cool wind and around 5C (1C with the wind chill).  I ran in a long sleeve tech shirt, vest and shorts.  Because the wind was chilly, I went with a pair of compression calf sleeves from adidas.  I know that the science around the performance and recovery benefits of compression is sketchy at best, but I have found through completely unscientific methods (i.e. experience, and trial and error) that using compression on my lower legs seems to help with recovery.  I haven't really tried compression socks in races or training for the very scientific reason that running in long socks look dumb (to me, anyway).*  I sucked up my dignity today and it actually felt great.  I can't say that there was a measurable performance gain, but I definitely felt warmer.

The running itself went well.  I fully intended to circle through The Bridges again, but I went into auto-pilot and found myself on the pathways along the Ottawa River Parkway.  It's not a bad thing.  Once the white stuff arrives in earnest, the paths will be closed (i.e. roped off and not ploughed) until Spring.  I started tired, but finished energized.  I suppose that is an ideal outcome.

On a completely unrelated note, I sold my Garmin 405 today.  I need to reduce the electronics inventory and start using that was made in the last couple of years.  At some point in the near future, buttons will start to break and batteries will stop holding a charge.  I want to be proactive when my current devices still have some value.

* Cycling in long socks not only looks dumb, but is against The Rules, #27 to be precise.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Running Streak - Day 18

It was a bit rainy today, but is was really warm (15C), so I didn't care.  I was back to shorts and short sleeve T-shirt, a la Week 1 where the temperatures were also in double digits.  I think this is the end, though.  The forecast is calling for snow on the weekend.  Keeping the streak going when it takes seconds to get dressed is one thing.  Running when getting into and out of multiple layers of clothing takes almost as long as the run itself is quite another.

I ran the same route as yesterday, but marginally slower.  When I woke up this morning, I was stiff from yesterday's run-yoga double and had a sore throat.  Not good signs.  I was concerned that the run would not go well, but there was no quit in me today, which is a little weird because I can talk myself out of pretty much anything.  I think this streak is helping with both the physical and mental sides of my game.  The latter has always given me trouble.

As I approach Day 21, I'm thinking back to Day 5 where I quoted whoever it was that said it that it takes 21 days to create a habit.  Running is starting to feel, well, habitual, and that's a good thing.  I think I'm almost at the point where I think I would feel like my day is missing something if I didn't get out.  I can't say that I've seen very many physical changes, but I know that I'm feeling better and the running itself is feeling smoother. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Running Streak - Day 17

It was really tough to squeeze a run in today, but I managed to do it in the middle of the afternoon.  I needed to work through lunch and it was the only window of opportunity that I had.  The run was great.  My pace was faster than it felt and definitely faster than I expected it would be.  It was my first "true" run of the Getting Started plan from Garmin Connect.  Yesterday I figured out what went wrong when trying to download workouts to the Forerunner 310XT (the device was full and I needed to delete all previous workouts), and unlike Monday, I was able to use today's scheduled workout (30min Steady Run in HR zone 3).  I really like using these set-it-and-forget-it workouts; it helps me focus on the running, the environment, life in general, not the watch and definitely not the numbers.  I forgot to bring the electrode gel and ended up with wonky HR readings at the beginning of the run.  I didn't get an accurate reading until I was warmed up, which was around 8:00 in.

The weather was terrific.  It was definitely warmer than yesterday (8C, "felt like" 4C), but no sun.  I was back to shorts and a long sleeve tech shirt, which was ideal, because the wind, while light, felt pretty chilly.  I used the Adizero Mana's again.  I will wear a different pair tomorrow.

In the evening I did a 75 minute Moksha Flow class.  After experimenting with the order quite a few times, I can definitely say that the experience of a run followed by hot yoga (or any yoga) is much better than going for a run after yoga.  Tonight, when I saw who the instructor was going to be, I knew that were going to be in for a hard class. She really worked us.  That being said, the hot yoga was just what I needed because my legs were starting to feel a bit stiff in the mornings.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Runing Streak - Day 16

It was another great day weather-wise, but it was definitely cooler than yesterday, probably around 1C with the wind chill.  Like yesterday, there was lots of sun.  I actually covered my legs today and wore a thermal long sleeve shirt under a tech t-shirt.  When I started, I was thinking that some gloves and maybe a hat would have been a good idea, but I would have ended up taking them off about 10 minutes in.  For shoes, I was back to the Adizero Mana's.  I wanted to use them until Spring, but I'm starting to think that they may not last that long.

I ran The Bridges (Portage and Alexandra) again.  It's my favourite lunch-time run; I can do the entire thing with changing and showering in under an hour, something I definitely had to do today.  It's also one of the few routes out of downtown that has some elevation - I know it's not much, but it's the best we've got.  I had to finish along the Canal because the path along the water behind the Parliament Buildings is close for construction.  I started wondering when in the next few weeks will I be confined to running along it for the rest of the Winter.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Running Streak - Day 15

It was an absolutely terrific run at lunch.  I had planned to start Day 1 of an out-season training plan I selected from Garmin Connect, but my FR310XT was full of workouts from other plans.  In the absence of a plan, freestyle is the way to go.  The weather was glorious.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky, but the wind was chilly.  In a long sleeve tech shirt, vest and shorts, I was fine in the sun, but the shade was cold; therefore, I chose the sunniest route out of downtown.  For shoes,  I pulled out my Newton Distances for a change.  I don't know why I don't run in them more; I really like them. They are going into the rotation on a regular basis.

I felt really light on my feet.  The sluggishness I was experiencing at the beginning of the streak has disappeared, and I am now starting to feel like I have more than one speed.  I kept my pace higher, but my HR didn't go through the roof - a good sign.  I was more than a little surprised when I looked at the summary after the run.  I had gone further and faster than I thought. 

The First 14 Days

Two Week Summary

I now have two weeks of continuous days of running in the bag.  Here are the vital statistics:

Activities: 14
Total duration: 6:45
Average Duration: 0:30
Total distance: 64km
Average distance: 4.6km
Energy: 5540kcal

I need to fight nostalgia because there have been weeks in the past when I have been preparing for a full or half marathon where my weekly totals would definitely eclipse these figures, and I would take a rest day or two.  That being said, I am really pleased to have got to 14 days straight.

The Plan

I have decided to follow a training plan I found on Garmin Connect - Getting Started (Level 2) - and it starts today.  It is only three runs per week plus cross-training.  I will do some of the cross-training, but plan to fill the other four days during the week with recovery-pace runs.  To do this I want to start using my Garmin Forerunner 301XT on "plan days" and the TomTom on the other days.

I really like my TomTom as a tracking and recording device, and I especially like the fact that the software can connect and upload to multiple sites; however, the connection is only one-way.  I prefer my Garmin devices when I am following a training plan because of how well the device is integrated with the web site.  I can select a training plan from GC and send the plan to the device.  If I'm not using a Garmin plan, I can set up my workouts and push them to the device.  With the TomTom, I currently can not program workouts on-line, schedule them and download them.  Hopefully, it is in the works.

Running Streak - Days 13 and 14

Day 14

Today marks 14 days in a row, but it almost came to an end.  I cut it even closer, than yesterday.  I started running on the treadmill at around 11:10PM.  30 minutes was the difference between the streak continuing and me starting over tomorrow.  That being said, the box was checked and the streak goes on.

Instead of just running a steady state 20 minutes to check the box, I selected one of the pre-set workouts on the treadmill.  Generally speaking, I tend to avoid the treadmill, and when I used it in the past, I choose a comfortable pace and keep it steady for the duration of the run.  Using the set-it-and-forget-it workout provided a varied pace and elevation, which made for a better quality session fitness-wise and made the time pass quickly.  If/when I head back to the dreadmill, I will definitely choose one of these workouts.

I wore the Minimus WT20GG2's again, and again I noticed no side effects afterwards - tightness in the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon or calf muscles.  Maybe I can start using more of my minimalist shoes.  Vibram fivefingers, here I come.

Day 13

I really wanted to get the run in before I left for yoga.  I knew today that I would be doing 60 minutes of Power yoga in the Moksha Yoga hot room.  The run would have to come later.  Little did I know how much later it would be.  As I left, this is what greeted me.  To quote Jon Snow, "Winter is coming."

Yoga was awesome.  The instructor really pushed us, and I had that uniquely yoga feeling of being both spent and energized afterwards.  My day was full of varied busyness, and 10:00PM rolled around without me having got in a run.  I hit the treadmill for a 20 minute checkmark run.  Again the treadmill wasn't so bad.  I put my Kobo on the book stand and time raced by.

After a long time of sitting at the bottom of the closet, I tried out my New Balance Minimus WT20GG2's again.  My feet didn't agree with them the last time I used them, and I wanted to give them a second chance.  Today they felt fine.  For you astute readers out there, yes, they are indeed women's shoes.  They were on a clearance rack at Sport Chek and they looked to be my size.  I had no idea that they were women's shoes.  In any case, they fit great and have a 4mm heel drop (probably less).  I noticed no peculiar side effects after running in them so I will work them into my rotation.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Running Streak - Days 11 and 12

Day 12

On day 9, when I said that I caught the last bit of sunshine, I didn't think it was for the week.  Today was a great day running-wise, but an ugly day weather-wise: dropping temperatures, sideways rain.  All of the fair-weather folks stayed inside.  Apart from the few hard-core walkers and runners who were out today, it felt like I had the paths and sidewalks to myself.  I like getting out when the weather is a bit nasty, but it takes away any future weather-related excuses I may dream up for not going out in the future.

The route around the bridges (Portage and Alexandra) is my favourite for a lunchtime run.  There are very few flats and a lot of turns, which makes for a good workout and makes the time pass quickly.  What makes it ideal for me is that I can squeeze in a run around the bridges, including changing into running stuff, showering and getting back into respectable clothes, in just under an hour.

I'm noticing now that the tiredness I was experiencing during the day is disappearing, but I need more sleep at night - no more late night TV.  I am also seeing an increase in appetite.  I will need to monitor that closely.  I'm not burning enough calories to justify eating what I want, but I definitely feel like eating more.  A good thing is that mentally I do not want to start putting bad food into my body because I know that it will negate any benefits from increasing my activity level.  I need the physical cravings for candy and pastry to go away.

Day 11

Dark + rainy + windy = awesome.  I felt great today.  I ran at 1:00PM, but it looked like 5:30PM.  When I checked the forecast before work, I was preparing for 9C and raining.  By the time I was able to get out for the run it was 6C (feeling like 2C) with a cold north wind, and rain.  Fortunately, I keep a jacket and Gore Tex ball cap for such eventualities.  A jacket and long sleeve tech shirt was ideal; the shorts I brought made for a breezy run, but I was fine once I warmed up. 

I could only afford to get for 25 minutes because I had meetings bookending a short lunch hour.  I'm really pleased with how quickly the TomTom connects with the GPS satellites; it was nearly instant, even when surrounded by buildings.  If I was wearing my one of my Garmins, between the slowness of the device itself and the weather conditions) I would have been waiting in front of West Block (the most open area close by) for up to 5 minutes.  The run itself was great.  I really wanted to go longer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Running Streak - Day 10

I'm in double digits and it's a good feeling.  I had the day off work today, but it still felt busy.  I was able to take in a 75 minute Moksha hot yoga class in the morning and then did a bunch of running around.  The class was packed (48 in a room that can optimistically 50 maximizing all space), and it was way hotter than usual.  All of the mirrors fogged up and the instructor turned off the heat half way through,which didn't help at all.  On top of that, the instructor really worked us hard.  It was a truly great workout.

I intended my run to came later in the day when I had a 45 minutes window where I could seize it opportunistically.  I actually ended up running at 9:30PM on the dreadmill.  I suppose that today was a "checkmark run" - just get it in to check off another day.  It was actually a great run.  I put some loud tunes on the playlist and kept increasing the speed of the treadmill.  I did 25 minutes, but definitely could have kept going if I didn't need to get to bed at some point.

I switched shoes to an old pair that I haven't worn in a while, K-Swiss Blade-Light Run.  For quite some time I have been using adidas Adizero Mana 5's for all of my runs, which are actually a racing flat and do not have much cushioning.  The K-Swiss' felt like I was running on pillows.  I'm not sure exactly why I switched away from them (they still have a lot of life left in them), but I suspect it was my desire to move to a more minimalist shoe.  Both the Blade-Light Runs and the Mana's have a 9mm heel drop.  The next shoes (New Balance Minimus, 2 different models) I want to use have a 4mm drop.  5mm may not sound like much, but it requires an adjustment period.  If you are considering making the change, make it gradual.  Your calves and Achilles tendons will thank you.

I should probably be using a variety of shoes, but I have a stockpile of 0mm shoes that I want to start using: Saucony Hatori's, Vibram Fivefingers, etc.  My frugal nature pushes me to use up the higher drop shoes before committing to the lower drop models.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Running Streak - Day 9

A great run today at a slightly higher pace.  I think I caught the very last of the sunshine for the week.  I was feeling a bit run-down and hungry, but didn't want to let that get in the way.  With a forecast of 8C, I only brought shorts and a T-shirt, but it was actually closer to 2C with the wind.  Fortunately, I had a vest at work, which helped a bit, but I didn't dare slow down or stop.  Also, all of the locks at the entrance to the Rideau Canal are open now, save for the uppermost one; therefore, I had an extra long hill towards the end - a good replacement for the now-inaccessible West Block parking lot.

Yesterday, I actually read the blog of another guy who did a 100-day running streak ( and found it really encouraging.  I was impressed with his commitment and the fact that he felt compelled to do many runs when the conditions weren't ideal and he wasn't exactly feeling up to it.  He started his streak in much better overall condition than I did and his run times are much faster than mine.  I believe that I will pick up the pace appreciably over the next few months.  I also believe that his weight training helped him immeasurably.  I should be doing it, too.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Running Streak - Days 7 and 8

Day 8
I almost let time run away today.  I kept working through lunch and then realized that my window of opportunity was closing.  It felt really good mentally to get it in.  It was another glorious day 10-11C and sunny.  The wind was low and not as cold as yesterday.  I ran out and back on the pathways along the Ottawa River.  I'm trying to stick to routes that will not be ploughed once the white stuff begins falling.  My options to vary my routes are very limited once winter arrives.

I was out in shorts and at-shirt, which was perfect for me, but nearly everyone I saw was wearing a jacket, tights, gloves and a toque.  People, come on.  If you are bundled up now, you are going to have a tough time acclimatizing a month from now when it is 20 degrees colder.  This is a great opportunity to wear a little less and be ready for actual cold temperatures when they come.

Day 7
Yesterday was really busy, but I managed to shoehorn a run in among church, errands and going to see Spectre.  To be honest, Sunday is the day where I felt the streak is most in jeopardy.  The "Day of Rest" never really ends up being one.  Ironically, the run went off easier than just about every other one I did during the week.  I grabbed my stuff, changed, ran, showered and changed, and then headed to the movie.  It was all rather smooth. 
The run itself was great - I used the gravel bike paths near the house.  It was around 5C in bright sunshine with a pretty cold wind.  With a long sleeve shirt and shorts, I may have been a bit under-dressed, but I felt fine as long as I was moving.  A vest would have been a good idea.  I'm not stiff or sore.  With my activity level increasing and winter coming (i.e. humidity dropping), I'm finding that I need to drink more water - something I will work on this week.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Solving Erratic Heart Rate Readings

I am a big fan of heart rate training.  Most of the time I use my heart rate monitor (HRM) to keep me out of trouble, especially on runs where I'm supposed to be running easy.  That being said, I have had a love-hate relationship with every one of my HRMs.  As we move into fall and winter, your (and my) frustration with your HRM may grow.  I hope this article will help you avoid that.  In my experience, the strap is almost always at fault.  Here we go...

A heart rate monitor that is reading, transmitting and recording properly looks like this:

Graph depicting a properly functioning HRM
HR recording as expected

A heart rate monitor that does not have any skin-to-strap contact looks like this (no readings from 0 to around 4:30):

Graph depicting an HRM where contact is lost or not established
Heart rate reading when there no contact at the start of an activity.

A heart rate monitor that is having a hard day looks like this:

Graph depicting an HRM where contact is intermittant
Heart rate reading when contact is poor or intermittent at the start of an activity

As a non-super hero, I cannot make my heart rate hit 250 beats per minute (bpm).  In reality, since I wasn't scaling the side of a mountain when these readings were taken, my heart rate would have been on the same trajectory from 0:00 to 4:10, but my HRM was confused.  Lack of good contact really throws off the average HR for the activity.  In the grand scheme of things it's not a big deal, but when one has an HRM, one would want it to work correctly.  Here is what I do to solve or at least minimize erratic heart rate readings.

Before I dispense my sage wisdom, I should share some of the "wisdom" I have heard.  I have heard advice like "Don't wear technical fabrics.", or "Don't run near sources of electrical interference."  I'm sure that this is offered by well-meaning individuals, but come on, if I go out for a long run in a cotton shirt, I will have no skin left on my torso by the time I'm done.  IT's simply not an option.  As for sources of electrical interference, unless I'm deliberately running in a elevator shaft or through a field of power lines and transformers, I probably can't detect electrical interference on my own, e.g. through the fillings in my teeth.  There are probably other tidbits you have heard, but as the owner of many HRMs from different manufacturers over the years, here is what I know works:

1) Use electrode gel on the contacts.  This is especially important in cool/cold weather because proper reading of heart rate signals depends on good contact between the contacts on the strap and your skin.  Sweat is perfect for maintaining this contact, but when it takes a while to start sweating, you need a bit of help.  (See the second and third graphs above.)  This is where electrode gel comes in because it replaces sweat when sweat is a long time in coming.

It is available in medical supply stores and is relatively cheap.  A large tube will last a couple of Canadian winters for me.  Just apply a line across the length of each contact on the strap and brace yourself for the shock of cold gel hitting your skin.  Don't despair; it warms up fast.  This solves things in pretty much every situation.

2) Clean the contacts.  Nothing fancy.  Just use warm water and liquid dish soap.  Sneak it in when you are washing dishes and let it air dry.  If you have one of the premium straps, remember to remove the transmitter first.  You need to clean the part of the strap that contacts your skin to read your heart rate.  Washing the entire strap - the transmitter/contact part, and the elastic strap - has the added benefit of not driving family members and pets from the room when you pull it out of your gym bag.

3) Wet the elastic part of the strap.  This will keep it from slipping until you start sweating.  If the strap slips, contact between it and the skin can be broken.  Warning: no matter what time of year it is, this will feel cold on your back.  Brace yourself!  That being said, it is well worth the shock.  Having it slip and trying to fix it when you are wearing a bunch of layers is a royal pain. 

4) Change the battery.  If your unit is sealed, it should be replaced by a qualified technician; contact your device's manufacturer for help.  If the battery is replaceable, you can replace the battery yourself.  It is a cheap and easy way to help with troubleshooting.  I have owned units from Polar, Garmin and TomTom.  All have used the same lithium battery, the  ubiquitous CR2032, which is available in a three pack at the dollar store.  I could spend more on name-brand batteries, but I find they last well and I can buy a dozen or more of the cheap ones for the price of one name-brand.

I hope this helps you.  I know full well that none of this is new; there are numerous sites and forums where you can find the same advice.  I wrote this because I get asked about this a lot.  If you have found anything else that works for you, please share it in the comments below.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Running Streak - Day 6

It was a pretty big day activity-wise.  I ran for around 25 minutes early this morning and then did an hour of hot yoga at Moksha Yoga.  (Moksha is an awesome flavour of yoga and the studio in Orleans is outstanding.)  Amidst a bunch of errands between yoga and supper, I played tennis for around 45 minutes.  To be honest, I have found that getting runs in during the week is much easier than getting them in on weekends.  I know that if I didn't get it in early, the streak would have ended.  I'm quite sure of that.

As for the run this morning, it went pretty well.  I am feeling pretty tired now.  Going for months of nothing to steady exercise takes some acclimatization.  I intended to head out for 20 minutes (10 out and 10 back), but I found that as I got close to 10 minutes, I started negotiating with myself.    "You're really close to that tree, turn around at the tree.  That tree came up faster than expected.  How about the next tree?"  Then it was, "You're so close to 2km, why not turn around then."  Once I got to 2km, I said, "You're nearly at 12:00, why not stretch it out to 25:00 and turn around at 12:30."  I know that we're not talking about huge distances here, but I think the important thing is that I'm moving from forcing myself out there to starting to find running fun again.  I will take that as a good sign.  See you tomorrow...

Friday, November 6, 2015

Running Streak - Day 5

I strapped on the headlamp and headed out pre-dawn again because my work schedule is really packed.  I have heard that it takes 21 days to form a habit (and 3 to break one).  I felt today like a routine was forming.  I'm sure there will be days where I need to be very deliberate about this streak, but today wasn't one of those days.  I hope this sensation carries through the weekend.

It helped that the conditions were nearly ideal.  It was really warm (20C), pretty humid and lightly raining - great running weather, almost what one would expect in early summer.  A nice breeze would have been nice, but I'm not complaining.  I felt a little lighter on my feet and my stride a bit smoother than earlier in the week.  I'm already looking forward to hitting 7 days in a row.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Running Streak - Day 4

"You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I really have no plan.  Normally, I have a plan for everything, but I don't have one right now.  I downloaded an outseason training plan from Garmin; it's scheduled in my calendar and is not due to start until November 16, but I'm not sure whether I want to use it or not.  If I decide to do a spring marathon, the plan for that would start on February 7, 2016.  (It's also already in my Garmin calendar.  See, I like plans.)  My mindset right now is that the best thing for me to do is just run.  And today, run I did...

Today the legs felt stiff at the start, but this time the feeling didn't pass.  In fact, I started feeling different little aches and pains throughout the run.  Since I have (sadly) so much experience re-starting after long lay-offs, I recognize them as my body's way of putting everything back in its rightful spot.  I'll be fine.  Since I picked up running again in 2006, I have never been injured from a repetitive use injury.  A couple of turned ankles and a strained knee from stepping in a pothole, mind you, but I classify them as accidents.  As for the run itself, I went a little longer and a little faster than yesterday, and it felt great.  I didn't want to stop.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Running Streak - Day 3

There was no chance I would get out for a run at lunch today, so I broke out the reflectors and some warmer clothes (thermal base shirt, tech t-shirt and long pants) and ran to the corner and back.  For me, the corner is around 2km away.  It felt great to run in cooler temperatures (2C) and watch the sun come up.  This was the view when I was done.

I'm not convinced that three days can really be called a streak.  That being said, I'm hard-pressed to figure out at what point it morphs into one.  I believe that it is in the early days when a streak is most vulnerable. After all, it's pretty easy to jettison one streak and start another one if one is not terribly invested with only a few runs in.  I suspect that my motivation to persevere will be higher once I'm in double digits and there is more at stake.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Running Streak - Day 2

Day Two is in the bag and it was a great day - sunny and around 17C, shorts and t-shirt weather.  I will take a whole Winter of this.  I was a little stiff at the start, but it disappeared quickly.  I also did a weight check this morning: 180lbs.  Let's see where I end up on News Years Day.  A lunch run is out of the question tomorrow and I'm not sure when I can fit one in.  It may be an early morning.

By the way, I did a bit of research into the ground rules of running streaks.  There are a few significant organisations that track this stuff.  The one criteria that appears to be common to all is that the run has to be a minimum of one mile in length.  According to the United States Running Streak Association, it must be "at least one mile (1.61 kilometers) within each calendar day. Running may occur on either the roads, a track, over hill and dale, or on a treadmill"  I can live with that.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Running Streak - Day 1

“Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” - Thomas Edison

I need to get out of a funk, and I think the only way to do it is to do something a little wacky (for me, at least).  I finally laced up the shoes after 3-month layoff that was due to nothing other than busyness, laziness and fear.  I am going to call my shot, point my bat to center field, [insert your favourite sports metaphor here], etc.  Today is day 1 of a running streak.  My goal is to run at least 20 minutes every day until January 1, 2016.

Today's run went great.  I didn't set any land speed records, but I made it to the end without walking.  The weather was beautiful (10C and mostly sunny), which is very uncharacteristic for early November in Ottawa.  The forecast for the rest of the week looks great, too, and I have no meetings that book-end the lunch hour; therefore, I have no excuses.  One in a row.  Look at me go...