Friday, September 2, 2016

What I Did Last Summer - Adding Cycling to the Mix

I have not written much about my other passion: cycling.  I have always had a bike and I loved riding it everywhere.  I was not always good at keeping the rubber side down, which is another story entirely.  I started as a runner in middle school and ran competitively until university, but my university did not have a track or cross country team.  I then walked on to a varsity rowing crew and did rather well at that.  All the way along, I kept riding my bike.  After university, I decided to try  my hand at bike racing and kept it up for a few years, but I was never a really good at it and eventually gave it up.  Now I do the odd tour or triathlon/duathlon, but cycling is more for recreation or for cross training.

To be completely open, I was not that fit as Spring passed into Summer.  Running was difficult, especially in the hot weather, but do-able.  Cycling had been starting to look more and more attractive, especially with our proximity to good trails nearby.  My MTBs ended up getting a good workout.

I like to build bikes as much as I like riding them (actually, maybe more) and a few years ago I built two great mountain bikes: one is a 3x9 geared hardtail and the other is a rigid singlespeed.  Both are a blast to ride, but I especially like the single because it run so quietly, and it became my bike of choice these days.  My goal had been to try to get in 45 minute rides three times per week, interspersed with running - again hopefully three times per week.  That worked for quite a few weeks.

Picking up cycling ended up working very well for me because I ended up with a pretty bad left calf strain at the end of July that I could not shake until Autumn.  (Remember how I said that I was finding running difficult.)  The injury didn't affect my cycling, but I couldn't run more than a few hundred metres.  I'm quite sure that it didn't stem from my running experiment (transitioning to minimalist shoes), but from some trauma that I (no pun intended) minimized and neglected to treat.  In any case, cycling was my go-to activity all Summer and fortunately, I didn't have to invest anything - no broken or worn-out parts, no repairs, no new clothing, shoes or accessories.  I just hopped on and rode.

Going forward, I believe that I am done with just running.  At my age, I need a mix of activities to get (and hopefully stay) fit: resistance training and cardio activities (i.e. more than one).  I am going to look for a resistance training program and enjoy a mix of running and cycling.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Vibram FiveFingers SeeYa: First (and second) Impressions

Since I know that I can run comfortably with the Spyridons (see the note below), I thought I would introduce the FiveFingers SeeYa's into the rotation. 

VFF SeeYa's ready for take off
Initial (Pre-Run) Observations:The fit is roughly the same as the Spyridons.  They slipped on just as easily and hugged my foot with exactly the same feel.  I am a bigger fan of laces than hook and loop straps.  That being said, the strap on the Spyridons is pretty comfortable and provides a good fit.  Even with laces, the SeeYa's are noticeably less shoe than the Spyridons, however.  The outsole is much thinner and the tread is less chunky.  The upper material is also thinner, i.e. nearly transparent.  In the hot weather we have been experiencing, this is definitely a good thing.  They may even ride a little lower on the ankle.  With these shoes on, I can forget that I'm wearing shoes.

Observations On The Run
I headed out to run on the packed gravel paths near my house.  They are softer than asphalt or concrete, yet firm enough for a good push off.  They are also not perfectly smooth.  I wanted to see how much ground I felt through the shoe.  I found my answer very quickly: much more than the Spyridons. 

Hot sun and not much shade
The shoes are definitely comfortable, but the thinner outsole let me feel everything that I was running over.  With the paths I was running on, this was not a problem.  I even ran over clumps of weeds that grow on the edges of the paths and over larger stones.  Apart from bits of weeds getting stuck between my toes, there were no problems I felt really well protected.   The thinner upper material was ideal on a day like today because the shoe was cooler temperature-wise.  I did just over 30 minutes and the shoes performed marvellously. 
Post-Run Observations
When I took the shoes off at home, I noticed a couple of abrasions on the top of my left big toe and on the main part of my foot close to the big toe.  Had I run any longer, they would have evolved into full-blown blisters.  I will need to keep an eye on this.  My calves, soleus, Achilles tendons and shins felt fine -no complaints there.  All in all, the SeeYa's felt great and I'm looking forward to running in them again.

Run #2 - the Next Day
Since I did fine in the SeeYa's yesterday, I thought I would give them a tray today.  The weather conditions were almost the same: hot, humid, bright sunshine.  Because I didn't want the abraded spots to blister, I applied Body Glide to the top of my right foot and toes.  I hear that this works, and I hoped that the experiment would succeed today.

Merely a flesh wound
The run felt great.  I stuck to the shady side of the path because the sun was punishing.  As they have been for the past couple of weeks, the deer flies were horrendous.  I was constantly harassed by them today.  I even managed to swallow one and I gagged so hard that I saw my breakfast again.  Not fun.  On the upside, I was detecting no pain from the hot spots on my feet that developed yesterday.  As it turns out, pain is not always an indicator.
Yesterday's hot spots became today's blisters, which opened up and I bled through the shoes.  I will treat the blisters and give the SeeYa's another shot.  Until then, I will switch back to the Spyridons until the blisters heal.

This is how the blister issue with the Spyridons ended up being resolved:
  1. I cinched in the strap tighter on the left shoe so that the spot where the d-ring is sewed to the upper does not move around as much.  Blisters are caused by friction (from rubbing) and the best way to eliminate friction is to stop things from moving around. 
  2. The blistered area on my left instep has morphed into a small callous a little bigger than a thumb tack head.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Not-a-Minimal Collection of Minimalist Shoes

I received a few questions about the shoes that I mentioned (and had a photo of) in the previous post, specifically about how I didn't break the bank as I accumulated them.  Here are the details:

Shoes (enough to last a long, long time)
I have been stockpiling (nice word for hoarding) for a few years and this is what the stable looks like (clockwise from top left):
  1. Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon's and SeeYa LS's (all size 41): - found all on a clearance rack at Sport Chek and marked down to $49.99CDN AND I managed to hit a BOGO sale = 4 new pairs for around $100CDN
  2. Vibram FiveFingers Bikila (size 40) - bought barely used through Kijiji for $30CDN
  3. Saucony Hattori's bought barely used (perhaps twice) through Kijiji for around $20CDN or $25CD.
  4. Merrell Bare Access's which coincidentally have outsoles made by Vibram, bought cheap (around $40CDN, I think) on clearance at Sports Experts.

All in, I'm looking at an investment of something in the neighbourhood of $190CDN for 7 pairs of shoes, an average of just over $27CDN/pair.  Not too shabby.

I wanted a mix of VFF and shoes with a conventional tow box, as well as a mix of lace-ups and shoes with Velcro straps.  I may reserve the Merrell's and The Saucony's for cold weather running because they will accommodate sock better than the VFF's.

Toe socks (for running in the Winter or if the VFFs don't fit quite right)
  • Injini rainbow socks were $5CDN at Platos Closet and still in the original packaging.  They are the best toe socks I own, but would run $15CDN or more if I bought them at full retail.

  • The others were bought from the far east through Amazon and eBay for $2-$3CDN each.  they are not super high end socks, but they are comfy and will do the trick.
  • I can use regular and toe socks in the Merrell's and the Saucony's.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon: First Impressions

After a couple of runs over the weekend in my Merrell Bare Access's with no negative side effects, I though I would break out a pair of my Vibram FiveFingers to see how they feel.  Of the four pairs I own, I very scientifically selected the only pair that didn't still have the tags attached and ended up with the Spyridons (the version released in June, 2012).  This would be my first run in VFF's that was longer than 200m or so.  This would also be the first run that I have ever done (to the best of my recollection) with no socks.

I will start with the shoes, which were terrific.  I am guessing that my slow transition to 0mm permitted me to change my running style so incrementally that they didn't feel very different.  The shoes are light and I can feel the ground, but the Spyridons have this great waffle-style tread on the outsole that protected me from anything pointy on the trail.  I even ran over a few rocks deliberately.  I felt the them as I ran over them, but it wasn't like they were jabbing into my foot.  This inspired a lot of confidence in the shoe. 

Second, I was expecting them to be really warm on my feet, and I was blissfully wrong.   While the Spyridons don't look like they are as breathable as other models, they performed very well in the heat, which was really intense (next paragraph).  They mostly black with green trim, and use this shiny fabric that looks plastic-y over a stretchy Lycra-like material.   The only negative I took away from the run shoe-wise was that I developed a small, yet painful blister on the inside of my left foot where the loop for the strap is sewn to the shoe.  For my next run in them, I will put a Band Aid on the spot or try a pair of Injini socks.

As for the run, the weather was stinkin' hot again (north of 30C), intense sun and a strong wind blowing from the southwest just ahead of a severe thunderstorm that was forecasted for the evening.  The plan was to go for 30 minutes out-and-back on a nearby recreational path and I decided to knock off another Zombies, Run! mission on my phone to help pass the time.  The wind didn't affect me at all - it was actually rather nice - but the heat did.  The path has very little shade.  I just kept it steady and enjoyed my playlist and the mission.  I ended up finishing the 'back' within a few seconds of the 'out', which actually felt pretty good.  I will definitely be back in the VFF's again soon.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Inaugural Barefoot Shoe Run

I wanted to get a run in over the weekend to break out of the running funk I have been in and managed to do it.  Victory!  I also wanted to see if I could manage a run in barefoot shoes.  (Oxymoron?)  I picked my never-been-worn Merrell Bare Access's (0mm drop) and took them for their maiden voyage.  They were a treat to wear.  I have an upcoming blog post where I describe my minimalist plans.

All of the conventional wisdom I have read suggests that I shouldn't run very far when transitioning to 0mm drop shoes (like starting at a few hundred metres) and that I should gradually increase the distance/duration, but I didn't heed that wisdom.  I have been moving to progressively flatter shoes for the past couple of years and decided to take the final 4mm plunge. (Note: My last few pairs of shoes were 4mm.)  To be honest, they felt great during the run and even 9 hours later as I write this, I feel no lasting effects. 

The run itself felt great.  My goal duration for the run was 30 minutes and because of the heat I planned in keeping the peace slow.  It was definitely slow and hot, but I managed.  I did an out and back on Hilldale Road and I dawned on me how it got its name.  The road was up or down the whole way: hill, dale, hill, dale, hill, dale.  I wore my TomTom Runner, but didn't wear the HRM.  Even without it, I knew that my HR was up there, partly because of the heat and the hills, but mostly due to lost fitness. It took a while for it to come down afterward, but otherwise I recovered rather quickly.  

Saturday, June 11, 2016

My Next Experiment: Aiming for 0 (mm, that is)

Since a picture says a thousand words, this will give you an idea of my next running project:

A Bit of Backstory
I wore orthotics for years.  I have been transitioning to less and less shoe.  Despite having perfectly flat feet and pronating significantly, I never, ever felt goon in motion control shoes.  I normally opted for neutral cushioned shoes and blew them to pieces after about 500-600km.  (The outside edge of my outsoles would wear through and I would occasionally blow through the side of the upper.)  As a result, I became a clearance rack/bin shopper because I needed 2-4 pairs of shoes per year at the mileage I was doing. 

I then read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  The whole less shoe, cheap shoe approach that is described in the book made a pile of sense to me.  Through experimentation I had already stumbled into it myself, but I never had any particular scientific reasoning behind what I was doing.  I was just listening to my body and finding a way to buy 2-4 pairs of shoes per year without blowing a bunch of money.  I wondered if I would ever get to the "shod barefoot" stage.  To me, it didn't really matter if I did.  (Given the surfaces where I run and the fact that Canadian Winters are really cold, "bare barefoot" isn't a viable option.)    Less and less shoe was working fine for me.

My transition has been slower than others.  The reason is more financial than physiological.  I could have transitioned to 0mm drop shoes over a few months, but to ease my conscience, I felt that that I needed to use up the stockpile of shoes that had been accumulating.  I arranged my pile in order by heel drop and used up the highest ones first.  I always rotate among 2-3 pairs at a given time so I just inserted a lower shoe into the rotation when a pair I was using wore out.  A couple of years ago I switched to training in lower racing flats and started buying 0mm heel drop shoes (see photo above).  I have a post in the oven that describes how I came to own such a collection, and not break the bank.

Where I am right now, shoe-wise
I just retired my Adidas AdiZero Mana's, which I was using for my streak and a couple of spring races, and I am currently running in a pair of Newton Distances that someone gifted me.  He tried them a few times and decided that they weren't for him.  I gladly accepted them and found that they are pushing my Achilles tendons and calves in exactly the same way that other shoes did whenever I dropped in heel height, i.e. from 12mm to 8-9mm and then from 8-9mm to 4mm.  In my estimation, the Newtons will help me close the gap.  I will keep these around, as well as a pair of K-Swiss Blade-LightRun's, for days when my feet need a break and I need to work some different muscles.  I also have two pairs of New Balance shoes from the Minimus line that I will use for trail running.  I completed a few runs in the Merrell Bare Access's and haven't felt any of the effects that people report when they have transitioned to quickly, which I take a sign that I'm ready for 0mm.

What is going to happen over the next few months...
My plan for the next month or so is to rotate among the Newtons, the Merrell's and an old pair of Loco Banditos (I bet you've never heard of them), and perhaps a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, probably the Spyridons.  Keeping the Merrell's for the Winter may be a good idea because I will need socks for insulation against frozen toes.  There are two trail races in the Summer (early-July and mid-August) and a road 15km (mid-July) that I am targeting.  I will use the Banditos for the 15km and one of the New Balances on the rails.  The plan is to be in a barefoot shoe pretty much full time by Autumn.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Mystery Jacket

Last Summer I was at Value Village and found a black Lululemon running jacket in excellent condition in the men's section.  There were no tags anywhere inside the jacket, but it was on a hanger that said small.  Only at my fittest could I ever even imagine wearing anything on top that comes in a small.  Undaunted, I decided to try it on.  Being moderately overweight at the time and not exercising at all, I managed to get it over my shoulders, but doing it up was a challenge.  It fit more like a sausage casing than a jacket.  It was $30, so I bought it with the idea that I would use fitting into it as my goal for regaining my running form.  The good news is that I was able to wear it comfortably just after Christmas.  Here are some photos...

Photo of jacket front
Photo of jacket back

The big challenge was that I have no idea what model this is.  I am hoping it is a men's jacket, but it very well could be a women's.  It could be a running jacket, but it has a pocket in the back, and inner mesh liner and vents like cycling wear.  The cuffs fold over into little mitt-like things and there are no thumb holes.  It is definitely windproof and probably waterproof.  It holds the heat in nicely.  I have worn in a few times when the wind chill was well below -20C and it had no trouble keeping my torso warm. 

I sent the photos above and a few others to a couple of Lululemon bloggers.  As an aside, I had no idea that there is a substantial Web community that has been built up around Lululemon clothing. LululemonExpert stepped up and put a ton of time into researching different lines of clothing - well more than anyone would reasonably expect.  She was very thorough, and yet she could turn nothing up.  I also engaged Lululemon Product Support through a live chat and managed to draw someone who has been with the company for a while, and she couldn't turn anything up either.

Is there anyone out there who knows anything about this jacket?  I'm going to keep running in it.  I would just like to know what I have got here.  If you want more photos, just say the word in the comments below.

UPDATE: In case you want to take up the challenge, here are some more photos.

Close up of the logo on the back of the collar

Apparently, according to Lulumen, this must be newer than 2013 because logo is not octagonal.  This guy really knows his stuff.

Back pocket

Cuff with mitt-like thing folded out

Lining behind the right front pocket (ear bud grommet even has a Lululemon logo)

Lining around left arm hole.  Notice the remnants of a tag on the collar.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Race Report: Volunteering with the Extra Mile Crew during the Ottawa Marathon

This weekend I did something amazing that ranks very close to the top of my list of fantastic running experiences.  I had the pleasure to volunteer during the Ottawa Marathon with the Extra Mile Crew.  There have been pace bunnies in ORW for many years and they do an absolutely fantastic job, but this is the first year that ORW featured the Extra Mile Crew, a new kind of help for competitors.  The pace bunnies are indispensable in getting runners to the finish by their goal times, but runners pick up the bunny who works best for them and they run with the bunny.  The Extra Mile Crew does the reverse.  We are on the course to pick up runners who need a little company, encouragement, assistance, etc. and run with them.  By the tone of feedback all of us received during and after the event, I believe that the Extra Mile Crew is here to stay.

For me 32km-37km is the darkest part of the marathon both psychologically and physically.  I'm glad I was stationed where I was, which was on Beechwood Avenue in New Edinburgh at the 35km to go mark.  Our "zone" was roughly 35km to 37km, although I only made it back to my original starting point twice, with the agreement that we would all run in with the last finishers.  Our crew was very motivated and very capable; there were no running rookies in this gang.  All of us were experienced runners, which I found out later was by design.  Because we were the furthest from the finish line, the 35km crew had to be prepared to do the most running.  Speaking personally, I logged over 25km between 10:30AM and 2:00PM.  All but 6km of that was running back and forth in our zone, picking up runners and getting them to and through the 36km water station, where all of the volunteers happened to be wearing red dresses (both men and women). A truly amazing group, they were.

The Crew (I'm in the back with the black cap, no tutu)
There were plenty of runners who needed a little boost.  With the humidity, the temperature had a "feels like" rating of 33C-35C, and out on the course, under a cloudless sky and no shade on asphalt at the hottest part of the day, it "felt like" much, much warmer.  The organizers did the right thing chopping off 10km of the course for the folks who were finishing in over 5 hours.  I cannot imagine what is would have felt like for us and the competitors if we had to be out there for another hour and a half.

There are so many good memories that I will take away from this that I could share, but I will limit it to just a few.  I have to say, first off, that I was really nervous before I started.  I had no idea what to do or how I would be received, but I figured that I would just watch faces and hop on to the course when someone made eye contact and looked like they could use a friend.  It didn't take long, and I didn't stop moving until I reached the finish line 3.5 hours later.  The key was to your eyes out at all times, to ask lots of questions and stay really upbeat.

Michele from Montreal
I saw this fellow running and asked if he wanted some company and he said, "Sure!", so I ran with him for about 100m when a young woman looked over to me and waved me over.  I broke off with the fellow and met Michelle from Montreal.  In her face I could see that she was struggling.  She seemed to be on the verge of tears and said "Thank you for being here" every minute or so.  I chatted with her, asking her if it was her first marathon (it was) and asking her if she was starting to cramp up (her knee was sore) and talking about her training.  I asked her what she was going to do after the race.  I believe that ice cream was in the mix, but I can't remember that clearly.  I ran with her for about 500m beyond the water stop and then told her that I had to go back.  She thanked me with grateful tears in her eyes.  She finished the race and I hope she went for ice cream.  Felicitations, Michele!

Ming from Hong Kong
I could tell that Ming was having a hard time and also that he was not going to ask anyone for help.  The first clue I had that he was hurting was the fact that he was wearing black ball cap, black tights, black shorts (over the tights) and a black long-sleeved shirt.  Did I mention that it was hot?  And he was also carrying a GoPro camera on a selfie stick.  (I wonder if I will end up on YouTube.)  His English was limited, but I found out that it was his first marathon.  He was sweating profusely and I managed to convince him walk through the water stop to get a cup of Nuun down and two glasses of water.  Because of the camera, I offered to handle the cups.  About 200m after the water stop, he started to look like he was coming around and I instructed him to keep to the shady side of the street.  I checked later; he finished.  Bravo, Ming!

There were many others: the ultrarunner who dislocated her toe a week ago while training for a 50km race, the lady who was in the process of completing her 70th marathon, the group of women running together who were helping one in their group who had drank too much water that was sloshing around in her stomach (amazing teamwork), a bunch of individual francophones who politely endured me practicing my French, and the list goes on, but it ends with...

Kim from Fredericton
Lara, our crew leader, came back to me and Chris, another crew member, and pointed to the ambulance and police that were following the last runner.  Chris and I picked him up and we walked/ran together for another km or so.  I then spotted a woman running by herself just ahead of us and I let Chris know that I would go ahead to run with her.  We were now on the hottest part of the course - no shade and the temperature was hitting the daytime high.  Kim had injured her knee, but was determined to finish.  We had around 5km to go, and we alternated between running and walking, with Kim calling the shots.  We picked up Erin, another Extra Mile Crew member (sporting a tutu and magic wand), with about 3km to go and the three of us kept on chatting about Harry Potter, ComicCon, Gotham, etc. (nerds, we're everywhere) and got our photos taken together by the race photographer at 2km to go.  I could tell that she did not want to finish last.  Hats off to her, she soldiered on and started passing a few other runners. 
She finished (not last).  Way to go, Kim!

Things that went well:
  1. Carrying a frozen hydration pack.  We had to be self-sufficient, which meant monitoring and carrying our own nutrition and hydration.  I elected to carry a Reebok hydration pack with a 2l bladder.  I filled the bladder the night before and put it in the freezer.  This not only kept the water cold, but it cooled me off.  Others in my crew knew this trick, too.  It worked brilliantly, and I ended up drinking 1.5l on the course and on the way home. 
  2. Bringing the right extra stuff. I applied spray sunscreen at home before I left and then again just before we got on the course.  After that the can went in the pack.  I applied it again just ahead of our final push to the line and was able to loan the can to another crew member.  I'm glad I kept it with me, or else I (and perhaps my colleague) would have looked like a cooked lobster.  I also had a chocolate protein bar that didn't melt because of the frozen water bladder.  I ended up eating it on the way home.  My keys, wallet and phone went with me in the pack, too.  Unbeknownst to me, Google Fit on my phone tracked my activity for the day.
  3. Staying in the designated zone.  I heard that there were a couple of approaches being discussed as to how long a crew member should run with a competitor.  There were those who felt we should stay with a runner for as long at the runner wants, even if that means going all the way to the finish.  Others believed that we should stay in the zone and relay a runner who needs some prolonged company to crew members in the next zone.  We employed the latter approach and I believe it worked out very well.  I think we helped many more competitors that way.
Things I would do differently:
  1. Eat.  We met at 10:30AM and were on the course shortly after that (and a group photo).  I didn't stop until 2:00PM and then we had to return to our vehicles and head for home.  I packed a protein bar, but didn't have time to eat it because I was pretty much in constant motion, either with a competitor or running back to pick up another.   I didn't bank on running over 25km.  Next time, I will bring a couple of gels or something else that is easy to eat on the go, and re-fuel appropriately.
  2. Test the clothing on a long run.  The maxim that one doesn't use anything on race day that hasn't been tested on a long run applied here, too.  Because I underestimated how much running I would be doing, I didn't wear the shirt beforehand (I wore it right out the packaging)and I hadn't used the shorts I wore for a long run (many shorter runs, yes, but not a long one).  Because of the heat and the occasional drenching from residents' homes, I was severely chafed.  Other crew members were cutting the sleeves off  of their shirts.  At the very least I should have washed the shirt and applied some Body Glide strategically.  (Perhaps TMI, but I know that it may help someone.)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Race Report: MEC Ottawa 2016 series: Race #1 - The Spring Fling

I want to start off by stating that I had no business doing this race.  My training has been completely sporadic and inconsistent since my 100-day streak ended in February.  I have been concentrating more on step counting and getting out my desk chair than running.  That being sais, the runs I did over the past month or so, albeit few, have felt great.  I had no idea how much fitness I kept and how much I have lost, but I thought I'd give 10 miles a shot, and only barely.  I questioned the logic of sticking with the 10 miler and seriously considered dropping to the 10km, even at the point of receiving my bib from the race organizer the day before.  If I was going to do 10 miles, I was not going for anything close to a PR.  I decided to use the event to benchmark where I am at.

My Race Strategy:
Since the course was very flat, I didn't need a plan that was very sophisticated.  I somewhat arbitrarily chose 90 minutes as a goal time, which works out to approximately 5:35/km.  I keyed that in to the Virtual Partner applet on my Forerunner 610.  This would be the first time I would try this in training or a race.  I decided that I would lock on to a pace that was comfortable, ignore everyone around me and keep it steady for as long as I can.  I would bring one gel and just take water (no electrolyte drink) along the route.

Race "Preparations":
There are countless articles floating around the Web that give all kinds of advice on  how to prepare for race day.  I pretty much ignored every piece of advice and conventional wisdom offered therein.  The start time was 8:30AM and I figured that it would be prudent to be there by 7:45AM.  I woke up at 6:00AM, checked the forecast on the TV (5C and sunny by time the gun goes off)  and immediately got sucked into yesterday's sports highlights and then a show I PVR'd the night before.  By now, it's 7:00 and I run to grab a cap, Oakleys, long sleeve shirt, shorts and socks, plus my electronics (phone, earbuds, arm band, Forerunner and chest strap).  I then dug my number out of my bag and quickly pinned it on, not wanting a repeat of the previous race in the series.  Once I'm dressed it's already past the time when I need to leave.  Breakfast was a half empty water bottle I found in the car and a PowerBar Performance Energy Bar (Peanut Butter with an expiry date of sometime in late 2015) that I had shoved in my pocket on the way out the door.

Getting started:
I got to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum parking lot around 8:00 and had to line up to pay for parking, which thankfully did not take long.  I went back to the car to put the parking slip in the windshield and get wired up.  The temperature may have been 4-5C, but the wind was cold, and all I brought was what I planned to wear in the race.  I didn't stand still for long until the gun went off.  Fortunately, the line-up for the bathroom was blissfully short when I got there.  Two minutes later, the line-up was huge.  Great timing on my part.  I selected the latest Zombies, Run! episode and set the episode duration for 90 minutes.  I also decided to try playing songs I had downloaded to my Google Play library.  I normally use Doubletwist for music, but Zombies, Run! doesn't work especially well with it.  I had a nice chat with friends Molly and Fred who were running the 10km and then headed to the start line.

The Race:
I seeded myself close to the rear of the pack.  The plan was to start slow and settle into my pace once I had some elbow room.  There are a lot of speedy folks who do the races in this series and I wouldn't want to get in their way.  The wind was still cold, so I tried to nestle myself in the crowd, using them as shelter.  This actually worked.

The gun went off and I hit start on every device I was wearing, shuffling along for the first few hundred metres until the crowd started to thin.  Google Play was giving me a hard time; the bright sun meant I could see the screen and I hadn't yet figured out how to shuffle my entire library of songs.  I ended up listening to them in alphabetical order starting in the B's - peculiar, but not a big deal.

I settled into a 5:50/km pace.  It was a little slower than planned, but it felt right.  I felt kinks in my quads, claves and feet sporadically for a few kilometres, but it didn't slow me down.  I felt that my body was working stuff out, which turned out to be true.  Water stops were positioned along the course every 3km or so (starting at 1.5km) and I planned to take a cup of water (only) at every stop and walk while drinking it.  I took water at every one except for the last one because I was starting to slosh by then.  I ate (drank?) the PowerGel® Energy Gel (Double Latte with an expiry date of sometime in late 2015) about 100m ahead of the 9km water stop so that I would have a glass of water to wash down.  (My supply of last year's gels and bars are nearly done.  I need to buy some stock for this year.  Sponsors welcome.)

After 4km I was starting to pass folks who went out too hard and a bunch of folks passed me.  I made a conscious effort to not get caught up with this, lose focus and speed up.  I managed to do just that.  The wind had dies down by now and I was starting to warm up (on the exterior).  I don't know if it has to do my age or what, but I don't feel truly warmed up (on the inside) until after 30-40 minutes.  True to form, at just over 30 minutes (over 5km by now) I started to lose that "Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz" feeling.

I then started wondering if I should pick up the pace a bit.  Virtual Partner says that I am going to finish in over 95 minutes.  I picked it up a little (probably 0:10/km) and kept going, checking in with myself every once in a while to see how things are going.  I put in a couple of kilometers under 5:40/km and then for some reason I slowed down in the kilometer leading up to and after the turn around.  This was the only "hill" in the race, so maybe that was it.  In any case, I picked up the pace again at around 12km and averaged around 5:34/km right to the finish.  Virtual Partner was telling me that my finishing time was coming down  I think only one person passed me after the 7km mark, but I passed a bunch.

The Finish:
I got to the finish in 92:56 and I felt great.  I wasn't wrecked, I was still hydrated, and I came away with no injuries.  I managed to negative split a 10 miler that, as I said earlier, I felt I had no business doing.  Frankly, I still had gas in the tank at the finish.  Maybe I could have gone a couple of minutes faster, but I like how I came away from this feeling like I hadn't lost as much fitness as I had imagined.  It is better to finish like this than finishing feeling like you barely avoided disaster.  I especially like how the race plan worked and how I could listen to my body and make adjustments.  Perhaps my laissez-faire attitude before the race kept me from over-thinking everything and getting stressed out.  There were many good lessons learned from this race.  I'm glad there are 5 more races in this series.

A note about MEC races:  These races are no frills, but they have what is truly needed and they are extremely well organized.  I don't need another race shirt or finishing medal.  A chip timed event that runs smoothly with regular water stops and enough bananas at the finish line is perfect, and that is want these races offer.  The unpretentious, non-corporate and friendly atmosphere remind me of road races I did in the 1980's and local club races.  I would much rather run one of these with a few hundred fellow runners than a huge corporate event with thousands.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Six Weeks Of Trying New Stuff

I'm back.  Time slipped away from me and I just realized that I hadn't written anything in quite a while. I have not bee completely inactive, but I have not bee terribly consistent either.  After the 100-day run streak, I intended to take a couple of days off to regroup, to take stock of the things I did not do during the streak, and to think about what I wanted to do next.  I ended up: 1) getting really busy with work, 2) getting sick, and 3) avoiding terrible weather.  In all I lost a few weeks in there, but I'm back on track now.  Excuses aside, here is what I have been doing...

Using My Bike Trainer
I set up my road bike on my then new-to-me Tacx Fortius/I-Magic bike trainer in January 2015 and barely used it.  In fact, my road bike stayed on the trainer all last year and is still there.  (I have other bikes to use.)  After the streak, I would hop on the trainer in the morning for 20-30 minutes at a time.  I still need to figure out how to get the software working*, but as a fluid trainer, it is quiet and does exactly what I need.  I have a book with dozens of indoor trainer programs and workouts that I can use if I want to take the analog route.

* The head unit on the trainer I bought is only compatible with software that runs on Windows XP.  I pulled an older laptop out of the closet to use with the trainer.  Once I get everything working, I should make it the subject of a future blog post.  If you have one and have any tips, please leave a comment or send me a message.

Watching My Fitness Tracker
I picked up a new-in-box Garmin Vivofit with four extra bands for $15 on eBay, and I have been using it to motivate me to un-stick myself from my desk chair and to focus on sleep.  The Garmin Connect app on Android is excellent.  I have even been getting off the bus one stop early and taking the stairs at work so that I can increase my step count.  The automatic enrolment in step challenges, coupled with my competitive personality, helps keep my focus.

Another new habit I am developing is to walk on the treadmill when reading.  I voraciously devour books, which in the past has been an activity I pursue while glued to my couch or laying in bed.  Last night I needed to finish an ebook* that I had borrowed from the library, which would expire at midnight.  I figured that I could either forego a workout and sit on the couch to finish the book, or I could set up my Kobo on the treadmill's book stand and walk while reading.  I chose the latter option and set the treadmill to 4mph and an incline of 1.5%.  It was easy to focus on the book at this speed.  Two hours later the book was done.  Before I started, I needed another 2500+ steps to hit my daily goal of 9,800.  Two hours of continuous walking equates to eight miles and roughly 10,000 steps.  I will definitely do this again.

* Missoula, by Jon Krakauer.  Yet another great book by Mr. Krakauer, but definitely not for the faint of heart.  Like all of his others, it was extremely well researched and well written, but the subject matter is graphic.  I definitely recommend reading it, but you have been warned.

Learned About Running On A Cruise Ship
Running on a large surface that is moving is very much different that running on a surface that is not.  (Thanks, Captain Obvious.)  Little did I know how different it would be, like the day when I ran on a treadmill and had to run in a circle on the belt because the boat was pitching up and down and from side to side.

The track is a single lane 400m oval painted on the top deck of the ship, ant the direction was counter-clockwise.  I had to politely dodge walkers and slower runners.  Wind was a huge factor, as was water when running in the morning.  There were massive headwinds over starboard bow and equally massive tailwinds running on the straight stretch towards the stern.  It was great, albeit accidental, interval training because my HR would increase in the headwind and recover with the tail wind.  Water collects on the deck overnight.  It is not a big deal on the straight stretches, but one needs to be careful in the corners.  My feet got wet, but that was not a big deal.

Using GPS is dicey while running on a moving object.  Not surprisingly, DC Rainmaker's article was the best and most descriptive.  As directed, I set my Garmin Foreurnner 610, which coincidentally was the device that DC Rainmaker was wearing for his article, to take speed off of my footpod, as opposed to GPS, and I achieved the same results as he did.  Fortunately, I had downloaded the workouts to my Forerunner and they are all time- and HR-based, which means that distance and pace are pretty-much irrelevant.  I ended up with some very wacky measurements, e.g. my new half marathon of 30 minutes, or 1:43/km.  The maps generated when I was back on dry land showed my at-sea routes as a straight lines across stretches of ocean.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Running Streak - Day 100

My Experience Over the Past 100 Days

I made it!  When I started this on November 2, I aimed for January 1 - a streak of 61 days - and secretly hoped that I would make it past the first two weeks.  I was 182lbs and running without stopping 20 minutes (at any pace) was hard.  My legs were constantly sore.  My running clothes, and normal clothes, didn't fit.  I was stiff and uncomfortable all of the time.  I made it past the two weeks and after four weeks things started to feel better.  Running for 30 minutes was a stretch and my clothes still didn't fit, but my legs were not as sore and were not sore all the time.  Fortunately, the weather in Ottawa was blessedly warm and I could run in shorts nearly every day until Christmas.  I say "fortunately" about running in shorts because my running pants didn't fit.  Don't even talk to me about tights.  I popped a button on a pair of suit pants.

By Christmas, the number on the scale had not moved, but running for 30 minutes was starting to feel normal.  My average pace was not increasing dramatically, but my perceived exertion and my measured average heart rate was dropping.  Then Winter finally came.  I knew I had a good inventory of foul weather gear and I was sure that none of it fit, but I had no choice.  It was like slithering into sausage casing, but I got the stuff on and didn't let the cold, snow, freezing rain or bad footing stop me.  The treadmill was there when life got busy and the weather especially lousy.  Just after New Year I could button my suit jacket with my wallet in one breast pocket and my phone in the other, and it didn't pull around the middle.

By the end of January, I ran a 10km race at a pace that was around 1:00/km faster than I could run for 20 minutes in November, and at an average heart rate that was just shy of 20bpm lower.  The scale reads 175lbs.  (The number didn't budge until mid-January.)  My running clothes are not as tight.  My suit pants are getting easier to do up, and I didn't move the button when I sewed it back on.

Today, I am thinking about races and giving my body some shape - not just losing weight, although the scale reads 173lbs today and I plan to eat better.  No one has approached me (yet) to model athletic wear, but I feel much more comfortable in my running stuff.  My suits are starting to hang right.  My energy levels are higher and my mood is brighter.  Running is fun again.  My mind drifts to outdoor activities, not food or "inactivies" (i.e. television and the like).  The streak changed my body, but it also changed my mind, and I think that is the greater accomplishment.

Day 100

Day 100 arrived with more a whimper than a bang. I seriously wanted to get out at noon, but [insert same old song here] I had a deadline to get something complete and needed to work through and well past lunch to wrap everything up.  The weather was perfect.  I had everything packed and ready to go.  The schedule did not cooperate, and the optics of heading out for a run at 2:00PM are pretty bad.

How's this for celebrating Day 100?  I ended up on the treadmill for a 20 minute hill/speed interval session at 11:30PM.  It wasn't what I was hoping for, but hey, it counts.  In a way, it typifies the streak because I had to do things like this many times over the past 100 days to keep it alive.

What's next for me?  I’m looking forward to mixing things up more now: getting on the bike trainer (after figuring our how the Tacx software works), body weight exercises, “speed” skating at lunch (speedy for me anyway), and now that ice is giving way to snow, x-country skiing.  My yoga membership, which has fallen into disuse over the past couple of months, expires in April and I want to start practicing again.  I also have this half marathon training plan on Garmin Connect that I am using to train for a 10 miler in April.  That should give me a good base for the Summer when I have a road half-marathon in June and trail races of 9km and 30km in July and August, respectively.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Running Streak - Day 99

After three days on the treadmill, it was great to get outside again.  I know it was only three days, but it felt longer and running outside is just so much better than moving your legs with everything else staying in place.  The one tough thing was that it was cold.  It wasn't the coldest weather that I've run in this year, but is certainly felt like it.  The sun was great, but the wind was biting and seemingly coming from all directions.

It was one of those "wear everything you brought with you" runs.  Because Ottawa weather is, well, Ottawa weather, I always bring extra stuff with me so that I have options.  When I checked the forecast in the morning, it called for -4C and light wind.  By the time lunch rolled around, it was -18C with the wind chill.  I just dumped everything in my bag on the floor and put it all on (full base layer top-to-bottom, tech shirt, Brooks Storm jacket, nylon pants, toque and gloves).  It was a good call on my part.

The schedule called for 30 minutes easy with my HR in zone 2.  I chose my new go-to 5.5km route that loops over the Pretoria Bridge, and for some reason I had a hard time keeping my HR down.  It was nothing crazy, just slightly into zone 3.  I will chalk it up to a string of late nights and the wind.  I'm not looking for excuses - I think they are probable reasons - and apart from niggling over the HR, the run was fantastic.  The paths were mainly clear; I finished another episode of Zombies, Run!; and, sensation-wise, I felt terrific.  Day 100 is tomorrow.

A note on heart rate monitors...
I used the Garmin Forerunner 610 for this run, and it captured my HR perfectly.  For the last three runs on the treadmill, I was using my TomTom Runner with the HR transmitter pod on the strap that came with it and a Polar premium strap, which is the best strap on the market and works with pods from Garmin and TomTom, and maybe others.  If you look at the treadmill runs over the weekend, the HR curve is a mess, with my HR apparently getting into the 200s.  I think I can safely conclude that HR recording on the TomTom is really poor.  I don't know whether it is the chest strap, transmitter or wrist unit, or some combination of the above.  Maybe it is better with the newer units that use optical technology and no strap.  The web is full of folks griping about problems with straps.  For the most part, I have been able to overcome my problems, but I'm at the point where I think I am going to cry uncle with the TomTom.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Running Streak - Days 95 to 98

One of my favourite bands of all time is The 77s and in 1994 they released Drowning With Land In Sight.  That title sums up where I have been for the past few days.  I know that 100 days is around the corner, but my motivation is in rapid decline.  Much of it has to do with busyness, and consequently, tiredness.  From much personal experience I know that some of my best runs ever have come when I have felt least like doing them - hungry, busy, tired, and other semi-lame reasons.  I'm back to the late-night treadmill sessions and I don't like it.  If I want to maintain consistency in working out after I don't have a streak to maintain, I will need to make sure I get it in earlier in the day.

On Thursday I had a rest day in the schedule, but a rest day was not in my plan.  I struggled to break away from my work to get out in some rather spectacular weather to run for the sake of running.  Just hit the start button and go, and get back in time for the afternoon meetings.  To be honest, it was one of the best feeling runs I have had in a long time.  The run felt smooth and easy.  When I looked at the data afterwards, I was surprised to find that I ran the 5.5km faster than the first 5.5km of Sunday's 10km race at a lower average heart rate - probably 10bpm lower.

The next three days were very reluctant treadmill runs. I wasn't reluctant because I was bored or just wanted to throw in the towel.  I was just really tired and had trouble hitting the treadmill around or well after 11:00PM.  I felt better once I got my stuff on and hit Start, although I wanted to quit at 20 minutes on Saturday night; the last 10 minutes was on guts alone.  I chose the hilliest pre-sets and felt I did some really good work.  I will get outside for the last two runs.  Hopefully the weather cooperates.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Running Streak - Days 92, 93 and 94

As my 100 day running streak draws to a close, I have been thinking of what I want to do next.  Because I bought the MEC 2016 Race Series entry and have an entire year of racing already laid out for me, I decided to simply jump into the Garmin Connect plan I selected to prepare for Race #1 of the series, a 10 miler in April.  (Sunday's race was technically Race #0.  The organizers must have an IT background.) 

Since there was no 10 mile training plan available, I chose a half marathon plan.  A little bit of over-distance training in the first part of the year can't hurt, especially since the training is time- and heart rate-based and I will be running in the snow for most of the lead up.   Just yesterday the race organizers moved up the race by one week, but I am not going to adjust the schedule in GC.  I believe that there is a one- or two-week taper built into the plan, and I don't think I will bother with a taper at all, not for this race.  I think my "A Races" (with a proper peak and taper) this year will be the 30km trail run in the Summer and the HM or marathon in Gatineau Park on Halloween.  The rest will be run like "B Races" - hard training runs for benchmarking performance and draw prizes.

It is week 3 of the plan and the first three days of this week called for an easy run, intervals and another easy run.  Both easy runs were 30 minutes in Zone 2 and I managed get outside for both of them.  The temperature was around 2C/3C for both of them with little wind on wet or slushy pavement.  While the goals for the runs were identical, the runs themselves could not have been more different.  On Monday, I set out at lunch and had a really hard time keeping my HR down in Z2.  The Garmin was chirping at me constantly and I had to repeatedly force myself to slow down.  The average pace was 5:53 - not bad, but not great either.  The cool thing is that I got to run in shorts, which means my "run in shorts once every month streak" is intact for January and February.  Yesterday, I got out just before 4:00PM to run 30 minutes (15 out and 15 back), and I had no problem at all keeping the HR in Z2.  In fact, my HR dropped out of the bottom of the zone a few times, yet my average pace was 5:42/km.  I can't explain it, but it is nice to see me doing runs that weren't possible 3 months ago, where my average HR would have been 30bpm higher and my pace 0:40/km slower.  That's real progress.

For my interval work, I could not get away at lunch and hit the treadmill late in the evening.  Since the workout in the plan would have taken roughly 40 minutes, I selected the most challenging 40 minute workout on the treadmill.  It was a great workout: grades of up to 10% and speeds up to 6:11/mile (3:51/km).  I will definitely be doing that one again.  I used my footpod to measure the distance on the Garmin and it was way off from the treadmill.  I wish there was a good way to determine which one is accurate.  I'm inclined to use the readings on the treadmill.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Race Report: MEC Ottawa 2016 series #0 - Race "Below ZERO"

The race this morning was a great way to complete the Run Ottawa Run Streak - run every day for at least 1.5km during the month of January.  Now back to my regularly scheduled streak, which now stands at 91 days...

Here is how the race unfolded.  The event was held at the Rideau Carleton Raceway.  It owns a private access road, which was blissfully closed to vehicles for the duration of the run.  I arrived about 45 minutes early and there were already a number of people milling about.  I went inside to suss out where all of the important things were: bathrooms, snack table, prizes. registration (in order of importance).  After that I brought my bag in to start getting ready.  My number was missing.  Remember how I said yesterday that my only expectations are to show up on time and not forget my bib.  I'm getting a D (50%) on that.  Registration was gracious and issued me another one - a good reason to show up early.

I joined the throng that was milling about and headed to the start line about 5 minutes before start time.  The temperature was just below zero (probably -2C) and there was a light wind, but I opted to run in shorts, long sleeve tech shirt and a vest.  I also had gloves and a toque, but they came off about 4km into the race.  Out of 218 finishers, only one other person wore shorts - crazy, or maybe we were the crazy ones.  I felt great temperature-wise.  At the start I met up with my counterpart at another regulatory agency and her husband - uber fit, the two of them.  They graciously ran with me the entire race up to the last kilometer.

The horn sounded and we were off.  I landed into my planned pace straight away.  My A goal was to finish under 60 minutes and my B goal was to finish under 55 minutes.  I took off at a pace that felt good to me.  I figured that I could time check and adjust a few times over the next few kilometers.  I wore my nearly bald Adizero Mana's because it was warm-ish the day before and I heard the road was paved.  I assumed that paved meant ploughed and I was 100% wrong on that.  Despite the absence of any traction on a race course that was 80% covered in slippery soft snow, I maintained a steady gait and cadence.  The course was an L-shaped out-and-back that 10km runners had to complete twice.  The 180 degree corners at each end of the L were very slippery and I took them at a walking pace.  Not once did I feel like I was going to lose it.

Running with company really helped the time pass quickly.  It also kept my pace higher than I would have had I been running on my own.  Thanks, guys.  I started to feel like I was slowing at around 7-8 km, but I held my pace and even sped up over the last km.  My finishing time on my Garmin FR610 was 54:01, but I didn't start my watch until I crossed the start line; the official time (hand timed) was 54:16.75.  I was really, really surprised.  This will be a great baseline to use when planning for the next race, a 10-miler in April.

The post race food was simple: bananas, mini Clif Bars and NUUN drinks (two flavours, but I didn't bother to check what they were; mine tasted good.)  I chatted a little more with my two race companions and got skunked for the draw prizes. After pulling on some dry clothes I headed to the car, where I found my race bib on the dash.  Oh well.

Run Ottawa Run Streak - Days 29 and 30

Busyness pushed me to the treadmill again.  My schedule called for a fartlek on Friday and a "long" run today.  (A 45 minute long run is not much longer than a normal easy run for me.)  The fartlek and easy run would have been a good tune up for the race tomorrow.  I chose a reasonable facsimile of a fartlek for last night's treadmill session and a short 20 minute run tonight because it's late and I should get some decent sleep before the gun goes off tomorrow.

The "Race 'Below ZERO'" tomorrow is the first race of the MEC Ottawa 2016 series, and my first competition since last April's Run for Reach half-marathon fiasco, where I was severely under-trained and had my first DNF of the modern era.  I am treating tomorrow's race like a "C" race - no special attention to food or sleep, no peak, no taper.  I have no idea what to expect, nor do I have any expectations, except to have a good time and enjoy the race atmosphere.  I just need to make sure that I show up on time and don't forget my bib.

That being said, I will empty the tank because I want to use the race as a baseline for structuring future training.  After nearly 3 months of steady state running, I have no idea where I am at fitness- or speed-wise.  I have been running slow and steady in order to develop consistency and avoid injury, and as a result, I have trained myself to run slow and steady.  That has to change if I want to do well in the two trail races this summer and the marathon/half-marathon in Gatineau Park in October.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Run Ottawa Running Streak - Day 28

It was a snowy day in Ottawa, but from my office window, I could make out a runner making his or her way along the path that runs along the Ottawa River on the Quebec side.  For years I figured that, because the paths are not ploughed in Winter, the pathways would be impassable.  I just never bothered to check it out.  Since I had nothing in the training schedule for today (a rest day, actually), I declared that today would be the day where I run The Bridges in the middle of Winter.

I always start in front of West Block at Wellington and O'Connor and head west on Wellington, doing a clockwise loop.  The sidewalks were in great shape - a little wet, but not sloppy.  Once I crossed the Portage Bridge, I had trouble finding the entrance to the path on the Quebec side, so I just followed the footprints.  "Follow the footprints" would be a theme for a later part of this run.  As expected, the path was definitely snow covered and very uneven.  I kept to a narrow single track that was more heavily trodden and less uneven than the snow on either side of it.  I had to jump off the track once to give the right-of-way to a couple who were out for a walk and it was like running over slippery rocks.  When I got close to the Museum of Civilization, the path had been cleared and it was smooth sailing up to and over the Alexandra Bridge.  Once I left the sidewalk and started making my way down to the locks, it became very slippery and was pockmarked with frozen footprints, all under about 10cm of snow.  Normally I blast down the hill, but not this time.  I simply focused on keeping the rubber side down.

In late Autumn, Parks Canada opens all of the locks except for the highest one.  I had to make my way uphill to this lock so that I could cross the Rideau Canal, and there was no single worn path for me to follow.  The snow was deep-ish and wet and where there was no snow, there was ice.  Again, I chose to follow the footprints.  Within 10 metres up from the base of the hill, my feet were soaked and my ankles were covered in snow, and I was faced with a decision: I could choose to make my way up the ice-covered stairs beside the locks, or try to run up the snow-covered slope beside the stairs.  I ended up doing a bit of both - two flights of stairs, two slopes.  I nearly slid backwards when I ran up the slopes and I had to pull myself up by the railings on the stairs.  Picture someone climbing the side of a mountain with ropes; that was me with the railings.  By the time I made my way to the uppermost lock, I decided to just cross, head over to the NAC, and return to the office.  I considered continuing along the river behind the Library of Parliament, following the same route as Monday, but I was starting to get concerned that I would be late for an afternoon meeting.

I will definitely do this again soon, especially now that I know what to expect.  If any of you are considering trying this, I highly recommend doing so.  I find in Winter that I run the same few tracks all of the time.  It's good to get off the beaten path every once in a while. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Run Ottawa Run Streak - Day 27

Last night  I finally successfully applied the latest firmware updates to my Forerunner 610 after two attempts on different computers.  (I have two ANT+ USB sticks.)  I always like to be at the latest release, but this one was especially important because it remedied a defect relating to the use of custom HR zones, which I happen to use.  To get the update to work, I ended up having to delete the 610 from both my Garmin Express and Garmin Connect profiles and re-adding it to Garmin Express, which added it automagically in Garmin Connect.  Once the device connected to the PC, GE/GC detected the need for an update and 30 minutes later the 610 was running the latest version.

Apparently the update worked because today's run in the calendar - a 30 minute easy run in HR zone 2 - displayed the zone and recorded the data perfectly.  This was especially evident by the fact that it was not chirping at me the whole time.  When using Garmin training plans on former Forerunners, the HR in BPM was displayed and I got used to seeing it.  I don't know whether it is the device or the plan, but the zone is displayed, which I much rather prefer.

The run was absolutely terrific.  The schedule called for easy and it actually felt easy.  If the streak has done nothing else (and I believe that it has helped in a number of ways), it has helped me establish a very solid aerobic base.  I set out in zone 2 and held it there easily the whole time.  My gait felt effortless.  My recovery was fast.  I think back to what my runs were like during the first couple of weeks in November when I started the streak, and none of them felt this good.  If one looks back on my HR, pace, distance and perceived effort, it is clear that I have come a long way.  It feels great.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Run Ottawa Running Streak - Day 26

Today was another entry in the journal of Ottawa's wacky weather.  Under overcast skies, the temperature hit 5C and I made the most of it by wearing shorts.  Every year I try to see if I can (safely and comfortably) get out for a run wearing shorts at least once every month.  Today was it for January.  Let's see if an opportunity arises in February.  Last February, it was impossible because it was well below -20C every day.  Speaking of wacky, I saw a guy in shorts yesterday when it was -5C, but no one in shorts today when it was 10 degrees warmer.  Go figure.

Shorts and snow
An interval session was in the calendar for today: 10 minutes warm up, 5 minutes in Z4/1:15 recovery x 4, cool down to taste.  I'm fully convinced that my HR zones are messed up in the FR610.  I have been trying to apply a firmware update - unsuccessful as yet - that has a remedy for using downloaded workouts, which I'm using, with custom HR zones, which I have configured in my GC profile.  I ignored the constant chirping and held the work portions at a higher than normal pace, but one that I knew I could hold for 5 minutes.  The workout sped by; I was surprised at how quickly I seemed to arrive at the end.  Afterwards I was thinking that I could have gone harder.  During the afternoon, I didn't feel any more fatigued than I would have after any other run.  I will keep that in mind for Thursday's fartlek.

Run Ottawa Running Streak - Days 21-25

This is the longest I have gone without providing an update on the streak(s).  Yesterday - January 25, 2016 - was Day 25 of #RORunStreak and Day 85 of my personal quest for 100 days.  I'm noticing now that getting a run in is not a source of stress anymore.  My obsession with keeping the streaks going has morphed to a sense of commitment, and my focus on the streak has been replaced by a focus on getting fit.  For years, I needed an external goal to keep me on track; now my motivation to be healthy and fit is internal.  Once my main streak hits 100 days, my goal will be to do some kind of vigorous exercise every day, be it snowshoeing, skiing, plyometrics, cycling or running.  All that said, I really like running and I have a few races to prepare for.

Treadmill Days: 21, 22 and 24 

Regretfully, I had to put three days in on the treadmill towards the end of the week.  On Thursday, Friday and Sunday, I did runs of 20, 20 and 30 minutes, respectively - no distance records here.  All were done using pre-set workouts while watching The X-Files.  In every case, it was a question of busyness on the particular day.  Things to take care of work-wise or at home pushed the runs to late at night.  The upside is that I can now fall asleep quickly after running and cleaning up.  While on the treadmill, I have been focusing on keeping my knees high, increasing turnover and keeping my head up.  To do this, I have been trying to break a bad habit of running really close to the top (motor/console) end of the belt, and moving to the center of the belt.  I don't shuffle, bent over at the waist, staring at the ground in front of me when I run outside; I shouldn't be doing it when I run inside.

An added note... I am using my TomTom Runner for the treadmill and my Garmin Forerunner 610 for running outdoors.  I will start using the 610 inside once I have an opportunity to calibrate my footpod

Outside Days: 23 and 25

Today (Saturday), I finally added a long run to my week.  I say "long", but it was only 12.5km, which after training for a few marathons does not seem that long.  Because I have been running for only 20-40 minutes every day for the past few months, I had no idea how 12.5km would feel.  In actual fact, it felt great.

Saturday was one of those bright sunny days without a cloud in the skies that felt brutally cold and windy.  I believe that is was colder than -20C with the wind chill and 30+km/h winds.  The route I took is a rectangular loop that I have run many times and apart from a few copses of trees, there is no shelter from the wind.  Fortunately, the wind was hitting me from the side on the two longest sides of the rectangle, which didn't slow me down at all. 
Me and my shadow
I had my iPod Nano with me and was able to listen to the latest episode of Serial from beginning to end.   I don't like listening to podcasts in installments.  If you don't listen to Serial, you should.  Since each episode is just less than an hour long and I was running for over 75 minutes, I wanted to switch to an unfinished episode of Phedippidations - another podcast to which you must subscribe.  The problem is that, due to its size, the Nano is especially sensitive to cold.  It won't stop up during playback if it gets cold, but as soon as playback stops, the battery drained warning appears and it shuts off.  Once it warms up again, the battery appears charged again.  I enjoyed the sounds of silence and nature for the last 20 minutes.

I was really pleased with the run.  I locked on to a "long, slow distance" pace and had no trouble holding it throughout.  I didn't have to stop even once, and actually, I felt like I could keep on going.  The other nice thing is that there was almost no recovery time.  I hadn't eaten or drank much beforehand and I ran just before noon,; therefore, I needed some food and water when I got home.  Otherwise, I felt fine. 

One interesting issue is that the inside of my right ankle was sore.if you could see just about any pair of my shoes, you would see that I wear out the outside edge of my outsoles before another part of the shoe.  The new shoes (New Balance Minimus Ionix 3090v3) have lugs around the edges of the sole.  I believe that these lugs are causing my foot to strike more evenly across the sole, and are stretching the tendons on the inside of my ankle.  I will need to be careful as I transition to these shoes.  Perhaps I should run in my old ones every once in a while until I adjust completely.

Next week, according to the schedule, my "long run" is only 45 minutes. I may run that one a little faster.  I have a 10km race the following day and I need to start varying the pace of my runs.

Yesterday (Monday) was much warmer, only -3C under overcast skies.  I thought the schedule said 30 minutes easy, but it was 40.  I even left the latest episode of Zombies, Run! at the default length of 32 minutes.  (I would have lengthened it had I been dialed in.)  The problem was that I chose a route that I could run in just over 30 minutes and I ended up back at the start needing a bit more runway, so I went exploring.

The Ottawa River in Winter
Normally, I run up the driveway to the NAC to cross at Elgin Street and head down Queen Street back to work.  Today, I ran half way up the driveway and then continued under the bridge where Wellington crosses over the Canal and headed to the locks at the start of the Rideau Canal.  I just wanted to see how far I could go.  I continued on to the path that runs along the Ottawa River behind the Library of Parliament.  It has not bee ploughed, but the snow is well trodden and I had no problems making my way along.  The frozen footprints make for a really uneven surface (see photo above), but the new shoes provide good traction and a good surface for pushing off.  It helps that the snow was pretty hard, too.  The ice on the river is nearly even with the path.  I had to navigate my way around a couple of construction fences and eventually made my way to the parking lot behind West Block, where I do hill workouts.  It was the first time running up the marking lot in a long time and my legs felt it.  I need to do more hills.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Run Ottawa Run Streak - Days 19 and 20

Day 20

NOTE: While this is Day 20 of the Run Ottawa running Streak, this is also Day 80 of my personal streak.  Not too shabby.

I managed to get outside today and it was a totally different experience than late last week and Monday.  The path by the Canal was ploughed, making it much wider and scraping off the top layer of slippery, grimy snow.  It was definitely warmer than yesterday and the wind was noticeable, but slight.  I wore the New Balance 3090's again and the new shoes are starting to break in.  I felt little intermittent aches and pains in my feet, but they disappeared as I progressed through the run.

While I was on the treadmill last night, I realized that I have been running too slow.  Because consistency has been the goal for the past few months, my focus has been on injury avoidance, and I haven't been paying attention to pace or HR.  To be clear, I have noticed that my average pace is increasing and my average HR is decreasing for runs over the same routes, but I have not been training with a specific pace or HR zone in mind. Today I selected the scheduled workout on my new Forerunner from my Garmin Connect plan and did 45 easy minutes.  During the run, I held a pace that I could have held for much longer, but my Forerunner was chirping at me constantly.  Either I have the zones wrong, or I need to slow down a bit, although I can't imagine running much slower.

The new Forerunner... The other day I purchased a new-to-me Garmin Forerunner 610.  It was a great bargain on Kijiji at $75 for nearly new device with premium HR strap, charger and ANT+ USB stick.  I got it home and did a master reset - something you must do immediately and before you pair the device with Garmin Express - and a thorough wash of the HR strap.  The strap came out like new.  I registered my device with Garmin Express (and Garmin Connect) to install the latest version of the firmware and download all of my profile information.  My only other configuration change was to switch the recording interval from Smart Recording to 1 second recording.  I wanted to see how it would do out-of-the-box.  Bracing myself to have a myriad of things go wrong on the first run with it, the device picked up the HR transmitter and footpod immediately.  Even in downtown Ottawa, getting a lock on the satellites was very quick.  Connectivity with my 310XT would have been impossible where I was standing and was taking up to 5 minutes in an area with decent line-of-sight to the heavens.  HR recording was smooth; no spikes.  This was probably the smoothest transition to a new device that I have ever experienced.  I plan on switching to this device for the foreseeable future.  I like it that much.

In the past I have owned the following Forerunners: 201, 305, 110, 310XT, 405.  I still have the 305, 310XT and 610 (obviously).  The 305 and 310XT are arguably the most full-featured devices that Garmin ever produced.  For running, the 610 comes surprisingly close.

Day 19

When lunchtime rolled around, I looked at the temperature (-28C with the wind chill) and at the pile of clothes I was going to put on, and I said, "No way."  I just didn't feel like putting on however many layers of clothes I brought with me to fight a stiff northwesterly wind.  I decided that getting on the treadmill in the evening, yet again, was my fate.  When I got time to actually hit the treadmill, I started thinking that I should not just be shuffling along for the duration of the workout just to check the box.  I need to be more intentional about it.  I imagined what kind of training I should be doing in order to prepare for the trail races I have in the Summer, and started remembering what we did in  cross country practices back in high school. The focus was always on hills and high knees; therefore, I decided to do the hilliest pre-set workout on the treadmill, which was the one I have been doing most often, with high knees.  The difference in the quality of the exercise was tremendous.  My average HR was 10bpm higher than normal, and my posture was much better, even though I had the X-Files going on my tablet.  (For those keeping score at home: Season 3, episode 4, starring a very young Jack Black).  If/when I have to go back to the treadmill, I will approach it the same way I did tonight.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Run Ottawa Run Streak - Day 18

It was cold today.  I knew it was going to be cold, and I dressed for it, and I didn't let the sun fool me.  And I was still cold.  The Weather Network said it was -13 (-23 with wind chill) and windy, gusts up to 39km/h.  I think it felt even colder than advertised.  I heeded the frostbite advisory from Ottawa Public Health and wore absolutely every piece of clothing that I had in my office, which happened to be only just enough.  It would have been a good idea to stay indoors, but I couldn't take another run on the treadmill.  I desperately needed fresh air.

I didn't set any land speed records because the footing was terrible again today.  I don't think the NCC is ploughing the pathways yet.  Much of the snow that fell over the weekend was still there.  The wind pushed me around a bit and delivered a lot of cold air from the north.  I can't imagine how cold it must have been for the guys who were flooding the Canal.  I had my phone with me to complete Mission 10 from Zombies, Run!, but I forgot to take a photo of me outside for the #ROR.

After sliding around on the Canal pathways all of last week, I decided to try a new pair of shoes: New Balance Minimus Ionix 3090v3.  These are not the latest models from New Balance - they were released in late 2013 or early 2014 - but they are new to me.  I have a rapidly dwindling stash of shoes in the basement that I bought from clearance racks and on end-of-season sales.  (I think this pair was on clearance at Winners.)  Needing better grip on the snow, I pulled these bad boys to see if they would do better than the ones I was using day in and day out.   I fully intended to bash the K-Swiss Blade Lights into nothing over the Winter, but they are not cutting when the footing gets sloppy.

After the first run and only 5.5km, I think they did OK.  Last week, I was sliding across the top of the snow, or at least it felt that way; today I felt like I was punching down through the snow and getting much better traction.  It wasn't reflected in my pace, but I felt like I was able to propel myself forward more so than fearing that I would land on my read end.  The uppers did a decent job of keeping my feet dry and the shoe is very light.  All good things.  I read a few reviews this morning and they mentioned that the uppers tear fairly easily and that the outsole wears down fast.  I doubt that I will see any of that (if I see it period) until Winter is over and the snow is gone.

Run Ottawa Run Streak - Days 15-17

The weekend was really full and I was on the treadmill late Friday, Saturday and Sunday night.  The weather was not especially bad for running.  It actually was quite mild on Saturday.  The problem was my schedule.  I couldn't pull away from the office on Friday at noon, which was my original plan, but there was a fire alarm at work and I had some hard deadlines to meet.  The evacuation goggled up time I needed to get those particular tasks done, and I ended up working through lunch.  Saturday and Sunday were just plain busy.

I did three different workouts:
  1. Friday - 40 minutes, maximum elevation 10%, maximum pace, 5:00/km (used the Adizero Mana's)
  2. Saturday - 30 minutes, maximum elevation 8%, maximum pace, 5:00/km (used the NB WT20GG2's)
  3. Sunday - 36minutes and change (huh?), maximum elevation 8%, maximum pace, 5:00/km (used the NB WT20GG2's)
The Friday workout is one that I haven't done before.  I really wanted to run a little longer than the usual 30 minutes.  To be completely open, it's just not doing it for me.  I felt great and swore that I will start using this one more often.  I immediately ditched that idea on Saturday night and did the workout was the same pre-set workout that I have been doing lately.  It was getting really late and I wanted to get to bed.  I felt really good after that one.  The pain I was experiencing in my lower back has gravitated to my right hip.  It took a few minutes before it loosened up.

By Sunday night, I was really tired and initially thought I would just do 20 minutes so that I could just "check the box".  I ended up selecting 30 minutes again - gotta stop doing that - and thought that maybe I would just step off at 20 minutes.   At just before the 7 minute mark, I accidently hit the cord for the safety key, knocking it out, and shut down the treadmill.  I re-started the 30 minute workout and ended up doing the whole thing.  I really don't like the treadmill, but I managed to finish season 2 and watch the first episode of season 3 of The X-Files.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Run Ottawa Run Streak - Days 13 and 14

For two nearly identical runs on consecutive days , I could not have had more different experiences.  The route was 95% the same.  Yesterday was -20C and sunny; today was -10C and sunny.  The big difference today, probably resulting from slightly warmer temperatures, was the footing.  Yesterday the colder temps and the wind kept the snow hard, and the traction was great, especially on the est side of the Canal where the sun activated the salt.  Today it was like running in sand, and really, really frustrating.

I heard that there is 52 words for snow and ice in Inukitut.  I am starting to understand why.  Today the snow was soft and mushy, but not necessarily slippery - there is probably a word just for this kind of snow.  The problem with running in it is that it is nearly impossible for one's foot to land or push off properly.  The only clear spots were under bridges, and those sections were only long enough to bang the snow off my shoes.  I don't know when I have worked that hard to run that slow.

The other problem was that I was over dressed today and I over heated.  On both days I wore my Paradox merino wool top and bottoms for a base layer and Mizuno Breath Thermo socks on my feet.  The merino wool ensemble was really cheap at Costco ($45 for both pieces), but it is amazing.  I seriously recommend picking it up for anything you do outdoors in the Winter.  I wore a long sleeve tech shirt and the Brooks Storm jacket yesterday, which worked great.  I wore the same shirt and the mystery Lululemon jacket today and it was way too much.  With a 10 degree difference in temperature I should have left the tech shirt and neck gaiter in the bag and maybe gone with a lighter jacket.  Live and learn, I suppose.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Run Ottawa Running Streak - Day 12

Normally I would not characterize running on the treadmill as wimping out, but today I definitely wimped out.  I knew yesterday that today would be packed and that I would need to run before work in order to get it in.  I checked the forecast and laid out all of my clothes and lights/reflectors.  I was ready for anything nature would throw at me when I headed out before 6:00AM.  When I got up this morning and saw the pile of stuff that I had to put on, I just said, 'No. I'm not going to do it."  Shorts and a t-shirt in a warm basement was all I was mentally prepared to do, so that's what I did.

I only had a 30 minute window; hence, I chose my usual 30 minute pre-set workout.  Today, for a bit of a change, I really focused on posture and turning my legs over more quickly.  I think that, by watching video on my tablet when using the treadmill, I have been running with my head down and a little hunched over.  Today I went for the latest Criminal podcast and focused my gaze on a spot on the wall.  Time passed more slowly than when watching a video, but it seemed to help fitness-wise.

The big problem is that the treadmill suddenly powered off during the run at around the 23 minute mark.  I have no explanation why it did that.  I know that it powers off once it reaches 100 minutes, but it shouldn't do it at 23 minutes.  It powered on again when I removed the safety key and re-inserted it, but I didn't feel like continuing.  I have been thinking that it's time to lubricate the deck, although I doubt that's the source of the problem.  I do not want to be in a position where I have to replace the treadmill.  I will keep an eye on it.