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.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Lessons Learned From My Running Streak

Last week I went over all of the 'nots' - myths that were busted.  This post is about what I learned.  I suppose that last week's post were things I learned, too, but from my perspective they were things that I have begun to "un-learn".  I doubt that anything below will be new to you; I had probably heard them about a hundred times already.  Even as I write this, they sound really trite and patronizing, but they mean something different to me now than they did before.  Through some experimentation, I was able to transform these lessons from mere theory to reality.

1) Set a crazy goal.

I have heard about setting small attainable goals over and over because you can use one success to build to another.  Sometimes, however, you have to do something nutty and way out of your comfort zone.  At the end of October, I hadn't run at all in three months and had only run a handful of times in the previous six.  Running every day sounded ludicrous, but I needed something that was crazy in relation to my current state.  For someone who is already running 5 days per week and has done so for a long time, running every day is not a stretch.  For me at the time, it was like jumping into the Tour de France after watching cycling videos on my couch.  If you don't succeed, you will have a great story to tell and you can try again.  If you do, you have done something that you have never done before.

2) Be resolute.

Running on a treadmill in the basement after 11:00PM sounds ridiculous and obsessive, but I had to do it a number of times to keep the streak going.  I know that there are some hardcore types, for whom fitness/running/triathlon/whatever is the focus of their lives, who think working out late at night is essential to wring every last minute out of the day.  Speaking personally, I don't, and I don't think I'm alone.
That being said, I had set a goal and was committed enough to tell a number of people what I was doing, which brings me to my next lesson...

3) Make yourself accountable

I normally don't talk about personal stuff with many people, but I decided that I would make a deliberate effort to tell others what I was doing.  Being asked at work, "How's the streak going" or "Hey, what day are you on?" was really encouraging, and it made me want to stick to it.  After a while, I had so many people asking me that I didn't want to disappoint them.

4) Make it fun.

When training for marathons and other events, I rarely listened to anything when I ran, except for long runs.  I made a point of using media more.  If you have been following me along, you will have noted binge-watching of old X-Files episodes, watching movies and reading ebooks while on the treadmill.  I rediscovered how much I like podcasts and sought out new ones that can be ingested completely during shorter runs.  Adding Zombies, Run! has been especially good.  I recall reading how one guy elected to run a different route every day during his streak.  Any creativity is going to make the streak fun and not monotonous.

5) Be positive.

There is nothing like a crappy attitude to keep you from taking even the smallest steps or knock you off balance.  Moving from "I have to do this" to "I want to do this" is not always easy, but when you can do it, it changes everything.  I tried to focus on how this next run was going to make something better.  For example, "This run will help me lay down a good foundation for races the Summer", or "Getting this run out of the way in the morning will make my whole day better."  For me, knowing that I could check the box for another consecutive day was a reward.  I tried to focus on the rewards, not the drudgery.

Run Ottawa Running Streak - Days 10 and 11

Day 11

Looking at the forecast last night, I knew that it was going to be cold today.  I was actually looking forward to it because I wanted to try out a new (to me) jacket.  I picked up a men's Lululemon running jacket at Value Village last Summer.  Sadly, I was overweight and the jacket didn't fit right.  OK, it didn't fit at all.  Now that I have been running consistently, it fits, which I am really happy about.  I wish I knew the model and materials, but all the tags were cut out. [NOTE: See The mystery Jacket page here.]

Photo of Rideau Canal
Almost ready for skating, I hope

By the time I got out for the run, it was -20C with the wind chill under bright sunshine.  After a few days of rain, it was great to see the sun again.  For a base layer, I had my el-cheapo Watsons ProSport long johns, which are fantastic, and the Mizuno Breath Thermo heavyweight thermal performance long sleeve shirt.  I just wore the MEC nylon pants and the Lululemon jacket on top.  The extremities were covered with Mizuno Breath Thermo socks and gloves, OR neck gaiter and Running Room toque.  For running in -20C, it didn't seem like enough clothing, but I felt really comfortable.  The shirt and jacket kept my core at an ideal temperature throughout.

The run was so-so.  My back is still hurting and for some reason my left hamstring is tight and sore.  I think it is the MCT cross-training that I am doing, and I am taking these things as positive indicators that I am doing the right thing.  The footing was really slippery and I didn't want to wrench my back to make it worse, so I slowed my pace a little bit.  About two-thirds of the way through the run, I started to feel my back loosening up; my hamstring was not bothering me at all by this point.  I wanted to be out for 40 minutes so that I could finish the bonus episode of Zombies, Run! that subscribers were given access to around Christmas.  Day 11 of the Run Ottawa streak is in the bag.

Day 10

The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house
All that cold, cold, wet day.
- Dr. Seuss (from The Cat in the Hat)

It rained hard all day today, which turned the snow on the ground, especially on and near the roads, to soup.  I wanted to get out and run early in the day, but I ended up being out all afternoon.  This didn't really break my heart because I was dreading running when it is 2C in pouring rain with everything I was wearing sticking to me because I am drenched to the bone.  For some reason, I can take a clear day when it is -30C better than I can take +2C and raining.  I have done it many times and will do it again, but I am just saying that I rather looked forward to getting on a warm, dry treadmill in shorts and a t-shirt.

I chose the 30 minute pre-set workout that I have been doing for the past couple of weeks and yet another unseen episode of the X-files on Netflix.  My back was a little sore before I started and I wondered how it was going to feel.  The cushioning provided by the deck kept the soreness to a barely-noticeable minimum.  I'm banging off this workout pretty easily now, such that my HR barely gets into the 140s.  I think I am going to have to start selecting the 40 minute workout or start creating my own.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Run Ottawa Run Streak - Days 7-9

I was trying to record every run in a blog post during the original streak.  To be honest, I found it to be a bit difficult, especially when the days were busy.  I will produce a mini-digest of runs every few days going forward, unless something particularly remarkable happens (like that has happened so many times already).

Day 9

It was warm (1C) and rainy today, and slush abounded.  The good news is that the duct tape in the shoes solution is a verifiable success.  There was so much water on the ground, yet my feet stayed dry.  I went a little lighter on the clothes, but clothing choice is always tough when it is raining and the temperature is around freezing.  One has to avoid over-heating while trying to stay dry.

I took it very easy today pace-wise because I planned on doing another MCT workout after I was back at the house.  To be completely open, I was still feeling stiff from Thursday's workout, but I did it anyway.  The four exercises were: elevated push-up, squat pulse, bird dog and superman.  I managed to hold the superman for the entire 50 seconds each time, but I tweaked my back in the process, which really messed up the rest of my day.  I think I need to dial back the intensity a bit.

Day 8

I joined a new Endomondo challenge, "Cold? So what?" where a qualified activity must be 5km in distance and 30 minutes in duration.  Until today, I grasped the first criterion and somehow missed the second.  the ironic thing is that running 5km in November would have taken me longer than 30 minutes.  Now, not so much.  I ran outside yesterday and the day before, but I finished the 5.2 km route under 30 minutes so neither day counted.  Today I made sure to run a little longer to add one to my count.

Another development is that I bought a "Value Pack" of race entries for the 2016 MEC Race Series.  I bought the King of the Road (and Trail!) pack of all six races for $75.  Bam, instant race calendar for the year.  The deal is available until January 30 or when the value packs sell out, whatever comes first.  I have my first race at the end of the month.  I selected the 10km event, but may drop to the 5km.

Day 7

I did the same 5.2k loop as Day 6.  The paths were even clearer and the run went great,  It was much warmer than Monday, which made for a really comfortable run.  I tried out my Mizuno Breath Thermo Heavyweight long sleeve short.  It is really comfortable and perfectly ventilated.  I was into the wind on the out part of the loop and had the wind at my back on the return, and the shirt seemed to adjust to my body temperature.  Normally, I am used to being a bit cold with the wind in my face and a little over-heated with it at my back.  Core temperature-wise, I felt great on each leg.  Mizuno really nailed it with this line of clothing.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

First Cross Training Workout!

I just finished my first cross training workout using Max Capacity Training (MCT) on my phone.  It is really easy to use and very effective.  It certainly kicked my butt.

My first round scores were (reps in 50s):

Squats - 19
Push-ups - 19
Lunges - 18
Plank - 1 (held is for the full 50s)

I didn't score nearly as well in the other 3 rounds.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Running Streak - Day 66

I ran today with no iPod or phone to distract me, so my mind went to where it normally goes: numbers.  I tend to do a lot of mental math to wile away the time.  Once I had run 20 minutes, I hit 108% of my original goal, 20% of my #RORunStreak goal, and 66% of 100 consecutive days of running, which is now my new goal.  I'm amazed that I feel as good as I do and I am really surprised that there hasn't been even a hint of knee pain or anything else that would do me in. 

It was really good to get outside again. The weather was much warmer than yesterday (-5C under sunny skies and no wind) and I was completely over-dressed.  I left off the neck gaiter and thermal long sleeve shirt, and still ended up with an un-zipped jacket and carrying my toque and gloves by the half-way point.  I had that same tired feeling today that I had yesterday, but it left much sooner and the run after that felt great.  I seem to recall that similar runs at the beginning of the streak were around 45 seconds/km slower at an HR of 20bpm higher than what I clocked today.  Things are definitely on an upward trajectory.

One other thing... It looks like the duct tape under the insole is working.  The warmer temperature meant that the salt was actually working in melting the ice, and there was a bunch of water and slush on the pathways and sidewalks today.  My feet were warm and dry again.  Duct tape is going into my runners toolbox from now on.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Run Ottawa Running Streak - Days 2 to 5

After a couple of months of recording runs (mostly) every day, I decided to take a few days off to reset.  I also wanted to write up a couple of posts about the mental myths I busted and lessons I learned.

Day 5

I remembered my pants today.  If that sounds strange to you, please read Day 4 for a bit of context.  It was a good thing because, like yesterday, it is really cold outside and running this evening on the treadmill will be tough time-wise.

By the time I got out there, the temperature had climbed to a tropical -19 with negligible winds.  The bright sunshine was especially welcome because before yesterday we really haven't seen the sun for a couple of weeks.  I wore a thermal base layer top and bottom and an extra thermal half-zip shirt.  I pulled on nylon pants and my Brooks Storm jacket with a neck gaiter, toque and Mizuno Breath Thermo gloves and crew socks.  I can't say enough good things about the Mizuno Breath Thermo line of winter clothing.  I have to watch that I put on my BT jacket just before I leave the house or else I will start overheating.  I have been using their socks and gloves all the time over the past two winters and swear by them.

Because I didn't know what the footing would be like along the Canal, I eschewed the scheduled interval workout and just set out to do 30 minutes steady.  I ended up deciding to run to the Canal Ritz and back, and the footing was fine - a bit ice covered, but not noticeably slippery.  I brought my phone with me and completed episode 10 of Zombies, Run!.  Intervals can be done tomorrow.

I felt a little tired while running and the extra layers of clothing felt restrictive.  I didn't really feel warmed up and smooth until I was about 30 minutes into the run, just eight minutes from the end.  Nice.  When I look at the data, my pace was decent and my HR was right in the zone I wanted.  It just felt slow and difficult.  I probably need to get some more sleep at night and get accustomed to wearing a bunch of clothing.  Running in just the 4 S's (shorts, shirt, socks and shoes) over the past couple of months spoiled me.  Normally by now, I would be used to it.

I think I have remedied the wet feet situation.  As an homage to Red Green, I resorted to the handyman's secret weapon: duct tape.  I applied a strip to cover the holes in the last and mid-sole and then inserted the insole back on top.  If you want to do this to your shoes, I highly recommend removing the laces.  It makes applying the tape much easier.  My feet were dry, but then again, everything was frozen solid.  A nifty bonus is that my feet were warmer, too.  It could have been the socks, but I think it was the tape covering the ventilation holes.

Day 4
Winter hit Ottawa with a vengeance today.  It was -32C this morning with the wind chill.  When you compare that with 16C on Christmas Eve, that is a 48C swing in temperature.  Where in the world is there variability in weather like this?  I hopped on the scale for the first time in many weeks, and my weight is back to where it was when I started at the beginning of November.  I fought off discouragement because my clothes are fitting differently.  More accurately, they are starting to fit.  I really need to add some core strength training to my routine.

I was completely psyched to head out into the cold for a lunchtime run, until I realized that I forgot to pack pants.  I was checking over everything before heading down to the change room when I made this disappointing discovery.  At -30C (with wind chill), it wasn't a day for me to tough it out in shorts; therefore, I set everything aside and resigned myself to running on the treadmill in the evening.  It was pretty much the same as last night: same 30 minute hill/speed pre-set workout, but a new X-Files episode.  The time really passed quickly and I was able to fall asleep nearly immediately, which is a huge plus.   

Day 3
It was a very busy day and I honesty contemplated taking a day off (i.e. end the streak), but I hopped on the treadmill at 10:00PM for a 30 minute pre-set workout.  I'm really glad that I ran.  I'm actually a little concerned that if I stop for one day, I may start making excuses for myself and become inconsistent.  The run itself, went great.  I have assigned my Adizero Mana's to treadmill duty because it would be like running on skates if I used them outside.

I was able to polish off another episode of the X-Files.   Never be hit by a car while binge watching Netfllix is another nice benefit of using the treadmill.  BTW, I'm looking forward to the new X-Files series that starts later this month.

Day 2
I did the Sarsfield Loop again today just before losing the light, and I was able to finish off another Phedippidations podcast.  If you don't listen to Phedippidations, you should.  It is the best running podcast out there.  The host has been putting his all into these self-produced episodes for over 10 years, and to be blunt, he is really worth listening to. 

With the temperatures remaining consistently below freezing, the roads were clearer and the shoulders were much more solid than yesterday.  That being said I still ended up with wet feet .  (I really need to do something about that.)  The wind from the west was really strong and cold, turning -5C into -12C.  I dressed for the colder number and didn't regret it.  I kept my pace steady, but slowed noticeably when I turned into the wind.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Myths Busted During My Running Streak

When I set out to run every day from November 2, 2015 to January 1, 2016, I knew that I would be battling my nemesis: consistency.  I was terribly inconsistent during my golden era of running (high school and early university) and during my modern era (2006-present).  I am also the king of excuses, especially when it comes to avoiding exercise.

I actually ran some pretty impressive times at different points in the modern era, only to have them followed up by some disastrous results due to stopping from one lame excuse or another and then having to re-start.  This streak is yet another re-start, but this old dog has learned some new tricks.  The following is a list of the personal (primarily mental) myths that were ingrained in my thinking for a long time, which I busted during my streak.

1) A run on the treadmill is not a real run.
I held this mindset for years and I think it pervades the mindsets of many.  Over the past couple of months, I have changed my mind.  As a data guy, I like fairly precise measurement and I don't trust treadmill displays, or for that matter, footpods or accelerometers in gadgets when used on a treadmill.  (I think running on a treadmill changes the way the foot strikes the mat, when compared to running on the road or trail.)  I'm over that now. 
I have come to like (or more appropriately accept) treadmill running as a way to get a run in when time is limited.  I can leave my shoes and clothing beside the machine and be running in a couple of minutes.  And it is running...  While I would much rather prefer being outside, even in the worst weather, I lose nothing by using it every once in a while and having it as a backup to remain consistent when getting outside is not feasible makes is a great tool to have in the toolbox.

2) Running less than 30/40/[insert duration of your choice here] minutes is not a real run.
...And therefore it is not worth the effort.  I used to think this way all the time.  I would think that, "Well, I missed my windows of opportunity to run my planned 30 minute run.  I can't run now." or "What is the point of running 15 or 20 minutes when it will take longer to change, run, shower and  change again.  I will spend more time in the locker room than running."  The physical benefit of the run itself may be marginal, but the benefit of being consistent is great.  Greater still is the mental and emotional effect of knowing that you did something today.  That benefit, in my opinion, pays the greatest dividends.  As a former colleague of mine, who was a top notch triathlete, said to me years ago, "If you only have 15 minutes, get out there.  Just do what you need to do to make the most of the time."

3) You can't run late at night.
I used to think that running at night would wreck my sleep schedule.  If I'm honest with myself, watching TV at night does more damage to my sleep schedule than hitting the treadmill for 30 minutes.  Furthermore, running is productive; sitting on the couch watching TV is not.  I might be revved up for 45 minutes or so after a late night run, but that just gives me time to log the run, write up my impressions and observations and have a shower.  I'm probably not losing any sleep time, or if I am, it is pretty minimal.  I have also found that I have more energy the next morning after running before bed, than when I have watched an hour or more of TV.  There is probably a sound explanation for that, but I haven't found it yet.

4) Running cannot be used as a recovery exercise/You absolutely need a rest day.
You can use running as recovery for running.  I'm not being redundant or using circular logic.  Because my primary goal was keeping the streak going, I was not running long - duration or distance - because I did not want to shell myself one day so that I could not run the next, nor did I want to get injured.  When I added fartleks and interval sessions, I took it easy the next after these workouts.  This variation allowed me to go hard one day and work out the kinks on my muscles and joints on the next day.  Doing this has probably been better for my recovery than doing nothing.

5) You can't run after a big meal.
This one was tough to get over.  At one point in my life I could not run with any food in my stomach.  I absolutely had to wait three hours after eating before running or else I would feel nauseated.  Marathon training cured me of that.  Heading out for a 30+km run with nothing on my stomach would have ended up in disaster, and I had to learn to eat on the run.  I still thought I had a delicate stomach and chose my meals carefully before hitting the road.
 As I said earlier, my goal was keeping the streak going, and during the streak, there were times where the only window of opportunity was after a plate of pancakes or after a heavy supper (e.g. turkey dinner on Christmas).  I headed out with great trepidation and took it very easy for the first km or so, and it turns out that my stomach can handle more than I thought it could.  Running at a sensible pace after eating is perfectly manageable.  I would not recommend an interval session, but then again, maybe I just need to get over that, too.

 My streak is still going.  I traded my original streak for the Run Ottawa streak for the month of January (#RORunStreak on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram).  I don't know how much longer I will keep running every day, but I know my attitudes toward running have definitely changed - streak or not.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Running Streak - Days 60 and 61

OK, I have really let my blogging discipline slide over the holidays.  Today is January 1, 2016 and with the 6km I put in this afternoon, I successfully completed the goal I established back on November 1, 2015.  It feels great, but it doesn't feel "over."  Here is a break down of my runs over the past five days.

Day 61

Happy New Year!  This is the day for which I called my shot way back on November 2, 2015.  Up to that date, I had been glued to the couch or the office chair for many months, not having run even once in the previous three months.  I was expecting today's run to be a bit anticlimactic, but I felt really proud of myself and got to thinking about how my mindset has changed on many things running-related.  I am also starting to fit into clothes that used to fit last year and have been hanging in the closet until the last week or so.  There will be a lessons learned/progress report in the next few days.

I took a photo below from the same spot on November 4.  Literally, the landscape has changed.  It is a lot uglier weather-wise now than it was then, but can't believe what an easy ride I had up until Boxing Day.  By the time I got out the door, it was 0C (-5C with wind chill) with 30+km/h winds from the west under cloudy skies.

I took inventory of the foul weather gear that I have been accumulating over the years and I have no excuses for getting out there - now or in the next few years.  I ran the Sarsfield Loop today and each side of the square had something different.  The first side was really wet with a lot of water accumulating in the cracks in the pavement.  The second side had ankle deep snow drifts.  For the third I was heading into a stiff headwind and was banished to running on a muddy shoulder by a lot of traffic.  The final stretch was decent; the road shed the water and the side wind didn't push me around.  Apart from wet feet, my clothing choice was good: light nylon jacket and pants to block the wind; thermal base layer shirt and short sleeve tech shirt on top and shorts on the bottom.  I should put some duct tape over the holes in the mid-sole, under the insole.

Running-wise, I felt tired and sluggish - probably a result of all of the sitting while driving and relaxing over the holidays.  It didn't really feel like the juices were flowing until around 25 minutes into the run.  All-in-all it was great to get out.  There is nothing like running to stir the waters, especially when the conditions are less than ideal.

Today is also Day 1 of the Run Ottawa Run Streak.  Search #RORunStreak on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see some enthusiastic Ottawa runners making the most of what could be a cold January.

Day 60

I fully intended to get out at the beginning of the day to knock the run off early, but I lounged around and my day was devoured by locusts.  New Year's Eve was quiet and relaxed, permitting me to hit the treadmill around 10:00PM.  I chose the hilly (up to 10% grade) and fast (up to 4:00/km) 20 minute pre-set. It was a good workout, but it felt like it was over too soon.  I should have selected a 30 minute workout.  Another upside was that I was able to finish The Bourne Legacy on Netflix before Netflix removed it from its line-up at midnight.

Running Streak - Days 57, 58 and 59

I was out of town and could not get to the blog for a few days.  I did, however, keep the streak alive.  I have to admit that I was pretty proud of myself to be able to keep up my routine even when on the road.  Historically, that is something I have not been good at.

Day 59

This was my fastest run of the trip.  I also went exploring.  I ran to the bakery to check their holiday hours and then wanted to check out the pathways along the Grand River.  I ran north to the Mill and then turned around and ran back under the bridge to the southern-most end of the path.  (If it continues past that municipal yard, I couldn't find it.)  Then I ran up Berwick Street, which is on a pretty good hill, unknowingly placing 5th on a Strava segment.  That was a nice bonus.  Now that I know it's there, I will give it some gas the next time I visit Caledonia.  The route had lots of ups and downs and a variety of environments: urban, sub-urban, rural.  It really is a great area for running.

The weather was remarkably consistent throughout the trip: temperatures just around zero, lots of precipitation, water on the ground and humidity in the air. I'm always a bit concerned about choosing the right clothing before a trip.  Canadian forecasts are dodgy at best, but fortunately, I nailed it.  I wore absolutely everything that I brought, and didn't need to buy anything.  Back to Ottawa...

Day 58

We had a mix of snow and freezing rain overnight.  This was the second bout of freezing rain in as many days.   By the time I was ready to leave, the weather looked colder than it was and was completely over-dressed.  The current conditions on my phone said -5C(-12 with the wind chill), but the actual temperature was probably over 0C.  I ended up doffing the toque and gloves within the first 10 minutes and having to zip off the sleeves of my jacket.  (Convertible jackets are the best.)  By the end of the run, my vest was completely un-zipped.  I was baking.  The good news is that the warm temperature melted much of the ice that formed and snow that had accumulated.  My feet were wet, but the footing was solid.  I chose a rolling out-and-back route in the opposite direction of yesterday's run, heading into a rural area that looked much like home.  The elevation in Strava and Runkeeper says 0m, but there was not a single flat bit of pavement.  I would much rather run up and down, than sticking to the flats.

Day 57

This was the first full day in Caledonia, which is a great town just west of Hamilton.  I did a simple out-and-back for 30 minutes before everyone got busy for the day.  I was glad I did because the day was consumed with driving people to Boxing Day sales.  By the time we returned home, it was snowing hard and the road conditions were awful.

During the run, the temperature was just below 0C and pretty windy.  There was some freezing rain overnight and the footing not terrific, but I just slowed down and had no issues.  After 6+ hours of driving yesterday and sleeping in a strange bed, it was great to get out and work out the kinks in my back and neck.