Weekends are made for getting outside. And weekends are made for getting in those amazing runs. Top it off by doing it on trails and even better with a friend.
We did a short trail run this afternoon in the glorious sunshine which included some out of control epic downhill. The run was made much more memorable by adding ice and a tiny bit of “what have I got myself into? ”
When we say cross-country, we mean serious cross-country. None of this groomed, cut grass on level ground. No, we mean mud, ice, and even blood sometimes.
8 km through thick and thin with 100 other runners with the only prize being a high five from my family if I’m lucky. These races are my hill / speed work through the winter.
No pressure, no schedule, no training regime. Just give’r!
I wiped out twice in this race, and had blood streaming down my legs. Once right in front of the camera. I looked up at the wrong time trying to smile for the camera and twisted my knees, slamming into the mud at the bottom of the hill. But it couldn’t have been that bad since I still finished with a smile.
This race was a month ago, so the mud is long gone. It has been replaced with ice and snow. I’m sure our footprints are set in the icy mud now for the winter.
Calgary Road Runners – Winter Cross Country Race Series. It’s a blast.
I’m going through the process of picking some ‘A’ races for 2016. Those would be my goal races. The ones that I would like to build my training around. I will have other races, which I call my ‘B’ and ‘C’ races. ‘B’ races are those that help build up to my ‘A’ races. And ‘C’ races I do just for fun.
So some of my considerations when picking races:
A Races: These are the bucket list races, or the goal races, or the ones that I want to do a PR in, or ones that I really feel I would be stretched to do. There should only be a maximum of 2-3 of these races in any given year. Any more, and I would start to lose focus on what I am really training for. These are the races I am the most excited about and probably talk about the most. I need to be sure of my schedule before I pick these races so that nothing comes in the way of them once I’ve set my eyes on them. Sometimes this is impossible and I need to pick a backup A race.
B Races: These are included in my training schedule for the ‘A’ races. So if I had a marathon on my ‘A’ list, a ‘B’ race might be a half marathon one month before the ‘A’ race. Or it might be another marathon in the months following my goal marathon if that second marathon time didn’t matter so much.
The problem with B races is that it is very easy to slip into making them A races by going out too hard. They are not meant to take anything away from the big races, only either to let you know how well your training is going, or to fine tune some speed, or nutrition or something else you are working on. You are usually in great shape by the time you do your B races so the temptation is huge to go all out. Don’t! Save it for the big ones. Don’t risk injury.
C Races: These lower priority races cannot jeapordize either my A or B races. These would be short and fun, and probably with friends or family. They might be just a cool race that I can fit in on short notice. I wouldn’t be too disheartened if my time was horrible but if I got injured it would be devastating.
In 2015, my two A races were the Vancouver Marathon in May and Ironlegs Ultra in August. In the marathon I wanted to get a PR so I trained really hard for it (but I missed it). For the ultra, I wanted to finish, mostly just to finish but also to get a good time.
I had a lot of C races including a half marathon, 8k cross country series in early spring. These helped me stay fit but didn’t push me very hard. Looking back I guess this year I didn’t really have any B races. I had one planned in April that didn’t pan out and another in July. I was training very specifically on the weekends and pushing myself quite hard on those training runs. B races didn’t quite fit in that schedule. And my kids’ A races trumped any of my proposed B races, but such is life. Perhaps I might have been able to squeeze some in if I had been prepared to travel a little further to the races. I have fit them in on other years and I plan to do so again next year.
I am still planning my 2016. My one A race I was counting on (Pikes Peak) probably won’t pan out due to our family schedule so I need to switch gears. Another possible A race (Blackfoot 100k) conflicts with a C race I am coordinating a charity team for, so that won’t work. So I am researching a couple others to see if I can make it work.
The goal is to have this figured out early in the New Year. Planning is half? the fun. Maybe not half, since racing and training is pretty fun too.
If there ever was a day when I wished for ski goggles on my run, this was definitely one of them.
There have been many other days for sure but they were in winters past. This winter hit pretty hard today. And it caught me by surprise. Once I stepped outside I quickly realized I needed more layers, even though I already was quite bundled up.
I probably woke up the household with all my comings and going this morning trying to get the right layers but mostly they have gotten used to my early mornings.
This won’t be the only cold day this winter but the first ones are always especially brutal.
Okay we are going to try this run streak again this year. Starting yesterday until the New Year, run at least 2km each day. I hope to average 5k per day. Wish me consistency.
I know two days in a row isn’t so hard you might say, but how about 40? That will feel good once it’s done.
The weather has been pretty good recently so at the moment this looks doable. I know it can get much harder on the weeks with miserable weather.
If push comes to shove (like snow storms or treacherous ice), I may head to the gym but I hope to do most of it outdoors.
I have learned from previous years that some of the hardest parts of run streaks are:
1) convincing my family that this is a worthy goal
2) getting into the rhythm of running each day. There is no flexibility in which days to run, only in the distance
3) running late at night some days when there has been no time during the day to fit it in
Some of the best parts are
1) being able to eat anything in sight during the holidays because you have earned it
2) getting into a regular rhythm in advance of ramping up the training in January and February
3) our local running store supports the streakers with a tshirt and festive Saturday morning runs
Challenge a friend. Give it a shot. It will be fun. (At least the weeks without the miserable weather will be fun).
How to turn cute, unassuming, experienced shoes (my daughter’s) into hard core winter cross country spikes with unsurpassed traction.
Maybe you’ve fallen on the ice once too many times this winter already. Or you just want that extra confidence for passing people on the trails. Why not beef up those shoes with cheap cleats you can install yourself?
1) buy sheet metal or wood screws – #8 by 1/2″ X 10 per shoe – a box of 100 is less than $5. Oh yeah, don’t get the ones with the round heads, that might make it worse. You want the flat head screws.
2) experiment with a pattern or use mine: 4 in the heel and 6 up front
3) screw them most of the way in. (From the outside bottom, not from the inside!)
4) you’re done!
Run on them on a hard surface (not the hard wood floor) before the race to make sure the screws aren’t poking through (those can be tough lessons)
Really test ’em out: find a nice icy trail with some sharp corners and downhill. Go hard and hope for the best.
Now you’re ready to race winter cross country.
These may not be a complete replacement for spikes or Yak Trax or Katoola’s but they are a whole lot cheaper.
Have fun out there passing everyone else splayed out on the ice.
We had a blast a few days ago flying down a mountain. It was a long slog to the top, maybe three quarters of an hour, but the return trip down the single track was fantastic.
Most of trail was snow covered and icy in some spots. There were shoe sized rocks to dodge. The very solid looking trees right off the trail made sure we didn’t stray off the trail. This was especially crucial at the sharp corners. And to top it off we hadn’t brought any spikes with us so it was even more treacherous than it should have been.
I can’t quite remember the quote from my 14 year old as we were hurtling down the mountain, but between all the heavy breathing it was something to do with the snow, ice, and rocks making this so much fun, especially at high speed. And she made sure she wasn’t always following. She wanted some of the best of the fun too by being up front.
Despite all the sliding and racing at break neck speed, we didn’t wipe out and maybe that is why we are remembering the run so fondly. To top it off the sun was shining on a weekday afternoon where neither of us had to be at work or school. Couldn’t ask for more.
That’s one run we will have to do again.
9.5km, 1hr 10 m
Snagmore trail starting near Allan Bill just west of Bragg Creek in Kananaskis.
I am wondering if and how my swimming is improving my running. It is not immediately obvious to me that swimming is doing much, but it must be helping, right?
I took up triathlon about 8 years ago and subsequently had to start doing a lot of swimming. I have since stopped the tri’s and have focused a lot more on the running. But I have been swimming once per week quite regularly for the last 3 years. The swims end up being mostly long slow distance with some other strokes and speed work thrown in to keep it interesting, but I don’t really have a goal with it. I guess my goal is to keep up with and spend time with my teen daughter who joins me weekly. (The keeping up is getting harder each week.) But any speed or distance goal is not really there.
Benefits I see with the swimming:
1) I would think that swimming promotes regular steady breathing which is important for long distance running. Awareness of your breathing and the ability to control it is a definite asset in running.
2) Swimming works your core (and arms) which apparently is vital for running to keep you injury free and able to just go longer. The stronger your core is, the less work your legs have to do to compensate for a weak core. At least that’s the theory. This core work might be able to replace other gym work or cross training I might otherwise have to do.
3) Swimming slows down the resting heart rate. I think this is the case. If it does that is good for running. Ultra marathoners (and triathletes) always talk about resting heart rate. Efficient hearts make mighty engines.
4) Swimming lengths is inherently interval work which is good mental work. Runners should do more intervals to train their brain for mental toughness. But no one likes interval work.
5) Swim coaches are always talking about form, efficiency, stroke improvement, and being able to “feel” the water. These concepts translate to running. Our form breaks down when we get tired and so we must keep practicing it or keep mindful of it while running to ensure to keep the form as long as possible. Efficient running takes you further and faster than just stumbling along. And being able to “float” along the ground is something to aspire to.
6) Swimming builds discipline. Not just from the swimming part but the fact that you need to go somewhere regularly at a specific time to get in the workout. It is much easier to get your run in sometime in the day even if your regular run time gets booked with other life events. But discipline in your run workouts of important too.
My daughter’s swim competitions are mostly all out effort for 2 minutes or so. This would equate to sprinting half way around a track, multiple times at an event. Do all those sprint practices for her improve her long distance running? Or would it be better to just put in slow long distance swimming to improve long distance running?
Maybe I would say that any cross training is great for any runner. But if I were to focus on something in my swimming what should it be? Breathing, heart rate, efficiency, mental toughness? Where do you get the most bang?
The paved pathways at Edworthy Park in Calgary are is a go-to for most all running groups in the area. But there is so much more than just paved pathways. But it seems few people are discovering the gems found right in the city.
There is a whole bunch of single track too. You just need to step of the pavement and head several meters closer to the river and you will find some great trails. They aren’t as long as you might want want wilderness running, and there are no hills on the north side of the river. But they are much quieter than the alternative hard surface. This morning I found almost no runners and I couldn’t hear the nearby road. And if you go to the south side of the river the trails are more than you’d expect. Lots to explore.
My run this morning was the 10km loop between the two pedestrian bridges plus the 4 km run to get to and from the park. I ran counter clockwise which obviously was against the flow of most other runners. Either way works for me.
There seems to have been construction at least somewhere on this loop for the last 8 years I have been running it. Between upgrades, park renovations, and river flooding, there is always something to work on, it seems. But the city prioritizes the pathway for commuters leaving it mostly open most of the time.
These trails are some of my most run trails because of how easy it is to get there from home, and how nice it is to run along a river.