What’s in your Pack? Running with Weights

Yes, some people do run with weights. And yes, it is hard. But no, they don’t die, they just get a lot more tired and don’t go as fast. But they do develop bigger leg and core muscles.

This is not something you would want to do on every training run. Unsurprisingly, most people don’t want to do it on any run. Are they missing out?

I was feeling sorry for myself on my last stair repeat workout, when I noticed this other guy wearing a weight vest. I realized, there are harder things in life than just doing stair repeats. You can do them with weights.

There are a bunch of different types of weights you could use. A running vest, like the one worn by my stair-running friend fits snug so it doesn’t bounce around. But the weight is the weight. It is hard to increase or decrease. And the one he had wasn’t very breathable. Definitely not breathable like a running shirt would be. So be prepared to do heat training as well when you wear one of these.

There are weights you put on your ankles or shoes. But you need to be careful that your ankles do not get stretched too much since feet are not used to being pulled down on every step. A cheaper way to do shoe weights is to go for a run in the mud. Yeah, that sticky gooey kind of mud where your shoes getting bigger with every step. But again, you can’t control the weight, but it can be fun.

You could just wear big heavy boots, but beware of blisters. Not recommended!

Filling up your water bladder fuller than it needs to be is a great way to increase the weight you were going to wear anyway. Liquids are heavier than you’d think. It doesn’t take much extra liquid to come to this realization.

My favourite is just a plain old backpack. Whether it is a small snug running back pack, or a big ill-fitting backpack, just use the one you’ve got. The weight inside it can be adjusted to suit how masochistic you feel, and is only limited by your creativity. If you find it too heavy, you can always remove stuff. Sometimes that might be in the middle of a run so bring stuff you don’t mind getting rid of.

But stuff bounces around if you can’t zip it up tight. I tried putting my work shoes in my pack on my run home yesterday and they bounced all the way home since there wasn’t sufficient straps to tighten it up. Annoying! And then the zippers started making a racket right next to my ears. So packs are not always the best solution.

Of course if you are one of those the hard-core masochists you might be tempted to carry rocks in your pack. Rocks are heavy. Heavy things makes running harder. Harder makes you stronger.

Bonus: Pulling rocks out of your pack after a group run can be used to full effect as an intimidation factor.

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But take it easy. That weight really adds up with every step. Don’t go far, don’t go fast, even if you think you can. Work your way up by slowly increasing weight. It is super easy to injure yourself. And injuries would just sideline you. No fun in that.

The reward of all this weight training is the amazing feeling on that first run after you have run with weights for a week. You feel so light on your feet you could run forever. And you feel fast. And you are fast. Wee!

Any other ideas for weight training?

Goodbye, Old Pals

You don’t say goodbye to a pair of running shoes everyday, but it can be a slightly mournful day when you have to send those tired runners to that great shoe pile in the sky. I like to think that those worn out shoes are chatting up a storm in that mountain of a pile as they compare tales of their adventures and where they’ve been.

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My most recent pair that gave up the ghost had holes where my feet had burst through the sides on both shoes on both sides. Also, the nails of my big toes had pierced through the front. Needless to say, these trail shoes no longer kept the grit out of my feet. And the cushioning was long gone. I couldn’t even use this pair for a backup. I had worn them too long.

We had been through a lot together. Those shoes had summitted mountains, logged hundred of miles on trails, run through small creeks, and not-so-small creeks. They had run cross-country races through the ice, mud, and snow. They prepped me for my longest race ever – 87km last August. They took me through my December run streak. They lasted through my Spring buildup this year.

They were my first pair of ORANGE shoes. Me, in orange shoes? I never would have thought. I think my teen daughters were jealous but they wouldn’t admit it. The orange shoes that are currently in the entrance way are not mine. I must have started a trend.

My next pair isn’t standing out quite so much among the mound of shoes in our house, except for the fact that they are still shiny. And I do like new shiny shoes. A new pair feels so good when the old pair really has nothing left to give. But the new pair doesn’t know what it’s in for. It doesn’t know where it might be headed tomorrow and what kind of runner has brought them home.

So I am ready to introduce myself to the new pair. There are trails to be run and adventures to be had. We can’t be mourning that old pair for too long. Let’s get out there!

Well, that did me in!

Alternate Title: Thrashing my Quads

After spending two weeks in Africa doing very little exercise and a lot of time on airplanes, I needed to quickly get over my jetlag to get back into the swing of things. What better way than to go for a run. And runs usually work very well for me to speed up up the recovery process. But the run I ended up going on, was apparently WAY too much.

My wife was going out for a hike with her friends the day after I landed so I went out with them to the trailhead and ran from there. One of the reasons I was so excited about this run was that it seemed like such a long time since I had gotten into nature and seen mountains or any other amazing view. A a long time since I had been on a trail run.

From the parking spot, there are many different directions to run. Some are mostly flat, some are not so flat, most are rugged trails, and all are epic. However, I chose the steepest trail to get to the highest elevation as quick as possible hoping for the most epic view of the valley.

All the local trail runners know Prairie Mountain. It is a 700m elevation gain in 3.5km (20% grade average) on very technical trail (roots and rocks). The mountain is used for training by many runners. One ultra-runner I was chatting to judges the difficulty of an ultra-race by how many “Prairie-Mountains” you needed to do in a row before you are ready for that race. For a local 125km ultra she said “To make sure you are ready for that race you need to be able to do at least two Prairie-Mountains back to back and not feel sore the next day.” It’s a serious hill.

Not very much of the uphill is runnable, and the whole downhill is spent with serious “brakes” on. Expect your quads to be hammered. Last summer I tried doing it with very little tread left on my road shoes and quickly regretted it because of all the sliding I did.

Anyway, I was feeling fairly confident to be able to do okay at it because twice last summer, I had done the mountain twice in a row. However, I didn’t appreciate that 8 months is such a long time when it comes to quad conditioning.

I drastically underestimated where I was at physically this Spring. I got to the top okay but by the time I was half way down I knew it was going to hurt significantly the next day. Near the bottom my legs felt pretty wobbly, and I couldn’t trust them very much. It was a slow finish as I wobbled back to the car.

I still had a couple hours until the others were going to be back at the car, so I took a bit of a rest then decided to recover my legs with a flat run. Well, two hours later (3.5 hours total) I hobbled down to the river to cool my legs off and then collapsed in the car.

You can imagine my pain the next day. It was like my first marathon all over again. My quads were thrashed. I needed the railing to get myself down the stairs. I dreaded having to get up to pee at night. And my family and co-workers were not-quite silent in their laughing at my expense. But I probably deserved it.

One of the terrible things about it was that I mostly couldn’t run for nearly a week. I was counting on using the coming weeks to jump straight into a full-on training season. But that had to be put on hold because I could barely walk, let alone run. If only I had not jumped straight into that crazy tough run, I would have been able to slowly ramp up. As it is, I am now already a week behind. But on the bright side, I’m probably wiser for it. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t do it again. But wisdom doesn’t always factor in when deciding about where and how far to run.

When there is epic-ness involved, wisdom is often thrown out the window.

Prairie Link Loop – Places to Run

I have run this 12km loop once before, maybe 5 years ago but I had run it clockwise. When I ran it last week, I decided to do it counter-clockwise. Well my memory wasn’t quite as good as I thought and I was second-guessing a little too much. I had neglected to take a photo of the trailhead map since I was sure it was on my phone somewhere. But when I needed it I couldn’t find it. So I was within 100m of turning around at the half way point when I came across the bridge to assure myself I was still on the right trail. There weren’t many people on the trail to ask, and definitely no direction signs. That was very close to a disappointing run!

Then within 500m of the bridge I missed the next turn even though there was a trailhead map right there. So I did an extra 1.5 km in the wrong direction before my brain kicked in with its internal GPS to override what looked right on my actual GPS.

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I love these bridges

So going counter clockwise, in mid-April I found some ice on the trail at the very end for several hundred meters near the parking lot. But overall, the trail was very dry, especially for April. I don’t remember any mud. We’ve had a very dry winter / spring.

There were maybe 10 others on the trail that I ran into over the 2 hours out there, on a weekday morning. On the weekends, it is full of mountain bikes and there can horses too. But this was a great time to be out there. I don’t get many weekday mornings to get out there.

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Hoping there’s no bears or cougars around the corner. The bear spray is buried too deep in my pack for that kind of surprise.

 

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Rocky Mountains as a backdrop
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Unfortunately, all the sections of trail that were this smooth had incredibly steep or were long hills

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Now that’s a cold river but it felt great on the feet (for the few seconds it took to take the photo).

 

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Can you tell where I lost the trail? Yeah, I didn’t read the sign and assumed I knew the way. Good thing my internal GPS kicked in eventually.

To get there from Calgary, head through Bragg Creek to Kananaskis Country, and park at Elbow Falls. Before mid-May the road is closed beyond this point but it is only 500m to the trail head. In the summer you can drive right to the parking lot for Powder Ridge Trail. That’s an amazing trail too. So is Prairie Mountain. So much to hike and run from this one parking spot.

Praire Link Loop – 15km with the wrong turn (12km otherwise), 360m elevation gain

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