12 Years a Runner

Running my shoes off over the last 12 years.

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2005 – 400km

2006 – 1600km – Vancouver Marathon, Emporer’s Challenge (21k)

2007 – 500km

2008 – 1600km – Calgary half marathon + Footstock marathon + first triathlon

2009 – 1600km – Calgary marathon + Sylvan Lake half iron

2010 – 1600km – Vancouver marathon, Calgary marathon + Calgary half iron

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2010 Vancouver Marathon

2011 – 1600km – Calgary marathon

2012 – 2800km – Calgary marathon, 50k (Frozen A)

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First time Boston qualifier!

2013 – 3000 km – Boston marathon, Calgary marathon

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Boston Marathon

2014 – 2700 km – Lost Soul 50k, Calgary 50k

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2015 – 3161 km (biggest year by 5%) – Iron Legs 50 Miler, Daughter’s first half, Vancouver Marathon

2015

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2016 – 2400 km, 30,000m vertical !! 100km Lost Soul Ultra, Paced 2 daughters to half marathons.

 

What a journey it has been so far. Hopefully it is far from over.

And just because I like summaries, graphs and trends…

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Calgary Half Marathon

What a great day to run a race! On Sunday, the sun was out, and the smiles were everywhere as the gun went off for the Calgary Half Marathon Charity Challenge.

At the start line we were treated to a whole choir singing the national anthem, and the mayor giving his encouragement.

The smiles and chatter only lasted for a kilometer and then the chatter suddenly  disappeared as we started our first hill, even though it was a pretty small one. But huffing and puffing at km #1 can be pretty discouraging. But then the crowd thinned a bit, we crossed the river twice on beautiful old bridges before hitting the first aid station just outside the tiger cages at the zoo (but unfortunately we couldn’t quite glimpse them this time).

Many runners started at 7AM with long sleeves, but it was too warm to finish the race with long sleeves. I was glad for a hat because the sun was still so low in the horizon for most of the backstretch.

At 7:20AM, at km 5, one of the bystanders had a sign that said “I’m still in my PJ’s”. We had been up for hours already, so we thought that was pretty funny. It was nice to see the crowd really into it.

This is definitely a downtown type of race route. We crossed six bridges over the two rivers. Plus there were two underpasses, two overpasses and one U-turn. Half the route was immediately adjacent to the river. But because of the crowds, unfortunately, the goslings weren’t out and about. They’ll be back tomorrow for sure.

There were a whole bunch of cheering sections, and lots of bands including Elvis of course and my favourite, a steel drum band. We ran the popular “Red Mile” which is Calgary’s strip of trendy places, and the outskirts of the zoo, where sometimes (but not today) you can see the tigers and camels through the fence. The race finish was in front of the stampede grandstands so everyone could see you sprint (or crawl) to the line.

I finished with one of my daughters and we were both very proud of her personal best time. My other daughter finished just behind us on her first half marathon. Way to go girls.

Great organization, great food, great entertainment.

Now, let’s see. When’s my next race?

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The organizers were definitely ready for the crowds
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And the crowds came out
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And we followed the crowds all the way to the finish line

Wearing in my shoes – Topo MT2

I was desperately in need of some new shoes. The old ones had split on the sides, and the even older ones felt like they had flat tires. So I went into Gord’s Running Store in Calgary, tried on a couple pair and walked out with Topo MT2 trail running shoes. I had never heard of Topo before but I have been very happy with them. They were strongly recommended if I wanted something between moon shoes (think Hoka’s) and tight fitting trail shoes (my most recent New Balance). Maybe something like my old Pearl Izumi’s but something that didn’t blow through the toes so quick because of all the downhill I do. I don’t have a good sense for what makes good trail shoes, just for what has not lasted very long for me.

The Topo’s I purchased are very wide at the toes (like Altra’s), but they don’t have the arch like Altra’s do. They are light like Hoka’s, but not as wide. And they dry quickly. They have decent enough traction but not so aggressive you don’t want to use them on the road occasionally. I’ve always struggled with laces coming undone, but for some reason, these laces seem to just stay tied. Nothing worse (almost) than laces that keep coming undone at inopportune times. And the 3mm drop works well with me. No blisters, no problems with the toenails, and no hot spots.

So this morning as I was walking around indoors it suddenly felt a little lower on the outside of the heel. Both heels. Was it my imagination? On closer inspection I noticed that the grip was starting to wear on the heel. Have I overused them on sharp rocks? Has my family been sneaking them into their runs? Has our cat been gnawing on the rubber? Then I calculated backward and realized that I already had 400 km on them, and much of it on tough gravel. Maybe shoes aren’t supposed to last forever but I’d love these ones to last.

On the trail I don’t notice the loss of thickness in the grip at the back so I plan to keep using them much longer this summer. I’m sure I will put another 400km on them before anything else wears out on them but I was a little disappointed. I mean, I just bought them 5 weeks ago. But 400 km in 5 weeks is a lot, I guess.

I guess Gord will be seeing me a couple more times this summer.

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Big Hill Springs – Places to Run (or not)

I’m not sure if the “Big Hill” at these natural springs is the hill that I ran since there are bigger hills around, but the hill that I ran was big enough for this short loop. At least it was steep enough. It was definitely a “hiking only” hill.

The park really is very small, with the looped trail only being 2 km long. I hadn’t realized how short the trail was when I planned this run. So I did the loop 8 times to get in 15 km and 400m of elevation gain. My legs were definitely feeling the downhill by the time I ended.

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The park is often very busy with 20+ cars in the parking lot, especially on sunny weekends for the picnic’ers who don’t want to go far from Calgary but want to experience the outdoors. Running the trail then would be very frustrating. On the sunniest days, the kids wade in the water and every open space is used up for picnics, baby strollers, and dogs.

But I had picked a Friday after work when the rain was threatening at any time. So there were only 5 cars in the lot making the trail very quiet. I had lucked upon a good time to go and I even stayed dry.

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The first kilometer of the loop is along this creek that pops out of the ground at several mineral springs. The water isn’t warm, but it is full of minerals and used to be very popular with those seeking the health benefits of mineral baths.

I loved listening to the quiet, to the creek, and being out of the wind in this protected valley.

I’ve noticed that other runner and biking bloggers talk about following the creek from this park for the 20 km downstream to Cochrane. Unfortunately, even though there is a truck trail, it is provincial road allowance, the adjacent landowner has been grumpy for many years and is insistent on the “No Trespassing” through that general area including the road allowance. It looks like it could be a great place to run but alas, I didn’t go for it this time around giving the “crochety farmer” a wide berth.

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I only went off the trail on one loop and went across this make-shift bridge (and stayed dry)

I can’t say this is normally a great place to run. I was lucky that there were no crowds, but that doesn’t happen often. And the loop was only 2 km with not much else in the area to extend it. But the serenity, the creek, and the trees made this a great run for me this time.

Located 1/2 hour west of Calgary near Cochrane at Big Hill Springs Provincial Park

Grassi Lakes – Places to Run

Grassi Lakes Park in Canmore makes for a great hike and a tough run. The main loop is 4 km starting at the parking lot with a lot of elevation gain – maybe several hundred meters or so. At the far end of the loop are these two incredibly clear small shallow lakes. They are a great place to take a snack break as you wonder at the beauty.

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Near the start of the trail is a fork with a sign for “easy” and “more difficult”, both going to the same location. If you do the loop you would take one up and the other down. I definitely recommend the more difficult for at least one direction. There are waterfalls, views of the townsite and lots of steep stone steps. If you take the easy route you get views too but not nearly as good. We took the difficult route up and the easy route down.

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The trail was way too popular and crowded on the spring Saturday that we were out there so the going was a bit tough. So wait a few weeks into summer, go early in the morning, or go on a weekday for a quieter route.

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To get there go south of Canmore, head past the nordic center for 2 km and park next to the lake.

At the top end of the loop, if you go past Grassi lake (south) you will go past a very popular cliff climbing area as you ascend more stairs up to Spray Lake for another amazing view.

If you head east from Grassi lake you get onto to the High Line trail that follows the mountain range. This is definitely a must-run. We didn’t do that one today but I fully recommend it.

Running the River

Running along our local river is as good as it gets when I need a run that starts at my house.

I can choose the busy paved pathway, the quiet paved pathway on the other side, or the single track through the trees (but only on one side of the river). There’s bridges every couple kilometres so whatever distance I am running that day doesn’t mean I have to come back on the same side.

There is a 10 km or 15km loop going upstream and 6km or 14km downstream if you start at my house. Starting at the ice cream shop is a great place to meetup for those that have to drive to the trail head. You can always treat yourself after the run. It’s a very popular starting point for some reason, hmmm.

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There are vitually no lights in the linear park except when the pathway is near the road, so I need to wear my headlamp for most winter evening runs.

Last year as I was training for my mountain ultra race, I frequented the trails to get in a little elevation and trail experience on each of my runs.

When I am looking for speed work I stick to the paved trails. There’s even markings on the pavement at 800m intervals if I am feeling so inclined to see what I am made of.

Winter running is usually on the paved pathways since the trails are too treacherous with ice.

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We could use some water fountains in this Park. There’s some at the ice cream store but a few more wouldn’t hurt. And any time before May and after September the fountains are shut off because they’re frozen. I guess that’s life around here.

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Spring is just around the corner so the number of bikes and families on the trail is increasing everyday, especially when the sun is out and especially on weekends. Pretty soon I will have to head for the quieter trails until the weather cools off again in the Fall. But either way, the runs are immediately adjacent to the river.

Places to run: Edworthy Park in Calgary
Seen on my run: Bow River at sunset

The Run Commuter

I just chanced upon a website and it has inspired me again to pick up commuting to work by running. I know it sounds like a crazy idea, but sometimes when you need to get all your mileage in on a busy week, these crazy ideas seem to crop up.

Many of the articles on the website are on the logistics such as the No Shower Cleanup – Mens Edition (lots of steps but it would seem to be very comprehensive and would leave no one guessing that you had just run to work). Unless you want people to know you ran to work, then you just have to skip a couple steps.

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And of course there’s women’s edition too but I don’t have an opinion on how well that one works.

There’s articles on how to get in the right frame of mind to run to work in the morning.

There’s how to plan a route which is important if you want to incorporate it into your training, or you want to skip the traffic fumes.

And of course there’s lots of advice and reviews on clothes, lights, backpack, bringing your clothes to work wrinkle-free, etc.

Check it all out at http://theruncommuter.com/

As this site says “Live to run, run to work

And we’ll see you (maybe) running on the road or trail commuting to work.

My Introduction to Mountain Races – #tbt

My second ever race was a half marathon mountain race about 10 years ago. I had just run the Vancouver marathon a few months before and felt the need to keep going with this running thing. The closest thing to a race near our small town in northern BC was the Emperor’s Challenge about 2 hours away on the edge of the Rockies. Someone casually told me about it and as I looked into it, I got excited. It sounded crazy. But crazy was good. Basically it was 600m up a mountain following a creek bed and then back down a mountain road. I don’t remember having a good idea how much 600m is but I knew it was going to be excruciating. And I was going to have to do some hill training and learn how to do trails.

So I set about with hill training. Having grown up and still living in the prairies I didn’t really know what hills were. And trails? I didn’t know where to find them. All my marathon training had been on dead flat roads.

By accident I discovered that one of the dead ends near the river valley had a deer trail down to the bottom. So one day I went down it. Straight down it. Then straight back up heaving like never before. Over a matter of months I upped it to three times in one go. This dead end at the top of the hill was one of the romantic lookouts where cars came to park for a while, so I’m sure there were a few couples who wondered at my sanity. I wondered too.

On the way to this hill, I would run pass one of the farms that housed dog sled dogs. In the summer they trained on wheeled sleds on the adjacent road. As I would pass them, it would be very noisy with all the yipping, but all their training worked to inspire me to train harder.

A couple times, I also ran down the highway on a 5 km downhill stretch that was 5% slope for 5 km. And then I had my wife (and 3 and 5 year olds) pick me up at the bottom. I couldn’t contemplate going back up. She is amazing.

I never really got my trail training in except a couple times while camping, but I did a good effort on the hills.

I didn’t really know what to expect for the race, but now as I look back it was not that abnormal from a trail race. Maybe 100 competitors. Very casual start. Very crowded, confusing first kilometer. I wore too much at the start but was freezing at the top and warm again at the bottom. I wore my road shoes since I didn’t know there was such a thing as trail running shoes.

I was quite happy with my finish. I was very encouraged by being able to pass people even to the end, and even after the 14 km of continuous downhill.

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We had warning that it was going to be a steep one!
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My daughter’s first race, and my second race.

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It was a great introduction to trail running. But oddly that was the last trail race I did for a few years. I’m not sure why, but at first it didn’t stick. It took a couple more trail races before trails got into my blood. And now they are in my blood.  I would love to go back and try my hand at that race again.

The views are spectacular (if you notice them between all the huffing and puffing).

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http://www.emperorschallenge.com/ – Tumbler Ridge, BC – Babcock Mountain

 

Biggest Year Ever

I calculated it all a little too late. My biggest year before this year was 3000 km. Back in November I was pretty confident I would break this record. In fact I did break it, by 5% (3161 km). I am very happy with this, but it could have been a “cooler” or rounder number if I had done some intricate planning a couple weeks ago. It would have been much more memorable to finish off the year with a number like 3500 km, or 3333 km, or 3210 km, or 3456 km.

Or 9 km per day average = 3285 km instead of 8.6301 km / day.

Or 60 km per week average = 3120 km instead of 60.5769 km / week.

Last week, I saw someone shooting for 2015 miles (3224 km) in 2015. That’s pretty cool, but I ended up being about 60km short by not pre-planning it.

I was born in 1971 which if it was miles, works out to 3154 km. This is pretty close to what I achieved this year. That’s a pretty cool number I guess.

I hope I am not becoming OCD to the extent that I pre-plan this next year. Don’t let me go over that edge!

Here’s to another great year of running to all you runners, wherever you are.

Oh, for Longer Socks

You know that space between the top of your socks and the bottom of your tights. It’s part of your ankle that you don’t really notice. And no one else notices it either.

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It’s not noticeable UNLESS there is a lot of snow you are trudging through. Or it is really cold out. Then you really notice that inch of skin. That inch of skin suddenly becomes the most important part of the body.

Pull your socks up higher. Pull your tights a little lower. Just frustrating.

I haven’t gotten frostbite on my ankles yet but it can be really frustrating when I pick the wrong socks for a run. I need to hide those short socks a little deeper in the drawer so they don’t come out at this time of year.

Most running socks are short. But some are even shorter. They’re designed that way for fair weather running. Not winter running.

Most of my longer socks are cotton. Not great for running in, period.

My tights are just a bit too short. I do have looser wind pants that I can wear for running that go a little lower, but I usually only pick those as a second pair to go over the tights.

Putting all the right pieces together becomes all too important when frostbite is a real threat.

Remember those leg warmers from the 80s? Well, in case you’re wondering, I’m not resorting to those. Any other ideas?