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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The Plan (as it is currently unfolding)

My training has begun for the Lost Soul Ultra which is a 100 km race in early September in Lethbridge Alberta. I have been ramping up my training this last month which I admit might be a bit early but at least I am starting to take it seriously already. I have a lot of running and elevation to do this summer and I don’t want to leave it all to the last couple months.

This week I have backed it off a bit as one of my step-back weeks. In the weeks going forward I plan to push 100km weeks for the next 3 weeks before backing off again. I hope to keep up this general weekly schedule total through June, July and start of August. The plan is to increase the amount of elevation, trail time, and weight of my pack each week or two until August. Also, I hope to keep about half of my kilometers to be over two runs on Saturday and Sunday. This will keep my legs tired on the weekend and fresh enough for shorter distances of harder hills or speedwork during the week.

This plan isn’t that different than what I did last year and it seems to have worked. I just need to execute it again.

Time to hit the trail!

Weekly total: 45km (April 17), 70km, 77km, 86km, 102km, 75km (May 21)

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Ctl C, Ctl V, Tweak

As I was working out what my training this summer was going to look like, I realized that my goals were very similar last year. Since I was quite happy with the outcome last year I could use a similar training plan. My “A” race this year was a similar length to the “A” race last year and they are within 3 weeks of each other. This is very convenient for training plans. I would only have to copy and paste the training plan from last year.

I can’t quite remember how I came up with the plan last year, since it was mostly my own creation but with a bunch of my own tried and true things that work for me. It is very similar to a standard marathon training plan but with bigger weekends. But the best part is that I had written down the training plan and had mostly stuck with it. So I had a very good record of how much I ran. I don’t have a record of how I felt during the training period but maybe the end (race day) justifies the means (training), especially since I don’t remember much in terms of injuries.

Right now the plan that I’m looking at from last year looks pretty daunting. Saturday: fast, semi long. Sunday: Very long. Monday: sometimes off, sometimes just a little. Tuesday: run length varied. Wednesday: hills or speed. Thursday: more running. Friday: OFF!! (or biking). Worked up to 110km per week. 400 km per month for 2 months before the race.

The easy part was the copy and paste. Now I need to work my busy life around the plan, or to work the plan around the busy life. So lets start tweaking.

Copying my own plan from last year works for me since I know what works and doesn’t work and I am confident enough in determining how I feel to be able to tweak it as necessary.

But copying someone else’s plan to your own plan can be more tricky. Be very cautious if you are doing that and be prepared to change it up as necessary.

One thing I do need to do is to be more diligent with recording how the training is going, so that when I try to copy this plan again next year, I will know  where to tweak, instead of blindly following the plan.

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Training plans need to be tweaked in all kinds of ways when your travels take you to Nigeria 
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This would be a great idea for an aid station!

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?

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

Checking Out Maritime Running

I’ve never been to the Maritime’s before and I am looking forward to the running. Even though it is not the best season to visit, running is the best way to see the sights.

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This is from Google but I am sure it won't be this nice at this time of year
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Google again. This is what they show the tourists to entice them. We will see what March looks like.

I have a bunch of work stuff to do first, and I do have my family along, but I think I can squeeze in some trails on the 3 days after the conference.

I’ve googled a little and found a few running groups and where they run. Although I won’t be able to join them, I have some hints on where to find the trails.

Wish me luck finding some good running routes.

On the Trails

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“Can we go this way?”

That meant along the trail instead of the paved pathway. At this time of year you don’t know what you’re going to get on the trail.

We found a lot of mud and ice. And very slippery mud and ice. And mud that stuck to our shoes.  On the hills it was a little treacherous. We weren’t out for timed run, just to get in our 4 km on something a little more difficult that would get our heart up a little higher.

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We love this trail that leads out from our back yard but usually we have to wait until later in the spring. We probably should have waited a little longer and maybe we will wait another month or so considering what we encountered.

Since we were flying the next day I had to hose down my shoes before packing them. To make sure they were dry I put them over the furnace vent over night and they were quite dry. But they sure stunk the next day. So I found some deodorizer spray and some baking soda. But I had to put them in my carry on. I could smell my shoes all day on both flights. Some of it was my imagination but much of it was not. Hopefully the other passengers didn’t figure out where the smell was coming from.

The joys of traveling with not quite clean running gear. I think I will be searching out some Lysol before heading home in a week.

We are looking forward to finding some new trails on our travels.

Lunges at the Airport

It was going to be a long weekend at a conference. So as I was planning my running and exercise for the weekend I was starting to despair that I wouldn’t even have time to stretch my legs let alone keep my training going. But I promised myself I world give it my best shot. There was a window on Sunday afternoon when I could get a run in but otherwise I was pretty booked from my early Friday morning flight to the early Monday morning flight on the return.

At the first airport: 20 lunges. This provoked some stares but nothing I wasn’t used to. I refrained from the push-ups because that might be going overboard. I made a point of staying on my feet as much as possible while waiting. I don’t know if that counts as “more time on your feet” advice that endurance runners receive constantly.

In the airplane: nothing. It’s pretty hard to even stretch your legs in economy class.

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Airport #2: Walk. Well maybe it was strolling and window shopping. Does that count for anything? But I did skip the moving sidewalk. And it was a 2.5 hour layover.

Saturday at the conference: For 16 hours I wore my running socks (mostly covered with my formal slacks). Does that count?

Sunday: In between lunch and dinner at friends I got my long run in. The sun was shining, snow was melting and I couldn’t NOT go for a run. So a big day -24km.

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Monday flight home: Likely it will be not much to report.

But overall my legs are tied both from standing for 2 days straight and from my long run.

Verdict: success given the hardship

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