Another Sunny #Runch in Calgary

It felt like everyone had vacated the Calgary downtown towers at lunch today and were out for a run or walk. Me included. The pathways were packed. It’s great to see so many people getting some fresh air, stretching their legs, and getting energized for another afternoon in a cubicle again.

I sure needed the run. I had skipped two days in a row, even with the nice weather because of … well… life. Life just gets in the way sometimes.

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The economy is slow around here so many people don’t have the workload pressures they have in past years. So I guess that means more and longer lunch hour runs for a lot of people. It probably means longer lunches on the outdoor restaurant patios too, but I’m not in that scene. I just whiz past them.

It is a long way from spring yet, but the temperature was up, the sun was out and the ice along the river was melting fast.

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Looking at how many pictures I took on one run, I am now wondering whether it was a hard enough run. But it was a fun run, at least.

This weather, and the thousands of other runners are a great inspiration for the spring races coming up.

See you out there for a #runch sometime.

 

 

How Far are We Running Today, Dad?

Daughter #2 (13 years old): How far are we running today, Dad?

Me: Maybe 4km?

300m later

Her: I didn’t do my long run this weekend. We should run further today.

Me: Well, okay, we could do 5km

200m later

Her: How about we turn around at 3.5km?

Me: Noncommittal “Hmmm”

Her: I really should be running 8km for a long run. Her half marathon is coming up in 3 months and I admit that she needs to boost her consistent long runs a little.

a couple km later

Me: Here’s a good turn around point. It looks like we’ve done 4 km but it will probably be a shorter way back

Her: disappointed “Awww”

at 6 km mark

Me: I’m guessing it will be about 7.5km today

Her: We have to at least make it even. We’re doing 8km.

Me: Okay, we’ll go an extra block here.

at 7km mark

Me: It looks like it will be about 8.4km

Her: We can’t leave it at 8.4km. That would only be 50 minutes. I need to mark down 1 hour because 50 minutes isn’t a round enough number.

Me: We’re not doing 10 km. We were only going to do 4 km and you need to get to bed.

Her: Okay, okay, let’s do 9 km.

Me: Sure, OK

300m sprint finish with me lagging behind

Me: That was a great run

Her: Yeah, but my legs are sore. Oh well. You know, we should have run longer.

total run = 9.3 km in 53 minutes. 

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What have I created? I won’t be able to keep pace for much longer.

Not-quite-Spring-yet trail run

I can’t wait for spring trail running in the mountains so I gave it a shot today. And I discovered that although it was sunny and warm, it is definitely not fully spring yet. This is really not surprising for end of February, but it has been unseasonably warm lately, making it feel much more like April. The ice was treacherous and covered about 90% of the length of the trail, making it absolutely necessary to have yak traks or other ice grips. I had to really keep it slow and walk carefully on most of the up and downhills.

The other indicator that trail running or hiking in the mountains in February is not that popular (or not that safe) is that in two hours of running, I only came across one hiker and his dog. Otherwise it was a very quiet run. I love those quiet runs, but I was wondering if anyone would come across me if I ran into trouble. I was trying not to think about bears waking up from hibernation a couple months early due to the warm weather, or the warning signs about cougars, or the cliffs immediately adjacent to the trail. But alas, it was a quite uneventful run.

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This trail was the Montagne Trail, a single track rolling trail on the north side of Canmore, Alberta. It skirted above the golf course but stayed off the steep parts of Lady McDonald mountain. I will have to head back out here to do the Lady McDonald trail to the peak in the summer sometime.

From what I remember, I think this is a very popular trail in the summer. I have heard it mentioned quite a bit but this is the first time I have been here.

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I had a great view on this sunny day of the mountains across the valley beyond the town site. I was inspired to do some peak bagging just as soon as the trail conditions improve – which is probably not before mid-June.

Just as I got to the car, a storm blew in with new snow. Good thing I didn’t start half an hour later. It would have been pretty miserable. But maybe the trails will be in better condition by the time I have a chance to head back out there for another trail run. Either more snow, or no ice would be great, thank you very much.

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Maybe I will aim for the peaks when summer hits. They look enticing

Montagne Trail in Canmore, Alberta. 1 hour west of Calgary, just outside the Banff National Park gates.

11 km, 1:45 hours – This sounds slow, but the ice made it tough going.

There’s ton’s of trail running in the Canadian Rockies. Check out this post

 

When do You Wave?

Running etiquette usually involves acknowledging other runners. Everyone does it differently. But how do you do it properly?

Some people do small waves, some do big waves. Some flick their wrists. Some nod their heads. Some shout something cheery. Some mumble something under their breath. Some look others directly in the eye, and others do everything possible to avoid eye contact. Some smile.

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That all applies if you are running toward each other. But what if you are passing someone, or they are passing you? Wave as we’re passing? That can be awkward. Mumble something encouraging?

And how does a race situation change it? On an out-and-back race, rarely do the fastest runners acknowledge the rest of us coming the other way. But those not quite as competitive are more apt to be encouraging and friendly.

I have learned that runners definitely do not wave at cyclists. And if you are cycling, you do not wave at runners. This is especially hard to remember if you are training for a triathlon. Back when I was switching my running and biking every day and not fully conscious which sport I was doing that day, I occasionally had to swallow a wave (pretend there was a mosquito) to keep from looking foolish.

I suppose it is a cultural thing too. Different countries would develop different ways to appropriately acknowledge each other. It would be different for urban versus smaller town folks. City versus trail runners. I haven’t studied this in depth but I’ve passed a lot of runners. I’d love to know if anyone has any insight.

When I am doing my speed work I am more focused and less likely to acknowledge others. When I am on a lonely trail I am more likely to acknowledge someone than when I am on a busy urban pathway.

Does anyone have any rules of etiquette to share around?

Which are the friendliest cities to run in?

That Sinking Feeling

You know that sinking feeling when you suddenly are aware of a niggle, a sore spot, or a pain that wasn’t there 5 minutes ago. Oh well it’ll go away, you say. Then it doesn’t go away. You only become more aware of it. Is it getting worse, or am I only noticing it more? Then 5 minutes later and you are quite sure it is getting worse. That blister is growing, that muscle is stretched too far, that knee is overused. Do you turn back? Do you push through it? Do you slow down for a bit? Do you take off your sock mid-run to analyze the situation?

My lunch run on Tuesday started out very well. The sun was shining. I was aiming for 10 km along the beautiful river. But at just over 1 km in, I started feeling a tightening of one calf. “What, my calf? Since when do I have calf problems? I never have calf problems.” Within 200m the tightening turned to pain, and the pain caused me to slow down. 500m later I turned around. I knew I would never make 10 km. In fact I walked part of the way back.

Panic set in. How did I get into this? How is this going to affect my training plan?

Well I was smart enough not to run the next day. And the day after, I only did 3 km. I essentially took the whole week off. It helped that the week was super busy anyway and I wasn’t in a critical phase of my training plan.

That was two weeks ago. So I took the one week off because I was injured. Then I got “lucky” enough to get the flu and a deep chest cold for a week. So I essentially took 2 weeks off, almost completely without running.

So my calves seem much better. I haven’t even noticed them on my two inaugural runs since then.

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So the lesson learned is that if you are going to get injured, do it well before an event so that you can easily convince yourself to take it easy, and not have to worry about training. And then after you think you are injury free, take another week off, just to be sure.

Unfortunately, this is WAY easier said than done. No one ever does this of their own volition. Do they?

Train smart!

When is Too Sick to Run?

Flu season is awful. And we are in the middle of it, at least in our part of the world. If you’ve stayed healthy this far into the winter, there’s a pretty good chance you are not going to make it much further before hitting the meds and taking a few days off.

What do we do when we are trying to get all our training sessions in but sickness is threatening to derail the training. We are all worried about lost training days, especially the closer it gets to the event. And this time of year there are so many people ramping up their training for spring races.

Around here, the weather has been unseasonably warm for several weeks now, and the sun is inviting me to get outside as much as possible. But two days ago I woke up with a low grade fever and sniffles. It slowly got worse and today I am taking the day off work. I haven’t run in several days, even though my legs are aching to get out there. And my training has had a rotten start to the year so far. So I need to hurry up and get on with the regimented training. The pressure is on.

How do you decide whether to run or not?

Everyone has their own line in the sand when to cancel that run. The answer is not a simple one and can often be influenced by how critical a particular training run is to our running goals.

Here’s the rules of thumb that I try to stick with for myself, but aren’t necessarily true for anyone else.

Don’t Go – Throwing up, fever, coughing, dizzy. Take meds, go to the doctor, stay in bed. No brainer!

Go Anyway: Technically sick but…  “Just” the sniffles, foggy brain, low energy, “just” feeling rotten. Sometimes a short run will temporarily improve things a bit.

If it is not obvious whether to go or not, my rules:

  • if the cold is neck and above, get on out there. The fresh air does most of us a lot of good.
  • If it a lung / chest cold, better stay home. Don’t be coughing up a lung on a run.
  • Any level of fever – Stay home!

Remember that a few days (or even two weeks) of not running is not going to reduce your fitness. It may eat away at you psychologically but it is far better to get better first so you can put in solid training. A return to solid training after a few days off is way better than mediocre training when you’re feeling rotten.

Get better, and train on.

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What are your criteria on when to cancel that scheduled run?

 

5k Royal Flush

A royal flush in my books is 5 consecutive kilometers where each kilometer is faster than the previous. I don’t think I have ever knowingly achieved this. And it is definitely easier to achieve when you are hearing the splits in your ear than if you would just do it on perceived effort or perceived speed.

Well, today I was on an “easy” 5km run and was surprised when I heard my 3 km time as being faster than the previous 2km stretches and wondered if I really was going faster. I hadn’t started particularly slow, in fact my first km was faster than I had run in a couple months. Then I thought I bet I could do the next one even faster. After the 4km mark when I heard that I was indeed still faster, I had to challenge myself to finish this “easy” training run with an even faster last kilometer. I hadn’t run that fast in 6 months or more. But I did already have a good warm up in so I booted on it, risking it a little more than normal on the icy spots. I would normally have slowed a little more on the ice, but there was now a challenge in the works. And challenges are meant to be taken head on.

And I did it!

I hadn’t started out with any particular goal. And I definitely was not planning on speed work. I just needed to stretch my legs. But when you set out a goal, there’s no telling what’ll happen. Either you’re up for it, or it gnaws at you for another whole day.

5:03/km, 4:40, 4:31, 4:28, 4:03/km for an average of 4:33 / km

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Foiled by a blizzard

It’s super cold and windy out there this morning! A blizzard has descended and my outdoor running plan for this morning has been foiled.

I am on a business trip and I evidently didn’t bring all the right winter running stuff. I thought I was ready for Winnipeg winter running, but not quite.

I gave it a shot but didn’t last 5 minutes before turning around.

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I still have the option of a treadmill run but now that I have had a big breakfast I might just be skipping the run. I could try again this evening. But oh yeah, it’s Superbowl Sunday. And I have a feeling my running priorities might be lower this afternoon.

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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

 

Uninspiring, but got’er done

Some runs just aren’t inspiring. They don’t fire you up. You don’t get that kick during or after the run. Some runs are just runs.

But unless you do the uninspiring ones, you won’t appreciate the truly great runs.

Take yesterday. Yesterday was a bit of a drudgery. I ran in a new area in the city so I thought it would be interesting. But 3/4 of it ended up being along sidewalks in cookie-cutter subdivisions. The part that was in a linear park was way too icy to be much fun. I had hoped to stay on this trail much longer but it was taking too much concentration to stay on my feet so back to the sidewalk I went.

And then the battery in my earbuds died. My own thoughts are not that boring but it was unexpected and worse still I was in the middle of a good audiobook.

So I’m trying to turn that run around in my head. There were some really good parts:

  • Daylight running – Winter running doesn’t offer a lot of it except on weekends. And it was a Sunday afternoon.
  • Sun – Yeah for sun! It definitely improves my mood
  • I got my distance in. I was aiming for 15 km and, hit 15.5 km on a looped run in a unfamiliar area without having to do too much guessing

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Sure, it was uninspiring, but I got it done and it really wasn’t that bad. It could have been a blizzard. And the next time I run on the mountain trails, I am sure going to appreciate it all that much more.

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