Weather Worries

One shouldn’t have to worry about the weather for an end of May race. It should normally be quite pleasant on an early morning. But today, one week out from the Calgary Marathon, we got a dump of snow with temperatures hovering around freezing and frigid winds. Today would have been a very miserable day to have a race. Now, at 3pm, the snow that turned to rain has mostly stopped but the wind is still going and I am reluctant to even do my normal Sunday run. Yesterday was miserable too, and tomorrow isn’t looking good either. But everyone says, just give it a couple days and the weather will be totally different. Maybe, maybe not.

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My first marathon was in Vancouver where it drizzled for over 3 hours of my 3.5 hour race. I was from “dry and cold” country so I didn’t know what to wear in the rain so I got it all wrong. I had long sweats on but they had a cotton liner. Wrong! I got rid of them by the 5th km in some sketchy part of town. Then my legs froze in the cold rain. I had a rain jacket which I sweated it. I didn’t wear gloves since in my world you only wore gloves when it really was cold. Cold from rain didn’t really fit in to what I was used it. But I should have worn the free gloves they had given to all the runners. All the local runners did okay since they were used to the weather and had trained in this all year and they knew what the gloves were for. But us out-of-towners didn’t prepare well.

Weather is the biggest unknown in many races and we have to prepare for anything. I tend to bring extra clothes to the start line and then give them to my wife at the last minute. This is risky too since I may regret giving them away. And I have definitely regretted some of those last minute decisions.

You never get it perfect. Either you wear too much, or you wear too little. Given these longer races last hours, the weather will change throughout the race. You can’t bring it all with you. You just hope you can last long enough with the less-than-perfect conditions.

One strategy I have is to run outside all year no matter the weather. I am probably much more attuned to what I need to wear in inclement weather than someone who does a lot of treadmill runs. Another is to bring a backpack on many of my training runs with extra clothes or as a place to put that rain coat when it does clear up. This also helps me to be ready for anything and then not have an excuse to head home when the weather does change up.

But I don’t know what to do about hail. Good thing hail doesn’t tend to materialize in early mornings when the race is on.

So in this race coming up next week, everyone will be in the same boat as far as the weather. I just hope I can make some good decisions on what to wear and then not to make any last minute clothing adjustment errors.

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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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In a Pickle

I have gotten myself in a pickle and I need some help.
I am working with 3 teen girls (13-15 years old) to train them to run a half marathon. They are doing amazing with their training and they all want to run the same race. The problem is that they all want me to pace them, even though they are different speeds. 
You have 2 options if you choose to accept the challenge to help me.
A) Pace one of these three fast, gritty teen girls on the half marathon in Calgary on May 29.
B) Encourage me (i.e. sponsor me, or at least cheer for me) as I pace, encourage, have my ears chatted off, keep up with, and keep looping back to the three teens of varying speeds on the 2+ hour race.
Can you sympathize? Sponsor me here 
We are raising funds for Engineering Ministries International so they can help facilitate housing construction in northern Mexico.
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Collapsing on another finish line as we train for this half marathon

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?

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

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.

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