Category Archives: Fitness

Hey! Who Likes Mud? – A Tough Mudder Race Report

A couple weeks ago, some friends and I ran the Spring Tough Mudder Toronto, and by all accounts it was pretty awesome.

The morning started out early and unseasonably cold. Our 2hr drive to the parking area gave the day time to warm up but it simply ignored our gesture and kept is cloudy grey demeanor. We boarded buses and were driven 45minutes to the ski hill where the race was held. Quickly and efficiently we grabbed out race packages, changed into our race gear, ditched our bags at bag-check and got our game faces on.
Before I get in to race specifics let me just say that this “race” ran like a well-oiled-machine. The race organizers didn’t cut corners on anything; if you needed it, it was there for you; there was hardly any waiting for ANYTHING, lines were short and quick!

Back to business: At our appointed start time we crossed the Start line threshold and were faced with our first obstacle: a 8ft wall we had to scale. Our team worked well to help each other over, only to find out we really hadn’t started the race yet. About 100 people were jammed into this small corral where a short time later the MC started giving us the pre-race pep talk. There was a lot of “Hoo-Ah”s and the reminder that this wasn’t a race, but a personal challenge. Also, we were encouraged to help our each other whenever/wherever possible. After the national anthem we were off, running down the first section of trail, crossing over top of one of the final obstacles we’d see 3hrs later.

If there were two things that exemplified the day they were mud & hills. We’d had some significant rain in the days leading up to the race, but honestly there was enough water on site that the place would have been a sloppy mess anyway. Since the Toronto event was run at a ski hill the organizers thought it’d be a great idea to have you run/walk up and down the slopes about eleventy-billion times. Say what you want about the obstacles, the hills and continually treacherous footing caused the most pain.

The obstacles were great, and varied enough to hit both your strengths and weaknesses alike. I could have done all of the obstacles on my own, but part of the fun was helping/supporting your teammates when they needed it. Obstacles ranged from climbing over walls (two 15ft walls in a row, and two 8ft walls which leaned toward you significantly giving you no footholds), crawling on your belly through mud with barbwire or wires that delivered electric shocks above you, tunnels underground, tubes which descend into and back out of muddy water, jumping into ice cold water where you have to swim under a board to the other side and climb out (through ice cubes) of, climbing up onto platforms and jumping into deep water or sliding down into a watery mud pit, and even running up a huge skateboarding/snowboarding quarter pipe and trying to reach the top (where your teammates and strangers waited to help haul you up.). I’m sure I’m missing some but you can find a good list of samples here: http://toughmudder.com/obstacles/ The final obstacle (right at the finish line) is called Electroshock Therapy; you walk through a sloppy mud pit where electrically charged wires are hanging down to waist level. Upon arriving our team decided to link arms and walk through all at once….which was an experience…I think I received 5 shocks but it was hard to say for sure…it was an awesome way to finish the day though.

As I said earlier, the weather didn’t exactly co-operate, the day remained cloudy until just before we finished and a cold wind blew pretty much all day. It seemed like every time you started to dry out the course would get you wet again (usually some form of submersion) so you were forced to keep moving to stay warm. Hypothermia was a big concern and one of our more fit teammates had to skip a few obstacles near the end because she could get warm again after being wet. To be honest I was shivering most of the day as well, especially after running through the snow section they made on one of the downhill sections (you slide down a rubber sheet into a huge bank of snow/slush).

I was able to do all the obstacles without issue which I was pretty proud of, but I did have issues with rocks getting lodged under the insoles in my shoes so I had to stop and dislodge those more than once. All in all it was a great day!

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Beginner’s Guide to Running Race Nutrition, Hydration and Carrying-it-all – Part 3

A little while ago we discussed hydration and nutrition; what to eat and when, and the pluses/minuses of each option.  So now that you’ve got your hydration/nutrition dialed-in how exactly do you carry all that crap for hours of pavement pounding?

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Part 3 – How do I Carry It All?

Hydration:

Hydration transportation can be categorized into 4 basic types:  Single large waist belt bottle, multiple small waist belt bottles, handheld bottle, aid station.

Waist belt bottles are certainly the most popular choice for long distance road runners.  They are easy to access and (for the most part) pretty comfortable.  The main difference is how/where the bottles are spread around your belt area:

Single Bottle – A single bottle is almost exclusively carried on the lower back where it’s still accessible yet completely out of the way.  Within this type of belt/bottle there are two subtypes:  A belt where the bottle sits straight up-and-down, or a belt where the bottle rides at a 30 degree angle.

 

Many people use these as the belts also offer pockets etc. for nutrition (we’ll get to this shortly) & gear and there is less clutter to deal with (compared to the multi-bottle belts).  My personal opinion is to give these a pass. After my first run with one of these I had a huge bruise on my spine/lower back from the lid of the bottle continually hitting me as I ran.  No matter how much I tightened the belt I couldn’t stop it from bouncing.  You can rotate the belt to one side to avoid this, however then you have to deal with an external asymmetry affecting your stride.

 

Multi-Bottles – The multi-bottle belts are another popular option, as they spread the weight of your hydration around your body thus keeping your center of gravity unaffected (…mostly).

Occasionally referred to as “the travelling buffet”, you simply have your load split up and spread around.  One advantage this provides is the ability to specialize your hydration options.  Want a bottle of sports drink and a bottle of water?  Go to it!  Most often these come in 2 & 4 bottle options, but with additional/replacement bottle options you could potentially have as many or as few as you’d like.  At first use (with a 4) I didn’t like how the bottles interfered with my arm swing, so I switched to a 2 bottle belt and haven’t looked back.

Whether you decide to go with a single or multiple bottles waist belt option, there is a one issue that both these options cause; extra pressure on your pelvis/lower back.  It took me a long tome to get used to hauling that sloshing weight around my midsection, my lower back was continually sore after long runs, and I can see how this might REALLY bother some people.


Handheld – Another option that is growing in popularity, especially with trail runners, is the handheld bottle.  This technique has grown out of simply carrying a squirt bottle in your hand to specialty bottles with filters and special carrying cases.  The most popular options I’ve seen lately are bottles like these:

Ergonomic bottle straps with an external pocket for your gels/keys/ninja stars.  Carrying a bottle can make your arms sore if you aren’t used to it, but I’ve always appreciated the freedom to switch hands/position whenever necessary.


Aid Stations – For races, I’ve started relying on aid stations for my hydration.   You have to schedule your nutrition intake a little more rigidly, but being free from the extra clutter is well worth it for me.

 

Nutrition:

And what about your nutrition choices?  How are you supposed to haul those around?  Unless you are dependent on a four slices of pizza, most of the bottle carrying options should be able to help you out.  Almost every belt/handheld bottle holder has some sort of zippered pocket(s) to hold your extra stuff.  It’s up to you to figure out how much space you are going to need; 1 gel? 2 packages of chews? 15 various packages of cookies/crackers/pretzels/ham sandwich?  Do your research, try things on, take your favourite in-race meal and try jamming it in there.

Another consideration is a Gel Flask.  Gel flasks look a lot like the bottles carried in the multi-bottle belts.  These are used as liquid calorie dispensers. Some people have trouble choking down sticky gels, so by added water to the mix they can get the calories down without risking the gag reflex/projectile vomiting.  A friend of mine makes his own gel and swears by these flasks, but I’ve never used one myself.

One option not a lot of people use, but I’ve had pretty good success with is pockets.  Yep, those things that come with your shorts (athletic shorts not running shorts).  The last few races I’ve done, I’ve thrown my Clif Bloks in my pocket and off I went.  No fuss, just easy.  It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.

There are other options like Nathan or Camelback hydration packs, but these aren’t seen very much at road races, sure you can bring one if you want, it’s just not common. More often these are used at trail races or ultra-marathons where more fluid and storage for nutrition is needed.  I used one on my Impromptu Adventure Run and I was certainly glad to have that much water with me (not to mention room for a light, granola bar and $3.52 in change (what?..it’s my emergency fund)

Anyway, I think that’s enough for now, if you have any more specific topics that you’d like to hear about, or specific questions just ask in the comments.

Later

Not Dead

Click to see the animation

Hey Kids, this is a quick note to let you all know that I’m not, in fact, deceased.  There hasn’t bee much to post throughout my injury rehab, but now that I’m nearly back in black there should be more opportunity to post….as soon as I out run this avalanche of work that has suddenly accumulated on my desk.

Have a good one kids, and remember: listen to your body and don’t do anything stupid!

Aqua Jogging? Water Running? Stationary Swimming?

Water running is: “flotation assisted running motions performed in a body of water”.  So how does Water Running (…errr….Aqua Jogging?…Wet Sprinting?…whatever) work?  Easy – strap a flotation belt to your waist, jump in the deep in and haul ass like you’re being chased by hungry beavers and you’re wearing wooden underwear.

Most pools should have flotation belts that you can use, however if they don’t the belts seem easy enough to find online.  The majority of times I’ve used this training technique the pool has been setup for adult laps (as lurid as that may sound it’s actually pretty benign), however you should be able to do this during an adult or family swim period as well.  If the pool is setup for laps, jump in the ultra slow lane and ensure you aren’t impeding anyone else’s swim (if you aren’t sure where to go, ask the lifeguards they will know where you should/could fit best).

“How fast? How long? How hard?” (raises eyebrow) excuse me?

Since grinding away a 45-60min water run is nearly as boring as doing a treadmill run, I suggest treating your session as a speed or fartlek workout.  Set timed intervals of “sprinting” with rest periods between e.g. – 60sec. hard, 60sec. recovery, 120sec. hard, 120sec. recovery, etc.  My typical workout has been a 10 minute warmup, then alternating 5min. of strides and 5min of higher cadence “peddling” motion for 30-40min total, and 10min cool down.  By alternating the strides and high cadence I reduce the risk of injuring myself further plus I work different muscle groups….plus it’s just more interesting than staring at a brick wall for an hour.

Without a surface to push off with your feet it can difficult to mimic a true running stride and since you’d probably like to make the best use of your time while you’re there it’s important to find a way to do this.  I found that my natural tendency was to pump my legs up and down in a stair-stepping motion which really doesn’t do much for your running fitness.  After some experimentation I found that using strides and cycling motions better worked the “running” muscles.  When using strides ensure you pull forward hard enough to feel it in your quads, then pull back with the hamstring and engage the glute muscles, FEEL THE BURN!  As for the higher cadence sets I focus mainly on “landing” my feet directly below my body, and moving my legs quickly.  This tends to be more of a cycling motion than the strides but as long as you are keeping the movement light and quick it gets the job done.

Hopefully a few weeks of rest will let my stress fracture heal and I can get back to hitting the trails, until then I’m there will be some water running in my future.

Have a good one kids, stay healthy!

Murphy’s Law & Stress Fractures

I have a secret…I’ve been denying yet hinting at this for a bit, hoping things would turn around but they haven’t and now I’m left with a realization: my right foot is screwed. I’m pretty sure I’ve managed to develop a stress fracture, in the top of my right foot.  It’s sore to the touch, and behaves pretty much like the one I had last year, unfortunately there’s no way to tell for sure without an X-ray.  Even if it’s not fractured the treatment is pretty much the same: Rest, Ice, Time off, Wait. To say I’m pissed off would be an understatement, but I’m trying to keep my outlook forward facing and productive instead of sad and pitiful.

So where do I go from here? As I’ve said previously, the marathon is in 2 weeks so I can start tapering now with little effect, but it’s still more aggressive than what I hoped to be doing this time of year. Tapering doesn’t simply mean “no running”, it should be a gradual decrease in effort and mileage leaving you primed for race day, so what’s a crippled runner to do? Answer: Cross train like it’s your job!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been pacing/training my neighbours in for a half marathon in the fall, and last night I had to send them on their merry way without me. I was planning on riding my bike alongside them but they left too late so I ditched them and headed to the local pool for some water running. “What’s water running?” one might ask; it’s running with a floatation belt in the deep end of the pool.  It’s ridiculously monotonous and you occasionally want to gouge your eyes out with a fork just for entertainment but in terms of maintaining a training base it works like a charm. By taking all the impact out of running, and the added resistance of the water you can still work your legs/core while rehabbing an injury. So the pool will be my home for the next two weeks.

I’m 95% sure that my foot won’t be fully healed by race day, but here’s hoping that something good comes my way… hey, if I crash and burn at the very least there will be an interesting blog post to read 😉

Stay healthy kids

Exercising Around the World

Check out Steve Kamb’s (of NerdFitness) fun new video showing him exercising across the globe.

Enjoy!

My Achin’ Back!

What would a training cycle be without a non-running-connected injury to report?  At least the shin splints that bugged me a little while ago were running related…

Back Story (HA!)

In the fall I started lifting weights 1-2 times a week to jump on this cross-training bandwagon I had heard so much about (I felt so trendy!).  Generally I’d hit some weights on a night where I was leashed to the house for one reason or another, then fit in some bodyweight exercises (pushups, chin/pullups, planks, etc.) in front of the tube or between some of my daily tasks (putting kids in baths & bed, doing dishes, cleanup duty, yada yada yada).  Everything was progressing well, I was taking it slow and focusing on form over performance until I was sure I had each exercise dialed…that was until 3 weeks ago.  During my last weight session I was in a bit of a hurry trying to squeeze everything in and get to bed early, so instead of completing a proper warmup I dove right into things where I had left off from my previous workout. Being the rational, intelligent, talented fellow everyone knows and loves I figured I’d be fine…I’m sure you can see where this is going…during a set of deadlifts the bar weight pulled my center of gravity over the front of my feet (instead of the heels), my back rounded and I felt a sudden twang in my lower lumbar region.  Workout aborted, I was on the couch with an ice pack tramp-stamp within 2 minutes.

Fast-forward to last week, my back had been fine (a little tight) since the incident but I was able to run without issue, and even return to bodyweight exercising…that was until I played hockey one night.  At one point I lunged for a puck that was just out of my reach when that familiar sharp pain rushed in and kicked me in the spine.   Wonderful…

In the past I’ve had issues with a tilted pelvis….wait…what?  Yep, when I started running my body reacted in all manner of wonderful wacky ways.  My lower back/glutes would get tight and my pelvis would tilt; left side higher, right side lower, which in turn caused my IT band to shorten and probably explains the hobbling mess I reverted into by the end of the Ottawa Marathon in 2010.    Since that time, I’ve tried to strengthen things by Cross Training off and on, and things were coming along.  Until now.

As far as I can tell, now my pelvis has a posterior tilt/rotation caused by weakened/injured lower back muscles and tight hamstrings (from all the cross training goodness), which feels like someone is sticking razors into my lower back when I sit for too long.  Luckily I have a desk job, and sitting all day is the majority of my day…(sigh).

For the time being I’ve simply been trying to loosen things up with a combination of stretching, romantic sessions in the hot tub, and then making sweet love to my foam roller.

 

It usually works for a bit , but every day has been a different experience in terms of pain/immobility.  At least tonight I get to visit my Athletic Therapist/Osteopath buddy for a treatment.  Maybe he can put Humpty Dumpty back together again?

How about you?  Ever had an “other sport” injury hamper your progress?

Take it easy kids…

Catch Up?

Every once and a while I stumble in life, and especially in this blogging thing. Occasionally, I’ll be surfing along and suddenly realize that I have posted anything on here in days, of course it’s usually right in the middle of some major work crisis and I’m unable to remedy the situation. That happened last week, shit hit the fan with one of our major projects and I was in full-on damage control mode…which didn’t really help because during my efforts I found even more issues (ever feel like you are just continually spinning your wheels?), since then my motivation has been almost non-existent. Monday I skipped my workout, and last night at school (night class) I can’t say I was exactly engaged. Things are getting back on track but it’s still going to take some time.

I’ve been getting all/most of my running workouts in but not much more. The regular/easy runs have been really good, but the long runs have been suffering a bit with weather and timing issues. This past weekend winter finally decided to show up which put a damper on the higher intensity portion scheduled in my long run (10km easy, 4km half-marathon pace, 2km cooldown). I simply couldn’t get my feet moving that fast without the risk of serious injury, not to mention I had to cut the run short due to a few commitments, which forced me to split the run into a 10km during the day and another 7 that night; sure, I got the distance in, but I’m pretty sure the point of a long run is to have a long continuous effort. I really shouldn’t complain about the weather we’ve had this year, it’s been superb from a running standpoint, but the snow/ice seem to culminate on the weekends which is long-run time. Guess I’ll just have to keep plugging away and hope for a reprieve.

In blog news, there are a few posts in the cue that I have to finish up, but they should be up soon. For now, here are a couple fun pics to tide you over:

Three Things Thurs…errr…Friday

So, Three Things Thursday didn’t really fly this week…actually it wasn’t supposed to fly at all, but by the time I had time to write something this week, I had too many subjects to discuss and it was Friday.  So be it.  I’ll push few things off and post up the easily digestible tidbits that are on my mind right now?  Sound good?  Too bad…

1.)    There’s something I’m been ignoring the past couple of days that I need to deal with.  Something that’s been whispering at me to “pay attention!”…that “something”? (sigh) slight, nagging shin pain.

Unfortunately, I’m no stranger to shin splints, I’ve had them a few times, usually when I switch between shoes a lot but with my long weekend runs being on snowy days I’ve been opting to do them on snowy trails instead. The runs have been a blast, great scenery etc. but switching back and forth with my road shoes has probably been a bit hard on the old shins. Additionally, I’ve been looking for new shoes as my current ones (Brooks Racer ST4s) are quickly becoming hazardous to my health…foot health.  As much as I’ve enjoyed them, I think it’s time to move on.  I should have done it earlier, but it’s hard finding time to fit everything, so now I’m finally MAKING time.

2.)    On that note: I went out and grabbed a pair of Saucony Kinvara 2s at lunch today.  The last time I tried on Kinvaras I found the outside of my big toes rubbed the side of the shoe and figured that my foot simply wasn’t built to ride in one of the most popular shoes on the market, no biggie.  So what changed? I went up half a size and they suddenly fit pretty well so I bit the bullet and grabbed a pair.  I had a $10 off coupon, and as a bonus the store had stocked the shoes in the wrong spot so I got them at the Kinvara 1 clearance price (they were aware of the mistake and gave me the K1 price before I even noticed the discrepancy).  Sweet, 30% off!  I usually prefer to support small independent running stores, but this is one benefit of visiting a large multi-sport franchise store.  I have a longer post on buying shoes coming up (next week?) and a I hope to have my initial review of K2’s included…maybe 😉

3.)     Saturday marks the running of The Boring Runner’s Freeze Your Thorns Off Virtual 5km and although my shins are being problematic I’ll be giving the race a go.   Do I race it, or take it easy….that all depends on how I feel in my warm up.  I’m supposed to be putting in 26-28km this weekend and I’d hate to blow it all away with a failed 5km run.  Regardless, it’s all in good fun, so check it out if you feel like mixing things up this weekend.

With that, I’m out kids, have a great weekend!

Three Things Thursday

Hi everybody!  I stole this idea from Morgan over at Caution Redhead Running, and also Marlene @ Mission to A(nother) Marathon, and  I’m not sure if they usually follow a theme for the 3 Things, or if it’s just a quick an easy way to update all you wonderfully loyal readers with 3 random pieces of info, but I’m going to choose the latter.  Here Goes:

1.) Cardiac Stress Test Results – My Dr.’s office called (of course it would be the receptionist who called and not the Dr. who I had extra questions for) with the results of my test.  I’ve been told everything is perfectly normal and I can go on training as per usual (AWESOME).  Unfortunately, that means that we still don’t know why I’m having chest pains.  When I called the Dr. back to clarify “where we go from here” the receptionist could only tell me that my test was normal and if I wanted to book an appointment to discuss the results with the Dr. I was welcome to (NOT AWESOME).  After some additional questions she couldn’t answer, she said my test results were fine, but I should come back if the “symptoms persisted” (NOT AWESOME).  So essentially “keep an eye on it” is the course of action at this point.

2.)  Weights – I posted a tonne about the 6 Week Challenge I did in Nov.-Dec. so I won’t go into great detail about my workouts lately, but I will say this:  I HURT!  Not in a bad way, just enough to make me waddle a bit when I walk, but the benefits are pretty clear. I noticed a significant decrease in my fatigue, lower back pain, and a overall increase in my speed/endurance at hockey specifically.  I really hope this translates to late race core stability because in the past I’m sure I’ve come across that finish line looking like the number 7.  Head up – Shoulders back!

3.)  Training Plan – I think I’ve finally got my run plan dialled-in for this training session.  Over the past 2 weeks I’m been trying to become accustomed to the higher work load than previous plans, as well as figure out what works, and what doesn’t.   e.g. – 10km before playing hockey: DOESN’T WORK, 6km beforehand seems tolerable.  10km on my wife’s night out: DOESN’T WORK, etc. etc.  I’ve moved some workouts, switched others and downgraded others, but over all things finally seem to be chugging along.  So Far – So Good

That’s it for me, peace out kids, have a good one!