Category Archives: Health

Beginner’s Guide to Running Race Nutrition, Hydration and Carrying-it-all – Part 2

Recently we started a 3 part series on nutrition, hydration and carrying it all for beginner runners. Hopefully I can share some of my ill-begotten “knowledge” with the community and help someone out…and avoid embarrassing myself at the same time. Here goes:


Part 2 – Hydration
Hydration and nutrition are tightly linked and and, as with nutrition, you will need to find out if your body can process sports drink (sugars) while under duress or if you’ll have to stick to water only.

For my first 2 marathons I suffered from “Racer Belly”, not during the race mind you but certainly afterward. For a long time I attributed it to processing sports drink while racing but eventually discovered that my body was reacting to the adrenalin in my system (think extreme butterflies in your stomach). Since then, not only can I drink Gatorade/Poweraid, but the additional calories actually helps/prevents me from bonking.

Another thing to consider is that digestion requires water.  Your stomach can pull water from your body when it needs to process any nutrition you are ingesting, this can lead to cramping and a truly painful race. I alternate my intake of sports drink and water and time my nutrition ingestion to coincide with water stations; take a cup, move off to the side, eat/drink, and then get back to work.

If your body can’t handle sports drinks and you have to stick to water, you need to be mindful of your electrolyte levels. By drinking too much water exclusively you risk developing Hyponatremia which is essentially “watered down” blood sodium levels. Electrolytes (including sodium) aid the body in transferring water/waste across cell membranes; if you levels are out of whack you can get yourself in trouble. One thing to look into is whether you are a potassium or sodium sweater, this way you can look into specific drinks/gels that cater to replacing those elements in higher ratios. That being said there are discussions out now showing that the body should possess enough sodium that supplemental sodium intake shouldn’t be needed, the caveat being that you drink to thirst and not simply because “you should”.

Next you need to think about how to get that hydration into you. Marathons are usually well stocked and have hydration stations every 5km (3mi) or so. If you can use the race’s liquid, then you don’t have to carry it.  The risk with this being; if you want fluid while between stations, you’ll have to simply wait.  Also, since drinking while running is a messy endeavour, I choose to use the stations as an impromptu walking break, even if it’s only for a few steps get to drink into you then get moving again.  Your body will appreciate the minute break and you will appreciate not having sticky hands for the next 3 hours.


In conclusion, hydration (or lack of) has ruined many runner’s race, don’t let it happen to you.  Experiment with all the options BEFORE race day, and you’ll give yourself the best shot at success.

Come back soon for Part 3 – How do I carry all this crap?

Beginner’s Guide to Running Race Nutrition, Hydration and Carrying-it-all – Part 1

Today I’m starting a 3 part series on nutrition, hydration and carrying it all for beginner runners.  Hopefully I can share some of my ill-begotten “knowledge” with the community and help someone out…and avoid embarrassing myself at the same time.  Here goes:


Part 1 – Nutrition
Nutrition is so completely individual that it’s almost comical to hear people talk about (so why not write about it?).  There do seem to be a few trends though that can help you hedge your bets: a.) how does your system handle refined sugars?  If you don’t have a problem than you have more options (i.e. – gels, gummies/chews, sports drinks), if you do have issues then you need to get creative, b.) do you require something solid for your stomach to munch on while you run?  If so then you need to look into things like granola bars, Honey Stinger Waffles, sports beans.  Each item has it’s own benefits/drawbacks (i.e. – sugar(s) content, size, format etc.), experimentation is your friend.  Also, volume of calories is completely personal.  I know some marathoners that take 1 gel with them, meanwhile if I don’t take a handful of nutrition options I’m ready to eat my left arm by km 32.  One thing that’s really helped me recently is eating often and eating early, that way if my stomach decides to revolt on me I already have calories in my body being processed instead of being depleted and hungry.

except the coffee…maybe

Sample Options:

– gels

– sports beans

– waffles/bars

– pretzels/chips

– PB&J sandwiches (seriously…)

– bananas/apples/fruit slices

– whatever works for you

Once you figure out what your stomach can handle during a long run, you should look into what sugars are used as ingredients. The stomach processes Fructose and Glucose using two different/independent processes. If you dump a bunch of glucose-based food into your stomach, the glucose is processed at a set rate no matter how much excess glucose is present in your stomach. Doing this you can end up with a stomach full of food that is simply waiting to be processed into fuel, all the while sloshing around inside your gut. So how can we maximize this dual processing mechanism? By ingesting foods that either contain a fructose/glucose mix or manually combining your race nutrition so you end up with a mix in your stomach you engage both processes simultaneously. Your stomach is pulling “double-duty” processing both sugars at the same time. Twice the work at the same time…double uptake for the win!

Overall, there will have to be a certain amount of experimentation in your approach.  Even if you know you have pre-existing limitations (health, taste aversions, illness, etc.) you will soon realize that almost anything CAN be fuel, it’s more a matter of IF it should be used as fuel.

Finally, when you find something that works for you, heed these 3 words: STICK WITH IT!

Come back soon for Part 2 – Hydration


Where for art thou?

You’ve probably noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve posted some real content, so what’s been keeping me so busy that I haven’t been able to post?  Here’s the quick and dirty:

 1.)      In early August I pulled my left hamstring and missed half a month of training.  No training = no running to talk about, so I deferred to posting pretty pictures and videos to cover the gaps.

2.)     The last two weeks of August were ridiculously busy in family-land.   My wife took the kids on a few 3 day trips, as well as taking a few trips of her own with some girlfriends, meaning that I was either on my own or doing single-parent duty.  Both of these produced great stories, but also a multitude of fatigue, which translated into a lack of communication on my part.

3.)      I also took some extra time over the Labour Day weekend and spent some quality family-time swimming, climbing, midnight canoeing,and trail running.  One of my runs lead to an awesome, impromptu, adventure run which I’ll be describing in agonizing detail shortly (in glorious HD!)

 I guess what I’m trying to say is that for most of August I was either injured or living life to the fullest.  Dichotomy much?  This is my life, I guess I should be used to it by now.

Anyway, I’m back to running and I’ve been trying to get my neighbours onto a serious half-marathon training plan with mixed results (much like last year).  We’ll have to see how things turn out, but at this point it’s looking dubious.

 Hope things are good your end, Cheers!

Ugggg, how did I use to do this?

When I started running, there was a period of 3 months where I did mainly stair climbing at an outdoor set of steel steps (300+ of them).  I’d trot to the stairs, and trot home, occasionally adding a few extra kms here or there generally building my strength base before tackling any major mileage.  At one point (to break the monotony of the continual up & down) I started having a beer (or three) before I left the house, then hit the stairs grinning like the Cheshire Cat at my private joke. Eventually I started running seriously and practice fell by the way-side…mostly.

Last night we had a few friends over for dinner, and to be honest I had no idea how long the evening would last. I had 6 easy kms on the schedule but whether or not I’d actually get to run them was still up in the air.  Fortunately everyone had things they needed to do and everyone left in a timely manner, UNfortunately though, after a few drink over dinner I decided it’d be a REALLY good idea to finish all the “left over” beer before I went for my run…after all,  it was just an “easy 6km” …(I’ll take “drunk logic” for 200 please Alex).

The run itself went fine, albeit slow, but this morning was a different story.  I don’t know how I used to do this on a regular basis and enjoy it, but I can tell you that surprisingly (or maybe not); it sucks now.  Live and learn, live and learn…

Now I’m off to run some lunchtime trails and hopefully sweat the poisons out of my body, and clear my aching head. Why do I constantly have to be the example of what NOT to do?

Use your brain kids 😉

So how have you been?  As I’ve alluded to over the past couple of posts, July has been a bit of a gong show, nothing major has happened but AGAIN I find myself trying to find some motivation and direction.  My vacation was good, I managed to keep active throughout the week with trail runs, bike rides, kayaking, swimming and lots of walking, but by the end of the week I was simply exhausted.  The week after that was filled with catch-up tasks from our week away and in conjunction with the summer (hell-on-earth) temps, my training took a significant hit.  Once it cooled a bit I was able to get back out on the trails which felt awesome.

Shortly after I tried to do some speed work one day at lunch, and by mid afternoon the nagging pain in my left hamstring told me that I had pulled it.  As an aside, I’m really starting to notice my need for a significant warm-up before workouts lately.  I used to be able to simply crank out my run as soon as I was out the door, but now it takes me a full kilometer to get into the groove.  Jumping right into 100m sprints simply to save time leads to injury kids, write that down, that is gold.  You’d think that after hurting my back deadlifting without a warmup I’d have gotten the message…apparently not.  Dumbass

Long story short, since then I’ve fallen off the wagon.  Once injured I packed up the tent and went home, and looking back it’s kind of embarrassing how easily I gave up but it’s in the past and all we can do is learn from it or ignore it.  On that note, I’ve started back running again and hoping to remember what I’ve been taught by experience.

Have a great weekend kids

Injury – Timeline Dissection

Howdy all, miss me?  Care to join me in a trip in the Way-Back machine?  I think I’ve finally pieced together what happened this spring, and how exactly I hurt my feet.  If so, strap yourselves in kiddies, it’s an ugly trip 😉

In January of this year I had to buy new shoes, and after trying a few different brands/styles I settled on the in the Saucony’s Kinvara 2’s.  Through the winter and spring of 2012 I put 390km on those shoes and they served me well.  I ran a 30km race to a major PR and was happily ramping back up to give the Ottawa Marathon another try in late May.  This is where the things went suddenly pear-shaped.

In early May (with the marathon approaching) I decided it was probably time to start breaking in the new shoes for race day.  My older Kinvara 2’s were starting to hurt my knees and the new ones looked so primed and ready to rip it up, although after a handful of runs in the new shoes my right foot started to hurt…BADLY.  What I thought was a stress turned out to be a mixed bag of Cuboid Syndrome and calcification on the cuboid joint from older (and repeated) sprained ankles.  What really raised my eyebrow though was the piecing pain in the forefoot of my LEFT foot at exactly the same time.  Convenient, yes?  Many a vulgarity were uttered, specialist seen and corrective measures were taken.  Also, just to make things more fun, within days of all of this I managed to miss a stair and bashed my right forefoot into the stair footplate bruising it horrifically as well!  Welcome back Murphy’s Law, it’d been a while since we’ve talked, I thought you had forgotten all about me….damn.

So what caused all of this?  In March we took a trip to Myrtle Beach, and seeing how shoes are on average 30-35% cheaper in the US than Canada I took the opportunity to stock up with another 2 pairs of Kinvara 2’s.  Unfortunately, as far as I can tell the forefoot rocker on the new Kinvara 2s caused the head of the 3rd & 4th metatarsal to push together and pinch the nerve that runs between them.  After waiting for my feet to return to normal, I decided to do a little investigation and see just how much of the issue was the shoes and how much was my feet simply not-cooperating.   I slipped on the shoes again, and within 4 steps I could tell that the shoes weren’t going to work.  The crunch-pop in my left foot immediately returned and knew that any further use would only set me back another few weeks.  Why?  How?  Hadn’t I been running in the same shoes for the past 3 months?  Short answer: I have no idea.  The shoes SHOULD have been fine, but somewhere between the Around the Bay in March and my new Kinvara 2s in May my foot physiology changed and rendered these new shoes unusable.

New Balance 730

Eventually I started running again, but exclusively in my trail shoes (New Balance MT101).  No pain, no issues, just flow, it was awesome…but I still needed road shoes, ones that fit this time.  Knowing that New Balance shoes worked with my feet, I did some research and finally decided on the New Balance 730s.  Low to the ground, light (7.3 oz), 3mm heel-toe drop, and a generous forefoot, these were the shoes for me.  So far I’ve put a handful of runs in them and it’s been green lights all-around.  As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not much one for in depth reviews of shoes, but I’ll see what I can do for you…

Anyway, it’s all water under the bridge at this point, I’m back running and hopefully these new kicks will do the trick….Now if I could just nail down a few goals for the summer I’d be alllllll set.

Have a great weekend kids, get out and enjoy the sunshine!

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.