Category Archives: Marathon

Road2Hope Marathon

It seems that every year, by the time I finish the Road2Hope (first Sunday of Nov.), I am so burnt out that I simply can’t be arsed to write up a race report. Even last year when I had a major PB and only ran the half, I simply vegged and my motivation to do a write-up was nowhere to be seen. As such, I still feel obligated to post this (horribly late) for posterity sake.

Road2Hope Marathon – 42.36 km – 03:50 – 5:26/km pace

What a mixed bag this race was.

On the bus ride to the starting area, a chatty dude from Windsor sat down next to me and happily talked away the entire trip. It wasn’t a bad thing, he was quite nice, but one of the last things he said before we left the bus was how much he hated wind while running…I should have seen the foreshadowing but hindsight is 20/20 so…

headwindsThe first 20km flew by and I stuck pretty closely to the 3:45 pacer until he stopped to use the washroom. Right around that time we hit the significant downhill and I was determined to use it to my advantage, but Murphy did his best to throw a wrench into the works. As we turned onto the Red Hill Parkway, the cold wind coming off Lake Ontario became a massive headwind which negated some of the advantage. I probably pushed too hard on this section trying to bank some time, and when the 3:45 pacer passed me at 33km I was kicking myself for not racing smarter.

I ran a pretty decent race; hitting most of the tangents, fueling well etc., but ultimately I didn’t have enough fitness to hold my position. My right leg (glute, groin, hamstring quad) had been barking since the 15km mark and by the time I reached the mid 30’s I was in some serious pain. My lower back joined in the pain parade as well, but the major contributor was my feet; they were simply aching, and I’m not sure why. My feet hurt so much that I seriously considered taking off my shoes and running barefoot at one point, but quickly realized that was desperation talking. Finally, I knew things were a train wreck when a lady in a puffy winter coat passed me at the 37km mark and I couldn’t catch her…the shame.


maybe not quite that puffy…

This race was still a PB by a couple minutes, but I wasn’t really happy with how I ran it. My mental game was ok, and I thought my fueling was decent, though I felt hungry at the 12km mark, and had finished all my gels etc. by the early 30’s. I thought I had carb loaded effectively the days before the race but something was definitely off.

It’s all in the books now (especially with this significantly delayed race report), time to move onto new challenges.

The Honorable Clan of the Long-Distance Runner

There’s been a lot of buzz around the New York Times article called: The Honorable Clan of the Long-Distance Runner

Amby Burfoot and George A. Hirsch’s article discusses the feelings and philosophy behind those of us who call ourselves runners, and the revulsion that accompanies events of cheating (or misrepresentation) in our beloved sport.

We have rarely encountered tales like Litton’s and Ryan’s. For true distance runners, to lie about time or distance is to lie to ourselves, to diminish the importance of the many sacrifices we make to reach the starting line. Focus and discipline form the core of a runner’s being; they are what make us put on a reflective vest and run six miles into the sleet at 6 on a dark winter morning.

If you have a few minutes, give the article a read and let me know what you think in the comments below.


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?


Part 3 – How do I Carry It All?


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.



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?’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.


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


The Ultimate Runners Guide

I’m back from vacation, but swamped at work trying to catch up from the week “off”. There will be a post about my trip soon, but until then here’s something to tide you over:

The Ultimate Runners Guide

Impromptu Marathon – Decision Made!

Before we begin, a quick bit of business:  I’d like to extend thanks to all those who responded to my Impromptu Marathon – What Should I Do, What Should I Do? post, whether it was on here, on dailymile or other forum/social online communities that I belong to.

As promised, I took everyone’s comments and weighed them carefully…so what’s the final verdict?

You know, I thought about dragging this out…spinning a witty yarn discussing my race history, expectations, the weather, and even the ethical ramifications of purchasing a race bib post sell-out….but I won’t do that…why would I?  What kind of person does that?…What’s that?…oh…right…

Without further adieu: I am going to run the 2012 Ottawa Marathon!

After reading all the responses it was pretty clear that the majority of your thought I should get off my ass and go for it, so just for you guys I bit the bullet and grabbed the entry.  It’s going to be a hefty challenge, but life is an adventure and I’m sure I’d be kicking myself more if I didn’t take the opportunity.

So where do we go from here?  The race is officially 28 ½ days away, and things are looking…ok. I cranked my mileage back up this week, but had my speedwork session rained out which may have been a blessing in disguise 😉  As for this weekend, I’ve had Saturday’s 5Peaks Rattlesnake Point trail race on the calendar for a while now and I’m really looking forward to it.  A technical trail race that had a great vibe when I ran it last year, although I don’t’ think the weather could much more different; hot & humid last year – temps near freezing and wet trails this year?  Sunday is the day that scares me…I need to put in a long run of some degree but I have no idea how long to go; Too long and I could injure myself, too short and it’ll hurt more on race day.  Right now I think I’ll be aiming for 30km, if I’m still upright after 3hrs I’ll give my situation/location/condition a look and decide at that point.  The other concern is trying to long run after a hefty trail race on Saturday…this could get ugly.

Aside from all the training business etc., I still have one small detail that needs to be sorted out before race day.  In fact, I need to decide this one pretty soon so I’m going back to the well, back to the trusted source that got me here in the first place; you guys.

In your opinion, Which shoes should I break in for the race?  Red & Black or White & Blue?

Have a great weekend kids, enjoy it!

Impromptu Marathon – What to Do, What to Do?

An interesting situaiton has arisen in 51feetunder-land (it’s awesome here, have you seen our brouchure?), and I thought it might make for fun conversation.

A friend of a relative has offered me his entry to the Ottawa Marathon, and I’m not sure what I should do?

A bit of background: I’ve run a few marathons and Ottawa was 2 of them. I wasn’t going to do a spring marathon this year but instead put my time and energy to other running races instead, specifically the Around the Bay 30km which I ran a 4 weeks ago. Also I was wanted to focus on a course I was taking and get back in to rock climbing; The course is now done, and I’ve injured my hand so I’m realistically out of climbing for the next 4 weeks anyway.

Normally I wouldn’t dream of attempting a marathon without the proper training (I have come to respect the distance through many painful lessons), but I’m not so sure that I’m all that ill-prepared? For instance:
– I’ve been training since January for the 30km race at the end of March
– I maintained a solid and consistant number of miles for the entire training period
– I included some strength work, cross training, speedwork (which I haven’t used before), and even upped my mileage overall
– I have a 30km long run (which I actually raced) in the bag already, and 2 weeks to put in 2 more

…so, why not?…

– since the race in March, my mileage has been WAY down
– the miles I’ve put in have mostly been trail miles, trails are more work for the body which is good but I fully endorse the “train to race the race you want to run” mindset
– I only have 4 weeks to get myself set; 2 weeks of solid training including two 20+mile runs, 1 week of reduced mileage with a halfmarathon long run and 1 week of full rest/taper
– 3-4hr long runs are time consuming, especially when you have family responsibilities

– It’s a beautiful course in a gorgeous city
– shirt, medal, race cred, 4th marathon run
– no specific race expectations to add stress to the event/result

– It’s a long drive and a weekend away from the family (this may actually be a pro j/k)
– expensive, it can be pricey
– lonely, I’m a social body and not having the family or a buddy there detracts from my enjoyment of the event. I don’t need people to be happy, but it sure helps

So…in your esteemed opinions dear readers “what’s a fellow to do?”

Side Note: I know there will be a tonne of “do what feels right” or “what do you WANT to do?” answers, so let me preface them with this: I will be posting this question on a few other places/forums etc. and aggregating the results to see what the general vibe is. Tell me what you think based on the background I’ve given, let’s have some fun with it…nothing is set in stone, the offer may fall through and the situation never actually happen anyway…espcially if my wife puts her foot down

C+, Just Like High School

In general, I don’t try and do a mile by mile breakdown of races but instead talk about instances or moments I noticed during my death march.  I know I veered away from this with the Around the Bay Recap, but you should know here-and-now….I’m a hypocrite and you shouldn’t do anything I do or say or even think about doing…or saying…just sayin’…As much as I try to be altruistic and hold true to all the edicts/assumptions/declarations I’ve made (I really do have the best intentions in mind) I’ve discovered that Irony has a habit of completely buggering up my plans, pushing me face first in the mud and laughing at my misfortunes.  Am I complaining?  Hell no, this in my life and I’ve simply come to terms with it.  Overall I’ve been ridiculously lucky so a few kicks to the junk here and again REALLY aren’t anything to get upset about…although I do love my junk…

I’ve gone back and forth on whether this race was a success or not when describing it to people, it’s right on the emotional fence between the two.  The nitty gritty of it is that I finished in 3:55:58 (chip time), which puts me solidly between “Goal B” and “Goal C”, or if you want to be technical I landed in “Goal C” territory while being close-ish to the B-border….sound like an ego-saving cop-out?  That’s exactly what it is.

Overall, the Ottawa course is gorgeous.  TONNES of natural (or naturalized) sections, the downtown sections of both Ottawa and Gatineau, prominent or historical landmarks, and simply lots and LOTS of public support (the city really buys into and celebrates this race weekend).  At the same time, this course is deceptively hard; when you look at the elevation profile it really doesn’t have any major obstacles, but therein lays the rouse.   The Ottawa course is constantly undulating, you don’t realize it right away, but after 30km let me tell you…you notice it.  By 32-34km-ish the majority of the hills are out of the way, but by that time your race fate is sealed.  If you’ve raced smart you are cruising, although there are lots of us that simply got caught up in the course and had to fight our way through to the finish line.

Weather could be considered to be a factor, but having taken pride in running in near blizzard conditions it’d hardly make me a bad-ass to be complaining about a little bit of rain and humidity.  In reality, it rained over night, drizzled during warm up, held off for the first 26km-ish, then rained in earnest for the remainder of the race (if it’s any consolation, by the time my eggs arrived at brunch it was sunny outside…). For my race, the rain really didn’t have an effect but I’m sure to some (all the people being treated for hypothermia in the medical tent) it was a huge PITA.

Moreover my thoughts for the weekend lay with two groups of people.  1.)  I rode to Ottawa with my speedwork partner and her family.  We visited with their friends, and I waited for my accommodations to be ready.  These people MADE my weekend.  They often commented that as a fellow parent I should be out doing something significant with my time away from the family, but reality, they provided a calm environment where I could put all my race anxieties aside and just chill out.  These folks showed me such gracious hospitality that I really didn’t know how to respond.  2.) On the other side is a friend I was supposed to have dinner/hang out/crash with Saturday night.  As I was dropped off at her apartment, I called her to let her know I was there, and received no answer.  A little while later my phone rang, and it was her, telling me that she was 7-8hrs away at her childhood home.  Initially I was PISSED, assuming that she had simply forgotten that I was coming into town…until she explained that her Dad had gone into the hospital with some complications for a condition he’d been battling for a while**.  As I was trying to digest all this information and she told me that despite her rush to leave town, she had arranged for a friend to meet me with the key to her apartment.  To be honest, it was awkward staying at someone’s house when they were out of town, but I did my best to be an over-the-top guest, you’d hardly know I’d even been there.  I tend be a tad cynical about the general public, but everyone I met, or depended on this weekend went out of their way to help me out.  Kudos to you all, you were all fantastic.

Have a good one kids; remember to pay it forward when you get the chance.


**I found out later that my friend’s dad passed away shortly after the race.

Race Playlist!!

Just call me DJ 51FU because below I’ve laid out my race playlist for Sunday. I know there are those purists out there that spit blood and vitriol at the mere suggestion of listening to music during a race.  I get it…really…I do, but I have a sneaking suspicion that portable MP3 players are here to stay for the foreseeable future so deal with it.  One of the big attractions for me when I started doing this running thing, was the ability to listen to all the great music my friends and I were exchanging at the time while still getting some exercise;  it’s a habit that’s stuck.  Sure, I’ve done lots of naked runs (no, not in a fun way) but ultimately I miss my tunes…besides, it keeps the voices quiet, and that’s a VERY good thing.

When making my first few race playlists I stacked them with full-throttle metal, guns-blazing punk, and pounding rock, but as with anything experience helps refine one’s skill. I found that after a while all that amped up music just seemed to blend together, it became muddy and convoluted and it took a summer of my MP3 player bouncing from Jefferson Airplane to Metallica to show me that perhaps variety WAS the spice of life? The list below runs the gamut from acoustic guitar folk to heavy guitar songs, and in my last marathon really helped keep me moving forward…physically and emotionally.

In the first section are single songs in no specific order, although I’m pretty sure my player will spew them out alphabetically. The second part of the list are full albums I’m using as contingency songs, something to fall back on should I need to change things up. If I have time tonight I’ll post up some additional details about some of the music. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section.

Any Sense of Time – The Inbreds
The Ghost of a Thousand – Bright Lights
The Ganjas – Sonic Redemption
Follow That Bird! – The Ghosts That Wake You
The Ferocious Few – Kathleen
The Blind Shake – Wise Mr. Owl
Black Eyed Dog – Honeysuckle Gal
Bad Sports – And It Goes
Timber Timbre – Demon Host
Darlings of Chelsea – I Want Your Love
Diagonals – Neil Diamond Blues
Joe Pug – Hymn 101
Harlem – Witchgreens
Lady Dottie and The Diamonds – I Ain’t Mad at Ya
The Law – Don’t Stop Believe
Mount Carmel – Still Listening
T Bird and the Breaks – JuJu Baby
Thee Vicars – Feel so good
Throttlerod – Buffalo
The Wailin’ Yeahs – I Caught Her
Yokozuna MX – slam y minifaldas
The Yardbirds – Happenings Ten Years Time Ago
The Rolling Stones – We Love You
The Black Keys –  Sinister Kid
The Black Keys – Black Mud
The Stooges – Dead Rock Star
Crystal Stilts – Departure
Sloan – Emergency 911

Priestess – Prior to the Fire
Rusty – Fluke
Motorhead – Killed by Death (song) & the full Motorizer album….I couldn’t leave out ALL the metal now could I?

Like it? Let me know.