Category Archives: training

My Winter Run Training in Pictures

It’s no secret that this winter has been a challenging one for those of us ramping up for the spring racing season; for me, it’s training for Hamilton’s Around The Bay 30km. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy winter and winter sports, the family and I have been out snowboarding and skating, playing hockey and tobogganing multiple times this year; it’s simply a matter of heading out prepared for what’s going on outside your windows.  However, after a while, the bitter cold wears you down and you’d simply like a day with temperatures up around freezing mark just for a break.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I took some pics on my run which show some of what we’ve been dealing with; Blizzard for the first half of the run, sunshine and cold in the middle, blizzard on the home stretch. (Murphy’s Law and all that)

(Sorry for all the bird pics)

Just for quick reference, in those few photos, the Skyway bridge is supposed to be visible from there (here’s a closer view), I doubt you could even see where this picture was taken from.



Wake Up!

I got a new phone recently…well…not a NEW new phone, a new hand-me-down phone. In the fall I drank the Kool-Aid, went out and bought my wife one of those fancy “i” devices that all the cool kids have. Consequently, her old phone was now up for grabs, and seeing as mine was dying a slow painful death the “upgrade” seemed like the right thing to do. Since that time, I’ve been clumsily figuring out the ins & outs of my not-new-new phone which has been both interesting and frustrating at the same time. This morning, one of the frustrations kicked me in the ass.

I’m typically not a morning runner, preferring instead to get my workouts in after dinner/kid’s bed times etc., however occasionally I’ll be busy at night doing “other things” so it’s either “run early” or “miss it”. Today was one of those days.

Being a diligent…ok, ok… attempting to be more diligent with my training schedule, I set the alarm on my not-new-new phone for 5:45am and hit the hay preparing for an early morning run. When 5:45am rolled around, I was given a sudden crash course in crisis management. See my not-new-new phone has more than a few differences than my old Blackberry:

  1. Where my Blackberry had an alarm that gradually increased in volume (to your pre-set volume) my new phone doesn’t, instead it comes on full blast.
  2. Instead of being easily “snoozed” like my Blackberry, the new phone needs you to unlock it then turn it off (not exactly easy when you are still half asleep), and
  3. Apparently my new phone defaults to an all-too-familiar (and full-blast) beeping sound that I’m sure has contributed to dozens of heart attacks over the years.

Just a quick piece of advice, when you are trying to get out of bed as quietly as possible so you don’t wake anyone else, fumbling with the world’s loudest beeping digital device, while swearing a blue streak and running to the bathroom to see what you’re doing is probably not the way to do it.

Anyway, I’m now apparently an enemy of the state in my own house for waking up my wife an hour early with my stupid phone shenanigans. To be honest, I’m kind of scared to go to sleep tonight…you should have seen the look she gave me when I left this morning…it was cold, calculating, frightening…If you don’t hear from me in a few days…please send help…

On Saturday’s Cottage Run

The fall colours are popping right now…IMG00050-20130928-1105




BPMR -Things to Improve/Change For Next Year

It’s been most of a week since I did the BPMR.  My body seems ready to get back to training, but before I start talking about future goals and training programs, I think it’ll be beneficial to go over some things to improve on for next year (if I decide to do it again…which is “probably”).

Here goes:  Things to Improve/Change for Next Year

  • Bike Training – Obviously.  Tonnes more riding, technical trails and even some spin classes would give me a huge leg-up from this year’s performance.
  • Get My Own Bike – I spent a lot of time this spring dicking around with my bike situation.  I considered renting a bike through the race but decided against it.  I considered buying a new bike but didn’t exactly have the cash at the time. I even considered using my current bike which is a fully rigid Specialized Rock Hopper circa 1993 (It’s purple), but ultimately I was lucky enough to borrow a friend’s swanky new full suspension bike.  It handled all the terrain easily, but consistent training on the bike you’re using for the race is probably a good idea…maybe…
  • Bike shoes – Speaking of borrowed equipment, guess what came along with the borrowed bike?  Borrowed clip-in shoes!  They worked pretty well, but apparently (unbeknownst to me) the peddles and shoes were for road riding and I would have had an easier time if I had used proper mountain bike gear.  Who knew?
  • Bigger transition bags – The race utilizes a 2-bag system for transition areas.  Bag “A” & Bag “B” (I’ll slow down for those of you who are struggling to keep up).  I used two cloths bags that cinched close with a string/rope that doubles as a shoulder strap.  On a positive note, the bags were two different colours so it was easy to differentiate between them, but still quickly identify them as mine.  However when it came down to it they were simply too small to fit all the gear necessary.  By the end of the race I was clipping my hydration pack to the outside of the bag an through the strings as well.  Not ideal.  Larger bags, with bigger openings would ease and expedite gear swapping.
  • One Hydration Bag?  – Most other racers used 1 hydration bag.  I didn’t want to lug around any more weight than I had to, so I made up two packs (with all the necessary kit) and swapped them at transitions.  I often wondered though, if I could stash the bike tools/pump on the bike or in the transition bag would 1 bag have been easier to use.  I’m still on the fence for this one.
  • Strength Training – Lunges, squats, deadlifts.  One of the reasons my legs were cramping was that they were over-worked.  Yes, I was dehydrated, but when my IT band started screaming it gave me some indication of what shape my legs were in.  Sure, I felt fine on the run eventually, but it was apparent that the strength training I was doing in May should have been continued into/through July.  Also, my lower back was pretty fatigued by the end of the kayak, deadlifts would have stabilized my core, and enhanced my posterior chain.  In July, I was paranoid that they strength work would compromise my endurance training…but I think I had it backwards….20/20 hindsight I guess…
  • Fuel – I think my food/hydration was pretty good.  Yes, I was hungry at points but with the limitations I had (upset stomach at start) I think I did pretty well.  A little more solid food and some Gatorade at transition #1 might have helped; mind you I did eat and drink…maybe just not enough.

Have a great weekend all, enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!

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: 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!

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 😉

Dr. Daniel Lieberman’s 5 Do’s and Don’ts of Running

Stolen from Pete Larson over at

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