Monthly Archives: December 2014

A Few of My Favourite Running Things

This past year I picked up some new gear that I would now hate to be without.  For a sport that really should be quite basic in terms of what you need, it is amazing what you end up buying.  Of course need and want are two very different things!

First on my list, and my favourite purchase of the year, is my Sugoi two in one running jacket.  This is one of those things where you slap your head and think “I wish I had thought of that!”  When I run in cool or cold weather I want layers that are easy to take off.  Often even in the coldest of temperatures I start to get too hot in any kind of running shell and I end up having to tie my jacket around my waist.  Not any more though.  My new jacket has removable sleeves, easily turning into a vest.  But what really makes this jacket different is the fact that the sleeves are a single piece, like a balero jacket or shrug, and are attached by magnets.  I don’t have to stop and unzip individual sleeves, I just pull the shrug off while running, scrunch it into a ball and slip it into the back pocket of the vest.  When I want sleeves again I just pull the shrug back on and the magnets located around the back, collar and arm holes quickly click back together.  Couldn’t be easier!

Women's Versa Jacket

My second favourite purchase – actually purchases since one pair wasn’t enough – was compression socks.  I had never worn them before and wasn’t sure I really needed them.  But once I knew I would be flying for five hours a couple of days before a half marathon, I decided that at the very least I needed them for the plane trip.  Once I tried running in them there was no going back.  How can something so goofy looking be so comfortable?  I have no idea if they make me run better or make me recover faster, I just know they feel great both during and after a run.  I now own four pairs; three regular pairs and a merino wool pair.  All have been well used.  I admit I used to laugh at the look of knee-high socks, but now I totally get it!

My first race using compression socks.  Maybe they helped in getting my first sub 2 hour half marathon!

My first race using compression socks. Maybe they helped in getting my first sub 2 hour half marathon!

In the number three spot – my Garmin 220.  It is light, not too big for my small wrist, easy to use and has everything I need.  It is a vast improvement on my previous Garmin, the 405, which I never ended up fully liking but had a hard time ditching since it was still working.  A special thanks to my husband for convincing me that I was doing enough of this running thing to deserve a watch I would really like.  And my kids aren’t complaining about getting to use my old Garmin!

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Not quite making my top three but still a great buy, my first 2 pairs of trail shoes.  As I start to do more off road running, both in training and orienteering, I have realized that I need some traction.  A little protection from the elements doesn’t hurt either.  I love how light these shoes are and I can’t believe the grip.  No more sliding around in mud or on snow.  My only complaint is the waterproof Climate Shield was not up to the task of snowshoeing for over an hour on a sunny day with the temperature hovering around zero.  My feet stayed dry and very warm for at least 45 minutes.  But the wet snow stuck to the top of my shoes and snowshoe straps, eventually melting into them, leaving my feet very wet.  If I had been running the snow would have been coming off the top of my shoes more easily and I doubt there would have been a problem.  On two other occasions when I snowshoed in colder temperatures I had no issue with the snow working its way into the shoes.

My new Saucony Speedcross 3's with Climate Shield

My new Salomon Speedcross 3’s with Climate Shield

As for the year of running itself, what were my favourite memories?  It was such a busy year of running, the busiest I have ever had, so the memories, good and bad, are numerous.  The following however, did stand out:

  • Knowing at the 18k mark of the Vancouver Half Marathon that I was going to blow away my previous PB – which I did by about 6 minutes with a final time of 1:57!
  • Running my first 30k race, where I ran a very steady comfortable race and finished in a surprising 3:04.  And by the way…that course has hills and more hills in the last third of the race!
  • Seeing new cities.  Running took me to Vancouver (followed by a car trip through the Rockies) and Philadelphia.  My love of travel has been renewed thanks to my love of half marathons!
  • Finally running a smart, and fast, Mission Possible Half Marathon.  The course had beaten me twice, but the third time was the charm and I finished under 1:57.  It may or may not be my half marathon PB.  My Garmin, and those of others, measured the course as few hundred metres short of 21.1 km.  But, given the hilly, winding nature of the course and the several tunnels we had to go through, I’m not sure how accurate the GPS would be.

If I ignore my very disappointing full marathon in May, this was by far my most successful and fun year of running yet.  I surprised myself with faster than expected times in the 10k, 16k, half marathon and 30k distances.  In some ways I think I have to prepare myself for the fact that 2015 may not hold as many PB’s as this past year.  That said, I do have three very specific time goals for the new year:

  • Half marathon – 1:55 or less
  • 10k – 52 minutes or less
  • marathon (if I choose to do one in the fall!) – sub 4:30

None of these goals are out of reach and in fact should be quite achievable.  This year has proven that while I may be a relatively average runner, I can get faster.

Happy New Year and here’s to a successful year of running for all of us!

Best Laid Plans and Christmas Thoughts

In my last post I confidently wrote about salvaging a slow month where runs had become almost impossible to fit into my schedule.  But with a week and a half of December awaiting, I was sure I could get a reasonable amount of mileage completed.

When I wrote that post I had reason to feel some confidence.  After almost 3 weeks of battling a cold/flu I was finally feeling better.  I had just completed three days in a row with some half decent exercise and I was loving my new running snowshoes.

You know how you just assume that if you have spent 3 weeks under the weather you must be done with illness, at least for a few weeks?  There is of course no scientific reasoning for such a theory.  So a few hours after that post when I was feeling a little queasy, I put it down to the ultra sweet chocolates I had binged on despite not being hungry.  Unfortunately when I woke up at 1:00 am I knew pretty quickly that some greedy eating of sweets was not the cause.  And thus began my all-nighter with stomach flu.  Fun times.  When it finally ended I disappeared into bed, only to fully return to the world of the living after 20 hours of sleep and minus 5 pounds.  There went another couple of days of running.  But all was not lost and I felt well enough to enjoy Christmas Day.  And thankfully no one else in the house picked up the bug to the extent I did, just a couple of queasy stomachs.  By Boxing Day I made it out for a run and I got out there again today, definitely not at my best but hopefully building up a little strength.

Looking on the bright side, a few thoughts from the week:

  • Health issues (none of them serious), work and Christmas forced me into a light month of running and perhaps that is a good thing.  I am planning another busy year of running, surely a rest couldn’t hurt.
  • There have been several awful stories in the news lately about children having to endure things that no child should ever experience.  That long night I was sick I kept reminding myself how many mothers would kill to be in a position where the worst thing that was happening in their lives was to have a stomach flu while their children were sound asleep, safe and healthy in their own beds.  Perspective is an important thing in life.
  • Watching your kids altar serve and sing in the choir at Christmas Eve Mass makes every annoying , frustrating, want-to-tear-your-hair-out-or-just-give-up-and-cry parenting moment of the year vanish from thought.
  • It doesn’t matter if the Christmas baking is finished or the house is clean.  Christmas comes regardless and it is just as wonderful.
  • It doesn’t even matter if all – yes all – of the snow disappears Christmas morning.  Instead we were treated to a Christmas rainbow (not to mention thunder and lightning during the night).
  • Christmas traditions can change, sometimes for the better.  We postponed our Christmas dinner until Boxing Day since there were a couple of us not quite ready to eat a full meal.  We discovered that this is a much more relaxing way to do Christmas!
  • Watching your children give homemade gifts, gifts they spent hours locked away in rooms working on, is priceless.  For anyone who fears the magic of Christmas lessens as your children get older, it does anything but.

In the end it wasn’t quite the week I had planned, not from a training perspective nor from a Christmas perspective.  And in the end it didn’t matter 🙂

I hope your Christmas was all you wanted it to be, in whatever form it took.

Christmas miracles come in many forms - like your kids giving each other hugs!

Christmas miracles come in many forms – like your kids giving each other hugs!

 

Snowshoe Running

I have finally set about trying to salvage this month for running.  Illness, work and Christmas all managed to make me virtually give up any running.  No matter what I do now, it won’t exactly be a stellar month in terms of mileage.  Actually it will no doubt be my lowest monthly mileage of 2014.  But I am trying to get back at it in order to avoid feeling like a total beginner come January.

At the moment my training has taken a bit of a twist.  Last week I bought a pair of running snowshoes.  I already have a fairly cheap pair of all purpose snowshoes.  Two years ago I tried to add snowshoeing to my cross training.  I enjoyed it but found the change in my walking and running gait with heavy boots and snowshoes on caused knee pain.  It didn’t seem worth it to risk injury for the purpose of cross training.

My new running snowshoes are smaller and allow me to make minimal changes to my gait.  The springed area on which my foot rests encourages comfortable running.  Of course using my new trail shoes also makes the whole process “easier” than it was with my boots.

Why the quotations around easier?  Because I am not sure that snowshoe running could ever be called easy!!!  I know I have been off running for a few weeks but holy crap it is a lot of work to run on snowshoes.  Much of course depends on the type of terrain you are on and whether or not a path has already been made.  We have headed out as a family a few times now on our property as well as the properties around us, so some trails have been made.  We are very lucky to live where we do.  We can strap on the snowshoes right outside our house and head out for a lengthy trek.  We also have many trails that are only a short drive away.

As for the running part, let’s just say I am doing run/walk intervals, and I am not talking about the standard “ten and ones”.  This is more like, “Oh my gosh I can’t run another step and I have to walk right now” intervals.  So far the longest stretch I have done without a walk break is 1 km! Each time I head out though it feels just a little bit easier.

Perhaps the best part of snowshoeing is how light footed you feel when you go out for a road run.  On Saturday I did 5 km of walking/running (emphasis on the walking) on the snowshoes, then came in, changed into dry clothes and went for a 5k run, no walk breaks allowed.  That first km of the run felt amazing!  Admittedly it did not take long for my legs to realize just how tired they were so the next 4k did not feel quite as easy, but I managed.

Ultimately I think the snowshoeing will provide excellent training for my spring running.  I will have to get used to my mileage being lower each week if I replace one or two road runs with hitting the trails.  I do think though that the workouts will pay off and hopefully make me a faster runner.  Mind you I am going to need mother nature to help out – all those trails we have started to make will be washed away with the “Santa rain bomb” that is heading our way for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Best laid plans…

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Should I go Hypothermic?

Does a winter half marathon sound appealing to you?  If the weather is perfect it sounds like a great idea to me.  But… if it is icy or if there are gale force winter winds I am not convinced a 2 hour run would be fun.  Throw in the fact that the course is that same rolling golf course that I ran in the fall and I am left wondering if I should register.  But there is a little part of me that thinks if I really want to consider myself a true winter runner ( or perhaps a true Canadian runner?) I should have one winter half marathon medal.  Particularly if it looks like this:

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Now throw in a full brunch for the price of registration, and access to lockers, showers, indoor bathrooms and no lining up in an corral for ages before the race.  Those are a lot of perks that could outweigh the weather.

Average temperatures on February 7th here in Ottawa is a reasonable -8 C (about 17F) but lows of about -30 C (-22F) have occurred on that date.  The course is also very open, any kind of wind would definitely be felt.  Here is a picture from the website of what it looked like one year at the race:

Note what looks to be ice on the path.  But did I mention the brunch???  You also get these in your kit, neither of which I really need but it is always fun to get stuff:

If I ever manage to start my Prague Half Marathon training schedule (I should be in my third week but have done virtually no running due to being sick) I would only be scheduled to run a 16k on the Sunday of the Hypothermic.  This would be a much longer, tougher run than I would really need to do.  But I could treat it as a training run, keeping it slow, which let’s face it, if the footing is awful I won’t have a choice!

One way or the other I will have to make up my mind…believe it or not I think this race actually sells out.  Yes, there are that many crazy winter runners out there!

 

 

Really, I Meant to Keep Running in December

Anyone who knows me knows I do not shy away from winter running.  Sure it takes me a little while to adapt to sub zero temperatures, but not nearly as long as it takes me to adapt to the heat.  I only really become used to running in the heat and humidity sometime in late August, just in time for the temperatures to cool.

December, however, never manages to be a good running month.  I swore this year would be different.  Last December I managed a grand total of 52 km in the entire month.  This year I promised myself to double that.  I know it is only Dec. 12th but the writing is on the wall; there is no way I will be running 100+ kms this month.  I’m not sure I’ll even be matching last year’s somewhat sad 52k.  At the moment I have managed about 16, and a few of those kms I would be hesitant to classify as running.  Two weeks of a never-ending cold (or two different colds, I really don’t know) have knocked me down and I don’t seem to be getting back up.

I tried, I really did.  At the end of last week I was feeling better and headed out for a reasonable 10k trail run.  I was quite proud of myself getting out there, letting the fresh air get into my unhappy lungs, making my body do something other than slumping off to my bed after work.  Of course cocky things went through my head.  “Look at me, aren’t I the athlete getting out there and running when still sick.”  The next day I was miserable again, but I still tried.  My goal was 5k.  I ended up having to take a walk break after every km of running.  At one point I just wanted to lay down in the snow and have a nap.  The thought of running anything more seemed nothing short of impossible.  Rather than feeling amazing at the end of the run, I just ended up going home to bed… again.

The only good thing about these runs is I did get to try out my new winter trail/snow running shoes:

My new Saucony Speedcross 3's with Climate Shield

My new Salomon Speedcross 3’s with Climate Shield

I have only had a couple of runs in my new Salomon Speedcross 3’s CS but so far I am really liking them.  And it is a good thing too since I now have two pairs.  When I first went shopping I came home with these:

 

Salomon Speedcross 3's without Climate Shield.

Salomon Speedcross 3’s without Climate Shield.

I was told that they had the “Climate Shield”, the equivalent of Gore-tex.  When I did my research though I discovered that this version, the exact same shoe, was water resistant but did not have the extra protection of C.S.  I have always run in my regular road shoes, sometimes with a bit of duct tape over the mesh, when winter running.  But this year I wanted all the warmth, dryness and traction I could get so I could use them on snowy trails for both running and snowshoeing.  Two days later I was buying the shoes with C.S.  I could have returned the pair without, but I love these shoes so much I figured I might as well keep them for spring and fall running as I am sure the extra protection of C.S. would make them too hot in any temperatures above 0 degrees.  It also didn’t hurt that they were cheaper than any of my regular road shoes.

My favourite things about both sets of shoes?  They are incredibly light.  I was shocked when I picked them up and even more shocked when I put them on.  They look heavy duty and therefore, well, heavy.  While they are certainly not as light as minimalist shoes, I have no complaints about the weight.  The other thing I love about these shoes is the traction on the soles.  Take a look:

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I couldn’t get over the traction when I was on the trails.  Uphill and downhill these shoes dug right into the snow and I had no fear of slipping.  In some ways it was almost a strange feeling being so anchored to the ground.  The only downside of these soles –  you really don’t want to do any distance on pavement with them.  I am pretty sure it would not take long to ruin the treads.

I know colour is not at all important in shoes, but the great colours of both pairs also made me want to buy these shoes.  The colour adds a little fun to some hard working shoes.

So, if I actually manage to get rid of this cold before the snow melts, I will be looking forward to hitting the snow in my new shoes!

 

 

Check Out My Article in Running Room Magazine

In this month’s Running Room Magazine you can find my article “Why kids Should Run”, a version of a post I originally wrote for the blog RunRodRun.  If you did not pick up a copy, check out the online version by clicking here. Needless to say my kids were pretty excited to be featured in a national magazine!

Happy Reading!

(And yes, this is what I would call a lazy post – just give you a link and let you check it out!)

 

Somersault Champion Challenge Awards

Last week we attended the annual Somersault awards ceremony. Somersault organizes a fairly extensive list of running, triathlon and duathlon races in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario. Their tag line is “Events for Everyone”, which considering you could participate in anything from a 3k run to a marathon to a kayak or canoe multi sport race, is certainly true.

One added bonus to participating in at least three Somersault events is you will collect points for your placing at each race. At the end of the season your top three race points will be added up and you can see where you rank in your age category.  Your race distance does not come into play so whether you focused on 5k’s or marathons or a combination of distances, you still “compete” against everyone in your age group. Awards, a nice certificate with a race photo, are handed out at the end of season banquet.  If you also manage to win, as Evan did, an overall top three spot you win a free race entry and a personalized bag with your name and placing.

This year Evan placed first in the boys 13 and under category and also won the top junior male award. Luke just missed the podium, coming in fourth in the 13 and under group. I won for my age category of 45-49.  And while it wasn’t announced, I’m sure my husband won best fan support and chauffeur award.

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To be truthful, my award is also a bit of a participation award.  I know there are some faster runners than me who participate in these races but they did not complete the required three runs to qualify for points.  I consider my first place ranking a reward for some half decent times and for managing to roll out of bed and make it to an early morning race a few times!

So with the awards ceremony done, my last official race of the season complete and the changing of the month, it really does feel like the end of the 2014 season.  Next weekend I will do a fun run to earn my “A Christmas Story” medal that will be hung with pride on our Christmas tree.  That will be it until January, when I plan to start the new season with the Richmond Road Race.  Then there will be Winterman and not long after will be Prague!  Can’t wait 🙂

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