Monthly Archives: January 2015

Treadmill Running

Let’s just get this out of the way first:

HATE IT, HATE IT, HATE IT!

Treadmill Royalty Free Stock Photo(dreamstime.com)

There, feel better already.  But seriously, people actually run on these things all winter without losing their minds???  I have done three treadmill runs this winter and have not enjoyed a single moment.  This is definitely not one of those things that will get better as I get used to it.  Quite frankly it gets worse each time.  I managed 9 km the first time, the next two times only 7 km.  Each time I felt like I had been running for hours.  To top it off I run slower on a treadmill, so even short runs seem to last forever.  And it is hot in a gym, really, really hot. If you can bear with me, a couple more complaints.  The treadmills I use (I bought a 10 pack pass for the local rec centre) don’t have fans.  I need a fan, I probably need an industrial fan come to think of it but I would take a little one.  The t.v’s are very high on the wall and off to one side of the machine.  I feel like my head is tipping backwards and as I turn slightly to see it I am afraid I will leave the centre of the track and fall.  So instead I am stuck looking out the windows that overlook the gym space.  Last time I watched kids climb the rock wall.  This time I watched a Muslim prayer service.  Either way I feel like I am watching an event without an invitation.

Today when I was taking one of my many walk breaks (did I mention it was freakin’ hot???) a guy came up to me and asked if my calves tightened up.  I was wearing my compression socks so I thought he was wondering about them.  When I said I never have any issues his reply was, “Oh, because you really run on your toes, even when you aren’t running that quickly.”  Huh?  Not sure how to take that one.  And what did he mean when he said I wasn’t running very quickly? I replied that I have always been a forefoot runner and don’t have any problems.  I assume he wanted to be helpful and was ready to give me advice as to how to change my gait.  Personally I can’t really imagine asking a complete stranger that question but maybe that is just me.  Afterwards I did wish that I had replied by saying, “No, they only get a bit tight in the last few kms of a marathon,” just in case he thought I was a total beginner.

After that I was thrown off a little.  I wasn’t sure if he returned to a machine behind me (for all I know he works there?) and all I could think of is this stranger is analyzing my gait.  Then I started thinking about the fact that maybe I was up on my toes too much.  And wait, maybe my calves are tightening with each step!  Of course they weren’t, but I was so self aware that instead of just feeling my usual treadmill awkwardness (not a km goes by without me picturing myself flying off the machine), I was now feeling like I had become the picture of bad treadmill running form.

So why am I running on a treadmill?  Since the 10 pack was a fairly cheap option and the centre is only 5 minutes from work , I figured it might be worth it for those days that are just too cold or slippery.  My other thought was that maybe by running once in a while indoors I would find the transition to warmer weather easier come spring.  Today was -25 degrees with the windchill (a temperature I don’t really mind) but with significant wind gusts.  I am tired of fighting the wind or trying to find routes to hide from the it.  I thought indoors would be a good alternative.  Honestly, I wish I had stuck with the wind!

The Mad Trapper “Hilly” Snowshoe Race Report

The  name of this snowshoe race says it all.  If you want to snowshoe up and down hills, take note of this race for next year – you will get exactly what you asked for!

The elevation chart.  Do you see any flat areas?

The elevation chart. Do you see any flat areas?

On Saturday my husband and I headed northward for another snowshoe race at The Ark.  Once again there was a choice of a 5k or 10k race, this time taking advantage of every possible hill.  If you have ever travelled north of Wakefield you know that the terrain is anything but flat.  The race loop meandered through the woods with lots of significant elevations changes – which played a major part in my decision to treat this one as a more of a hike than a race.  Since I had already done 3 runs totalling almost 40 km in the previous 6 days (including hill repeats!) I did not feel any need to push myself on this one.  I know, excuses, excuses… but I am trying to remember that my main goal is to stay fit and injury free for the upcoming Prague Half Marathon.

There were close to 50 participants registered, many of whom didn’t seem to mind the idea of running the 5k course twice.  I can tell you that there are also some serious snowshoers who participate at these events.  These people are fast; I would love to know what kind of pace they run at when on a flat road.  There is definitely not, however, any pressure to be fast.  These events are for the challenge and the fun, and of course the beer and the food at the finish line.  In truth, some of us (me!) may be there more for the food part than the challenge part.

If ever there was a time for me to just relax and not worry about timing, this was it.  It was a perfect winter’s day and a beautiful scenic route.  I am new to having to participate in a single track event and still find that a little stressful.  I worry that I will be too slow for the person behind me or i will step on the snowshoes of the person in front.  I positioned myself near the back though and very quickly had the trail to myself.  If I was feeling competitive that would have been enough to panic me a bit.  Let’s face it, the only time in a race that it is usually good to be all by yourself is if you are so far in the lead that you can’t see the rest of the pack.  At least I assume that must be a good feeling, I have never actually experienced it.  There just wasn’t one iota of competitiveness in me though.  In fact, for the first time in ages I felt like I had a runner’s high (or runner’s zen as I like to call it) without the running part.  Maybe it was a fresh air/gorgeous views/reasonable amount of excercise without killing myself type of high instead.  I hadn’t had any beer yet so I can’t attribute it to alcohol!

But having a place to myself on a quiet wooded trail was magical.  Sure I can do it any time on my own rural property, but it is much different when you are on trails you don’t know.  The silence and the views at the tops of the hills were just beautiful.  If it weren’t for the fear that a search party might come out for me I would have just stopped and plunked myself down in the snow to take it all in.  But instead I continued on and ran when I felt like it (meaning the downhills) and walked when I wanted (meaning everything else).  The only slightly stressful part was having to finish on a downhill.  I had visions of me very unathletically falling and sliding down to the finish line.  I made it down safely though and finished in about 1 hour and 5 minutes, 20th out of 25 runners.  Yes, you read that right, it took me that long to finish 5 km and I honestly didn’t care 🙂  And for the record – I was once again passed by the fast 10k finishers!

Finally almost finished!

Finally almost finished!

Not a stale bagel in sight.

Not a stale bagel in sight.

Once again the food was awesome – amazing lasagne, cookies, chips and of course beer and brownies.  We didn’t walk away with any draw prizes this time but it was a great way to spend a Saturday morning.  We are hoping to hit the next race on February 21, with a 5k course that is said to be flatter and faster.  Maybe I will run a sub one hour!

Just in case this wasn’t enough for us  we decided to mix up our running even more and head out Sunday morning for a practice orienteering run.  Orienteering Ottawa put out an email noting that a few people would be meeting in Kanata to run part or all of an approximately 15 km long map run.  We knew the boys were going through a little orienteering withdrawal, so off we went in -23 degree windchill to run a pretend course.  Controls were labeled on the map for practice without actual controls being set up on the course.  We left it to the kids as to how much of the map they wanted to complete, as well as how much running vs. walking would be done.  In the end we “found” 13 controls and covered just over 7 km in about an hour.  If you are interested in getting your kids to run, orienteering is definitely the way to go.  Our boys had no idea they had covered such a distance, they were too intent on finding the next control.  If it hadn’t have been so cold in the wind I think Evan could have kept going but we figured it was time to call it a day.

Running half marathons continues to be my favourite running event.  But I have to say mixing in snowshoeing and orienteering is helping me mentally.  I think I am in a bit of a rut in my training.  I am getting the job done.  In fact I am even a little ahead of my Running Room training schedule, but I’m not loving it at the moment, nor am i feeling particularly confident.  It was great to take a weekend off so to speak and not specifically train but still be out running in one form or another.  If you want to change up your running check out  Mad Trapper Racing and Orienteering Ottawa for a change of pace.

Training for the Prague Half Marathon

Technically my training for the Prague Half Marathon started weeks ago.  But it has only been for the last week that I felt as if I was actually training rather than just trying to get some mileage in.  This has been the first week in a long time where I tried to change my runs up, making each one have a purpose.  The past week looked like this:

Sunday – long run, 12k.  Felt lousy for the first half, but found my rhythm and the last half felt great.  It was also a beautiful winter’s dusk and I had the rural road to myself.  At some point everything changed to simple shades of white, blue and grey – perfectly still and absolutely gorgeous.

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Monday – off

Tuesday – 5k, a warm up on a gradual but tiring hill, then three hill repeats on a steeper hill.  All done on a gloriously sunny but wickedly cold afternoon.  it would have been easy to say it was too cold out to run but I couldn’t resist the chance to be in the sunshine, even if my body was so covered up it was probably impossible to gain any vitamin D.  I wasn’t the only one out there as I met another crazy runner on this popular running hill.  He was older than me and significantly faster than me.  Ah, running, the great age equalizer!  He pushed me to go faster than I would have on my own and we’ve agreed to plan our hill runs to happen at the same time.  A little competitive motivation on hills can go a long way, though I think I am getting the better end of this deal since I might have been slowing him down a little!

Wednesday – an hour and a half of Yin Yoga.  My first yoga class since the fall and I was so glad to be back.  Hopefully is starts to loosen up my very tight hips.

Thursday – 7k with five 70 metre strides repeats.  This was my first time doing strides.  Before this I wasn’t really even sure what strides were.  I kept hearing about them but thought it was something track people did.  To be honest I sort of had a picture of runners on the track opening each stride up, trying to extend the length of each stride to its maximum.  Ends up strides are actually 60 to 100 metre repeats of speed, making sure you catch your breath between each repeat.  I tried accelerating for 20 steps, holding the speed for 20 steps and then decelerating for the last 20 steps.  The general rule of thumb is you must be fully recovered before starting the next set of strides.  They should also be done on an “easy” run day, after your run or most of the run is completed.  I opted to do one more easy km after my strides were finished.  I definitely enjoyed doing these.  They are fun without being too strenuous.  They might sound a little like intervals, but those are longer and as one article pointed out, make you want to throw up.  Strides are definitely more fun, but should prep me for intervals closer to race time.

Friday – 7.5k treadmill run (ugh, I have gone to the dark side!), each km increasing speed with the exception of cool down towards the end.  I generally don’t use treadmills but I decided to pick up a 10 pack pass for the local recreation centre.  I am still not a fan but it does allow me to work on increasing speed for each km in a controlled environment and I am hoping it will make it less difficult for me to adapt when the warmer weather returns.

Saturday – off

And to start the new week:

Today – 14.5 km of awful running, this was a run I did not get into, not even once.  I did the first 7k on snow packed trails with lots of elevation change, then switched to pavement largely because my legs felt like led, then finished up on the trails again.  Not a single moment of “Wow, this feels good,” or even “Well, I feel better for having made it out for a run in today.”  To be honest I considered bailing but instead allowed myself to stop my watch and take stretch breaks in order to complete the job.  As a result, it was not even close to anything resembling a continuous run.  I specifically avoided looking at my Garmin map so i wouldn’t have to see all of the “pause” images.

Prior to this morning’s run I had convinced myself to sign up soon for the Hypothermic Half in three weeks.  The morning race is already sold out but last time I checked there were still spaces for the afternoon run.  I’m happy to take an afternoon shift since that would more closely mimic the noon start time in Prague and because, well I really hate early mornings, particularly in the winter.  But after today, the thought of running 21 km in three weeks just seems so far-fetched that I remain unsure if I will register.  It could give me a chance to do a pre-Prague training run with a group of people rather than on my own, followed by a late brunch/lunch, (which is included in the registration).  It also could be 21 km of frozen hell on an open, rolling golf course.  I have visions of me huddling up at the farthest tee, being either too cold or too tired to make it back to the clubhouse.  But there would be one of these snowflake medals waiting at the finish:

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And did I mention the food?  Always a motivator 🙂

Video of Ignite the Night Snowshoe Race

As a follow-up to my race recap, I thought I would add a link to the “Get Out There” video recap of the race.  It is a summary of the race, with some great shots of snowshoers in action against a backdrop of the village lit up with Christmas lights.  I would love to say that there was a shot of me racing through the snow.  Instead there is just video of me in the food line up 🙂

You can check it out here:

Dion Ignite the Night Snowshoe Race Recap

Who knew when I started writing this running blog almost two years ago that as a late-in-life runner I would find new ways to enjoy the sport.  Last fall I took my running to the woods and with a map and compass in tow, took on the sport of orienteering.  Last week I tried my first snowshoe race and last night it was snowshoe race #2 at the Dion Ignite the Night Snowshoe Race, the first in a series of Dion races.

Being fully honest, I didn’t actually race this event, though I did take part.  We took the boys for this one and while I knew that Evan, only days away from being 12, would be good to head out on his own, I thought Luke might need some support on the run.  This proved to be true in the first hundred metres when one of his snowshoes fell off.  As a result I spent the 5k doing what I referred to in my head as intervals; I would run up ahead and then move off to the side and wait for him to catch up.  Several times I thought about how lucky I am to be able to share my activities with my kids.  Several times though I also thought about how I really wanted to run faster and see what I could do; I am after all supposed to be training for the Prague Half Marathon in March.  I’m not entirely sure if that last thought makes me a determined runner or a bad mother.  In the end I was happy I stuck with Luke.  His determination, even when he was exhausted, was impressive and we managed to sprint to the finish line hand in hand – a great way to end a race!  To his credit, I know that when I was 9 years old I might have made it halfway and then just plunked myself in a snow drift until someone agreed to carry me back to the finish line.  They would then probably have to scrape the ice of my face from my tears.  Luke on the other hand would take a break and then shout out “Full steam ahead!” and start running again.

 

Luke and I sprinting to the finish, hand in hand.

Luke and I sprinting to the finish, hand in hand.

My running buddy and i after the race.  We even managed to finish in under an hour!

My running buddy and I after the race. We even managed to finish in under an hour!

Getting ready for an out of town snowshoe race with two kids can make you yearn for summer road races.  Ah, for those days where you just make sure everyone has shorts, tech shirt, shoes and a bib number.  Prepping for a snowshoe race involves hauling out enough clothing for a week’s holiday.  You need layers for running, layers to change into, boots to wear, shoes to run in, hats, mitts, scarves, balaclavas, extra socks and of course snowshoes.  This is what our living room floor looked like before leaving:

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The race took place at Upper Canada Village, about an hour and a half south of here.  The historic village kindly agreed to allow the race to take place on the property and opened up their large cafeteria to use as a warm place for pre and post race activities.  Not only that, they turned on all of the Christmas lights for this night race.  How often do you get to run with views like these?

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The route also took you out of the village through fields and along the St. Lawrence River.  Between the darkness and the blowing snow there were times I wasn’t sure if we were in fact on the frozen river.  Parts of the course put runners right into a cold headwind with temperatures supposedly in the minus 20’s with the windchill.  Even with my slow pace I never felt uncomfortably cold.  For anyone who was really running the temperature would not have been an issue at all.  I have quickly learned that as warm as I get running in winter, snowshoe running makes you sweat even more.

This was the perfect event for experienced and new snowshoers alike.  The mostly flat course made for a good intro and I am sure led to some incredible times for the top competitors.  A short 700 metre kids race allowed even the youngest of competitors to try out this fun winter sport.  The race was a little late to start, largely because many people chose to register at the race rather than take advantage of online pre-registration.  I love the advice that was given prior to the start; if you are not sure whether or not you want to register for a race, just register and then you will be sure!  Good advice for all of us 🙂

Food was supplied by Beyond 21, a non-profit organization that supports developmentally challenged young adults.  For a voluntary donation participants were treated to chili, chips, beautifully decorated cupcakes, cookies, oranges, bananas, as well as cold and hot drinks.  Members of the program also handmade the plaster snowflakes used as medals.  The top three winners earned horseshoe medals handmade by the village blacksmith.  If this wasn’t enough, there were so many door prizes that it seemed as if everyone walked away with something.  We brought home a snowshoe bag, a buff, a winter hat and a water bottle with sport gels.  Having only completed 2 snowshoes races and each time coming home with some loot, I am going to start expecting goodies at the end of every race!

Bring on the door prizes!  We brought all of this home with us.

Bring on the door prizes! We brought all of this home with us.

The village cafeteria, where participants were welcome to stay warm both before and after the race.

The village cafeteria, where participants were welcome to stay warm both before and after the race.

It is safe to say I am hooked on snowshoe running and participating in “local” (some are a bit of a drive) events. I think my husband, particularly after his great run last night, is even more hooked.  For the last several years we have as a family done a fair bit of downhill skiing at a nearby hill.  I admit I prefer the snowshoeing and we might have to force ourselves to the ski hill a few times this year just to make sure we put our equipment to use.  For anyone who quits running for the winter, or resigns themselves to the dreaded treadmill, snowshoeing is a sport you should look into.  Any fear of being cold will quickly disappear as it is impossible to stay cold when working so hard.  There is no way to get bored if you pick beautiful routes and you will get to places you wouldn’t when sticking to the roads.  Like running, snowshoe races are for everyone.  Sure you might be lapped by the 10k racers finishing their second loop but that won’t be held against you!  Let’s face it, winter can be a long haul in this neck of the woods, the more fun activities you can do to make the time go faster the better.  Maybe it will even be disappointing when spring finally arrives!

 

 

 

Are You Mad Enough???

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Not angry mad… just crazy mad?  Because if you think you are crazy mad, why not take up snowshoe racing?  And if you live in Eastern Ontario or Western Quebec there is no excuse not to try thanks to the Mad Trapper Races,  where crazy snowshoers (and trail runners when the snow is gone) can gather to race, eat food and drink beer, with an emphasis on the last activities.

My husband and I tried our first Mad Trapper event last night and we are planning on going back for more.  The races take place on the trails of race organizer Mike Caldwell and his wife Monique’s property, just north of Wakefield, Quebec.  I am quite sure it is a beautiful property, but since last night’s run was in the dark with only enough snow to partially cover rocks and branches, I spent more time looking down than enjoying the scenery.  I can tell you for sure though that there were some hills despite the fact it is not their “hilly” course!  The big challenge last night was definitely the conditions.  The snow was coming down but our complete thaw over the holidays meant that there just wasn’t the ideal base for the snowshoes.  I went over on my ankles several times and somehow managed to save myself from two potential face plants as I tripped over rocks or branches.  We were told it was probably the worst conditions to have, so our theory is if we survived that we have to go back to experience it with more snow.

If you read anything on snowshoe running they will tell you that if you can run you can snowshoe run.  Technically they are not lying to you.  They just don’t tell the whole truth.  If you are a road runner be prepared for the fact that you might, well… completely suck at snowshoe running!  I am going to assume that much like running, you do improve with practice.  At least I hope that is the case.  Let’s just say that if this were a snowshoeing blog I would have to call it “Blog For a Way Back of the Pack Snowshoer Who is Just Trying to Survive”.  To give you an  idea of the difference; I can now run a 10k in about 53 minutes.  Last night I completed the 5k snowshoe race in 43 minutes.  Wait…it gets better (or worse?).  The course was about half a km short.  So I only completed 4.5k in 43 minutes!  I also finished at the same time as the 10k winner… yes he did two laps in the time it took me to do one.  And when I say the same time, he actually passed me in the last few metres.

I made it through the first three km at a somewhat steady pace.  There was a lovely flat field in the middle of the course where I felt like I had a nice run going.  By the 3k mark though, I was feeling like I had done 10k.  I was more than happy to spend some time walking, thinking I would pick up the pace later on the course.  Little did I know that the hill we started at was actually the baby hill, the real hill was still ahead.  I got to it, looked up and realized that I couldn’t see the top.  I kind of laughed to myself and realized there would be no running up that mountain.  OK, it wasn’t a mountain but it felt like it by the time I was half way up!  Shortly after cresting the hill I realized I was almost at the finish and I managed a final run to the line to meet my husband who had finished 3 minutes before me.

Really, that is me in the snow and dark.

Really, that is me in the snow and dark.

So why, you ask, do I recommend trying this?  Honestly, snowshoe running is a blast.  I find I just let go of any expectations and take it for what it is – a great time outdoors and a perfect winter workout.  But if that isn’t enough fun for you, the Mad Trapper races also throw in a fun indoor social event with a woodstove, draw prizes and great food and beer, all for an entry fee of $35.  You have to admit that beats the heat sheet, dry bagel and warm yogurt of a road race event.  There are even draw prizes, so you don’t have to win the race to go home with a prize.

Warm and smiling after the event!

Warm and smiling after the event!

Last night was also a fundraiser for i2P or impossible 2 Possible, an organization that funds youths to set off on amazing adventures to push their own limits and to make positive changes in the world.  To support i2P there were items up for auction and I scored a certificate for a full gait and footwear analysis at SoleFit, something I have wanted to do for the last year.  I will definitely be booking that appointment soon.

Have you decided if you are mad enough?  If so, the next Mad Trapper snowshoe race is January 24th.  If it is your first time they will even lend you a pair of Atlas running snowshoes for free. Be ready to let go of any pace expectations and enjoy a fun way to cross train in winter.  If nothing else, it should make spring running on the roads seem a little bit easier!