27 January 2014

much ado about junk

they're often referred to as 'junk miles', and many times come with a warning.  too many junk miles and you risk overtraining.  or at least unspecified, undisciplined training.  numerous articles have been written about the perils of tossing in junk miles into one's training regimen - and interestingly enough, various rebuttals offering a different point of view on what actually constitutes these 'junk miles'.

in essence, i've come to understand 'junk miles' to be additional or extended workouts without any real perceived workout purpose that interfere with the athlete's ability to successfully tackle prescribed training tasks.  

the problem that junk miles present is that they are often used to pad not only a weekly mileage total but the runner's ego.  while races create the situation for a competition for the fastest time, training cycles can create the situation where individuals compete for the most miles (or in my case kilometres) logged.  online trackers like dailymile, runkeeper and strava can feed that competitive nature by posting analytics on your social media outlets as a means of teasing, taunting or challenging your friends.  while good 'king/queen of the mountain' feelings may result, the collateral damage is that when it comes to hard, speed-based workouts the energy and effort may not be there because resources were deployed to satisfy inflated distances.

now coming from a loosey-goosey, stream-of-thought kind of person like me you might be surprised to hear that i'm a fan of structured training.  having used training plans from the hansons and ryan hall i've now found that i like to have a program to outline the different types of workouts (e.g. tempo runs, easy/recovery days, speed intervals, hill sprints, race pace) that i need to build into my cycle.  however, also having read matt fitzgerald's book run i've come to believe that there's nothing wrong (and everything right) with listening carefully to feedback from your body and adjusting any training plan on the fly.  
since i feel like i have the freedom to tinker, and having gained a sense that i do flourish under higher-mileage training conditions, i do tend to add the odd kilometre here and there as well as tossing in the occasional double (aka second training run in a day) or workout on a scheduled off-day.

rationale?  (or in a more declaratory tense, "irrational!"?)

two reasons:
  1. one of the primary principles driving the hansons marathon method is that of cumulative fatigue, which suggests that (successfully) executing hard workouts on tired legs not only nets greater muscle/aerobic/mitochondrial gains but also simulates the late stages of the marathon - thereby preparing you to be able to overcome the dreaded 'wall'.
  2. in run (and other articles) matt fitzgerald alludes to the fact that time spent practicing the running motion improves communication between the brain and the muscles - this is all about developing skill through repetition.  appreciating this helps me to see that the more kilometres (over months and years) that i log will refine my muscle memory for efficient running form - as long as i'm not running in such a fatigued state that my running form breaks down.
so while some might consider these 'junk miles' for me since they are not included on the 'printed' plan, in my estimation the extra kilometres and/or easy runs are not entirely without purpose.  

if you'd like to check out more on this junky debate, here are a few resources worth reviewing:


22 January 2014

go pro! ... or as close to the big time as i'll get

about this time last year i first read about the Running Free sponsorship program and inquired about how to become part of the team.  at a number of races i'd seen various runners (of all ages, shapes and sizes - so i knew that this wasn't just an 'elite runner' thing) sporting official Team Running Free gear, and that piqued my interest enough to want to find out more.

as my timing for the 2013 season was off, i was able to re-apply (as directed) last november and was subsequently notified late last week that i had been accepted into their 2014 cohort.

it's one step toward a dream come true.

i'm now a sponsored athlete.

from a certain distance that sounds all prestigious and glamourous.  but know this first:  the perks are basically a free running kit and some store discounts.  no race entries, no appearance fees, nothing crazy like that.  still enough to entice me to want to be part of Team Running Free.

more than that however sponsorship is about being a brand ambassador.  what i do very much appreciate about Running Free is that they endorse people simply getting outside.  they not only want to be active in the community but encourage an active community.  plus they have this really nifty recycle-your-shoes program that benefits countries like haiti and sierra leone through micro credit loans.  

these are all principles and programs that i'm happy to get behind.

the opportunities to promote Running Free are varied, and that's definitely an attractive piece to the program.  as the program offers 'points' for various levels of representation/involvement, sponsored athletes can choose from a variety of options such as:

  • wearing the Team Running Free apparel in races
  • conducting clinics
  • assisting with Running Free booths at specific competitions
  • contributing articles to the Team Running Free website
  • purchasing merchandise from Running Free
  • distributing the member discount coupon for use in Running Free retail locations.
go ahead - print it off and use it!

the bottom line is that i'm eager and excited to be able to give back to the running community in some small way.  i've benefited so much from those who have taken the time to make available the resources, races, equipment, training tips, running groups and other experiences that have enhanced the past few years of my life (and untold years of my future) that it's the very least that i can do.  i do hope that by participating in the Team Running Free program all 200 some-odd of us can help build on the running/health & fitness momentum in ontario and beyond.

if you're at all intrigued by this program, i encourage you to apply for the 2015 sponsorship program next fall - mark it on your calendars (like i did!) and check back here:  http://www.teamrunningfree.com/apply/


17 January 2014

road review - skechers GObionic trail

you may know by now that i'm a big fan of skechers performance footwear.  it started with the GObionic, then the GOrun 2.  upon recommendation to wear trail shoes for winter running here in the often tundra-like region of barrie, ontario, canada i took full advantage of a sale on amazon.com to avail myself of a pair of GObionic trail shoes.

i consulted my trustworthy facebook group of running shoe geeks with regard to sizing and the consensus came back to order the same size in these as i had in my current GObionics.  shoefitr had fed back to me a variety of sizes based on the shoes that i plugged into its calculation engine, and without a consistent result i wasn't 100% confident about sizing it based solely on its recommendations.  but i have to say that when the shoes first arrived, i thought that even the geeks had steered me wrong - the 9.5s that i ordered felt much too snug.  i was later to discover that that was because (a) there's a difference in fit of a trail vs. a road shoe and (b) the 4mm drop insole was much thicker than i needed it to be.  i was able to size the GObionic trail up properly with a simple swap of insoles (from my GOrun 2, which i wear without the insole anyway).

to date i've logged maybe 80km or so in these shoes - enough to give a review a whirl.  
  • fit - although initially confused by the feel of the shoe when i donned them, i quickly came to appreciate the cradling of the midfoot and the still more-than-sufficient roominess of the forefoot.  had i not traded insoles and decided to stick with a 4mm drop, i think that i may have been better served by taking a half-size larger in the gobionic trail than what i wear in the gobionic.
  • aesthetics - the orange and extremely luminescent yellow colourway is hot, baby!  decent reflective markers on the toecap and heel collar too - all meaning that in just about any light conditions you can see these bad boys coming!
  • weight - at just around 8 oz. this is definitely what i like in any kind of running shoe.  not heavy enough to interfere with the stride cycle - and i have other shoes that i can use if i want to include real hamstring work with each turnover.
  • customizable drop - as noted above, 4mm or 0mm are your options and both are doable with this shoe.  i still have preferences for no heel-to-toe differential, but didn't quite want to go insole-less with this pair.
  • outsole - i believe that for my purposes - currently winter running, and then moderate trail running in the spring/summer - the lug design is sufficiently aggressive and resilient.  i've read other reviews commenting that the durability of the resalyte compound is a little less-than-desired, but i won't really know until i hammer out some more miles in them.
  • upper construction - the materials feels decently airy without being so porous or thin that you can see right through them.  i understand that they also work well to filter out bits of debris, but are not reported to be conducive to be particularly weatherproof.  here i just have to say that i've tested these in up to 25cm of fresh, wet snow and did not have a soaker until i plunged my foot into a cleverly disguised pothole, full to the brim with sub-zero brine-water.  add to that my favourite skechers feature ever - the integrated tongue - and i don't think that i'll have a problem seeing the winter through in these.
  • laces - the only thing that i really don't like at the laces that comes with the gobionic series.  they just feel cheap - not to mention that i'm not a fan of round laces either.  after the insoles they were next to be changed, swapped out for oval laces (retrieved from my failed nike shox turbo oz experiment).
check out the video comments below!

given that these are now the frontrunner for my limberlost challenge race-day shoes, i'm giving the skechers GObionic trail a four-and-a-half feet rating.

try them out yourself and let me know what you think!

14 January 2014

on the run ... with sage canaday

welcome to the third interview in the on the run series ...

if you see someone scrambling up green mountain in denver, colorado at top speed, there's a good chance that that figure is sage canaday.

sage canaday is a two-time US olympic marathon trials qualifier and formerly part of the renowned Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project.  he has a marathon PB of 2:16:52 (2011) but is now better known as an ultrarunner specializing in trails and mountain courses.  in 2012 he was the US mountain running champion, and in 2013 was the USATF 100km ultra trail national champion.  he also ended the year ranked third by the International Skyrunning Federation in ultradistance racing - just behind killian jornet and luis alberto hernando gonzaga. 

also an author, coach, and owner of Vo2Max Productions, sage is quickly becoming recognized as one of the very best ultra/trail/mountain runners in the world.

. . . . .

1.  If you could spend a month in full time training with one of the following, who would you choose?

(a) Bear Grylls
(b) Usain Bolt
(c) Alex Honnold
(d) Will Ferrell
(e) Diana Nyad

SC:   "E" - Diana Nyad, so she could teach me how to swim!  I did a sprint triathlon in high school and I'm pretty sure I was the last one out of the water.  One day I want to do an Ironman so it would be good to figure out how to actually move through the water well.

2.   Even with some phenomenal wins in your career, you've been honest on reflecting on some serious bonks and disappointments (e.g. at Sierre-Zinal, Transvulcania and the UROC 100). What's a key that you and other racers (of any distance) need to pay particular attention to? 

(a) Going out too hard at the beginning 
(b) Overtraining 
(c) Non-specific training/conditioning 
(d) Insufficient rest/recovery periods 
(e) None of the above 

SC:   I'd have to give a new option "F".  I'm going to say a combo of "A", "B" and "C"!  I was overtrained and undertrained at the same time.  Not specifically prepared for some unique demands and too tired from other training that was not specific.  So it's a combination of factors. Going out hard at the start compounds that as well.

3.   You're working on producing a new film called "The MUT Runner" (an acronym for "Mountain-Ultra-Trail") - your hope for this project is to: 

(a) Elevate awareness about this new breed of athlete and introduce the pioneers/personalities 
(b) Expand the portfolio of Vo2Max Productions and your own media skills 
(c) Reintroduce yourself as a different category of runner 
(d) Leverage the opportunity to attract sponsors to the sport
(e) Draw in a whole new audience who think that you're actually talking the popularity of running with dogs 

SC:  Sorry, I'm going to have to go with "F" again!  The goal of the film project is to bring the element of speed training into ultras and highlight how top athletes may approach the sport differently now because of new competition for prize money and sponsorship opportunities.  It is a behind-the-scenes look at how mountain-ultra-trail runners can make a career out of the sport and how the sport has evolved over the years.  Finally, I aim to include (what I hope are) inspirational and informative bits on training with workout and race footage from mountains and trails around the world!

4.   Many people know you've been an elite runner on the track, the road and now the trails. What's the passion that's driving Sage Canaday into 2014 and beyond? 

(a) Oooh ... that Rob Krar ...! 
(b) Mastering the sky running circuit 
(c) Helping others find success through more coaching 
(d) Unfinished business on the roads - maybe another Olympic marathon qualifier 
(e) The 100-miler and longer

SC:  "A", "B", "C" and "D"! ... not sure about "E" ... yet ...

*** for more on sage and his company, Vo2Max Productions, visit his website at http://sagecanaday.com/.  to find out more about The MUT Runner film visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2120298996/mut-runner.


10 January 2014

on the run ... with jim willett

welcome to the second interview in the on the run series ...

jim willett is a life-long athlete and fitness enthusiast, having worked as a personal trainer/coach since 1997.  however, in 2010 at the age of 36 he unwelcomingly added a new title to his résumé:  cancer warrior.  the challenge was colon cancer, and since overcoming that obstacle he has set his mind and sights on tackling some of the world's most daunting races.  most recently he completed the kalahari augrabies extreme marathon, a self-sufficiency run held over six legs in seven days with set distances for each day, ranging from 28km to 75km.

even as he looks to tackle an ultramarathon on every continent, jim continues to inspire runners in local communities, leading running groups and seminars through MEC.

. . . . .

1.  If there’s something that I’ve discovered about extreme/adventure ultrarunners it’s that:

(a) We’re not superhuman, just gritty
(b) Ok, we’re a little more superhuman that the general population
(c) Sometimes we haven’t quit when we actually should have
(d) We’re all running from something – just longer and harder than most
(e) You haven’t seen the planet like we have

JW:  I think I'd have to add an ”F” to the choices that said "We all have an inherent, primal drive to explore and connect.  Sometimes you just need the courage to act."

2.   The best thing about having had cancer is: 

(a) There is no best thing about having cancer 
(b) Being able to empathize with and support other fighters, like my mom 
(c) Telling my story and having the opportunity to inspire others to really live 
(d) Losing my inhibitions about going shirtless because I have a gnarly scar 
(e) Finding out what great people I have in my life 

JW:  I'd say "B" & "C" are most applicable.

3.   You’ve been invited to run the ultramarathon in Antarctica this year. The lure of this race is: 

(a) Checking off another continent from the running bucket list 
(b) Finding out if you’re better suited to extreme cold than extreme heat 
(c) Knowing that running through Canadian winters has already prepared you 
(d) Adding to your gallery of extreme photographs
(e) None of the above / Other 

JW:  "E” - the extreme environment, and the possibility of seeing one of the most pristine and untouched parts of the world.

4.   The biggest piece of advice that I’d give to someone who wants to get serious about running: 

(a) Focus on what’s going on between the ears 
(b) Get into the right kind of shoes for you 
(c) It all starts with nutrition 
(d) Work out a plan and stick with it 
(e) Connect with a group who you can contribute to and learn from

JW:  I think they're all right.  But it's gotta start with yourself ... so “A”.

*** for more on jim's journey to inspire the world, visit http://www.runjimmirun.blogspot.ca/.


09 January 2014

book review - the longest race (and a giveaway)

i'm not a reader.

some people are voracious when it comes to books - my daughter is one of those people.  on the other end of the spectrum are people like me, who find reading often painful and therefore struggle to get through even the slimmest of books over the course of numerous months.

so to offer up a book review is a win for me.  and the fact that i persevered to the end of a given book is a win for its author.

by way of a review, i don't want to give away too much but rather offer some impressions and general comments/criticisms/recommendations that might help a fellow non-reader decide whether or not a given work is worth putting the effort into trying to finish.  so here goes nothing!

The Longest Race is written by ed ayres, the founder of running times magazine (which i was first introduced to as the 'running magazine for competitive runners').  structured around his reflections on running the JFK 50 Mile in 2001 (hot on the heels of the 9/11 attacks), these pages are chock full of insights into the sights, sounds and emotions of trail ultrarunning.  as such, it does serve to provide a great deal of insight as to what it takes to successfully hold it together and complete an endurance event of this nature (including the importance of adenosine triphosphate - ATP - and why it makes a boiled potato desirable).  the book even includes an addendum of "Notes for the Aspiring Ultrarunner", which i found both clear and useful.

but to describe it merely as a running book would be to undermine its intended and effective purpose.  i believe that ed ayres wrote this in a fashion that is intended to be allegorical, not unlike what The Pilgrim's Progress is to the Christian faith tradition.  ayres uses the motif of ultrarunning to highlight issues of long-term sustainability and health on a more macro level - addressing current threats to the environment and socio-economic trends that affect the global human community.  woven in are recollections from his work with the Worldwatch Institute (which in name has a 'big brother' feeling about it) where ayres spent a good deal of time analyzing data and trends in energy, climate, culture and economy.  as such, this book shares lessons that have impact far beyond runners and running, but illustrates how a personal commitment to a healthy lifestyle (notably advocated by the JFK 50 Miler's namesake) is a critical piece to instigating change.

it's hard at times to not compare The Longest Race to christopher mcdougall's Born To Run as there are some similar topics that are addressed in the pages of both books.  doing so robs ayres' work of some of its uniqueness and influence; but at the same time it identifies the stylistic advantage that BTR has over TLR.  mcdougall writes from a storyteller's perspective, whereas it feels at every turn that ayres is setting the reader up for a 'moral of the story' point.  while far from unfair or tiresome, it does verge on the predictable and creates a bit of a pan-left/pan-right movement from recounting the JFK 50-mile adventure to meta-narrative principle extrapolation and back again.

after all's said and done this is still a book well worth the read.  i think that ayres' own statement near the conclusion sums up nicely the lasting value of The Longest Race:
"Every interdisciplinary field moves us a stride closer to replacing our reductionist science and myopic perception with more integrated , whole-picture views." 
ed ayres takes a text on the sub-culture of ultramarathon racing and reveals lessons learned and strategies for success on a much grander scale.  i give this book three-and-a-half footprints out of five.

*** BONUS ***

how about a giveaway?

i've got one (1) Suunto M5 multi-sport exercise watch up for grabs!  

sweet, eh?  this contest is open to canadian and US residents only, so give it a whirl!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


06 January 2014

on the run ... with rhonda-marie avery

so with a new year comes a new idea, and a new segment for the rendezvoo point!

it seems that if i have any talent at all it is in getting people to tell their stories.  i mean, who doesn't love hearing a good story?  and the running community is chock full of great people who are living inspiring and colourful stories.  so i thought that maybe i could get a few of them to share their stories with me here on my blog.

the trick is that it can be tricky (especially without coming across as creepy) to get people to share the substance of their stories with you (or me).  most of us have this well-honed defense mechanism called 'small talk' that we use to keep people at arm's length, at least until we've known them for a while or shared a meaningful experience with them.

the way that i figured that i might get around this is to keep these interview segments short and pithy - that way it doesn't seem too onerous to complete an interview, and nobody feels obligated to share more than they are comfortable doing so.

introducing the on the run interview.

the premise is simple:  four multiple-choice questions.  

that's it.

perhaps the equivalent of the content that you might be able to convey while passing or being passed by someone else during the course of a race.  hence, the amount of information you might acquire 'on the run'.

so without further ado, let me introduce my first guest ...

rhonda-marie avery is an ultra-athlete.  she's completed a 365 day run streak, a 100-mile run, as well as a 13.5-kilometre tethered open water swim and a 500-kilometre tandem bike tour.

the tethered and tandem parts are because rhonda-marie is legally blind.

having been born with complete achromatopsia, rhonda-marie only has the 'rods' pairing from 'rods and cones' photoreceptors in her eyes.  limited to 8% vision, she has the most vision at night (and hence fancies running at "stupid o'clock").  but that has not prevented her from raising three children, from working as a registered massage therapist or from accomplishing these awe-inspiring (regardless of ability) feats.

. . . . .

1.  I really started considering myself a runner when:

(a) I got off the treadmill and got onto the road
(b) I bought some gear from a running specialty store
(c) Someone else called me a runner
(d) I completed my first race
(e) None of the above / Other

RMA:  "E" - some day I would like to be a runner ... mostly I think I am just a stubborn girl on a mission.  I think we are far too hard on ourselves.  I think running from the house to the bus stop is still running.  I think being a "runner" puts you in a box.  I think I'd rather be a sphere.

2.  Blogging is: 

(a) Therapeutic 
(b) A chore 
(c) Just part of how I communicate 
(d) For the benefit of everybody else 
(e) Neither here nor there 

RMA:  "A" and "C".

3.  This is what you need to know about my attempt to run the Bruce Trail this summer: 

(a) It’s something that no other legally blind athlete has done 
(b) Everyone needs a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) 
(c) I’m looking to wear out as many guide runners as possible 
(d) The scents and sounds of the trail are really what I’m looking forward to
(e) It’s just a training run for my Appalachian Trail attempt 

RMA:  "A" and "B" ...  and because the only way to create small change is to demonstrate big change.

4.  The secret to my running success is: 

(a) Not comparing myself to anyone else 
(b) Knowing that vision is overrated 
(c) Encountering my limits and then exceeding them 
(d) Counting running itself as success 
(e) What?!? I’m a successful runner???

RMA:  "E".  If I was successful I wouldn't have a new goal, right?

*** for more on rhonda-marie's upcoming adventures, visit envisionsonthebruce.blogspot.ca.

01 January 2014

race report - snowflake series race 3 (10k)

on a rather last minute suggestion from my friend rhonda-marie i made my way north into orillia for the third race in the CANIrunning snowflake series - a 5/10k competition.  it seemed like a good way to start off 2014, and who knows ... maybe i'll become more like my running idol yuki kawauchi and race my brains out this year.

it was a slick drive on snow-packed/icy highway 11 from barrie to orillia, so i was worried that i hadn't given myself enough time to get to the start line to register.  maybe the motto for my commute there would be my mantra for the day:  slow and steady.

arriving at the waterfront in orillia, there were two small card tables set up in a snowy parking lot - that was registration HQ.  the snowflake series is marketed as a no-frills race:  $15 per race (or $50 for the four-race series), no shirt, no medal, with all proceeds going toward The Sharing Place, a local food bank.  the process was no muss-no fuss:  fill in your vitals (race bib number, age, name, home city) with a golf pencil, pay the entry fee, try to manipulate your now frostbitten fingers to pin the bib to your outer shell.

i prepped with a 2k warmup jog with strides, including a quick trip to the one port-a-potty seemingly stranded out in the snow-covered park.

the underfoot conditions that we would be running on were similar to what i encountered on the highway - packed down snow and icy, tire-track worn patches in -21°C windchill.  i can honestly say that i was worried when my 'warm-up' only managed to notify me that the entire front half of each foot was frozen numb ... being a forefoot striker i really rely on my ability to push off from my toes and this was not a good start.

by the time that the group that had gathered (i eyeballed about 150-200 of us) were herded to the start line, i'd managed to recover feeling in my feet.  the race organizer/announcer did a solid job of announcing the route, the hazards (e.g. traffic - these were not closed courses), and the fact that there was no awards ceremony afterwards ... only hot chocolate and timbits (enough incentive for me!).

the race
with simple verbal countdown we were off.  i started about 15 feet from the front runners (who were off in a flash - what did they have on their shoes, tire chains?) and worked my way through the pack easily enough into what looked to be about 12th spot.  i tried to find a group to run with, but i didn't want to blow up so the pace that i found manageable kept me lagging about 5 seconds behind a pack of three.

the course itself was easy enough to follow - turns were marked with small orange pylons and signs, and one major turn/intersection had a course marshal to help encourage/manage traffic.  for a no frills race, this was one of the best controlled courses i'd seen.

i was pleased (given the greasiness/lack of traction) with the pace for the first 5k.  at points i wondered whether or not i'd made the right choice to wear my skechers gorun 2s when i'd also packed my brand new merrell mix master 2s, but the tread seemed to perform just as well as anybody else's footwear.  today's road surface was a great equalizer.

the 5k turnaround (it was a loop course) was treacherous at best - a hairpin turn on a single lane of road marked by those little pylons.  there was simply no running through that, and a shuffle pace meant risking a turned or busted ankle.  what was impressive, however, was that in the midst of the turn my watch beeped 5k - they must have measured this course using a garmin. :)

setting out on the second loop i quickly recognized that several of the front runners had wrapped up their morning, and that i was now in about 6th or 7th place.  this was a similar experience to the MEC burlington race five back in november, only i didn't have the benefit of my pal trevor to push the pace on me here.  but before the 6th km was up i managed to catch up to one of the guys (now the lone guy, having lost two of his pack compatriots after 5k) whom i was chasing during the first half.  his name was jason, a half-marathon specialist ten years my younger - and we managed to link up and finish the race together.  even though he'd not run in about three months before today, it was evident how quick he was as i gave another full-out sprint effort over the last 150m and could only manage to stay on his heels crossing the finish line.  

checking my watch, i managed to complete the race in 44:09 (about 4:24/km) - which according to the unofficial results is decent enough for a 2nd place age-group finish.  far from even my personal training time best for the same distance, i was pleased with the result as i was really treating this as a tempo run for the week, and it served as just that.

following a 2k cool-down jog (part of which involved helping to push a mini-van spinning its tires over the crest of a hill), i took full advantage of the aforementioned timbits and hot chocolate.  at this popular spot i chatted it up with several people that i'd recognized from the running room/barrie roadrunners group - all of whom commented that the running community in orillia is very much underestimated and very strong.  for sure there were a number of jackrabbits out there today, and i think that i'll be looking out for more CANIrunning races in orillia to help sharpen me in 2014.

kudos to all of the snowflake series organizers and participants - i will definitely make a point of seeing you again!