Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ice storm and my Yaktrax

While moving this past fall, I almost didn't pack my Yaktrax, those rubber and metal strap ons. I had survived most winters with barely a reason to put them on. Luckily I realized I'd probably need them one day.

Even on a group run this past Wednesday, I was talking to another runner and telling her about the Yaktrax. "You really can't use them much on Toronto roads," I told her, citing the concrete and asphalt surfaces that don't often get too much of a layer of snow.

I didn't read the long-range forecast. We got a tonne of freezing rain overnight, and this morning, a coating of ice covered any surface that could accommodate it -- roads, branches, signs, cars, railing, lights and the ground. 

I worked a little updating coverage, then decided to give myself an assignment of  getting some fresh art. I decided to abort my long run in favour of a 5K or 6K run, enough to continue my running streak and to let me play on the icy streets.


Outside my townhouse


Yes, my feet got soaked by this point.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Winter is coming. Or, as the past week showed those gearing up for another training cycle, it's already here. I've faced many a December when I'm trying to kick start running after a long spring and summer training season and a busy fall race schedule. Well, it's time again. Lets get working.

2014 looms on the horizon and not just for me, as I'm seeing a tonne of search on this blog for Around the Bay (race strategy, hills, running it full out for Boston) and for the Ottawa Marathon.  (See below for links) Judging by how fast the races are selling out these days, I'm going to see busy trails in Toronto this winter.

Exiting 2013 with some mojo was my immediate thought after the comeback marathon, and I've declared it to anyone who asks. I want to complete the mission, and get my marathon time down, and requalify for Boston. So as winter No. 10 arrives (yes, it's been that long I've been doing this long-distance thing), I'm changing strategies in a big way.

Running with the Black Toe group
First is I'm running December with  more mileage as a ramp up to January. I'm on a mostly undeclared until now run streak to get the gears going, running from U.S. Thanksgiving all the way to the New Year.  So far, I've made it past the peak holiday party season and I think I've hit a schedule (early morning runs are tackling my shorter distances).

Second, I'm looking to inject some pace into a few of my runs every week. Part of this is just keeping sharp. I've launched into aggressive training in January in the past only to have my body rebel. Along with that, I'm giving a wide berth to all holiday treats that are invading the office where I work. I don't want to gain the holiday weight and so far, it's going well. Love those morning smoothies.

Third, I'm combatting winter boredom by doing more group runs, which is pretty much 1000% more than I usually do. Black Toe, an awesome new running store that's located right between work and home, has been doing after work and weekend runs. So far, I've been out there and loving meeting new people and having a group to take my mind off pace. The faster group is right in my wheelhouse, so I'm happy to join them.

And finally, for the first time in my marathon schedule since 2007, I'm giving up the Pfitzinger-Douglas (still love it) program for some real coaching. The coach from Black Toe is crafting an evil workout plan for me for the next four months. I'm looking forward to the challenge and gratified to have some feedback. New tricks, indeed.

Sunday, December 01, 2013


We hit reset on our watches every day, while the weekly schedules reset and what was a big running week on a Sunday becomes a big fat zero on Monday morning. Running is a sport that lets you accumulate, build, add step by step, then ultimately, we wipe the slate clear.

There are so many other reasons for running, of course, but I find it amazing while running my same routes -- up and down the downtown streets or back and forth on the water's edge, that it actually adds up to something. This morning's run was more than the 10 miles that I logged at the end of a route that saw hills climbed, sidewalk and asphalt passing by and bumping into a running friend at a stop light (we weren't bouncing). At the end of the run I see time (1:15) pace (7:33 miles) and distance (16.12K).

Add it all together, zoom out to the wide view, and you see something much different. Although this was a higher than usual mileage year, most runners training for marathons pile on hundred of miles a season, even up to 200-300 miles a month. Recently I passed the 2,000 mile mark. Today, I passed 2,046, or more than 3,200 kilometres. If I flew the distance, I mapped out where I could have travelled in that one year.

Amazing, isn't it. In about a week, I would have travelled as far as it takes to fly (as crows do) from Toronto to Vancouver, or most of the United States.

Pull out beyond the 50,000 foot view, and you look at the steps and how they add up to something much bigger, something much more impressive to many who may nod when you say you went for a run for an hour, or are on a running streak.

An hour over a day can add up to 16,850 minutes, or two hundred and eighty hours on the roads. A hundred or so calories burned over a mile adds up to 234,618 and while I don't remember many hills, 92K metres kind of seems like a lot.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why We Run

The slap of the shoe on the pavement, the swing of one's arms, the gag-inducing pace, the hop to clear the curb, the bounce on the balls of the soles as the hill crests. The efficiency and speed, plodding by some, effortless by others. The repetitive motion and the heart rate that is awakened from a slothful existence.

The act of running has me moving at a speed that is so different than on bike, car or transit, and although it's not so much faster than a brisk walk (by scale), the speed in which you travel -- real movement with the heart, legs, muscle in interplay -- have a way of activating my soul.

While I am moving while running, it is running that moves me in deeper ways that meditation could never give me. Running is my way to confront the self, but to find more that is hidden within me. I am seeking, striding, solving, negotiating, hurting, conquering, coping and -- ultimately -- living.

Non-runners don't understand. I get that now. In my years as a long distance runner, I've watched the running community repeatedly dismissed. One old example is Ted McClelland, who wrote in 2007 how the marathon was being ruined by slow runners.

Even as the sport continues to grow, capturing more women, more city dwellers and more participants at races, the naysayers feel compelled to -- shall I say -- dismiss the movement. Oh, you want 26 reasons not to run the marathon?

Just this past week, the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by a man who can't stand the 26.2 stickers, the 13.1 labels he sees on car bumpers. Chad Stafko, in essence, says running is an act of self-absorption, for showing off more than anything else.

He writes:
I have a theory. There is no more visible form of strenuous exercise than running. When runners are dashing down a street in the middle of town or through a subdivision, they know that every driver, every pedestrian, every leaf-raker and every person idly staring out a window can see them.

Mark Remy over at Runner's World does a takedown of Chad, much like I did of Ted McClelland in 2007, so there is no need for rebuttal, but I wanted to reinforce a few simple truths, some small reasons why we run.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Race Report: New York City Marathon 2013

I began my marathon with a sprint, cursing my nonchalance I'd taken the morning as train, ferry and bus had taken me from Midtown to Staten Island. The time was 8:56 on my Garmin, and I was a minute too late.

Sorry, the course marshall closed the corrals, the lady said at No. 13. My friend dashed to hers one ahead of mine where a rogue guard was letting people through. "We've come all this way," a runner from Italy pleaded before we made a dash for the other corral and a minute later, I found myself thanking the guard, into the corral and feeling lucky to have made it in.

From the time I left my hotel to get to the start line, it took more than three hours and 30 minutes. Could I run all the way back to Central Park in that time?

Journey to Staten Island

I began the start of the New York City Marathon surrounded by friends -- many I had met only minutes before. We traded war stories of Chicago, of heat waves and of expectations on what we'd do. We had all jotted 3:30 pace as our expected time, and it looked like this group was ready.

Right: At the corral. Left, top: walking to start line. Left, bottom: Me and my friend Jen (who had a similar finish time)

Here's the start of the NYC Marathon -- one of my favourite starts of any marathon.

Are you ready to run?

There are many moments during a marathon that you remember. There are very few moments that put a genuine smile on your face. It took me awhile to get that first smile, but once it hit, I couldn't let it go.

A lot was on my mind for this marathon -- remembering 2010, the last time I did this race, and telling myself to cherish an opportunity to run such an amazing race. I was thinking of Boston and the added security.

Monday, November 04, 2013

New York City Marathon 2013 in pictures

My final marathon of 2013 was also my 26th, so fitting that it had to be a big one. Race report to come later this week as I'm still in NYC doing some touring. In short, it was an awe inspiring race, one to remember Boston, retake the boroughs of this great city after last year's cancelled race. My race itself was fantastic -- three weeks out from Chicago, I plotted my race plan and executed it. Negative split for my third straight marathon and another sub 3:30 for the books.

I have a lot more to say, but I'll mark this with some of the pictures I took before, during and after the race.

At the start

Start of the NYCM

Up 1st Ave.

Mile 26

The finish

3:27:06 was the final time

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Race Report: MEC Toronto Race Series 7 15K Toronto

Today another running streak was broken, but at least I set a new record. For the past six years, I've run the Marine Corps Marathon. If there is a 'hometown' race, that would be it. Anyways, today is MCM day, but it didn't happen for me -- I wasn't interested in doing MCM then NYC a week later.

With a week to NYC Marathon, I knew I had to get in 10 miles. A 15K race was on the Toronto race schedule, so I signed up more than a month ago, not knowing what exactly I'd be doing.

MEC Race Series 7 results 5K/10K/15K Oct 27

Of course, the target this fall was the Chicago Marathon two weeks ago. I emerged from the race in pretty good condition, and last week ran Sam and Nicole in for the half at 1:45. The longer term injuries I'd been dealing with since early August have been fading away with the rolling, stretching and fewer miles.

How fast did I want to do the 15K race? I was telling my friend Jen -- who is also doing NYC -- to go out slower the week out, but I knew I wanted to see what I was capable of.

Was a chilly but gorgeous morning -- hovering around 5C, feeling a little cooler. Yesterday, I had done a 5K run and forgot my gloves. I was left chilled, so today, it was shorts, longsleeve with a light singlet underneath, plus gloves.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Go, go, go, go, Simon!

"Let's go Simon!" Canada collectively yelled at their TVs that day in 2008, when Simon Whitfield threw down his hat on a Beijing course, and ran one of the most exhilarating races I've ever seen. Ever. Really.

If you don't remember screaming your lungs out, just listen to this woman in the video below who caught the finish live. It wasn't just her. We were all screaming "Run Simon!" From fourth, he ran his heart out to first through the final turn, and grabbed a silver out of nowhere.

Official IOC video. (Boo, they don't allow embedding)

That race, well that was epic. And the runner in me loved every second of it. And today, as Simon announced his retirement, it's worth marking a remarkable career.

Simon is not a marathoner, but he is a runner, and an endurance athlete. I once read on his blog the summation of what training and racing meant. It's one of the most important lessons I've learned about road racing:

From my post last year about Paula Findlay, I wrote:
It was fellow Canadian triathlete Simon Whitfield who for me succinctly summed up what race day meant for his sport -- or any sport where preparation is the key. A few weeks after he ran that thrilling silver medal win in Beijing in 2008, he wrote:

"I felt like all I had to do was express my fitness, I wasn't hoping for miracles, simply expressing fitness earned through hard work," he wrote on a blog at the time.

Anyways, I thought it's worth saying that for triathletes especially, but also runners, that Simon was a class of the field and one of my favourite Canadian runners.

From the archives, my post from 2008, titled "Hero"


Simon Whitfield tops awesome, if there was a word to top that. I've been following his blog since 2006 and over that time, you get a picture of a down-to-earth, hard working and impressive athlete with a sense of humour and humility. He won gold for Canada - in surprising fashion -- eight years ago in Sydney. He didn't medal in Athens and apologized to the nation. But what most didn't realize in between 2000 Olympics and now is that he had built an amazing resume with tonnes of wins. He's the real deal, a legend of the sport, not a flash in the pan.

I'm not a triathlete. I can't even imagine adding two sports to my one (running). But I do identify with the pain they must feel pounding the pavement after swimming and cycling at the paces and the heat. In the Olympics earlier today (last night) I was so happy that CBC was playing most of the race. The run was just fantastic. So many times, Simon seemed to be dropping back from the lead pack but he reeled them in again. Then with a kilometre to go, he seemed too far back that the three ahead of him would escape with the three medals. He was out of the picture frame. Then he took off his hat, and started to work. Amazingly, he clawed back and the four of them were running for their lives in the last 600 metres or so. R. and I were yelling at the TV set. He took the lead, turned the corner and held it only for a bit longer, but finished strongly, and happily, in second place.


From Bruce Arthur, sports columnist for my newspaper:

But in his mind, Whitfield kept repeating one thing: Sing like Kreek.

Few athletes endure what triathletes suffer -- more than anything, triathlon is about eating barrelfuls of pain. And Whitfield began to close. Whitfield ate the pain, and spat it out. And in his mind, he kept repeating, sing like Kreek.

"I didn't think he was coming back," said his coach, Joel Filliol. "Normally that doesn't happen -- when you get dropped, that's it."

Except that in the final 200 metres in the shadow of the magnificent Mings Tomb Reservoir northwest of Beijing, Whitfield kicked as he had on that magic-filled day in Sydney, and took the lead. Thanks to a supreme act of will, everything was in front of him. It was all possible. And he kept saying it: Sing like Kreek. Sing like Kreek. In the stands, triathlon officials and his coach were screaming those words, too. Sing like Kreek! Sing like Kreek!

The rest here.

Kreek, by the way, is Adam Kreek, one of the men's eight rowers who won the gold a few days ago. He belted out our national anthem as the flag was raising.

Video: CBC's on demand page is here (you can search Triathalon or Men's eights

Monday, October 21, 2013

Race report: Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon 2013

I love race day in this city and in the past decade, I've run dozens and dozens of road events in Toronto. Scotiabank, for me, has always been The Big One, I've run it nine straight years, toeing the line for six half marathons and three marathons.

It's this race that first gave me the marathon bug, where I started to set goals for Boson. Scotia, as we call it, very rarely becomes the goal race in my busy fall schedule. The half is usually a ramp up an eventual full. So a week out from running the Chicago Marathon, I found myself with not a lot of goals and fearful that without a mission, I'd potentially race out my legs before doing New York in two weeks.

Then Nicole, my buddy on Daily Mile, reminded me that she'd been asking me to think about pacing her and Sam to a 1:45.

Actually, she wrote this:

But you're here to read about goals. Well, I'm still going to put my "A" goal out there. I'm not entirely sure I will be able to get it, but I'm going to keep the mind strong and go for it. What will help is that Kenny may run with Sam and I as our personal pacer (skirt and socks not required!)!

Okay, so that gave me my goal. 1:45, or 5 minute kilometres.

I met up with Daily Milers before the race, and met Nicole (who I've seen at other races) and Sam (for the first time in real life). We dropped our bags and proceeded to the start line.

Yes, he chased the cookie through the whole marathon.

The weather was a perfect chilly temperature. It would get no warmer than 13C so there was a chill in the air before the 8:45 start. We lined up right after the 3:25 pacer and in front of the 1:45 and 3:30s. I figured the 1:45s (headed by Fran) would distort the pace since he was going 4:45 pace while doing his 10:1s. Later, I saw the 3:30s way behind us -- no clue why.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sporting Life 10K replaces race director

When runners speak, the races do listen. I've learned that more than once on this blog, and that's heartening. First, the news:

The Sporting Life 10K has named Cory Freedman its new race director after the big-city race faced runner backlash last May, admittedly falling "short" of expectations, the race organizer said Wednesday.  

Freedman, who founded Toronto Women’s Run series, takes over from Jay Glassman, who will continue to serve as a consultant for the race that will be slated to run on May 11, 2014. Glassman's Running First organizes the Toronto Goodlife Marathon.

Photo from MySportsShooter
Last year's race -- one of Toronto's largest road races with 27,000 registered runners -- saw overcrowding at the finish line, even with a staggered start. The finish-line "chaos" as this blog documented and many runners on social media vented, sparked the Sporting Life and the charity Camp Ooch's decision to re-evaluate how the race was run.

“We put a committee together and broke down the run experience and what needed to improve," John Roe, director of marketing at Sporting Life, said in a statement outlining changes to the race. "We are also working on making improvements to the finish line experience. We have changed literally everything about the run to deliver the best possible experience for our participants.

"We owe that to the runners," he said.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Race report: Chicago Marathon 2013 (The Comeback)

MY ROAD to Chicago started almost exactly a year ago, on a lonely stretch between Toronto's Beaches neighbourhood and the finish of what would be my slowest marathon. 

It hurt in the last 8K of that course, the spurts of running after a walk break. Why was I out there? It was the place where I both wanted to be and yet maybe not.

That marathon was the most emotional of my life -- not because of the race, but because of the events around my life. My mom was on her last days, I had not trained for much of the summer but I had felt a need to run that race on 10/14/12. I wanted to reclaim something. Just wasn't exactly sure what it was back then -- that the final step of the marathon was just the first in something coming.


CHICAGO, 10/13/13 -- Somewhere in the dark passage within the recesses of an overpass, a hand reached for my left arm midstride. Instinctively, I tried to help keep the runner upright, but within three strides he went down with a thud, me having no option but to keep on going. Runners streamed around him, jumping to avoid a mishap. A minute later, another man fell right in front of me, his shades sprawled around him, him on his back like an overturned crab.

Those two moments briefly changed the race from a "wow this is a big city marathon" to "this is a survival of the fittest." Being back on Chicago wasn't so fun after all.

Chicago has always been a special place for my running -- being my first marathon back in 2006. In 2011, I returned for a second time, thinking that my then-veteran status would allow me to destroy my debut marathon time, which never happened.

We arrived on Friday and did the usual touristy stuff. Shopping, the expo, eating pasta and getting in some light sight seeing. Outwardly, I was the 24 time marathoner confident for his next. Inside, I was a bundle of nerves, this might as well have been my first.

A FEW DAYS after running the Toronto marathon a year ago, my mother passed away. I wrote this post in the first lonely hours after getting a call from my brother -- before I headed home to plan our final goodbye.

Running, and writing about running, helped in a way to shield me from the pain but also embrace it. It helped me deal with it and bury the loss. Any bottled up grief could be expended with a short burst of strides. I wrote at the end of that post.

After getting my medal, my 21st marathon, I knew it was the most important one i’ve done. It was for myself but somehow for her. I cried while walking past the post-finish line area, eyes shaded by sunglasses, tears covered by sweat and the bill of my running cap. I thought about how I’d lost the mom others have had for a very long time. I couldn’t share my greatest accomplishments -- work achievements, qualifying for Boston, forging that adult relationship with my parent. I thought about the marathon and how it draws out supporters for runners and how she’d never seen me run.  
Later that day, I wore my marathon shirt and went to the hospital, helped feed mom dinner. My legs were burning, my body exhausted. Her right hand was as strong as ever, gripping my hand, her thumb stroking my finger. Four days later, she was gone.

A week after she died, I found myself in Washington, DC, toeing the line of my sixth Marine Corps Marathon. I ran it with all my heart, hurting, but not broken, to a 3:52 finish, my second slowest marathon a few weeks after my slowest. As I accepted my medal from a Marine, among the many thoughts was, "I can get some strength from this." Another was, "what now?"

CHICAGO - So what got me to this point?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Chicago Redux (3.0)

Yeah, so Chicago was my first marathon and my 16th and this weekend it will be should be my 25th. I wrote a version of this post (2.0) in 2011. So here goes.

2006 Marathon -- My FIRST!

Chicago 2011 -- My 16th!

2006: Holy crap, first marathon
2011: Um, how much of this ibuprofen cream can I slather on my heel?
2013: Ditto on 2011, just apply it to my knees

2006: Can't wait to hit the expo, gonna buy maybe a jacket
2011: Yes to jacket. Yes to hat. Yes to whatever you want me to buy.
2013: I'm wearing my 2006 gear to toss away. Yes, to random gear.

2006: Deep Dish Pizza!
2011: Where can I find a bagel, banana and peanut butter.
2013: Pasta on Saturday, anything goes on Sunday.

2006: Packing a long sleeve in case it gets cold (it got cold)
2011: Unpacking my long sleeve cause it'll get warm
2013: It's Singlet Baby!!!! (Why)

2006: My buddies Jelly, Frankie and I are all geared up, trained, ready to go!
2011: We've ran. A lot sometimes. Sometimes not. We'll line up
2013: A whole new gang. We are scared. We will have fun

2006: 3:20 or bust! (Ended up with 3:35)
2011: Lets see how I feel marathon morning (UPDATE: Yeah, I couldn't beat my 2006 time
2013: It's jazz, lets see how it goes.. (yes I want to smash that first marathon in the face but face it, respect the distance!)

2006: Excited!
2011: Still excited, though will stop short of putting a slammer at the end.
2013: Punching in the clock. It's go time. (okay, it's a pretty awesome time)

Marathon No. 25, here we come!

P.S.: Holy frak, it's the Chicago Marathon! This is gonna be insane(!) <- slammer

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Let explain this taper madness and marathoning thing

So after my last 20 miler, I thought it was all set, the taper was on and I was ready to rest up for marathon day.  All would be well, right? Wrong.

Taper madness, that two to three week period when marathoners look to pass without major incident, is already starting to hit. We are, according to the experts, grumpy, achy, cramming, hungry, tired, jumpy and generally have nothing to do with ourselves.

Even as I get ready for my 25th marathon -- yes, 25! -- I'm encountering the same roadblocks, making the same mistakes.

Here are the pitfalls and how I continually repeat them, or try to avoid disaster.

Yes, we've crammed in 50 mile weeks and hundreds of miles and dozens of hours logged in, yet even in the final three weeks, we think that every single run needs to be fit in or somehow you'll lose fitness. I've made this mistake, even this week when I should have taken a rest day. Result is I went out too fast and now I'm nursing a (phantom?) ache.

Lesson: What I've said, the hay is in the barn, that the 16+ weeks of training is what got you to your fitness. Best to bring down mileage to 75%, 50% and way down the week of the marathon. I know you can keep some quality workouts -- for example tempo or pace -- but cut down on junk and overall mileage.

I'm so achy!!!
Yes, the phantom pain or real cramps/aches that start to happen. I've had many a scare, and it's compounded by the fact that you're already cutting back on mileage. I once ran a marathon (Flying Pig) where I was limping on a foot three days before race day, bought a pain gel two days before, and was applying it the night before. (I ran a PB race day).

Lesson: Yes, this happens and the experts say it's your body healing itself. From experience, if you have tightness through your muscles, by lack of stretching, it can really start to hit. My advice is to pile on the rest and stretch, roll and take your hot baths. Even last minute aches can go away by race morning, but be prepared to treat it.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

What I did this summer

Taking stock of a season, I tallied the numbers that piled up. The tracking software tells me I ran 729.3 miles (or 1,173 kilometres). So much ground was covered, that I was in motion for 97 hours and 46 minutes over the course of three months. I watched the longest day arrive, and lamented in the waning weeks when I'd fight to fit longer runs in the after-work hours against the fading sun.

On this, the last day of summer, the chill had hit, forcing me to abandon my singlet for a T-shirt and I was still cold half way into the run. Some two hours into my 32 kilometre run -- the last big run of this training program -- I spotted dozens of other runners going long, and we traded waves and nods. Race season is on, and you can see it on everyone's faces. They're friendly yet hardened, relaxed but with purpose. We're on the job.

The first days of fall and the pre-taper weeks has us all rushing out there to complete the training. After 14-16 weeks of buildup, what started off as a 12 miler Sunday has gradually built up to 20 miles, and not to put a damper on our shared passion, but hell, this is hard.

Work, marathoners, know, comes in the form of long hours on the roads, nagging injuries we're keeping at bay, patience we're trying to manage and the all important goals we make and the frank test: Are we where we thought we'd be.

My training for Chicago began the second I crossed the finish line in Ottawa in May. I had set ambitious goals, to regain the form I had in the past. For my 25th marathon -- back at the race that was my first -- I wanted to see what purposeful preparation and a more holistic view of training could bring me.

I started eating like an athlete again. (And with the running, I dropped back down to an ideal race weight -- 16 pounds dropped. I know, that's burying the story but I think the weight adjusted to my training and food choices, not by crash dieting.)

Kale smoothie -- Pretty much my breakfast every day.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Race report: MEC Toronto Race Six Half Marathon

I really don't race half marathons. Since my main focus is the marathon, half marathon races -- if done at all -- have been treated as catered pace runs. I've run 11 21.1Ks, compared with 24 fulls and out of the last six half marathons, twice I was a 1:45 pace bunny, three times I used them as marathon pace runs.

(MEC Toronto race six results 2013 5K/10K/21.1K)

I was just looking at my race stats and my personal best (a 1:31:33) was done in 2007, well before my peak running years of 2008-09. I think there's tonne of value in entering a half, though -- I get to run in a race setting, I can practice taking in water and -- in the case of training -- it's much easier to do a pace run in a race setting versus doing it on your own long training run.

The MEC Race series is relatively new to Toronto, I believe it's only in its second year. I only heard about it by chance -- and that's saying something, since I consider myself pretty plugged into the running scene. I'm a member of MEC and have seen the signs in store, but never took the equipment store as a running organizer.

I heard about this race, which was held at the Leslie Spit, offering the 5K, 10K and 21.1K. (They have an upcoming 5/10/15 race in late October.) There were other races, including the Longboat 10K/5K, which attracted about 1,500 people, and the Yorkville 5K. But since I was scheduled for a 18 mile run with 14 miles at pace, I signed up for a mere $15. No medal, no T-Shirt (though we did get a neat little bag), no frills. Perfect price.

My plan was to use it as a pacer, and to make sure I wasn't too exuberant,  I ran the 9K to the start line at around a 5:10 km pace. It was a pretty small race, about 230 people for all three distances, 77 for the half. Bumped into Marlene and Mark and met Stan and another runner who reads this blog after the race (I want so say your name is Clay but I'm in a daze after the race!).

The knee was okay -- still not 100% as I'm hoping the taper rest will bring it closer to normal. Pace, by the way, is technically a 1:40.

Here's what the start corral looked like:

Yes, that small.

Pretty awesome eh?

Okay, so I do the Leslie Spit a tonne to get my long miles in, so I know the route very well. The path we took, the long way hugging the shore, is my preferred route, though I knew that this year, there's about a 800 metre section that's on gravel. We spaced out nicely and I just focused on the pace, seeing where I was pacewise, what felt comfortable. Getting a quick setting for who was running around me. I was soon trailing a runner with one behind me and a cluster of six runners probably 60 metres ahead of me.  Nothing much to note except my fuel belt -- which included my iPhone tucked into the side pocket -- was giving me major difficulties, shifted a lot to the side. I fiddled with it for half the race. Need to figure out how to get it comfortable

The gravel part also featured pools of water, so we kind of had to find our own zigzaggy path. As I'm tailing four other runners, it was pretty amusing as everyone was taking a slightly different route.

Splits: 4:33, 4:41, 4:35, 4:38, 4:36

We hit the base of the lighthouse, back to the start. It's here I realized we were running with a tailwind on the way out, because I could really feel the wind -- really was pushing us back.

Back along the same path in reverse, past the puddles, and we saw the 10K and 5Ks. I was at this point getting closer to the 4:30 pace, feeling good and strong.

Splits: 4:38, 4:23, 4:35, 4:35, 4:28

We hit the start line, on the way back out. At this point, I had run 19K including my warmup. Smartly, I had taken three gels with me and I had taken two (one before the race, one at 8K). Now knowing that there was a tailwind, I figured it was good time to plan out the rest of the race.

I once learned a good way to race the half marathon. A 10 mile run (16K) with a 5K race at the end. My plan was to attack the last 11K, and if my fitness was holding, then 'race' that last 5K. I started by using the tailwind in my favour. I had no runners really in sight so I was running solo, but was gaining on other runners.

The decision to attack meant I was throwing away the marathon pace run, but that was already out the door since I was no where near the 4:40/4:45 pace.

There was a slight issue. Ragweed, to which I'm really sensitive to. I took an Aerius before the race, but as the race was going on, a small amount of mucus was building up. Gross, yes, but worse off is it blocks your airwaves. I was able to clear my lungs, ahem, by the usual methods. Luckily I don't think it really hit me that hard.

Splits: 4:32, 4:28, 4:29, 4:28, 4:28

By the time I hit the lighthouse, I had passed another three runners, including a runner and her friend/coach who was really trying to push her to keep on pace. I'm going to assume she was aiming at 1:35. Remind me never to get a coach to run with me and shout at me when I'm having a bad day. No positive talk ain't going to make me better if I'm flagging by the 15K mark.

At the lighthouse turnaround, I had two runners ahead of me within sight. I knew we had the headwind, but I also realized that this was the time to do the race. So I just focused on the running and pretended I was doing close to tempo work, albeit a little tired doing so.

Passed a few more runners and by the 19K mark, I came alongside a runner, wanting to urge him on. I felt great, even within the end, and since I knew the course so well, I could sense the finish. Pushed the second last kilometre to 4:20, then really pushed the last (4:13).

About halfway into the race, I knew I was set for around a 1:37 half. By the final 5K, I knew I was lowering the pace enough to get into the 1:35 range, so I was happy to get it in at 1:35:20.

Splits: 4:27, 4:25, 4:26, 4:29, 4:20, 4:13

Have to work at the finish line photo.

Although I didn't use the race as an all-out effort, I did push the pace faster than I had planned -- in essence, I did a progressively faster MP run, ending at tempo. So that's another quality run in the bank. I ended the race with a 5.5K cool down run for 22 miles or 35.5K overall on the day.

My knee issues aside, I'm feeling great about this season. It's too bad I've missed all the trackwork so far, but I'm not going to risk injury with 5K race pace, so I'm putting priority on pace work, endurance and keeping my leg healthy.

Two weeks until the taper!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Path to fitness

I hear there are a few treadmills on the top floor of my condo. I'm sure they're fun to run on, with a view of Lake Ontario, but that's not my thing. During my daily runs, I often stroll by ground-floor gyms of condos that shore up Toronto's waterfront, watching those dreadmill runners with almost pity -- even in the deep dreadful month of February.

Most mornings, outside my waterfront condo's fifth-floor window, I'll watch the lake and if I'm lucky, at the right time of year, I'll see the sun rise -- hues of pink tint the sky, the calming lake and trees signifying what kind of day is coming.

My awesome, soon to be former, view.

Usually, within a few seconds, I'll scan the leaves or a nearby flag at the base of a nearby fire station to gauge wind speed. Then, with little fail, I'll see a runner or two making their way along the sidewalk. No matter the season or precipitation, they'll urge me out the door, to join them on the trails I know only too well.

It all makes me want to run.

Home, I am now certain after living here for 10 years, shaped my connection with the outdoors, and though "my" outside is no different than any other front step in this big city, the uninterrupted paths that  I see every morning have turned the view into possibilities of finding the beauty of the trails. Not snow, nor rain nor sleet pushed me inside into that comfy treadmill.

Trails like these  -- and my neighbourhood is going through a massive development to make our waterfront kind of awesome, the type that narrows car corridors in favour of wider tree-lined bike and running lanes -- inspire movement. I moved here from the downtown core, where traffic lights and narrow sidewalks impeded movement. The first time I was urged out into my waterfront neighbourhood to run, shunning my exercise bike, it was the promise of exploration from my front door.

There are those who say car-dependent suburbs, where sidewalks are shunned in favour of more front lawns, are keeping us sedentary. Then you look at cities -- New York, for instance -- where people walk far more. Where I live and work, myself and thousands of others walk to do groceries, walk to work, and run when we want to move. It's faster than our slow-assed streetcars.

To the north of me, in land that was empty a decade ago, the CityPlace development will boast a few dozen condos and a population of 11,000, a community that starts with 450 square feet boxes and a restless population. A few kilometres to the west, Liberty Village has another 3,500 residents and seen to double in a year.

All the while, as the years go by, my trails that used to be so empty are now almost crowded, saved for those four fall/winter months of the year where only the obsessed are willing to tackle negative temperatures.

Toronto's condo boom

Maybe it's this now-liveable city that is turning Toronto's running boom a necessity, as other cramped residents seek freedom from their shrinking square footage.

Recently a yoga studio and a CrossFit location popped up within a block of my condo. I look down and see the CrossFit guys doing laps of the parking lot next door, and the mat-toting yogis head toward their stretch. Kayakers dot the water's edge and as I type this on my balcony, I'm watching a runner power up over a temporary bridge as the city tears up Queens Quay. Cyclists attempt to weave around this madness.

In about a month, if all goes well, I'll be moving out of my condo into a more spacious townhouse. As I was on the house hunt, I told my realtor I was a runner, while thinking: "Where can I move to and still find running trails." I've been lucky to land a great spot in Liberty Village, not more than 800 metres away from my beloved waterfront trail.

But I think i'll miss being across the street from the path that shaped the runner that I am today.

20 metres from my front door. Love it.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Race report: A Midsummer Night's Run 30K 2013

When construction moved my favourite summer race to the Toronto Islands, I knew it'd be a challenge for the organizers. The ferries, the looping course and the island weekend crowd would make the gong show factor very likely. I totally get how it would have been hard to get 2700 runners onto the island to get going for three races.

Midsummer Night's Run race results 2013 here

So when a whole bunch of us procrastinators made it to the ferry terminal 1.5 hours before the 30K start, I think some of us started to worry. I made it across fine with minutes to spare but quite a few runners didn't -- a buddy of mine started 15 minutes after the starting gun, passing the majority of the field on the way to a stellar finish.

Leave it to us to all line up at the ferry dock at 4:20 p.m. for a 5:30 p.m. race start. 

Anyways, I could talk about the negatives, but I'll say this -- Midsummer's is still my favourite long distance race in summer, where you combine a mid-marathon training cycle pace run, a challenging course and a chance to reconnect with old friends over beer.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Taking a knee

My stubborn streak knows no bounds, I guess, and I should know better, at least my knee will thank me for it in the long run.

I felt the tweak on my left leg somewhere during my long run more than a week ago, a 20 miler that was done with great effort. Instead of following a hard effort with rest, I ran 13 miles the day after, then 8 miles the day after. By the time I took a rest day, some day last week, my knee was complaining full on.

Well, that last post was a little premature on the "this is a great year" theme. As I'm figuring out how to set up my recovery this week, part of my mind is thinking setback while the other thinks about the long view.

The pain, on the area to the outside of the knee, it's only perceptible when I'm running harder, somewhere faster than 5 minute kilometres. It's also sore as I climb stairs. Walking or jogging, I can avoid the pain. My thought that it was overtraining and a lack of stretching did me in. I hopefully took to the streets this morning thinking that a weekend of icing, stretching and anti-inflammation medication had brought it down.

No such luck. I started to curse myself, asking why I did a 11 mile run on Sunday. It's funny how when your legs get loosened up, you can run 4:45 kilometres on a sore leg -- it actually didn't feel sore yesterday.

So a mini hiatus it is. I'm not going to get any better by having a half hearted approach to recovery. I have a 30K race on Saturday, an easy run on Wednesday but otherwise I'm shutting it down for now.

Maybe I'll have more time to blog.

In lieu of running, blogging on the waterfront.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Fitting in quality (2013 version)

As a multiple marathoner, I've taken a long path through various training cycles. The first years, I tested the distance, followed by many seasons where I sought peak performance, only to be replaced by maintenance and consistent years of running for the sake of running, not fast race times.

Enter year No. 8, where I'm ramping back up to fast running. The last 11 weeks or so has me regaining -- in real terms -- the form, fitness, strength I had in 2008 and 2009. I know it looking at the scale and in how I'm feeling when I'm clicking by those 4:45s at what almost feels effortless, run-forever pace. If I asked my body to do a long run  at 5 minute kilometres in February or March, I knew I'd be asking a lot.

So how, other than road races, am I to figure out exactly where I am? Am I back in 3:20 marathon shape or, dare I say it, in a slightly better  and faster place?

There's this thought that in the midst of marathon training, when your body knows little rest, that your training times can give you signs. For instance:

  • A 8K race in the 34:00 range, a time I hadn't done since 2009.
  • A 10K tempo run in relatively flat course, done in 42:59, pretty much unheard for me in training unless I was racing the distance
  • A 20 mile run done yesterday in 2:32, average pace of 4:43 (right in that sweet spot marathon pace).

20 miler in 2:32:10

And this is with another 10 weeks until marathon day.

The last 20 miler was a bit of a headscratcher for me, so I went to the tape. I compared it to August runs from 2009 to 2013 (omitting 2012, which was a blah year anyways).

Click to expand

My 2013 20 miler was done at 7:36 mile pace, compared with a 7:58 pace in 2009, my last quality year. In 2008, I had a sub  8 minute pace, and also a 7:13 paced 30K race (in 2:13).

The years 2010 and 2011 (and 2012) where merely me doing the mileage, not focusing on quality training. The 2009 run included a jaunt through High Park, which included some hills, but nothing to really describe the seven minute difference.



Before I make any grand projections, I looked at the weather for 2009 (yes, I'm that geeky), found it to be on a coolish side. Also, realized that I was also in the midst of heavy training. I had another breakthrough run two weeks ago, when I did 20.5 miles in 2:39 or a 7:45 mile pace.

Back in 2009, I wrote a post the week after doing that 20 miler titled "Fitting in quality running." This is what I had to say:

I just came off a big running streak, one that saw me log three 20 mile days in five days, a Monday to Sunday cycle with 72 miles and an 18 day streak. More insane, there was a seven-day period that I logged 92 miles. I do have more time on my hands to get this pure endurance in since I don't start work for yet another two weeks, but now I want to really hone in on some specific aspects of my running.

Where I am today is probably 3:20 to 3:25 marathon shape. I say that because I believe with constant running I can maintain that type of speed over the long distance. My last long run of 20 miles, I was able to comfortably keep a sub 8 minute pace. I`ve been able to slog my way through hot runs. What will bring me to 3:15 shape will be more time for more endurance training but also the insertion of quality.

Quite an amazing post, looking back. With the big miles and the "insertion of quality," it was a banner year, topped off with my best marathon and a ticket to Boston. So today, do I see myself as 3:20 to 3:25 marathon -- or actually faster?

I look at yesterday's 20 mile run like this, through the eyes of a 24-time marathoner. I chose to push the entire 20 miler, turning an aggressive '13 mile pace run' into a full 20. My run streaking this year (I'm on day 31 of one right now, and did a 72 day stint in the winter) has made my legs a lot more resilient. The temperatures were near perfect, and I took the opportunity to use yesterday to insert major quality, instead of showboating for my own sake. Quality runs like these are what literally transform your body over the course of a training program. And I can't ignore that I've been doing everything else right. I'm eating so well, have dropped to an almost ideal race weight, and my core/strength work has me kicking ass.

So, am I back at 3:20 already? Or?

Blue sky dreams, right? It's happened before.

Blue sky goal?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fitness as a priority

In the past month, I took a day off running and exercise, a streak that if I had my way would have been 31 days long. It only took a very rare weather event to get in my way:

I've hit a stride in my running this summer, and I feel like major gains have been had, even though I have 11 weeks left in training before Chicago. The long road ahead has plenty of tough runs in store, tempos, trackwork and a schedule that requires me to work out consistently. Despite that one day layoff, I'm now on a 22-day stretch -- and I'm not feeling the aches and pains that people who stress rest. Rest, for me, is an easy five-mile run.

This come sto mind as I was reading a piece at HuffPost that listed eight habits that "insanely fit" people adhere to.

One particular section, on making fitness a priority, sums things up nicely:

We're all busy, but if you want to be fit you have to make time to work for it. The most fit people strike a balance between work and family obligations, social lives and exercise. In fact, it may be what differentiates the fittest folks from everyone else, boxing champ Laila Ali told Ebony:

I do my best to work out five days a week. There are times when I can only get in three days a week because I am traveling or just need rest due to a hectic schedule. But working out is always a priority and if I fall off due to my schedule, it is not long before I get back on track. People who are fit are the same as anyone else. The only difference is their level of commitment. If looking good and being fit was easy, everyone would do it! Most people don't want to put in the work or make the sacrifices needed in order to be fit.

Looking back at July, the mileage is astounding compared with 2012. I logged 260 miles, or around 418 kilometres, in the past month. In committing to run for 30 of 31 days, it meant early mornings, including weekends. On a few days I fit in two runs, one in the morning, the second after work. Last summer was pretty low intensity but I've doubled this July mileage this year. (My record was 300 miles done in August, 2008 when I was on a 70 mile a week plan.)

Two hundred and sixty miles later, and all of a sudden, I'm close to the form I had in 2009. Making running and fitness a priority meant that even on a recent work trip to London, I found ways to fit in runs, including a 21.1K tour of the city. Then the day I flew back to Toronto, I ran twice -- once to Regent's Park in the early hours, then a jaunt through my hometown waterfront course after I spent eight hours on a plane. An epic double.

From Buckingham Palace.
As a result, my tempo runs have been successful, long runs are now being done at paces I didn't think I could pull of that at this stage and my form is what I knew I could get back to.

Nice to see the return from all the work - that commitment - pay dividends.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

TMI about GI issues and runners

Okay, time to talk about -- oh, how to put it -- a shitty problem for runners we don't talk about, but we all have our war stories. Not pretty, and believe me it's a runner's obsession.

Yes, I said it. Using the euphemism No. 1 and No. 2, or the runners' catch-all phrase "GI issues," is to mask the real issue. We run, we run long, and for runners, constipation sometimes ain't a real problem. You're on a 10 mile run, 4 miles away from home, when all of the sudden, you have to take a shit. You have to take a piss. And you're freaking out, in a near panic.

I posted a Daily Mile update referring to 'GI Issues' (gastrointestinal) to which James said "Everyone has a GI story to tell (or not)" and Chris said "I could write a book about early morning run GI emergencies. On race day I wake up at 4am and have coffee. Every other day - baby wipes in ziploc just in case."

And in the history of this blog, I haven't written about it. Is it taboo? Screw that, lets let loose.

GI Issues are why on race morning, I have one obsession and it has nothing to do with hitting my paces or getting to the race site on time or even setting a PB. It's all about the washroom and avoiding a mid race....

Well, how to put it..

This ->

No. 1 and 2. Or a geyser. Flickr/StephenAyoung

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Race report: Dawn at the Don 8k

Racing shorter distances while training for marathons isn't ideal, but they are among the best workouts you can fit into your program. Tired legs, pounded by volume with little recovery, are asked to be recruited for a strong effort. But strong training can give you surprising results. I once ran a sub-20 5K a day after pounding out a 30K run.

(Dawn at the Don race results 2013 5K, 8K)

I put off a 5 mile tempo run earlier this week (did 5K instead) so I could put effort into today's 8K. Two days ago, I did my marathon pace run for a full 16 miles, and on top of that, put in 46 miles in the past six days. Tired legs indeed.

Before I headed out to meet my buddy Lee to get to today's 8K, I punched in a few calculations into my race calculator and was optimistic. Would today's race prove all the gains I've made in the past two months? It should, as it was really another tempo run.

Most of the 8K races I've done come early in the race season. This one, in July, comes as I am amping up the mileage and - this year - fitting in a lot of quality runs. My last 8K in April was a horrid affair, my body just not ready for true racing. In my head, using this race as a tempo run, I could target a 35 minute 8K, or 4:22 kilometres, which is around what I'm doing for tempos. I did check what 34 minutes needed (4:15 kilometres) and kept that number rattling in my head.

My PB for 8K was in 2008 with a 33:57. On a true race basis, I did a 5 miler early in the marathon training season (which is 8.05K) in 32:49 in 2008. 2008 was my first year going after that BQ.

This was my second time doing Dawn at the Don which is run by the organizers of the old Night Crawler 5 miler. It's set in Wilket Creek Park and features a basic out and back. The course is curvy with four uphills (and downhills) with a hairpin turn and tight corners so is a little more technical. The 8K had 200 runners and quite a quality field showed up.

Here's the start area.

View Larger Map

Lee and I did a 4K warmup, the first few kilometres of the course, to get a sense of the course, it was warming but not as bad as it can be for the summer.

Seeded myself appropriately and we were off.

1K: 4:12
Tried to keep things under control, we were sucked into the vortex that is a race start, I cooled it off after seeing my watch signal a sub 4 kilometre pace. Really focused on being comfortable, getting my stride in check and being mindful not to race too hard.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Shaking things up

All hail the kale. For me, even just stating that, embracing the bitter green, is a simple step I've taken to put me back on the road to faster running.

I have a post-marathon tradition that includes eating a hamburger and inhaling a plate of fries. After running Ottawa in the best marathon time I've posted since 2011, I ordered the meal, and after a few fries, pushed away the plate, thinking of the choices we all make to stay healthy.

Us runners are obsessed with food. What think about what we eat, how much of it, and what types with the knowledge that carbs are king. Marathoning has its challenges -- train a lot, and you get hungry, but it's easier to consume a hundred calories than it is to burn it off, a mile per 100.

The problem with training like an athlete and eating like a couch potato can lead to that first-marathon weight gain, where you can't burn off enough calories to satisfy the hunger.

Once a running friend told me they had trouble putting on weight during marathon training. I wasn't really identifying until I realized that it all really depends on what you're eating, and how it figures into your performance.

Look, I've been training for marathons for eight years, two cycles most years, and have always found it a challenge to eat well. Everything comes together until I hit my post-evening run meal, when it all falls apart. You think it's hard to eat 1000 calories in one go, not that hard if you're not eating the right food.

Last year, before the Summer Olympics and I interviewed Dylan Wykes, one of Canada's fastest marathoners and also a vegetarian, on what he eats.

A typical day would look like

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Run Now wristband winners

A week ago I told you had some Run Now wristbands to give away and to leave a comment on the post. Thanks so much for your comments, glad to see some silent readers come out. It's awesome to know what reach this blog has and I'm grateful to share.

Good news is I've come across another batch of them so I'm giving away EIGHT -- pretty damned good odds, eh. I'll send out the first four this week. Email me your mailing address at

The winners!

The band is a worthy cause (money for The One Fund Boston) and is only $10 plus shipping for five wristbands. So If you order some, feel free to do what I just did, very cool idea.

Condo living eh? Aqua 410 Queens Quay 'nightclub'

Update, Jan 6, 2014: I see plenty of you are sharing/finding/Googling this link. To you, hello. You've landed on a running blog with a tangent on the woes of condoland Toronto. And by the way, Aqua is one of the best buildings on the Harbourfront. Enjoy.

Original Post: I've heard the horror stories, the other side of condo life in downtown Toronto. The joke is that certain buildings just north to me are run more like dorms, where cheap rent, young renters and buildings that are largely held by investors equal living with D-bags. Of course, this is not everyone, not even most people are like that, obviously, but one bad apple can ruin things.

(Yes, this is not about running, but you know I like to use this space to sometimes as my sounding board.)

View Larger Map

My building's awesome. Right on the water, a small build, and for the 10 years I've lived here it's been a fabulous place to own. That's until last night, when one of my neighbours decided to open a night club on his terrace. Hey, it's his birthday, let rip right?

The following is an excerpt of what I wrote my building manager. I'm just posting here to make it public record.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Long road ahead

The comeback trail is long, winding, with plenty of hurt -- but it is not necessarily a lonely one. 

I was out there tonight, hammering in an eight-mile run with some striders. Two things about the run made it an indicator that I was working harder than usual. It was longer than a usual five mile weekday run, and I was putting in some quality work.

About 40 minutes into the run, on a trail on the eastern waterfront, I saw a familiar face, a friend. As we neared, him striding toward me, I waved and we both stopped. Sweat pouring down our faces, we started chatting.

Me: "How's it going? Looks like we're both working hard."
Him: "Getting the miles up, but the tempos are tough, trying to get them sub 5."
Me: "I know we're you're at, I'm working at a comeback. More miles, eating better, dropping some pounds, getting back to where I know I can be."

My friend has been an inspiration -- he's a marathoning veteran, a multiple Boston finisher who has a substantially fast PB, and who aspires to get back to Boston with a sub 3:40. A few years ago, we traded talk about how he'd pull of such faster times.

We don't take the past for granted. As we stood there, trading war stories of being on the path toward better marathoning, we knew what it took but, as he said as he is now in the 55-59 age group, "I don't take that for granted." More miles (55 miles for each one of us last week), more training, more running, taking better care of ourselves.

Many of us want to run Boston again, a simple fact. The bombings have something to do with it, but in that race we saw the self that we aspire to regain. The disciplined runner, the strong athlete, the person who ate miles for breakfast then munched on a double run for after-dinner snack. Sweat, oxygen-sucking runs and fast splits were the building blocks of that excellence. Some of us forgot how much hard work it was, and part of the reason why we cherished the times that were needed to qualify was that it was -- for most of us -- damned hard to get there.

(I, by the way, have no illusions -- I'm not getting back to BQ pace at least this year. My goal is to get back into marathon race shape I think I can be, run a decent race in the 3:20s and see where it takes me.)

My eight miler became more than nine, but I wasn't rushing to finish the run. By the end of the hour and 10 minutes on the road, I was striding hard, marvelling where my conditioning has gotten me so far this year, pushing harder than I've pushed in a long time. The road ahead is tough -- I remember now the difference between training to race a marathon versus training to prepare for multiple completions.

I'm so glad I'm not the only one back on the path to a better self. You know what they say about misery, company included.


Run Now wristband giveaway

My buddy Lee came back from NYC about a month ago and gave me a Run Now Boston wristband. The funds go to The One Fund benefiting the victims of the Boston bombings. I've worn it since and it's helped kept me focused during this training cycle, and has a small part in inspiring me to train harder, run more, eat better.

I wanted to donate more to the fund (luckily my work has a Boston office and I was able to donate through a matching program), so I picked up an additional few bands.

I obviously don't need five, so I'm giving one to a friend, keeping another and giving away the other three. 

So here's the deal. I'll send to anywhere in Canada (i'll throw it in the post) so all you'll have to do is indicate in the comments that you're interested -- tell me why, plain and simple. No retweeting, no following me on Twitter (though you're welcome to) or such nonsense. If I do by chance get more responses than bands, I'll throw it in a random number generator.

UPDATE: Thanks so much for your comments. Good news is I've come across another batch of them so I'm giving away EIGHT. I'll send out the first four this week. Email me your mailing address at