Sunday, January 27, 2013


I don't typically run with my phone in the summer -- too bulky. In the winter, I do pack it in as I have plenty of pockets to stuff the iPhone in. For years, my iPhone 3GS has been accompanying me, and its camera has been only so-so.

The new phone takes pretty decent pictures and all the better, because as a 99.99% outside runner (I can probably only remember five treadmill runs in the past nine years) I'm treated to some gorgeous views of my daily trails. Sun, lake and winter equals a lot of great opportunities to grab some great shots.

Feel really fortunate to live on the water, in fact it was almost exactly 10 years to the day when I moved down here. In that decade, the trail has called me out, made me a long distance runner. And who can resist?

Ran 44 miles this week and I'm feeling like I'm in a good place, only eight more weeks until Around the Bay. March comes faster than you think.

Here are some shots I've taken in the past week.

This morning at the 9.7K mark of my 22K long run. Breathtaking.

Friday evening after a snowfall. There's a filter on it. There's a big spotlight that sends a big beam at a dog park. Barely does the job but makes the tree look eerie.

The same said light as I'm approaching the park. This is one kilometre from my front door.

Only 2.5K from my front door, I look back at downtown Toronto. Stood in front of a green light for the shadow.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The chill

My headlamp hasn't been turned on for 10 months, but I put it on tonight, perfect for illuminating the imperfections of my favourite waterfront path. I've been waiting for some real winter, hoping this season will live up to its promise.

January and February are the months that I need to build a proper spring marathon. It's when I start rebelling against those early nights and instead embrace the lonely trails. These are the most memorable runs I'll ever do. Snow, wind, they add grit to the simple workout regimen.

I suppose January is the year everyone makes resolutions. They say they'll eat better, work out more, set course for the next 12 months. I'm typically wary of such grand goals, I keep mine simple. Run, then run again, and when you've recovered from that, hit the roads once more.

Me, I've got Around the Bay in two months, a marathon in four. And I've got miles to run before I'm in battle shape.

Today marked my 14th straight day on the roads. Add another week, I'm well on my way to reforming a habit. When it comes to running, habits and training happen on a schedule. You can't give in to 'not feeling up to it'. That doesn't belong on a runner's calendar.

The wind gusts that swept through Toronto early Sunday morning still had a some strength on Sunday morning. I was not happy to see 50km/h winds on the forecast, gusts of up to 90km. Yet I knew I signed up for it by doing a 'short' 8K on Saturday, when the weather was near perfect.

An hour later, heading west toward Humber, I tried to tune out the distance as I barely moved against that headwind. A pack of runners were making speed toward me, and I was so jealous of them with the wind at their back. In all, I put up with the pain, and 22 kilometres later, I was loving the tailwind, enjoying the sun, savouring the cold, embracing winter.

That is what a painful headwind looks like.
There will be worse days, days when I'll be trudging through snow that turns into slush then into malformed patches of ice. Days when sucking in air freezes your lungs.

This week, the temperatures are starting to fall. Today, after 13 straight days of putting in the miles, I did think about taking a rest day.

[h/t Runner's World]

 4.8 miles in 39 minutes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Time to put in

At the end of every run, I reset the watch. The clock, pace and distance counters of my Garmin wipe out the previous effort that left me soaking, displaying neat, clean zeros.

The sobering reality of the new year, when the January darkness rules my free time, hits hard on a runner's psyche. From this point, I slowly take a body that has run multiple marathons, hundreds upon hundreds of hours, and try to coax it back to life.

A 5K jaunt may be agonizing -- almost like I haven't run almost 2,000 times in the past eight years -- lies, body says, lies. As I take a breather, somewhere miles away from my condo's front steps, stretching those aching calves that could use a little extra bending, it seems like I've just started all over again.

Why did I come so far, only to feel like I haven't gone anywhere?

The body rests, and your muscles begin the long slide to a state where they can start thinking about what atrophy must feel like. The resting heart beats a little faster, not having felt the pain of sucking in oxygen only possible with hard effort (or sub-8 minute miles). The legs, used to striding across sidewalks and pavement in what movement can only be imagined as graceful -- Kenyan like -- can only bear to be fluid for no more than a few hundred metres, clomping down on pavement like rusted hooves. And it feels just as heavy.

Running? This isn't what my mind's eye imagined.

Fact: I've pounded out more than 13,000 miles in the past eight years; I've run 22 marathons; I've tracked my usual downtown routes hundreds of times. Also, fact: Yesterday's run of 10 miles was a silent struggle.

Yet.. Yet, when I get past the pain, when I make it to the ninth kilometre, something clicks in, I remember why. Sort of like listening to that song that's been repeated on your iPod -- only once in a while do you zero into the lyrics, when the words and harmony connect with your attention that you truely understand why you loved that song in the first place.

It's the same with running. I suppose in those early days of a marathon training, a month from when I'd start thinking of hitting the roads for the length of three podcasts, I rediscover what it is about running that grabbed me.


I was reading about Canadian runner Cam Levins. He surprised the running world by snagging a breakthrough of the year award. How? By outworking everyone -- 150 to 190 miles a week.

“Last year showed me that as long as you don't set limits on how hard you can train, then the same can be said for races. I have continued to improve each year because there was never any doubt in my mind that I wouldn't as long as I put in the work to deserve it.” - from Flotrack

Hours and miles were reaffirmed mid-run one night while I was pounding out the last stretch of a six-mile run, listening to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's The Heist. A few words from Ten Thousand Hours -- the theory that with hours put in, you gain brilliance -- resonated as I strode down the hill, letting gravity assist in my hard work.

Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is

Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is


That's it. With each run, I'm rebuilding my cardio and those muscles that feel most comfortable when bent at a 45 degree angle, best seen in that zone between jog and sprint. I'm geting used to the pain, getting used to getting stronger, rebuilding and shoring up blood vessels and connections that will deliver more oxygen and blood cells to my engines, so I can run longer, faster, stronger. I've always wondered, since switching to long-distance running, why I often can almost conjure bouts of runner's high. Often after six or seven miles, my body hits a pace unfathomable on any other day, but it feels like i'm just putting my body through its paces. I zone out, tune into my form and distance disappears, as does time.

Nothing that you can hold, indeed. It's so easy to lose hold of that, what it is to be a runner, but it's entirely possible to find your way back to running mojo -- you just have to find it for the first time. It then it just takes plenty of miles. And time.

10.5 miles in 1:34

2012 totals