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.

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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.)

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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