Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Look back at 2015

Sure, everyone has a look back segment, and I might as well look back at my own year of fitness, 2015.

Let me start with running, the Miles part of this blog. It started on January 1st when I participated in the Resolution Run. I ended up running 10K, I got a very nice jacket out of it, which I still wear for running. I'm not doing it this year because of the fact it a 2.5K loop which I did 4 times. It was a cold morning for the race with a rather bitter wind, that I got to experience 4 times along the same part of the course. Let's remind ourselves of the phrase "Polar Vortex". Cold was the theme of running for the first couple of months; January and February were horrid, lots of snow and very cold temperatures. After the arrival of Spring, the weather did get better. In fact this year I ran 800 miles and got 122 runs in, both PB's for the year. It was a great time running.

During this year I ran in 5 different communities and three different countries. One of my favorite runs took place during the week in Cuba. I did three runs from my resort in Varadero and it was a great experience. To run in shorts and in warm weather was such a treat. Not so good the first run back after Cuba. In fact I remember it being a very painful run. Nothing hurt, it was just such a shock to the system. I also had a great time running in Southern Indiana for a week, it was very hot and muggy, but a great time for running. I wish I had been closer to the Pedestrian bridge, it would have been fun to run into Kentucky from Indiana, two states at the same time.

I did a number of races during the year, one of the best was the Rock Me Anaphylaxis in Windsor. The race took place along the riverfront, so I had decided I could possibly do a sub 27 for the 5K. My time was 26'34". Not only did I do a PB but I came 3rd in my age category. Got a very nice tee and a cool medal. Another fun run was the Cambridge Mill Race, a very cool Tuesday evening in May, it was a challenging course.

Of course the highlight has to be the Army Run 13.1, my first Half-Marathon. I like to tell people I had a great time for the first 20 Km and then my calves decided to cramp up for the final 1.1 km. I might have walked/hobbled over the finish line, there was no way I was getting a DNF. It was exciting to do, not only was the course and the race an amazing experience, but let me know that 13.1 miles can be done. It one of those races that I want to do again.

Speaking of races, I did 6 during the year, hopefully about that many this year. I would like to do some I missed this year, as well as favourites.

If there is one thing I missed, it was the lack of time on the bike. As I think I reported, I had to buy a new bike due to an accident with a car and the back of the garage. I wasn't driving, I was no where near the place of the calamity. It was so sad. I still shed a tear when I think about it. I plan to spend more time on the bike in 2016.

Time on the mat and gym: this year I managed to do 34,000 push ups and 25,000 crunches. That's a lot. I'm continuing my morning exercise program, and the best thing is my Skimble workout. It's a good combination of body weight and a few others. Working very well and I'm enjoying the morning program. When I start, I stream music off YouTube and it helps. During the warmer weather and while vacationing in Cuba, I take my workout mat outside and enjoy the conditions. It is a great way to start the day, with the pleasant breeze, the sun beginning to rise and the sounds of nature. Plus while in Cuba I had a great balcony to workout and it certainly started the day in the right way. I'm not a morning person, but this is helping me change my opinion about waking up to start the day.

I still get to World Gym about twice a week. The good news, they're opening a gym just down from work. Going to be good when that finally happens.

Also started attending Yoga classes at the gym. It's fun.

Hard to believe all I did over the past year. It was good, I feel good and I'm sure I'll have an even better 2016. I'll have more to say about it in the next blog.

Monday, December 28, 2015


When I started the year I had thought I could possibly run about 660-670 miles. I know I've written about this, so forgive the repeat of the situation; I was going through a couple of injuries and figured I shouldn't push it much. After all I had barely reached 1000 km, 622 miles and so a gradual increase would be in order. My main thought was to consider finally doing a half-marathon, which I did in September finishing the Army Run in under 2 hours 20 minutes.

At the beginning, I did a Resolution Run up in Kitchener. While I got a very nice jacket, I'm not sure I would do it again, unless they changed the course, after all it was a 2.5 km loop. To reach the 10 Km, I did it 4 times, not bad but that wind was horrible and I got to experience four different times. I think a nice 5Km loop would have been proper.

Enough of the grousing; shortly after the half-marathon, I reached 1000km and was feeling real good. In fact since about mid-summer the symptoms which had been gradually becoming less and less were about gone. I still wore a little compression around my left knee but it was almost more out of habit or to protect rather then dealing with any actual problem. Plus, I have to say this, I had gotten very serious with treatment, especially using ice on the sore areas. It is amazing how ice can help. I got myself a couple of Dr. Ice wraps and was using them religiously. All this was helping and with the exception of my calves totally cramping up, I did the run. Okay back to the distance, I reached 1000km and felt good. A few weeks later I reached my goal of 660 miles. I should apologize for the flipping between Imperial and Metric, but that how I measure. Then it was the thought of making it to 700 miles.

Another couple of weeks later, after another race I reached 700 miles and it was then and only then I wondered if I could reach 800 miles. My furthest for the year had been 728 miles, which had amazed me then and it still amazes me. let's face it a couple of years ago I wasn't much of a runner, a very seasonal and sporadic runner at best. But the thought had creeped into my brain and I asked myself if it was possible to reach this next plateau.

After looking at my calendar, checking the weather and doing the math I came to the conclusion that it was possible. More then possible, it was my next goal for the year. And so the last 6 weeks began. I was fortunate that this part of Ontario had a very seasonal late fall and early winter; the temperatures were for the most part above freezing and there was limited moisture falling. The moisture was rain and at most I would have to wait an extra 24 hours before the next run. I also concluded that by combining longer runs with the occasional short run it was an attainable goal.

December was the month that could have been challenging but I was able to run all the times I wanted to run. Plus another fun run inspired me to keep going with a springboard to the last 50 miles, or 80 km. My pace was steady, my running was on schedule. Then finally Boxing Day arrived, all I needed was a nice 10Km run. I had taken it easy that week, due to the demands of work but the day arrived. This is just an observation, but I think I should have one the run on Christmas Day before the very delicious, very large and very filling Turkey dinner. I ran but I will say, I was still full from the day before. Filled with energy, desire and turkey I set out. It was not a pretty one but my watched binged the 10th kilometer I managed another 100 meters and stopped. The final goal for the year was reached. 800 miles. For me that was a personal best. I had thought that anything above 728 would have been good enough but still to reach 800 miles. Yes it consumed my thinking and now I look back with a great deal of satisfaction. I had done it. The photo above is me gesturing the "8" for those 800 miles. 800 great miles.

I felt so happy at that moment. It is my milestone. I did it.

I supposed I should consider what my next year's goal will be. One thought I'm having is that perhaps not as much, I don't want another injury like I had last year. Plus I have been neglecting my bike this past year. I think I need to incorporate more riding into my exercise routine. Plus I have a new bike, it's about time I put some miles on it.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Cats on Mats doing Yoga

I came across the advertisement for "Cats on Your Mats" and had to consider this a bit more. From what I gathered, this is sponsored by the Humane Society of Edmonton and it gives people who love cats an opportunity to spend some time doing yoga with cats. The great thing is, the Humane Society provides the cats, with the idea that you will so love the little fur ball that you will being the process of adopting a cat. After all what could be better then having a cat so you can perform Yoga with? After all, you can buy calendars that feature monthly photographs of cats doing various yoga poses.

Other then plenty that is.

As you know from a previous post, I had two cats, one Theo was my training coach. He would always check my poses and make sure my planks were straight enough and the hold was doing good. He would walk right underneath me a number of times to ensure the proper form. He would expect nothing more then perfection, and a good head rub. After he was satisfied, he would go to his little cat bed and relax. That was his routine. Now that he is gone, Eowyn has taken over the duties of spending time with me on my mat as I workout. She has a different style, she tends to sit at one end of the mat while I workout. There are some consequences to this and most have to do with her tail.

Cats are very friendly, very intelligent animals. Their abilities are amazing. They are also as dumb as a sack of hammers when they want to be, especially with their tails. They often leave their tails stretched out all over the place. A couple of examples that demonstrated the sack of hammer ability of a cat. So I'm working out with a couple of kettlebells. I still like working out with them. Now kettlebells can have a good bit of momentum to them, especially when doing some swings. Well, this evening, with my leg spreads and swing the kettlebell, Eowyn decides this is the best time to rub between my legs. Forget that I could clobber her quite easily if I don't pay close attention. This is what cats do, they simply do what they want and you have to make the adjustments that will protect them and so that's the way it is with cats.

Then while doing some other working out, I backed up and yes, found Eowyn's tail. Cats sound so bad when you tread on their tails. They also look so pathetic as they sit there looking back at you. They make you feel horrible and you have done something terrible.

Throw all those stretches that is part and parcel with yoga and have cats around the feet. Oh yes a recipe for disaster if ever there was one.

I read this interesting paragraph:

This course is not only healthy and fun, it also helps to socialize and enrich the lives of the shelter cats, as well as, encourages adoption by showing off the cats awesome personalities by interacting with them.
Of course you will want to adopt a cat.

Now that I've expressed the potential dangers, all those cats staring at you after treading of tails. Plus an even greater danger is that you will end up with more then one extra cat. After all, after a few sessions at the Humane Society, how can you ever go back home and not have a cat around the place.

This is truly dangerous.

So go out and do some yoga around your cat, and buy yourself a calendar.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Virtual Runs

If you've been following this blog, or have seen some of my twitter or Facebook posting, you know that I enjoy entering and participating in races. While running is good on its own, and offers a great opportunity to exercise and to get out from behind the computer or television, there's something about running in a race. I know from talking with some people, they say they're not competitive and they just do it for fun, it is when you line up that something happens. Also, a race let's you know there are other people who share you love of running. Plus it's a good way to see how you are doing. I will also say that your number one competitor is the person you see in the mirror. After all, you are taking on a challenge that has meant a lot of hours and a lot of miles on a road, or trail. Okay, perhaps some time spent on a treadmill. But I do wonder about that.

I recently did a run in Cambridge, the RememberRun. It's another one of those great runs set up and sponsored by Run Waterloo. it is one of the great groups for running in the area. When they put on a race, it's a very professional experience. They know how to do things, from the moment you enter the site to when you leave. The registration is fast, they get you the tee-shirt promptly and they offer amenities such as bag check, food and a good place to have a massage. The race I did, and it was my 3rd one, raises funds for the local Royal Canadian Legion Hall. Another good thing about the group, they sponsor some very great local charities. If you visit the website, you will notice they offer a fair number of events, a race for all types of people and all types of distances. A good time can be had by all. Besides this race, I've done three others and I'm sure as long as I'm in the area, I will participate in various races.

This year they offered a longer distance for the long race. But this year, I decided to go back and do the 5K. I've been doing the tapering after the half, so I didn't have a great deal of time with the longer 11 Km distance. I didn't want to do anything which would lead to another injury. I want to stay safe. The 5K was good, a nice track was measured out, fortunately I missed the train, which can be a problem with the later runners. It gives the runner a chance to experience both road running and some trail runner. Trails can be challenging, in fact a runner before me had a fall, fortunately the runner beside her did stop and help her, hey I would have helped if he hadn't done that. Runners can be very polite and helpful people.

I felt good with the results, another sub 28 minute run. Good and good.

What I've also discovered and decided to participate is the virtual run. I've seen advertisement regarding them as well as reading postings of individuals who have participated. What they are is you decide to sign up for a particular race, but instead of having to go to a specific location at a specific time, you simply get dressed on the day in question, put on your runners, set the smartphone or GPS watch and go for your run. Usually there is a distance and so you run that distance. When you're done, you stop, record your time, provide proof you did the activity in question and send that to the homepage of the virtual run. It's a race where you are. A lot of them will send, via email a race bib with your unique number- they expect you to wear it while you run and a medal afterwards. The photo at the top of this blof is for the race I'm going to do next month. This is called, "Trim the Tree Trot". There is a nice to wear after the race and so you will have the proof you need to say you did a race. If you read the comments, you can also do this on a treadmill, but again I ask, why would you do that? The best runs are the ones done outside. So you send the proof and I notice people will post the maps or photographs of the gps watch as the proof. A week or so later, you'll get the medal in the mail. How sweet is that? More bling for the runner.

As other races, there is a charity involved and it makes is something fun to do that help others. The cost is no different then a regular race and the difference may be a tee shirt or not. Then again, most runs have a limit for their tees. Still the medal will be yours. There is a lot of virtual races out there and something will get your attention if you do the search.

I'm looking forward to the moment when I put on the bib and do a run. While whatever food I choose to have will be whatever is available in the home when I get back, there might be a few pluses, one being my own bathroom versus the line up at the porta-john.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Cheers all.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Army Run Half Marathon

It's something I've been wanting to the last couple of years, I've been wanting to run a half marathon. I knew with my schedule and situation, I probably couldn't train for a full marathon, but the half, intrigued me. Even though I wanted, I've been concerned about if I would be able to pull it off. After all, 13.1 miles or 21.1 kilometers is a long way. We usually drive that distance, certainly never run it.

However, this was going to be the year. I had run the Army Run before, the 5K and thorough enjoyed myself. It was now time to do the half. After all, my mileage had increased significantly and I had pretty well recovered from all my problems that plagued me the second half of last year.

With that in mind, I signed up sometime in April Plus I knew Mike was going to run it as well, so I would have a partner, even though he would be starting in a different corral. Still we would be there at the same time and enjoying all the fun of running.

My training had been about all year, although in August I ramped up my mileage, having a last run of nearly 18 km, it could have been 18 + had I looked at my watch just a few moments before stopping. I went into relax and taper mode the rest of the week, letting my legs rest, doing the cross training and general strengthening and felt I was ready.

We arrived Friday night and went to the Expo Saturday to get the race kits and enjoy the sights. The Army Run is tied to the Canadian military and part of the Expo is seeing some of the equipment used by our soldiers and having opportunity to talk with them. Mike being a member of the Canadian Army Forces has a good time talking and discussing things with others in the service. It's gives us a chance to thank them all for what they do for Canada. In fact that is an important part of the experience. One of the treats, and there's probably a better word for it, is that a number of injured soldiers take part in the various runs. So you have a chance to cheer them on as they run, and run better then many of us. There are runners with one or both legs missing for example, others run with canes, but nothing stops them. It is truly an honour to run beside them. So the kits were gathered, the t was provided, the bib and pins were all there. Saturday night was a time to relax and enjoy with family. Then bed.

The next morning we got up and got ready. It was nearly a perfect day for the run, bright and sunny with almost no clouds in the sky, the temperature at run time was 11C. You couldn't ask for better. We arrived, dropped off the bag, looked around, did the final pee break, and there's lot of potapotties, good going guys. Then went to the various corrals to wait. I was back in purple, near the 2:20 pace bunny which I thought was reasonable. I had figured any time between 2:20-2:25 would be good for my first.

The Howitzer went off and the clock started, with my location, it took about 15 minutes before the race actually commenced, yeah for chips. I had my phone, my bluetooth headset and was all ready. By the way I started listening to Felicia Day's new book "You're Never Weird on the Internet". Being a fan, plus I figured I would need something funny to listen to, that wasn't at all serious. I'm listening as well to the bio of Elon Musk. It was quite a great experience setting off, and at the same time I was conscious of the fact I needed to pace myself. Looking at the graph, I did the first KM in 6:10, so a steady not ridiculous pace. What makes this run enjoyable, is the course takes a person past some of the iconic buildings and sites of Ottawa and Gatineau, plus running in two cities and two provinces makes it very nice. The scenery is great, running past the Parliament Buildings, the War Museum, the Canadian Museum of History, the National Gallery of Canada, plus a run through the grounds of Rideau Hall and a chance to shake hands with the Governor-General. Also the route is lined with musicians, from guitar, drums to the band of the Governor General's Foot Guard, resplendent in their Red Tunics. The cheering sections were fantastic and the signs were funny and inspirational. If you wanted to give up, just go through the cheering section.

My time was keeping good, for most of the run I was close to the 2:10 pace bunny. I felt good and strong. I was walking through the water stations and kept a solid pace. It was a fun experience. I high fived a lot of people and it was good. It was all good. I ran more then I walked, crossing the Alexandra Bridge and heading up Sussex Drive was not a problem. The training was paying off with a solid run. I was thinking of a time closer to 2:10.

Then I ran past the 18 Km sign.

I knew I was entering in uncharted running, but figured all was good so what would be the problem over the last 3 Km, but I was keeping a close tab in how I was feeling. I came to the water station and took both gatorade and water. Then I started to have a leg cramp. I walked and stretched, feeling I was getting out of it. Then my foot cramped up, and I had to slowly walk and stretch my toes through my shoes. I started to eat the sports beans I had brought. Again the weather was good and I was feeling find. It started to change and not for the better. I was cramping up more and more. I still tried to do some running between the cramps when bit of relief came, but by Km20 it was hopeless, both calf muscles were tight and cramping. I could only walk and walk slowly. I must not have looked good because one of the race marshalls asked how I was doing. I told him I could keep going. A bit further a young lady was on the ground getting her legs stretched, obviously the cramping had got to her as well. I realized I could ask for assistance, but there was no way I was going to stop. I was too close and although it did hurt, I wasn't going to stop.

I finally reached the finish line and crossed it.

After getting passed by so many people I was close to quitting, but just wanted it to be over. I saw the 2:15 pace bunny pass by and I simply got to the end, stopped my watch and got my finisher medal. I was hurting, With a warming blanket I went over to the food tent to get my chocolate milk, protein bar and banana. I also found Mike. He had finished although he said the last 3 Km were a challenge as well. Still we both had our medals.

It was a sore day and next few days. It took me until Thursday to start running again. The odd thing is, the only part of my legs that didn't hurt was the same calf muscles that betrayed me during the run.

At the end, it was a great experience. I finally wore the tee, because I had earned it. I kicked myself for not finishing strong but I now know, I did finish. I did the entire 21.1 km, sure cramped up, but I did it. Now I've been thinking how to improved, more water? Perhaps walking breaks, or buying and eating power gel throughout the run. I am saying to myself, I will run another half and the next time I will finish running. Was it all worth it? Yes it was. A great course, a fun experience and a super run. I'd do it again.


Fun fact, I went back to the Rock Me Anaphylaxis and went over my time. I looked and discovered I finished third for my age group. So it's not a finisher's medal, but the award for third place. Felt very good.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Finishing Medals

I suppose I can thank James Harrison for the inspiration to this blog post. He posted on Instagram a while back the awards his two sons received from a sporting event. He made them take the awards back. He stated the reason in his account:
I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies! While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I'm sorry I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I'm not about to raise two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best...cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want to do better...not cry and whine until somebody gives you something to shut u up and keep you happy. #harrisonfamilyvalues
It generated a lot of positive comments, from the whole problem of the entitlement culture that has been a part of school and children's sports for the past number of years. The idea behind the awards to all is ; "We all winners because we've been involved". It's the same philosophy that has brought the 0-0 soccer scores and the refusal to keep stats, standings or even declaring one side a winner and the other a loser. Of course, for soccer, 0-0, or 'nil-nil' is a typical score. I should suspect in children's soccer 0-0 is a typical score. If anyone scores it's probably as much of a shock to all the players.

By the way over 19,000 liked his comment.

A lot of people also gave some very positive comments of support to Mr. Harrison.

Then I discovered there are those in the running community who want to get rid of the finisher's medal. An article on RW online had the title of OK, Time to Retire the Finisher's Medal. The author decries the fact that finisher's medals are now part and parcel of running in races and now race directors are going out of their way to make the biggest, baddest most "I got to get me one of those" medals. They are referred to as racing bling. And we all want the bling. When I started running and racing, since the reason I started many years ago is because I wanted to do a fun run. I got a cotton tee shirt for entering. I thought that was impressive and I wore it during the race, which was among the many mistakes I did during that first race, by the way. That was more then enough to sign me up for next year. The next race I actually did well enough to finish in the top three of my age category. That was something and if I look around for a bit, I can find that medal. I won a few more medals in different races, usually the third place one. Still it was a medal and it was an accomplishment.

Years past and I stopped doing races, probably due to time and the fact my running was very much hit and miss, I would run a couple of months a year and that would be it.

After a long lay-off I signed up to do another race and believe it or not, did well enough to finish first in my age category. Then again, I was the only one in my age category, still a medal is a medal is a medal. What I want to say I've done races that only gave medals to the top three men and women, others which gave to the top three overall and top three in various age and gender groups. I've also done races which do feature some quite interesting finisher's medals. In fact, the race I did in July featured a very interesting medal,

You have to admit a guitar pick finishing medal is quite cool.

But should we get rid of the finisher's medal and only give to the winners? Or if you finish, you should get something. I've thought about it and looked at my collection. I have to think, keep giving them out. Each medal tells a story, usually something positive and good. When it comes to running in races, we like to say that our only opponent is that little voice in our heads that tell us we can't do this. If that's the case, then collect that medal, you beat your opponent and you beat them handily. If you finished, you triumphed. You won because of all those hours spent running when you could have done anything else. The medal represents dedication and the ability to stick with a plan.

What I am saying, keep giving the medals. They remind me of the challenge and the fun I had running the race.

Keep Running.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Rock Me Anaphylaxis

If you live in Windsor, Essex County, or any part of Southwestern Ontario, and you run, you might be familiar with RunningFlat. It is a local running organization that organizes races, has podcasts and generally does a good job for the running community. It offers a podcast which is based upon a radio show in CKLW AM800, to give the full name. They sponsor eight races in the Windsor-Essex County area and they range from the 5K to the full Marathon. A few of the races also include runs for children, so they are family friendly events.

Chris Uszynski has done a great job of making the events a lot of fun as well. If you go to the website, you will notice the number of races and if you go on for more detail, they all offer the two things all runners want, tee shirts and medals. The medals are very distinct and whoever is behind the design, goes out of their way to make sure they are quite distinct. The number of on-course volunteers are more then enough to keep runners on the track and there's also a lot of back-up and supplies to make sure you all have the bananas and water that's needed for after the run.

I've now done three of them, the Zombie Chase, the Color Run and just recently, Rock Me Anaphylaxis. I should also say the organization wants to be part of the community, so they always have a charity to ensure donations are made to the community. I know a lot of other races have charities and we do feel good when we combine some community good as well as exercising.

I was heading down to Windsor, which is my hometown, and that same weekend was the Rock Me Run. Of course having a race the same time I'm visiting, is a win-win for me. As an another aside, I do have a member of my family who has a very severe peanut allergy, so you might say I'm helping the family by making more people aware of the dangers of this situation. So all in all, a good reason to do a run. I also knew and this is something everybody should know, a run in Windsor is a flat run. If you are used to train and run on hills and want a break, then go to Windsor. If the thought it wouldn't be flat enough, the race was taking place along the Riverfront Trail. So there will be almost no change of elevation. If you want a PB, this might be the race to do it.

I signed up online and waited for the day to arrive. Another plus, it was on a Saturday, which tends to be a better day for me, the moral requirement and responsibility of a tuba player is a heavy one and not one that should be taken lightly. So the morning, I got up, had a nice breakfast and drove over to the Riverfront Festival Plaza, at the same time as the race, was the annual Fork & Cork festival, so there was a lot of food trucks and stands. The registration and giving of the shirts was quick and painless. Within a few minutes I was attaching my number and getting ready. One of the good things of having a food festival is a good number of porta-potties, plus the bathrooms in the festival plaza. This is important for runners and even more so for first thing in the morning.

The instruction was given, clearly understood and we all waited. As I mentioned, there was a couple of runs for the kids, both a 1 K run and a 500 meter sprint. They were fun to watch and all the kids who participated received one of the medals. The 5K was scheduled to start at 9:15AM, and they were actually a bit early. Which again, is a good thing. We all lined up, all 152 of us and waited for the blast of the horn. After some bad Michigan Wolverine jokes, apparently Chris is a Spartan, the horn was blasted and off we went. I've mentioned before that my strategy for running a 5K is very simple, run as fast as I can, for as far as I can for as long as I can. I also had set a goal of a sub 27 minute run. I've been doing 27+ long enough, I needed something faster. I was hoping to keep a close watch on my time through the GPS, but for some reason, everything was punked up and I didn't get a reading. Not sure what happened, so that strategy went by the wayside. I should say the weather was fantastic for the start, bright and sunny, moderate temperature and almost no wind. Along the route were volunteers to keep us going and to encourage us. Also a few local musicians provided some tune and gave at least an idea of the distance, or at least how much further to go. The track was well marked with the distance markers. Now it was a simple out and back so the marking were good. One of the treats of running along the River is both the Windsor Sculpture Park and the Detroit Skyline. While the years might not have been the best for Detroit, it's still inspiring to see all those tall building and the great landmarks.

A nice number of people and a nice number of all ages and both men and women. It was going to be both fun and competitive.

Not having the time, I wasn't sure what to expect as I approached the finish line, for some reason, the big clock was not visible. I think it might have had something to do with the start and finish sides of the line being reversed. So I did a quick scan to find it, the numbers were 26'45". I had done it, even though I walked for a few meters, I crushed my goal. I was so happy. I received my medal placed it gladly around my neck and walked over to get my water and banana. To achieve my goal. It felt so good. Later on a person approached me and said he was waiting for his wife to finish and he saw me nearly twist my neck off to look for the time and then he said, the look of happiness on my face made the race worth while. I was happy. I right now, look at the medal and remind myself of that great race. Was it a perfect race, no race is done perfectly. I wish I could have had the GPS working because I would have wanted to study my times and look at how things were. Was it a good run? Oh yes it was. The food was quite nice and the water felt real good. I was also curious as to my placing so I wandered over to the main station. I got my chip time, which was 26'34" even nicer, plus I was 3rd in my age group and 36th overall. Talk about being stoked after the run. They were also selling tee shirts from previous runs, so I went to get my wallet and got some money to buy last year's Zombie tee shirt. I don't know if there is an argument about finisher medals or not, but they feel so good and I believe they represent the fact that a lot of time and effort went into each person's race.

After coming back to the area, to sit down and see what else was available, I had a conversation with another runner. We asked how we did and she mentioned she wasn't sure what the time was but felt strong at the end. She was hoping for a sub-30. When she went over, her time was just a bit over 31'. Hey we've all been there as well. She was a bit disappointed, but still felt positive for her effort. We talked about other races and we talked about future runs in Windsor.

As for the allergy awareness, there was a large table of gluten-free, allegen-free snacks, which are kind of tasty. Everybody took samples and recipes, plus cards of information. There was also a bag to carry all those good things. All this was good and also made us aware of the differences in food. Just before the race, a person who suffers with allergies reminded us that not everybody can eat the same things, and there are foods which are a danger.

We also got a few tokens to enjoy some of the food trucks and I got a lemonade at the Gilligan's Lemonade Stand, what else after a good run.

The music, the course, the food trucks, all made for a real fun morning.

I'm looking over the races they have sponsored and I'm thinking that the Zombie Chase might be good reason to visit Windsor again, besides to see all the family, of course.

I would recommend that if you're in the Windsor area, or want to visit, then choose a race to run. The cost is reasonable and the course will always be good and the experience fun. For new runners, it makes for a nice 5K experience. You will feel comfortable doing one and have so much fun, you will sign up for others. Plus you will enjoy the medal you will get, because they are seriously cool. Do check out the links and make your plans. If you are going to register, and I'm able to register, say 'hi' to me at the Zombie Chase.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


A few days ago, I was finishing up my workout with some cardio on the recumbent bike. As I was getting close to the end, a young lady walked over and began her cardio work on the Elliptical Machine. What caught my attention was what she wore, and believe it or not, not her youth or attractiveness. Her workout gear had in very large bright lettering the phrase "I Hate Running". I think if I had finished, I might have gone over and let her know that running loves her.

Well, it didn't happen because she got going at a pretty good clip and I don't want to look like a creep.

Made me think about what I would wear if I thought of expressing my opinion on various exercises. It didn't take too long because if I wore such a t-shirt it would feature the words "I Hate Burpees".

Well, maybe hate is a bit strong. Well, probably not. I have mixed feelings about burpees. One feeling is, I despise them, another is, I avoid them and a third, I would rather do anything else before doing burpees.

This might be one of the brilliant parts of the Skimble workouts, there is always the risk of doing Burpees. Last year, I was part of a team that did a series which included burpees. I did dread them, but I went on and did them. Just a few weeks ago, I did another workout that included, burpees. Yes I decided to do a couple of sets of burpees. I have to say, it is a great way to work up a sweat.

Doing a search of images of burpees contain a large number under the catagory of "Hating Burpees".

I did my research and discovered burpees are actually a very efficient and effective exercise. I also learned about the origin and reason for burpees. I didn't realize that someone decided to invent this form of exercies. In fact:

According to Oxford Dictionaries Online, the exercise was named in the 1930s for American physiologist Royal H. Burpee, who developed the burpee test. He earned a PhD in applied physiology from Columbia University in 1940 and created the "burpee" exercise as part of his PhD thesis as a quick and simple way to assess fitness.[1] The exercise was popularized when the United States Armed Services adopted it as a way to assess the fitness level of recruits when the US entered WWII. Consisting of a series of the exercises performed in rapid succession, the test was meant to be a quick measure of agility, coordination and strength.

So we can thank Doctor Royal H. Burpee for bringing this to the world. I hope he got a good grade and I hope part of his presentation and defense of his thesis was to do the burpees.

I'm not going to pretend and say I'm getting the burpee and are developing a love for them, but I can see that it is an important exercise and I should do them, because they will not hurt my knees for running. As for the style, I understand there is a burpee style that doesn't the jumping at the end. Could be just as effective without the pain.

As always, I went to YouTube to see what videos are out there and I found this:

I'm not going to be a total convert to the Burpee, but as I read more about them, I realize I should incorporate them into my weekly workout.

To conclude:

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dr. Cool is Cool

Last year I finally got bit by the injury bug, big time. I went through a time when I had problems with my right ankle, my right groin and my left knee. Yes the trifecta of problems. I did cut back on my running and concentrating more on biking. I know what part of the issue was, a number of years ago I fractured both parts of the right ankle and have had a few issues over the year. Even though I was riding, I did get a few runs in and even a few races.

Time passed and most of the problems did go away. The knee is basically healed, although I still get a time when I feel a bit stiff down there, but nothing the impedes anything. I consider where I was a year ago and realize that it's getting better.

One thing I did do was to purchase a Dr. Cool Ice Wrap. It has been great for the knee. When I purchased, I went for one size that was more for the ankle which was a small. It still works for the knee but I realize I will purchase a larger size.

As I write this, I should put in the disclaimer, I purchased this product and have not received anything in the way of remuneration to make this blog. I'm just discussing some of the products I use as part of my exercise and running program.

Dr. Cool makes products that are both for icing and for compression. As one of the pages on the website states:

Injuries happen, it’s just a part of having fun, but life does not need to slow down for you to get better. Wrap your bumps, bruises sprains and excuses in a Dr. Cool ice wrap. Dr. Cool is the first and only product to combine ice and compression in one flexible chemical-free injury wrap. Simply wet and freeze the Dr. Cool wrap for ice therapy … no ice packs or gels needed. Dr. Cool ice wraps are available in three sizes to provide ice and compression therapy in one convenient, flexible chemical-free ice wrap that goes everywhere you go!

It is simple to use as well, wet the wrap, place wrap in freezer, do what you need to do and come back in an hour. Pull it out of the freezer and then wrap. It has Velcro so it is easy to wrap around the part requiring the wrap. According to the advertisement, one can wrap and use during workout. Haven't tried and likely I'm not, since I prefer the after effect. As it is just pulled from the freezer it is still, but a few moments out and it will thaw enough that it can be tightened as required.

Quick opinion, it does work, it applies the 'ice' directly to the place of need. I usually have it on and stretch out the leg relaxing. I know that not having the wrap, the muscles and tendons of the knee would be very stiff, but after wearing the wrap for a couple of hours, the muscles and tendons are looser and there it not the discomfort afterwards. That to me the main part of the wrap, it relaxes everything so there is not the tightness. It feels better and so afterwards I can move it without the stiffness. I have to say, I don't have the joint stiffness after working out. I do feel it, when doing things such as squats or burpees- I have to write a blog about burpees, by the way.

With the warmer weather, it has been very nice to put a cold wrap on any part of me, I didn't use it much during the winter, since it was winter and I more wanted to get warm. I noticed on the website they now sell apparel, something to consider.

I plan to keep using Dr. Cool, it meets the need, it works and it feels fine.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Robot Named Fred

I've already had a blog post about Skimble, which I called my favourite site. I've been a member for quite a few years and have grown to like the way it has helped my workout programs. As with a lot of things, the Internet and Social Media has brought about a change to exercise and working out, and I believe for the most part, it's been a good change. I'm not going to say it's perfect because the Internet is made up of people and we are certainly a flawed bunch.

I'm returning to the topic of exercise and social media by examining another site I enjoy and that is Fitocracy.

Fitocracy can be described as a site in which you record you workouts or exercises. As you post you gain points, after so many points, you increase your level. You can also make friends with other people who are posting and you can prop their workouts and they can prop yours. This is an important part of fitocracy. In many ways, it can be considered the definition of social media. But it's not just a place where you can log your workouts, it a place where you can share, interact and generally have a good time with other people. Let me say, the people of fitocracy are very interactive and chatty. Have a good workout, you'll get comments and props. Do you have a question about your workout or something you're doing. You will receive all sorts of advice and coaching. Do you have interests outside of exercise, there are forums and some of them are very active. Going through a hard time? You will receive words of encouragement from the people you have friended and other individuals. You can post your photographs and get encouraging words. It is a very positive place.

Joining is simple and straightforward, you also upload an image and you'll be at level 1. From there you start looking around and posting what you have done. If you've just finished cutting the grass, or moving some furniture, you can record the time and you will get points. Do some serious workouts, you will get more points. The more time or weights or reps you do, your points will increase. After a few more things, you will get the notice that you are now at a new level. You will get a badge announcing this great fact. Now you'll think of the next level. I should point out each level takes more points to increase to the next one and the next one. You will notice that a few more badges start showing up on your feed. Perhaps you've run for 5 kilometers, you record it and another badge appears. Or perhaps you start proping other people, you reach a certain number there will be a badge. You get on a quest, you have to do so many different styles of exercises, for example, another badge. Then you will notice people start to prop you and give you support and cheers.

You turn around and do the same and soon you're having a lot of fun. While you can see where you are in points with other members, you look more at what it will take to reach the next level. You get swept up into the momentum. You soon notice that there's a lot of very busy people working out, and some of them may have challenges with what they do. Then you need a coffee and you notice there's a group for coffee. You check it out, realize you need to 'join' and discover there are a lot of people who need a coffee. Plus they post pictures of their favourite brews and motivational posters. I should say that motivational posters seem to be very important.

What you won't find, at least I haven't is someone being a jerk. I suspect jerks exist but if they are there, you probably won't meet them, after all, how can you troll someone who's just done a 2 minute wall plank?

As you look around you might notice that there is the possibility of becoming a "hero". A hero is one who has paid an annual fee to do this. The site is now advertisement free, and you now can take on a title. You might notice them under the names. You can also enter into duals with other members, You can challenge another member to something, anything for fun points and bragging rights. You can also get regular reports and be able to private message each other. The cost of this is $45.00 US.

Another thing you might notice or get notifications about is the various coaching plans. You can turn Fitocracy into a personal coach to use the plans to get some help and guidance in doing some workouts. Again there is a cost, but this is how it monetizes the site. This is worth looking at and learning more of what is available.

There is also a store in which you can buy your fitocracy tees and technical shirts as well as accessories.

You might notice when you record workout, a robot named Fred will show up and do the calculations. Who or what is this 'Fred' robot, you ask yourself and why is everything purple? Well Fred is the mascot and your friend. He is a fun little character that adds to the fun of Fitocracy.

I've had the pleasure of communicating with some of the people of Fitocracy and I was able to ask them a few questions. Before I post those questions and their answers, they gave me a link to this video. It will answer a lot of your questions: Now for the comments:

From Brian and myself ! 1) Besides recording workouts, it seems that the groups are an important aspect of being part of fitocracy. Yet these are more then forums and more then just exercise related. Why did you decide to include them and have they been a boon to the fitocracy experience? Groups have always been part of the Fitocracy design since the site's creation. There's a good number of people who join up with the intent to become healthier but no idea where to start or who to ask. Stop for a minute and think about how many trainers and fitness gurus are posting on the internet. That's a lot of confusing information to navigate. Our own personal experiences have led us to believe people respect expert opinions but they appreciate plain speak from others who are or were in their shoes. The social element of the site has been a tremendous incentive for our user base. You're not signing up for Fitocracy, you're becoming a Fito. You have friends who want to see you do well. 2) What is the future of fitocracy? What directions can you see happening? We started out as a workout tracker. Then, we implemented starter workouts for beginners. We've recently added training services for even more help. In each stage of development, we're expanding to be more inclusive and more supportive. Our users have always directed our development. We listen and adapt based on what they need and want. 3) How do you see social media helping with fitness and exercise? Social media has invigorated the fitness industry; it's made information more accessible and easier to digest and all that leads to people becoming excited about training ! Years ago, do you remember the Cathy and Garfield comics ? "Diet is a 4 letter word." or "Exercise is punishment for enjoying that cheesecake last night. " There was this commonly accepted attitude that health was hard, exercise was something to be endured and diet meant sacrifice. We're more connected now and there's more options out there than an hour on the stationary bike washed down with plain chicken and broccoli. Another great thing you get with sites like Fitocracy and Instagram is we're seeing more body and cultural diversity so there's so much variance now in health and fitness. We have a bellydancer group on the site, powerlifters, runners, etc--there's even collegiate fencers. Working out has expanded into finding something active that you love, doing it and being able to share that with others. Your friends aren't interested in hearing about your new kettlebell set you got for a steal? No problem, log onto Fitocracy. Fitos want to hear about it. 4) As I look around, the fitocrat is a busy person, do you think we're in a renaissance of fitness in our society. It's very interesting because since the 80s (when we were growing up so our first point of reference), every successive generation has had a wave of change in health and fitness. The 1980s were about the clothes, the 90s were all about making time at home. Do you remember those workout dvds--the 10 Minute Abs or something? Those Gazelle training machines or the ab rocker "Now you, too, can get a firm, toned midsection---while watching t.v. at home!" The millennium moved focus on to pushing yourself--go hard or go home and the ToughMudders and Spartan Runs,facing challenges. It's too early to say what this decade will be known for but, our hope with Fitocracy, is that we've sent out the message and promoted the idea that everyone can be healthy. If all you do is walk everyday, walk dammit, and we're going to prop you (Fitocracy's version of 'likes) and give you a badge because you've stuck with it. Maybe somewhere down the line, you'll find something else you can do. We'll prop that as well.

I have been emailing with Jen who is the community manager. She does squats and likes cat.

The statistics for the site is that there is approximately 1,000,000 members. Like all sites there are probably a percentage that aren't active, or were active a while ago but aren't so any more. Still there are a lot of people you can encounter and share your passion for working out with and give each other props.

It is fun and as they say, if you're not careful, you might end up getting in shape.

If you've decided you want to consider this site, I encourage you to sign up. Take the plunge and start posting your workouts. If you do, you can look for me, I'm RealPaul.

Fitocracy, it's purple, it has a Robot and it's a lot of fun.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

It's the Little things

There are a few things I do to get started for running. I do these things because it truly is the little things that make each run a pleasant an experience as possible. Also, doing some of these things will make the days after the run even better.

The two things I do with each run is the following, apply some lip balm and apply some Body Glide. I use both for a number or reasons, all of which make the running experience a good one.

So what are my reasons.

The lip balm is simple, what I do is use ones that have a good SPF rating. While this is important during the winter, it's also important during the summer. While it might be an easy thing to think of apply sunscreen to the face or any other exposed skin during the run, because we are aware of the potential risks of the full sun. When you think about it, running for an hour or two in the sun will give you some nice tan, or if you're susceptible sun burn. Of course, it's good to wear the sun screen. What I also have learned over the years is the lips can suffer the effects of too much sun, wind or extreme temperatures. While it may be unique to me, although my reading indicates it can be a problem with some runners.

Cold sores can happen due to exposure to extreme conditions, too much wind or cold temperatures. As well, UV rays can have an impact and if you've had fever blisters or cold sores, you know it is an annoying and painful experience. I have learned that I need to have more then just lip balm, I need the SPF of at least 30, certainly more is better. I know that the lips can be something that is forgotten because, how many times do we think about our lips. Probably not often, usually only when things go wrong.

It takes only moment to apply the right lip balm, one that moisterizes and protects. I've tried a number of brands and they will all help. As with all things, the higher the SPF number, the better. I bought some at a Color Run, it has a distinct orange colour, which works when I'm wearing my orange compression socks and my orange top.

The next process is the Body Glide. It is to deal with the potential risk of chaffing and blisters that is the bane of each and every runner. With all parts of our body moving and with sweat being a part of the equation, there is also the risk of chaffing and in the feet, blisters. Since the feet take the most of the pounding, blisters can be very painful. I've had a few and they are not only painful when running, but for all aspects of life. Plus in the midst of training, it can stop a few runs just because of the pain, or the risk of infection if it bursts during a run. I do make sure there is a good layer of Body Glide on the feet before the run. If you're not sure if you've got enough Body Glide on, just see if you slide.

There are other places where chaffing is a problem, such as in the thighs areas. The rubbing of fabric against sweaty skin can be problematic. It may not be a problem for short runs, or during cool temperatures, but they can be a problem. Part of the problem can be dealt with by the right type of running shorts. So it's worth shopping around for a comfortable pair.

Then there is the problem which impact men runners and it can be found in places like "Embarrassing Running Problems". The problem is 'bloody nipples'. It's one of those topics we don't talk about or discuss, but it is a problem. Now, they don't start bleeding right away, that would be too simple, no it usually starts with sensitivity. You jump in the shower, and start soaping up the face cloths and when you do your chest, it's like "OWWW", whoa that's sensitive. It might go away and then perhaps the next time you run, the pain is still there, it's not going away, in fact it might even be a little worse, if that's possible. Then it happens, you're running along, there is some pain and then you look down. There you see them, two tell tale red lines. Sweat makes it look worse but it's there. Blood running down the shirt from the nipples. It is embarrassing and painful. I tried a number of solutions to the problem, the first was bandages. After all, band-aids stop bleeding and with the nipples covered, they are protected. They work but there is the risk they will fall off, because of the sweat and the constant movement. By the way, bandages on the toes can help protect against blisters.

Then I tried petroleum jelly. This is a good solution but they leave stains on the clothes. Which can be annoying, although not painful. You end up with two darkish lines on the running shirts. By the way, it has to be said again, cotton is not to be worn. Cotton tees can be a way of getting the bleeding nipples because of the material and the fact it holds all that nice sweat. Plus do you really want to see those bloody stains on a white cotton tee. Not a nice sight and will probably scare small children.

The best solution to bleeding nipples is Body Glide. Hands down it helps. It helps and there is no oily smear on the clothes. I can give encourage and advice that this is the best product there is on the market. I say that and I don't receive anything from the company. It is good and I don't mind paying for it.

As I said, it is the little things that can make the difference between a wonderful run and a painful one. Don't forget the little things.

Monday, May 18, 2015


All the staff at my office have an android based smartphones. We've gone from BlackBerry and Apple. This has happened in the last six months. One of the features we've got programs that incorporate both the the GPS and pedomeeter abilities.

Since the weather has now turned better, we're using this programs and getting out to walk. I think we've all got it set to 4000 to 5000 steps per day. This means we're working to take off at least 150+ calories a day. It is too easy to sit at thr desk in front of the computer. I know there is a great deal of information on the problems of sitting all day. I know itit's being compared to smoking, but now everything is being compared to smoking.

As I write this 3 out of 4 of us are taking time at lunch to go for a walk. While we're located in the downtown core, we are close enough to the River we can cross and there is a hiking trail that follows one of the creeks. It leads through a park as well.

Besides going for a walk, we're counting the steps at work and we are encouraged to stand up and move through the day. Walking is helping us to keep away from sitting all day. It is intriguing to discover how many steps are either done or not done during the day. For me I've set for 4000 steps a day.

It's only been a couple of weeks so too early to tell. One of the big parts of this walking habit is it gets us out of the basement office and into the fresh air.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cambridge Mill Race

I mentioned a few weeks ago I was going to do another race, and this time it was going to be the Cambridge Mill Race. It was going to be a 8K race for everybody. There was also a 1K race for kids, which was fun to watch. Actually some of those youngsters had a good pace too.

This is the third edition of the race and the first that was going to take place during a weeknight and not a Sunday morning. This got me interested, since I'm busy on Sunday morning. Being the only Double B Flat tuba player is an awesome responsibility and not one to be taken lightly. So when I read about it in a pamphlet, I immediately checked my calendar and registered.

The race was going to take place in West Galt, which is my side of the river. It was described as being picturesque and challenging. It was going to take runners through a part of the City that was used as the backdrop for the movie "Saint Ralph". The write up descibed the race in this way:

This challenging and scenic course literally runs through a historic residential area, along the Grand River and includes a race section as seen in the movie “Saint Ralph”.

What I've learned is the movie looks at the life of a young boy who wants and trains to run the Boston Marathon. I've not seen it, but from what I've read, it's a typical underdog does good type of movie. So a good way to waste a few minutes with a snack or two. So part of the race goes through the part of the town that is featured. It is scenic as the opening half follows the Grand River, so if you look to the right, you can look at the Golf Course which hugs the other side of the river. The pity is that weather conditions, cooler temperatures and high winds meant there wasn't anyone playing golf.

As you may know, one of the recommendations is that before the race you attempt to run the course, if you can. As I've mentioned it took place on my side of the river and I've spent a lot of time running through the neighbourhoods around the Public School which was located at the start/finish. I managed to run the last 3 kilometers of the race so I was aware of some of the unique aspects, which included a downhill and an immediate uphill. As well, the last 800 meters would be a gradual climb to the school. In fact I would say there are two parts to the race, the first 4 km was following the river and the second 4 came away and was hilly. As I mentioned the final 800 meters had a gradual climb, so that meant the first 800 was a gradual descent and then a sudden drop to George Street. It was one of those downhills that featured a 90° left turn, so you had to be careful going down otherwise it might have been an interesting turn. Either that, or you're going to blow out a few calf muscles on such a fast and early downhill.

Weather conditions were totally different then a few days earlier when the weather was high 20's or low 30's. As well, the humidity was on the high end. Now take those conditions and turn them around, from high 20's to barely at 10°. The day had been very cool, very windy, cloudy with a threat of rain. Checking the forecast indicated that the wind would be an issue. The direction of the wind was such that the last few hundred meters would be into the wind.

One of the promises was a free sports bag filled with some nice swag. It was some energy drink powder and a hot/cold compress. Yay for that. The case was a small little utility bag which will be very useful. There was a good bag check and with the school open, access to bathrooms. It was a public school, so the facilities were sized for the general population of the school. But it was all inside. Before the race time most of the runners stayed inside to keep warm. I think conditions were such that muscles could have gotten cold quickly and the risk of cramping would have been increased. After the children's 1K, people slowly began to move outside until about 10 minutes before the start. We all gathered at the start gate. What I found interesting was all the racing tee's that were worn. I noticed there was a lot of runners who had done either marathons or half-marathons. Most were local or regional, but there was a few from notables such as the New York Marathon. There was also tee's from races I had done and during the same year. It's a neat aspect to look at the quality of runners that were participating in the event. This was a race that was respected by the local running community. What I like was not only the day, but the locations, a local race within minutes of my home. There was a lot of residential parking, and since I did the recommended arrive at least an hour before, I had a good spot above the school. For my wearing apparel, just in case people are interested, I wore my Fitocracy technical tee. I wanted to extend some love to Fitocracy and I got a compliment for the tee. I shared a bit about the website.

After the announcements, the race started, there was cheering and the gestures of setting off the gps watches. It was a good crowd, over 130 participants started off. As I said, the first kilometer could have been very fast with the steep hill at the end of the street. Here it was important to remember to keep to your pace and not everyone else's. While it was only 8K, it's still 8K and the best was still to come. While the road to the school was closed to traffic, the rest of the course was not, but there was a lot of marshals to help with the direction and a good police presence keeping the cars honest and respectful of runners, especially at the major corners and turns. The volunteers and marshals were pleasant, smiling and talkative, one suggested that once we turn the corner, it would get easy and then he laughed and said 'No it won't'. He was right by the way. As the first half followed the river, there was slight changes in elevation, but nothing to stop the pace. Of course, on the way it, it was into the wind, fortunately by race time it was down to 28 kph and not the 39 kph with gusts up to 50kph. Now that would have been nasty. The runners were friendly and it was a good pace for running.

Then there was the turn just before the 4K sign, and each kilometer had a sign, so you had opportunity to strategize. Once past the turn, it became fun, the race became hilly and pronounced. Some good climbs and good declines. It was where the training and the pace became important. A water station was there, so a good place to walk through and have a quick drink of water. I have to wonder if the people who worked it out moved the race from April because they believed the weather would be warmed in May. Yeah right.

After the 5 kilometer mark, which was under the elevated rail tracks it became the picturesque neighbourhoods of older and established homes. It was nice to look at them and see the gardens just starting to develop. There was one house that was going through quite a nice renovation, looking good. Yes it is possible to look around and check the sights. Again, a lot of volunteers and marshals kept us on the right track.

Then came the last kilometer, where the course followed Crescent Street, which was a decline and sudden incline. All I could think about was, 'this is where all the plank training and hill running will become important'. I had spent a few minutes earlier that afternoon walking up that hill and to the first block of last part of the run. I knew what to expect and it was just a matter of not letting it get to my head. I talked to one of the marshals during the post-race dinner and he mentioned to me he had been there last year at the turn and some of the language that came out of people's mouth... Apparently it was something else. This is why you don't run fast during the first kilometer. Get the pace and keep to it. I hit the last 800 meters and another thought was 'where is that finish line?'. I saw it and did what I try to do at each race, and kick it up the final meters. I checked my pace for the final kilometer, it was 5:15. I was impressed with it. I wanted to take that last distance and not let it defeat me. I also saw the time and realize I would be under 45 minutes, in fact my finish time was 44'31", the chip time was 44'24". I felt real good at the end and was happy with my finish. Overall, I was 68th and 12th out of 16 in my age category.

The apres-run, is there such a thing? Was back in the school at the gym. The bags were there and so was the food. Pulled pork sandwiches, where were nice and hot. Plus ice cream bars, nice. There was a draw and a number of nice gifts, none of which I won, by the way, and awards. A lot of good people won and it was nice.

I wrote to the race co-ordinator and commented on how enjoyable the run was. He mentioned they will do it again around the same time and to make it a positive experience. I hope the group will have more runs around Cambridge because they did a great job.

I will say, it was a great experience.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Finally Heat

Going over the record of blogs, most of them has dealt with winter running. The experience of winter running is a challenge, there's no two ways about it, the challenge is the temperature, keeping warm, surface conditions and light conditions. Winter means shorter days, longer nights and weather that can change very quickly.

I've commented on the number of layers you have to wear when you go out, because while the usual comment of being 'cool at the start', may never be a problem, the issue is keeping the heat in while running. It's too easy to start losing heat due to the wet or wind and that is a concern during a longer run.

Now we come to the other extreme and that is, what happens when you start running in heat and humidity. It's an important consideration because we're seeing weather of extremes, it is either going to be hot or cold. The weather of intermediates seems to be disappearing. renceSo unless the climate controlled conditions of the gym with the treadmill is going to become the norm of your existence, learning to run in heat is important.

The one difference between the two conditions is the amount of clothing you can wear to make you comfortable. If it gets hot you can only go down to so few pieces of garments, unless getting chased by the police is an important part of your training plan. Besides do you really want to run with everything hanging out? That's never a good look for anybody. Okay seriously, you are down to a pair of socks, shoes, shorts and tee. One thing that you will read over and over again, and probably a lesson learned through personal experience, is never wear cotton. Cotton is usually a great material for clothes, it feels good, looks good and when you sweat, absorbs moisture. You will end up wearing a top that weighs a considerable amount of weight, because all that sweat has been absorbed by the top. If the socks are cotton, again, the moisture is absorbed and when it comes to the feet, the concern is blisters. Blisters can be a huge problem, not because you might see it at the end of the run, but rather because it might burst and rub raw during a part of the run. This becomes painful and the risk of infection happens, all that sweat, blood and nastiness. So ditch the cotton. There is a lot of good material that will wick moisture away from the body and not absorb it. Also the material itself will feel lighter throughout the entire run rather then getting weightier as the run progresses. During times of high humidity, this feature might not be as obvious, since the higher the humidity, the less evaporation, there will always some evaporation taking place, especially if there is a wind for example. As well, you will always feel wet and damp someplace on your person. It is the reality, you've just done some heavy work, your body is working as it should and you're sweating.

I came across an interesting article from Men's Fitness. The opening paragraph has this:

Sure, autumn's cool, less sticky weather will make you want to strap on your sneakers and get outside, but pushing yourself in the summer heat could help improve your performance in running, cycling, or other fitness-based activities. So long as the right precautions are taken, hot-weather workouts may give you a boost if you’re training for an endurance event, such as a marathon, Tough Mudder or some other sort of weekend warrior-style event. Hot-weather training may even eclipse high-altitude training when it comes to improving your performance. Here's what you need to know to sweat it out safely. - See more at:

While the opening few days of hot weather can be challenging and feels horrible, to sum it up, it has some positive aspects on training. There has been experiments done that demonstrate training in heat can have very positive affects on overall training. The writer stresses the positive impact may be better then training at higher altitudes. I suggest reading the entire article, but it seems the improvement to the training is quite noticeable. So it might be a suggestion to forget the comfort of the climate controlled gym and treadmill and lace them on and head outside.

It has been pointed out that it takes about 4-12 days of running in summer temperature and humidity to get used to running in these conditions. Although at the same time, the extreme temperature and conditions will have an affect on speed, you will be slower, so don't worry about it, plus there will be likely more walking at the higher temperatures. This is not bad because the ability to walk will give more energy later on in the run. In other words, if you feel totally dogged at the end of the run in the first day of the heat, don't let that get you down, you will get used to it, just like you got used to the extreme cold. Whether or not the word, comfortable can be used, it is something you can get used to, and appreciate it. This will be more noticeable if the weather cools down a bit, which it will now and then, the stamina and strength will be amazing. It will be far better then being in that gym.

An article in Runner's World states that a person can love running in the heat. It concludes with:

In the summer, water fountains are on, bathrooms are open, and long-mileage workouts require less preparation. Take advantage of such conveniences by scheduling long runs accordingly: Plan jaunts with stretches through parks that have plumbing. And enjoy a break from the layering tactics (and resulting laundry) needed in chilly seasons. "Summer is great for folks who like to wear very little," says Mierke–which makes summer equally great for people-watching.

Like the thought of less laundry, although it has to be said, your family members may encourage you do some quick showering, make sure you hang up whatever you're wearing outside and for heaven's sake, don't sit anywhere!. I know the last point from personal experience.

On the subject of hydration, it now becomes important. During cold weather, it's easy not to worry about hydration, plus there is an inconvenience issue, if it's cold, whatever drink you bringing will probably freeze and it's now useless. During hot weather, you sweat and it's important to either start hydrated or make sure you drink along the way. Of course, have some liquids available when you finish and can drink quickly and drink something that's cool. It will help with the core temperature. Also, get ready for the cooler shower when you get home. It will feel nice, almost as nice as those hot showers during the winter.

Summer training will help with autumn races. Just as winter training helps with spring races. As well, there are more opportunities to race in the summer then in the winter. It will be good.

If I can return to hydration, there are a lot of water carriers to use. Also, keep the water nearby after you run to replenish, you will feel a lot better. Plus the more liquid you get in the risk of cramps will become lower, especially those nasty night cramps that get you jumping out of bed.

Get out and run.

Monday, May 4, 2015

What's on my bookshelf

Let's get the disclaimers out of the way, I'm old enough to appreciate paper. By that I mean I still enjoy holding a book, newspaper or magazine in my hand. Yes I do have a Kobo reader, and it is great, but at the end of the day, I will still possess and take a product made out of paper with me to read and enjoy.

There, I said it, I am officially old I suppose by making that claim.

I thought about the resources we do have out there and how they can make an impact with our training in whatever activity we want to do and enjoy. Certainly the Internet has a plethora of material out there which will make you a better runner. From training plans, to discussion on injuries, and the avoidance of the same, it is there online. Plus you can always find the right wallpaper that is a running motivation wallpaper. Something good. As well, online, there is a place for discussion and dialogue. I should say for the most part, the running community is very supportive, rarely will you encounter attitude. You can have a very slow time and there will be people cheering you on. Thank goodness for that, because for some reason, running brings out the worst in non-runners. Just recently in one of the US papers, the columnist told us runners to shut up. The writer was not impressed with our tone or our topic of discussions. It's really like television, if you don't like what we talk about, then simply ignore us, we won't mind. In fact, I would say we are happy to be ignored by people who can only find fault. I realize we can be boring at times, but at the same time, we are excited to hear about the work of others.

While this is entitled "What's on my Bookshelf", I want to mention the magazines I have. Yes I still have subscriptions for magazine, I know they are available on tablets and readers, but I'm not impressed with how they turn out. I know I should try again, but the form factor just doesn't seem right. The first magazine is Canadian Running. This magazine fills the need of giving news about the Canadian running community. There are articles on the history of running in Canada, and some of the figures that have been a part of the scene. Discussions on meals, nutrition, and fitness fill the pages. Reading running magazines got me doing even more planks. There are the columnists with their insight and there are the reviews of running apparel and what runners should consider. Yes there are reviews of running shoes, I mean it is the most important part of our overall gear. I have to say, I've learned through reading magazines that I should get rid of the cotton tee's and stick with technical material. Living in Southern Ontario will make this lesson abundantly important, especially on a summer's day. Want to put on 10 pounds? Wear a cotton tee and run for a couple of miles, yes cotton has great absorbing and keeping powers. I should point out that Canadian Running has reached 50 issues, so congratulations.

Before I forget, two more, they will highlight a running club and give a discussion of what they have done for the community, and they will always have a city. They will present in their article, at least three different routes for the visiting runner to try, a short, a medium and long run and some of the best parts of the city, such as running stores and restaurants/pubs. They also go beyond Canada, they will have international locations; a recent issue featured Reykjavik. As you might have read in an earlier blog, last year, I spent 10 days visiting Iceland. Had a great time and I also brought my runners along, so I got a few runs in. I wrote a letter to the editor and gave a few more insights I had received while visiting. I want to say again, if you visit, bring your running gear, think about it, a pair of shorts, a couple pair of socks and tee's, plus the runners and you are good to go. Doesn't take any room in the suitcase, but will give you hours of fun, plus what a better way to learn about a place then by running. Of course, the caveat is, be aware and be safe. I suggested in my letter, the author didn't mention the true Icelandic meal, which is hotdogs, seriously. It is. So if you want to know what is happening in the Canadian running community, plus give you prices in Canadian funds, it's a good one to have. Also visit the website.

Of course, the magazine when it comes to running is, Runner's World. While Canadian Running comes out 6 times a year, 7 including the Trail Running Special. Runner's world comes out 11 times a year. It's also one of the oldest magazines out there. What's it got? Practically everything. There are notable columnists, lots of learning and technique articles, fitness, injury prevention, training plans, interviews, and fun stuff. Their orientation is American, but running is universal. One of the better columists is Peter Sagal, of "Wait, Wait, don't tell me", fame. You know, the NPR quiz show. Yes you do, I'm not the only one who listens to it. You do too. Admit it. He can be witty and can have very serious columns. The most recent issue, he talks with a woman runner and what she has to deal with in the way of catcalls, comments and the danger of physical violence. There are some great articles for beginners, usually the April or May issue will deal with beginners. Some good stuff, in fact worth reading if you've been running for years. Also cover stories on interesting events and people. Also cover stories of marathons, half-marathons, 5k's and 10k's. Always something to read. Plus reviews of equipment, athletic wear and of course runners. Lots of runners. Some very good reading. Plus it is the source of running in all things, more later.

The third magazine that I've read, but don't have it right now, is iRun, the Official Magazine of iRunNation. The "IRun" concept is the mastermind of Mark Sutcliffe, the author of the book "Why I Run", which is a very enjoyable read. The book give the stories of ordinary runners. People who answer the question 'why I run', in fact it's the starting of many of the simple statements, "I Run..." because, this leads to the stories. Since the vast majority of us are ordinary runners, it's a good source of motivation, people who wear our shoes and have gone through the same experiences we have. I read this book on the Kobo, I know, 'gasp' and no I'm not contradicting myself. It's easier at time to find a book, download book and pay for book. Here's a link to learn more of Mark and the book. I got a subscription by entering the Army Run, and since I'm signed up again, I wonder if the same will happen, I should really subscribe. Probably will. One of the columnists is Krista DuChene. I mentioned in an earlier blog, I ran in the same race as Krista last year, I was passed by her, she is an amazing runner. I also want to stop and congratulate her on reaching Olympic qualifying time in the Rotterdam Marathon. She got the time she needed to qualify, according to Athletics Canada, so we might have a woman Marathoner next year in Rio. Way to go Krista!

As for books, well the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote: "But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body". First of all, yes the writing of books is endless, because human creativity is endless, however the devotion of books is never wearying. Perhaps if Solomon had read a few more books instead of collecting all those wives and concubines, he might have enjoyed life a bit more. Just saying. To that end, there are a lot of running books out there. There are also a lot of good books. Overall, some of the best come from Rodale Press, which is the same publishing company that produces Runner's World. So you know the information and writers will be good. They have a lot of practical books. If you buy a book from Rodale you will not regret the purchase. There are always advertisements on the various books in the pages of Runner's World.

A book I just received is an older one, it's "Jim Fixx's Second Book of Running. As I just received it today, I've got no review. I read his first book, which was fascinating. He is considered one of the leaders of the first wave of running. While it's over 30 years old, it is still worth the effort to find and read.

A good source of books is either the public library or Amazon. What I like about the latter is the marketplace, for very good prices, you can get one of those books. I purchased Jim's book from Amazon. For a penny, you can't go wrong.

Good books will always be practical. Plans to get you started and keep you going if you have a specific race you're interested in running. As I said, there are a lot of books out there, and if you do some searching, you can find what you need.

A book that truly fascinated me was not a practical one, but a historic one. It's "The Dirtiest Race in History". The book looks at the individuals involved in the infamous Seoul Olympics 100m race. It was the one that put Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis in front of the world. As you might know from your history, practically everyone tested dirty after the race. Of course, Ben Johnson, who run the race, tested positive and was stripped of his gold medal. It led to a lot of hand wringing in Canada and a very large examination through a crown inquiry.

I'm looking for a few more books, and so I will probably write a few reviews.

So that is what's on my bookshelf.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Crunch

Been considering some of the basic exercises I've been doing that has been helping me with my morning workout session. Crunches are another one of those controversial exercises. In fact I think there's controversy following practically every exercise you can imagine or consider. While on this subject, controversy follows exercise. I wonder if this is why people don't exercise, for every advantage there's seems to be a whole lot of opinion of how bad it is or how it doesn't work.

Ab exercises probably fall under the category of controversy. Part of it has to stem from television, especially those 'As seen on TV' infomercials. Every January, without fail, we are inundated with the latest ab devise. I did a quick search and discovered the "As Seen on TV" website. If you go to fitness, you will learn there are still a lot of devises that will sculpt the abs. The belief, we want the six pack definition. Although if you talk to people a lot will say they have a six pack, it's just they keep them well insulated. It has to be remembered, if you think all your problems will disappear when you use these devises then you are probably the right person to buy some of this stuff. I can tell you if you are that interested in buy any of them instead of calling the 1-800 phone number, just wait about six months to a year and check your local thrift store, they will end of there. Why because for the most part they don't do what they claim. There are two promises, 1) you will develop fantastic abs and 2) you will lose weight by simply working out 5 minutes, or 30 minutes a day or three times a week.

Yes that will happen. Happens all the time. Usually they get these models that are true athletes and they do look fantastic. Yes they use the devise, but then again, give them money they will pose them them. You want fantastic abs and show them off, it takes a great deal of effort, there are no short-cuts. In fact that holds true for all exercise. You want performance, you had better put the time and effort.

So, that's my soapbox moment. The purpose for today is not to give you the three steps for six pack abs. I want to consider the crunch. Let me say right off the bat, it's a very nice form of exercise. If anything it is useful for building and strengthening the core. For almost all parts of life, a strong core is important. It keeps everything in place. As well, it does bring some definition to the abs, which for the reason of the six pack, can't hurt.

To me, crunches are far better to me then the sit-up. The sit-up is a great exercise, but I find it is hard on the lower back, this is where the crunch is better. It is puts less strain on the lower back. If done well, the crunch is a relatively short exercise that brings the upper back and shoulder blades up and down, for the period of time you've decided. A quick guide for the Crunch can be found here. It is a simple exercise to do and with the right form and time, they can be done for a solid minute or more.

There is a 30 day challenge. Will help develop your core strength:

I should point out there is some negative news about Crunches. This article in the Globe and Mail gives you the points. Personally, I will keep doing crunches. They are a good form of exercise.

Understandably, the crunch may not be for everybody, fortunately there are some variations which should make it fine for people. Here's a list of them.

When all is said and done, I'll keep doing crunches.