Where did THAT number come from?

Have you ever had one of those days when you stepped on the scale, looked at the flashing light, and then stifled a slight gasp when the numbers stop flashing? That was my experience this morning. I knew my weight was creeping up ever so slightly because I’m not running right now, but I did not expect what was presented to me today. How could this happen? I’ve been so careful; even though I’m not running, I am exercising. Sure I wasn’t being careful at Christmas, but hey it’s hard to completely abstain when there was so much awesome cooking happening, which of courses required the appropriate libations. But that was a month ago and I had recovered from those indulgences.

One of the things I’ve learned in my job as a Vice Principal is that you have 15 seconds to think before reacting. Instead of beating myself up about gaining back a bit more weight than I thought, I paused and took sometime to think about my eating habits in the last few weeks. A little reflection is a powerful thing, and here’s what I discovered. We had a retirement party for our Office Administrator — snack food and drinks. Last week was exam week which means we order lunch one or two times — chinese food, shwarma with a side of potatoes and garlic (I NEVER get the side but a colleague bought it for me), a can of ginger ale. Those two lunches alone would have been enough to kill any efforts to keep my wieght in check, but when you’re on a roll why stop.  That’s right, I also realized I consumed of few more treats last week: dessert squares, cinnamon loaf/sticky bun from the Rideau Bakery (if you’re from Ottawa you may know why it is hard to resist this awesomeness), and guys night out beer and wings. But heck, with things going so well, why stop there. This weekend my daughter had a ringette tournament in Kingston. We usually eat healthy food when we hit the road, but there are few things that aren’t so good. In addition to the three visits to Minos where we had a couple very tasty Greek salad with sliced chicken breast — she ate a medium all by herself and I had some chicken souvlaki pita wraps — we had a visit to Woodenheads for gourmet pizzas. I also had an excellent 8 Man English Pale Ale from local brewery MacKinnon Brothers.  Add to that the oversized hotel breakfast, pizza dinner with the team, Lone Star fajitas, and beverages, and I know I had way too many calories coming in. Running 5k on the treadmill and doing my regular workouts while away couldn’t keep the weight at bay. I finished everything off with a potluck lunch at work yesterday. Even taking small portions, I still managed to eat too much. Again, even though I worked out last night, the little numbers on the scale continued to go up.

All of this brings me to today. It’s the beginning of a new month and a new semester. This is an opportunity for a new start, a new resolve, and a new direction. Interestingly, on one of the blogs I regularly read, Andrew Richter’s Fitness for the Regular Guy was a motivating post that reminds people to Keep It Simple, Stupid when it comes to getting back on track. Timely for sure and pretty basic, but good to remember. I’m keeping track of my exercise in a journal, I’m going to get back to more blogging, and I’m focusing on eating healthy food in appropriate portion sizes. I know where the number came from, and I’m working hard to get away from there.

Hey I Saw You Looking At Me

Hey you. Yeah, you. Do you remember that time you saw that guy at the 4km mark of the race running with pretty poor form? You know, knees too high — I mean WAY to high — probably over exerting himself, and not looking like he was enjoying the experience. But trying to look like he was and that he knew what he was doing. You looked like you weren’t sure what you were seeing. Like maybe this guy was some ironic representation of what a real runner looks like. First you smiled that uncomfortable half smile, then you grimaced as though in horror, but all of this melded into a look of stunned abhorrence for the person who was making a mockery of the sport you love.

Well that guy — that runner — was me. I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I knew I didn’t. But I finished the race, and I’ve been proud of that moment ever since. Sure I’ve learned what proper form looks like. My knees are lower, and my turn over rate is faster. I’m lighter on me feet, and there’s even a solid finishing kick when I get to the end. I’ve completed duathlon, 5k, 8k, 10k, and half-marathon events. I’m a faster, stronger runner, but I still take pretty bad post race selfies. And I’ve never forgotten the look on your face. I wonder it looks like now.

Improvements Made, Lessons Learned

The first time I ran a race, the 2009 Army Run, I had never run any long distance.  My training was inconsistent and uninformed.  Yes, I tried to follow the 10 & 1 rule recommended by various experts.  I ran around the neighbourhood and the school track a few times, much to the amusement of my family.  I knew I wasn’t going to finish anywhere near the front of the group, but I knew I was going to finish, I just wasn’t sure how long it was going to take me.  The route takes runners past Parliament Hill, the Canadian War Memorial, and along the World Heritage Site Rideau Canal. It is also the route many students from Lisgar Collegiate Institute have run for years as part of their Canal run in gym class.  As my father was a teacher and Head of Phys. Ed. at Lisgar for 33 years, he knew exactly how long it should take somebody to run that 5k loop.

2009 Army Run Result

When I finished my first race, I proclaimed my success to any and all who would listen. My dad’s response he has stuck with me more than anybody else’s. He was pleased that I had completed the race, but my time of 36 minutes received a less than enthusiastic response: “It should’ve taken you 25 minutes.”  That’s it. At the time I was impressed that I finished at all. Sure I knew I could go faster, like maybe as fast as 30 minutes, but 25 minutes was just plain crazy. That’s the kind of pace/time super-fit, lean, long-legged true runners achieve. Not 220 lb, stocky, thick calved coach potatoes lumber to.

The idea that I could run 5k faster than I did, let alone in 25 minutes, has stuck with me since. As a result, I’ve been more aware of my pace, my form, and my effort. When I did finally run 5k in 30 minutes (last year), my daughter’s wise assessment was “That’s what happens when you run more.” Not bad for a then 11 year old. Typically, though, I do not spend enough time each year running to get much faster. Last year I was averaging about 7:15/km while still holding to the 10:1 pattern. This time held regardless of the distance; sometimes I was a bit faster and sometimes I was bit slower. While I was pretty pleased with that time, I knew I was getting faster and stronger. I started running a couple of times a week in April of 2015, and fairly quickly (no pun intended) I was getting under 7:00/km. Sure enough those times started dropping below 6:00/km and I wasn’t stopping for walk breaks anymore. Imagine my surprise when I finally ran 5k in 5:05/km — that’s a time of 25:22. I had finally achieved what my father said I could do, something I didn’t think I would ever be able to do. What changed? Quite simply, I did. I exercised more this year than any other year. I made better food choices. I worked at it.

I weigh less and I move more; that’s a simple equation for success. But there’s more to than that. I value each accomplishment I’ve made, and I recognize that while those accomplishments will come and go like the tide, I have to keep at it. Here’s hoping I stick with into the winter and beyond.

Fall Colours 10k Recap

Sunday morning was most likely my last race of the season. After hemming an hawing for a few weeks, the week before the race I threw my hat in to the ring and signed up for the Somersault Events Fall Colours 10k, one of the many races they held that day. As a first time participant of the event, I was really impressed by the organization of the day and the great family atmosphere. The race distances ranged from the kids’ Turkey Trott through to the marathon.

Like all Somersault events, this day was very well planned. There was the pre-race emails from organizer Terry McKinty reminding participants about the start-times, facilities and amenities, and parking costs. They even setup a Facebook page for ride sharing. There was updates to the marathon route maps, and explanation about the colour coded markers for distances and directions. The water stations were manned by members of a local basketball club who were also beneficiaries of fundraising efforts form the day. The route was very well marked, and made its way from the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum and into a the community. Residents come out a cheer on the runners. All in all, it was a wonderful day. It helped that the weather was great; a bit of sun and not too warm. I chose a long sleeve technical shirt, but would have been fine in a t-shirt. Of course all of this was with a backdrop of trees that were nearly at the peak of colours change — hence the event name Fall Colours.

Backdrop for Fall Colours 10K 2015

Backdrop for Fall Colours 10K 2015

My training for this event was somewhat sporadic. I had been running a fair bit this year as I trained for the duathlon in August. Also, I have been experiencing some real gains (losses?) in my struggle to reach my weight goals. Fortunately, iRun magazine partnered with SportChek and presented a series of 10 week training plans geared for October events — mybestrunningrace.com — and I was able to focus my training. Although I started out following the half-marathon plan, I soon realized that with the return to school and accepted that 10k was going to be a more manageable distance. As my training went on, my 5k times were getting pretty quick, and the one night I ran 10k, I was under 60 minutes for the first time ever. All that to say I was feeling pretty good about race day.

The Fall Colours itself was a great run and experience. Learning from other races, I did not head to the back of the pack. Instead I went to the front of the pack to start the race. I knew I wasn’t going to be the fastest, but I also knew I wasn’t going to be the slowest. When the horn sounded, I headed out faster than knew I should running the first km in 5:10. Knowing that I couldn’t sustain that, and because I planned to finish around 60 minutes, I deliberately slowed down so that by the end of the third km I was hovering at the 6 minute/km mark. This was fine for me as I was trying to stick to my plan. What I hadn’t understood, though, was how hilly the course is — in both directions. I managed to hold my pace, however, to the end of the 5km mark, and then I slowly started to pick up my pace, eventually getting back to 5:24/km, and running a negative split. Like I do in most races I pick another runner who seems to be about my pace and try to stick with him or her. This worked well again, and I managed to keep tabs on a few runners. However, because I was picking up the pace in the second half, I was slowly overtaking them. Nothing aggressive, but steady moves past various runners. As we headed into the final kick, I did overtake a few runners quite quickly. At the finishing chute, I picked up the pace even more — the last split time had me back at 5:10/km. My finishing time was 61 minutes, exactly 4 minutes faster than than my previous 10k race. I’m super happy with the race PB! But that’s not the entire story.

Interestingly, throughout the race I noticed that the km indicators and my Strava app were not in sync. I wrote about this earlier, and my thoughts/concerns have since been validated. As he usually does following races, Terry sent out a post-race email in which he addressed various aspects of the event. Chief among them, was their awareness that the race was in fact longer than 10k:

The 10K – actually, the 10.7K. With a new member to the race crew this year (it’s not his fault), our ‘course coner) was given the actual 5K turn point, without being given the .7K grounds measurement so it’s our fault – not his! Sportstats will amend the results to reflect 10.7K

You really have to admire and respect event organizers who recognize a mistake was made. More so, they own it; they didn’t blame the new guy.

So what does this mean for my race and my PB? Well it means I got two PB’s that day. In addition to getting an official race time PB, even for a slightly longer distance, my actual 10k time was also a PB for me — 56:41! That is way faster (almost 9 minutes!) than than my previous 10k race PB, and it is faster than any other 10k I’ve run in training. For a race on Thanksgiving Weekend, I couldn’t really ask for more.

Obligatory post-race selfie. These are rarely good!

Obligatory post-race selfie. These are rarely good!

Back at it

I recently recently wrote that I had lost the motivation or focus to run, but that I knew I needed to find it again. After reading on Twitter about a number of people who were either getting back to running or were beginning to run for the first time, I knew I had to make the time to get back at it. I’m fortunate to live in a runner friendly city; there’s even access to a great trail network at the end of my street. I’m also fortunate to have a wife who supports my running even if she can’t imagine why I would enjoy it.

Yesterday I made the time. I hit the trails for 5.5k at 6:04/km pace. Also, I went back to 1 minute walk with 15 minutes running. Given that I hadn’t run in a little over a week, I thought it best to play it safe.

I don’t have a goal race yet, but I’m toying with a fall 10k or even making a return to the half marathon. The one and only time I completed the distance, I hadn’t really trained properly. Because I didn’t know how to at the time. Now that I’ve been running for a few years, albeit off and on, I have a better idea of how to train, and I know where to look for training ideas and plans.  I also appreciate the value of encouragement. When I hit a wall and was walking during the duathlon, at about the 3k mark of the final run, a teenage runner going the other direction said “You can do it. Keep running.” She didn’t know me, but her smile and positive words got me running again and got me to the finish line under my goal time.

It felt good to be running again. I’ve found a new training plan to follow thanks to iRun magazine. They’ve partnered with sporting goods retailer Sport Chek to provide a variety of 10 week training plans (5K, 10k, half, and marathon) for people looking to race in October. Because I want the challenge, and I still hope to meet my goal weight, I’ve opted for the Half Marathon plan.  I have no idea how this will go, but I’m prepared to give it a shot. If you’re looking for a plan for the fall, why not chick out the site (http://mybestrunningrace.com/). Who knows, you might find your self pushing new limits.

Looking for motivation

In the last few weeks I’ve run a 5k race and a sprint duathlon. While the 5k was an opportunity that popped up because we were in Chicago the weekend of the race. And it fit my training schedule for the du. But now that I’m done the du, I’m at a bit of a loss. I haven’t run or biked since the race, and I’m having a hard to time “finding the time” to get moving again.  The lethargy is even in creeping into my writing; it took me almost a week to finish the BTN Big 10k recap, and I haven’t even started the National Captial Duathlon recap yet. Hopefully I will find the “time” / motivation to get going again; maybe I have to sign up for another race.

What tips do you have for getting back to running/exercise after your goal race?

Duathlon Training Update #4

Week 5 July 13 — July 19 (week 8 of BHF.org.uk Duathlon training plan for beginners)

Day Planned Activity What I Really Did Thoughts/Comments
Monday Rest Rest

Swim: 600m in 17:30

Still worried about my foot — lots of foot massage and stretches to help loosen it. I did manage over 11K steps today.

Nice, easy swim at the end of a very hot day felt great.

Tuesday Run/walk : 30 minutes

Stretch:10 min

Bike: 8.9 km in 22:23 (20:55 moving time)

Bike: 8.8 km in 19:42 (19:02 moving time)

Bike ride getting a bit faster as the days go on, and I’m adding a bit more distance. Birthday dinner took precedence over my run. Pacer app says I walked more than 2.7 km over the course of the day so I will take that.
Wednesday Run/Walk: 10

Bike: 10

Run/Walk: 10

Stretch:10 min

Bike: 8.9 km in 18:22 (18:18 moving time)

Bike: 8.9 km in 22:47 (22:19 moving time)

Run: 3.1 km in 19:20

Yoga: 10 mins

Although the morning ride was pretty fast, the afternoon ride presented me with a pretty strong headwind (approx. 19 km/hr) so I didn’t make great time. Focused on consistent and strong pedalling form. After my run, spent 10 minutes using Yoga app to stretch out. MUST remember to do this everyday! Finished it all with a quick swim.
Thursday Bike: 60 minutes

Stretch:10 min

The day was a complete right-off. I didn’t bike, run, or anything. I didn’t even reach 10k steps. I didn’t even eat particularly well. Argh!
Friday Run: 30 minutes or

Swim or Yoga/Pilates class

Walk: approx 1 hr. Bike was in the shop, daughter had field hockey, and we went out for dinner.  running was not going to happen.
Saturday Rest

Stretch:10 min

Rest

Stretch: 10 mins

House work and moving boxes counts as stretching, right?
Sunday Bike: 40

Run: 30 minutes

Stretch:10 min

Walking and painting Some days, even though you have a good plan and everybody knows it, it just doesn’t happen.  I did, however, spend a great day with my family and we got some things done around the house that were essential.

Duathlon Training Update #3

Week 4 July 6 — July 12 (week 7 of BHF.org.uk Duathlon training plan for beginners)

Day Planned Activity What I Really Did Thoughts/Comments
Monday Rest Stretch:10 min Rest

Walking: 7300 steps

Stretch: 10 mins

Read an interesting article about the difference between Rest and Active Recovery that will help me through training.
Tuesday Run/walk : 30 minutes Stretch:10 min Steps: 12509

Bike: 8.5 km in 22:01 (20:56 moving time)

Bike: 8.7 km in 19:39 (19:36 moving time)

Swim: 550m in 14 mins

Pacer app indicates 136 min active time approx 3.2 km. Too bloody hot for a run today 28C but feels like 35C with the humidity. The swim was a much better way to get exercise and stretch..
Wednesday Run/walk: 10 Bike: 60 minutes Stretch:10 min Bike: 8.5 km in 20:00 (19:01 moving time)

Run: 2 km in 10:32

Ride: 20.3 km in 1:01:18 (52:23 moving time)

Walk: 3 km in 44 mins

Stretch: 10 minutes

First long ride of the year; lots of traffic stops. Will clearly need more time in the saddle at long distances to be ready for duathlon. Also had a nice 3k walk after dinner with my beloved. I finished the day with a quick swim to cool off. Pacer app counted 15214 steps.
Thursday Run/walk : 30 minutes Stretch:10 min Bike: 8.5 km in 22:00 (20:41 moving time)

Bike: 2.8 km in 8:04 (7:11 moving time)

Bike: 8.8 km in 19:35 (18:48 moving time)

Run: 4.8 km in 28:30

I thought the ride was a bit faster; need to work on pedalling consistency.

Two rides in the afternoon b/c of quick trip to doctors.  first time running after a ride so I’m happy to have been on 5k pace under 30 mins. Should have run the extra 200m but my wife called. Family comes first.

Friday Bike: 30 minutes or swim or Yoga/Pilates class Bike: 8.5 km in 20:25 (17:49 moving time)

Bike: 8.8 km in 20:41 (20:41 moving time)

Ride home was not as fast as I hoped but I pedalled the entire time, no stopping.

Also had a couple of swims after work & dinner.  My wife taught our daughter how to flip turn, and used me as the exemplar. I was surprised it came back to me so quickly.

Saturday Rest Stretch:10 min REST & STRETCH I took it easy like I’m supposed to. the metatarsal bruising in my foot seems to be back so the break is good for me. So are the stretches and foot massages.
Sunday Bike: 90 minutes Stretch:10 min Stretch

Swim: 100 m in 2:38

Walk: 1.3 km in 15 minutes

Family commitments kept me from following the plan today.  I did go for a nice walk with the dog, and there was some light housework to do, but I didn’t get anywhere near my bike.  This is good because my foot is still bothering me a bit and I want to be ready for race day.

Keeping my focus

Bianchi World Champion Sticker put on ALL their bikes in 1987

I made the mistake this week of looking at the results of other athletes who have recently completed duathlons in the Somersault Events so far this year — okay I looked at some of last year’s results too.  I only looked so that I would get a sense of how much time it should expect to be moving.  Of course all I really did was discover how fast other athletes, who probably have more multisport experience than me, were actually able to cover the Sprint Duathlon distances.  This didn’t really need to be part of my fact finding research since I know how long it takes me to run 2 km (about 12 minutes), bike 20 km (about 45 mins), and run 5 km (about 30 minutes).  I know I’m not going to be the fastest athlete in the field, not matter how small it is, and I know I AM going to finish.  I really just want to finish.

Instead of looking at other athletes’ finish times, today I looked up tips for transitions, food and nutrition, and strength training. This information will keep me focused and be way more beneficial than knowing that somebody else finished in a time that was right for him on that particular day.

Duathlon Training Update #2

Duathlon Training Summary Week #3 continued

For the week June 28 (end of week 5) to July 5 (week 6)

Week 3 June 28 — July 5 (week 6 of BHF.org.uk Duathlon training plan for beginners)

Day Planned Activity What I Really Did Thoughts/Comments
Sunday Run/Walk: 15

Bike: 30
Run/Walk: 15.

Stretch: 10 min

Run: 6 km in 36:19 time

6:01/km AVG pace

Just glad to be running again! Went out hard.
Monday Rest Run: 5km in 30:19 time

6:02 AVG pace

Took it easier than yesterday, but still happy with progress.
Tuesday Run/walk : 30 minutes.

Stretch: 10 min

Bike: 8.5 km in 21:47 (21:16 moving time)

Bike:8.5 km in 21;10 (20:42 moving time)

10 minutes swimming approx 200 m

1st ride to summer school site.  17 km return ride should be good training
Wednesday Run/Walk 30

Bike 30 minute

Stretch: 10 min

NOTHING! Canada Day celebrations with family took precedence over training
Thursday Run/Walk: 30 minutes

Stretch: 10 min

Walk: 1.2 km dog walk

Summer School walking: approx 9000 steps — way more than 30 mins

Leg stretches to help heel

Had planned to bike, but had to change that plan at the last minute
Friday Bike: 30 minutes or swim or yoga/Pilates class Bike: 8.1 km in 21:14 (17:33 moving time)

Bike: 8.8 km in 21:14 (19:56 moving time)

Swim: 10 minutes approx 250m free & breast

Added new bike computer that syncs with Strava iPhone app so I have more accurate data. Still finding the best/safest route home — looks like I’ve got it. Nice refreshing swim when I got home.
Saturday Rest. Stretch:10 min gardening and a trip to the shopping mall

10000 steps according to Pacer app

Sunday Run/Walk: 10

Bike: 60

Run/Walk: 10 Stretch: 10 min

Run: 5 km in 29:15

Walk: 1.3 km in 12 mins

Swim: 20 mins

Walk: 3 km in 43:00

Didn’t get on the bike today, but I did manage a 5k PB. Also had a nice 3k walk with my beloved after dinner.