Monday, April 22, 2013

Race Report! Game of Life 5km

Last year I did this race with a few coworkers and it proved to be a fun time running around Point Pleasant Park in Halifax. So this year I decided to do it again and this time beat the coworker who came in ahead of me last year. Revenge would be mine!

I caught a series of early Sunday buses to make it over to the park for the early start. One of my coworkers (Andrew) found me waiting for the last bus that would drop us off in front of the race tent. We chatted about our expectations for the race. Andrew said he was hoping to beat the male coworker who beat him last year as well. LOL, well at least we had similar goals! When we got to the start though we both found out our competition (Yes-both of them!) had decided to run the 10k race. Curses(!)-sort of. I texted my husband and told him I just basically had to hold it together to beat my other female coworkers in the 5k. Same was true for Andrew. After a few announcements and a moment of silence for the runners and spectators affected by the Boston Marathon bombing we lined up for the 5k near the front, then got rather self conscious since we were standing a bit apart from the rest of the runners. We made a few jokes about our competitive nature and posed for a couple of pictures. The announcer, with a heavy accent, tried in vain to lead us through some warm up exercises. Then he yelled GO and we were off. I managed to stay with the first three women for about 1/2 a kilometer then they dropped me and by the time I reached the 1 km mark every bone in my body hurt so I slowed a bit and got passed immediately by two other women. (I later learned the leading women were running a sub-5 minute pace, no wonder I was hurting!).
I gutted up a small hill which had a nice gentle downhill onto the main path. The course was not closed so dodging toddlers and very large dogs was a bit of a challenge. I made it to Cable Hill and started to walk. My quads were screaming so I power walked to give them a break. By then the other women from my workplace appeared and I knew I had to get my butt in gear if I wanted to out run them. I started running once I reached the top of the hill and made it to the turnaround. I grabbed a cup of water and after a few sips and spits I was back running. I knew I could make it to the end without stopping so I ran as fast as I could on the flat section and then bombed down the Cable Hill, missing the 10 km race leader and a guy with a stroller and dog by inches.
I hit the last 1.5 km repeating my mantra- GO GO, keep it up-making my next target the two women who had passed me earlier on. One had slowed to a walk so I passed her just before the 4 km mark. I chased down the next women with 500 meters to go, then just tried to hold my pace until I finished. I certainly didn't get the time I was hoping for (under 30 minutes), I came in at 31 minutes flat, but that was good enough for 6th place in my age group, one of my highest placings ever! I also out ran my fellow female coworkers, so I did manage to meet my goal. My coworker, Andrew, also got his goal and even placed third in the 5 km, winning a pair of new Mizuno running shoes!
After waiting around for the award ceremony my legs were rested up enough to do a short run through the park once everyone went their separate ways, then I turned and went along the waterfront, enjoying the beautiful sun and cool weather. I was so thankful to have this time to run and enjoy the sun, grooving out to my music and stopping at the market to grab my reward-a chocolate croissant-before grabbing the bus ride home.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon 2013

I've been a fan of the Boston Marathon for years. No, I don't ever plan to attempt to qualify for the race or run it with a charity. The race looks hilly and frankly not that scenic. So why am I a fan? It's the vibe of the race, its runners striving for years to qualify for the race, the international elites that frequent the event and the amazing spectators who I'd love to bus up to the local marathon here to show our own crowds how marathon spectating is REALLY done. Add to that, that it falls on Patriots Day, celebrating the North American equivalent of Pheidippides mythic run to announce victory through local legend Paul Revere. Marathoning and Patriotism what a beautiful combination, right? Someone, or a group of someones didn't think so yesterday when they dropped at least three packages that lead to two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
I make a point of watching the marathon every year. It's one of the best covered marathon events in North America, in my opinion. For an hour before the marathon viewers can watch interviews with not only the elites but the amazing charity runners and celebrated locals. This year a special moment of silence was held for those 26 victims of the Sandyhook Elementary shootings. They had a group of runners running the event, and a special banner set up at mile marker 26. There was the usual debate when the wheelchair division begins, the commentators argued safety concerns over patronizing the wheelchair athletes as they were led, NASCAR style down the first hill to avoid any potential collisions (this does not happen in any other wheelchair marathon by the way). It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining but the heat was dramatically cooler than last year's heat wave, leading most people to call it perfect running weather. I watched the women's race as this year it was more interesting than the men's race, cheering quietly for Shaylene to find an extra gear to make it to the podium. I was disappointed when the Canadian Josh Cassidy didn't medal this year, after winning the mens wheelchair division last year. It was clear those athletes that had been absent from last year's race due to the upcoming Olympic Games, had returned.
After the winners had finished I went about my day, coming back after an hour to watch the local tv station interview tired runners walking up Heartbreak hill. After a few minutes I turned off the coverage. Then my husband texted me and joked about me watching the marathon. I joked back, then he asked if I had watched the bombings. I joked back "haha" thinking it wasn't his usual humor to joke like that...but whatever, I brushed it off and frankly it didn't even occur to me to turn on the tv to check. I mean-who would really bomb a marathon? WHY? The thought lingered, but with supper to be made and some chores to be done I put in the back of my mind until my husband and daughter arrived home. Then my husband said he was not joking, this really happened. I was in shock and could only repeat what he said and ask why. We watched the tv coverage in shock and silence.
Today brings no better answer to my question, why? Amby Burfoot (past winner of the Boston Marathon and writer for Runner's World) says this was an attack on our democratic rights, a west-coast political analyst says he thinks the attackers are a domestically-based Islamic extremists based on the size of the bombs, the style they were deployed and the location of the attack. Whoever is responsible hasn't yet been named but I hope whoever is responsible is found quickly and brought to justice. I'm hopeful that with so many spectators around the finish line someone has video or pictures that can help lead to an arrest.
Does this change my mind about running a major city marathon? It certainly gives me something to consider going forward. Frankly I would have put security concerns at the bottom of my "things to worry about" list for a marathon, now it's right up there beside proper training. But this won't stop me from racing, and it shouldn't stop any other runner either. If it does, whoever did this will have had their desired effect on all of us, inspiring fear so great we don't participate in the things in life we love.
Running a marathon is a celebration. It's a celebration of months of training, focus and support by friends and family. As another runner once said, the race is your victory lap. Let us not forget those who were lost but remember the spirit of the marathon cannot be quashed by cowards.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Can Trail Running Develop into an Unhealthy Addiction?

This month's blog symposium topic from is: Can Trail Running Develop into an Unhealthy Addiction?

I think its funny they chose to add "trail" to the question since I firmly believe that, yes, running can turn into an unhealthy addiction. Lots of runners have replaced other addictions, drugs, alcohol, etc. with running and call running their "healthy addiction." I think trail runners like to think of themselves as slightly different from your standard road runner, a bit more healthy perhaps because we run and train in the wilderness, not in smog infested streets. Trails give us a feeling of separating ourselves from society; no stop lights, cars beeping, fast food smells beside that chipmunk! How long that separation from society lasts, from family and friends, depends on the runner. I think that any activity that starts to negatively affect any other aspect of your life, be that your family, friendships, job or health can become unhealthy if the runner doesn't find that magical balance. It isn't easy, but if we nurture each aspect of our lives we can strive for that balance, as trail runner Scott Dunlap said: "Life has many facets, and each of them can be tapped into for positive energy... What's most important is to understand every part of your life where passion gives you energy and optimism, and make sure you get regular feedings." 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Shoe Review! Vibram Spyridon

I think I was probably being a bit naive when I thought that when I told my husband I was back to wearing my Vibram Sprints that he would remember they were skirting the edge of unwearable shoes, with me having worn them to the point certain areas in the outer sole had sizable holes starting. They had lasted at least 2500 kilometers-talk about getting your money's worth! A week passed, then two. I tried giving him a hint by hanging them-sole facing outward-to show the holes in the front foot area, but he walked past them for a few days and nothing was said. I then resorted to showing him how dirty my feet were the other day when I had finished a particularly muddy trail run. He immediately said I should probably get a new pair. YES!!
As I said in another post, I had done some checking and Vibram Spyridons were the next Vibram five finger shoe I wanted to try. It turns out the only store that had them in stock in at least 100 kilometers was at the Halifax Shopping Center Sport Chek.
I ended up trying on more than the Spyridons while we were there. The famous Bikila LS-named after the first barefoot marathon winner in 1962-fit too snug for my taste and I found the fabric at the heel went up too far. I guess wearing the Sprints, with their mary jane style upper, was going to take a little adjustment period.
Bikila LS

Then I tried on the Jayas and although they fit pretty close to the feel of the Sprints, my heel immediately slipped out the back.

Onto the Komodos. I actually thought about asking for a wider version,  my foot felt like someone was squeezing the heck out of my foot no matter how much I adjusted the very cool laces. I couldn't imagine surviving 20 miles in those puppies.
Komodo LS

Lastly I tried the Seeya LS. They felt great everywhere except on the top of my foot. The whole laces thing turned me off-that's part of the reason I like wearing Vibrams, you don't have to mess with laces! Aside from that I found the tongue dug into my leg and I couldn't adjust the laces well enough to give my wider foot enough room. They were certainly a pair that looked like it could handle hot days and running through water really well though.

But I kept going back to the reason I was there, the Spyridons. They cover the whole foot, like a glove, with an adjustable velcro strap that pulls the strap around the foot. The upper is made of a water resistant but stretchy fabric but the best part of the shoe, and my reason for buying it was the sole. The traction on the bottom is better than any other Vibram shoe with its multidirectional traction, it also provides a bit of a lift off the ground, when compared to the Sprints.
My first run in the Spyridons was a street/trail combo. It takes about 2.5 kms to get to the start of the Shearwater trail from my house so I grabbed my dog and we headed out. The trail was really busy, which, given the gorgeous weather, made sense. Spencer got to smell tons of other dogs and the kilometers passed quickly. The Spyridons handled the shoulder of the street and the bigger rocks of the trail entranceway without a problem. In the Sprints I would already be actively searching out patches of grass to walk on! The added rubber in the 3.5mm sole really made a difference from the Sprints which have less rubber. The Spyridons handled the small crushed gravel really well. I think I got one or two tiny specks of gravel in my shoes during the whole 12 mile run.
When we got to the end of the Shearwater flyer trail we crossed the road and jumped onto the Salt Marsh trail. I found an old river bed, and since it looked alot like the terrain of one of Jodi and Karine's crazy ass trail races I decided to try it out. I am so glad I did. We jumped from boulder to boulder, slid on some muddy grass as the scenery changed every few meters. It was great. The Spyridons handled everything I could throw at them beautifully. After about a half kilometer we came upon this random grassy hillside with a single tree sitting to the right of the trail. It was straight out of a painting. Then we passed the hillside and went into the woods on the other side. The terrain got more hilly and I could start to see that we were running along the side of a growing hillside, overlooking the ocean below. We met a few other people with hiking poles and dogs, greeting everyone as we passed. It's funny that I can live around here for 8+ years and never know this trail existed until now! I need to get out more!
Eventually I checked my watch and realized we needed to turn back and head home. I also didn't want to push Spencer's limits. I already knew this was his longest run yet. So we turned around and doubled back.
When we got home I realized I had a few hot spots. One on each foot where the top strap connects to the side of the shoe, and two decent sized heel blisters. I think I'll try to wear my injiji toe socks on the next run-or until the blisters heel. I had a few blisters like this with the Sprints, eventually the material stretches a bit and it's not an issue.
My feet weren't tired at all from my 12 miler. Usually in the Sprints my forefoot would be a bit sensitive after a run like this, but nothing of the sort happened with the Spyridons.
I'll give the Spyridons a 4 out of 5 stars. I'm taking a point for the blisters, but otherwise they are an exceptional minimalist trail shoe and a decent road shoe. I'm sure if I wore them only on the roads they would last even longer than my Sprints, given the extra rubber, but to find the true impressive qualities of the Sypridons you need to get off the roads and onto the trails!