Happy Canada Day

Canada

All the way from Dublin, Ireland, I’m wishing my home and native land a

HAPPY CANADA DAY!

If you are one of my readers from outside the Great White North, today is the anniversary of our country becoming, well, a country. And we celebrate it with inordinate amounts of red and white cake, strawberries and, of course,  fireworks.

In 2001 we went a trip on Canada..Spirit Island..

If you don’t know anything about Canada (or just know our frequent use of the word “eh”, maple syrup and our affinity for toques), then let me tell you this: Canada is a beautiful and diverse country, both in its people and its countryside. I am blessed to call it home. Visit the country if you get a chance. And if you are Canadian, may I suggest traveling from coast to coast to coast? Get to know this wonderful land of ours. Maybe even pick up a few races in each city you see?

So Happy Canada Day and happy running!

(Photo Credit: Palindrome6996 and Truus)

Gear Review: Nike Plus

This could just as easily be titled

An Ode to Nike Plus

Because, and this is so true, I am completely in love with the Nike+ app. (Pipe down, overly conservative mid-westerners, I am not suggesting marrying my app). This thing is awesome. I even have a basic Garmin and yet I head out most days clutching my smartphone so I can use the Nike+ app instead.

I should note that I am not in anyway getting paid by Nike, Nike+ or its affiliates to write this. But Nike, if you’re reading (ha!), I totally would. I’m just going to throw that out there.

The Nike+ app is a great product, especially for beginners in our sport. Although I had known about its existence for some time, I didn’t start using it until a friend recommended I do so when she picked up running. Like I said, I had a Garmin watch and I didn’t see the need for it. My Garmin is a highly accurate GPS tracker that also tells me my split times, makes sure I stay on pace and allows me to set intervals for long runs. What could the Nike+ app have on that?

Plus, the brand of smartphone I have (Google Nexus) makes it difficult for me to find an armband to lash it to my upper arm. I still don’t have one, but if you know of a good one worth ordering off of Amazon, please let me know.

The thing is, Nike+ is fast and easy to use, especially as the GPS tracker finds me very quickly. I live in a densely populated (read: skyscraper filled) area, so the GPS tracker on my Garmin could take upwards of 5 minutes to activate. Nike+ is free and available on all Android and iPhones, meaning many of my friends use the app already. Nike+ allows me to connect with them, through the app, and see how they are doing. Nike+ also publishes runs to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc, if you are into those sorts of things. The social media and communication driven aspects of Nike+ are things the Garmin line of products, while more professional, just can’t keep up with. Finally, Nike+ is speaks to me throughout my run via my headphones, so I can automatically hear when I have hit the next km, what my splits are so far, and if I’ve just achieved a new milestone.

Frankly, using Nike+ is like having my own little cheerleader in my pocket. Ellie Goulding once came on over my headphones to congratulate me on my fastest mile ever.

Now, truth be told here, there are some things the Garmin does better than Nike+ is designed to do on its own. I don’t have the Nike watch, so maybe it fills in the gaps. Garmin is a far more accurate GPS tracker and is lighter than carrying around a smartphone with you. Its battery life also lasts longer, and the watch is waterproof-ish. Plus the elevation charts Garmin provides post run are second to none. Garmin also offers a full line of products from the beginner (which I have) up to the triathlete level watch. Nike+ just isn’t designed for it.

So come race day, I’ll have my Garmin strapped to my wrist. But for every day leading up to race day? Nike+ all the way!

Why Your Slowest Mile is Always the Same

Myrtle Cook of Canada (left) winning a preliminary heat in the women's 100 metres race at the VIIIth Summer Olympic Games / Myrtle Cook (à gauche), du Canada, remportant une éliminatoire pour l'épreuve du 100 mètres femmes, aux VIIIe Jeux Olympiques d'été

Yesterday I wrote, rather facetiously, that the second to last mile/km usually feels like the the longest of them all. It turns out that isn’t just something we all feel is true; it is true.

Israel Halperin at Memorial University in Newfoundland conducted a study which asked volunteers to exert the maximum amount of effort possible contracting their arms. Sometimes, they were told to do this for a predetermined number of reps, and other times they were not told how many they would be doing until the last rep. In each and every case, the effort would decrease with each rep until the last one. The last rep would either equate in effort to the first, or exceed it.

So what does this mean for us, as runners? It means that our bodies are programmed to reserve energy for a final effort, even when we are told to exert “all-out” effort prior to that. In other words, our brains are hard-wired to perform that last mile or km faster and with our reserve energy, even if we don’t plan on keeping reserve energy. We just can’t help it.

The take away is if you are trying to run even splits – each km or mile at the same pace through out – focus your mental game on maintaining your pace in the last few kms or miles of your run.

(Photo Credit: BiblioArchives)

Sunday Sign Off

That’s another week put to bed, as we all soon will be. I hope you all had fantastic weekends, both running and otherwise.

When I was out this morning, I saw many different runners, all likely doing their long runs. They were fast runners, slow runners, serious runners and weekend warriors. They were short, tall, slim and wide; some with powerfully long strides and others with short, quick steps. Some appeared to be professional athletes and others were regular wannabes like me.

But all of them – each and every single one, regardless of whether this was their first run or their 5000th – were runners.

Each of them was out there, trying their best and that effort should be rewarded. Its why at races, each participant gets a medal for completing the course.

Because they deserve it.

So here’s to you, if you went for a run today, yesterday or are thinking of lacing up tomorrow. Cheers, proost, my hat’s off to you! You are awesome.

See you tomorrow, and as always:

Happy running!

 

 

Spring Fling: An Inaugural Race Review

On June 15th, Father’s Day, myself and roughly 100 other strangers gathered in Toronto’s Willow Creek park to sweat it out for either 5 or 10k. To be clear, I was running the 5k version (this is part of a wider running strategy for the rest of 2014 and some of 2015). I understand that this was the inaugural year for the Excel Running Series, and therefore first ever Spring Fling.

In my totally uneducated and inexperienced opinion, it was a good race. Not a great one, but definitely a fair effort for the first go around. I can’t really speak for the 10k experience, but the 5k was an out and back race with one water stop at the 3k mark. It wasn’t a large race and that showed. Having recently competed in the Goodlife Half Marathon, I missed the cheering sections and the music on the course. But none of that can be expected for a race this size. The running community for the Eglinton east area of Toronto seemed to be out in force, with much back-slapping all around. I was there on my own, so I had plenty of time to spy and eavesdrop on the more talented runners. There were a few entertaining “Back in my day!” conversations I got to overhear from some veteran runners (Pisssst! Did you know that us “young bucks” simply “don’t have the moxie”? I can’t make this stuff up folks).

The course was well marked and chip timed, the two most important pieces of a race in my opinion. For those who drive, there was plenty of parking. Of course, I don’t have car to drive so my bottom was stuck on the TTC nightline bus at 6am that morning.

 

My only major compliant was that the race was not a closed course, meaning that cyclists and pedestrians were free to wander across your path. I didn’t experience any trouble with this, but I wasn’t exactly leading the pack if you know what I mean. As the race grows – and I have no doubt that it will – I expect this issue will take care of itself.

Overall, I would run this course again, and maybe next time take a shot at the 10k. You know, to see if I have the moxie.

Race Plan 2014/2015

Back when I first started running, and that wasn’t all that long ago, I had a dream of running 5 whole kilometres in a row. I still think that’s a huge accomplishment, and I’m proud of myself for meeting that goal. I used to think that when I finally – finally! – hit that goal, I’d be happy to settle down and keep just fit enough to bust out 5 long kilometres in a row.

….that didn’t happen. I know; what’s wrong with me? Can’t a girl just be happy? Apparently not. So I ran a 10k. Then a half marathon. Then I eventually, with some cajoling, got around to running a 5k race. A little backwards, right?

 

Back in the day, I also casually mentioned to that first run coach that a long, far off, not-really-going-to-happen-in-this-lifetime dream of mine was to run the famous Around the Bay race in Hamilton. The history geek in me loves that it’s the longest road race in North America, the McMaster University alum loves that it is a chance to be back in my old university town and the braggart in me wants to be able to say I ran it, hills at kilometre 17 and all.

Here’s a tip – don’t tell your run coach about long, far off, not-really-going-to-happen-in-this-lifetime dreams. Unless you actually want them to show up at your next meeting with a fully fledged run plan thats been approved by two other veteran runners as “do-able”. Take it from me, folks.

So here we are. I now actually think I might be able to run Around the Bay 2015 – 30k with hills and all – and so I’ve set out a race plan help me achieve that. Maybe I’ll see you there!

(This will probably be added to as the year goes on – look for updates here on the regular)

Dawn at the Don – 8k – July 13th, 2014

Midsummer Night’s Run – 15k – August 16th, 2014

Tommy Thompson 10 Miler – September 28th, 2014

Scotiabank Half Marathon – October 19th, 2014

Tannenbaum 10k – hopefully going ahead, date unannounced (let me know if you find out the date!)

Around the Bay (30K) – March 29th, 2015