A 17km Tour of Toronto

Today was a pretty easy day to get motivated to go for a run. It was a balmy 11ºC under overcast skies in Toronto, and being able to put on some shorts and go for a run on the last day of November…I’ll take it every time.

It was a bit of a smallish group this morning as many of the regulars were up at the High Park Running Room for the annual Marquis de Sade. That’s an unofficial half marathon that incorporates 19 or 20 of the biggest hills around into a single, awful, hilly monster of a route. I’ve done it once…let’s leave it at that.

New Friends, Good Conversation

I ran with Tara and James on the 17km route Mike Lin had mapped out for the group. It was nice to run with some people from the group that I’d hadn’t run with before. It ended up being a good 90 minutes of conversation about everything from a recent trip to Ethiopia that Tara had done, to talk of half marathon and marathon successes in Toronto last month.

Dailymile Map

A nice route through a few Toronto neighbourhoods and High Park

Turns out all three of us will also be in Ottawa to run the marathon at the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend next May. I’ve been a few times, but neither James nor Tara have made the trip out. I gave them a bit of a rundown on what makes the whole experience so much fun.

By the time we were done it was little bit over 17km on a route that took us out through Trinity-Bellwoods and West Queen West, and also through Parkdale. High Park was lovely as well, and we freestyle the route a bit to add in a run up Spring Road (a pretty good hill). From there we ran back through Little Portugal and Chinatown before returning to the Downtown Yonge Running Room.

All in all, a great morning run in beautiful late fall weather, with great conversation and a nice tour of a few of Toronto’s neighbourhoods. Everything that makes running great.

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Saucony PowerGrid Guide 7 First Impressions

I picked up my new Saucony PowerGrid Guide 7’s from the Running Room on the way home from work last night and took them for an inaugural run this morning at Variety Village.

The verdict? They are good.

Saucony PowerGrid Guide 7

First run in the new Saucony PowerGrid Guide 7s.

I’m pretty fussy about my running shoes and when I put on a pair of my regular ones, I like them to feel like home to my feet.

The Guide 7’s didn’t feel all that weird, but they also didn’t fit like my New Balance 860 V4’s do after 400km. That makes sense, since they’ve had a lot of time to get worked in and stretched out in the right places.

But the Guide 7s did feel pretty comfortable almost immediately after I started running. I noticed a bit more noise from these as I think the lower drop meant I was landing flatter than in my current shoe. I also noted a bit less roll which is what I was after in making the switch. I’m hoping the increased stability (guidance, really) takes some of the stress off my shins and reduces the likelihood of shin splints.

I’ll give them a few more treadmill runs before I venture outside with them. Tomorrow’s forecast calls for maybe some drizzle so I’ll wear the New Balance 860 V4’s again so I don’t mess these new ones up right away.

But based on today’s run, I think I’m a Saucony runner again.

Easy, Light, Smooth and Fast

I love a good mantra while I run. Sometimes it’s “no walking”, other times I go with “keep it moving”. One of my favourite running mantras comes from one of my favourite books about running, Christopher McDougall’s book, “Born to Run”:

“Lesson Two,” Caballo called. “Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one—you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

Easy, light, smooth and fast.
Easy, light, smooth and fast.
Easy, light, smooth and fast.

Practice what you preach

But a mantra is useless if you don’t listen to it. That’s why it’s a good idea to actually say it out loud.

Micah True

Caballo Blanco (aka Micah True)

Repeat that mantra to yourself when you are training, and work on turning it into reality. Visualize yourself running along a beautiful trail. You’re running easy, like you don’t have a care in the world. It’s the greatest day ever made and this is the best run of your life.

Relax. Just run.

Then work on light. Run like you are gliding along, floating above the ground. Run like you are on the moon.

In all honesty, I pretty much never get to the point where I’m worrying about smooth. I’m guessing that when you get easy and light taken care of, that smooth won’t be all that tough.

It’s been my experience that sometimes easy will come easy. Those are the magical days that you write in your log (you keep one, right?) that it was a great run and everything just clicked. When that magic happens and you get one of those runs, seize the opportunity to work on light and maybe even smooth. Like Caballo says, fast will show up on its own.

Laying a Foundation in December

Yeah, yeah, yeah. The race isn’t until May! I’ve got plenty of time to start training. It’s not even the end of the year yet. Famous last words of an aspiring marathoner who realizes in March that they are in deep, deep trouble.

My advice: Start now. Don’t wait until January and the “official” start of the training program for the Ottawa Marathon (or any other spring race).

Foundation building

December is the time to start laying down a solid foundation that you can build on all the way up to 42.2km in May. December is the time to form those habits that will keep you going through the winter, and through the weeks and months of tough training.

foundation_featured_620x335Think of December as your pre-season. Use the month to start ramping up your training so that by the middle of January you can run 15km on any given Sunday without giving it much thought. Get into the habit of running four times a week so you have your routine in place for when the five-day-a-week running starts.

Don’t push too hard right now though. The idea is to run easy and get your cardio in place and leg strength up to where it needs to be. Maybe an easy tempo run (5 or 6km) on Tuesday, a bit longer on Thursday (8km steady) and then and easy run on Saturday (5km) before your longish Sunday run. If you haven’t run much lately, start with 10km on Sunday and build up each weekend by a couple of kilometres until you are running 16-18km.

Get outside

Make sure to get outside on Sundays, no matter what the weather is. December weather can be pretty variable, and it provides an opportunity to figure out what to wear in different weather conditions. Figure out when to wear tights and when to go with pants. Get an idea of whether a long sleeve shirt will be good enough, or whether to add arm warmers and a short-sleeve over (or even a jacket). Find out if you are okay with regular runners or whether a pair of winter shoes will be required to keep you comfortable and safe.


Not quite winter yet, but this stuff is coming

These runs aren’t as important so if you get it wrong, it’s not a big deal. Better to figure it all out now than to have a problem during a cold 26km run that you don’t want to have to cut short. Make notes in your training log (you keep one, right?). Keep track of what you wore, how you felt and what the weather was like including the temperature, winds and whether it was sunny or not. You’ll appreciate being able to reference that later.

Be ready to put in the big mileage

The Running Room marathon training schedule (that’s the one I follow and recommend for first-timers) starts off pretty slowly in the first few weeks. But once you hit the middle of February, it’s Sunday after Sunday of runs over 20km. The best way to be ready for that rapid escalation in intensity is to put in the pre-season training in December.

Get out there!

Switching to the Saucony Guide 7

I was a Saucony runner from day one. My first pair of “real” running shoes were Saucony and I ran thousands and thousands of kilometres in Saucony Ride 3’s and 4’s and Guide 3’s. I really, really liked those shoes.

But in the summer of 2013, Saucony changed the design of pretty much all of their shoes and they just weren’t the same anymore. I didn’t like the new feel, or the move to an 8mm drop from a more traditional 12mm (drop being the difference in height under the heel compared to under the forefoot measured in millimetres).

I ended up switching to the New Balance 860 V3. It had a 12mm drop and a very traditional design which is something I’ve always preferred in a running shoe. I stuck with the 860 through the transition to the V4 even though it felt a bit different to my foot. That shoe worked pretty well for me, although I think the V4 is partly responsible for the minor shin and ankle issues I’ve battled for the last few months.

Back to Saucony

saucony_guide_7Today I tried on the Saucony Powergrid Guide 7 and also the Ride 7 and they felt like the Saucony shoes I loved back in the Ride 4 days. I had one of each on for a little jog around the store and the Ride 7 felt like it had a bit too much roll-in for me compared to the Guide 7. That makes sense given the Guide is a mild stability/guidance shoe, while the Ride sits in the neutral category. The Guide 7 felt a bit narrow through the midfoot, but they both felt pretty good, and that made me happy.

I didn’t pick up a new pair for the $149 they wanted at SportChek as it turns out the Running Room has them on sale for $99 (they are already making room for the Guide 8). I’m happy to take them at that price and I’ll be running in them by the end of the week!

Seven Ways to Motivate Yourself to Get Out and Run

Confession time: sometimes I just don’t feel like getting out there for a run.

justgorun_featured_620x335Motivation posters like the one pictured here would have you believe that Nike is right. You just do it. But we all know that sometimes the last thing you want to do is go for a run even though you know it’s going to be good.

If you are suffering from the same lack of “get up and go” as I do from time to time, here’s seven tips to help get you out the door for your run:

  1. Build in a reward at the end – if you find yourself craving one of those Starbucks holiday drinks or a bowl of ice cream (or whatever your favourite thing is), make it into a reward that you only get after you run. No run? No reward.
  2. Tell the world – alert your Twitter friends, and post it on Facebook. A quick “Running 8km tonight!” post is all you need. When you announce it to friends, it’s more likely that you’ll hold yourself accountable and get out and run so you can follow it up with a proud, “Ran 8km and felt great!”
  3. Make it a habit – get one of those habit apps for your phone that you can set up to remind you to do different things like run 5km four times a week, or drink 8 glasses of water a day. These apps are powerful tools that help you make good habits, or break bad habits. My personal fav is Habit List but you’ll find a bunch of different ones in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
  4. Make each run a small part of a bigger goal – set a weekly mileage goal, or work towards a race. Having a reason to run, even if it’s something as basic as “run 20km every week” is a surprisingly effective motivator in the off season. Having a race on the calendar is even better.
  5. Think about it all day – married couples might relate to this one. Build a little excitement about your run by dropping yourself hints and thinking about it a bunch of times throughout the day. Set up a reminder or two on your phone that says something like, “Run tonight!” and have it alert you in the middle of the afternoon. In other words, get a bit worked up about it.
  6. habitlist

    Habit List is a great app to help motivate you to get in the habit of running

    Put out your gear in the morning – before you head to work in the morning, lay out your running gear so when you get home you won’t have that excuse to fall back on. It’ll serve as a reminder that you wanted to run, and make it just that little bit easier to get out the door. Sometimes gearing up is 90% of the battle when it comes to making a run happen.

  7. Remember the last time you ran when you didn’t feel like it – flip back through your running log (you keep one, right?) and look for an entry from another day when you didn’t want to run and did it anyways. I guarantee that log entry will say something like, “Didn’t feel like running, but once I got out there, it was great.” This time will be the same.

What’s your motivation to run? How do you kick yourself in the butt to get that run in when you’d rather sit on the couch and watch tv? Share your secrets in the comments!

An Early Winter Fun Run

Well that was unexpected. Today was the first long, coldish run of the season and for once I didn’t overdress.

I’ll give all the credit to the blog post I wrote yesterday as I took my own advice when it came to deciding what to wear for this morning’s 16km run. I was about -2ºC when we left the Running Room with a bit of wind off the lake and light snow falling.


BMO Vancouver Marathon gloves. Best race freebie ever.

I opted for tights and shorts on the bottom half while up top it was a long sleeve running shirt with a thicker short sleeve over that. I put on some arm warmers too and that turned out to be a good call. I also went with some thin BMO Vancouver Marathon gloves and a thin running toque.

My hat was soaked with sweat by the end of the run, but that was better than having cold ears and I was very comfortable from the neck up. One thing I might invest in over the winter is some clear glasses for days like today. It was pretty gloomy and sunglasses would have been overkill, but something to keep the snowflakes out of my eyes would have been nice.

That was pretty perfect. I never felt too hot even though Miguel and I pushed the pace a bit this morning. There was a windy stretch down by the lake with about 2km to go where maybe a jacket would have been nice, but it would have been way too much for the rest of the run.

A reminder that winter running rocks

I also remembered that I quite enjoy winter running. It’s great to get out in the cold with some snow falling and run through some great sections of Toronto. We ran up Yonge, down Rosedale Valley Road through a thick layer of yellow maple leaves, then up the steps to Wellesley Park and through Cabbagetown.

The run across the Bloor Viaduct and down Broadview offered the usual nice views of the skyline before a short stretch along Queen St. The last bit of the run featured a short tour of the newest section of the waterfront including Sherbourne Common and Sugar Beach.

It was a really nice way to spend an early winter Sunday morning.

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Here Comes Winter Running

Is it just me or did we go straight from fall to winter this year?

After the polar vortex winter we had last year, I think all Canadians (including runners) are hoping for a bit of a milder winter. This early start to the sub-zero temperatures has me worried we’re in for another tough winter of training.


Colder weather is here

When the weather first turns cold, there’s always a bit of an adjustment required for runners. Every year I seem to forget what to wear in which conditions and invariably I end up either over-dressed or under-dressed for those first few colder weather runs.

I was quite underdressed for a short run the other evening and shivered my way through the entire 5km. Tomorrow morning I’ll probably over-compensate and pile on the layers only to have to strip them off over the course of the planned 15km long run.

Winter Running Tips and Tricks

It’s probably worth going over some of the tips I’ve used over the years to at least get close to dressing properly for winter conditions.

  • Dress as you would if it were 8ºC warmer than it is. If it’s -2ºC, dress like you would if you went for a leisurely walk in 6ºC weather. When you are running, your body generates a ton of heat. The goal is to trap enough of it to keep you comfortable, but not too much that you get all sweaty. Oh, and my cut off for shorts is about 6-8ºC. Anything colder than that and I’ll put on some tights.
  • Sweat is the enemy. If you overdress, you’ll sweat and soak your clothes and that will lead to that cold, clammy feeling that nobody likes. Moisture-wicking fabrics that take the sweat away from your skin and out to evaporate are key in the winter, just as they are in the summer.
  • Give yourself some adjustability. You can always roll up a sleeve, or unzip a jacket to let some heat escape or some colder air in. That said, you do want to keep things reasonable or you risk doing a long run with an un-necessary jacket tied around your waist.
  • Don’t forget your hands. A pair of thin, light gloves is a good idea even if the temperature is still above freezing as your hands are exposed and will get cold. The dollar store is a great source for some cheap and thin gloves that you won’t mind tossing if you don’t need them.
  • The sun still shines. In fact, because the sun is lower in the sky in the winter, you’ll probably want to bring along the sunglasses to keep the glare out of your eyes (and also to give you a bit of protection against the cold). Conversely, remember that it gets darker much earlier and lighter much later so consider a set of blinking lights or reflectors if you run around dawn or dusk as it gets dark fast.

Better Cold than Hot


Not quite winter yet, but this stuff is coming

Cold-weather running can be quite enjoyable if you are dressed properly for it. I actually prefer training through the winter for a late spring marathon like the Ottawa Marathon than running those 30km long runs in the heat of summer. Invest in some good gear and take some care when gearing up for your run and you’ll have a great run.

For those just starting out, the basics would include a long-sleeve running shirt, a pair of light gloves, a thin moisture-wicking running toque, a pair of tights (and maybe eventually a pair of running pants for those really cold days). That’s about it. You can double up and wear a short-sleeve shirt over the long on colder days or add arm arm warmers (dollar store socks with the toes cut off are a cheap option too). If it’s super cold, your regular running jacket or a thin wind-breaker can add that extra bit of wind protection.

One last thing. I’ve never had cold feet on a run ever, even when they got wet with slush. I just wear my normal running shoes and socks no matter the weather. Winter or trail running shoes offer a bit more protection against slush and water coming through the top, but I’ve never found I needed that. I’ve also experimented with ice grippers and found them to be more trouble than they are worth, especially running in the city where sidewalks tend to be cleared of snow and ice fairly quickly.

How about you? Do you prefer running in the winter or summer? Any tales of epic runs in the freezing cold?

What To Do in the Off Season

Fall races are behind us now. The next race on many calendars isn’t until March or April and training for a spring race like the Ottawa Marathon at the end of May won’t really start until the middle of January. That often leaves runners asking, “what now?”

My goals for the off season are simple:

  • Get and stay healthy. Rolling into the new year and into marathon training with a nagging injury that I didn’t bother to get figured out is a recipe for disaster. That means maybe a visit or three to the physio to get some therapy on those mild shin splints and some regular stretching or other exercises to strengthen any weak areas.
  • Maintain the base. The marathon training schedule calls for just 10km Sunday runs early on, but things escalate very quickly in the first month. Not running enough over the next two months means I’d be playing catchup from the start. Not a great plan!

My off season training schedule usually includes three or four runs a week (instead of five). I also ease back the weekly mileage to about 30-40km instead of the 50km+ I run in the middle part of the marathon training schedule. “Long” Sunday runs tend to be in the 12-15km range and during the week it’s more about easy 5km or 8km runs than it is about tempo pace or hills.

A good time to try something new

The off season is also a good time to experiment with some cross or strength training. I tend not to change things up in the middle of the training cycle to avoid the potential for injury. While I’ve decreased my mileage, there’s more time to do things like hop on the stationary bike, summit trainer or rowing machine for a bit to get some different muscles activated.


Treadmilling during the off season, enjoying some hockey.

Some other ideas to consider for the off season include trying pilates or yoga to strengthen that all-important core. Ask around and see if there’s a yoga for runners class in your area and give it a go!

You might also want to try out some new gear. Give a different brand of shoe a go, or try out that new pair of socks to see if there’s something out there that might work better for you than your pair. Maybe experiment with different gels, sports drinks or food.

If you end up with a blister, or some gastro issues from the change, it won’t affect your training like it might if you ran into trouble while running a five-day-a-week schedule.

Get back to running for fun

Most of all, the off season is about running for enjoyment. Get out and put in some easy miles without the stress of a training schedule. Freestyle a route, hit the trails, or play around on the treadmill or indoor track. Rediscover your love of running so you’ll be excited and ready to start the training journey in January.

What’s your plan for the off season? Are you nursing a nagging injury? Are you having trouble staying motivated? Let me know in the comments.

Run Ottawa

Well that didn’t take long. It looks like my spring marathon in 2015 will be the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon on May 24.

orwOttawa is where I ran my very first marathon back in 2010. It’s also a great weekend-long celebration of running. There are various distance events on both Saturday and Sunday and it feels like all of Ottawa gets involved.

Ottawa is a great destination race choice for runners in Southern Ontario. For me, it means I can run somewhere other than Toronto but not break the bank since it’s not too far away and easy to get to by car.

With the race happening on May 24th, it also means the training schedule gets pushed back a few weeks compared to Toronto, Mississauga and Vancouver and that means (I hope) fewer long Sunday miles logged in the dead of winter!


IAAF Gold Road Race

The other big news that got me off the fence was that the Ottawa 10k that happens on Saturday evening during the Race Weekend was awarded Gold label standard by the International Amateur Athletic Federation. This is huge news both for the Ottawa Race Weekend, and also for road racing in Canada.

The Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon is already an IAAF Silver label race, joining the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon that also earned that distinction for the last few years.

For Canada to have a Gold label race is amazing. It means that Ottawa will be able to attract top talent to run the 10km and puts Ottawa on the map as a world-class race destination.

Ottawa joins Prague, Manchester and San Juan as Gold label 10km race hosts.

Let the training begin!