The Last Long Run

How did your last long, 32km run before the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon go?

If it went well, then take the confidence that comes with a solid long run and put it towards your race day in three weeks. If it went badly, file it away under “experience” and remember that race day is a new day.

It’s just another run

It’s easy to make this last long run into more than it really deserves to be. You’ll have crowds to support you on race day, plus some extra energy in the form of adrenaline. There was none of that today; instead it was just you and the run, and maybe a running buddy or two.

Good last long runs are real confidence boosters. If you had a great one today, remember what you did to make it happen, and repeat it in three weeks.

If it wasn’t great, you can still take lots from this run. Was your pre-run prep was everything it needed to be? Did you wear the right clothes and avoid any chafing or other issues that could be even worse over 42.2km? How was your fuelling? Did you take enough fluids and gels along the way to avoid feeling sluggish or lacking in energy?

Take a good look at anything that didn’t quite go right and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes in three weeks. Add some Body Glide or tape to any areas that got irritated. And if you fell behind in your gel intake or felt some stomach upset, make the adjustments.

Don’t forget to learn from the positives too. There’s always good things to find in any run and whether your run was mostly good, mostly bad, or something in between, don’t overlook the stuff that went your way. Maybe you owned a hill, or felt strong at the end. Or maybe it all clicked and it all felt so easy. Remember the good stuff on race day and try to repeat it.

Training is coming to an end

The hard work of training is now done. Over the next few weeks, ease it back and focus on starting to rest and prepare for your race. The next Sunday run is only 23km and then the taper really starts. There’s not much left to gain, and a lot to lose now. Be careful, avoid doing anything foolish and focus on arriving at the start line healthy and ready to run.

Sponsor Me at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and Support Fragile X Research

October 16th is going to be a pretty great day. Not only will I be running my tenth full marathon at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, but it’ll also be our daughter Mackenzie’s 14th birthday.

Mackenzie is a pretty special kid. If you’ve met her, you already know that. She’s a charming kid with a sparkling personality. She stays positive despite the fact that she has a genetic disorder called Fragile X Syndrome. This is an inherited genetic defect, passed down to her from my wife who is a carrier.

fragxcanadaThe defect in one of Mackenzie’s X chromosomes causes her to have difficulty learning and also leads to other symptoms for her like anxiety. There’s no real treatment yet, and there’s no cure yet for Fragile X, but there’s research happening to hopefully find a solution that would change her life and the lives of many others who have Fragile X.

The Scotiabank Charity Challenge

Over the years, the Fragile X Research Foundation of Canada has used the Canada Running Series events like the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) to raise a significant amount of money—hundreds of thousands of dollars—that goes directly to research.

I’ve raised money for the Foundation through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge at the STWM a couple of times now, and I’m doing it again this year as both a dad and a runner. It’s a great way for me to combine my love of running and the marathon with a cause that is near and dear to our hearts.

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After the 2012 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. We raised $80,000 for Fragile X Research and I ran a PB!

Thousands of runners at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will be raising millions of dollars for the various official charities through their runs. The Scotiabank Charity Challenge has raised over $50 million over the years that flows directly to the various participating charities.

Consider making a donation

I know everyone has a cause that is near and dear to their hearts and the Fragile X Research Foundation is mine. I’d appreciated it very much if you could sponsor me in the upcoming race. It’s super easy to donate online and any contribution over $20 qualifies for a tax receipt in Canada. I’m setting a lofty fundraising goal of $2,000 this year and I’ll need some generous friends to make that happen.

You can sponsor me here.

Our whole family and the entire Fragile X community thanks you, the Canada Running Series and Scotiabank for their support and for making this research possible.

Garmin Forerunner 235 First Impressions

It used to be that Garmin made the advanced fitness devices to track your workouts, and Fitbit covered the daily steps. But there’s no need to wear two devices anymore as the latest generation of Garmin Forerunner watches bring both together in a really tight package.

I picked up a Garmin Forerunner 235 the other day to replace both a Fitbit Flex and a Garmin Forerunner 620. The Fitbit died recently and while this particular one lasted me over a year, a dead Fitbit will be nothing new to the average Fitbit owner who has most likely had one or more of their devices fail early.

The Forerunner 620 on the other hand was bulletproof and continues to work like it did the day I bought it a couple of years ago. It’ll be handed down to Lindsey who is looking forward to having a GPS watch of her own with an easy to use interface and nice form factor, even for smaller wrists.

Familiar form factor

Speaking of the form factor, the 235 is pretty much the exactly same size and thickness as my older 620 and feels similar on my arm. The screen is a significant upgrade in size over the 620 with a smaller bezel on the newer 235. The screen is still a bit on the dim side indoors – this is not an Apple Watch screen by any stretch – but outdoors in daylight it’s plenty readable. Indoors the backlight seems a bit weak to me, but I’ll trade that for over a week of battery life every time.

Bigger screen in the same size package.
Bigger screen in the same size package.

The touchscreen of the Forerunner 620 is gone on the 235 in favour of up/down nav buttons on the left side. The adjustment from the tapping on the screen of the 620 took me a bit to get used to, but I’m finding the user interface on the 235 to be quite good. The software is instantly familiar to Garmin users and I got very comfortable with it within a few hours.

Long presses of the up button brings up menu options for the screen you are on (for example, changing the clock face). And getting to the main menu is as easy as clicking the activity button on the upper right side, then the down button.

Heart rate on the wrist plus more

Did I mention the Forerunner 235 has an optical heart rate monitor (HRM) built in? Similar to the tech used on the Mio Link and Apple Watch, this uses green LEDs an a small camera sensor on the back side of the watch to read your heart rate without the need for an uncomfortable chest strap. I’ve used a Mio Link wrist strap in the past and found it very accurate and the 235’s HRM is no different showing heart rate throughout the day and on the run. Runners looking to save a bit of money can opt for the Forerunner 230 which is the exact same watch minus the optical HRM.

Also inside the small package are high-fidelity GPS and GLONASS receivers, plus an accelerometer for indoor run tracking and Bluetooth. The watch connects with your smartphone (iOS or Android) to show smart notifications on your wrist, and to auto-upload runs and activity through your phone’s Internet connection. There’s no need to connect via USB to upload to Garmin Connect or Strava anymore…it’s all handled automatically by the watch and your smartphone’s Internet connection.

First run

I took the Forerunner 235 out on 34km run on Sunday morning to see how it worked. GPS lockup took seconds and starting the run was a matter of tapping the activity start button twice. Once running, the Forerunner 235 allows for a few different screens with up to four different data fields each. I opted for time, distance, average pace and heart rate on the first screen, and swapped out average pace for current pace on the second screen. With dozens of data fields available including ones downloadable from Garmin’s Connect IQ store (for free), customization is nearly limitless.

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Built-in optical heart rate monitor.

The screen is black digits on a white background during activities and in bright sunshine it’s super readable which is one upside of the LCD technology that Garmin utilizes in their watches (the other being better battery life).

The Forerunner 235 also brings a nifty race finish predictor function. You tell it the distance you are running (including the usual race distances, and a custom setting that lets you set any distance you want), and it constantly updates with an estimate of your finish time. I’m looking forward to using this in my upcoming marathon so I know exactly how I’m doing against my goal and PB times.

Battery life was excellent as it is with all the Garmin watches I’ve owned. Garmin promises 9 days of battery life for activity tracking (with HRM and notifications active) and 11 hours with the GPS enabled when tracking a run. That’s plenty of time for me, and my 3.5 hour run on Sunday with GPS and HRM active throughout left me with an exceptional 75% battery left at the end. Try that with your Apple Watch.

Activity tracking features

I’ve also been wearing the watch for a few days now to track my steps and sleep and it has been excellent in that regard as well. The Fitbit I wore for the last two years was fine, but the Garmin feels like a huge step up. The screen on the watch is easy to access with just a click of the down button. And the metrics graphs and data in the Garmin Connect app and online at the Connect website are really well done.

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A few badges have already for meeting various goals and Garmin Connect also includes challenges and a friends leaderboard for those with a competitive streak. While the Fitbit is more popular with the general public meaning I had a good list of friends to compare myself to, the Garmin seems to be aimed more at the serious athlete. That said, I’ve got five runner friends to go up against and that’s fine by me.

Wrap up

In short, the Garmin Forerunner 235 is a fantastic watch for the avid runner who is also looking for daily activity and sleep tracking that feel far more advanced than what Fitbit offers. It has the right amount of smartwatch features with notifications and music controls to satisfy those who might have been considering an Apple Watch.

As you’d expect from Garmin, the Forerunner 235 is a GPS watch first, an activity tracker second and a smartwatch third. For the runner, that’s the right order.

Here’s Garmin’s promotional video for the Forerunner 235.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTp63x1-XCM&w=560&h=315]

Toronto’s waterfront was enjoyed by thousands today. Beautiful Labour Day.

Where I’m at With Six Weeks To Go

There’s a real similarity between the 18+ week training cycle for a marathon and the 42.2km race itself. Here I sit the day after the first 32km run on the schedule and it feels very much like I’m at about the 34km point of the race.

This first 32km run in the Running Room training program comes after two weeks of 29km Sunday runs, nine and ten hill repeats over the two Wednesdays between the three Sunday runs, and the most mileage over the course of four weeks of the entire program. Things plateau here for a few weeks and then it’s time to taper and run it in to the finish…and the start of the race on October 16.

Running more

I’ve been running more than the schedule calls for this time around. I’ve amped up my Thursday runs to 10km instead of 8km and I’ve been adding a few kilometres to both the Saturday and Sunday runs.

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Out on the run.

The result was a 274km August which was 22km more than I’ve ever run in a month before. I ran my first run of over 32km way back on August 7th which was supposed to be just 26km. Both of my 29km runs so far ended up being over 30km and the 32km run yesterday was actually 33.9km. I’ve never felt stronger and I’ve never run as much over a summer as I have this year.

Goals will be smashed

I set a goal for the year of 2,016km as I’ve done for the past few years. That “run the year in kilometres” goal is generally attainable for me with a spring marathon program followed by a summer and fall of regular running. Today I’m just over 1,700km for the year which is 334km ahead of pace. At this rate, I’ll break though 2,000km around race day and probably hit 2,300km for the year.

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Way ahead of pace for 2,016km in 2016.

On the weather front, this summer has been hot. I’ve been challenged by warm temperatures on every run. Some days were worse than others, but in general it’s been a terrible summer for training in Toronto.

Heading to the finish

But with all the challenges and extra miles, it feels like I’m in the midst of a great marathon right now. Some years when you hit this point in the program, it’s everything you can do to keep moving forward. That’s similar to the marathons where you hit the wall at 35km (or sooner) and even getting to the finish is a struggle.

But like I felt during my PB run at the 2015 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon, this summer I feel exceptionally strong. I see the finish in less than six weeks now and I know it’s going to be a good last month and a bit of training. I’m starting to get excited for the race and starting to think about setting some lofty goals and really getting after things on the streets of Toronto.

Another in the “this is just 1km from my house” series. #lucky #nofilter