Sunday, March 18, 2018

Moose Run 2018

A little catch up to with a little Moose Run recap for 2018.

After a trip to Australia, the morning of this year's Moose Run was a bit of a shock. A -8C temperature and a bitter wind. Yikes. Regardless I had made a promise to help Pat Bradley with a marathon paced training run on his way to Boston.

I opted to dress for the cold, knowing that even though there would be times with loads of warmth, there were also going to be periods of nasty cold.

A few other BLT Runners were on hand as well:

Some of us were running this as a fun run, others as training runs for marathons. The Moose Run is a great tune up for Spring marathons.

The time to start came upon us and off we went. The start is slightly downhill, so we were above Pat's pace but the effort was low so that was okay. Ideally we wanted to keep a fairly even effort. 

As is usually the case, the pack quickly thins out in the front of the run and by 5-6 km in things are pretty well set. A few people will pass you and you will pass a few that went out a bit hard, but not a lot of change.

Water stops were fun as the water was freezing cold, but a nice respite when it came. 

While the section of hills at around the 4-5km mark are tough going out, it is really the stretch from about 8km to the turn around that is the first real challenge. It is a constant climb and this year was into the wind. The extra time we had gained at the start was good to have, though we held our pace well.

After the turn around the wind was at our back, we were headed down and life was good. I kept checking in with Pat and he was feeling good. But still, we held the effort a little bit back to not push it. The goal was clear, to test a marathon running effort. 

The next challenge was the series of hills heading back from about 17 km to 22 km. this included some short but crazy walls. We backed it right down when needed know that the amount of time lost here was not going to be important.  

Finally the home stretch, slight up hill to the finish. I kept Pat's spirits up and he was doing really well. I just wanted a nice even effort heading to the finish. This was after all only a portion of the marathon distance.

With 1 km to go, i told Pat to tuck in and let me finish the pacing duties. I picked up the pace a little at this point to show him how changing speed can actually feel better by recruiting different muscle groups. We ran a little faster then did a great fast 100m to finish it off. 1:48 was the time with a 4:23 avg pace. A little faster than marathon pace but within the window.

Great job Pat! And a great job to Marg who soloed through this tough course with her marathon paced run, as well as the other BLT Runners Craig, Heather, Tom and Stacey!

Chili and coffee to finish and all was good. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Salomon Speedcross Vario 2 GTX

So I came across a sale on this new shoe (well year old shoe?) called the Salomon Speedcross Vario 2 GTX, and it seemed like a shoe I needed to buy and try.

To start, the GTX in the name is Gortex, so it is a Winter/wet weather style shoe. You can certainly feel this when trying it on, as it is more plush than my other Salomon shoes.

The laces are regular old school, tie these yourself type laces as opposed to Salomon's quick lace system. At first I was a little sad, but then, it was really easy to tie them, as all my other shoes have laces. The placing of the laces allows for a good snug fit, essential on a trail shoe.

The lugs are big, and I was afraid it would be a shoe more suited to soft ground. Ultimately this turned out to be false, and they were equally at home on the soft stuff as on the hard rock. 

The fit? Standard Salomon fit, though with the caveat that they are plush (as I mentioned) so may feel a little more snug. Salomon tends to fit tight in the arch, and offer a little more room for toes up front. These shoes are no different. One thing I did notice is that the insole makes for a lot of this tightness in the arch area, and when removed, they open up quite a bit. Finding a thin more neutral insole would certainly make this shoe better suited to bigger, wider feet.

Now it is certainly bright. I happen to love it. If you like dark, bland shoes, then sorry.
I started my trial run with a good bowl of oatmeal, as this was going to be a longer run.

Then off to the woods. The temperature was a balmy -6C, but the woods offered good shelter from the wind. The sun was shining as well, so I wore a thinner top, but still put some good thin wool socks on.

The trail I chose had good climbing, lots of sharp turns, roots, rocks, ice, puddles, soft ground and hard granite expanses, basically all the good things to test a shoe.

It was my long run day and I know that in an easy 5km run, most shoes feel good to me. So I opted to push over the hour mark. 

The Vario 2 GTX offered great grip, continued to feel nice for the whole run and even felt good when I could open up my stride on the rails to trails section at the end, pushing a low 4min/km pace.  

At the 9km mark I stepped in a puddle that went over the ankle of the shoe, which meant water got in. Up to that point my feet were perfectly warm (not too hot) and dry. Now wet I wondered if I would have to call things a day. But ultimately I kept running til my total got to 15.5km and at the end, my foot was fairly dry and happy. That Gortex is wonderful stuff. 

I guess by this point you can tell that I like this shoe. Not as racy feeling as my Salomon S/Lab SGs, not as plush as my Sense pro Max, but for this time of year, an awesome shoe that was far more responsive and peppy than I was going to give it credit for. When i first put them on I thought, hmm, kind of heavy, but any doubt of their effectiveness went away before the first kilometer was over.

If this shoe fits and you want a winter option, then it is certainly a great value. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Race 2 Already? Tri-The-Oval 6 Winter Triathlon 2018

February in Halifax means one thing, Tri-the-Oval. And this was year six. More on that later.

Traditionally this also means that horrific weather is on the way, and some brave souls hit the Halifax Commons to prove they are tough and crazy. But what's that? This year the weather was going to be good?

Race morning and we hit a lull between crazy super col the day before and a snow/rain combo to come later that evening. Instead of braving the elements, we showed up to a nice -2C, low wind and dry sidewalks. While there was a hope for a snow shoe this year instead of a run, we weren't tht lcky, and the Commons was a little bare.

So this race is a 5km Skate, 6km Mountain Bike Ride, 4.5km run done in the middle of Halifax. And it is quaintly referred to as the best race that everyone forgets to enter.

We showed up and MC was back (after a year off with good reason) to lead our intrepid group.

 The race briefing was important as the course evolves every year based on conditions. This year the skate was the same (of course), the bike was a combo of paved paths (with some icy bits) and a trek over some bumpy frozen ground (including a hill), and the run was on the sidewalks around the exterior. This was probably the fastest course we have had yet.

  The athletes began to gather at the start line for the skate. James gave us the briefing and soon we were on our way. The ice was perfect. Smooth, low wind, just great. I quickly moved into second to hang with Adam, last year's winner. He is a pretty fast skater and biker, so I knew I had to hang as close as possible to be able to get within striking distance for the run. I stuck with him, but by lap 7 or so I had drifted back a bit.

Ron zoomed through at this point, using his cross country ski powers to show us a thing or two. Eventually I heard my name called for final lap and was relieved. Adam and Ron were mere seconds ahead of me, and I joined them in Transition 1.

A quick switch to  my sneakers (I chose my Salomon trail shoes with low lugs for this day) and I went for my bike. We had to run the bike down a little ramp before the mount line. I had to keep pushing the pace even here though to keep the gap to Adam as small as possible. 

Alas, as I started the ride, Adam pulled out. His hip let him down and that really sucks. I really wanted to crush his dreams on the run and I think my bike was going to be enough to keep up.

As it was, I still had to catch Ron. Within the end of the first lap I managed to sneak by him and pushed the pace. The bike was fun, zooming around the Commons, avoiding ice, tight corners, the "hill". My little Norco loaner that Sportwheels prepped for me was great. Nimble and fast. This course was all about bursts of speed and handling. 

Soon my name was called again, and my 6 laps were done. I zoomed toward Transition 2. 

A quick dismount, bike rack, helmet removal and I was off, though I just about missed the entrance to the run. 

I had a decent lead by this time, and I know that I was probably the fastest runner there, so I could have done a reasonable effort, but this was a race, and darn I wanted to win it with best effort.

Lap 1 of 3 was done at a 3:44 pace, and I felt good. This was probably the best I have felt running off the bike in a long time, and I hope that translates to good things come this summer. 

In the end I managed a 3:51min/km pace for the course. I certainly slowed on that last lap, but this would have translated to a low 19 min 5K time off the bike, and that was nice to see.

At the finish line I was greeted with Java Blend Coffee and great cookies made by Scott, the man that came from behind to claim second with a great run of his own. This as my first win in 6 years of trying, and while the field was small, I was really happy to have accomplished this. Size of field does not diminish effort.

Part of me dreads this race coming up in the middle of winter, but then I remember that this keeps winter interesting and that every single year,  I have a blast (and cookies). So bring it.

Oh and thanks Ron, for keeping up with me for 6 years as the only other fool to head out and hit the ice (well one year it was an ice water mix). This year we won beer! And thanks organizers for keeping this going.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

MEC Winter Classic 2018 - Race and Pace

So I got up today with a plan to go for a long run, and watch a 5K race in the park. I had hoped to do some work with my friends during their warm ups before the race as well.

Then a spare race bib popped up and the opportunity to pace a fellow racer came up. Not my plan originally, but hey, what could it hurt.

Another warm up and soon I was on the start line, the new day's plan was to help pace Lindsay (and anyone else) to a sub 20 min 5k, and then we were off.

Now this day was a huge change from a couple of weeks ago. Back then this race was postponed due to extreme cold. Today it was 5C and overcast. Warm enough that we ran in singlets (and I wish I had changed to shorts but there wasn't really enough time for that. That made the course interesting. The ice was gone (for the most part), but replaced with puddles and soft muddy ground. Not ideal conditions for speed, especially when taking into account the very hilly terrain.

So maybe this wasn't the ideal 5km course for a PB, but that shouldn't stop us from trying. 

My goal was simple, try and even the pace out and particularly slow it down at the start. Also I had to take into account the hilly nature of the course and while not pushing my runner too hard.

So the race started well. I held the pace back to 4 min/km. Then we picked it up a little before a big hill, which I knew would slow us down. I wasn't too worried about loosing speed in the beginning as the second half is fast. By kilometer 2 we had slipped to a 4:08 average pace but the course flattened and we were back at speed again. Then one more steep hill and our average pace stayed the same.

Then the downhills began. The trick here isn't to try and crush the downhills, but to use them to gain some time. And that we did, and by kilometer 4 we were at 3:59 for an average pace and Lindsay was hanging tough.

The final kilometer is kind of rolling and with the muddy ground, it was important to not lose focus. So I kept up the chatter to help focus us on our goal. Finally the time came. We were 400m to the finish with a small uphill. Another runner had stuck with us, and I wanted to make sure we pushed Lindsay through for a high placing finish. So we picked up the pace slightly. I pushed us over the hill and sent Lindsay on her way. She finished in 19:28 (chip time) and 1st female. I ended up 1 second behind and 3rd overall.

Soon Craig came in just behind us for a sub 20 min 5km to start the year, also awesome. A lot of other BLT Runners came pushing through as well, and it was great to see them all.

So maybe it wasn't the plan, but heck, it was a fun Sunday run (we followed it up with an easy 11 km in the park to end the morning).

This year is looking good.

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 By the Numbers

Well every year I like to throw out my numbers from the various sports I have taken part in. Sometimes those numbers go up, sometimes down, all depending on whether or not I focus on a specific sport or maybe get a small injury. 2017 saw some great distances achieved in running and I think, a lot of that was down to staying quite injury free for the year.

I don't tend to set specific distance goals but it is nice to see how things stacked up compared to other years.

2016 saw me injured a couple of times, though managed I some decent results. 1865 km from 2016 turned into 2342 km for 2017. No significant injuries that stopped me from running was the key. And that consistency saw me achieve some PBs in the Half Marathon distance. Now firmly in the 1:20 Half world, I think 2017 was a success.

Last year I thought I did fairly well on the bike at 4809 km. That included the fact that I commuted less by bike than ever before due to local construction issues. This year I beat that by a fair margin at 5739 km. I commuted more often by bike as I started a new job. I didn't go on any epic rides this year though except for a couple of 65 km rides. Maybe 2018 brings back some bigger distances rides?

A broken local pool meant that my swimming took a huge "dive" this year. A mere 28.450 km versus 103 km from 2016. Um, I guess that's why my one triathlon this year didn't go as planned.

Overall a good year. As I mentioned, decent running results, but then again, a focus on running will do that. I also started coaching a few runners as well, and in that found some great success. Hopefully those runners now understand that a good solid plan and consistency is what one needs to gain ground. 

And as always I like to mention my Movember Race. Over $4000 raised and donated to the Movember charity is one of the numbers I am most happy with.

Goals for 2018? Not really. This year I am just going to see where the journey takes me.

Welcome 2018!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

That time I was World Record Holder - Butterfly Barrel Race 2017

 So my friend Luke at Aerobics First wanted to figure out the best way to get runners involved in one of his charities, buying water barrels for African women, to help them transport clean drinking water more easily.  The barrels are relatively cheap for us in North America, but an essential tool for survival in may of the poorest areas of Africa. 

So what does this mean for runners in Nova Scotia? Well the barrels are designed to be pushed or pulled while walking. Walking is kind of like fast running. Running is what we do for fun and often for charities around here. And well, that means, we should run with a barrel and raise some funds.

Luke had been dying to get one of these events going for awhile, and now was the time. My run club BLT Runners agreed to enter a team of 10 runners and challenged MVR (Mountain View Runners) to do the same. We agreed to a 3km course (out and back) on flat crusher dust, and we agreed to totally have some fun. This is hopefully the start of something big, with club challenges happening all over Nova Scotia.

 So on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, BLT and MVR brought out 10 runners (and a dog), and Luke and Aerobics First began what was going to be a series of fun charities events.

What we quickly learned is that running with a barrel is hard. It goes all over the place. Pulling became the preferred method, though that was rough as well, since your stride was shortened, and it twisted your upper body. Still, from the first runner off, we had a blast.

Both teams had some great entrants, and we all had fun watching and cheering each other on.  Soon though, the fun was about to happen to me. I was running the anchor leg.

Having had the luxury of watching others, I knew some of the pitfalls. I took off, and tried to get into a rhythm that was sustainable.  You think that for a 3km flat race, you should be faster than a 5km PB pace, but alas, that really isn't the case. The best thing to do is pace by feel and ability to control the barrel.  These barrels can hold 30L of water, but for this race they were empty. Which was nice but also tough, as the barrel bounced around a lot.

I was pretty happy to see the final stretch come into view, and pushed as best as I could. I crossed the line officially at a time of 12:33. My actual run time was 12:14, but I had to replace the butterfly on my barrel before starting my lap, so that time was added in. That's another story though.

Turns out I was fastest on the day and now have the official 3km Butterfly Barrel World Record. Not sure how long that will last, but for now, I will take it.

Check out the barrel trust if you are interested in a charity that makes a difference. That day we raised money and got 6 barrels and 6 pairs of shoes. Shoes? Yes, because in Africa, the system works a little different which is great. Now 6 families will have an easier time getting water and 6 fast but poor runners will get some great shoes to begin their running careers with. 

Thanks for getting things "rolling" Luke.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Hey Ian, What About that Cyclocross Race - 2017

So this is year 2 where I have felt the need to test myself on the cyclocross race series. I wish I had the time to race more as it is great fun, but I have committed to getting at least 1 race in a year, and with a race 10 minutes from my house, how could I not.

So a couple of weekends ago, I swapped out my less aggressive everyday riding tires for some Clement PDX Cross tires and packed the car.

Last year it was below freezing, had snowed, was turning to rain and high wind. That was fun, but I was happy this year to see a warm afternoon race (well above freezing). The course was swamped with mud and water, but all was going to be fun.

My warm up was done in a drier area, mostly so I would get wet before the race and end up being cold. Getting wet during the race was fine, as a Cross race is done at 80-100% intensity all the way. Plenty of effort to hold the heat.

With 62 racers, I knew I wasn't going to be the slowest, but as I was only taking part in 1 of 12 races, I started near the back so as to avoid getting in the way of riders that were aiming for series points glory. I would pass riders when and if possible on course as safe as possible.

From the start I fell back to about 51st spot (as marked on at the end of the lap). Likely I was much further back than that as I did pass a few riders.

The first race I had done, I spent a lot of time falling of the bike, and jumping off the bike to run up hills I couldn't ride. I really wanted to avoid that this year. I did end up being very good at picking lines and managed to ride the whole race, except for the obstacles meant for dismounting. In these cases, I did my best to look awesome.

I made up a lot of places near these obstacles. I think my triathlon style remounts were really good, as I could get riding again fast.  I also use a combo pedal style, so even if it takes me a moment to get clipped in, I can still ride easily enough.

In the end I worked my way up to 32 place, was only lapped once by the leaders and fought hard with Jim on the final lap. My bike was flawless, I dressed correctly and was covered in mud at the end. Another awesome day on the cross course.