Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Sometimes I think keep my car messy by design. I convince myself that I know where everything is that way. It’s a mess but an orderly mess. It’s my mess. So when something is disturbed in my mess I know it. Case in point, this morning, it was an early morning I had to catch a train to Vancouver. I got an early start. I opened the door to my car and all my insurance papers and the contents of my glove compartment were on the passenger seat. AARGH! I’ve been robbed again! Quickly I sort through the mess to see what is there and isn’t there. Insurance papers . . . check. Running magazines . . . check. Loose change in the door . . .gone! iPod case . . .check! iPod case! Oh No my iPod my beloved iPod how could I be so careless. I never ever leave my iPod in the car. But yesterday I came home early and ran some errands. I got a big bag of dog food, met Jenny at the grocery store, and took the kids to swimming while she went to Costco. So last night I had to unload my kids, dog food, groceries, and lap top it was pouring rain so I made it quick. No excuses I should have got my iPod (when I remembered) and locked the door. It was a costly mistake. So at this point in the morning I dropped an F bomb.

I continued to sort through my stuff to see the stuff he didn’t take. First Aid kit, emergency roadside kit, Laundry Test Kit, hard hat, Finding Nemo DVD on the floor, gloves, label maker, inverter, and safety glasses were all there. There were a few redeeming graces the robber left behind.

I would have to say I think my car was unlocked I’m guessing it was unlocked because there were no signs of forced entry. To be honest, I’m terrible for locking my car I usually remember at the most inopportune time. For example, the last time I got my car broken into I was pulling away from the train station. My car was in the train station lot and I remembered as we pulled away from the station. I called Jenny right away but it was 5:30 in the morning and it was about 7 before she called me back. It was about 7:30 before she drove by to actually lock it. But that was too late. Sunglasses, DVD player, and loose change were all gone.

The other time I got my car broken into was years ago when I had a Jeep. It was a Jeep so I practically expected to lose a few things.

I remember the first time I got something stolen from me. I must have been about nine years old. I walked out my front door to my open garage just in time to see a kid riding off on my 5 speed bicycle. I was in a daze. The kid took off down the street. I ran back inside and cried to my brother. Bryan was always a little more adept into handling situations like this. He immediately without another word got on his bike and went down the street after him. I wasn’t there when he caught him but he did catch him. I’m not entirely sure what he did to him either but he got my bike back. Situation resolved and recorded in my memory banks.

It is hard not to be cynical when things like this happen. I’m a very trusting person I believe people are inherently good in spite of events like today. One of Jenny’s biggest pet peeves is I always forget to lock the front door after I come in. What could possibly happen? Not that I would ever forget to do this before I turned in for the night, it is just those times during the day. I can remember growing up and never locking the door even at night. I can remember leaving my bike on the lawn and it would be there the next morning.

I’ll recover from this episode. I’ll probably get another iPod. And chances are I’ll forget to lock my car again. I may even get broken into. Who knows? I’m a strong believer in things happen for a reason. Call it Divine Purpose or karma whatever you wish. Maybe this was a wake up call; maybe somebody needed that iPod more than I did. Maybe the robber has a kid and maybe he’s going to give my iPod for a Christmas present without ear buds or sync cable. At this point I struggle for answers that may never come.

Still I am the father of three beautiful boys and the future father of a beautiful girl not from this land or culture. Events like this effect the whole family even if only for a moment. It weakens my spirit when things like this happen. My parents’ generation never locked the doors. My generation is the one that locks the doors. What is their generation going to be like?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Around the Lake Give R Take 30K

The road to ultra distance is not paved it’s not even road. My first trail race was almost two weeks ago. My goal has always been to run an ultra. I’ve done 5K’s, 10K’s, and marathons so I thought to myself the next logical step is the ultramarathon. Although I’ve never done a trail race of any distance I knew that jumping right into the ultra distance with only road experience would be pure folly. For the longest time I was debating whether or not to do the North Face Endurance 50 which was down in Seattle but I talked myself into a 30K as a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

Around the Lake Give R Take 30 is a 30 kilometer trail race that circumnavigates Cultus Lake in Chilliwack. It is probably considered a small race with an entry limit of 150 including relay runners but of course what do I know my last marathon I ran with 5000 runners. In preparation for the race I ran my favorite loop which includes a steep section up to the monastery out in Heritage Park. All the while during training I thought to myself the trails in the race couldn’t be this steep. So I gained solace in knowing I was training on trails that were burlier than the actual trails of the race.

Cultus Lake is beautiful, nestled between the city limits of Chilliwack and Abbotsford in the shadow of Vedder Mountain. Cultus Lake is a small little community of older ornate houses and some newer design homes that should probably grace the cover of Architectural Digest. My race morning started like any other morning I picked up my number at registration, pinned it to my shirt and eyed the ‘competition’. Right then and there I was intimidated by the ‘ultra’ race shirts and the ‘sponsored’ runners. Pretty much everyone had on a race shirts worthy of their entrance into this race. And me with my plain navy blue adidas long sleeve with no sponsors or logos I felt outclassed.

I lined up mid pack and when the race started I settled into a slightly more than comfortable pace. The first mile or so is all flat of the local roads so as to thin out the crowds heading to the trail head. I came to the trail head with modest pack of runners. Our first true test was shortly after we hit the forest. It was a steep grade I would estimate 22% or more up Vedder Mountain. It went up and up. Some were shuffling; most were walking as we occasionally broke into a few strides from the few flat spots of relief. My knees got a good massaging from the amount pushing my hands did on them from the steepness of the grade. This must have been a few kilometer worth of up hill I remember from the topo that the top of the incline and the first aid station was at 6km.

I made the first aid station at 38:08. I filled my water bottle that I had pre-filled with one scoop of Gatorade and put it in my belt. I knew the race was going to have an electrolyte drink but I had never heard of it so I didn’t take chances and I brought my Gatorade. I was glad I did too because I grabbed a cup of what they were serving and it was awful. I drank about half and washed down the taste with water.

The next section was mostly downhill. On the uphill I was passed by several people mostly because it was unnerving to hear heavy breathing a few steps behind with no one in front of you. So I let them pass and became the heavy breather in the back. I was expecting this after the first five minutes of uphill because I knew my pace was too fast. But the downhill I thought I could pick up some speed. I mean how hard could it be. I was going a fairly good clip down a fire road, looking around me I saw no one. For a brief moment I thought I was lost because I didn’t see any trail markings. Then it was almost like I was standing still because three runners past me fast. They showed up out of no where and were soon no where to be seen.

The next aid station was at the beginning of the road section. I filled my water bottle and switched it out for Gatorade. The road section is a gradual downhill through the area they call Columbia Valley. Once again beautiful rural landscape I was actually a little relieved from the mental break the mundane road running provided me. No roots, ruts or stumps to worry about just the road. I was caught by yet another runner after the first turn, a local who had run the course before. I took as much beta as I could but the fast pace on the roads took there toll on her and she faded.

The aid station at the end of the road section was appropriately placed before another steep incline. This was the exchange point for the relay racers. I had completed the first ‘half’ in 1:27:53. I felt sorry for the people running the second leg as the grade was steep from the get go. This trail and for the rest of the race was steep but they were horse trails so they didn’t have the deep ruts grooved into them like the counterpart dirt bike trails on the first half. It was easier to shuffle your feet upward here. I was impressed by some runners who seemed to maintain their shuffle the entire ascent. I wondered if the mid packer could shuffle up the hills what were the lead runners doing.

I caught up to a couple of runners and ran with them for most of the rest of the race. The one girl had trained on this last section so was able to give me some good beta on the last section. The first hill after the exchange was steep but short the next hill was even tougher and longer. I pretty much walk/shuffled the entire hill because there were no flat sections. The last downhill was long. By this point in the race my calves were starting to get knots in them. My twenty-twenty hindsight tells me I didn’t drink enough. I was now on my third bottle of fluid and was about 2½ hours into it. I normally drink a bottle every 45 minutes so I was down about a bottle and I sure felt it.

The road came as welcome relief my quads were thrashed. I would guess that my finishing pace must have been 12 minute miles on completely flat roads. The last three kilometers followed the beach to the finish line. Normally I would think this is a scenic beautiful way to finish the race but all I could think was where the finish line was.

I finished the race in 3:08 which is a great time I think for a first trail race. The people at the finish were really friendly and the spread of food was phenomenal. I stuck around to see if I could pick up some draw prizes which were also really good. They gave out shoes, water bottles, massages, pedicures, and even a case of beer. All told this race gets two thumbs up and I will definitely be back next year.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

My Trail

In running I would almost say there are no wrong turns it is all karma or Zen or destiny. As they say there is no good weather and bad weather it is just weather. On Wednesday morning my plan was to record my loop time for a newly plotted route on my local trail. Where I live there is a finite amount of trails within running distance. In fact I could probably name them all in one short list. The names have some significance and I'm not sure where they came from but you can tell from area why they came to be.

I live in Mission and as you can guess there is a mission or more correctly a monastery in the middle of town. It sits perched on the side of a hill or mountain, Mount Mary Ann. So in the shadow of this beautiful monastery is a small network of trails. The longest trails are probably only a mile end to end but they run in different directions so you can link them together.

My loop was found by accident. I start by the trailhead off Prentis Avenue across from the Four Square Church. From here you run along Salamander Trail. After about 500' you come to a small rise and a triple fork. The left is Jacob's Ladder which goes up to the monastery. The center is College which meanders up and joins Jacob's Ladder and come back down to join Salamander. And that leaves the right fork, the Salamander Trail which continues on to see where College joins again and then where another fork you'll see where they put a drain pipe to cross D'Herbomez Creek. But you stay left on the trail that parallels the boundary of the OMI aka St Mary's. Follow this to the very end and you'll end up at the end of Jasper Street but I take the very last turn left. How do I know it's the last turn? Experience or Zen or Karma.

Up the hill I go. This section is called Hail Mary. It's maybe a quarter to a half mile long but it is steep. You can’t run it. You can hike fast with your hands on your knees. I love this section.

Near the top if you are too focused on your turnover you'll miss the left turn which takes a final steep push to the Sanctuary. If you miss it you'll soon find yourself on the Gondola with some pretty steep slopes on your right and spectacular views of the valley below. The Gondola is not as steep as the left turn you missed but it was well worth it. It eventually switches back and you find yourself in the Sanctuary. This in the junction for five trails: Hail Mary, The Gondola, Blaspheme, The Monastery, and Jacob's Ladder. There are signs posted for which is which but vandals have removed the one for Gondola and Blaspheme. Total elevation gain is about 1000' at a 20% grade.

Going down Jacob's Ladder is less steep probably 5% at times 15% at others. Going down Jacob's Ladder is always less confusing then going up. Just remember to stay right if given the choice. The choice is possibly hooking up with Glen's Loop (twice) or College trail. Even if you do make a wrong turn they all join Salamander at some point so it's all good.

So after reading this did you figure out where I made a wrong turn? I've been running these trails for years and all my 'wrong turns' have been an evolution into the perfect trail route.

Like I said before there are no wrong turns it was meant to be!


Do you believe in signs? Omens? I have been a runner for over twenty years. In the previous nineteen I've seen lots of rabbits, the occasional fox, one skunk, and one bear. That bear was 15 years ago in what was then Seymour Demonstration Forest. So really I’ve had 15 years bear free.

This year alone I have come across three bears on three separate occasions. The first was in my home town. I was on a road run coming out of the local sports park, going up Nelson Street

which is fairly wooded a typical bear habitat in spite of the nearby houses. As I turned the corner there it was. It saw me and lumbered back to the woods. As I ran by the spot where he entered the woods I saw it sitting there watching me run by. Good bye bear!

The second sighting was on our family vacation in Whistler. I was on a meandering 8 miler on Valley Trail which encircles Whistler Village. As you get closer to the village the trail branches and forks into a network near Lost Lake. I stopped to get my directions straight and I looked up at this signpost. The Upper Village was a sharp right from where I stood so I turned in that direction. Right in front of me about 6 feet away was a black bear probably a couple of years old. If I didn't know better I would swear the bear was getting his bearings straight too (pun intended). I jumped back and said 'Ooh' and the bear jumped back too. And then for some reason I apologized like I was sorry I scared the bear. The bear shuffled off into the woods. He went one way and I went mine. Good bye bear!

The third sighting was the other week in Kelowna. I travel to the interior for my job once a month and seek new trails at the end of the business day. This visit I wasn’t feeling all that adventurous. I decided on the Mission Creek Regional Park. It’s a nice park but not too exciting because it follows the Mission Creek right through town and drains into Lake Okanagan. It’s flatter than a pancake but it is very pretty because on the running stream, the occasional berry bush and it has a fish ladder because they are trying to enhance the local fish population. Hmm, water, berries, and fish a perfect environment for raising bears.

On the Eastside of the creek the trail is more single track and actually weaves in and out and up and down knolls. I chose to runs the knolls. I glanced at the Bear Warning signs and continued on. It’s not that I’m stupid but I know from experience that once these signs go up they never come down even though the last bear sighting could have been years ago. So like many I become complacent in the warnings and tend to ignore them.

I passed a guy who was on a stroll with a mentally challenged adult. I said my hello’s and still continued on. About a quarter mile later I see something in the creek. My first thought was it was pretty cold to be swimming. Still I ran towards the shape that became more defined as I approached. We made eye contact and I stopped. We must have been about 200 feet apart but it was close enough to tell it was a full grown black bear. This bear didn’t look skittish, in fact he kind of looked pissed that I was in his fishing grounds. He slowly lumbered his way out of the creek and back to the trail I was on and I slowly backed along the trail keeping and trying to gain some more distance.

As soon as I lost eye contact at the first little bend I turned and hauled my tail out of there. Less than a quarter mile later I came across the guy and his adult charge. I told him about the bear and he turned around with me. I continued on by crossing the bridge to the Westside. I ran for another 4 miles and didn’t see any signs of any other bears. Good bye bear!

Do I believe in Omens or signs? Not really but to this point I feel really fortunate with my encounters of bears. Will I be complacent about warning signs anymore? Hell no! Will it stop me from running trails? Hell no! You hear a lot of stories about bear encounters and some of them don’t end happily. I love the trails and will always run the trails but I know the bears were there first. I’ve made a point of educating myself about bears and what to do should I encounter another. If you are a trail runner use the web as a tool a read about bears. Trail Runner magazine had a great article about bears in the September Issue. Read it!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Unfriendly people bug me

I’m always amazed at morning people. I’m not sure why maybe it’s because they are out there in the morning at the same time I am. I’m talking about those people I run past, of course. I do a quick analysis of why they are out there and put it into a one or two word classification plus a thumbs up/ thumbs down rating. Such as: Walker friendly thumbs up.

My work took me to Kelowna, BC for a day. I drove out the night before and slept over for what was supposed to be a morning delivery. I woke up and went for my morning run. Now Kelowna is more populated than where I live, on today’s run I must have come across 40 people. My interactions were as follows:

Dog walker – I said ‘Good Morning’. She said nothing even though I made friendly eye contact she looked away.

Cardio Boot camp class running in the opposite direction – I said ‘Good Morning’ to about 20 of them. Only one of them reciprocated.

A second Boot camp class- Same routine only none of them said anything, made eye contact, or even smiled. Waddup!

Two guys walking their dog – ‘Good Morning!’ they were startled and yelled ‘Jogger!’ as if to say ‘Incoming! Look out’. (The jogger comment I’ll let pass) Still I’m at 1 for 40 in reciprocated salutations.

My analysis: this town is not that friendly. This bugs me!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Risk Assessment

What are the medical risks involved in running an ultramarathon? Recently I've pondered this only because my wife planted the thought in my head. There are the obvious things, blisters, dehydration, twisted and torn ligaments and I'm prepared for all that. We train so that we know these things before race day.

But what about the less obvious. In our own sport recreational runners die from heart attacks every year either on the course or shortly after. The onus is ours to get congenital heart defects and genetic predispositions checked out prior to endurance events but there is still always risk.

Jim Fixx , the person touted responsible for the modern day running boom died while running a victim of a genetic predisposition to heart problems. The story goes that all the signs were there but he chose to ignore them.

But if you have no family history or even a slight history such as one parent or one grand parent out of four do you bother?

I, myself have been dogged by a higher than normal amylase count (~120ppm). The flag is 100 and I am consistently in the range of 110 to 125. My doctor sent me for every test in the book, including sending me to a gastroenterologist. Now amylase is a liver enzyme, so the knee jerk reaction was alcoholism. Of course I drink on occasion. So for a brief time I cut out alcohol out of my life and got re-tested. No change. Let it be known that my doctor was not greatly concerned as he has seen amylase results in the thousands. Widen the scope a bit and re-test. I was tested for every liver enzyme and the only one that was consistently high was Amylase. What I did learn was some other markers in the blood are directly related to how hard I have run the previous couple of days.

AST – goes up after a hard runs but goes down after a week of not running.
CPK (creatine phosphokinase)–goes up after long runs but goes down after a week of not running. It's an enzyme found in muscles and the heart and is a sign of muscle damage from exercise but more commonly in heart attacks.
(Okay, it wasn’t a week it was 5 days I’ll only go so far in the name of medical science)

Now my wife is one of those people who will look into WebMD and other web based medical reference websites. I love my wife with a passion but she is no medical professional. Whatever these sites say is the primary cause of the elevated levels she immediately associates with my case. That being said, I was and am still in her eyes an alcoholic runner with congenital heart problems. Without a medical background myself I must take the wife-doctor’s warning every time I crack a cold one. I’ve just about given up telling her when I’ve had a blood test because the results never change and I’ve just about given up going for the same old tests. The worst are the urine collection tests. I tell myself if I was a gold medal winning athlete I’d have to pee in a jug too, so I grin and bear it.

So I had the last test a week ago I suppose I should go see my doctor for the results. If nothing changes I’m using this as ammunition for a clean bill of health. Wish me luck!

How far can your dog go ?

How do you know a dog has reached his limit on long runs? There isn’t a lot written on how far dogs can run. With the exception of the malamutes and Siberian Huskies doing the Iditarod the amount of published research on running with dogs is lacking. I am specifically referring to how far Golden Retrievers can run. I run about 25 to 30 miles a week currently with more than half of that mileage going into the long run. But that number is going to go up. The longest run Koda has ever been on is 16 miles. He was panting pretty hard at the end and was tired most of the day but he rebounded quite well for the next day. Much like me!

I’m quite leery about taking him further especially as the summer progresses. What limited literature I have found in running magazines say to given them frequent water breaks when the weather gets hot. The problem is he doesn’t drink. It’s not that I’m torturing him and not offering water I use to take one of those collapsible dog dishes and his own flask of water. I’d fill it up mid run and stand around and wait and wait and wait some more. Minutes would pass and he wouldn’t drink so I gave up.

If I stop now it is so he can swim. Koda loves the water. Depending on the depth he’ll either lie down frog-like or go for a swim. After a minute he’ll take about two sips (laps) or water and that is it. But I guess immersing himself in water brings down his core temperature because he is panting less when he gets out.

Even when I get home from a long run, he doesn’t head for the water dish until 5 or 10 minutes after we are back. I’m guessing he has to let his core cool down before he drinks. And when we get home he much prefers the cold tile floor to the cold outdoors every time.

He’s not complaining and he’s not faltering but I’m starting to feel guilty. It’s either he knows pace better then I do but he tops out at 7:55 minutes/mile with no exceptions on long runs. Whenever I feel like I’m dragging him m Garmin says I’m going faster than 7:55 so I slow down.

Off the leash he’s better. He’ll probably do 10% more mileage than me because he’ll run ahead and run back. And then run a tangent and run back. He is much happier that way.

So I’ll keep running with him on my long runs until one of us gives in. I think it might be me..


Nowhere does it tell you how to get your family to support you. Running is your thing and your family knows it. Every Christmas, Birthday, and Fathers Day gift is centered around running. Your bookshelf is littered with running books. This is your passion. So getting support to do your first ultra should be automatic right? Guess again!

What do you do when you decide to do your first ultra and you ask your wife and she says 'No'. I mean this is it. You've planned it all out in your head and researched the web: how to schedule the training, the routes to train on, the build up, the taper. It is set in your mind. The story is written all you need to do is play it out.

'Honey I really want to run a longer race this fall.'

"How long?", she asks.

'Fifty miles'.

"How far is that in kilometres?" (We're metric here in Canada)

"About 75 !" (Yeah, it's actually 80 but 75 sounded less daunting)

"No way"

Crash! That was the sound of my dream going down in flames. She then went on to steam roll the big cinders of my ego into an ash heap. She rolled with, 'I've seen what you look like after a marathon' or 'what about your health'. 'I'm sure our insurance doesn't cover this? And if you die where does that leave me and the kids.' My wife should have been a risk assessment analyst.

I had no rebuttle. First I didn't expect a heart warming 'yeah, I'm behind you all the way'. (Remember, I'm the guy who gets up at 5 am on weekends if I want to run long.) Second, I have never looked into the mirror immediately following any of my marathons but I imagine I wasn't fresh looking but I'm sure even the fittest of runners don't look fresh after 26.2 miles, nor should they. And finally, no I don't know if insurance covers a self induced limit pushing endurance run but people do this. I want to do this.

At this point I wait. My wife's immediate reaction to any idea that is not her's is to reject first ask questions later. So far it has been three days since the fire, the scars still haven't healed. But since that time she has mentioned my dream to my mother on our last visit and on one other occasion. So it's not a dead issue. Like a Phoenix this dream will be resurrected from the ashes. I've got three months before the race.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Running and Life's lesson

Every run is like a life’s lesson. Some go by with little thought or consequences, while others have a more profound effect. Today’s run was more like the latter.

Everyday the routine seems the same. The alarm clock on my watch is set for 5:00 a.m., although my dog’s internal clock must be set for 4:59 because every morning at one minute to five, I get the signal that they need attention. I let the two of them out, feed them, and get my running gear together. I rinse out my water bottle three times and fill it to the brim. I then grab my Forerunner 101 changing out the re-chargeable batteries every second day whether they need it or not. I bring both dogs inside and take Ruth our Miniature Schnauzer upstairs to go back to sleep. She’s always more than compliant to nestle down and sleep some more. Back downstairs, I grab my Seattle Mariners baseball cap and my wrap around dog leash and head out with my faithful running companion Koda, our 2 ½ year old Golden Retriever. I walk to the end of the driveway and wait a couple of minutes for my GPS unit to grab a signal. Every run starts out the same; it’s something I take for granted.

The Forerunner 101 will die after 3 runs, Ruth will always go back to sleep and Koda will always be willing to run with me. It’s a given.

Very rarely do I run into people on my runs. I usually see the Fire Chief reading his morning paper on his front porch and on occasion I see this guy walking his dogs in the park as I make my way through. I always get a kick out of his dogs because one is an overweight Jack Russell terrier and the other an energetic retriever cross. His dogs are usually off leash but they’re friendly so no harm done. The gentleman is always very friendly with a wave and the token dog biscuit for Koda. Koda has got to the point where he recognizes him and looks for the cookie.

Today, as I ran down the trail I came to the narrow entrance of the school field where I met up with the rotund Jack Russell, alone.

'Where's your other dog?' I innocently asked, fully expecting the dog to come bounding out of the nearby woods.

'He died the other day,' the man replied painfully. In a cathartic purge he told me of his dog's brief struggle with cancer and his painful decision to put him down. I was floored, I don't even know this man but here we were sharing a very emotional moment on a pathway in the middle of my morning run.

His final words to me, snuck up on me like a snake bite. It stings at first and then courses through your veins unleashing its full effect. 'It's like losing a child you know', he said with an ominous tone.

All I could muster was a ‘Take care’ and a wave goodbye as I contemplated his words.

I wanted to stop and pause for a moment when I realized that’s not the message. The message is to savor the moment and appreciate what you have. Koda is going to run with me for many years to come. Enjoy his company now while he’s still young and vibrant and create the memories of the glorious runs together. So I ran with my dog and I’ll do it again tomorrow. Will I take him for granted? Not a chance.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day Run

Life is good . . . No . . Life is great! My son, Ethan has been begging me to go for a run. He wants to get "strong" like me. Father's Day seemed like an obvious choice for a father-son outing. If it weren't for the rain it would have been perfect.

My plan was to take him for as far as he wanted to then run back and then I'd go out afterward for my long run. So as usual I get my shorts and shoes on. I fill up my water bottle and go check on my son.

He's got on jeans, a cotton long sleeve and his winter coat. (I see great potential for passing down some running gear knowledge through the ages). Well without completely re-dressing him I put him in some nylon pants and we head for the door. His shoes have no laces and no tread. In fact, I though we threw these things out two pairs ago. Alas he's a chip off the old block.

Okay we're ready to go when from the back of the hallway we hear. "Wait for me! I'm coming too." Four year old Owen also has a winter coat and rubber frog boots on. Great! We're almost there.

Ready guys? Why's Koda crying? Okay,grab the leash. Almost good to go. What now? Ruth! Get back inside Miniature Schnauzers weren't meant to run. At least not today.

We're off. My four year old bails out at the half a block. Those boots weren't made for running. We run back drop him off and were off again. We round the corner and head down hill toward the park.

"How much farther to the park, Dad? " He says looking up at me. His hair matting down from the unrelenting drizzle and his glasses completely fogged up.

"We're almost there. Are you tired?"

"Let's walk okay?"

"Sure, you ready to turnaround?"

He made it a lot farther then I thought he would and didn't complain too much. It's probably my most memorable Father's Day to date. You know the whole episode lasted less then your average sitcom but I really enjoyed it probably because I got to share my passion (running) with another one of my passions (my boys). I think I'll ask him to go for another run soon. If he says no that okay too. Deep down inside I hope he'll grow to love running like I do (but he is only six). I've never pushed any of my kids to pursue my passions past or present I want them to discover their own. Maybe we'll do it again real soon but if we don't I've got the memory of Father's Day 2007.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pole Fitness

I’m no expert I’m not even well informed but pole fitness is one of the latest crazes to catch on to the mainstream. I guess you could say it got its roots from seedy bars and exotic dancers but that where it launched from and it never looked back.

I take my hat off to the people who do it because it is really tough. I’ve tried it. If I were to compare it to other sports I’ve tried I would say it’s somewhere between rock climbing for its upper body and core strength and dance for its endurance and pure poetic moves.

My wife caught the bug over a year ago. I’ve bought a pole for her home studio and she gets on there about 3 or 4 times a week. She’ll work out for an hour or so practicing these freaky acrobatic moves that are gravity defying to say the very least. When put together it is poetry. It’s not really dance because it would almost being understating the ability of the pole fitness person. All pole people can dance but not all dancers can pole.

I’ve often thought about building up my core strength using my wife’s pole because I’ve seen the progress in her core. Then I actually get on for a move or two and then decide I’d rather go for a five miler in the trails. So I do. I’m extremely proud of you honey but for me the pole will have to wait another day!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Morning After

How long do you take off after an all out effort? A week? Two? I took two days ran a four miler and then the next day ran another four. Then I felt tired the morning after the second run so I took the next day off.

For the next 4 days I was a basket case. I couldn’t get enough sleep. Although analyzing the situation I’m not sure if it was fatigue from running or the consecutive nights with a structure fire in the middle of the night.

Being an on-call firefighter has its merits but sleep is not on of them. We don’t get called out too often in the night but this past weekend was all too regular. One night was a kitchen fire around midnight and the next night was actually the next morning but still counts a couch fire. This on top of a few false alarms. And don’t even get me started on being mistakenly paged out.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t in the midst of building a fence for my dogs in the back yard. Post holing and putting up fences I was using muscles I hadn’t in awhile. In fact the last two weekends I’ve been consumed by it. By Sunday I was so dead dog tired I actually took a nap in the middle of the day.

I was constantly doing something morning, noon and into the night literally.

I wish I could have monitored my recovery a bit better but I did notice that I was fairly dehydrated. I must have drunk 2 liters of water on Sunday before I had to pee some back out. That’s never a good sign.

Today is Tuesday, I ran for the first time since Thursday. It felt really good so I think I’m back on track. My wife and I agreed that we would try and keep this weekend open and no renovating. We’ll see!

Race Report

Race Report

It’s been over a week since my race. Pre-race jitters aside I made it to the start line unscathed. I hooked up with an old friend of mine who said he hadn’t been able to run in the last two weeks due to a knee flair up. I paced with him the first half mile so we could chat a bit. Then I wished him a good race and off I went.

The Spring Ahead Half Marathon is a two loop course with the first loop 1.1 km longer than the second. This way they can integrate a 10K race on the same course.

I settled in to a fairly decent 7:35 minute pace which I kept for the duration. The loop has an out and back blip near the middle of the loop where slower runners can watch the lead runners’ race past you in the opposite direction. I’m not sure if I should have been inspired by their speed or demoralized. I chose to be inspired.

Because I had run the first little bit with my injured friend most of the field was ahead of us from the start. This was a tactic I later came to appreciate as I picked off runners one by one. By about the 10 mile mark I had past as many runners as I could see. Without any motivating runners ahead I started to slow a bit until I heard the fast approaching 10K runners.

The 10K race had started about an hour after the half start. The speed demons came up fast on me. I didn’t want to let too many of them pass so I picked up my pace as much as I could. When the first two runners passed me I recognized the leader as an old running partner. I quickly gave him the inspirational ‘Way to go!’ and ‘Time to kick!’. It was after all about a mile from the finish. With that Mike took off like a bolt and out ran the guy aping him by about a minute. Wow!

My race now became ‘don’t let anymore 10K guys pass you’. This may sound good but doing the math I was averaging 7:30ish and they were closer to 6:45 or less. But I only had a mile to go. Runner 3 passed then number 4. Okay let’s get serious. Number 5 came up with a familiar ‘Hey!.

It was my friend Brent. The first thing he said to me was “I’ve got nothing left”. Yeah right. I tried keeping up with him because now it was less than half a mile left but my legs couldn’t go with him. I literally had nothing left in the tank.

I finished the half marathon in 1:40:09 which was beat my last year’s time by 5 minutes. My PR at this distance is 1:37 but that was from 1991, so does that still count? I think I did awesome and am pretty satisfied with my performance.

My next effort I still looking for I saw a race in Kelowna a 50K called Scorched Sole. How cool is that? Well here’s hoping to make it happen.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Race Jitters

What is it about races that give you the jitters? For most us we’ll never win the race or even our age group. Maybe it’s the fact that we train and train through rain, snow, sleet. We are out there when the postman isn’t. We’re out the door at absurd hours of the morning when our rational thinking mind tells us we should be sleeping. We sacrifice lots to gain so little. Or is it little? These small victories, our ‘personal best’ bring out the Walter Mitty in all of us. In our mind we hear every cheer and the winners who finish miles ahead of you don’t really exist. Your race is the 50 feet in front and fifty feet behind some where around two miles to go.

You see I don’t believe in Type ‘A’ personalities. I believe every runner has something deep inside wanting to be their best that day. Whether your name is Gebreselassie or Smith you know that you have trained the hardest your schedule and life permits. Now you put it all out there for the world to see.

You expose yourself and whatever weaknesses you have. You against the clock for the ‘PB’. Superman has no weakness. There is no kryptonite today.

Yeah that’s it . . .jitters? what jitters? . .Bring it!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What It Takes

There is a DVD released out there called What It Takes. It follows four Ironman triathletes around for a year in preparation for the Kona World Championships. I only remember hearing about it but I believe it follows the lives of Heather Fuhr, Lori Bowden, Peter Reid, and Luke Bell. I’m sure it’s a great documentary but these are top notch world class athletes, so gifted with endurance, speed, and focus that their entire lives are now eat, sleep, and train, repeat. Sure there are injuries to contend with and sponsorship deals to work out. They also have appearances to make and flights to get to on time. Aside from the injuries and the occasional flight I have nothing in common with these folks.

Don’t get me wrong I love my life and would not change a thing. I have a gorgeous sometimes understanding wife and three beautiful kids but my entire athletic career is built around family and job. To that end I don’t have time to train when I would like to, I train when life lets me. My running shoes haven’t seen the sunshine in months. All training must be completed and I’m showered, shaved and ready to go by 7 a.m. when the first child wakes. On some days where long travel is necessary then you wake up even earlier to get your run in. Some weekends you beg your now less understanding wife to drop you off at some point on the way home from a family outing just to get the long run in. As penance for leaving her with three bickering children, God plays his hand. It’s these same drop offs where the heavens open up and a torrent of rain falls down before your feet and into your shoes.

I was stopped by my next door neighbor the other day. Kevin is a twenty something kid renting the basement of his parents place. He is a really friendly guy, who is always quick to say ‘hello’. He’s in construction so I always see him early in the morning loading up his truck or pulling away as I’m coming back from my morning run.

Usually it’s nothing more than ‘Hey’ or the ‘How’s it going?’ but this day he stops me and says, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Of course not, what is it?” I reply a bit bewildered.

“How do you do it? . . . How do you get up so early and go running? I mean I can barely function driving to work let alone exercise. And you’ve already finished a run. So how do you do it?”

I was a bit dumbfounded by his query. We’ve hardly had a conversation let alone asking a question that runs so deep to the core. I wanted to say something prophetic. I wanted to say something inspirational. But all I could muster was, “If you want something bad enough . . . you have to do what it takes”.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

iPod Inspiration

Magazine art and advertisements are there for a reason. They (the collective advertising media) want to make you think, they want to inspire you and of course buy their products. The magazine is a product in itself, the flashier the photos especially the covers the wider the appeal. You want picture yourself like the person on the cover.

One such cover that made me think every time I picked it up was the back cover of TrailRunner magazine from a few months ago. On it was Monica Scholz winner of Badwater Ultra in the women’s division. First of all there is nothing sexy or alluring about the photo, the woman is on Whitney Portal Road which I’m guessing from the blur of desolate landscape in the background is in the lower section still in Death Valley.

What I find interesting is what she is wearing. Her feet although it doesn’t say it looks like she’s wearing open toed running shoes. Which would prominently display her Injinji running socks (her sponsor)? It looks like she’s running in a skirt, a black one which sounds weird. Maybe it’s a gimmick maybe its not but it does make me think. She of course has on the white hat with flap on the back to protect the neck. She’s got on some nondescript sunglasses which once again makes me think. They aren’t Oakley’s or Bolle or some other sport sunglasses company. These thing look like something my Mom would wear. And lastly she has on her iPod shuffle (old style) complete with sport case.

I guess the reason I study photos like these is because I want to know what these Ultra folks wear to keep comfortable. They wear this stuff not because of sponsorship but because it is the most functional. Badwater is an extreme ultra in that its 135 mile which is long by ultra standards and the searing heat of the Death Valley floor make it cruel and punishing. I would think most of the garb worn for this ultra is ideal only for Badwater: the hat, the open toed shoes, even the sunglasses (who need shades in the forest).

The iPod was a bit of a mystery and I guess if I ever got a chance to interview Monica I would ask her. Why the Shuffle with its flash memory it only has at most 5 to 6 hours of battery life at best. Most people doing Badwater take over 24 hours to complete. My next question would be how often you would listen to your iPod. I don’t care about her playlists that a personal choice and highly subjective. As for myself, I take my iPod on every run whether it’s twenty minutes or three hours that thing is playing in my ears. Sure on occasion I love to hear the sounds of nature especially when I’m in the trails. I love to hear the sound of my dog’s paws and pants. But most times I can’t or don’t get to the trails and its street noise that I don’t want to hear.

So I pose the question, if you train with an iPod are you not training for iPod conditions? Your cadence and rhythm are dictated by what you listen to. Your focus or your state of mental relaxation is often controlled by your iPod. So if it is such an integral part of your being, is wearing an iPod during a race a social faux pas? I can imagine if you’re doing a short 10K or 5K and you are surrounded by happy, social runners then it might be considered rude. But let’s get a reality check here. How much conversation really goes on during a road race? Unless you’re ‘aping’ someone and going stride for stride rarely are you within ear shod of other runners. Even the guy you are pacing off of isn’t going to want to talk except maybe to give you a quick verb and adverb for not taking the pace. (true story)

So in the end you either have to do what you want. I’ve got a race this weekend, a half marathon. Last year it was quite a conundrum the night before the race. The clothing part was easy it was cold race morning so I wore a jacket and toque but the iPod. I didn’t want to seem rude so I put it away. Only at the start line did I see a growing percentage of runners wearing theirs. So this year I’m going to wear my iPod. I going to load it full of upbeat music for before and during the race and maybe even throw in a short podcast. After race I’ll put it away and be social.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

This Week

The week ahead is going to get hairy. Long work days I'm not looking forward to it. The plan is to fit 4 mid week runs in. These are going to be easy as I've got save something for the work day. Thus no intervals or hill repeats this week.

I've mapped out my long run on Google Maps and I'm looking forward to it.. My long run progressions since the New Year have been good 9 to 11 to 13 to 15 then back down to 12. Now I'll be going up to 18. Too much? We'll find out.

Lists of Running Blogs

I love to peruse the running blog website. It lists well over a thousand links to blogs of runners like you and me. There are so many blogs to read. Just like a busy person with email you can't read all of them, so you scan some and actually read others.

Which one's to read becomes somewhat of an advertising game . Obviously you want to read about something that interests you. So you try and pick a blog title that catchs your interest. Or you read the little thingy after the title and pick from that description.

Therefore it becomes important, if you want your blog read, to pick a blog name that is eye catching. Also important is to pick is to fill that description thingy with something of equal interest.

Not to single anyone out I'll make up a fictitious blog. For example, if you call your blog 'The Runner' well that maybe okay in the general population but it gets lost in a list of running blogs where a large percentage have the words run, runner, or running in them. Now if you called it 'Trail Runner' you've delineated yourself between road, track, and trails. That would catch my eye.

As for the description thingy well I'm no expert because as of this writing I don't have one. But the one's I've seen and the one's I've read you've got a finite amount of characters to describe your blog and to catch an audience. I saw one blog where he had a description that did not fit the space allowance so his point was lost in cyberspace.

I think once I have something interesting to say I'll change my blog description to suit. I'll also lengthen my blog name to become more precise.

Let's see:

Ultra dad- Quest for 100

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A dog, a runner, and the road

I could never live in the city. I commute to Vancouver about twice a month by train. Packed into a crowded train, listening to the sounds of steel wheels on rail being drowned out by the endless overheard conversations of complete strangers. So many conversations, that after awhile it just sounds like white noise, indistinguishable constant.

I think that's another reason why I run before dawn, to escape the white noise. I love to run the trails and I live about a mile and a half from the nearest forest. The trail system however is from end to end only about a mile at best. So for most of the morning runs I take it to the streets. Before the cars and traffic, before the dog walkers and just after the hardcore partiers go to bed I'm out on my run with dog in tow. I use to think it was for the sake of the dog but really it's for me. Running is my solitude, a time to erase the white noise from the memory banks. Like many runners if I don't get in my daily run I'm cranky and irritable.

My dog is a two year Golden Retriever, Koda. He's a great running companion. He's a swimmer but a poor retriever. I'm not talking bad retriever as in chasing a ball down and not returning it. I'm talking about full on lackadaisical despondency for the ball. He could care less about balls, sticks, and stuffed toys . . . whatever. You throw it and he'll look at you like you just did a nasty in your pants. This is not for lack of trying. Believe me in his puppy years when he was too young to run I bought Frisbees, tennis balls, the whole gambit of throwable objects. It bore no fruit. And so my dog became a runner . . . and nothing else.

This suits me just fine. A dog, a runner, and the road.

The Dreadmill

Here I am stuck in Kelowna BC. Under any other circumstances Kelowna is an athlete's dream city. In the summer they host several Tri's, a marathon, several fun runs. It's about half an hour from Penticton home of Ironman Canada. It is beautiful up here. Except when several freeze-thaws have left the streets with an inch of ice and the current temperature is -20C not including wind-chill.

Yeah I'm a wuss but I'm not a quitter so I head off for the dreaded treadmill. The dreadmill. No matter how you slice it: Steep incline, faster speeds, ESPN blaring from the TV in front of you. It truly earns the moniker.

Every winter for at least a couple of days in a row either snow or ice prevents the run from happening. I think my karma says it's time to put your feet up. First karma gives you subtle hints that you are pushing it. You know soreness that won't go away. Insomnia. You don't listen and push harder. So Karma deals you a full on snow storm. So you go inside to the dreadmill.

The dreadmill deprives you of everything sweet about running. The sights, the sounds. The wind in your face, the deep coolness of the air you breathe. That rush from charging up a small easily conquered hill. Give me the outdoors any day.

I'll be back. Yeah I’ll be back

Thursday, January 4, 2007


I love to write. I wish I could write better than I do. I've got a buddy who is a writer, a professional. Actually he's an editor for a newspaper. It's pretty cool when you think that every week somebody reads your stuff whether it's an editorial piece or a news bit he gets to write. It is read with interest and then in some way you've changed a life by what you've wrote or how you conveyed the facts. Think about the responsibility, the accountability. Putting things into perspective my editor friend says he has to take things with a grain of salt. When he rubs someone the wrong way he'll say to me, 'Remember. . . today's headlines will lining the bottom of birdcage tomorrow.'

That's why blogging is so cool. Almost complete anonymity and freedom to write. What's the deal with Blogging anyway? Do you think people want to read your thoughts, are you fulfilling a service, or is it merely a selfish pursuit to pander one's own ego? I believe there is some catharsis in it. You can call it therapy or self-indulgent. What ever the case there are thousands of blogs out there. I have read well written ones and some not so well written but they are all good. They all provide insight into the blogger's psyche or their soul for lack of a better term.

Do you think if you write a blog you should be inclined to read as many other blogs? After all if you believe your stuff is a literary masterpiece then there has got to be others worth reading too.

But what about the creepy factor? The otherwise 'stalking' part that you lay it all out there and share part of your life only to have someone else soak it up like some predator. I guess that's why most of us use an alias, a 'nom de plum'. One can never be to safe to protect the privacy not meant for the web to see. It's a double edged sword indeed.

So I remain embattled with my editor friend. We both write, his readers far out number mine. I'm anonymous and therefore will never be famous for what I write. Nor do I want the fame or even credit. He may never be famous but at least it pays the bills.