Thursday, November 13, 2008

Episode 29: Show Notes on Shoes

Episode SHOES
The life of the average running shoe is 300 to 500 miles
The wide range in lifespan is due to make up and materials but also the runner and the running surface.

Weight if the Runner a heavier runner will land with more impact than a lighter runner. Thus the midsole will compress more and lose it rebounding and elasticity sooner.

Cleanliness of the shoe. Running outdoors will degrade the uppers. Soil and debris like mud will wear away the upper just like any other material

Outsoles will wear away with surface abrasion. Trail shoe in particular will wear away from abrasion quicker than the midsole breaks down from impact. As a general rule, here is Canada our sidewalks are made from concrete. Apart from being one of the hardest surfaces a runner can run on, thus transferring the most force back into the joints. Concrete is one of the most abrasive surfaces we run on and therefore should be avoided at all costs.

Shoe type. Shoes are designed for basically three types of runners based on the varying degrees of pronation. Stability Shoes Pronators, Motion Control, Neutral Cushioning. If your foot roll inward from the ankle while you run you are a pronator. Basic checks: Check the arches, check the wear patterns on your shoes, check into a reputable shoe dealer.

There is a lot more about shoes that I could ever cover in one podcast But I’d like to talk about Trail Shoes

Trail Shoes are not meant for streets. Because of the uneven surfaces they don’t take a lot of pronation control into account for their design. In fact it’s a whole new ball game when we talk about trail shoes. The last is usually stiff because we expect rocks and roots. The midsole is tiff because we expect cushion from the ground. The upper is either waterproof or drains incredibly well. To use an analogy choosing a trail shoes is choosing a tire for your car. Mud Tires for 4 x 4s , Snow Tires for Snow, Slick if you want to go fast. The variations are endless. Some shoes are designed with thick lugs which are great for mud and dirt but maybe not so for slick rock or packed trails. Tread pattern is important so decide what is best. Keep your trail shoes for the trails. Avoid hot pavement and concrete which will shorten the life of your tread.

Quick note about Responsible Shoes I agree with Steve Runner. But the way to do it is not to boycott their shoes but rather write your congressman or MP. Ask for trade sanctions unless labour codes are improved. This goes way beyond shoes. Shoes are a drop in the bucket. Many countries are involved, many consumer products are involved from running shoes and sportswear to automobiles, computer software and hardware, electronics, virtually every product in your house has been touched by poverty stricken countries with poor labour practices. If we expose one company it just means those workers will lose there jobs or work for a sub contractor to a subcontractor of some other consumer product. While at the same time we voice our concerns we also must be ready for the outcome and the ripple effects we create. I’m sorry to sound apathetic but this is an inconvenient truth. As far as auditing goes once again this is very tough. In my own country auditing safety concerns has a huge backlog and only the worst o

In my own experience I am a heel striker and a pronator. I need an outsole that has a plate of rubber at the heel strike corner. I’ve had shoes that have had lugs at the heel and have ended up wearing out the heel lugs. I would love to find a shoe that has a little less cushion or midsole in the heel. The height of most of the trail shoes I’ve worn are higher than their road counterparts. The end result, or what I believe to be the end result is my heel strike is harder than my road shoes. Kyle Skaggs winner of this years Hardrock 100 wore a prototype shoe from New Balance which resembled racing flats. I’d be curious to try those. Anton Krupicjka sponsored by La Sportiva was once fabled to cut out the heel of his midsole to get a better feel

Monday, November 3, 2008

Chasing the Runner's High

This week’s episode I talk about the elusive Runner’s High. I recently re-read an article by Amby Burfoot of Runner’s World about the high and give you some of the highlights from the article. I then go on to discuss the merits of the article. Is it real and why can’t we tap into it more readily?

This weeks highlights from the Firehall
Still no TUNE notes this week.

Feel free to contact me at:

Ultradad.podcast at or read my blog at

Runner's High? Endorphins? Fiction, Some Scientists Say

Yes, Running Can Make You High

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Frightening at times!

We have three boys, each with their own vibrant personalities and habits. As the days get shorter they start to spend more and more time indoors, bored. I try spending time with them whenever I get a chance but it’s not always easy finding a happy medium with all three. In a nutshell, I’ve got a thinker, an explorer/dreamer, and a how much trouble can I get into before someone catches me child. In each I see myself looking back at me. Many times I marvel at this fact and still there are those times where it’s down right frightening. Jenny usually makes the connection to this truth long before I do. I’m in denial.

This past weekend was beautiful and for late October temperatures were practically shorts weather. My legs usually take on a light bluish color before I relegate the shorts to the summer clothes drawer so this particular day was a bonus.

As Sunday drew to a close I couldn’t give up the day without going for a short run. As many of you know I’m a runner. I love to run and will do so at any opportunity given. One of the greatest pleasures in a runner’s life is being able to run with your children. I remember when I did my first ultramarathon my family met me at several of the aid stations. At one particular aid station, Ethan had asked if he could run with me for a while. A while ended up being only a couple hundred yards.

“I’m going to be a runner like you Dad!” he said with pride before calling it a day.

Since that time we’ve run on several occasions including our first 5K together. On Sunday I asked if he wanted to go for another run and as always he said, “Sure!”

Conversation is always light but that’s okay. Ethan always highlights the week’s events which are usually activity based and rarely informative of his academics.

“I’m second fastest in my class” he tells me with pride.

Our runs are usually interspersed with walks and only last about a half an hour but the quality carries on for the rest of the day.

Ah yes, the rest of the day. As I mentioned before I have three boys. In the time that I wasn’t watching over them directly my youngest had decided that his bangs were bugging him. So he cut them. Short!

Okay let me give you just a little background. I cut my own hair. I’ve cut my own hair for about twenty years now. I can’t be bothered with style and the other frivolous things that go along with it. If I make a mistake, gel can usually cover it up until it grows out a bit. It’s no big deal. My kids have seen me cut my hair on numerous occasions. Fade to black.

“Honey, did you see what Owen did to his hair while you were supposed to be watching him!” ,my wife says in a somewhat frustrated tone.

“Yes, I did!”

“Are you going to say something to him?”

“Owen, come here!”

Owen walks into the room. His head hung low. His bangs resemble something of a semi-circle or maybe a bent sickle I can’t be sure. It took everything I had not to laugh or crack a smile.

“Owen, did you cut your hair?” I said with the sternest face I had. And yet still a sense of pride was welling up inside me. Just like me my boy had cut his own hair. Free from style conscience masses that dictate what hair should look like. Free from the fashion police that draw the solid black line between what is in and what is out.

Dejected, he nods.

All I could muster was “Owen, don’t do it again.”

The resemblance was uncanny. In fact it was frightening.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Its Picture Day at School!

Picture Day at elementary school was always a challenge. A long line up of kids from your class lined up one after the other. Each one dressed up in their finest outfits or at least their coolest outfits. I remember as a kid trying to maintain some level of coolness as my mom picked out the geekiest clothes and combed my hair in the style to match my clothes. It was alright though because even the coolest kids had moms like mine and their hair actually looked worse.

It was a torturous day as we tried to maintain our hairstyles and keep our clothes clean until we got our pictures taken. There is a reason why photographers ask that the kindergarten and early grades go first because their expectation to make through recess unscathed was much less than the older grades.

One by one an already wearisome photographer rattles off a couple of shots per child and moves one to the next child. “Smile!” he commands not really waiting for a response just clicking the picture with a “Good enough” smirk on his face.

“Next please!”

One by one my friends were taken down. Their dorkiness captured forever on film to be produced into an 8 x10 and a couple of wallet size photos for all the relatives to laugh at.

Oh the torture of standing in line, all your friends looking at you weird like they’d never seen you before. Maybe they were secretly giggling at you. Laughing at the dorky haircut your mom just gave you. I’d show them I said to myself. I’m going to do the goofiest smile and make them all laugh. Yeah that’s it! But wait what will my mom say. Mom will freak if she sees a goofy smile in my picture.

Invariably the photographer always captured the very essence of the moment. Not quite a picture perfect smile and not the goofy weird face that would have won respect from the line up behind me but rather somewhere in between.

Years later, I’m a parent and now the roles change as the photographs come back from my children’s own picture day. As the media has gone from film to digital, a new era is brought in. A photographer could surely rattle off twenty pictures in the time it use to take one and there is virtually no cost. Just erase the one with the goofy smiles.

“How did the photos turn out honey?” I ask my wife.

“Hmmf! I could have done better!”

I stare in amazement at the photographs with their supposed grins, not quite a smile and not quite a goofy face that would have brought down the house. I have no response. The memories come flooding back and secretly I smile.

An 8 x10 and a couple of wallet size, please!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Episode 10: Ultradad and the 3 Bear (Stories)

There's a bear out there. On my podcast I discuss my encounters with bears. This one photographed here is on my neighbor's lawn. I'm not joking!
I also discuss product reviews that you read in magazines. In fact here are my notes for the show:

It’s funny how a podcast can develop. I think in the past 10 shows I’ve reviewed my hydration systems, my shoes, my shorts. I wish I had more stuff to review. I don’t know about you folks but other peoples opinions matter to me about gear I’m going to buy. Not so much about shoes because everybody’s feet are different. But I read every review I can find about a product I’m interested in for two reasons. The first I look for experienced people to go through the ins and out of these products before I buy them. Manufacturers tend to highlight the good things about a product and downplay the shortcomings. Magazines I am torn with the opinions from magazines for the simple reason the a large majority of their operating income comes from advertising. Because of this you’ll never see Runners World say Wow those new Nike Air Watchamacallits they suck. The forefoot doesn’t fit many, the heel counter fits poorly and the construction is poor. I give it two thumbs down. Instead you’ll see ten pairs from different manufacturers reviewed, a few will get top marks for design, others will get Editors Choice and the new design for the Air Watchamacallits will get average marks with neutral statements made about it. It’s not that it is highlighted but it isn’t swept under the carpet either. We as the consumer have to read between the lines.

This is where the opinions of consumers become valued. I like going to websites for online stores where the consumer will openly state “They fell apart after 100 miles” Midsole lost cushioning after three weeks, stuff like that. I need to know this sort of stuff because I can’t go into a store and size up the latest gizmo in a 10 minute perusing of the features only to get home and find it isn’t as user friendly as all the ads made it out to be.

This is what I’m going to do. Because I’m the frugalest (sp) the most frugal runner on the face of the Earth. I am going to solicit supplier for their products. The products I’m going to solicit are things that I’d like to have but don’t necessarily need to achieve my goals. For example:
Moeben Arm Warmers
Salomon XT Wings – okay I have a pair and love them but come on they aren’t cheap.
North Face Gear – I know North Face makes some really good quality stuff but do you need it compare to a lesser made pair of gear. I hope to explore the differences.
Gels and Energy Bars – right now I use Power Gels and Sharkies because they are available. I’d like to try other products but I’m frugal and it takes a few runs and a few packs to really know and if it doesn’t work you’ve spent $20 on nothing but a stomach ache.

I’m not looking for sponsorship but who am I kidding it would be nice. Wouldn’t it be cool to actually find a sponsor whose products you chose to be the best out there and not because they were the only ones to flash free stuff and the occasional entry fee. In this way you’d being doing a public service and not selling out. Still I’m skeptical if it would work.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The New Media

Podcasting is the new media. More clearly defined podcasting as a subset of the Internet is the newest medium for conveying information to the targeted masses. By ‘targeted’ masses I mean a specific listening audience that is intent on finding information about a topic. My podcast is about running more specific than that I key in on trail running and even more specific than that ultra distance trail running.

I don’t know what the numbers are and I’m sure some company somewhere has been paid to keep tabs on the numbers but a lot of people are into fitness, whether it is diets and keeping the pounds off any way they can or activity based fitness. Of those people are born the runners which possible number into the hundreds of millions. In my own corner of the world the Vancouver Sun Run, a local 10K, had 50,000 participants this year. Of those people there are marathoners or aspiring marathoners. I’ve been told that marathoners constitute ½ of 1% of the world’s population. If that is even remotely close that may seem like a minority in the world but that translates to 5 million people worldwide. Add to that the aspiring and the number grows even more. Ultra distance runners are even fewer than that. But the aspiring from that are probably bordering on similar numbers to sum to the total population. In other words everyone who has run a step to classify themselves a runner probably has considered or is at least intrigued by a marathon so the numbers of aspiring plus actual marathoners borders on the total population of runners. A similar argument can be debated for ultra marathoners. So you see creating a podcast about trail running and ultra marathoning may not be as obscure as one would think.

My nine year old recently asked me what an alter ego was. He had heard the expression on a TV show that he had been watching, I tried as best I could in terms that a nine year old would understand that as alter ego is like a secret life or something you do that is different from your everyday life. Without waxing on the philosophical, I said it was like being a superhero and an everyday guy like Clark Kent and Superman. I remember reading the short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty a terrific story about a daydreamer who escapes into different worlds only to be brought back to reality by the circumstances that surround him. For that brief moment we are with him we are right there for those interludes those romantic escapes. And that in essence is my podcast.

My approach to podcasting is to be myself. I am one of you. I am you. I am a middle of the pack, working, mortgage paying, forty-something, father of three, happily married living in the suburbs and escaping to the trails every chance I get. My real escape is chasing my dream of running the ultra distances. The Walter Mitty in me escapes into a world some only daydream of and I take you with me. Whether you listen streaming online at your cubicle at work or you yourself are grinding out a workout of your own.

I think my appeal will be just that. As I get out there and record my podcast, it is for those of you who run or those of you who aspire will be able to relate or grab little tidbits of the experience of long run. My intent is to inspire and motivate, to educate and commiserate. You know its great to read the blogs of the ultra distance elite like Krupicka and Meltzer but they probably feel no pain. And if they do they don’t let on about it. My podcast is stream of consciousness, moment by moment as the run unfolds. It is for the most part unscripted but sometimes researched ahead of time.

To paraphrase Steve Runner of the Phedippidations Podcast, Podcasting is about the community. It’s about expanding our own horizons and in the process expanding those of others. For me it is making the impossible seem possible, there are no boundaries just hurdles. I hope you enjoy my podcast and discover your dreams in the process.

Friday, June 6, 2008

My Podcast

I’ve decided to try Podcasting. It is a little more convenient than blogging because I can mix to worlds or running with blogging and record verbally instead of writing it out and editing. So far it has been a lot of fun. There is a huge learning curve and this is what I’ve learned so far.

On running and podcasting:
1) Clarity of speech is proportional to speed and exertion. The faster you go the harder you are to understand.
2) Lapel microphones are extremely touchy. Therefore I don’t use one!
3) The amount of background noise dictates the quality of the podcast.
4) Weather controls background noise. i.e. Rain, Wind, even rain slick streets
5) You’ve got to enunciate!
6) Notes or cue cards help to keep you on track.
7) People look at you funny when you appear to be talking to yourself.
8) It is harder to run and record on trails than on roads.
9) It is hard to understand a person running uphill.
10) Trails produce better sound quality than roads.

On podcast production:
1) The amount of time you want to spend editing increases proportionately with the quality of the product.
2) It may not be rocket science but there is a science to producing quality. Experience counts!
3) The closet makes for a great sound room.
4) The tiled floors and hardwood floors do not make great sound rooms.
5) A script although initially hard to follow, takes a lot of practice and keeps you on track.

I’ve learned a lot and still have a lot to learn. I plan to take my podcast all the way to Ethiopia and my first Ultra. So you’ll see a few less blog posts and more podcasts. Stay tuned.

My Podcast

I’ve decided to try Podcasting. It is a little more convenient than blogging because I can mix two worlds or running with blogging and record verbally instead of writing it out and editing. So far it has been a lot of fun. There is a huge learning curve and this is what I’ve learned so far.

On running and podcasting:
1) Clarity of speech is proportional to speed and exertion. The faster you go the harder you are to understand.
2) Lapel microphones are extremely touchy. Therefore I don’t use one!
3) The amount of background noise dictates the quality of the podcast.
4) Weather controls background noise. i.e. Rain, Wind, even rain slick streets
5) You’ve got to enunciate!
6) Notes or cue cards help to keep you on track.
7) People look at you funny when you appear to be talking to yourself.
8) It is harder to run and record on trails than on roads.
9) It is hard to understand a person running uphill.
10) Trails produce better sound quality than roads.

On podcast production:
1) The amount of time you want to spend editing increases proportionately with the quality of the product.
2) It may not be rocket science but there is a science to producing quality. Experience counts!
3) The closet makes for a great sound room.
4) The tiled floors and hardwood floors do not make great sound rooms.
5) A script although initially hard to follow, takes a lot of practice and keeps you on track.

I’ve learned a lot and still have a lot to learn. I plan to take my podcast all the way to Ethiopia and my first Ultra. So you’ll see a few less blog posts and more podcasts. Stay tuned.

Check it out I'm searchable on iTunes and there is a link in the title subject line to my Podbean feed.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My New Shoes

Shoes are always fun to buy. I am relentless at trying to find a good deal. My wife an I did some power shopping in Boca Raton down in Florida. Actually the mall we went to was about 45 minutes away. We were told that Sawgrass Mills Shopping Mall is like the third largest attraction is south Florida next to Disney World and Universal Studios.

There was 270 shops in all and I was on a hunt to find a new pair of Trail Shoes for the summer. My last pair did me well, Montrail Continental Divide. The only problem was my trail runs are half trail and half road and I wore out the outsole really quickly in my last pair.

The Salomon XT Wings are advertised as the perfect match to my needs. I read all the reviews. TrailRunner Magazine, Runners World, and even a few local ones all of them said the outsole was geared toward a bit of both.

So I found some for just under $110 in a discount shoe store. I couldn’t resist them they looked just like the picture in the ads in the magazine. You know the ones where they include an excerpt from some trail description of a badass race like Western States or Miwok 100.

Now after bringing them home, I’ve been wearing them around the house trying to get use to the funky lacing system. Thin Kevlar lace and a lace lock then you have to tuck the excess into a flap. The first couple of times I wore them too tight and the tops of my feet hurt from the pressure of the laces. Now you kind of have to remember how tight to pull and lock it into place.

The other thing that may take some getting use too is the pronation control feature. This translates into a soft arch support. I haven’t run in them yet but I’m worried the ‘arch support’ might rub a bit.and eventually cause blisters.

I wear them from the time I get home to the time I go to bed and they feel awesome. They literally fit like a glove.

I’ll keep you posted on how they do on the trail/roads.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I know why God gave us Trail Shoes

This past weekend I resumed my quest for ultra distance by hitting the trails. I had to take a momentary hiatus from the trails because of that darn Daylight Savings Time. A few months ago it was great I would start my runs in the dark run for an hour and hit the trailhead at sunrise. Then daylight savings time comes around and BAM it’s dark for another hour. So I went long on the roads for a while, then I got sick, then I went to Boca Raton and now I’m back at it.

My new long run starts out on the roads (as do all my runs). I run for about 5 ½ miles and I hit the trailhead at Bear Mountain. Bear Mountain is the local mountain biking downhill. It has its steep moments and the overall elevation gain is about 600 to 700 feet.
Some of the areas are washout from the spring runoff. It is those areas where I now appreciate a good trail shoe not so much for the ankle support or the toe protection but the stiffer sole that allows you to cruise over rocky surfaces.

I topped out after a mile or so and decided to look around. There is a whole network of fire roads that I have to explore. I wanted to keep my miles below 12 this run as it was my first long run in awhile. On the way down all the uneven surfaces slowed me down more than normal in my road shoes. I tended to roll over a bit more in my road shoes too.

Once back on the road it was the weirdest feeling to have your very flexible sole on a flat surface. The run ended up being 15 and change, so much for keeping it under 12. But at least I discovered new ground to cover. I think I’ll break in my Salomon’s on this trail.

All I have to do figure out how to attach my Nike+ Sensor to my Kevlar Laces. Duct Tape?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Vision Quest

I remember hearing about some native ritual from long ago whereby young men as passport to manhood are deprived of food and water and sent out to the wilderness alone. They starve and thirst and achieve a heightened sense of awareness and gain better focus on what is truly important or they die in the wilderness. They call it a Vision Quest. Tough love!

I believe the turning point or epiphany the young man observes has a lot to do with the deprivation of the normal, the material and survival goods that surround his everyday life.

For me this past week was full of epiphanies, if that’s possible. I’ve gone on week long business trips without family but I always have my running. You see I’m a runner. Running makes me normal. On my runs I find solace. On my runs my head become clearer thinking. So when I don’t run I go through several stages much like hunger. To take running away from me makes me less than normal. On the first day I yearn for it and miss it. On the second day I get cranky and pretty miserable to be around. On the third day I’m kind of weird almost like a constant confusion, a daze if you will. And that’s usually the most it ever goes because injuries are rare, sickness only last a few days and I’ll run on the cusp of recovery. Day Four never comes, I have never walked into the wilderness.

My company as a reward for the past years performance take the top ten reps on an all expenses paid trip to some plush resort. They then proceed to pamper said employee and their spouse to a weekend of decadence. This year I was so lucky to attend the weekend in Boca Raton, Florida.

This past week, as I said was full of epiphanies. Our whole family, even Nana was sick with a respiratory infection. Everybody went on some form of antibiotic, me being a mediphobe (fear of medication – my term) did not take any. So for three days I didn’t run. I was on the cusp of recovery, Day Four, when our trip to Boca Raton was scheduled. I walked into the wilderness on my Vision Quest.

Because of the time difference, jet lag, and social networking I didn’t run for the duration of the trip. I had a short 40 minute bout on a treadmill but treadmills just don’t count. By this time I was on day 5 of my Vision Quest.

My first epiphany was more of a point of clarity. The realization that my wife means everything to me became clearer than ever. We talked like when we first met, we hung out like we were the only two people in the World. We didn’t fight or argue. On the other end of the continent was our world, we were in the wilderness. We could survive and communicate and love each other without being entwined in our world. The epiphany part is that sometimes because of the daily routines and fast paced schedule of raising children, holding down a job to pay the mortgage and feed the kids. The romancing takes a back seat or at least sits in the side car on the motorcycle of life. With some people it’s lost altogether and never noticed until the kids are gone and there is no mortgage. But for us this trip reinforced our bond, our love.

I just wish it could be that way more often. I see glimpses of it in the twenty or so minutes between the time the last child goes to bed and we go to bed ourselves. Seeing that glimpse now makes me smile like it never use to.

I’m back running again. Vision Quest completed. Things are normal again, I have just gained greater focus.

I hope all of you who read this blog someday get a chance to get epiphanies like I did.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Keeping the Right Company

Tip One: Keep the right company.

As an ongoing series I reference “Leadville for Scratch” by Dougald MacDonald with my own insight into the world of ultramarathoning.

In his article the author advises to keep the right company or to run with people of your own ability. Author’s motivation for the tip is motivation. It can be demoralizing to run with people who are leaving you in the dust constantly as stated in the article.

I haven’t had a running partner in 8 years or so. There are definitely days when I could have used some butt kickin’ motivation.

I remember one running partner I had. Steve lived next door; right next door how convenient is that. We both lived at home and he was training for Ironman Canada. His motivation was always a little more than mine so that was great. His pace was similar to mine albeit maybe he was a little bit faster. After Ironman he kind of stopped training for a little while and I eventually moved out. Good times while it lasted. I wonder what ever happened to Steve? Maybe I'll Facebook him? That was the one of the last training partners I had.

The last training partner I had was Mike. We were both training for our first marathons and we did our long runs together. I truly struggled with Mike because he was incredibly fast for a newbie. I think he place third in his age group or something like that in his first marathon. It was truly impressive. His time was 2:45 or something and mine was like 3:57. So you can imagine our training runs his easy pace was my marathon race pace. That was my lesson in demoralizing.

Since then my training partners have always been dogs. When you get up to run at 5 am its not easy to rally and takers on a 7 miler. Koda however is always willing to go. His tail starts wagging as soon as the Timex Ironman alarm goes off. It drives my wife nuts if I take more than a minute to roll out of bed because tails are whacking the walls and little Miniature Schnauzer is pawing the bed. I’m amused, my wife . . . not so much!

I think if I had the opportunity to run with a group or even a partner I don’t think I would. Taking my dog for runs is motivation enough and besides he always lets my set the pace.

Keep the Right Company. Yep! I got this one down.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How far can your dog run?

How far can your dog run?
I recently read a post by Bad Ben, the Kansas City Trail Nerd. His journeys and musings about the ultra world just plain old fascinate me. But the post that made me cry was one that eulogized his dog. An obvious dog lover I empathized with him and questioned my personal pursuits with my dog’s ambitions and motivations. Was I doing him more harm than good?

My golden retriever is a great dog. A running dog, he is close to three years old and together we’ve put in a couple of thousand miles or more. Lately I’ve pondered the question how far is too far for a dog. When people hear about how far we run they say that that’s too far for a dog to run.

Several factors I keep in back of my little brain in our training for an ultra distance event.
1) Build up mileage gradually. Koda and I have a good base we taken quite a few months to build up to our 20+ miles on Saturday. And for now we are completely resting the day after. We run about 45 miles a week in total.
2) Hydration. I’ve tried bringing collapsible bowls and his own water supply but it’s like the old adage says “you can lead a dog to water but you can’t make him drink”. Many gallons of water have been hauled around for not. These days I make sure I run by clean running streams no deeper than his paws. Koda is a swimmer and will lie down in puddles if I let him. He doesn’t always drink but I still give him ample opportunity to drink something.
3) Nutrition. Like me Koda has to re-fuel on the run. I prefer gels but have recently explored the gel blocks. I never use to think this was a big deal until I started feeding him Sharkies. Koda loves Sharkies and I prefer Clif Shot Bloks. It got to be pretty expensive as we literally shared 50/50. So due to my needs I was buying twice as much as I needed. Yesterday’s long run I bought dog biscuits. Nutro Lamb & Rice the same brand of food that he eats. I also checked the label to make sure it is high in protein, 23% by weight. It didn’t seem to upset his stomach so I think we’re on track.
4) Heat. So far are build up has been gradual and during the fall, winter and spring months. Last summer I was only doing 10 milers on Saturday. But I also run at 5 am before sunrise so its cold even in the summer here on the west coast. My concerns with heat are dehydration, over heating, and blistering his paws. All these can be concerning but I run more trails in the summer and there is usually streams and ponds to cool off in. My golden retriever is usually a brown retriever after a few pond swims. I think its funny, my wife . . . not so much!
5) Age. Like I said Koda is only 3 years old. As a big dog I know he won’t be around forever. But I also know that keeping him active will keep him lean and help prevent things like arthritis and hip dysplasia and other ailments for big dogs.

Eventually I know that there will come a time where I’ll have to leave him at home. I am not looking forward to this and I know he will put up a huge fuss. But in the mean time I plan to live in the moment and enjoy every run and laugh at every pond swim and take care of him all along the way.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Magazines are like treasure

I always keep my back issues of magazines. The cheap part of me won’t let go. Much like old running shoes who end up in the shoe closet after their useful life, magazines pile up in all the likely spots: the bathroom, the bedside table, under the coffee table, and the glove compartment of my minivan. I figure I paid as much as $8 for these conduits of information and although the information has passed from page to brain cell I just can’t discard and recycle. It drives my wife nuts as the stacks build up over time. Secretly I know she tries to recycle them while I’m not watching but luckily for me I take the recycling out the curb. Many a TrailRunner magazine has been save from the clutches of the big blue recycling truck.

On a recent shopping trip, shopping for my wife, I elected to sit in the car, I rediscovered an old TrailRunner with an article about running your first hundred miler, “Leadville from Scratch” by Dougald MacDonald. An excellent article with some great tips I’m going to explore before I run my ultra.

I liked the way that it had the subheadings and a short vignette into his own experiences. I think over the next couple of months I’m going to explore each point and give my own interpretation of the tip. To summarize without re-writing the article the tips were:

1) Keep the right company
2) Build a base
3) Focus on the long runs
4) Learn to walk
5) Eat right
6) Experiment with gear
7) Run at night
8) Train on the course
9) Use a crew and pacers
10) Take a break
11) Try, try again

The magazine has proven to be a good reference long after I first bought it two years ago. If only I could see eye to eye with my wife on these treasures of information.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Shoes

Oh the shoes! The shoes. I wear one type of shoes Asics Gel GT 21##. I call them the ## because the last two digits change every year and every ten years they change that second digit too. I’ve more or less run in these shoes since they were GT 2010s. They are currently at 2130 so that’s about twelve years. I’ve strayed away once or twice lured away by some clever marketing scheme but I always come back. And of course during the summer I do a lot more trails so the trail shoes come out on the steep, muddy and rocky stuff.

I usually read every magazine article on shoe reviews and I always hunt for a bargain. But I always stick with what I know and don’t leave much to experimentation. When you have five mouths to feed, shoes can become quite an expense. I always try and get the most mileage I can out of my shoes. Usually near the end of the life of the shoe an unusual ache or pain crops up and that is the end of the shoe, on to a new pair. I use to get about 300 miles out of a pair. Now with being more consistent in training and a lot more frugal I can stretch it out to nearly 500 miles. My current pair is just over 400 miles so they are due for a change. Psychosomatically after looking at my mileage I can feel my shins ache.

I don’t know what it is but I guess the cushioning loses it rebound. I know that the outsole does wear thin and you end up with less tread. But my argument is this, if the shoes wear out gradually over time and there are barefoot runners out there with even less cushioning then my shoes. Why does my sorry ass have to change out shoes every 400 miles. I mean come on if I could run barefoot I would but I can’t but why can’t this gradual degrading of my cushioning end with my toes coming through the bottom instead of shin splints or sore knees. But I digress.

Up here in Canada, shoe retailers haven’t caught on to the fact that it is a global economy. Our Canadian dollar for the longest time was worth less than the US dollar at one point as low as 60 cents. These days it is about at par with the US dollar, dollar for dollar. My 2130s up here retail for about $149. I’ve seen them as high as $159 in the spring and as low as $139 in the winter. I live about twenty minutes from the border or the UPS guy knows to leave packages inside the door. In either case the same shoes are $95 USD. If I pay duty, I’m still ahead of the game

Ouch there goes the shooting pain in my shin. It doesn’t happen until after the run. Oh well. Good bye old friends it off to the shoe closet.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Mileage Junkie

What’s wrong with being a mileage junkie?

I’m a bit obsessed right now. I think all runner’s are bit obsessive compulsive in nature. Not to make light of the psychological disorder I am very serious. I don’t believe that in this world or pigeon hole labels that there is black and white merely differing shades of gray. So when I say I’m obsessive compulsive, that brings about the qualifying question of “To what degree?”

Well thank you for asking. I am currently obsessed with mileage. More is better, right now more feels better. I’ve been doing twenty milers on the weekends and I just love it. Now I just want to get more miles in the week. I’m not a rookie runner I know there will be a breaking point. The key is to back off before you break.

I’ve always been fascinated by world class runners or even the recreational hardcore runners who do 100 miles in a week. It sounds insane when you currently run less then half of that. It sounds impossible when you are running less than a quarter of that.

Three months ago I probably ran 20 to 25 miles week. I would run five or maybe six times but usually five times. My week would consist of four 4 milers and an 8 to 10 miler on the weekend for a total of 24 to 26 miles. If I missed a run because of work sometimes it would drop down to less than 20.

So when you hear about people running 100 miles in a week you wonder how. Some run twice a day. A lot of them run everyday twice a day. And of course they run a lot farther than 4 miles at a time. It’s more like 10 miles in the morning, 5 miles in the afternoon for five days a week and then a long run of twenty something and an easy 5 miles to fill it in.
That would make a hundred. That would kill me.

But I am obsessed with increasing my mileage. My key now is to increase the duration of my mid week runs. I’ve been doing the same loop for a while now it is 4.3 miles. It has become kind of fun, you know to compare your times run after run at certain checkpoints and to see if you can duplicate the exact distance on your Nike+.

Now I’m ready for a new challenge. From this point forward none of my mid week runs will be less than 5 miles. In a couple of months none of my mid week runs will be less than 6 miles. That’s probably where I’ll draw the line. I know past that point my body will start to break down. I will throw in the occasional mid week 10 miler but not too often.

My long runs I want to build up to 30 miles. Like I said before I’m getting pretty comfortable with 20 milers and I’ve found a great out and back route that I can add the extra miles on to.

So do the math, if I can get four runs of 6 miles and a 30 miler in one week that totals up to 56 miles. If I do an extra 6 miler that’s 62 and that is where my junkie-ness will be satisfied.

Friday, February 29, 2008


I’ve done two sessions of Fartlek on this training cycle. I just love that word, Fartlek. As I type this I find myself amused at the little red squiggle that means it won’t pass through spell check unabated. Fartlek is a Swedish word for speed play. Part of me wants to ask which syllable is speed and which is play. But I digress.

I am currently doing 5 intervals of two on and two off, meaning two minutes on at whatever pace I can hold comfortably knowing that I’ve got 4 more intervals to go and about 4 miles of total distance to cover.

I’ve never really understood how some of these articles can say 85% of your lactate threshold or 65% or whatever. Just as bad are the articles and books that say to run your 10K pace or your 5K pace I think that is way too technical. I think that you should run bearing in mind you have that many intervals and that distance to cover so go as hard as you can without having to walk on the off’s. Run like Hell and don’t walk!

Put it this way, any 5K or 10K road race you are going to enter will invariably be planned on a fairly flat course. A ‘fast’ course will also have some fairly long straight stretches with few turns to slow you down. All this planning in an effort to get the runners a personal record in ideal conditions. Now let’s for arguments sake say that you ran an 8:00 per mile pace. Is this what you call your 10K pace?

Now let’s take that 8:00 minute pace and turn it into real life Fartlek. You can plan your training runs to be as flat as race courses but that hardly happens. It usually ends up being a route with a less traffic, some nice scenery, and no loose dogs. My particular routes tend to have a few hills in them.

Needless to say when it’s two on and two off you can not control when or if the two’s coincide with a steep uphill, downhill, flat section or any combination of the aforementioned. Trying to hold that 8:00 minute pace becomes a whole lot harder.

This is speed play folks, the key word being play. The reason I enjoy Fartlek aside from the giggle I get when I say Fartlek is that is like playing and it isn’t as serious as a track workout. Run like Hell and never walk that’s the game.

My Season Plans

For what ever the reasons I can slowly see my season coming to an end before it even starts. It sounds ominous because it is only February and I’m planning my race season that may never be. This was the year that I wanted to do my first ultramarathon. I’ve trained hard in the early months of January or February. I’ve got my mileage up to a good base and have begun my speed work. My long runs are hitting 20+ so I’m probably the fittest I’ve been since my last marathon three years ago. So what going wrong?

To answer that question it’s more of a what’s going right question instead. My family is adopting a little girl from Ethiopia. The time line for adoption is vague at best. Each part of the process as a rule has to be complete before the next step can begin. It’s 2 weeks to 6 months for this and 6 to 12 weeks for that. If you total them all up it could be either really short or really long. I’m guessing somewhere in the middle which is like the fall. At this point my wife and I travel to Ethiopia and pick up our daughter. The exact date or even an approximate date is way to sketchy to call right now. The travel date could actually “pop up” things may align perfectly and we get a travel date with less than a month’s notice. If I were to schedule or plan for a race in the fall it would be a gamble. I wouldn’t want to be 12 weeks into a 16 week program to find that I won’t be there for it.

So because my fitness is good right now I wanted to do an spring race or even an ultra. I normally do the Spring Ahead Half but this year I won some sales award and my wife and I are flying to Boca Raton for that weekend. Looking at the local Ultra Schedule I came up with the following excuses for not entering.

Dirty Duo – is this weekend. My fitness is good but not great.
Diez Vista Ultra –April 6th. Same weekend as Boca and sold out.
Elk Beaver Lake Ultra – In May is on Vancouver Island. A return ferry ride for a family of five ($170) plus kenneling cost for two dogs ($32/day). Hotel cost $125. I could go cheap. Go by myself and walk on ($20). Camp $10 but still to leave my wife and kids for a weekend would not go over well.
Knee Knackering Trail Run –Sold out
Scorched Sole Ultra – June 7th- I thought heavily about this one. It’s in Kelowna about 2 ½ hours away. I had frequent traveler miles for a free hotel stay. Then the family wanted to go to Seattle for Spring Break and that ate up the traveler miles. And my sons may tentatively have a swim meet that weekend. Crap!

My last hope is STORMY! No really that’s the name of the race STORMY. Squamish Test of Real Mettle Yeah or something like that. It’s on August 9th which is the week after Regionals. It is also a week after our anniversary, the week before my wife’s birthday and four days before mine.

Now all I have to do is ask my wife for her support. I’ve got to get all my ducks in a row before I ask because I’m sure she’ll pull out all stops. I could camp in Alice Lake Provincial Park or the family could stay in Whistler and I could drive down. Or we could all stay in a hotel in Squamish. But once again there is the cost $125/night for a hotel, $32/day for a kennel but at least no ferry ride. It is all the way into August too. That is six months away. It could be close to travel date.

The race calendar after that is the season finale Walk in the Park in Kamloops on August 31st my son’s birthday. That is followed by the Endurance Challenge in Bellingham just after Labour Day. But like I said before our travel date could ‘pop up’ and I don’t want to be in the middle of training when we have to go suddenly.

So there you have it the BC Ultra Calendar as I see it or don’t see it. Of course there is also some races in Washington State which I would have to travel to.

Monday, February 18, 2008

It's All Good

I went for my long run Saturday. I was still feeling a little under the weather trying to beat this cold. I did 4 miles on Friday and 13 miles on Saturday. On Sunday, true to my word I re-tested my calibration. I warmed with about a mile run out to the track. I set my Nike+ for 2.00 km which is 5 laps of a 400 meter track and off I went.

I was almost bang on for the 2000 meters. In fact I was probably out by about a step. I felt relieved to know my mileage was not fraudulent after all.

I was feeling good about the mileage calibration being accurate. So I decided to lay it on the line and do an all out mile according to my calibration verified Nike+. Okay this was a mistake. First of all I didn’t dog the 2km that I ran around the track. Second I didn’t dress the part as I was wearing a jacket, Dri-Fit long sleeve, and running pants. So with about a minutes rest I gave it all.

You know the funny thing about looking at those squiggly graphs after you download you data is that it is so accurate of your second by second paces. That is exactly what my graph looked like to a squiggly line. Not some undulating wave with an overall increasing trend. I’m talking about peak-valley-peak-valley and so on. I could feel my self waning as the laps progressed.

But yet here is the next conundrum, when my Nike+ voice lady came on to say, “Half way point I had completed two full laps plus I was already on the bend. Hmm! When she came on to say “Congratulations you’ve completed blah blah blah” I was standing at the corner of the football field’s end zone. Hmm! So I paced it back to the start and came up with 114 paces. With an average pace of about 3 feet give or take I was at least 300 feet past the 1600 meter mark.

One mile is not 1600 meters but its close. I believe it is 13 meters longer which is about 40 feet not 300.

So what does this tell you? Obviously my stride opens up on short sprints as do most peoples. This is probably why Nike+ doesn’t list a one miler as one of the preset distances.

I know I’m dwelling way too much on this. In fact I got a post from SLB+ a man of infinite miles and a lot of wisdom who said “Don’t let it chew you up”, and if I wanted real accuracy to go with a GPS like Garmin or Suunto. Thanks SLB+

P.S. In any case Joan Benoit Samuelson gave the congrats at the end of my mile+ too. Sweet!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Am I a Mileage Fraud?

I think I’m a little anal retentive when it comes to mileage. When I first got my new Nike+ I was sure to calibrate it. I wanted every mile to be earned. Out to the track I went. The local track is is your basic 400 meter oval and I went for the requisite 400m trip around. I was sure to warm up first because I wanted my stride to be natural. I went for a lap, pressed stop and I got an error message. I did this several times with the preset 400m distance to no avail. Finally I punched in a custom distance of 0.4 km and off I went. By now I had run about 3 miles before I finished my calibration for 400m but I got it done.

Now some 25 runs later and about a 160 plus miles later, I find myself stuck in a winter wonderland of Kelowna. The sidewalks were covered in ice and so I retreated to the treadmill. I start my Nike+ and the treadmill at roughly the same time. After the first mile on my iPod the treadmill says 0.95 miles. WTF At first I thought maybe I didn’t start them at the same time after all. So I kept going fully expecting the two mile mark to come in at the 1.95 miles (taking into account my starting error). Much to my chagrin it came in at 1.90 mile, once again a full 0.05 miles off.

Needless to say after 5 miles on the Nike+, the treadmill was reading 4.75 miles. WTF! Is all my mileage off by 5%. Am I a mileage fraud? I’m going to re-test my mileage on a track. Maybe the treadmill needs calibrating. I’m going to run 2000 meters on the track which is exactly 5 laps. I’ll see exactly what the Nike+ reads and if it is still under I’ll re-calibrate at a longer distance like 2000 meters. If it is close or over then I’ll leave it. Oh the horror of being a Mileage Fraud.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Running Friends

I don’t have running friends. I am trying to establish running friends in the blogosphere. I would then have virtual friends. I have some friends but they don’t run. I don’t have a lot of friends. If you go by Facebook I’m still in the double digits. Actually I’m less than 50 on Facebook. That’s fine by me.

Some of my friends are starting to run. I think the greatest source of pride amongst friends occurs when you are recognized by what you do. For example if you were a car enthusiast and a friend made a point of telling you he just went to the car show. Naah bad example.

Let me tell you my story anyway. My friend Kevin (not his real name) is not a runner. I’m not sure why he started running he just did. I think he’s going to run the Sun Run which is one of the largest 10K’s in Canada if not North America. But he came up to me and told me he ran two miles on the treadmill. He said it with pride and I was proud of him and I told him so. Okay . . .I’m looking at what I just wrote and it sounds kind of stupid but you would have to understand Kevin. He never initiates conversation with anyone but when he does it is because he has something to say. He doesn’t babble and he’s not a chit chat kind of person. So for him to actually come out and tell me that he ran two miles was obviously a point of pride.

I think my pride stems from him identifying me as runner and thinking enough of me to share his pride. That’s cool.

A similar occurrence happens with another friend of mine, Norm (not his real name either). Norm is now a bona fide runner. He wasn’t always he was more of a cyclist. Then one day he decided to run on the track (which he told me about right away. . . cool). For the first few months he ran in these old run down cross trainer thingy’s. And then one day he made the leap to bona fide runner by buying real $150 running shoes. Now I knew he was serious. Today, he always make a point of discussing his runs with me. He’s been very consistent with his runs. I think he runs a couple of times a week possibly as much as four but he’s getting up there and that is really cool.

One day I’d like to run with them. I ask to go with them or invite them to go with me but just haven’t hooked up yet. Maybe they are intimidated maybe it is something else. Maybe one day. Until that day I will have my virtual friends.


It’s been a whirlwind past two weeks both personally and meteorologically. In the past two weeks we took it upon ourselves to decorate our little girls room in a weekend which I blogged about in our other blog. I think I’ve run about 50 miles in the past ten days which to some isn’t a lot but it’s good for me.

The Saturday before last weekend I ran 14. I ran in Cincinnati last Monday and Tuesday. 10 miles Monday and 3 miles Tuesday. I didn’t run Wednesday or Thursday. I ran 4 on Friday. I ran 12 on Saturday in the snow and rested on Sunday after the snow. I ran 4 today.

Funny thing is I just checked my Nike+ on my iPod and I am missing some workouts. I seem to have lost Monday’s run and Friday’s run and Saturday’s run. I am pretty sure I have synced my iPod. I hate when I sync my iPod and the iPod freezes or iTunes freezes. It is only since installing Nike+ that this has happened. I know they downloaded because they are on the Nikeplus site.

Friday, January 18, 2008

My new Nike+

My new Nike+ is cool. I’m a gadget geek I’ll admit it I am a self confessed gadget geek. I think it comes with gender I’m not sure. I’d being willing to bet that the lion’s share of geeks out there are men. I use to run with a Forerunner which is a GPS watch. It looked kind of like a hockey puck on my wrist but it worked sort of.

I think I’m one of those runners who has to measure every workout. Not to say I stare incessantly at my watch to get split times but at the end I like to see how far and how long it took. I usually start some sort of measuring device at the beginning and don’t look at it until I’m at the end. Whether it’s the stopwatch on my wristwatch or the Garmin Forerunner I simply had to know. It was a basis for comparison. I would record it either in a journal or calendar or spreadsheet and compare the time with previous times.
Some days I would benchmark thinking that run felt awful I would record my time and sure enough it was an awful time. I wasn’t addicted to the gizmos . . . well okay I still am but I didn’t need them. There were and still are some days where I would just go out and run.

The Forerunner was great. It served my purpose fulfilled my need for knowledge but there were several annoying things about the Forerunner that made me leave it for a Nike+:

1) The Forerunner 101 is one of the first GPS device Garmin put out for sport use. As such the receiver was old and took a long time to find a signal from the satellite network up in the heavens. This was extremely annoying when its freezing, windy, and raining and you are out on your driveway at 5 am waiting for your signal strength to be adequate.
2) It’s probably better for the 205 and the 305 but I kept getting the message signal strength is weak. I always thought that although the signal was weak that somehow it would continue to measure and extrapolate the distance. I mean come on it’s not rocket science. I am going 7.4 mph which is 39072 ft/hr or 10.85 ft/s. If I lose signal for 30 seconds I should travel a distance of 325.5 ft or 0.06 miles. But guaranteed I would get a weak signal on at least 80% of the runs. And my mileage would vary. I do the same route every weekday morning on my Nike+ the distance varies by no more than 0.01 miles. The same route on my Garmin has varied by 0.4 miles. The route is only 4.3 miles so that is roughly ± 5%.
3) I could never download from my 101 although 201 and above is capable of this information. These models are also capable of plotting your route which never really interested me. I don’t need to know where I’ve been. I know where I’ve been.
4) The Forerunner 101 was a bargain at <$100. The models above that cost significantly more. I believe the 205 is around $200 and the 305 is close to $250. The Nike+ retails for $40. An iPod Nano retails for $150.

That being said the Nike+ does not plot maps, nor does it do elevation, there is no functionality for heart rate.

I also like the Nike+ website where I download all my info too. I like the challenges and have already signed up for several.

If you have an iPod already I highly recommend getting a Nike+. It’ll be so much fun.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The new iPod

When Christmas came I was extremely pleased with what my wonderful wife gave me for Christmas. From my last post you knew that I had my iPod stolen from my car. Well guess what I got for Christmas. Yup you guessed a new iPod. But just not any iPod, I got the new 3rd generation Nano, which is a cut above my old Nano. For all those who have an iPod they already know how much better the new 3rd generation is. But for those who don’t . . . well let me tell you the 3rd generation has 4 Gigabytes for the same price as my old Nano’s 2 gigabytes. The screen is bigger because it plays video. I don’t know much more except it seems smaller and lighter than my old Nano. Although my old Nano was like an old friend was being taken away I feel almost guilty in saying my new friend is better. Yup I was really happy on Christmas morning.

Accessorizing my new friend does come at a cost you see the new 3rd generation is a completely different shape so any wallet or cases or other accessories made for previous generations won’t fit the new one. I think Steve Job’s does this on purpose to get kickbacks from the accessories manufacturers. I had this bomb proof case for my old Nano made by H²0 Technologies or something like that. It was clear hard plastic with a waterproof seal that totally encased the iPod so that the controls were through a weatherproof wheel cover. It was cool but it was about $75 to replace up here. The cool thing about the case was it had a belt clip, an arm band and was near waterproof. I could wear this thing in the pouring rain and not worry about damaging it. I ruined my very first iPod shuffle in the rain. So I was in the market for a cheaper replacement that could protect my new found friend.

Also around this time, actually it was during the time I was in mourning; I saw this add for a Nike+ shoe pod wallet. I light went on in my tiny little brain that I didn’t need to own a pair of Nike’s to take advantage of the Nike+ Technology. I’m sure that Phil Knight will get over it.

So now I wanted a Nike+ for my new friend. In Canada unlike in the US we get Boxing Day off. I believe there must be some long since lost historical significance to Boxing days but these days Boxing Day in Canada has come to mean Sale Day. A chance for retailers to grab the last bit of cash that consumers didn’t spend prior to Christmas. You have to really love shopping to go out into the mayhem of Boxing. . .So while Jenny was off Boxing Day shopping I asked her to look for a deal on the Nike+. If there was a deal to be found Jenny and her shopping savvy was going to find it.

The sign said 20% off everything in the store, no asterisk, no fine print. She proceeded to purchase a Nike+ kit and the clerk was almost certain that the 20% didn’t apply to the technology items. But when the sign says sale and there’s no fine print don’t mess with my wife. Needless to say I got a Nike+ kit for $32 which is 20% cheaper than anywhere else that day. I love my wife’s shopping ability. Born to shop!

My ensemble was made complete a few days later when picked up an iPod cover. Although it wasn’t nearly as waterproof as my old one it was a $50 cheaper than a waterproof case and it had a belt clip. I was still able to use the armband from my old setup so now I was styling.
Now all I had to do was go running