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Run Club

April 29, 2013 1 comment
Queens Park, Toronto

Queens Park, Toronto

I’ve now lived in Toronto for just over 48 hours.  The apartment is still full of boxes and we’re still learning our way around.  But so far, I am really happy here.

This morning I walked to work.  Walked.  It may have been misty outside, and may have taken me 30 minutes, but I walked.  It was so much nicer than the 75 minute drive I’ve become used to.  What a wonderful treat to not commute, but to walk.  Sometimes the little things make such a difference!

A friend of ours who lives here in town invited my wife and I to join her for the Lululemon Run Club.  That’s right folks – I stepped inside a Lululemon store.  Pigs are flying somewhere, I’m sure.

logo-lululemon

Admittedly, I was apprehensive about going at first – not because the group was based out of a store that is so far outside my normal shopping routine – but because it involved running in a group, where others’ experiences are impacted by my running speed.  I’ve always thought of myself as too slow, too much of a burden to other runners to join a group.

This was a lot of fun.

Monday evening Run Club is billed as a 5km run… what they don’t mention is that it’s not just a 5km tempo run, but a different set of drills activities.  Today we ran from the store over to Queens Park (~2.5km away).  We were told the theme of the day would be “Long and Strong”, but not told the activity until we arrived.  Fun!

Queens Park is oval shaped, with a path roughly 800m around the edge.  The drill activity was simple – pair up with another runner of roughly equal ability and take turns running the loop for 20 minutes.  Run it hard so that your partner doesn’t get too long of a rest, then rest while they run the loop hard.  It was effectively a variation on fartlek/interval training, but with a fun, social, almost competitive twist.  And there was another runner in the group close enough to my skill level for me to pair with (without worrying that I was making her wait too long while I ran my laps).

Go figure – fun, social, and training all at the same time!

RunGroup

My first run in Toronto was pretty great – a park I wouldn’t have gone to had I run on my own, some speed work I wasn’t expecting, and a fun group of people to chat with.  This just may become a regular part of my Monday training schedule.

~DO’G

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April Snow

April 24, 2013 1 comment
The view from my office... that's snow...

The view from my office… that’s snow…

Today is Wednesday, April 24th.  Last week we warmed up to over 24°C.  Now it is 5°C… and snowing.  I didn’t even bring a coat to work today – I didn’t expect it to get so cold, and so wet, and so crappy.

*sigh*  No bike ride for me tonight.

At least the outlook for the upcoming week looks good.  A little sunshine would go a long way right about now.

weatherToronto130424

I think what amazes me the most about this weather is that we’re a week away from May – only 6.5 weeks out from my first Triathlon race of the season… and it’s snowing.  I can’t imagine how cold that open water swim is going to be.  Lakes simply don’t warm up that quickly.  I wasn’t planning on investing in a wetsuit this season – I figured my skill level could justify one more season before the expense was worthwhile.  But I can’t imagine swimming out there in just over 6 weeks time!

I think I need a hot chocolate just thinking about it…

– DO’G

Finding Balance

April 23, 2013 1 comment

finding balance

 

It’s been a week since my last post, eh?  Crap… gotta work on that…

Truth is I don’t have a lot to say these days, which really is a testament to how little training I’ve been doing.

See that blank space above 4/22... it's been a slow start to the week...

See that blank space above 4/22… it’s been a slow start to the week…

Life has been a perfect storm in the past few weeks – work has gotten uncharacteristically busy for this time of year, and the house has transformed into the organized chaos that comes in the week leading up to a move.  I’m struggling to find the balance between training and life’s other commitments.

My kitchen is quickly filling up with boxes

My kitchen is quickly filling up with boxes

The picture above is actually a few days old.  I have the best of intentions of frequent blogging – but boy am I low on energy when I do get down time.

I had a conversation with my wife the other day.  We talked about a paradigm shift in our training.  Up until now, I’ve only ever trained for races of increasing distance… A sprint Tri with a 5k run -> a sprint Tri Du with 5k & 2.5k runs -> a 10k run -> a Half Marathon (21.1k) -> and finally a 30k run.  The goal has always been to finish (and hopefully with a bit of dignity while doing it).

My next race is the Sporting Life 10k run, which is a little under 3 weeks away.  I’ve done a 10k distance before – hell, I’ve run longer than that.  It’s very tempting in my training to think that this will be easy. “I’ve done that distance before!  I can do it again”

But the goal is no longer to finish.  For the first time in my life, I’m not guaranteed a Personal Best simply for crossing the finish line.  The goal is to get better – to get faster.  And that’s a whole different way of training than when your goal is simply to finish.

I’ve started doing targeted training (well, when I do any training that is… see the graph above with NOTHING so far this week and very little the weeks before).  No longer doing only steady state runs each time I go out the door – now there’s a plan: LSD (long slow distance) runs, fartleks, tempo runs – these are all now my friends.  My time in the pool is no longer just about fitness and endurance – technique drill work, sprints, kick drills – these are my friends too.

But where I’m coming up short so far is the bike.  My poor bike – still hasn’t had it’s tires pumped up yet from the winter.  Between the weather (which really hasn’t agreed that winter is completely gone yet, though I keep hoping we’re getting close… please?…), and the busy schedule there just hasn’t been time.  I’ve gotten a few spin sessions in on a stationary bike at the gym – good for a bit of leg strength, but not nearly the same as time in the saddle.  I actually miss my bike.

from my September 2012 duathlon...  I haven't been on my bike sine...

from my September 2012 duathlon… I haven’t been on my bike since…

Last year I emphasized my run training at the expense of time on the bike.  It did wonders for my running skill, but my bike split suffered.  This year I need to give the bike a little bit of love.

Today the sun is bright and it’s going up to 15°C – a perfect afternoon to break her out for the first time this year… if only I wasn’t stuck in this cubicle.  *sigh*  Maybe with a little luck I can sneak out of work early avoid being stuck in the office late and get home with enough time for a quick 20k on the bike before packing a few more boxes.  It’s all about finding balance in life, and in training.  I’ll feel a lot better if I can finally get my bike on the road (and my wife will feel a lot better if I pack a damn box or two).

– DO’G

The Impact of Boston

April 16, 2013 Leave a comment
Boston, MA

Boston, MA

Image from www.tv.com

I wanted to wait 24 hours before commenting on the tragic end to the 2013 Boston Marathon.  There have been many posts, and tweets, and Facebook comments about it – I’ve seen a wide range of responses.  Here’s my perspective:

Like many people I went through a cycle of emotions yesterday afternoon: shock, grief, sadness, and fear.  I consider myself part of the running and racing community.  Today, my community is putting the pieces back together.

I for one did not personally know anyone running this year, but my thoughts and prayers go out to those who did.  What was supposed to be a day of celebration – of joy, and achievements and accomplishments – turned into chaos.

Yesterday afternoon, once I had had enough of the news, I decided to go out and run.  I didn’t know how else to make sense of this senseless chaos except to run – to go out and partake in the very activity that was attacked.  I ran 10k, not watching any pace or heart rate stats.  I put my music on and ran.  I ran down by the water front.  I ran past a local bakery (and stopped my run to text a friend about it).  I ran with a smile on my face the whole time.  And when I looked at my watch at the end of the run, I had even run a personal best time.

Chaos cannot take running away from us.  Chaos cannot take community away from us.  Chaos cannot take away that which brings us together in celebration – in joy, and achievements and accomplishments.  Chaos cannot take away spirit.

Boston will rebuild.  The running community will recover.  We will all run again. 

Maybe next year I’ll make the Boston Triathlon my destination race.  I’ve always wanted to visit Boston.  I still do.  I’d love to race there – to toe the starting line with the Boston race community.  I’m sure next year’s Boston Marathon will be a strong and proud event.  I can’t wait to watch!

– DO’G

Friday Stray Thoughts

April 12, 2013 3 comments

FridayImage by Glenn McCoy

Happy Friday everyone!  For those of you looking for a little light internet distraction to tide you over until quitting time, here’s a Few Stray Thoughts for your Friday Afternoon

– – – – –

This weather sucks.  Seriously!!!  It’s April!  I should not have to scrape ice off of my car!!!

weatherHamilton130412

It’s actually a bit better than it was yesterday (at least the temperatures are a hair above freezing today, and look like they’re headed in the right direction).  But it looks like a seriously wet week.

I can deal with cold.  I can deal with rain.  But cold rain is pretty much the worse, and freezing rain is about as cold as it gets!  I’d almost rather have snow!

WHINE!!!!!!

I generally expect April to be when I can dust my bike off for the season – 1 ride the first week of April, 2 the 2nd, 3 the 3rd, and by the 4th week I should be doing 4 rides/week.  I know “April Showers Bring May Flowers”… but they don’t bring happy cyclists!  And I don’t think April Freezing Rain brings anything good at all…

– – – – –

I love this event!  Unfortunately, I’m late to the table blogging about the event, and it’s sold out (though there’s a wait list if you live in the area and have kids who might be interested)…

TriGator4Kids is a triathlon event for kids aged 3-14 designed to promote fun, activity, and participation.  Nobody is timed.  Everyone gets a finisher’s prize.  And all proceeds go to charities raising funds to get underprivileged kids into sports!  The race is organized in a safe and inclusive environment designed for kids and introducing them to the fun of the sport.

trigator2013distances

I think this is incredible!  I’ve been in touch with the organization to see if I can volunteer and help out (although the upcoming move to Toronto may put a kink in that plan, but I’ll still see what I can do).  This seems to me like everything that is good in our sport, all in one place: introducing kids to the sport and physical fitness at a young age, promoting the fun and accomplishment of the sport, and raising money for the community.  I really hope I can fit it into my schedule to help out.

– – – – –

awesomekeys

I wouldn’t normally post a link to a business article on this blog, but bear with me on this one…

This article came across my desk this morning: The 6 Keys to Being Awesome At Everything, posted in Business Insider.  The author is relating what he’s learned about improving skills in business functions to what he’s learned about improving skills in his tennis game, and extrapolates that the same skills can be used to become better at anything… say, public speaking, or learning a musical instrument, or… TRIATHLON (okay, I’m making this last connection here… value for your money folks!)

The points are pretty general, but I’ll grant him they’re true – probably nothing we haven’t all heard before, but also probably something we should all read again.

  1. Pursue what you love
  2. Do the hardest work first
  3. Practice intensely
  4. Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses
  5. Take regular renewal breaks
  6. Ritualize practice

Take a read at what he says about each of these.  It’s a good reminder of the basic fundamentals of what we’re all trying to do to improve (even if triathlon isn’t what you’re improving on – whatever your skill or hobby is, this probably applies).  Myself in particular, I identified with item #4 – Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses (aka: reading blogs and training articles for hours on end is overwhelming as hell!  Maybe I should stop reading so much and get out and train).

He also makes one other point that I’ve heard before (though I can’t remember where, though at least this author has a reference, so let’s go with that for now…)

Numerous researchers now agree that 10,000 hours of such practice as the minimum necessary to achieve expertise in any complex domain.

10,000 hours, huh?  So let’s say I do 8 hours of training on average per week (which, probably, is more than I actually do).  That’s 416 hours of training per year.  At this rate it’ll take me 24+ years before I become an “expert” triathlete…

… as I said, maybe I should stop reading so much and get out and train.

Have a great weekend everybody!

– DO’G

Destination: Toronto (For Keeps)

April 9, 2013 Leave a comment

TorontoHome

Sometimes life takes us down strange and unexpected paths.  Sometimes those paths cause a great deal of anxiety and stress at first, but they usually work out well in the end.  I’m going to trust this is one of those “work out in the end times”…

My wife and I are moving to Toronto.  We found out about 2 weeks ago of a change in her summer placement and have been scrambling to find a place to live (and deal with our current home).  With less than 4 weeks’ notice until her placement starts, it’s been a whirlwind – thinking through the unexpected task of packing (and downsizing), arranging for all of our service providers, and changing all of our summer plans.  We need to be moved and settled by the end of April.

At times it’s been a schedule strain.  We’ve made 4 separate trips into Toronto to view apartments.  This has led to a lot of canceled training sessions, a few canceled date nights, and even a few rescheduled work meetings.

At times it’s been an emotional strain.  Facing moving to a new city that we neither expected nor asked for – rationalizing the implications of an unexpected change on our finances, our social life, and our home.  There has been tears, and there has been ice cream (more of the latter than the former, thankfully).

My wife has been a trouper – her life has been turned upside down.  In addition to our home relocation, she’s had to adjust to a new job: new clinic, new city, new preceptor.  I’ve tried to be helpful and supportive – not always sure I’ve done a great job, but I keep trying.  I’ve noticed the impact to my training.  I’ve missed quite a few training sessions because of last minute apartment hunting trips (or having to work at odd hours due to apartment hunting).  My sleep has been off, and my mood has been turning sour as the stress and reduced exercise take their toll.

Sometimes I just want to sleep... anywhere

Sometimes I just want to sleep… anywhere

I’m not concerned about missed training from a race perspective – sometimes life > training.  But I notice the impact it has on me.  An experience like this reminds me how much I enjoy training, as a hobby as much as for race preparation.  It reminds me how much I use training as my own thinking time (or non-thinking time, as is sometimes more needed).  Sometimes I need my training time not only to keep moving faster, but just to keep moving.

Today we got confirmation of our new apartment in Toronto.  After several search sessions (and anxiety all weekend waiting to hear we were approved – we knew we would be, but the waiting game is still tough) I feel like I can turn a corner.  I can start making plans, knowing we have a new home waiting for us.  I can start getting excited about Toronto.

I can start to look for jogging trails in my new neighborhood.

I can start to look for community centers with pools in my new neighborhood.

I can start to figure out where the hell I’m going to store a bike in 700 square feet of space (I’m going to miss having a house with a basement)!!

I can start looking for a pub for post-training carbs 😉

There are lots of positives to take from this unexpected experience.  My daily drive to work will suddenly disappear – our new home is walking distance to our Toronto office.  Though we had a few great friends in Hamilton, we have more family and friends in Toronto who we will get to catch up with.  And I’m looking forward to a summer in the Big City, with all the pubs and cafes and activities and culture the city has to offer.  I think this will be a good thing for us (if not an expected thing).

We now have 2 1/2 weeks to pack, and purge, and plan, and get the hell out of Hamilton.  It’s going to be busy and anxious and stressful (and will probably continue to wreck my training plans), but once we get there it’s going to work out in the end.

~DO’G

Consequences of Monday Morning Decisions

April 8, 2013 6 comments
Kings-Bridge-Park, Niagara Falls

Kings-Bridge-Park, Niagara Falls

Story Time!!

This weekend, an announcement came out from MultiSport Canada (organizers of most of the triathlon races I race in locally) that they are adding an exciting new race in late September 2014 – a Half Ironman in Niagara Falls.  Admittedly, my interest was peaked…

Which is kinda silly, really.  I mean – I’ve finished one Sprint distance triathlon (should have been 2, but the 2nd one was turned into a duathlon by mother nature mere minutes before the starting gun).  Sure, I’m signed up for 3 more races this season – one of which being an Olympic distance triathlon… but to start thinking about a Half Iron?  Is that not putting the cart before the horse a little bit?

Well, let’s think about this:

  • September 2014 is at the end of NEXT race season – I have this whole season, an off season, and another race season to train for it
  • I can swim 2000m.  At least I think I can (though I don’t know if I ever have before)… swimming’s my strong suit
  • I can bike 90km.  I’ve biked a century before
  • I can run a half marathon.  I’ve run a half marathon before (hell, I just “ran” a 30k race a few weeks ago).
  • … and sign up doesn’t start until mid summer this year, so I have time still to decide.  Though I suspect this one may fill quickly

I definitely spent last night thinking about it.  Could I do a Half Ironman?  Could I be ready that soon?  How totally awesome would that be?!?

My hour long drive to work

My hour long drive to work.  I kept Toronto and the US border on the map in case anyone has been wondering all this time “where the heck is this ‘Hamilton’ place?” he says he’s from

Fast forward to this morning.  Every Monday morning I drive from my home in Hamilton to my work in Waterloo.  My alarm went off at 5:45.  I made my lunch – a healthy lunch – and got into my car.  In Waterloo, I meet up with my sister for a morning “swim”.  I say “swim” because it’s often much more social than a hard workout – lots of hanging off the edge of the pool and “recovering” while catching up.  But this morning my sister couldn’t join me, so I swam alone.  I decided instead of doing drills (with “recovery” time in between) that I would do a distance swim since I had no one to chat with anyway.

Normally my distance swims are based around my race schedule.  I don’t race anything longer than a 750m swim until late in the season, so I would normally aim for 1,000m.  But that Half Iron was still in the back of my mind.  I started off smooth and easy – focusing more on form than on power.  I finished 750m in 12 minutes, which is pretty fast for me.  I guess there really is an argument to technique in the water (as opposed to thrashing as quickly as one can).

I decided to keep going.  No rest break.  I finished 1,500m in 24 minutes.  My pace was holding.  I kept going.  I finished 2,000m (the Half Iron swim distance) in 33 minutes, or a 1:40/100m pace.  I was pleasantly surprised with that.  Apparently I can swim 2,000m just fine.

As I hauled myself out of the pool I thought “Would I be up for a 90km bike right now (and a half marathon after that)?”  I think I smiled a little at that point – though if I’m being honest with myself, my core and arm muscles were pretty tired and I think I’d run out of gas pretty quickly on the bike… but we’ve got time to work on that.

I drove into work today feeling pretty damn happy with my swim.  2,000m at a 1:40 pace.  Shit that’s good for an early season time!  What a great idea that was to go for it and swim that whole distance!  I was so convinced this was a great idea I didn’t even notice as I sat down at my desk and put my lunch bag right beside me.  By 11:30 it was all gone – the sandwich, the fruit, the muffin.  All gone, and I was starving.  Yep, I’ve already been to the cafeteria for a coke, bacon cheeseburger and fries.  Holy cow I’m hungry.

Lesson learned today: planning for long training sessions really matters, unless you’re okay with impulsive greasy cafeteria food (which, after today’s swim, I sure as hell am!)

Happy Monday Everybody!

– DO’G

 

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