Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Race update: Self Transcendence 6 hour and Fall Colors Half Marathon



With only one race to go in the 2015 season, a brief update on the last two events I participated in seems appropriate. While I have already provided some discussion on both the 6 hour Self Transcendence Event and the Fall Colors Half Marathon in Facebook, I thought a more extensive look at both races might be of interest. So let me take you back to both.

Self Transcendence 6 hour Saturday September 26

I have had previous posts on this race or more appropriately series of races. The event is a series of races, the 24 hour, 12 hour and the 6 hour. In the past I have done the 12 hour 3 times and the 24 hour once. This year with a trip to Europe ending on the heels of the race the 6 hour seemed the logical and smart choice. All races are held on the Louis Riel High School Indoor Track, a 400 meter multi lane track that runs the perimeter of a domed indoor soccer field.

The race started off well and in my case fast. I was on target for a 50km+ finish. By the half marathon mark, around 2 hours 30 I felt good but had noticed my feet where bothering me. Not in the blister forming type of a feeling but just not feeling comfortable in my shoes. I had decided to wear the Skechers GORun 4’s for the entire race considering the distance and the surface. I did have my Ultra 2’s in my gym bag to wear post race. These shoes are a bit wider and I thought if I developed blisters I would then have a nice shoe to wear post event and for the short drive home. So the decision at 2:45 or so was to stop and change into the new shoes. I wasn’t sure why my feet swelled so much. This is not normal and it was the first time I had experienced it. While my feet where really happy with the change to the Ultra 2’s, my pace began to fall off. By 5 hours I was a bit too far off a 50km finish distance and with a weekend of hiking coming up I walked most of the last hour. I finished the 6 hours with a distance of 47.2km’s.

Post race I tried to figure out what had happened and realized I had not only bonked but also most likely became dehydrated. I have bonked in the past but generally a bit of food or a gel takes care of the immediate needs. The dehydration was a bit more interesting. Having my feet swell and not first feeling dry mouth our headachy means I can’t rely on old indicators.

Fall Colors Half Marathon Sunday October 11

The Fall Colors is part of the Somersault running offer. Somersault is an Ottawa based company that organizes Triathlons, duathlons and running road races. These are extremely well run events, family oriented and a wonderful place for a new runner to start out on the more competitive side of running, although the level of competitiveness is very high so don’t take these as ‘slow’ races. Held on thanksgiving Sunday in the small rural community of Cumberland, east Ottawa, the Fall Colors is a series of races starting with the 1km kids races, a 3, 5 and 10 km events and the half and full marathon. The course is a mix of rural and village all on road with well-placed water stations. The out and back nature of the event allows a first timer with a preview of the course on the outbound that they can then take advantage of on the return. It is also a hilly road race and some folks find this unusual for a Boston Qualifier event. I take the opposite approach that as a road race it is more enjoyable and unlike many others which are run on nearly flat road, this one really requires strength and endurance to finish well.

So for the race I made the wrong shoe choice but it worked out anyway. I wore the Skechers GORun 4’s thinking that the road surface would be consistent. Unfortunately some of the areas are extremely broken up with a lot of crushed rock on the inside of corners. In retrospect my new Skechers GORun Ultra R’s would have been a better choice for a bit more cushion on the less than smooth surface. Luckily the lighter GORun 4’s still did a fantastic job and I just went a bit wider around parts of the road that where not perfect.

The race started at 10am and was a mix of both the marathoners and half marathoners. I started out on a fast (for me) 5:30 pace to stay pace with the pack of runners through the first 1km. I used this time to warm up a bit and this helped. By the 5km mark I was settled in nicely and wasn’t being overtaken by other runners. At the turnaround I was at 1 hour 6 minutes and while I slowed from the fast start felt good. The run back seemed a bit faster with more downhills but these had the unexpected disadvantage of causing a bit of thigh tightness. My overall lack of training was being pointed out by my body. On the last hill up to the finish area I decided to walk it so I could have a stronger finish and not get overtaken by the two runners behind me. This worked and in the end I finished with a time of 2:12:27. Not my fastest half but a very good pace, 6.16, for the 21km’s.

Post Race – I had been critical in the past about one of the earlier versions of the Skechers GORun. I have to say this current model, The GORun 4 is a superb road shoe and this is less a comment on the material than it is in the Skechers management that listens to customer feedback and creates a shoe for runners not a shoe for profit margins. With the GORun 4, the vast majority of people will find a shoe that allows you to run the way your body is designed and not use trickery and false claims created by marketing hype to sell a shoe. The GORun 4 is a perfect shoe for training and equally happy as a longer distance shoe. So whether you are a Saturday 5km runner or training for Comrades Ultra Marathon, if you are into road running the Skechers GORun 4 is an absolutely perfect shoe for you.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Running in Prague and Budapest



A recent trip to two of the most beautiful cities in the world included a number of nice short runs and one 21km run. Each city has its own special flavor when it comes to running so let me explain a typical run in both cities.

Prague


Joanne and I stayed in the Mala Strana neighborhood just steps from the Charles Bridge. Runs in this area where very nice but during the day and evenings the number of tourists in the area made running extremely difficult, so most of the runs occurred in the early morning. Even then, the pedestrian bridge, the Charles Bridge, had people walking across it so it wasn’t always easy to put the head down and do miles.

The first run was a short 5km along major arteries where getting lost was unlikely.




On a second run the run included a small area of the Old Town, where I passed the Astronomical Clock at the Old City Hall and Wenceslas Square, two of the most popular sites for visitors and residents alike.
As the map shows, the run turned into a bit of a “how the heck do I get back’ run, I did the same thing in Venice a few years ago. This was not a big deal and while I was running it was a bit funny.



One of the biggest difficulties of running in Prague was the road surface. All the runs occurred on cobble stone which I learned are not the easiest road surface to run on. Fortunately the sidewalks where covered by a smaller stone surface and for the most part this was similar to cement or asphalt sidewalks.  


The best run in Prague was an afternoon run up to the Prague castle. Because the route I took would have taken me directly onto the castle square I took a small detour and ran through the beautiful area of the old mote that ran along the great walls of the castle. The one funny part of the route was that along with the castle on my left there was an active military base to my right and a number of soldiers who act as guards along the perimeter stand near the path I took to keep watch of the military grounds.

The run back down from the castle to the hotel was very fast and I stuck to the road way instead of even trying to run on the sidewalk. Fortunately the roads where not too packed with traffic so the run was relatively easy…plus the police seemed to ignore me which was different to what happens at home where running on the roadway is often frowned upon by police.

Budapest

Before I speak about the running in Budapest I want to describe the train ride from Prague, through Slovakia and onto Hungary and Budapest.

We left early for what was to be a 6 hour train ride but turned out to be closer to 8. In part this was due to the recent arrival by a mix of North African migrants seeking a better life in Europe and the growing number of refugees from Syria and Iraq escaping with little personal belongings with the hope of finding somewhere safe to live. Hungary had become ground zero with this mixed group arriving in the thousands causing the Hungarians to place strict border controls to limit the arrival of people not seen since the period when Hungary was under communist control. As our train arrived in Keleti Station in Budapest, other than a more obvious police and military presence nothing looked different. It was only as Joanne and I left the platform that we could see the extent to the arrival of all these people. They lived in every corner of the station waiting for their chance to move along to Austria, Germany or somewhere where they could begin a new life. You have to consider how very lucky you are when for a two week trip you have more on your back than people fighting for a life have in their possession.


One of the weird things about running in Budapest was running along the Danube River. Unlike Prague with the cobble stone roads, Budapest is a modern city with pavement and cement sidewalks.

My best run occurred on a day when Joanne decided she would spend a few hours at the hotel spa enjoying a message and pedicure. For my fun I would go for a nice little 21km run.


The goal was to run up to both the Budavari Palota or Buda Castle Hill as well as Gellert Hill which shadowed our hotel. In addition on the run I took a small side route to run the beautiful 5km running track that wraps around Margit sziget or Marguerite Island. Along with this wonderful track the island hosts a small petting zoo, track and field training center and stadium and the best diving and swimming complex in Budapest.

The run started out in nice enough weather but soon cooled down with a drizzle but even that could not take the smile off my face. Budapest is an absolutely beautiful city to run in.

A Final Thought

I have been thinking about both cities since returning and know I will be back at some point. The Budapest Marathon has become a bucket list race while the opportunity to do some long runs in Prague will also be something I do in the near future.

If I learnt anything about this trip, it is that as a runner you can gain a very special and unique perspective on the places you visit by bringing along your running shoes and in my case that was the Skechers GORun 4's.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Polar Bear Ate My Homework



Well another blog on the last few weeks. Unlike most of my blogs, which I write from the comfort of my desk at home, this one is being written looking at the Churchill River in beautiful Churchill Manitoba. And no I am not here for running. Actually running in this community has risks that are unlike risks almost anywhere else in the world. You see this community is famous for Polar Bears.

Yes those big white bears spend a significant amount of their time in or very close to the community with daily bear sightings possible in and around the town site. So since I am not a fast runner and don’t want to be part of the diet of a Polar Bear, I left the running shoes at home…plus I did not think it would be great advertisement for Skechers to have one of their ambassadors chased down by a Polar Bear…NEW SKECHERS PROMO… OUR SHOES MAKE YOU FAST; JUST NOT FAST ENOUGH TO OUTRUN A POLAR BEAR!!! See just doesn’t sound good. In addition to the bears there is also a significant Beluga Whale population which can be seen right from Mary’s Point on the edge of town. This is one trip any outdoor enthusiast must make. But enough of my surroundings.

So the plan for July was to run Limberlost. Unfortunately a shoulder injury forced me to cancel those plans. Luckily though the shoulder is much better and training has been getting better with longer distances. In addition the last few weeks in August have been extremely hot with daytime temps approaching 40C with humidity. This too has been good for training and has given me a greater appreciation for heat and how I will need to adjust some of my running if I am to get across the island of Cuba.

I did spend a week in Killarny Provincial Park which is located north of Toronto Ontario and sits along Georgian Bay. Running here was probably some of the nicest I have done in many years. We were fortunate to have absolutely perfect weather and dry conditions.
 
I learnt that as much as I have really loved the Skechers Ultra’s, their ability to handle diverse trail environments was greater than what I had so far put them through. Here in Killarney, the trails went between dry hard pack sand to rock surfaces and the soles stuck on the rock making weird jumps from rock to rock more certain. I discovered one amazing run which I would encourage any runner to do if they are visiting the area. From the main campground at George Lake head down the multi-use trail to Chikanishing Trail.

video

You cross the highway at one point then follow the gravel road about 1km to the trail start. While the road can be busy with cars heading to the trail and boat launch, the three times I was on this road everyone drove slowly and respected other users, bikes, hikers and runners, who use the road. Now on the Chikanishing Trail you have to watch for painted symbols on the rock to ensure you are staying on the trail. In addition the large number of hikers will make an early morning run more enjoyable. For Joanne and I we found enough rood spots to pass walkers that it wasn’t a big issue. The views are amazing along the trail so be ready for this not to be a great time when you are done for the distance run!!! But hey, running should be about the views and joy of being in the environment otherwise we would just as well run on a treadmill.

A second short trail also leaves from the George Lake Campground. The Granite Ridge Trail Trail is short but also worth the effort. The views are not as stunning as the Chikanishing Trail but it is worth the time.

Finally I did two short sections of the La Cloche Silhouette trail. This is an 80 km trail loop that has been used for years by backpackers and is only now becoming known in the running community. This is not an easy trail nor should it be done without appropriate provisions. I suspect there will be more discussion on how Parks Ontario manages trail runners as a few incidences in the last year have seen people start this trail as a run only to abandon and there is no easy way out short of helicopter rescue.

One last bit of news for this blog was a running seminar I attended on Thursday July 16. I found out about the event from my friend Andy C. This event was hosted by the Ottawa MEC store and included a panel with Joan Roch , Una Beaudry, Dave McMahon and well know ultra-runner Ray Zahab.

To be honest I went to hear Ray but as in all events like this I learnt about three other fantastic and very talented runners.

In fact I learnt from Una that running with a headlamp has a name for those of us who get sick as a result of the bounce. Who Knew!! In addition, Una and her husband, another very skilled runner, run while on holidays as a way to discover a new place. Another amazing story is Joan Roch. Joan runs 5 days a week to and from work for a total daily run around 20km. He then does 100 milers and wins or places in the top group. Yup this guy is a running machine. And finally anyone in the Ottawa area has likely run with Dave McMahon and his equally talented wife Lise Meloche. Dave is without a doubt one of the best running athletes in the area. Let me urge all of you to attend similar running seminars in your community. They are highly informative and you get to hear from other runners who can help you with your own running problems or projects.

I guess I will end this short blog entry here. I am just about to embark on a three week trip to Prague and Budapest with Joanne. The Skechers GORun 4’s will be coming along for the trip. I had hoped the GORun Ultra R (road) would be available but unfortunately I don’t have a pair yet. No big deal, The GORun 4’s are a proven performer and will be perfect for the 5 and 10km runs I plan on doing in both cities. I also came across running tours in both cities so will likely go out with these groups at least once. That should be a lot of fun and I will let you all know how those runs go.

HOLD THE PRESSES, HOLD THE PRESSES, HOLD THE PRESSES

BREAKING NEWS……

The New Skechers GORun Ultra R has arrived. Yes the long awaited road version of the best shoe on the market, well as far as I am concerned, arrived today. So here is an initial review.

This is not, I repeat, not just an Ultra 2 with a road version for the outer sole. It is also not a GORun 4 with a beefed up sidewall for more cushion. It is a whole new shoe from top to bottom. The outer sole is aggressive and tough and looks like it will take many miles before wearing down. The upper feels like a 1000 denier nylon – i.e. bullet proof. It is thick but very breathable. I took an initial 10km run with these new shoes with no surprises in fit or comfort. I will note that the toe box seems a tiny bit smaller than is typical of the Skechers product. While I normally wear a 9.5 men’s shoe, the ones I got are size 10 and fit perfectly both in the toe and in the length. So consider a half size up from your GORun 4’s or GORun Ultra 2’s. I will definitely be doing a more in-depth review, along with a few others shoes but for now let me leave you with this thought. If you are about to buy new shoes you owe yourself the opportunity to be wearing a shoe like the Skechers GORun Ultra R. It may be the best shoe ever made to date and one that will bring back a lot of runners who found the minimalist period hard on their feet and see those shoes that look like stilts (you know the brand) as silly looking.