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.


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.


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.