Half-Marathon Training Weekly Recap: The Write-Off

Due to the capricious nature of cold and flu season, I missed running and cross-training from Monday to Thursday this week.  I don’t want to bore you with the details, but nights without sleeping sabotage both evening workouts and early mornings, and attending doctor’s appointments and such takes out my regular lunch slot too.

I tried to make up a little by running an indoor duathlon today.  I wanted to hit my tempo run from the plan, but I shorted the warm-up from a mile to half a mile before hitting the main tempo section.  Skipping the cool down, I jumped straight into a 40 minute spin class, then did another mile on the treadmill using a ‘random hill’ program in the Merrell Trail Glove/Minimalist shoes, to try and focus a little on form.

I haven’t figured out how I want to tweak this weekend’s schedule to make up for last mileage, and I’m also nervous about a race I signed up for before the Chilly Half Marathon… I’m doing a snowshoe race!  It’s going to be the Yeti Snowshoe Series ‘Sport’ Course (5k) at Blue Mountain.  The Race Calendar Page has been updated accordingly.

In the lead-up to planning this race, and signing up for it, my wife asked me: “When was the last time you snowshoed?” (I love that she didn’t ask me if I’d EVER snowshoed…). The answer? A sheepish “Junior High”.  I’m fully prepared to make a fool of myself on this event, yet according to this video from Canadian Running Magazine, as long as I’m careful, I should find myself getting the hang of it.  Starting off slowly and carefully is always standard operating procedure in a race.

I’ve chosen to use this race as a 5k ‘virtual run’ for a cause started by Lisa of RunWiki to help ‘Kyle’s Krusade’:

Kyle’s Krusade Virtual 5K, 10K and Half Marathon is a race anyone, anywhere can participate in. You can walk, run, push a stroller, do it with a group or by yourself. The registration for this event is $10 a distance, you can sign up for one, two, or all three distances. 100% of your entry fee will go to The Talbert Family Foundation’s Kyle’s Krusade fund. In turn, to assist with the exorbitant costs associated with having a child with Cancer, they give 100% of their donations directly to the O’Connor family. – From the RunWiki.org website.

Please consider doing a run (and donating of course) in February to help the O’Connor Family.

Half Marathon Training Week Recap: New Distances

Looking back at the week in training that was:

  • Saturday was the long run, in some very warm weather for the season.  To avoid mud, I stuck to side-walks so my joints and Achilles tendons took more than the usual amount of pounding, I’d have to say.  I was conservative on the way out, and more aggressive on the way back.  Going slow feels weird because I have a time goal in mind for the race, but I think the structure might be paying off…  14.3km done.
  • We were out late seeing the movie Les Miserables, and Shark Boy didn’t get to bed on time either, so Crossfit on Sunday was sacrificed.  Taking a rest day was probably smart.
  • Monday continued to be mild, but I figured it would be dry enough to run on trails.  Almost right, my shoes got wet (though my Salomon XR Missions have done some good water protection for my feet this season) and at least once I had to wipe a big, heavy clump of mud off the soles.  I hit the prescribed mileage, and the pace was slow as recommended (6:34min/kim)… at least on average.  I think I did some walk breaks and speed bursts to keep that average pace.
  • Tuesday was meant to be a Trifecta Tuesday with an early morning swim, plus strength and 1 more activity that I hadn’t decided on (maybe Yoga), but when I got to the gym, I found the pool crowded, and I had forgotten a towel; I went home and had breakfast with the family instead.  I managed to make it to the Etobicoke Olympium at lunch.  The Olympic (50m) pool had been cut in half for lane swimming, but though there were a lot of people there too, the lane etiquette was roundly observed, and it was no problem getting a good workout in.  In fact, I did my longest pool workout swim with 2.3km including drills, 4x75m intervals, 4x200m and another 4x75m.
  • Wednesday was my favourite run of the week.  The trails were dry and the sun was out.  I managed a 6:04min/km pace, and I began to see how a 2 hour half-marathon might be possible.
  • On Thursday, I did a Cross-training session in a group exercise class.  PB Freakin Fit is run by Personal Best (who manages our corporate gym) and is structured much like a Crossfit Workout of the Day (WOD).  Due to the equipment available and the space used, a lot of modifications need to be made.  This workout was a warm-up of jumping jacks, skipping, jogging on the spot, then a countdown: run across the room and back then do 10 push-ups, repeat with 9, 8, 7 push-ups right down to 1.  The first main set was 5 rounds for time (RFT): 20 Frog Jump Squats, 10 Renegade Rows with Mountain Climber, and 20 Hindu Pushups.  The second set involved AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) in 10 minutes of 20 ski-jumps, 10 burpees with dumbbell shoulder press, and 20 wide-stance prisoner squats. I can still feel the effects as I write this on Sunday.
  • Friday was a tempo run on the treadmill; new distance (2 miles/3.2 km) at a speed of 6.8mph with a 1 mile warm-up and cool down
    • I took a rest day on Saturday, and on Sunday, in spite of freezing temperatures and 48 km/h winds, I got a new distance of 16km or 10 miles.  That’s more than I’ve run in one sitting in at least 3 years.

I took a weigh-in toward the end of the week: 200lbs. Not great progress but heading in the right direction…

This was a week of new frontiers of distance, and I love seeing and feeling the progress.

The Lance Armstrong Thing

Last week I linked to the Top 10 Sport Science Stories of 2012… Lance Armstrong’s fall was #1.

As I write this, the Lance Armstrong/Oprah interview has not aired yet, though people on the internet already seem to know that he has admitted to doping.  I wanted to do a write-up on this situation (and it’s impact on triathlon) when the USADA first revealed its evidence against him but I didn’t get around to it, and again before 2012 was out I wanted to do a post as part of a end-of-year review.  I’m a little late on that score, but this interview and new revelations will freshen it up a little.

Sifting through all the evidence brought by the USADA is more than some paid, professional journalists can handle, so I don’t like my chances at all.  Still, at this stage, Lance Armstrong’s guilt of using performance-enhancing substances seems to be a foregone conclusion, so let’s run with that.  Though I’d bet his defenders are getting harder and harder to come by now, as the court of public opinion was convicting him, I still saw statements like:

“It’s a shame the state of the sport gives these athletes the need to cheat”

Others would question if it’s really cheating when so many other advancements in our understanding of human physiology (and cycling technology) make things possible today that weren’t before.  Still others point to Livestrong and the good it does against cancer – attacking Lance Armstrong is akin to attacking Livestrong.  His tale of beating cancer (as detailed in It’s Not About the Bike) has inspired so many people, and they worship him as a hero.

This is all garbage.

It’s true that in sports, to succeed is to win.  Athletes who want to get paid need to win, and winning means being better than the others – if the others cheat, you’ll need to cheat or else you go hungry, right? Wrong.  In a world of adults with free will, you make choices and you’re responsible accepting the consequences of those actions.  Need to get paid?  GET A JOB.  Those of us sitting under fluorescent lighting, waiting out the clock till we get a chance to do the same thing professional athletes get to do all day – PLAY GAMES – have little sympathy for those pros.

Should doping really be considered cheating above and beyond the enhancements that can be achieved through better science and medicine available from technology and nutrition?  I’ll give you a hint: if you have to hide what you’re doing, it’s wrong and dishonest, and even worse, you obviously realize that.

And Livestrong?  I’ve got a pair of shorts from them that I really like, and their website is a great overall resource for healthy living and fitness.  What they aren’t doing it curing cancer.  This expose from Outside Magazine purports that they’re in the business of building ‘Lance Awareness’.  Let’s call that accusation the worst case scenario, but if they’re not funneling money into research, then what?  Building awareness?  How much more aware of cancer can we get when it touches the life of 1 in 3 people.  Someone you know is in a fight with cancer or has been.  There is a small space of work in the war on cancer in terms of support services and coordinating them to best help cancer patients.  Personally, I think these services vary widely from location to location and might be better served with local organizations, but if Livestrong can help, more power to them and I wish them well.

As a former cancer patient who won his battle, Lance Armstrong has inspired a lot of people but the hard truth is – fighting cancer involves a lot of luck.  Do you think everyone who has succumbed to the disease simply didn’t ‘want it bad enough’.  That they didn’t put enough effort in?  Certainly not taking your own steps in a cancer fight (making it to chemo treatments, improving your own nutrition, etc.) lessens your chances and not every cancer battle has the exact same adversities, but lauding those who make it without incorporating humility and acknowledging that luck, fate, the universe or God played a significant role is a smack in the face to those who weren’t so lucky.

I read a book once, The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson.  In it, the future society has taken on a Victorian moral code, telling them right and wrong along those old, puritanical lines.  In that world, hypocrisy isn’t so bad; they look back at our society where hypocrisy is one of the worst sins, because the only moral code is the one each individual makes for him/herself.  That’s the world we live in – make your own moral code and live by it.

Imagine a rock star.  He womanizes, does drugs, smashes hotel rooms, that sort of standard, rock star stuff.   It’s expected and we as a society won’t condemn it that much.  When the televangelists of the 80s behaved in similar ways, it was a big deal – because their whole image and message was the exact opposite.  If our imaginary rock star recorded Public Service Announcements decrying the use of illegal narcotics, and recorded preachy songs while supporting a drug habit, we’d be pretty incensed.

Which bring us back to Lance Armstrong.  If he’d kept mum about doping like the average rock star does about drug abuse, it would have been one thing.  But no, he’s “the most tested athlete in the world” (obviously those tests are essentially meaningless), and investigations into his doping were “witchhunts”.  The charges were “baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity.”  And of course his famous Nike commercial: “I’m on my bike,… what are you on?”

And that is why I have such a low opinion of him: he cast himself as some kind of angel while casting aspersions on all his peers, while being no better than them.  And now, he’ll probably hope to regain some credibility through confessing to Oprah Winfrey.  You won’t be worshipped any-more, Lance.  This society worshipped you, they worship winners, and now your victories are tainted.  This society doesn’t worship integrity, even though, apparently, it’s just as hard to achieve.

Gear Corner: Review of the Yaktrax Pro

While putting a lot more running miles in the snow, you can’t help but wish for more traction.  I used to have a pair of traction devices (the brand name of which I can’t remember now) that I could put on the soles of my shoes.  They were made of rubber which would hug the outline of your sole, and had little studs on the bottom for gripping snow and ice.  The problems were:

  • The studs felt funny when you weren’t on soft snow.  When you run in the suburbs, you’ll be running over cleared sidewalks sometimes too.  Whenever I was on harder surfaces, I could feel the little cleats pushing back into my feet, like some annoying acupuncture.  I’d actually take them off and carry them or strap them to my running belt if I could see there would be cement for an extended stretch.
  • The little studs could break off.
  • Besides the elasticity of the rubber hugging the outside of the shoe, there was nothing keeping them attached.  I eventually zoned out on a run, noticed one of them was missing, backtracked for nearly a kilometer, and gave up on trying to find it.  I threw the other one in the garbage.

Still, I don’t think I can keep running in the snow without a little help, and based on a little research, more people seem to swear by Yaktrax than any other.  I like the idea of Yaktrax, which puts steel spring coils running horizontally across the soles – I figured that would feel nicer than little pointy bits under my feet.

Yaktrax Run

I went to my local Running Room to buy a pair.  I saw they have a model called the Yaktrax Run, but that had the pesky studs under the ball of the feet, so I stuck with the more basic, classic Yaktrax Pro.
Yaktrax Pro

I was really happy to see that strap on top, which would prevent me from losing them on the run, but how would they feel?  Would they work?  I took them out on a 12km run.

What I noticed:

  • Running on cement or pavement did feel better than with the studs.  You do notice the coils, but they’re not wholly unpleasant, just different than running without.
  • If the snow has been packed down by other people walking/running/skiing on it, and the terrain is flat, IT FEELS LIKE THERE’S NO SNOW AT ALL.  The feeling of running on my usual trail was indistinguishable from when it’s dry.  I step and move forward without any sideways lateral slipping, or lack of traction.
  • Going uphill is still tricky.  As soon as the trail climbed a little, I had to step more carefully again and remember that running in the snow is still simply different, Yaktrax or not.  I do think they helped me get up the hill (and back down again), the difference just wasn’t as stark as on the flats.
  • They can give you a little overconfidence.  When the snow got deeper I simply carried on.  There, the problems go beyond slipperiness and beyond what the Yaktrax can help you with.  Deeper snow means wet shoes and feet, and the resistance of pushing snow aside as you stride.  Another rude reminder that the snow changes your run.

The way this particular run turned out, I hit the deep snow at the furthest point from the start, and having to slow down nearly ruined my schedule; I wanted to be back home in time to go to a haircut appointment.  In spite of the fact that it was supposed to be a long, slow distance run, I hauled it on the way back, and ran nearly a minute per kilometer faster.  The Yaktrax held up fine; that doesn’t mean that you can use them for speed work necessarily, but I got a reasonable variety of paces out of them.  If you’re going to run in snow and/or ice, these are the product I would recommend.

Half-Marathon Training: Week 2

I haven’t made weight loss an explicit goal, but I figured if I followed a regular training plan (with a higher volume of exercise than I’d been doing previously) and I watched what I ate (mostly avoiding sweets and booze, with better portion control too), some weight should come off.

Oh well…

That’s pretty much what I peaked at during the full holiday craze. I was active during the holidays (relatively speaking), and I felt like I didn’t sin too much, but still I have nothing to show for week 1. Like I said, I didn’t make it an explicit goal, so I won’t get stressed out about it, but I think I’ll try to monitor it in the weekly training posts for posterity’s sake. Having a few less pounds to drag across the finish line should make me faster come race season though…

I actually ran my long (12.2km) run on Saturday rather than Sunday, because on Sunday, I tried Crossfit (see my review here).  It was clearly a beginner session, because we also took the kids tobogganing that afternoon and I was able to pull them along and up the hill.

After 7 straight training days, I took Monday off.  This was more difficult than I thought, because I was feeling really good and strong and able to take on the world – everyone was posting motivation messages for ‘Motivation Monday’ (including me!).  Still, the rest day should be observed; it’s just that the rest day is usually forced upon me by life interfering with my plans…

I moved Monday’s 5.6km run to Tuesday, and I found the missing Blackberry!  Incredibly, it still worked, which means I’ll be able to recover my contacts and other info.  Since it was Trifecta Tuesday, I also did 47 pushups from the 100 push-ups app and a Yoga workout before bed.

On Wednesday I did a 7.4km run on pavement.  I was pretty pleased with my pace.  I could almost feel myself getting faster and stronger.

Due to some early morning toddler wake-up problems and a re-scheduled meeting, Thursday ended up being a rest day, unless you count air-guitar and dancing in the living room with the kids before dinner…

I did my tempo run on the treadmill on Friday; I used an incline of 1.5 and it felt fine. A mile warm-up at 5mph, the tempo run of 1.5 miles at 6.8mph and a mile cool-down (again at 5mph).

Though I’m pleased with my running and mileage this week, I am a little disappointed with strength and cross-training. Cross-fit was tough and a great workout, and the re-structuring of the week was probably what threw everything else into disarray. I should try to figure this out since this weekend will probably also involve a Saturday long run and Sunday Crossfit.

Multi-sport Mind: Rowga

I come from rowing stock, you could say.  My mother rowed, my father rowed – in fact, it’s how they met.  It was a long time before I would get a chance to try it; my high school didn’t have a team, and my high school life put me off trying out for sports enough that combined with the busy schedule of an undergraduate engineering student, I didn’t look into it at the University of Waterloo either.

It took until Grad School in 1999-2000 for me to get in touch with this part of my athletic heritage; I mean, where better than England to get into that scene?  It was unusual for Grad students to take part in athletic clubs, and stranger still to be the eldest on the Novice Men’s Team (I was 26 amongst 19 and 20 year-olds).  The Leeds teams didn’t do well that year, but we still had lots of fun and I learned a lot.  Sadly, digital cameras weren’t that common (at least I didn’t have one), so I’m having trouble tracking down any photographic evidence of these adventures.

We have a rowing shell at our cottage that I hardly use.  The problem with rowing solo (or ‘sculling’) is that it takes an even higher level of skill to keep the boat level and moving in a straight line.  If both oars don’t enter and leave the water at the same time and aren’t inserted to the same depth, the boat reels and curves to the left or right, making it somewhat frustrating.  I can’t follow the shoreline easily, nor can I simply head out to the middle of the lake, because it tends to be wavier and more choppy out there.

Rowing as part of a crew is different.  All rowers are trying to move in sync, taking their cues from the ‘Stroke’ – the rower at the stern of the boat.  Yes, there is a cox (a typically smaller person at the stern who faces forward) who can call out real-time tactics and the rhythm, but your natural responses are a little better simply watching the rower in front of you; provided there isn’t too much delay from one rower to the next, everybody should be in lockstep with the Stroke, who’s in the best position to do what the Cox says.

So rowing has a teamwork aspect and a very technical aspect.  An oar can get caught awkwardly in the water (either on the way in, or more often in my experience, on the way out) and it’s called ‘catching a crab’.  So your technique is something that can always be refined, in addition to simply having plenty of strength and endurance to pull that oar hard, over and over.  The element I like the best, though, is the simple rhythmic exchange between the pull and glide (where you recover for the next stroke).  It reminds me a lot of cross-country skiing, or maybe even inline skating.

I think I wrote all that out of nostalgia, since rowing doesn’t play a very big role in my current fitness regime with one exception: when I attend a Yoga class (as I have been once a week for the past 3-4 weeks), I don’t like to do it without having warm muscles.  So I often hit the ergometer/rowing machine for 5-10 minutes before a class.  It works out the whole body, but especially the back muscles, which are not only often neglected by other forms of functional exercise, but they get a nice stretch through so many Yoga poses and sequences.  Using the machine (side note: a friend of mine who got himself in good enough shape to pass police entrance exams credits most of his transformation to a rowing machine!) lets me train my muscle memory so I don’t completely forget the gross motor parts of a rowing stroke, puts me in touch with my past a little, and the rhythm of the stroke can be meditative (though I usually have to concentrate to tune out the gym’s distractions like music, TV and other people).  

In other words, it can be a great mental and physical complement to a Yoga class, thus: Row-ga.  Of course, there’s also this guy, who heads out in a boat in the ocean to have deep, meditative thoughts.  That’s also good (though he seems to have retired that blog, most of the links seem to be dead). Plus these guys think like me.

Have you used an ergometer/rowing machine?  How about the real deal?  

Live Long and Rock On!

The Week in Links: SCIENCE!

Here are some of the best links I came across this week…

The Top Ten Sport Science Stories of 2012

#1 is the Lance Armstrong Fall.  I’ve been wanting to write about this, and maybe the upcoming interview with Oprah will freshen the topic somewhat.  Sport Science is fascinating since there are so many claims when it comes to fitness and what does and doesn’t work, that it takes rigorous analysis sometimes to debunk some of the myths.  Plus, it’s an intersection of my nerdier interests and my jock-ier interests.

The jaw-dropping benefits of cross-country skiing

A great article by Alex Hutchinson (who’s a great source for clearing up the claims of various studies) about why Cross-Country Skiing is such a superior form of exercise. 

13 Fitness Trends to Watch for in 2013

It’s always nice to see what the new frontiers of fitness are going to be.  I’m especially excited
about Primal and Parkour based exercise programs (which could stand to become more mainstream and accessible), Brain-Based Exercise (which overlaps with the former) and Cross Disciplining.  You know what combines those? Burbathlon!  Also the rise of online fitness and video will help with these.  Who knows, maybe Iron Rogue will be providing video this year…

Review: Crossfit/Crossfit Kids at SquareOne Crossfit

Way back in 2012, I started researching where I might be able to try Crossfit.  Crossfit has exploded in popularity especially in the past year, so I feel a little silly introducing and explaining it, but here goes…

Crossfit started as a way to ‘Open-Source’ fitness.  Open Source software is free to use, and the computer programming code is free and public; not kept secret.  In fitness, the concept would be a workout that is publicly available as opposed to something you had to pay an instructor or trainer for.  Every day a ‘Workout of the Day’ or WOD would be published that could be done with fairly basic equipment you could put into your home.  Exercises were drawn from Olympic weightlifting and gymnastics to promote functional strength as well as endurance, balance, flexibility, agility and co-ordination; true multi-dimensional fitness.  Where it grew as a business was again similar to Open Source software: though anyone could do it and the accessibility was appealing, this stuff was sophisticated enough that it made sense to engage an expert.  Crossfit gyms, or ‘boxes‘ (called this, because they seem plain and spartan compared to the modern gym – no frills, just the weights and equipment you need) started springing up, and certifications were created by the originators of the movement.  Nowadays, there are competitions, and they are sponsored by Reebok which has dubbed Crossfit “The Sport of Fitness”.
The SquareOne Box

There are a few boxes locally, and they all had their apparent pros and cons (from what I could tell by web research), but besides proximity, one big advantage that SquareOne Crossfit had was a Kids program.

They run their Crossfit Kids program on Sunday mornings, and for parents who want to do the WOD, they’re able to do that in parallel.  That clinched it, since we’re always looking for ways to keep Shark Boy entertained and active.  I wanted to make arrangements for a free trial in December, but with the holidays, it took until now to get us ‘in the box’.

Shark Boy and I got there for 8:30AM when the classes for kids 3-5 take place.  We met with the Kids’ instructor Arianne, and I did the initial paperwork.  Unfortunately things weren’t yet in full swing post holidays, so Shark Boy was the only kid in class and I think he was a little intimidated.  I hadn’t built it up for him too much, since I didn’t know what to really expect, but he was game for trying things as long as I accompanied him initially (and did some of the exercises too).

It starts, of course, with a warm-up.  Arianne put an agility ladder on the floor and had him (us) do two-footed jumps over each rung of the ladder back and forth.  We then moved on to jumping in and out (to the side of the ladder) and jumping on one foot.  Though he’s very athletic, I was a little surprised to see he had no real idea of how to jump on one foot – the learning begins!

After the warm-up a class (adult or kids!) moves on to the skill lesson.  We did squats, with hands overhead.

The ‘work-out’/WOD portion of a kids class seems to be game oriented, which was great.  Shark Boy was in his element playing  Lumberjacks and Farmers (knockdown pylons or put them back upright), Tail-Tag and Simon Says were all part of the deal, and it got more fun as some of the kids from the 6+ class started to trickle in.  He was obviously having fun and getting more comfortable and needed less hand-holding from his father.

I got to meet some of the other Crossfitters and people walked up and introduced themselves; from what I read, this friendliness is part of the general culture, and I was glad to see it wasn’t just hype.  It also meant I didn’t have to figure out the warm-up on my own:

Some of these were very familiar, but I’d never heard of Dislocates (sounds painful!).  Essentially it was holding a bar with wide grip and rotating it around to your back without bending your elbows.  Good mornings are bending over (from the hips) with a straight back.

I knew I’d need help on pull-ups; I can’t do them.  I did like their method of assisting the pull-up: a resistance band looped through the foot – you end up mimicking the real movement very, very closely.  I was a little embarrassed to be using the strongest band (giving me the biggest possible assistance) and I was reconsidering using that particular one as I got through my ten reps, but by the last one, I noticed I couldn’t quite get my chin up to the bar, so it was probably the right one after all.

The workout of the day was called ‘Linda’ and it meant doing sets of three exercises in descending number of reps: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 ,1.
The first exercise was the Deadlift.  Here’s where I got my skill lesson prior to the WOD.   Chris, the man in charge, showed me how to do these correctly.  The second exercise was the Bench Press; I had done these on Thursday and had a good idea of how much weight I could handle.  I shared a bench with another man who wanted to lift the same amount as me, since benches were limited and the turnout that morning was good.  Rather than do a Power Clean (which is somewhat technical and would need a little more teaching/practice), Chris had me do a Sumo Deadlift/High Pull which was a Deadlift in a wider stance (with an narrower grip) combined with an upright row at the end.

The weight to be used was based on your own Body Weight (BW)… that wasn’t going to happen.  I tried to pick weights that would be sensible for me to get the form right and not injure myself, and of course… sweat.

On deadlifts, I need a lot of work.  I’m shrugging my shoulders and/or pulling my arms to get the bar moving up, I don’t bend my knees enough for the bottom, but I kept my back straight and didn’t hurt myself.  Bench presses went very well, and I was generally struggling to get that last rep on every set.  The Sumo Deadlift/High Pulls were a little weird – maybe I should have tried a bigger weight.  Apparently the key is to really pop your hips forward and get the weight accelerating upward, but it always felt like cheating to me.  Still it gave me an idea of the kind of motion that is involved in the Power Clean.

I finished in 20 and a half minutes, making me the third one done.  I can’t be too proud of that since I know they were taking it easy on me since it was my first time. Otherwise, how could I have taken the boys tobogganning that afternoon?  I gathered up Shark Boy and asked him if he enjoyed himself… was it something he’d like to do again?  He said yes, and so help me, I felt the same way.

I spoke to Chris about options for my son and I and everything was very low pressure.  I should say, no pressure.  I was overall very pleased to note that this box focusses on form over intensity; I’d had fears that the kind of ‘all or nothing’/’pain is weakness leaving the body’ wouldn’t fit well with my history of injury.  Chris’ outlook was refreshing in its simplicity: they’re there to get people fit.  If they can’t walk the next day, how can they come back to work out the next day?

Both Shark Boy and I have packs of drop in classes bought, so I guess the cult of Crossfit can count us in.

Have you heard of Crossfit? Tried it? Loved it?  What about Crossfit Kids?

Motivation Monday: My Sons Are My Heroes.

Over at my Lightning Kid Blog, I recently announced that he had taken his first steps.  He is a little short of his 15 month birthday, and we’re over the moon about his development.  It’s not only terribly early by the developmental milestones for children with Down Syndrome, it’s within the range of typical development.  I was watching him try standing the other day.  He’d crawl on hands and knees, get his feet under his hips, straighten up into standing, then flop onto his butt… but he was doing this over and over again with an intensity and persistence that could only be described as furious.  Tenacity is going to serve him well because I know he’ll face adversity as he gets older.  Likewise persistence, as my father used to quote Calvin Coolidge:

Now Shark Boy’s persistence isn’t any lesser, but a little more annoying, since he will argue on everything with me, sometimes I feel like he’d dispute the colour of the sky.  What’s remarkable about him, is his response to being tired: he simply goes faster.  Think about it: if you had to pull an all-nighter, and you started feeling drowsy, you’d probably put on a pot of coffee.  What if you did a sprint around the block?  That would wake you up!  Shark Boy had discovered this little fact from the time he could crawl, I figure.

If you ask just about any toddler or preschooler whether they’re tired, they’ll automatically say no even if all signs (fussiness, irritability, eye rubs, yawning) point to yes.  Shark Boy (and again the Lightning Kid to a large extent) don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk.  As their parent, I find them exhausting obviously, but in moments when I can reflect on the day, I still admire that even as the energy in those little bodies starts to wane, their spirits want to keep going.  If I may quote my eldest son:

Words to live by…

On a bit of a post-script, I found other inspiration this week from an unlikely source… a brewing company.  I read a bit about Rogue Ales; obviously the name alone appealed to me.  They’ve got a lot of different flavours (like Chipotle Ale) that I want to try, but it looks like it’s a little hard to come by in Canada, especially in the Greater Toronto Area (BC looks like it’s better off).

By the power of Greyskull I will track down and drink this beer: @rogueales Chipotle Ale:rogue.com/beers/chipotle… #beerchat
— Axel Kussmann (@apkussma) January 4, 2013

I started poking around the website and found their ‘Declaration of Interdependence‘ down the page was the following image and text:

Source: rogue.com via Axel on Pinterest

  • Rogues take risks.
  • Rogues are willing to shun titles and personal financial success in the
    pursuit of the greater good.
  • Rogues pursue the long shot.
  • Rogues have respect for diversity.
  • Rogues are never satisfied to rest on past laurels.
  • Rogues work hard.
  • Rogues are driven to succeed in their chosen field.
  • Rogues ignore the accepted patterns and blaze their own trails.
  • Rogues have raw talent and focus on that talent.
  • Rogues are honest with themselves and others.
  • Rogues are rebels.
  • Rogues have one foot in reality to let them get the job done, but they are, nonetheless, led by their dreams.
Some of those really spoke to me (maybe not so much the one about raw talent…).  I’d like to think they apply to my life and my pursuits…

Have you ever found inspiration from an unlikely source?

Half-Marathon Training Week 1: Winter Wonderland

When I finalized my training plan for the Chilly Half-Marathon, I knew it meant starting right away… the Christmas holidays weren’t over yet, and order had not yet been re-established.  Whatever, no fear, no excuses.

Shark Boy had done a great job of mastering downhill skis from the safety of our backyard (with his wonderful mother’s excellent tutelage and supervision) and we had wanted to take him to Centennial Park for some more advanced training… possibly even get him on the magic carpet.  The training plan said do 11.2km on Sunday, but since I knew Sunday would be a write-off with driving to Collingwood, Saturday would have to be the day.  Plan A was to run with the Lightning Kid in the Chariot during Shark Boy’s ski lesson but when we arrived at the ski area, we were surprised to find that they weren’t open and we would not be permitted to try skiing nearby even without using the lifts…

I was frustrated; it was only day 1, and my plans to run (which already took a great deal of effort and organization) were already in the trash.  I wanted my wife to be able to take a nap after a rough night of kid wake-ups, and I didn’t see how it could all work… and we were still looking for a way to give the kids some fresh air and activity.  Taking Shark Boy tobogganing was a good option for him, and pulling him up the hill was good exercise, but not the same as racking up the miles I needed.

He wanted to pull it up himself… twice out of what felt like 100 times.

By the time we’d gotten home and had lunch, we got Shark Boy down for a nap, and I decided to take Lightning Kid out on the sidewalks (which were only partly cleared of snow) and do my best.  Out the door we went.  He fell asleep fairly quickly; but I found the going difficult.  Not only was pushing the extra weight an extra effort, but I had little traction, and the wheels of the Chariot would get stuck in deeper snow – getting unstuck from a snowbank or three gave Lightning Kid a rude awakening.

In the end, it took me an hour and 20 minutes to get 9.2 km done… 2k short of my goal, but given the extra challenges, I put it in the win column.  That’s going to be a theme this week, if not the entire winter season.

Long Run: Finished!

Sunday was spent driving north to Collingwood in search of even more snow; we made good time and tried to find the tubing hill at Blue Mountain for some family fun – this hill apparently no longer exists though Shark Boy and his mother got to do a few runs on a borrowed snow saucer-type deal.  We thought we were experts on the area, as we came up a lot when we were dating and early in our marriage, but either 1.) there have been changes, or 2.) having kids screws with your brain, especially the memory parts.  By the end of the weekend, I felt better oriented in case we try it again, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  We stayed with some friends who have a chalet there, and also a baby, so no-one was too shell-shocked by diapers or crying and whatnot.

On New Year’s Eve Day, Shark Boy got a real skiing lesson on the hill complete with magic carpet lift.  The Lightning Kid slept in the car, and just as he woke up, and I started putting the Chariot back together for a little run, I got a text message that Shark Boy and his mother were heading back so that he could have lunch and a nap… best to stay ahead of the fatigue when downhill skiing, I always say.

Once everyone was back inside, I got the chance to do a run. Our hosts told me about a trail I could access; they figured there had been enough people tramping it down to make it feasible for running. Again, I tried to take it easy and manage expectations. The trail was beautiful, but it did get difficult where it was actually marshy beneath the snow – I had to use my dance-y feet to keep from busting through ice into deep puddles.

Getting to the trail meant running on slushy roads, which wasn’t any easier. Still, the air was brisk, and I was accomplishing what I set out to do.

New Year’s Eve was quiet to say the least. While we stayed up to midnight, I started getting a little infatuated with the idea of falling asleep in one year and waking up in the next…

For New Year’s Day we opted to get our cross-country ski on, just before making the return trip home. I’ve skied with the trailer behind me lots of times, but I was finding it much harder so I did a little math. I used to count 20 pounds for Shark Boy with another 22-25 pounds for the Chariot totalling around 45 pounds or so. Now, I’ve got an 18 lb Lightning Kid to add to the load with Shark Boy coming in closer to 35 lbs these days. I was really digging in my edges and using all my strength to get up the bigger and steeper hills. Before I got this week started, my wife asked if cross-country skiing could/would count toward weekly mileage for running and I said no… only running is running, and while cross-training is beneficial, counting it instead of the runs I’m supposed to be doing will lead to me not doing much running at all. Still, I can’t help but think there’s more than a little cross-over between the two sports, and I’m struggling to get every prescribed kilometer…

Wednesday I was back in the office, and I brought plenty of warm gear (including a Specialized cycling jacket my wife gave me… kept me feeling good!) and managed to get my 7 km. Keeping my footing on the trail was challenging, and I found my upper body making a lot of lateral movement to compensate. It was also slow, of course.

That evening I noticed my legs felt a little thrashed, and the next morning there was a lot of stiffness in my lower back and hips. I wasn’t sure if I was going to take a rest day as my ‘X’, or find a lighter way to cross-train. By lunch, I opted to do some weights for strength, but instead of the usual where functional movement recruits a lot of lower body and core, I did simple old fashioned weight lifting to focus on my chest, back and arms.

Friday was tempo run day, and given the havoc the snow had been wreaking on my pace and technique, I opted for the dreadmill/treadmill.


  • I had the water I needed without needing to ‘carry’ it
  • I hit the paces I wanted on both Warm-up/Cool Down (7:27/km) and the main set (5:30/km)
  • I got to use my iPod Classic.  It has a hard-drive so it’s usually no good for running, but it has WAY more of my music on it than any other device.  Putting it on the console shelf worked fine, and I got to listen to this: Conscience Killer – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club


  • Boredom.  It kicked in before I had finished my first mile.
  • Danger! The boredom resulted in me looking at the TV Screens above.  Well, there was a good chance I was going to do that anyway.  While staring, I drifted laterally and nearly flew off the thing!  While breaking my neck falling off a treadmill doesn’t seem like the MOST humiliating way to die, I really don’t want it to be because I was checking out highlights of sports I don’t follow or even worse… Kimye.

Let’s look at the week’s summary compared to the plan:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Total
date 12/30/2012 12/31/2012 1/1/2013 1/2/2013 1/3/2013 1/4/2013 1/5/2013 km
actual km 9.25 4.5 X 7 X 4.66 OFF* 25.41
planned km 11.2 5.6 X 7.2 X 4.8 OFF 28.6
comment actually saturday xc ski 6.5km weights *See below 29.9 with skiing

I came up a little short on kilometers, but overall, I’m pleased not to have missed any workouts, and do be doing what I set out to do.  Saturday is supposed to be a rest day with next week’s long run occurring on Sunday, but given my plans for Sunday (stay tuned! I’ll give you a hint, it’ll put the Cross in Cross-Training) I may move my long (12.8km) run to Saturday and take Monday off.  Wish me luck!