Just Running

I haven’t had much blog content over the holidays.  While I try to focus on the positive, Lisa at RunWiki has inspired me to open up a little about some of the negatives I’m experiencing.  It’s important for me to say that by no means did I have a bad Christmas or holiday season in general; I got to spend great times with my family, whom I cherish more than anything, and we created some great memories to cap off 2013.  This blog, however is about triathlon, fitness, and getting outside and December has not been kind.

One of the things I don’t talk about much is how poorly we sleep.  The Lightning Kid typically has 3 wake-ups a night, and what it takes to get him back to sleep can vary, as what can what time he decides to wake up for the day can swing between 5 and nearly 7 am.  Please note, I am not asking for any advice; we have two children who both have/had trouble sleeping and know everything there is to know about good sleep habits, we research on many Down syndrome forums and are always pursuing new and increasingly exotic methods to try and turn this around.  This simply isn’t a forum where I wish to discuss sleep issues, I just want to provide background information.   Add the extra stimulation of the holidays as well as cold and flu season (with undersized nasal passages more prone to congestion) and things get even worse.

Speaking of cold and flu season, I got knocked down by the flu in mid-December.  Weak feeling, achy bones, chills, you know the drill.  When all the symptoms subsided, I was left with a nasty cough that seemed to give me a crushing feeling in my chest every time I had a coughing fit.  I mean, it felt like a Sumo wrestler sat on me.  I went to the doctor and he gave my heart and lungs the all-clear.  His theory? That I pulled a chest muscle during a sudden onset of coughing.  Nice to know you can get an athletic injury without being athletic (while I had my doubts about the theory at the time, that pain eventually subsided and was replace by one in my right rib which felt a lot more like a pulled muscle).

Which brings this post from general complaining to the more central topic: I have not been active.  Every article I’ve ever read about training vs. illness says it’s OK until it’s in your chest (one such article for example).  At the end of the season I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do next.  There didn’t seem to be any goal looming that presented something new, while being attainable based on past performance and I found my attentions scattered in all directions.

I had tried to jump start my exercise habits a little toward the end of the year.  I tried to play catch-up and use my soon-to-expire Crossfit sessions at least weekly, sometimes twice a week.  DOMS and my work schedule kept it from being more, I guess.  I signed up for not one, but two Yoga challenges on Instagram.  I bailed on all of them, and though the illness is part of it, I have to admit I wasn’t really enjoying any of that.  Every Crossfit WOD, every yoga pose had to be modified for my limited strength and/or flexibility.  While the leaders were great at providing these, I found being the “can’t” in a sea of “cans” to be a motivational black hole.

So, once the holidays started, I had a routine that involved eating, going to holiday events (Santa visits, family get-togethers, etc) and working.  Just about any free time I got, I tried to nap (though sometimes I watched House of Cards on Netflix).  The holidays are almost over, and I’m still tired, and still coughing.  I’m not sure I can wait for the cough go away before I get active again, and I really think I need to rebuild.  I also need to keep it simple, so that I don’t get distracted, or discouraged.  What I think I’m going to do is take it only a couple of weeks at a time; first step: Running, Just Running.

Why running? I think running was probably the first exercise I ever did for myself.  In a way, it’s the first exercise any of us ever do as young children – run after something.  Being slower is not as big a demotivator – there’s always someone faster anyway and every time out on my feet feels like a gain.  Running helps me mentally and emotionally; it clears my head.  I want to run 7 times in the first 2 weeks of 2014.  I’ll use this to prove my body is ready for a little more and take it from there (don’t worry, the hopper is full of ideas, and if it weren’t, there’s always people like Katie and Morgan at WildlyFit making exciting quick-start fitness programs for the new year).

Is it possible to have goal-overload? Is a back-to-basics approach the solution? Happy New Year!

December 12th: In Loving Memory

This is a tough time of year for me.  An introvert gets tired of the constant parties and gatherings that take place at the holidays, the lack of sunlight makes getting outside challenging and can bring on Seasonal Affective Disorder.  But more than anything else it’s when the emotional wound of losing my father to cancer (malignant melanoma specifically) is the most raw.

It was today 13 years ago that he passed, and in the time immediately following that day, I went through the obvious shock and grief and pain you might expect.  What I didn’t expect was that years later, I would have to fight back tears for no good reason in the weeks leading up to this date, even if I wasn’t consciously thinking about him.  The symptoms of depression would sneak up on me in late November/early December, and one of the best ways to cope was to acknowledge that I still felt pain, loss and grief – it’s easier to fight an enemy you can see coming.

Sometimes I wish I could know what he’d make of how my life turned out.  Scratch that, I always wish that.  When he passed I had just finished grad school and had taken my career in an exciting new direction.  In the next few years I’d fall in love then get dumped on the same day as being laid off from that job, and I got my own malignant melanoma for dessert a scant month later.  That last part I guess I’m glad he didn’t have to live through, nobody wants their kid to have cancer even if they’re 30 years old and hardly a kid.

Thanks to early detection and an aggressive excision, I’d beat cancer, and ultimately fall in love again (while being gainfully employed), get married and have two rambunctious boys who love to get outside and be active like their grandfather.  He’d have loved Shark Boy and the Lightning Kid for sure, and of course the other part of my life he didn’t get to see was my foray into endurance sport and triathlon.

When I did the Scotiabank Marathon in 2006, I thought of him throughout the course, but especially during the last quarter, as everything in my lower body started to hurt, and I found myself slowing to a walk more and more often.  He often preached for the ‘Endspurt’ – a German expression for the burst of speed and enthusiasm you get when you know you’re almost done.  I try to carry on the tradition by maintaining negative splits on runs, and finishing every race with a fast pace, even if the overall pace hasn’t been that fast.

I think he would have made a good triathlete, as he was strong in all three disciplines and would have had fun switching from sport to sport.  I have my doubts that he would be interested in following a highly structured, periodized training plan and would have done a lot of improvising – I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Every December 12th, my mother, my brother and I try to observe some of our values. We spend time with family; sometimes each other, sometimes apart with our own new respective families. We try to get outside and move our bodies. Today’s weather (and my work schedule) made that a little daunting, but this was important. I hit the Etobicoke Creek Trail for 5km worth of memorial running.

In trying to find some comfort with friends on Facebook who’s fathers had passed (on the same date in different years) I wrote:  Fatherhood might be the greatest gift a man can give and the greatest prize a man can claim.

Please make a little more time to cherish your families during this season, and as a favour to me, your Fathers especially.


Miss Zippy did a great post inviting the audience to review their year of running.  I’m late to the game but here goes nothing!

What was your:
  • Best race experience?
I would have to say the Bracebridge Triathlon.  The course was fun, the race was well organized, the weather was just about perfect, and I carried the Lightning Kid across the finish line.  Maybe it’s cheating to put a triathlon in a running post… but I’m a rogue, OK?!

  • Best run?
Maybe it’s too fresh in my memory, but we have a quarterly race for the run club organized by the corporate wellness centre.  I hadn’t joined the run club this season, and in fact, I hadn’t been doing much running overall, so I was reluctant to join the race at all.  While I normally do the 10k, I opted to do the 5k for lack of conditioning and general laziness… but at least I was getting out there right?  I ended up winning the race with a hard effort (only by 10-15 seconds).  It did a lot to boost my (running) self-esteem… maybe I gotten that bad!
  • Best new piece of gear?
I had to go back over my gear posts to see what I’d acquired this year… nothing really blew me away, so I’ll say the sweet technical jacket I got from the Chilly Half-Marathon.
  • Best piece of running advice you received?
Something along the lines of “Just Come Out!” to the aforementioned 5km.  A nice simple kick in the pants to get me outside and running again and not looking for other ways to train.
  • Most inspirational runner?
Krysten from Darwinian Fail.  Since I’ve started reading her blog, she’s conquered the marathon, and jumped into triathlon and now she’s about to overtake me (on my left! 😉 ) by doing a Half-Iron next year… did I mention she had surgery and lost her father all this year while this was going on?  She models the ideal character for the endurance athlete: strongest on the inside, with a warm and welcoming heart.

I have to give an honourable mention to the Pavement Runner.  He is “That Kind of Crazy” having done a half and full marathon in the same day along with many other accomplishments this year.  He’s also warm and welcoming and is all about the running community… I know he’ll be the first one to give me a thumbs up for nominating Krysten, in fact.
  • If you could sum up your year in a couple of words, what would they be?
I don’t know if I’m ready to confront this or not… I used to think my swim was strong, my bike weak, and my run fairly good, but I’m seeing more and more that my run is probably on a par with my bike.  I’ve found my old benchmarks for running have been slipping and slipping, and I think I know that following a real structured program would be the cure… I’m not sure if my life and current priorities are compatible with that.  Answers aren’t going to come to me magically just because it’s December, in fact, quite the opposite.  My running, along with the rest of my life is a work in progress of course.

How are you looking back on running in 2013?

Iron Rogue’s Gift List

Sure, this is the time of year where you might be looking to shop for a triathlete.  If you want to shop for the Iron Rogue triathlete, look no further.

What To Buy To Be More Like the Iron Rogue

  1. A Salomon Hydration Pack: Even if you’re not going ultra distances, you need something that’s going to give you enough pockets for ID, smartphone, camera, tripod and other snacks/fuel and gadgets.  Furthermore, a water bottle belt isn’t sleek enough for the best Burbathlon has to offer, so you’re better off with something like this.  The XT Wings I use don’t seem to be available, but I’d recommend the Advanced Skin 12 Set as a substitute.
  2. Salomon XR Mission Shoes. Yup, Salomon again.   I love to run on trails, I find the challenge of varied terrain really gets my motor running mentally, and the softer landings are nice too.  I don’t have time to set aside a separate commute to some trail in a conservation area, so I have to find what I can running out the door from the sidewalks around my work or home.   And of course, many runs turn into Burbathlons… Salomon’s Door-to-Trail shoes are just what the doctor ordered.  I’m currently wearing last year’s XR Mission, and loving them.  In the door-to-trail series, there’s also the Crossmax 2 and the Crossmax 2 CS.

  3. Garmin Forerunner 910XT: A lot of runners love their Garmins, but the Forerunner 910XT is optimized for the triathlete.  It’s not only waterproof (real waterproof not GPS waterproof) so you can track your swim in open water (racing or training), but there’s an accelerometer that counts your strokes.  It can count pool lengths indoors, and by tracking your stroke count, you’ve got an idea of how efficient your stroke is getting so you can quantify the quality of your workouts and your progress.

What An Iron Rogue Would Wish For

  1. Stabilicers SportRunners. After my Yaktrax broke down after training for one measly Half-Marathon last off-season, I’m looking for a new brand of ice traction device for my shoes. Many have recommended adding hex screws to the soles of an older pair of shoes, but I’d prefer something removable so that when I’m running on local sidewalks that have been kindly cleared by good citizens, I don’t cause damage (to the surface, the shoes or my feet!). Stablicers were another recommended product and they look pretty good so far.

  2. Zephyr HxM Heart Rate Strap: After having some blues with a Polar Bluetooth enabled HR sensor strap. I’m a little wary of them; their Android compatible product does not list the Samsung Galaxy S3 so I’ve decided to look elsewhere. I’d love to be able to get HR data with my phone for when I don’t want to bother with the Garmin.

  3. Kreyos Meteor: Further reducing the need for the Garmin is the up-and-coming trend of Smart Watches that link to your phone via Bluetooth.  The idea is that you can check your wrist for the little things more easily than digging out a smart phone.  I think the Kreyos is the best one I’ve seen for the active individual.  It’s water resistant, and has ANT+ sensor capability to link to HR and other fitness accessories, not to mention its built-in accelerometer.  This one’s a bit of a reach financially, but SO SHINY!