Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Running in the snow in Toronto

A few years ago when living in Wasaga Beach running on hard packed snow was normal in winter. It was actually safer than it sounds:  Wasaga Beach used sand on the roads and this provided some decent traction. And combined with a lack of salt, there was not much ice.  On many early morning runs after the frequent snowfalls making tracks through freshly fallen snow was truly special.

Fast forward a couple of years to this winter in Toronto!  Who ordered the snow!

One of the 'nice' things about winter in Toronto is the lack of snow.  At least that was how it was up until this year.  We've had frequent snowfalls and with below freezing temperatures it's been sticking around.  I've had to re-learn snow running techniques from Wasaga Beach!  Normally that wouldn't have been too bad but the real challenge has been the ice.  Snow control in Toronto is all about the salt.  Regular salt, sodium chrloride makes things sloppy and dirty when temperatures are near freezing.  As the temperature drops into the deep freeze levels...and we've had that too this winter...the salt stops working and the slush turns to ice.  And that's no fun!

With winter officially only 12 days old now it looks to be 'interesting' running ahead for the next few months. So far no slips or falls but the winter is early.  Stay tuned...

Oh and remember, 'Don't eat the yellow snow'! :)

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Next Big Race: Sporting Life 10K

So as 2013 comes to an end I've had the opportunity to reflect back on a year of running.  It began back in the cold, dark months of January with tentative steps as the first stage of running after sustaining broken bones in my right foot.

It wasn't pretty.  I'd gained a few pounds after months of less intense physical activity and my leg muscles cried in agony as I pushed beyond just fast walking.  But I persevered and by early spring I was running regularly. A relatively mild and snow-free winter in Toronto helped a lot to get back into the groove.

Then my son Court invited to run with him in the Sporting Life 10K in early May.  I was pretty sure I'd be slow as molasses but it was the first big running test.  Heavier than normal I pounded down Yonge Street and even had a little something left for the final sprint-to-the finish.  It felt good.

I didn't race again until the Reggae Marathon 10K in Negril, Jamaica in early December.  After all these years of running and racing, I'd come full circle:  I spent much of the 1980's and 1990's running many 10 K races in Toronto . Nice!

So what's my next BIG race?   I've already hinted at it:  the Sporting Life 10K on May 11, 2014.

On that early spring morning I'll join 25,000+ other runners heading straight down Yonge Street in Toronto.  It's mostly all downhill with a flat finish. That early in the year should produce ideal cool racing conditions.  I expect a relaxed yet fast result.

Training for the Sporting Life 10Kwill include lots of speed work at the local high school track this spring along with longer runs along the Humber River trails.  I may even include some water running along with some spinning at a local gym.  Yes it's all about the running but I'll mix it up a bit this year.

As we move into the depths of Winter in Toronto, the beacon of light that is the the Sporting Life 10 K in May will be the bright goal.

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ossies Jerk Chicken at Reggae Marathon

No trip to Negril, Jamaica would be complete without a trip and delicious feast of Jerk Pork and Jerk Chicken at Ossies in Negril.

It's not glamorous.  In fact it is easy to miss while driving or even running along Norman Washington Blvd in Negril.  It sits back from the road just west of Couples Swept Away and basically is a small shack with a covered front porch.

The lady who runs Ossies has been there since we first started coming to Negril in 2008.  It was closed in 2009 but has been open and running every year since.  We usually hit Ossies a couple of time for the best Jerk Chicken and Jerk Pork served with Rice and Peas (Yes, I know it's made with Kidney Beans but the name I learned as a kid sticks).

The menu is dead simple:  Jerk Pork, Jerk Chicken, Stem Roast Fish (when available).  And the prices are just great:
A pound of Jerk Pork, half a pound of Jerk Chicken, 2 orders of Rice plus 2 ice cold Red Stripe Beers. Ahhh...now that's the way to celebrate a successful visit to Negril for Reggae Marathon.

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Road Trip Home after Reggae Marathon: Bittersweet

All the Family who ran and walked in Reggae Marathon 2013
Once again it was a great time in Negril at Reggae Marathon 2013.  Last Saturday was a fantastic day to go running.  Especially after the cold, snowy and wet conditions in Toronto the week prior to coming to Jamaica.  It'll be tough putting the shorts and short-sleeve running gear away until summer 2014! Brrrr!

Over the years I've been fortunate to have run in some great beach-side locations:  Biaritz, France with my friend Tim;  Bondi and Coogie Beaches in Australia;  San Diago, California; Stockholm, Sweden.  I have great memories of all of them but Negril, Jamaica is the best.  OK, Bondi Beach in Australia is pretty fantastic as well!  The combination of beach, warm weather, glorious food and the company of fellow runners makes it truly special.

This week at Reggae Marathon was even more special.  I caught up with my Cuz, Karin and her hubby, Christopher and his sister and friend.  We solved all the problems of the world once again...and that was before Uncle Donnie and Aunt Betty came for a visit!  They were in Montego Bay and made the short drive to Negril Saturday afternoon.  It was really nice to seem them here in Jamaica.

Then  to top it off, Andrew, Court, Amy and Carleigh came over from their resort to spend the day at Rondel Village.   We spent some time on the beach and playing in the ocean...it truly a family affair at Reggae Marathon this year.


Larry, Dan, Navin and I should now call ourselves "The Four Musketeers".  Larry from Florida, New York, Dan from White Rock, British Columbia, Navin currently in Toronto but who we met in Negril a few years ago.  Hmmm...sounds like the title of a future blog post.

Final thoughts on Reggae Marathon 2013:

  • The weather in Negril was great.  I love the sun so lying all day on the beach 'doing nothing' comes pretty close to heaven for me.  I had one last swim and baste experience this morning before the limo ride back to the airport.
  • Jerk Pork!  Jerk Chicken is OK but I'm a pork guy.  I try to make a reasonable Jerk Pork back home in Canada but have not yet mastered it.  My Dad's version was pretty good and there are some restaurants in Toronto that do a good job but nothing, I mean nothing beats eating Jerk Pork from an outdoor restaurant in Jamaica.  That and a ice cold Red Stripe Beer...ahhhhh.....!!
It was a jam-packed week.  I'm packed for the return trip home and looking forward to being back home with Sally and Tia.  The shuttle leaves in an hour...

Until next time...

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I'm packed and ready to go to Reggae Marathon!

Next stop, Negril, Jamaica for Reggae Marathon.

All new running gear
for Reggae Marathon
I used Reggae Marathon as an excuse for buying new running gear.  I'm running in the shoes now but the short tights and top will get their first runs this week in Negril.  Between the Running Room Outlet store and a sale at the Bloor Street West store, I scored great deals on pricing.  Better to save money than look good but if you can do both that's always a good thing.

I always stress over packing for Negril.  After bathing suit, shorts and T Shirts, my challenge is what to wear for dinner in the evenings.  I know, I know, Negril is known as the Capital of Casual but evenings out usually require clothing to be taken up a notch.  I usually pack too much but don't we all when we travel.

One of the best things about Reggae Marathon is the location:  Negril, Jamaica.  7 miles of white sand beach with gently lapping waves with temperatures in the high 20's Celsius. After the race itself this Saturday morning, the highlight for me is the Beach!  I am totally OK with spending hours just lying in the sun...after lathering up with sunblock of course. Here are a couple of shots of my paradise:

I'm packed and ready to go! 

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A week tomorrow I'm on a plane to Reggae Marathon

Court and Andrew in Negril for Reggae Marathon
Where did the year go?

A week tomorrow I head down to Jamaica for my 5th consecutive visit to Negril and Reggae Marathon.  I started with the Full Marathon back in 2009, did the Half Marathon in 2010 and the 10K in 2011.  Last year I walked the 10K in my foot cast, broken leg and all. I'm back this year running the 10K again looking not only for redemption but a personal best.

I have a brutal travel next Wednesday with my departure out of Toronto at 6 ish am.  I'm travelling on American Airlines and with no direct flights from Toronto to Montego Bay, I have a long stop-over in Miami on the way down.  The airport has Wi-Fi but they charge so I'll be hunting out the American Airlines lounge which has free Wi-Fi.  If I sit close enough to the lounge I can get pretty robust and reliable Internet connection.  Shhh...don't tell anyone my secret.

After I pick up some Duty-free Vodka in Miami, it's a quick flight to Montego Bay.  I'm already booked with JUTA Negril for the just-under-two hour drive to Negril so with any luck should arrive at Rondel Village, my hotel in Negril, in time to have dinner with my friend Dan Cumming.  Dan is travelling to Negril for his third consecutive Reggae Marathon event and even though we've communicated regularly throughout the year, we'll have a lot to catch up on.  I'll try to keep it to only one Red Stripe that first evening.

The next couple of days in Negril before the race Saturday morning go something like this:  early morning running followed by breakfast then lazing on the beach until lunch.  More sunning and swimming for the afternoon before dinner and an early bed time.  I know, I know...sounds tough.  Don't worry, I'll be able to handle it.

Friday night before Reggae Marathon is a BIG evening.  As part of my job as official Reggae Marathon Blogger and Social Media RunninGuy, I've invited everything to meet me at 7 pm.  If only a few show up at the appointed time, I'll be swamped.  But then again these are runners from around the world who I've communicated with online all year.  It should be fun.

It's early-to-bed Friday night ahead of the 3:30 am wake up Saturday morning.  I'll grab a quick light breakfast before walking the mile or so to the Reggae Marathon start for 4:30 am.  I'll catch up with the rest of the family who have also come from Canada:  Andrew and Carleigh, Carleigh's parents and brother, Court and Amy and of course, 'Sulleh' who is coming from New York for his third event.  I'll be waiting for them at the Finish Line, Red Stripe in hand since they are all doing the Half Marathon.  

With the warm temperature in Negril, it won't be hard leaving the chilly, snowy wintry conditions behind next Wednesday morning.

Until next time...almost in Negril...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Proper Running Form

Courtesy of
Gibson's Daily Run Quotes
I spent many years running not worrying at all about form.  When disaster struck about 3 years ago...first Plantar Fasciitis then broken foot bones...I had to finally think about proper running form if I wanted to continue to run.  And I love to run!

The very first thing I did was change from 'Heel Strike' to 'Forefoot' or 'Mid-foot' running.  It took some time to get used to but now it's completely natural.  It led to a change in shoes:  not fully minimal but I have moved completely away from the traditional 'wedge' running shoe.

I've also scoured the web to find training tips to improve my form and speed.  I found this one recently and like the easy suggestions and training tips.

Enjoy and keep running.  That's my plan.

Until next time...

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Top 10 Running Songs from my mis-spent Youth

Overnight camping on the hike up
Blue Mountain Peak, Jamaica
Or should I call this post, 'Songs that have running in the lyrics that I can remember from my mis-spent youth'.

To be clear, I was not a runner back in university, college, high school or grade school.  In Jamaica I went on a number of hikes with my classmates while at Campion College.  At high school in Canada I tried Cross Country running for a fall semester at Clarkson Secondary School.  I loved the hiking...didn't like the cross country running so much. I remember one miserable run through muddy fields just north and west of Highway #10 and Dundas Street...it was a cold, drizzly fall afternoon:  "I moved to Canada from warm Jamaica to do this?"

I loved music though.  Hard rock which of course might seem odd since I grew up in Jamaica and was exposed to Reggae early on.  Even though I wasn't into running back then, I'm amazed with the 'running' references.  Check out my top 10 running songs:
  1. 'Running back to Saskatoon', The Guess Who.  While on vacation in Canada in 1967 I found a 45 RPM disc lying in a mall parking lot.  I picked it up and despite the scratches it was the Guess Who!  True story.  I already knew 'American Woman' but this song was catchy and oh so exotic.
  2. 'Running on Empty', Jackson Brown.  Just a catchy tune.  I really don't know any other Jackson Brown songs and am not a fan.  I just loved this sone.
  3. 'Ramble On', Led Zeppelin.  I'm still a huge Led Zeppelin fan.  Which is incongrous given the fact that I grew up in Jamaica and was exposed to Reggae early on.  For some reason I loved heavy metal and Led Zeppelin was the best at it.  For me this is the best ever Led Zeppelin song...it helps that it refers to Lord of the Rings as well.
  4. 'Race with Devil on Spanish Highway', Al di Mineola.  Fusion-Jazz;  Jazz-Rock...no matter what you called it, Al di Mineola was and still is a master of the guitar.  This is one of his best.
  5. 'Magic Carpet Ride', Stepenwolf.  OK, this really isn't a song about running but what would a Top 10 list without Stepenwolf.
  6. 'Long Distance Runaround', Yes.  I saw Yes live at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.  Floor seats to boot!  They played 6 songs in 3 hours.  This was one of the highlights.  
  7. 'Downpressor Man', Peter Tosh.  Busted!  As I grew out of my teen years...and after living in Canada for a number of years...I 'discovered' Reggae.  This is one of my favourites.
  8. 'Born to Run', Bruce Springsteen.  I'm not a Springsteen fan.  This is a masterpiece.  Period!
  9. 'It Keeps you Running', Doobie Brothers.  I still am a big Doobie Brothers fan (and no it has nothing to do with the alternative meaning of 'Doobie'.  I love a ton of Doobie Brothers songs...this one because it has running in its title.
  10. 'Run Like Hell', Pink Floyd. Ahhh...by the time this track came on the 'LP', we were usually quite mellow...running was the last thing on our minds.
True confession:  I really didn't have a mis-spent youth.  I stayed out of serious trouble for the most part...my Grand Mother called me 'Mischevious'.  And I met and made friends with guys who are now my best friends.  Must have been the music.

That's my list.  What's yours?

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Training for Reggae Marathon December 7 in Jamaica

It started with a 10K.

30 years ago the goal was to finish a 10K run.   It was called the Speedy Baycrest 10K and it was flat rectangular route in Toronto's North West.  By the time I ran this race, my first ever, I'd been running consistently for about 6 months.  I'd never run the distance.  I figured I could tough it out.  I was wrong.  Not only did I start too fast, I had the wrong clothes (cotton shorts and t shirt) and running shoes that were way past their best-before-date.  I finished.  Well over an hour.  But I finished!  And I was hooked on racing.

Fast forward a few years:  racing through the streets of Toronto nearly every second weekend in 10K races that were the rage back then.  Finishing medals were not popular then, T Shirts were.  I amassed quite the collection of Q107/Coors Light branded shirts...thankfully that have long ago been re-cycled.

A few years later I ran into (pardon the pun) longer distance races the first of which was the Bread & Honey 15 Miler in Streetsville.  Back then we ran along roads north and east of Streetsville Highschool (where the event started and finished) that were farmland. A few weeks ago I drove through the neighbourhood...when did all those houses get built?

I ran a few Half Marathons after that but was fearful of the full Marathon convinced that I could never finish the distance.  That proved correct in my first attempt through the streets of Toronto.  Not until Reggae Marathon in 2009 did I finish my one and only full Marathon.  Reggae Marathon 10K in Negril, Jamaica on December 7.
Waiting and waiting...then waiting some more for
my big Finish at Reggae Marathon 2009.

So while I'm a long-time runner or 'Seasoned' as my friend Dan Cumming often reminds me, I prefer the shorter distance race events such as the 10K. And after running the Sporting Life 10K this past spring, my first race after the broken foot, I've found my running sweet spot once again.  And that brings me to my training for the

I'm obsessed about speed.  Finishing time actually.  I blame that on Dan Cumming who said a good goal would be to finish the Reggae Marathon 10K in the same time as my age:  I'm 55 so that would translate to 55 minutes.  I don't like that one bit so I've been training...hard!  Speedwork and hills the past few weeks with increased weekly frequency in the upcoming 2 weeks before the taper.  So far I've been injury-free so 'touch wood', I should burn up the course in Negril.  I've got a few more pounds to loose as well so the combination of intense workout and lower weight should 'git er dun'.  Plus, I'll need to look good on the beach in my bathing suit.

So if you see me on the streets of Etobicoke racing early morning, don't honk...it'l break my focus.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I missed running in the Fall this year

Walking/Running/Cycling Tree Covered Trail along the
Humber River taken by Sally on her walk last Sunday
Where did Fall go?

I look forward to the transition from summer running to fall running every year. It seems I missed it this year.  Only last week I was running in short sleeves and short tights.  Then overnight it turned to Fall!  

Where we live in Central Etobicoke we enjoyed greenish leaves on the trees until last week.  But with recent daily highs in the single digits Celsius and early morning lows hovering around zero, the leaves have changed colour and fallen! Almost time to start looking out for black ice! And north of Toronto last week there was snow!  Negril and Reggae Marathon December 7 can't come soon enough!

But that's still the future.  There are things I like about running in the fall and I'm sorry to have missed them this year:
  • I'm not wearing a toque yet.  That I save for the below freezing temperatures that are coming.  
  • Frosty breath!  I love seeing my breath in the cool morning air.  This must have something to do with growing up in a warm climate...winter seemed so exotic.
  • Light fleece.  I know the heavier fleece is coming but for temperatures above freezing the lighter weight gear makes me feel like a Gazelle when I'm running.
  • Running in the dark.  I love it!  Maybe this goes back to my early running days when at 240 lbs running in the dark so no one would see me was the reason I went out early.
  • Watching the leaves fall.  After the leaves change colour, there is a period when they are still on the branches and haven't fallen yet.  I especially love running then.
Soon winter running will be here along with that the icy sidewalks encrusted with salt. Yuck!  Then the sadness of missing fall running this year will really sink in.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Anatomy of a Run

4:30 am comes early in my house.

That's the time I get up most week-day mornings to go running.  For some crazy reason, I love running in the dark (Sally says I'm 'in the dark' most days but I digress).  I like the quite and almost total lack of traffic early morning. I should clarify though:  I get up at 4:30 am...I don't go running until nearly 6 am.  That's one of the things about growing older:  it takes me nearly an hour to 'go running':
  • I don't like to run on a full stomach.  Unless I'm going for a long run, I don't eat anything before heading out.  I drink water though...I sweat a lot even in the winter so having to stop for a 'bio break' isn't a problem for me.
  • The first thing after I get up is to check the weather.  Unless there's been an ice storm overnight, I'm going running.  I am sensitive to temperature though so I check that via my handy Smartphone App (The Weather Network).
  • Once geared up:  In the summer, short tights and a technical T shirt;  in colder conditions long tights and layered tops, I walk down the four flights of stairs from our apartment.  That's it for pre-run limbering up.  I have never liked stretching before a run:  something about straining cold muscles.  
  • With a nod to my age, I walk the first 100 metres before breaking into a jog.  Most mornings it's only a few minutes before my breathing normalizes and I pick up the pace.  That's a good running day...some days it's 20 minutes in before things settle down.  On those mornings I ask myself, "This is fun?"
  • I run about 40 minutes 5 days a week now with a couple of days off.  My 'long run' is usually a Saturday or Sunday up around 75 minutes.  After running and racing and training for events most of the past 30 years, I really only have one 'race' that matters:  the annual pilgramage to Negril each December for Reggae Marathon
  • I don't run with music.  I like my 'alone time' while running and when all goes well just enjoy an easy pace.  I do solve all the problems of the world while running though...unfortunately I never seem to remember the solutions after.  I know my head is clear though...that's all that matters.
  • I sprint for the final 500 metres.  OK, an exaggeration but I do pick up the pace as I near the finish.  Old habit...I like to finish in a flat-out sprint. I'll never be Usain Bolt but it feels good trying.
  • Post-race I walk for about 10 minutes to cool down.  I don't stretch after running either...the walk seems to be enough.
  • Since I run early in the morning and don't eat before I run I come back famished. Lots of water plus hot cereal does the trick.  That's the plan anyway...I usually end up with a cereal bar.
That's the anatomy of my typical daily running routine.  Well, it's exciting to me!

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Scatterbrained Running

Some mornings I'm not sure how I make it through my run.

It's dark outsode.  Pre-dawn with only the occasional passing bus to brighten up my route through Central Etobicoke.  I put on my 'dark' running gear, walk down the 4 flights of stairs into the cool morning air.  I do love fall!

After a minute or so of brisk walking...my version of warming up...I break into a slow jog.  That lasts for a few minutes until my brain and legs begin to talk to each other:  "Crap...he really is serious about running again this morning".

Most days I get to the sweet spot quickly:  legs turning over rapidly (160 times a minute is the goal), breathing deep and regular, mind blank.  But some days no matter how hard I try, not so much.  On those days I go scatterbrained:
  • Why did that raccoon cross the road?  Dam...that's a big raccoon!!  Hope he's more scared of me than I am of him.
  • Will I be  delayed on the TTC this morning?
  • My son is getting married!!  Yikes...when did he grow up?
  • Gotta loose some weight...carrying this extra Muffin Top around sucks.  Running with it sucks even more.
  • I should walk for a few minutes.  Nope, keep running!
  • I've been running for 30 years...why doesn't it get any easier.
  • Will my client make my candidate an offer today?  Will my candidate accept it?
  • "Stop thinking about work!"
  • Why are my lungs screaming for air?
  • Oh, oh...here comes that hill again.  Why did I pick this route?
On those mornings running isn't fun...thankfully though it's over relatively quickly.  What keeps me running is knowing that tomorrow is another day...

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Shoot me November 2 at Sector 57

"November 2...the perfect day to shoot me".  Preferably not in the back at close range while running to 'Capture the Flag'.

We're back!  A little later than normal and with a new Outdoor location but our 5th Annual Paint Attack Fund Raiser for the Heart & Stroke Foundation is on for November 2 at Sector 57 Paintball in Oshawa.  My sons and their friends will be out in force once again to have fun playing paintball...and shooting, I mean marking, the Old Man.  They may have youth on their side, but my superior experience gives me the edge. Or at least I hope so.

In the past we've dedicated our annual event to family who have passed away from heart attacks, heart disease and strokes: my Dad, my Mother-in-Law being two immediate family members.  This year we're dedicated to two close friends who have suffered from heart disease recently: Nigel and Brad.  In the prime of their lives each recently had a brush with heart disease.  Through the quick efforts of the health services, they both received top-notch care.  The money raised in Paint Attack goes to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario.  It helps fund research and education to eliminate this disease if possible; alert you to the symptoms so you can take quick action.

I'll be running on November 2 for sure in Paint Attack #5.  Sector 57 in Oshawa has outdoor paintball fields and from past experience, I expect the boys to 'light me up' every chance they get.  I won't mind...it's for cause that's affected all of us.

If you are interested in shooting me November 2 at Sector 57 during oue 5th Annual Paint Attack, leave a comment on this post or contact me directly:  chris@thatrunninguy.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

40 Beats a Minute: Zen Baby, Zen!

Zen baby, Zen!
40 beats a minute.  That's my resting heart rate.  Less than 1 beat per second. 

"Thumpa...big pause...thumpa".

My Doctor was concerned so she sent me for a battery of heart tests...stress, electrocardiogram, ultrasound.  Her concluding diagnosis:  "40 beats per minute is abnormal...but it's your normal". Sally got a kick out of that notion that 'my normal is abnormal'. It may just explain my mellow state. It explains a lot.  And it got me thinking:  what else beats at 40 beats a minute.  To answer that of course I Googled it:
  • First up was this article, "My heart rate is 40 beats a minute, does this mean I'm in good shape?".  My favourite answer noted that only Sages and Monks had heart rates that low.  Hmmm...Sage...I quite like that!
  • In music, I am a 'Lento'.  That means music at a 'leisurely' 40 beats per minute.  One great example is this one from Charles Mingus, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat".  Not so good to run to...ideal though for relaxing and meditating;  Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon...Zen!
  • And speaking of running, with the change to forefoot running, I'm up to just over 160 step rate...that's 4 x 40.  Don't you just love math.
  • Also at 40 beats are Hummingbirds.  Of course, they flap their wings at 40 beats per second!  
  • In cycling, the current theory is that the ideal cadence is 80 RPM:  2 times my resting heart rate
  • Driving in a school zone in Toronto:  40 Km/hr.  Hmmm...
  • And still on driving, my comfort speed is 120 kpm:  3 x 40.
  • This past year I celebrated the 15 anniversary of my 40th birthday.  OK, I didn't find that on Google...
I could continue but that would be beating a dead horse.  The bottom line is that I'm healthy, still running and enjoying every minute of it.

Zen baby...ZEN!

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

75 Days to Reggae Marathon!

Larry, Chris, Dan ... Post-race, Reggae Marathon
Yikes!  Where did that year go?  It was only yesterday when I was waiting outside Rondel Village in Negril for the shuttle to take me back to the airport in Montego Bay for the trip home.  All my family and friends had left for home the day before and even though I enjoyed an early morning swim and a few hours lolling for the last time on the Negril beach, saying good by to Reggae Marathon 2012 was tough.  Only 364 days to go...

Fast forward...now under 75 days to go to Reggae Marathon 2013, my 5th consecutive Reggae Marathon.  It's the only race event I've done 5 times.  And yes I was born in Jamaica but this race has something special that brings me back year after year.

There have been both highlights and low times at Reggae Marathon.  Each experience...even the not so good ones...have been positive once enough time passed.  Here are some of the experiences that have stayed with me over the years:

  • My first Reggae Marathon in 2009 was my second full marathon and my first and only complete marathon.  It wasn't pretty but I 'got it dun!'.  With my slow pace I spent a considerable amount of time under the mid-morning sun.  I was prepared and had trained for it yet nothing could prepare me for the long, long stretches of running with no one else in sight.  "The loneliness of the long distance runner?"  I got it!  The hardest part:  knowing that Sally was waiting for me at the finish line wondering when I would ever get to the finish.  Thanks for waiting Sally.
  • My second Reggae Marathon event in 2010 was actually harder.  I entered the Half Marathon event and cockily predicted a sub-2 hour time.  It was not to be.  Even with my son Courtney running with me, I struggled.  I ran with a bad case of Plantar Fasciitis, in the wrong shoes and with the wrong T Shirt.  I overheated, destroyed my feet and crossed the finish line a mess.  Not my finest hour.
  • Reggae Marathon #3 in 2011 was much better.  I had two of my sons, Andrew and Courtney in Negril along with one of their friends, Mike.  We all stayed at Rondel Village and had a blast playing on the beach before and after the race.  I entered the 10K and upon finishing could proudly claim I had 'Medalled' in each of the Reggae Marathon distances:  Full Marathon, Half and 10K.  Plus the highlight of this race was that I ran topless!  Don't worry, I didn't scare anyone...it was dark the entire race.
  • My 2012 Reggae Marathon could have been a disaster.  Barely 2 months before race day I broke some bones in my right foot.  I missed a planned half marathon that fall but expected to be fully recovered for the 10K event in Negril.  Never happened.  I was still in my walking cast when I traveled to Negril and I promised Sally I wouldn't run.  I kept my word and walked the entire 10K in my walking cast.  For the first time I got the opportunity to take pictures along the route...some of them priceless to me.
For 2013 I'm back for the event December 7.  I'll be running the 10K event once again.  Truth be told, it's my favourite distance...it's how I got into running in the first place.  I'm totally looking forward to it.  Beach, sun, run...Reggae Marathon 2013 here I come!

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Incredible Shrinking Runner

5 feet 8 inches!

That's how tall I am after being officially measured by my new Doctor last week!

What....???  When did that happen?  All my life I've been 5 feet 10 inches tall.  Then I miss a couple of years of visiting a Doctor and shrink 2 inches!  I was so surprised by this result that I had her repeat the measurement...I even tried to 'stretch' to make myself taller.  Didn't work.

Dam...after living up north for 6 years that water in Georgian Bay in Wasaga Beach must have been really cold!

The back story.

I haven't been to my Family Doctor in many years.  No annual physical, no regular checkup in over 3 years. Reasons were varied and many:  Previous Family Doctor was in Oakville and we lived in Wasaga Beach; No serious health issues (OK, the broken foot bones last year were serious but a great Clinic here in Etobicoke did the job);  too busy! But since moving to Etobicoke in December 2011, the excuses had worn thin.  So after Sally signed up with a Family Practice 10 minutes from our place, I bit the bullet and did the same.

I had my first visit with Dr. Catherine last week and it was...well...OK:  Blood pressure below normal and a few pounds overweight.  The only 'interesting' observation was a very low pulse rate.  Get this, my resting rate is 40 beats per minute...less than one per second.  Dr. C says there's no cause for alarm given that I've a lifelong runner but to be sure, she scheduled me for a full cardio workup.  She did give me heck though for way too much caffeine and Diet Pop consumption.  Luckily I can keep drinking coffee but she was blunt on the Diet Pop:  "Cut that crap out!"  That's not likely in the Doctor Training Manual but I like it.  So long Diet Soda...hello Fizzy Water!

Recently I've observed all the kids, Andrew, Court, Michael and Holden to appear to have grown.  Now the truth is out:  I shrunk!

Until next time...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Walk Sally, Walk!

She was an active skiier and tennis player.  In an earlier life she enjoyed sailboating.  Over the past few years however she has become less active.  Then this summer, the 'Eureka' moment:  she took up walking!

Like all such decisions this happened after a major life changing experience:  she contracted pneumonia!  This nasty bout kept her bedridden for nearly 3 weeks on heavy anti-biotics and a liquid diet.  It wasn't much fun.  But like Rip Van Winkle, when she 'awoke', she was hungry for something new.

And a walker was born...

Yes, Sally has taken up walking.  As you know we live beside the Humber River in Central Etobicoke and have miles of paved walking trails just steps from our house.  When the non paved trails deeper into the woods are included, the choices of cycling, running and of course walking are virtually endless.  Most of the trail is tree covered and the noise of the city...well, there is no city noise to be heard.  It's like being deep in the forest.

And like any newbie, all she talks about now is walking:  blow-by-blow of each walk, the benefits of polypropylene and of course shoes.  Her first few walks were in a pair of fashion shoes...not good...led to early case of shin splints.  Her second pair were an old pair of running shoes.  She didn't like how clunky and 'wedgie' those were.

We went shopping!

After trying on a number of shoes, she settled on a pair of walking shoes from Columbia.  'Heaven'.  They have a lot of support with a very natural feel.  Not too much rise so they mimic a very natural and comfortable walking stride.  Sally loves them.  Of course once bitten, she is now eager to try out other pairs.  I see a new favourite store in her future:  Running Room!  For her birthday recently she asked for and got a Gift Certificate for Running Room and it's burning a hole in her purse.

Sally was determined to keep it simple and non-competitive.  Then she found the Map My Walk App for her Galaxy 3 Smartphone!  Now when she hears the voice, 'Signal lost' she walks faster to pick up the GPS signal again.

I join Sally and Tia most weekends now to 'go for a walk'.  The most recent milestone was a 7.5 K last weekend on a particularly hot and sunny Sunday morning.  Thankfully the trees overhead provided nice shade for most of the walk.  It actually began as a 2.5 mile walk but the challenge of the longer distance got the better of us and we ended up doing 7.5 K.  Sally was in some pain the next day...thank you Voltarin (this stuff really works).

She will never transition to running...one crazy in the family is enough...but she loves walking every day.  Now if only we can figure out where to hang our respective workout clothes...

Until next time...
ThatRunninGuy (with ThatWalkinGirl)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Running DOES solve everything

What was I thinking in my last blog post? (Running doesn't solve everything).  Running does solve everything.  On every run I've been on I've been able to 'solve all the problems of the universe' multiple times. If only I could remember the solutions after I finished...

Getting 'into the zone' where all the problems of the world disappear is magical.  Some days it happens quickly on others it only happens during the final kilometre.  I've always experienced it though no matter the run.

So running does solve everything...these are my top 5:
  1. It solves the problem of what to do for an hour at 5 am in the morning.  It's better to go out running rather than trolling on Facebook.
  2. Running allows you to talk to yourself without being called crazy.  Fess up:  you've had at least one run where you huffed out loud, "Come on...I can do this!!!".  Or the other version, "#%#!!%#@@!!...this is hard!!"
  3. Running is better than swimming, biking.  Swimming - drive to public pool; put on bathing suit; shower;  then get wet in a chlorinated pool.  In the cold winter months this is a chilly affair.  Biking - buy bike, carry up and down elevator, store in apartment; give Spouse a reason to get angry.  And biking in the city? Unlike Holland with dedicated bike roads, sharing the road with cars in Toronto is like playing chicken.
  4. Running can be done alone.  Sure you can run with a group but it isn't absolutely necessary.  Just get up, put on running gear and get outside.
  5. You meet the nicest people running.  Really.  Sure all we talk about is running, getting injured and recovering from injury but it sure beats talking about politics and religion.  Maybe if more clerics and politicians ran things would run more smoothly (sorry...I couldn't resist the pun).
Until next time...

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Running doesn't solve everything

I've been running 30+ years now.  Back in the day I could eat what I wanted to, drink what I wanted to yet could keep the weight and belly fat off by just going for a run.  Ahh...the good old days.  Fast forward to my mid-50's and that model has mysteriously gone out the window.  I guess if I paid enough attention to my changed metabolism I wouldn't be this stressed.  But you know me, I just charge along stumbling and fumbling along the way.  Running of course!

So I got to thinking:  running doesn't solve everything.  Oh it tries, it really tries but there are things that running doesn't solve.  Here are a few that come to mind:

  1. Running doesn't get rid of belly fat.  Try as I have, I can't seem to shake the middle-age belly roll. I saw a T shirt at Mark's Work Wearhouse that promised to 'reduce the midrift shape' and was intrigued.  Girdles for men?
  2. Running doesn't reduce stress.  Not thinking about work-related problems reduces stress.  Staying focused on running and enjoying the outdoors reduces stress.  The act of running increases muscle stress...which is good stress.
  3. Running won't cure a hangover.  Well actually it does.  But you have to run for long enough for your increased heart and breathing rate to burn off the hangover feeling.  And it will hurt:  Your legs will feel like lead, your head will pound...you will promise never to drink again.
  4. Running doesn't turn back time.  It slows it down though...if I hadn't started running 30 years ago I'm pretty sure I'd still be at a size 42" waist, be on medication for high blood pressure and who knows what else.  That reclining armchair would have been my friend.
  5. Running won't help you make friends.  OK, this one is not true.  Larry, Dan, Navin, Mike, Jet, Joy, Diane, Frano...way too many other's to name.  And I made friends with my kids Andrew and Court who I've run with in Toronto and Jamaica a couple of times over the past few years.  Court even got me through the Reggae Marathon Half Marathon in 2010 when he sacrificed his time to pace me back to the finish line.
So, running really doesn't solve everything. But running sure does makes life so much better. 

Until next time...


I'm raising funds for the Heart & Stroke Foundation in 2013.  My goal is to raise $2,000 by December 31.  My planned races in 2013 include:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Getting High with my Favourite Running Songs

The Runner's High...it is real. Not psychedelic high like drug-induced highs.  Endorphin high that washes away anxiety, stress, moodiness and replaces them with euphoria, calmness and a state of general well being.  I generally can't go a day without running and not feel anxious...so to reduce the anxiety I go running.  I love the Runner's High!

Most of my running is alone.  Since I run early morning along city streets, I need to be aware of vehicles and traffic.  When I run the trails, I like to hear the birds chirping.  Sally who has recently started walking the Humber River Trail near our place says the same thing.  She has already experienced the Walker's High!

I love music.  Rock, Jazz and that wonderful combination of Jazz/Rock mastered by bands like The Dave Matthews Band are favourite genres.  But even though I love music, I don't run to music.  I don't like the earbuds at all and I carry my Samsung Galaxy Note Smartphone to take pictures and videos.  But I do like running music...music that gets my foot tapping, my blood pumping...music that I have to play LOUD!  Here are a few of my favourite 'Getting High' running songs:
  1. "Running Back to Saskatoon", The Guess Who
  2. "Life is a Highway", Tom Cochrane and Red Rider
  3. "Two Step", Dave Matthews Band
  4. "Loose Yourself", Eminem
  5. "Walking on Sunshine", Katrina and the Waves
  6. "Echo Beach", Martha and the Muffins
  7. "Thunderstruck", AD/DC
  8. "Relax", Frankie Goes to Hollywood
  9. "Two Tribes", Frankie Goes to Hollywood
  10. "Desire, the Hollywood Mix", U2
  11. "Firestarter", The Prodigy
  12. "Running Down a Dream", Tom Petty
  13. "I Got a Feeling", Black Eyed Peas
  14. "Tubthumping", Chumbawumba
  15. "1999", Prince
  16. "Beat It", Michael Jackson
  17. "Ramble On", Led Zeppelin
  18. "Midnight Rambler", The Rolling Stones
  19. "Brick House", The Commodores
  20. "Last Dance", Donna Summer
I have been know to sing these songs out loud while running.  Out of tune and flat for sure but sung with all the emotion and energy they inspire.  And I'm pretty sure that after going through the above list at least one of them is currently playing in your head right now. You're welcome.

Until next time...
I'm raising funds for the Heart & Stroke Foundation in 2013.  My goal is to raise $2,000 by December 31.  My planned races in 2013 include:

Please join me on Facebook at Run for Heart.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I stopped to take in the scenery on my last run

Every once in a while I stop running and take a few moments to take it all in.  Last Sunday morning on my long slow distance run was one of those moments.  I was near the end of my run anyway (about 1 mile from home).  And with my Samsung Galaxy Note with me (shameless product plug) I caught a few pictures plus the video below.

I took this photo from the trail on the east side of the Humber River just south of the Dundas Street Bridge.  For you history buffs, this is in an area originally called Lambton Mills and is about 2 miles north of Old Mill on Bloor Street.  For most of this part of the trail it's really hard to remember that I'm in the heart of Etobicoke with busy streets nearby.  And because I run very early in the morning, I generally have the trail all to myself.  Later in the day it gets very busy with walkers, runners and cyclists all sharing the trail very courteously.

But the video below really does better justice to the almost complete separation of city and country possible by running the Humber Trail.  I shot it at a small waterfall and the sound of the water rushing over the edge completely drowns out the sounds of the city.  The illusion is complete!

Over the years I've enjoyed running in just about every location I've visited or lived.  Most recently I enjoyed running along the beach in Wasaga Beach.  But now back in Toronto, it's tough to beat the magnificence of running along the Humber River.  It's enough to get me to stop long enough to take it all in!

Until next time...
I'm raising funds for the Heart & Stroke Foundation in 2013.  My goal is to raise $2,000 by December 31.  My planned races in 2013 include:

Please join me on Facebook at Run for Heart.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Speedwork and Hills!

I used to just go for a run.  Then one day I decided to race.  It's been a battle against time ever since.

That wasn't necessarily a bad thing when I was young and foolish.  But now that I'm on my second half century it's become a bit more of a challenge.  On two fronts actually.  First, the work it takes to run faster and second the challenge to stay healthy and un-injured.  So speedwork and hills.

On the speedwork front, I use the local high school dirt track.  Prior to the recent hurricane level rain it was a lovely oval of hard-packed red clay.  It's suffered some damage recently that I hope will be addressed before the new school season starts in September because it's really messed up my weekly speedwork sessions.  Normally I head out from home at a faster-than-usual pace for the 1 mile distance to the track.  Then I do a series of 'Repeats to Failure':  sprinting the straights then walking/slowly jogging the curves to catch my breath.  So far I'm up to about 6 laps of this torture (about 1 1/2 miles) before I'm spent.  The really hard part is the slow 1 mile jog back home.


Then there are the hill workouts! 

Where we live there aren't too many real hills.  We do have the descent/ascent down to the Humber River however and it's become my nemesis! It's a steep, narrow, uneven dirt path up the side of the ravine.  It starts steep then gets really stupid for the last 5 metres.  I know 5 metres doesn't sound like a lot but after my 3rd repeat my thighs are burning and my lungs are trying to do an 'Alien'!  Again, I try to do these hill repeats only once every other week.  These photos are of the trail but they really don't do justice to the steepness of the incline.  You'll just have to trust me when I tell you that after my 5th repeat I've invented some new swear words to go along with the burning in my quads and searing in my lungs.  The beauty here though is that it's a quick walk back home and the relief of a cold compress on my knee.  Yeah, there's some pain but I've been looking after it carefully.

The big benefit of all this pain is that my regular runs have become fun again.  While it may only be in my mind, I feel as if I'm running faster.  For sure I'm running more comfortably with the mid-foot running style. We'll see how fast I really am this fall in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon where I'm running the 1/2 Marathon and again in Negril in Decemeber at Reggae Marathon where I'm running the 10K.

Until next time...


I'm raising funds for the Heart & Stroke Foundation in 2013.  My goal is to raise $2,000 by December 31.  My planned races in 2013 include:
Please join me on Facebook at Run for Heart.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Beer Run at Oktoberfest October 14

'Back in the day' "Beer Run" meant stopping at the Beer Store to pick up a 'Two-Four' of Molson Export or Labbatt Blue on the way to a friend's house for a late night get-together to watch Saturday Night Live.  Ahhh...those were simpler times.  No Smartphones...not even mobile phones...heck, 'Touch tone' phones had just made the mainstream;  28 TV Channels to choose one...couldn't find anything good to watch then either.  And yes, we listened to LP Records but were super excited about the newest technology about to hit the market:  Cassette Tapes! Oh, those were the days!

I digress...this is about a Beer Run that's happening in Kitchener, Ontario on Monday, October 14 (Thanksgiving Day) as part of the Thanksgiving Day Parade that is a part of the Oktoberfest Celebrations that get under way that weekend.  

I love the idea of a Beer Run.  At Reggae Marathon held on the first Saturday in December every year, it's possible to be drinking a cold Red Stripe Beer at 6 am in the morning after finishing the 10K race event.  That sounds decadent I know but combined with the fresh cut coconut and and dash into the warm Caribbean Sea it's the best Post-Race Celebration I can think of.  A cold beer after finishing the KW Oktoberfest Fun Run is a close second.  

Click here for details on the KW Oktoberfest Fun Run.  Personally I think that name is way too long and cumbersum...I'm going to stick with Beer Run.

Shoutout to all my Kitchener Waterloo friends:  want to do this event?

Until next time...

I'm raising funds for the Heart & Stroke Foundation in 2013.  My goal is to raise $2,000 by December 31.  My planned races in 2013 include:

Please join me on Facebook at Run for Heart.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I love Summer running

The hotter the better actually.  And if I could, I'd run at high noon!  Call me crazy but I love running in the heat of the summer.

This past week in Toronto we were 'blessed' with ridiculously hot temperatures and humidity.  Air temperatures topped 30 C but with our high humidity it was the equivalent of 40 C.  Loved it!

Maybe it's the upbringing.  I grew up in Jamaica before moving to the Toronto area waaaaay back in 1972.  I can remember beach weekends in Discovery Bay and Port Antonio where it was too hot to walk on the sand.  And the drive to get there from home with no air conditioning in the car...now that was unbearable!

As kids in Jamaica we went to school from 8 am to 2:30 pm.  I know that end time sounds early but in late June before school let out for summer vacation I had difficulty staying awake after 1 pm it was so hot.  Well, that's my excuse for doing poorly on those subjects that we had after lunch.  And it explains why I do like Siestas (Siestas sound so much better than 'Nap Time for Grownups').

Summer Running Gear
Drying on the Balcony
Running in the heat of the summer does have a couple of drawbacks for me though.  The first is that I sweat.  A lot.  I can loose litres of water on a long run on a hot day.  Easy solution though...I drink a lot of water before and after especially hot runs.

Sweating a lot leads to the second challenge:  where do I hang my running gear to dry?  Compounding this challenge is the fact that we live in an apartment.  Neither Sally or Tia are particularly fond of smelly T Shirts and Tights drying on the balcony each day.  

I'm a summer person at heart.  I thrive on the heat.  I love running in the summer!

Until next time...


I'm raising funds for the Heart & Stroke Foundation in 2013.  My goal is to raise $2,000 by December 31.  My planned races in 2013 include:

Please join me on Facebook at Run for Heart.