I am not sure if it’s the photos from my adventures, the grin I normally have from ear to ear when coming back from the trails or the involvement that Randi and my sister Lou had at the Squamish 50. Whatever it was, I am happy to say that Randi and my sister Lou are now joining me on the trails and it is awesome.
I am not knocking road running as most of my years leading up to my move to Canada were road miles, the odd fell running whilst living in Scotland, some track and field. I think for a while it was a means to end; I liked competing and you had to log the miles, so I guess I was logging miles out of necessity to hang out with friends and to race.
Trail running I feel is so different. I admit I log miles to train for races but the miles I log are fun as I find new trails; I slip or fall; I get covered in mud, snow, smelly creek water; I meet new trail buddies; I feel closer to nature; I get to mountain peaks. It just really feels like a different world to road running. I still road run to get some training runs in, but really my heart belongs to the trails.
So with all of the above being said, how amazing would it be that your significant other would embrace the trails, and even though Randi has been fighting CFS for 4 years, she is pushing herself beyond her limits to hit the trails with me and do her first race next April. This fills me with pride as to what she is accomplishing and makes me so happy that I can include her in my passion.
So on top of Randi joining me on the trail, my sister Lou has decided to enter a race next year and has been hitting the trails too. I will admit that me and my sister are like chalk and cheese, which is fine as everyone should be happy to be who they are and do what they want to do. So I was surprised following Squamish that my sister suggested she would race the 23km race at Squamish in 2017. I have to be honest and thought this was quite brave as it’s a hard 23km as your first 23km and she may not follow through.
I was then surprised when Lou wanted me to go trail shoe shopping with her. She started asking my advice and after one trail run, I have now lost count on how many she has done. Possibly up to double figures now. I was quite happy when I managed to do a trail run recently with both Lou and Randi, being able to share my passion and both them beginning to share the same passion.
I cannot wait to share more trail fun with Randi and Lou as we round out 2016 and head into 2017.
You know how some things just really seem like a great idea at the time; well my 100 miler in March was a great idea at the time. But the thing is you need to be smart and work out the planning and logistics of it all and to be honest, I got carried away in the moment and thought solely of the race and not how I would get my training to peak for that time.
To be honest I should have realized that having a big year of running, racing and adventures may call for some sort of break, but I just jumped right into training for my 100 miler. The thing is life gets in the way and rest and recovery are also are part of training. So I jumped in with both feet, and first issue to hit was moving to our new home and my training hit the skids for a couple of weeks. Me being me, I tried to jump right back in even though the move and stress involved had worn me down. I plowed on, got sick and of course tried to train through the sickness and eventually ended up with a chest infection and was forced to rest.
As if the move coupled with the illness had not knocked my training sideways, when several weeks of snow and ice hit the coast sure did. The weather impacted my running and so distance wasn’t being racked, so I tried to do some double ups and the change of camber due to snow and ice and increase in distance meant taking a week off for some shin issues.
I was hoping to be doing some 50-60 mile weeks with only a couple of months till my first 100 miler, but it seems various things have hit my training and it’s unlikely I will attain this sort of mileage. I’m not one to give up and I have committed to my 100 miler and I will go ahead with it even if I’m undertrained rather than over trained and injured.
I'd imagine I am not the only person who is overly critical of myself and full of self doubt. My running buddies seem to think, I have a good running base and I should not worry. But who knows; doubt creeps in with such a big goal as my first 100 miler.
I have done some research and there are people that have done 100 milers on marathon training mileage numbers that is 25-30 miles a week. I think if I can at least get back up to some 50 mile weeks and build on my strength training and on my mental preparation then all is not lost.
I think for sure in 2018 I will plan some short spring races to start my training and winter 2017 I will just keep up my base fitness and just have fun and not worry about what mileage I put in. After all I run because I enjoy it and I do not need the pressure that this has a hold on me right now.
So 2018 will be all about summer and fall races, unless something makes me change my mind lol.
Some people think it’s just the case of going out and run but the human body is like a car and needs to be maintained and serviced; otherwise you will get injured.
Now it’s easy for me to say this now, but to be honest with the recent move I have slacked on this aspect of training and you guessed it. It has come back to bite me on the ass. I am currently taking a few days to a week off of running due to injury.
So one of the tools that a lot of runners use is a foam roller and it seems like a simple piece of equipment, but it manages to work through the tightness and knots in your legs. This is a key piece of equipment, because you will get knots and tightness as in affect of every time you take a step, you’re loading your whole body weight onto your feet and legs; plus extra pressure from the speed or terrain you’re running on.
A foam roller is pretty simple to use and basically works with your own body weight to move through the tightness and knots. There are various shapes and sizes, and you should pick one or two that work for you as everyone is different.
Another tool that I use is a golf ball and this can be used on your foot to massage and break up scar tissue and knots under the foot. Some people use tennis balls as well, but I find golf balls are quite hard and work the foot harder. They are inexpensive and I can fit one in my work drawer, so I can work on my feet, when I have the odd spare few minutes at work. Similar to the golf ball, I also have a spiky massage ball which is again hard construction but because of the spikes gets deeper into the muscles, tendons etc to release tension and pressure etc.
I also have a wooden massage tool which does look like a medieval torture device but is great for digging right into my legs and releasing tightness and knots. I won’t lie it does hurt sometimes but it loosens me up ready for the next run.
Also following my runs I like to do post run stretching. Years ago I would do pre run stretching but recent studies suggest pre run stretching can actually lead to injury. There are people for and against and well I’d rather not risk it and I tend to find the first 1 kilometer or so is my warm up and so don’t need that pre run stretch.
I had started yoga earlier in the year as this is great for strength and stretching for runners, but then life got in the way and it ended up on the back burner. Following my current injury, I am phasing it back in again. If you do a quick google you will find plenty of instructions, pictures etc for yoga poses for runners that really do help.
The other good thing about yoga is, it is not as hard on the body as running, but it’s a great work out, and I find it really dials you into a more chilled out and relaxed state during the workout and for a little while afterwards.
In respect to strengthening I try to use my own bodyweight as you can do the exercises at home saving money on gym fees, and I feel it’s just as good a workout as using weights. So the routine I normally follow is lunges, single leg lunges, squats, one legged squats, plank, one armed plank, press ups and sit ups. I plan to add some resistance work similar to TRX and hopefully in the future get a large tire for dragging on short runs and also for flipping to increase strength.
Some people get put off that working on strength will turn them into some pumped up bodybuilder and don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with being a body builder. However you can increase strength and muscle strength to help with running without getting a lot bigger. People used to just considered running by itself but with the growing popularity of ultra-racing and trail racing, it’s key to have good overall strength and not just good running legs.
Another way to strengthen your body is to cross train, so adding swimming or cycling or both to your routine can help to maintain aerobic performance but without the hard impact of adding extra running miles to your weekly routine. I am hoping at some stage to get a turbo trainer, so that I can ride my bike indoors through the winter and reap some cross training benefits. My swimming is not the best and I have yet to check out the local pool, but hope to get there sooner rather than later.
I have decided to really up my race calendar for 2017 and after having done a 50k and 50 mile race in 2016, I kind of feel now that what may seem impossible is not necessarily impossible. I just need to put in the training and need to get my head in the right place as with longer distances, it’s your mental state as well as the state of your body that dictates if you will succeed or not.
So my motto for 2017 is going to be as per the blog title “Go Big or Go Home. I wont of course risk my health or safety to reach my goals but nor will I take the easy route, if it’s just temporary aches or I’m feeling a bit meh, because that happens in longer events and you just need to be able to push on through.
For 2017 I am going to try and fit in some more cross training so that will mean more rides logged on my bike. Hopefully more cross training should help build strength and prevent injury. I did start adding yoga to my training but that fell off a little during the recent months with work, commute and moving etc, so I need to add that back in and try to stick to it.
A few people I know use tires as part of their strength training and also to replicate the strength it takes to go uphill, so I am looking to get a tire and add that to my routine. Now with a longer commute due to us moving to the Coast, I am going to have to be adaptive to try and fit my training into my schedule. So I will look to add some runs and rides to the ferry and back; maybe some running on the deck when spring/summer is back as running on the top deck right now might be a bit challenging with lack of light, high winds some days and all the rain we get in fall and winter in the PNW.I may look to add some runs on my lunch break and maybe if I need something from the grocery store I might ride there to add some training in where I can.
I may add some smaller races in during next year, but for now my goal races are Lake Martin 100 miler, Diez Vista 100k and Squamish 50/50.
To help me get through to 2017 I have help in the form of being sponsored by Spidertech Tape, a Canadian based Kinseo Tape company; Hill Sound equipment, a Canadian based crampon and Gaiter Company. Also InReach Canada has helped me out by providing me with a discount of my monthly plan.
If you have time please check out Spidertech tape, Hillsound equipment and InReach. It means a lot to me to be supported by these great companies and when you buy a roll of tape from Spidertech or let your friends know about Hillsound or Inreach it would help these great companies and help me too.
This is straying a little from the original thoughts, I had for this blog post but I had to put it out there. I was on Facebook today and another member of a running group I am in, gave me an opinion on something but dismissed himself by saying, he was not at the same level as other members of the group. I said you’re a runner! it doesn’t matter if your front of the pack, middle of the pack or dead last! You’re a runner and we are all part of the same running family, so never dismiss yourself and like me aim high for 2017! Do your first 5k, do your first 10k and if running’s not your thing find something you love and embrace it and never be put off.
Go outside and just enjoy life, because you never know what could happen tomorrow or the day after or the week after and so on. Embrace life ☺
If you are not a runner or involved in sport then you may have seen some sort of taping applications on TV at the recent Olympic Games. This type of taping is called Kinesio tape application method. So what is Kinesio tape and what is it used for?
Kinesio tape, kt tape, kinesio taping, taping, athletes tape and athletes taping are some of the variations of names used to describe this type of tape.
The story behind Kinesio tape began in Japan. Dr. Kenzo Kase first developed the Kinesio taping method in 1979. He is a chiropractor as well as a licensed acupuncturist and moxibustion therapist. Dr. Kase realized that manual therapy (i.e. massage therapy, chiropractic care, and physical therapy) were extremely effective for treatment of different ailments, but often the effects were temporary. He wanted something for his clients to use between appointment sessions to increase efficacy of manual therapy for lasting results. The Kinesio taping method was introduced to the United States in 1995 and then Europe in 1996. So it may surprise you to know that the Kinesio taping method and Kinesio tape have been around for over a decade, but it has only been recently more well-known due to media coverage and amateur athletes adopting it.
So what does Kinesio tape do and what ailments does it cover? Kinesio tape, if properly applied, can be used for virtually anything from chronic pain to menstrual cramps. For my purposes, I will specifically talk about athletes and tape usage.
Kinesio tape can be a huge asset for athletes. Kinesio tape can be applied in the middle of workouts or in case of sudden injury. Kinesio tape is extremely strong and can be applied with different tension strengths. Different tension strengths and techniques can be used to allow the muscles and ligaments to have “help” when injury occurs. The tape essentially stabilizes an area, for example the knee, to prevent any further damage.
The great thing about Kinesio tape is that it still allows for range of motion, just not so much that you are likely to injure yourself further or re-injure yourself. Kinesio tape can help to stabilize an injury just like a band aid etc but it cannot cure the cause of injury and so you should always consult a physician, RMT or similar health practitioner.
For rehab Kinesio tape can be a great tool for athletes. Many times athletes experience that after a competitive event their body is exhausted or broken, or it may be that a non-competitive athlete has overtrained, but in either case rehab is needed. Manual manipulation is important to rehabilitation.
Using Kinesio tape after a manual manipulation session can increase efficacy of your treatment more so than without Kinesio tape. The tape can help open up fascial tissue to make manual manipulation easier. It helps athletes after manual manipulation in that it gives a continuous amount of stabilization to the affected area and gives muscles and ligaments a chance to rebuild and restore by taking the pressure off of those areas that have been worked on manually.
Kinesio taping method also helps with alignment. If you have a tendency to slouch or have an area of the body that is not properly aligned, Kinesio tape can bring the body back into alignment and help an athlete sense how this feels in the body. Having correct alignment can decrease pain and help the joints recover from activities.
In respect to pain, Kinesio tape also decreases pain in certain areas of the body that may be bothersome. Most athletes tend to have lower back pain. After manual manipulation, Kinesio tape can be placed on the affected area (using a different method or style of taping depending on the area) to decrease pain and discomfort. If there is bruising or swelling, there is a taping method that helps drain fluids into the lymphatic ducts to decrease swelling and help rid the body of bruising.
One more area that may interest athletes is that Kinesio tape can be used before a sporting event. Most athletes tend to know if they have rolling ankles or patellar tracking issues; just to name a few ailments that Kinesio tape can be put on the affected area to prevent injuries if the athlete plans to do an event. Using Kinesio tape before an event can save the athlete from future surgeries or ailments after the event itself.
Your body is important to your athletic career so take care of it by going to professionals such as massage therapists, physical therapists and chiropractors.
Just a brief overview now of Spidertech tape who is my sponsor for training and the coming years races. I had used a number of Kinesio tapes and then a friend recommended Spidertech tape as it is reasonably priced, affective and it sticks well. So I started using Spidertech Tape and loved it and approached them to sponsor me and now they are on board as one of my sponsors.
SpiderTech tm is innovative and easy-to-use elastic Kinesiology tape providing 100% drug free relief for all your minor aches and pains. Designed to provide the greatest variety of solutions for a myriad of different issues, in a clinical environment or in daily use, SpiderTech tm is the most complete range of quality therapeutic tape products.
SpiderTech tm supports the body’s natural physiology to deliver pain relief as well as provide support for joint instability, sprains and muscle strains. SpiderTech tm Kinesiology Tape provides support in three key areas: Pain Relief, Prevention of Further Injury & Performance Enhancement.
By now you may have read my account of my first 50 mile race, and you will have noticed that things did not go to plan. On the plus side I was able to turn things around and avert disaster. As it turned out a number of my trail running buddies also suffered and took a lot longer on the course, and so although my race hit the skids at aid station 5; pretty much most runners had a tough day out there.
So what did I learn from my first 50 miler? Well, firstly my plan to get in as much distance as I could before the sun kicked in, was perhaps not the best idea. I have discussed my strategy with others following the race and I’m not the first to try this crazy idea, but the issue is that if you go out too hard and too fast, then your core body temperature is hot before the sun gets you hot. That then leads to a hot runner getting even hotter.
So basically I set myself up for a double whammy of being too hot from running and then increasing the heat from the 35c plus temperatures out on the course. Add to that mix, lots of climbing and technical descents, it’s just a recipe for disaster. That’s why I was a hot disorientated mess when I got to aid station 5. But the whole thing about running, racing or indeed any sport is. you will make mistakes but you need to learn from them.
My next mistake was not testing my nutrition thoroughly enough and I will explain this. I have used Lara bars on various runs. But never have I tried to eat them, when I have gone all out in the heat and that’s my problem in that, I tried as best as I could but I just had so much trouble chewing them.
I got to aid station 5 and I just really could not continue with the Lara bars. I was tired and did not want the additional weight of them, so I handed over my bars to my sister who was crewing me at that aid station, and decided to just use what was provided at aid stations.
Another lesson learned was my use of Tailwind as an electrolyte and calorie intake. I had used it in the past on my runs but usually had water too. I normally used sachets on long runs prior to my 50 miler. They say never use something untested but to save money, I got a large bag of Tailwind and made up portions of powder in zip lock bags to be used at each aid station. The issue was, I was carrying this extra weight with the powder and it was a hassle to mix up the powder, and an adding too much to one softflask (running bottle that folds flat when empty) meant the dilution was super strong. I had started with two bottles of Tailwind but that became too much, so I switched to one softflask water and one Tailwind, but as I said that meant the one softflask had the entire tailwind in it and was super strong.
At aid station 5 I gave up on the Tailwind from a weight perspective and mixing perspective and thought I would use the Ultima electrolyte at the aid stations. It tasted ok and didn’t cause any issues, but I found out at the end of the race, it has zero calories and so I now know why for the back half of the course, I felt like I was permanently running on empty. I did take gels and chews from each aid station but I think this may not have been enough bearing in mind the Ultima had no calories.
I also found on the Galatic trail descent heading towards aid station 4 that I ran out of electrolyte and water before I got to the aid station. Maybe next year I will have water purifying tablets so that I can get some creek water and keep myself going.
As mentioned earlier in this blog post, I went out fast and hard and I recall just getting fluids and grabbing one quick item at aid station 2. I skipped aid station 1 completely, so I think next year when I go back I need a different strategy.
I have done plenty of descents on long runs and it's been ok but I found some tough on this race, so I think some weights and core work may help with the race next year.
But I made it and in a good time as everyone times increased due to heat and some people even dropped, so I am proud of my race and getting it done. But certainly there are lessons for me to take away for my next races.
So where did it all begin?
Why do I run now and what started me on to a lifetime of running?
It all began at school and from an early age I realised I did not really fit in and I suppose other kids noticed this. This led to me being bullied on a fairly regular basis up to high school when by some strange occurrence I was befriended by one of the toughest kids in the school.To this day I'm not sure why he befriended me, but it made high school a lot easier.
I found that bullies are bigger and not always that fit. I found out I could run reasonably fast and far. Therefore when trouble was going to strike, I decided to make a dash for it.
I found I enjoyed running even if it was to escape something in life. After school I joined Boys Brigade kind of like Scouts and so I ended up running outside of school time.
It started as sprinting and track work, then I ended up doing cross country and even some assault causes during my stint with the army. I kept my running up through adulthood, but it was not until my thirties that I decided to tackle my first marathon.
I found the training and the long runs were a great escape from adult life like running was as a kid. I suppose escape may not be the right word, but I find running clears the stress, takes the edge of the day; it's like my version of meditation.
So in my thirties I did three marathons and a whole host of other races and really enjoyed it. I joined a couple of athletic clubs and even ran a steeplechase race (never again). It was great to race and push myself and have a goal.
Turning now to the current date I will have turned 40 a couple of months before my first 50 mile race. I am having, for want of a better word, a renaissance as I head towards my forties. I have embraced trail running and I'm loving running all over again and pushing myself even further.
People don't come right out and say it, but you can sense from their reactions or from what they say that they pretty much think I am crazy.
I hear things like I don't drive that far or similar, but I suppose some people don't run, others run shorter distances or perhaps don't get that I have a drive to push my limits.
So what made me decide to take on the challenge of running an ultra trail race? I think it's the fact that I have ran and competed at different race distances and felt I had achieved what I wanted to. My current personal best for the marathon is 3hrs30. I have been told I could get under 3hr30 and possibly 3 hours but maybe when I am ready I might try again.
For now I am happy with what I have managed from 5k to the marathon and I want to push the limits of what I felt my body was possible of doing.
It's surprising what you can achieve and a prime example is this past April I toed the line at the Diez Vista 50k trail race. Three weeks before the race I managed to roll my ankle whilst out training on the trails. The typical runner that I am I rolled it at 20k and thought it wasn't a bad roll and continued to run another 10k. I discovered when I got back to my car that it was pretty bad and I could not put weight on it for serval days.
I iced and applied a rub which is infused with therapeutic-grade essential oils on my ankle and after a week or so's rest, I started training again but just smaller runs. Add to that I picked up a virus two days before the race and you could say I was not in optimum shape to do any race, but me being me I decided to toe the line and drop out at an aid station if it became too much.
Well as it happened, I surprised myself as I pushed on through right to the finish line with a time of 5hrs59, a top 30 finish and my first ever ultra trail race and 50k firmly under my belt.
So I had eyed with fascination the Squamish 50 mile race before me and Randi had made the move from the UK to Canada. So in December of last year after having been in Canada for just a little over two years, I thought the time is now; I'm going to register and go for it.
I suppose another reason for heading into the ultra marathon scene is that I'm no elite athlete and I'm unlikely to get much quicker, but maybe I can go longer, further and have some fun along the way.