a blog.

9 months ago

Every year on this weekend for a generation Canadians go for a run.

Forty years ago a young man named Terry Fox, long since deservedly held up as a national hero, attempted to run east to west across the country. He was in remission from cancer, and had lost a leg to it, but set anyways out to raise money and awareness.

He made it about a third of the way before ending his run and passing away shortly after.

The Terry Fox run is usually held annually on this very weekend and brings out countless folks from across the country to continue the run in spirit and memory.

It was a virtual run this year thanks to a lingering global pandemic.

So. It was pretty much a normal Sunday Runday for us.

Except.

Except a couple years ago one of our run crew passed from cancer.

Her family put up a memorial bench in the local dog park in our river valley, a convenient distance away for a modest Sunday run.

We might not have specifically run for Terry Fox this morning, but I’d like to think that ten of us adventuring down to find the bench, running through the autumn trails, and finding the memorial for our fallen crewmate was kinda a parallel effort in the right spirit of the day.

9 months 1 week ago

Sunday Runday and with less than two weeks until my first in-person race in over a year and a half I found myself facing a morning run dilemma.

New shoes.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about new shoes.

Quite the opposite.

While on vacation in the mountains a few weeks ago I finally found a pair of trail shoes in my size and splurged. The next morning I broke them in with an (a previously blogged about) eight kilometer trail run up some steep incline and early morning terrain in the wilderness beauty of our National Park system, and then …

… well … that dilemma I mentioned a couple paragraphs back compounded itself: I haven’t run any trail since, and the shoes had been sitting by my front door looking more forlorn than the dog when she needs her morning walk, and that other thing I mentioned in my opening sentence about an upcoming trail race kept nagging in the back of my mind.

In two weeks I’m headed back out to the trails we visited last month for our little adventure with the wasps. Apparently the wasp situation has cooled alongside the weather, but neither of those things cooling off negates the fact that I’m signed up to run a roller-coaster single track trail half marathon quasi-ultra later this month.

And as of this morning I’d run a mere eight kilometers in that brand new pair and brand new style (to me) of shoes.

I tossed them into my backseat this morning on my way to meet my running crew and humbly suggested that we maybe, possibly, if anyone was interested run some trails as our Sunday route.

There were some hefty dark clouds lurking to the west and the forecast (though cloudy and dry as we left) was for some light drizzle after a good soaking overnight.

We decended into the river valley and into the rain-soaked single track weaving through the forests. The leaves are starting to yellow as the days shorten and fall creeps ever closer.

By the time we exited that first stretch, my new shoes were clumped with mud and each weighed about a kilogram heavier than when I had entered.

I was also dragging a small branch clinging to my heel, and I pulled off to the side of the path to clear the worst of it into the wet grass.

A bit further down along we turned upwards towards a short ascent and into a utility corridor between the highway and the neighbourhood where the ankle-deep grass was still sopping with last night’s rain.

Onward looped us into more single track and by the time we found our exit back into the asphalt of the nearby suburban streets not only were all our feet soaking wet and muddy, but the rains had truly arrived and would not let up again until we were well done the other half of our morning run.

Soaked. Dirty. Tired. Epic.

All for a pair of trail shoes…

…and, oh, of course, the mental confidence that goes along with logging another medium-length trial run using those shoes, breaking them in, trialing them out, and generally assuring myself of their fit and function leading into that upcoming race.

11 months 1 week ago

For the last two summers I have been leading a small cohort group of my running friends on a pandemic-busting weekly series of what I called "Adventure Runs."

The ultimate goals were (a) to keep the group active and alive through uncertain running days and (b) to have a little summer fun by pathfinding on some new routes, trails, and locations.

We've gone exploring in remote neighbourhoods.

We've followed local paths we haven't dared follow on our regular training runs.

We've run asphalt, gravel, streets, single track, and bushwhacked through the wilderness.

Last night was the sixth of the Summer 2021 series, and in the wake of a hotter-than-hell day, we pushed our meetup time to an hour later than usual, and stuck to somewhere more familiar. Also, at least four of the crew had just -- JUST -- returned a couple days ago from a mountain-based ultramarathon and were feeling a bit recovery-oriented.

We started at a nearby dog park, ran across the bridge over the river, and took up some trail locals call the "intestine" which was a twisting, winding, root-covered three kilometers of single track spanning a little more than one kilometer of actual distance.

It burns you out, running in the heat and stumbling around corners and minding the never-ending tangle of tree roots, so it was really no surprise that a hundred meters from the trail exit I caught a toe on a small protrusion and rolled head over feets, landing on my side against the trunk of a tree.

I limped out of the woods, covered in sweaty muddy debris, helped by a group of too-concerned friends who were ready to call an ambulance.

Today I am a little more sore than I should have expected when I planned yesterday's run a mere twenty-four hours ago. But then what does one expect when one goes looking for an adventure.

1 year ago

As the summer runs get longer (and hotter) I’ve picked up a new bit of gear to assist with the ever-present runner’s dilemma: hydration.

I don’t think I need to write too many words on the subject of why water is important to … um … being alive, but certainly the effort of carrying enough fresh water (or other fluids that both fuel and hydrate) on a long distance run is a complex challenge for anyone who is out there on the trails.

Water, of course, is heavy and clumsy.

A bottle in the hand is something that needs to be carried, balanced, and on the trails two free hands are more useful than one might realize. On a short run taking a small bottle along is just fine, but an hour into a longer run the last thing I want to be carrying is a half-full plastic bottle that’s sloshing around in my hand.

I’ve used water belts in the past, but sloshing along with a couple plastic containers on your hip is a moderate inconvenience. And I have yet to do a race a not see multiple dropped belt-bottles littering the course, usually in the first five hundred meters of the race when someone’s carefully planned hydration plan is now just garbage and an obstacle for the next hundreds of people who run by.

I’ve tried a couple hydration packs in the past, the key differences from a hydration vest being the kinds of shoulder straps and the location of pouches. A pack is basically a light backpack with a water pouch. And my biggest problem with my previous pack solution was that usually within ten kilometers into a run I was running with my thumbs hitched up under the thin straps to limit the whole apparatus from that chafe-inducing jostling that was already well underway.

Last week I pried open my wallet and ordered myself what is probably the sports-car-equivalent of hydration solutions: a Salomon Skin 4 Hydration Vest, a snug fitting, light-weight, multi-pocket four-liter backpack-slash-vest designed to hold water bottles, a water bladder, gel packs, cell phones, car keys, and whatever else a distance runner might need quick access to while on the trails.

The new pack arrived yesterday and I wore it for our regular Wednesday evening adventure run.

The advantage of this pack, or so the logic of the purchase goes, is that it is snug. I have no honest comparison, but I assume it’s a little like wearing a sports bra overtop of a running shirt. This tight fit is both deliberate and a feature. It keeps the whole system from moving, shaking, jostling, and rubbing, and is meant to wear comfortably and securely for hours of running while keeping the hands free for trail navigation.

Our adventure run took us deep into some rolling river valley trails, the kind of terrain where your legs are slapped by branches as bumble through the trails and as you scramble up over steep dirt paths, grabbing onto tree stumps and protruding roots. I only carried a bit of water, as it was a short sub-ten kilometer run, but a set of car keys, my wallet and an iPhone tucked neatly into the pack and

… well … success!

I barely noticed the pack after the first few minutes.

A better test will come this weekend, as temperatures creep into the mid-30s Celsius and our distances move into the longer-than-a-half-marathon slogs through that same heat. I can’t say I’m not nervous about both the heat and the mileage, but at least now I’m pretty certain I won’t die of thirst.

1 year ago


It’s Sunday Runday and I slogged out another solo ten kilometer run this morning as I await the official lifting of a few of those pandemic restrictions later this week.

And though I should have spent yesterday afternoon running twenty-five klicks through some local trails, I found I struggled more than usual this morning just knocking off ten.

All my training, it turns out, is as much about inspiration as it is about the actual mileage.

how to get inspired to run

Set a Race Goal

And even though there is not much left of this racing season save for a long list of virtual competitions, I find myself wondering if I might have been to hasty in declaring my reluctance to enter any of these. In fact, my next door neighbour (someone who is not generally a runner) stuck her nose over my fence last week to let me know that she’d signed up for the our city‘s annual ten kilometer run, and all weekend she has been logging some of her own solo mileage around the neighbourhood. She’s probably logged more than me, to be honest. A race goal marks a very specific X on the calendar with a clear objective. Virtual or not, this gets a lot of people off the couch and onto the paths.

Set a Mega Goal

Back when I wrote a more personal blog I used to try to give some additional context to my readers (mostly friends and family) about the kinds of distances I was clocking. I called these my mega-goals, as in I was going to run from Edmonton to Vancouver, a distance of about eleven hundred and fifty kilometers. I was going to do this “on paper” as in, I would incrementally log my distances day by day and week by week, plotting them out on a map and updating my blog readers with posts, maps, and explanations of how far I’d run. It was also a huge personal inspiration, knowing that I was only twenty klicks away from crossing that border or five klicks away from such and such a town.

Of course, you can combine this with a virtual race such as a couple of my friends did recently competing in the Great Canadian Crossing each logging a mega fourty-eight hundred kilometers over the last twelve months.

Write it Down

Or post it. Or blog it. Or Instagram it. I put all my runs on Strava which is a great big fitness social media network for athletes of all ability. I also previously posted a spreadsheet that I use to track all that stuff. It works. Accountability to a formalized accounting of all those numbers can inspire us to do all sorts of things whether we do it to log a streak, get the virtual badge or not be left out of showing up on the activity feed on a Sunday morning.

Run with Friends

And last, but definitely not least, the one that keeps me most inspired is having others to run with. Just this last week I was sitting at my desk feeling sorry for myself as work was wrapping up for the day. My phone chimed and one of my run crew’s name showed up on my phone with a “I’m working in your neighbourhood. Up for a short run?” I replied in the affirmative and had my gear on ten minutes later. He got off work. I got off work. We ran a solid seven klicks before supper, and probably seven klicks neither of us would have run alone that evening. I often say one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life is take up this running sport, but half the reason I say that is because of the people I’ve met signing up with a running crew. I’ve run a multitude of races, logged thousands or tens of thousands of kilometers, and kept in great shape. A year of solo-ish running has made me realize that’s in no small part to having other people to inspire me onward.