No Pictures Please – I’m Just Running

So the week went well with a couple of decent runs.  I had designed a long run of 16 kilometers through the North Saskatchewan River Valley.  It’s not the Rockies or even the foothills, but it’s a challenge none the less.  I’m still not sure I’m ready for a half marathon but this run tells me I have the wind but the legs may be lacking the hills.  Need more hills. I hate hills.  Anyway.  I look at this as a ‘good’ run, not great.  Time was OK with the amount of times I walked due to discomfort in my calf.



Starting in a north direction, for just over 2km, then west for 500m or so.  Now it gets interesting.  A hard right takes you above the Riverside Golf Course as you descend on a paved bike and walking path finally past the 14th hole.  Rolling up and down with a final steep descent to run next to the river until the Capilano Bridge.  Did I mention it there was a Heavy Snowfall Warning which has since turned to “a few centimeters”?  Winds of 25km/h with gusts to 40?  Well there were both, of course.  By the time I crossed the bridge on the sidewalk but against the direction of traffic, the weather became a factor. Once across the bridge open to the elements, down a quick set of stairs and back on the trail.  Now I’m across the river and skirting the back few holes of the Highlands Golf Club.  Up a 100+ step set of stairs gets you to a switch back that either takes you up to the residential area or down to the river valley.  We go down.  I nice down hill after the stairs and a flat for 3km or so to the Dawson Bridge.  Back across the river to return home now. Up a hill that encourages automatic transmissions to shift down at least once for 5 or 600m, up and across the road on a walking bridge through Forest Heights Park.  McNally High School at the North end, I run to the end of the path along the top of the riverbank to the newly constructed Newman Theological College (…and at this point, I can use all the help I can get!).  Now it’s flat as I run around the neighbourhood to finish out the mileage.  One problem, my calf is giving me problems, enough to walk and try and stretch, and the weather is getting worse.  While running past the high school, I realized I couldn’t see across the river the snow was so thick and the wind was howling.  I got to 90th ave and bailed when I returned to 79th street.  Went all the way back to 98th ave then turned around to complete the planned finish.  Instead of 10 miles it ended up being 9.6 according to “WalkJogRun” website that I use.  It’s good for tracking what ever info YOU supply.  I like the mapping too.

It was a good lesson: I was not hydrated enough.  Oh sure there was plenty all around me but not enough in me.  I am keeping it elevated and drinking lots…of water.  Massaging every now and then.  It’s getting better.  Back to the regular run on Tuesday when all should be good.  It’s also a good thing I wore my “traks” for traction as the trail had various topography available.

My wife was looking at me sideways when I got up to run – “are you nuts?”.  Yes, I guess I am.

After all, I’m just running.

Please Note: All photos are linked back to their original website


Back on Track

The snow may not be gone but it is on its way out.  It better be, we’re sitting at April 10 and I’m done with snow and winter.  Spring is here dammit (sorry, I’ll watch the language from here on in…).  We can have rain, like we do today, but no more snow.  Certainly nothing measurable.

More help than you'll ever know until you slip
More help than you’ll ever know until you slip

Last Saturday’s run (10K) required the additional traction of the spikes and it was done in comfort and a decent time.  The weather itself was good and not too cold.  I made sure I dressed for 10 degrees warmer than it was and that worked nicely.  I also ‘rocked it old school’ with a cotton fleece hoodie and sweats with a wool cap.  That’s right, no neoprene, breathable plastic fibre clothing, or any sort of ‘technical’ wear.  OK, my shoes weren’t “Chuckies” they’re a decent running shoe, but the rest was cotton and wool.  I guess there’s a reason they invented that stuff: I carried every drop of sweat home to my laundry room.  My clothes must have weighed 3 pounds before the run and about 7 pounds afterwards.  YIKES!

Yes I will go back to breathable, wicking shirts etc…

Tuesday was a little tougher as I dragged my non-running dog (just wants to explore and sniff, not stick with the trail and runner).  The off leash area is perfect as I just ran up and down a 3 pronged 4k loop.  Dexter just kept up then went off.  Caught up, ran past me, pee’d on something, ran behind me for a few hundred meters then stopped.  Repeat as required.   Funny dog.  The run was challenging as there are many bumps and inclines, hills and dips.  Still got out for 30 to 35 minutes but am unsure of how far I really went.  Good to get out.  Tomorrow, it’ll be up at 5, hit the street at 530 for a 6.5k loop on flat ground.  Saturday I’ve created a 16k loop from home through the river valley and back.  I better get up early for that, too.

So This is Why I’ve Stopped Running…for Now.

On March 20th and 21st, this city was crushed by a “spring” snow storm.  It’s only a “spring” storm because it was days away from the real Spring.  Whenever that is.

At Snow Valley Edmonton (I am being specific in case you think I could be referring to Snow Valley Barrie, Ontario or Snow Valley California…as if), we stared at the sky and kept on staring.  It was like we just started the season over again.  As the snow began at 5:30 am it did not stop until the next morning and then started again.  The least amount of accumulated snow I heard reported was 20 cm or 7 inches.  The most was 40.  I’ve ranted about this before so I won’t go on too long here.  Yikes we have had a ton o’snow.  It’s so much that not everyone can keep up with the shoveling and running becomes an after thought.  It’s tough to run in snow shoes…really tough.

I’ve been counting shoveling as a work out since I had, with the rest of my family, been moving hundreds of kilograms of snow for 4 nights in a row an hour at a shot.  It’s a work out to the uninitiated.  To those who know, I salute you!

50th Street Walking Bridge at 6:30 pm MDT
50th Street Walking Bridge at 6:30 pm MDT

I could go inside to a running track but it’s a bit of an  investment each visit.  200 meter track and it’s clock wise on even days and counter clock wise on odd days.  Then if you go upstairs to the upper track it’s the other direction.   It’s so dry in there all I need is a couple of olives and it’s a Martini.

I need to get back on the road.  I will.  Not worried.  Still aiming for the half marathon at the end of April.  Will do.

I’ve walked the dog through the deep snow and the packed single person trails.  He loves it…bounding like a puppy and rolling in it.  Oh how he loves it.  One more thing: The light has returned..  As I write this, it’s past 8pm MDT and I’m gushing that it is still light out.  It’s just going to get lighter from now until the end of June.

The snow is maddening but the light is better.

So that’s why I stopped running… for now.  The shoes are ready.  It’s time to start…again.  Go Team.

It Was Warm a Few Days Ago


Woke up to 5 cm of snow. It’s mid-March for Pete’s sake! Spent the first 45 min of consciousness this morning shoveling neighbours’ walks instead of running. New workout, I guess. Now we go from roads of ice due to a freeze melt cycle, to fluffy white snow covering that same sheet of ice: Can’t wait to drive to work…right here in ‘pothole-city’! Forecast is for 10 more cm today; 5 cm tonight; and just for fun…-16C…yaaaaaaay.

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I Run a Triathalon Every Time I Run

With that kind of title, this better be good. Well, it isn’t “good”, its brutal.  As in the conditions that we of the “four distinct seasons” (Sweaty, Dusty, Freezing, and Slushy) must run in if we want to run outside.  Currently, if you don’t have a calendar handy, we are in late Freezing and slowly moving into Slushy.

I just came in from my second run since a flu/cold nailed my shoes to the back door carpet.  We are currently experiencing below zero temperatures from 7p until 8a and above zero temperatures during the day.  Melt.  Freeze.  Melt.  Freeze…you get the picture.  Not only do you have the experience of running on bare sure-footed traction side walks, you get the added excitement of seeing a fresh, flat, gleaming, and traction-less, sheet of ice the exact width of the same side-walk you were just promoting as wonderful.  It’s bad enough waiting for the weather channel to give you the forecast and wind conditions to help you dress, now you must have the dexterity of a cat (the added lives don’t hurt either) just to get down the road.

I did, however, mention a “triathlon”.  That standard of toughness and endurance.  Swim for twenty leagues and three knots, bike for a thousand kilometers, then run a marathon like the day so far was a warm up.  I’ve seen it on TV…piece of cake.  Come run in my world…the real triathlon (note the lack of capitalization due to my fear of actually upsetting those that really run those things).  The triathlon I run every other morning or so, and every walking or bus riding commuter must endure, is this: Walk on clear pavement, tip toe over ice/through slush (depending on time of day) and….wait for it…over a substance I call “sandcrete”.

Wind-row of "sandcrete"captured by the Edmonton Sun
Wind-row of “sandcrete” captured by Laura Pedersen/Edmonton Sun

Sandcrete is the mixture of road sand, a little salt, dirt, debris and snow packed by the melt and freeze process this bear frozen wasteland can only deliver.  No you won’t find sandcrete in Egypt, France…nope not even in the Alps, Sweden (too clean and efficient), or Russia.  Well maybe Russia.  Moscow….maybe.  What happens is this mixture gets tossed to the side of roads and builds up as the wind-rows are created by the graders.  The crusty top is like what you would see at the foot of a volcano…cooled lava rock.  It looks porous but it’s solid, you can walk or run on it as an alternative to running on the sheer ice gently dusted with a bit of blown snow, just for good measure.  Sandcrete is alive, too.  Sometimes it wants you to run on it.  And sometimes it doesn’t.  When it’s in a bad, or melting, mood, it lets you plunge to the bottom of the drift you now find yourself in.  Now you’re either high-stepping like an american football running back through falling blockers or you’re planted and wondering where to go next.  It’s not fun, but it’s getting there that’s the adventure.  Then, if the sandcrete is solid, you can always navigate it by looking no more than one meter in front of you to ensure you don’t trip on the jagged edges that wait for your mis-step and cut up like no bike fall could ever inflict.

Yes it’s a triathlon, a triathlon of traction, without the bother of distance or time, but all excitement.  I would call it a sport worth watching in between curling and golf but instead I’ll call it: Wednesday morning.

Fits and Starts

Since the beginning of November 2012, I committed to running 3 times a week plus one session of TNH (Thursday Night Hockey in full gear).  It was going quite well.  I ran Monday, Wednesday and Saturday before work.  Up at 5am.  Check the weather.  Bundle up.  Hit the street.  I had averaged 5 miles a run at 9 and half minutes more or less.  Long runs were 6, 8, and 9 miles.  Average temperature: -15C in November and January; -8C in January.  All was well.  Then my nose started to run, too.  That was 3 long weeks ago.

flu-manIt is never a good thing to get sick.  I should have been immune to being sick at this point, or so I thought.  I was working out, eating right…even losing weight (10 lbs since November).  My wife looks back and says, “Not going to skip the flu shot next year are you?”.  No, I won’t.

So I begin again.  Saturday (the 17th) was balmy -5C with no wind and clear Alberta blue skies.  The terrain is something to behold.  The weather changes so fast that home owners really can’t keep up.  Yesterday it all melted.  Now it’s frozen and waiting to melt again.  Unfortunately that makes for “dicey” running conditions.

I felt good going around the neighbourhood once again.  Just over 3 miles this AM with a few walking breaks.  Lungs need to catch up…legs are good.  Next time, I need to remember the spikes (a northern runners BFF!).Winter-Running-Spikes_medium

It is now Wednesday and the temperature is down below -6C and the wind has finally calmed down to a breeze with mild gusts.  Clear Alberta blue skies abound and we’re up to 10.25h of sunlight a day and gaining 4-5 minutes each rotation of our big orb.  Have I gone running, though?  No.  I will endeavour to go tonight before my son arrives home from a week on an exchange in “La Belle Province”, Quebec.

EP-HalfMarathonMy new target is the Edmonton Police Foundation Half Marathon on April 28th.

Hope springs eternal.  Feet: Do your thing!

10k at -22C REALLY!?!?

The time will not be recorded.  The track is not official either.  Yet I feel great.  I just ran 10 kilometers or 6.5 miles, whatever you want to call it, at -22 with the wind chill (before the wind chill it was really only -15C).  It has been literally years since I have run more than 8k so this was big, for me.  I am beyond what I would call “my prime” but from what I have heard, up until around 60 years old, it is possible to run faster than when you were “in your prime”.

No not sprinting.  Long distances such as 8, 10, 14 kilometers.  What’s with that?  I don’t feel any faster.  My pace is about the same, anywhere between 8:45 and 9:30 a mile.  So my victory is very personal.  Sharing, however is important because if there is someone who is trying to determine whether or not they are ready to take up running – I hope I can help.

I am not in crazy great shape but I am getting better, that is for sure.  My weight has dropped slightly to 185 lbs, or 84 kg.  When Thursday night hockey comes around I am able to keep a higher pace up longer.

And then there’s the weather.  The great equalizer.  But why does it have to get colder on the days that run?  I know there’s millions of runners out there saying “are you kidding?”.  I have the feeling many more millions still have no concept of running in cold weather.  Not cold as in rainy and 5 or 10 degrees – we’re talking about the coldest start to winter in a gazillion years… maybe more.  It really hasn’t been above -10C for longer than 36 hours in Edmonton since mid November.  This is nuts and I am still not afraid.  I will conquer longer distances and more runs.  I will run the Hypothemic Half.

And to all you runners who run only in temperatures hotter than +25C…bring it.  Run a mile or two in my shoes…spikes optional.

Why Run Outside with a Wind Chill of -26C?

Running in inclement weather is hard when the temperature is normal, in fact it can be down right difficult.  The wind may push against you and sometimes even make you feel like you’re going nowhere.  The rain can soak you to the bone.  Running in winter, however has it’s own set of rules.  Wind chill can be deadly.  Snow deeper than 2-3 cm can be like running in sand…but without the beach and scantily clad people.  Ice is the real run end-er: slip and fall or slip and twist or, my favourite, slip and pull a hammy.  Enough reasons to not run for some.

Manufacturer ModelWhen I “googled” ‘running in cold’ I had several sites come up.  All very detailed sites with advice on nutrition, training regimens, “fartleks”, “striding” and all very good at what they do.  But when it comes to “cold” they all lacked the real stuff.  Eventually I did stumble on to some excellent Canadian sites.  Not that there aren’t sites from other countries but let’s face it, we get cold weather.  A lot.  So here’s what I learned: In winter cotton is NOT king.  Cotton, while comfortable as all get out, retains moisture which in cold weather is really bad.  Cold moisture becomes ice.  Technical materials have come so far in the world of sport whether you’re an amateur or a professional.  Skiers now have socks that keep you warm but wick away moisture.  For a guy with sweaty feet, this is good news that can be translated into running gear.  I haven’t got all the top gear but what I got, works.  So why do I run in the cold?  Really cold weather?

I run because it’s part of getting out and being healthy…er.  The run is the thing.  I could have gone to an indoor track, I guess.  But that’s another reason I run: I hate being the gerbil on a treadmill.  For whatever reason, I cannot go to “the gym” and workout…a track is almost like that.  I run outside.  I am not a snob, but I just need to run outside and preferably in one big loop or out and back.  I may have to do “laps” to complete the long runs (longer that 15k) but that would be the exception due to winter.  In summer, it’s different.  Instead of a maximum 7 hours of light during some days in the winter, we’re spoiled with upwards of 17 hours of light in summer.  Edmonton also features one of the longest continuous park system in the world.  There are many “long runs” available in this amazingly beautiful River Valley Park system of both paved and packed trails – you’d swear you weren’t even in a city.

So why run outside with a wind chill of -26C?  I run because it’s Saturday, and Saturday is a run day.

Back on the Road…Again

With a full steam ahead I have begun the road work to run a half marathon.  My goal is to complete the February 24th Hypothermic Half Marathon, right here in little ‘River City’.  It has only been one week.  Yes, the temperature is not what I would call ‘ideal’ for beginning to train for a 13+ mile run.  No, I have not lost my mind.

Dexter blocking the path in his playground…he hates to run with people.

So far the regimen is quite simple: Up at 5 am for a quick breaky and out the door at 5:45 for a half hour run every other day.  A rest day and cross train day are in between and a long run on weekends.  The seventh day is for an easy run.

So far so good.  Yesterday was the coldest I have run in since 1994 when I ran at -20 with a prairie wind whipping me on an out and back of an 8km run down a correction road near Barrhead, Alberta.  Training for the first of 6 Kananaskis 100 Relay races.

Running is good.  Bundling up is essential.  I am still getting used to how much to wear.  So far I have erred on the side of too much.  4 layers up top on Monday became 3 on Wednesday.  Lower body is good with two: Old fashioned “shredded wheat” long johns and newer nylon track pants.

Tonight is cross training with hockey for an hour and half followed by a day of rest and Saturday’s long run.  Long as in 5 to 10 minutes longer than the first two runs of 30 minutes.  We’ll see.