Friday, November 22, 2013

30-Day Plank Challenge: DONE!

This past week was a great week. Firstly, it was my birthday and it's tradition on my birthday to run my new age in kilometres. Thirty three is how old I turned and so was the distance I ran on that day. It was cold, but alone with my thoughts I celebrated another year of existence. Secondly, I completed the 30-day plank challenge, which turned out to be a heck of a lot harder than I first imagined. On the final day I planked for 10 minutes. Midway through the challenge I thought 10 minutes would've been impossible but I must say the core does adapt. During the final week I found I was breezing right past the period that I used to start failing. I also noticed, when out running snowy Bragg Creek trails with the Calgary Trail Runners that I felt an anchoring and stability which before I was without.

I plan to continue planking all throughout the year and into the next. Whereas I think the 10 minute plank is a bit silly and has diminished returns. Instead I will continue to plank for 5 minutes every second day to maintain my core strength.

I also ask of you to please be kind after watching the video and understand the slumping and just-get-through-it nature on the 10 minute plank is just that.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Everybody needs a John

     This past long weekend I spent a part of it enjoying some of the best Kananaskis has to offer. My run started at 12:30 pm at the base of Moose mountain road at my fave trail named Pneuma. What makes this trail so awesome is the constant winding uphill climb for a solid 10K, then the trail turns back down and you're spoiled with a fun and zippy steady downhill. 

Bright, sunny and warm with no wind and pillowy November snow blanketed everywhere set the scene for a perfect run. The only better way to experience a day like this was to share it, and that I did. My training buddy John Hubbard had texted me the week prior urging me to get off my fat ass and join him on holiday Monday. Together we had plenty of laughs, good conversation and relished running in near perfect conditions. 

      Johnny and I have been running together for two years and I would be the first to say it's been a very advantageous relationship. He and I both are in similar stages in our own lives: both with young families which ALWAYS comes first and a thirst for a concept of where our bodies and minds can take us athletically. I find that where I lack, he excels and vice-versa. One of many examples is I will push a consistency in training, where John can convey a calmness on a race day that helps me negate several blowups and DNF's. The Alberta winters also present a challenge (the topic of my last post) and knowing that we ARE meeting up for a Friday night long run ,which I'm sure neither of us want to do but neither want to be the first to chicken out, holds us accountable. We are a complicated bunch as ultra runners and at the best of times my family and friends have a hard time getting me when it comes to running. Only in conversations between one runner to another does our babbling come across as sane. It was midnight one Friday night long run and John went on speaking nothing but jibberish for 15 minutes. I called him out on it and proceeded to suggest eating something. Later on that same night, after stopping at McDonalds for some good old gut training we were quiet for a while whereas he turned to me and out of nowhere told me my face looks like ass…now there is a true friend.

Most runners are lucky enough to have a network of people surrounding them that seem to propel them. Within that group are normally one or maybe two that seem to excel your abilities even further. Use them, cuz you better believe that they will benefit just  as much as you while training together. If you're not so lucky check out groups like Calgary Trail Runners. Everybody needs a John.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Embracing the cold, dark Alberta winter

This past Sunday at 2 am our beloved sun, with the help of daylight savings time, will now be setting one hour earlier. Meaning my after work runs starting at 7 pm will now be entirely in the dark, very sad indeed. Every year I struggle with this. Not only is the weather turning and snow and ice are a new challenge, but the thought of lacing up for a 40K run, all at night has become more and more difficult to stomach.

With the innovation of warmer running garments, foot wear and headlamps the only thing getting between you and the trails is motivation. But when the sun is not around, motivation is hard to come by. Even if the lack of sunlight doesn't put you off, most running races will reconvene in April/May, leaving a long time between now and then, making it very easy to slack off (for lack of a better term). So how does one stay even moderately motivated and focused through the cold Alberta winter?

Embrace the warrior within you. It's easy in the summer months to get pumped about your long mountainous runs cuz heck, the weather is warm, days are long and views are stunning. However when your running in a blizzard in the dark, it's easy to circle back and finish the run early. Look around outside. If it was easy everyone would do it and the truth is: no one's around. If it's not the cold that stops you it's the darkness; if not the darkness, it's the lonely, empty feeling of running in the middle of nowhere in a white out. There are endless reasons and excuses of why not to get out for a run in November, but there is one major reason why we all should. Not only are you getting a long run in but you're also getting in significant mental training, key to ultra training. Anyone who's ever run an ultra will tell you its 90% mental and 10% physical. Sometimes you just gotta embrace the suck.

Years ago, I was running my first ultra when an older runner took pity on me. He mentioned I had a significant disadvantage at events like this because I lacked "old man strength". He went on talking about two farmers from two different generations, both having food poisoning. The junior pouting and whining curled under the kitchen table all day while the senior was still able to complete a 14 hour work day. The only way to handle adversity is to face adversity often. Confused and annoyed I ran on and later found out the hard way that he was right.

That being said, training in the cold, dark Alberta winter can be (if you choose it to be) an opportunity. As a runner let this cold winter off season help you develop and condition your mental strength and get one step closer to finding your inner old man.