Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Even If We're Just Running In The Dark: Afterthought

After attempting a run in the seriously pitch black, pre-sunrise towards the end of last week on a path that was not lit at all (and ironically, not taking my own advice), I realized I had one more tip for running in the dark: use a head lamp! Bonus: you'll feel like a miner... maybe. 

Today's run: 8 km relaxed. Weather: 6°C and slightly overcast, but with the most incredible sunset I've seen in a long time. (I didn't take my phone with me tonight, so I'm afraid you'll just have to take my word for it.) Feeling: so great, I said "Fuckin' eh!" aloud when I made distance. Hopefully those around me just chalked it up to Tourette's.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Even If We're Just Running In The Dark

Before I launch into this post, I'd just like to say this: fuck [gasp] you [wheeze] hill sprints [pant]

Okay! Now that's done, this post covers running in the dark. Given this time of year, if you are an early morning, after work or even late-ish evening runner, chances are you've had to run in the pitch black. I'd like to make sure all of you stay safe out there, so here are a few safety tips I've picked up over the years for running when it's dark outside. 
  • Run with a friend. If you can't run with a friend, or prefer to run alone, see below.
  • Plan to run on well-marked, well-lit trails that are inaccessible to traffic. Even better, run on trails where you're sure to encounter other people (safety in numbers).
  • Wear light-coloured or bright clothing with reflective patches or strips.
Recently, a friend bought me an LED light with two settings - blink or glow - that can easily be attached to a zipper, belt loop, etc. I've found this relatively inexpensive accessory quite handy and another easy way to make sure drivers, cyclists and other people on foot can see you... which really, is the whole point.

What other precautions do you take to make sure you're seen when it's dark outside?

A Note on Fear
In my last post, I mentioned how terrifying it can be to run distances one has either never run before or not run in a very long time. 

In his recent (and incredibly interesting) interview with Marc Maron, Bruce Springsteen had this to say about fear:
Your desperation has to be greater than your fear. Your desperation, your hunger, your desires, your ego, your ambition, has to be greater than your fear of complete humiliation. So as long as you have that equation correctly balanced, you're going out there, my friend! No matter what happens!
While he spoke of fear in the context of performing in front of huge crowds of people, his thoughts on this topic still resonated with me with respect to running. Insightful, no? Testify, Bruce.

Running Journal
Today's run: 4 km hill sprints (worst! ever! you know, in case you didn't get that impression from me earlier). Weather: a little rainy but, at 7°C, much warmer than it's been recently. Feeling: accomplished, strangely. Besides being completely and totally out of breath, of course. 

Musical Interlude
Since there seems to be a theme with this post, here's a video for you from the one, the only, The Boss. Enjoy. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Feels Like The First Time (Marathoning)

This is the 100th post on Five by 35! Thanks to everyone for reading the blog and supporting me and my running. You're the best. And hey - if you haven't yet given to my Team Diabetes fundraiser in memory of my dad, maybe now is a good time (just saying!). 

Some of you may be wondering what it actually takes to train for a marathon. In all honesty, given that I haven't run one in nearly three years, I'm kind of wondering that myself.

Don't get me wrong. Logically, I know what I need to be doing. To sum it up, see below. 

But mentally? That's another question. 

Training for number five feels like training for the first marathon, all over again. According to the schedule, I ran 13 km this morning; I haven't run that distance since January 2015 (yes, I checked - thank you, Garmin Connect stats). 

Over the next 16 weeks, the long distances are going to slowly creep up, from 13 km to 16, 19, 23, 26, 29 and finally, 32 km. And with each increase in distance, I'll have to answer this question for myself: can I do it? The only way to find out is to put my shoes on, force myself out there and take it one step at a time.

It's terrifying. But hopefully, it will all be worth it.

Today's run: 13.5 km. Weather: 0°C and overcast. Feeling: a little frustrated at first, as I inadvertently forgot to turn my heart rate monitor on and so freaked out a little because I really wanted to track how things were going. But I decided to stop, turn it on, and then kept going. 

P.S. A special shout-out to my friends and fellow runners, Chelsea W. and Christina S., who ran the Star Wars Half Marathon - The Light Side at the Disneyland Resort today. Great job, ladies! Very proud of you both.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Love Affair

I moved to the Canadian west coast 13 years ago and haven't looked back since.

The city has its faults: stark class divides, gentrification - displacing and further marginalizing some of the city's most vulnerable, skyrocketing real estate prices. But its natural beauty is unparalleled.

I've been running long distances here now for the better part of a decade. I've spent hours on trails, on the seawall and along the beaches and, each time, I marvel at the splendour this place has to offer. I'm so grateful for taking the chance to move here. That decision changed my life, in more ways than I can say.

False Creek sunrise

I'm sure I've written about my love affair with this city before, but it definitely bears repeating. Vancouver: I love you.

Inukshuk at English Bay

Small Inukshuks and other assorted "rock art"

Today is a rest day but yesterday's run: 8 km. Weather: still cold for Vancouver but, with the incredible sunrises we've been having, who cares? Feeling: okay. Calves are not great, for some reason. Probably in need of a little stretching and massage. 

Stay tuned for future posts, where I plan to actually write about running (go figure!). I'm working up some material on new and old gear, and what it takes to train for a marathon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Running Round-Up: What Would've Been My Dad's Birthday Edition

Seeing as my dad's 79th birthday would have been yesterday, I decided to take the day off as I wasn't sure how I would feel about it. Turns out, it was a total bummer.

I've never had the experience of having to endure a birthday of someone I've cared about who has died. A confidante suggested I do something that would have made my dad happy - like, take the money I would have spent on a gift or card and donate it to a charity, or take part in an activity that makes me happy because it's likely my dad would have preferred I do that than wallow in misery (hard to argue).

So I compromised. Yesterday, I wallowed. Today, I ran. And read poetry.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
I came across this poem over the summer and found it strangely comforting. None of us is perfect. And even though we all endure hardship, life goes on and so will we. Sometimes that can be hard to remember.

     You do not have to be good.
     You do not have to walk on your knees
     For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
     You only have to let the soft animal of your body
     love what it loves.
     Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
     Meanwhile the world goes on.
     Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
     are moving across the landscapes,
     over the prairies and the deep trees,
     the mountains and the rivers.
     Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
     are heading home again.
     Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
     the world offers itself to your imagination,
     calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
     over and over announcing your place
     in the family of things.     

Journal Entry
Today's run: 10.5 km slow run. Weather: brilliantly sunny. Cool, but warmer than as of late. A nice reprieve before sub-zero temps return to the area tomorrow. Feeling: good. Surprisingly eager for longer distances in the training schedule. Maybe it's the call of the wild geese.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The 411 on Running and Illness

Happy New Year, runners, readers and friends! I sure hope 2017 has been off to a good start for you all.

I've unfortunately been battling a cold since the turn of the year and so have not been running since I didn't want to make things worse by pushing either distance or intensity while under the weather. However, this forced break has given me time to reflect on running and illness.

© 2009 Doug Savage 
Given recent sick spells and (perhaps, too frequent?) accounts on this blog about being sick during training (see: Being Sick BlowsRunning? What Running?Canter Rain Check(Non) Running Round Up: First Edition of 2013It Begins...Again; The Sick Verdict a.k.a. Sick of Being Sick and Sick of Complaining About Being SickWeekend Woes a.k.a. Stories from the Sick BedHere We Go...; and So. Much. Mucus.), I've often wondered whether running actually contributes to illness. 

Certainly, my individual experience is not enough to account for anything substantive so I decided to do a little research and, after a quick scan of the literature, it seems that there definitely might be some weight to the theory. Weidner and Sevier (1996) find that 
"...regular, rigorous exercise increases both the incidence and severity of upper respiratory illness, yet the immune system appears to have a distinct level at which moderate exercise promotes optimum health." 
Essentially, it boils down to this: 

Certain levels of exercise = GOOD 
Too much or too strenuous exercise = BAD

Well, not bad, per se... but too much or too strenuous activity could risk increasing one's chances of getting sick. So... still not good, really.

How to mitigate? Unfortunately, for long distance runners and high intensity athletes, there's not much else to do beyond what anyone can do: keep stress to a minimum, wash your hands and get enough sleep (Brown, 2013; Reynolds, 2009).

However, the literature does say that moderate exercise or less-than-normal-intensity exercise while ill is fine, so long as the symptoms are confined to "above the neck" i.e. just a head cold (Brown, 2013; Laskowski, 2014; Reynolds, 2009; Weidner & Sevier, 1996). But - caution! If you push things while still sick, you'll probably stay sick or even make things worse (Laskowski, 2014; Reynolds, 2009)

There you have it. Mystery solved: running can contribute to illness. Also, I'm not crazy; getting sick while running is a thing!

Final note: when trying to decide whether or not to run when sick, the basic rule of thumb is - as in most other things when running - "let your body be your guide" (Laskowski, 2014). It knows what's best.



Brown, J. (2013, March 11). How Exercise Affects Immunity. Athletes’ Performance. Retrieved from http://www.coreperformance.com/knowledge/wellness/how-exercise-affects-immunity.html

Laskowski, E.R. (2014, March 6). Is it OK to exercise if I have a cold? Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20058494

Reynolds, G. (2009, October 14). Phys Ed: Does Exercise Boost Immunity? The New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/phys-ed-does-exercise-boost-immunity/?_r=1

Weidner, T. G., &; Sevier, T. L. (1996). Sport, Exercise, and the Common Cold. Journal of Athletic Training, 31(2), 154–159. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1318446/pdf/jathtrain00018-0060.pdf