Back at it

I haven’t posted here in a while!

I’m back running now, after a forced break in the summer due to injury: I broke the baby toe in my right foot in mid-July, and strained the quadratus lumborum muscle on my right side about a month later. (It’s a muscle that lies deep in the body and joins the lowest rib to the top of the pelvis. It’s commonly used and/or aggravated when sitting.) I’m still getting physio treatment for the QL muscle, but my toe is pretty much healed, so I’ve been running again for about three weeks now.

I am a creature of habit, so I’ve been doing pretty much the same run about two or three times a week: south to Mount Pleasant Cemetery, a loop on the east side of the cemetery, and back. I vary the route slightly to fine-tune the distance: lately, I’ve been running between 5.3 and 5.6 km each time out. I like to think that’s not too bad, given that I turned 61 this past June!

I am now collecting all sorts of interesting and odd data each time I run, since my wife and I upgraded our fitness watches earlier this year. For instance, on my last run, I compiled the following statistics:

  • Average pace: 6:57 min/km
  • Average speed: 8.6 km/hr
  • Average heart rate: 154 bpm
  • Maximum heart rate: 171 bpm
  • Average run cadence: 170 steps per minute
  • Average stride length: 0.85 m (I run with short and choppy steps)
  • Calories burned: 520
  • Estimated sweat loss: 492 ml

By the way, I discovered, to my pleasant surprise, that running has lowered my resting heart rate. I used to be in the 60s, but my resting pulse rate is now somewhere between 50 and 55 beats per minute. I guess that’s good!

Winter running gear

Because the gyms are currently closed, so I can’t run on a treadmill, I am now running outdoors this winter. As my wife and others have told me, it’s just a question of having the right gear!

This morning, it was -11C outside when I went for my usual 5K run in my neighbourhood. Here’s what I wore, in more or less the order that I put it on:

  • Running shorts
  • 2 long-sleeved T-shirts
  • Compression socks
  • Heavy wool socks
  • Long underwear
  • Long pants
  • Wool sweater
  • Heavy running jacket
  • Neckband
  • Running headphones
  • Balaclava
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Running shoes with nanospikes

Once I had all of this on, it wasn’t actually that bad out. I can probably do up to at least -15C with this gear.

The nanospikes, especially, are wonderful – they’re cleats that attach to running shoes and provide traction on slippery roads or sidewalks. So far, I have successfully used them in heavy snow and on slippery ice without problems. I wind up running more slowly with them on than without, but my legs get more of a workout with them on, so it’s an acceptable tradeoff. Besides, I’m getting out into the fresh air!

I tend to go at dawn or a little before, when there are fewer people out – mostly, it’s just the early morning dog walkers. Because I live near a neighbourhood with low population density and sidewalks on both sides of the street, at that time of the morning I can run without worrying about whether I am getting too close to anyone. This is a bit of a relief.

Anyway, I’m still heading out there, and the regular exercise is healthy for me. I am looking forward to warmer weather, though!

Still going

I haven’t written here lately, but I’m still running! I turned 60 in June, and I’m doing 5K three days a week, either in Mount Pleasant Cemetery or on a route in my neighbourhood. I’m a creature of habit, so I do the same routes over and over again.

Given that I am not comfortable going to the gym to run on a treadmill, I’m not sure how running in the winter will hold up. My wife has special cleats that she puts on her shoes in the winter; maybe I’ll try those. And, hopefully, there will only be a short period of time in which the outside ground is snow-covered or slippery.

Anyway, if the worst thing that happens to me over the winter is that I am not able to run for a bit, I will count my blessings. Stay safe, everybody.

Running in a time of pandemic

It’s been a while since I last posted here. Needless to say, things have changed in the world.

But, happily, I am running again. I restarted the couch-to-5K training program in November after recovering from a back injury, and I completed it in early March. At that point, the weather got good enough to run outside – which is just as well, as shortly after that all of the gyms closed and the treadmill was not an available option.

I’ve been running 5K every other day since we all started staying at home. Happily, it has been easy to maintain physical distancing, as I run early enough in the morning that I just encounter the occasional dog walker and the odd runner or two. While Mount Pleasant Cemetery was still open, I did a 5K loop there; after it was closed, I started running on side streets south and east of Mt. Pleasant and Eglinton. The streets are in a grid pattern, and there’s very little car traffic, so it’s safe and relatively easy to put together a 5K run.

I’m still trying to figure out the optimal route to wind up at exactly 5K at the corner of Soudan and Mt. Pleasant; from there, it’s a 5 minute cooldown walk to my home. But I suspect that I will have plenty of time to figure this out, as it’s not likely that things will change for a while.

If you’re reading this: stay safe and take care of yourself.

Physiotherapy and the poor

In my previous blog post (scroll down!), I mentioned that I sustained an injury in May and June that made running impossible and has required several weeks of physiotherapy to fix up. I’m pretty much better now, but it’s left me thoughtful.

In my recovery process, I had two things going for me that other people might not be lucky enough to have. One was that I was aware of the principle of “active recovery”: sometimes, just resting an injury isn’t good enough. Without a dedicated program of exercise and physiotherapy, I would not have gotten better. The other is that I am financially stable enough to afford physiotherapy sessions – the benefits package from where I work covered some of it, my wife’s benefits package covered more, and I could afford to pay for the rest.

But I think, sadly, of people who do not have the favourable circumstances that I have. Many people my age, on sustaining an injury such as mine, might just have found it easier to give up – to go hobbling through life, taking pain medication daily to make moving around bearable. And many people can’t afford to go to a specialist who isn’t covered by OHIP, so they just have to bear it.

How many people exist out there who might have been able to lead a more active life had they been lucky enough to have the knowledge and advantages that I have?

Cycling and injuries

I haven’t posted in this blog in a long time, so I thought I’d better confess that I haven’t been running since June for two reasons:

  • My wife and I are going on a bicycling tour of the Netherlands in early September, so I’ve been focusing on getting into cycling shape.
  • I sustained an injury that made running impossible for a while.

More on the injury: due to a stiff back, I developed a problem with a nerve joining my left hip to my left knee. This presented itself first in May – I felt pain near my left knee, and discovered that standing still for any length of time was difficult. The injury aggravated itself in June – at its worst, I couldn’t walk for more than a block without my leg tightening up painfully, and I couldn’t stand for any length of time, including standing on the subway or standing in line anywhere.

I went to an excellent physiotherapist who eventually figured out the problem, which was difficult to spot because it first appeared to be a leg muscle injury and then an IT band problem. Physiotherapy and a series of daily stretching exercises have gradually made it possible for me to resume a normal life – I can now walk at least 15 minutes at a time and can stand for at least short periods.

Once we return from overseas, I’m going to work back up to walking 5 km distances. If I can handle that, I’ll start the Couch to 5K program again, as described at the start of this blog. We’ll see how it goes: the universe offers no guarantees, so I might not be able to run again. But my physiotherapist pointed out that her grandmother runs every day, and she is 80, so there is hope!

Current running playlist

A while back, I found a tool that estimated beats per minute for some of my favourite songs. I used this to create a suitable running playlist. Here it is! (Note: this playlist may show my age.) There’s enough music here for about an hour’s worth of running.

Warmup:

  • Remember The Name (feat. Styles of Beyond) – Fort Minor, Styles of Beyond
  • Driftin’ – Dirty Heads

Run:

  • Trouble Boys – Dave Edmunds
  • What I Like About You – The Romantics
  • Into the Future – The Vibrators
  • T T T – Buzzcocks
  • Radio Free Europe (single version) – R. E. M.
  • Going Down To Liverpool – The Bangles
  • Hit A Nerve – The Methadones
  • I’m The Man – Joe Jackson
  • The Tears Of A Clown – The English Beat
  • Roll Over Beethoven – Electric Light Orchestra
  • I Wanna Be Sedated – Ramones
  • Roots Radical – Rancid
  • I’m A Believer (radio edit) – Smash Mouth
  • Easter Island – The Methadones
  • Psychotic Reaction – Count Five
  • Tomorrows Girls – U.K. Subs
  • Walk Of Life – Dire Straits
  • English Civil War – The Clash
  • I Found That Essence Rare – Gang of Four

Cooldown:

  • Armagideon Time – The Clash
  • Eyes Without a Face – Billy Idol

Prince Edward County marathon relay

Last weekend, my wife and I and two of our friends ran the Prince Edward County marathon relay. The idea is that teams of up to five people take turns running part of the course, with the team’s total distance being the marathon distance (42.2 km). Our team name was “42.2K With A Little Help From My Friends”, which my wife came up with – we all liked this name very much.

The relay was divided into five legs of unequal distances. Our best runner did the third and fourth legs; I did the last leg, which was 7.1 km and ended in the town of Picton. I was given the last leg because (a) I was the only member of the team who had never run a full marathon, so we thought it would be cool for me to cross a marathon finish line, and (b) I was the slowest runner, so I wouldn’t be zipping past too many tired marathoners on my way to the finish.

On the day before the run, my wife and I drove the course. It made me realize how enormous an achievement running a marathon really is – it took us a fair bit of time to drive the course, so you can imagine how long it would take to run it. When driving the course, we discovered that my leg was the hilliest – however, the hills were gentle ones, so I figured that I could handle them.

On the day of the race, an elaborate system of buses was set up (which worked reasonably well). The people running a full marathon, and relay runners who were doing the first leg, had to present themselves at the Picton Fairgrounds before 6:45 am. People like me who were running the last leg didn’t have to get there before 9:30 am. My wife was running the first leg, so she had an early breakfast and headed out; this gave me time to rest, have a leisurely breakfast, and worry about what could go wrong (which I tend to do).

The bus arrived on schedule, and dropped us off at our designated relay exchange zone. Here’s a picture of relay zone 5:

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What those of us in Relay Leg #5 soon discovered was that there was no portable toilet anywhere near us. Toilets were positioned at water stations, which were located every 2 km throughout the course; however, we were at the 35.1 km mark. A few people obediently trotted down to the 34 km toilet to prepare for the race (we couldn’t see the 36 km toilet from where we were, so we weren’t sure if it existed), but most people just snuck off into a nearby shaded area. (Because the area was populated, I joked to someone else at the relay point that I had asked my teammates to post bail for me if I was arrested for exposure.) It was tougher for the women, of course; those that didn’t just choose to wait wound up going to a nearby barn to do their business.

This was all just a minor inconvenience for me (since I’m a man), but I was a little envious of the people at relay point #3, who were positioned at the start of the half-marathon race. They had coffee and muffins there as well as toilets! But no matter: I’ve had to do this sort of thing before. I was in place well before our third runner arrived; I had a rough idea of when she was going to be there, as each leg finisher sent a text message indicating when the next one had started, and we knew about how long each leg was going to take.

The buses that transported runners to their start locations also travelled the course throughout the race; this allowed runners to go from point to point to cheer their teammates on. Shortly before my handoff, our other two teammates arrived to give me moral support, which I appreciated.

Each relay team was given a transponder on a belt; this was used to measure the team’s total race time. At a relay point, the belt was passed from one runner to the next. So, at about 11:28 am, I got my handoff, and started my leg of the race.

The first part of the race was really nice (all of it was good, but the first part was especially good). They closed the course to cars for the duration of the race, so I got to run in the middle of the road. The scenery looked like this, courtesy of Google Street View:

IMG_3592

There’s a hill off in the distance, but you can’t quite see it from here. The hilly bits turned out not to be a problem; I didn’t have to work harder, but I did notice that I was slightly slower on them.

As usual, my watch provided lots of stats. Here’s the map of my run. (It shows 7 km rather than 7.1, as I had a little trouble starting my watch.)

IMG_3588

And here’s the elevation map:

IMG_3589

As you can see, there were some ups and downs, but they weren’t too severe.

Last but not least, here was my race pace:

IMG_3591

I started a bit slow, partially because I had been standing around for over an hour and a half. But I got a little faster as I got going, and I finished at a decent pace. A bus passed me on the way; it had my teammates on it, but they were on the side away from me. So my teammates got a bunch of random strangers on the bus to help them cheer “Go, Dave!” as it went by me. I thought this was funny.

As it happens, all of our team members went faster than expected. Which made the finish a bit of an epic adventure for our team – the plan was for the rest of the team to meet me near the finish line so that we could cross it together (this was encouraged, provided you didn’t get in the way of other runners). But, as I approached the finish line, I didn’t see them. What happened was that the bus that transported our team to the finish line had to go down side streets in Picton to get there (since the main street was closed except for runners). The bus got there later than expected, and my teammates had to sprint across the Picton fairgrounds to the finish line; they got there when I had less than 200 metres to go. A movie script could not have written it any better.

Here’s our team’s race stats, if you’re curious. We finished 14th out of 28 relay teams, which is pretty good. Our third runner is quite fast, which helped! By the time I got the handoff, there were no other relay runners near me; the team ahead of us was nearly three minutes ahead (or nearly half a kilometre), and the team behind us was nearly two minutes behind.

picton2

picton1

So I didn’t pass any relay runners or get passed by any – I passed a few tiring distance runners, and got passed by a few who were clearly faster and fitter than I was (which was to be expected).

So I now have another race medal for my collection (I’ve picked up five this year!), along with a long-sleeved race T-shirt that says “County Marathon” on it. I will feel a little weird wearing it on training runs, as I only ran about one-sixth of a marathon. But what the hey – I earned it. We had fun, and we are thinking of doing more relays as a team.

Zoo Run 5K

A little over two weeks ago, I finally got to run the Zoo Run 5K. This was a personal goal of mine, as last year this was going to be my first race ever, but I broke my toe and had to miss it.

The Zoo Run is a race in which runners travel through parts of the Toronto Zoo:

IMG_3584

This means that many bemused animals get to watch humans travel by them relatively quickly for a while. (One runner that I saw stopped in mid-race to get pictures of some of the zoo’s inhabitants, which might have affected his race time a bit.)

I wasn’t sure how fast I was going to run, so I wasn’t sure what corral to sign up for. My two previous 5K races were under 32 minutes, so in theory I could have been in the Red Corral (under 32). But that felt like too much pressure, so I put myself in the Yellow Corral (33 to 37 minutes), and positioned myself near the front of the corral for the race. Not right at the very front, since the people at the front were likely to start off too quickly, but close to the front.

The Zoo Run is a bit hilly in places, though not steeply so. Here’s the elevation map for the race, courtesy of my Garmin watch:

IMG_3585

As you can see, there were four uphill bits, including a steepish bit near the end.

My plan was to not start too fast, but to pick it up a bit as the race went on, and then finish as strongly as I could. My wife advised me that, if you do it properly, a 5K race is very strenuous. As I understand it, if you’re not tired out and gasping for breath at the finish line, you haven’t left it all on the field!

I think I pretty much achieved this. Here’s the times for each kilometre, again courtesy of my watch:

IMG_3587

I started okay (though I was a bit slow in the middle), and then turned it on near the end. The last kilometre was the first time I had ever recorded a kilometre time of less than 6 minutes, which is an achievement for me. (I am not any kind of athlete.) And, recall that this part of the race was uphill:

IMG_3585

With less than half a kilometre to go, I was feeling flushed, and by the time I got to the finish, I was worried that I had pushed it too hard and might collapse. I was breathing heavily at the end; if I had a heart problem (which, luckily, I don’t), it would have manifested itself then.

Anyway, it all worked out. I set a personal best for the distance at 31:05 (the difference between the first time and the second time includes the three-minute delay period for my corral):

zoorun1

So maybe I could have been in the Red Corral after all!  I was 11th out of 32 in my category of men between 55 and 59, which I think is pretty good! (Of course, the better runners would likely have done the 10K earlier in the day instead of the 5K, since this would have been a greater challenge. But I choose to ignore this.)

zoorun2

The most stressful part of the race was that there was a long walk back from the finish line to the starting line (a couple of kilometers or so, past a lot of zoo visitors). I had forgotten whether they moved the baggage pickup from the start line to the finish line; if they had, and I hadn’t seen it, I would have had to walk all the way back. Luckily, I didn’t have to.

Anyway, mission accomplished. Next up: I was part of a team that ran a marathon relay in Picton last weekend, and I am going to write that up too.

Still going

I haven’t posted in this blog in a long time, but I thought I would mention that I am still running. I just finished the Zoo Run 5K, and set a personal best! I’m also now on my third and fourth pair of shoes – I’ve worn out two pairs.

My wife and I and two of our friends are about to run the Prince Edward County marathon relay – the four of us will take turns running until we reach the total marathon distance. I am scheduled to do the last leg, as I am the slowest runner of the four of us, and it’s probably better to have the slowest runner around when surrounded by tired marathoners who are close to the finish. I’ll probably feel vaguely guilty, as I will be relatively fresh; I’m only going a little over 7K.

Anyway, happy trails and all that!