Gear Reviewed: Merino Wool or Me?

June 25th, 2013

Merino Wool’s moisture wicking properties, ability to retain heat when wet, and resistance to odour are great marketing points. In the athletic wear industry you’ll find just about everything in Merino (underwear, running shirts, cycling shorts, leggings, tights, you name it). I gave Merino Wool a try and it gave me a rash.

Merino Wool Rash

Exhibit A (photo to the right); my back after wearing a Merino Wool shirt on a two hour run with a small pack in a light drizzle. I have a couple other patches on my front and have experienced similar abrasions while XC skiing in -20C weather (wearing the same style of shirt) which suggests that I may have a wool sensitivity. For myself Merino Wool has been demoted to office wear and casual activities. It’s not suitable for endurance activities. Since there isn’t much noise on the internet related to the downsides of Merino Wool or Merino Wool rashes I thought I’d post this. I’d be interested to hear if other’s have experienced issues with Merino. Thankfully I haven’t tested the underwear.

This post was inspired by a Patagonia Merino Lightweight Crew T-Shirt.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Review, Running Tags:

The 2013 Running Plan

January 30th, 2013

Here’s a brief summary of my event objectives for the year.

The St. Patrick’s Day 10km, March 17th.

The half marathon distance at the Calgary Marathon, May 26th.

The 25km distance at Rundle’s Revenge, June 23rd.

The Powderface 42, July 6th.

Riding the Gran Fondo Highwood Pass with friends, July 13th.

Riding the TransRockies TR3 mountain bike race, July 27th through Aug 2nd.

The Moose Mountain Marathon, Aug 24.

The 50km distance in the Lost Soul Ultra, Sept 7th.

A fall marathon, perhaps Victoria?

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Running Tags:

Chasing Three Hours

October 11th, 2012

I’ve been chipping away at the sub three hour marathon for a while now. Like many runners I came into the game late, I don’t have a running background or any semblance of an athletic history for that matter. Sure, as a kid I enjoyed semi-athletic activities like riding bikes, but the geography of rural Canada (Ontario) makes self propelled transportation a normal part of everyday life. In high school I took up skateboarding and missed out on organized sports (as a skater and teenager sports were very uncool). While in College I followed the boarding trend and joined the snowboard club. I was back on my bike though riding (30km) daily to school to save a couple bucks on Toronto’s Transit, but that certainly doesn’t count towards an athletic history. Through my University years I spent summers planting trees which was hard work, and I was part of the mountain bike club, but we drank more beer than we biked. After school I did a bit of travelling (Japan), got a real job, and moved to Calgary. No athletics, no organized sports. So take everything I say with a healthy grain of salt. :)

I started running consistently in 2010. As a cubical dwelling IT worker I felt out of shape, but you can read more on why I’m running. I signed up for a half marathon (2009) and trained for a month. For the last 4km I waddled like a green plastic soldier, but had fun. My brief month stint as a runner ended until I signed up for a full marathon (Calgary 2010). At this point I started doing my research; tapers, technical clothing, and the world surrounding running were still a mystery. I followed a basic online marathon training program, ran the marathon, survived and had a good time. Read more about my first marathon. I then signed up for another marathon (Vancouver 2011) with the ambitious (secret) goal of breaking three hours. I trained through the winter, ran Vancouver, and had a humbling marathon. I made so many mistakes in that race, I didn’t fuel, I didn’t hydrate, I didn’t have a proper base, and I became intimately familiar with ‘The Wall’. Read more in my 2011 marathon results. I flitted with a couple other marathons that summer improving my nutrition, but left the three hour goal untouched.

I finally met my three hour goal at the 2012 Kelowna marathon and so much has changed in the year between these two events. Since Vancouver (2011) I’ve been running with people that are significantly faster and more experienced than myself (I find it motivating to be the slower guy). I’ve accepted that there are no shortcuts to improving as a runner and that to run faster I need to spend more time running at an easy pace (not at a harder pace). For Kelowna I ran five days a week and logged 80km (50mi) or more weekly (leading up to the marathon), whereas for Vancouver I ran three days a week and logged about 60km (37mi) weekly. I’ve been running my long runs based on heart rate as opposed to pace. I’ve bought into the theory that by running based on effort I’m compensating for adverse weather and more difficult running routes. Interesting enough I’m running my long runs faster while following effort vs pace. I’m focusing less on complex training programs, although every run has a goal (75% HRM, V02Max, endurance, etc…). I’ve started running tempo runs in place of intervals (the jury is still out on whether this is a good idea). I also started working exclusively at a stand-up desk and I stand all week (tight hamstrings, running, sitting, then running do not mix well). Basically running has become a part of my lifestyle. Running takes consistent work, but it is a lot of fun. Here’s my track from Kelowna.

Splits (min/km) for Vancouver and Kelowna

Kelowna vs Vancouver
Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Personal, Running Tags:

Running the Moose Mountain Marathon

September 13th, 2012

I’d been running through the dense vegetation of an Aspen forest without much sign of life for almost an hour now. Tufts of matted grass trail-side occasionally grabbed my foot threatening to take me down. I try calculating how long until I’m out of the woods through a carbohydrate depletion mind fog. I figure another ten minutes. Suddenly something large starts crashing through the brush towards me. It’s black, it’s big, it stands up… I brace for the worst… a blond pony tail whips through the air. Thank goodness! It’s a woman in black Spandex picking mushrooms and not a bear! A couple minutes later and I’m behind the finish line of the Moose Mountain Marathon eating homemade soup and scraping the dried remains of an energy gel from my shirt, shorts, and legs.

Moose Mountain Marathon Course

The Moose Mountain Marathon in Kananaskis Country starts and finishes in the West Bragg recreational area (45 minutes outside Calgary Alberta). Close to 150 runners participate in the three distances (16km, 29km, and 42km). The 16km (10mi) course is the most popular distance and also the least scenic. The 16km route takes you through the Aspen forest of the Telephone Trail where you spend most of your time looking at your feet, dodging mud holes, climbing through cattle fences, and being frightened by Spandex wearing mushroom pickers. The 29km (18mi) is the most scenic, it’s basically one big hill race with a 1000m (3200ft) gain / loss. The 29km route takes you along the Moose Road Trail, Moose Packers Trail, to Moose Mountain Trail, and then back. At about the 10km mark you break through the tree line and continue to run the next 8km surrounded by spectacular panoramic views. The 42km (26mi) option combines the 29km route and most of the 16km route. The elevation gain for the 42km distance is somewhere in the ballpark of 1700m (5500ft), the highest point around 2300m (7500ft), and the actual distance closer to 40km than 42km. It’s a great course and event. I will definitely run it again.

My race plan going into this event was progressively conservative – in the Powderface 42 I targeting an 80% max heart rate, this time I targeted a marginally higher rate of 83%. Things went well, I took the climbs at my own pace, worked through a couple side stitches in the first half, and legs felt good on the descents (likely the results of weekly trail running). Coming through the 27km aid station I was told that the guy ahead of me had a 5 minute lead. So.. I took my time, ate some party mix (there’s nothing better than cheezies and chips on the run), had a couple drinks, took a quick pit stop in the woods, then back on the trail. The final portion of the run was through the overgrown Telephone Trail where it’s hard to look at anything but your feet – let alone know if someone or something is closing in on you. After crossing the finish line I was surprised to learn that I had narrowed the gap to 70 seconds. If I had known we were that close I would’ve run harder! I finished with my 83% goal. Here’s my track.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Calgary, Personal, Running Tags:

Gear Reviewed: La Sportiva Crosslite Trail Shoes

August 20th, 2012
La Sportiva Crosslite Trail Shoes

I purchased the La Sportiva Crosslite trail shoes based on their weight, low profile, aggressive tread, and rave reviews (MEC, Amazon). Unfortunately both my shoes blew apart after less than 100km (62mi). The biggest design flaw with these shoes is the mud / scree guard covering the laces. In theory the guard is intended to keep the grit out of your shoes, but it also makes it difficult to snug up the shoe’s toe box which strained the side-walls (in my case anyways). Some enthusiasts of this shoe recommend cutting off the guard (video). I’d love to try another modified pair, but have since purchased a pair of Salomon XT Wings 3. Hopefully my new shoes have a bit more longevity.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Review, Running Tags:

Biking Furious 3 Fernie

August 6th, 2012
Fernie Furious 3

The Fernie Furious 3 is a three day staged mountain bike race through the well maintained trails surrounding (you guessed it) Fernie, BC. Each day the race maked use of a different combination of trails finishing in the centre of town. With the finish line conveniently located near the best post race snacks ever – everything on the menu at Big Bang Bagels. Judging from all the muddy faces surrounding the order line, I wasn’t the only one trying to knock off every item on their menu. Anyhow; the Furious 3 was very family friendly, riders started and ended in the same place (downtown) with most rides wrapping up around noon. This was a great setup allowing participants to get their ride in, grab lunch with friends / family, then check out what Fernie has to offer for the rest of the day. Onto the race report…

Day one, the zombie apocalypse. I’d never raced a mountain bike and have never ridden three consecutive days. Day one would be my first bike race ever. I ride every chance I can recreationally, but I really had no idea what to expect. I seeded myself about mid pack and the gun went off. We went screaming down a gravel road which quickly lead into a double track (fire road) that climbed for about 6km to break up the pack. The double track lead into the lower half of “48 hours” (a steep technical trail skirting closer to Downhill riding than XC riding) and “48 hours” was pure carnage. This trail was rooty, wet, and most riders didn’t realize how steep the trail was – myself included. The entrance to “48 hours” started with a comfortable slope with great flow, then out of nowhere the ground beneath let loose – became significantly steeper. My front tire got caught on the wrong side of a root and I was offline heading straight into the rhubarb with a rider bearing down on my tail. Thankfully a tree stopped me – or rather my face and handlebars ran right into a tree which brought me to a quick stop and left me a bit stunned. The tree was small (3” in diameter) and my face was intact. I untangled myself, checked my helmet, made sure my handlebars were on straight and headed down the trail. As I continued to descend other riders were reassembling bikes and climbing out of the trees like zombies. The rest of the day wasn’t nearly as exciting and was spent on well manicured flowing single track connected by jeep roads with a solid climb up Hyperventilation. At the end of the day, I managed to secure a position in the first wave for the next day’s start. Aside from a couple scrapes I was feeling alright. Off to Big Bang Bagel for a wholewheat everything bagel! Day one’s ride had been 40 kilometers with about 1500m of elevation.

Day two, lost in the cabbage. Day two started on the ski hill. It was raining and had been raining through the night. I was concerned with how my legs would hold out on the second day (a bigger day) of riding. The gun went off and we were sent up the Fernie Resort XC ski trails to break apart the group, soon after, we were riding up access roads, then dropping into single track, then regaining our elevation on access roads, then back down single track. Conditions were reasonable within the resort and the descents were interesting, but as we made our way towards Mt Fernie Provincial Park conditions got muddier and the terrain got steeper. The rain was falling harder, the mud getting deeper, and somewhere out there I got lost. Yes, I took the wrong turn. I’m not sure how it happened, I suspect the mud in my eyes had something to do with it, but the rest of the course was marked really well. About 3km into my detour I met a surprised race marshal on their way home from their morning duties. Luckily they directed me back to the course which was “just around the corner”. Unfortunately that corner was followed by a hill, a descent, a hill, and a descent. I was re-riding the course. Finally I was back on track, but with additional distance and elevation under my belt. I’ll be honest. I was a bit frustrated and the rain didn’t help. Upon reaching the first aid station I decided to yell at the volunteers and eat all their energy bars. Ok… I did neither, getting lost wasn’t their fault, but I did jam as many energy bars in my face as I could – they had really well stocked aid stations by the way. After the quick snack, it was back on the bike and back on the course. From here we headed up the access road of Project 9 which was unrideable and nearly impossible to walk up without doing the duck walk. The rain, clay and previous trafic had bombed out this trail, but the reward of a descent was motivating. After Project 9 and a couple more climbs, descents, and wipe outs. I finally pulled through the finish in just over 5 hours. It was great to be greeted by the smile of Steph (my wonderful wife). Then off to Big Bang Bagels for a Mr. Fernie! Day two was supposed to be 46 kilometres with about 1700m of elevation. With my reroute I managed 50 something kilometers with over 2000m of elevation. Apparently last year a bunch of riders got lost too.

Furious 3, Team MitoCanada

Day three, is this thing done yet?! Today the sun was out, spirits were high, and most riders were sporting some nice bruises and scratches on unprotected extremities. My mantra for the day was stay out of the rubarb, race smart, and don’t get lost! Thankfully today’s ascents were more gradual than the previous two days, the single track was tacky (not too sloppy) and the climbs up the access roads were offering great opportunities to try to chip away at yesterdays lost time. Although, with 11km left and nearing the 3 hour mark I was starting to get concerned – I didn’t want another another long day. My concerns vanished as an 11km downhill stretch brought us screaming into the finish line. Time for a smoothy at Big Bang Bagels! Day three was 41kms with about 1700m elevation.

I’ve never been so sore, nor had so many bruises and scrapes from participating in a race event. Furious 3 Fernie was a fun introduction to mountain bike racing. I’d happily go back and do it again, but next time I’d do some course reconnaissance beforehand to avoid getting lost.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Mountain Biking, Personal Tags:

Running The Powderface 42

July 23rd, 2012

Chunks of skin falling from my sock while changing shoes is never good. Especially considering my shoes (La Sportiva Crosslite’s) blew their sides out during the Powderface 42 trail run – resulting in my toes jamming into the front of my right shoe for the last 30 minutes. I was happy to discover the skin originated from an old dislodged blister and that the feet were generally OK (the toenails might be casualties), but the shoes certainly did not survive (my shoe review).

Powderface 42

The Powderface 42 is a 42km (26mi) somethingish trail run through Alberta’s beautiful Kananaskis Country – this year due to a bear the course took a detour and was a bit longer. The terrain on this route is fairly challenging and the aid stations are few and far between. I’d never run anything of this distance or with this elevation profile. Needless to say, I did have apprehensions going into this event. The terrain was definitely one concern, but my biggest concern was my lack of long runs. I hadn’t run anything beyond 30km since May 6th (my Vancouver Marathon DNF) and my longest run in the past month had been 25km on June 24th (Rundle’s Revenge). I felt undertrained which reflected my race plan. The plan was to adhere to a strict 75% – 80% heart rate (HR) range to conserve energy for the last half of the course where I anticipated slowing down.

At 7:00am with overcast skies and temperatures around 15C (59F), friendly familiar faces surrounded the starting line. These trail events are small, typically capped at 150 participants. In this event the runners were spread between two distances, with 50 runners toeing the longer distance. 7:30 hits and the gun sounded, off we race into the trees. For the first 5km my HR was pushing above 80% likely a combination of too much coffee, nervs, and excitement. I chatted with some runners, but soon found myself alone focusing on the trail and foot placement. 11km into the run and the 6km climb up to the pass (500m elevation) began. I was feeling strong and made headway on my position while keeping a close eye on my heart rate. Down the other side on the steeper runnable descents I’d catch myself zoning out (road runner style) or rather my foot would catch a root and send me flying off trail – reminding me to remain alert and how quickly my run could end. At the 25km aid station I was still feeling good, but knew it was early and that anything could still go wrong. Another 10km of fairly sustained downhill and I was still felling OK although a couple minor calf cramps paid a visit and there was a good chance that more were in the mail. Some more climbing and no sign of cramps, things were looking good. 4km from the finish and the cramps began. Boy were they annoying. I worked through them by altering my cadence, running slightly sideways (zig-zagging back and forth on the trail), and running them out on the flats. After 44kms (27mi) in total I was happy to cross the finish line and surprised that I maintained an 80% average heart rate without slowing in the last half of the run.

This long distance trail running business is interesting. Events of this nature combine obstacle course traversal with a keen sense of self monitoring – a need to gauge energy reserves and anticipate nutrition / hydration needs as the distances between aid stations are fairly long. I found it interesting that while I hadn’t been logging many long runs my long (4+hrs) mountain bike rides compensated quite nicely. In future trail races I’ll need to run through the creeks and mud holes. I wasted a fair amount of time trying to keep my feet dry, but then again I was getting blisters with wet feet (in my now trashed shoes). I’m hoping that new shoes might make wet feet running more enjoyable. Next event I’ll try targeting a higher heart rate range too. Here’s my track.

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new. – Brian Tracy

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Calgary, Personal, Running Tags:

Life, The Lofty 2012 Race Plans and How They’ve Panned Out

July 12th, 2012

Here’s a brief summary (both good and bad) of what I’ve been up to between now and my January ambitions. My race ambitions may have been a bit too lofty at the beginning of the year – which is likely another case of Canadian Cabin Fever. If you’re unfamiliar; the symptoms generally start with a twitchy mouse finger in mid January which progresses into a race registration rampage where common sense like recovery time and logistics are overlooked.

Jonathan Toker, Adam Kahtava

Injuries. Oh no! I experienced a couple setbacks in the form of injuries. Heel Bursitis; I tied my shoes too tight and what initially felt like a blister turned into two weeks of downtime in January. Achilles Tendinitis; Ok, it probably wasn’t tendinitis. Let’s just say it was an Agitated Achilles and that I spent too much time looking at Achilles Tendon ruptures. Better safe then sorry. Achilles issues are scary! Thankfully a second opinion from a Physiotherapist and some acupuncture cleared up the issue in a couple weeks. The agitation was likely the result of new skate ski boots, riding a bike with the seat too high, and skate skiing for too long too soon.The Angry Piriformis. What a pain in the butt. If you’re in a small space (like a plane) for multiple hours, then MOVE. I tried to win Angry Birds in a cramped airplane seat after a couple tiring weeks of building up mileage. I should have been moving, and stretching – anything but hunching over a tiny phone screen. Upon leaving the plane I felt a pain in my buttock that didn’t go away for almost four weeks. Piriformis was weird, I could run for under two hours without feeling much pain. So… I tried running the Vancouver Marathon – which I’ll address later. I still haven’t won Angry Birds. Do the levels ever end?

Oversights. Spending time in a tropical climate at sea level on a flat island at the end of a Canadian winter while trying to peak for a marathon was a mistake. Most Caribbean islands cater to beach time not runners and running routes. In a single day I was chased by 15 dogs – 7 of those dogs were in a single pack. I ended up running with rocks in hand and sweating it out on a treadmill in a hot gym. I know, I know, insert violin sound sample here (*Wa-Waa-Waaa*). I’m fortunate to get to spend time in Turks and Caicos. I did learn how to SCUBA dive, and had a blast on the island, but training deteriorated.

Jonathan Toker, Adam Kahtava

Race Results. The Calgary’s St Patrick’s Day 10km was run shortly after the Achilles issue. Up to that point I hadn’t run more than 10km for a couple weeks and wanted to survive. I felt the run was a success. I tried running the Vancouver Marathon despite having the niggling Piriformis issue. I’m not sure what I was thinking. In retrospect I should have clued in and dropped down to the half while rolling out my Piriformis muscle with a tennis ball a day before the race, because at kilometre 30 (the 18th mile) the dark force and a conveniently located coffee shop became my own personal finish line. Funny though, shortly before my mid race coffee break I had decided to finish at all cost. That fleeting thought lasted for about five minutes. Vancouver is a big marathon with many spectators. I was in the first wave, my name was on the front of my bib in big letters, and EVERYONE was looking for someone to cheer on. So this slowing, nearly limping runner (me) was garnering attention. “You can DO IT ADAM!” “No pain no gain Adam!” I stopped, sat down on a curb laughed, took off the race bib, folded it up (along with my ego) and stuffed it in my pocket. I then walked a shortcut back to the finish and cheered friends over the finish line. It was still a great time to catch up with friends and an excuse to visit Vancouver – oh, and the new route is nice too. At the Calgary Marathon my Piriformis issue was still present, anything over two hours of running was out. I opted for the Half Marathon and had a good run on the new course. Rundle’s Revenge was so fun! So much mud, so many great people, and my legs were in full working order. Then there was Fernie’s Furious 3. A three day staged mountain bike race with an average of 40km per day on Fernie’s well manicured single track. I did get lost on the second day which added some bonus mileage, elevation, and time, but this was my first MTB race. I didn’t care much, I wasn’t any real competition, and now got to mix some orienteering into my day. I had no idea bike racing was so much fun and easier than running (sorry mountain bikers). The Powderface 42 is yet to be determined. It’s coming up quickly.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Personal, Running Tags:

Now Streaming HD: The New Camara

January 30th, 2012

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a gear weenie, but I’m in good company – most IT workers share my enthusiasm. Friends in real life are cringing at the thought of the “Adam Paparazzi” in their face. Similarly friends on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and RunKeeper are rolling their eyes in agreement as they read this and see another status update roll by.

As a self proclaimed technology enthusiast; most of my activities are GPS tracked (along with my vitals), and a camera is close at hand. I enjoy sharing my experiences – most of my childhood friends and family live in Eastern Canada (2,500km away), so technology is the great connector. The way I see it; while having a camera on (or in your face) can be annoying at the time, eventually this media will become invaluable to your family, friends, and yourself as your memory fades.

My latest piece of gear is a camera that mounts on a helmet / bike and a YouTube Channel.

Here’s a video of Steph and I, on Mount Standish in Sunshine Village.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Personal Tags:

The 2012 Running Plan

January 16th, 2012

Here’s my rough running plans for 2012 – after all, an organized schedule means I can take advantage of early bird discounts, which translates into more events.

Calgary’s St Patrick’s Day 10km, March 17. I’ve never run this event before, it’ll be my second 10km event and my winter running motivation.

Calgary’s Police Half, April 29. Last year this event was pretty challenging – Calgary was blanketed with fresh snow the night before the race. Typically this race is lead by a police cruiser, but the car got stuck about a kilometer into the course, portions of the route weren’t cleared, and the snow covered ice was slippery, I know, I fell. This race is a nice ease into the running season.

The Vancouver Marathon, May 6. This event crushed me last year – totally my own fault, I didn’t take enough fuel and bonked hard. I really enjoyed Vancouver for its scenery, climate, and sea level advantage. I’ve got a bit more experience with long distance running and hope to do better this year.

The Calgary Marathon, May 27. Where it all began – in ’09 I signed up for my first race ever and have been running since. This year I’m running for Team MitoCanada. Please consider donating to (or better yet, joining) my team.

Rundle’s Revenge, June 24th.

Fernie’s Furious 3, June 30th – July 2nd. A three day staged mountain bike race.

Powderface42, July 14th. It’s a 42km trail run around Powderface in Kananaskis, I’ve biked the route so running it will be interesting, painful, or all of the above.

My fingers are crossed for an injury free season.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Personal, Running Tags: