Run Like a Dog and Just Eat

April 27th, 2015

Charlie Spedding’s comments about diet from 1984 are just as valid today.

“Everybody wanted to know about training, shoes and diet. … a lot of [runners] were hoping they would be able to eat themselves into peak physical condition, rather than follow … quite a lot of training. There were various fad foods, supplements and diets, and I was often asked if eating … would improve performance.” – Charlie Spedding, From Last to First (14)

Spedding won the Olympic Bronze medal for the marathon in 1984. His comments above were reflections on the seminars and speaking gigs he gave following his win. It’s interesting that we haven’t progressed in the last 30 years. Whether it’s the high fat low carbs, paleolithic, vegan, vegetarian, or whatever diet. As runners, we’re probably still overly concerned with diet shortcuts and less interested in logging miles and just running like a dog.

“Effort is everything. Just do it. Run like a dog.” – The Pitfalls of Run Coaching

If you’re looking for a good running book then pick up From Last to First. Spedding’s race recounts are really entertaining. If you have the time also check out 14 Minutes: A Running Legend’s Life and Death and Life by Alberto Salazar too. Both books interweave – both authors ran some of the same races, and were in their peak around the same time.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Running Tags:

Running Philosophies

March 13th, 2015

Finding running advice online is tough, fortunately there are many great books on the subject. Here are a collection of quotes and sources that influence my running philosophies.

Keep it frequent. Keep it consistent.

“How often you work out is the most basic element of training for long-distance [events] … consistent frequency throughout the year is the most effective way to maintain fitness” – Going Long (37)

“inconsistency in training makes for a never-ending struggle to maintain … fitness” – Hansons Marathon Method (12)

Run at least 30 minutes. Get used to running frequently, then extend these short runs later in the season.

“Even a 25-minute run is better than forgoing a workout altogether” – Hansons Marathon Method (110)

“I suggest a minimum of 30 minutes for most [easy] runs; the stress isn’t great, and the benefits are substantial.” – Daniel’s Running Formula (98)

Long runs start at 90 minutes. Be careful exceeding 3 hours.

“endurance training stimulates [glycogen storage and fat utilization] and increases the capillarization of your muscles … stimulate these adaptations [by running] 90 minutes or longer” – Advanced Marathoning (14)

“place a two-and-a-half-hour limit on [long runs] … Runs of three hours or more aren’t popular for elite runners .. Ultramarathoners and some marathoners will benefit from runs in excess of [38km]” – Daniel’s Running Formula (98)

“If you regularly do [two-and-a-half hour runs], you’ll become strong but slow … You’ll also increase your risk of injury because [fatigued muscles] lose their ability to absorb impact” – Advanced Marathoning (15)

“2-3 hours is the optimal window for metobolic adaptations in terms of long runs. Beyond that, muscle break down begins to occur. ” – Hansons Marathon Method (52)

“it is best to be a little conservative about the long stuff. This approach will enable you to recover quickly, maintain consistency, and avoid injury.” – Going Long (11)

Tempo / lactate threshold workouts are great for long distance runners. Speed / interval sessions are good too. Do some every week.

“A high lactate threshold is the most important physiological variable for endurance athletes” – Advanced Marathoning (5)

Keep your workouts under control.

“perform your tempo runs under desirable weather conditions and on relatively flat terrain with good footing … the goal … is to maintain a steady intensity … You can monitor your heart rate, but a steady rhythm under constant conditions is what you want” – Daniel’s Running Formula (113)

Rest once a week or whenever you need it.

“you should always take either an easy day or a rest day between [planned] workouts” – Hansons Marathon Method (109)

“Take a complete rest day once a week” – Going Long (15)

Try not to take two consecutive rest days.

“While recovery is important, cumulative fatigue calls for only partial recuperation” – Hansons Marathon Method (14)

“If you must take two days off per week, try not to have them be two days off in a row.” – Going Long (7)

“After two days … insulin response was dropping, oxidative stress was rising, and metabolic activity within individual muscle cells was slowing” – Don’t just sit there

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Running Tags:

Increase LinkedIn Profile Views

March 9th, 2015

LinkedIn is a great social networking site. It lets you organize professional contacts, post your resume, and make new connections based on shared interests, skills, etc… It’s also a great tool for connecting with former colleagues and searching for new opportunities.

Last month I was in the market for a new contract. I noticed how LinkedIn notified users when their profile was viewed. So I updated my LinkedIn headline indicating that I was seeking new work, then started viewing the profiles of people I thought aligned with my skills. My hope was that LinkedIn would notify these people of their profile view, then view my profile, notice that I was looking for work, and we’d start a conversation. Clicking through profiles in my LinkedIn contacts became tedious so I wrote a script to do it for me. The script definitely worked. My profile views jumped 300% and many conversations ensued.

LinkedIn Profile Views

To use this script go to your LinkedIn contacts, page through your contact list all the way to the bottom. Open your browser’s JavaScript console (Chrome, Firefox) in your developer tools and paste the following Javascript into the console. The script will loop through each contact, open a new tab, load the profile, then close the tab all in 1.3 seconds per contact.

JAVASCRIPT:
  1. var urls = [];
  2. $('.contacts-list-view li .name a').each(function() {
  3.   urls.push($(this).attr('href'));
  4. });
  5.  
  6. var workingWindowId = 0;
  7. function openClose(urls, index) {
  8.   var id = window.open(urls[index], index, '');
  9.   workingWindowId++;
  10.   setTimeout(function () {
  11.     id.close();
  12.     if (urls[index]) {
  13.       openClose(urls, workingWindowId);
  14.     }
  15.   }, 1300);
  16. }
  17.  
  18. openClose(urls, 0);

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: JavaScript Tags:

Running the Lost Soul Ultra 50km

February 25th, 2015
The Lost Soul Ultra

The course for the Lost Soul Ultra meanders along the Old Man River pulling runners over the undulating coulees surrounding the prairie town of Lethbridge Alberta. The Lost Soul has a manageable amount of climbing (1,300m over 53km) on the main loop, but conceals numerous insults and packs quite the punch for a prairie run. It’s a challenging course and a phenomenally well run event. It easily has the best stocked aid stations and volunteers. I definitely plan on running this event again.

When I ran this race in 2013 it was my first run over five hours. After glancing at the course profile online I planned to put most of my effort in the hilly section (the first 33km) then cruise the flat section back to the finish. This was great in theory, but I had never actually seen the terrain. I had no idea what kind of surface I’d be running on, nor had I been acquainted with a coulee, or even been to Lethbridge! The easy flat return section that I had banked on, just did not exist. Instead I encountered: sand, wet slippery grass, sticky mud, bushwhacking, and tiny flying bugs everywhere. What a surprise! My poor hydration, overly enthusiastic pace, and the accumulation of the steep descents finally caught me around the marathon mark. Cramps in my inner calves started alternating between legs. My friends at the final aid stations giggled afterwards about my degrading running form in those final miles - I felt like Frankenstein and apparently I was running like him too. Most of the last 15km was spent managing cramps and on the final steep descent I awkwardly descended backwards for fear of a calf cramp locking my feet pointing downward and sending me tumbling through the cactus, down the steep bank, and into the river. I finished the race in five hours and change (first place), but was running scared those last couple miles. The finish wasn't satisfying, it wasn't a good race, and I realized that I had a lot to learn for these multi hour trail events.

In short, the course is more difficult than it looks. The coulees are great fun, but the descents are steep and abrupt. It was quite an insult to nearly tumble back into the river valley after a nice gradual climb, but every great course contains insults - that’s what makes them so great. The running surface of the Lost Soul ranged from narrow well worn trails, to matted paths through fields, to bushwhacking, to very small sections of road. If you’re planning to run it, then practice steep river bank descents, running on grass, and make sure you get your hydration right. Here’s my track.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Review, Running Tags:

Success Traits, Being Your Goals, and Recovery

February 11th, 2015

I forgot what a gem Going Long: Training for Triathlon's Ultimate Challenge by Friel, and Byrn is. While this book is targeted towards the athlete training for an Ironman distance triathlon it has a lot of overlap with long distance running material and endurance athletics in general. Here are a couple sections and ideas I liked.

Success Traits
The successful traits of an athlete are listed as: confident, focused, self-sufficient, adaptable, quietly cocky, and mentally tough. Confidence is loosely described as balancing respect for yourself and your athletic abilities. Self-sufficiency by taking full responsibility of your actions, and taking calculated risks to try to win rather than trying not to lose. Quiet cockiness because “[they] know they have what it takes physically to succeed [but the] most successful ones never brag about this … their assuredness is obvious to anyone who watches … they don’t talk about how good they are ... they are afraid it would come back to haunt them.” That last trait really resonates and follows the behaviour I've observed in world class athletes.

Being Your Goals
The section on being your goals expands on the success traits. It’s suggested that in order to be a champion we need to eat, train, recover, behave, and become a champion. By becoming a champion we’re striving to be the best we can. In our diet it's suggested that we: eliminate processed foods, get our energy from whole sources, limit starchy and sugary foods to during and after workouts. Champions know that “success does not imply arrogance”. There's also mention of how "athletes have a fear of truly committing to their goals" and I can certainly relate.

In addition to these broader soft ideas there’s a lot of good technical information on training plans, workout phases, breakthrough workouts, recovery, etc… All of which share a lot of commonality with ultra marathon / marathon training plans. I’m always amazed at the time commitment these Ironman level triathlons require - 15 hours weekly to just complete one! Imagine what a runner could do with 15 hrs or running per week.

A couple thoughts on recovery from Friel, and Byrn:

Remember that there is no such thing as a ‘recovery run.’ Recovery sessions should be non-impact oriented

Your mind will try to convince you that you are different from everyone else, that you need less recovery. History has shown that almost everyone is best served by resting.

Rushing recover is a false economy. When your body needs rest, it will take the rest that it needs by any means necessary. Fatigue, illness, burnout, and injury…

If you're wondering, Friel, and Byrn suggest recovery should take four to six weeks following a full effort race. This is definitely a book worth picking up.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Book, Review, 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: