The Unwanted Passenger – Negativity

My dutiful gear, waiting patiently for me to get moving.I woke up this morning with a strange feeling: I didn’t feel like going for a run.

Sunday is my distance day and this morning I was scheduled to run 20km @ 5:25/km. No problem, usually… but this morning was different. I had no motivation and worse yet all I could think about was how much work I had to get done today.

Don’t worry, dear reader, I did get out there and ran 21.3km in 1:58 but it was hardly the relaxing, enjoyable run I usually have on Sunday morning. Usually it is just me, my Adizeros, the soothing voice of miCoach (I prefer the “UK English Female”), the Edmonton river valley and as many science/health podcasts my crappy old iPod can carry. This morning I had an extra passenger along. An unwanted passenger. I believe his name is Negativity and he is a jerk.

It’s true that I have 30+ projects to mark for the class I teach at MacEwan University, workflow documents to prepare for a client, a Team in Training newsletter and this blog to write, an ‘intro to running’ session to plan for an AFLCA certification class, PLUS an afternoon tea my significant other signed me up for (I guess there are worse things than that but I don’t even drink tea). All of that is pretty normal for me and without Mr. Negativity on my shoulder I would have greeted this day with determination and grit. Instead I had to kick my own butt (several times), drink an extra coffee, take a deep breath and just jump in – kicking and screaming (on the inside).

Last weekend my coach, Tania Jones, and a load of other iRun folks, ran the Around The Bay 30k race in Hamilton, ON. When Tania emailed me about the race later that day, she said:

“It was a war out there at ATB. Fought for every km. At least I know that my marathon toughness is still sharp… gave me the confidence that I am tough enough to go back to the marathon…”

Check out her choice of words – fought, toughness, confidence, war. I know we are just runners but this is the type of determination I hope I was building this morning when I dragged myself out there and kicked my own butt around the city. I am hoping this will help make the difference between a small but easily attained PB and a hard fought, toughness inducing, all-out war when I run Toronto’s Goodlife Fitness Marathon on May 15th.

PS – My interview with iRun’s own Mark Sutcliffe has been posted for all to hear. Check it out: iRun The Running Show – March 26, 2011 (my interview is near the end of the show).

Is it a PB or a PR?

The ubiquitos biting the medal photoSince I began this Runner Makeover I have PB-ed (or is it PR-ed?) twice. The first one was just a couple weeks into the makeover, when Coach Tania was still trying to get a handle on what the heck to do with me.

The day before the Hypothermic Half Marathon she told me to “run hard but stay in control and respect the conditions” (it was cold, snowy and slippery here in Edmonton). So, I did what I was told.

I saw many a runner bite the dust (more like ‘bite the ice’) during that race but I stayed on my feet and managed to finish in 1:40:50. I placed 8th overall, 5th in my gender and 3rd in my division. I was over the moon! I had PR-ed (or is it PB-ed?) by almost 14 minutes (1:54:05 in Vancouver ‘09).

Tania’s strategy for me is to run faster for a few shorter races before I tackle another full marathon (and try to qualify for Boston) so I also signed up for the St. Patrick’s Day 10km this past weekend. Once again it was a narrow, slippery and snowy race. I watched as many runners lost their footing and went down hard on the ice and snow, all the while wondering when it was going to happen to me…

I managed to stay on my feet and finished in 45:20. I placed 10th overall, 5th in my gender and 1st in my division! That morning I got a medal and a PB (or is it PR?) of 8 minutes (53:54 at the same race in ‘09).

For years before this makeover began I had dreams of doing a 1:45 half marathon and to someday do a 10k in 45 minutes but I had no idea how to get there. Yes, I do coach other racers and have a decent bag of tricks to throw at them but I had run out of ideas and (more importantly) faith in my own abilities. Holla to iRun Magazine and this makeover for hooking me up with Tania, Adidas and Lauren. My faith is back and I am ready to PR (or is it PB?) may way into Boston.

Protein, water and an afternoon snack!

Quinoa & rice with bacon and eggs!Let me start by saying that we all love to hear that we are doing things correctly but there is really something magical about a teacher/coach/leader who can make you feel that way while pointing out the things you can improve on.

I just had my first telephone consult with Lauren Jawno, our Runner’s Makeover nutrition consultant. I’m not going to lie – I was worried. She had us track everything we ate for 4 days (including a Saturday). That was nearly a week ago. I have been waiting (nervously) ever since.

I am 6′ tall and 160lbs. I wear a 31″ waist jean and medium t-shirts usually fit me well, so I’m doing pretty well… for a normal person. For an endurance athlete? I don’t know. Maybe?

In any case, Lauren had some great feedback for me. First of all (she said in her magical way) “You are doing pretty well.” Nice! “Aside from the chocolate croissant and 12oz mochaccino”. Damn, I had somehow hoped that was an ok recovery meal. “Also you are not getting enough protein.” That surprised me. I eat meat, I eat dairy, I even use a whey protein powder. I know protein is an important building block for the body but I really thought I was getting enough.

Next was my water intake. I have to admit to being an on-again-off-again water junky. I happen to be in an off-again phase and I do know better. We athletes need water and lots of it. That is an easy one to remedy.

Lastly, I need to eat a snack in the afternoon. I am “going too long between lunch and dinner without food.” Hrm… yeah, I guess I usually workout in the morning and consequently eat a lot between 5:30am and noon. Afternoons are not my hungry time. So, from now on I will grab some cheese and fruit around 3:00pm. I can do that.

That was about it. We had some quick exchanges about putting real food before sport food and she asked me why I had switched from Gatorade to coconut water recently (mostly out of curiosity and being tired of fake fruit flavours). She also encouraged me to start taking an Omega 3 fish oil to “help my general health and to lubricate my joints”. I like the sound of that!

So, this is great. I have 3 things to concentrate on: Protein, Water and Afternoon Snacks. Easy, clear and doable. We’re planning to check in with each other in about 10 days to see how I’m doing. Hopefully I will be proteined-up, well-hydrated and afternoon-snacked.

Whoops – it’s 3:30 and I haven’t had my cheese!

Run a marathon – it’s doctor’s orders!

Coach Brock and the TnT TeamLast night I had my Team in Training athletes out for their first Hill Training session. It was fun watching the terror in their eyes dissipate as they realized that it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. For them anyway… I had done 12km at 5:00/km followed by 30mins of resistance training earlier that day. Running hills was the last thing I wanted to be doing. I faked some “coaching moments” to give myself a break and hid some lazing at the bottom of the hill as “cheerleading moments” and made it through the session unscathed.

There was one moment last night, while trying to keep pace with one of my more experienced and speedy runners, that I was reminded (by the pain in my chest) of how and why I got into all this craziness in the first place – it was doctor’s orders.

Despite the fact that I am a coach for a team dedicated to the eradication of cancer, it’s actually my own personal heart health background that has driven me to gather the resources, education and training I have amassed over the last 5 years. In December of 2003 I got very ill and contracted pericarditis / myocarditis and spent a lot of time in and out of hospital over the next 1.5 years. I suffered heart failure numerous times (”bradyed down” as they say in the ER), was rushed in for an angiogram, developed an abnormal heart rhythm (Type 1 Second-degree AV block) and basically had the scare of a lifetime (buy me a coffee sometime and I will tell you all about it).

After I had the “all clear” from my cardiologist, instead of leaping for joy, I fell further into the self-pity and depression experienced by many who have had scares like mine. After a few return visits (and even more 24-hour holter monitors) Dr. Williams told me that I needed to do something to prove to my brain that my heart was ok “Like, I don’t know, run a marathon or something”. Heh… little did he know how powerful those words were.

It’s now 11 full marathons, 6 half marathons, 4 triathlons, 2 road bike races (1 century and 1 IronBike), and several 10&15k runs later and I pretty much never think of my heart as anything but a hard working, pumping machine. Thanks doc and thanks running!

Without My Ducklings

Running so fast I blurredIt has been quite a while since I have had to train on my own. Actually, I can literally pinpoint the day – the day I joined Team in Training.

Sure, I would head out for the odd run alone but I could always count on having at least two training sessions per week (”quality” and “long slow”) with my peeps (is that still a word?). Since I started the Runner Makeover I have been aspiring to speeds that I would dare not inflict on my unsuspecting team of trainees. Don’t get me wrong, I am loving everything about this makeover but it is a little lonely without my little running ducklings (a name my 2009 Vancouver team got as they followed me, single file, through the rain to the race expo).

I still meet up with my team on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings (when the weather permits, this has been a long and harsh Edmonton winter) but that only accounts for 10-15kms of my weekly 70-80km, of which most are done between 5:45am – 8:00am. I blame the ridiculous time of day on my work week. I work full-time as a web developer, teach Design Studies at MacEwan University, coach for Team and Training, get my own training done… and try to have a life. Ha!

I’m not complaining, I enjoy a busy day but it does lead to lonely runs, at early hours, without my running ducklings.

You want me to run how fast? ok!

Me and my new adizeroboston shoes.♪ Baby it’s cold out there but it’s nice and warm on the track ♫

Ok, so that’s not a song… but it was indeed a lot warmer at the track this morning than it was outside. -46°C with the windchill when I got up at 5:15 to head to the Kinsmen Sport Center here in Edmonton. “Gross” is all I have to say about that.

Anyway, armed with my new Adidas shoes, shorts, socks, shirt and miCoach gear I hit the track this morning for a steady 12km run at 5:00/km. A few weeks ago I would have been intimidated by that type of workout (see Chrystal’s Fear and (or maybe of) Running post) but lately, this has been the norm. Heck, last week Coach Tania had me log 78kms. Yeah, I am pretty chuffed! Prior to this makeover, I severely impressed myself with a 50km week!

Lately my favourite day of the week has become Thursday – that’s the day I do the fun stuff. Last week it was “3 x 3000m @ 4:30/km with a 600m rest”. This week I get to do “5 x 2000m at 4:20/km with a 500m rest”. I have always been a believer in speed training but never to this extent. Pray for me! :) I will let you know how it goes.

Running through the pow-pow

A Rather Snowy RunThe streets of Edmonton are much more suited to downhill skiing than running today, there’s about 5cm of fresh powder covering every trail, sidewalk and path but I just got home from my Long Slow Distance run as prescribed by our awesome Make-Over Coach Tania Jones. 22km in all (well ok, 21.46 according to the lovely voice in the Adidas miCoach) through the wind, snow and cold. Luckily 7.25km of it was spent leading my Team in Training group on their 3rd “Group Training Session” – these kinds of runs are always more pleasant in a group.

A few weeks ago I was laying in bed, checking my email on my phone wishing someone would bring me a coffee when I saw I had an email from Tania Jones. The name rang a loud bell but I wasn’t sure why. A quick Google search later and I was out of bed, giggling like a schoolboy, getting my wits together before I replied.

I had a vague memory of submitting a paragraph to something about a marathon make-over but had figured it was long over and gone so hadn’t thought of it in a while. Plus I never win anything… ever.

When I got off the phone with Tania, being the social media internet nerd I am, I immediately jumped on FaceBook and Twitter to spread my exciting news. That was quickly reeled in. I wasn’t to talk about the contest until the February issue of iRun was published. It was an excruciating time. Not as excruciating as the workouts I was soon to embark on… but I will save that for another post.

For now, I just want to thank iRun for this amazing opportunity, Adidas for all the wicked gear (it fits perfectly and makes me look FAST), and most of all Tania for all her guidance and encouragement. It’s only been a few weeks but I can literally measure the progress I have made.

I can’t wait for the weeks to come.

Can Caffeine Help You Work Out?

Here’s some pretty cool and interesting information about caffeine and exercise from the Get Fit Guy:

Do you ever wonder whether that morning cup of coffee before you head to the gym might be doing more than just giving your brain a wake-up call? In other words, could caffeine actually help you work out? The answer is yes. Here are 3 quick and dirty tips for getting the most out of every drip:

  1. Try capsules: Caffeine consumption can help you go up to 10 times longer during endurance exercise like swimming, running or cycling, although it doesn’t have any effect on maximum muscular force. But the best benefits don’t come from a cup of coffee. Instead, most subjects in studies that showed this big benefit were consuming pure caffeine capsules, which could be risky (see note at end of newsletter).
  2. Exercise on an empty stomach: Caffeine may also help to increase fat burning, and for this reason, it is a popular ingredient among fat burning supplements. But if you can’t afford weight loss pills, you can get good benefit out of simply consuming a cup of coffee and exercising on an empty stomach.
  3. Get the right amount: Last, caffeine can reduce your “rating of perceived exertion”, meaning that with caffeine in your system, you can exercise harder, but not feel as much discomfort. To get the effects of caffeine, you should typically consume 2-5mg per kg of body weight 30-60 minutes prior to exercise (1 pound is 2.2 kilograms).

Awesome! Just the rational I needed to justify one more cappuccino in my day!

A New Half Marathon PB

Photo of Brock at the start line of the race

Despite the icy, slushy, snowy and uneven Edmonton terrain, I managed to PB this morning! I posted the nerdy data/details at the Garmin Connect website –

1:40:50 was my official time this morning at the Edmonton Hypothermic Half Marathon (sleepy-head edition). It was 2 degrees Celsius above zero so not an entirely accurate name for the race (this year) but still, racing outdoors in February in Edmonton is always a crap-shoot.

My previous Half Marathon PB was 1:54:05. I got that at the BMO Vancouver Marathon in 2009. I have done a couple Halfs since then but none very seriously. I have always considered the Full Marathon to be my race but after today I am having second thoughts. The Half Marathon is just so… civilized. I am still able to walk, talk and be productive even after PBing. That is not something I can usually say after a Full.

According to the stat sheet that was hanging near the finish line, I placed 7th overall and 3rd in my category. I will wait to see the results when they are posted online to make sure that is accurate but I have no reason to doubt that it is.

I am a proud runner… now I will wait to hear what my coach has to say about it! Come on Tania, check your email!

I have a logo!

Skywalker Fitness crest by Raoul Mendoza

My good buddy and gifted designer, Raoul Mendoza of, just sent me the final versions of my logo and crest!

They look awesome! I mean check it out! Can’t you just imagine that on a cycling jersey or technical shirt? It would look freakin’ GREAT. I can’t wait to have an excuse to make some. Let me know if you would be interested in having one and I will start looking into prices.

I am so excited. It’s like xmas for design-nerds.