Thursday, January 29, 2009

Running Studs

No, this is not about good looking guys in shorts and have to find someone else's blog for that...This post is about winter running and an experiment I tried after reading an article in the January issue of RunnersWorld.

The article discussed how you can modify your regular training shoes to have better grip when running in winter conditions by installing plain old sheet metal screws. Traction has always been a problem of mine partly because my shoes of choice have a very low profile tread design, partly because of the location of my long runs (country roads that are not necessarily cleared and are hilly) and the fact that most of my marathon training takes place in the winter months, but also that I have hurt myself before and seem to have come close to more serious pulled muscles and ankle injuries.

Last Friday, I stopped by Canadian Tire and bought a pack of 1/2in. self tapping sheet metal screws. They are the ones that have a hex head with raised edges. I would have preferred 3/8in. but they were out of stock. There are 24 in a pack so I figured that was more than enough. When I got home, I pulled out my trusty cordless drill and a hex-head bit and brought it into the den along with my shoes and the screws. My wife looked at me strangely as I placed a screw under my shoe and proceeded to drive it in. "You're putting the pointy end in that way?", she inquired like I had no idea what I was doing. I pretended I did and showed her the picture from the article. I proceeded to strategically place the screws into the sole of my shoe (3 near the heel, a few at the midfoot, a few under the ball, and a couple toward the toe - see picture below). I realized I had put fourteen on one shoe which meant I only had 10 left for the other. I removed one and decided I would test which configuration worked better ; thirteen or eleven.

The next day, I set out on my run. The screws gripped very well in the snow and on the ice. I can't say which was better but I did notice I was missing some traction for an adequate toe-off in both feet. I also noticed that the studs didn't make me lose traction on clear pavement, but they did make a clippety-clop sound. I suppose they would wear out faster as well. It wasn't long before I found myself seeking out the shoulder of the road in order to run on the packed snow and ice with my newfound traction.

Week 2, I took a different route this week where there was much more snow. Traction was still very good. A couple of problems with this type of running, and confidence; you don't know how hard or how deep the snow is and there may be water inderneath. The first can be an opportunity for disaster or just get your feet wet. Seeking to run in the snow instead of the pavement, I once stepped on a hard ice chunk embedded in softer snow. This caused my ankle to roll outward. I felt some pain but ran through it and it subsided. A friend of mine once told me he severely fractured his foot this way a few years back. I have also started wearing gaiters over the tops of my shoes so that snow doesn't get in. This helped immensely to keep the snow from coming in the tops of my shoes. The second situation I encountered during my week 3 run; The temperature was at just about freezing, and it had rained overnight. The shoulder of the road was a mixture of snow, ice, and slush. It wasn't long before my footfalls sank through the snow and into the slush underneath. I felt the water infiltrate my toebox, but the traction was still fine.

After this last run, I decided to wash my shoes and inspect the studs. Aftrer three long runs, the rear studs toward the outside of my heals were almost completely worn down. I will have to use pliers to take them off. The rest of them look in pretty good shape. I also checked out my orthodics and found the the pointy ends of the screws had actually left indentations in my insoles under the balls of my feet even though I don't feel them protruding through the bottoms of the lasts. This means that the pressure from my weight while running actually compressed the outsoles of my shoes so much so, that the screws came through and into my shoe. I will have to switch these out for 3/8 in. screws if I don't want to ruin my insoles and orthodics.

So the experiment was a success, the studs actually do aid in increasing traction. But there are some considerations and adaptations that have to be made.

Keep on running.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Training recap #4

Sun 25 Jan - day off. Went to skating and ski lessons with the girls. ChloƩ went on the chairlift today! She was so excited. I am glad they like skiing, pretty soon we will be doing this as a family activity.
Mon 26 Jan - TI 8x800m. I felt good running these today. Total 11km.
Tue 27 Jan - Easy 5km run today. I put the incline to 1% since I was running on a treadmill. I read in Jack Daniels book that this makes treadmill running a little harder to simulate wind resistance running outside. There was a little difference, but not really noticeable. Afterward I did some stretching and core exercises.
Wed 28 Jan - TT run today. 3 miles. total 10k with warm up and cool down. I concentrated on keeping the same cadence the entire time regardless of the speed I was running. It was pretty tough to maintain 180 steps per minute at slower speeds - I felt burning in the front of my lower legs because the strides had to be so short. I'm sure I'll get used to it though.
Thu 29 Jan - day off from running today. Did 20 min. rowing plus stretching and core exercises.
Fri 30 Jan - I was suppposed to run 6 miles at race pace but only ran 4 because I had to get back to work. What a terrible thing to have work get in the way of running...I do find race pace still a little fast at this point even if I'm not out of breath or in the high HR zone. I think it is just a question of getting used to maintaining that pace.
Sat 31 Jan - 20 miles easy today. It was not that cold and I headed out the door at 7 a.m. The extra hour of sleep was necessary, I suppose. I tried to use my long run loop that takes me around Hudson and then around St-Lazare but my usual trail that takes me from Altsonvale to Harwood was not plowed and hadn't been used all winter judging from the amount of snow on the ground. I decided to take Mayfair into Hudson Valleys and then loop back via Harwood to connect back to my route. This leg of my circuit takes me through farms and ranches. For about 6 km, I had a biting cold headwind and concluded that my new gloves were not conceived for this kind of running. Up to this point, I was quite comfortable. My gloves are Black Diamond and are made of a very dense Polartec fleece. They are supposed to keep me warm and also block the wind but I think the fact that the fleece is so dense creates a wicking problem. My warm hands were actually sweaty at this point and the gloves were becoming quite wet. When I hit the headwind, the wet gloves actually started to freeze. I had to make fists to keep my fingers warm. Once they were sufficiently warmed up, I tried to put my fingers back in their spots but the glove tips actually froze solid. Within seconds, my fingers were cold again so I abandoned that idea and made fists again for most of the rest of the run. Although I wasn't running fast, I was feeling the fatigue of running in snow covered roads. I did not have any gels with me but I did have some raisins and Nerds (those little hard candies that are pretty much pure sugar). I had the raisins at about 8 km and now I was eating some Nerds. Not sure if it was psychological or not but I actually felt the energy boost within 5 minutes of eating them (and this is why I don't let my kids eat candy...). The next leg is pretty much uphill for about 5 km. At the crest, I veer left onto Ste-Angelique and head toward St-Lazare town centre. At this point I am over 20km into my run and decide to modify my route to head back toward Hudson via Cote St-Charles instead of looping St-Lazare. This way I would complete my run closer to home because the detour I had to do in Alstonvale added some distance to my planned loop. I am not fond of running on St-Charles because it is a main thoroughfare and usually quite busy (as far as country roads go). I am 8 km from home so I will have to do an extra little loop in my neighborhood to round out my total distance. I have some more Nerds and concentrate on maintaining my cadence as I head down the final stretch. By the time I cross Harwood again, I am anxious to finish, I look at my watch : 1.5 miles to go. I decide to finish my run by doing some strides (10 strides of ten seconds each). Given the road conditions, it is quite hard to build up speed but at least I manage to maintain some traction. Soon enough, my run is done. I head into the house and start removing the layers of clothing and gear. I am famished and feel a stiffness in my quads and calves. It seems the Easy run was not so easy...

Total weekly mileage : 66 km

Monday, January 19, 2009

Training recap #3

Sun 18 Jan - I am finding it extremely convenient to plan to run on Saturdays but to always have Sundays to fall back on. This way if the weather is too bad or if there are other reasons that prohibit me from running, at least I could find a way to get the run in on the Sunday. Today, I hade to split my run into 2 segments around other commitments; after bringing my girls to their skating lessons, I dressed and grabbed my snowshoes and headed out to the trails. I ran on the trails in snowshoes for an hour so I will log this as the equivalent of a 10km easy run (even though I was working much harder than on an easy run...). Then, after lunch, we were off to the slopes for ski lessons. At 3:30 it was time to head home. I changed into my running gear and ran home from the ski hill (15km). It was snowing mildly and the roads were mushy but it was a great point to point run with several hills. When I arrived home I felt invigorated, and hungry. I drank a bottle of Ultima and bathed the girls while supper was cooking. By suppertime, thirty minutes later, I was feeling the chills again and noticed I was running a mild fever. I drank some more water and took some ehinacea. I also ate supper even though my hunger had passed. By the time I went to bed, I was feeling much better. I think I finally beat this cold...
Mon 19 Jan - TI training today. I did my 8 half-mile intervals at threshold pace after a half mile warmup and did a quick cool down to fit it all into a 10km workout. My pace was about 3:26 per interval. I felt strong today for a change. I forgot to bring a performance T so I worked out in my cotton undershirt. Of course, it is old and worn so it was kind of embarassing but what are you gonna do - by the end of my workout, the thing was soaked from top to bottom and weighed a tonne. This is why cotton is not the way to go for workout gear.
Tue 20 Jan - Day off. Good thing - my thighs are a little tender today. Probably from the showshoe run on Sunday.
Wed 21 Jan - TT run today. One mile warmup followed by 3 miles at Threshold pace (I had to take a minute walk break at mile 2). After that, I rounded out my run at a more comfortable pace to cover a total of 11km.
Thu 22 Jan - Cross-training today: 20 minutes rowing, 3 sets of chinups, core exercises, and stretching. Felt good today.
Fri 23 Jan - 6 miles at Race Pace plus short cool down for 10km total. Felt good, I covered the 6 miles in 45 minutes flat and could have done more. My heart rate was averaging 150bpm which is very comfortable for me.
Sat 24 Jan - Headed out the door at 6 a.m this morning. I was dressed appropriately for -20C weather and had my trusty headlamp to guide me. No footpod or HRM today - They are still in my gym bag I left at my mother-in-law's house last night, forgettting I needed them this morning. Oh the logistics of it all...but that is for another post. Anyway, luckily I had another iPod at home...So after convincing myself to get out of bed (that is the hardest part), I head out the door and start walking to the corner of my street. The roads are snow covered so my new studs are getting good grip in the snow (see my post on shoe studs). I hear the familiar "crunch, crunch" of my footfalls which is an indicator that it is pretty cold. I start to run at a comfortable pace and contemplate the route I will take - without my footpod, I need to stick to a known loop so that I can adequately judge the distance. I contemplate the options available 1. run a 3 km loop ten times. Close to home but I don't see this as a very pleasurable alternative. 2. run a 10 km loop three times. A bit less redundant, but it does take me along Main Road for a significant portion of each loop, which is not the best place to run since it is narrow and also a main thoroughfare - if there is such a thing in the country...3. extend the 3km loop to 6km and do that 5 times. This seems more manageable as far as the mundane meter goes and it keeps me away from Main Road.

By the time I decide on option 3, I am already 2.5 km into my run, I know where the 4.5 km mark is and could then head back around that block to create my 6km loop. I feel like I am dressed just perfectly at this point and the solitude of tbeing the only person on the roads is somehow comforting. I am running with a purpose, I have had a great training week and now all I need to do is log some easy miles. I can feel the heat I am generating, and hear my rhythmic breathing (in through the nose, out through the mouth). It is different to be running without a heart rate monitor and distance calculator. Although I don't monitor my HR when I do have it on my long runs, I do find myself checking my pace and distance quite often - not now. It's back to just me and my feet. I reach the turning point and on a whim, decide I will run out and back to my 10km mark, that way, I will tack on 11 km before going back into the loop repetitions. Main Road is deserted, I smell bread cooking at the bakery, but there isn't a soul out yet. There are three snow removal trucks idling in the commercial centre parking lot. They must be in the Convenience Store getting a coffee. The exhaust is making huge plumes of smoke I must run through - it seems to just hang there, heavier than the air. I wonder why they don't turn off their engines...As I reach the 10km point (it seems to have come awfully fast), I trun around and head back up the hill toward town. I get the distinct impression that it is colder than before. Normally when I run in the mornings, the temperature rises as the sun comes up and my run progresses. Today it seems the wind is picking up instead. At least it is at my back. By the time I make it back to town, I am sure the temperature has dropped 10 degrees, I make sure my headlamp is off as I run by a storefront window and continue on my way. I have my Fuel Belt under my jacket (a lesson I learned last winter) so I take out a bottle to drink some Ultima. It is already half frozen...I am now looking forward to doing the loops because they are on side roads where I'll be sheltered from the wind. But I have to get there first - I still have 4 hills to ascend, and the wind is biting cold. I am thankful I wore my clear-lens glasses this morning because my eyes would be tearing up. I enjoy the climbs with my newfound traction and turn to start what will now be four 3km loops. Halfway into the loop I decide that I have a good idea of my pace, so I will just extend the loop a bit more to swing by my place when I think I have covered the 30km distance. Also, if I do see somebody along the way, I will ask them the time as a double check. I should be done by 9 a.m. I head down Cote St-Charles and loop back toward the town to hit my four hills yet again. I pull out a Power Gel, and it too is almost frozen - it has the consistency of cold peanut butter. I suck it out as best I could by squeezing it like a toothpaste tube into my mouth. At least it doesn't taste as sweet this cold. I take out my bottle to wash it down and it is completely frozen. Oh well, at least I don't feel thirsty....The second time around on the hills is much more work than the first. The wind is biting cold and my fingers are actually getting cold. It seems the fleece gloves were wet from my sweat and now the wind is freezing them. Only a few more minutes to go so I loop around my block and head home. I walk up my driveway and head into the house, it is 8:55 - Pretty darn close, I think to myself. My wife and kids are up and just sitting for breakfast. She tells me the wind is coming from the Arctic and is making the temperature drop to -33C with the windchill - but I am done. What a great way to start a weekend!

Total weekly mileage : 86 km (I did a long run last Sunday which is also in this week's total)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bigger, Better, Buyer

As part my my fundraising effort for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada, I am facilitating a virtual marketplace for people to offer items for trade and eventual sale. Proceeds of the sale will go to the LLSC and you will get rid of any clutter that is taking up space in your house. It's a Win/Win for everyone! Here's how it works:

Send me an email describing your item and its estimated value. Pictures can be attached as well. I will post your item on this site.

If there is an item on the site that interests you, you can trade up by offering a Bigger or Better item, or by Buying it. Please contact me and I will get the implicated parties in touch to make the transaction. The person who wants to trade up for an item is responsible to pick it up. If an item is sold, I will pay the shipping charges out of the sale price, if necessary. Obviously, shipping cannot exceed the price of the item. Also, by offering an item for trade, you cannot decline to give it up afterward as this will destroy the chain.

This marketplace will be open until Feb 26th or earlier if all items are sold. Any remaining items to trade after that date may either by "returned" to the "doner", or auctioned for charity if an auction will take place.

Thanks for your support and let's see what we can drum up! Questions? Feel free to email at

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Training recap #2

Sun 11 Jan - no running today. Skating and ski lessons for the girls. I spent about an hour walking up and down the bunny hill. My thighs are a bit sensitive from yesterdays run - walking feels good.
Mon 12 Jan - Intended to do Threshold Intervals today but too busy at work. I'll do them tomorrow.
Tue 13 Jan - 8x800 TI. Felt good. I had to run more than 6 miles to fit them all in with a warm up and cool down. I'll adjust my planned mileage accordingly.
Wed 14 Jan - TT Run. 1 mile warm up followed by 3 miles at 6:50/mi. I was tired afterward and had to get back to work. Skipped the cool down and stretching.
Thu 15 Jan - Well deserved day off - Ate a couple of Big Macs for lunch - feeling tired today. Could be that I woke up several times last night because Jade is afraid of the dark...Funny how bad habits develop so quickly. Will go to bed early tonight.
Fri 16 Jan - 10k race pace. I managed to do 8 km but slowed down to an easy pace for the last 2 km. I just didn't feel good at all. I am fighting off a cold and have started dosing with echinacea to try to beat it but my throat is getting sore and I am feeling chills. I did do some core exercises after the run for about 10 minutes. I will do these at least once per week.
Sat 17 Jan - I had planned to do a long run today but with all the errands (we are in the midst of renovations), I ran out of daylight. I will have to fit it in tomorrow. I did get a good nights sleep though - probably needed it. This program is tougher than I had anticipated, although I read it will get easier by week 4.

Total weekly mileage : 27 km

Monday, January 12, 2009

Training recap #1

Over the course of the next few months, I will try to review my experience with the Jack Daniels training plan as I prepare for the Boston and Vancouver marathons.

Sun 4 Jan - no run today. Jade has a fever so we can't go outside to play.
Mon 5 Jan - had to stay home from work to take care of Jade. Tried out the Wii fit exercises for 90 minutes while she slept.
Tue 6 Jan - 6 miles treadmill, race pace 7:26/mi. Felt comfortable
Wed 7 Jan - 6 miles treadmill, 7 x Threshold Intervals (TI) of 800m (6:50/mi) with 400m recovery in between. It was tough to do the 6th and 7th ones. Heart rate a bit higher than yesterday
Thu 8 Jan - 3 miles treadmill, Threshold Tempo (TT) run. Felt tired afterward.
Fri 9 Jan - had to stay home from work again and can't leave house to run - I really should get a treadmill for when I'm housebound....did some yoga stretches.
Sat 10 Jan - First long run of the year, It was -14C so I dressed with a base layer, running tights and an old pair of shorts to block the windchill out front. On top, I had a base layer, 100fleece and my windbreaker. I added a fleece neckwarmer to pull up over my nose if the wind was nasty but never used it. The snow was crunchy and the sun was out. It was a beautiful mid-afternoon in January for a run. I took my regular route and felt pretty good. About 30 minutes in, I was already pretty warm and the road was getting slushy. A car coming toward me splashed my tights with the stuff and it froze there...Can't be mad, he meant well to give me some room. I notice that most of the drivers are very courteous; leaving room, slowing down, waving at me, etc. I never noticed this before along this route. Must be the time of day and also the fact that I'm out here in the dead of winter - running, and people probably assume they should encourage this guy sticking to his resolution..Mile 6, Still feeling pretty strong but I have to start thinking about turning around now. I decide to continue and head back at mile 7. At this point, I have some Ultima and head back toward home. The route back always seems to go faster. I decide to do some accelerations up the hills to home. In all there are about 10; not steep but noticeable enough. It is just fun to step it up and over the crest and the slow back down to an easy pace until the next one. Each hill is about 100-200 metres. I arrive at home feeling invigorated and motivated. It was a great 20km.

Total for the week : 45 km