Boston 2019 – This is your brain – This is your brain on Boston

2019 was my third Boston marathon. I am a squeaker, i.e. I never know year to year if I will have a time fast enough to qualify. My first Boston, I went out too fast and blew up on the hills. My second Boston was part one of Boston to Big Sur so I took it slow. This time, I knew the course and had no second race to hold back for. Whenever I run a marathon I know there are others injured who would love to be at the start line, and this is particularly true for Boston where it is so hard to get a bib, so I try hard to “enjoy” the race as much as anyone can “enjoy” running a marathon.  You have a lot of time to think on a marathon, so for this race report I’m just sharing a selection of the random thoughts that ran through my head at Boston 2019. Apologies if some of the recollections of specific race features and spectators are listed at the wrong locations, runner brain!ThisIsYourBrainOnBoston

Susan’s brain before leaving for Boston

Time to obsessively refresh the weather forecast. Oh no, it looks cold, windy and wet!  I was not there in 2018 but everyone I know who was there says it was the most miserable marathon they ever ran. Could this be another 2018? No, it’s still 5 days away it could change. This is my 10th marathon, one lesson I have learned the hard way, forget the long range forecast. Pack for EVERYTHING from -1C (30F) with wind rain or snow right up to +30C(86F) with high humidity!


Susan’s brain arriving in Boston

Okay we have just enough time to get to the optometry store where Meb will be at 1:30. I brought my copy of 26.2 marathons for him to sign, still can’t believe he ran an entire marathon with his breathe right strip inside his shoe digging into his foot at every step.


 Susan’s brain at the race expo

Got our bibs, got the poster, and I HAVE to get the celebration jacket, but this winter jacket is REALLY nice too, and oh yes a pint glass, and this shirt is great but wait no XS in the shirt, maybe on this rack, nope no XS, well that’s okay. OMG look at the line for the cash! That is insane, never seen it so long on a Friday! Hmm the rest of the expo is quieter so I can check out some shoes .. none of these Asics feel right, these 361 are comfortable, hey look Christopher the Dunkin Donuts Saucony are in stock, oh you want me to grab a pair for you, sure thing, but ooh look at this t-shirt and they have it in a women’s fit, and hey these Brooks shoes are comfy and oh look this booth claims to have anti chafe better than body glide. I would love to finally finish a race and be able to take a shower without yelping in pain from chafing, so let’s grab that and then let’s get out of here before I spend even more money!

Susan’ brain Saturday

Looks like serious rain for the race, but at least it will be warmer than 2018. Hey sis, do you mind if we go back the expo? I know I bought the Brooks but now I want to get the 361 as well, oh yeah and a laptop sticker since we didn’t get one in the race kit. Oh cool Sarah Crouch is at the 361 booth as well. Can we go buy some cannoli at Mike’s pastry? I have never tried them and safer to eat something like that Saturday than Sunday. I had no idea there were so many flavors of cannoli. Can’t go wrong with chocolate dip.

Susan’s brain Sunday

A nice easy 5 km run in the morning to loosen up, wow there are buds and flowers on the trees! Spring! I thought I would never see you again! Apparently I was not the only Ottawa runner excited to see signs of spring (Ottawa set a record for longest winter ever this year, sucked for training!).

SpringOnTheRunOkay run done, stay off your feet, eat easy to digest but high value food, check hourly forecast, repeat until bedtime. Oooh Boston Cream pie! No wait that’s a bad idea today, I guess I’ll have to run another Boston marathon some day so I can try the Boston Cream pie.

Susan’s brain Monday (race day) morning

Have a great race Judy, see you at the athlete’s village! Whoa those are crazy thunderstorms right now VERY glad those will be gone before I reach the village and VERY glad Judy picked me up some rubber boots to wear to the start and that I have garbage bags, spare socks, rain coat etc… to wear at the start


Susan’s brain on the bus to the athlete’s village

Don’t think about how long this bus ride is and that you have to run all the way back. Repeat until you arrive at village.


Susan’s brain at the athlete’s village

Whoa we are later than usual, but luckily I know where the shortest port-a-potty line is located. Follow me! Glad I brought the rubber boots. Wish I had brought sunscreen, too late now they just called Wave 3 to the start corrals.


Susan’s brain en route to the corrals

Oh look the cancer society has sunscreen. Thank you! Hmm this tape I tried to use to put my name on my bib is falling off. Oh well nothing I can do about that now.


Susan’s brain in the corrals

OMG I am about to run the Boston marathon how freaking cool is that, and OMG how miserable is this going to be? ya know what this lady beside me has the right attitude, her first Boston and she just said  “No matter what it takes I am going to enjoy this race, I am running the Boston marathon!”  I like that attitude, I am going to remember her saying that when the race gets tough.


Susan’s brain crossing the start

No wonder they don’t take pictures of anyone at the start, all you would see is all of us looking down to start our Garmins.

Susan’s brain for km 0-5 (5:28/km pace)

Don’t go too fast, don’t go too fast. Hmmm 5:20/km feels good on the downhill, given I would have to run that the whole race to finish in 3:45 I don’t think that’s happening today. Why does the top of my left foot hurt, maybe the tongue is folder over, I’m going to stop and try to fix that now, I still have plenty of race to go. Ashland has some good crowds cheering, love the puppy holding the two Boston Strong flags on either end of a stick in his mouth. Run across the 5 km timing mat and say “Hi mum & dad!” I am sure they are keeping an eye online and dad will be watching that first 5 km split to see if I went out too fast.


Susan’s brain for km 5-10 (5:27/km pace)

Just keep a nice 3:50-3:55 marathon pace until 10 km, treat the first 10 km as a warm up. where is Santa Claus? I hear music is that.. yes it is… Sweet Caroline ‘ ba dum bum bum’ . top of the left foot is still sore, I’m going to loosen the bungee laces a bit see if that helps. Cross the 10 km timing mat and say “Hi Christopher!” it’s early out West but I know he wanted to watch the women elites who will be around mile 20 by now, so probably has another browser tab open monitoring friends.


Susan’s brain for km 10-15 (5:30/km pace)

Okay I have passed 10 km, so how am I feeling, could I do a 32 km long run feeling like this? Yes I could. Okay then. hip is a bit tight and top of the left foot is still sore but if Meb can run a race with a breathe strip in his shoe I can run through this. Running around a 5:34/km pace I need to stay under 5:35 pace to BQ today, given I haven’t hit the hills yet, not sure that will happen. Sure am glad it’s cloudy otherwise it would get really hot. Cross the 15 km timing mat “Hi Trevor!” My hubby isn’t there in person, but I love the virtual signs he sends me from the family (including the cats)

Susan’s brain for km 15-20 (5:33/km pace)

Santa there you are! I was looking for you! “Dig deeper than a kid looking for boogers” okay that’s funny. Almost at Wellesley. Lots of people yelling out “Go Dana Farber” or “Go Teresa”  I wish I had successfully found a way to put my name on my shirt or a Canadian flag. I like the cheering. Cross the 20 km timing mat “Hi Robin!” I know you are cheering on your sisters from afar but also probably have some shoots today, so will be popping online from time to time to see how we are doing.

Susan’s brain for km 20-25 (5:38/km pace)

Where are the Wellesley college girls, yes there they are, any good signs this year, “Kiss me I’m Irish”, “Kiss me I’m graduating”, “Kiss me its my birthday”, “Kiss me I give tongue”, “Kiss me I’m Canadian” there we go – quick kiss on the cheek please and thank you. Okay back to the running and “JONATHAN!” exactly where you said you would be. So great to see a friend cheering.  Less than 23 km to go. If 23 km was my long run this would be a short long run, I can do this.

Susan’s brain for 25-30 km (5:59/km pace)

Newton – okay then here we go, can I get through all the Newton hills without walking, and oh look the cloud cover is gone, now it’s full sun beating down on us through the Newton hills.  Wow I had forgotten how long the first hill is. Does it ever end? Is this one heartbreak hill? Lots of crowds cheering which is nice. Wow look at all the people walking, I may be running slow but I am passing a LOT of walkers on the hills. It’s getting hot, I am going to walk the water stops to make sure I actually swallow something at each water station.


Susan’s brain for 30-35 km (5:57/km pace)

Maybe I will try dumping some water on my head, OMG that feels so good! I should have done than 5 miles ago. Now next order of business medical tent coming up… there we go… Vaseline? yes thank you! and oh wait I knew there were hills on this stretch but seriously?  Wait is this one heartbreak hill?  Is there any flat on this course at all?


Susan’s brain for 35-40 km (6:00/km pace)

Less than the Perth Kilt run (8 km/ 5 miles) in distance to go and the worst of the hills are over. I can do this. Pass the mile marker, walk to drink two sips of Gatorade, toss the rest, grab a cup of water, take two good sips dump the rest over my head, start running again, there’s the medical tent, now just hold on for about another 800 meters until the next mile marker and repeat. And look Canadian flag …VINCENT! Hi! Yay I found both the people I expected to find cheering on the course, I hope Diane is having a good race.


Susan’s brain for 40-42 km (5:43/km pace)

Well forget the BQ, but if I pick up my pace a bit I think I *could* still run a sub 4 hour, which would be a personal best for me in Boston. I’ll have to skip this last water stop and pick it up a bit, but I know the route from here just hold that pace until you turn right on Hereford left on Boyleston. Hold that pace – right on Hereford left on Boyleston. Hold that pace – right on Hereford left on Boyleston. Hold that pace – right on Hereford left on Boyleston. There’s the dip, hold that pace – right on Hereford left on Boyleston. There’s Hereford! right on Hereford left on Boyleston. I am turning onto Boyleston, damn that finish line is still a long way away, hold that pace, hey it just started raining, hold that pace, wow I am passing a fair number of runners along here, hold that pace hold that pace, smile for the finish line camera. Thank god that’s over. I sure hope runners brain didn’t screw up my math at km 40 and I broke 4.


Susan’s brain through the finishers chute

Okay this is good I am not about to pass out or throw up. Hey that wind is picking up and with the rain it is downright cold, yes can you put that medal over my head for me please and thank you. Water, yes please, can you open the bottle for me please and thank you? Yeah that wind is cold, definitely yes I want a thermal blanket and yes tape to hold it closed for me. Are there chips in that finisher bag? Yes? good I need salt. Oh boy now I have to get out of the finisher area and across the Commons to my hotel. Just keep walking, one foot in front of the other, oh screw it I am going to take the train across the Commons. Stairs.. okay I can do this lean on the railing go sideways. Made it to the bottom of the stairs… ohhh that runner is sitting on the ground in the subway station it’s warm here that’s a great idea. Yes, I’ll just slide down the wall and sit here for a bit.  Damn now how do I stand up again, okay through the turnstile, stand on the train as all the runners stare at each other huddled in our thermal blankets with this sort of sympathetic smile and nod of shared misery.  two stops and now only 100 feet from my hotel, straight to my hotel room thank goodness no stairs and the elevator came quickly.

Susan’s brain back in the hotel post race

I did it! Hey Judy, how was your race? Yes, I am happy with my race. I am going to shower and collapse thank you. I wonder if I remembered to turn off my GPS at the finish line, oh good I did and if the GPS is right I have my sub 4. Yay I think, I can’t remember exactly what I just read on the GPS and can’t be bothered to look again right now! Off with the shoes wow that is a good bruise on top of my foot! Oh! right I forgot when I put on the new shoelaces last week to leave the first hole unused since I get lace bite, that explains the discomfort on my left foot for the entire race. I am an idiot, NEVER change something right before a race, apparently that applies to shoelaces as well. Oh well, a bruise will heal. Now shower…. YIKES… okay apparently I still haven’t found a solution to my chafing issues, ow ow ow. Now PJs, salty potato chips, a sip of coke, and I am ready to go online and feel the love from all my amazing and awesome friends and family who have been cheering from afar. Thank you to each and every one of you, I appreciate every comment and cheer.BruisedToe

Susan after Ibuprofen has kicked in

I just ran the frickin Boston marathon, how cool is that! Now where’s my Boston 2019 jacket?bostonjackets

If you enjoyed this, I have other running related posts

How to rock a code demo – Selecting your font

FontChoicesIn this post I will provide tips on how to select a suitable font for code demonstrations.

One key factor in success when delivering a code demonstration is the visibility of your code. The font you use affects how easily I can read your code.

In this post I’ll discuss four characteristics to consider when selecting the font for your code:

  • Character differentiation
  • Character width
  • Monospace/Proportional
  • Ligatures

Character differentiation

The first thing you need to check is whether your font clearly differentiates different characters. A good test is to compare

  • The number 0 from the letter ‘O’
  • The number 1 from a lowercase letter ‘L’ or an uppercase letter ‘i’.

Variable names and assignments, API Keys, file paths, and URLs can contain a variety of characters. Selecting a font with good character differentiation can help avoid confusion when walking through your code.

Below is a character comparison for a variety of fonts you might find pre-installed in your code editors. Many code editors default to Consolas which has excellent character differentiation.


Character width

Another factor to consider is whether how much horizontal space is taken up by a single character. Ideally you want the code to fit on a single line without scrolling, so a narrower font may make it easier to display your code.

All the samples in the table below are the same font size.

At first glance Verdana and Segoe UI look similar, but Segoe is a narrower font so might be a better choice. You do need to be careful not to pick a font so narrow it becomes difficult to read such as TW Cen MT Condensed.


Monospaced/proportional fonts

General consensus is that you should always use a monospace (proportional) font for code. Monospace fonts use the same amount of horizontal space for each character.

The advantage to a monospaced font when displaying code is a string of 10 characters will always take up the same amount of space, so it’s easier to visualize variable lengths. Punctuation symbols can also be quite narrow and harder to see in non monospace fonts.fontMonoSpace

Ligatured fonts

Ligatured fonts are the fonts which have characters that connect to each other. If you are going to use a ligatured font for coding make sure it is designed for coding. e.g. Fira Code, Monoid, or Hasklig. unless they were designed for displaying code. Scott Hanselman wrote an interesting blog post discussing ligatured fonts. 

Ligatured fonts have a very different look when programming, some people absolutely love it, but it might cause confusion to an audience that is not familiar with this type of font.  The characters on the left are with ligatures, the characters on the right are without ligatures.

If you like ligature fonts, but your audience is confused by them, most code editors give you the ability to turn off ligatures for ligature supported fonts.


There are other decisions to make with regards to font for code demonstrations including font color and size, but picking a suitable font is a great place to start!



Surviving runs on the treadmill (dreadmill)

treadmillI prefer to run outside, but sometimes the weather does not co-operate. My goal race is April 15th and Ottawa has had a winter of snow, frostbite warnings and freezing rain. In addition to a number of mid-week runs I have been driven to completing four of my long runs on the treadmill: 2X26 km, 29km, and 32 km. The most common question I get when I tell this to other runners is how did you do that without going insane? So I thought I would share some of my survival tips.

Some of these tricks may not work if you are using the treadmill at a gym, but some of the tricks work anywhere. 

There are two basic challenges when running on the treadmill: Boredom and Sweat

Battle the boredom

Build up your treadmill mileage

If you know your training season has a high chance of unrunnable weather, do some of your shorter runs on the treadmill.  It’s a lot harder to drag yourself through 26 km on the treadmill if it’s your first treadmill run of the season.  I usually end up running one run a week on the treadmill in the winter due to weather, road conditions, or scheduling. When I have run 5km , 10 km, and 15 km on the treadmill I am better equipped mentally to do 26 km.  Let’s be clear I *never* enjoy doing my long runs on the treadmill, but having built up the mileage and the mentality of being on the treadmill from shorter runs does help.

Watch a movie or tv show

the-barkley-marathonsExperiment with different types of shows to find out what works for you. Here is a sampling of my go-to treadmill viewing:

TIP: Turn on subtitles so you can catch the quieter dialog over the noise of the treadmill and fan.

Bluetooth headphones

HeadphonesAudioLose the corded headphones, it’s one less thing to worry about on the treadmill. Whether you are watching movies on your tablet or phone, or on the big screen. The exception is when you are watching the TVs at the gym. Those only work with corded headphones. I use AfterShokz Trekz Air

For Christmas my husband bought me a bluetooth audio transmitter from Avantree . This gadget allows me to have the audio from my home entertainment system connected to my Bluetooth headphones. This is great because I usually have to crank the volume to hear anything over the noise of the treadmill. As a result I used to avoid the treadmill if my husband was on the computer or the kids were in bed. Now I don’t have to blast my entertainment choices throughout the house when I am on the treadmill.

Having audio through headphones does result in some amusing moments. The other evening, my 16 year old came downstairs to see me run/dancing on the treadmill in a silent room (in my defense John Travolta was taking over the dance floor in Saturday Night Fever at the time).  Fortunately my family has learned to accept that mum can get caught up in her movies, they’ve seen me choked up as I watch Jesse Owens in Race, and singing along with Russell Crowe in Les Miserables. They’ve learned to accept that when mom is on the treadmill, anything goes.

Zwift it

Zwift is a very popular app for spin cyclists and they have expanded to running.  I have not tried it yet, but I can see the appeal. basically you join a virtual running group on a virtual running route.

Break up the run

I think the worst thing you can do on the treadmill is hop on, choose a program, set the time and run.  Mix it up and take control of the settings yourself.  It gives you something to do as you mark off the miles. Instead of setting the treadmill to random hills, I prefer to change the incline myself.

  • 5 km? Treat the first km as a warm up and then increase the speed every km.
  • 10 km? What if every time you finish a km you have to increase the incline by .5. But after 5 km each time you finish a km you get to decrease the incline by .5?
  • 15 km? Look up the inclines on your goal race, pick a hilly section of your race and simulate it on your run.  I actually sat down and calculated the inclines for every 400 m (1/4 mile) of the Boston marathon. Whenever I am on the treadmill I run a different section of the course.
  • More than 15 km? Plan on hopping off the treadmill every 5-8 km. Decide ahead of time when you will take your breaks, what shows you will watch (you may need more than one!), how you will mix up the runs (will you simulate the inclines of your race? will you play around with pace?).  Today I ran 26 km on the treadmill. I did 5 km slow, 5 km slow, 6 km at race pace, 5 km slow, 5 km slow.

How to cope with the heat

fanYou don’t realize how much being outdoors on a nice day cools you down until you run on a treadmill indoors. I don’t sweat a lot, but any run on the treadmill results in a shirt that is sticking to my body and some impressive water weight loss.

Buy a standing fan

Having a standing fan directed at you throughout your run will help. You may find it a bit cool when you start your run, but after about 15 minutes you won’t even notice it’s there. I had to put my fan on top of a stool to get it to a suitable height

Minimize the layers

Dress as if you are going out for a hot summer run. If you are home alone you can skip the shirt altogether, no-ones going to see you anyway and it will allow that fan to cool you off a little better

Double the water

Drink water any time you are thirsty.  When I do my long runs outside I sometimes practice taking water at the same intervals as the water stops on my race. Not so, when I run on the treadmill. I drink whenever I feel like it and I keep a second filled water bottle handy just in case the first water bottle runs out (which it always does on the long runs)

Bring back the 70s and 80s by rocking a headband

BjornJohnJohn McEnroe and Bjorn Borg knew what they were doing! Some sort of headband will reduce the amount of sweat dripping down your face.

Change your clothes

On longer treadmill runs, you may want to change your headband, shirt, socks, or running bra part way through the run. Today I ran 26 km on the treadmill. I changed my headband every 5 km and after 16 km I changed my shirt and running bra.  Fresh dry clothes can help you feel a little fresher as you hop back on the treadmill to finish out your run.

Grab a towel

I agree with Douglas Adams on this one, a towel is very useful. Great to wipe off excess sweat, though if anyone has found a way to stop it falling off the rail, landing between my feet and flying off the back of the treadmill please let me know!

Don’t forget your gels/chomps

For longer treadmill runs you should take your nutrition just like you would on an outdoor training run, that includes electrolytes and gels.

Hope this helps you cope with the dreadmill, please share any tips you have for getting through those miles on the treadmill! If you enjoyed this, check out my other running related posts.


Treadmill settings to train for Boston marathon hills

Since I have to train for Boston through the winter, I am driven to the treadmill far too often. I decided to try and make the most of it and provide myself with some distraction by calculating the incline over each quarter mile of the Boston marathon.   When I told a friend about this strategy, they asked for a copy of the spreadsheet, so I figured well maybe other runners would like it as well. You can also check out my post on how to make treadmill running more bearable.

How does it work?

My first run on the treadmill I start at mile 0 of the race, when I get to a quarter mile I change the incline to match what it would be on the course, I do this again at 1/2 mile, 3/4 mile and so on until I am done my workout. Then I use a post it note to mark where I finished.

The next time I am on the treadmill I pick up where I left off, so if I ran 6 miles on my first treadmill workout, I start my next treadmill workout with the incline for 6 – 6 1/4 mile stretch of the Boston course.

My treadmill does not do declines, so I compensate by treating downhill as 0% incline, and flat stretches I treat as 1 % incline.

Why do I do it?

Two reasons:

Reason #1 if I am going to be on the treadmill it helps me practice all the different stretches of the course.

Reason #2 it provides a distraction! Every 1/4 mile I am checking and possibly changing the incline. I also have to do math in my head… I started this run at the 6.5 mile mark, I’ve run 3 3/4 miles so I need to change to the incline listed for 10.25 miles.  It doesn’t make the treadmill any more fun, but it does provide a distraction.

How did I calculate it?

I printed out the hill profile shown below, and noted the elevation at each quarter mile.


Then I used the formula (change in elevation)/(race distance)*100 to get the % incline for each 1/4 mile.

My treadmill does not support declines so I may the following adjustments for my treadmill training. These values are in the third column of the table

  • I added 1% to each incline because I want a baseline of 1% incline for flat stretches of the course
  • I set all downhill stretches (negative values) to 0% because my treadmill does not support declines. I figure 0% is the easiest setting on my treadmill so I’ll treat that as downhill.

If you have a treadmill which supports declines, you can use the fourth column showing the actual incline and decline % for each stretch with no adjustments.

Not a lot of flat on the Boston course, so make sure you do your hill training, up hill and down hill!

Check out my runners page for other running related posts include race reports for Boston.

Here you go!

Miles Meters Incline With Declines
0 0 0% -6%
0.25 400 0% -5%
0.5 800 3% 2%
0.75 1.2 1% 0%
1 1.6 0% -2%
1.25 2 1% 0%
1.5 2.4 1% 0%
1.75 2.8 0% -2%
2 3.2 1% 0%
2.25 3.6 1% 0%
2.5 4 0% -4%
2.75 4.4 1% 0%
3 4.8 0% -2%
3.25 5.2 0% -2%
3.5 5.6 0% -2%
3.75 6 1% 0%
4 6.4 1% 0%
4.25 6.8 4% 3%
4.5 7.2 1% 0%
4.75 7.6 0% -2%
5 8 1% 0%
5.25 8.4 3% 0%
5.5 8.8 0% -2%
5.75 9.2 0% -2%
6 9.6 0% -1%
6.25 10 2% 1%
6.5 10.4 1% 0%
6.75 10.8 0% -1%
7 11.2 1% 0%
7.25 11.6 1% 0%
7.5 12 3% 2%
7.75 12.4 0% -2%
8 12.8 1% 0%
8.25 13.2 1% 0%
8.5 13.6 0% -1%
8.75 14 2% 1%
9 14.4 0% -1%
9.25 14.8 2% 1%
9.5 15.2 3% 2%
9.75 15.6 1% 0%
10 16 2% 1%
10.25 16.4 2% 1%
10.5 16.8 1% 0%
10.75 17.2 1% 0%
11 17.6 3% 2%
11.25 18 0% -2%
11.5 18.4 0% -2%
11.75 18.8 0% -2%
12 19.2 2% 1%
12.25 19.6 1% 0%
12.5 20 0% -1%
12.75 20.4 2% 1%
13 20.8 0% -1%
13.25 21.2 0% -1%
13.5 21.6 3% 2%
13.75 22 0% -1%
14 22.4 2% 1%
14.25 22.8 1% 0%
14.5 23.2 2% -1%
14.75 23.6 1% 0%
15 24 0% 0%
15.25 24.4 1% -7%
15.5 24.8 1% -1%
15.75 25.2 0% 2%
16 25.6 0% 3%
16.25 26 3% -2%
16.5 26.4 4% 3%
16.75 26.8 0% -2%
17 27.2 1% 0%
17.25 27.6 1% 0%
17.5 28 0% -1%
17.75 28.4 4% 3%
18 28.8 3% 2%
18.25 29.2 1% 0%
18.5 29.6 0% -1%
18.75 30 0% -1%
19 30.4 0% -2%
19.25 30.8 1% 0%
19.5 31.2 5% 4%
19.75 31.6 1% 0%
20 32 1% 0%
20.25 32.4 1% 0%
20.5 32.8 3% 2%
20.75 33.2 5% 4%
21 33.6 0% -1%
21.25 34 0% -3%
21.5 34.4 0% -2%
21.75 34.8 1% 0%
22 35.2 1% 0%
22.25 35.6 0% -2%
22.5 36 0% -2%
22.75 36.4 1% 0%
23 36.8 2% 1%
23.25 37.2 0% -1%
23.5 37.6 0% -2%
23.75 38 0% -2%
24 38.4 0% -2%
24.25 38.8 0% -1%
24.5 39.2 1% 0%
24.75 39.6 0% -2%
25 40 3% 2%
25.25 40.4 0% -2%
25.5 40.8 1% 0%
25.75 41.2 0% -1%
26 41.6 1% 0%
26.25 42 1% 0%


How to avoid slipping on icy winter runs

icysidewalkIn this post I’ll share a few options to help you gain some traction on those winter runs on icy and snowy roads. So you can hopefully do a few less runs on the dreaded treadmill.

I wrote a blog post reviewing my Kahtoola Microspikes which are great for winter trail running on snow packed trails but not suitable for winter road running. I got a lot of great suggestions on solutions for winter road running when I wrote the post so wanted to expand on those suggestions and share what I learned, if only because this is helping me evaluate alternatives for my own use 🙂

I would not run in these every day in winter. But for those 5-10 runs each winter when the footing is slick due to ice or packed snow on the road these provide better traction than trail shoes.

I’ll share the solutions from cheapest to most expensive.

Sheet Metal Screws (< $5)

Take a pair of old running shoes, grab or borrow a drill and a nut driver and buy yourself some hex head sheet metal screws to make your own cleats. The lip on the head of the screws gives you traction. (Thank you Daisy for sharing this picture of the exact package you use for this purpose). There’s a wintersheetmetalscrewsgood video with tips on how and where to drill them into your shoe.  There is also a good article by Skyrunner on how to create a ScrewShoe. Expect between 100 to 150 miles of traction before the screw heads are too worn down to help anymore. When you go shopping you want:

  • Hex head screws
  • Size #8 or #6
  • Head width of 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, or 1/2 inch

Nordic Grip Mini Traction Aid ($15 USD)


If you are looking for something to just give you a little more grip without drilling holes in your shoes, check out the Nordic Grip Mini Traction Aid. It slips over the toe box of your running shoe.  This will not provide as much traction as any of the other solutions, as it only provides two studs on the toe. It has the advantage that you if you start the run on icy sidewalks and then reach a stretch of clear pavement you can take it off and put it in your pocket or you can carry it in your pocket and if you start on clear pavement and conditions worsen you can put them on as needed.

It comes in two sizes Small and Large:

  • Small Fits Shoe Size: 3-8
  • Large Fits Shoe Size: 8-14

Ice Spikes  ($30 USD)

wintericespikesSimilar to sheet metal screws, Ice spikes are also spikes you drill into an old pair of running shoes, but, they are designed specifically for drilling into shoes as traction. There’s a great article by Blaine Moore comparing Ice Spikes to Sheet Metal screws as a solution. The article concludes they both do a good job with traction, but the Ice Spikes do a better job if you actually run over ice, and the ice spikes are more durable (i.e. you will get more mileage out of them). The writer also recommends using a drill to insert the spikes not the hand held device provided when you order them.

YakTrax  ($40 USD) and NanoSpikes ($50 USD)

YakTrax and Nanospikes are rubber and metal traction devices you slipover your existing running shoes.

The advantage over spikes is you can use them on any pair of running shoes and you can take them on and off as needed. So if you wear Goretex shoes in winter to keep your feet dry you don’t have to drill holes in them for traction on those icy days.

The disadvantage vs spikes is they add weight, how much weight depends on the size.

Brand Weight Spikes
YakTrax 9.7 – 11.7 oz per pair Carbide Steel
Nanospikes 7.2 – 9.0 oz per pair Tungsten Carbide

Because you pull them over your shoe it’s important to order the correct size, if you put them on a pair of shoes too big, or try to pull them over winter boots which are generally larger they may snap and break.

YakTrax offers 4 sizes vs 5 sizes in the Nanospikes so there is a less precise fit but Yaktrax can handle bigger shoes than the Nanospikes

YakTrax sizing

SMALL – W 6.5-10 / M 5-8.5
MEDIUM – W 10.5-12.5 / M 9-11
LARGE – W 13-15 / M 11.5-13.5
X-LARGE – W 15.5+ / M 14+

Nanospikes sizing


Running shoes with built-in spikes ($80 USD +)

They aren’t cheap, but there are a number of brands who produce running shoes with built in metal spikes including: Inov-8, Solomon & Icebug.

This is the simplest and priciest solution. You only want to wear these shoes for slippery conditions. The click click click of the spikes on pavement does get a bit annoying. Not an issue if you have to cross a road, or hit a clear patch of wet pavement during a run, but if the roads are bare pavement, you won’t want to run in these shoes, any more than you would put Yaktrax on your shoes for a run of pavement.

I’ve compared a few models below. here’s a few things to consider when selecting a spiked winter shoe:

Warmth – if you will be running in temperatures around 0C/32 F you probably don’t need to worry about technology to keep your feet warm. If you will be running in -20 C/-4 F or lower you may want to invest in shoes that have something windproof to keep your toes warm.

Water proof vs water resistant – trail runners often prefer NOT to get a waterproof shoe, because if you do step in a creek and get water inside the shoe it does not drain. Road runners tend to prefer waterproof shoes because if you run in slush your feet stay dry. It is less likely for a road runner to step in water deep enough to get inside the shoe.

Fit – Check the size of the toe box, and check the heel to toe drop, ideally you want to try them on to make sure they fit well. But the challenge here is that not many running stores carry these shoes, so you may have to order online. So compare the technical specs of these shoes to your current running shoes.

Stiffness – Winter shoes designed for trail running often have very stiff soles.

Spikes – Most of the shoes I found use carbide for the spikes or at least for the tips of the spikes, and have similar numbers of spikes, Any of the shoes listed below is going to give you improved grip on snowy/icy roads and sidewalks. I would focus on the other factors when deciding which shoe is right for you.





All the Icebug shoes with BUGrip have built-in spikes. Models availability seems to vary from country to country and I couldn’t find a site listing prices in USD, so I used the price from the Icebugs Canada website. Generally $1 CDN is about .80 USD, but exchange rates fluctuate.

Shoe Price Weight Spikes Notes
Inov-8 Oroc 280 $104 USD 9.9 oz/ 280 g 18 Carbide Metal Spikes Orienteering/ Off trail shoe

Water resistant

Narrow toe box

Inov-8 Arctic Talon 275 $80 USD 9.625 oz/ 275 g 14 tungsten carbide Spikes Winter trail running shoe

Narrow (a touch wider than Oroc 280)

Inov-8 Arctic Claw $120 USD 10.5 oz/ 300 g 16 tungsten carbide spikes winter trail running shoe

wider toe box than Oroc series

Solomon Speedspike $126 USD 10.8 oz/ 305 g 15 carbide spikes Training and racing shoe for winter conditions

Stiffer than the Inov-8 shoes

Waterproof Climashield membrane over forefoot

Icebug Anima 3 BUGrip $150 Canadian Not Specified 19 carbide tip steel studs lightweight all terrain shoe
Icebug Pytho 4 BUGrip $199 Canadian 325 g 17 carbide tip steel studs designed for long distance running (wider toe box)
Icebug Oribi3 BUGrip GTX $230 Canadian 261 g 14 carbide tip steel studs Lightweight winter running shoe

Goretex (i.e. waterproof)


Be safe out there. I think most of us who train through winter conditions have had at least one run or fall which made us aware of the risk of injury. My worst fall I had reached a smooth wet icy patch on a trail. It was a warm day and the ice patch was melting. The water on top of the ice made it especially slippery. I had stopped running and was carefully walking over the ice and suddenly I found myself lying on my back having just hit the back of my head on the ice. I was very lucky to not have a concussion, only huge bruises on my elbows which caught the brunt of my fall.

There are solutions for every price range, I have met at least one runner who has successfully used every solution listed above (that’s how I found out about all these options). Thank you to each of the runners who shared their stories with me (David, Randy, Mary, Jane, Andrew, Daisy, James).

Now I have to decide which of these solutions I personally want to try! Let me know if you found a different solution I should include as an option.

If you are interested, I have other running related posts





Winter running – review of Microspikes and suggested alternatives

In this post I’ll share my experience with Kahtoola Microspikes ($69.95) for running on snow packed trails.

You are ready to go for a run but the roads look like this:


Normally that means your view for the next hour or so would be this:


Microspikes to the rescue? Time to find out…

I live and run in Ottawa, Canada. We get all four running seasons. In spring, I run through puddles and grumble about winter dog walkers who didn’t scoop the poop. In summer, I lose about 3 pounds a run in sweat. Fall is a magical 3 week window for setting personal bests, it’s cooled off and the footing is great. In winter, I check the weather forecast obsessively trying to find a running window between snowfalls and freezing rain, and trying to convince myself -28 C windchill won’t freeze my eyelashes shut.

I am a road runner, but I enjoy running on trails through the woods. I don’t notice the mileage because I am too busy trying to make sure I don’t trip on that rock or log. Most of my “trail” running is on local walking trails. I am NOT a trail runner, but I am happy to do a 5 km trail race or to join a friend for a 10-15 km trail run, because it might be fun!

Once the snow falls, I am driven to the roads and the treadmill. My local trails are a mix of snow and ice. Trail shoes can get you through the snow, but the ice can be a problem especially on the hills.


On a recent run, my friend Chris told me he and his wife, Karen, trail run in winter with Microspikes .I was intrigued. My sister (a fellow runner) picked me up a pair from Bushtukah as a Christmas gift. I went out two days later to try them out with Chris & Karen. We ran 14 km on a partly groomed trail (Trails #66 #67 #68 from P1 in the Gatineau Park) designed for snowshoers and fat bikers (the tires are fat not the bikers 😉). The trail was packed snow with occasional patches of ice.

MicrospikesOldAndNewI wore my Goretex running shoes (Asics GT 2000) to keep my feet warm and dry. I did not wear Gaiters (essential accessory for running snowshoes). When we got to the parking lot, I took out the Microspikes and put them over my shoes. Chris & Karen have a slightly older pair with a metal rod across the front instead of rubber. They said the metal rod occasionally digs into the top of their toes. I did not have that problem with the current design which has replaced that metal rod with rubber. We started to run, and after 500 meters or so I basically forgot the spikes were there. I ran normally, confident on my footing regardless of whether it was snow or ice, uphill or downhill. I had some fun on the dowIMG_20190101_151215nhills letting gravity take over with complete confidence the spikes would give me the traction I needed. (This run was in the Gatineau Hills of Ottawa, so it was an actual trail run). You occasionally hear a bit of a jingle from the chains, and they add a little bit of weight (169 g each according to my kitchen scale), but all in all I just trusted the spikes to give me a good footing. I was pleasantly surprised.

Now as awesome as they were, they are not the magic solution for all winter runs.

When Microspikes are the right option

  • You have a snow packed or groomed trail, dirt patches on the trail are fine
  • You have a light snowfall over the top of a snow packed or groomed trail

When Microspikes are the wrong option

  • Trail has a lot of rocks  – the spikes are long enough to be awkward on rock
  • Trail has a lot of mud – the spikes are slim so don’t help as much in mud
  • 2-6 inches of fresh snow – time to break out the running snowshoes
  • 6+ inches of fresh snow – time to go cross country skiing
  • You are going for a road run and some of the roads or sidewalks are snowcovered and slippery. The spikes are too long for road use. Time to find a route that is well sanded and salted, or hit the dreaded treadmill! If you are going to be road running and the sidewalks are a mess check out my post evaluating different products designed for road runners on icy roads.

Sizing Microspikes

If you do purchase a pair, you do need to get the right size for your shoe (or boots, they can be used over winter boots as well). My Winter runners are a women’s size 10. I have the Medium Microspikes (recommended for Women’s size 9-12). I don’t have any trouble pulling them onto the shoe. Its a little harder taking them off after the run.


So if you have a favorite trail that is walkable with good boots, but not runnable in the winter, it might be time to splurge on a pair of Kahtoola Microspikes and take back the trail!

FYI – those pictures at the start of the post were from this morning. Today was one of *those* days. It was beautiful and sunny, but the roads are an icy, snowy mess! I broke out the Microspikes and ran on a neighborhood walking trail which is I’ve never been able to run in winter before because it’s too slippery with just my runners. I won’t use them every day, but today the Microspikes came to the rescue! I’ll take this view over the treadmill every time!


Happy winter running! Stay warm out there!

If you found this helpful, I have other running related posts

Garmin 645 Music – Listening to music on a run without a phone

645MusicIn this post I’ll talk about Garmins that store and play music and share a review of the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music as a wrist GPS for those who want music without carrying a phone.

  • Which Garmins can store and play music
  • Which music apps are supported
  • My review of the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music including: Size and appearance; Using Spotify on the 645; Bluetooth headphones; Battery life; How do I update/add Spotify playlists on my 645; What could be better?
  • Summary

When I first got into running, I needed music to get through the long runs. I had an iPod mini loaded up with tunes. In winter, I kept the iPod in a jacket pocket. In summer, I had to pick up an arm band. As time passed, two things happened:

  • I found myself doing longer and longer runs without music
  • I bought our family a subscription to Spotify and stopped using iTunes.

Recently I found myself wishing I could listen to music on my runs again. There were several challenges to overcome:

  • My phone was so full of Candy Crush versions and running selfies that I had no storage space for Spotify playlists
  • Canada is the land of overpriced cell phone plans, so streaming music on your phone costs about the same amount as a guaranteed entry to the London marathon
  • Phones keep getting bigger! In summer, I’m lucky if I can find a pocket in my women’s running clothes that will hold a car key.
  • My flip belt can carry a phone, but I have a tendency to sweat when I run, so that only works if I put my phone in a Ziploc bag.
  • My smaller running belt can only hold my phone if I take it out of the case, no proCarryingPhoneOnRun.jpgblem unless the day it’s not in a case is the day you drop it on the garage floor (do you like my spider web screensaver?)
  • My water belt has a larger pouch, but for long runs I can either hold my phone or my supply of Tap Endurance Gels (shots of maple syrup as my nutrition, what could be more Canadian).

I was at the Chicago marathon race expo with my sister Judy. Judy is my source of information for new running gadgets because she works at Bushtukah, a locally owned sports store. She told me Garmin had a wrist GPS that could store and play music. Garmin had a booth at the expo, the perfect opportunity to check out my options.

Which Garmins can store and play music?

There are several models of Garmin which store and play music.

All the models store up to 500 songs.

Model Price US$ Diameter Thickness Weight Battery Life with music
Fenix 5S Plus $699.99 42 mm 15.8 mm 65 g Up to 4.5 hours
Fenix 5 Plus $749.99 47 mm 15.8 mm 86 g Up to 8 hours
Fenix 5X Plus $1049.99 51 mm 17.5 mm 96 g Up to 13 hours
Forerunner 645 Music $449.99 42.5 mm 13.5 mm 42.2 g Up to 5 hours
Vivoactive 3 Music $249.99 43.1 mm 13.6 mm 39 g Up to 5 hours

Which music apps are supported?

When I wrote this post the following music services were available on the 645:

  • Spotify
  • Deezer
  • IHeartRadio
  • KKBox
  • Runcasts (for Podcasts)
  • AWA
  • Line
  • MiguMusic

My review of the Garmin Forerunner 645

My previous Garmin was the Forerunner 735 which I bought with dreams of triathlons since it tracks indoor and outdoor swimming. I decided to stay with the Forerunner series and bought the black Forerunner 645 Music with Rose Gold hardware.

When I bought it, Spotify was only supported on the Fenix, but the Garmin rep told me the software update for Spotify on the 645 was coming out in the next 3 months.

Size and appearance

Garmin Forerunner 735 Garmin Forerunner 645 Music

Forerunner 735 and Forerunner 645 Music on wrist for  comparison

The 645 was smaller than my 735, and the rose gold was, well, prettier, than my 735. So I switched over to my 645 even though I didn’t have music yet. I got a number of compliments on the watch. Unlike the last two Garmins I have owned, the 645 doesn’t scream Garmin when you see it. I can usually spot undercover runners and triathletes at work at about 50 paces by their Garmins.

Let’s be clear, it’s not a dress watch. It looks out of place when I wear it with an evening dress (one day maybe I’ll replace the dead batteries in my actual dress watches but since I wear my Garmin 365 days of the year, that seems unlikely). Taking it off in the summer risks blinding everyone with the thick white tan line across my wrist. But, general opinion among my runner friends was this was the nicest looking Garmin they had seen. My sister even took a picture to send her store manager suggesting they start carrying the rose gold version.

Using Spotify on the 645

I waited patiently and sure enough in December the Spotify app was available for the 645.  The first thing I discovered was most of the instructions and videos online for downloading music to your 645 do NOT apply to Spotify. All those instructions telling you to download your playlist to your computer and then connect the Garmin to the computer with the USB port do NOT apply to Spotify. Spotify has its own storage format. After watching several videos, downloading apps and playlists to my laptop to no avail, I got desperate and tried something completely insane: I downloaded and read the manual from the Garmin website. 5 minutes later I had downloaded my first playlist to my device. Scroll down for a summary of the steps to get Spotify working.

Bluetooth headphones

All these devices only work with Bluetooth headphones, so I picked up a pair of AirShokz Trekz Air ($149.95 USD). These were recommended by Garmin and conveniently had a booth at the same race expo. I’ll write a separate review of them once I’ve tested them on some longer runs and a wider variety of weather. But I will say, I am happy with them so far and I feel safer with the bone conduction headphones because I can listen to music and still hear traffic and conversations.

Battery life

345972627-too-cold-for-a-runnerSeveral friends who rely on their phones for music asked me about battery life. Winter in Ottawa can result in temperatures that freeze your nose hairs (around -20 C), and even eyelashes (around -30 C but that’s why treadmills were invented). Those same cold temperatures drain phone batteries. I’ve never had a problem with a Garmin battery dying in the cold. I presume the fact it is strapped to my wrist instead of sitting in a pocket or pouch helps keep it warm. I decided to test it on a pleasant -15 C run. I started out with 100% charge. After running 1 hour tracking my run and listening to music I was at 83% battery life. For a marathon runner like me, that means I should not have any trouble listening to music for my longest training runs which max out just under 4 hours. An ultra runner might need the Fenix 5 Plus which promises up to 8 hours of music or the Fenix 5X Plus which promises up to 13 hours. The 645 only promises 5 hours according to the Garmin site.

On a side note, now that I have music on my Garmin, I’ve found myself listening to music more often. I wrote this blog post listening to music from my 645 while riding a train from Ottawa to Toronto with unreliable data connection and wifi. Mental note: download some non-running playlists for travel, I need to save the running playlist for when I want that extra boost (you just can’t run slow to Blitzkrieg Bop by the Ramones)

How do I update/add Spotify playlists to my 645?

  1. Install the Garmin Connect app on your phone and log in with your Garmin account (create an account if you don’t have one)
  2. Connect Garmin Connect on your phone to the watch (make sure you pick Settings – Phone – Pair Phone NOT Settings – Phone – Find Phone (doh! no wonder I was having trouble getting it to connect the first time).
  3. Connect your 645 to Wifi – FYI – I sometimes get an error that says ‘incorrect password’ when I know the password is correct, I an suspicious that you receive that error message when the wifi signal is weak as well as for incorrect passwords because when I get incorrect password, I usually just try again immediately and it successfully connects.
  4. Install the Spotify app on your 645 from your phone or your computer
  5. Using your phone
    1. In the Garmin Connect app on the phone select Connect IQ store.
    2. Locate and download the Spotify app
    3. Sync your 645 (Press and hold the Light button and choose sync from the menu)
  6. Using your computer
    1. Install Garmin express and use your USB cable to attach and add the ForeRunner 645.
    2. Select Manage Apps
    3. Select Get More Apps
    4. Locate and download the Spotify app
    5. Sync your 645 using the cable
    6. Once the app is installed, press and hold the lower button on the left side of the watch to go to music mode.
    7. Select the … to go to the music options
    8. Choose Library
    9. Go to the music settings, choose library
    10. Select Add Music/playlists to add the playlists you want downloaded to your 645. You Garmin will need a connection to wifi and the Garmin Connect app on your phone to add new music.

What could be better?

The software on the 645 definitely has a few glitches.  Once in a while it freezes, or you go to your playlist and it acts as though it only has one song on the playlist. I just turn it off and on again. On one occasion the power off button wouldn’t work when it was frozen, but after 10 minutes it worked again.

Every now and then the headphones will disconnect and you have to restart the music and reconnect the headphones to the watch. It’s happened to me twice with my headphones, and one of the Seattle Green Lake Runners said she has the same problem.


If you have Spotify already and you are looking for a way to listen to music without carrying a phone, check out the new Garmin devices with music. Despite the occasional software glitches I am very happy with my Forerunner 645 Music and I’m having fun building new playlists for running. It’s a shiny new toy that does the job, and if anyone (like say your significant other who is not a runner) asks you why you need another Garmin when you already have one, just tell them this one goes to 11! (right Christopher?)

See a list of my other running related posts including race reviews, and some just for fun