Posts Tagged ‘Running’

Trekz Air Aftershokz Headphones review

Air AfterShokz bluetooth bone conduction headphonesIn this post I will review Trekz Air AfterShokz Headphones. These are bluetooth, bone conduction headphones.

When I started training for half and full marathons I wanted to run with music and podcasts for those long runs. But no matter what earbuds I tried they fell out, or my arm would catch on the cord and pull them out of my ears.  Eventually I gave up.  Then Garmin announced watches that could store Spotify playlists.  Music without carrying a phone! Now that’s tempting, but that requires Bluetooth headphones. I picked up the Garmin 645 (follow link for my review of the Garmin) and some Aftershokz Air – Bluetooth Bone Conduction headphones. Here’s my thoughts:

Running is safer with bone conduction headphones

Shows headphone position as above not in earBone conduction headphones vibrate against your cheekbones instead of broadcasting the music into your ear. This makes them fantastic for running outdoors because they do not go in your ears. That means you can hear ambient noise and your music at the same time.  I can hear the birds chirping and my feet against the pavement. Most important I can hear a car coming.  Occasionally I have worn them on long runs with a friend, because sometimes at the end of the run we start to get spread out and I might end up running solo. Sometimes they don’t realize I am listening to music because I can still carry on a conversation at a normal volume level.

The importance of hearing ambient noise was reinforced for me this weekend at the 2019 Ottawa Army Run. There were a lot of hills and some of the wheelchair competitors would get passed on the uphills and then pass the runners on the downhills. It was a crowded race and we kept yelling out “wheelchair on the left” and there was inevitably one runner with in ear headphones who did not hear the other 10 runners yelling to them, finally someone would have to run over to them and tap them on the shoulder to get them to step aside. If you think that was frustrating for us when we wanted to focus on our race, I can only imagine what is was like for the wheelchair athlete who must have spent most of the race yelling out ‘on your left’.

Comfort

The headphones are nice and light, and it’s great not dealing with any cords.

Summer running – I run wearing a visor and sunglasses. On longer runs I do start to feel mild discomfort from the pressure on the back of my ears caused by the combination of pressure from my visor, my headphones and sunglasses (Love my Smith parallel Max 2 sunglasses with the rose coloured polarized lenses though I swap to the clear lenses for occasional night runs).

Winter running – Depending on how cold it is I wear anything from headband, to winter running hat, to neck warmer pulled up over my ears and hat on top. Headband and hat is not a problem, but when I pull the neck warmer up over my ears the band of the headphones sticking out the back is a little awkward.

Shows headphone band sticking out behind neckSitting around – I love them for the occasional conference call, washing dishes, or just walking around. If you are in a recliner or a train seat and have your head resting against the back of the seat you will find the back band of the headphone means you have to adjust the position of the headphones a bit to rest your head back comfortably.

Eating – because the bone conduction relies on contact with the bones, if you are chewing on something while listening to the headphones you will notice a variation in the sound while chewing as your jaw bone shifts.

Weather tested & durability

I have run in weather ranging from -20C to + 30C. I have run in rain and snow. Never had an issue. The newer version which I have is supposed to be more water resistant than the older versions (i.e. better when sweaty or raining). They do come with a warranty as well ( I was told if a pet dog decides to chew them up, they would still replace them, never tested that promise because I have cats, so I don’t know if the sales person was exaggerating :)) I do frequently jam the headphones into a pocket of my backpack or purse, so they don’t require careful care or attention. My son has an uncanny ability to destroy Bluetooth headphones with impressive speed so I bought him a pair of the older Aftershokz for his birthday, 20 months later they are still going strong. He likes the older ones because they come in nice bright colours: yellow, and bright blue. The newer ones are muted colours like navy blue and earth green.

Battery life

When I am going for a long run, I make sure to charge the headphones.  They last just fine through a 20 mile run. I have actually started wearing them more and more around the house, on travel days, while working.  According to the web site the batteries recharge fully in 2 hours and will play for 6 hours of continuous music.

They have a microphone too

Yes these headphones do have a microphone. So, one day, I decided to try and take all my conference calls with the headphones sitting at my desk. I did find that when I was sitting still the vibration of the bone conduction started to bug me after a couple of hours.  I never noticed it at all when running, only when sitting at my laptop and wearing the headphones for multiple hours. They are very useful when I am travelling and need to take a quick call from my phone or laptop and I have not had any complaints about the microphone quality from the people on the other side of the calls.

Sound Quality and Volume level

The sound quality is great, I can listen to them at a low volume in a quiet area with no problems at all. If you are in a noisy environment such as a train or public space it is much harder to hear anything in your headphones because of course since they do not go in your ears they do not muffle any ambient sound.

What feature is missing?

They have a volume control on the headphones, and I discovered the pause button by accident one day, but there are no controls for skipping a song. I have several running playlists, and sometimes a song comes on that isn’t quite what I want for that moment in my run.  I can skip a song by using the Garmin, but not with controls on the headphones themselves. I guess there is a trade-off between simplicity and functionality. I do find these easy to use and easy to pair to my device. I pair them with my phone, my Garmin 645, and my laptop.

Summary

Well since I am sitting here listening to music with my headphones as I put the finishing touches on this post and have convinced two other runners to try them and they are both happy I think it’s safe to say I’m hooked. But I have listed the pros and cons as best as I can for you so you can make your own decision. Happy running!

 

 

Runner disaster stories: Wardrobe malfunction

Woman running in a race with two small kidsIf you run long enough, you will do something stupid or encounter some sort of running mishap. In this series, I’ll try to make you feel better about your own mistakes and occasional bouts of misery by sharing others tales of woe! Such as the previous post ‘The unfortunate incident of the improvised gel pouch

Today’s tale comes from Sheila and will remind female runners of the benefits of modern running gear!

The wardrobe malfunction

It was a very hot day and I was getting ready for a 10km race. I was picking out my race outfit. This was in the late 80s before Lululemon and general availability of sports bras. My old cotton bra was more breathable and also had a few holes to let the breezes so it seemed a better idea than the nylon one. I selected shorts and a suitable cotton race T shirt and headed out for the race.

At first, it seemed I had made the right decision. Unfortunately, as I ran, gradually the fastener at the back seemed to be getting looser and looser. The course was 5 km out and 5 km back. Shortly after the turnaround the fastener broke completely. The straps started to slip down my arms, poking out of the shirt sleeves, so I pushed them back up onto my shoulders.  Eventually the chest strap and cups themselves slipped far enough that everything under the shirt was loose and bouncing. The kilometers passed as the shoulder straps and I continued our endless game of slide down the shoulders and push them back up again. With great relief, I spotted the finish line. What better way to ensure I didn’t cross the finish with bra straps around my elbows: I crossed the finish line with my arms triumphantly raised above my head.

Runner crossing finish line with arms up

Who is Sheila?

Well among other things she’s my mom and she was quite the trailblazer in women’s road running. While these days there will often be multiple women competing for the podium in the 60+, 70, and 80+ age groups. When she was running, more than once race organizers had to add an age group because they did not expect any women her age in the race. She qualified for and ran her first Boston marathon the year she turned 65. In her own words:

I started racing when I turned 40, after three years of competitive orienteering convinced me I could run, though not as fast as eldest daughter Judy or my six-foot husband Tim. I have always liked exercise and the outdoors.

One of my favourite running memories is the Boston marathon. The hills did not seem alarming to a woman trained in Fredericton (note from Susan: Fredericton is a river valley and has no shortage of long, steep hills). The cheering students could have been my own (note from Susan: she taught at St Thomas University for over 20 years). Another favorite memory was having almost the whole family running a 10km in Montreal to celebrate my 70th birthday in 2008, finishing in the Olympic Stadium . Alas, Tim’s knee problems meant he could only meet us at the finish.

If you run or jog you may enjoy my other running related posts which include everything from a fun runners quiz, to practical tips, gear reviews, and race reports.

Training for your first marathon: practical tips to get you to the start line

raceexpoSo you registered for a marathon! Scary and exciting! In this post I’ll share some practical tips and tricks to get you through your training. After all, there is nothing a marathon runner likes to do more, than share advice with others running their first marathon (something you will soon find out, if you have not already).

1. Find a training plan that works for you

TrainingPlanA quick Google search will return a number of different marathon training plans. Hal Higdon, Hanson, etc… You can train for a marathon using any of these plans. Here’s a few things to consider when picking a plan.

  • How many weeks do I need to train? Most marathon training plans are 16 weeks long, if you have a good running base (can you go out the door tomorrow and run 15 km/10miles without being completely dead?) you can manage with a 12 week plan. For your first marathon I would recommend a 16 week plan so you can build up the mileage more gradually, but if you are reading this and your marathon ins 13 weeks away, then go find a 12 week plan and get going!
  • How many days a week will you realistically run? I’d recommend trying to run at least 4X a week if training for a marathon. You can train for a marathon with a 3x week plan, but it’ll be easier race day if you can manage 4 days a week. If you are looking to have a strong race you might have a 5X or 6X a week plan. The pros sometimes follow 9 day plans and run 8 days out of 9!
  • Is your marathon hilly? If so you probably want a training plan that includes hill training once a week. That said, I know there are many marathon runners who do not do any hill training because they have hills on their long runs and mid-week runs.
  • Do you want to finish strong? or just finish? If you don’t care if you end up walking for part of the race, then you are fine using a ‘beginner’ training plan. If you are going out for a Boston Qualifying time in your first marathon, then you want a training plan labelled ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced’.

2. Respect the long run

Of course how long should your longest run be? There are many schools of thought on this. The default is 20 miles/32 km. There are training plans that take you up to 22 miles or 34/36 km. The Hanson plan peaks at 16 miles for the long run, but has you running more mileage on your mid-week runs so the total weekly mileage is similar.

I know runners who had great marathon races with each of the above.

The theory is you never run the full distance before race day because it takes so long to recover. Well given the world of ultra running, and people like Yuki Kawauchi even that is debatable. But for your first marathon, suffice to say you do NOT need to run the full 42 km/26 miles before race day.

Running a 20-22 mile (30-34 km) run does help build your confidence, it helps you believe you can complete the marathon distance.  Even so, most marathon runners are exhausted at the end of their first 20 mile run and can’t help but wonder “how on earth will I run an additional 6 miles/10km on race day!”  Answer: You will be rested and ready, trust in your training!!! I know you don’t believe it when you are dragging yourself through that last mile, but this is how 98% of marathoners train, and pretty much all of us felt like that after our first 20 miler. I know I did!

slowdownAnother common mistake runners make is to run too fast on the long runs. The goal on your long run is to train your body to run for a longer period of time. If you run your long runs at your goal marathon pace you are missing part of the goal. You need to train your body to run for a certain amount of time in addition to a certain amount of distance. Your long runs should be 1 to 1 and a half minutes per mile slower or 45 seconds to 60 seconds slower per km than your planned pace on race day.

If you are one of those lucky people who feels really good on your long runs, and find yourself wanting to run them faster,  try running your marathon pace for the last 3 miles/5 km of a long run. Just to teach your legs how to run at race pace when they are tired.

3. Respect the rest day

Cat nappingHey I’m going to try and get a Boston Qualifier on this marathon, I don’t need a rest day. Yes you do! When you do a hard workout you are tearing your muscles and they are rebuilding stronger! But they need rest to rebuild. Talk to any serious body builder about their workout schedule, they always give the muscles time to rebuild. Give yourself one day a week, or if you are that gung ho follow a 9 day plan and rest once every 9 days instead of once every 7. But that rest day is a REST day, no cross training, no hopping on the bike, or just hitting the gym for a little cross-fit. I know many of you are reading this and going, who in their right mind would trade a rest day for another workout.  Trust me those people are out there, you know who you are!

For the rest of us, enjoy your rest day! A guilt free day (or 2 depending on your plan)  to look forward to with no run, no cross training, nothing, put your feet up, sit on the patio and enjoy!

4. Practice your race day nutrition

You can run a half marathon with nothing but water. Heck some people can run a half marathon without water ( not recommended mind you). Marathon runners typically take some sort of nutrition during their race. You should consider including BOTH of the following in your running nutrition plan:

Electrolyte drinks

nuun tabletsGatorade/Nuun type drinks provide you with electrolytes during your run. When you sweat you lose more than just water. These drinks are designed to help replace what you lose in sweat. They usually come in a tablet or powder form. You mix them with water and bring them with you to drink on the run. If you aren’t sure which brand to try, consider looking up the brand that is provided on the race course for your marathon. It would be great if you could didn’t need to carry your own with you on race day. Gatorade tends to be more syrupy than Nuun. Nuun tends to be more fizzy.  Some flavours contain caffeine (there’s a theory that caffeine can help you on race day) If your stomach reacts to caffeine, a particular brand or flavour you want to know that BEFORE race day! There’s a decent article here on Electrolyte replacement for Marathon training.

Gels/Chomps

Tap Endurance GelElectrolytes replace your sweat, but how do you replenish some of the energy you burn off during the run. You need to keep your muscles fueled! This is where the Gels/Chews/Chomps/etc… fit in. There are gels which come in little packets coming in every flavour imaginable! (Fruit Smoothie, ChocolateMaple syrup, French toast?). Different brands will have a different texture. Chomps/Bloks tend to be more like a gummy bear in texture. Like the gels they come in a variety of flavours. Some runners find it easier to use the chewy nutrition options, swallowing gels mid-run takes a little getting used to. Though I will say if you use the chewy ones on a cold winter run they take forever to soften up and you can spend two miles trying to get all the gummy stuff off your teeth 😉

You really have to try them to find something that works for you. DO NOT try something new on race day. That is not the time to find out that the new lime margarita chews in your race kit give you stomach cramps.

What about Salt tablets?

Salt-ShakerThis is a fairly controversial question, most of my marathon friends do not take salt, but there are some arguments for taking it in moderation. There is a Runner’s world article “Pass the Salt” that discusses it.  The theory is if you get a lot of cramping (multiple muscles not just one cramp in your side, or one cramp in your calf) that can be caused by lack of salt. I only had one marathon where I think I would have benefitted from a salt tablet and that was my 2016 Grandma’s marathon which was unusually hot. I definitely crave salt after a marathon, but Grandma’s was the first race where I think it might have helped mid-race, and I was actually fighting cramps for about 6 miles despite taking gels and Gatorade.

5. So chafing is a thing

body-gllideHaven’t experienced chafing yet?  Well as those long runs get longer, that will likely change. One day you will hop in the shower after a run and yowsa once that water hits you, you’ll know!  Consider it a rite of passage 😉

If you are a guy you want

If you are a girl you want

A good fitting running bra! Okay a few notes on this if you haven’t done a serious shop for your running bra yet.  What is a good fit is different for everyone, so you have to try on several to find what works for you. A few things to consider. Go to a running or fitness store. Ask for help with the fitting. Trying on sports brass is a bit like jeans shopping or swimsuit shopping, it’s going to take a while to figure out what fits you properly, so be prepared to spend a solid hour trying things on. It’s worth it to find something that fits well.

  • For marathon training, you want a bra designed for maximum support (i.e. minimum bounce)
  • I prefer the bras that have a clip on the back because they are easier to remove when I am tired and sweaty at the end of a run.
  • How do I put this, well I guess I just say it, if you wear a light tank top or shirt and you get sweaty or rained on during your run, there will be nipple bumps showing through your shirt. Some bras have firmer or more padded fabric in the front so you don’t have to worry about what shows up in your race photos.
  • If you will spend a decent amount of time training in heat and humidity, you may want to purchase a running bra you feel comfortable wearing without a shirt. Even if you will never run without a shirt, it’s nice to have a bra that you don’t feel is too revealing if you want to change into a dry shirt at the end of a run. Not usually a problem since most swimsuits are more revealing than a running bra.

Other chafing considerations for female runners

  • You may need something extra under the bra strap across the chest, a well placed blister band-aid can apparently help (I have had chafing issues there at EVERY marathon no matter what I try, but I haven’t tried the blister band aid yet, off to buy some this week)
  • As far as undies go… well honestly, many female runners go commando to reduce chafing, but you can buy running undies for women as well.

Regardless of gender you want some Body Glide, or equivalent (fyi no difference at all between the Body Glide for her in the pink container vs the blue container, so buy whichever is cheaper or comes in the bigger container).  Put it wherever you need it! Anywhere that gets red after a long run, or is getting blisters. I put it on my feet, on my toes, on my upper arms where they rub against a tank top, and anywhere else I have noticed friction after a run. I don’t do this for every run, just for my long runs and race day. Hot weather runs cause more chafing than cold weather runs.

Some shorts chafe more than others, you might want to switch to better running socks to wick away the sweat and moisture more as well (SmartWool, Feetures).

Figure out what clothing is best for you on your training runs. DO NOT try out new gear on race day! That is not the day to find out those new shorts or new socks cause chafing or blisters.

6. Cross-training?

You can complete a marathon without doing any cross-training at all. You can follow a marathon training plan, and finish your marathon. *IF* you get addicted to the marathon distance and plan to train for more marathons, you should definitely do some cross-training.

Common Running Injuries

Marathon running is tough on the body, you work out the same muscles over and over again. If you have any weak points in your body, you will find out on marathon day. Some people finish the race bent over because their core muscles are their weak point. I used to have trouble lifting my leg after a marathon because my adductor muscles were a weak point. Weak glutes can result in your hamstrings overcompensating when you run pulling on your lower back giving you back pain and stiffness. Weak hips can cause IT Band issues around your knees.  Shall I go on? I’m not trying to scare you, it’s simply a reality that when you do one activity (in this case running) a lot you build the same muscles, a lot. Over time this creates an imbalance and causes stiffness and injuries.

If you don’t do cross-training you will end up in physio sooner rather than later. You simply cannot keep working the same muscle groups over and over as much as you do when training and running marathons without finding a weak spot or reaching an imbalance that causes an injury.  There is an expression in marathons, half the battle is won if you reach the start line healthy!  Many, many a marathon runner, has had to give up their bib because they did not take care of the rest of their body during marathon training. Youc an likely get through your first without an injury, but if you decide to keep going, figure out a plan for cross-training!  Since I started consistently cross-training (strength and mobility) I have run 5 marathons without a single trip to physio or massage therapy.  Before that I used to go to my physio once a month to tackle knee and/or hamstring issues and/or achilles pain and/or plantar fasciitis.

What sort of cross-training is best for marathon runners?

There are basically two approaches to cross-training.

Strength

Activities that stkettle bellsrengthen your muscles, don’t just focus on the glutes and hamstrings, make sure you work out other muscles groups as well: core, glutes & hips are three of the biggies too often ignored by runners and can cause issues. Over the years I have done everything from kick-boxing, to Tae Kwon Do, kettle bells, to power yoga, to weight training, to HIIT/Tabata classes. Honestly at this point I just do whatever is convenient for me at a local gym, give me a good cardio or strength workout and keeps me motivated.

Mobility/flexibility

yoga for runners bookActivities that help you loosen up those tight muscles such as a martial arts, yoga, or just going for a massage. When I did kick boxing and Tae Kwon Do I found that helped (in particular those both involve a lot of kicking which was great for loosening up my hips and legs). These days I do yoga and yoga tune-up. Yoga tune-up, sometimes called mobility or myofascial yoga, is totally different from normal yoga, it’s basically a guided rolling class, where you roll out your muscles on balls and foam rollers. Again, its a question of finding something that fits into your schedule and your routine.

7. Don’t freak out over a missed run

oops signLife happens, even when you are training for a marathon. Generally speaking if you miss a run because you are sick or travelling, let it go, pick up with the next run on your training plan. If you are travelling and can get your long run in a day earlier or day later that’s better than missing a run.  Some runs are more significant than others. The long run on the weekend and the longest weekday runs are probably the most important because those are the runs that build up your strength and mileage for race day.

All that said, I almost never get all my longs runs in when training for a marathon. Inevitably something messes up my training and I miss a run or two. If you miss multiple runs multiple weels, well, you may need adjust your expectations on race day.

DO NOT move your training plan back a week to make up for a week vacation. One thing you will notice: All training plans taper to lower mileage the last two weeks before the race. That taper is very important. Once your marathon is two weeks away, there is nothing you can do to run that marathon faster or stronger except take it easy and rest. If you try to add extra runs, extra speed or extra hills in those last two weeks the only thing you can do is potentially hurt yourself or tire yourself out. You want to feel restless, you want to find yourself at the start line with legs saying, oh good finally a run, let’s do this!

8 Accept that some training days are better than others

snailSome days you get out there and the training goes great, you feel good, you may have a target pace and you keep that pace. Other days you get out there and you are slogging from the first step and it doesn’t get easier. There are weeks where you find yourself really struggling to get in the miles and you are running slower than ever! This is normal! You have been pushing your body for weeks on end, at some point your body says, hey this is hard! Run slower if you have to, walk a bit if you have to, just know that even though the runs are slow you are improving. You will find your speed and energy again for the race.

9. Embrace the suck

Tired runner on a hillAt some point in one of your training runs, it will suck. You will be tired, or hot, or cold, or wet, or your legs will hurt, or you will reach a hill and be exhausted.  This is a chance to mentally practice for race day. There will come a point on race day which will suck, and you will be tired and you will want to walk or stop. So every time you hit a moment like that in your training and you manage to get through it, give yourself a gold star! Ask yourself if this happened at Mile 24 /km 38 on race day would I still finish! Yes I would! I can do this! This is my chance to practice working through the tough parts. Find a mantra, a thought, a tune to listen to, that gets you through those moments. Training is a chance to practice building mental strength as well as physical strength.

10. Figure out what will get you out the door

At some point during your marathon training, life will give you convenient excuses to skip your run. For example, as I type this, there is an extreme heat warning, yet I am supposed to do hills today. I did my long run yesterday and I did a 5 km race Saturday, I could skip this ‘one’ hill run right? I could, but I also missed two runs last weekend because I was travelling for a wedding. As my friend Christopher once told me “There is always an excuse to not run.” The challenge is to know when to use that excuse (e.g. you have the flu!), and when to tell yourself, “well that just means it’s a bigger achievement to get the run done today!”

What will get you out the door on those days when you have a convenient excuse to skip the run? Do you need to bribe yourself? Do you have a favorite podcast or playlist? Do you have a training partner? Is there a local running group you can join?  If you are running a local marathon there may be a running group that has a clinic specifically for people running your marathon! Would it help if you tracked each run completed and each run missed? You may need to experiment to figure out what gets you out the door.

When I first got back into running, my friend, Christopher and I had a bet. if either of us did not get in at least x runs a week we owed the other person dinner. We were  competitive enough that got us out the door on days we felt like skipping. I do maintain  a spreadsheet with my running schedule and I mark each run as green (completed), red (missed), or yellow (altered to be shorter or easier).  When I see a week with a lot of red, the next week I am motivated to get back to green!  I joined a running group that does speed work together.  The friendly peer pressure gets me through the full workout, if everyone else is tired and they are doing that last mile repeat, why am I quitting early? Having company on long runs can be a blessing as well. My first two marathons I did my long runs alone, but now I have a have a group of runners I meet for long runs. Those runners have become friends. I look forward to catching up with my long run buddies and swapping stories on everything, and I do mean everything! When you run 14-22 miles week after week with the same group of people you have lots of time to catch up.

It may take a while to find the right running group, or within your running group and community people who are compatible running partners for your long runs. Things to consider include

  • What pace do they run? If they are slower than you, you could always run their pace for the first part of the run, and then pick up the pace and run alone for the last x miles. Nothing wrong with practicing a negative split. If they are faster than you, do you know the route well enough to make sure that if you can’t keep up you won’t get lost running on your own?
  • How far are they running? If they are running less than you do you want to go out early and get the extra miles in ahead of time and finish your run with them or do you want to add on miles at the end? If you have a shorter run is it an out and back route so you can just turnaround earlier or are they running a loop which will require you to find a creative shortcut to reduce the mileage.
  • Do they do a walk/run or a continuous run? It is very hard to walk run with a running group, or run continuous with a walk/run group. The two styles are not really compatible
  • Do they stop for water breaks and bathroom breaks? When I ran alone I took my gels and water without stopping. My current long run partners stops every 5 miles /8 km or so for water and gels. This took a slight adjustment for me, but it does not affect how I race. They will also stop and wait or detour as needed for anyone who needs a bathroom break! As fellow runners we are all sympathetic to that particular need!
  • How do you know where and when to meet? Some running groups post the long run plans to Facebook. The Seattle Green Lake Runners use Meetup to post the long run routes and start times. The Ottawa K2J runners don’t have a formal long run, so various runners within the group just use email: one person emails a suggested time and departure point, the others respond with their distances and by the weekend we know who is coming when. That works well, but sometimes a new runner joins and we accidentally forget to include them on the email thread, so it’s not a perfect system.

11. Get the right shoes

pile of running shoesGo to a good running store and find out which shoes are right for you… neutral?  mild stability? moderate stability? Which brand fits your foot best? some have a larger toe box than others, some are better for a narrower foot or higher arch. You can run a 10 km or a half marathon on a shoe that isn’t quite right, but as the miles build up the wrong shoe is more likely to cause injury. Do you need orthotics?

Some running stores will do a gait analysis in store and have treadmills so you can try out the shoes then and there, or allow you to take home shoes to try on your treadmill so you can see which feel best. I actually went to a local foot clinic to get a professional gait analysis and recommendations for shoes.  It cost about $150 but if that saves me buying the wrong pair of running shoes or one visit to physio it’s pretty much paid for itself!  At least now if I do get an injury I am confident it’s not because of my shoes.

FYI – A pair of running shoes will typically last for about 500 km of running before they should replaced.

DO NOT try a brand new pair of running shoes on race day!

Are you noticing a trend here about NOT trying new things on race day 🙂 Yeah that’s not an accident 😉

12. Find inspiration in others

Spirit of the marathon movie posterOkay I guess I have 11 tips. The marathon is part physical and part mental. You will get bored on race day, you will reach a point on race day where you think to yourself, why am I doing this, this sucks. But you can get through it!

There are lots of running podcasts, movies, and books you can read to get yourself motivated. My friend Christopher introduced me to the movie Spirit of the Marathon, a great way to get motivated the day or week before your race (I am getting all choked up just watching the trailer just now). Deena Kastor’s “Let your Mind Run” is a great read on the power of positive thinking to get you through training and race day. Meb Keflezighi’s 26 marathons reminds us that even the best marathon runners have setbacks, make mistakes, and have good and bad days. Or you can watch  Where Dreams Go To Die and suddenly a marathon doesn’t seem quite so insane in comparison, however much you are hurting race day, it’s nothing compared to what the Barkley runners go through!  That doesn’t make finish our marathon any less of an achievement. Take pride in knowing that the moment you cross that finish line on race day you get to say:

I AM A MARATHONER!

If you found this post helpful, check out the rest of my running related posts including marathon race reports

 

 

 

 

 

Beat Beethoven Race Report

Race bib and medalThe Beat Beethoven Race is a theme race in Kingston, Ontario. Runners are challenged to complete 8 km before the Kingston Symphony orchestra finishes playing 50 minutes of Beethoven’s best. I love a well organized community race, and this one was a lot of fun.

If you don’t keep an eye on the time, you could find yourself sprinting to beat the finish unnecessarily. I remember my mum telling me Beethoven pieces always sound like they are about to finish but then keep going.

Here’s the scoop on what to expect if you decide to take on the challenge.

The races

They had a kids 1 km race, a 4 km fun run, and the 8 km ‘main event’. Only the 8 km race has timing chips. The distance was a bit short this year for the 4 km, but since it’s not timed and the prizes are given out ot top 3 male and female based on gun time, it wasn’t that big a deal. The race organizer offered to add extra distance to the race next year so it averages out to 4 km both years 🙂  There are no finisher medals, only age group winners receive medals, so if you bring the kids you might have to go for ice cream post race as reward (or stick around for the draw prizes)

Logistics

With a race start time of 10:30 AM, and the option of race day registration and race day pick-up, this race is quite do-able from nearby towns like Ottawa, Cornwall, Brockville, and Belleville. Street parking is free in Kingston on Sundays, and it was not difficult to find parking an easy walk from the start line. This proved especially helpful as I could not find any sort of bag check. My car trunk made a convenient bag check.

Port-a-potties

There are no port-a-potties, but there are washrooms in the back of the tourist information building. I did the standard 20 minutes pre-race stop and was only in line behind 3 women waiting. The gentlemen did not have a line at all.

The shirts

I registered late so did not get a t-shirt. They had some wonderfully bright orange shirts, which the race organized blatantly admitted make for great advertising when you wear them around town. I have plenty of t-shirts, and I have no issues with races not printing a bunch of extra shirts for late registrations just in case. Like I said, most runners have plenty of t-shirts anyway.

The competition

I initially thought this might be a good race to place in my age group or maybe sneak in a podium finish. At smaller races I have placed in my age group, and at *really*small races I have managed a top 3 women overall (by really small I mean < 50 runners in the whole race). The website had a link to the 2018 results.

The top male runners in 2018 finished in 24, 25 and 26 minutes. The top women finished in 30, 31, and 32 minutes. Okay zero chance of a podium finish, how about the 40–49 age group? 32, 32, and 34 minutes! It appears this race brings out some very fast runners. I did not expect times that fast in a race with under 400 people unless they had prize money like Emilie’s Run (https://hockeygeekgirl.com/2019/05/01/emiles-run-race-report/).

The Kingston Symphony Orchestra

Unfortunately it was raining and the orchestra was hidden away inside a tent. We could hear but not see the orchestra as the tent walls had to be kept up to protect the musicians and their instruments.

The 8 km race

The town crier with a fine rainbow umbrella welcomed us all to the race, the gun went off, and off we went. The light rain was actually perfect for running. The route has a few odd little turns, no doubt to ensure you do the correct mileage, and it had a few decent uphill climbs. Since the race is a loop, all the uphill is rewarded with downhill later in the race. There were two water stops along the route, I think the first was around 4 km and the second was around 6.5 km.

The volunteers as always were much appreciated and cheered us on. Thank you volunteers!

I finished well under 50 minutes, but like many other runners I stayed around, intrigued to see how close to 50 minutes the orchestra would finish playing. There is only one pace bunny on this course: the 50 minute pace bunny! We saw him coming toward the finish line and we could hear the closing bars of Beethove emanating from the tent. The pace bunny’s foot hit the timing mat, the last note came from the tent and the clock turned to 50:00 at exactly the same time. I’m impressed!

Race results

Sportstats had results up almost instantly after you crossed the finish line. I was pleasantly surprised to see myself listed in 3rd place in my age group. The website did not mention whether there were age group awards but as I strolled over to the food table to grab a clementine and a roll (no bagels just rolls), I saw them laying out medals and envelopes. There were no finisher medals for the race, but the medals for the age group winners were really nice!

So, I waited around for the award ceremony. It was cold, and it was a bit of a wait. I think they started just after noon. Not unreasonable, I just wish I had known I had time to go put on warmer clothes, all I had done was grab a warm jacket.

Draw prizes and age group awards

Awards were given out for the 4 km first, and then a few draw prizes, then they worked their way through the 8 km awards, interspersing draw prizes in between age groups. draw prizes were awarded by bib number. It took me a couple of rounds to realize they were looking out into the crowd and calling out bibs they could see. He did tell everyone after giving out some draw prizes that everyone with jackets zipped up might want to unzip them 😉 Hey, I think that’s a great way to do it, I don’t want to sit there while they call out bib numbers for people who have left, and that way if there is a kid who ran a race lookign really excited about the draw prizes, or a runner wants to blatantly walk up and stand in front of the stage with their bib prominently displayed to try and win a draw prize, go for it! The prizes were a mix of shirts, water bottles, and race entries. Most of the medal winners had the opportunity to grab one of the prizes as well.

Summary

This is a fun but quite competitive community race. Race registration can be done right up to the day of the race so it’s great for those of us looking for a couple of fun runs to do after our big spring races. There are plenty of little shops and restaurants around the finish area if you want to make it into a day trip. If you stick around until awards I’d say there’s a good chance you can win a ‘draw’ prize just by standing in front of the stage with your bib clearly visible 😉

If you are interested check out my other running related posts and race reports.

Emile’s Run Race Report

EMiliesRunFriendsThere are more and more all female races out there, last week I ran my first: Emilie’s run. The race was established in 2007, in memory of Émilie Mondor. Emilie competed for Canada in the 2004 Olympics and died at the age of 25 in a car accident. She was the first Canadian woman to complete a 5,000 m in under 15 minutes. (14:59.68 at the world championships in Paris 2003).

Emilie Mondor

Emilie Mondor

The race appealed because in addition to being a welcoming race for female runners of all levels, it’s a race that celebrates competitive female runners.  The event aims to give competitive women a chance to lead a race, set the pace, and be the overall winners. (The prize money helps attract some strong runners)

Emilie’s run is a 5 km spring race in Ottawa. The route is a simple loop on the experimental farm.

A couple of useful things to know if you are thinking of running (as of 2019):

You can pick up your race kit on race day at the start or Thursday at Bushtukah

  • Parking – There was free parking,  but the posted race lot was full when we arrived. There were some other lots around but the signs seemed to indicate 90 minute parking. We decided to keep it simple and just paid for parking at the agriculture museum which was a nice short walk to the start, and I have no objection to supporting the agriculture museum with a few $.
  • There are two hills, not very steep, but fairly long
  • You get a necklace instead of a medal at the finish line
  • They have bag check and there are bagels and bananas at the finish
  • There is a 1 km Fun run as well
  • Wheelchair friendly route
  • Port-a-potties are located at the start area, and a short walk away are the heated indoor toilets.

For the casual runner looking for a fun run:

  • There is a water stop around half way
  • When I ran (2019), the last pair crossed the finish line at 1:25, the previous 9 runners all came in between 45 minutes and 55 minutes

If you are a tad competitive (like me)

  • There is prize money (unusual for a 5 km) so this race attracts some fast women! $750 for first place, $500 for 2nd, $350 for 3rd, $200 for 4th, $100 for 5th.
  • It’s interesting to compete in a race that is all women and has some serious competition for the top spots.
  • The overall winner in 2019 finished in 16:52.9, fifth place 18:35.5 (that’s how fast you had to be in 2019 to take home $)
  • First place in the masters finished in 18:59.2 and won $250
  • There were 14 women who finished in under 20 minutes
  • They have timing mats and clocks at every km, so you can keep an eye on your splits.
  • It’s a fairly fast course, but it does have a long hill at km 2-3 and km 4-5 and if it’s windy you are guaranteed to have a stretch with a headwind because it’s a loop and there is not much shelter from the wind.
  • The road isn’t closed before the race starts, but you can do a nice warm up running out to the 1 km flag and back.

EMiliesRunSusanHow was my race? I am a runner who occasionally sneaks in a top 3 in her age group. I finished in 22:10 which is within a minute of my 5 km Personal Best. I finished 23rd overall, 2nd in my age group.  I enjoyed racing with such a strong pack of women runners.  I think I would have been at least 10 seconds slower if not for Kailey (that’s her in front of me in edge of the photo) for being just close enough and tall enough for me to draft behind on the windy sections. Thank you Kailey!

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.

Summary

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

Running in the Poconos (for road runners)

Looking for a road runner friendly trail in North Eastern Pennsylvania? Look no further!

I recently attended a conference in East Stroudsburg Pennsylvania.  I had never heard of it, and looked it up on the map. IStroudsburgt’s about an hour and a half drive East of New York City, or about a two hour drive North from Philadelphia.  The closest international airport was Newark.

I needed a 29 km (18 mile) run.  I did a little research and discovered this region is known as the Poconos, and the Appalachian trail runs through the area.  The Appalachian trail is well known among ultra trail runners. Many have set their sights on various speed records along the trail.

I am quite familiar with the start of the Appalachian trail: Mt Katahdin in Baxter State Park.  It was a frequent destination for family hiking and camping trips, my mum has climbed it over 25 times either solo, with friends, with ch13147598_10208901647920619_6866656506126084117_oildren, or with grandchildren.

I mention this because as you can see from this picture of my mum with my sister and her family on the peak, the Appalachian trail includes a number of mountains and hills.  Not quite what a road runner wants for their long run.

I set my sights on the section of the map that seemed to indicate a trail along a creek. Perhaps a creek trail would be a little less hilly.EastStroudsburg

I stopped at the welcome centre and talked to the staff about my need for a fairly long running trail. I don’t mind running on gravel, but would prefer not to be clambering over boulders or running up the side of a mountain.  I enjoy running on a trail, but I am not a trail runner 🙂

They suggested the McDade Recreational Trail which does in fact run along the creek I saw on the map above. Its used by day hikers and mountain bikers and most of it is crushed gravel. RunningrouteShe provided me with a trail map that showed me the different trailheads each of which had a parking lot. The guide included a grid showing the distance between trailheads. I found a guide to the difficulty level for each trail section online. As an added bonus, the map also indicates where to find water fountains and restrooms! What a treat for a distance runner.

I settled on a run from Hialeah to a spot just past Bushkill village, a 9 mile stretch of trail. At which point I would turn around and run back. If I had more time, I could have run 18 miles and caught one of the hiker shuttles back to my parking lot!  On Saturday and Sundays in the summer, there is a shuttle bus that drives from trailhead to trailhead so hikers can go out one way and just catch the bus back. The welcome centre has the details on when and where you can catch the shuttle.

As a female running solo, I also appreciated a trail that gets a reasonable amount of bike or hiker traffic with trailheads every 2-4 miles in case.

I started out at 7:30 AM. The gravel was just big enough to be a bit annoying underfoot. I was running in road shoes, trail shoes would h20180825_092423ave cut down on that annoying rock poking the bottom of your foot feeling. The first stretch had a couple of short but steep hills. After that it was pretty flat except for the trail sections to and from the visitor center. I developed a love/hate relationship with these signs 🙂 and yes some of them were quite steep.

Apparently the hiker traffic starts later in the day, for 90 minutes I did not see another person. I did see a hawk sitting in a tree by the trail, and at one point a deer bounded onto the trail in front of me and then back into the woods.

A short while later I heard another deer crashing through the woods, so I stopped to take out my phone to catch a picture of the deer if it came onto the trail.  Just as I started reaching for my phone, an adult black bear bounded across the trail in front of me! I could tell by the rustling of the corn stalks on the other side of the trail it had stopped only about 15 – 20 feet off the trail. So I clapped my hands and let out a couple of yells. Sure enough the cornstalks rustled as the bear ran off further into the distance.  A black bear isn’t usually a threat to a runner unless you get between momma and her cubs, OR you startle the bear. Better to yell and warn the bear you are coming than run up beside it on the trail.

You might be surprised to find out I was more nervous when I met a second deer later in my run. It was standing on20180825_091139 the trail, when I stopped, it looked right at me and  stood its ground. Most deer bound off into the woods when they meet a person.  This was not far from the visitor center so maybe it’s used to being fed by people? Maybe it was curious? Regardless, I stood and waited for the deer to head into the woods rather than walking straight towards it.  I know deer rutting season (when they can get territorial) is in the fall, and it was late August, always better to respect the wildlife and give them their space.  It did allow me to get a nice picture (this was taken with full zoom on my phone).

Once I turned around and headed back, I met a dozen or so hikers and another dozen cyclists enjoying the trail.

All in all a pleasant trail run for a non trail runner. The trail is well marked with lots of access points. Most of the trail is along the woods but you pass corn fields, old buildings, at times you can see the creek but most of the time it’s just a pleasant run through the forest. If you have trail shoes I would wear them to protect the bottom of your feet from the patches with bigger gravel, but I managed just fine with regular running shoes.

If you find yourself looking for a long run in North Eastern Pennsylvania I can’t imagine a nicer spot!20180825_081729

Looking for more suggestions on where to run when travelling check out my other running related posts.