A blog about my life and travels...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Running in Ottawa -- Finding Inspiration

Sometimes its the shorter runs that make you feel, "Wow I am so happy I am a runner". That can take a lot for most people to say and can easily be cast aside if not careful. Once the title 'runner' is lost it can be hard to FEEL like a runner again.

I was in Ottawa for a few days visiting friends. I have never been before, so I was eager to explore. One absolutely amazing thing about Ottawa is the vast green spaces and trails interwoven in and around the city. Our friends explained that Ottawa for a long time has a protected Green Belt (equivalent to London's Green Belt) that is owned by the City. They have also built their impressive Transitway upon this land, meaning little to no houses were affected by the building. What is this transitway? Its like a highway for buses and emergency vehicles ONLY. That means less congestion on Ottawa's roads.

Anyways this Green Belt is connected via paths and trails, not to mention the canals and river have their own respective walkways. How much you ask? About 150km worth (93 miles). What's even better is that one can take the 'O Train' to the Ottawa River waterfront.

My three runs in Ottawa utilised this Green Belt to (what I feel) is a good extent. I did a run to an old Quarry (Conroy Pit) and enjoyed some light trail running. The quarry also allowed for dogs off their lead, but when I saw a dog who looked excited to see a running thing I simply slowed down and held my hand out. They sniffed and moved on (guess I am not exciting). However I just loved the trail, it was great having the exhilaration of trail running on a sunny but chilly day. Everything seemed perfect!

The last run I did involved running along the Ottawa river to Parliament, then a quick huff and puff up to Nepean Point near the National Gallery of Canada. The view, even on a bit cloudier day than the previous, was fantastic. It's views like this that reaffirm your love of running :)

Hate to say it but I do not do so well on out and back runs-- I like to make a loop or mix it up whenever possible. So I decided to follow the Rideau Canal back to the O-Train. Again, lovely pathways and bridges all the way along and people saying 'Good Morning' (it IS Canada!).

If you happen to find yourself in Ottawa-- do definitely bring your running gear, you will NOT be disappointed!

Good Running Routes

  • Rideau Canal: easy to navigate and various connection points to the Green Belt
  • Ottawa River: always pretty easy to navigate a river ;) 
  • If you are lazy and are near an O-Train you can follow my 10k route, starting at Bayview and ending at Carling
  • Green Belt: Obviously check where you are staying but chances are there is a green spot not far away!
  • Gatineau Park: On the Quebec side of Ottawa -- could not make it this trip but it looks fantastic!
Where to Eat/Drink Back Calories:

Monday, September 14, 2015

Finding Inspiration

I see on the Twit-o-verse (is that a thing?) quite a few times of people in a slump and looking for inspiration. I thought it may be good to compile a by no mean exhaustive list of potential inspiration points. Hopefully this will help someone get their running mojo back!

Variety is the spice of life
I think I have one of the best standard running routes - the Thames. I feel like I know the section between Tower Bridge and Millennium Bridge like the back of my shoe. That being said, even I get bored of it sometimes!

I try and have my LSR (long slow runs) in a different location/route. Living where I am I am pretty spoilt for choice. MapMyRun has a route genius that you can use to find new runs in the area, or you can plot out your own with their online tool. Or if visiting somewhere completely new, Google and Twitter are your friends!

The point of this is to get a change of scenery. If you are typically a city runner, try a route in the countryside or vice versa. Try a different neighbourhood. Keeping your eyes stimulated will keep your feet moving, and you will be looking forward to what's over the next hill/bend :)

Moose recommends for Londoners:  Limehouse Cut Canal, Regents Canal, any part of the Thames Path (if you hate crowds, avoid Southbank unless its very early), South Downs/Box Hill

Hills/Track Repeats
Speaking of hills (*groan*) yes, yes I know many people hate them. To be honest though they keep a route interesting and typically give you a nice reward when you hit the top (a view!). I like the idea of meeting someone at the top of a hill with a nice picnic as a post-run reward (only after you go up and down a few times of course!).

Along those lines, track repeats, though they sound boring, keep you on a pace for a certain duration of time, typically outside of your comfort running zone. This is how strength and endurance is built. Think of it as a challenge! You do not have to do it on a track, but it makes its a lot easier for figuring distance. I find the best time to do this is when its horrible weather out and you are stuck in the gym.

Moose recommends for Londoners:  Primrose Hill, Greenwich, Epping Forest (not too crazy hills, but nice undulating ones), Richmond Park

I know some races you cannot use headphones, but in training music can really help in squeezing out the last ounce of strength in a run. Nike+ had (and probably still has) a 'PowerTrack' you could automatically queue up if in a slump. Having a driving baseline can get your pace in the right place. The Spotify Running program determine the BPM based on your pace (think it only records it at the beginning though so from that point on its a constant). Be sure to add/remove tracks so to keep things interesting!

Moose recommends (for kick it up a notch running): 'London Can Take It' by Public Service Broadcasting, 'Call on Me' by Eric Prydz, 'My Generation' by Limp Bizkit, 'Bangarang' by Skrillex, 'Dyers Eve' by Metallica

There are probably quite a few different running podcasts out there but its amazing how just hearing/reading about other people running can influence you! Running websites and magazines help you keep up to date on upcoming events, and can include very good race reports, which is important if you are on the limb about signing up. TheRunningBug.co.uk is just one example of a 'race report' website. Podcasts help you realise that there are so many others out there like you with running gripes and fears-- and hearing them discussed is a relief!

Moose recommends: MarathonTalk podcast. A weekly podcast by two runners talking about running news, events, and interviews. Not being a marathoner myself (yet) I feel a bit cheeky, but I have gotten so much inspiration listening to these guys and the people they interview-- you just want to get out and run!

Group/Solo Running
The point of this is to try the opposite of what you normally do. Either one can sound daunting, but just give it a shot and you may be amazed at how much more you enjoy running. I know this is something I need to work on, as I am a solo runner and want to try and do more group runs. My reason (excuse?) is that I like to run on my own schedule, but I know if i find a group I really like it will become part of my schedule.  I also have no excuse for different days as I have three different runs clubs operating almost every day of the week near me. Time to nut up or shut up :)

Other Runners (normal to extraordinary)
Everyone runs for a reason. Many of these people blog about this, and many are doing some pretty inspirational goals for a great cause. On Twitter this is very prevalent. It is amazing to read of the trials and tribulations that led people to the runs they are doing-- its a selfless thing. Maybe you can gain motivation from them and donate or you can research a charity you are passionate about and race under their banner. Either way your soul will feel much better!

There are also what I call 'extreme runners', or people doing some crazy things that most of us would consider 'a bit off the deep end' but actually have a sense of utmost respect for what they are doing. They are all over the charts: 52 marathons in 52 weeks, 10 marathons in 10 days, running 18000 km from Canada to Buenos Aires, running the South West Coastal Path... (the last two I heard about on the MarathonTalk podcast)

If they can do it-- surely you can fit a run into your day?

Take a Break
It seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes you need a break to re-assess why you want to run in the first place. The break could a day, a week, or a month. You can also cut back on running and try a different activity. Boxercise, swimming, cycling-- mixing it up in your exercise routine can give you that extra push in your running.

Ultimately, you are responsible for you. If you are unhappy with how you look, how you feel, your mentality... YOU need to change something in your life. Your partner can't do it for you, nor can your parents or pets (although they certainly can help!). If running was easy, we would all be Paula Radcliffe's or Mo Farah's. The only way to improve is to change your self, understand your weaknesses, and work to improve them.

Moose says: You never regret going for a run, you always regret when you don't

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wandering the Wandle

I cringe when people say that running in London is boring. I really cannot fathom why anyone would say it. Sure it doesn't have the stunning views of peaks, but honestly not many places in Southern England do. I love its varied terrain and surprise hills (well love on the latter is a string term). I also become indignant when people moan about the lack of green space in our fair city.

According to the Independent, "47% of London is green space" (source: http://goo.gl/cyV0GB). Sure this was in 2014... but it cannot of changes that much! I will admit while working in the City its very hard to believe that number, but you just need a map and a tiny sense of adventure. And Oyster card helps too :)

This weekend I did 'Wandle Trail' which is an 11.68 mile trail going from Croydon to Wandsworth Town. I took the train from London Bridge and in about 30 minutes (and one change) I was in Waddon trying to find the start of the run. I am not going to lie, I was stopping a lot and checking my GPX route I found a link to from this Guardian article. I felt like I was following the Wandle Trail signs, but then checking my GPS it was saying I went off track.

It was only after going in a loop (literally) that I stopped and had a think. I whipped out my paper map I printed out (yes folks, I had a backup because YOU NEVER KNOW) and noticed that my GPX was for bicycles, hence not exactly following the Wandle Trail footpath. Once I decided which one to follow (cycle path 20) all my issues suddenly disappeared and I was off.

There was so much green on this run it was great, and had I chosen the actual footpath there would have been very little road running. The few sections I did have on road all had pavements so it was safe. Plenty of other people out as well, so never got the 'creepy isolation vibe'. Morden Hall Park was amazing and would be great for a run in its own right. I also found out Mr. Moose's dad used to do cross country running there when he was secondary school-- which made the run even more awesome because it was a bit of family history that I didn't know about.

Things obviously got a bit back to reality again in Wandsworth Town, but I was lucky as there was a coffee shop and biltong stand (two separate stalls-- would be weird combo) right outside the station! So I got my protein and caffeine all in one easy go.

I am a huge fan of varying your running routes to keep things interesting. I encourage people to find a path near you and give it a go. If unsure, Google is your friend as are running stores near you. Heck they probably have their own group runs in case you are nervous venturing out on your own!

Here is my route in case interested... my loop added about another mile to my run, which was fine by me as it allowed me to see some pretty parks and lakes.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Running in a Herd

Mrs. Moose flips through her Running Guide to London Book...

"I think I am going to go do Petts Wood and Jubilee Park tomorrow. I think I can make it a 10 miler if I loop both"

Mr. Moose looks up from his computer screen, and tentatively asks...

"Can I join you?"

This was one of the best questions my husband ever asked me (besides the obvious one of 'will you marry me'). I have always felt pangs of guilt as I would jog away from him to take my place on the starting line of a half, and always wished he would give it a try himself. I would never race WITH him.. no no, I want to have a LONG and PEACEFUL marriage. Knowing he is running the same race as me however I would find very motivating and we could then celebrate together. He is slowly getting back into running after a long hiatus, so I am silently hopeful. Supportive but not pushy.

"Of course!" I say delighted.

There are certain things everyone in a group run (be it 2 or 20 people) must understand on the get go. These are more guidelines really, as some running clubs can be very competitive (causing most of these rules to fly out the window). Think of this as more 'running with mates'.
  1. ONE person leads. The last thing you want is a quarrel mid run. Just roll with it unless there is some major deviation. Believe me, the leader will feel silly and buy you a beer afterwards. 
  2. Be flexible. This seems a bit weird after Rule One, but sometimes NOT following a path can lead to wonderful views, tucked away pubs, animal sightings, etc. 
  3. Long runs are not meant to be race runs. Its good to settle on a pace range before setting off, but don't suddenly try and take lead. It's weird and causes aggro. 
  4. If you are running with mixed abilities, don't get angry if the final distance was way shorter than your desired goal. You can always get more miles in-- group runs are about camaraderie
  5. Let people know if you will be stopping and taking pictures. People can then get a free 'slow' pace whilst waiting and then you simply catch up. Back in the game!
I am not use to running with others on non-race days (moose are quite isolated creatures), but I really enjoyed running with my other half. We both had headphones on but its was reassuring to have him there, especially when we did get a tad lost (yes yes I was leading...). He likes a bit more structure to his runs (a set, known path that can be easily followed) but we made it work, and I felt I could help him pace himself.. leading to his longest run in a while. He helped me by being there in the peripheral vision-- willing me forward on the inclines (I can't let him see I am tired!!)

We got off at Chiselhurst and the Wood literally started across the road. It was bit confusing at first (where does this trail start??) but we eventually found the Petts Wood Circular Trail and set off on it. We passed horses, cows, sheep, and an amazing house that looked like it belonged in an alpine forest (*jealous*). There were some inclines, but the views were wonderful. It was hard to imagine central London being only 25 minutes away. This map may have been helpful but hindsight is 20/20...

::Waiting at the train station post run ::

Mr. Moose looks at me and smiles, "Thank you for letting me come with you. It was an amazing run!"

Did I do my desired mileage? No. But with praise like that from my best friend-- I was not too fussed ;)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Rock N Roll Dublin: My Race Day

I had high hopes for this my Rock n' Roll Dublin Half. Sure, I didn't train very well and my eating habits were lackadaisical at best. But come on, I have done a few half marathons before so I should be fine right? I could still try for my sub goal of 1 hour 55 minute or even bust my PB of 1 hour 50 minutes? 

Sunday August 2
0630: Wake up, run to bathroom-- this can't be a good sign.
0720: After having a sensible breakfast of cereal and some fruit with my parents (who were over visiting and would be their first ever race they have watched) had to run upstairs to the bathroom AGAIN...
0729: ONE more trip... then I will be fine. Off to the race!
0732: Ok, seriously last one before go time. This is not good.

No it was not good, although the Irish powers that be held off on the rain for the duration of the race (it wasn't looking that way walking to the start), I could not shake this upset tummy. I am not entirely sure what caused the uncomfortableness, but I have a feeling it had to do with the drinks consumed the day before. I thought I would be fine as I stopped well before 2100 and was not drinking in fast succession, just slow and steady throughout the day. Guinness at lunch, Guinness at the Guinness Factory... more beers pre dinner and one drink at dinner. I wanted to blame the food, but in my heart of hearts I feel that it was probably the black stuff resulting in my current state.

Oh well-- nothing to be done about it, the gun has gone off and I had to start the lovely 13 mile run through Dublin.

I was doing pretty well pace wise for the beginning 10k-- I had my Garmin letting me know when I went above a 8:45min/mile pace as that was the slowest I wanted to go. However around the 5 mile mark I started to feel the rumble in my bowels...

I immediately thought of those photos of runners who went to the bathroom but skipped the bathroom part and just kept running. Paula Radcliffe has some doozy's if you want to Google Image search.

However, unlike Paula, I am not a World Class Athlete with records to break, and with my parents watching I decided it may be best to not defecate myself. Luckily the Rock n Roll logistics crew (AMAZING maps by the way-- anytime I have a scale chart I am pleased) had port-a-loos strategically placed so I was able to duck into one fairly quickly. However, this of course effected my official time...

After that I never really fully recovered. It didn't help that miles 6 and 7 were kinda boring and narrow. Phoenix Park was a welcome change of scenery, especially with the Irish Countryside looming in the distance. That feeling of joy soon turned to terror as there were some doozy hills right at the end.

I had all but blocked out my helpful Garmin vibrating to let me know that I was still going slower than my desired pace. Mile 7 was my last vestige of staying around my goal-- it was all going to shit (pun intended). I saw a woman being treated by medics and thought "I could just lie down right next to her and say 'when you have a moment' to them".

Below is the elevation chart with my mood...

That last hill, I sincerely thought of giving up. It took (what I felt) as every fiber in my being to keep going. I suppose this is the wall people always talk about. It was horrible. It was even more disheartening to see the 2 hour pacer pass me. He heard my audible swearing and encouraged me to keep up-- which I kind of did but not as closely as I should have.

That feeling seeing the timer on the last hundred meters or so is the 'do or die moment' for every runner. I decided I was going to try and up my speed and at least cross the line with the 2 hour pacer. Like a bulky freight train I gave it the beans, and I could feel my chest constricting-- I had so little left in the tank. I was urged on by the sight of my parents, my mom screaming wildly at me whilst my father looking the wrong way.

Bowels grumbling, chest heaving, I gave it the final push across the line.

My official time was two hours and 50 seconds. A far cry from my goal and actually it is my worst half marathon race to date. I feel it was a defeat in some ways, but in trying to find the silver lining I feel that this was the first race I did that I really wanted to give up but did not. One more race to chalk up to experience!

You can see the race info for me below. I hope everyone who raced enjoyed it-- it was a lovely day in a lovely city. I cannot thank the Rock n Roll team and all the volunteers. Maybe next time I will lay off the black stuff next time :D

Monday, July 13, 2015

Hitting the Plateau

It's true-- I cannot seem to bust my 8:30/pace. In face, I am doing worse!

I ran the JPMorgan Corporate Challenge with a very respectable 8:03 min/mile but that was for 3.5 miles. My last runs have been averaging 8:45 minute miles :( Looking back at these three runs:

Run One
Distance: 4 miles
Average Pace: 8:42/mile
   Mile 1: 8:23
   Mile 2: 8:57
   Mile 3: 9:01
   Mile 4: 8:27

Run Two
Distance: 6 miles
Average Pace: 8:42/mile
   Mile 1: 8:25
   Mile 2: 8:52
   Mile 3: 9:04
   Mile 4: 8:51
   Mile 5: 8:35
   Mile 6: 8:25

Run Three
Distance: 3.35 miles
Average Pace: 8:43/miles
   Mile 1: 8:50
   Mile 2: 8:31
   Mile 3: 8:35

What I see from here -> My pace is everywhere!

I need to pay more attention to my pace on my runs... and really do the whole tempo/pace/long run. Not sure I can pick it up in time for the Rock n Roll Dublin-- but plenty more I suppose to look forward to! How do you, lovely internet people-- deal with setbacks?

One thing though I will say-- regardless of my distance, I am consistent overall: silver lining and all that :D

Lunch for the Week: Moroccan Carrot Red Lentil Soup
   ^ Deliciously spicy and makes quite a lot for continuous lunches. Served with crusty bread this is a sure fire winner
Yummy Dish: Purple Potato Salad
   ^ Seriously, go find purple potatoes. This salad is amazing. If you are in London, Turnips in Borough Market has them

Friday, July 3, 2015

Project Fit: A Review

So today was my last class from my 10-day Project Fit try-out. Wanted to provide some thoughts on the place in case others were looking into it!

Classes: I did three of the normal classes (tried to get into the running one but there was a wait list). And was an intense 50-60 minute workout. We swapped between the floor (where we used mats, free weights, and steps) and the treadmill (hills and speed workouts). Bit of time (~1-2 minutes) between sets. Definite workout.. definite sweat box. For the treadmills they would shout out three different speed settings so you could push yourself to any of those.

The big thing here was EVERY class was different. I was not doing the same routine for any of my 3 classes within the 10 day period. This is good, because it shocks your body into new workouts and routines, thus burning more calories and not really giving you a chance to 'go easy' or plateau. (9/10)

Instructors: I only had Joel as an instructor but he was very good. Not crazy pushy, but there in case you had any issues and offered corrective movements on posture. Always moving around, between the floor and the treadmills, making sure everyone was doing OK. When changing moves on the floor, he would demonstrate the workout as well, very useful for someone who does not know the difference between a tricep extension and a curl (well now I do). (10/10)

Facilities: Free lockable lockers, plus sweat towel and shower towel. The ladies changing/shower room was a bit small and there was a queue for the showers for both my 0720 classes. The 0620 one there was none. I am lucky my office is nearby so I just went back there and showered. But I had a peek back there, and everything looked nice and clean, which for a ladies shower is saying something... what it looks like at the end of day I cannot comment on  (7/10)

Cost: Like any boutique gym (not sure if that is the official name), its a bit pricey unless you start buy in bulk. Classes start out at around 20 GBP a class. There are quite a few package available, but the break down is still quite pricey. Let's assume you go 4 times a month, once a week. (5/10)

  • PAYG: 20 quid (1 credit = 1 GBP, 20 credit for one normal class)
  • Bundle of 240 credits (total 204 GBP): 12 classes over 3 months, averaging to be 17 GBP/class
  • One Month Unlimited (220 GGP): Includes express classes as well as standard one hour classes. Still assuming you stick to 4 classes a month this equates to a whopping 55 GBP/class! You would never choose this option unless you are doing at least 12 classes in a month, or 3 classes a week
Right now I think cost is the most prohibitive thing about this gym. However, that being said, I have never sweated as much in my normal gym classes than I did in these. Maybe its because you start out at intense and have the option to go into beast mode, whereas normal gym classes its such a wide range of people and skills you feel you can coast along, and the desire to push harder is not as 'there'. Its like in University when your class size was over 100... you felt like you blended in and could get by without getting noticed by the professor. If you have a smaller class (10 people), that anonymity suddenly diminishes and you feel like you must perform or be noticed by the teacher. 

Verdict: Will probably make it part of my strength routine once a month, or when I need to change things up in my workouts. Will not be using it exclusively though, I still feel gyms provide more flexibility and value for money.