Since winning the Lost Soul 100 mile in 2013 I have partnered with New Balance. Over the past four years, I’ve gone through countless Zantes, 1080s, and Summits with success. New Balance Canada has been very good to me and I believe this was a mutually beneficial relationship. In short, I have been very blessed to have had the opportunity to lace up with such an excellent product and company.
Just recently friends have been suggesting that I try Altra running shoes as they noticed my stride and running style mirrors the unique design of Altra shoes. Me never saying no to anything I decided to give them a go. Now I know when introducing a drastically different shoe you should always use a graduated method and not just jump into the deep end. But me being me, I laced them up and went out for a 50 km run. To my surprise, they felt great! Not only did they feel good during my run but I was nursing a posterior knee issue that I was wavering taking a couple weeks off running to let the tendon settle. The night after the run I noticed my knee felt better and happy to say that since then the knee has been golden. My thoughts on the knee are that with a zero drop a runner’s stride changes for the better from the foot up to the back. In addition, the zero drop positively changed my hip position and ultimately solved my knee problem. The other thing I love is the real estate in the forefoot. Having space for the toes to roam and adapt to the running surface is quite dreamy.
So aside the welcomed zero drop and the comfy toe box, the single biggest difference with running in the Altras is the fact I am way less stiff after runs and recovering way faster. By the time my next run rolls around my body feels 100%. This is an obvious benefit leading into the ATY six-day race and the cross Canada Outrun Rare project as recovery is top of mind.
I have tried both the Torin and the Paradigm. The cushioning in the Paradigms feel very nice during the long runs. Yet with the Torin’s superior ride and how my body feels after big efforts make the Torin my obvious choice.
It’s my absolute pleasure to announce the partnership between Altra and Outrun Rare to show Canada what the body is capable of when you wear the right shoe providing the optimal stride. 7200 km in just 66 days seems impossible but with a proper foundation and what is produced from that, I would beg to differ.
November was supposed to be a month devoted to slowing down the pace to ready the body for multi-day racing but it has been anything but. With my new and improved face thanks to my gorgeous moustache, women have been virtually appearing out of nowhere chasing me for miles, clawing and foaming at the mouth. For instance, Tristan aka TJ Dangles and I were running at the Fieldhouse one Sunday when the soccer moms picked up the scent. It started with catcalls but before we knew it, hoards of 40 somethings, Starbucks in hand, were sprinting ferociously after us. To make it worse the husbands, obviously threatened, took up the chase. We narrowly escaped with our lives.
Jokes aside, November has been a solid month. It was my 37th birthday, feeling closer to 57 most days. Started running further again building off a solid base from earlier in the year. I’ve been hesitant to push the fitness too much as I feel the fitness base is already where it needs to be going into the ATY 6 day in late December then further the Outrun Rare (Prev XCanada4Rare) run across Canada next June. Instead, I’ve taken the time during the long runs to work on mindfulness and mental aspects of endurance running. This is super fun for me because this is an aspect I think all runners, myself included, could benefit from most.
I could write on this topic for hours but to summarize, I’ve been smiling more these days. One has to ask ourselves what is your default. In a sport described with words like painful, hard, hurt, and exhausting we often find ourselves returning back to these thoughts and feelings when times get tough deep into a race. It should be no surprise to all of us that most of us physically fall apart to the point of calling it quits when our internal chatter starts mirroring the poisonous redderick. In my opinion, the body can only take so much when the mind is hurling garbage in the form of endorphins and hormones its way.
Alternatively, the simple act of smiling has been proven to increase a runner’s efficiency, a result mentioned in this article by SweatScience.com. Furthermore, it’s my opinion that having positive thought and attitude while running bombards your system with feel-good hormones and endorphins lowering your heart rate, percieved effort and almost making you forget you have just run hundreds of kilometres. Eliminating words like pain and agony and replacing them with feelings of gratitude and joy and reaping the benefits of this exercise is a necessity when running big miles.
In a conversation with a decorated ultramarathoner earlier this year, after he introduced himself to me he continued to tell me stories about his grueling ventures. He verbalized his experiences in great detail describing the pain and suffering that took place using phrases like “near death situation” and “indescribable pain and anguish”. Thirty minutes later after he stopped talking he asked me to share my stories, my guess waiting for stories of my punishment. Instead, I described that the last time I felt an element of despair with running was when I allowed myself to feel those feelings and dated that to be about 5 years ago. I shared with him my experiences of gratitude and the sheer enjoyment of being able to experience this life through a runner’s lens. Needless to say, the conversation didn’t last long.
I do believe that he is limiting his performance having conversations with himself and others like that. Sadly messages like these play extremely well in media and social media. On two fronts: 1 – it makes us believe others think we are gods and indestructible and 2 – it allows a heightened self of importance and dominance. Rather than raising up others, it makes others feel that they could never conquer these impossible feats.
The direction I am leaning going into my next stage is with gratitude, joy, and happiness first. There are 144 hours of running awaiting me at the ATY 6 day a month from now. I will be given 8,640 minutes to consider how terrible this pain is, or countdown the 518,400 seconds until this wretched, horrible experience is over OR I could enjoy this once in a lifetime experience and reflect just how lucky I am to be able to do what I love with those I love.
Remaining consistent with training, my day started the day before the race. Sharon dropped me off at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary at sunrise. The temp was a cool 2 degrees and the wind blew hard from the west. I took the first of my 90,000 steps onto Highway 1 hoping to get to Canmore before dinner time. The first hour I spent daydreaming about how it’ll feel to run on this same highway next summer during my XCanada4Rare Trans Canadian speed record attempt. I’ll be at this same location, just headed the other way in Calgary on Canada Day July 1st.
By the time I got to Calaway Park the wind really picked up and mentally I started to shutter. This was gonna be a hell of a long day. My friends Lisa and Al met up with me alongside the road just after the Petro Canada about 25 km into the day, they had a dozen donuts, sandwiches, candies, a meat and cheese platter, and a decorative bat balloon blowing in the wind. Beaten down by headwinds this changed my mood immediately. We hugged, I grabbed two donuts and left smiling. I saw them every 5-10 km the remainder of the day’s run. Thank you Al and Lisa, your friendship and kindness are truly astonishing.
Al ran with me on and off throughout the day (in a wetsuit, you’ll have to ask him the story). We yelled back and forth to be heard through the wind, took turns running in front, and kept one another company. Every time I’d look ahead and see a slight bend in the road or a hill that may possibly break the wind long enough to regroup, but rather the gusty wind seemed to pick up. Angrily I would stomp my feet and curse as that was the only outlet I had. Al and Lisa continued being incredible supporters counting down the kilometres remaining. With 7 km remaining Lisa, Al and friends Brayden and Julia saw me at my worst where I lied in the ditch for a few minutes. With a ham sandwich that Al made me, I fuelled with Coke, embraced the love of my friends, and the burning desire for A&W onion rings I ran the rest of the way into Canmore alongside Al and Brayden.
That day ended with 90kms, 5:15 min/km, 8 donuts, 1/2 burger, ham sandwich, 10 fig newtons, 1 chocolate bar and a bag of A&W onion rings.
The next morning I awoke with muscle spasms in my core and my hip flexors were tighter than guitar strings. This day’s 50km trail race is gonna suck big time! After eating breakfast Sharon and I made our way to the Canmore Nordic Centre for the start of the Grizzly Ultra Marathon. I’m normally relaxed before races but that day I was very quiet; I knew the hurt was gonna be ugly and I was worried how my body would hold up. After presenting alongside race director Tony Smith and friend Blaine Penny atop the stage I hugged and greeted friends at the start line. The gun sounded and I soon fell into a comfortable non-taxing pace, luckily this was the same pace my friend Jay Kinsela was running. For the next 2 hours, we caught up like good friends do. Thanks Jay for the great company!! At the end of leg two (around 24 km) my friend Arielle FitzAwesomeness ran off course; she was running a relay with Joanna Ford. I told her I’d pace her fast into the transition. This was the first time of many where I felt my core spasm. “What the flecknog!” was what I thought. Leg three was full of beautiful, rooty single track with many short climbs. On any other day, this would have been a rad run but my hip flexors and core were tormenting me by giving me little kicks in the nards. At the end of leg 3, I saw Sharon, Julia, Sam, and Adele. I hugged and kissed them and told them that I was having SOOO MUCH FUN. Hahahaha, Sharon sees right through my lies. When leaving the stadium I saw friends Duncan, Sarah, Blaine and Evan. I stopped to chat about Duncan’s recent 2:27 marathon finish. They sensed that I didn’t want to leave the comfort of friends but politely urged me to get back onto the course. Duncan has been trying to break the 2:30 mark since he started marathoning in his 20’s and now in his early 40’s with three children has crushed that mark! With a 4 minute negative split!
Leg 4 everything started to unravel starting with my hip flexors. The climb early in the leg right around the 40km mark brought lock down cramps in the tops of my thighs. I was now power hiking and using my arms to press on the thighs as much as I can. The flats and downhill brought some reprieve but I found myself not running tall anymore but best mirrored an image of Gollum from Lord of the Rings.
Now I may be a lot of things but I’m no quitter. I was really happy how I grinded in the last hour of the race. My body was shutting down but I still gave it my all. I crossed the line at 4hrs 39min and in 8th place.
A huge lesson was learnt! I can no longer get away with neglecting my core strengthening work, even if I hate it more than the cartoon Caillou. The 90kms of intense headwind suffered the day before was too much for my weak and feeble hip flexors and core. Along the 66 days across Canada next year there’ll be many days with significant headwinds and this is something I must be prepared for. Simply, better I learn this lesson now than mid run next year in Manitoba.