Planting seeds of Gratitude

It’s been an interesting few years with this practice. Yesterday, I was running in Oakville through heat waves, smiling and very hot. One foot after the other, with burning lungs and hot muscles, I moved.  As I reached the end of the mix of trails and roads a door opened up.

Sunset on Lake Ontario Sailing

I had the song “Sacred” running in the background as a mantra of sorts. And it occurred to me as it has many times, that the looking for creates a massive barrier to finding the sacred. It’s so simple it almost seems silly. Assuming it is outside and apart, makes it move further away… Realizing this made me smile and the steps went by one by one.

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Learning the secrets of success

The solution that leads to a successful outcome is often seen as simple and straightforward when inspected in hindsight. But, in the midst of seeking, the answer almost always seems very far away. Why is that?

I was running in the Dundas Valley forest last weekend and was struck with how hard the trails were. I have run them many times and it is always a fresh experience. As I was running up an endless set of hills, it occurred to me how easy it is to get off the track when faced with adversity. It’s been a windy route since Big Sur with many mountains climbed along the way. Below are a few photos from this year’s travels to go with the post.

Water Flowing in BC

It was a hot, humid day in the valley located in Dundas, Ontario and suffice to say a very hard Sunday morning run. I started later than usual and found myself tired before I took the first step along the 19k route that makes up the trail race Sulphur Springs. The fresh smell of the pine trees were fantastic and helped open everything up. Running in a forest like this can be a magical place of discovery and healing.

Despite the beauty of the forest, the run felt really hard. I have run it many times in the past and while there are definitely challenges on this route, today it was different. Successfully getting through the run and managing the mental games along the way was very powerful.

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Being the barrier in the Big Sur Marathon

So far 2014 has been filled with many challenges. Despite the road blocks along the way, I have been able to learn and grow from these moments. It has been a winding road that was not without help from several people (of which I am eternally grateful).

On the road to Big SurI encountered a bit of a minefield leading up to the 30K Around the Bay 2014 road race which was thankfully successfully navigated. This was very fortunate indeed! Not just for the successful race experience itself but also to be able to run well in the Big Sur marathon.

We often look outside of ourselves when faced with challenges in life that are out of our control. In those moments, the unknown can be overwhelming. Equally, it is in these moments that we are able to make the biggest leaps. Providing opportunities where the filters and impediments are revealed for what they are and the dance of life continues in a new direction.

This past April, I was one of a few thousand lucky people to have the opportunity to visit Big Sur in California for the 2014 Big Sur International Marathon. The race sold out within one hour of registration opening and required some quick keystrokes to get registered.

2014 Big Sur International Marathon RouteAs part of the training leading up to this event, I joined a running group called the Connor’s runners. They are a great group of runners together making the impossible possible for many people. The positive energy shared by fellow group members has been really empowering and the group’s mantra of “Be Awesome” is a really awesome way to be. It was fun to train with them through the cold Southern Ontario winter to get ready for the race.

The Big Sur marathon is a point to point run that starts in the redwood forest of Big Sur and travels along Highway 1 all the way up to Carmel. It is billed as one of the more scenic marathons in the world, and as my first travel marathon, this seemed a good place to start.

The Ginger Runner did a great job of video taping the 2014 Big Sur Marathon so for those interested in the Big Sur experience, this is worth a few moments.

Carmel HighlandsFor the last few years, I have been on a journey — in part — to learn how to become a more efficient runner. There are so many different books, magazines and online resources that often can point in different directions. Due to this, it can be difficult to know which perspective is “right”. Through practice and study, I have found that some basic tenants do emerge and I share these below in hopes that it helps provide clarity to other people doing the same.

Pacific Ocean

For the longest time I could not fully understand why there is such reluctance in the running community to educate people on their running form. I am of the mindset that cause and effect can not be ignored and that injuries for the most part, are caused. Its karma unfolding in real time…

Big Sur Redwood ForestSo why not learn from these inefficiencies and avoid getting injured in the future? In the past, when I faced running related challenges, it was a source of disappointment to find so many running books and other resources lacking on providing the answers I was seeking.

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Running back to the basics moment by moment

An old oak tree in Bronte Creek Provincial ParkI have had the great pleasure of being part of many fantastic runs this fall in Ontario. The weather has been quite magnificent! Some of these runs were in Bronte Creek Provincial Park, others on the Oakville trails, and a number of them at some local and not so local races. During a recent short run, I became acutely aware that my focus on form — which I have been developing over the last year — needed to naturally return back to the basics.

Over the last year, I have been working through an in-balance in my posture while running.  This in-balance was the main reason for my outer knee injury and it led me to a subsequent overhaul of my running style. There were numerous clues to the problem I was having; such as a sore and tight IT band, a sore hip and most importantly a locked SI joint.

A trail in Bronte Creek Provincial ParkThis investigation led me to a focus on my spinal alignment as a contributing factor to my knee issue. The source of the problem — an in-balance in my sacrum and spine — seems to be a reason for some back trouble I have had over the years. Ironically, this back issue was one of the main reasons that galvanized me to get started on this path. I have come full circle in forward steps and backward steps.

The following notes represent guide posts staked in the ground along this winding path.

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Oakville Running Trails – Bronte’s Beautiful Trails

Sunset in Oakville on September 6, 2011There are many great trails in the Bronte area of Oakville, Ontario. As Fall is quickly approaching and the changes of another season are evident, I am very excited to see the hot and humid weather give way to cooler nights. My most recent long run of 33k in preparation for the Waterfront Marathon was on Saturday September 3. As I got a late morning start, I quickly found myself  running in nearly “unbearable” heat and humidity! The weather made it really hard to keep cool while holding a good running intensity.

Bronte Trail in Oakville, OntarioI find when running in both heat and humidity, my body can not cool itself enough through perspiration and I am left with unusual muscle soreness for several days afterwards. This happened on my 30K Midsummer Night’s Run a few weeks back and I am again healing from the effects of my most recent long run.

Suffice to say, I am looking forward to the cooler weather and beautiful colours seen while running in the fall. The experience one gets by running outdoors can provide a really special connection to nature. It only takes a few minutes to get ready for a fantastic outdoor adventure and this year I plan to make the most of it.

This post focuses on some of the many smaller trails available in the Bronte area which I will be enjoying this fall. These different trails can be easily linked together into a longer run or to get a break from asphalt running. The trails I will be featuring in this post run through: Riverview Park, Village Wood Park, Shell Park, Wilmot Park and Spruce Park.

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Oakville Running Trails – Joshua’s Valley Park – 2K+

On my long run last weekend, I had the great opportunity to explore the Joshua’s Valley Park located in the east side of Oakville, Ontario.

As part of a continuing series of posts this summer, I will be adding blogs about a number of different Oakville trails that I get to have the enjoyment of running on.

Some of these smaller trails can easily be linked together as part of a bigger run or perhaps they can afford a break from the noise of cars passing by.

Below is a map of the path that was followed through the Joshua’s Valley Park trail.

Joshua's Valley Park Trails in Oakville

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Acceptance in Running

On the verge of running the Mississauga Marathon on Sunday May 15, 2010, I thought it was a good time to take stock of a few of the lessons I have learned along the way to the race. There have been many hurdles to get to a point of being ready and I am very glad and thankful to be mostly healthy and ready to run.

Last summer, after returning from running some fantastic runs in Europe and Kenya, I unfortunately injured my knee while running on a narrow trail in Bronte Provincial Park. I realized, just before it happened, that the narrowing path might be a problem. I was feeling great and I only had 6k to go of my 26k run, so I decided to keep going. My misstep in foot placement and judgement led to a number of months of recovery, and ultimately many worthwhile changes.

A good part of the recovery time was filled with trying to find the source of the problem. I tried very hard to determine exactly where I was injured. I did not want to make the problem worse and I was still holding out hope all my previous training was not in vain.

There were a lot of unknowns in this search to get a healthy knee again. While running in the hills outside of Nairobi, I was lamenting that my right knee (which gave me IT-band issues in the spring) was not as strong as my now-injured left knee. There was a certain irony in the fact that a week later I was now unable to run at all.

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Around the Bay 30K Race Report – March 27, 2011

Thankful to be done the 30k Around the Bay 2011 RaceFor anyone looking for the Around the Bay 2011 Race results for the 30K here is a direct link.

Yesterday, I learned a very hard lesson about race nutrition which provided me with a very humbling race experience on the 30K Around the Bay Road Race held on March 27, 2001 in Hamilton, Ontario.

As 28k was my longest run-to date, I had yet to really reach a point where I had faced nutrition issues before and never experienced one cramp in all my running. I am very grateful for finishing the race when I did as the last 3k took “forever” to get through. Oddly, the hills were not an issue for me but as I had trained on a lot of hills they were not that difficult.

What challenged me the most on this course ended up being strong muscle cramps. As I was running downhill toward the last big hill where the “we are the champions” was blasting on loud speakers, I was struck with a very strong hamstring cramp that locked my left leg. Up until that point I was close to the edge but managing well. I did feel some soreness in my legs from 20K-25K and I paced it back a bit to account for that, the hills and to recharge for the final 3k. I continued to keep my heart rate in an expected range.

With these adjustments the 20-25km was focused effort to keep my core tight and posture aligned; it was hard but going fine. I remember thinking “only 5K to go” and I knew the last 3k was mostly downhill so I was hoping to pick up some time after the hills. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. Once the cramps set into my legs they were there for the rest of the race. I learned a very good lesson on my path towards the Mississauga full in the spring.

The last 5km took me took me almost 30.5 minutes to complete, which based on the previous 25Km (5K average pace of 24:40 – 4:56m/km) it made it seem like I was crawling.

So here I was stuck 5 steps from the man high-fiving people on the way to the last hill, and I was stopped in my tracks. “We are the champions” is blasting right at me, but the music was miles away. I stretched for a good time and rubbed the area and it eventually released. I stumbled by, gave a high five and started to jog again slowly as it loosened. My mind was spinning with questions such as “What now?”. The unknown was certainly part of the problem as I was now in uncharted territory; it turned out to be a real challenge to just finish the race.

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Create a Garmin Running Course from MapMyRun

I decided to follow up with my original blog post titled “Create Garmin Forerunner Course from GMaps” with the steps to do the same in MapMyRun. The goal of this exercise is to provide an easy way to create a course on your Garmin Forefunner watch that you have never run before. This is really great when you plan on going travelling and have mapped out a course in advance for your enjoyment.

This method requires a few less steps and I generally like the mapping tool better on MapMyRun (Classic) compared to the GMaps mapping.

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The bouncing of body mass during running

Bouncing Ball

MichaelMaggs Edit by Richard Bartz

While I was preparing for my next race, I was researching the theory I have about my stiffer shoes causing issues with my running style. I was finding the shoes meant to help with a flat foot were actually impacting the way I was able to run in a negative manner.

I became very used to the feeling of the arch as it helps to transfer energy in the process of running in my softer shoes and originally in shoes not designed for running. The irony of the situation is that the shoes designed for running for my foot type seem to be the wrong type of shoe to use.

During running the arch has been shown to store and release approximately 17% of the energy created during each impact of the foot (“The spring in the arch of the human foot.” by Ker Et. Al Nature 325: 147-149, 1987). The arch functions much like a spring. That is a very interesting analogy to consider as this could be one additional point of focus for increasing running efficiency.

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