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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Running the 2010 Scotiabank Waterfront Half 1/2 Marathon Injured

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2010On Sunday September 26,  I took part in the Scotiabank Waterfront Half 1/2 Marathon in Toronto, Canada.  It was a beautiful day for a fall race. Despite weather reports predicting rain, the weather was perfect! The sun was shining and the chill in the air seemed a perfect temperature for a run.  I originally planned and trained for the full marathon but due to a misstep on a trail run 2 months back, I have been unfortunately sidelined from running. It almost kept me from the race, but a favourable test run earlier on in the week and help from a few running friends locked me into completing my marathon quest.

This summer, I enthusiastically took part in the first marathon quest run by Canadian Running magazine. It was a great program run with the help of Michal Kapral. Thanks Michal and the whole team that made it possible. The program provided lots of good information for all types of runners. I had the pleasure and joy of having a variety of training experience. Part of my training was experienced in parts of Europe and Kenya, Africa, which was an added bonus on my quest (which will be the subject of a future post). As many fellow runners I spoke including myself found, that the weather this  summer was not as easy to train in as this past winter was.  So I was blessed in part to be able to miss some of the humidity and to be running in dry high altitude hills on the outskirts of Nairobi before I ran into my injury.

I ended up walking the first 11k of the race due to my knee problem which took me about 1.5 hours.  Since I have developed this problem, this 90 minutes consisted of the longest warm-up I have had to enjoy before I could start running. I have for the most part been resting, rolling and strengthening the muscles around my knee and hip during my recovery phase.  I am also doing all I can to avoid mistakes along this path as I believe I have already learned from my mistakes which caused my problem. Despite this game plan, this race was a departure from that program as I felt compelled to complete my marathon quest.

It was such a different way to experience a running race than I have been used to. As the waterfront marathon route loops back, it was not long before the front runners were passing me by. At first, it started as a few runners along the way. This slowly built into thousands of different people taking part in this quest to complete the event and of course passing me by. The sun was shining bright, revealing with the backdrop of  lake Ontario glistening in the background.  It was quite serene.

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Bread and Honey 2010 15K and Run for Clean Air 2010 5K Race Reports

Here is a report on the two races that I ran last week with my comments.

5K Run for Clean Air  in Oakville, Ontario

For those people interested in the results please click here.


C4CA Run For Clean Air -  July 1, 2010The first race of the week was held in on June 1, 2010 near the area where the proposed Oakville power plant is slated to be built. The location and decision of this plant makes no sense. If you are not familiar with the Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals plan to build one of the biggest power plants in all of Canada on a parcel of land that only 320 meters from a school then you ought to find out more. There are many sound reasons why this power plant is in a bad location. As a parent, it seems the one reason to be against this plant’s location is that it is most important to me is to ensure all children are entitled to live and study in a safe environment. This is simply not the case for the planned location of the Oakville power plant and it is a real shame that the current laws allow for such a large power plant to be built so close to so many schools.

It makes no sense!

With the environmental disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico still ongoing, all people in Ontario should be wary when we trust organizations to put the lives and safety of our children in their hands. It is up to everyone concerned to make their views known about this issue. For this reason, I decided to run in the 5K Run for Clean Air to do my part —  in some small way — to help shed light on this issue.

The run was well organized for such little time they had to arrange it. The route wound though some very beautiful parts of Oakville and finished just shy of the 5K mark based on my Garmin GPS watch mapping. I started a bit too fast but got things under control and finished the race with a time of 20:53. It was quite hot while running but all in all it was a great race. I especially liked the sprinkler to cool off after running.

My parting gift from the race was a  “power” plant that will help clean the air as it grows in my garden for many years to come.

15K Bread and Honey Road Race in Streetsville, Ontario

Here is a link to the race results.

The race started out with rain falling as we waiting in the chute for the 8:00 am start time on Sunday June 6, 2010. This was a smaller race but had a nice feel to it. The race was mixed with both residential and industrial areas with a crossing across a highway. The rain eventually stopped midway along the 15K run and I was happy to have the headwind towards the start of the race while running East along Britannia Road.

I knew running through it  that it would be a non issue for the rest of the race and the second half was more downhill on the way back to the Secondary school.  Despite this, I still decided to test out drafting as I have never tried that before. I comfortably situated myself behind two runners and did notice quite  a difference.

My right knee tightened up a bit at the 3K mark, but loosened up as I continued along the race. When I hit the 7.5K mark the front runners were on their way back across the bridge and I was quite amazed by their speed. I was able to get into a nice elastic springing motion while running that made the run on the second half seem somewhat effortless.

The last half was faster then the first and I ended up finishing strong with a time of 1:09 (chip) and happy to have run the race. Below is a picture of the medal. I hope everyone who ran the race had a nice time.

Bread and Honey 2010 15K Bee Medal FrontBread and Honey 2010 15K Bee Medal Front

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Trail running in a Oakville Forest, Clean Air, and a Power Plant

Forest trail in Bronte Creek Provincial Park (West), OakvilleToday, I decided to break with the familiar trails and to go on a new running adventure. I was sure glad I did! It turned out to be my longest run yet (28K) on some of the most beautiful trails I have had the pleasure to experience.  I usually find my best runs proceed from a good 10-15 minute warm up so I used that time to get close to the area I wanted to explore.

Once I started on the trails, I was happy to have the noise of passing cars long behind me. Best of all it was replaced with the sounds of the forest: they were all encompassing. I had been here twice before but only for a small part of the trail. The trails are accessed from the East side of Bronte Creek Provincial Part off of Upper Middle Road and stretch all the way up to Dundas Street. The exhaust from the cars on Bronte Road was pleasantly replaced with the smell of the forest air.

As I am running in a 5K race for clean air in two days (Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 ), I thought it quite fitting to be in some of the “cleanest” air found in Oakville. The race is to help support the fight against an asinine location for a 975 megawatt proposed power plant located in the midst of many schools, residential houses and business. Thnakfully this plan was subsequently cancelled.

Girl walking in Bronte Creek Provincial Park, OakvilleClearly, a reasonable person must at least consider that something is seriously broken in our government based on the choice of location and the rush to get it done. Did you know our Ontario government provides no setbacks for building large scale natural power plants but there are restrictions for a small wind turbine? Think of the insanity of that and then consider that our government was allowing a plant to be built a mere 320 meters away from a school before it was cancelled.

East Bronte Creek Provincial ParkThank you Kevin Flynn – MPP for Oakville, Doug MacKenzie, everyone at C4CA and all Oakville / Mississauga residents who are speaking up and who ultimately got the plant stopped. By putting people before power, money and greed, your legacy should be one that is admired.

This was one of the many thoughts that led me to decide on this route today to reconnect with a saner world where power plants are not being built “steps away” from young children.

Part of what makes trail running so enjoyable is how it gives the individual the opportunity to experience the natural world in a very intimate manner. As I was making my way along the winding trail, the sun was being filtered through the bright glowing leaves of birch, pine and maple trees. Everything was glowing.

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