Thursday, December 29, 2011

Marathon training

I decided to plan out my preparation from the moment I officially signed up for Vancouver's BMO Marathon. That has given me 25 weeks to prepare, and I'm now 3 weeks in. The past two winters I haven't had any particular running goal, and so weather and life and the inaccessibility of trails have conspired to push running out of my routine for days and weeks on end. This year it's a different matter entirely.

This year I'm running no matter what. I haven't missed a scheduled run yet and I'm thrilled. But gosh, a lot of creativity, variety and determination are required! Once I get started, though, I'm good. Here are my last few runs. You can see how much things have varied!

DistanceTempRun TypeConditionsFootwear
8 km-2ºCRoadCompact snowMinimus
23 km0ºCRoad/trailCompact snow / asphaltMinimus
3.5 km-5ºCRoadAsphaltMiminus
7 km-7ºCRoadSnowing / windyMerrell Lithe Glove
5 km-3ºCTrailDeep snowMerrell Lithe Glove
16 km-1ºCRoadIcy asphaltMinimus
7 km+1ºCTrailDeep slush / rainingMerrell Lithe Glove
5 km+2ºCRoadAsphaltVibram Five Fingers
2 km+2ºCRoadAsphaltBare feet

The holidays have given me plenty of time to run and to think and read about running. I've resolved to keep the pace on the majority of my runs very slow, and to push my weekly mileage higher. I've only run more than 50k a week a few times. I need to get my mileage to that level soon (I'm in the 40's now), and then keep raising it to the 70 - 80 km/week level by early April.

One hundred and twenty-eight days and counting.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Fiona graduated from contact lens training lessons today.

Okay, she only had the one lesson so this isn't a case of hard-won mastery or anything, but she did brilliantly well and doesn't need any more training sessions, just a check on her eyes in the New Year to make sure they're coping well with the contacts. It took her a couple of tries to get the first one in but after that she popped them in and out no problem and was clearly very comfortable with the whole process. The staff were apparently very impressed, calling her a rock star, swearing she'd set some sort of record.

She loves her glasses, but they're inconvenient for things like running, soccer, trampolining, skiing. She thought she'd like the option of contacts once in a while.

I had been thinking the same thing for myself and recently began using contacts for running whenever it's snowing. What a difference not to have glasses laden with melted snowflakes, fogging up every 50 metres! I certainly understood Fiona's desire to have this option.

Thankfully our optometrist didn't dismiss her interest categorically based on her age. His philosophy was that it's more about maturity than age, and Fiona's maturity seems to fit the bill.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Festivus Owls

Fiona's sick. Getting better today, but we decided we needed to bail on running the taxi service for all those teenagers going to Corazón rehearsal in Nelson.

Instead we had an unexpected day at home together. And thanks to my shameless scouring of Etsy for craft ideas, we decided to make some felted owls. This little guy is about 2" tall. We've made four so far.

They're quick and easy. We start by making a small ball of yarn. Then we cover it in undyed wool roving by needle-felting. We shape the ear tufts, affix the coloured detailing for eyes and bill. Then we take a quick trip outside with the pruning shears to get some suitable twigs. We used orange roving looped around the twig and needle-felted onto the owl's butt to get the twig secured. On the larger owls we were able to make this look like claws. Then a quick in and out with a bit of embroidery floss using a tapestry needle and they're ready to hang. We expect we'll have a whole flock soon.

We aren't really celebrating Christmas this year. Erin won't be home until January, as she's heading to China on tour with her orchestra. So we're saving the holiday celebration and gift exchange for January 14. We're calling it Festivus (thanks to Seinfeld for the inspiration) and we're making it up as we go along. Perhaps owls are hung around the home in the days leading up to Festivus for good luck?

We've just taken part in a family Chanukkah celebration / musical event, and next week we'll be taking part in a Solstice celebration. Bits of Christmas (the music, especially!) will sneak into our December, but we're looking forward to Festivus. We're currently taking suggestions for "the traditional Festivus drink" to take the place of egg nog.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter minimalist footwear

Clockwise from L: Merrell Lithe Glove, Nike Lunarglide, NB Minimus
I did something to my foot in August, trotting up to the water box. It sort of settled down on its own after a couple of months. A diversion into mountain-biking kept me happy until the snow began to fly. Now it's properly winter, biking is no longer possible, my foot is fine and I'm looking for ways to keep up a decent running program through the cold months.

My ideal winter running shoe would be minimalist, toasty warm and water-resistant, and would have grippy little studs on the bottom for traction on snow and ice. As you can see, I'm using a lot of different shoes and approaches, because I haven't found my ideal winter running shoe.

Prior to last winter I had moved to minimalist footwear, but when the weather got snowy I simply went back to conventional / transitional shoes. I used YakTrax Pros, slip-on traction devices that worked pretty well on those shoes with their thick cushioned soles and substantial uppers.

This year having moved more and more to actual barefoot running I wanted to stick with minimalist shoes through the winter, but they don't cope well with traction devices. Every ridge can be felt with every step right through the sole, and the rubber straps that hold them in place collapse the thin uppers, pressing in on your foot.

I bought some Merrell Lithe Glove shoes. They have nice warm water-resistant uppers (the main reason I bought them) which are proving toasty even on the coldest days. But despite the thin soles I'm not that thrilled with the ground-feel. The rubber may be thin but it's also hard, so they feel like more shoe underfoot than I'd expected. They have poor traction on snow and ice, too. They're fine for dry pavement, but for a few days after a snow they're not my shoe of choice.

I still love my New Balance Minimus Trails. Some people found the original version too tight across the mid-foot, but for my narrow feet they were perfectly roomy. So far they're my favourite choice for winter running, because they have decent traction with their lugs, and great flexibility and ground-feel. The problem with them is that they're cold. They have a thin mesh upper, so spartan that you can actually see your foot through the fabric.

I've become a fan of SmartWool PhD socks. I have two pairs, and could probably use two or three more. They're expensive, but they're the warmest, most comfortable, most durable running socks I've found. When it's slushy, or the fresh fallen snow is soft and wet, my feet get wet right through the shoes and socks. Eventually they get cold as a result. It would be nice to have a better solution for slushy days.

Ideally I'd like a Minimus Trail with water-resistant uppers. These would be great for me, because I love the fit and the feel, and the soles are also just thick enough with the lugs that I could sink 1/4" hex-head sheet metal screws into them for ultimate traction on ice. Sheet metal screws are an inexpensive and incredibly effective hack I performed on my old Nike Lunarglides.

There are about five times as many minimalist shoes on the market this year as last, so perhaps by next winter my ideal winter running shoe will exist. In the meantime I'll be mixing it up a lot, depending on conditions. I just signed up for the Vancouver marathon, and I have a running schedule I've written up that I'm going to really try to stick to regardless of the weather. Wish me luck!


The lake at the summit north of us has frozen clear, without snow. It's not quite glassy, but quite skate-able. We've opted not to flood our backyard rink this year, so there's even more reason for the trip to the lake to be worth doing.

Fiona and I skated all the way across, and all the way back, and then spent some time "doing doodly-do's" around the near shore. She found her skating legs quickly and despite the wind we both managed to generate enough body heat to stay toasty warm for an hour.

While we were holed up in a "cave" beneath a rock, out of the wind on the far side of the lake, a coyote trotted directly in front of us, oblivious to our presence.