Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Coughing-My-Lungs-Out Blues!

   Well, we're already into the new year and I would love to be able to describe to you all the snowy running I've been doing but the fact of the matter is...I can't! I've actually been sicker than a dog (not sure where that expression comes from) since about Dec. 31, as the woman who was sitting right beside me in the movie theater that evening can attest to.
   What started out as just a small tickle in my chest progressed rapidly to full-fledged, gut-wrenching hacking attacks that are still ongoing (but somewhat diminished) as we speak. I've spent the last four nights on the couch so that Doralyn, my wife, could get a little sleep and basically have slept sitting up because any time I lie down my lungs start to whisper to me (they sound kind of like elephants, trumpeting from afar) and this always leads to another attack. Got bad enough that I even followed my wife's request that I visit the doctor.
   So, there has been no running. This has been okay because when you can't even imagine running you don't miss it all that much!
   I did engage in some running-related stuff over the holidays, courtesy of receiving a CamelBak  hydration vest from Doralyn, a Running Room gift card from my son, Bryant, and a Sport Chek gift card from my stepson, Keenan. 
Hopefully it's left New
Zealand by now!
   After my trail-running experience this past summer, the CamelBak became almost a necessity. Running trails meant being out much longer and prior to that I'd been getting by with an armband bottle. This more or less had been doing the trick while I was only doing 5K runs but was problematic out on the trails. I had my water run out on me a couple of times before I got wise and started carrying a larger bottle in a backpack. This, however, necessitated constantly stopping, removing the backpack, etc. Hence the need for the hydration vest. Oddly enough, we ended up searching all over the internet for the one I wanted and ended up having to order one from New Zealand. And, a little sadly, it is still in transit!
Running Room commercial?
Should I have been paid for this?
   With my Running Room certificate, I went out and bought CamelBak bottles I`ll be able to use in the front of the vest. Then, with a little left over on the card, I was able to pick up some socks, some Nuun, a lock (in case I accidentally actually use my gym membership) and a couple of protein bars the cashier threw in. Good stuff.
And should Sport Chek
pay me, too?
   Then it was on to Sport Chek. There, I was torn between putting the gift card toward hiking boots or trail running shoes. Couldn't find the shoes so bought myself a pair of Merrell Moabs. My wife and I have talked at length about hiking the trails in the London area so this was kind of what I had in mind. If not for being sick, I would have used them by now!
   Hopefully, the lungs will mend soon and I'll actually feel like running! 


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Kinda Two Blog Posts In One

   I got out and ran on a road last weekend for probably the first time in two months. In the meantime, I've spent a fair amount of time on nearby trails but this always turns out to be a pretty time-consuming endeavour and today I had the will but just not the time.
   For comparison's sake, I ran the same 5K route in the neighbourhood I usually do. I was a little worried that the legs wouldn't be up to it, not having done this kind of running in awhile, but they held up just fine. Didn't try to run fast, just wanted to be tired when I was done and this certainly was accomplished.
   About a third of the way through, it occurred to me that I'd forgotten my phone and this gave me cause for concern---my phone always seems to act like a safety net for me, should anything untoward happen, and I feel a little naked without it. I guess the fact that I was running along busy streets made it seem pretty safe. Unfortunately, it also meant no pics.
   Took a couple of very brief walking breaks and ended up getting it done in slightly over 43 minutes. This , of course, is really slow and I know it, for sure. At the same time, I'm almost 64 and I weigh 226 pounds. At one point today, I was passed by a young girl who looked as though she might have weighed maybe 116. I realize that all things are relative but I wonder if she would have passed me if she'd been carrying her 100 pound brother on her back! And for those of you out there who weigh substantially less than 226 (almost all of you), please take a minute and imagine running with a knapsack weighing whatever the weight differential is between yours and mine and (just for the fun if it!) maybe toss in the age difference at the same time. Then, let's go running together!
   Of course, the above is all sorta bullshit and we all know it but it is a bit of a mental game I play with myself when I occasionally get a little down about my running times. It enables me to tell myself I'm actually doing fine and at the same time it kind of reminds me about how fast I could be running if I maybe lost 30 pounds!
    Now, this weekend, I opted for something a little different. I decided to head to the nearby high school track and run some laps. We've had snow here in London but it was just a little and soon it was gone again so it was quite possible to run on a track outdoors in early December and that's a little unheard of in these parts. There's a Catholic high school called St. Thomas Aquinas less than 5 minutes from where I live and so I headed there. The high school I went to, Oakridge, is less than a minute further up the road but the whole track area there is cordoned off due to re-sodding (I think) this past summer.

The first straightaway
This was all very "last minute"
so no spectators!
   I had no real plan for this apart from running about 5K on a track. As well, part of my reasoning for wanting to visit a track was that lately I've been toying with the idea of becoming involved in the sprinting part of running and I wanted to be somewhere where you felt a little more athletic. Somehow or other, being on a track with markings and stands kind of fits the bill.
   I started off by checking out the 100 meter track markings. I turned on the Garmin and started walking one of the lanes. I saw what looked like the finish line up ahead but, according to the Garmin, 100 meters came just short of it. When I stopped and looked down, however, there was  clearly a blue line drawn across all the lanes and I took this to be the 100 meter finish line. I looked back to the start and thought that's a long ways away to be running it in anywhere near 12 seconds or so which is the time I'd be aiming at being able to sprint some day, according to my age. I kind of tucked that thought away for the moment and started to run.
The football field, and , way off
in the distance, the trees of
Kains Woods, one of my
fave places to trail run!
St. Thomas Aquinas. Known
around these parts as STA.
   I ran all the way to the far side of the track and came across the straightaway. I hadn't really planned doing anything differently there but I saw the lanes and this long, straight track with lane markings and I started to sprint! It wasn't a flat-out sprint but it was much faster than I would have run in any 5K race, unless perhaps I was trying to pass people at the end.
   When I reached the other end if the straightaway, I was exhausted and stopped to catch my breath. From there, I walked around that end of the track and came back to the original straightaway I'd started on. At this point I still had no real plan for this run but knew I was at least supposed to be running, so I started up again. Eventually, I made it back to the far side of the track and decided I would sprint down it again. And, once again, I was exhausted. I walked around that end if the track kind if gasping and muttering "holy" over and over again (with the odd "F" word interspliced) and then it occurred to me I was running on a Catholic school track and this sort of gave me the gasping giggles. 
   This, then, became my routine today---a mixture of walking, running, and sprinting. Finally, at about 4.5 K, I called it a day. It was a marvelous way to get in a little speedwork and being on a track will make any future workouts there fairly easy to change up. Why I waited until December to start using an outdoor track is a little beyond me but if this winter is anything like last winter it might actually be doable more often than not!      

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Back at it again (again)

   After about a month's worth of not running, due to some extreme cramping issues and then about three week's worth of a nasty head and chest cold, I finally made it out again yesterday.
   As I am wont to do lately, I headed to nearby Kains Woods. My plan was to walk there, run 5K in the woods and then walk back. It was in the teens here in London and was simply a great day to get out for a walk/run and a lot of other people had the same idea. This is one of the best parts about running here---meeting other people, even if only very briefly. It's just not quite the same as running into people out on a   neighbourhood road or sidewalk where you meet people on their way to work, or the store, or school. In the forest, you're all there for essentially the same reason, to get away from it all, and it becomes a bit of a bonding sort of thing.
   One of the last times I had spent any great amount of time running through Kains, I had kind of overdone it a touch and had attempted some 10K runs I was not prepared for. Nasty, nasty cramps ensued afterwards. I gave it a couple of days of rest and then tried a shorter distance but found my left quad seizing up after only about a kilometer and a half. Then I got sick. This gave my old legs the recovery time they needed, although I did make it out for a couple of long walks.
   I also brought up the subject of cramping with my chiro, and she suggested starting on a regular dose of essential fatty acids and magnesium. This I've done. My family doctor, after recent bloodwork, suggested iron, which I've also done. 
   So yesterday I walked about 2 and half K til I got to Kains and then I started running. The wooded part of the trail is about 4 and a half K so my plan was to run to the end of it and then turn around and start running back, til my Garmin had me at 5K.
   About a hundred meters into the run, I developed a sharp pain in my right ankle, so sharp that I had to stop and hop a little. I imagined the bones and tendons in my ankle having the following conversation---Hey, what the hell is he doing?! Get out of my way, tendon, you're pissing me off! Up yours, bone, keep it up and you're gonna make me snap! What, is he RUNNING again? Oh crap! Okay...let's just see if we can get him through this ONE MORE TIME.....And at this point, things down there more or less got back to normal!
Now look up, look WAY up...and you'll see a couple of bald eagles!
   I did stop a handful of times to take pics and drink. At one point, I had just finished taking a pic and a young lady who was walking the other way with her two dogs, asked me if I knew that the eagles were back. I looked at her kind of blankly and indicated that I had no idea what she was talking about. Apparently there is a pair of bald eagles who nest across the river from Kains and if you're a regular in the area then you're probably aware of them. Me, I've just started exploring the woods and had no idea about them. They hadn't been seen lately but now they were back and she very sweetly volunteered to backtrack a little and show me where I could best view them. Unfortunately, the zoom lens on my phone was not able to catch the best pic (then again, it's a Samsung, so I guess I should just be happy that it didn't blow up!) Pretty cool though.
   The rest of my run was uneventful. Passed about 20 people out walking in the opposite direction and then, when we all turned around and headed back, I passed them again. Once I hit 5K, I stopped running and then walked the rest of the way. By the time I made it out of the woods, my legs were feeling it. Yesterday evening, however, cramps were really not an issue so I don't know whether it was the new vitamins or me just being a little more mindful. What I really need to realize is that running through a forest takes more of a toll than on the streets. I'll need to remember this. In the meantime, here's a bit of a photo dump from yesterday!
Sometimes hard to see the trail this time of year!

The ever-present Thames River

I've walked past this dozens of times and must have thought it was
a large rock or something. Closer inspection tells me it was some
sort of a man-made thing at one time.

On the other side of the river, you can catch a glimpse of the
London Hunt and Country Club (careful how you say that!)

Brand new boardwalk! They treat us well, in Kains Woods!

Long out of the woods now---this tunnel takes me under a busy road.
I generally try not to go "into the light" but this is one of the exceptions


Sunday, September 25, 2016


   Yesterday, I ran the trails in  nearby Kains Woods. Ever since I got interested in trail running in the area, I'd been hearing about Kains Woods and thought I would finally give it a try.
   It was a great day for a run with the temps being a little more fall-like than they have been for the last month or so.
   The plan was to run 10k as this is the mileage target I've been aiming at for the last few trail runs. I was just approaching the 5K mark when I started to feel a little tension on the inside of my left thigh. This area has been giving me a little grief over the last couple of months and has been the target of some pretty horrible cramping. When I felt the tension begin, I immediately stopped and did a little flexing, in an attempt to gauge the severity of what I was dealing with. It seemed as though if I ran on more or less level ground, it didn't bother me. If I needed to extend my left leg in a different direction to hit a rock or log in a certain way then that's when I felt it. Eventually I found that the leg felt better if I actually ran a little faster, so this is what I did.
   By the end of the run, however, both of my legs were starting to feel it and I ended up with this very uncoordinated feeling down there---that I would try to get them to move in one direction but then they'd go off on their own little tangent. At the end of the trail, there is some rather steep, rocky and root-infested terrain and having wonky legs made it quite problematic in traversing it. I basically walked the final kilometer. I was then faced with the long walk home, knowing things were just not right.
   Once I got home, it felt good to sit down, but at the same time I tried to get up and move around a little so that things didn't seize up too much. I had been doing this pretty successfully but then made the mistake of taking things a little too for granted.
Yeah, it was right in there somewhere...

   I stood up from the couch and, instead of making sure i was perfectly aligned, I had my right leg slightly extended. As my body lifted off the couch, that leg went into full-blown cramp mode. The pain was excruciating and many curse words were said. I could neither stand all the way up, move, or sit back down again. I had Doralyn fetch me an ice pack and a tall chair so that I could at least take part of my body weight off my legs. The pain seemed to begin on the inside of the knee, up the whole inside of that thigh and then taper out across the top of the thigh.
   It took about 5 minutes to eventually settle down. I walked around for a bit and then eventually sat back down on the couch. I was able to get back up and down a couple of more times but then the same thing happened, lasting another 5 minutes.
   At that point, no more couch for me! I set up the laptop beside a tall chair so that I would be fairly close to standing position as I wrote.
   In bed, things continued to be difficult. I could not move my legs enough to re-position the covers without the fear of a cramp taking over. Today, I am not cramping but my legs feel like they've been through the wringer and definitely feel as though one wrong move would paralyze me again.
   I've spent a fair amount of time researching sports cramps, as a result of the past month and a half or so. What I've found is that there's no real consensus as to what causes cramps. The thought used to be that de-hydration and loss of electrolytes were the main culprits. Recent research has put doubt on whether this is true or not. There is also not a lot of consensus as to how to treat them and/or prevent them. After all the research, it seems that the most likely cause may simply be overdoing it. Muscles get used to contracting and relaxing according to the regular amount of work they're given---if you give them more work than they're used to, they go all postal on you.
   I have certainly been "overdoing it", by my standards! I've gone from running 5K on pavement maybe every week and a half to running 10K through forests (in extremely hot temperatures, I might add) once a week. What's more, for some reason, I seem to be ignoring little warning signs my body's been giving me as I've been doing this.
   Okay, so I think I need to ratchet things down a little! No more 10K's for a bit and just work my way up gradually, possibly running shorter distances a little more often. We'll see how it goes but, right at the moment, I'm just gonna try and get up off the couch one more time!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

New Trail!: Kains Woods

   Once I became interested in running some of the local trails and after exploring the internet, Kains Woods kept popping up as a great place to hike and run.
   As it happens, Kains Woods is only a hop, skip and half a jump from where I live and I decided that I would give it a try today.
   The closest access point is only about 2 and a half clicks away, right near the Oxford Street bridge over the Thames. I've literally driven past this access point a couple of thousand times without even realizing it was there!
   Due to its proximity, I decided to just walk there. My goal was to run from one end of the trail to the other and then return the same way. This would total approximately 10K and I know that this is about as much mileage as I can handle these days so I wasn't going to run there.
   The Kains Woods trail basically follows the Thames River in a horseshoe shape around the Riverbend community and is classified as one of London's ESA's (Environmentally Significant Area). It's a single path trail which follows a fairly narrow forested area. For the first half a kilometer or so, you can catch glimpses through the trees of where all the rich people live but, after that, it's all forest and river.
   It's a beautiful place to run! You run along deep ravines on twisty paths and then you find yourself on more level terrain winding your way through tall trees. Parts of it are up on a bluff along the river and then other parts take you down to the edge of the Thames. But maybe rather than describe it to you, I'll just do a photo dump! 

The steep hill from Oxford Street
to the trail access point.

The Rules! Oh, and the warning about
Wile E.

Trail along a deep ravine

Thank goodness for the plank!

Intermittent railings so you don't fall off!

Finally down to the river....

...where some romancin' has been going on! Pretty well gotta be
"Jack and Diane".....

Some more beauty

Ironic that you deface it to save it....

A trail led up past these boulders. When I went to
investigate, I found.....

...a golf course!

Changing terrain

Better than a wooden bridge!

Found this pond at what I thought was the end of
the trail. Apparently I was supposed to run around it.

Lots of rock tumbles, I'm thinking from when they
cleared the land for the subdivision.

Thought this was part of the trail but... led to this.

End of the trail leading up to the subdivision. Time to head back.

Lots of signs steering you away from private property

I met Ron again!! Met him earlier in the year at Komoka. He
mentioned that these trails have been here for likely about 40
years and that he was part of the Association which formed them!

Finally back to the Oxford Street access point. Legs cramping
up nicely, thank you!

Took a short cut underneath Commissioners Road to get home.

Very tropical-looking at the end of that tunnel!
   At the end of the running part, my legs were in rough shape and had actually started to cramp up while running, causing me to adjust my gait and cadence somewhat. Oddly, running faster made the legs feel better. I was wishing I'd maybe driven, because the long walk home was a bit of a killer. And later in the evening, when I went to stand up from the couch, I got this godawful cramp on the inside of my right thigh. It was one of those f--k, f--k, f--k, F--K!! moments my wife has come to recognize all too well. I guess a little bit of work to be done there....
   So there you have it, my first trip to Kains Woods! Best guess is, the first of many!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Back and Forth And Back And Forth On The White Trail

Just some of the scenery!
   I went for what seems to have become my weekly trail run again yesterday, once more at Komoka Provincial Park. It's a big enough park that you can visit it several times and still find little side trails and parts of it you haven't seen yet. So off I went!
   My plan was to run a full 10K and just stay on the white trail. The white trail runs from one end of the park to the other. Any other time I've been there, as much as I have run has been 8K so I wanted to up the mileage a bit.
   My plan was to have gone out Saturday so I had  filled a 1 liter container about 2/3 full and stuck it in the freezer, hoping that it would end up being slushy by the time I went out. Unfortunately, due to rain, I didn't make it out til yesterday and the 1L container now held a solid chunk of ice. I figured it would melt while I ran so I filled it up the rest of the way and headed off.
Half-way done and already tired!
   My real simple plan was to run the white trail from one end of the park to the other and just keep doing this until I reached my 10K. It was a pretty nice day to run, sunny and warm (a little too warm, maybe) and most of the trail had dried up from Saturday's rain. 
One end of the park....
   Being a sunny Sunday, it was also pretty busy. I kind of enjoy it when there are lots of people on the trails, it makes for friendly banter as you pass them. Today, because of all the back and forth running I was doing, I would pass the same groups of people multiple times. It almost gives you the time to build up a.....relationship, I guess you could call it!
The Thames always makes a good pic
   Remember my frozen 1L container? Well, it never melted, at least not all the way, and I very quickly used up all the drinkable water it had in it. After that, the water only came out in dribs and drabs, a little hard to re-hydrate that way!
Love this part
   Round about 9K, things started to seize up just a touch with both of my quads and my left calf. Not sure if it had anything to do with my (lack of) water supply at that point or whether it was just because it was the longest I had actually run in about two years. When you consider the terrain---steep, twisting, root-infested hills with boulders---it was probably the roughest run I've ever had and my lower extremities felt like they had iron rods running though them by the time I got back to the car (wasn't entirely sure I was going to be able to get in the car!)
And a totally un-related random pic of my two sons---Ben
and Bryant, at the World Cup game between Canada
and the Czechs! We won!
   As much as I'm enjoying the trails these days, I probably to need to get back out there on the streets for some shorter runs. Running just the once a week doesn't really do the trick!


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Another Trail-running Weekend!

 It's the weekend so I decided I would try and get in another long(ish) run at Komoka Provincial Park!
   Hydration's been a bit of an issue this summer on my trail runs and while I have been looking at hydration vests they are still pretty low on the list of things I think I can spend money on right at the moment. What I did do was ask the boys if anyone had an old backpack they weren't using anymore (which they did) and I figured out a way of carrying extra water in it. Just took a large drinking bottle, filled it part way with water and then let it freeze. Just before I set out, I filled it to the top and discovered it fit very neatly on its side in the bottom of the knapsack. Found another little pocket for a small sandwich and then headed off!
Found a backpack to use but then
made the mistake of leaving it
on the table for too long! I also had
a pile of change stacked nicely---
wonder what happened to it...?
   Unfortunately, with all this extra prep, the one thing I forgot was my Garmin. If I'd been any farther away from home I would have just made do but seeing as how home was only 5 minutes away, I whipped back there and got it. After some preliminary strap-adjusting with the backpack, I was off.
   The park is big enough and I am new enough to it that there are still some portions of it which I have yet to explore. This was my goal yesterday. 
   Part of the attraction with Komoka is that many parts of it still seem pretty pristine and un-traveled. Obviously because there is a path you know that people have been there before but in many places I ran in yesterday the path was so overgrown that it was hard to imagine any regular traffic ever went through there. It was not an easy run!
   I started from the parking lot and headed west, toward the old parking lot. From there I continued west almost to the boundary of the park. Part of the issue I was having yesterday was that there were thunderstorms in the forecast and although I left in the sunshine by the time I got to the old parking lot and there was an opening big enough to see the horizon, there were some pretty ominous clouds not far off.
   I continued running toward the clouds (which didn't seem all that intelligent) until I was running on trails I was totally unfamiliar with. I wouldn't say I was lost exactly but as the trails are notoriously poorly marked I really wasn't sure if I was on the white one, blue one or orange one. Given the look of the sky and the forecast, I took whatever trail which looked like it was headed back to where I'd parked. Finally, I ended up back in familiar territory, amazingly to me, and I now have a slightly better understanding of that end of the park.
    The hydration angle worked out perfectly. I still wore my Fuel Belt armband bottle but every time it got empty I would just stop and refill it from the larger bottle in my backpack. A bit of a pain in the butt but way better than having to make trips back to my car or ration my water. 
A reminder that the seasons are changing
   The signage in the park is really starting to bother me, as far as knowing what trail you were on and where it headed. Even the online trail maps are inconsistent with one another. Some of the plastic trail blazes are so faded that it's actually hard to tell what colour they are. I suppose when it was a free park it seemed like only a small inconvenience but now that people are being charged for going there, it just doesn't seem right! I really am contemplating contacting the people in charge to see what perhaps could be done about it. I'm not even sure how you do a trail map but I would be more than happy to help out, if there's anything I can do.
   On a side note, it was not a particularly busy day in the park----I suspect the overcast conditions conditions and the weather prognosis had something to do with this. I did pass by a couple of other runners, however. One was a younger woman bounding along the pathway quickly. I really wanted to give her a fifty pound bag of cement to carry (giggle) and the other was a one-armed man (who I wanted to high-five but I couldn' we just nodded).
Ominous clouds but still a pretty pic!
   I'd been planning on running maybe 9K yesterday but the weather played a little part in changing my plans. It had started to rain at one point so I cut things short at 7. I was still exhausted however---so many hills and rough terrain! I do find that I'm really enjoying the trail running so much more than on the streets and am at the point where the prospect of running 5K in my neighbourhood is becoming less and less appealing. On top of everything else, other runners' blogs I follow just seem to make trail running seem so much more badass!