Friday, April 14, 2017

New Shoe Review - Saucony Zealot ISO

Not my actual shoe

So I found myself this spring with a pile of mostly worn out running shoes. Some I had rather liked, some not so much. But I also found myself starting to really ramp up my weekly mileage as my half marathon training has taken off. With a few aches and pains I knew I needed new shoes.

Into Aerobics First I went. I am rarely tied to any specific shoe, instead wanting what fits me best and fits the style of running I am doing. I had recently done a lot of running in a Skechers  shoe which I really liked, but it wore out quite fast for my liking. It would have been a great race day shoe, but I have that in my NB 1400's. Instead I wanted something that was going to give me a bit of support for longer training runs, and overall cushioning (without being squishy) for running frequently through the week (I usually run 5 days a week, sometimes 6).  

A chat with Luke at A1 and we tried a few options based on the criteria I talked to him about. In the end I bought this pair of Saucony Zealot ISO shoes. This is a shoe I had generally not even bothered to try as it didn't seem to fit what I liked about running shoes. First and foremost it looks clunky and huge. Also I had mixed luck with the Saucony brand in the past (I loved their Mirage but they stopped making it, I didn't find good luck with the Kinvara). 

But I decided to give this shoe a real try. And now three weeks later, I love it. Not as much for fast speed work, as I find it isn't as responsive as a racing flat for intervals, though it isn't bad for tempo work.

So this is a neutral shoe in the maximal world. That is it has no internal stability properties, has a low drop (4mm) and loads of cushioning (24mm on avg).  While it has no posting for arch support, what it does offer is a build up foam piece in the arch . This doesn't seem to affect your foot's natural movement from within the shoe, but when you start to get tired on longer runs, it helps to prevent tired muscles from allowing your foot to roll in upon impact. 

The cushioning aspect is definitely not a soft and plush feel. This shoe is still relatively firm (which I like) and this gives a more responsive road feel, IMO.  

Finally, the wear on the sole of this shoe seems, so far, to be quite good. With over 100km on it, I see little to no wear yet. A durable and comfortable trainer? I am happy. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Moose Run 2017

Another year another Moose Run, the 25th edition at that! I wish I could say I have been to every one, but alas I have been to exactly 2 now, including this year. The 25km distance was never one I cared to do, even when racing half marathons. Last year I decided to tackle it to help pace my buddy Craig. This year, as we are both racing the Bluenose Half,  it seemed like a good idea to come back and give it another go. Only this year faster! But still not at racing speed, more of a hard paced long run.

A few members of the BLT Runners showed up to run it as well.

It was a cool morning, so I wasn't sure what to wear. As I knew I wasn't going to be pushing my own pace too hard, I wondered if I might be chilled. In the end, I was convinced to drop the jacket. And really I was fine with the temperature, but I am glad I had gloves and a buff.

Last year Craig and I ran a 4:45 pace, but with about 3 km to go, you hit 2 nasty hills and those knocked Craig down a bit, we finished eventually with a 4:50 pace. Still, it was a great effort and with him just getting into heart rate training, we paced things well.

This year I wanted to push the pace a bit, up into the 4:40 min/km mark. This was likely going to push Craig a bit into Zone 3, but I wanted to see how much his training had toughened him up for race day. We had to beat that 2 hour mark!

With a record crowd, and a lot of smiles, we were off.  We passed a few people, we were passed by a few, but settled in to what was probably the top 1/3rd of the runners (243 in total). This included some relay teams as well.

The weather remained great, at the turn around there was a bit of a headwind for 4 km or so, but nothing crazy. We saw many friends, we chatted a lot and Craig was doing great. We even stopped and drank water at the stops, rather than spill it all over ourselves.

By the time we hit those final killer hills of the causeway we were already above pace at 4:38, and looking good. We grabbed a final water and headed for the home stretch. Craig was talking and breathing fine, and I finally convinced him to try and catch a few people up ahead. We did, and then as were began the turn to the finish with under 2 km, I convinced him to tag along as best as he could. I kept ramping the pace up slightly as it was mostly downhill.

With the finish line in sight, Craig was pushing it, and I was forcing him along, just another 100m Go Go! We hit a pace best, crossed the line and managed to get home in an awesome 4:36 pace time blowing away our old record, and doing so with relative ease (except those last 2 km). But those last 2 km last time is where things fell apart, so what a difference a year makes. 1:54 was our time.

All of the BLT Runners had a great day, followed by some spicy soup, hot dogs, cake and coffee.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Final Speed Skating Race of the Year, 2017

So the final speed skating race just happened this past Sunday. Two weeks ago we had the chance of losing the ice completely due to heat and rain, but this weekend we had record low temperatures and high wind. Brrr. I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

I signed up for the 1000m Olympic Style and the 1500m mass start. I had hoped to see if I could better my 1000m time from a few weeks back.

So race morning and the car said -18C on the way to the ice. With the wind it felt closer to -26C. And what a head wind it was.  Warm up was more a case of trying not to freeze, and I had to wear more clothing than I had previously raced in as well.

My heat came up. I started on the inside this time, which meant an outer corner finish. The horrible wind made getting to the first corner a little tricky, but it made skating through the second one fierce. The speed the tail wind brought was crazy, and I am not great at corners when going too fast. So my overall speed ended up suffering. I won my heat but with a paltry 2:20, when a few weeks back in better conditions I skated a 2:04.  Oh well. I placed 5th out of 16.

The 1500m mass start came up and I took my spot on the line. The speedy guys were in my race, so I had no illusions of winning or anything. From the start they headed out hard. I found a pace I thought I could hold, but again that wind was crazy, it had even picked up some.  I managed a time of 3:43 for 5th place out of 8. I don;'t think I have a 1500m best time that I can recall, but I can only suspect that was slow.

So a winter of ups and downs. I think overall my skating got better, but I wish I had more time to commit to the sport. I know my weaknesses better anyway.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

So far behind on this one why even bother - Speed Skating racing!

Dang, I am so far behind on this post that it is 2 posts in one and they are still both late. Initially I was waiting to see if any pictures showed up, but they didn't come, and then I got lazy and then.....

So a few weeks back I entered the 25 km skate marathon. This was a part of the winter Polar Vortex Challenge in Halifax, which also included the Tri-the -Oval winter triathlon I took part in.  I missed the first race of the series but still earned the coveted extra hat!

25km on skates sounds like fun (ha ha) but dang it was tough. 65 laps of the oval and I knew I was going to be hurting by the end. So I made darn sure that i paced myself to finish.

Knowing my current strengths, I decided to go out at a low 20 km/hr-ish pace. By 10  minutes in I was averaging 21.8km/hr, so that felt fine. Soon I was lapped by the leaders who were flying, but I really focused on keeping an even pace.  Halfway through and I was averaging 21.2km/hr.

I would like to turn this into a great story and all, but really, it was a bunch of laps of the oval where I spent a lot of time skating alone.  I did fall down at one point. Apparently the only person to do so. I just got tired and lost my footing, so that was interesting.

Anyway, short story long, I made it the final two laps, picked up the pace and finished with 2 laps in the 25 km/hr range, then just about collapsed. 1 hour and 14 minutes, with the leader finishing almost 20 minutes before I did. But I now have a bench mark for the future.

The next week brought another race. This time an Olympic style 1000m race. This one is tricky for skaters as it requires a series of lane changes throughout the race. In fact 2 skaters got disqualified for messing this up. I'll have to go back and look but I don't think I have raced the 1000m before, so my time of 2:04:61 is likely my benchmark.

This race felt great. I went out hard, maintained a decent body position, worked my crossovers as best as I could and won my heat, placing 8th overall. That felt good.

We also had a 3000m points race, and in this style, it is a mass start with skaters that get lapped being pulled out. All but the top 5 skaters got lapped all at once. It was rather funny. But sadly most of us did not get to finish the race.  I ended up with another 8th place, but as I didn't get to do the final 3 laps it doesn't really matter.

Hopefully the weather allows for a little more skating this season, but darn, it is getting warm!   

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Tri the Oval 5 - Winter Triathlon 2017

So after a year off, the Halifax Winter Triathlon was back. But this year we had a change. Instead of the bike ride there was a snow shoe leg in the middle. So Skate, Snowshoe, Run, with distances of roughly 5km/3km/5km (the skate was pretty much dead on).

Due to the fact that it was late getting put together, this year had a small but mighty crowd of crazy souls, who braved the starting temperature of about -10C.

yes, those are bacon costumes

The skate started off well, with beautiful ice and low wind. My first few laps were nice and fast, allowing me to keep up with the top couple of skaters. But my lack of long training skates on the ice meant I ended up slowing down a bit, eventually coming off the ice in 4th. But my transition to snowshoe was fast, so I immediately jumped to third place. 

Luckily we had a good little snow fall a few days ago, meaning we could actually hold the snowshoe portion of the race. Yes, there were a few bare spots, but overall, running in snowshoes was fun. Now, I will admit that I had never really run in snowshoes before this, as we just bought our snowshoes this year and have had next to no snow falls in Nova Scotia. But I think I did well, keeping my cadence high and pushed through to take over second spot.

This lead to the run. Luckily I had my running shoe on, so I just had to pop off the snow shoes, drop them off at my transition zone spot and take off for three laps around the Commons.

I could see Adam ahead of me, but I knew unless he had a cramp or something, he had far too big a lead (he is a really great skater on hockey skates) for me to run that down. Still, I felt okay running, considering I had really no rest at all before hitting the sidewalks. Pretty much all three events use the same muscles, so it is a great workout.

Sure enough I watched the gap stay the same for much of the run, with me finally coming through the finish line in second place overall.

  don't hide the finish line cones!

It was a great event and took me 47 minutes to finish, so well below my 50 min goal time (just a rough estimate in my head). Yes, the distances were a bit short, as I mentioned, so likely that 50 minutes would have been a lot closer. Still it was great fun, and I am 5 for 5 on these events, and I couldn't pass up the 5th Tri the Oval Toque.

For my efforts I won a custom Cow Bell (thanks James), and some much needed Java Blend coffee beans.  And I can't wait for next year's race. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

MEC PPP Race #1 Jan 2017

So yesterday I was wondering what my run fitness was going to be like when actually tested against others and today I found out.

MEC's race #1 was finally here after being postponed previously due to a large snow storm. This time around weather was not going to be an issue. In fact, the weather was wonderful. About -2C when i woke up and around the 0C mark by the time the race started, so plenty warm. Also the wind was pretty much non-existent and the ground was frozen hard. Conditions could not have been better to see what speed was in the old legs.

Not a picture from today

I started the day with a good warm up run with Craig and Stacey, partly for us and partly to show Stacey a little of the course, we did around 3km in all. Then Craig and I did a few strides int he parking lot to get the blood flowing in the legs. Finally we were called to the start line by the Race Director.

These races pit all distances together at the start, so if you don't ask, you don't always know who is racing what distance. A few of us chatted a bit while waiting and I felt I had a good sense of who my competition was. Still, my main goal was a sub 19 min run, something I had not done on this course and this early in the year. 

And we were off!

Immediately Drew took to the lead and I popped into second. Our pace felt okay but I knew it was ultimately a bit too fast. By the first 500m point I checked and yup, a 3:22 pace. So yeah, I started to ease off a bit. Then Lee took second place, quickly followed by Fraser. 

As we hit the first major hill of the day (really this race is a big climb and a big descent) I quickly caught back on to Fraser and decided to take this chance to pass him. I pushed the first hill as much as I dared, hoping it would lead to a gap. 

Finally reaching the top of the climb, you run a relatively flatish bit for awhile, before quick down, then another steep but shorter climb. This whole race is steep climbs and descents with rolling terrain in between. The top of this section meant we were now at the halfway point. 

As we tore down towards the major descent of the day, I was still in 3rd in my race, 4th overall.  Halfway down the descent of Cable, Fraser caught up and passed me again. He clearly relished the big downs, while I was just trying to hang in there.  Now I was sort of resigned to what I assumed was 4th, hoping to be able to hang onto my current average pace for a course PB at least.

Then we hit the bottom and another slight climb, then a down, then a climb (you get the idea). I started to reel Fraser in a little bit and with a little over 1 kilometer to go I knew it was now or never and bridged the gap. My goal was to tuck in behind him, and see if my legs had a sprint finish.  But (and there is always a but) another runner started to pull up beside us. Sigh. What race was he in? I had no idea. So soon we were 3 abreast with about 800m to go.

I knew the final run to the finish included a final good climb before a big downhill to the line, so I made the choice to just push it. Darn, I wanted that 3rd place and I wanted to get the best time my legs had. So I took off.

As the climb happened I could here Fraser's foot steps getting a little softer, and I pushed harder. We crested the hill and I could see the finish line, so off I went. I crossed the line 3rd overall and with an official time of 18:29, a PB on this course, and a great result so early in the season.

I collapsed a bit after the finish, knowing my legs had given it there all. But I recovered fast enough to watch a bunch of other great runs happen from the BLTRunners, with Craig coming in a well run course PB as well (and very close to the 20 min mark) and Stacey come in 2nd for women with a blazing time.

Looking over the data post race I was totally happy with most of my stats, but really the heartrate data was wonderful. A good spike to start things off (not uncommon in a 5K all out race) but then a  recovery and solid high Zone 4 effort throughout. All of my recent speed work seems to be paying off.

As is always the case, a huge thanks to those that keep me running well, Alan at Seaside Chiropractic, Jeff Z at Kinesic Sport Lab, Luke at Aerobics First and my fellow BLTRunners. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Getting Ready to Race 2017

So the first running race of the season is a few weeks ago  tomorrow. yeah, it was cancelled due to a big storm that swept through but is back on. The ever fun MEC race series has begun. This one will be a cross country style race in Point Pleasant Park and I like to see how well I do in this race as a gauge to how my training needs to go. As a fairly hilly race, and usually icy, I struggle to go under 19 min on a 5 km run here. This year I have changed up my training program a bit, so perhaps this may be the year.

BLT Runners unite from last year's MEC PPP Race

More importantly, this year I am really focusing on my muscular health. Last year I focused on pure speed and while there were glimpses of it, 2 injuries set me back overall.

Part of what I am focusing on is getting into a better routine of exercising and strength and flexibility. But I am also now starting my monthly visits to see my main guy Dr Alan at Seaside Chiro. Sensing some tightness in my Achilles already this year, a quick trip to see him and some ART (Active Release Therapy) has already made a world of difference in cleaning up what could become a big problem.

Not my actual legs

I am making note this year of aches and pains and tight areas that don't go away with rest. These areas I then will focus on strength and flexibility and then get Alan to help.

So I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings (and what shoes I will wear!). Report to follow.