Outdoor Running Adventures

Running in northern BC with my dog Kobi


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The Last Half of 2013

Half Marathon start in Vancouver

I’m in the white hat looking at my watch

I ran my final race of 2013 last Sunday – The Vancouver Historic Half.  It’s two loops around the sea wall in Stanley Park.  My most favorite place to run – although the run along the beaches from UBC to Kitsilano isn’t too bad either.

It was so wonderful to run in only capris and 1 shirt versus 2 layers of pants, 3 shirts, a jacket, ear band, toque, mittens, and headlight (yes, I pretty much have a load of laundry after each winter run up where I live).

Prior to any race, I typically don’t run at all the week before.  I was going to do the same with this race, but my friend (who was also running the race) said she had to do a run the day before and a warm-up run right before the race (she has a coach).  The week before any race is time for me to eat too much and scoff at other runners running before a race.  I need to save my energy.

I was easily swayed and besides, I was in Vancouver and I would not waste a running experience “sans” snow (that’s French in case you didn’t know).  I tagged along for the interval run the day before the race.  All the while I’m thinking, “OMG, who runs fast before a race?”.  Then right before the race we did a warm-up run – I know, CRAZY!!  I was certain I would have no energy left at all to complete the race at this point.

Regardless of breaking my “rules” of not running at all before a race, I managed to run the half in a decent time of 1:38:31.  I reckon the pre-race runs didn’t take away all my running reserves (maybe just some).  Oh, and a huge shout-out to my race buddy Tina who ran a new personal best and smashed her previous best time by something like 13 minutes!  Awesome!!

Quick side note, there’s a guy I always see in Vancouver races who runs in a Gingerbread man suit and full face mask under that.  I’m not sure why?  Perhaps it makes him run faster.   It looks hard, but I do catch him every time, takes a bit though as he lives up to his costume and is quite fast.

Gingerbread Man

Gingerbread Man at the Vancouver Historic Half Marathon

The day after the race, I headed back north to the snow and cold.  I didn’t waste any time and hit the ski trails with my skate skis and Kobi.  Kobi loves the ski trails and always runs into her other dog friends, she has so many friends!

I actually remembered to bring all the appropriate gear with me while skiing.  Except my headlight batteries seem to have had enough of the cold and it was pretty dim by the end of the last ski.  No serious wipe-outs fortunately.

Wildlife count this week:  one great grey owl and very fresh lynx tracks.  Both the owl and the tracks got Kobi pretty excited.  She tried following the owl into the woods, but preferred sitting and listening to its hooting – it was cool.

Ski trails

Skate skiing in the forest with Kobi

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Rambling Along in the Cold

I have been attempting to write about my running adventures for a while, but things (work) have been getting in the way.  Sucks, but it does help pay for my running shoe addiction as well as my fitness tourism affliction. 

Where to begin…the first run after my last longish run (Nov 9 – time flies!) involved intervals on the snowy trails to my favorite little lake.  Stand-out memory:  cold, snowy and difficult, but sunny. 

Dog running on a frozen lake

Kobi running on the lake that is already frozen.

Then I did a short little run in the community forest when I had a spare 45 minutes.  It was gorgeous!  The moon was out and I had a hoot with Kobi.  Couldn’t get any decent shots as my camera was dead/frozen after 20 minutes. 

full moon and trees

The full moon on our run in the woods

Then I pulled a stupid.  Let me re-phrase that, and then I went for a run at dusk a few days later.  I neglected to bring my headlight or extra reflective gear.  One of my superpowers is my exceptionally short memory and inability to plan ahead. 

I ran with Kobi back to our favorite lake and realized the trails were going to kill me as they were so hard to run on – imagine running in unpacked sand in a snowsuit.  Okay, I don’t run in a snowsuit, but I’ve got a lot of layers on thanks to the -24C temperatures.  I decided to run the lake road back a forth a few times to get my mileage in.  This road scares me during the summer when the bears are out and in the winter when I’m convinced there are packs of wolves waiting for me.  But laziness beat fear (yay lazy!).  I would not/could not run an extra five kilometers of trail, it was just that hard. 

I of course underestimated how much lake road running I had to do (another superpower of mine – the inability to do simple math when running in the cold or the heat or when hungry).  So I had to keep running on the trail for another 1.7km in addition to the 2.47km I had already run on the trails to get home (I’d have gone to three decimal places if my garmin permitted). 

I resorted to my last resort – Kobi and her superpower, that is her inability to heel when on a leash.  I put the girl on her leash and she assisted/pulled me for those last 1.7km.  Please note it is pitch black by this time and I can’t see a thing.    

Dog in the snow

Kobi prior to her having to run on the leash

I pretended we were pioneers in the 18th century running to the next settlement (home) to do something (have a hot shower).  I honestly don’t know why I was thinking that, but it was kind of fun pretending it was the “olden days”.  We made it to the settlement just fine. 

And finally in summary, I did a quickie snowshoe run, well more like jog as I don’t run fast in those things.  Kobi loved it and therefore I loved it too.  It was super cold again, but Kobi needs her exercise and I also need to start collecting “outdoor adventure snowsports series” points.  This is the second winter I’ve done this.  I set a challenge at the beginning of winter to complete “x” number of winter related activities before the end of winter (more like end of snow). 

Last winter I set the goal at 150, then 175, then 200 as we had a ridiculously long winter (I landed at 206).  This year I’m setting the goal for 150 again.  I can only count running on trails in my snowcross runners, snowshoeing, skate skiing or cross-country skiing.  I’m currently at 8. 

frost on my toque

Me after the snowshoe run. My toque is actually not furry, that is the frost.

I forgot to turn my headlight off for the photo-op, but at least I remembered to wear it this time! 


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Running on Empty

tracks in the snow

Morning tracks on the trail

There was no “low fuel” warning light that came on for me today.  I was fine one minute, then having a hunger meltdown the next.   I had forgotten how the cold burns extra calories and this was my first long run in the cold since last winter (which I think was only 5 months ago).  

I did a short night-run yesterday in order to get a few extra kilometres in so as to stick to one of my running rules:  your longest run must not be greater than the total of your weekly runs.   I needed another 5km in order to run the 23km I wanted to do today. 

The night-run sucked.  It was dark (obviously) and cold and I had neglected to put on a neck warmer so my chin was cold.  I wore a headlight, but because it was snowing, it was like driving in a snowstorm with your high-beams on.  As a result I could hardly see or hear where Kobi was (recall I let her run off-leash on the trails as I’d likely suffer a serious injury if we were tied together).   I was grateful it was only a 5km, but Kobi ran like she’d never been outside before.  I think she likes running in the dark. 

white dog in the dark

Kobi(s) on our night run

Onto today’s run.  It was -12C with a reported -15C wind-chill.  I started off doing a short burn on the forest trails and then hit the paved community trail.  I ended up back at the forest trail where I was to meet my friend who would run the last 8km with me.  I had just enough time to do a quick clothing change (dry shirts, jacket, toque and mittens) before she showed up.   I find after running over an hour in anything colder than -10C I need a dry clothes change, it makes life so much more bearable.

We ran about 2km together and then all of a sudden I started raving about food (I always think about food, but not like this).  I loudly and enthusiastically explained what I was going to eat after my run (pancakes, maple syrup, canned peaches and a latte) and how awesome these almond butter chocolate balls are that I made (seriously they are the best!  I’ll post the recipe below).

My friend commented that I was getting a bit off – she seems to see my hunger warning signs before I do.   I swear when I get hungry, my body starts devouring my brain cells for the nutrition it needs and I become someone else, like someone who has been taken over by an alien body snatchers species and I can no longer think for myself.

I took another GU and a ton of Cytomax, only because my friend strongly recommended I do this.  I did have one gel earlier (an hour into my run) with tons of Cytomax drink, but I think the cold just took a bit more out of me as one gel and Cytomax is all I usually need on a 20-24km run.

Thankfully, about 5 minutes after the second gel and Cytomax I started to feel better.  And then I felt really good.  And then I recognized that I was entering the “runner’s high” zone.  Suddenly I felt really really happy and was coming up with amazing ideas and saving the world – again.

I seriously think I need to take some voice notes on my phone when I hit this high as I suspect I sound like a raving lunatic versus the genius I think I am.

I did make it home and did eat my pancakes with maple syrup and canned peaches as well as a Kona coffee latte.  I’ve also just polished off my second grilled chicken burger with goat cheese, avocado, and red pepper and I am too embarrassed to say how many almond butter chocolate balls (and everything else) I’ve eaten.

Oh yeah, here’s the recipe from Canadian Running – Nov/Dec 2013 – Almond Butter Chocolate Balls

  1. 1 cup almond butter (mix in the oil)
  2. 1/2 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
  3. 1 tsp vanilla
  4. 4 oz dark chocolate (I like 70% cocoa)
  5. 1/2 tsp coarse salt

Mix the almond butter, sugar and vanilla.  Roll into 20 equal sized balls (I made 25).  Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and put them into the freezer (1-1.5 hrs).  Melt the chocolate.  Roll the almond butter balls in the chocolate once they are frozen, garnish with a few grains of salt (I left some without) and refrigerate until the chocolate is set (about 30 minutes).  So good!


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A Change of Season – Finally

dog watching a squirrel

Kobi on squirrel alert

Last year this time I was already snowshoeing and skiing.  We’ve finally had some snow that might stay, but still  not enough to snowshoe or ski on yet, hopefully soon. 

I’m convinced that I’m not totally cut out to live in a cold climate, but I do like snow sports.  Well, I think I’ve had to learn to like them in order to survive in the north.  I’ve realized that you can focus on the negative stuff and choose to be unhappy where you live or you can suck it up and look around for all the fun stuff you can do.  Hence the reason I’ve learned to love cross-country skiing, skate skiing, snow shoeing and running in the snow in Salomon Snowcross shoes (best snow runners ever!). 

I also love that the bears hibernate during the winter and I only have to contend with packs of wolves.  I am afraid of wolves.  I have never seen a pack of wolves while running (I’ve seen them while driving), but I’ve seen lots of wolf tracks while running.  I wonder if it’s the media and modern culture that has made me afraid of the “big bad wolf”.  I think I’m also scared for Kobi’s sake.  I’ve heard wolves, like coyotes, bait your dog away and then kill it.  That freaks me out. 

Oh, cougars scare me too – any animal that stalks you while in stealth mode is worthy of a danger rating.  I’m just grateful that velociraptors and the dromaeosaurus (thank you C and A for teaching me about that one) didn’t survive the last ice-age.

Tomorrow’s morning run in the dark should be so much fun!  Nothing like a little dose of fear to get you moving. 


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The Power of a Nap

It’s been a rather interesting week.  Saturday I ran through the woods with Kobi and her BFF Dino and my friend, Sunday I rode my bike wrangling zombies while dressed like one (I only scared 2 kids), Monday Kobi and I ran to our favorite little lake, and then Tuesday to Thursday I had to head out of town for work.

Two dogs running

Kobi and Dino running on our favorite trail in the woods.

zombies

Me and my friend preparing for the zombie run

lake

The lake Kobi and I love running to

I had a serious travel hangover Thursday.  I’m not great at adjusting to time away as I am such a creature of habit.  I also don’t sleep well unless I’m at home, in all honesty I don’t always sleep well at home either.  Add in a time zone change and I’m really messed up. 

After getting home Thursday morning, I lasted at work until about noon and then had to go home.  I had been up since 4AM so I was pretty much done.  I went to pick up Kobi, but first took her and her BFF Dino for a quick walk (Kobi sleeps over at her house when I go out of town – I can’t thank my friend enough for doing this – priceless) and then headed home. 

I decided I had to have a nap as I could hardly think let alone stand upright.  Of course Kobi and Kato (the hyper-active dog and kitten team) decide this is the time to do laps through the house and Kato must use the bed in his route.  After about 30 minutes, maybe it was 15, everyone settled down and accepted I needed quiet time or perhaps they just got bored or tired themselves.  I passed out and slept pretty hard for maybe 15-20 minutes, woke up quite abruptly (without an alarm), and felt amazing.  So amazing I went for a run with Kobi – our Halloween run. 

ghosts in the trees

Saw some ghosts in the trees while on our Halloween run

This run was like experiencing two seasons all at once, mud and ice.  I was either running through mud or trying not to wipe-out on the ice.  Kobi ended up a lovely two-toned white/brown dog.  She had to have a bath as there was no way this was coming off with a towel.  She loves baths. She drinks from the tap, gets all silly and wiggly, somehow distracts me and then bolts out of the tub, shakes in the hallway, chases Kato, and then comes back for the towel off.  Oh well, I need to wash the floors anyway, and the walls, and the bathroom, and the ceiling.  

Do power naps work for you?  And does your dog like baths?

white dog with mud

Kobi’s brown under-carriage