Once again I’ll be giving my standard talk on running technology tonight. I was invited by Heather to chat to her clinic group about the uses of tech to enhance training, a talk I’ve given about fifteen times by now, each time getting a little more enhanced by the number of tools, websites, and dangling bits of plastic-coated silicon that are available to quantify one’s effort. My first stab at the topic was blogged about over four years ago and still sees some traffic. I’ll be refreshing my own brain on my ten points sometime later today, and adding a few bits to it prior to kicking off the evening discussion. If nothing else I may turn a few more naive runners into sport data geeks like me, tracking their every klick and charting their progress across the decades. At worst, it’s another milestone for running nerdom.
So, another half marathon clinic has come and gone. Tonight marked the last official night, and sadly… no one showed up. The winter and the cold and the ice and the holiday break, all these things contributed to some lost momentum that was probably impossible to recover from. I kept on plodding away, but I can see how anyone with a less-well defined goal could lose their motivation. I did what I could to keep them interested, but it’s tough to compete against a warm blanket and walking without slipping and falling down when all you have to offer is minus thirty windchills and incessant snow. Alas, spring is on the horizon, a couple more races are in my sights, and a break from the obligation of leading and inspiring others is (unfortunately, but admittedly) well overdue.
I’ve neither stopped running nor stopped writing, but my lack of words on the subject on this blog has more than a little to do with the weight of a wee bit of running burnout. Leading a clinic over winter, I’ve come to realize, is a tricky proposition: it may go really well… or it may utterly flop. Flopping is probably due to the absolute focus one needs to lead others through the insanity of epic-cold running, lest on the other side of the seasonable chill they haven’t kept up and abandon the effort for fear of never-ever-ever catching up. That wouldn’t have been the case, but the monumental effort of nerves required for even us who are cold-adapted to lace up and conquer the half-marathon winter training schedule can be daunting and a burgeoning bump between weeks one and sixteen.
I ran seven clicks in the opening hours of our weekend snowstorm, the fresh sticky snow sticking to my heels in little uncomfortable wads that needed to be scuffed off every fifty meters or so. It pushed my running total for the year over the completely arbitrary milestone of 1150 km for 2014-to-date, and left me to run out the year (towards my other arbitrary milestone of 1313 km for all of 2014) with a completely achievable 163 klicks left to go. (I chalked that number down another ten klicks not 24 hours later, so it’s more like 153 to go as I write this.) It sounds BIG but (a) our distances are ramping up in the coming weeks with the half clinic and (b) the numbers, with all my charting and trend lines and projections and stuff, tell me that I’m easily on track to break through that random goal. Barring injury or distance-busting snowstorm in the next few weeks, I’m feeling good about my training right now.
A couple weeks ago I let Heather dress me up like a running mannequin for our talk on winter running gear during the running clinic talk.
It snowed last yesterday. The first “sticking around” type of snow. Which means after a mostly-prolonged autumn and a few extra days of trail running, my group was stuck on the city’s suburban sidewalks once again for the first of our truly winter runs. We did a relatively fast ten klick dash, the pebbled ice under a couple centimeters of springy powder made it an interesting trudge for the winter kickoff. But despite some cold cheeks, there were no injuries related to the chill or the icy conditions, and I think we’ve got ourselves tuned up for another four of five months of the same.
My fourth attempt at leading a running clinic began in earnest on Tuesday (so there is still time to join us! *wink, wink*) We’ll be training for four months over the deepest, coldest part of winter, keeping each other warm with good company, strong encouragement and the promise of hot drinks at the end of those runs. As always, it takes a couple weeks before the dust settles and we find out who is with us for the long haul, all the way through until February when the Hypothermic Half Marathon race tests our icy nerves, but I think with any of these little unique adventures, it is just that — the adventure of it — that is far more important that any goal race or record setting run. Every time I lead a clinic I learn as much (if not more) about myself and my sport as I’m able to impart through my leading and instructing, and I value that in and of itself. Perhaps someday I’ll even figure out why everyone gets so thrilled when I take the reigns and steer… that’s the real mystery.
Registration for my new half marathon clinic is now up, open (and accurate!) Greg and I will be leading another edition of the half training program from the Terwillegar Running Room Store (clinic ID #46610 if you’re interested in joining us, by the way) in training for the Edmonton Hypothermic Half Marathon in February. As much work as it is not only finding the time each week to fit the formal parts into the clinic plus send out emails plus make up routes plus… I really do enjoy leading a group. Each occasion is unique, each group somehow teaches me more than I’m ever possibly able to give back, and each run is a little warmer for the company… which is going to be key: cause it’s gonna snow soon and it’s gonna be a cooooooold winter of training.
Though not much running was done, last night we met for the final episode of our spring 2014 Half Marathon Clinic at the nearby cafe. Coffees were drank. Stories were swapped. Anticipation was bubbling over. And plans for the next few months were shared.
The race is in a couple days (though sadly I’m not running due to this ill-timed injury, of course) and then we all go back to our regularly scheduled programming: Families. Work. Lives. And more training. It’s bittersweet, and only partly because I won’t be doing the final goal race. It is bittersweet because each time I get pulled into leading one of these groups I learn a little more about myself and lot more about my sport. And while it’s a big commitment, a weight of responsibility as others look to you for support and knowledge, insight and brilliance, and so it is nice to have a break… it is also an awesome experience to live through and I’ll miss it when it’s not there.
For four months I get the privilege of leading a program that allows all of us normal people, aspiring athletes with real jobs and real lives, to reach for simple but understated goals: better health, stronger fitness, and improved confidence all while logging many, many klicks together. And, succeed or not, each of those people –you– are in this dedication interesting and inspiring and epic …to me, and to everyone touched by the effort.
Each night or every Sunday morning, each run became this bubbling fountain of positive vibes covering icebergs of confidence in an ocean that I’d never quite figured out how I found myself submerged within, but I’m so glad that I was… still am. It’s been an amazing sixteen weeks and my pleasure leading such a great group of runners, each and every one of you. You’ve made me a better person by letting me be your humble little guide on this crazy little journey we shared.
Run far, run strong, and enjoy the journey.
And now for some pictures…
For about the fourth time, I’ll be dropping by the Running Room tonight and giving my “how to use your watch” talk as a guest speaker. This time it’s for the combo LTR, 5K and 10K group who are probably less likely than even my halfers to have a bit of expensive technology on their arms to track their hobbies. The talk isn’t so much about how to “operate” that GPS watch you’re wearing, but instead it’s an overview of how to “use” your watch to run better: tracking on-the-trails and between runs, managing goals, evaluating progress, gauging performance, and training to targets built around heart rate, intervals, and data-driven measurables. I tend to sell a few watches each time I give the talk because inevitably a week after I speak I get at least one or two people proudly showing me their new toys.
Clint has a name for each of the hills we run. Maybe it’s a runner-thing. Or, maybe it’s just a Clint-thing. Sadly he wasn’t out with us last night when I led the half marathon clinic out to meet “Gentle Ben” the moderate incline into the Whitemud Creek valley that will host the bulk of our hill training for the coming months. Hills, love’em or hate’em, they are one of those indispensable aspects of training for a distance race that require a certain mix of determination, good humour, and teamwork: yeah, you just trying running a half-dozen hill repeats alone and see if you consider add “teamwork” to your list, too. I don’t tend to run hills alone, which is probably why –despite training for the Dopey Challenge for the better part of winter– I haven’t visited any of our aptly-named inclines since last summer, save as a pass-by and hello-goodbye on a standard run. And yeah, I’m feeling them this morning, even just those three short repeats.
This is a post from my “Just Three” Challenge, a 28-day photography project to capture a series of three-photo-story sequences — to tell a brief narrative using just three pictures taken that day. Each day from February 22nd through March 21st I’ll be posting a three-panel photo collection that makes use of one of the six styles of story-telling transition.
Half way through my photography three-photo story challenge and I found myself standing on the roof of the Muttart Conservatory here in Edmonton, camera propped up on a tripod, cold wind blowing at my back, and eagerly soaking up as much information on low-light night time photography that I can from the instructor of the clinic.
You never stop learning. As much as you think you know, there is always more to learn. And when you can get hands-on lessons from a guy who used to photograph for National Geographic magazine, you take it, even if that means freezing your buns off on an unusually cold March evening. It also means you get some interesting photos of Edmonton’s…
Day 14: Pyramids of Light
Camera: Canon 40D
Subject: Night Photography Class, Night 1
Post-Processing: None, just resized for the web.
Story: Eight cold photographers supping on the wisdom of our photography instructor point their cameras at Edmonton’s city skyline from the roof of the glowing river valley pyramids.
Technique: Long exposure night photography using a tripod, timer, and some fellow photography clinic students.
Evaluation: I took a few hundred photos in the first half of the clinic (returning tomorrow for the second half) and of those most were just playing around with composition and the city lights. Nothing told a story though, so I turned the camera and grabbed a few shots of my class while everyone was busy doing their own pics. Even the instructor thought these were pretty cool.
It takes a half a minute to load (it’s about a megabyte and a half) but it’s worth it. The Google magic merged a series of like-posed photos into a colourful light show that’s worth the click.
No really… I’ll wait.