Running Into Yoga
I recently completed a yoga running workshop through YYoga’s Flow Wellness studio in downtown Vancouver. I’ve had several coaches in the past but the knowledge, expertise and energy that Katherine Moore brought to the clinic created a very relaxed yet engaging environment. If you have the chance, I strongly recommend checking out one of her workshops or retreats.
I began balancing my run training with yoga in January 2010 and the difference has been both visible and beneficial. The Running Into Yoga clinic provided a great mixture of running drills with yoga poses targeted towards runners. Both my running and yoga practice have benefitted as a result.
And if an upcoming clinic or retreat doesn’t fit into your schedule – try one of Katherine’s yoga classes at YYoga.
Let’s face it. Road running, even in a city as beautiful as Vancouver with numerous uninterrupted routes along the many seawalls, can get monotonous; especially when you get up to the longer distances.
Training for my fourth full marathon I’ve tried diligently to plan new and varied running routes. In the past couple of weeks I’ve added some sections of trail runs or complete trail runs.
Each turn and every step offers a new challenge. The varied terrain: dry or wet trail, tree roots, large and small rocks, fallen trees, wooden bridges, stairs, you name it! I am amazed at the agility of almost every trail runner I encounter along these route. There are hill climbs that will slow you to a walk but the promise of a downhill on the other side is really just the trail coaxing and calling you to push yourself a little bit harder, a litttle bit further. In a short time I’ve found trail running to be a welcome catharsis.
The past couple of weeks I’ve run sections of the Baden Powell trail and I find the Vancouver Trails website incredibly useful for finding other routes that would be good for trail running. What I really like about the Baden Powell is how well it is marked and maintained.
So yes, I realise that a couple weeks of trail running doesn’t make me fit to tackle the Knee Knacker; a 49km trail race from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove, but once I’ve completed the Big Five Marathon in a couple of weeks I’ll looking at other trail races; the Five Peaks series comes to mind.
If you’re looking to change up your regular running routine I strongly suggest grabbing a friend or two, plenty of water, a cell phone just in case and taking the time to find a trail that would interest you.
Big Five Marathon
- About one month ago I ran the 2010 Big Five Marathon. It was an absolutely incredible experience and I highly recommend this adventure race to anyone whether they are a runner with many races under their belt or someone just beginning to get into running.
The race is run on the Entabeni Game Reserve in the Limpopo province of South Africa. It is a once in a lifetime event to run amongst some of Africa’s greatest natural wild life. The Big Five are the five most difficuly animals on the African continent to hunt on foot. While not one of the Big Five, one of my race highlights was when a herd of 30 impala ran 2 metres in front of me.
The race is certainly challenging and not for the faint of heart. The first 750m or so are downhill followed by 10km of uphill run on a mix of clay road and rock. Kilometres 10 – 12 are relatively flat with the races first big challenge arriving at kilometre 12. At this point your begin a 5km descent into Yellowwood Valley.
The grades of this descent range from a modest 12.5% to a staggering 47%. At the bottom of this descent is a 9km loop. Possibly more difficult than the 5km descent is the fact that this 9km loop is run on sand. The sand is not packed or hard. It is soft beach sand that requires the racer to engage a variety of different muscles to soldier through this section of race.
At the end of the 9km loop racers are faced with a 5km incline. The same 5km that had previously been descended. At the top of this ascent runners head onto a plateau along clay road before beginning a gradual ascent accompanied by a headwind. The headwind is get for combatting heat but excruciating for runners trying to accelerate through the latter part of the marathon.
With 4km to go the course begins a steeper ascent of approximately 16%. Leveling out for the stretch between 40km – 41km the course heads downhill for about the final 800m – 1000m. Runners turn the final corner with about 150m to finish line and give everything they can to complete on of the world’s most difficult marathon’s.
The 2010 Big Five marathon was won in 3 hours 16 minutes with the second place runner crossing the line in 3 hours 52 minutes. While I did not meet my race goal I was very happy to finish as the top Canadian and the 20th male.
The entire experience forged life long friendships, created unforgettable life experiences and challenged me physically unlike any other way I have ever experienced. Put this race on your bucket list. You will not be disappointed.
Coolest. Jacket. Ever.
The biggest selling feature is the detchable magnetic sleeves. (The sleeves snap into place and you feel kind of like a transformer.) The sleeves are incredibly easy to take off and put back on while running with a rear pocket to store the sleeves while running with the just the vest on. The Versa is great for chilly weather – you start out with the sleeves on and as you warm up you can take the sleeves off. It’s also water-resistant so the Versa is great for wet weather as well.
First 5km Race
When one of my friends suggested that we run a 5km race as fast as we possibly could (I believe the actual words were “so fast that we are on the verge of vomiting for the entire race”) I thought that sounds like a great idea!!
I’ve run four marathons (Nike x2, Nashville Country Music Marathon, and the Big Five Marathon in South Africa) but have never competed in a distance shorter than 42km. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wanted to run shorter races. I’ve heard they can be a lot of fun but for one reason or another I’d never actually committed to one.
So this past Saturday I took part in the Salvation Army’s Santa Shuffle held in Stanley Park with approximately 200 – 300 people. It’s a pretty fun race with participants of vastly different age groups and fitness levels. For example, at the start of the race two kids took off neither of whom could have been more than 16 years old. Sticking with the Santa theme, another participant of giver or take 65 years ran the whole race in a Santa suit. Many participants run with antlers and red is definitely the colour of the day.
With patches of ice scattered throughout the race course and the new GirlTalk All Day album pulsating through my iPod my cadence right from the start had me moving pretty quick. I was able to keep pace with the front of the pack sitting in about fourth place until the 3km mark. I let a few people get by me as we made our way around the seawall to leave me in 10th with a kilometre to go.
Despite the cold temperatures I found myself overheating so one kilometre to go I took the sleeves off the Coolest.Jacket.Ever and started determining when to start my finishing kick. With 700m to go and two runners about 100m – 150m ahead of me I thought of Steve Prefontaine’s quote “Something inside of me just said ‘Hey, wait a minute, I want to beat him,’ and I just took off.”
I also had a goal of running my first 5km sub 20′. The frist runner heard me coming with about 500m left and quickened his pace so I pushed mine further. With 200m left I caught the other runner and set my sights on a runner another 75m ahead of me. As I past this third runner with about 15m to go I pleased to look up at the finisher’s clock to see that I’d crossed the finishing line in 7th place with a time of 19:57.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to put together my race schedule for 2011. Since participating in the Big Five Marathon in June 2010 I’ve found myself seeking other adventure style races that bring a different element to running or triathlon.
One of the things that I loved so much about the Big Five was how the race connected you with your surroundings and made you understand the privilege it was to run across the savanah with impala, kudu, rhinoceros, elephants, ostriches, giraffes, lions, zebras and a wide variety of other animals that call the southern African continent home.
In some ways I fear that the experience has spoiled the experience of a traditional road race. I seem to now have this insatiable desire to push myself further, to challenge myself physically and mentally; by finding races that deliver an extra element contributing to the overall experience. (My non-running friends look at me like I’m crazy when I get so excited about some of these events.)
This pursuit has lead me to discovering some truly amazing races. I am sure I will discover more but here are the races that I have thus far caught my attention:
Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon – San Francisco, CA, USA- participants swim from Alcatraz to the shore through 12C – 13C water with very strong currents and apparently some sharks before a warm up run to the transition area for the cycle. The run includes an ascent up 400 sand steps. Appx. 2000 participants capped and via lottery.
Big Five Marathon – Entabeni Game Reserve, South Africa- it is one thing to run a race with challenging terrain but to add the landscape of the African savanah and then combine that with running amongst native African animals is truly an amazing experience. Race packages include daily game drives, bush walks, a variety of other activities and some amazing food. The races diverse international participant base and the opportunity to spend 2 – 3 days before and after the race with other competitors enhances the experience.
Race The Planet – Multiple Locations Worldwide- each year Race the Planet hosts three different races all of desert crossings: Gobi – China, Sahara – Africa, Atacama – Chile. Every other year the “Last Desert” race is run in Antarctica. There is also a roving race each year. Nepal will hold the roving race in 2011 and Jordan in 2012. Each of these races is a staged race, meaning that each day a leg of the race is run. On average these races cover 250km in 6 – 7 days with participants being self-sufficient. There are camps each night but participants must carry all food for the entire race with them from start to finish.
TCC Adventures – Central & South America- similar to Race the Planet, TCC hosts several races each year. In general these races are not as intense as Race the Planet in the fact that runners are not required to be self-sufficient. You have the option of running as part of a team or competing as an individual. Races are held in Costa Rica, Panama and Bolivia. Some events provide the option of an extra level of difficulty. With race tag lines such as “every runner has their day of reckoning” I am not sure I would want to up the level of difficulty.
Tor des Geants – Aosta Valley7 days, 336 km, 24,000m in elevation coverage, a climb from 300m to 3300m, self-supported with water stations and medical stations and no staging. This race is one single stage and requires participants to manage their time as they see fit or quite frankly capable.
Ultimate Kokoda – Papua New Guinea- this track / hike is generally done in 8 days. The Kokoda Track will challenge teams of two to complete the route in 4 days. In addition to route finding participants will be required to build rafts to cross rivers, pass through local villages, and witness battlefields from WWII. What awaits the winner of the 96km inaugural race in March 2012? $30,000!
Greenland Ice Cap Challenge – Greenland- this race takes it to a completely different level. Starting on the west coast in Kangerlussuaq and ending 500km later in Isortoq on Greenland’s east coast, participants will endure 18 – 27 days of -35C weather (before windchill), navigate and pull sleds of approximately 75kg. Polar bears (don’t worry, mandatory race equipment includes a shot gun!) and 24 hour sunlight add to the experience. The inaugural event begins in April 2011.
I’ll continue to update as I find more to add to the list and am more than happy to add suggestions.
Words to Run By
At different points in any run or any race there comes a moment when you need some extra motivation. Something that is going to push you harder or just convince you not to stop moving when all you want to do is call it a day. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe you were out a little late last night, maybe you’re just having a bad day, maybe you’re pushing for a new PB and need something too keep you focused, or maybe it’s just that point in the race when no one else is around and you neeed to feel like you’re not alone out there.
Here are some of my favourites that either keep me going, prevent me from stopping, and make sure I even get started.
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift.” – Prefontaine
“Something inside of me just said ‘Hey, wait a minute, I want to beat him,’ and I just took off.” – Prefontaine
“You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.” – Prefontaine
“My feet have several thousand meetings scheduled with the dirt on a trail not far from here. Who am I to keep them waiting? Time to run.” -Jeb Dickerson
“The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.” – George Sheehan
“Performance, and performance along, dictate the predator in any food chain.” – SEAL team saying
“I ran. I ran until my veins pumped battery acid. And then I ran some more.” – Fight Club
“I’m never going to run this again.” – Grete Waitz after winning her first of 9 NYC marathons
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
“Take … the path that runs along the cliff–that one, the one without any guardrails. Take that path, and know the exhilaration of the ride and the pride you feel when you reach the end will inspire you to take that path again and again. And that experience … every day, will make you more fulfilled, more complete, and more alive.” – Harry Beckwith
“Running long and hard is an ideal antidepressant, since it’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. Also, there are those hours of clearheadedness that follow a long run.” – Monte Davis
“You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.” – Frank Shorter
“At the two-thirds mark, I think of those who are still with me. Who might make a break? Should I? Then I give it all I’ve got.” Ibrahim Hussein, on marathon tactics
“Get going. Get up and walk if you have to, but finish the damned race.”
Ron Hill to Jerome Drayton during the 1970 Boston Marathon
“Learn to run when feeling the pain: then push harder.” – William Sigei
And then we get to the Pearl Izumi “We Are Not Joggers” marketing campaign. This is an exceptional campaign with some marvellous creative targeted very well towards runners. Here are some of my favourite parts.
“Our ancestors never jogged down a meal.”
“If you want to know who the real runners are just take a look outside during Mother Nature’s next hissy fit.”
“If you are not sure if you are running or jogging, go faster.”
No one has ever been humbled by jogging. If all we want to do is feel good about ourselves, jogging is the ticket. It doesn’t challenge us. It doesn’t test us. It doesn’t exact a physical or psychological toll. Worst case scenario is, jogging may cause mild perspiration on color-coordinated sweat suits. But if we’re willing to push ourselves into uncharted territory, a place littered with broken bodies and remnants of the human psyche, running may be what we’re looking for. Without question, it dishes out more heaping helpings of humble pie than any sport we know of. Little wonder that so few people have the testicular fortitude to lace up and run like an animal.”
Top 10 of 2010 – My Sugoi Favourites
With 2010 coming to a close, highlighted by the Big Five Marathon, and an exciting upcoming 2011 race calendar, highlighted by my first multi-stage and first self-supported event Racing The Planet: Nepal and my first obstacle-style / multi-discipline races (Spartan and Tough Mudder), I thought I put together a list of my favourite Sugoi gear of 2010.
#10 - Merlin 2-in-1 Short
Full sewn-in boxer creating some light compression.
#9 - RSR Short
#8 - Hydrolite Jacket
Want to stay dry on your run / cycle? The Hydrolite jacket is the answer.
#7 - Velocity Tri Tank
Very comfortable, 3 rear pockets, and breathable.
#6 - Ready SL Tank
I love this tank for training, yoga, going to the gym and just chilling out at home. Slimmer fit but extremely comfortable. Also frequently on sale so I have about 8 of them!
My race day jersey. Worn in the Big Five Marathon with a racing camelbak hydration system and had a great race. Very comfortable and doesn’t cut low in the front like singlets by most other companies do.
Anyone who has heard me talk about compression gear knows that I am huge fun and enthusiastic supporter of compression gear. I generally wear the tights in colder weather. The shirt is great for recovery after a swim workout.
#3 – Compression Socks
My love affair with compression gear first began with compression socks and Sugoi’s launch of their compression gear lead to me becoming more familiar with Sugoi products and ultimately choosing Sugoi as my preferred training and racing brand. Compression socks are great for training, recovery and while playing other sports, i.e. I wear compression socks while snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking, playing hockey, etc. The various styles of compression socks allow an athlete to choose what works best for them. My favourites are the high sock and the ankle sock.
#2 - Versa Jacket
Admittedly this was a tough call. The Versa jacket is quite possibly the coolest jacket ever - and the cool factor, not to mention the “wow” factor, is huge. Basically it makes you feel like you’re Optimus Prime. The detachable magnetic sleeves come off and on extremely easily even while running at a tempo pace. I run with music so I like to throw on my iPod while just wearing the vest and then throw on the sleeves so that if / when I decide to take the sleeves off and store them in the ultra-convenient rear pouch I don’t have to slow down to take off the sleeves. The Versa is also wind resistant (I recently ran in 3 degree Celsius weather with a head wind only wearing a Ready SL Tank underneath – see #6) and didn’t feel the wind at all. The Versa isn’t completely waterproof but it is an absolutely fantastic jacket. Go buy it. Now.
I know that my top 10 list already has some other compression gear products on it and those who know me will probably be shocked that I’m putting the compression shorts ahead of compression socks. Compression gear is great for training, racing, and recovery. I never train without wearing compression shorts but I also wear them for recovery for several hours after training and before a training session. If I don’t wear them I immediately feel the ache in my quads and my recovery is much slower. The compression short’s design to specifically focus on the quadriceps significantly enhances recovery and ensures that I am fully prepared for the next training session.
Why Yoga? YYoga. Period.
I’ll admit it. A year ago, and for every year prior to that, I was a yoga sceptic. I didn’t get it. I knew there was this craze but I didn’t know what it is all about. And to be honest, I wasn’t really interested in finding out.
As I began to plan my training for the Big Five Marathon I started looking into the best ways to strengthen my core. Simultaneously I wanted to ensure that my training program had an emphasis on injury prevention. (I’ve had shoulder surgery following multiple dislocations in a 4 month period as well as having had vascular surgery – see compression gear.)
My research as to how to accomplish these goals quickly lead away from a gym membership and towards yoga. Approximately 12 months ago I bought a two week trial at YYoga. Now, when yoga comes up in conversation most people default to thinking about hot yoga but hot yoga isn’t for everyone. (Okay, it isn’t really for me. Or the people around me. Maybe if there was a moat around my mat….) Here’s why I decided to try YYoga over any other yoga studio and any gym that also offers yoga, ab, spin, and other classes:
Currently YYoga features over 700 classes a week in 7 different locations throughout Vancouver, Richmond, North Vancouver, Burnaby, and Whistler. (Membership give you access to all YYoga locations.) FlowWellness in downtown Vancouver is, I believe, the largest studio in North America. On top of the sheer number of classes and locations some YYoga studios also offer wellness services (massage, acupuncture, etc), infrared saunas (I cannot stand traditional saunas but now have an affection for infrared), tea lounges with free wireless internet, online reservations, equipment rental, and some pretty fantastic, knowledgeable and supportive teachers and staff.
I eased my way into yoga by starting with a spin class. That’s right, I started doing yoga by cycling. One of my foolish misconceptions about yoga, regardless of discipline (oh yeah, I also didn’t know about all the different kinds of yoga), was that yoga wouldn’t push me physically so I wanted to get my cardio in. The YRide class, as YYoga brands it, gives you 45 minutes of cardio followed by 15 minutes of yoga. A good introduction that soon left me wanting more.
Shortly thereafter I tried hot yoga and well you see, heat and I do not get along so well. I might have 5 or 6 hot classes under my belt. Soon after I was trying Hatha, Flow, Core and Yin. And I started to understand. After a two week intro, I bought a full year unlimited pass (those who know me will not be shocked by me diving into something head first).
Within those first two weeks I noticed that my running stride was improving, I was more balanced on my feet and I was better able to control my breath. I also became quickly aware of how, when I was at a yoga class, any thought of anything else in my life washed away. At first it was this struggling determination to get my body to balance, bend, relax or move in a particular way that for everyone else in room seemed so natural and effortless.
More recently it has evolved into a profound appreciation for the particluar pose and allowing my body to go deeper into my practice or, and sometimes simultaneously translating into clarity on something that is going in my life. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely still multiple times each class when I wonder how am I going to pull a certain pose or position off but at least now I have been afforded the understanding and confidence that in time, with practice, it will come.
Over the past year I have probably gone to somewhere between 175 – 200 yoga classes. It is now not uncommon for me to go to two yoga classes in a day and average 4 – 6 per week. Yin, Power, Flow, Core, YRide and Hatha are the classes I most frequent. So you could say that I now understand what all the fuss is about. I now travel with my own yoga parapharnelia and while I don’t necessarily include yoga in my daily routine, a weekend for me is not complete without a Sunday night Yin class at FlowWellness. I recently said that yin yoga should really just be called “make your life better” yoga.
If you’ve never tried yoga I obviously recommend doing your own two week intro, and I recommend doing it at YYoga, so that you can experience the benefits first hand and find the disciplines / styles / teachers that best serve you and your goals.
Want to learn more? Check out YYoga.
For those of us who believe in bucket lists, every once in a while something comes along that gets immediately thrown onto the list. Not only that, it becomes a priority and moves somewhere near if not right to the top of the list.
This morning I had one of those discoveries. The Sheffield Adventure Film Festival.
Twelve hours ago I didn’t even know this film festival existed. Eleven hours ago I e-mailed a friend who lives in the UK to see what he’s doing March 4th – 6th in the extremely unlikely situation I can a) get the time off work and b) can somehow top up the 2011 vacation fund (which took a big yet exciting hit when I got accepted into the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon about nine hours ago).
Alright, so what is ShAFF and why am I so excited / interested? Three days of films featuring adventure sports: climbing, mountain biking, skiing, orienteering, BASE jumping, surfing, skateboarding, trekking, kayaking, mountaineering, and the environment. So basically, non-stop films of all the activities I love in incredible locations around the globe that most of us only dream about.
ShAFF boasts that 100% of past visitors, starting in 2006 straight through to 2010, would return to the film festival. Some people have Cannes and Sundance on their bucket lists – I’ll take ShAFF.