Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fat Ass Full Frosty Beaver Moon Trail Half Marathon 2014 (2nd annual)

Seventy runners gather in the atrium at the Forks on a blustery Friday evening for the return of the Fat Ass Full Frosty Beaver Moon Trail Half Marathon. Nervous chatter permeates the room as the assembled check in, adjust headlamps and mill about catching up with old friends. This much anticipated event attracts the spirited runner, the rogues, and the adventurous ones of the running community.  It's an off-the-grid, low key, no fee, no schwag, no medal, no timing slow dance through gorgeous technical trails within the city.
Rheal Poirier, event organizer addressing the assembled runners.
Last minute instructions... don't get lost!
See Mike Listen for Instructions.
This year's Full Frosty attracted double the number of runners from 2013. Local runner and Manitoba Runners Association board member Bob Nicol predicts the Full Frosty will exceed one hundred runners in 2015.  Dwayne Sandall of the Manitoba Trail Runners provided support by expertly marking the trail with reflective flags making getting lost, if not impossible, less likely.  Dwayne also provided sweep duty and advised the crowd "If you come up behind me on the trail you were surely lost".  
Dwayne provided sweep on the trail "If you come up behind me you were surely lost"
We move from the comfort of the atrium to the chilly start line next to Esplanade Riel.  Dwarfed under the beauty of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights we dance nervously from foot to foot and pose for smiley pictures. The full moon glimmers momentarily between breaks in the thick cloud as if to reassure we mere mortals that all is well. On Rheal's good word we surge forward together as one, over the river, under the moon, through the woods. Together, seventy souls, one spirit.

All is well, all is good, all is alive... under a big old moon.
In time and space we slip into our own groove and follow the rhythmic beat of our heart. Lone runners silently lost in contemplation, large groups chat incessantly and punctuate the darkness with contagious laughter, friends relish the time together and grow closer.  Head lamps slither snake-like along the trails. The moon is shy tonight and the wind is sharp on our faces as we crunch, crunch, crunch along the gravel trail.
Over the river, under the moon, through the woods.
Esplanade Riel
Dwayne's reflective flags are strategically located on the winding dark trails. We learn to watch for them and yell "flag" as they are spotted.  Three flags side by side mark the optional, yet enticing, single track trails. The single track trails hug the river bank and wind impossibly through thick bush making 'running' a relative term.  I use my tiny hand held flashlight in addition to my head lamp to light these ancient trails.  Our run slows to a calculated walk on the sharp twists and turns.  The lead runner yells "branch" or "careful" to warn those several paces behind.  It's breathtaking and exciting, and exhilarating.  It's a sublime evening to be alive under a moonless sky, dancing along a Red River monkey trail.

Gabrielle Roy Trail Head 
The finish line is perfect.  We cross over the Assiniboine River on the converted wooden railway bridge leading to the Forks.  The bridged is decked with hundreds of coloured lights blowing wildly in the stiff wind. There's no gantry, no timing mat, no crowds, just a single volunteer at the end of the bridge greeting us with a most welcoming high five.  Tired and thirsty, we head to Finn McCues for a suitable refreshment. Smiles and hugs abound.

Thank you Rheal and Dwayne for your time and energy. This trail run is surely one of the finest urban trail adventures in the land.

It's a good day to be alive, dancing under a shy moon.


(Photos kindly provided by Gregory C. McNeil...except for the blurry, out of focus last one, that was taken by a runner called Mike).

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Give it A Rest; A Guest Blog by Cynthia Menzies

Give it a rest, you deserve it!
By Cynthia Menzies
Cynthia Menzies
It’s a Wrap
Well, here we all are, at the end of the running season. How did it go? Did you have fun?  Did you achieve personal goals? Did you overcome an injury or become injured along the way? Travel back in your memory and think about the words you used to call your season. Did you say something like, “That’s a wrap!” Maybe you exited early with joy (“I am done!”) or with regret (“I AM, done”)? Or, mid-way through, your running season texted with the words, “WE are done!” Maybe none of this applies to you right now and you are still racing or maybe your season never started and you are gearing up for your 2015 debut.
Life is Good
 I called my season after the Winnipeg 10 and 10 race and to be honest it wasn’t an easy decision. I was fully aware of the great fall race line-up and my goal to run a PB half-marathon race in October. But my body was tired on a very cellular level and it was time to call it. Once the declaration was made, an immense amount of relief came over me and I began to think about active-recovery and all the fun ‘non-run’ specific things I could do like yoga, mountain bike riding, trail walking with my dogs and time in the gym. Life is good when cross-training is a big part of it!
Slow Down
Calling your season is a helpful way for you to officially announce that you are switching gears from full on to slow down. To call your season means saying to self and others that you are done competing and training toward a goal race. In other words, you are giving it a rest and beginning the very thoughtful journey of intentional active recovery.  If you don’t call your season with assuredness, you could get caught in the just ‘one more hard effort workout’ or ‘one more race’ syndrome and this is not a good place to be in. The grind of always ‘training’ and ‘racing’ weighs you down. Accepting the fact that there are many more races and events than any one person can do any year helps with letting go as well. Just breathe into it.
Joy in Endings
According to The Running Times (2013), runners may also reach a performance plateau after a few races and fall well short of their true running potential, simply because they don't allow a proper recovery phase.”  Sometimes we are forced to end the season early due to injury, burnout, finances, scheduling, personal loss and trauma. Honestly, calling the season can be very hard for people because it means letting go of the training and race calendar and returning to ‘everyday life’. If you are like me, the high you get from training and racing helps to carry you through the harder times. For example, training and racing with intent is often accompanied by travel, the potential for personal bests, competition and fun networking with friends. When your goals suddenly change, it can feel isolating. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way and there is joy to be found in endings especially when new beginnings are just around the corner!

Off Season
                  While talking with my coach he shared his thoughts about the off season. His insights made a lot of sense and involved the idea that there is no such thing as an ‘off season.’  Good news for those of us that like to keep active all year round! In fact a heavy and structured training schedule should give way to an activity load with substantially less structure. This means that activity should not stop but should be reduced in volume (how much you do) and intensity (how hard you do it) and maintaining a routine is important.  This brings us back to why cross training and participating in multiple activities during different seasons is important. Having a written training plan to focus your active recovery efforts is helpful too.  
Active recovery, as opposed to passive recovery (which means complete rest from exercise) helps prime your body’s metabolic pathways of recovery.  The psychological benefits of active recovery are apparent as many people feel better when they exercise daily. Movement has the capability to elevate mood among other positive attributes. Listed below are 7 active recovery ideas from Blake Wood, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Certified Exercise Physiologist and Kinesiologist from Pure Lifestyle, a popular Winnipeg gym.  The active recovery ideas carry a low risk of injury and agree with most trainees:
  1. Self -Myofascial release (SMR) – Foam rolling is one form of SMR: the objective is to use implements such as foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and other specialty items (the stick) etc. in an effort to “massage your muscles.” Consistent foam rolling may improve range of motion.  On your off day, try passing over all major muscle groups with a foam roller. Aim for 30 seconds on each large muscle group, avoiding joints and bony areas. Focus a little extra time on problem areas and pinpoint troublesome areas by using a lacrosse ball. Monitor your pressure; remember, the goal is to feel better after foam rolling.
  2. Walking – a great thing to do for active recovery. Not only can it burn calories, but also being outside can increase your feelings of well-being. The amount of walking you do on off days should be based on your current fitness level, and your training schedule.
  3. Lighter Weight Lifting – Performing an exercise that made you particularly sore, but using a much lighter weight may be restorative. As a guide, use a weight at or below 30 percent of your usual weight, and perform one set shy of failure.
  4. Hiking – like walking, it can burn significant calories. Once again it must be tailored towards your current fitness level. If you feel worse after the hike than when you started it probably has done more harm than good as far as active recovery.
  5. Swimming – particularly low stress due to the weightlessness. You can have a great swimming workout engaging the muscular and cardiovascular system without added pressure on your joints. Take into consideration current fitness level.
  6. Yoga – mobility work can be a form of active recovery that can be done every day. Typically each joint in the body is taken through a safe range of motion. Yoga is an example of mobility work that some people use as active recovery. It can be beneficial if you appreciate your current fitness level and learn from a good instructor.
  7. Cycling – like the other forms of aerobic exercise can be a great active recovery workout, as long as you match the intensity to your current fitness levels.

Contributors: A big thank you to Scott Brown (endurance athlete and training enthusiast/coach) and Blake Wood (endurance athlete and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist) for your helpful insights, discussions and knowledge sharing regarding the topic of active recovery. Thank you to Fern Bérard for editing the article.

It's a good day to be alive, rested, healthy, and focussed. Thank you for the reminder Cynthia.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

The People of TRL; Meet Joanne Schiewe

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy is a 'behind the scenes' look at the many individuals that make up Ted's Run for Literacy; from committee members, to runners, to volunteers, to sponsors.  Every week leading up to race day we will interview an individual whose contribution to TRL helps to define the heart and soul of this fine event. The People of TRL is the brainchild of our Social Media chair, Carly Walsh.
Joanne crossing the finish line of Iron Man, Boulder, Colorado, 2014
Joanne is the master of ceremonies at TRL, and this year she mastered balancing training for Ironman, working and volunteering with us. Apparently it’s a can’t say “no” type thing. But Joanne embodies everything that’s awesome about being part of Ted’s Run - determination, heart, and humour (see above pic).

Come see Jo rock the mic at TRL 2014!

Ted’s Run for Literacy - How long have you been running and how did you start?
Joanne Schiewe - I had been an athlete and runner in high school but after graduation I spent many years not doing any sort of physical activity. It's a long story on how I became active again but I started running in January 2009. I was on the elliptical at the gym, and I was jealous of all the treadmill people who each had their own TVs. I decided to try the treadmill purely so I could watch TV. I ran 2.5 miles that night. I went home and said "Manitoba Half is in five months - I think I'm going to try to do that." My friends and family know that once I say I'm going to do something, I never back down. Training for that first half marathon was tough and I didn't think I would do it again....until I crossed the finish line. I was super hooked after that.

TRL - You've done some pretty amazing competitions this year (Ironman) - how'd you balance your work life/social life/training? And what are some of thing things you learned from training, and doing these events?
JS - In the beginning I didn't balance things well at all. I annoyed (to say it nicely) a lot of family and friends that I was only available on select days. Training for marathons and especially Ironman, taught me that I needed to learn to prioritize what was important and communicate that to my family/friends. I tell them that they will ALWAYS trump training if they need me. Since I usually have "blinders" on when I am in the thick of things, they just need to speak up when they need me around, want to hang out or even just to go dancing. Balancing everything else....well....I have a problem saying “no” to I have over booked commitments multiple times or just plain forgotten about things (sorry TRL committee). I now depend heavily on my iPhone, sticky notes, and others to keep me organizes. Last year, during Ironman training I felt like I was living from gym bag to gym bag and living out of my vehicle so I had specific days dedicated to appointments, grocery shopping etc... and check-lists to help me prepare for each day.

TRL - You don't like beer right?  You get to create and name your own beer as a post race bevy. Tell us about it.
JS - Beer....yuck! **hides beer behind back and looks other way**..... I would name it "Quick Feet Pale Ale". It would be infused with the sweat and tears of 1,000 runners.

TRL - Name your top three signs you've seen during a race.
JS - I've see a lot of great ones, but I will try to keep this PG (sort of)! "If this was easy, it would be called your mom", "Run like Ryan Gosling is at the finish line, holding a puppy". "If I said you had a nice iliotibial band, would you hold it against me"

TRL - What does Ted's Run mean to you?
JS - That's a loaded question! Ted's Run means many things to me. Unfortunately, I never met Ted but I've heard so many stories about the man he was. He devoted so much of his time to helping people fall in love with running, which I respect and admire so much and I try to emulate in the clinics that I instruct. I love the sense of community (between racers/volunteers/committee members) that exists within our "little race that could". I am so pleased that through our race, we are able to support Start2Finish, who are promoting running and living a healthy lifestyle to kids that will one day run this country.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Yesterday, we said goodbye to Annie.

Oh, I believe in yesterday.

Yesterday, The Beatles, from the album Help (1965)

Yesterday, we said goodbye to Annie. How I long for yesterday. 

We had been planing for yesterday for weeks, but never did we expect yesterday to arrive. She was distressed on Friday, confused and in pain, unable to stand, and frightened.  I embraced her and soothed her. We had just walked that morning as we do every morning (we have a routine, Annie and me) sniffing and marking her territory, slower than years past, but still alert and still alive.  It came suddenly, yesterday.

A trip to the emergency hospital stabilized the worst of it, a shot of something unpronounceable, some beautiful concoction of strong chemicals. It calmed her and eased the pain and confusion.  She became quiet and focussed. We slept a fitful night with Annie by our side on her little bed, motionless, drifting between not quite asleep, not quite awake. 

Dementia, weight loss, bronchial infection, hips failing, weight loss, not drinking, and in the end, unable to stand.. it was time for this life to end. It's odd how we expected it, but when it came we fought it hard, unable to comprehend life without Annie.

The doctor was kind, a good bedside manner you would say.  He explained the procedure. A sedative followed by a strong injection, 10 times the strength needed to ensure a peaceful and final end.  The sedation was quiet. We held her dearly as if for the last time, for the last time, smoothing and caressing as she drifted out of consciousness.  The doctor left the room, allowing us to say our goodbyes, to cry, to hold on to yesterday, however fleeting. 

The good doctor returned and administered the concoction, 10 times the required strength to ensure a quick and painless end. Annie's life ended in our arms, surrounded by love and warmth. 

Yesterday, we said goodbye to Annie.  How I long for yesterday.

It's a good day to be alive.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The people of Ted's Run for Literacy; Meet Michael Bennett

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy is a 'behind the scenes' look at the many individuals that make up Ted's Run for Literacy; from committee members, to runners, to volunteers, to sponsors.  Every week leading up to race day we will interview an individual whose contribution to TRL helps to define the heart and soul of this fine event. The People of TRL is the brainchild of our Social Media chair, Carly Walsh. 

TRL asked board member and fellow, friendly rival Tim MacKay to write a few words about TRL’s fearless leader:

"Race Director and one of the founding board members of TRL, Michael Bennett remains a driving force behind the run. As a career educator with a commitment to inclusion and social justice, he brings passion and dedication to his role on the TRL board. His never-ending enthusiasm and gentle spirit are infectious among all who get involved. Also known for being tenacious, Michael has been rumoured to have worked on recruiting committee volunteers during the entire course of a half-marathon. Michael is a committed runner with serious accomplishments, and he continues to pursue race goals both near and far. He’s a “never sit still” sort of guy, writing the See Mike Run blog, giving his time to a number of organizations, and supporting runners and races whenever he can. A true friend to all who know him, Michael’s humour, energy, and commitment are the glue of the TRL crew!"

Hopefully we tell you enough Mike just what you mean to us at TRL. You’re right; “It’s a good day to be alive!”

Ted’s Run for Literacy - How long have you been running and why/how did you start?
Mike Bennett - I started running competitively while attending middle school. I remember bombing badly at a divisional meet; my running spirit dying on the track in a puddle of tears and dry heaves. I discovered recreational running in university. I ran in the Gritty Grotto in cold weather and laps around the Legislative Building in the warmer months. I stopped running when I graduated from university and immersed myself in work, devoting every moment of the day and evening to teaching. I loved my job but it seriously lacked balance.

I was 45 when I realized I was 20 pounds over weight and in the habit of a scotch or two in the evening. I didn’t like the visual so I joined the Y and ran some laps for a couple of years. In doing so I dropped 20 pounds and ditched the scotch. It’s such a cliché, but I set a goal of running a marathon during my 50th year. I became a runner somewhere on a trail along the Assiniboine River on my 50th birthday and haven’t looked back. I can’t say running saved my life, but I shudder to think where I would be had I not taken that first terrifying step.

TRL - You always sign off with "It's a good day to be alive" - tell us about that quote (where it came from, why it sticks with you, etc...).
MB - I was a course marshal for a race about 10 years ago. I yelled “It’s a good day for a run” to a couple of elderly runners. One replied “Yes, and it’s a good day to be alive” and kept running. His buddy stopped and told me his friend had recently had heart surgery and he now considers every day a gift. The phrase “It’s a good day to be alive” resonated and has stuck. It has become my signature line on See Mike Run because I know many people run through depression and anxiety. I repeat it at every opportunity for them, hoping that if they hear it and say it often enough it becomes truth. So yes, friends, it is a good day to be alive even when all about walls are tumbling down.

Young Noah and Jack are bang on; running fast is fun and running is good for your muscles.
Fun + Muscles = A Good Day to be Alive.

TRL - We're not just about running at Ted's Run; the other half is reading. If you were to write a memoir what would the title be?
MB - See Mike Beat Tim MacKay in a Road Race has a nice ring to it, but it would have to be a fictional piece because that guy is seriously fast. He plays a mean banjo too!

People like Glen Shultz, Melissa Budd, Bob Nicol, and David Ranta inspire me. They work harder than anyone I know to earn the privilege of the start line. Their resilience and their strength in overcoming incredible obstacles to achieve their goals is breathtaking. They are passionate about life and live their dreams through the act of running. I suppose if I were to write a memoir it would be entitled The Inspiration Behind See Mike Run, and devote a chapter to each of those that inspire and bring me joy.

TRL - Has there been a moment during your time with Ted's Run that has really stuck out for you? What is that moment and why?
MB - In my professional life I sit on many committees and boards. We accomplish good things and we enjoy our company, but rarely do we have laughter. Ted’s Run For Literacy meeting are also serious business, but we have serious fun. The laughter and the gentle teasing is life affirming and just plain fun. We’re a diverse group but we are all devoted to making TRL the finest race possible. Sometime ago we coined the phrase Ted’s Run for Literacy, the little race that could. We are a small race existing in the shadows of some large corporate events so we have our challenges, but we are proud of our steadfastness.

Always, the moment that stands out for me is watching the young runners cross the finish line with big toothy smiles that light the chute. It’s kinda makes me tear up, just saying.

TRL - What does Ted's Run mean to you?
MB - Sylvia Rugger speaks of the ‘audacity of hope’ and encourages us to be bold and courageous in our hopes and dreams. We run marathons because they are hard and audacious, and just plain wacky. If it were easy everyone would do it, right? TRL Board members believe in the audacity of hope. We believe that we can eradicate childhood poverty through literacy programming in neighbourhoods in transition. It’s not easy and we may never get there, but that’s not important. Like running, the destination is secondary to the journey. It’s about perpetual forward motion, never giving up, dreaming audaciously, and it’s about building community. To quote Sylvia once again…we are strong, we are champions, we are never-giver-uppers.

That’s what Ted’s Run for Literacy means to me.

It’s a good day to be alive.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The (little) People of TRL; Meet Jack and Noah

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy is a 'behind the scenes' look at the many individuals that make up Ted's Run for Literacy; from committee members, to runners, to volunteers, to sponsors.  Every week leading up to race day we will interview an individual whose contribution to TRL helps to define the heart and soul of this fine event. The People of TRL is the brainchild of our Social Media chair, Carly Walsh.
Jack and Noah run because it "builds up your muscles" and "it's fun to run fast". 
Jack and Noah ran the 2km at last year’s Ted’s Run for the first time. Jack, 7, and Noah, 4, told us what they like about the two key elements of TRL - reading and running.

Ted’s Run for Literacy: Do you like to run, and why?
Jack: Yes. It’s fun to run because it builds up your muscles.
Noah: Yes. Because it’s fun to run fast.

TRL: If you were pretending to be an animal running what would it be?
Jack: Cheetah.
Noah: Dragon.

TRL: What should you eat in order to run fast?
Jack: Meat.
Noah: Fruit.

TRL: What is your favourite book?
Jack: The Magic Tree House books.
Noah: Little Critter books.

TRL: Why do you think reading is important?
Jack: It helps you learn to spell. You need to be able to read to get a job.

TRL: What’s your favourite part of being read to?
Noah - Because you get to hear all the fun parts.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fort Garry Rotary Half Marathon, Race Report (2014)

This morning I had the privilege of running the Fort Garry Rotary Half Marathon. Without a shadow of doubt the Fort Garry Half is the most scenic half marathon in Winnipeg and perhaps all of Manitoba. It also has a reputation of the fastest course around town; personal bests are measured in minutes, not seconds.  The course is mostly flat, there are few turns, and dozens upon dozens of fresh young volunteers line the course in bright yellow tee-shirts cheering and coaxing runners forward toward the line and, as a fall marathon, the temperature is blissfully cool.  Oh, and did I mention the breathtaking scenery? 

The race is supported with sponsors with very deep pockets so the committee pulls out all stops. There is a $5000 prize, yet to be claimed, awarded to any runner who sets a new Canadian record for the fastest half-marathon.  In speaking to one of the race directors I learned they may carry the prize money forward every year thereby building the prize money and attracting elite runners from across the nation.  Currently the amazing Lani Marchant holds the woman's record at 1:10:47. Yowzer, that's fast!

Many improvements are noted since its inception in 2012 including a consistent start/finish line, an improved dry bag drop off, and corralled start separating fast from less fast runners. There is a good mixture of Winnipeg's elite runners, middle of the pack runners (like yours truly), and the determined runners whose goals are lofty in their own right.  As per MRA rules, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd pace age category winners are acknowledged at the mic and all runners receive a very nice, heavy set medal.  The race committee is friendly, professional, and most important, many come from a running background.  My source tells me they secretly want to grow this race to 500 (they currently hover around 200 runners) and attract runners from around the country.  And why not? This is a fine race, perhaps one of the finest, and is deserving of such recognition.

Concerns exist around the male-only tee-shirt.  My friend says it best; "I'm a small female, not a small male".  The race committee should take note.  By all accounts they are financially secure so there is no reason for shortcuts, especially considering about half the runners are female. So why have a one size fits all tee-shirt?  Why cheap out? I expect the race committee will receive more than a few emails from female runners. They should take note and fix this blemish on an otherwise fine event.

Let's not forget the good this race accomplishes.  The primary goal of Fort Garry Rotary Half Marathon is to raise funds to support ....
...vocational programming offered at the Knowles centre with the aim of providing graduating students with either the ability to continue their training elsewhere, or to find employment.  Current support for knowles graduates ends at the age of 18 and these at-risk adolescences lack sufficient skills to cope with the demands of society and become contributing members of society.... (The Knowles Centre) ... aims to break the cycle of abandonment the graduates face and teach them a productive trade.

Good for the race committee for supporting The Knowles Centre and good for them for hosting such a fine event.  They should be very, very proud of a job well done.

You know it, it's a good day to be alive.

Peace, love and run,


Friday, September 19, 2014

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy; Meet Tim MacKay

The People of Ted's Run for Literacy is a 'behind the scenes' look at the many individuals that make up Ted's Run for Literacy; from committee members, to runners, to volunteers, to sponsors.  Every week leading up to race day we will interview an individual whose contribution to TRL helps to define the heart and soul of this fine event. The People of TRL is the brainchild of our Social Media chair, Carly Walsh.
Tim MacKay, father, educator, runner, Riders Fan (pwet), TRL board member, all-round nice guy.
It appears Tim MacKay, TRL board member, is taking this opportunity to call out Race Director, Michael Bennett, for an epic race. Date, time, distance - TBD. Tim not only brings humour to the board, but also his passion for being an educator and runner (seems like a good fit for us).

Ted’s Run for Literacy - How long have you been running, and how did you start?
Tim McKay - I've been running on and off for several years but found my way back to regular running about four years ago. I now participate in maybe a dozen different races a year.

TRL - You're in a race with only one other person. Who is it, and do you beat them?
TM - It'd probably be with one of my siblings. I've coached and paced a few of them to PBs. Trying to beat each other has never been much fun so it would probably be a bad idea to start trying to do that now.
If I had to race, I mean really race, I'd run against that pesky Mike Bennett. We'd be joking and laughing and pestering each other for miles. It'd take a long race to find a winner.

TRL - Create your perfect post-race beverage; give it a name.
TM - Well, it sounds a bit boring, but I love water. Then a berry juice - any berry. Then a coffee. The triple finish - water, juice, coffee.

TRL - What's your best piece of advice for new runners?
TM - It's a simple truth that gives any runner a mental boost - "Any runner at any level is already far above average just for having shown up!"

TRL - What does Ted's Run for Literacy mean to you?
TM - I'm lucky, privileged in fact, to be able to enjoy the benefits of both a good education and good health. My education has benefitted me in developing a successful career in schools. My health supports me as a committed runner.
Ted's Run for Literacy brings both these worlds together, supporting the development of both literacy and fitness for youth who don't necessarily live with the privilege that I do. So I get to give back in a way, and contribute to extending the positive benefits of education and health where it really matters and is likely to make a real difference for youth. The TRL organizers are an amazing group of folks. It's not only rewarding to volunteer with this group, it's also a pile of fun. There it is - fun, rewarding, doing good work, and connected to literacy, learning, and fitness. What could be better? I mean, besides beating that pesky Mike Bennett in a race?

It's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

What's the best darn energy bar in the world?

How many times have you asked yourself … what’s the best darn energy bar in the world? ... and then moved on to simpler questions such as how to attain world peace and the meaning of life. Well dear readers, fortunately for you See Mike Run doesn’t shy away from the tough questions!  Read on, all will be revealed.

First up, thanks to the following 12 athletes for their unbiased analysis and dogged determination to settle this age old dilemma once and for all!.  They are surely in line for the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in advancing human civilization! 
Carly Walsh
Bob Nicol
David Fielder
Ainsley MacDougall
Fern Berard
Darcie Wadelius
Connie Lowe
Melissa Budd
Tim MacKay
Joanne Schiewe
Cynthia Menzies
Nadine Linder
Back to the task at hand, what's the best darn energy bar in the world? 

If you just can't wait, skip to the chart below. If you have a bit of time, consider the following.

Twelve athletes were invited to ‘blind-sample’ ten popular energy bars and rate them in five different categories using a 4-point rating scale.

Sniff Test: How appealing is the smell of this energy bar?
(Yummy) 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 (Pee Ewe)

Taste Test: How appealing is the taste of this energy bar?
(Divine) 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 (Gag)

Sweetness Test: How sweet is this energy bar?
(Just right) 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 (Quick, call my dentist!)

Real Food Test:  How likely is this energy bar made from real food?
(Real Food) 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 (Franken-food)

Purchase Test:  How likely are you to purchase this energy bar?
(Very likely) 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 (Hell no)

Energy Bars Sampled

The ten Energy Bars sampled are:

GORP, Cocoa, Hemp & Almond
CLIFF, Oatmeal Raisin, Walnut
POWERBAR, Chocolate Carmel Fusion
HONEY STINGER, Chocolate Waffle
GORP, Peanut Butter & Apple
CLIFF, Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch
CLIFF Chocolate Chip
POWERBAR, Carmel Fusion
GORP, Peanut Butter & Raspberry
CLIFF, Black Cherry Almond

Results (click the charts to super size):

Yellow cells show the highest overall score in each of the 5 categories.
Red cells show the lowest overall score in each of the 5 categories.
The asterisk indicates 11 people scored the category, not 12.

GORP (Cocoa, Hemp and Almond) scored highest in four of the five categories with a combined approval rating of 79.58%. The testers used a variety of adjectives to describe the taste and smell of this energy bar including sweet, satisfying, chocolaty, fruity, nutty, crunchy, fresh, grainy, natural, and woody. The testers used these adjectives to describe the overall experience of the energy bar: choco-rific, healthy, choco-nutty, bar-o-licious, and bitter.

CLIFF (Black Cherry and Almond) was the second choice with an approval score of 75.33%.  These are some of the adjectives used to describe the bar: crisp, buttery, cardboard, chewy, crunchy, apple, cinnamon, moist, nutty, sweet, nutty, spicy, vanilla, oat-tee, cotton candy, bleh, yuck, dirt.  Interestingly, two separate testers described the taste as “cardboard”.  The one word used to describe the overall experience includes: dependable, solid, fake, sweet, delicious, gingerbread, comforting, yum, imitation, and ugly.  

GORP (Peanut Butter and Raspberry) followed close behind for third place with an approval score of 72.91%. This bar scored highest in one of the five categories. Adjectives to describe the bar include: interesting, dry, fruity, nutty, earthy, satisfying, honey, musty, clean, cinnamon, and almond milk. One tester described it as “like peanut butter and jam on toast”.  The one word to describe the overall experience includes: happy, tasty, gratifying, hmmm, clean, boring, choking-hazard, perfect, and heavenly.

With an approval rating of 51.66% POWERBAR (Chocolate Carmel) came in dead last.  It scored lowest of all ten bars in four of the five categories. One tester described this bar as “an energy bar trying to be a chocolate bar” and then added “a bad chocolate bar”.  Other adjectives used include: candy bar, artificial, non-descript, bland, buttery, pleasing, mmm fudge, sweet, chocolaty, creamy.  Several testers compared it to a chocolate-bar and suggested it is too sweet.

Whats the most important aspect of an Energy Bar?

The tester were asked to identify the most important qualities of an Energy Bar from a list provided.  They were also given the opportunity to explain.  Here's the results.

What aspects of an Energy Bar are important from you?  You may circle more than one.

Protein: 9 responses
Fibre: 6 responses
Natural Food: 7 responses
Name Brand: 1 response
Size: 0 response
Calories: 4 responses
Cost: 6 responses
Locally Sourced: 3 responses
Other:  4 responses

If the testers chose other, they were asked to explain.  Here's a couple of their comments:

The energy has to be sustainable.  Many snack bars give only short periods of energy. A good Power Bar (my favourite) gives you a lot of energy for a good period of time. Taste does make a difference though even the unpalatable can be endured for a time if there is enough energy and no drop (i.e. cache). Energy bars go best with water.

Taste!  When I'm out there working hardI want to look forward to tasting something good.  I don't care if it's good for me (although I probably should). I have to like the taste a lot! It is also important that it does not melt; I can't wreck another race bag. 

If this energy bar were a pop song, what would it be called?

And finally,  if this Energy Bar was a pop song, what would it be called? Here's a sampling in no particular order.
Smooth Movement 
Just Eat It!
Bad To The Bran
Who Put The Hay Bail in my Mouth?
With or Without You, I'll Get By
How Sweet It Is
Quaker Love
My Teeth Are Screaming
She Ain't Pretty, She Just Looks That Way
I Want To Give You Cavities
Plastic Fantastic
Hit Me Baby One More Time
You Make Me Sick
Sweet Trouble; Just cuz ya taste good, doesn't mean ya is good!
Soggy Sad Sunday
Won't Waste My Time On You!
Gritty Love
It's Your Money I'm After Baby
You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman
Rockin' The Buds
Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, I've Got Love in My Tummy


This is not a scientific poll so it's difficult to determine hard and fast conclusions but it does seem that 2 out of three athletes prefer GORP Energy Bar over the others. What's exciting about the findings is GORP is a local bar, made in Niverville, Manitoba and they are the official Energy Bar of Ted's Run for Literacy.  If you haven't yet tried a GORP I encourage you to pick one up at all fine Running stores such as City Park Runners on Portage Avenue; you won't regret your choice.  Or, better yet, register for Ted's Run for Literacy and get a free GORP Energy Bar at kit pick-up.  

It's a good day to be alive.