Friday, July 20, 2012

She Was a Good Old Girl.

You glide on the airYou swivel and turnFast beating heartWhat do I gotta learn
The Wailin' Jennys, Oh Swallow, from the album Firecracker
The other day my Garmin 305 died. I first noticed she was a little under the weather during the Fargo Marathon where she tuckered out and quit at mile 18. I felt like quitting too, so who could blame her?  It was the suddenness that surprised me. She gave no warning of poor health.  
One second she's cheerfully shining the light, counting down pace, cumulative time, distance, and about a dozen other functions that I have not taken the time to learn (she's way smarter than me, has more memory too). The next second she blacks out. I managed to finish the race without her, but it was tough not knowing the vitals. Running a marathon without a GPS is like driving in a rainstorm without wiper blades.

Her health slipped from this moment forward. Sure, she would greet me off the charger with a perky little beep, beep, let's go! In time though the eagerness fades.  In time I develop a Pavlovian response to those beeps... she beeps and I run, she beeps and I stop. I now realize she was putting on a brave face just for me.  It became clear that she couldn't sustain energy for long. Her beeps muted, her lights dimmed. She was dying. 

She flickered at mile 16 and faded out by 17, then 14, then 12... she died a little earlier for each additional run until one day, two weeks ago, she didn't wake up from her charge bed.  I tried to resuscitate her... hold the power button and start button simultaneously... or is it the mode button and power button simultaneously, or is it the power and lap button...shoot, why didn't I pay attention to those tutorials? No matter, no heroics were to save her, she was done, slipped away in dawn's early light.

She was a good old girl. She got me where I wanted to go through thick and thin, through rain, snow, ice, through 50 below didn't matter, she was always up for a run. Yup, she was a good old girl. Perky yet dependable.  We became friends me and her.  She annoyed the heck out of me with all that damn data, but she kept me honest.. no Mike that's not 6 miles, it's only 5.59, keep going, once around the block otta do it... She was a good old girl, an old friend really, and I miss her terribly.

Garmin 610 Forerunner with HRM
I started looking for a replacement and I was disappointed.  I looked at the the Garmin 610. It's nice, maybe too technical, but nice.  It's expensive at $399 (with HRM) and $349 (without HRM). It has all the features but it's touch screen and I hear from everyone that the touch screen is overly sensitive. I do like the idea of swiping and scrolling the screen, but people say it's a steep and frustrating curve. Those that love it though, LOVE it, so who knows?  The 610 has an audible or a vibration alert which to anyone who has run with a group and put up with dozens of chirps and beeps understands the benefit of a vibration alert.  I almost bought it for this reason alone! It's also very sleek and has a low profile (unlike the clunky 305).

Garmin 310 XT Forerunner with HRM
Next on my list is the Garmin 310 XT (with HRM). It comes in at $299 and resembles the 305 in size and shape.  They claim it has Hot Fix technology which locks on to a satellite much faster and hold the signal through denser terrain. Nice.  It also connect wirelessly to a computer. Again, a nice touch.  They claim the battery life is a whopping 20 hours (the old 305's have a 12 to 14 hour battery life). The 310 is a multi-sport device meaning it's easy to switch from your wrist to your bike in seconds (if you purchase the bike/ wrist mount). It's also waterproof to 50 meters so fogging shouldn't be an issue.   All in all, this looks like a good GPS and I seriously considered buying one until...

I seriously considered buying one until I re-read Running Fully Charged and got a pang of guilt.... more e-waste. Why not just change the battery?  I contacted Garmin and they directed me to Raytech in Quebec for an authorized repair.  I sent it to them, prepaid $85, for a battery change. Postage cost an additional $10 so I'm in to this for just under $100. Hmm, I could buy 1/3 of a new GPS for this amount... it better work!  

Several days later a package arrived in the mail. To my surprise, inside the package, right below the bubble wrap was a shiny new .... you guessed it... Forerunner 305! Brand new! My heart skipped a beat. There she was again, my old friend, as good as memory itself, better even. I slid her on the wrist and it felt good, like a new pair of Smart Wool socks on Christmas morning. We went for a little run together to reacquaint ourselves. It was awkward at first, you know, the customary small talk to build trust... how about those Jays... but soon we were best of friends again... almost like she never left. She beeps and I run, she beeps and I stop. It's a good old world and she a good old girl. I've got big plans for her, I hope she's up to the task!

Oh yes friends, it is a good day to be alive.  So good. So alive.  

Beep, beep!


Friday, July 13, 2012

Run Smart in the Heat

Temperatures hovering in the mid to high 30's. Humidex values add another 5 degrees just for the heck of it. The tiniest exertion causes sweat to pour from the forehead like those cartoon characters. No end in sight right through to the end of July.  

There's no question friends; running in this heat is dangerous.  I have had heat exhaustion and let me tell you it's no laughing matter. It's pretty well the closest I've been to death, but that's another blog post.  

So what's a runner to do?  How do we run in extreme heat and live to run another day?

Take a break from running? LOL! 

Run on a tread mill? Heck no! 

Run laps at your local gym? I get dizzy just thinking of lap runs.. no way!

Complain to your spouse...for sure, but it's not going to get you anywhere. 

The answer is Run Smart.  Think... what would Einstein do?  

Here's a few tried and true suggestions that have kept me alive over the last few weeks. 
  • Plan Smart: Run early in the morning or later in the evening. The sun is less intense and if you're lucky the temperatures have dropped a few degrees.
  • Carpe Diem Smart: Run in the rain. We haven't had much rain lately but it did spit a little yesterday so I seized the opportunity and ran a 6 miler.  It was joyful!
rain drops, blissful running

  • Hydrate Smart: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drink double your normal running consumption of fluid. On a typical run I take two or three sips every mile or so (think ...sip, sip, sip...). In these extreme temperatures I ditch the sips for GLUGS (think ... glug, glug, glug, burp, glug, glug, glug...).  Plan your routes with water stops in mind.  I have a favourite 6.5 miles route that passes two water fountains, AND I carry my own water. That's a lot of H2O for a 6.5 mile run, but I live to tell the story.  If you click on the pic you'll see the beads of sweat (lovely I know) and that's after only 3 miles. Typically you can expect to lose between 2 to 4 pounds over the course of a 10 mile run in this heat... that's 2 to 4 pounds of sweat!  And all that sweat has to be replaced or you may get sick.  And by the way, don't be a purist, Gatorade and Powerade work wonders in this heat. They replace electrolytes that are lost in sweat. Use 'em on runs longer than 45 minutes.
glug, glug, glug...
  • Motivation Smart: Have a special cold treat waiting for you in the refrigerator for your return. It provides motivation on the run and replenishes much needed protein immediately upon arriving home. I have a fresh strawberry or pineapple smoothie with Greek yogurt and tonnes of ice chips.   Mmmmm... makes me want to go for a run right now!

  • Drink Smart: Limit your beer or wine intake the night before a run.  Wine is especially hard on the hydration system so, if you drink, drink smart.
  • Trail Smart: Run trails. They're fun and often provide more shade. Trails don't hold the heat like concrete.  City street are huge heat sinks so avoid them whenever possible. If there are no trails in your area (poor you) than run on the shady side of the street.

trails offer shade
  • Clothing Smart: Run with as little clothing as possible and what you do wear should be technical (cotton is rotten).  Wear your hair up. Replace the clothing with sun screen. Wear a white hat... grade 6 science actually is correct.. white repels heat. I know many female runners that will run in a sports bra and completely ditch the shirt when temperatures reach the red zone.. now that's smart!
  • Pace Smart: Slow down eh!  Add at least one minute to your pace. For instance, if your comfortable running 9 minute miles on your long runs, slow it down to 10 m/m, or even 11 m/m.  Heck, no one is going to care and you'll feel way better.
  • Heart Smart: Listen to your vital signals. If you have a heart rate monitor use it and understand the numbers.  You have to know your resting heart rate, your maximum heart rate and that magic 60 to 80% of max.  If you don't have a HRM than check your pulse on walk breaks. If you're experience difficulty breathing or if your heart rate doesn't slow even on walk breaks,  head for shade immediately and phone 911. Yes, even Einstein would carry a phone in this heat.
  • Know the Signs Smart: If you stop sweating and you feel clammy you are very seriously overheated. No amount of drinking will help at this point... it's too late, seek medical help asap.
  • Eat Smart:  Avoid deep fried foods and huge amounts of animal protein.  As a society we tend to consume way more protein (much of it animal protein) than our body's can absorb. Most of it passes through with zero benefit.  Eat lighter meals and your body will love you on those long runs.
Useless fact...My record cold weather run is 10 miles in -50 degrees Celsius. I've run the same distance in +40 degrees many times. That's a 90 degree difference from winter to summer running!  That's what I like about running... the ever changing elements.. you just don't get that in a gym.  

more trails, love this vegetation, come run with me...
So friends, run in the heat, but run smart, and always remember...  it is a good day to be alive.

Mike :)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

59 Cent Campaign

I just cannot understand how my government can take the most vulnerable of people and decide it's appropriate to make them more vulnerable. 

Dr. Paul Caulford, Scarborough, Ontario

The 59 cent Campaign For Refuge Healthcare is a student led, non-political, non-violent,  movement that believes "... citizen advocacy is a vital component of a healthy well functioning country." (source)  The campaign had its official launch on Friday, June 22, 2012.  

On April 25 our government under the leadership of The Right Honourable Jason Kenney made a decision to cut spending to refugee healthcare. This law applies to all refugees arriving on Canadian soil from a country that our government deems unacceptable.  Our government proudly announces this will save taxpayers 20 million dollars a year, or roughly, 59 cents per Canadian.  This law came into effect on June 30, one day before Canada Day.  Proud to be a Canadian?  

Yes, but maybe a little less proud than I was on June 29.

The refugees arrive on our soil from some of the worst environments on the planet. Many have lived in substandard refugee camps for years. They are often in dire need of medical care and have witnessed  atrocities that have left deep scars. They have lost their sense of community, they have no network, no family, don't understand our culture, our language.  They arrive on our soil broken and in need of care.  What is most appalling, even more so than their backgrounds, is that we, the government of Canada, have the ability to help them, but we choose not to do so. Proud to be Canadian?

Yes, hyper-proud of the young Canadian students who organized this campaign.

Prior to June 30 these same refugees would receive full medical attention and the support of social services to assist them in becoming functional and healthy citizens. All of that, in one signature, is wiped away. Proud to be Canadian?

Yes, but I'm certainly not proud of this government.

The 59 cent Campaign asks all citizens to expres their outrage by sending the Right Honorable Prime Minister Stephen Harper 59 cents with a note explaining its purpose. Personally, I can't think of a better way to spend Canada Day.  Here's the sequence of event from my perspective:

...get your change jar, check behind the cushions if you're a little short...
...count out 59 cents... here's mine, 3 nickels, 4 dimes, 4 pennies...
...address an envelope... no postage necessary if mailed in Canada... the spirit of non-violence, write a friendly note, tape money to letter 
(I sent $1.18 to cover Jennifer and me) , tell him sent you...
Here's the video created by the students.  I'm very proud of these young people, as should you.

It's a good day to be alive, unless of course your an unacceptable refugee in dire need of medical care.