Saturday, November 8, 2014

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

Won't you hold my hands over my heart?
I want you to close my eyes when it grows dark.
We go over the mountains and under the stars.
We go over the mountain and under the stars.

Bow and Arrow by Ruben And The Dark

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 bib, no timing slow dance through gorgeous technical city trails.
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 attracts 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 BĂ©rard for editing the article.

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