Sunday, November 25, 2018

Blow it Up! Campaign

Carly Peters interviewed by CBC
We blew it up good on Harte Trail this morning. The Blow it Up! campaign had coffee, muffins, treats, tunes, heat, media, and lots and lots of high velocity whistles. Alas, someone forgot to invite the runners.  We had a couple of lone runners and a few more walkers, but not the droves we had anticipated.  Harte Trail, usually teaming with runners and hikers, was ...insert cricket sound...bare today.

Carly Walsh Peters is an active and much appreciated Ted's Run for Literacy board member. In between her duties as a busy mom, wife, professional career women, she has organized the Blow it Up! campaign. The old maxim, if you want to get something done, ask a busy person, applies in spades to Carly.

Unfortunately this campaign was borne from violence. A women was recently sexually assaulted by a man on this idyllic trail ...mere meters from where we set up. Coincidently, today is the United Nations International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women  Out of tragedy grows hope.  Ted's Run for Literacy received over $800 in anonymous donations to purchase whistles. Support was also offered by a Hi-Vis City, a local safety company that provided the whistles at a substantial saving.

The Blow it Up Campaign provides free whistles and a comprehensive information sheet for women's safety on the trail. We believe sound, especially the shriek of a high velocity whistle, may prevent a sexual assault from occurring. As Carly says, "forget politeness, if you feel threatened, blow the whistle".

The tip sheet also offers suggestions for men on how to best support the women and girls in their lives. Upon reading it I immediately reflected on my own past practise and caused me to reflect inward on my attitudes and actions towards women.  I consider myself one of the enlightened men, but even so, I've never run a mile in a woman's shoes. I take my safety for granted while trail running, while women run with heightened awareness of their surrounding.

Stay tuned for our next pop-up.  Grab a whistle for yourself or someone you love.

It's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, November 4, 2018

Male runners have privileges not experienced by women runners.

Give a little whistle
Not just a little squeak, pucker up and blow.
And if your whistle is weak, yell!

Jiminy Cricket

Last week I waxed poetic about running a single track trail along the Assiniboine River. I was in the moment and revelling in the natural beauty of this ancient river. I was approached from behind by a man who slowed to match my steps.  I knew he was there, I could hear his footsteps and his breathing. I knew he wanted to pass but the dense forest and narrow trail made this impossible.  We ran silently in single file for minutes.

I wasn't scared or concerned about my safety. At no time did I feel threatened or nervous.  After several minutes of silence we engaged in a pleasant conversation before he pulled out on a flat section and passed me with a friendly wave.

I have come to realize that, as a man, I am privileged. I run trails solo through dense forest or dimly lit streets, night or day without fear of sexual assault or hurtful, sexualized comments and threats.  Truth is, I don't give my safety a second thought.  I run without a plan. I often don't share my whereabouts with my wife, or my expected return time.  I just run, carefree, lost in bliss searching for perfection.

I expect all men share my relaxed attitude and run freely without a care. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Women and girl runners do not enjoy the same freedom. They run with a heightened sense of awareness of their surroundings.

And so they should!

Last year 180 women were sexually assaulted in Winnipeg. Manitoba has the highest rate of sexual assault in Canada, almost double the national average. In 2016 about 109 people per 100,000 reported being sexually assaulted to police (the national rate is 58 per 100,000).

A female friend recently found a woman on Harte Trail who had just been sexually assaulted. Her presence frightened the man and he ran away. The attack took place at about about 6:10 PM in light dusk. There were plenty of people on the trail enjoying the last moments of fall. Harte Trail winds through family friendly Charleswood, perhaps the safest neighbourhood in the city. If women can't feel safe on Harte Trail they .... sheesh, this is depressing.

I invited female runners to comment.  This is a sampling edited for clarity and brevity:
  • I lost my courage to run alone. Maybe one day it will come back. Please be safe.
  • I always run there as it’s a block from my house It is isolated in some spots and as a woman I always am extra careful on trails. I have my phone out and take pictures of everyone on the trail. I can’t keep up with runners at the running room anymore so have to run alone 😕 I’m just careful.
  • I usually run on the seine river trail depending on the day it can be isolated or busy. I most often feel safe but getting more concerned about running alone on trails.
  • I’m afraid to run alone in general. I stay where it is busy and light out. It’s unfortunate, i feel I have to stay away from trails.
  • I won’t run on isolated paths. I usually stick to main roads. I would love to run on trails but I just don’t feel safe.
  • I do not feel safe running alone on isolated paths at any time of day. I will run on trails/bike paths with good visibility during the day alone without ear phones, but not after dark. I am wary of my surrounding and will be extra careful under bridges etc. Realistically this forces me to run indoors during the work week for 6-8 months of the year.
  • I like the trails so one ear bud in and ready to groin kick the heck out of anyone who bugs me.
  • I was attacked just walking home not running but still the incident left me feeling hurt, uneasy, angry, scared, vulnerable and weak. I was fortunate enough to escape the attackers hold and thankfully a car passed by in time for me to do so. That was 10 years ago and I'm still jumpy and get easily startled. 
  • I run with a "personal protection device" and dog spray. Sadly, mace is illegal here so I need other forms of protection when out alone. 
  • If someone is attacking me, I'll use any means to defend myself.
Many woman runners offered safety strategies including: dog spray, running with a buddy,  have a plan, tell your plan, and stick to your plan.  Another common strategy -news to me... again, male privilege talking here- is running with a whistle to alert others when in danger. Three long blasts from a whistle is the international code for distress so use it to your advantage.

In response, Ted's Run for Literacy Race Committee will purchase 100 high quality whistles & lanyard with a top ten list of trail running safety tips for women. We will distribute the whistles and top ten list free of charge to any woman or girl that requests one.  We are partnering with a local company which will remain anonymous until the details are in place. Watch for details on Facebook and this blog.

Please do not view this as opportunistic. Our race committee is mostly woman (about 75%) and we truly do care about our community.

It's a good day to be alive.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Wolseley, A Runner's Paradise.

Olmands Creek, Wolseley
Photo Credit Brad Cartman
I know you think you live in the best neighbourhood in Winnipeg, but sorry, you're wrong.

Wolseley is the best darn neighbourhood in Winnipeg. Five minutes from the most iconic intersection in Canada - tragically closed to foot traffic by car culture suburbanites who are least invested  in a thriving downtown neighbourhood. Known locally by the moniker The Granola Belt, home of Tall Grass Prairie Bakery, and the mystic jewel of the flatlands, Prairie Sky Bookstore. We love our trees almost as much as we welcome diversity. 

We hold true the values of the 60's hippy counter culture, but we wear better clothes and keep better hair - thank goodness. We drive a Prius or equivalent or we chill with Peg Car or Tapp.

We border The West End, West Broadway, St James, and our rich cousins to the south, old wealth Wellington Crescent.  We identify with exciting West Broadway for it is a neighbourhood in transition, much like the Wolseley of the 1970's.  

Charleswood is a close second. With it's old village charm, young families, and access to Assiniboine Forest makes for an appealing neighbourhood, but, sorry, it ain't Wolseley, not even close.

Throw a stone in any direction in Wolseley and you're on a breathtaking urban trail of self discovery, beauty - such beauty- and inner peace.  

Today I ran an eight mile in Wolseley. I ran a trail hugging the low track of Assiniboine River.  Dozens of Canada Geese comically landing feet first on the calm brown water... insatiably squawking, honking Oh Canada for all who listen.

Today I ran eight miles in Wolseley. I ran along grand old Wellington Crescent lined proudly with ancient Elms and benches. The water fountain, so welcoming, is closed for the winter, but will surely return with the promise of summer. Runners and walkers smile and wave as we pass. I thrive in the loveliness and smile at the perfection.

Today I ran eight miles in Wolseley. A young man approached from behind on a skinny trail.  I knew he wanted to pass but the single track made it all but impossible. Instead this marvellous young man took my old pace, my old breath.  He engaged me in beautifully positive conversation. We were equal in that moment, old and young, running single file. His name is Arden and he knows of me from this old blog.

Today I ran eight miles in Wolseley. I ran in organic kaleidoscope circles along tinted oblique trails while my mind wandered and my body flowed through time.  

I am all that I can be.

It's a good day to be alive.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Barkley Fall Classic Ultra Marathon, for Em. The 'Why" of what we do.

I may have met Em while visiting my son at University of Waterloo ON,  but I can't be sure. I was surrounded by young people all in pursuit of higher education, higher understanding of our fragile world.  All were laughing, inviting, and living life to the utmost.  Beer, good cheer, and organic fair abounds... Matt stands out along with James and Joe.  They were there-are there-  for my son Max and daughter Jordana.  These young people are the future.  They stumble together, they laugh together, and - with the passing of dear young Em- they cry together.  Please read this guest blog by Matt Morison who attempts to explains the 'why' of what we do.

It is, my dear friend, a good day to be alive.


For Em ... love of my life, light of my world.
The Barkley Fall Classic, or BFC for short, is a 50ish-km course through some very gnarly terrain in the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Tennessee in Frozen Head State Park. The climbs are known to be outrageous, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 12,000 feet of gain over the 50 km, while the entrants and race directors are known to be eccentric and hilarious. This race is a much easier and shorter version of the infamous Barkley Marathons held each spring in the same location, and recently has been the subject of a few great documentaries – give it a Google if you have a spare 90 mins and haven’t seen them.

As a Winnipegger attempting to train for this race, I am glad to have read the old Garbage Hill post on Mike’s blog detailing some of the different routes around Winnipeg’s main topographic feature - of course, built of trash. At least knowing there were a couple different ways up and down the hill made it slightly more interesting doing the endless hilly mile repeats. I wouldn’t even call it boring as there are often lots of cute dogs, friendly runners, and beautiful sunsets to enjoy while doing runs there. That said, as beautiful as many of the hundreds of garbage repeats were, they were quite often marked with violent sobs and many tears as well. This race report needs a very difficult but important introduction to the why of running this race.

I sat on the fence about how and whether to include some of the details of my personal life and journey leading up to this race in this report. I had initially decided to keep things private - but after hearing from Mike, who was both very understanding and encouraging, suggested that if I felt comfortable sharing, it could be helpful to anybody out their reading going through their own trauma and struggle. With that in mind, and also reading the guest blog by Farahnaz Afaq, which really hit home for me in terms of running through and with grief, I decided to lay it all bare. So the truth is I signed up for this race as part of the catharsis I have found through running, in attempting to find healthy ways to grieve the sudden loss of my partner. In January of 2018, Emily Ruston Mann, the love of my life, and light in the world for so many friends and family members, passed away suddenly, without any warning, from an undetected pulmonary embolism.
Emily and I in Drumheller AB on a cross continental road trip
after she finished her Masters Degree in the fall 2016.

My life was instantly shattered that night. To this day, which feels not at all yet far removed from last winter, it is still very hard for me to accurately describe so many of the feelings that made up (and still make up) my everyday existence so changed by loss. Pure rage, numbness, hopelessness, frustration, confusion, doubt. Fake laughter, real laughter, fake smiles, real smiles. Tears, dry heaving, yelling into my pillow, lying on my floor staring catatonically at the ceiling and ignoring texts from friends and family until I am ready to talk to people again, and then going on to feel nearly normal for a week at a time before it all crumbles again some night. It’s all the new life I am living now, which can be so dominated by grief that everything else is pale. But one thing that I started to focus on was that the end of a life need not be strictly about death. Reflecting on an amazing life (and Emily’s life truly was amazing) can take all sorts of forms. For the incredible way that Emily lived her life so thoughtfully and which such care for others, I could feel her encouragement for me to find something to just keep myself afloat. There were many ways I have tried my damndest to honour Em’s memory, whether it is listening carefully to someone tell their story, gardening in a community plot, saving seeds for friends, trying to find helpful ways to volunteer my time, write mail to friends, enjoy lots of delicious local and healthy food, but also enjoy cheddar-covered popcorn. Not that my (and other peoples) memories of Emily can ever be reduced to just a list of activities, but these things that remind us of the way that she lived and moved in the world. I am not nearly close to Emily at being so good at doing all those things, but I try.

But in amongst all that, I know Emily would want me to find a healthy way through this grief. Somehow, it was clear to me what to do there. I latched on to an old passion for running. I used to run. And I think I actually feel like I used to be pretty fast at one point when I was younger – not fast fast, but I actually felt like I could really leave it on the line in an 800 or 1500 m. Despite many years off from the sport, stumbling upon hearing about this race this past February gave me something to actually look forward to. To be excited about. It was very foreign at the time, in such a dark place, to feel hope. But it is undeniable that it was there. So I started to run. I ran on the river trail for dozens and dozens of kilometers per week. I went out at weird hours of the night with my dog and cried and yelled out loud to nobody in an empty Assiniboine Park, running laps on cold nights over icy patches of road. I trained. I felt like I was healing sometimes, only to be knocked down by strong and overwhelming waves of grief, only to get up again, and train more. I got injured. I got sick. I went to physio. I went to AT/osteopathy - a huge help. I trained more. I got a coach (who was amazing). I got a personal trainer (also amazing). I cried. I hit the gym. I trained more. I trained more than I have ever trained for anything.

And suddenly after many months of a weird time warp of tears and miles – race weekend arrived with a bang. After arriving in Tennessee and checking in to pick up my bib and receive a course map, I tried to make sense of what I had actually signed up for. Did I have a chance to finish it? Was I a failure if I didn’t make it? Would Emily be shaking her head at me for trying to do this? Probably. I had so many questions. I tried to strike up some conversations with a few BFC veterans, desperate for some more information about the route. I had heard all sorts of horror stories from previous years of runners ending up many kilometers off-course, lost in the woods and wondering what went wrong – of course, in this race you are permitted no navigational aids other than a compass and the cloth map you are provided. No GPS, no altimeter, no smart phones. Luckily the overwhelmingly friendly-yet-sarcastic group of runners I sat with were also poring over the map and making course notes the night before which I happily tried to listen in and contribute where I could.

After a fitful sleep and some half-awake packing up and double-checking my gear, I was off to the start line. We gathered in a big open field and traded anxious well wishes to each other. The cutoffs are known to be very tight in this race and most years somewhere around 2/3rds of racers will be counted as DNFs (did-not-finish-ers), for any number of reasons - but getting caught up in the cutoffs being one of them. I couldn’t help but think as I looked around me that 66% of all these athletic looking people wouldn’t make it to the end in time. How could I possibly hope to finish if most of these fit-looking people couldn’t? I shook my head and told myself that I flew all this way and I am going to leave it all out on the course and if I didn’t finish I was going to have no second thoughts about it. There was no way I was missing the cutoffs only to think “man, if only I tried a little little bit harder” – if I was going to fail, I was going to fail in a magnificent way. People would remember that guy who failed as hard as you possibly could. That would be me.

And all of a sudden we were toeing the line and eagerly watching the race director for another strange tradition of the race – it begins with the lighting of his ceremonial “starting gun” cigarette – once the tip glows red, we are free to start – and suddenly - we were off – it was happening. The first mile and a half of this race is on a pretty much flat paved road into a campground – the danger is letting yourself get comfortable and think that it might all be this easy. But within 10 minutes we found ourselves at the base of the Bird Mountain Trail. The dense tree cover makes it hard to tell exactly how far up we are going but I knew from looking at the map we were in for a seemingly-endless set of switchbacks going up a couple thousand feet for the next couple of hours.

The “conga line” tradition people had mentioned the night before came true, where the narrow single track on the sharp edge of switchbacks overlooking several-meter drops prevented any sort of passing, at least safely, for the first hour of the course. This may end up being a blessing is what I had to tell myself, thinking that at least this was preventing me from going out too hard and regretting in halfway through the run. But at the same time, the thought of those tight cutoffs began looming in the background of my mind as we moved along at a slow collective pace. The first cutoff was at 7.6 miles, requiring you to get there in 4 hours. Of course on flat ground this pace would not be a problem for most ultramarathon runners – but this course was it’s own beast and even that first cutoff would surely claim a few victims.

Even great pictures can never do these climbs justice but go try running up the toboggan/sliding 
hill portion of garbage hill a couple of hundred times and scrape yourself with a couple of sharp nails
every repeat. That might approximate these sections well. Here I am at the front of this group
trying to thrash through some sharp vegetation. Photo Credit, Misty Wong.
Luckily I rolled into the first cutoff point at 2 hours 30 minutes, cruising in with plenty of time. I gulped down the remainder of my bladder of water/Skratch drink and stuffed some of the trademark snacks of this race into my stomach – greasy and spicy sausage nibs called Slim Jims. I, in all seriousness, had heard these were popular at this race as fuel and so I had literally trained one night by eating a king-size Slim Jim and then doing a hour easy run just to see how it felt/sat in my stomach. It’s not a pleasant feeling but the high-fat protein feels like it somehow acts as a disgusting jet fuel for runners.

The next sections of the course saw runners really spread out a lot more which was welcome after navigating conga lines for several hours. I find myself almost alone at times, worrying if I am still on course before turning a corner or switchback and seeing runners in front or behind me. I still second guess myself (wondering if I should be sure if I’m actually going the right way just because I am following some one else ….. who might be lost themselves) but keep checking the map and it all seems/feels right. The course is officiated by a series of people with small hole punches who punch letter-shaped holes into the bottom of your bib which eventually spell out a message, which proves you actually went and did the whole course in the right order.

The hours go by and the heat starts cranking up. We started the day around 20 degrees Celsuis and humid, and we are up to the low-mid 30s at this point. Which happened to coincide perfectly with some of steepest climbs of the entire course. Everyone’s pace moves from slow to glacial as runners are forced either onto all fours to scramble the uphills, or often on their butts to slide down the downhills, which are just too steep and slippery to head down. Halfway through these gnarly climbs we are treated to a very cool section of the course which goes literally in, over, and under through a big culvert, a decommissioned max-security prison. This jail used to house James Earl Ray, the coward who murdered Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. many years ago, who famously attempted and failed to escape the penitentiary. 

Just after coming over the biggest climb of the course, only about four miles to go
before until the "decision point".  Thanks to Misty Wong for the great photographs.

As the brutal climbs come to an end, I keep checking my $8 Casio stopwatch (remember, no GPS!) to see where I am at with the cutoffs. The two main timings I had to keep in mind were making it to the decision point by 9.5 hours, and the finish line by 13 hours, 20 minutes. The decision point happens at mile 22.6 – if you arrive there in time, you are given the choice to either continue on as normal to finish the race on another 7 miles of treacherous steep trail - or to take a nice easy 0.7 mile flat road back to the starting line and end your race early. With some strong effort on the runnable last 4 miles leading up to it, I hit the decision point in 8 hours 20 minutes, beating the cutoff. The choice was clear – I was finishing this cruel and sadistic race.

The aftermath on my shins on crashing around on the course.

I set onwards, although within 15 or 20 minutes, the heat gave way to the skies opening up and dumping some serious rain on us – the remains of Hurricane Florence. I also realised I hadn’t actually really seen anyone else since I set off on the last leg – was I actually still on course? Was I lost? Almost 9 hours in, exhausted and wet and feeling confused, having not really stopped all day, I sat down on the forest floor to try and rehydrate, stretch, see where I was, having been somewhere on the verge of tears for a few hours from just all of the emotions associated with running this race and the times I had been through while training starting to bubble up. And I truly had no idea where I was at. I checked the map and compass and started wondering about walking backwards where I came from to see if I could retrace my steps. I thought about Emily, I thought about failure, about why I was here. I don’t know how deep the hole of thought could have gotten but it was suddenly interrupted when I hear something behind me… “Hey man! Nice hat!”

I turn around and there is a smiling face – a fellow Canadian who had been wearing a matching Canadian Trail Running Company 5 panel hat to the one I had one now. I joked to friends that this hat saved my race, but it was really this fellow runner. He literally and emotionally picked me up off of that forest floor and put me back onto the trail and reassured me we were still on course. We ran the entire remainder of the race together, picking up the pace all the way to the end. Special thanks to David Varty for running with me to the finish and to Devin Morrow and James Janzen for getting me that hat.

And somehow, at 11 hours and 45 minutes after we had begun, I staggered across the finish line, found the nearest clump of grass and fell into a heap but couldn’t tear the stupid grin off my face. There was a strange mix of emotions – love and loss and life and achievement and grief can work together in mysterious ways. But after that sort of physical challenge, the real forefront of your brain seems to be focused only on one thing – lying down, not moving, and just smiling.

The BFC class of 2018 had a fantastic year, besting the highest finish rate ever for the BFC at a whopping 48%, huge congrats to everyone who ran and gave it their all. I know there were many people who had DNFed in previous years who earned their medal this year, but also people who maybe fell short of their goal this year who will surely be back in the future to conquer this race – I am going to be rooting for them from either near or afar. I know for many of them, the training might have already begun looking ahead to next September. Maybe next year I will be even be back again myself, but in the process of training for this race, the journey itself was just as, or if not more important than, the destination. Finding a way to honour Emily by doing this for myself to get through this pain, was in a way, also, for her. It’s hard for me to describe so I will leave it at that.

I somehow arrived the next evening into the Winnipeg airport, surrounded and surprised by my amazing friends and family who waited (unknownst to me) outside the gate. They had tried to bring me a bottle of my favourite scotch, but perhaps fittingly, it fell out of someone’s arms and smashed on the airport floor about 15 seconds before I came through the international arrivals doors.

I was home.

For anyone still reading, may your next run (or any challenge in your life) be hopefully easier than this one but may it also be rewarding and difficult enough to learn something about yourself also.
A grand welcome at the airport from amazing friends and family.
So much for that Laphroaig though!

Matt Morison

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Two Stalwarts Honoured by their Community

This evening at the Kenaston Running Room Aldo Furlan and Lorraine Walton were honoured for their devotion to Winnipeg's running community.  They are known widely in running circles and are dearly loved by all.  These two stalwarts give freely of their time and expertise, expecting nothing in return save the warmth of a hug or the good cheer of a smile. Yes, these two are well deserving of our accolades.

About 75 people stood alongside Running Room founder John Stanton and cheered mightily for Lorraine and Aldo. Manitoba Marathon Race Director, Rachel Munday, was present  along with Event Director, Chris Walton. The Iron Man Crew, fresh from victory, were there in force and added strength to the evening. There was levity. There were tears. Their was warmth all around. But you ask, "was there cake".

Relax friends, runners love their cake and there was plenty to be had (as we quietly estimate calories and burn time... Oh just a sliver please, I'm training for ... ). 

Lorraine Walton and John Stanton
Lorraine Walton is retiring from almost 10 years as manager of the Kenaston Running Room.  She was roasted for her ability to "twist the arms" of pace bunnies and clinic instructor.  Having had my arm twisted many times by Lorraine I can personally attest to the twist... it doesn't quite hurt, it's not full force, but it's a hair's breadth from a total snap.  Yes, she looks sweet on the outside, but we know she's a real dynamo, a real leader, and a real good person.

Lorraine is not retiring to greener pastures.  She says she will continue to be active in the community. She promised she will come back as a pace bunny and clinic instructor.  She will make the best clinic instructor.  She's dedicated, hard working, knowledgable and, by gosh, she has the shoe clinic nailed!

Lorraine ended her presentation in near-tears, holding back for later. Rachel was seen drying her eyes off in the corner and several others smiled pensively as Lorraine spoke of the true love she holds for her community, her family.

Thank you Lorraine Walton. We are better, stronger, healthier because of you.

Aldo Furlan and John Stantio
Aldo Furlan was presented with the Running Room Volunteer of the Year award by Chris Walton. Aldo is a friend to many but I like to think our friendship runs deeper than most. Aldo is lovingly known for his ~ abstract ~ bizarre ~  thinking.  I tease Aldo saying before I met him I was 6' 2" with a full head of hair and was frequently mistaken for Robert Redford.  Having worked and played with Aldo for ten years I'm now a mere shadow of my former self.  If that what it takes to call Aldo my friend then I consider myself a winner.

Chris Walton embraces Aldo Furlan
Aldo is a founding member of Ted's Run for Literacy.  His contribution to the little race that could is invaluable. His expertise and willingness to help out in any capacity, his unbridled energy, his positivity, his humour, and so much more has contributed strongly to the success of Ted's Run for Literacy (September 22, 2019... just saying).  Aldo goes further than anyone can reasonably expect of a volunteer and then he goes beyond the impossible.  We are deeply gratified (and lucky) to have Aldo on our committee.

Twice a weekend all summer Aldo 'pops up' on trails in and around Winnipeg. He provides tired runners with the hydration and sustenance necessary to complete their goals. He chats and laughs with the runners and makes them feel good about themselves and their goals.  He volunteers with dozens of races. He is an executive member of Manitoba Runners' Association. Quite frankly, our community is stronger, much, stronger for Aldo.

Thank you Aldo Furlan.

It's a good day to be alive in the presence of Lorraine and Aldo.


Monday, September 17, 2018

The Fix Bites, Raw Energy Reviewed

She was told if she folded 1,000 paper cranes the gods would grant her wish, she wished to get well. She folded 644 cranes before she died.

Eleanor Coerr, from her book Sadako and the Thousand Cranes.

Kamsack, Saskatchewan is a town of 1,899 kindly souls nestled snuggly in the Assiniboine River Valley at the confluence of the Assiniboine and Whitesands Rivers. Kamsack is the home of Eleanor Coerr, author of Sadako and the Thousand Cranes. According to Mayor Nancy Brunt Kamsack is "a great place to call home".

Kamsack is also a great place for recent entrepreneur Susan Leis to launch her small batch, organic, mostly local Fit Bite protein snacks. She imports the hemp for from Manitoba so you know it's got to be good! A slice of Manitoba in each bite, just saying. 

Susan approached See Mike Run to ask for a review of Fix Bites.  We hammered out the rules over a Stella's sandwich and coffee. 

  • Rule #1, we won't compare Fix Bites to other local Energy snacks reviewed earlier on See Mike Run.  
  • Rule #2, keep it light, keep it fun.  
That's about it; ezy pzy.

It's a good day to be alive.


The Big Review!

Seven people of varying fitness levels were provided a sample pack of all six Fix Bite flavours.  Some are walkers, some runners, some busy moms and professionals on the fly, some are Iron Man competitors, and some are ultra runners planning their next 100 mile event.  All are nutrition conscious and savvy consumers.  They were asked to answer six questions while sampling Fix Bites:

  • Out of the box.  Describe in a tweet what you see in terms of packaging and general appeal.
  • Sniff Test:  Sniff all 6 samples.  Comment/ describe.
  • Taste Test:  Taste all six.  Award 6 points to favourite flavour, 5 to next favourite ... 1 to least favourite.
  • Sustainability:  Describe in a tweet, did the Fix Bite hold up to your workout?  Was it fresh despite not being refrigerated, carried on the run, squished at the bottom of your purse or gym bag? 
  • Satisfaction:  Did Fix Bite satisfy a hunger urge and keep you from defaulting to sweets.  How satisfied are you in terms of 'happy tummy'?
  • No Holds Barred: Comment openly and truthfully.  Would you recommend Fix Bites to a friend?  Would you buy Fix Bites? What's the best part/ worst part of Fix Bites?  
Out of the Box

CW: The coloured foil makes me think of chocolate truffles; appealing visually. However, it gives off a very homemade vibe, which can have its pros and cons.

MH: Very appealing box and nice colours for the wrapping. Not sure if that’s the qty for a box that size but felt a little empty.

AM:  The appearance of the individual Fix bites reminded me of quality Street chocolates from my youth, So I was excited to try them.The only negative comment I have about the appearance of the fix bites, Is that the wrappers appeared cracked and the colour was rubbed off a few of them.

TMIt’s like a gift box containing a rainbow of healthy treats. Packaging is basic but I assume this will shift as the product becomes more ‘factory’ produced

JY: As I am not a twit, I have no idea how to tweet. I like the presentation. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the nice box. Opening up and seeing nice shining foil wrap was pleasant. At first I thought, good sized portions. For 6 samples though, the box was a bit too big.

DWFirst impressions - I liked the packaging of the Fix Bites, especially that it's not over packaged with plastic and can be recycled or even reused. I will say that the name of the product was not very noticeable to me which is probably important to the company. The coloured wrappers for each Fix Bite work fine.  I found all of the bites to be filling and love that the ingredients are all 'real' food.

Sniff Test

CW: They all kind of smelled the same. The lemon one probably stood out most b/c it’s a different flavour/smell than most energy products.

MH: Most orange wrap (cookie dough), least silver (truffle) – almost no scent

AMThe fix bite that I found most intriguing by smell was the yellow one. The least intriguing for me was the purple one.

TMLemon Fix Bite: no lemon smell, in fact no smell at all. Not much lemon taste either. I was anticipating this one the most – it was good but a bit of a let-down on the absence of lemon flavour.  Truffle Fix Bite: absence of scent but very appealing cluster of nuts visible from the moment the foil came off. Excellent nutty flavour and crunch. Loved this one. PB & J: my favourite. Lived up to the PB element, not so much the J.

JY: They all had lovely aroma. I like the smell of cinnamon.

DW:  Truffle smells great, PW & J smelled like peanut butter which I love the jam was more subtle, Coffee smells like coffee but tasted more like molasses,

Participants rated the flavour based on 6 points f
or favourite, 5 for next favourite... 1 for least. 

CW: Carried in purse and did not squish. Held shape when unwrapped. Some flavours crumbled a bit once you started eating. Certainly was fresh; no stale taste. 

MHSurvived a 3km run in a run belt and a 30km bike ride in a jersey pocket. No crumbling, packaging held up.

AM:They held up really well in my gym bag. There was no squishing or falling apart.

TM: None of these could be classified as ‘fresh’. They all have a stiff consistency that would remain unchanged if I drove over it. That said, most were pleasantly chewable, if you like nuts. However, I Loved the nut free fix bite as an option for my other daily workout - going to work daily. 

JY:  The Truffle Fix Bite crumbled in my hand and tasted very dry.

DW:  I only ate them after a workout and not during so did not test for running with one in a fuel belt or how they would hold up if re-wrapped to eat throughout a run.


: Very much so, used it as a mid morning and mid afternoon snack.

CWUsed as my 3 o'clock snack to beat the crash. Had just enough sweetness to satisfy the time of day. Could probably eat two to feel truly.  

AMI was surprised at how well these fix bites curbed my hunger. I was full for about 2 hours post-workout.

TM: Post workout  of satisfaction but they are small and dense – tempted to eat more than one at a sitting. 

JY: I did consume 5 of them at different time either before or after a run or workout and found them to keep me satisfied.

No Holds Barred
CW: I think with it being a raw product you have to be flexible with the texture. Personally, I found that the ones with coconut and hemp kind of got stuck in your teeth, which if you were using during a workout is kind of annoying; no one likes to be still swishing bits of food around in your mouth while working out. However, as a snack it can be forgiven a bit more. I think we’re used to “bar” formats so there’s a certain expectation of compact ingredients.

I really liked the lemon one. I think it stands out from the traditional energy products which usually are chocolate or PB flavoured. It was fresh and zingy.

I found the rest of the bites to all have a similar taste, with the hemp being the overriding flavour – aside from the coffee one which the molasses made stand out (I personally like that taste; some might not).

The simplicity of products is a pro and con. Of course everyone, myself included, enjoy unprocessed products with simple ingredients. The small size format of this is great. But, that being said, I might not be so inclined to buy something I could probably make myself (aka I don’t feel confident in creating a homemade GORP bar, but could probably make a sturdy energy ball).

MH: I would recommend them as a light snack to take the edge off between meals or prior to a shorter workout. Not sure there is enough carbs/serving for a single one to help on an a longer endurance workout (>1 hour). Would have to take quite a few. Would suggest bumping carbs up to hit a 3 or 4 to 1 ratio of carb/protein if being marketed for recovery. Truffle has too much fat and, in particular saturated fat, for a healthy snack. I would probably buy some to have on hand.
AM: I enjoyed these bites a lot. I like the portability, and size. I also appreciated the healthy taste. I probably would use these more for an afternoon snack as opposed to post-workout, as I prefer to have a bit more protein right afterwards.

JK:  Most Favourite is the gold Lemon Fix Bite.  Not much smell, but not unpleasant. Delicious flavour, good texture, lemony, but not acidy, good lemon/date flavour, not greasy.  I really like the overall nutrition content. Tastes really fresh and real.
Least favourite is the purple Nut Free.  Not much smell appeal, flavour is not awesome, more wholesome, reminds me of eating a fresh fig, could use more flavour, the lemon is also nut free, but has more flavour.  

TMPost workout sense of satisfaction but they are small and dense – tempted to eat more than one at a sitting.

JY:  Would I buy them? Coffee, Lemon, and PB & J, Brown, yes depending on price point. Truffle? - definitely not. If marketed well, they should be a good seller.

DWTruffle, almost tastes like a rum ball, noticed an odd after taste but it faded fairly quickly. Taste like molasses, this one was not for me. I'm not usually a fan of cookie dough flavours because I find them to be too sweet but this one was quite good

* With thanks to Jen Kirkwood, Tim MacKay, Carly Walsh, Darcie Wadelius, Jo-Anne Yuskin, Ainsley MacDougall, and Marc Hache.