Saturday, May 25, 2019

Kudos to Manitoba Runners' Association

Kudos to Manitoba Runners' Association for their fine leadership in our effort to reduce the carbon footprint of running events in our province.  MRA is the sport governing body for Road Running in Manitoba.  The board is composed of nine volunteers who work year round to ensure road racing and trail events meet the highest standards in terms of safety, fairness, and amenities for participants. An MRA sanctioned event means the course is accurately measured and meets all rules and regulations of the MRA.

What does this mean to the average runner?

It means the best payback for your hard earned dollars.  It means you are supporting a grass roots organization that improves the quality of life for all Manitobans, young, old, and differently abled. It means there will be toilets on the course (and we know that's really important!) and water stations. Now, in 2019,  it means the event you run is working towards a carbon neutral status.

How are they doing this? Good question!

In brief:

MRA has purchased thousands of compostable cups which they will sell to all sanctioned event at cost.  They also collect and store the cups at their facility to be professionally composted in bulk at the end of the season.  The cups are made from Polyactic Acid, a bio-plastic made from natural sources. The cups must be professionally composted; they will not break down in a backyard composter or in a landfill.  This action would be cost prohibitive for a single event, but together, we can make a huge difference.

Kids like bibs!  MRA is collecting non-recyclable bibs at the end of each event to be reused at youth running events such as the famous Ice Cream Run. The single use bibs typically end up in the landfill so even if they are used twice it helps.  (ed note... I have about a thousand that I'm willing to donate:)

Many event will hand out ribbons for children runners.  Let's face it, ribbons don't hold much appeal even for kids. Typically they were tossed or not even accepted.  MRA has replaced ribbons with 'wooden nickels'. A wooden nickel is a reusable token that all child runners receive in place of the standard ribbon.  Children turn in the wooden nickel at the MRA tent for a chance to win a prize to be awarded at the Manitoba Marathon Expo. The nickels are reused or the children have the option of keeping the nickel.

MRA has stopped using plastic bags for race kit pick-ups and encourage other events to do the same.  Kit bags are often stuffed with coupons from sponsors which events want to honour as sponsorship is very important. MRA encourages events to have coupons available at kit pick-up for registrants to select if they choose, but not impose by stuffing the kit-bag.

MRA does not distribute paper copies of their minutes, agendas, or reports.  They have gone completely electronic.

We thank MRA for their leadership.  They have started the conversation.

Race Directors...what will you do to reduce your event's carbon footprint?

It's a good day to be alive.


Monday, February 18, 2019

See Mike Nordic Walk

Nordic Walking is like driving a Smart Car. You know it's good for you, but you can't help feeling a little silly while engaged.

A case in point.

While Nordic Walking through Omand's Creek this afternoon I was stopped by a man. I was listening to some groovy tunes so I couldn't make out what he was saying.

I stopped, removed my gloves, toque, and ear buds, smiled patiently, thinking this better be worth it, and said "Pardon me."

He said something about skis. Bewildered, I replied "Huh."

"Your skis man! I found them, they're on top of the hill" to which he emphasized with a raised hand, pointing towards the hilltop.

Even more bewildered I replied "What....skis?".

"In case you're looking for your skis, I found them, they're up there" he replied with a mischievous grin.

Hoodwinked and it's not even April Fools!

Dude, funny!


Not to confuse the issue, but Nordic Walking is also know as Urban Poling (correct) or Urban Trekking (incorrect, trekking is more of a long arduous journey similar to Ultra-marathons).

Think of cross country ski-ing minus the skis. That's Nordic Walking in a nutshell. The poles help create a rhythmic, flowing movement of the entire body with an emphasis on arms, legs, and core. Nordic Walking is vigorous but, unlike running, there is little impact on the knees and hips. If used correctly the poles will alleviate some weight from the knees and hips. Some poles have built in shocks which help cushion the force on the arms as one plants the pole repeatedly with each step.

Urban Poling is a real workout, make no mistake. You will work up a sweat and your heart rate will raise to a sustained 70 - 80% intensity. Your upper arms will ache and you'll sleep well.  It pairs very well with my personal favourite exercise regime, Good Life Body Pump.

I don't want to get into the 'how' of Nordic Walking because I'm not an instructor. The best online resource I can find is Urban Poling.   There is also a small Urban Poling community in Winnipeg which one can track down online, but it's slim to non-existent. I'm more interested in the 'why' of Poling.

I'm an injured runner. I have a torn meniscus, torn ACL, and arthritis in my right knee, and I suspect my left knee is not far behind.  I've been fitted for a brace which will arrive in a couple of weeks. I'm hurtin' and I miss my running routine, especially my Sunday forest runs. Most of all I miss the socail aspect of running. Let's face it folks, not running bites.

Does Nordic Walking help fill the void?

The short answer is yes. Nordic Walking satisfies my innate need to be physically active outdoors. Nordic walking allows me to enter the mystic zone, and I feel mentally satisfied after a one hour intense walk.   Physically I am drained but not to the same level as running.  My knees still hurt  (think low grade head ache in the knees), but nowhere near to the pain I have while running. I suggest all you injured runners give it a try.

The longer, much more complicated answer, is no. Nordic Walking is excellent and I am enjoying it immensely, but it is not running.

Running allows me to enter a world of altered states; an amalgam of pain, ecstasy, sweat, joy, and tears. Running gives me inner peace and knowledge that I am all that I can be, all that I have become.  Running forges friendships where talk and laughs runs freely and earnestly. Running allows for a world where age, sexual identity, profession, background, culture become meaningless.  Running is a world of perfection where our heart, muscle, bone, and mind combine to make perfection.

That's all.

Yo, good day to be alive.


Saturday, February 2, 2019

Knee Deep In A Rut

I'm in a rut; a Winnipeg in February kind of rut.  You know; wheels spinning, gears grinding, hoping for a boost, need a push kind-of-a-rut.

The good doctor made a diagnosis today. Not the one I was hoping for but, oddly I feel better knowing exactly what's happening to my body. I thought at one point it was all in my head.

Turns out it's all in my knee; my right knee to be precise (but I suspect the left one is a little wonky and on borrowed time).

The good doc interpreted my MRI today. It seems I have a hat trick of ailments.  I have a torn meniscus, a torn ACL, and ...  sh*t ... degenerative arthritis.

The torn ACL stems from a prior tear from nasty trip on a forest gnome in April 2015 (see DNS).

I have given up the large goals of marathon and ultras. I asked my doc if she thought a slow half-marathons was possible in time.  Her averted eyes told me no.  She then suggested working up to running for an hour at a time.  Apparently running for an hour won't cause more damage. In fact, she says it will probably strengthen the knee.  On the down side I have to wear one of those ugly bionic braces. On the plus side I have some pain management meds that seem to work well.

Surgery is an option, but I don't want to go that route just yet and neither does the doc.

I don't want to be a Miserable Mikey. I have it good. Hell, I can run for an hour.  Some would give anything for that one privilege.  I'm not complaining but it's my blog, my rut... I can whine if I want to!

Did someone say wine?

The hurt stems mostly from not being able to run.  A large part of my identity is wrapped up in the running community. Not running means the absence of a positive social outlet. Not running means diminished energy. Not running means languishing mental health. Not running means the continual presence of absence. The knee hurts, but the soul does too.

I miss running in the zone where time slows and my mind flows freely.

I miss my Sunday morning trail run with my chatty friend, WD50 ;)

I miss running through the bush of ghosts.

I have discovered Nordic Walking (aka Urban Poling). It's a great upper body workout and it allows me to get out on the trails and build up speed.  I would strongly encourage any hurtin' runner out there to work Urban Poling into their recovery plan.  There's very little stress and way less pounding on the on the knees.  I'll blog a article about Urban Poling soon.

Bionic Mike
I thank Dr. Christa Mason (In Motion Network) for her support.  She tells it straight, but she 'gets it'. She understands the pain is more than  knee deep.

It's a good day to be alive.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Running Through the Bush of Ghosts; a guest blog by Tim MacKay

Brother Tim; 

We have travelled many hidden trails through dense bush. We have experienced the beauty of running in extreme conditions and extreme distances. We have shared intimate stories of ghosts past and present. We have bared our souls and exposed our true selves, our true identities. We have cussed and laughed and then cussed some more.  We have have offered a hand up, literally and figuratively, to one another on many occasions.  You have dragged my posterior over several lines in the sand and I have cussed you in gratitude.

Tim, I identify deeply with this piece. Occasionally the ghost conspire and trip us on the path when we least expect their presence. You have shown vulnerability and have taken a risk. This, my friend, shows courage and strength. 

Thanks for this Tim. It's a good day to be alive, despite the ghosts or, perhaps, because of the ghosts?








The snow underneath my feet responds to my pace with a rhythmic crunch, matched by a parallel rhythm in my breathing. There’s great comfort in the rhythm. It’s soothing, healing. It’s important. Maybe essential. The rhythm - the consistent beating - is what keeps me going. It marks the mental space I find the most comfort in, with a steady ‘left, right, in, out’ bringing calm and peace. And when set along a trail in the woods, the forest bathing me in solitude and simplicity, this healing rhythm is as close as I can come to perfection.

There’s no mystery to this. I’m not alone in treasuring the healing power of running’s rhythm and calm. I’m not alone in needing the solitude of a trail to run out my demons. I’m not alone in using running as an antidote to the stressors of life that challenge my mental health. Like many, I run to stay well.

People sometimes ask chronic runners what they might be running from. For some of us, it’s a very simple answer - ghosts! It’s a bit like the experience of the main character in Amos Tutuola’s novel My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. The novel tells a series of stories about a young Nigerian boy who finds himself alone in a haunted forest, where he is completely unprepared for the strange spirits he encounters and the unusual and dreamlike experiences he faces. Life is like that for many of us. We are unprepared for the sometimes nightmarish things that happen to and around us. And we sometimes end up carrying the ghosts of these experiences long after the events have ended.

Yet this oversimplifies it a bit too much, because the kind of running I’m talking about isn’t so much a ‘running from’ as it is a ‘running with’! Many of us run to find peace with the ghosts that we have come across. We run alongside them. The reality is that we may never be rid of the ghosts that haunt us, so running with them instead of away from them, befriending them, becomes the purpose. The bush of ghosts never fully goes away, it rarely gets cut down completely. We may find our way out of it for awhile, but invariably it sits somewhere over our shoulder waiting for an opportunity to swallow us again. The cure isn’t to run away. No, better to acknowledge it, embrace it, and find a rhythm to safely move through it, to befriend the spirits and ghosts and run with them. This is where wellness lives. In this sense, it might be better to ask, what are we running to!

Running’s healing rhythm is no accident. Like an EMDR session for PTSD, the firing of left and right sides of the body, the deep and rhythmic breathing, they all make perfect sense, synchronizing a healthy rhythm across the hemispheres of the brain. Running is a metronome of wellbeing, beating out a steady rhythm of coherence and calm. It’s not meditation - anyone who has spent even a second on a mediation cushion could tell the difference. But the quiet, contemplative rhythm is powerfully therapeutic. It’s a healthy compliment to meditation and other wellness practices. And the resulting fatigue helps too. For those who sometimes struggle, the value of deep, sound sleep is unequalled. The research is solid on this - as part of a comprehensive approach to wellness, running can help to counterbalance many of the symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other challenges to mental wellbeing.

Some of us run more than others. Some run distances that others would even consider unwell - ‘crazy’, in fact. Some of us tire and run shorter distances as we age. But run we must. To be clear, not everyone who runs is running with ghosts. Not everyone who runs is using it as a strategy to stay mentally well. But for many, like me, running helps them navigate the bush of ghosts and keep moving through life. We tend to find each other and cluster in small groups of running buddies. We are comrades on the road and trail, despite each of us running through our own private bush of ghosts. Together and alone all at once, the friendships and solidarity providing an additional buffer to the ghosts. We run, sweat, hurt, and laugh together, making our way along untold kilometres of road and trail, step after step through the bush of ghosts.

This January, when Bell encourages us to “talk about it”, some of us will run instead. In this sense, running is a form of communication akin to dance, a single-track ballet many of us perform as we navigate our way to wellness. Running can be our “talk”. It’s dark and cold through the month of January, yet many of us are out there running. And now you know why - the ghosts are fewer, smaller and far more friendly when outside on the run then they would be if we stayed inside and sat.

Tim MacKay