February 2014 - Run for the Thrills


Unique Joys of Long Runs

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I love the long run.  There is nothing quite like it.  All long distance runners can list off a whole host of reasons why they LOVE long runs.  Yes, it may be painful at times.  By the end, you are counting down the kms, the minutes, the stop lights, until you can finally stop running, but oh, none of us would want to lose the ability to run long runs.  My running buddy, who has no race goals planned at the moment, joins me for my Boston training runs for the sheer joy of it.  He says he is being altruistic, helping me to attain my goals, but I think he truly loves the long runs, and I am simply an excuse for him to get out there for 2.5 hours, exploring the city streets and trails.

When I tell my non-marathoner friends that I am planning on a 30+ km run for the next day, their eyes widen and a look of confusion appears.  Why would anyone run for over 2 hours?  How can you even possibly run for that long?  Here are the amazing facts about the long run:

  1. Your Body Is Miraculous:  It is incredible what you can train your body to do.  While once 15 min of running was a challenge, after consistent training, you can run for hours without stopping.  It is incredible to see your body adapting and becoming stronger.  The knowledge that your body is now a much superior cardiovascular machine to what it once was is enough to keep you going.  You can do so much more than you ever thought possible, if you only keep challenging yourself and persist in your goals.  Your body is miraculous.
  2. You Experience Flow:  That unique experience when you are “in the zone”.  The world feels right and your mind clears and you can think straight.  You feel challenged and yet at the same time competent and like you can conquer this thing…this long run.  The stress melts away and you are fully present and enjoying all that is around you.  The joy of being alive and well and in this very moment are the overwhelming emotions that you experience.  I think we all need moments like that, away from the stress of work and home. This is achieved when you push yourself to new limits in the long run.
  3. You Get New Ideas:  With that clear mind and the time to think uninterrupted (a rare occurrence for most parents), suddenly new innovative ideas have time to percolate and rise to the surface.  These are not the random thoughts that you have in the middle of the night that sound ridiculous come morning, but rather new creative ideas.  Sometimes I solve problems suddenly or think up a new idea altogether that I actually end up putting into action.
  4. You Connect with Friends:  A long run is  a great time to connect with other like-minded friends.  Two hours or more to talk and hear each others stories is a pleasure.  You definitely get to know your running partners well and a deep friendship forms.  In our hectic lives, it is amazing to have quality time with training buddies and support and encourage one another.

Long runs are obviously excellent for your physical health.  The bonus is that they are just as excellent for your mental health and bring such joy to your life.  Share some of your long run joys below!  What are some of your unique long run experiences?




After Workout Snack Ideas: Skewers

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After a workout, it’s great to have a tasty satisfying snack. I mean, it’s great to have a tasty snack before too, but let’s not get distracted.

Easy after workout snack ideas: skewers. For some reason, impaling your food on a sharpened stick makes it extra tasty. Makes it look fancy too. I mean, I could toss my cheese cubes and grape tomatoes into a container to roll around, and it would taste just as good, but somehow it wouldn’t be the same. So: tiny bit of prep to cut things into bite size pieces; tiny bit of violence to jam a stick through the middle, and voila! all fancied up.

Idea #1a: the aforementioned Cheese Cubes and Grape Tomatoes. Easy. Gets you something soft with something that explodes in your mouth. Some cheesy goodness and a nice burst of tomato juiciness. Who doesn’t like that?

Idea #1b: Cantaloupe with Ham Slices. This is a traditional Italian pairing (well, probably prosciutto if I’m completely honest, but I’m not really feeling “prosciutto”-fancy today). The sweet juiciness of the cantaloupe goes surprisingly well with the saltiness of the ham. Bit of protein, bit of sweetness. Yes, please!

Store your skewers in a bento lunch box and you’re good to go.

Bonus benefit: after your snack is done you can use the skewer to pick your teeth, or (even better) to poke your children.

Valentines 5k

A Race Love Affair – Valentine’s 5km Race

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Celebrate the Love of RUNNING at the Valentine’s 5k. 

In the ice, falling snow and cold, our bodies quickly warmed up as we ran the streets in Port Dalhousie.  The St. Catharines Road Runners organized an excellent 5km Race this past Sunday February 9th. The runners were many and in great spirits, despite the -10°C weather and the snowy road conditions.

It was a celebration of fitness, family and friends.  I ran with my training friends, Karen Natho and the crew from the Aktiv Racing Team.  I ran with my family–James, Caleb and I all ran this race–a first for all three of us to run the same race.  I ran with friends from various circles of my life. There are many excellent stories to share.

The Race Highlights: 

Amanda McLeod won the first female position with much time to spare.  She ran a great race, looking strong the entire way and finishing in a time of 18:58.  Amanda and I challenge each other and have a friendly competition ongoing between us.  I appreciate her encouraging smile, and her hard work on race day.  I started off too slowly and never caught her.  I was able to pick up the pace in the middle of the race where the roads were more cleared, but could not gain on her. Congrats to Amanda.

I came in second place overall female, first in my age category of Female 30-39, with a time of 20:21.  The best part was having Karen finish right behind me in third overall and second in the same age category, with a time of 20:59. Barb Guembel, another training buddy came third in our age category with a time of 22:02.

Caleb, my 12 year old son, ran the first 5km race of his life.  I had the joy of running back, after I finished my race, to cheer him on. I ran alongside him for the last km of his race.  He ran well and got just under the 30min mark, in a time of 29:50.  I was very proud of him and so pleased to share the love of this sport with my son.  Caleb came second in his age category (there were only two of them), behind Karen’s son, Ben, who had an excellent race as well, finishing in 24:01.

James is the hero of this race in my estimation.  He ran 5km in the wind and snow – he does not love running like I do, but he gave it his all, and ran the full 5km, without walking breaks.  If he can run 5km in the dead of winter, he will get ‘Fit by Forty’.  James had worried that he would come in last place, but no, he was not even close…and he finished in 38:48.  Caleb and I both ran the last km with James, all three of us finishing again together!

Kristin Oblak is our miracle story.  One year ago, on the day of the 2013 Valentine’s Day Race, which Kristin had planned to run, she was instead admitted to the hospital with numbness in her lower extremities.  Kristin was hospitalized for three months with Transverse Myelitis, having paralysis in her legs for several months.  She underwent extensive physiotherapy, progressing from a wheelchair, to a walker, to a cane and finally to learning to walk independently again.  Kristin ran her first 5km race on Sunday – a true celebration of healing and health.  I am so proud of her.

I must mention the winning Male runners:  Jose Fuentes, a regular runner in the St. Catharines Races, won the overall race in a time of 17:38.  Jose has won this race several times and had a great race.  Close at his heals in a time of 17:41, was Wolfgang Guembel, another regular race winner and accomplished triathlete.

Post Race Party:

Runners know how to eat and celebrate after a hard effort.  Pizza, Chili, Beer, Hot Apple Cider were plentiful and quickly consumed as we warmed up together post race.  Chocolate Awards are a unique feature of the race and are much tastier than the metal awards that many of us runners have piled up in our closets.  Bottles of wine went to the overall Female and Male Winners to continue the theme of love and romance.  Dave Smith, my training buddy did a great job putting on a fun race in the dead of winter.  I hope to see many more of you at next year’s Valentine’s 5k Race with a story of Love to Share!

My talented daughter, Zara, took all the race photos.  She captured images of all the runners (click here to see more photos!) coming into the finish line.  This was truly a family affair for the Moffett gang.

me + kids

How to find a Running Partner: the DIY strategy

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As I press forward with my running goals (maybe ‘stumble forward’ would be a more accurate phrase) I’ve been thinking that I need a running partner.

My sweet wife Janine has had a wide variety of running partners over the years. Bright and early on any given Sunday morning, she will head out the door while the rest of us are still sleeping, and meet them, and run for an hour or two with them. They push each other, they encourage each other, they talk to help the time and the miles pass faster.

So I was thinking I should get me one of them ‘running partners’ too. I sure would appreciate something to help the miles pass faster. Even if it is only a single mile sometimes. Which it is. But I still would like it to go faster.

It’s hard to have the courage to ask someone to come running with you when you yourself feel like your running is humiliatingly bad and slow. And I really didn’t know who I was going to ask. I mean, I had no idea how to find a running partner who would be slow enough for me.

So I asked my kids, because I can force them to run with me even if they say no. Besides, why else did I have kids but to have them at my beck and call?

First I went out on a run with my 14 year old daughter, Zara. Zara goes to several dance classes a week, and is a very flexible dancer. For the last few months Janine and I have encouraged her to run twice a week to help counteract the drop in physical activity that occurs with many young teen girls. Zara has been running, but quite reluctantly, and never any longer than her bare minimum run (also known as a bamiru). I figured that she could be a good match, so off we went.
Well, her first comment was how slow I was. Then she said she may as well have been walking since I was going so slow. Then she did walk. I told her to run ahead, but she didn’t want to do that. Instead she had the nerve to remark to me (while I am sweating and spitting and huffing beside her) that her legs were a teensy bit sore from dance the day before, and that she might not be able to run the whole distance.

After a few minutes of struggling to maintain a pace that she might consider half-decent, I was exhausted, and I decided to take a short walking break. Zara was only too happy to join me walking and suggested that the short walking break didn’t have to be too short. In fact, she wouldn’t mind if it were a long walking break.

It occurred to me that the two of us were really too similar to be good partners: neither one of us REALLY wanted to be there; we both wanted to lie down and take a nap; we wondered if it was all worth it; and we complained to each other about how uncomfortable the whole thing was.

We must have looked like a couple of grumpy old ladies.

We finished the run. I really appreciated the quality time with my daughter, but I could hardly call the run a success.

* * * * *

The next week I took my 12 year old son, Caleb, along on my run.

Caleb has started swimming with a club and is really enjoying pushing himself. He was always a bit of a pudgy kid, but his swimming has made him slim right down. Also, having watched him swim, I knew he would be far faster than me at running, so I assumed he would leave me in his dust. I was wrong.

Firstly, although the boy is sleek and fit and graceful in the water, he runs sort of like a camel. I was happy to give him a few pointers on his running form.

Then, he was determined to stick with me. He was remarkably encouraging, telling me to keep it up, chatting away happily while I ground away at the miles. He told me about the kinds of things his swimming coaches say to keep them motivated; he talked about how he wants to do a triathlon some day. We had a really great time, him talking and me huffing and puffing.

Finally, he started having trouble with his asthma, and had forgotten to bring his puffer along. He had to walk for quite a few long stretches, while I kept on running. In the end, he was wheezing badly enough that I ran back to the house to get the car to pick him up. He was fine as soon as he got his puffer, but imagine how great I felt: digging deep to put on every last bit of speed I had, racing home to save my son. I ran like a hero that day.

My advice, so far, on how to find a running partner? Find a kind-hearted, encouraging person who does another sport but is bad at running. Best if it’s your own child, for convenience. Choose a child that doesn’t share your weaknesses. Bonus if he has mild asthma attacks to give you extra motivation at the very end of the run.


Elaine Going the Distance on the Trails

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Elaine Fung loves running the trails in Vancouver, BC. Just watch her video below as she and her friends bound along the rugged North Shore Mountain trails and you’ll be longing for the great outdoors. Even more impressive, she has done a 50km trail race and plans on running two more this year!

How long have you been running? Since the spring of 2012. I had a few spurts of running many many years back but it never stuck though.

Why did you start running? I joined a Tough Mudder team with some friends from my Muay Thai kickboxing school. I was fit, but needed to get into running shape to tackle the 18km course. I never enjoyed running, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself. Because I had a decent fitness base, I was able to get into running much more easily than any previous attempts. By late fall of 2012, at the encouragement from my good friend, Ed, we started running in the trails and that was what really made me embrace it.

Where do you usually run? I always run outside. I’m lucky to live in Vancouver. The climate is mild, the rain isn’t as bad as everyone thinks and we have access to an amazing waterfront route in the city. But what’s really special about Vancouver is that there is an incredible network of trails a very short drive away.

Do you run with other people or by yourself? My runs in the city are usually by myself. But my trail runs are with my running group, We Run Mas. We’re a collection of newish trail runners with ultra-marathoning aspirations. I guarantee I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

How do you motivate yourself to run when you don’t feel like it? I’ve signed up for a couple of 50k races this year already so I really have to get the work in or otherwise I’m in trouble. And what really gets me out the door for the group runs is that they’re always fun. My running group is incredible!

Challenges you’ve faced with running? I’ve had my share of injuries. In fact, I’m coming off an injury right now! I landed awkwardly on a downhill and sprained my left foot. But last January, I had to deal with a minor back problems as a result of car accident and had to lay off for about a month. And then, soon after, I lost another month to runner’s knee.

Have you done any races or events? Do you plan on racing in the future? I have done a couple of 10ks, a 14k trail race, a couple of trail half marathons and a 50k trail. This year, I’ve already signed up for two 50ks with plans to do possibly a third, a couple of trail halfs, and probably some shorter trail races. I like having a race on the horizon because it helps keep me focused.

Other running goals? I want to clean up my technique and incorporate more balance, strength and speed routines. I would love to start running some destination races in the future.

Brag about yourself – What are your biggest accomplishments? Without a doubt, my biggest accomplishment was finishing the Squamish 50 trail ultra. It is one of the most gnarliest and challenging courses you can find in North America. I came in under-trained because of the injuries I’ve had to deal with but I was at least healthy. I felt really good up until about 30k in and then I hit a wall and pretty much stayed there for the next agonizing 10k. I managed to catch up and pass two people in the same boat as me and that gave me a boost. For the final 10k, I knew I was fighting a cutoff and just had to power and push through despite all the pain and doubt I was experiencing. When I crossed the finish line, as the majority of the muscles in my legs began seizing up, all I could think was, “Never Again.” But here I am, ready for more!

Click thumbnails to view full image.