A Fundamental SHIFT in the way I Run!

Vibram Five Fingers / winter running snowI was about 20 kilometers into a 25 km orienteering race called “Raid the Hammer” with my team of 3. This was my second year competing in the race and a I had just come back from an 86 km run of the grueling La Cloche Silhouette Trail in Killarney, (read more) . The race was going well for our team, and we were sitting around third place within striking distance of the top teams in our category. This race is an annual slugfest between the top adventure racing teams and the elite orienteering people as there are very few races where they all share the same ground. The end of the race was near and there were only a few minor glitches with navigation, but there was a major problem as my knee was was screaming for me to stop, and there was not enough vitamin Ibuprofen to keep me going, the pain was excruciating and I wasn’t able to focus on the map or my team. It felt as though I was slowly grinding to a halt, and about 15 minutes later we pulled out of the race and DNF’d which is never fun. It was at that point that I came to the conclusion that my running would have to change, or I just would not do it anymore as it was slowly crippling me. I took a few weeks off, and while I was resting my bones I started to look more into the Pose Technique of running and trying to find efficiency in human movement.

Through CrossFit I had been introduced to the “Pose” technique and  and After reading the book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall I decided that running shoe technology was probably the vector for my poor running stride which led to my injuries. Over the next year I was going to try to teach myself the POSE technique or evolution running, heck maybe even Chi running. Basically I was going to get away from heel striking and try to run with a mid foot strike.
I watched my daughter run and this is what I found out.

I decided that I needed shoes that would enable me to run as close to barefoot as possible, and that is where I found the Vibram Five Finger Shoes . I purchased them while on vacation in Florida and I couldn’t wait to try them out. There was only one problem, and that was that it was freezing up home in the Toronto area and I would have to contend with the snow and ice and these flimsy little foot coverings weren’t exactly gore-tex or insulated either. The “VFF’s” as they are known in the running community are super light and have mesh toe pockets for all your little piggys, and are sort of like an anti-shoe without any real structure or technology. The shoes for the lack of a better term allow your feet to work the way that they are designed to without the stability control chasis or microchip technology that is floating around in new shoes. In the new Vff’s water goes in and out of these crazy looking kicks, and they look like you dipped your feet in a vat of tar.

Christmas came and went, and I needed to burn off the turkey and I just couldn’t wait any more, I was going to try them out in the snow and ice while running some crushed gravel trails in Oakville’s 16 mile creek area where Trek or Treat is run.


  • You certainly can’t heel strike in these shoes, period.
  • The grip is pretty good considering the flat rubbery sole, I have the KSO type with the flat sole, there is one that is new that has a lugged sole, but I think I’ll try that after I wear these ones out.
  • Surprisingly my feet weren’t really that cold, even though they were submerged in water and running over hard packed ice and snow. It felt like I was running with wet moccasins.
  • I could feel the ground much more and felt some nice rocks as well, especially in some of the large gravel covered washout sections by the river.
  • The running felt natural and smooth, and I didn’t feel like it was a challenge to adopt some new style of running technique. The reality is that I was returning to a running style that I once used as a kid.

After a 5 km loop, we returned to the house, and my one calf muscle felt a little tight but other than that I was feeling pretty good and glad that my experiment didn’t backfire. The only problem is that I had some rubbing on the inside of my arch and on the outside of my toe, as I was running without socks. I’m not sure if people use those injinji socks with the shoes, but perhaps next trip I take, I might try them out.

2 days after the run I felt as though my calves had been shot and still feel a little tight, and I’m sure this is due to them being deconditioned. I plan to keep on running in them throughout the winter, so I will keep you updated.

Winter Running Update

More running in the month of February. I did a 1o km trail run with “real” runners. The trail was super technical with lots of rocks, roots and hills. I attached my polar footpod to the VFF’s and I have done this a few times and it has worked well. There has been no problem with the pod moving around or feeling cumbersome on the top of my foot. I have been using the Injinji socks over the winter and they seem to be working well. I’m not really sure what else I would do. There were a couple cold mornings that my feet felt hot for hours after the runs which were in about minus 12 degree Celsius weather for about 35 minutes or 8 km. The hot sensation was either a friction burn from the run or a mild case of frostbite. The old feet are holding up well and I don’t have the calf pain anymore, this muscle conditioning issue seemed to go away after 4 or 5 runs. I supplemented some skipping into my warm ups too to get the calf muscles ready for some play.  When I was out running yesterday on the icy trails I did notice one thing when I was running with this pack of Ironman / Marathoner  runners. When I hit a hill I adjusted my stride to become very short and my cadence increased to propel me up the hill. The other runners took their longer strides and I was able to climb more efficiently. On the downhills it was a different story as the runners with Yaktraks attached to their feet were able to take large bounding strikes down the icy snowy slopes as I had to pick my way keeping my feet directly under my body. My toes felt a little tender as I think they were getting a lot of work clawing up those slopes trying to gain traction.

Did my feet get Cold?

I have found that my feet are about as cold as my hands when I am wearing gloves. I haven’t had a day that has been too cold for them yet, and like any muscle they warm up as you use them.

Making your Own Gymnastic Rings for CrossFit

I don’t recommend making these, I’ve done five sets and I think my neuroreceptors and my wife would agree that for the money and time spent, it is easier just to buy them!

This is the video I used: Not bad. A couple of pointers:

  • Use tinfoil on a cookie sheet before you throw them in the oven
  • Make sure your house is well ventilated!
  • When the pvc starts to droop then you know they are ready to shape
  • Use heavy duty gloves when shaping (We used a scuba tank)
  • This is a two person job
  • We purchased adjustable straps from Canadian Tire and they often go on sale for $9.99
  • The rings should be 50 cms apart when you hang them ( I think I read that somewhere)

Here are some pictures

failed attempts at making pvc rings

failed attempts at making pvc rings

make sure you use rope rated appropriately

make sure you use rope rated appropriately

its portable fitness!

its portable fitness!

and adjustable too!

and adjustable too!

End product home made rings pvc

End product home made rings pvc

Keeping Track with a Training Log

There are very few benchmarks that most people have in their lives to determine the “best shape of their life”. It may be a 5 k race they did, or when their team won a varsity championship. Very few people have hard facts to back this up their grandeur from their college days when perhaps they were training on a scholarship and it was a significant part of their life.

I guess for some it really doesn’t matter, but I’d like to think more objectively about my athletic prowess (or lack thereof), and in the future I’d like to gauge my performance as it relates to different sports.

A simple little notebook and a pen can be all you need to keep accurate real numbers on how you are performing. Here are my tips and hints on how to keep a good training log, one that will stand the test of time and you can throw at your snot headed little grand kids when you are old and feeble.

Coming from a policing background keeping a notebook was a way of life, no detail was too insignificant and in it I could find details on bad guys tattoos and scars, the car I drove that day, the weather and road conditions, and everything else in between. When a police officer has a conversation with you when he pulls you over for speeding, it is probably in his little book. The point I am trying to make is that we can learn something from focusing on the details of our training logs.


Date – Just the date in the same spot in the top right hand corner. It will be an accurate record to keep you from overtraining and to be a painful reminder of how long it’s been since you “hit it hard.” You will quickly find that this little tidbit can help you keep your perception v.s. reality teeter totter in check.

Workout – If my workout has a name a la’ CrossFit then I write that down, for example Jackie today was 1000 m row, 50 Thrusters at 45 lbs and 30 pullups. This also can apply to runs that you may do, as I’m sure you have nicknames like I do, the mailbox run, the hilly out and back 5 k, the hungry hollow. Remember the training log is for you, so feel free to use short forms.

Heart rate – I have in the past trained with a heart rate monitor. It doesn’t lie, but it also doesn’t tell the truth. I normally would write down my average heart rate and my max heart rate and my zones if I have them. Peoples hearts and heart rates vary greatly and you cannot say ride at 160 bpm as this may kill some people and for others it is a very comfortable place for them. The other problem with heart rate training, is that when you become a more efficient machine your heart rate may not reflect your work capacity. For example if I did a 5 k run with an average heart rate of 151 early in the season I could run that same run in the same time with an average heart rate of 140 later in the summer. I prefer to write times related to my efforts down because the effort can be quantified and will never change, one benefit of this is to challenge yourself to complete the same effort in a shorter amount of time, or to send your buddy to try to beat your scorching time.

Training Tips – In every workout I tend to learn something new about myself. These notes may be as insignificant as my hand positions on the weight bar on doing overhead presses, or a better pacing strategy on my last workout before I corkscrewed into the ground and lost my lunch. Keep it real by writing how you felt, how those last reps went up and how your forum was, these will keep you motivated when you think you aren’t making any progress.

Miscellaneous other tidbits – I try to write down the variables of the workout, things that would affect my performance. If I am riding I may write down what tires I had on my bike, running, I’d write down shoes, trail and weather conditions. Write down where you are doing the workout and with who. Is somebody leading the effort or coaching? Write this down too! You may find that some patterns establish themselves, and this is offers some insight as to how you train or are motivated.

Food – If you look at marathoners or tri-geeks (and I use that term with the utmost affection), they are very calculated with how they train. Food is the fuel for the human gas tank, and can be the difference between getting through your workout or completely bonking. Ask me how I know Cajun chicken wings aren’t the best pre workout meal. These meals may be hours before your workout, but once again we are looking for patterns and everyone has their pre race, pre workout favourite snack. Mine still is a hearty bacon and eggs breakfast.

Here is an Example Log from 2009/03/06


“Jackie” CrossFit workout

1000 metre row
50 thrusters with olympic bar 45 lbs
30 pull ups

warmup was going through previous lifting class, did some thrusters, some pullups and rowed 500 meters easy to get ready for all out effort.

workout with the G man, no music only the hum of the rowers at Firepower

Row : 3:32

Thrusters : 3:33

Pull ups: 2:33

Total time : 9:08

Rowed pace of 1:45 per 500 effort felt sustainable
Thrusters did 16 straight, then broke into 5’s after that. Let bar hand or rested in rack position up on chest. Harder than I thought it would be as legs were cooked from rower.

Pull ups on high bar – narrow one did reps 7,7,5,5,3,3
grip and forearms were shot from the rower.

Meal- leftover deluxe Pizza at 7 a.m. half banana and apple sauce at 8:15 workout at 10 a.m.

Felt I could make time on pull ups and thrusters. *Keep the elbows high on thrusters. First time doing this workout.

END OF LOG  This is probably more than I would normally write, but maybe you can find something you like to put in yours!

What happens if you lose your book? Well then you are screwed, that is unless you jot it down electronically. There are a few websites where you can log your training. Crossfit.com has the comments section where you can write down what you did, the nice part of this is that when that workout comes up again on the site, then it has a link to compare to the last time that you did the same workout. There is Logsitall.com which allows you to record, track, share, compare and rank your CrossFit and other fitness workouts online. There is Attackpoint which is very popular in the multi-sport world and was designed for orienteerers, but has found use with a large majority of adventure racers.

Keep track of your workouts, so that you don’t cheat yourself, and so that you can look back and really determine if you are in fact  “the best shape of your life”.  By keeping a log you may find some things out about yourself and how much you are improving!

Free Adventure Racing Clinic – Friday Feb 20th

Get ready to race!

Get ready to race!

Free Adventure Racing Clinic

Free AR Clinic
Friday February the 20th 2009 8 – 9:30 p.m.

Paddling through the water, stomping around the woods, zipping through a twisting rock strewn decent on your bike, as if you are being chased by a pack of wolves. Does this sound exciting? If it does, then you should try adventure racing! There is no better place to start than with a free info session from experienced adventure racers at Hark Events.

Come and see a multimedia presentation that is sure to get your blood pumping about this exciting team based multi-sport adventure. Now is the time to say to yourself, “Hey I want to try this, and I can do this”. Find out how to get started, what to look for in a race, gear and teammate selection, as well as an open Q & A session with experienced racers who are passionate about the sport.

Whether you are looking to try your first 4 – 8 hour “sprint” style race, or working your way up to a multi-day expedition, we can point you in the right direction, even if you are afraid of the wolves.

Event Info
Free AR Clinic
January 23rd 2009 8 – 9:30 p.m.
Firepower Training
509 Main Street East, Milton ON
Click here for Map

Friday February the 20th.

Please R.S.V.P by calling or emailing us at mark@harkevents.com

For more info contact
Hark Events Inc.

Firepower Training / Milton Crossfit

crossfitshirtonblackfp1Firepower Training in Milton Ontario is home to a fantastic training facility. Tire flips, ring dips or sprints on their indoor turf, you can do it all close to home. Something you never see in a “globo gym” is olympic lifting platforms with bumper plates which are rubber and are meant to be dropped. The name of the game at Firepower and Crossfit is functional movement peformed at high intensity all while being constantly varied. These workouts are not for the feign of heart, but they are all scalable and you have to start somewhere. Every movement has a purpose with human movement and transferable skills in mind. There are no isolating movements at this facility, as there are no isolated movements in real life. Come check it out and give it a shot. Right now they are offering a week free to come and check it out. Give it a shot, you may become incredibly strong, fast, agile, powerful or all of the above.

Check this out

Firepower Training

CrossFit is never going to go away

There may be some people who feel that Crossfit is a fad and that this style of workout is going the way of the dodo bird. We at Ring TrainingHark Events are big fans of crossfit and we’ve given up the cozy confines of a well lit gym playing easy rock or pop which happens to be the most appealing to the masses . We’ve gone from the “globo gym” to work out in a garage that is just above freezing in the winter and has such limited space that you have to watch that you don’t hit a tool box or a bike rack when doing your hang power cleans or overhead jerks.  The spartan conditions in the garage gym allow me induce a vomiting grueling style workout without wasting an hour or two at the globo gym on the eliptical reading US weekly. Secondly the movements and the workouts are all I need to seek that elite level of fitness with minimal equipment. Homemade rings and medicine balls combined with a barbell and some weights have put me to the limits of my mental and physical capacities. Male abs classes being led by a guy in a sweater and toque tend to lack credibility (to me) and are purely for asthetics. It is a major league waste of time. Crossfit is not. It is more important than brushing your teeth in the morning if you want to live a long healthy productive life and keep fending off the reaper, sloth, and glutony.

Crossfit the Evolution

Also check out CrossFit in Milton Ontario here