Saturday, 28 July 2012

To tape or not to tape? (Pt. 2)

For those of you who recall, last February I wrote about McConnell taping and how I was using it on my left knee in To tape or not to tape?   I thought it was about time to report back on how it has been working for me.

Remember, knees are tricky and individual things not to be trifled with, so don't try this taping method just because you feel like it or because you have a twinge in your knee.  Have your health and wellness practitioner assess your unique situation to ascertain if this method will help you before proceeding.

Using this taping method has been a really positive experience for me. I no longer have those sporadic tooth-numbing aches in my knee, and it feels like there is more balance between my knees (if you read that previous post, you will know why this is a big deal for me). Necessary surgery many years ago had left my left knee a bit of a mess. So, I thought I'd give ya'll a step-by-step photo story on how I tape my knee.

There are certain items you wil need, like:
Hypafix is an under-layer to protect your skin. Leukotape is rigid sprots tape containing latex.
Both of these are available at medical supply stores. They were quite expensive around here.

I subsequently bought some nicely coloured rigid sports tape that uses zinc oxide adhesive, has no latex and just looks cool. Get this from the Americo company: (they have great prices in their eBay shop!!!!!)
Update (Sept.10/2012): this coloured tape does not stick very well. Use the more expensive Leukotape.

Good old scissors: have one pair that you use just for this as the glue on the tape can make the blades a bit gummy eventually.

First, make sure that your skin is clean and dry - no lotions or anything. You want that tape to stick! Stretch out your leg so it is straight.
(Your knees may vary - in fact, for your sake, I hope your knees DO vary!)

Cut a piece of hypafix that will cover the kneecap.

Stretch this as you apply it and smooth down edges really well.

I'll say it again: "This is for the LEFT KNEE!"

This step is only if needed according to your specific knee problems. Again, have your health provider assess your needs.

Yes, seriously! Three days at least, even showering frequently. In fact, it is much easier to remove after a couple of days. Here's one three days old (using the Leukotape):

And that's all, folks!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Checking out the knees

I've been working really hard on getting the bend out of my legs on first contact. This is a must for race walking, and something that can get you DQ'd pretty darn quickly if you're not doing it. I've posted before about my extremely wonky knees, especially the left one (past surgery and atrophy had made it a reluctant participant in the experiment!), so although I sort of have an excuse for bent knee, it simply won't fly, and I'm just stubborn enough to make that [insert colourful adjective of choice here] knee cooperate. Today we took some video to see how things have been going. As usual, it's rather painful to see oneself on video, but also a real learning experience. There is improvement, thankfully, but still a ways to go; and I'm just stubborn enough....

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Belle River Sunsplash 5K 2012

W.R.A.C.E. (Walkers and Runners Around the County of Essex) is an interesting organization. They organize 12 races a year, most with walking divisions. If you are a member, enter at least 6 of those races and volunteer at one, you can accrue points for an annual award. Something to think about for 2013?
Today's race was one in their series, and was held in conjunction with Belle River's Sunsplash festival. Our recent weather had been brutally hot and humid (one day up to 103F!), so I, for one, was quite worried about the weather for today's race. I do NOT do well in any kind of heat. The last two days, however, had been quite nice, so we really lucked out. It was about 72F for the race, but quite sunny ("Sunsplash", after all, right?). It was only about a 45-minute drive for me, which was great!
The race was extremely well-organised, with lots of parking at the high school where the start/finish would be. I had pre-registered, so went to that tent to pick up my number. You're not going to believe this, but I was #1! (Walkers were given single- and double-digits while the runners had numbers starting in the hundreds). This was so cool!

My bib number - auspicious?

One little tad (probably about 3 years old), pointed to me and said, "Look, Mommy - it's number 1!" I was famous :)
We all also received really nice Saucony tech shirts.
I had lots of time to warm up and do my drills, which I find to be so necessary the older I get. A couple of potty visits and I was ready to go. I used my new el-cheapo Schwinn 810 GPS watch (see blog entry) and found it to be extremely accurate, a nice change from my failing Forerunner 301. I also used my NB 730s, which I find to be great for 5Ks.
There was to be a kids' 1 km before us - they were sooo cute!
The field for the 5K was about 220 strong, but overwhelmingly runners; very few walkers. Off we went - first on the track, then off into the streets of town, including the main street where people were lining the street waiting for the Sunsplash parade. We had an instant cheering section, but I sure hope they didn't think we were the parade :) ! There were three water stations (two actually, but one we passed twice as we came back to form a loop), and I doused my head each time. This helps a lot! Lots and lots of volunteers, police and other marshalls helped make it a safe and enjoyable event.
On I toodled, until I pumped in the last gas in my tank at 2.8 miles, making for a 9:33 pace at that point. I came into the finish chute only to hear the announcer give my number, name and the fact that I was the first walker in!!!!

Gun time.
We were handed icy cold, wet facecloths (what a GREAT idea! Absolutely perfect for plunking on your head and neck after a hot walk), water, etc. Get the chip cut off your shoe and wander around to cooldown. It was then that I discovered that they would give prizes for the first-place walker. I had no idea! I went to the food table, where one could have as much watermelon, oranges, popsicles, Tim Horton's coffee and cookies, Gatorade and PIZZA as one wished! This was a class act!
The awards were announced and I received a great Saucony Trackster jacket, two pairs of Saucony socks and an enamelled and engraved medal.

I met many very nice and welcoming people, and will definitely be doing some more of their races in the future; maybe even join the club?  Very impressed!

....and, please everyone - thank the volunteers at these events. It can't be done without them and they are often overlooked by racers. WE LOVE YOU, VOLUNTEERS!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Something's Gotta Give 2

See previous post, "Something's Gotta Give" for background on this "loss of contact" issue and my rantings about it. Every now and then, Mike (my husband) and I mull this problem over and he came up with what he thought was a possible solution or facet thereof:

At various undisclosed places around the track, video cameras in boxes would be set up at ground level, including many dummy cameras. Racers would have numbers on their lower legs (written on, like in triathlons). The cameras would take video and winners/times would not be disclosed until the footage had been analysed in slo-mo.

PROS: Objective; "dummy" cameras would mean that racers didn't know which cameras were actually filming for that particular race; no arguing with the technology.

CONS: very cost and time-prohibitive; waiting for results; time records would be slower than usual as racers became more careful about technique; some racers may be obscured due to position on the field.

Ah, least it's an idea.

Monday, 16 July 2012

LSD Blues (no, not THAT LSD!)

Long, Slow Distance: you know I don't like 'em - I'm too competitive (even against myself) and out to prove I can still move fast at my advanced age...but I truly do understand the value of these workouts and I'm getting used to them. Today's was to be 10 miles. We would start at the Riverfront trail again, and I would take off while Mike did his 4 miles. I would then walk up to the Starbuck's and meet him least that was the plan. The weather had other ideas. We got up really early, ate the right stuff, hydrated adequately and then headed out, but it was already 80F and very humid. At least there was a bit of a breeze on the river, but the sun was ruthless in spite of sunglasses, hat, wicking clothes and sunblock. Nevertheless, off we went....and thus starts the epic voyage, with that evil fiend, humidity, dogging my tracks.

At first, I'm rarin' to go. I'm thinking that the weather ain't really so bad, and the breeze is kind of refreshing. I pass a lot of other fools out there, walking, running, rollerblading, biking, dogwalking, wheeling. Everyone seems pretty chipper, including me. I notice things; I imagine things; I work through the problems of the world in my head; I focus on technique.
There are a lot of Canada Geese that make the riverfront their home, so you have to watch where you step on some parts of the trail. Lately, there has been a pair of white geese with grayish wingtips hanging out with them. I'd like to think they're snow geese, but are probably renegade domestics. As I toddle along, I pass one goose standing on the path just kind of looking around. I say, "Hey, man - 'sup?" He honks quietly under his breath and I swear it sounds like "Nothing much." I almost do a double-take. Chuckling, on I go.
Further on, they're taking down the festival tents from the weekend and blasting "Every Step You Take"...seems appropriate! I settle into my easy pace of between 13:00 and 14:00 min/mile. Everything seems to be going according to plan. My heartrate is good.....then at 4 miles I have to turn around and retrace my steps. No more breeze, just sun baking my tender Northern European flesh into the asphalt (dang those malfunctioning MC1R genes! I can almost feel the freckles erupting despite SPF 45.).
I bravely continue on my merry way, starting to feel different sensations: I innately feel the difference between asphalt and concrete; the sun feels like it's drilling a trepanation hole in my skull and my feet feel like I've been fire-walking. I suck back more water and start to question my sanity - mad dogs and Englishmen, you know. It is now 88F and still very humid...quite a quick rise in temp. I am no longer chipper.
At 6 miles I decide to take a quick rest in the breezy shade of a hill. It doesn't take long for me to recover, and also to realize that this is an exercise in futility. I am not used to exercising in this heat/humidity. I do not like exercising this heat/humidity. I do not ever WANT to be used to exercising this kind of heat/humidity. The hamster-wheel-to-nowhere in my nice, cool basement gym is starting to sing its siren song. I should do another 2 miles or so on the river and then head up to Starbuck's (about another 2 miles). Instead, I abort mission and head up the tree-lined streets towards air conditioning and chilled coconut water. 2.27 miles later, I'm ensconced in a chilly chair at SB's looking out the window at the now 92F/60% humidity world, happy to be trembling with the cold. Hiking in New Mexico isn't like's a dry heat.

PS - I would end up doing the rest of the distance on my treddie.....

PPS - there was a heat alert warning today, duh. Tomorrow, a heat alert level 1 (humidex higher than 104F). No outdoor stuff for me tomorrow!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

New (Cheap!) GPS Training Watch

I have been using a Garmin Forerunner 301 for years now, and while I still love it, I've been finding that it's showing its age. Now I can't fault it there; it is, after all, 7 year old technology. In the tech world, that's ancient. Garmin has released 12 newer Forerunner models since the 301 (which was the third one they made)! So, I was thinking it was time for a new training watch. The 301 would still be great for hiking as it has all of the bells and whistles for that (plus a heart monitor). Eventually, I will be looking at another (newer model) Forerunner, but the cost of such units is well beyond my means at this point in time, so I started looking around the techie corners of the 'net for something else.  I needed something solely for training walks; something accurate and fairly simple. The Soleus watches had good reviews and were generally less than $100. I was also looking at a Nike version. Then I came across the Schwinn 810 GPS watch.

Schwinn 810 GPS Tracking and Heart Rate Monitor
 Now, it really isn't a "Schwinn", so to speak, but rather a generic type watch released by Schwinn (and also by other companies like Mio and Red Clover). The MSRP was listed as $229 (which I'm sure was never charged for this unit), but I could easily get it with heart rate monitor for $69.99, plus free shipping (from Tiger Direct's eBay store). Hmmmm - I was quite skeptical. How could this be any good at all for that price? I read every review I could find on it, and found that the main complaint people had about it was the software that came with it, but that you could use Red Clover's software which they said worked better, or simply save the info as a .tcx file and upload to Map My Run. Also, many had said the included startup sheet was pretty useless and they found it difficult to figure out how to use the watch. I found the full manual online, downloaded it, and found that it wasn't all that difficult if you had the full instructions. I figured I really couldn't go wrong for the price since I just wanted something basic until I could afford a newer Garmin, so I ordered one.

It came very quickly, with HRM, mini-CD, special charging dock (basically a large clip with USB plug) and quick startup page. Not as big and bulky as the "Dick Tracy Two-way Wrist Radio" 301, it still is larger than a conventional sportswatch. I have very skinny wrists, so it is a bit big on me, but nothing that will cause a problem. As I said before, I had downloaded the manual, so I set to work learning a few things about it as it was initally charging up.
The watch found satellites really quickly; IMMENSELY faster than my Garmin, which had been taking longer and longer lately. It was accurate and quite easy to use. Whereas my Garmin had been reporting wildly fluctuating paces (even when I knew I was keeping pretty steady), the Schwinn only fluctuated within what I thought was my actual change in pace. It has a lot of functions I wasn't expecting, such as autolaps, night mode, altimeter, some waterproof capabilitites, orientation, goto, etc. etc. It can also be used as a conventional watch with alarm when in standby mode which the 301 cannot do. You are able to set more than one "time" on it, so you can preset the watch if you are travelling outside your home time zone - that's pretty handy.
When it came time to upload info for analysis, I originally had downloaded the Red Clover software which had been recommended by reviewers. It was okay, but I also downloaded the software from the mini-CD which came with the unit and found it really easy to use, though basic; a plus is Google Earth integration and the ability to print maps (which you can't even do on Garmin Connect). The program also had a "Map My Run" button which saved the info as .tcx to upload to MMR. I found Map My Run (it's an online training aid for those who haven't come across it before) to be quite similar to Garmin Connect, with a few other features (such as 3D flyover of your route, which is fun!). The free version has ads, but they are really not too in-your-face. Personally, I haven't found the software to be an issue at all. I'm thinking they may have issued a newer version of the software after some of the complaints they received, or maybe I just got lucky.

So far I've tried walks and bike rides with the unit, but haven't used the HRM yet. One concern I do have is the battery life per charge, but as I'm not using this for long hikes (the Garmin's 14-hour battery is perfect for that), it shouldn't be an issue. I'm sure it will be fine for everything from 5Ks to half marathons or longer training walks.

So, long story longer still, I'm really pleasantly surprised by this watch and think it is going to be exactly what I need right now if it continues to function this well. Within the limitations I had set myself, I think I did very well, indeed! I will report back as I use this unit more.

While I was showing Mike the setup on Map My Run, he glanced over at our three rather contented cats and thought we should start up a website just for felines called "Map My Nap".

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Something's Gotta Give....

Being a fledgeling in the race walk world, I was a bit reluctant to write this post (as in, "who am I to question those who know more than me"). I decided to go ahead with it, however, hoping that some discussion might ensue, as this is an issue that bugs me. Here goes....

One of the two official rules of Race Walking (as defined by the USATF) is:

"Race walking is a progression of steps so taken that the walker makes contact with the ground so that no visible (to the human eye) loss of contact occurs."

Maybe it's just me or maybe it's because the digital world we live in makes it more obvious, but it seems that every still photograph or slowed-down video of elite race walkers shows them in flight (loss of contact). Pushing and varying the technique to get more and more speed makes the walker vulnerable to this, and, ironically perhaps, it is just this increased speed which makes it more difficult for judges to see the loss of contact. For something as regulated as an Olympic sport, this seems far too subjective and far too amorphous a rule to work. But what is the alternative?  I don't know - it must be just as frustrating for judges and competitors as it is for us mere observers  (in a relatively recent booklet on RW judging guidelines for officials they were cautioned not to lie down in order to better see foot contact...). Short of some kind of "digital contact sensor" in shoes*....something's gotta give.
Race walk rules have changed a lot over the years and maybe it's time for more change, but isn't that contact with the ground the very thing that makes walking distinct from running? What does the future hold for "our" sport?

* maybe I've got something there? ;)

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Which races to choose?

Foot races are fun, my favourite distance being half marathons. Lately, however, I've expanded into 10Ks and 5Ks. Many walkers take on longer distances, such as full marathons and ultras, and different routes such as road, trail or track. Even within each distance category, there are several types of organised races for walkers to choose from, depending on your focus. Here are four distinct types of foot race setups for walkers, along with my own personal take on them. Remember to check before you register for a race - there are running races out there that specifically state no walking. Be informed!

1. Running races which allow or welcome walkers:

        PROS: Lots of races in many distances to choose from! Walking form doesn't really matter. You can even throw a bit of running in if you're so inclined.
       CONS: These are understandably focused on runners. Your results will be mixed in with those of runners. Usually there is a pace cutoff.

        Basically, if you can make the pace and are focused on simply competing against yourself, these races are good choices.  How walkers are treated usually depends on how walkers behave (see a previous post on walking etiquette). Race organizers want you there; you are, after all, paying for the privilege.

2. Running races which have separate Competitive Walking divisions:

        PROS: Often (but not always) there are awards within age divisions for the walk category. Usually there are a variety of race distances. Results are posted separately from the runners, so you can see how you are doing compared to other walkers. Any style of WALKING is allowed. Sometimes there is an earlier start for the walking divisions.
       CONS: These are difficult to marshall, and I've heard that cheating happens (as in some folks running a bit when registered in a walk-only division). This can be really frustrating for those of us focussed on walking only (and being honest), and really can give walkers a bad name in the race world. Not as many available as the first type.

        Again, you usually have to maintain a certain pace. These are great for walkers as we are recognized as a separate group, can use any style of walking and often can get awards. I've personally not yet encountered the cheating mentioned above, but am told it happens.....

3. Walking races:

         PROS: Just what it says: walkers only. These are well marshalled. Awards are often given. Usually good choices of distance.
         CONS: Not many of this sort of race out there compared to the previous two.

        If you can find them, these are great. Usually any type of walking is allowed, and some have separate divisions for different types of walking.

4. Judged race walk events:

         PROS: High standards, usually governed by track and field organisations. Excellent for those who wish to compete as an athlete in this specific sport. Often there are separate races for masters (us older folk).
         CONS: These are judged, so you must maintain strict race walk technique. If not, disqualification can result.

         These are a whole different ball game, and are often on a track. These are for serious adherents of RW, but can be very rewarding if you have the technique to carry you through.


As some of you know, I compiled a partial list of races that are walker-friendly or with competitive divisions for 2012 which you can see as a separate page on this blog. I'm working on the 2013 version for half marathons, and will be only including types 1-3 for now. If you have any you'd like to see included, please let me know; pop me an email with details!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Olympic Update!

Based on the trials in Eugene, OR and Calgary, AB this past week, it looks like the Race Walk teams for the Olympics will be as follows:

For CANADA: Rachel Seaman and Inaki Gomez

For the USA: Trevor Barron, John Nunn and Maria Michta

The Olympic Race Walk schedule is as follows:

August 4th: Men's 20K
August 11th: Women's 20K, Men's 50K

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Amherstburg to Essex Rails-to-trails

Once finished, this will be a very welcome addition to the Chrysler Greenway. The land has been purchased by ERCA (Essex Region Conservation Authority) which is just waiting for funding to complete this trail from Amherstburg to Essex and which intersects the Chrysler Greenway just east of McGregor. I was very surprised to find this completed section, from McGregor to CR 15 as it isn't even mentioned on the ERCA website! I needed to put in 7.5 miles, so I parked at the small trail parking lot just north of the Home Hardware in downtown McGregor (about 6-7 spots and garbage bin, but no bathrooms, although there is a county library nearby). Turns out it is about 3.25 miles long, skirting the golfcourse, before heading into a lovely tree-lined lane. There is one short chunk on a little-used road (about 60 feet on the road to connect to the continuation of the trail). Out and back made 6.5 miles, so I did a .5 out-and-back once I encountered the Greenway again.
I was lucky; I got up early and was on the trail by 7 AM, and it was relatively cool and cloudy with some spitting rain. Our recent weather has been brutally hot and dry, so this was most welcome. The cloud cover and a lovely breeze stayed with me until I only had about 30 minutes left to do, and then I was able to stay in the shade of trees. Lots of frolicking rabbits and active birds (including some brilliant yellow goldfinches) made the walk interesting - the horseflies less so. Luckily, I had brought a small umbrella with me that soon became dubbed Fly Whacker (to be fair, the horseflies were only on one small part of the trail). On my little jaunt on the Greenway, a vole suddenly darted out on to the trail in front of me and raced along with me for a bit!
I can't wait for the rest of this trail to be done! It's going to be a major step forward for walkers and bike riders in Essex County!