2016 in review + 2017 life goals

As we round out 2016 I have had a little time to reflect on the year. Running races got a little out of control (big plans, big goals, big ambition, middling results), but other areas went well. I realize this needs to change for 2017. I will never be an elite runner (much as I may dream of it), but without a focused plan I won’t achieve anything. I did meet some of my goals for 2016, which is a nice thing to do. If I want to meet my goals I need to be more focused about them in 2017.

2016 Review

1 – Continue to run every day

Check! This has definitely become part of me, I had planned to stop running everyday for 2017 – until the Winter Solstice when I delayed my morning run to just before 8am to run at sunrise. I realized that I don’t know how to start my day without a run. I could adapt, but why? You will see a similar goal below for 2017

2 – Run 1600KM by December 31st

Nope 🙁 I ran into some mental blocks that significantly decreased my mileage in the last 1/3 of the year. I came in at 1471KM, which is still impressive to me, I ran ~1000KM in 2015

3 – Run the half marathon I didn’t run in 2014 (Valley Harvest)

Check! White whale has been beaten!

4 – Run a sub 01:45:00 half marathon in the fall

Nope 🙁 Nearing the race I set my A|B|C goals to <=01:45:00 | <02:00:00 | Finish. I ended up finishing under my B goal: 01:57:33, which was also a PB. I left my all out on the course. Run well raced.

5 – Run a sub 00:24:00 5K in the spring (Mar – June)

Check! This one was killed with a 00:22:05, so I had to adjust my fall goals, though I didn’t end up meeting the revised goal.

6 – Run a sub 00:22:00 5K in the fall (Sept – Dec)

Nope 🙁 Definitely had my races scheduled poorly. That said I ran 00:22:07 two weeks post half marathon, I am confident had I planned things race I could have done it.

7 – Learn the Cello

Check! This one is definitely going well, I have been playing since March, I got my own cello eventually. I am still enjoying it, and improving every week.

2016 reflections

This year I think I over extended myself – I also didn’t realize that there were some of tendencies I would need reign in. I like to run all the races, and I like to do my best at each. I had 12 races this year, mostly 5Ks, but a couple 10Ks and half marathons mixed in. Had they been properly spaced it might have been ok. 3 of these 12 races were in 4 weeks. while I did very well in all 3, I think it took a lot out of me.

I also have an optimist in me during races. In my half marathon I did the first 10K in stellar time, and then fell apart. If I had focused on my plan to run a balanced race I likely would have made it through with a similar finish time (potentially a little faster) and not fallen apart. I know this is a fault that I need to work on.

2017 Goals

These are my current goals for 2017, I have already started to do some planning so I don’t mess myself up. I am sure I will add more as the year goes on.

  1. Continue running near Daily – I won’t beat myself up if I miss a day, but as I noted above, I miss it when I don’t run.
  2. 5K spring – Sub 21 – Race date TBD
  3. 5K fall – Sub 20 – Race date TBD
  4. Run 1500 KM – given the above two goals, this one will likely happen as a side effect
  5. Be able to play Carol of the Bells (slowly) on the Cello for Christmas. I tried to learn it this year but it was too advanced for me, even with my teachers help.
  6. Post a video of each cello piece I “master”
  7. Maybe, truly, write more often

Happy New Year!

The mental side of running?

Note: I started writing this in April 2015 – and I feel now is a good time to finish it. I think I can further expand on my thoughts (and outcomes). The mental side of running doesn’t really cover it as a title, but that was one of the biggest things I took out of this whole experience.

First and foremost, I will warn you, this ended up becoming a bit of a missive – hopefully it will be interesting. There is no research behind any of my thoughts it based on my journey, although I welcome constructive discussion.

I have been working through ‘injuries’ for as long as I have been running (7 years). Before that I would say: “I can’t run, I have bad knees.” During many of those years I thought: “Am I a screw up?”, “Am I not built for running”,  or “What am I doing wrong”. I researched on the Internet, I got referrals for physiotherapy, I tried everything I thought I could. I tried minimal shoes (which did change my running form for the better), took time off, ran barefoot, used KT Tape, and many other things.

Twenty-fifteen would turn out to be a very different year. I went for a complete reset, I stopped running completely in November 2014 not knowing when I would start back. I started with an ambitious plan in January 2015 – I would run (or walk) with the sole purpose of exercise once a day, every day for a year. Walking to/from the subway wouldn’t count, nor would other daily required walking. My plan was to slowly build up from 1km runs every day to (by the end of the year) 10K X1, 5K X1, 2K X5. People gave me strange looks (and I am guessing assumed I wouldn’t last long). I wanted to do this to avoid what I thought was my predilection for over training.

As of posting I am at day 721 – which surprises even me. I have been sick, it has been -27C before windchill, it has been pouring rain and 3C – I run at 5:30AM most days (dark), I admit I have done walks or walk/runs for a few days, but I don’t consider that defeat – I got out there with a specific purpose and I did it.

The defeat I did run into was that, even with this very slow training, as I upped my “long run” I started getting the familiar tightness around my ankle, and pain around both knees. It was frustrating to say the least.

In March 2015 I was flipping through the Running Room Magazine (http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/ccac84aa#/ccac84aa/24) March/April Issues and came across an IT Band article by Dr. Reed Ferber – it had some interesting points, and a pitch about their 3D Gait Analysis – I thought it was a lot of it was voodoo magic/marketing speak. I found a clinic in Toronto that did the analysis and setup an appointment.

I still believe that it is a little marketing speak, but the 3D Gait analysis wasn’t all I got. For the tear inducing amount of money (woo insurance), I also got 2 hours with a very smart, well read, and practiced physiotherapist. That is what I think made the appointment worth every penny and every minute. I still work with him to this day (almost 2 years later).

After talking for ~30 minutes, he had a good, (and I think) honest history of me and my running. He was optimistic after that, where I always felt defeated. He noted I was doing some things right, many things even. He pointed out that I had already successfully run a half marathon (and countless other races), showing that my body can handle solid training (I was training 5 days a week one summer, upwards of 50KM/week). There were areas I was weak in.

Some had been mentioned before, such as my hips being weak – which is a big thing. With that he dispelled a lot of the other things other physios had told me were wrong, which they never really had hard facts or compelling reasons to argue – they were grasping for straws. This time around I got solid theories and research as to why the current diagnosis was correct, and why the others were likely wrong.

We also got into a discussion about mental vs. physical pain – how much of what I was experiencing was mental pain that my body could handle running through and how much was true physical pain that could cause damage. Questions about stress and pain were posited, sleep patterns, we even (briefly) discussed the quirk that some of my best long runs were the morning after having a drink or two (I’ve since met many others who have noticed this.) As I said, there was a lot of honesty on both sides, and there time to feel things out and discuss them. Who knew there was a mental side to physiotherapy 🙂 This was my biggest take away from this whole thing, and I still struggle with it 2 years later. Is it mental, or is it physical – how do you tell the difference.

The actual 3D gait analysis is pretty damn cool: sensors, cameras, and a treadmill. Once I was suited up I ran normally for 5 minutes or so to let the computer record things, and to do some visual analysis on my running  form – it turns out my form is actually pretty good – I strike on in a very ‘barefoot’ way, front of my feet, legs vertical as they hit the ground. After a short discussion I got a second set of readings, this time with some adjustments to my form for comparison (the biggest change: moving to a more mid-foot landing). In all I think I was running for 10 minutes – that gave enough data to discuss.

From there we looked at the comparison of my stats between the two different styles of running and focused on areas I can improve/tweak to start sorting things out. I have a short term action plan: exercises for my ankles and knees (to start to remove some of the mental and physical blocks), temporary modifications to my gait to sub in slowly (to help fix the pain I get in my preferred gait), and changes to my run formats also to get my legs used to different movements.

In the end my runs are feeling better – I still have issues, but I feel like a superstar doing my funky workout. I also have hope and optimism that I might be able to complete the half-marathon I dropped out of (before I even started) last fall – which was fine, but it still annoys me (edit: I completed that half marathon in 2016, beating my B goal time of 02:00:00, I missed my A goal time).

I think it all comes down to honesty, with myself and with others – lay it all out there, lose the pride, and get it fixed. Most people want to help, especially the skilled ones.

I know I will never be an elite runner (though I still hold out hope :)), but maybe I will finally reach my goal (until now, an unspoken goal) of running a 50 minute 10K.

I left that last line in from the original. A little over a year after I originally wrote it (April 2015) I smashed my 2015 PB of 00:56:07, with a new a PB of 00:48:39 (June 2016), three months later I further dropped it to 00:46:26 (Sept 2016). I have built myself up to a regular week of 10-15K X 1, 5K X3, 2K X3 – I have hill days, tempo days, easy days, and recovery days. I am taking it slowly at the moment, I’m not at those numbers – I will be again in the new year.

There are so many parts of this post that I really want to discuss in more depth – some of them require more honesty than I am willing to put out on the Internet, I’ll get there. I hope you found this long post interesting. Maybe I should put myself out there more in 2017 and discuss these topics.

2015 Running Challenge

I was supposed to be resting until February, no running. I did all kinds of silly things last year to make it through all my runs, I wanted to give my body time to recover.  It has been hard, I truly love running and I have been missing it since November (my last run was the Holly Jolly run!)

I broke down today and went for a run. Peer pressure is strong; I saw a bunch of friends posting about their first run of the year and couldn’t take it any more!

I also saw this tweet from Matt Galloway:

The idea of 365 runs is a fun challenge. So that is what I am going to do, I am going to take it very easy to start and not fall into my usual overtraining trap. My only goal for running this year (so far) is to make 365 runs ( and find a couple runs that come along at the right time to complete.)

Today I started: 1.25KM, took me 10:32 and I did 2 minutes walking 3 minutes running just to be safe. A far cry from my usual 5:45/km but alas I need to get this right.

So much for resting until February. Started the new year with a 1K run. 364 more to go (give or take a couple).

A post shared by Rory Craig-Barnes (@rorycraigbarnes) on

Canning on the Road

It all started when we realized that pickling cucumbers were going to be in season while we were travelling to Ottawa and Quebec. Sometimes there comes a moment where you realize your vacation is going to put a damper on a canned good you were looking forward to making. What would you do?

We had big plans to make 3 kinds of pickles this year; Icicle, Bread & Butter, and Gherkins. The Bread & Butter could be done in a day, no problem. Our Gherkin recipe takes (12) days, where the first 6 of those they just sit with no attention needed, again no problem. The Icicles, however, need attention every day for 12 days, they are also one of our favourites and the ones that were the most depleted in the pantry; big problem.

Shortly after this revelation, resigning ourselves to the fact that we would have to wait another year, we ran into Joel and Dana of Well Preserved. After hearing of our bind, Joel regaled us with his story of making sauerkraut on the road (in Scotland I think). He suggested that since we were using airbnb for our trip that we bring the supplies with us and do it on the road. This course of action had originally crossed our mind however, we had quickly discounted its as hair-brained.

After hearing Joel’s sauerkraut story we begin to seriously look at what would need to happen to make these pickles. It wasn’t too much: a pot, some ingredients, a colander, spoon, bucket, etc. There was only one night we wouldn’t have access to a kitchen/stove. Having made these in the past we knew it only took ~ 10 min a day to process the cucumbers. We could make this work, right?!

First, we made sure we could get the pickling cucumbers, Haystrom Farm came through with a half bushel for us the week before we left. The only thing we were missing was a large bucket, preferably air tight for when it was in the car. We borrowed a fermenting bucket from a friend which fit the bill perfectly.

The first 7 days are pretty low intensity, we started them a week before we went on the road. They literally sit in a pot fermenting, getting stirred once a day.

In Ottawa they sat in a corner with the lid lightly on, we stirred them when we remembered.

The first day with real action we were at our friends hobby farm in Quebec. Being us, we forgot to take pictures so you’ll have to take our word it happened. We drained the fermenting brine and replaced it with boiling water and alum. Since we were on a hobby farm nothing was wasted in this step, the fermenting brine was added to the pig slop for the next day.

At this point we started having to actively do a couple things every day, draining the bucket, boiling the syrup and replacing it. Pretty simple stuff, but a stove is a must. We also had to time things on our last day in the airbnb so that pickles wouldn’t need attention until we got home the next night. Our host was gracious enough to give us a late checkout (4pm), although we didn’t tell him why we needed it 🙂

The pickles survived the overnight in a sealed bucket in the trunk while we pampered ourselves at a nice hotel.

We ended up adding a day to the process, we were tired when we rolled into town and didn’t want to can that night, we reboiled the syrup and let the pickles sit overnight again.

Sadly I can’t tell you how the pickles taste, they are still doing their thing on our canned goods shelf. They looked and smelled right though.

Overall travelling and fermenting/processing of pickles worked out great. I would happily do it again, although I probably still wouldn’t can in someone elses house. That seems like a little too much work for vacation!

All ready to can
All ready to can