Wednesday, November 3, 2010

To MESS with your Stride or Not to MESS with your Stride- That is the Question!

Messing with ones natural stride is a taboo in some running circles. There is a train of thought that if you let an athlete run enough miles that he/she will find their natural stride. Problem is that many find injury before they find the perfect efficient way to get themselves from point A to point B. Yes the saying, "If it ain't broke then don't fix it", makes perfect sense for those runners who don't have injury issues, however check out this article  from The New Yorker and you may change your mind when Alberto Salazar blames his poor form for ending his career early at the age of 26. Read on and you may then change your mind again after learning about Alberto's disastrous attempts to change the form of his running protege, Dathan Ritzenhein.

I read the acticle with interest because I chose to mess with my stride about 3 years ago. I didn't do it because I was prone to injury or anything like that. Besides I hadn't run enough to qualify for a case of runners knee or Achilles tendinitis at that point. I chose to mess with my stride because I was literally all over the place form wise and didn't know what the heck I was doing. Everytime I ran I felt like I was showing up at a dance recital not knowing the moves and having to fake it. Having a clear defined way to get my body from point A to point B simply took the mystery out of the running equation for me and gave me a clear vision of what I was trying to accomplish. I have had more injuries since I began messing with my form and believe the majority of my problems stem from my inability to master the simple act of running using the most efficient running form possible. Poor running form forces the body to over use some muscles and at the same time under develope others causing muscular imbalances which can lead to injury. Hence my long term problems with a stiff Achilles tendon, tight calf muscle, a 6 month bout of runners knee and a torn calf muscle which put me out of commission for almost 2 months this July and August.

But despite these injuries I have never thought about quitting. Why? Because I know that with each set back I am that much closer to figuring this running thing out. I have learned alot about what I need to do  by recognizing what I have be doing...WRONG!! It's as simple as recognizing my mistakes and learning from them.

Recently one of the most effective tools I have used to help me recognize those mistakes and to perfect my stride has been a video camera. Sometimes what we perceive we are doing while running is not what we are infact doing and seeing it play out on a computer screen has given me a really good insight into what I still have to work on. The main points I am trying to work on are-
 1) running upright with a slight forward lean while not bending at the waist.
2) landing with my foot under my body and not out in front.
3) retracting the trailing leg quickly with the hamstring and not leaving it behind.
4) leading with my pelvis(to keep me upright) and not my shoulders(makes me bend).
5) keeping my arms swinging straight and not across my body.
6) doing all of the above while not thinking about doing all of the above.

If you missed it then check out this video which accompanied the article I spoke of above. Plus a recent running video of me and my training partner Maryanne Takala who has a natural efficient running stride. I try not to talk to her about running form for fear that I will mess her up.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jane & JT

Here is a video of my Mom(71) and JT at the Ontario Championships winning the Steeplechase event. For me this is one of the most exciting things I have ever seen. I am just so proud of  both of them.

You may notice that my Mom does not run beside JT through the course like many dog handlers do. Since JT is so fast she does not want to slow him down to her pace(which is slower then her younger competitors) so she has trained JT to take his commands from a distance using hand, body and voice signals...kinda like the way Derrick trains me in Sydenham all the way from Yarker using nothing but smoke signals; )
My Mom is wearing LaSportiva Crosslites. Sara gave them to me because they were too big for her and my Mom tried them out and I have not seen them since.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dear Coach...

Dear Coach Derrick,

Thank you so much for another GREAT year of training. I still can't believe that the girl who met you for coffee to discuss training 2 years ago was me. She had many dreams and I'm the one who gets to live them.

You took a "middle of the packer" and moved me that much closer to the front, but more then that your positive approach to running and life has also been a great inspiration to me. I am just discovering that running is a sport that bestows upon its participants so many gifts beyond winning and medals. There is the discipline and satisfaction one gains from putting in the training, the never ending journey of self awareness every race reveals and the amazing camaraderie of other runners as an omnipresent force making this whole experience a safe place to explore and challenge our limits without the fear of failure or judgement pushing us forward towards our greatest potential.

I am so appreciative to have had the opportunity to share my journey with you and Sara and the group of runners who have also found refuge here in the SHA family.

Thank you again and I am looking forward to another year of training and self discovery for myself and everyone here.

Sincerely yours,

Eliza Murphy

Sunday, July 4, 2010

...I can WIN any race I enter...

Like I always say, I can WIN any race I long as no one FASTER shows up; ) Well usually that never happens, in fact it has NEVER happened until TODAY!!: )

The second annual running of the Somersault Triathlons, Duathlon, Canoe Tri, Kayak Tri, Swim, Swim-Cycle, 10KM, 5KM, 2KM, etc. etc. etc. took place today in my home town of Sydenham, Ontario. Everyone in the village came out to support the event either by volunteering or participating. I almost ran The Wolfe Island 5km instead but am glad I decided to join in the fun and take home my first ever overall Gold medal in the Women's 5km and winning a running skirt and a nice tech shirt to boot. I must say it was fun to hear my name announced over the loud speaker as I crossed the finish line as first women and 3rd overall behind two 13 year old boys. Now I can tell everyone that I am almost as fit as a 13 yr old boy and really how much fitter can I get then that?

The race itself was a hard one for me. It was hot and I was tired and had a bad stitch at 2.5km.  I decided not to worry about it and took it as an opportunity to just try and hold it all together when the body just wanted to stop. I did not use my Garmin and ran the whole way "time blind" and loving it. All that mattered was that I kept pushing forward trying to catch that 13 yr. old kid in the red shirt. I never quite caught him but it was fun trying. Funny thing but I was so taken up in racing that when I crossed the finish line I really was not that interested in what my time was. Imagine that, sounds impossible even to me.

My time was 21:46, a new course record; )
Just a little video of the proceedings. Please note that the 5km and 10km were ran together.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I am not going to bore you with all the details of my 1 mile race. I'd like to cut to the part about my goal for the race which was to "TRY". I would also just like to make it clear that my goal was to "TRY" not to "DIE" or "DIE TRYING". Yes finishing a race so tired that you can't hold yourself up is certainly one for sure sign that you "TRIED" but unfortunately my race didn't play itself out quite that way. Defining how I tried my best may leave some of you asking yourself if I did indeed "TRY" hard enough but in my heart I know I did my best on that day with what experience and racing knowledge I had to work with.

In the days leading up to the race I had become almost paralyzed with fear of  failing so really getting to the start line was my first step in trying. Running the race based on my Garmin readings instead of my body's feedback was a choice I made because I did not trust that my body knew how to run this race. I let 2 readings from the Garmin rule this race for me. The first time was rounding the first bend and I noted I was out fast and I decided to base my next move on the number I saw and that move was to slow down. Rather then listen to my body's perceived effort I decided to ease off and cruise midway into the first lap of the 2 lap race. The next time I read my Garmin was at the halfway point, or should I say miss read it. I thought it said I was right on target(wrong) and what I did next based on that number was to hold steady where I was. I was working but I was not hurting but then again I still had another half of the race to go(1 more loop) so I saved my push for the last 400 metres and I ran it as strong as I could to the finish, not dying(probably because I did not push as hard in the middle) but trying and looked at the Garmin across the finish line and WHAAAAT??? The time was not what I expected. The feeling I had at that moment was that I had tried my best and that I had never quit. I had tried to outsmart the race and failed but I had not failed to "TRY". I was only disappointed in the time, not in myself. Infact I was quite ecstatic that I had just finished a race that had scared me so much just a few days before.

 In the end my mistake was trying to "THINK" the race instead of "FEEL" the race and that's OK, it was a learning experience and a lesson I never would have learned had I not "TRIED".

On a side note I looked at the video my Mom (Sherpa) Jane had taken of the race and I did not look as graceful or as smooth as I thought I would. To tell you the truth I was a bit embarrassed looking at myself. But I've had some time to think about it and I guess it really doesn't matter how I look to the rest of the world because I don't have to see myself when I run, I only have to feel how it feels and it feels great inside and that is all that should matter to me.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I had my last workout and now all I can do is wait for Thursday's race time to arrive. I actually cutback today to an easy 30 minutes and skipped the 4 sets of 20 sec. strides. I(we) decided to cut the strides because mentally and physically I was just not up to it due to what was suppose to be a simple tune-up workout yesterday.

I started the first 90 sec. interval of the workout way too fast and as I began to feel the lactic acid build up in my calves and quads at 60 sec. all I could think of was crashing and burning in the middle of Thursday's MILE. Since then thoughts of impending doom have invaded my brain, "If you go out fast you are not going to be able to finish", "You are going to blow up halfway and BONK BIG TIME". I could see and feel it all happening almost as if it already had. Just imagine being in the best shape of your adult life and at the end of an amazing period of training and you find yourself moping around the house drowning in a sea of self pity. "What is wrong with me?", I asked myself.

I think what was wrong was that sometime during the last week of training I began thinking that things were beginning to get easy. Short fast intervals with double the recovery had me feeling stronger and faster then ever and I began to believe the mile wasn't going to be so hard after all. Every workout was better then the last and really I was feeling invincible. That's why yesterday's workout turned out to be a huge reality check. Longer intervals with equal recovery(as opposed to double) spelled out what the real deal was going to be come this Thursday. Racing a mile is not like training for a mile I came to realize. During training you cut down the race into short quick segments of running and recovery. In the race you don't get the recovery in the middle of the distance, you don't get to bring your heart rate back down or give your screaming quads a rest. You just have to keep running at that ridiculous speed(3:45+-per km) you never imagined running at but now you are going to be running that speed, the same speed you barely held just yesterday for 90 seconds and hold it for 6 +- minutes. So perhaps now you may be able to understand why at this high point in my life I found myself wallowing in that sea of self pity.

OK so then coach Derrick steps in and gives me some good advice about race strategy and taking it easy on myself and seeing the race as a learning experience and I begin to snap out of it a bit and begin looking around for some inspiration. So what do I do, I decide to google Roger Bannister. I watch his 4 min mile video(he makes it look so easy) and that helps for a moment but I need more. I then move on to the multitude of running videos set to music and I realize when watching them that I am just as moved by the images of the losers as I am by the winners. There is especially one girl in a montage video in the back of the pack who falls to her knees and crawls across the finish line. No one goes to help her because she is still moving forward. Her people wait for her on the other side of that magic line, waiting for her to cross and then they scoop her up and carry her away. "She is not going to be on top of the podium", I thought to myself, however if there was a podium for spirit, for shear effort then I think everyone that day including the winner would have given her the Gold. So there it was, the inspiration I was looking for, I now knew exactly how I wanted to run Thursdays race, I had my plan.

So THE PLAN IS that whatever happens I know for sure that I will never stop trying until I hit the finish line. If I burn out early I will keep running as hard as I can muster however slow that may be. If I take it too easy on the first loop then I will burn all my gas on the last loop and heaven forbid if my knees give out I will crawl on my hands and knees to the finish line. It may not be pretty but I have considered all the possibilities and none of them are as bad as I had worried myself into believing they could be.

Watching the running videos made me realize that in every race the "EFFORT" put forth by each competitor is the great equalizer. How do we determine who tried the hardest or pushed themselves the furthest beyond their limits? We can't. It can't be measured. It can only be felt in the heart of each individual runner. Winning is amazing, winning is great, I want to win but right now I am just as excited to join the ranks of those who try and never give up and who's effort is not heralded on a podium but in their heart when they know they gave it all they had and their prize is taking pride in that.

Wish me Luck,

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I think it may be time for me to adjust my goals. My recent goals have been to run a sub-20 minute 5km and a 6 min mile in 2010. Funny thing but these were also my goals in 2009 and since I did not reach them the same goals just kinda carried over into this year. I have not run a mile race yet so sticking with the 6 minute goal makes sense and it is the 5km goal that I am beginning to rethink. As I stated I have not reached my 5km goal yet but I have been chipping away at it and to tell you the truth the closer I get to it the further away it seems to be. Unfortunately taking a minute off of my 2009 time as good as that sounds has only proven to show me how hard it is to knock mere seconds off of every km. After hearing that one may assume that I am now inclined to make a more realistic goal of say sub-21, however my thinking is that I need to "think faster" and that a new goal of sub-19 is in order. Now at this point sub-19 seems like a crazy number however back in 2009 sub-20 seemed just as crazy. So I have decided what I need to do is remove the 20 minute barrier I have built in my mind and begin thinking about running through it. Like the karate master who extends his chop through the board I need to think beyond my barrier and extend my goal into the realm on the otherside. I guess what I am trying to say is that setting goals is not so much about reaching them as it is about shooting for them ie. "Shooting for the Moon and landing amoung the Stars". "Set your goals high because what a person accomplishes is in proportion to what they attempt." -Mitchell Naufell Thankfully while I am daydreaming about running 6(5)minute miles my coach is firmly grounded in reality plotting out my daily workouts.  I had a hill phase in March, tempos and long intervals prevailed in April and May and I am now in the midst of a shorter, faster interval phase leading up to my July 1st debut in the Limestone Mile. I am also at the end of a 4 week Plyometric phase which really makes my legs and glutes burn for days afterwards. Below is a picture of my at home gym. Most of the equipment was bought second hand at Value Village and even the stuff I spent retail for was worth it and has saved me alot in gym fees.
My at home gym includes- -1 large Swiss Ball(my favorite is side crunches on the ball with my feet anchored at the wall) -1 weight bench(I use it to stretch my hip flexors. I lie with my butt at the end of the bench and lock one foot under the bench and stretch the other leg up holding it with my yoga strap) -1 adjustable step set (used for one legged plyometric jumps) -15 lbs dumbell set -20 lbs dumbell set -2 yoga mats -1 yoga strap (a must for my stretching routine) -1 elastic tubing -4lb soft ball(I lift it over and under myself during side planks) I do an hour of strength/plyometics/core 2 x's a week plus 45 minutes of just core 1x a week.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


10 year olds can be very busy. This is just one of two projects we accomplished yesterday. I will post some details about our "geocaching" adventures on "The Meandering Trail" later.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Make Your Own Path

As I headed out the door for my long run I decided to grab my snowshoes and hit the trail. I spend alot of the week running my workouts on the road so the opportunity to snowshoe before the snow is gone was just too tempting. When I arrived at the trail I realized that the conditions were much worse then I expected. The trail was sloppy wet where the snowmobiles had travelled so I decided to go wherever the pristine white snow on the sides of the trail invited me to go. I also decided that I didn't have to run in a straight line as I was not heading to anywhere in particular so why not go off the beaten path and see where the snow takes me. Funny but many of the places I ended up running I found myself following in the tracks of some large dog who's owner I assume took the sloppy trail in lieu of the higher softer snow. Yes following the higher snow was a bit of a struggle forcing me to step a bit higher and slow my pace but it also afforded me the opportunity to take in some views of the lake I had not partaken in before. If there was snow heading down to the waters edge or up a hill I took it. I came to a piece of property that had a huge yard of pristine snow so rather then just run straight through it I decided to really leave my mark and trotted out a huge happy face. I climbed some snow covered rocks and discovered some long forgotten wooden staircase below which at one time would have been used to access the lake. Anyhow it was a great snowshoe run and great how I felt like a first time explorer on a trail I have run 100's of times. Today's run also reminded me of a saying I have hanging on my office wall,

"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail"- Ralph Waldo Emerson .

This quote also inspired me to write down the following quotes. I am not sure if anyone has said these before or better but they just popped in my head-

The path you forge yourself is the loneliest path of them all.

Make your own path. Those you meet along the way are your kindred spirits.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

2010, a Year of "FIRSTS"

I can't believe the first month of 2010 is already over. I spent the first week of January in Florida however upon my return to the "Great White North" I decided to take full advantage of our winter season and was able to mark a few "FIRSTS" (as in first time doing something) while I was at it.
Sydenham Lake after the thaw and refreeze
My first "FIRST" was finally getting up the gumption to run on the frozen lake just outside my front door. It was my first day home from the warm South but surprisingly the -10 degree weather didn't keep me from looking forward to my first snowshoe run of the year. As I was starting down the trail I noticed a snowmobile heading out onto the lake, I decided to follow. After my first few steps it all felt so natural...or is that surreal. There I was heading out to the middle of the lake where I had been aqua-running only a few months before. My friend's house which had always seemed so far away on the other side was now only a hop, skip and jump away. The lake was completeley snow covered and flat except for the tracks left behind by various types of vehicles.  The hard crusty snow made a perfect surface for the cleats on the snowshoes to grab onto and I found myself travelling at a much faster clip then I had imagined I would be. Running so effortlessly on the frozen surface I almost forgot what was below me...deep, dark, cold water. Then there was a crack, and a slump in the ice under me. I began to tip toe, as if that would help. I pictured myself immersed in the deep, dark, cold water the very image that had kept me from lake running before today. But alas all was well, just some snow layers settling perhaps. I met some skiers who said the ice was probably 6 inches thick and had been well used by ATVers, skaters, ice fishermen and their trucks so one lone snowshoer was surely safe. I finished my first run on the lake running towards the setting Sun. I was grateful I had taken the plunge onto the ice and especially grateful it was not into the deep, dark, cold water which undoubtedly would have marked my first "FIRST" of  2010 as my last.

Thank-you to the photographers at the race for my snowshoe running pics

My second "FIRST" of 2010 was running in a snowshoe race. It was the "First Annual Dion Frontenac Snowshoe Race". I was third in my second "FIRST" : ) Perhaps I will be second in my third "FIRST" whatever that may be. Other "FIRSTS" I am looking forward to is my first 1 mile road race, "The Limestone Mile" and my first track race as an adult, race to be determined.

I hope to make 2010 a year of "FIRSTS" as I have had a good start at it so I think I will just keep it up.
Wishing you all many "FIRSTS" of your own this year.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Frontenac Park Snowshoe Race 2010

Saturday 23rd of January 2010 was the date of the first (ANNUAL?) Dion Frontenac Snowshoe Race.
Results are here and a few more detailed race reports are here and here.
It was my first snowshoe race and I had alot of fun testing my skills on the single track trail winding up and down and around Frontenac Park. It was a beautiful sunny day and had time to chat with many friends I only get to see at events like this. Thanks to Derrick and Sara of Spafford Health and Adventure for putting on such a great event along with all of the volunteers who made this event so enjoyable.
I have posted a few unedited videos below my Mom Jane Newman-Ralph took along with a video of her and her dog JT for those who may be interested.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2009 Running Year in Review

The end of 2009 marked the end of my first full year of training-
-time logged running: 170 hours
-time logged aqua-running: 9 hours
-time logged strength: 65 hours
-time logged core: 55 hours

-kms logged during training: 1573 kms
This includes a 3 month period starting in June of low mileage due to my runners knee injury
-kms logged during racing: 28 kms

Races and Thoughts...
# of Planned Races: 7
# of Races Run: 4

-January, Richmond 10km, set a PR of 52 min., 5:12 /km pace
I ran this race in a snow storm on snow covered streets. I learned alot about perceived effort as I struggled to get traction and also maintain my goal pace. I finished 4th in age group as I race the girl who got third for the last 500m but was not able to catch her.

-May, Kingston 5km, set a PR of 22:50 min., 4:35/km pace
This was the first race where I ran sub 5 min per km. I was passed at 3km by a lady in my age group(Stacey) so I latched onto her and raced her to the finish hoping we were racing for a medal. As it turned out we were racing for 4th place. The end of this race marked the beginning of my runners knee injury and 3 months of rehab, low mileage on my legs and the introduction of aqua-running and rowing into my weekly routine.

-June, July and August
I missed planned races of Beethoven 8km and Wolf Island 5km due to my injury and I began blogging and a comic called Ultra Running Guy. Taking time off from training was hard during the first weeks of no/low running. I began trying to run 20 min. stints without my knee complaining. If that went well then I would add 5 min. to the next run for a couple of runs then drop back down to 20 minutes. There were so many times when I thought I was better just to have the knee start complaining again. Derrick in his infinite wisdom/frustration decided it was time for drastic measures and got me aqua-running 2x's a week. I took every workout as it came and was surprisingly calm and hopeful that all would turn out well during this time. I was so lucky to have a concerned and dedicated coach who customized every workout based on my progress or lack there of. I have come to realize that we are only as strong as our weakest part. Who cares if my right leg can go forever if my left leg is limping and struggling along. Dr. Greg Leeman helped me to understand the importance of muscle balance for runners. One strong or weak muscle can throw all the corresponding muscles off balance causing havoc to the mechanism which in my case was the knee. Injury other then that caused by trauma can be a sign that something needs to change. Muscles need to me strengthened or running form needs to be adjusted. In the end I strengthened my muscles and adjusted my form and was able to come back as strong or stronger then I was before the injury.

-September, Sandbanks 5km, set a PR of 22:35, 4:31/km pace
This was my first race after having rehabbed all summer. I had fallen a week before the race and received 7 stitches for the effort. Luckily I recovered quickly and the day of the race had me feeling very chipper. I ran a very fast 3km and then just tried to hold on for the last 2km. I learned that going out fast is a gamble. Sometimes you can hold on, sometimes you crash and burn.

-October, Sydenham 8km, set a PR of 37:13, 4:40/km pace
This was my home race put on by Spafford Health and Adventure(Derrick & Sara) for the past 4 years. I went out slow for this race but found the distance of 8km to be a challenge at the intended pace and fell short of my goal time. I had the opportunity to race beside a gutsy lady who's perseverance often replays in my head during the hardest parts of my workouts. I find myself saying "What would Kim do now? Would she quit? No she would push harder," so that is what I do. I learned that complaining about a race after it is run is useless and just makes you look like a big cry baby. Unfortunately you cannot rerun a race so if you don't want to be disappointed at the end of it all then the time to do something about it is while you are racing.

-December, Clearwater, FL, Say No To Drugs 5km
All of my training for the year was a build up to this event. It was to be the final race of 2009 and a way to celebrate all of my training, hard work and overcoming my injury. I was all ready to go and wound up like a spring when I was hit with a virus that would just not let go. This then led to an ear infection and in the end there would be no earth shattering final run of 2009. I did keep working out during this time when up to it and found a race to run 2 weeks later in the New Year on Jan. 2nd.

There is so much more to say about my first full year of training other then my race times. I put in approx. 170 hours of running training as compared to the 2 hr 15sec. I spent racing. When I look back what I remember is the almost daily routine(5-6 days a week) of heading out the door for the days run. Going for my daily run meant time for myself be it a 1 hour interval / tempo workout, a recovery run or a long run. What I love about time planned workouts is that no matter how fast or slow you run them the time is constant and dependable and never changing. An hours run is an hours run. That time belonged to me and nothing could rush it or take it away. I loved every minute I spent running this year and can't wait to do it all over again in 2010.

I want to thank everyone who supported my running dreams this year. All of your words of encouragement, congratulations and support have been greatly appreciated. I hope you all have a great year of running in 2010 and I look forward to following and sharing in your running dreams with you.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year,

2010 Race
-January 2nd, Cape Coral, FL, 5 km, set a PR of 21:35, 4:18/km pace
It was quite cold for Florida with a temp. of 39 F and gusting winds down at the beach. For the first time I ran even splits and felt strong for the entire race. I found myself being inspired by the lead woman Lisa as she passed me heading back on the course looking so strong and graceful. It was not an earth shattering effort of a race on my part but I learned that I don't have to go out fast to run a fast race. What a great way to start out 2010. The dream continues. Stay tuned : )