Running in Canada’s North and Tapenade

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The ice road heading North into Attawapiskat – can you spot the sign on the right? The road off to the left heads to the DeBeers Diamond Mine.

Today I realized that my limit of cold weather running is not -20°C as I had previously thought. Since I have been in Moose Factory and Attawapiskat in Northern Ontario, I have been on a few runs, but not many. I only go out running when it seems unusually warm. However, my friend Emily who is in midwifery with me, put out the offer for anyone who wanted to join her in the Mississauga Half Marathon on May 5. I thought, why not? After all, I am starting my year of being on call the following day. And we all know that it is pretty hard to run 21 kilometres when you are on call. So I think I will. Although I haven’t registered yet, I did go out and run for one hour and forty five minutes today, which is at least 30 minutes longer than anything I have run in the past year….and definitely the coldest long run I have ever done – 24°C, “felt like” – 32°C with the wind. 

It is isn’t so bad running in the cold! …Except the brain freeze part. I thought it was only for the first couple of minutes (despite the three layers on my head), until I passed the town of Attawapiskat and was on the open road. Even if the wind is minimal, it really stings when you are trying to run into it. I had to stop and hold my head with my mitted hands a few times, or alternate between sideways running or running backwards – just for a few steps until I warmed up and could face the wind again. Next time, I will wear either a thicker touque (I wore a lined balaclava, wool ear band and tube neck warmer over my head) or a hood which could cut the wind a lot. 

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The other challenge of running up here is wearing sunglasses. As you can tell from my photo, it is almost always sunny up here. So sunny that with the snow, it is really difficult to see if you don’t wear sunglasses. However when I covered my nose and mouth, my glasses fogged up very quickly! I decided that squinting on the return into the wind was better than keeping my nose uncovered.

I am glad I have figured out how to run with my face mostly covered – which is – slow. Really slow. I believe my LSD run pace during marathon training was 6 min/km. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was running a 7 min/km today. It was mostly out of necessity though to keep myself from falling on the ice road. Overall, it felt good.

Want something sweet and salty and entirely satisfying? Do you want to love olives but don’t? Try this super easy recipe.

Olive Date Tapenade

Grind:

  • 2/3 C. walnuts (…or almonds, pecans or any combination of these) in a food processor

Add:

  • 1/2 C sliced black olives (or otherwise, if you want to pit them all)
  • 1/3 C pitted dates
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • a pinch of rosemary

Blend until the desired consistency is reached.

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This recipe is really easy to adjust if you want it sweeter or less sweet, if you love balsamic vinegar etc. Serve with your favourite cracker, or try it as a spread in a sandwich! 

So delicious, you might want to double it. My roommate in Moose Factory and I, ate this all in about 10 minutes and then made another batch. 

Introduction to minimalist running

I am so glad I finally got up this morning and put on my running shoes. Because not an hour after I got home, it began raining and proceeded to pour for the rest of the day! I felt super happy when I got home this morning – partly because of the perfect weather, and partly because of the double shot americano in my coffee mug.

It strangely warmed up here for the past two days. I went outside and then returned inside to change into shorts! Can you believe it – mid November and shorts. It reminds me of the Postal Service song, Sleeping In:

concerns about the world getting warmer
people thought that they were just being rewarded
for treating others as they’d like to be treated
for obeying stop signs and curing diseases
for mailing letters with the address of the sender
Now we can swim any day in November

Anyway, the wind was glorious and warm. I love watching the leaves fly across the road.
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Last October I had a stress fracture in my second metatarsal. Much to my dismay, this injury had me off running for many months. A number of different people and bits of information I acquired along the way lead me to be interested in minimalist, or sometimes called, barefoot running.

I actually started off doing just that. Running barefoot. The first day I barefoot ran was in the spring living in Cornwall, ON. It had just started to snow so the ground was pretty cold – it was exhilarating anyway. I ran to the end of the street and back… maybe 400 m. I gradually started to increase the distances, and once I was really running again, I would take off my shoes at the end of a run and carry them for the last 500 m. That is what my summer runs looked like.

I finally bought minimalist shoes at the start of October, right before I came back to Ontario.   I did have a gift card that I needed to use, so I thought it was a good time. And they are orange. And…if you didn’t know, orange is the new black! Well… at least it was last year!

The technique is quite different when running barefoot. The most notable differences are landing mid to forefoot (instead of heel striking), a faster turnover and a lighter landing. As you may imagine, this is hard work for the calf – particularly the stress on the Achilles tendon. It is crucial to start slow. My plan is to run with this technique 2-3 days per week for my faster, shorter runs. I have been building my time over the past 6 weeks, adding 1-3 minutes per run.

Today was a milestone. I ran 25 minutes!

Why is this a milestone? A 5-minute kilometre is a pretty comfortable pace for me to maintain for short distances, which means I can likely do a 5 km run in my minimalist shoe!

However, my calves are still sore. The soreness IS less the day after than the first time I ran “on my toes” for any length of time, but still ever present. I think I am going to aim to run 25 min 2-3 days/week until my calves no longer get sore. That’s possible, right?