Friday, August 31, 2007

New world record bid: the gum-chewing joggling marathon


I have officially decided to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on September 30 while juggling three beanbags ... and while chewing gum every step of the way.

What remains to be seen is whether or not I will have an official gum sponsor for this gum-chewing joggling marathon.

I've experimented with various chewing techniques and tested out several different types of gum and have determined that not only is it possible, but that I actually enjoy chewing gum while I run. It helps calm my nerves, it keeps my mouth from drying up, it tastes good and the thought of doing this makes me laugh. And I like to laugh.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Joggler would never do this

I may occasionally trip over the odd parking barricade or bump my head on a low-hanging tree branch, but I have yet to joggle into a lamppost.

My friend Matt once walked into a hydro pole in Ottawa. This was particularly funny because just before he collided face-first with the post, he was trash-talking a group of guys playing a video game on their front lawn on Canada Day.

Wearing a giant backpack filled with 36 bottles of beer and carrying a huge Canadian flag over his shoulder, Matt turned to the guys playing the game and said: "I'm going to come over there and kick your a** at that game," at which point he plastered his jaw directly into the centre of the post. After unglueing his cheek from the metal, he turned back the video-gamers and said: "But not just yet!"

Monday, August 27, 2007

A busy day in the life of a joggler

This is a long clip of Kenenisa Bekele's 10,000m world record, but it's worth skipping to the end to watch his final lap. How is it possible to run that fast in the final 400m of a 10K?

Bekele just won the 10,000m in Osaka, his third World Championships win in a row.

On Sunday, I had a killer training day. After 2.5 hours of sleep, I dragged myself out of bed at 6 am for my long run. I left the juggling beanbags at home because I was planning to run with my friend Mohammed and didn't want the joggling to get in the way of converstion.

After an espresso and a 5-mile warmup, I met Mohammed at the park and we covered about 10 miles together. I then hooked up with the Shirtless Gang, a bunch of very fast (and shirtless) masters runners who do a regular Sunday 10-miler at a very good pace.

By the time I arrived home I had covered just under 26 miles in under three hours. My run was longer than my sleep. But there was no rest for the weary joggler, because I only had time for a quick shower and snack before I had to head out to the Toronto Buskerfest.

Teaching kids how to juggle at the Buskerfest was so much fun that I forgot how tired I was. If I can keep up with the high-quality training even if my weekly mileage isn't what I had hoped, the record may be still be within reach.

Friday, August 24, 2007


In a few minutes, I'll be joggling home from work through the smog-filled streets of downtown Toronto in searing heat and drenching humidity.

But this is nothing compared to what the Olympic marathoners will likely face next year in Beijing. After reading this article in Runner's World Online, I'm glad I never managed to qualify for the Beijing Games.

If you're in Toronto, come down to the St. Lawrence Market this weekend and check out the Buskerfest. I'll be at the Scotiabank kids' tent Saturday and Sunday from 11 am - noon, teaching kids how to juggle and generally making a fool out of myself.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cottage country update

Here a quick update from the cottage holiday:

  • One great long joggle completes: 22 miles. When I got home, Lauryn (my two-year-old) asked me: "Did you have any drops?" I did have many drops, but I was doing a lot of tricks and looking around at the beautiful Precambrian Shield rock formations, so I had an excuse.
  • One great hard interval run through rolling hills. The run was about 10 miles and I did 6 x 1 mile at GB (gut-busting) pace.
  • One great day of marathon juggling. I had a nice patch of grass, three clubs, seven beanbags and several hours to burn. My back was killing me the next day, but it was the best juggling session ever. I pulled off a run of 14 catches with seven balls; I started to solidify my 3-up, three-ball pirouettes and the five-ball synronous and asynchronous half showers. It's so nice to juggle without a ceiling.
  • Enough butter tarts, pie and beer to get me through the next four or five marathons.
  • The whole family's really looking forward to seeing 'Kooza' next weekend. Anthony Gatto's routines don't look that hard by his standards, but it'll be such an experience just to see him in action.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A little busking and a lot of running

Next week, I'm working at the Toronto Buskerfest teaching kids how to juggle. I did it last year too and it was crazy, but a lot of fun. Some of the buskers were incredible, especially the break dancers from the Bronx, but there were no really good jugglers. I wish someone like Wes Peden (see video above) would come up here for the Buskerfest.

On the running front, yesterday I pulled off a double – six miles in the morning and 10 miles in the evening. The 10-miler included a seven-mile tempo. My training has been hit-and-miss, but yesterday was a big hit.

I'll be away until next Friday with no web access, so there will be no bloggling until then.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How to Run With a Backpack

Perry was asking for advice the other day on how to run with a backpack, so I thought I'd make a bloggle out of his question.

Running with a backpack is one of the few topics on which I consider myself an absolute expert (others include joggling, pasta-making and pasta consumption). Back when I was running twice a day, I did 90 percent of those miles toting a backpack. And over the last few years, most of my running mileage has been joggling with a backpack.

How do you run with a backpack without it being a miserable, uncomfortable experience? Just follow these easy steps:

1) Pick a backpack that is lightweight and has narrow, soft shoulder straps. The fewer compartments, straps, flaps and buckles the better. I use a Reebok pack similar to the one pictured above.

2) Do everything possible to minimize the load of the pack. If you're running home from work, as I often do, this may require leaving shoes at work, or wearing lightweight work clothes (seriously, I avoid wearing heavy pants and belts).

3) Tighten the shoulder straps enough so the pack sits snugly on your back, but not so tight that it feels restrictive for arm movement (especially if you're going to be joggling).

4) Now you're ready to run. You'll notice as you start to run that the pack will swing in the opposite direction to your stride. The best way to minimize this annoying – and potentially chafing – swinging movement is to run forward without any side-to-side bobbing of your torso. For this reason, backpack running is a great way to work on your running form. Basically, the more efficient your stride, the more comfortable the backpack will feel.

5) Once you get into a good groove, make any final adjustments to the backpack straps. Sometimes you may need to adjust the contents of the pack too. Put the books or lumpy stuff away from the part that's against your spine. And put the heavy stuff at the bottom.

6) Some people like waist and chest straps, but I can't stand them. I just use two shoulder straps, leaving my lungs free to expand without hindrance.

7) If you're running while juggling with a backpack (er, not juggling the backpack), this teaches you to be ultra-efficient. Joggling has a tendency to force your running form into an exaggerated lateral torso tilt as you toss each beanbag. I think backpack joggling has made me a much better joggler, juggler and runner.

8) Another advantage to backpack running is that you can store supplies on you, such as money for snacks, water, joggling balls (you can joggle for a few miles, then put the beanbags away if you feel like just running) or clothing. In the winter, I often start off wearing running tights and a jacket, then strip down layer-by-layer to just shorts and a singlet as I warm up. Each time I take off a piece of clothing, I can just stuff it into the backpack. People looks at me like I'm completely nuts, running while juggling through a snowstorm and wearing only shorts and a singlet. And yeah, I am nuts, but at least I'm a comfortable nutcase.

9) If something's uncomfortable, fix it; don't just put up with the discomfort or give up. We runners, jugglers and jogglers are a lot of things, but we're not quitters.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hill training and hill joggling

This week I'll be heading out to do some hill training with one of my personal training clients who is gearing up for her first half-marathon.

I'm a firm believer in using hill workouts to gain strength, speed and mental toughness. A good set of hill repeats can make you feel invincible.

There are many different combinations of hill workouts, but here's a typical one:

1) Find a fairly steep hill that's about a 10-minute warm-up jog from the starting point of your run. If you can track down a scenic hill with a couple of bends, all the better.

2) The hill should be at least 300m long, preferably 400m.

3) After your warm-up, start your stopwatch and begin the first hill repeat.

4) It's easy to burn out, so take 20 strides or so to get into the rhythm of the climb.

5) Take shorter steps, pump your arms and lean slightly forward.

6) Match your breathing rhythm to your strides and concentrate to keeping the effort even.

7) Near the top of the hill, as you begin to tire, focus on maintaining your form and think of your lungs as your engine and your legs as wheels. This should help ease the pain (a little).

8) Push yourself over the crest of the hill and stop your stopwatch at a specific sign post or marker, so you can duplicate it.

9) Jog very slowly back down to the start point.

10) Do 3-10 repeats.

11) Sometimes to mix things up I'll do five hill repeats, then five short intervals on a flat stretch of road, then one final hill repeat.

12) This workout can, and has been, done while joggling. In fact, I've done this while extra heavy juggling balls to simulate with the arms the extra power output done the legs going up the hill. And that, my friends, is a monster workout.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A short long run

I had to cut my long joggle short today because of a family brunch, but it was still a good quality run so I'm not too worried. Next Sunday, I'll be up in cottage country for a nice 24-miler.

Dianne and I have been busy putting together a portfolio for an exciting potential joggling sponsorship. If this deal goes through, I will bloggle about it pronto.

In the meantime, I'm off to practise my juggling for the Toronto Buskerfest..

Friday, August 10, 2007

To joggle or to velo?

Today I faced the tough choice of whether to drive the velomobile to work or to take the subway so I can joggle home. I chose the subway. I only have the Versatile velomobile on loan for another day or two, so it was painful to leave it idle, but that's how committed I am to this training program. Setting Guinness World Records requires sacrifice.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Visualization training

My run home from work today was a mental battle. It was hot, sunny and so humid it felt like running through honey. My eczema was driving me up the wall again and the itch progressed to stinging pain all over my arms, legs and torso.

Last night, I had almost no sleep because of the skin condition. So propelling myself to run uphill with a backpack after a long day at work took some creative motivational techniques.

When I'm feeling sluggish, I like to use visualization techniques to get me through the rough patches. They really work. Here's how to do it:

1) Think of a big race that makes you feel inspired. For me today, this was the Athens Olympic marathon, won by Stefano Baldini of Italy.

2) Imagine yourself as a lead, elite running machine, even if you actually feel like a tub-a-lub slug.

3) Now pick a point partway through your race of choice and picture yourself running alongside the front-runners.

4) Sound out the play-by-play TV announcer in your head. "...and Michal Kapral of Canada has joined Keflezghi at the front. Kapral is on pace for a personal best, even if this searing Greek heat!"

5) Go through the rest of the race and visualize yourself pulling away from the leader at the end. "Kapral's gong to take the gold! Check out the look of determination on that Canuck's face!"

6) You win the gold medal. You feel great. And you got through a tough training run.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The itchy and scratchy (joggling) show

Running with bad eczema in high humidity is like having a severe case of chicken pox combined with poison ivy sprinkled with chili powder. I must've stopped to scratch about 20 times today during my 22-mile long joggle. On the bright side, my muscles and cardiovascular system were in fine form during the whole run. The next few weeks will be key in my "ultimate 10-week marathon trianing program."

To prepare for a potential future five-ball joggling marathon, I have been working on joggling in a five-ball pattern with three balls (55500 in siteswap notation, a.k.a. consecutive three-ball flashes). Five-ball joggling requires not only perfect toss height, but also an accurate forward pitch to match the forward motion of running, much more so than the low tosses of three-ball joggling. Over the course of my long run this morning, my three-ups became dramatically more accurate. This week, I think I'll go for another five-ball joggle. It's great fun, and it makes the three-ball joggling seem so much easier.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

"Juggling Show"

I took the day off from running and instead did some cross-training at home. The kids and I often do a thing called "Juggling Show," which involves me juggling and jumping around to music while the kids dress up as ballerinas and jump around and sometimes try to juggle. This was followed by an intense strength-training workout, including push-ups with a four-year-old girl sitting on my back.

I read an article recently about Anthony Gatto's practise methods. According to this write-up, Gatto practises 1-2 hours a day and during that time only spends about a minute working on any particular trick. He switches around continually between different props and numbers. This avoids the frustration of trying and failing one thing over and over, and that one minute per day per trick eventually leads you to mastery of many, many tricks. I've been following this training method and it does seem to work.

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon just announced that CBC Country Canada and will broadcast the race LIVE on Sept. 30, so if they happen to film me, it would likely be the first-ever live TV coverage of a joggling marathon.