Hill running vs. fartlek – which is better for time-poor triathletes?

I only have limited time to train and something has to give! When it comes to running, I sometimes have to choose between doing a hill session or a speed/fartlek session each week rather than both. What are the benefits of each and is one better than the other?


In my opinion, if you have to opt for one or the other, there’s only one choice and that’s to head for the hills (writes Nik Cook). My simple rationale is that hills can deliver speed, but flat speed work can’t deliver the strength and grit needed for when the gradient kicks up.

>>> Five ways to get better at hilly runs

I’ve referred to this quote before but, as it comes from one of the most legendary and respected running coaches of all time, Frank Shorter, it’s worth repeating: “Hills are speed work in disguise.”

83uk22wr-83There’s no hiding on a hill. On the flat it’s too easy to switch off and drop your pace without realising it until your HRM bleeps at you. This just can’t happen when you’re battling gravity – ease off and progress instantly stalls. Even if you feel you’re moving slowly and your stride is woefully short, the higher knee lift, arm drive and body position that the slope demands will all translate into speed on the flat.

With a selection of hills of varying lengths and gradients, you can target almost any aspect of running fitness. Short and steep for power, strength and neuromuscular work, to longer and more gradual for threshold efforts.You can even use downhills for fantastic over-speed work.

I’d always recommend trying to find off-road options for hill work and, for long-course racers, the strength and mental toughness that long hilly trail runs deliver makes them a must to schedule into your training every few weeks.

Finally, think of race day. If there’s a hill on the run course, you can almost guarantee that’s where the race will be won or lost, or where you can make up chunks of time and places on your rivals. With hill reps in your legs, you’ll have an edge that’ll leave runners who stuck to the flat trailing in your wake.

Speed work

If time is your enemy, then a well-constructed speed session can bring you to your knees in just a few minutes (says Paul Larkins). As I coach, I can often reduce athletes to tears in no time at all – run 400m, take 15secs rest then run 100m all out; repeat four times; they’ll be crying!

>>> The lowdown on fartlek

The demands of triathletes are, of course, endurance-based, but a longer workout of say 4x2mins, with just 30 seconds rest can be far more beneficial than perhaps five or six miles of easy running. Think intensity+speed–recovery and you’ll have a great formula to work to.

High-pace efforts, much faster than race pace, on a level, smooth surface with no more than 30 seconds between each one, will be a great way to improve endurance, form and mental toughness. You cannot run fast 400m reps with just 15 seconds recovery if your mindset isn’t right and if you are all over the place in terms of form.

It’s worth noting that short, intense workouts come with an element of injury risk, so make sure you warm up well, do a few drills to get your body moving correctly and allow loads of recovery days after – three minutes of high-intensity, short-distance speed may not seem like much, but it will take a day or two to recover from.14296

Of course, you will need an endurance element as well, which is where fartlek [periods of fast running intermixed with periods of slower running] comes into play. Hills and speed are fairly formulated, but every now and then it’s great to just go with the flow – run hard when you want to, run easy as you wish.

Fartlek is great for that, either on your bike or out running. Fartlek is also a great way of learning how to race, how to deal with competitors surging mid-race and dealing with hills…

via Hill running vs. fartlek – which is better for time-poor triathletes? – Run – 220Triathlon.


Electro-Bites Review

I have been using these on and off for a year and found I couldn’t write a better review than Mike did.. here is his Summary

– Electro-Bites are the most innovative, non-sugary, calorie source for any athlete looking for an alternative (or complement) to gels –

LOGO - FUEL100 - Your Next Mile Is On Us F100_ELECTROBITES_LOGO-01

I first came across Electro-Bites at the Zion 100k.  I grabbed a few packs and then completely forgot about them until I was gearing up for a long run.  I thought they looked interesting based on the ingredients and figured I’d try them out. Gels are great and they work for most of us, but I think every ultrarunner gets sick of them at some point during a long run or race – I know I do.

About midway through a 100 mile race I often crave salty foods – mostly potatoes with a lot of salt.  That works, but potatoes are bulky and don’t have enough calories relative to the volume of food you have to eat.  I’ve made my own salty/savory potato/rice flour/MCT oil mixture before, but it’s always messy and the consistency was something I couldn’t quite nail down.

During my run I finally cracked open the Electro-Bites and was completely surprised!  I thought they were going to be another sweet solid fuel, maybe something like a GU Chomp, but they were salty, had a subtle flavor (I opened an Apple Cinnamon), and unlike anything else I have ever tried.  Finally a salty fuel that had 100 calories and wasn’t impossible to chew!

I instantly thought how well these would work in combination with gels.  So for the rest of my run I would alternate every 30 minutes with a package of Electro-Bites and then a gel.  They go down really easily and if you have a little saliva (or water) in your mouth, they almost dissolve into nothing.  They are nothing like Gu Chomps, Sport Beans, or any other solid fuel on the market.  They are round (about the size of 2-3 stacked Cheerios – similar texture as well, but not hard or crunchy) and an entire pack can be eaten easily in a few bites.  One package is 100 calories (23g compared to a gel at ~40g) and has 190mg of sodium.


It seemed like I finally found a fueling plan that could work for an entire 100 mile race!

After a few training runs I decided that I was going to use Electro-Bites (along with gels) as my main fuel at the Hardrock 100 (race report).  My fueling plan worked well and the Electro-Bites went down really well. I never got sick of gels and was able to eat (mostly!) every 25-30 minutes.  The Electro-Bite/gel combo will definitely be my main fueling strategy for races!

So what’s the secret?  A combination of potato starch, coconut oil, a touch of agave syrup, and salt.  The coconut oil, which is a MCT, make up almost half the calories (about 40 out of the 100) and is used directly as an energy source by the body.  The potato starch gives them the slight crunch and makes up most of the volume.  The agave syrup gives the Electro-Bites an ever-so-subtle hint of sweetness that balances the saltiness.


So, is there anything I don’t like about Electro-Bites?  Not much.  I found out that they are going to make the bites a little bit bigger, which will be nice.  You have to be careful not to crush them or they’ll end up all smashed up – not necessarily a bad thing as they are still easy to eat.  I personally like to get in 250-300 calories an hour.  I’d like to see a few more calories in the Electro-Bites – maybe another gram of coconut oil and a gram or 2 of agave syrup.  I don’t think this would change the flavor all that much.  Finally, although they work well for me most of the day, Electro-Bites were a bit hard to get down in the heat of the day.  I might just have to stick to gels for the hot stretches.  Other than that, they are truly an innovative product worth trying out on your next long run.

I always give an honest review of all the products I use.  I use them because they work well for me.  Altra shoes fit my feet and are super comfy, CarbBOOM! gels are the best I’ve tasted, and Electro-Bites are the most unique, salty fueling source available.

If you’re interested in trying Electro-Bites use the coupon code ‘MICKTOLDME’ for a 20% discount on your order at the Electro-Bites page.

via Miracle in the Wasatch.

Race Report – Lorneville Loop 2015

Great well organized race and I really enjoyed running with this run pal (and several others). It was my first official race of the year and it started off.. hilly 😀

To Quiet The Mind

As promised, here is my report on the first race of the 2015 year; the Lorneville Loop 13km.

This race is a hilly, season-opener held in a community called Lorneville outside of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.

The only distance is 13 kilometres with the race counting towards the Running Room points series.

This was my second consecutive year running this race as I found it to be a great test of early season fitness and I like supporting smaller races; I believe that it was capped at 200-250 people. This race also has a number of other things going for it as well:

  • It’s cheap, I paid $20
  • A honking big medal
  • Chili afterwards
  • Lots of door prizes
  • it raises funds for the IWK hospital in Halifax

Did I mention it's Big? Did I mention it’s Big?

Having run the race last year, it  helped me prepare a strategy for this year. Last year I…

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Details Announced: The 2015 Deer Lake 67

Who will join me in 2015??

The Deer Lake 67

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Its time to start training for the 3rd Annual Deer Lake 67. Here is what many of you have been patiently waiting for, the event details:

Race Details:

Race Date: 30 Aug 2015 (Sunday)

Start Time: 6:30am

Cutoff Time: 4:30pm (10hrs)

Registration Cap: 67 racers

Registration Dates:

Registration Opens:  12:00pm (Noon) on 10 Mar 2015

Early Bird Rates End:  4:00pm on 31 May 2015

Registration Closes:  4:00pm on 31 Jul 2015

2015 Registration Rates:

Early Bird Special: $67.00

Regular Registration: $80.00

The registration link will be posted here on our website on the morning of 10 Mar 2015.  Be sure to mark your calendar and set your alarm. Those 67 slots may disappear quickly!

Are you up to the challenge?


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Gluten-Free Coconut Greek Yogurt Pancakes

breakfast!! 🙂


Several years back I discovered a delicious no-fail pancake recipe from my mother’s limited collection of tried & true dishes that we grew up with as kids. I have since adapted that recipe to a gluten-free alternative and surprisingly it has proven to be a fluffier, more robust pancake than any of the GF recipes I have tried. These have been a hit, time and time again. But today I tried something new.

Inspired by a recipe I found on Le Creme de la Crumb, these pancakes rival my classic recipe with only a few required modifications to turn them into a delicious GF breakfast my family can enjoy.


  • 1 1/2 cups Gluten-free all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp organic sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted (choose a variety that has a strong flavour)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 3/4 cup plain…

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Do we drink too much water when we exercise? and a review of @SportsFoodINC Electrolyte strips

Winter is here and as always I find myself doing a lot of research for my upcoming running season. Last year I ran into issues with water bloating and stomach upset that I associated to drinking too much.

This logically lead me to further reading on electrolytes and the amount of fluid (and type) to ingest during exercise.  I found that as a new runner I believed I needed to drink as much “water” as I was sweating out (about 1 litre / hour) to stay in a state of optimum hydration. I also believed it was important to drink large quantities of fluid before exercise to make sure that I was properly hydrated.

Humans like most mammals are designed to run in a moderately dehydrated state, we are also designed to re-hydrate when we eat. We cannot store either fluid or salt to any great extent. Over drinking will not only result in more frequent trips to the toilet but also an increased loss of sodium and potassium through our urine. Extreme cases can lead to hyponatermia (a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low). When this happens, our body’s water levels rise, and our cells begin to swell. This swelling can cause many health problems, from mild to life-threatening. Recent research shows  we should not consume more than 200 to 400 ml per hour during extreme exercise. (even though our body  could be sweating it out at a rate of 750-1000 ml / hour)

The best way to assess optimum hydration is to check urine color. You should drink enough fluid to ensure your urine is lightly colored. It takes between 1 to 2 hours for your body to absorb the fluid and impact your urine color.

Runners should take their last drink  about  2 hours before exercise.

If your race is over 10 km, research suggests you should take about 500 ml of fluid at the start line, drinking it just minutes before the start.

So is water all you need??

the answer: No

It is essential that the fluid consumed contain substances needed to restore the body’s supply, water isn’t enough. It is important to match your electrolyte losses from sweating.  Electrolytes are vital for the normal functioning of all cells. Sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium are the four major electrolytes that keep up the body’s fluid balance. Sodium and potassium are critical in determining the water contents of our  extracellular fluid, in conjunction with intracellular fluid. (water inside and outside out cells).

Runners typical symptoms of imbalance in electrolytes are:

  • muscle fatigue
  • cramping muscle in the legs and spasms
  • nausea
  • stomach cramps
  • side stitches
  • stiff and achy joints
  • dizziness

 Sportsfood review


IMG_20150215_150923_editTo reduce my fluid intake and maintain my electrolytic balance I have started testing products like Sportsfood (@SportsFoodINC)

Sportsfood is an electrolyte replacement strips that work to build and replenish your bodies electrolytes before, during, and after exercise.  Sportsfood strips are small, thin, oral film strips which almost instantly dissolve in your mouth.  The team is on their second version of these strips, my earlier review would have given them one major issue TASTE, however the new version has greatly improved the overall taste of the product.

What is the makeup?

Each Strip hasIMG_20150215_150940_edit_edit

  • Sodium 12mg
  • Potassium 12mg

other ingredients: Pectin, Glycerin, Water, Natural Flavors, Cellulose, Sucralose, Lecithin(soy), Cocoa Butter, Acesulfame potassium, Talc and Citric acid.

This changed from (the bad tasting Sportsfood as I called it)

other ingredients: Pectin, Honey Granules, Water, Glycerin, Natural Flavors, Perfecta(TM), Talc, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Magnasweet (R), Xylitol, Lecithin (soy), Coca Butter, Citric Acid and Stevia.

As you can see in order to combat the taste concerns of the original product Sportsfood had added a concoction of sweeteners to the product. The strips are still zero Carbohydrates and zero sugar, however I know with this could come some debate especially around the use of Acesulfame potassium . It is important to note Acesulfame potassium is safe and suitable for all segments of the population. The FDA, which is the governmental agency responsible for ensuring the safety of all foods, has approved acesulfame potassium for use in numerous food products on eight separate occasions since 1988. The agency based its decisions on a large body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the safety of the ingredient.

How many strips should you use?

Following the directions on the package it says:

two strips before and two strips during exercise

I would suggest to best answer the how many strips question it really depends on the duration, intensity of the exercise and your temperature acclimatization (how much salt you are sweating). The following table from “The lore of running by Tim Noakes,MD”  is a bit intense but it shows that fitness and heat acclimation reduce the sodium content of sweat.


 Sportsfood Pros:

  • small easy to carry
  • gluten -free
  • taste is acceptable for product that is essentially salt and potassium

Sportsfood Cons: (one minor one)

  • the strip can be difficult to get out of package while running (or sweating heavily)

I feel everyone who is serious about running should do their own research on water consumption during exercise and look for products like Sportsfood to supplement electrolytes. A balanced intake is critical to healthy exercise and living.

-Happy Running-


Research References

  • Electrolyte Imbalance – Symptoms – Better Medicine. (n.d.). Local Health Home Page – Better Medicine. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  • Lore of Running – Tim Noakes, MD 
  • The Endurance Athlete’s GUIDE to SUCCESS | Hammer Nutrition
  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/

Sportsfood did not provide me free product for this review

feature Photo by Robert J. Reese