Marathon training continues: Battling physical and mental fatigue

There are less than thirty days till the Niagara Falls International Marathon and the marathon can’t come soon enough.

This week I have come to the realization that I am battling fatigue. I am tired both physically and mentally from training. It isn’t the training that has drained me. It is the combination of work, training, family and everyday responsibilities. Working upwards of fifty hours a week, in addition to my responsibilities as a father and husband are enough for the average man. Then throw in five days a week of training, and finding time for the other aspects of my life (rehearsing in the band, cooking, baking etc) that I like, and that creates a recipe of trouble, especially for those who lack some serious organizational skills or time management. Not to say that I am not organized or can manage my time, but still, I am tired.

I am tired. Physically tired yes. And that comes to be expected when training for any athletic competition. But this is not training for hockey or baseball or football. I am training my body to do continuous constant exercise for four hours. I am training my body to respond to running on tired, sore and overused muscles. I am training my body to do something that it has never ever done before (I haven’t even run 42 km ever! Yet I am training to run that distance and even in my training program, I don’t hit running 40 km at all). I am essentially training my body to run while tired and fatigued. Isn’t that irony!

Another key reason for being tired, beyond training, is the lack of sleep. I used to be a sleeper. My mom sent me to bed at 7:00 when I was young, but now realize she just needed the break!!! Due to the fact that I do most of my running late in the evening, after the kids are in bed, makes for a difficult wind down. When my wife is ready for bed, I am eating, stretching or just winding down from my run that I just completed. So, going to sleep right after exercise is a bit more of a challenge, causing me to sleep less, which compounds into making me more tired.

Mental fatigue comes with my job, but it also comes with running. When training, I spend a lot of time by myself and my thoughts. Self doubt, negativity and the mental wall provide excellent obstacles to overcome. But because my body is tired and I am tired, my mind is more at risk for blowing off exercise or using excuses not to exercise. Without my own personal motivation to run the Niagara International Marathon (running for Brian the Great. Read my other blog post, ‘the Moral Purpose’), I doubt my success in achieving my goals and my commitment to my training program.

I will be happy in thirty days for having achieved the accomplishment of completing a marathon, raising awareness of the legacy my Uncle Brian left and raising money for the Niagara Falls Children’s Museum. Then, I take a well deserved break from exercise and return to normal…whatever normal is (or was). But that is a story for another time!


ps, Thanks Niagara This Week for the press. Check it out!

—————————————————————————————————————–For more information on Andy running the Niagara Falls Marathon in October 2013 in memory of his uncle, Brian the Great, or to make a donation, please see the link on the homepage of the museum website at Help Andy keep Brian the Great’s legacy alive!


The moral purpose of running

A lot of people can’t understand why I want to run a race that takes 4 hours (for me….HOPEFULLY) or more to complete. I agree. A lot of people don’t understand. They dont get the feeling from exercise that I (and many others) do. I am not hooked or addicted to running, but I am driven and motivated. And that is my moral purpose for training to run my first marathon.
Here are reasons for my moral purpose for training to run a marathon

1. It is a mindset that you need to establish. I am always trying to become a better person. A better husband, a better father, a better professional. But to do that, I need to develop the proper mindset to know what I want to become and how I am going to get there. It is going to take work. Lots of work. But that is ok. I am where I am today because of it. Having the drive, the work ethic and having a goal and a vision help me focus on meeting the goals that I set for myself.
2. This isn’t about a bucket list! This isn’t something I need to do before my time here on earth is over. This isn’t about a life long dream. This is simple a goal I set for myself that I need to attain it and make it achievable within the time frame. I don’t want to disappoint myself or my supporters, especially if I don’t achieve my goal. That is a lot of motivation to train. And train hard!
3. Healthy living. Certainly a big factor in doing the training. You can’t train to run a marathon without eating healthy and being healthy. I couldn’t imagine training and running a marathon ten years ago. Even though I always considered myself a healthy eater, it is only in the last ten years that I have taken my diet more seriously. Not to say I don’t eat healthy all the time. I just need to eat right to fuel my body so that I can achieve optimal performance. I don’t want to do the job to get it done. I want to do the best job I can possibly do!
4. Running with a purpose. I have nothing to prove. I am not a non-athlete running the marathon. I haven’t turned my lifestyle around as a formerly obese person or an addict. I am not running for a medal. I am running because the Niagara Falls International marathon is taking place in my hometown. I have great memories watching the old Skylon marathon wit my dad. It has a certain romantic element to me. It is very sentimental to me and anyone who knows me knows that I am very sentimental. I love and cherish memories (check out the walls of my garage) So there was no doubt that this would be the marathon for me. Secondly and most importantly, the reason all the marathon training and blog writing has taken place is my uncle.
5. Brian the great. Brian Smylski is my uncle. He also happens to be one of my role models, partly because my family would say, ‘you look like Brian. you sound like Brian, you act like Brian’. I took that as a compliment! He was a different breed. He loved Art, was intelligent, articulate, great sense of humor and was a fellow Brock University graduate. He loves his nieces and nephews, but he was honest in telling us that he loved us more as we got older! The older you were, the more intelligent the conversations were and the thinking that took place, and Brian loved that! It was in my twenties when I was estranged from much of my family that my relationship with Brian and his wife Deb became important to me. They were the link to my family and proved to be the catalyst to help re-establish positive and healthy relationships with assorted family members.
Uncle Brian also hated being called Uncle. So, we called him that anyway! Until I had children. Then, Brian and Deb became a ‘great’ uncle and a ‘great’ aunt to my children. So, Brian and Deb became known as ‘Brian the great’ and ‘Deb the great’ to my children. Unfortunately, my eldest has limited memories of Brian and my youngest has no memories of Brian because Brian was diagnosed with having Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2010 and succumbed to this form of cancer in March 2011. A devastating loss to our family but to also the Niagara region Arts community. Brian was the curator and executive director of the Niagara Falls Museum and founder, curator and executive director of the Niagara Falls Children’s Museum, located in Niagara Falls (but with locations in Welland and St. Catharines). He was the driving force behind the children’s museum. He developed programming for the Museum and estabilshed a creative vision of the museum that continues today. It is his legacy. And my intention is to not only run the marathon in memory of Brian, but to also remind people of the legacy that Brian the great has left our community by raising finds to support the educational programming for the Niagara Children’s Museum.

That in a brief summation of my moral purpose that has helped me train for 13 of the 18 weeks of training needed to run the Niagara Falls International Marathon.
Please share my story with anyone you think would be interested and please check out more information on the Niagara Children’s Museum through the link below.

Thanks again! I’ll keep you posted how the next few weeks go in prep for the marathon!
For more information on the Niagara Children’s Museum or to make a financial donation, please go to

Marathon training continued: The inevitable clash!

As we have rolled into September, the inevitable clash has taken place. Work versus Exercise! Like an epic battle, a grudge match, this clash is a clash of opposites. This clash obviously has created quite a bit of scheduling, juggling, flexibility and stress. Ohhh the stress.

I am very blessed to have had holidays to allow me to start my base training for the marathon. Starting in late June and working towards the end of October, I am hitting the peak time period for training before I start to taper (wind down) my training distances. So these workouts are extremely important to help solidify my running base, my stamina and allow me to learn to run on tired fatigued muscles and how and when fuelling on the move is necessary.

However, my work schedule is inflexible! I pretty much have the same daily schedule. Leave the house at 7:30 for a short commute to work and arrive home from work (after another short commute) around 5:00. That really doesn’t leave a lot of time for exercise. I could get up really early and get my runs in early in the morning, but mornings are my responsibility at home. I am responsible for lunches, breakfast and getting my family out the door. When I come home, I could run then, but I have been away from my family all day, they are tired and hungry and really want to eat. Since I like to cook, that responsibility usually falls on me (although my wife will cook…if she must!). I could run after dinner, but the guilt of being away from my family all day and leaving them to run, alone and by myself. So, that means I have even less room for exercise.

Some people call these excuses. I like to think of them as reasons! My priorities are family, job and exercise. That is all I have time for. Everything else has suffered. My relationships with my friends and family have become text/social media relationships and I haven’t watched a television program since the Summer when I wasn’t working (although last week we watched the first episode of ‘Boundless’ a Canadian series tracking two Canadian athletes who are participating in the worlds most difficult races. It’s AWESOME! I highly recommend it (I watched it when stretching and eating and thanks JD)). That is why I called this post the inevitable clash. It is the clash of my exercise life versus my other lives. Clash of motivation and fatigue (from work and running at bed time). Clash of will versus reality. They are all inevitable.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love the fact that I am running with a goal in mind. My motivation is to complete the race for Brian the great, my uncle who passed away from his battle with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. That is what gets me out the door when I don’t want to run. Trying to keep his legacy alive and raise money for the Niagara Children’s Museum, where he was the curator and executive Director. That is what gets me motivated to put on my running clothes and not my comfy clothes. That is what makes me eat two dinners. That is what keeps me off of the couch. That is what keeps me going. Now I have a little over a month and the race will be here. All the sweat, blood, tears, blisters, doubts, affirmations and prayers will come in handy.

So when do I run? Really, if you have followed the blog from the beginning, there is no secret or surprise. But, I would like to break it down day by day so you get a better understanding of my training. My training schedule is pretty fixed and regimented. I like structure and schedules, so I try my best to adhere to the timetable, but sometimes, you just have to switch it up. And rearrange your days and exercise.

Monday – Day off. Thanks goodness. First day of the work week. Busy night with kids activities. Great night to be off.
Tuesday – 6k tempo run. Always takes place after the kids are in bed. Always my best run of the week because I can run fast (for me)
Wednesday – Hills or Intervals – always takes place after the kids are in bed! I finished my last set of hills last week and start on intervals this week. I love hills. It makes you strong, gives you some short term goals and I enjoy the challenge. Most runners I know don’t agree with me on this one!
Thursday – 10k steady run. Always takes place after the kids are in bed! This run is usually a struggle because it is my third day in a row exercising. That can be a challenge! Especially when I am tired!
Friday – Day off. best day off to have! Tired for. Running. Tired fromWork. Usually means an early bed time!
Saturday – easy 6k. That means I usually substitute the run with a bike ride. Cross training is less wear and tear on my knees! Can happen during the day but usually, yet again,happens after the kids are in bed!
Sunday- Long slow run that takes p,ace in the morning or early afternoon. I wish I could run as slow as I am supposed to. But I always try to run based on how I feel. I hope that by running slow long runs faster than the desired pace won’t come back to ‘bite me in the ass’ the day of the Niagara Falls International Marathon!

However, that is a story for another time! Thanks again for reading and following my journey


—————————————————————————————————————–For more information on Andy running the Niagara Falls Marathon in October 2013 in memory of his uncle, Brian the Great, or to make a donation, please see the link on the homepage of the museum website at Help Andy keep Brian the Great’s legacy alive!

Chapter Ten – Vegetarian Times – Being a herbivore and a runner!

Being active is important. It makes us healthy, it helps us feel better, it gives us more energy and allows you quality time with yourself. However, being active takes work and preperation. You need to find time, you need to have the proper equipment and you need to have the proper fuel.

Fuelling, as discussed in a previous blog post, is a huge concern and factor in my training for the Niagara Falls Marathon at the end of October. As a vegetarian athlete, I have advantages and disadvantages. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables. I love the taste of most fruit and vegatables and try hard to get them into my diet. I love soup so it is a great way to eat leafy green veggies, legumes and beans. However, the disadvantage of being a vegetarian athlete is protein.

Getting enough protein is a constant stress. Without eating meat, it can be challenging to ensure that your meals have enough protein. I try to add protein rich foods to my diet, but sometimes it can be a challenge. I regularly try to eat tofu, beans, eggs, (I recently started to eat eggs again . Nothing against eggs, but the texture of eggs makes them difficult to eat. I need them to be ‘over hard’. Flat. No yoke!), eat seeds and nuts (but not at work…allergies of the people that are around me), greek yogurt, peanut butter (at home only), add protein powder and protein rich veggies to smoothies (spinach and avacado are my favourite). But the reality is kids, tastes, schedules, summer eating and eating out can create problems for the vegetarian athlete fuelling when training for a large race.

I am very blessed and lucky to like cooking so since I am passionate about cooking, eating processed foods is out of the question. Foods need to be fresh and not come out of a package! I love making soup, love trying different vegetables and don’t mind making something that is so damn awful I wouldn’t cook (or eat) again.

Part of a successful diet comes with successful planning. So I plan out a weeks worth of meals and ensure that I have all the ingredients and that is what I shop for. I need to be cognizant of protein in all my meals (because I live with carnivores, I make them carnivore meals). That is the challenge!

Why is protein so important? As an athlete, protein is needed by your body. To make a complex answer simple, when you don’t have enough protein, your body will find protein, often in your muscle, which means exercise is more taxing on you and your body, affecting your ability to recover, which effects training. That is why I am concerned with my protein intake as I prepare for the Niagara Falls Marathon. However, before we get there, I look forward to riding my bike 94km as part of team triathlon this upcoming weekend at the 70.3 Half Ironman event in beautiful Muskoka! However, that is a story for next time!

Marathon Training – Chapter Nine – Big City to Big Country

Training for any event and being successful is dependent on a lot of factors. Effort, scheduling, diet, goal setting and time. Time is the one that I find the most precious. Training for a marathon takes a lot of time and that is time away from work, home, your family (which can be a good thing and a bad thing depending upon your situation). I am blessed to work in a profession that has extended periods of holidays and a supportive family that have allowed me to dedicate myself towards the goals as set out in my training schedule before I return to work and then struggle to find the most appropriate time to exercise and train!

These past two weeks were a test as I returned to work. The first week I attended a conference in Toronto and this past week was spent in the office. Talk about extremes! The first week was a return to the ‘Big City’ where I spent some time attending University and falling in love with the busyness and action of the city. There was always something to do, always somewhere to go and action always in…action!

Exercising in a big city has its challenges as well. I love finding a route that is continuous (without major interruptions), safe and well lit (if I am running at dusk or later). That can be a challenge in the city, as is running a route that is not lined with pedestrians, cars, bicycles and my personal nemesis, the e-bike (can’t hear them, they ride on bike paths and they can’t decide if they are bike or scooter!)

I brought my family with me to Toronto for a big city adventure. While they were off on an adventure, I attended a conference. I like the conference. Good conversation, good topics and great location. We ended early-ish the first day and that was a great time for me to personally throw on my shows and go for a run. Two conditions didn’t make it ideal. 1. I was down-town in Toronto. 2. It was HOT! However, just because it isn’t ideal doesn’t mean that you give up! So, without the help of my GPS (works intermittently), I ran based on time and feel, running by city hall, the police station, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the University of Toronto and back. It was hot, sweaty and using Map my Run, I could see that I ran 11K in 55 minutes (remember, it was mostly flat).

The next day was conference and travel home so I didn’t get a chance to get a run or a bike in, so I decided the next day would be my big bike (in place of a run). So, I got up, ate and fuelled properly and then hoped on my bike and took a scenic ride in Peterborough County through Keene, Hastings, Norwood and Duoro. 92 Km on my bike in 3:09:23. This was important for me as not only am I training for the Niagara Falls marathon at the end of October, but I am also participating in the my last team triathlon of the season where I am doing the bike leg of a 70.3 half ironman team relay where I have to ride my bike 94km! I guess I am a glutton for punishment.

What a difference. Going from the city to the country. Although I love the bustle and action of the city, I love the calm and vastness of the country. Rolling hills, animals, little traffic and lots to look at. I love the city but I think the country is where I am most at peace with myself and the world around me.

Following a day off after the big bike ride (legs didn’t hurt that much after the ride), I went for my longest run yet. 30K in 3:00.00. It was long and slow, but fun! I helped a woman get her scooter unstuck from a rut in the pedestrian pathway as well as helped a man catch a stray lost dog on a beautiful morning on the pedestrian pathway through Peterborough Ontario. I love the path. Everyone is friendly and it is safe with few interruptions.

I felt good on the run and was great till 26k. That is when my knees become very sore and my IT bands started to flare up creating intense and sharp knee pain. A few walk breaks and a few IT band stretches and I was working through the pain. That is the bad news. The good news is the IT band / knee pain is coming later and later in every workout, which is great news to me!

The next week (or this past week) I was back to work in the office. Exercise was a challenge as I had to balance work and family schedules, so I did a lot of my running at night, with my new friend, the head lamp!

photo (1)

The head lamp is not used because I cant see. It is used so that others can see me, especially when I am running on the roads at or after dusk. For instance, I ran 10K,  ran 7 hills and a quick 6K last week at or after 9:00 PM! As the weather gets cooler and darker earlier, I will also start to wear my safety vest and head lamp so that I am even more noticeable when running.

Lastly, yesterday was my biggest run to date. 32K from Sandy Beach near Ennismore to Bobcaygeon. It took 3:20K, was slow but that also had to do with a few factors;

1. I left my fuel bottles for my fuel belt at home and had to run without any fluids (although bottles were planted on the route).

2. It was hot!

3. I was running on a busy highway

4. I have never EVER run that distance

Good news. No jarring or sharp knee pain or IT band issues. Bad news. If any, it had to do with time and feel, as I was tired late in the run but I attribute that to the heat and lack of fluids. I had a good soak in the tub and a good stretch following my fun and after a soak.

So, I am re-adjusting to running after the kids go to bed, in the dark. However, this is the deal you have to make with your inner devil to get in your mileage and exercise. There is only a limited amount of time in each day and you have to figure out what works for you.

Next week, work kicks into high gear and I am ‘tapering’ from the bike in anticipation of my 92K bike ride next Sunday at the 70.3 half ironman event in Huntsville!

Stay tuned!

For more information on Andy running the Niagara Falls Marathon in October 2013 in memory of his uncle, Brian the Great, or to make a donation, please see the link on the homepage of the museum website at