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Olympic Trials?

November 16, 2014

A year ago I was in the best shape of my life and hoping to run a personal best at the Fukuoka marathon. In 2013 I had a handful of good results and was very pleased with the year. This year has been frustrating in terms of results and missed training. However, I can’t dwell on what I missed but instead focus on what is going right.  The way I feel running right now is awesome, I haven’t felt this smooth for years. I’m still lacking fitness, but I’m happy with the progression and I’m seeing gains every week. Right now I’m still planning on a Spring 2015 marathon.

This past week I had two workouts with the group, a solid long-run, totalled 140km running and 300 minutes in the pool. This is pretty much what I’ll do for the next month before heading to Kenya. Yep, heading back to Kenya this year for about six weeks.

Going to Kenya mid-December through most of January will ensure that I’m able to run on soft surfaces for a little longer. It’s been snowing here already, luckily no accumulation yet and we’re still running on the trails.

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On a run this week a few of us were talking about the idea of a Canadian Olympic marathon trial race and how that could play out. It would have to be a race in the fall of 2015 or early 2016. However, 2015 works better so runners could potentially chase a standard at a fast marathon if they need it.

Basically the first three Canadian men and women across the line at the trials would stamp their ticket if they have standard or could get it before the qualifying period is over. If someone finishes fourth Canadian and has standard and one of the top three doesn’t have standard by the end of the qualifying period then the 4th place runner would go.

The good thing about a trials race is that it puts everyone on the same course to come up with a straight forward ranking. When you go simply by time one runner could run a marathon with perfect weather and another could catch a really hot or windy day. If the runner who ran in horrible conditions was only a few seconds slower than the runner who had perfect conditions then the better runner might not be the one selected.

Another good thing about running a trials is that if an athlete finishes in the top three and they already achieved the Olympic standard then they know they are going and can prepare for the Olympic marathon. Otherwise that athlete might have to run a last-ditch marathon if someone else beat their mark.

One drawback of having a trials race is that if the trials aren’t held on a fast course that limits the chances of achieving standard. In reality we only have 3 attempts to achieve standard (the standard hasn’t been announced yet, hopefully we know sometime in January).

Another drawback is if there is a runner who is head and shoulders above the rest but they are unable to run trials then they could be left off the team. The argument to that is an athlete needs to be ready to compete at a specific time, just like the Olympics, if you’re not ready that day you don’t get re-do.

If the trials were to be held within another marathon then there would be a lot of things to figure out. Would people be allowed to have pacers? If the race provides pacers for one runner would they be required to provide pacers for everyone vying for an Olympic spot? Would a race like STWM want guys who would normally chase the Canadian record playing it safe to finish in the top three Canadians?

It would be cleaner to have a separate race but then you might be hosting a race for only a handful of runners.  That would be a lot of work if it turns out to be a moot point, (fewer than four runners achieving standard).

In my opinion if the Olympic standard is going to be similar to 2012 (2:11:29) I would rather just have us all chase the standard and take the top three times.

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Hangzhou,

November 5, 2014

This past week was out of the ordinary and a lot of fun…

On Wednesday I flew to Banff to speak at the SportChek conference on behalf of New Balance. I got to Banff at 2:30pm and ran 95 minutes and hit some serious hills. My talk was at night and afterwards there was a social at the bar in the hotel.  At the bar a couple approached me and informed me I was subject to an out-of-competition doping test.

Testing me in Banff shows that CCES is paying attention. You see, I was only in Banff for 17 hours before I headed to Hangzhou, China where I was entered in a marathon. On paper that looks a little suspicious. Why would anyone go somewhere for such a short period of time in the days leading up to a race. Of course I wasn’t really racing this marathon (I’ll get to that later).  It makes me feel good that they’re testing in this capacity.

View from my hotel room.

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Thursday morning I started my trip to Hangzhou, China via Calgary, Vancouver and Shanghai. John Mason arrived in Shanghai (from Toronto) Friday evening 15 minutes ahead of me. We met up at the baggage carrousel and then met our hosts outside, jumped in a van with other athletes then drove the 200km to Hangzhou.

I had never heard of Hangzhou before a few months ago when they asked if I wanted to race. At the time I told them I hadn’t run for three months and wasn’t in shape to run a marathon. They told me it was OK if I came and just made an appearance and ran 10km. Why not.

6.2 million people live in the greater Hangzhou area, it’s bigger than Toronto. However, it’s not a tourist destination, such as Shanghai or Beijing, so it has a pretty different feel. On Saturday John and I went on an 11km run and saw thousands and thousands of people and not a single person who looked like a foreigner. The buildings there are big, impressive and a lot of them!

A river in Hangzhou.

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There’s a few things I don’t care for in China. The first is the cigarette smoke everywhere, even in places with no-smoking signs, restaurants, bathrooms etc. Apparently a “non-smoking floor” in a hotel is just a suggestion. Also, when eating lunch and dinner there is a lazy susan on the table with all the different dishes, which is a convenient way to serve except there are NO serving utensils. Everyone just uses their own fork or chop sticks to serve the food. Most of the time there were 10 of us at a table and some people would just eat straight from the serving dishes. The other thing is the amount of oil they use in the cooking, way too much.

This guy must be picking up some cooking oil for the day.

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On race day my plan was to run 10km at a decent pace and then keep running to 24km at a normal run pace. I passed through 10km somewhere around 33:30 and then proceeded to run around 4:00/km. John Mason was pacing the women and caught me around 22km. I ran and chatted with him for a bit. I mislead him to believe that he was close to 8th place (in the money). I seriously thought there weren’t many guys up ahead.

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At 24km I stopped running and stretched. It didn’t seem as though I was going to get picked up by a vehicle anytime soon so I started to jog 5:00/km. I would stop at aid stations, eat bananas and drink the sports drink and water. During these pauses I would assess how my body was feeling. If anything was getting too tight I would be able feel it after a little rest. My tibialis muscles were tight, probably from the all the downhill running in Banff, but other than that I was ok. When I would stop people would try and cheer me on to keep running. When I would finally resume running they would get really loud as though they spurred me to keep pushing. I just kept on jogging and taking breaks until I reached the line in 3:07.

Much of the last part of the course was through West Lake, a popular tourist spot for Chinese. At many of the bridges I would stop and take in the scenery. The air seemed really clean in the park and even the other parts of the marathon weren’t bad at all. Nothing like what they experienced at the Beijing Marathon a few weeks ago.

After the finish I saw John being interviewed by Runner’s World China. He led the women’s race (got a lot of camera time) until the final few hundred metres (was only supposed to go 35km) and finished in 2:32 (right behind the first woman, the men’s race was won in 2:12). He finished in 10th place and I had to apologize for leading him to believe he was in the top 8 (ie. $). However, the amount of autographs, pictures and general Mason-mania that ensued may have been worth finishing after all. The people couldn’t get enough of this guy with a massive beard!

Beard.

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After the race John and I headed to Shanghai for one extra day. The place is absolutely massive and has some of the tallest buildings in the world. The Shanghai Tower is the second tallest building in the world (and the one that looks like a bottle opener is the seventh). The Shanghai Tower is higher than the CN Tower and twice as high as the tallest skyscraper in Canada (CN Tower is considered a structure).

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(They don’t curve like the bottom picture depicts. The Shanghai Tower does have a twist though.)

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Shanghai skyline.

 

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Walking around Shanghai was good because I wasn’t going to run for a couple of days after that long of a run and my muscles were quite stiff. (I went running today and felt fine).

We also checked out Old Shanghai and the fake markets so we could bargain hard with the vendors.

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I think you guys put the N on…. never mind.

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Close.

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Not to code.

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Guys climbing Shanghai Tower

STWM 2014

October 21, 2014

For the past week I’ve been in Toronto helping Canada Running Series with the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM).  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was mainly picking up athletes and agents from the airport and driving them to the hotel in downtown Toronto.  Saturday was making sure all the pacers knew their jobs, matching the pacers with runners and getting the runners set to go. At the race on Sunday I helped at the start and finish line.  Sunday afternoon and Monday there were a bunch more trips to the airport making sure everyone caught their flight.  Seeing all the work that goes into the elite part of the marathon was eye-opening and I had a good time working with Clif, Alan and the rest of the CRS crew.

Race day seemed really cold standing around but overall the conditions were good for a marathon. I was particularly excited about Eric Gillis and Robert Winslow who were both in shape to break 2:10 and 2:20 respectively. They both had good pacers and other runner(s) to key off of. Eric was lucky to have two good Kenyan pacers plus the Ukranian, Vitaliy Shafar.

Eric went through halfway in 64:47 (2:09:34 pace) with the other three guys. He looked very strong and I was excited about the record but knew to wait until the 30km and 35km splits before getting too excited. Shafar had a 5 second gap by 30km and he went on to break 2:10:10. Eric stayed behind one of his pacers through 32km and was still on pace, but slowing down at 35km. In the end he was able to come away with a 2:11:21 PB for 9th place. I thought it was a great run and shows how consistent Eric is, he’s run under 2:12:08 four times at STWM in four goes!  Gillis’ thoughts after the race.

I’ll admit that part of me would have been jealous if Eric broke the record while I watched from the sidelines. But more than anything I would like to see that record fall by my teammate and friend. It would also give me more confidence in our marathon training and motivate the heck out of me for 2015.

Robert Winslow finished in 2:20:11 (PB by ~2 minutes), good for 11th overall and 3rd Canadian (Kip Kangogo was 2nd Canadian).  Winslow was so close to sub 2:20 after opening in 69:33 through halfway.  I took particular satisfaction in Winslow’s PB as I helped estimate his paces for many workouts.

Taking the Ethiopians back to the airport on Monday was another adventure all together. Many of the athletes come with only two very small bags but leave with two enormous bags plus more than allowable carry-on.  The Ethiopian community in Toronto sends a ton of stuff back with them. One guy had a big box containing a new baby car seat on top of his luggage. Ten Ethiopians and two minivans should have been an easy fit. But with all the luggage we had to stack bags floor to ceiling, have the athletes sit and put bags on their laps and every other possible space. I have a feeling when the airline mentions extra baggage fees their english becomes much worse.

It was awesome working with the Kenyans, Ethiopians and other elite athletes over those six days. Being around so many talented, motivated individuals was energizing and I found myself cruising a 20km run on Monday morning when I should have been exhausted. Oh ya, I’m up to 20km of running now!

Four good articles that came out the past week:

Post STWM race article from The Star

Lure of the marathon COC website

Canadian Marathoner Reid Coolsaet in it for the long haul

Eric Gillis seeks to break 39 year-old Canadian record 

 

The whole STWM race is on youtube (feed starts at 1:05:05 and race starts at 1:35:10).

 

 

 

 

 

Command me to be well

September 30, 2014

Today I got back my latest MRI results and there are very positive signs of healing. I’m not sure I’m ready to go full out yet, but I’m well on my way. In the past 4 weeks I managed to go from 1km of running to 7km yesterday.  My body feels great, no pain and I’m moving more smoothly than I have in a long time. I suppose feeling smooth is to be expected when running less than 30km/week. To gain fitness I’ve been water running for 100 minutes six days a week. The pool is boring but I feel it’s the best way for me to get back in shape. I figure pool running will be my main activity through October while I build up my running. If all goes well I’ll get in 2-3 months of solid running before I make a decision to run a marathon next Spring (April or May). The Olympic qualifying window for the marathon should open up in early 2015. That would give the marathoners three decent shots at qualifying (Winter/Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Winter/Spring 2016). It would be great if I could maximize my attempts but there is no sense forcing a marathon and I’ll only run a marathon if I feel I can do a proper build-up. On Saturday we hosted the 3rd Kids for Kenya Toilet Run at Churchill Park in Hamilton. The event has continued to grow each year and I’m sure when the total gets added up we’ll be able to fund a couple more toilets for schools in Kenya. Here’s a video of the event from Get Out There magazine:

No sleep ’till …

September 2, 2014

In my last web log I still felt a sharp pain in my pubic bone when I tried to run. No surprise then when my Aug 1st MRI still had a fracture present. In the past few weeks I’ve been feeling better and more comfortable moving around. It’s small things such as running up a few stairs or picking it up a little when crossing a road when I notice that my injury has improved.

Yesterday was the first day that I tried running for any sort of distance. I ran 1km without any sharp pain, just a dull ache in my pubic bone, which is to be expected coming back from a fracture. The next month or so will be slow-going, I’m ready to be patient and focus on 2015. I’m going to see my doctor this week to go over the next phase. The main thing will be taking my time as I probably need to heal some more and I don’t want to run into other problems. That means it will take me at least one month to build up to a 10km easy run. After 14 weeks without running I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes me 14 weeks to get back to a good level of running fitness.

In the past few weeks I’ve been walking 1.5 – 2.5 hours a day. This gets me out of the house, walking on trails while listening to podcasts. It’s important to have some weight bearing activity in my legs before I start running again. This is also my second week of pool running. It’s been good getting in some exercise again, my brain is happier with movement.

Just out on a walk, phone in hand.

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Knowing in early August that I needed more rest I made plans for a road trip to Brooklyn to see Arcade Fire. I’ve been to NYC many times and I’ve only been to Brooklyn once and I’ve always wanted to check it out and figured there was no better time than the present.

My goal was to drive to Brooklyn and never leave the borough throughout the trip and fully explore the neighbourhoods. My girlfriend found a road race in Harlem on Saturday morning so we made an exception for a few hours so she could race a 5km.  We stayed in Park Slope and checked out Willamsburg, Downtown, Gowanus and Cobble Hill. Brooklyn is the hippest place to live, so many cool restaurants, pubs and shops. The Arcade Fire concert at Barclays was amazing, they put on a great show.

The next day we went to Harlem for the road race and I did a little Big L tour and made the quick walk over to 139th and Lennox. Later that day we saw Boyhood at a theatre at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It’s one of the best movies I’ve ever seen, I highly recommend it. I would have liked to stay in Brooklyn longer but restaurants get expensive very quickly, especially on an injured runner’s salary.

 

Park Slope brownstones.

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Arcade Fire Friday (aug 22) night at Braclays Center.

 

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Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn.

 

 

 

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Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn.

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I’m down, but I’m not defeated

August 4, 2014

10 weeks ago when I decided I needed to rest there was a fear in the back of my head that even with complete rest my injury would still be present. That fear became a reality when I tried running two weeks ago and the pain in my groin felt the same. I’ve had a couple broken bones in the past so I know the achy pain which dissipates when I start using that area again. The pain in my groin is still sharp.

The first five weeks I took off weren’t that bad, somewhat enjoyable. Taking some time off can be a good thing. During that time I was patient and embraced the idleness. However, not doing any activity for 5 weeks, 6 weeks, 7 weeks.. started to take it’s toll and I was anxious to be active again. I started doing some light mobility exercises, eating healthy and getting back some routine in my life. I was getting excited about training again because I thought I was nearing the end of the tunnel.

Part of me hoped that the pain I felt day-to-day was just scar tissue and with a little exercise it would clear up so I decided to do a little running after 8 weeks. My plan was not to exceed 10 minutes. I wish I would have had to hold myself back, instead I barely made it to one minute. I ended up jogging 4 x 1 minute with one minute walk in between, (I haven’t run since).

That really deflated my hopes of coming back. Not to sound overly dramatic but I think it’s natural to wonder if this is the end of the line. If I didn’t think I have the ability to run a PB in the marathon perhaps I would call it a career and focus on something else and shift my running away from high-end goals. At this point I, first and foremost, want to resume an active lifestyle.

After feeling sorry for myself I scheduled a doctor’s appointment and a subsequent MRI. Hopefully on Thursday I’ll get the MRI results and figure out what the next steps are. From this MRI they should be able to establish what isn’t healing and what needs to be fixed. Perhaps the bone chip was detached for so long that it smoothed over and time-off alone was never going to re-attach it? Maybe there is a surgery that can fix me?

 

The Commonwealth Games were great to watch. The men’s 10,000m was the highlight for me, watching Cam Levins go for gold down the homestretch was incredible. Watching 40 year old Jo Pavey get bronze in the women’s 5000m was inspirational, especially if you realize the setbacks she’s had over her career. Nick Wills’ kick in the 1500m was out of this world, bummer he wasn’t in better position with 200m to go. Watching Zane Robertson snag a medal in the 5000m was cool knowing his and his twin brother’s story, check out the film “Running Away From Nothing.” Kate Van Buskirk made a big step in the right direction by grabbing bronze in the 1500m.

Michael Shelly showed, once again, that he is a brilliant championship marathon runner by winning the gold medal in Glasgow (with a 2:11:15 PB). He finished second four years ago in Delhi and at the 2012 Olympics ran even splits of 67:05 to finish 16th overall.  He’s likely to run a big PB with the right race.

The men’s road cycling was a great race. It was absolutely pouring rain for most the 168km criterium course and the whole field dwindled down to just 12 finishers by the end (from over 140 starters!).  With about 11km to go Geraint Thomas dispatched Jack Bauer and Simon Thwaites with a decisive move. It was pretty clear that Thomas was going to win barring disaster as he held a 45 second lead with about 6km to go. Then disaster struck, he punctured his front tire and had to get a wheel change. The change didn’t look as though it was really quick and I thought the chasers were going to catch up, although they didn’t. His lead was cut down to 20 seconds and he managed to hold them off and win the gold.

I took my girlfriend to her first baseball game ever the other night. The Detroit Tigers scored in every inning they were at bat to win 11-5 over Colorado. I told her this was rare, although I didn’t realize just how rare it is. It’s the first time the Tigers have ever done it (unless they did it before 1912, record keeping wasn’t so good back then). It’s the first MLB game since 2006 to have such a feat. And it’s only been done 15 times, ever.

 

 

Bedlam in Belgium

July 3, 2014

A month has passed since my last post so I figure I’d throw out an update.

In the past month I haven’t done any exercise. Whenever I tell people this they ask about cross-training and I tell them nothing, nada. I don’t even walk to the grocery store because then I would have to carry groceries home. It’s been a huge lifestyle change for me but because I know it’s what I need to do I’ve embraced the lifestyle. I’m taking this rest seriously, as I would any activity that will eventually make me run faster.

Surely all this rest must be helping my body repair itself.  It’s tough to gauge though because I actually feel more sore at times (mainly when I wake up). I take that as a sign of healing. I also haven’t tested it with any exercise so I don’t know how it would feel with real strain.

I’m still going to wait another two weeks before I start any cross-training or running. It’s going to be a slow process to get back into shape and I’m ready to be patient.

In the meantime I’ve started to get acupuncture, for overall healing, from Brendan Cleary in Georgetown and I got some heel lifts from Applied Biomechanics in Guelph.

So far so good for Belgium in the World Cup!

I built my 3-D printer in a couple of days and then thought I’d just simply hit ‘print’ to make things. Turns out it’s a little more complicated than that… The software took a little figuring out and then calibrating the printer is a skill in itself. I finally got some items printed. It was a pretty neat project and it’s interesting to print harder objects.

I was a little intimated at first with all these pieces…

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Getting there…

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Finished printer – the spool of filament gets fed into the red extruder and melts it at 200C

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Bottle opener and 4 of 9 pieces of a gun

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Printer in action

 

 

I went to Vancouver the other week. My initial plan was to run the Scotiabank Half Marathon and then stay for my sister’s graduation. I still kept the same flights to watch the half, celebrate Rob Watson’s birthday and then spend some time with my family. My parents, aunt and Grandy came in from Michigan, my brother from South Africa and cousin from LA. I’m very proud to say that my sister in now a Naturopathic Doctor!

Family at graduation dinner.

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Grandy imitating a sculpture in Vancouver.

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My garden is coming along quite well.

Week one

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Week 3

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week 5

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