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Edmonton Half

August 25, 2015

Going into Edmonton Half I backed off a few days so I could get a good feel for my fitness. I had run 5 weeks over 200km so I was due to back-off a bit anyways.

I got to Edmonton on Friday and went down to the river for a little shake-out run. At that point I hadn’t seen a start list and wasn’t sure what the competition was going to be like. On my run I saw Daniel Kipkoech, (whom I’ve met before at races), and jogged with him. To my dismay I found out he came right from Kenya. The 2300 feet of altitude at Edmonton would feel like sea-level to him, not so for me.

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Photo: Deirdre Rowland

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Right from the gun Daniel went out as if he was running a 10km. He went through the first km in 2:52, 12 seconds ahead of myself, Justin Young, Kip Kangogo and a few other guys. I thought Daniel was going to blow up, all I had to do was stay on my pace and bid my time. Although you should never count on an athlete to fall off pace, there was no way I was going to go out that fast anyways.

By 6km I was on my own, still about 12-15 seconds back of Daniel. For all my efforts I was not able to close the gap on him as I kept kicking off about 3:02/km. It was nice to have someone out there as a target to key off of.

Instead of closing in on Daniel in the last 5km he actually put more time into me. He won in 63:36 while I came in second in 64:09.

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Photo: Trevor Hofbauer

Daniel Kipkoech 1 01:03:36.0
Reid Coolsaet 2 01:04:09.0
Kip Kangogo 3 01:05:02.0
Justin Young 4 01:05:05.0

Truth be told I would have really liked to be under 64:00. A 63:10-63:30 would have been good at sea-level so I was thinking 63:35-63:55 at Edmonton would have been about equivalent (that’s a rough guess). Basically I was 1 sec/km off so I’m not worried and happy enough with that effort. The course was flat and the weather was nice, so no excuses there.

My endurance felt fine and my leg speed lacking. That’s a good place to be 5 weeks out from Berlin. Enough time to work on ‘speed’ while maintaining endurance. I also think I’m going to race a 10km before Berlin to sharpen up.

Saskatchewan River.

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Step up #AlwaysInBeta

August 18, 2015

One thing I think about a lot: Shaving time off the marathon. Specifically, I think about training and execution on race day. Other factors such as weather, pacers, competitors and courses are on my mind, but I don’t have the same control over them as I do my training.

Two things I believe with training (they may not be true). One is that over time you need to change up the stimulus to attain significant physiological adaptations, the exact same training will become less effective. The other is that more time spent at a certain pace and your body will become more efficient at that pace. These two ideas seem contradictory but I believe there is merit in both and ways to see improvement while incorporating both theories.

“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

When you look at my top four marathon times (2:10:55, 2:11:23, 2:11:24, 2:11:24) it looks as though I have a specific recipe I keep whipping up. Truth be told, my training program has been pretty consistent through each build-up. Perhaps I need to switch things around to break the trend. Does that mean running more volume, or more speed-work, or more hills, or more time at race pace? It’s near impossible to say as every athlete reacts/adapts differently. Plus, it’s not so simple as doing more of everything, that would invite injury.

My first three marathons in the 2:10-2:11 range came after sea-level training. To switch it up I tried altitude training this Spring before Rotterdam. I spent 10 of 15 weeks, including the last 5 weeks, in Iten, Kenya (2400m). I came down to sea-level within 72 hours and it still netted me a similar result.

Training in Iten also meant that I incorporated more hills into my program (I didn’t have a choice with the terrain). This build-up I’m going to include a few specific hill sessions to change things up a bit. On Monday I ran more elevation in a workout than I ever have before.

As far as race plans go, my top four marathons have had two different pacing strategies: ‘Go out hard’ and ‘shoot for an even split.’ My halfway splits in those four marathons have a larger variance than the final times (65 second variance at 21.1km and 29 second variance @ 42.2km) . I’ve also tried different race courses.

2:10:55 (1:03:58 @ 21.1km) – STWM 2011
2:11:23 (1:05:04 @ 21.1km) – STWM 2010
2:11:24 (1:04:11 @ 21.1km) – Fukuoka 2013
2:11:24 (1:05:03 @ 21.1km) – Rotterdam 2015
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

On the other hand, I know how to train for a decent result. Perhaps just hitting it perfect on the day, on a fast course (Berlin) with training I know works will get me a PB. It’s possible I’m already maximizing my training and adding anything more will burn me out. Or, varying away from a proven formula will not prepare me as well.

My running volume has been fairly consistent throughout my four marathons. In the past I’ve hit some weeks around 240km and could tell from the way I felt (compared to 210km or 220km per week) that I don’t need to go that high.  I ran a little less before the last marathon as I was training at altitude (and travelling a bit more too). This build-up I’ve been in the same wheelhouse. One difference is that I plan to cut back a little more in the last month to be sharper for specific sessions.

I used to run 12 times per week and now I only run 10 times per week. I try to run a little more on some of the other runs but I don’t quite make up the difference. Running two less times allows me to recover better.

Mind over matter

We all know that the mind plays an important role on race day. Once the training is complete and you’re at a given fitness level the mental side is what will make or break a race. I know I perform better when running in a pack. That is why I will change up my pace (within a reasonable amount) on race day to run with a pack. Berlin will have a good pack up front with plenty of pace makers but I don’t need to go out at World Record pace.

Being motivated when things get tough is what helps me stay on pace. I have to ‘really want it’ to run through the pain. In the past I’ve put lots of pressure on myself and at other times I’ve been relatively nonchalant. There is a sweet spot in the middle where I need to operate.

I can’t be afraid of excellence. I know that might sound strange but sometimes when you want something so bad and you put that end result on a pedestal it can be overwhelming. I felt that a bit in Fukuoka. I remember coming through halfway in 64:11, feeling pretty good and thinking even if I slow down a bit I’ll still hit my goal. The goal became so achievable that I was scared. In Rotterdam I wasn’t scared to take that next step.

Every time I race I learn more about myself and it always surprises me when I figure out more to the mental side. I know it’s important, I’ve always known it’s important but there is so much more to be learned in that department.

Next Step

One of the reasons I keep thinking about all these things is that I don’t have tons more opportunities to run a personal best. I don’t want to finish my career and wonder if I could have done things differently to run faster. Had I never trained at altitude going into a marathon I know I would have questioned what I could have done with such training.

So while I try and become more efficient at marathon race pace I’m also tweaking other aspects of my training to see if I can become stronger.

My next race is the Edmonton half marathon on August 23. Surprise surprise, a half marathon 5-6 weeks before a marathon (same thing as all the 2:10-2:11 races). Although I did try a half 4 weeks out before the London marathon in 2013. I didn’t like the way I felt, ran 2:13:40 so decided not to try that again.

 

Pan Ams, Berlin, Doping, AC HOF

August 3, 2015

Pan Ams

Once Athletics got under way at the Pan Am games I was feeling a little left out, as I thought I probably would. I thought the Pan Ams was a great success for Toronto and Canada. I enjoyed being in Toronto and seeing all the stuff going on and had a great time at the gold medal soccer game.

When distance runners started to win medals I wanted to get out there and run the marathon. Looking over the men’s start list I would have had the fastest PB but there were two guys on the start list who beat me at the Olympics in similar hot conditions. Raul Pacheco, who I figured for the marathon win, finished second to a surprise performance by a Cuban. The times weren’t fast but given the hill they had to run four times and the heat it looked like a tough race.

As much as I would have liked to race Pan Ams I’m happy with my decision to focus on the Berlin marathon this fall. Berlin is known as the fastest course and if all goes well next year I’ll be racing Rio in August. I wouldn’t race Berlin 4-5 weeks after Rio and I’d like to race Berlin while I still feel I can PB. It’s too hard to predict how I’ll be going in 2017.

Doping Documentary

A hard-hitting documentary on doping out of Germany aired last week. (You can watch the English version here) The reason why this documentary has been the talk of the athletics community is because it presents some very compelling evidence. I thought I was about to watch a lot of heresay but there’s quite damning information presented.

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The first half of the documentary focuses on Russia and the second half on Kenya. The section on Russia didn’t faze me as they’ve had a very dirty history. The section on Kenya hit me much harder as I recognized many of the places in the film. I’ve been aware that Kenya has a doping problem but I didn’t expect to see how easily athletes there can dope. It makes me feel uncomfortable knowing how close I’ve been to a doping problem.

The ease at which athletes can dope in Kenya combined with the lack of effective testing makes the whole situation look like a dopers paradise. Athletes often get a weeks notice before they are to be tested. I think this is partially due to not having proper addresses in rural Kenya. Without street signs and house numbers I doubt athletes have to fill out their whereabouts* with the same accuracy many other athletes do.

I still believe it’s a small percentage of athletes who are doping in Kenya and that the country’s success largely comes from hard work, genetics and culture. However, since the majority of Kenyans are running for monetary gain and how competitive it is just to get a break (race abroad) it doesn’t come as a huge surprise there are cheats given the risks and rewards.

The rewards are pretty obvious for a Kenyan who grows up in poverty where prize money can completely change their life. And the risks aren’t too grim. They don’t seem to have to repay money, no risk of incarceration and they can resume racing after four years (used to be two years). On top of that the chances of getting caught in Kenya are slim to none.

In my opinion the punishment for drug cheats isn’t harsh enough, not even close. The consequences have to be such to deter more athletes who are still choosing to cheat.

At the very least you cannot reward dopers! Athletics Canada keeps inducting drug cheats into their Hall of Fame. This is something that has bothered me for a while and since I’m on the subject I might as well rant about it.

Drug cheats Mark McCoy and Molly Killingbeck were inducted in 2014 and 2015, respectively. They were both sprinters under Charlie Francis and were both implicated in the Dubin inquiry (just like Ben Johnson). Athletics Canada is sending the wrong message by rewarding these athletes. They are basically saying that doping is an acceptable avenue to reach Hall of Fame level performances. It’s like awarding a Pulitzer Prize to someone who plagiarized a book.

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*whereabouts refers to a website/app where athletes in the drug testing pool have to input where they will sleep, train, do regular activities and have a one hour slot each day where they can be sure to test you.

My CAN-ETH-KEN Games 15km

July 13, 2015

Going into the Utica Boilermaker 15km I knew it was going to be tough just to crack the top 10. In 2009 I finished 8th and was happy with that result. The field looked really deep this year but I really wanted to improve on 8th and shoot for top 5. I ended up 8th again and ran 44:34, 45 seconds faster than 6 years ago.

Once again it was hot on race day however this time I fully understood the nature of the hill from 4.5 to 6.5km. I knew if I wanted a shot at top 5 that I needed to be in the mix at the top of the hill. There was a pack of about 15 going into the hill and by the top the group was splintered and I was in 6th place. On the downhill I lost a few places and was 10th by the bottom.

I underestimated the guys I broke on the hill and figured I would catch them again once it flattened out. That didn’t go as planned. They were running in a pack and I was chasing alone. On a couple of occasions one guy would fall off and I would pass him. In the final kilometre I was closing-in but it was too little too late. Perhaps I got within 5-6 seconds of them but lost a little in the last bit when they kicked for the line.

The race reminded me of when I used to start a track season and be able to chop off a good chunk of time from my first outing. Being in that unfamiliar zone I found myself not knowing how hard I could actually press. It’s a good place to be in right now, although it makes me want to race another shorter race. I was tempted to race again soon but, it’s time to start increasing the volume and looking towards a Fall marathon.

The Utica Boilermaker is a really fun race. Located in upstate NY about an hour East of Syracuse the race attracts 17,000 runners. The race finishes by Saranac Brewery and there is a massive party afterwards with over 10,000 people. They conduct the awards in between music acts on a stage in back of the brewery. The whole race sees big, enthusiastic crowds lining the roads. Check it out one year if you haven’t yet.

PLACE NAME TIME PACE RESIDENCE
————————————————————————————————————
1 Eliud Ngetich 43:31 4:41 Kenya
2 Lani Rutto 43:59 4:44 Kenya
3 Belete Assefa 44:01 4:44 Ethiopia
4 Teshome Mekoen 44:07 4:44 Ethiopia
5 Isaac Mukundi Mwangi 44:24 4:46 Kenya
6 Yitayal Atanfu 44:25 4:46 Ethiopia
7 Mengistu Tabor Nebsi 44:26 4:46 Ethiopia
8 Reid Coolsaet 44:34 4:47 Canada
9 MacDonard Ondara 44:57 4:50 Kenya
10 Linus Chumba 45:11 4:51 Kenya
11 Fernando Cabada 45:13 4:51 USA
12 Masakazu Fujiwara 45:15 4:52 Japan
13 Moses Kipkosgei 45:20 4:52 Kenya
14 Solmon Deksisa 45:50 4:55 Ethiopia
15 Gilbert Kiptog Chepkwo 46:15 4:58 Kenya
16 Ahmed Osman 46:17 4:58 USA
17 Ryosuke Fukyama 46:24 4:59 Japan
18 Tyler McCandless 46:38 5:01 USA
19 Ryan J. Place 47:03 5:03 Cambridge MA
20 Nicolo S. Filippazzo 47:13 5:04 Wantagh NY

Massive crowds!

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Strava link

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On the way to Utica I stopped at Green Lake for a run on the sweet trails and a dip in the lake.

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I’m digging the new Vazee Pace. I was worried at first because this shoe is replacing my go-to trainer, the 890. It feels close enough that it’s a an easy switch. The thing I notice the most is there is more room in the forefoot, which I don’t care for but am already used to. I know a few guys who wear out the forefoot of the 890 who will be happy to see that update.

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Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon

July 3, 2015

My quads were sore from the Vancouver Half for four days. I know this is due to the downhill nature of the course but I don’t remember taking that long to recover from when I raced SVHM in 2012. Is age catching up to to me at 35?

I won the race again, although 2 minutes slower than 2012. That can be explained by the heat and not being pushed by Eric and Kip for most of the race. You would think running that much slower would be easier on the legs.

I’ll blame the sluggish recovery on running hilly runs after the race, drinking beer Sunday night, and not being in marathon mode (toughened legs from high km). The age factor does creep in my mind from time to time. I do a few things differently now than a few years ago. The main thing is that I run 10 times per week instead of 12. It doesn’t sound like much but those two afternoons without running really helps recovery.

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I’m excited to race the Utica Boilermaker 15km next weekend (July 12). The competition at the Boilermaker is always really tough and will give me a good fitness indicator. Even if it’s hot (slow time) I’ll be able to see where I am relative to the Africans. I raced Boilermaker back in 2009 in the lead-up to Berlin WC marathon. It’s a really fun race with over 10,000 runners in the 15km and finishes at Saranac Brewery. After Boilermaker I’ll transition into marathon training.

Before the race I took in the Canada vs England Women’s World Cup game. It was an amazing atmosphere and a good game but unfortunate Canada lost. After the race Marie and I spent a few days in Vancouver and went out to Deep Cove for a hike and a donut from Honey’s. Of course a stop at the New Balance Store on Robson where I got my first peak at the new Vazee running shoes (there was a pair at my house when I got home).

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Calgary Half

June 1, 2015

Over the weekend I went to Calgary for the national half marathon championships looking for the win. The last Canadian championship I won (or even entered) was the 10km September 2013.  I came up short in the final kick and had to settle for second place.

Heading into the race I knew I wasn’t in great shape. I have no complaints where my fitness is because it’s part of the plan to ease into training in order to peak for a fall marathon. I know I could have been more prepared for this race had I been more aggressive with my training after Rotterdam but I have to choose my battles. Even still, I thought I had a good shot at winning.

When the race started I decided it was in my best interest to keep a consistent pace. Calgary is situated at 1050m (3400 feet) which makes it a little slower than sea level. I was basically reeling off 3:05/km and four of us quickly separated from the rest. After 4km Kelly Wiebe and Trevor Hofbauer were trailing Kip and I. Kelly seemed to be way behind Trevor and then all of a sudden he was back up with Kip and I (turned out Kelly was having stomach issues and stopped three times during the race). I led through 10km in just under 31:00 and by then it was clear it was going to just be Kip and I going for the win.

I decided to let Kip lead for a couple of kilometres and we slowed to 3:11/km. That felt much easier but I was worried at that pace we would get caught. I led another 3:03/km but that was kind of tough and talked myself into trying to win in the last few km instead of pushing hard the rest of the way. The pace became really easy and almost didn’t even feel as though I was racing.

At 18km I decided to surge and drop Kip. But he was one tough bugger that day and I couldn’t shake him so I settled back down. I thought if I could get a jump on him in the final 150m I could maintain that little gap until the end.

With, what I thought was 150m to go, I surged hard. I got a little gap on him and hoped to carry it until the finish line. Then I saw the 42km mark and realized there was still 200m (195m) from that point! I was cooked. Kip passed me and I gave up the fight. A little later I saw Kip tie up but he had a big enough gap for the win.

After the race Kip told me he knew I went too early. He’s raced this course many times and was familiar with the finish.

It was good to see Kip win his first Canadian title (Kip moved to Canada from Kenya many years ago but only became Canadian last year). I was frustrated because I don’t think (even given my fitness) I played my cards right. An honest pace was probably my best bet. Oh well, live and learn.

In general I’m really satisfied with my training, fitness and health. I’ll continue with my base training for two more weeks before I notch up the intensity.

Next up is Scotia Vancouver Half Marathon on June 28th. After that I’m looking at Boilermaker in July and Crim in August.

The race video is archived at AthleticsCanada.tv HERE (at 1:15:23 into the video I have an interview with John Stanton)

Place Gun Time Name City Chip Time
1/3304 01:06:39 KANGOGO, Kip Lethbridge, AB 01:06:39
2/3304 01:06:50 COOLSAET, Reid Guelph, ON 01:06:44
3/3304 01:07:22 HOFBAUER, Trevor Calgary, AB 01:07:17
4/3304 01:07:25 WIEBE, Kelly Vancouver, BC 01:07:19
5/3304 01:08:41 WINSLOW, Robert Guelph, ON 01:08:41
6/3304 01:09:08 VIAU-DUPUIS, Philippe Montreal, QC 01:09:03
7/3304 01:09:10 LE PORHO, David Montreal, QC 01:09:03
8/3304 01:09:14 SNIDER, Graydon Halifax, NS 01:09:08
9/3304 01:09:22 DEERE, Jeremy Calgary, AB 01:09:17

Yeah, we better turn up the base on this one

May 12, 2015

It’s been a month since the Rotterdam marathon. I took 11 days completely off after the race, and then spent the next 10 days doing easy runs. Last week I did a tempo and fartlek run. I’ll continue that formula for the next month as a base period.

I have to respect the recovery from the marathon and keep my eyes on the big goals. That is why I’m not ramping up too fast for the Canadian half marathon champs on May 31st in Calgary. If I want to run my best in Calgary I should be doing faster intervals right now but that would mean compromising marathon recovery. Luckily Calgary is situated at 1000m (3300 feet) above sea level which should slow the pace down and lessen the importance on speed right now.

The last two years I planned on racing a few competitive road races on the US circuit but both times the plan was foiled by injury. Once again I’m planning on racing over the summer (half, 15km, 10 miles) and focusing on speed (relatively speaking) before transitioning to marathon training.

***

I’ve officially pulled my name out of the Pan-Am games this summer, which basically means I’ve stopped filling out forms for Pan-Ams as they get emailed to me. It was a hard decision to make because I would have loved to compete for team Canada in Toronto. Also, it might be a, relatively, easy shot at an international medal.

There are a few reasons why I took my name out of selection:

1) There are a few guys who really want to run Pan-Ams and it will be good for them to have a shot at international competition. There are only two spots on the team per event in athletics.

2) The course is from Ontario Place to High Park and back (not through the middle of Toronto). There’s a good hill on the course and it could be hot, there’s really no chance of running fast. My main goal this year is to run fast because next year the goal will be Rio (championship race) if all goes well.

3) If I’m going to run marathons at this level I want to do it full-time which means I need money to make that happen. There’s no monetary incentive at Pan-Ams except for people who tell me a medal will come with sponsors knocking on my door. In my opinion there will be so many medals at Pan-Ams from Canadian athletes that by the time the marathon comes around a medal won’t be such a big deal.

***

It’s been so long since I wrote a blog I almost forgot that I haven’t mentioned Athletics Canada released the standards for the Rio Olympics. The men’s marathon standard is set at 2:12:50, which was slower than I anticipated. Had I known the standard going into Rotterdam it would not have changed the way I ran because I would have always aimed for time that I felt somewhat safe with. A time such as 2:12:20 would be vulnerable to be overtaken by 3 guys. There’s no guarantee with 2:11:24 but it’s a time which should stand up.

***

This week I’m off to Halifax to attend an event to honour Cliff Mathews on Thursday night at Spatz Theatre. Abel Kirui (2-time World marathon champ) will also be there. The money raised from the event will go towards buying a defibrillator for Iten, Kenya.

***

The marathon ages you.

Two days before marathon (Also to note, a beard makes you look older).

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A few minutes after marathon.

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