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Kenya 2014 – Dispatch #5

February 25, 2014







Here are some pics from my trip. A lot of these were posted to instagram but thought I’d just put them up anyways…


#WazunguWatatu in Nairobi hotel enroute to Iten





Great Rift Valley (Kerio Valley)


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Iten Market




Boorsma’s impression of D’Anunzio from Caddyshack



walking home from school




Hike past Kamariny


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Searching for the falls


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Eldoret Discovery Junior race 8km race




Eldoret Discovery XC 8km race



New track opening ceremonies



10 x 1km track session



Taking the lead on rep #9




Mo should stick to running



Dirty truck


The matatu is never full



Back alley moonshine








School visiting HATC






John Drilling for water with Wesley Korir (neon sleeve)



Charging station


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Kenya 2014 – Dispatch #4

February 16, 2014

It’s been two weeks since my last blog and I’ve had two contrasting weeks.  One week was perfect training and then the next was riddled with an injury and sinus infection.

Two weeks ago (Feb 3rd-9th) everything was clicking. I ran 215km, had a good track session of 10 x 1km and a solid 40km run.

I knew a week prior that we were going to tackle 10 x 1km on the track.  The surprise: a few minutes before we started I was informed we were only taking one minute between intervals.  Up here one minute isn’t much and I suffered, however the session was a success.  The group asked me to lead the 8th interval and I pretended not to hear them and with only one minute rest we were off again. They asked me to lead the 9th rep and I did, well at least 800m of it.  On the 10th I was tired and the pack got away from me and I started to feel sorry for myself.  When I saw that my splits were right on pace (the guys picked it up)  it lifted my spirits and I finished off the rep well.

A few days later I did a hard 35km run with the group. I jogged 1km to meet them and then we set off for 35km.  The first 5km wasn’t too fast and then it was pretty solid. Around 29km I thought we were heading back towards Iten until we veered off the main road. At this point I knew we were heeded for ‘big dipper.’ At the bottom of ‘big dipper’ we were a pack of 15. By the top (about 31km into the run) the pack was spread thin. It stayed that way until the end of the run. I sucked down the rest of my drinks then I added 4km to make it 40km.  I finished the week off with some strides and felt surprisingly snappy considering I was finishing up a 215km week.

And then things started to unravel, which probably sounds as though I went too hard the previous week.  My tibialis flared-up on Monday, it’s an injury which I get a couple times a year. I believe I got it running down hills on tired legs (the two days after the 40km run) and being lazy by heel striking too hard which puts pressure on the tendons in the front of my shin. I was running quite a bit more here last year but I reduced it this time around because I think I was compromising the speed of my sessions even though I seemed to handle it fine.

Because of the flare-up in my tendon I took tuesday completely off and reduced my running volume by 50% over the first four days this week.  That seemed to do the trick because by Friday everything was cleared up.  Except for my sinuses! One thing after another this week!

John Mason, Dane (Australian) and I decided to take up Wesley Korir’s offer to race a 15km road race he was putting on in his hometown of Cherangany on Saturday (15th).  When I said yes to the race two days prior I wasn’t sure how hard I would run it because of my shin, and later because of my cold.

Cherangany is only 67km away from Iten on dirt roads but the way we drove, on paved roads, it was 133km.  The dirt roads are rough, I’m not sure which way would have been better in normal circumstances.  Unfortunately there was a toppled fuel truck which caused a massive traffic jam, maybe the dirt roads would have been better.  I couldn’t believe how much traffic was leaving Eldoret.

Here’s something I recently learned after four years here: There is a pipeline from Mombassa (on the Kenyan coast) to Eldoret. Eldoret is where the trucks pick up the fuel and transport the fuel all over Western Kenya and beyond.  A lot of the fuel goes to Uganda, which is a landlocked country. We easily saw hundreds and hundreds of fuel trucks.

I’ve only ever driven through Eldoret in the North-East to South-West direction.  Leaving Eldoret heading North-West is where you see all the fuelling stations, fuel trucks and sprawling city.  It was quite incredible to see, and at the same time frustrating to be stuck in heavy traffic.

We made it to Wesley Korir’s house in Cheragany safe and sound and slept hard Friday night.  The next morning I woke up and still felt crappy and decided that I shouldn’t go too hard and use the 15km race as a marathon pace session.

The race was slated to start at 9am, which we knew would never happen in Kenya.  We arrived at the start line at 8:50 and no one was there.  After a 5km warm-up there were a few athletes around and by 9:40 there were about 100 runners ready to go.

The course started on an older road but after 2.2km it turned onto a brand new paved road which we had driven to get to the start line.  It was nice to run on such smooth pavement.

Surprise, surprise, the race went out fast. I ran 3:00 for the first km and was already way back of the pack of sixty or so runners. Throughout the race I slowly picked off runners and held a decent pace through 10km (31:30). The final 3.5km climbed a brutal hill. I slowed down to 3:4x/km yet still passed a slew of runners.  As usual most Kenyans I caught put up a good fight, sometimes surging hard, to not get passed by the mzungu. I only passed guys throughout the whole race, except in the last 100m where I guy I just past burst into a big kick and went back ahead of me.

I ran 48:28 for 15km and placed 35th. John ran 52:10, kicked down a Kenyan in the final sprint and was pumped with the result.  Sammy Kosgei won the race, apparently a little under 45 minutes. With prize money 20 deep and the winners (there was a 10km for women) getting a trip to the US to race a half marathon the race up front was competitive.

Wesley organized the race only days before and yet the crowds were great along the side of the road. Always supportive to the mzungu.

When we got back to Iten on Saturday we decided to jog 6km to shake out the 2.5 hour car ride. In the last 5 minutes we ran with a random Kenyan. I asked him what his training was that day: 38km in the morning (2:13) and 12km in the afternoon!

Today I already feel better than yesterday. My sinuses aren’t pounding, I’m less congested and have more energy. It’s always a gamble training through a head cold but because I already took time off this week I was stubborn to take more time off. Hopefully I’ve dodged this bullet.

John and I only have a few more days left in Iten before we head to Belgium to run a 10km XC race in Dour on Sunday (23rd). Then we’re back in Canada the following day.

When I get home I’ll post a bunch of pics from the trip.

Kenya 2014 – Dispatch #3

February 1, 2014

This morning I did my long run early and I thought I’d try and write my blog while most of the other runners were training so I could upload some photos.  No luck, the internet can’t handle photos on wordpress. Perhaps if I made them really small it could work…

Training is going well. I had a track session of 400′s on Tuesday, fartlek on Friday and a 30km run this weekend.  I do all my hard runs with the same local group and the rest of my runs with #wazunguwatatu or other people from the camp.

Kyle, John, Dane (Aussie runner) and I went on a run through a forrest which starts about 5km from the camp.  I’ve been on this run in past years and it’s kind of become a tradition for me.  Some of the trails are technical, there are creek crossings and very steep hills so it’s not a run I do often.  The best part of the run is when we reach the edge of the Great Rift Valley at a spot where there are only a couple of little huts nearby.

It amazes me every time I go there because a car can’t drive up there (perhaps a rugged SUV could), there is no plumbing or electricity. Just a couple of thatched roofed mud huts, lots of different crops and a couple of friendly people surprised to see Wazungu. The kid we met, Aaron, spoke good english and we asked him a bunch of questions about his life out there.

This weekend there is a track opening ceremony and London Marathon press conference with some of the top runners.  I should probably head over there soon and check it out the festivities.




Kenya 2014 – Dispatch #2

January 26, 2014

Track intervals aren’t normally a big part of my marathon training but up here in Iten I’m including one track session a week.  The terrain around here is hilly and at 8000 feet it’s hard to keep a good rhythm so the track becomes a haven for even pace running.  It’s no wonder you see many marathoners on the track here each week.

Last Tuesday I attempted to follow Martin Matathi (2013 Fukuoka winner) on some 600m repeats which turned really ugly for me after 6 intervals and then moving into some 400′s.  I tried replicating times from a 600m session I did towards the end of one of my previous stays here and got a quick reminder that it takes a while to acclimate to altitude. Next week, next week…

Early Saturday morning I met up with 30+ local marathoners for a long run.  This is the same group I ran with a lot a couple years ago and, more recently, a hilly progression run with two days earlier.  The plan for the run was a 38km loop with three vehicles helping distribute water bottles.

The pace for the long run was honest from the get-go and at 6:15am four minutes per kilometre felt faster than it should have.  The majority of the first half of the loop is downhill and then there is a long climb back towards the start. The car was pulling up beside us every 5km and distributing bottles. I only packed 500ml so I thought I’d conserve more for the second half of the run and just took a small sip at 5km.  At 8.5km into the run I had to take a pit stop in the bushes. Up until that point we had averaged 3:52/km.  By the time I caught back to the group around 14km my average was down to 3:44/km.

When I got my bottle at 15km I noticed someone had taken a sip at 10km when I was absent from the group. No big deal.  Around 21km the lead car pulled up and handed out bottles again.  I was at the back of the pack and I saw my bottle get passed to a dude wearing an orange shirt. I picked up the pace and made my way towards Orange Shirt.  As I got close I realized he didn’t have my bottle anymore.  I looked around and saw my bottle about to get emptied down another dude’s gullet. I yelled over to get my bottle which, by that point, had less than a sip left. I probably drank 100ml of my Ironman Perform and had to settle for a dry last 17km.

These guys share bottles, which is cool but I don’t know if these guys are using bottled water (as I do here). I didn’t want to take my chances with whatever they put in their bottles.  Next week I have two bottles with “MZUNGU” written down the sides.

I kept up with the group through 28km at which time I slowly faded away along with other suffering athletes on the climb back up towards Iten. I still managed to average 3:46/km through 36km. I had initially planned for 36km so at that point I settled into a very easy jog for the remaining 2km.

My fitness is coming around and I’m getting a good base. 3.5 more weeks in Iten and 11 weeks to go until London Marathon.

Kenya 2014 – Dispatch 1

January 20, 2014

I’m back in Iten, Kenya, “The Home of Champions” for the fourth year in a row. I keep coming back here for the great weather, world-class runners, 8000 feet of altitude, great running loops and the overall experience. This time I’m here for six weeks and once again I’m staying at the High Altitude Training Centre. Iten keeps growing, there is more traffic, more guest houses and more foreigners here every year. There is also a new six-lane tartan track which just opened up.

This year I travelled here with Kyle Boorsma and John Mason. We are collectively known as #WazunguWatatu (three foreigners, or white people).  It’s a solid crew and we’ve already had a cool adventure hiking to some waterfalls and spotting a bunch of monkeys jumping through the trees.  The internet is pretty crappy here this year so I won’t include pictures in the blogs but, will try to get stuff up on Instagram when I’m able.

This is my 10th day in Iten. The first 10 days always seem to be the toughest as I’m getting over jet-lag, acclimating to altitude and getting used to the hilly terrain.  Once I pass the three week mark I typically really start to get into the groove up here.  This altitude stint should give me a good base before I return to Guelph.

Since I’ve been here my training has been consistent but it’s clear I’m not in shape yet. Up here I know my fitness will come around, especially with solid 30km runs like the one I had today.  A massive group left the camp together but we quickly separated into many small groups. By 26km we had a tight group of Mo Farrah, Marius Ionescu (finished one spot ahead of me at the Olympic Marathon) and Arne Gabius (13:12 5000m).  It was my furthest run since the Fukuoka marathon and it felt good to feel like I’m training for the marathon again.  I’ll need a lot more runs like that to prepare myself for the London Marathon.

Yep, I’m planning on running the Virgin London Marathon on April 13th.  I wasn’t announced in the press release but I am confirmed to race.  Unlike Fukuoka I have no plans on running with the lead pack here!!  There is supposed to be another paced group that should closely suit my goal time. Looking forward to that. But first I must get fit and prepared.

If you want to be righteous, get in line

January 5, 2014

2013 started off with a great 8 week training block in Kenya where I ran a lot and came back to Guelph ready to put the final touches on my marathon build-up for Rotterdam.  A small injury to my foot and getting sick slowed me down going into Rotterdam.  The sickness came back stronger days before the race.  The writing was on the wall but I gave it a shot anyways, went through halfway in 64:58 and dropped out after 35km.

After a recovery period I started to regain fitness and plotted to run STWM in the fall. A week later I broke my collarbone falling off my mountain bike.  Seven weeks of no running ensued plus another couple weeks ramping back up my training. At that point I knew I wouldn’t be ready for STWM and changed my focus to the Fukuoka marathon.

It was a little unnerving that by September my best race in 2013 was a 64:24.

By late September I felt fit again and posted promising results going into Fukuoka (Canadian 10km win and 63:11 half).  On race day at Fukuoka I felt ready to run sub 2:10.  A fast early pace and running solo from 18km made it too tough for me and I finished in 2:11:24.  Not bad, but short of my goal.  That performance ranked me second in North America (behind Dathan Ritzenhein 2:09:47) which isn’t really that great because a 2:11 shouldn’t be ranked that high in North America.  It’s more of a stat I would tell a non-runner who asks me what I do for a living and use it to justify running around everyday.

Three faces of “what the Fukuoka just happened?”


December wasn’t smooth sailing, I had a cold for a week and last week I barely ran because inflamed fibularis tendons.  I’m not complaining though because the timing could have been much worse.  The last couple days I’ve felt pretty good on the treadmill.

I ran 7446km in 2013.  Short of my goal of 8000 but considering I took an unexpected 7 weeks off, not bad.  Otherwise I would have easily hit 8500km.

In two days I’m off to Kenya with John Mason and Kyle Boorsma.  I will spend over 6 weeks in Iten, Kenya and race a Belgian XC race on the way home.  After that it will be a half marathon in March and a marathon in April (to be confirmed really soon).

Stay tuned for dispatches from Iten…

Trying to hold onto to that was just impossible

December 1, 2013

First off I’m happy with 6th place at the Fukuoka marathon. Also, I have no regrets going with the lead pack even if it wasn’t the best move (in hindsight).  I better say those things off the bat because the rest of this post might not have the same tone.

(I started playing music, Anyone Seen My Baby randomly came on and that lyric stood out. I don’t think it was really impossible to hold on, but I couldn’t resist using it.)

I think I just ran 2:11:23 (saw the official result, 2:11:24).  What I can’t comprehend right now is that my training and preparation this time was much, much better than ever.  When I was warming up I was very confident in my condition and I don’t think I was over-confident because I knew I was going to have to work really hard and was prepared to do so.  As we warmed up the rain stopped and I thought, this is it, this is the day.

I decided to go with the leaders as they were planning on 3:01/km and I was planning on 3:04/km.  I figured that 3:01 with a group is easier than 3:04 solo.  In fact, I know it is. The problem was a lot of my km splits were 2:59.

After 15km a lead group separated and I found myself running with Fujiwara (2:07 pb), Lamdassen (2:09 pb) and some other guy.  It made sense to peel off with these guys as I was tired of seeing 2:59′s every once in a while.  This seemed to be a reasonable group to run with.

However this pack slowed down a ton and after a 3:08 and 3:10 I left those guys behind me and got back into a 3:04 rhythm.

From about 18km I ran solo until the very end picking off 4 runners, who didn’t give up a fight.

I hit halfway in 1:04:11.

At 25km I was still well on Canadian record pace. When I got to the 25.8km bottle table my bottle wasn’t first on the table as it had been on all the others and I grabbed the wrong bottle and tossed it immediately. I took some of the generic sports drink right after but didn’t take too much in case it didn’t agree.  Missing one bottle is not the end of the world.

After that I was dialled in on Matsumiya who was in 7th. I came to the 180 turn around, naturally slowed down a bit and found I was now fighting an annoying headwind.  I had Matsumiya in my cross hairs and all of a sudden I saw my bottle to the left, made a sharp turn went to grab it but it slipped out of my hands.  I stopped, turned around (I heard the crowd gasp) and decided to run on without it because I would have had to go back.  This time I had to take in at least 150ml of the generic drink.  That 5km split was slow (15:51) but with the 180 turn-around and the complete stop I figured I could get it back to 15:30′s.  I was wrong, very, very wrong.

After 35km it got really tough and I was losing it a little mentally. A voice in my head kept saying that the record had slipped, it was gone, you’re done. And then I would tell myself that I could still get to 40k in 2:03 and be in the running for it.  There were times when my pace got really slow and then I would pick it up. But those efforts didn’t last that long.

I hit 40km in 2:03:58 and was now focused on a PB. But I was suffering, bad.

I passed a Kenyan around 41km and I found myself passing him with gusto and feeling pretty good. I thought to myself at that point that there is more in me but I couldn’t access it alone.  20 seconds later I knew I had buried him and settled back into a slow pace.

With 400 to go on the track I looked at my watch and saw 2:10:00. I knew I wasn’t going to run a 55 second lap for a PB and cruised it in. I was deflated. Other than asking myself “what the hell just happened?” I was at a loss for words.

It scares me a little that my preperation could good so well and I still didn’t have it.  I’ve gone out faster than today through halfway (63:58) and held on better (2:10:55).  I held on better in Toronto because I was running with guys until 37km or so.  That is where I can make improvement, with better pacing and running in a pack longer.  I guess my training, theoretically, could improve too.

I’m frustrated because today was such a good opportunity and I came up short. Like every race, I learned a lot and I hope to build from here.  The journey continues…

Here are my splits from my watch:

30:13 (15:05)
45:16 (15:03)
1:00:44 (15:28)
1:16:05 (15:20)
1:31:32 (15:27) (Unofficial Canadian 30km record)
1:47:24 (15:51)
2:03:58 (16:34)
2:11:24 (7:25)



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