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It’s not too late to feel a little more alive

March 31, 2014

Less than two weeks to go, I can start to bring down the volume and get my body ready for 42.2km on April 13th.

The past week was a pretty typical week: 200km, 2 specific sessions, one stride session and one long run (30km).

On Thursday we did 5 x mile on a road loop. I went into this workout conservatively because the last time I did a similar session it was awful. That particular poor session was about 10 days before the NYC half marathon down in Auburn. There were a couple reasons why it was a pitiful workout. It was windy, but mainly, I was tired. I already wrote in a previous blog about being tired going into this session but I left out the awful travel experience with VIA rail hoping they would reimburse me once I wrote to them. No such luck.

My trip to Auburn, Alabama started with a trip to Detroit. It was my Dad’s 60th birthday (my parents live outside of Detroit) and I was able to book a Detroit to Atlanta flight and then Atlanta to NYC flight for $5 using Delta points. My flight after NYC was back to Toronto so I decided to book a train down to Windsor for comfortable travel and I wouldn’t need to leave my car stranded.

Friday Feb 28th was a nice sunny day but for some reason VIA rail cancelled the train and put us on a bus (it sucked, but fair enough). The bus departed 2 hours after we were scheduled to leave. The bus stopped at all the train stations so it was a long bus ride. In London they put everyone who was continuing their journey in taxis. The taxi they asked me to ride in was already occupied by three other passengers. Two large people in the back with their coats and carry-on bags left with me a few inches between them for a 2 hour taxi ride. I told the VIA rail employee I didn’t want to cram in there so I decided to wait for the next train. Well the next train wasn’t coming for five hours, I would completely miss my Dad’s birthday if I waited. So I jumped in a taxi and paid $250 figuring VIA might reimburse me since they were paying for taxis anyways, not the case. They replied that cramming into a taxi was or waiting for a train were my options. Had I waited for the train my trip would have taken 11.5 hours, it’s a 3 hour drive!

In the end a 3 hour drive took me 7.5 hours and cost me an extra $325 because by the time I arrived in Windsor I no longer had a ride and hired another taxi. (The first taxi driver didn’t have his passport).

The next morning I took out my frustrations on a 35km run and then flew to Atlanta en route to Alabama. A few days later I had a 75 minute tempo run. Needless to say I was tired a few days later for the track session.

Back to last thursday’s mile session… I purposely started slow (4:37) and then averaged 4:29 for the last four. Perhaps I could have pushed harder but more than anything I wanted to keep progressing faster and knew I shouldn’t take risks.

Today the temperatures finally cracked 10C, and yes, I shaved after the workout.  It felt good running without extra layers and seemed much easier run fast. 25 minutes at 3:04/km and then 15 minutes at 3:00/km and 10 minutes at 3:00/km. I just have to keep this momentum going into London Marathon.

 

A cool little piece on the 1976 Olympic Marathon.

 

A cool pic of us running though Central Park.

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scream and shout ’till we work it out

March 24, 2014

Things have really turned around in the last week, in a good way.

After feeling really flat in the NYC Half marathon a safe plan was to scale back my mileage and recoup. I did NOT take the safe plan. With four weeks to go until the London Marathon I decided it was all or nothing.

The day after the half I had a light 17km run to keep it a recovery day. And then it was ‘on’ for the next seven days. In the past seven days I had four runs over 30km and totalled 227km (140 miles). It was a bit of a gamble and we have yet to see if it will pay off but I don’t think it backfired.

The reason I believe it didn’t backfire is because Thursday’s and today’s sessions went well. I felt the best I have in three weeks.

We decided to run today’s workout at 1pm to take advantage of the warmest time of the day. It was -6C for the workout and the wind made it feel even colder. Welcome to Spring!

After a 6km warm-up Gillis, Mason, Sunseri and I did 45 minutes, 15 minutes and 10 minutes with 4 minutes light jog in between intervals. I pretty much ran the same pace as the NYC half, except the pace today was much more controlled and consistent. In total we got in 33km.

To keep on training hard even though I felt tired I made sure to step-up my recovery activities. Sleep, nutrition, CEP compression tights, MountStream ice leg wraps, massage, physio, foam roller, have all been integral parts of the puzzle, especially sleep! I will also go very light tomorrow to recover from today’s session.

I decided I’m not shaving until I experience double digit Celsius temperatures. At first I figured this would be a week or two. It’s already been over a week and the 14-day forecast in Guelph doesn’t predict anything over 8C. I may be travelling to London John Mason style.

London will likely be warm enough to allow me to shave. Which is good because my beard won’t be big enough to get cheers anyways… In NYC when I was running with Brett Gotcher he was getting a lot of “nice beard!” cheers. Gillis was wearing the NB Canada singlet and getting a lot “Go Canada!” cheers. I wasn’t getting any random cheers. To answer Keldog, no I won’t be wearing the NB Canada singlet in London. Although it would be cool, the higher-ups submitted the black and red 2014 kit to the London Marathon.

Thanks for all the kind words in the comments section over the past week. It’s always good to hear positive feedback.

Three weeks until the London Marathon…

 

I’d like to fly, but my wings have been so denied

March 17, 2014

I’m in a hole right now. These things can happen during marathon training.

Going into New York City Half I had a couple good workouts but one really bad one 9 days out. There were a couple other runs where I felt more tired than normal too. My hope was that two easier training days going into the race would let me perform on the day and I could wipe out any doubts that I was having.

Yesterday at NYC Half I ran 64:53, about a minute and 45 seconds slower than I expected and pretty much a PW (personal worst). If anything it casted more doubts.

It was pretty cold in NYC yesterday morning and after standing on the starting line for a while the race started out slow. I felt really good in the first mile, which was no surprise when I saw 5:10 on the clock. I knew someone would push the pace and Jake Riley took it upon himself to get the race going at an honest pace.  I was ready for the pace to pick-up and ran with the lead group for a couple more miles before it broke apart on an uphill at the North end of Central Park.

I found myself in a group with Gillis, Brett Gotcher, and a handful of Ethiopians and Kenyans. By 12km I was feeling flat and tired. Shortly later I dropped off that pack but still kept an honest pace for a couple km.  Close to the 15km mark I started to slow a lot and was dejected when I saw my 15km split while everyone was running away from me. I knew it wasn’t my day out there and I could have fought harder but didn’t have the motivation. At some point I decided that this was going to be a good marathon workout, not the fast fast set-up race I was looking for. I know this isn’t how I should be thinking in a race, but it is what it is.

By 20km I was over a minute slower than anticipated and that’s where I really threw in the towel. It’s frustrating to know that I can run that pace with a lot less training.

After the race my shoulders, chest and diaphragm were really sore. It’s not something that overly bothered me during the race, but I’ve never felt so uncomfortable up top like that after a race. I seem to have recovered fine, I felt good running today. Too good for after a half. I’d trade fresh legs for a good race in a heartbeat.

The result was a downer but, I believe it is still beneficial that I raced. I’d rather know where I stand and get things right before the London marathon. This is a wake-up call. It’s made me ask a lot more questions than I would ever ask myself after a decent performance.

Although my confidence is low right now I have no doubt that I can turn things around with three weeks of solid training. Plus being at home in my routine, getting the proper rest, recovery and nutrition. I say three weeks because I’ll need to feel solid going into my taper week.  My confidence is low but my outlook is positive. I know things can change quickly. I have been training consistently for two and half months, I know there is better fitness in me somewhere, I just need to be able to bring it to London.

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Lord I’m coming home to you

March 4, 2014

I got back to Guelph on Monday evening and went for a run on Tuesday morning. It was -12C out, sunny and calm and I didn’t mind the conditions at all.  The next morning it was -18C but was windy so it felt as thought it was -27C.  Gillis and I ran out 10 km and then turned around, into the wind on the way back.  The snow was blowing fiercely off the fields right into our faces.

Early Thursday morning I went to the ATM, and although it was cold it was sunny and seemed calm. By the time Mason, Vollmer, Gillis and I started our warm-up around 9am it was like a blizzard. My feet were frozen and the footing was getting crappy. After 1km we turned around and headed to the YMCA for the treadmills.   I looked at the weather forecast and didn’t think it looked conducive for some big sessions and lots of km so I booked a flight to Atlanta to train in Auburn, AL.

Friday morning it was -25C and I went directly for the treadmills at the YMCA.

On Sunday I was running in 20C on trails. Pretty happy about that!

Today I did a 75 minute ‘tempo’ and went to a dirt road I used to run here many years ago. I forgot how hilly it was, which made for a tough workout with erratic pacing. But with temps hovering around 6C I’ll take the hills over -12C.  My average pace was about 10 seconds per kilometre slower than what I would have wanted on a flat route.  Given the terrain I’m happy with how the session went.

10 more days here and then I’m off to New York and racing the NYC Half marathon on March 16th.  That will be one month out from the London Marathon.

NYC Half marathon elite start list:

Last, First, Nat, Twitter, HM PB
Barrios, Juan Luis, MEX, 1:01:48 (Great North Run, 2008)
Burrell, Ian, USA, @juanlbarrios, 1:02:51 (Duluth, 2012)
Chelimo, Kevin, KEN, 1:01:21 (NYC Half, 2012)
Coolsaet, Reid, CAN, @ReidCoolsaet, 1:02:42 (NYC Half, 2011)
Gabius, Arne, GER, Debut (5000m PB 13:12.50)
Eggleston, Jeffrey, USA, @jde66leston, 1:03:41 (Boston, 2013)
Farah, Mo, GBR, @Mo_Farah, 1:00:10 (South Shields, 2013)
Gillis, Eric, CAN, @EricGillis42_2k, 1:03:34 (Virginia Beach, 2011)
Gotcher, Brett, USA, 1:02:09 (Houston, 2009)
Hartmann, Jason, USA, @JasonRHartmann, 1:01:51 (NYC Half, 2013)
Ichida, Takashi , JPN, 1:02:36 (Ageo, 2013)
Keflezighi, Meb, USA, @runmeb, 1:01:00 (San Jose, 2009)
Korir, Wesley, KEN, @weskorir, 1:01:19 (NYC Half, 2012)
Mutai, Geoffrey, KEN, 58:58 (Ras Al Khaimah, 2013)
Puskedra, Luke, USA, @LukePuskedra, 1:01:36 (Houston, 2012)
Riley, Jake, USA, 28:08.26 10,000m (Olympic Trials, 2012)
Sambu, Stephen, KEN, @sksambu, 1:00:41 (Boston, 2013)
Tegenkamp, Matt, USA, @MattTegenkamp, Debut (58:30 20-K, New Haven, 2012)
Yufu, Ikuto, JPN, 1:02:51 (Ageo, 2013)

Per usual I’m staying with my great aunt Lorna, AKA Nornee while I’m down here. It’s not easy to film her anymore because she realizes my phone has a camera, but sometimes I still catch some gold…

 

Kenya 2014 – That’s a wrap

February 25, 2014

My training over the last seven days in Kenya was productive and I had a good track session the day before John and I left for Belgium.

Once again I did a track session with the group of marathoners which I have been doing most of my tough sessions with.  This time the group was so big (roughly 40 guys) that we split into two groups before we even started the first interval.  A dude just walked down the middle of the group of us and split us up into two even groups.  I was happy to see that two of the most consistent guys were in my group.

The pyramid session totalled 12 kilometres:

1200m, 1000m, 800m, 600m, 400m,

400m, 600m, 800m, 1000m, 1200m,

1200m, 1000m, 800m, 600m, 400m

I never asked what the rest between the intervals was going to be. I figured out pretty quickly that it was only one minute, except we rarely took a full minute.

The session started off well. The guys had me lead the first 800m interval and I still felt good. I was secretly praying they would take more rest between ‘sets’ but of course there wouldn’t be. By the time we got back up to the second 1200m repetition the short rest was taking it’s toll and I cut a few of the intervals down to 800m in order to stay on pace with the group. After the last 800m interval the group only took 51 seconds rest, which would be short enough at sea-level, and I suffered right until the end.

All told I did 11 out of the 12 kilometres. It was a tough session and a good way to sign-off on the hard training in Kenya.

Early Wednesday morning I ran 26km and put my feet up for the rest of the day before John and I flew from Eldoret to Nairobi.

At our hotel in Nairobi there was a Pakistani “rock-star” Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (RFAK) who had a massive entourage,  all wearing t-shirts adorning his face. These guys were quite demanding of the waiters and at one point the RFAK started berating the nice young waiter. Another patron calmly told RFAK to treat the waiter with respect. RFAK lost his temper and had to be restrained while the gentleman told Ali Khan to “think about what you’re doing.” Other members in his entourage were also yelling for the guy to mind his own business. When you treat someone like garbage for no good reason in front of someone else you’ve made it their business.  We gave the patron our support, whatever that was worth. After that excitement we went to sleep before a big travel day.

The next morning we were up shortly after 5am to catch a cab to Nairobi Airport. We flew Nairobi to Amsterdam and then on to Brussels. We took a train to Leuven to meet up with my friend Pieter who we were staying with for a couple of days outside of Liege.

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Sunday was a great day for a cross-country race, sunny and 11 Celcius.  Warming up for the race my hip was really tight and so was John’s back.  Mine seemed to get better whereas John’s got worse and he, wisely, decided not to race.

This was a real cross-country course. Six times around a 1500m loop with plenty of turns, mud, small steeple barriers and two very steep little hills.  After 400m I was way back in the field but moving through pretty quickly.  After two laps I got up to 5th place where I stayed until the finish. There were a couple of straightaways of about 120m each where I would make ground on the guys in front of me but then we’d get to the turns and hills and I’d lose it all back.  I’m not great at cross-country to begin with and not having raced xc for a couple of years showed. It was still a lot of fun and good to push myself.

RESULTS

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In these pics you can see the nature of the course. Small steep hills, soft ground and lots of turns.

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About an hour after the race I suddenly got really cold and jumped in a hot shower before making our way to the train station. On the train I started to get very hot and felt horrible. An hour later I didn’t think I was going to be able to fly home the next day if this fever didn’t subside. After many trips to the bathroom (I’ll leave out the details) and drinking plenty of fluids I started to come around and later that night I was feeling ok. I’ve never felt so crappy in such a short period and gotten better that quickly.  It was a peculiar four-hour flu that I’m going to blame on dehydration.

The last seven weeks were a lot of fun, I got in some good training and I missed out on a very cold and snowy Southern Ontario winter. I’m really curious to see how my fitness will translate to sea-level and how I will feel running marathon pace. Running hilly routes at 8000 feet and taking very short rests during track sessions is hard to evaluate but surely must be good for fitness. There is slightly less than seven weeks to go before the London Marathon which will give me ample time to nail down race pace (barring injury and/or sickness).

Someone asked in the comments last week about the pace Kenyans run for recovery. After most sessions Kenyans often run about 6:00/km, sometimes slower. In fact I’ve seen nothing but walking on a few occasions after fartlek sessions. After track sessions I would do my own cool-down. After fartleks when we would end away from our end-point and wouldn’t be changing shoes I’d get stuck running a couple km at 6:15/km. I never minded the slow jog because it was the best time to pick their brains about training and racing.

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

 

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Great Rift Valley (Kerio Valley)

 

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Iten Market

 

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Boorsma’s impression of D’Anunzio from Caddyshack

 

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walking home from school

 

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Hike past Kamariny

 

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Searching for the falls

 

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Eldoret Discovery Junior race 8km race

 

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Eldoret Discovery XC 8km race

 

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New track opening ceremonies

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10 x 1km track session

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Taking the lead on rep #9

 

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Mo should stick to running

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Dirty truck

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The matatu is never full

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Back alley moonshine

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Eldoret

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Eldoret

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School visiting HATC

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Airplane

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John Drilling for water with Wesley Korir (neon sleeve)

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Charging station

 

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Kitale

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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.

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