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Cause I’ve been running a long time on this travelling ground

August 14, 2020

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog and there is a simple explanation for that… I’ve been very busy lately with day-to-day life. Yesterday that changed as the kids went back to daycare for the first time in 5 months. No complaints though, we’re healthy and having a lot of fun.

A typical day has consisted of getting my run done in the morning before 9am. Marie works (from home) 9am-5pm and I watch the kids. Most days we’ll do an activity in the morning and then hang around the house in the afternoon. From 5pm-7:30pm we usually go to the park or local pool and then have dinner. Once kids go to bed I try and catch up on emails, coaching and social media.

I stopped doing two runs a day a few months ago when I dropped my volume to the 100-140km/week range. Running 1 x day has been great for more reasons than just time-management and when I ramp up my training again I’ll probably run less doubles than before (but still keep overall volume in the same range).

I decided to drop my volume and intensity in order to stay healthy and freshen up my legs. If I was 10 years younger I’d be trying to make gains in this period of no races but at my age I’m not making overall gains anymore in terms of PB’s. My ambition is to not slow down that much relative to my PB’s. However I want to stay in good enough shape that I can transition back into serious training fairly quickly.

Training has been going alright. Most workouts are pretty lacklustre as find I don’t have the same motivation to push hard and there is a conscious decision to not hammer. If it wasn’t for a couple of virtual races (time trials) and a key workout challenge I know I’d feel as though I’m in way worse shape than I actually am.

I had two virtual races in June, a 10.5k and a 5k. The 10.5k was a team competition where 4 runners added up their 10.5k times for a total 42k result. Having teammates kept me accountable and motivated and I came away averaging 3:00/k for 10.5k.

A couple weeks later I did a 5k time trial as part of the Run CRS Spring Run-off. For fun (because my result wasn’t going to be official) I took aim at Graeme Fell’s Canadian master’s mark of 14:35. Having that goal helped push me and though I came up short with a 14:39 I was pleased with that effort.

14:39 5k - Jeremy Rae taking photos

After the 5k we took a family road trip out East. We first went to Cape Breton to self-isolate for two weeks. It was a great place to self-isolate because I was able to run and not come remotely close to anyone. After two weeks we camped around Cape Breton and then visited family around Halifax. We had a quick visit to PEI on the way home. I (nor my kids) had been to Cape Breton and PEI before and really enjoyed both places.

On July 31st I took a crack at the Run Ottawa “Beat the Champ” 10k challenge (which was to beat Justin Kent’s 10k winning time of 28:52 by way of 10 x 1k intervals with open rest). I didn’t have much confidence that I’d be able to average 2:53 for 10 intervals but I knew it would push me to a good workout even if I cam up a little short. I started out with a 2:53 and surprisingly settled into 2:51’s for most of my intervals and then finished it off with a 2:45 (averaged 2:50.1 off of ~3 minutes rest). Once again having a tangible target motivated me to push my effort and I was pumped with that session.

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My last race was the Chilly Half marathon on March 1st where I won in 64:36. It’s funny to think back to when everyone was shaking hands after the race and there was a post-race buffet meal set out. Times have changed. The race itself was a test to break-up training as I was preparing for the Prague Marathon (May 4th). That result was a confidence booster and also solidified the effectiveness of the Nike Next% Vaporflys. And big thanks to Nike for supporting me with gear and shoes!

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Nine days after the Chilly Half I put the shoes to a better test with a 43k run. I did a 2k warm-up and then a 36k progression (12k @ 3:49/k, 12k @ 3:29/k, 12k @ 3:07/k where my last 4k were 3:02/k). The Vaporflys really make a difference after 30k of running! My legs felt surprisingly good towards the end of that run and I was able to close faster than anticipated. A few days later the pandemic was declared and all races were getting cancelled/postponed.

My outlook changed daily. At first I thought if everything locked down for a few weeks then we’d get over the worst of it and things would resume again in late-April. That quickly changed to trying to see if someone could host a small marathon with less than 12 athletes at the end of May. That quickly changed to focusing on a fall marathon. That changed to not putting much stock in any significant race taking place in 2020.

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For a few months now my plan has been to target a December marathon. Although I’m not holding my breath that a race will actually happen it is good to have a target in mind. I figure if a race cancels it typically happens far enough out that I won’t have trained really hard for an extended period of time. Unlike in the Spring where athletes were in the middle, or even at the end of a marathon block and their race got cancelled with only weeks to go. Athletes were scrambling to try and put their hard-earned fitness to use. Now we’re at the point where our expectations for race opportunities are in check and the most important things are to keep safe and curb the spread of Covid.

It’s good to see the London Marathon (Oct 3) going ahead with an elite-only race (knowing that a mass-participant race isn’t feasible). Hopefully it sets a precedent that races, with reduced size, can be held in a safe manner.

***

Right now I’m taking a week, or more, off of running to deal with a little injury. My back has been pestering me for a few months, not enough to really effect training but enough too warrant fixing it properly. Twice I took a couple of days off in a row and it felt much better but then it does a slow decline over the following weeks.

At the start of this week I decided that I should take care of this for good. I got a massage on Monday that loosened everything up really well. The next day I went through my stretches and because I was much more limber I ended up straining a ligament (that already has improved a lot in the past couple of days). I saw a chiro on Wednesday that ruled out any disc problems and get some treatment.

After 3-4 days of complete rest I’ll get on the bike for easy rides until it feels healthy enough to run again. I figured if I ramped up training in September with something bothering me it could turn into something worse. Now is the time to get it right. My initial thought was that running around 90-120k/week would enable it to get better. However, running around 100k/week is still substantial even if it feels very manageable for me and overall my body feels fresh with that load.

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With the kids back in daycare that gives me more time to focus on coaching and expand a little. I’ve been coaching a small number of athletes for the past 5+ years with the intention of ramping up after a run at qualifying (or making) the 2020ne Olympics. I want to make sure I keep delivering the same amount of attention to athletes I coach so ideally I’d take on a few new athletes each month to make sure I keep it manageable.

I’ve also been approached to start an in-person training group that meets in Hamilton. Again, with a bit more free-time I’m able to get something off the ground. I’m going to meet up with some athletes next Tuesday and figure out what day/time works best to host group workouts moving forward. Once we have that established people are welcome to come out and run with the group. These sessions will be free with the caveat that the specific sessions will revolve around the needs of the athletes I personally coach (across a wide-range of levels). There will likely be more than one type of workout as I’m collaborating with other coaches in the area who will have their own athletes. It should be a lot of fun and athletes will be able to get more out of their running with the energy of the group. Group gatherings look a little different these days but I find simply having other people in the same training location, even if they aren’t physically close, makes workouts more exciting.

Moving Forward

May 15, 2020

Dave Scott-Thomas was my coach from 1998 until 2019. In mid-December Dave was fired from the University of Guelph and earlier this year was handed a lifetime ban from coaching from Athletics Canada. About three months ago The Globe and Mail published an article detailing the sexual relationship between Dave Scott-Thomas and Megan Brown that took place in the years between 2002 to 2005.

 

I wrote down some thoughts a few months ago but didn’t feel like putting anything out for a while. The other week I did a Zoom interview with Stephen Andersen and the topic came up. After that video interview a couple of people reached out to me and had more questions. They were hesitant to ask before they saw the interview not knowing if it was something I was comfortable discussing.

 

I hope to shed some light on the story and answer questions people might have.

 

Early Years 1998-2005

 

I met Dave when he toured me around UofG (University of Guelph) campus in the Spring of 1998. He had sent me a recruiting letter after I finished 18th at OFSAA XC (provincial HS champs). A friend told me he was a good up-and-coming coach so I figured it was worth looking into the program.

 

My first year at UofG I was the alternate on the XC team that finished second at the national championships. Over the next four years the men’s team went on to win four University XC championships. I ended up winning the 3000m at my final university championships and I knew I wanted to see if I could reach another level with my running. It was a no-brainer for me to stay in Guelph after graduating and be coached by Dave.

 

Dave had a long-term athlete development plan for me and I whole-heartedly trusted his coaching. His support and team culture would attract other post-collegiate athletes to join his club, Speed River. I went on to qualify for the 2005 World Championships a couple years after graduating from UofG. Later that summer I finished second at the World University Games 5000m. By 2005 I had accomplished much more than what I thought was possible only a few years earlier.

 

Megan started training with Speed River in 2001 as a high-school athlete but I don’t really remember anything in particular until 2002. Megan was a big talent and very eager to learn. She asked many questions and was always grateful for any insight. She had a very positive attitude and a good sense of humour.

 

I’m not sure when it started but at some point Dave and Megan were spending a lot of time together. She would stay after practice and talk, the two would go on walks and she would often be in Dave’s office before practice. It was something many of us talked about but we didn’t suspect anything inappropriate. We knew Megan’s mother had passed away a few years earlier and Dave was acting in a parental role. Some of us weren’t happy that Megan took up so much of his time but given what she’d been through we understood why she would need extra attention.

 

Some people have asked me if I saw anything inappropriate during those years – I didn’t. After reading the article I understand how people could think there must have been obvious signs that a relationship was taking place. Looking back, I think Dave acted in a way as to not raise any suspicion knowing what he had to lose if anyone found out. It was obvious to everyone that they spent a lot of time together so I assume he behaved very carefully. There were 30 plus people on the team and I would like to believe anyone would have reported wrongdoing had it been witnessed.

 

2019-2020

 

Michael Doyle (who reported the story) emailed me (late 2019) asking for quotes about Dave but didn’t give any specific context. I’ve known Michael for years through the running community and had recently spent a morning with him as he detailed a training run leading up to October’s STWM. I was comfortable enough to shoot him straight talk and replied something along the lines that I didn’t think he had a story. At the time I believed Dave’s absence from University coaching was to deal with family stuff (I learned later he was put on leave for an investigation).

 

Some days later a friend was trying to get a hold of me while I was in Kenya and it was obvious it was important. We connected on a call and he let me know that Dave admitted that there was some substance to the story about Megan that was being investigated by Michael Doyle. The revelation that there had been a sexual relationship between Dave and Megan was heavy news to process.

 

When I got off that call I went to talk to Marie (my wife) about what I had just learned. My mind was racing trying to piece things together and come to grips with what Dave had done some 15 years earlier. I then went and found John Mason (Speed River teammate who was also training in Kenya), I told him the news, and we went for a run together and talked about what I had just heard.

 

I then sent a message to Michael Doyle letting him know that I understood there was indeed a story (to say the least). It sounded as though the article was coming out really soon so I sent Michael a couple of quotes. I was hesitant because I didn’t want to praise Dave’s coaching in the same article that revealed a dark past. That was a reservation many people had about coming forward. Many people have had a positive impact by Dave but they don’t care to publicly say that right now, understandably. It could easily come across as though you’re sticking up for Dave’s actions.

 

The article didn’t come out while I was in Kenya and when I got back to Canada I talked to Michael Doyle for almost 2 hours for the article. He was very thorough with his questions as he tried to piece things together. Off the bat he asked me if I was around practice much after graduating in 2003. I was at pretty much every practice from 2003-2005. (In 2006 I started to travel to warm-weather camps in the winter, altitude camps and then in 2010 started to workout in the morning with road/marathon crew. By 2011 I was barely around the collegiate team and some semesters didn’t even attend a single practice). During the period when Dave and Megan had a relationship I was around a lot, often popping into Dave’s office before practice and even going on some team trips for competitions.

 

One thing that surprised Michael was that I had a conversation with Dave about the sexual allegations. In 2006 Dave had a meeting with a few senior athletes. He told us that Megan’s father had brought allegations against him to the University of Guelph. Dave told us that he had been collecting evidence of Megan’s behaviour, such as middle-of-the-night phone calls to his house. He also told us about instances where Megan needed help and he had gone to lengths to help her. He told us that Megan was not talking to the University which made it sound as though she made the story up to her father.

 

When we left the meeting with Dave our conversation focused on feeling bad for Dave and Brenda for having to go through this. We also felt sorry for Megan, who must have been in a bad place that she felt she had to fabricate this story. I didn’t think for a minute that Dave actually had a sexual relationship with Megan. Dave always conducted himself professionally and any other narrative seemed too far from his character. I understand if you’re reading those last sentences (and you weren’t around the team back then) you might think that I’m really naïve or I chose to believe what was convenient for me.

 

Weeks went by and the article still hadn’t come out. Coincidently Michael was doing a story on the Vaporflys and we chatted about that. After his shoe questions I asked him if his other article was ever coming out. He told me it had been held up but it would be published soon and that he’d give me a heads up before it came out. He did let me know on Friday (Feb 7th) that it was coming out the next morning.

 

When I woke up Saturday the article wasn’t available online so I went to the grocery store and got a copy. I sat down to read it and even though I knew what it was about I wasn’t prepared for what I read. Details of Dave and Megan’s sexual relationship were very upsetting to say the least.

 

It was unnerving to read about what transpired on trips that I was on. I remember the RV trip to national XC in Moncton. My goal was to qualify for World XC and I finished outside the top 10 and subsequently missed the team by one or two spots. I remember the bus trip to Penn State. My goal was to break the UofG 3000m record and I accomplished that by running 8:09 in one of my last races for the University.

 

I feel guilty that I have fond memories from my time at UofG when someone else was going through turmoil when they should have had a similar experience to me. I feel guilty that I believed Dave and came to his defense if someone asked about the rumour. (Maybe because people knew I was close to Dave I rarely had people asking me about Megan and Dave).

 

I often think back to what I saw and question what I could have done to prevent or stop what was happening with Megan. I’ve had many conversations with athletes who were also around at that time and who wonder the same thing. Nothing we saw alarmed us and nothing led us to believe such a relationship was taking place. Once you know the truth you start to question if something should have alarmed us. That’s tough to deal with and most people understand the position we’re in.

 

2006

 

When the University of Guelph was informed by Megan’s dad in September 2006 that Dave had an inappropriate relationship with Megan I don’t feel as though they did a thorough enough investigation. At least not in my opinion because, like I said, I was around a LOT and I was never asked anything. Neither were the teammates and assistant coaches that I’ve talked to recently. Bottom line: If a serious accusation is made, you do a serious investigation.

 

I’m not sure what/if such an investigation would have uncovered but you won’t know until you turn over every rock.

 

I don’t think that UofG administrators believed Dave had a sexual relationship with Megan and that they ignored it to win more titles. No one cares that much about titles. I believe Dave deceived everyone with his credibility. I think if they thought a serious infraction had occurred they would have acted accordingly and done the right thing.

 

(I was reluctant to include that last paragraph because I know it might make people mad. But I was around and that is my opinion having known the Guelph athletic department to a certain degree so I’ll give my insight).

 

I found out in an article in January 2020 that Dave had served a one month suspension in 2006 for something connected to Megan’s accusations. I, nor anyone else I talked to, remembers that suspension. I don’t know what he was suspended for but my guess is that he admitted to something on a smaller scale.

 

How did we not know Dave was suspended for a month? My guess is that Dave didn’t host any UofG practices after CIS XC and through exams, which isn’t unusual. I can’t specifically recall but the Speed River athletes must have been getting workouts throughout that suspension.

 

 

By 2006 Dave had had 2 athletes qualify for major championships (myself in the 5000m at 2005 WC and 2006 CWG and Hilary Stellingwerff in the 1500m at 2006 CWG) and zero Olympians. He was not that powerful of a coach by 2006 (not that a powerful coach should get away with anything unethical). There are other coaches with similar accolades as to what Dave had achieved by that point and I don’t think for a second there is some kind of special protection for them. As I said, I think Dave deceived many people and had them believe his story.

 

 

2019-2020

 

I haven’t communicated with Dave since I heard the truth in December. It was hard to process what he did to Megan as I didn’t think that was in his nature. I had trusted him and seeing how much he had influenced my life it was a lot to take in.

 

Marie saw this was troubling me and suggested I see a therapist. I was hesitant but had no response to “it can’t hurt.” After my first session with the therapist, at the end of February, I was thinking much more clearly and was able to separate the good from the bad. Therapy wasn’t what I pictured, there was no chaise-lounge. It was more like having a conversation with a friend but one who has professional insight and lots of experience dealing with heavy situations. Anyways, I’m really happy I went and I’ve since had two more sessions.

 

Megan and I had a great conversation in March. I think we were able to answer each other’s questions and make sense of some things. She is unbelievably positive and in a good space considering what she went through and the stress that comes with telling her story. Megan is truly remarkable.

 

Moving Forward

 

We need to try and prevent something like this happening again. How do we do that? One thing is to make sure a coach does not spend time alone with an athlete. In coaching there is something called the “Rule of Two” that states there should be at least two adult coaches present with a minor. And preferably two coaches and two minors.

 

For me it means looking for signs that something isn’t right and following up. I don’t know what that might be but having gone through this I hope to be able to pick up on things that are amiss.

Ch-Ch-Changes

January 16, 2020

A lot of people have asked me about New Balance so I thought I’d write a post. Unfortunately I didn’t re-sign with NB this year. They offered me a contract for 2020 but I decided to change things up (I’ll get to that…). To be honest, the contract was smaller than before. But to be fair, I have only run 2:15 in the past few years. I don’t think any company out there wouldn’t have reduced their offer.

As you know the Nike Vaporfly has changed the face of marathoning. You can look at the World Records, Area Records, WWM podiums, Olympic qualifiers… and you can see the shift in performances. A few years ago I wasn’t so sure about the hype. In 2018 I started to realize that the Vaporflys were helping some athletes. And then in 2019 it was blatantly obvious that the Vaporflys are on another level.

The way I see it I have one shot left at qualifying for the Olympics (I need to run sub 2:11:30 and be “ranked” top 3 in Canada) and I don’t want to second guess it. New Balance has some marathon racer prototypes that I used in 2019. They came out with a better version in November 2019, that is really good. But there is something about the springiness of the Vaporfly foam that sets it apart. I think other shoe companies will eventually come around with comparable shoes. I bet NB comes out with a competitive model but that model isn’t going to be ready for this spring when I try and run an Olympic qualifier.

It’s not as though I’m the only elite with these thoughts. In the recent Hakone Ekiden 84% of the 210 runners wore the Vaporfly. At the Hakone Ekiden in 2017 only 17% of the runners wore Nike. Also, I know of many instances across four different shoe brands where athletes can use the Vaporflys to race. Otherwise you’re bringing a knife to a gun fight.

I can’t say enough good things about New Balance. I like their company culture and I’ve been happy with their products. They support elite athletes and probably do a better job than most companies in that regard. It was a tough decision to leave NB but I think it’s better that I did it at renewal than to re-sign and then decide to wear Vaporflys in April.

I’ve been with New Balance since 2008 and in those years we did some really cool things. One of the highlights is when they released a Canada version of the 890 heading into the 2012 Olympics. They also made custom 1400 race flats for myself and Eric Gillis for the Olympics.

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I can’t thank NB enough for the support over the years. It was a privilege to work with such a great company.

Up next is the Robbie Burns 8km in Burlington. I’m looking forward to having a rust buster and testing out my fitness as I head into marathon training. I still don’t know what marathon I’ll be running. Hopefully I figure that out soon as I will have to start training for that in the coming weeks.

Kenya with the Fam

December 31, 2019

We had a great trip to Kenya! The travel there was rough and adjusting to 8 time zones proved to be challenging for all of us. We successfully had zero sunburns. I got in decent running until I caught a cold and then maintained for the last week. The kids had a lot of fun playing with other kids and seeing different animals. Here are a bunch of photos from the trip…

 

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The Kitale Nature Conservatory (KNC) was pretty neat. We saw Lions, hyena, crocodiles and a bunch of other interesting stuff.

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The KNC had a bunch of bible scenes. I could do a whole photo dump on the peculiarities of this place.

 

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Mount Elgon Guest House was a really neat place to stay. Such a great little place in a remote area of Kenya. The last 30km of driving was slow going on a bumpy dirt road. Can’t believe this place exists where it does but they are getting a big road through the area. The big road is being built to help South Sudan get their goods via Mombassa (port city on Kenyan coast).

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This picture was taken in Uganda. The river is the border between Kenya and Uganda. Locals can cross the border without showing ID or even stopping. Once the new road is built there will likely be a beefed up border crossing.

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I found an unmanned border crossing off a really small dirt road (a car wouldn’t be able to drive on the road, too rough). I crossed the border and did a loop in Uganda. There was a stick, rope and sandbag (behind me in pic) on the other side of the river in Uganda for border security.

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In between the two countries.

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Kids sharing a Fanta.

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Louis pointing to some Rhinos at Nakuru Park. We spent one night in the park and had a 2.5 hour game drive the next morning. We saw zebras, giraffes, a leopard, a lion and her cub, rhinos, hippos, monkeys, baboons, water buffalo, antelope, gazelles and many birds.

 

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At breakfast we saw hundreds of water buffalo making their way down towards the lake.  A little later we got up and close with a few.

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The kids especially liked the giraffes.

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Spent some time at the pool at Lake Nakuru Lodge after the safari.

 

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Hanging with some kids who live close to my massage therapist in Iten. It costs $4 for an hour massage.

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Hill overlooking Iten. We bought Supreme x Polo Sport shants for Louis at the Iten market.

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Lake Nakuru Park.

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Safari fun.

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View from our room at Lake Nakuru Lodge.

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John was our neighbour at HATC. Judging by his hat this is Christmas day.

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We had a Christmas tree in our room. Santa came and the kids got a couple local gifts and treats for the flights. (Elodie had a few falls and her forehead took a beating.)

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Iten, Home of Champions.

 

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Moving Day.

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Bucket bath.

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Overlooking Rift Valley. I never tire of this view.

 

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Met up with friends. We met Rop (red shirt) 5 years ago, when he was about Louis’ age.

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Travel there was rough. It went much more smoothly on way back. Big gaps between flights and night flights (kids slept easily) helped.

 

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On our way home we had a 17 hour layover in Cairo. Plenty of time to see the sights of the city. We were lucky it was Friday as that allowed us to get around the city much easier (it’s their day of rest).

 

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Giza Pyramids.

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Louis slept a lot of the day but when he woke up right in front of a 159m pyramid he was pretty excited.

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Tea break at Kahn El Kahlili market. I think it’s the oldest market in Africa. The lanes of shops are very impressive.

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Lunch with a view.

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Inside Kahn El Kahlili market.

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Kahn El Kahlili. We didn’t buy anything in the market but apparently you should pay about 20% of what they ask for.

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My first race in 2020 will be the Robbie Burns 8km (Burlington) January 19th. I’m targeting an April marathon but I don’t know which one yet. Still waiting to hear back. Will update in January once I have that nailed down.

 

Happy New Year!

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John and I running some 200’s at Tambach track on Christmas Eve. Tambach is down a little bit into the Rift Valley (Iten is the height of the top of the escarpment in background). It’s hotter down here but has more available oxygen. (Photo: Sean Tilden)

 

 

 

The Shanghai Experiment

November 17, 2019

I went to Shanghai to run under 2:13 or faster and I only made it 25km on pace. Here’s the story on this wacky attempt.

The week after STWM I didn’t run at all and ate lots of desserts. My plan was a long recovery period followed by a long base and then build towards a Spring marathon. Pretty simple and typical.

And then Oct 25th I got an offer to start Nanjing marathon on Nov 10th. They wanted international athletes to start the race. I got an idea in my head that I would start the race and see how long I could last at 2:12:00 pace, nothing to lose if I couldn’t finish. 

I started running one week after STWM with the possibility of a marathon two weeks later. However, a week later Nanjing organizers realized they didn’t need me after-all and that plan fell through.

Because I got this plan in my head and had already started training I asked to see if I could run Shanghai marathon on Nov 17th (1 month after STWM).

The past two years I’ve run (not raced) Shanghai marathon because they needed me to fill their Gold Label athlete quota for their IAAF Gold Label status. I knew the course (it’s flat) and the weather had been nice and cool. The organizers would cover expenses, that sounded just fine to me. Game on!

STWM wasn’t fast enough to help me with my world ranking in terms of qualifying for the Olympics. I need two races around 2:12 and I have none.

[Edit: 70 men already have auto-standard (2:11:30). It seems as though you’ll need auto to go to Olympics. Thanks to @KittyJohne from Twitter for this link http://bluecattechnical.uk/RoadToTokyo/ ]

I toyed around with the idea of doing a January marathon and then an April marathon. But having 3 build-ups and 3 marathons over the course of 9 months seemed very daunting. Holding on for one more month and having another crack from the same build-up seemed like a better plan.

I have never tried to race another marathon one month, heck even 2 months, after a marathon. In the three weeks of running before Shanghai I had to find a balance between recovery from STWM and maintaining fitness. My workouts weren’t great but they weren’t bad. I didn’t press the pace like I normally would. If I usually operate at 80-90% in workouts I was going at about 70-80% for these sessions. I didn’t feel fully recovered but I also knew things could come around any day.

I didn’t announce that I was coming to Shanghai because I didn’t want any undue pressure. This was an experiment and I knew the likelihood of dropping out was higher than normal. I told some friends and the response was positive. Why not roll the dice, try something new. 

On Wednesday (Nov 13) I did an easy 10km run in the morning, it was -9C. A few hours later I was on a 14hr 45min flight and landed in Shanghai Thursday afternoon. I did a slow 4km jog when I arrived and then went to sleep. The following night I only got 2.5 hours of sleep. It’s normal for me to get interrupted sleep after travelling to Asia, but I was having a harder time than usual. Despite the lack of sleep by Saturday I felt pretty good on my run and I was excited about giving it a go on Sunday.

At the technical meeting I found out (to no surprise) that there would only be 1 pace group, going for the course record of 2:07:14, (3:00/km). There were a lot of Chinese athletes in attendance and I was hoping that some of them would be going for 2:11:30 to 2:13 and I could key off of them.

As per normal I was looking at the weather a few days out from the race. The race day forecast called for 18C in the morning and a high of 26C. On Monday (the day after the race) the forecast called for a high of 13C. I kept trying to will the cold front to come in earlier but day after day that forecast was not budging.

Race morning felt cooler than 18C and as I did my warmup run I didn’t feel hot, mainly because the sun was barely up. Maybe I was trying to trick myself that it was cooler knowing that there was only one way I was going to pace myself. (I since read the IAAF race report that said it was 15C at 7am start and almost 20C by 8am).

Normally in such conditions I should have tried to pace myself for 2:15-2:16. But I had already run 2:15 last month with a Canadian Championship fourth place bonus (that makes my 2:15:23 equivalent to 2:13:58 in the world rankings). I was going to go out at 2:12 pace, I didn’t see the point in running 2:15 again.

The race went out as fast as expected and everyone in the elite field went out at 3:00/km. By 2km there was at least a 10 second gap from the back of a massive pack to me. And it looked like an even bigger gap behind me.

But the carnage started really early and I was picking off guys before 3km. These guys put up a fight and usually stayed with me for a while. I stopped looking at my watch after 2km once I settled into a pace however, I would see the big clocks every 5km. At 5km I was 15:34 and then at 10km I was 30:58. Passing athletes was helping me run a quick pace. I caught a few Chinese guys around 11km who stayed with me and then a couple of Kenyans around 13km, one stayed with me. We had a nice pack of five rolling together and we switched up leads, which was especially helpful into the wind.

We went through halfway in 65:58 and the Kenyan dropped out right then. I was running with three Chinese athletes who seemed motivated to stay on pace. One dropped off and then we caught another Chinese athlete who latched on. I was starting to yo-yo off the back of the group around 24km and feeling the heat (it was 20C by this point). The sun was out and after 8am it was beating down pretty strong. I fell off the pack at 25km (1:19:02) and didn’t think a 2:13 was in the cards by how quickly I was melting.

I continued to run an honest pace and caught 2 of the guys who fell off the pack that had dropped me and I could tell the last one ahead of me was also slowing down. By 28km I knew I was done but decided to keep going until 30km, I guess I like round numbers.

If I drop out by 30km then I can recover pretty fast without much damage (less than 24 hours after the race my body seems fine other than my hips). If I race 42km then my recovery afterwards takes much longer.

At 30km on the course the 34km mark is on the other side of the road. So I took off my numbers and started to walk back to the finish.

Beyond the 40km mark I noticed it was going to be very tricky to get to the finish area because of all the barricades. So I pinned my number back on and jumped into the race with runners finishing around the 3-hour mark. I ran all the way to the stadium but instead of entering the stadium I scooted by some barricade. The course volunteers were urging me to continue to the finish, (which was less than 400m away). With the language barrier it was a challenge to explain to them that I had dropped out earlier and I just needed to get my bag. They gave up when I kept walking away.

***

I know the plan seemed ludicrous from the get-go. How was I going to run faster than I did at STWM where the conditions were perfect, there was a pacer and guys to run with? And yes, I didn’t have a 14-hour flight and 13-hour time change to contend with. On top of that I had three solid months of training that peaked for STWM. Surely running a 2:15 marathon, taking a week off, then two weeks of mediocre workouts and 1 week taper was not going to net me a better result.

But something went wrong at STWM and I really felt as though that day could have been a 2:13. I needed to take another shot.

Had the weather been 10C today who knows what would have happened. I felt just as good coming through halfway in 65:58 as I did in Toronto coming through half 50 seconds slower in 66:48. But I faded hard at STWM after 38km and that very well could have been the outcome again.

I am stoked that I ran 65:58 thinking that I still had 21.1km to run, that alone is a confidence boost moving forward.

Given the outcome I’m still happy I put myself out there and gave it a go. As long as my recovery goes well there wasn’t much drawback to this plan. I still have plenty of time to build a base and then get ready for a Spring marathon.

***

Next blog coming from Kenya! The whole family is going for December.

Sometimes you kick, sometimes you get kicked

October 29, 2019

Well 6/7ths of Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon went as planned. Until 36km I was on pace to run 2:13 high. My aim was to run under 2:14 and place in the top 3 Canadians. After 36km I started to slow down and then my last 4 kilometres were really rough and I lost about 1 minute in those last 4km and ran 2:15:23 to finish as 4th Canadian.

Although I didn’t run 2:13, or even 2:14 I’m not disappointed with 2:15:23 for various reasons I’ll get into after the race-recap.

I was right when I thought a sub-2:14 would place second or third amongst Canadians. A sub-2:14 clocking along with the 35 or 30 placing points for 2nd or 3rd Canadian would be a good result to help with Olympic selection via world ranking. A 2:15:23 and 4th Canadian (25 placing points) doesn’t help enough in regards to Olympic selection. To off-set that result and have a good average of two results I’d have to run under 2:11:30, which would be an auto-standard anyways.

What I was wrong with however was who and how fast the top Canadian men would go. Most of what I based estimates off of was half marathon results in the previous two months. Cam dropped out of Philly and didn’t look great. I had a feeling he would turn things around in the 5 weeks before STWM but just enough to squeeze under 2:12:00 for top Canadian.

The other three guys who were going with the 2:11:30 group were Tristan Woodfine (no half marathon), Evan Essalink (65:07 Edmonton Half) and Trevor Hofbauer (66:29 Edmonton Half). A 65:30 opening half split seemed ambitious given those results from mid-August. (As a comparison I ran 64:09 at Edmonton Half 5 weeks before I ran 2:10:28 in Berlin).

Chris Balestrini and Kevin Coffey, who ran 65:42 and 65:55 at Edmonton Half weren’t even going with the 66:30 group that Dylan Wykes, Thomas Toth, Enoch Nadler, Josh Griffiths, Nick Earl and I were going with. Tristan ended up going with our pack because his stomach didn’t feel good at the start, he wasn’t that confident he’d even finish the race but thought he might as well give it a go.

Rory Linkletter decided to go out alone in 66:00. That’s a tough way to go into your first marathon. Heck, that’s a hard way to run your 10th marathon!

Our pack had a pacer and a few half marathoners and we clicked off the first 15km according to plan. After that our pacer looked as though he was hurting and the pace began to slip. Enoch was on him the most to get back on pace. We went through halfway in 66:48.

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Our pacer dropped out around 22km and Enoch did most of the pace making after that with myself and Tristan sharing some leading. By that point we could tell we were catching Rory and Evan had fallen off his pack. Trevor and Cam were still with their pacer and Trevor was feeling so good he was trying to “high 5” Rory on the switchback.

The pace from 20km to 30km was honest, I covered that 10km stretch in 31:22 (2:12 marathon pace). We passed Rory and then Evan in that stretch. At 30km Enoch was 3 seconds ahead of me and Tristan was 3 seconds behind me. Tristan caught me before the 32km turnaround where we saw that Cam had fallen off of Trevor. Tristan and I ran together for a couple km and then I slowly started to fade off of him. I was 4 seconds back of Tristan by 35km.

Enoch and Tristan went on to run 2:13:04 and 2:13:16. They picked up the pace a bit but I lost about 2 minutes to Tristan in the final 7km!

By 39km people were telling me that Cam was dying but I couldn’t see him for the longest time. When I did there wasn’t much I could do about it, my legs were not moving. I covered my final 2.2km in 7:56 (about 1 minute slower than what I was closing in 2015 marathons). Cam was about 1 minute slower than I was in the final 2.2km (8:54), and hence why people were urging me to chase him.

When Josh Griffiths passed me in the final 100m it was as if I was standing still. For reference, he closed his last 2.2km in 7:02.

When I crossed the line I saw Hof getting interviewed. I could tell he finished as first Canadian and figured he got the 2:11:30 standard. But when he told me he ran 2:09:51 I was speechless. It seemed so far ahead of any result he’s ever had (that’s not a knock, he describes that himself in his blog). I felt strongly he was due for a PB because I knew he had been sick leading up to his 2:16:48 in Hamburg but I thought a 2:12-14 would have been a big leap.

On the women’s side I wasn’t as surprised by the big PB’s that Dayna Pidhoresky and Emily Setlack ran to break 2:30. When Emily ran 72 minutes at Philly I told a few people that day that she would run under 2:30 this fall. Dayna ran 71 back in 2011, the biggest surprise with her was that she hasn’t run 2:32-2:34 a couple times already.

I can’t really explain why my legs shut down as much as they did. I got all my bottles and estimate that I got over 40g/cho/hr, maybe even 50g/cho/hr. Going that far into a marathon at a pace that would make me really happy is motivating. That is one reason I’m happy with my result.

Another reason why I’m happy with the race is that I fought the whole way. There have been a few races in the past couple years where it was evident that I wasn’t going to have a great day and I didn’t dig that deep. Like in Philly, whats the difference between 65:15 and 65:47? I’m not going to be thrilled with either, why kill myself.

I’m also happy I set the Canadian Masters  Marathon record that was held by Derek Fernie at 2:19. In the past 8 weeks I’ve set the Canadian Master’s 10km (30:09), 10 Mile (49:13), Half marathon (65:47) and marathon (2:15:23) records.

 

Heading for the light

September 29, 2019

Today I ran the New Balance Waterfront 15km in Ajax and, I have to say, I felt great. I ran it as a workout, 12 x 1km hard with 250m “float” where I averaged 2:56 for the 1km repeats and around 3:30/km for the 250m float. That netted me 46:15 for 15km. Cool weather today was a relief after having a couple of my big efforts in September done in hot and humid conditions. Not Doha hot, not even close, but still hot enough to affect pace.

Rock ‘n Roll Philly Half on September 15th was a good effort and I have to be pleased with running 65:47 in hot conditions. The course is fast and I can see how one would run fast there under the right conditions. I felt really good that morning and found a nice pack early on and just focused on running with the pack and not looking at my watch.

As we approached 10km my pack had recently split apart and I saw my 10km split on the clock. I was expecting to see 31:00 so when I saw 30:32 I got excited and thought today was going to be alright in the heat. After that I was paying attention to my splits (to stay honest whilst running alone) and after 12km I kept getting slower and slower. I was catching up to a few athletes so it felt as though I was still moving ok but my pace kept suffering.

Seeing 65 on the clock was disappointing but once I saw the full results and talked to other athletes who thought they were going to run much faster it put things in perspective.

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Approaching finish line of Philly Half

On Wednesday I got a knock on the door at 6:30am after having just gone to the bathroom. That meant I had to drink a couple bottles of water and a couple cups of tea to produce a urine sample for the drug testers. After blood and urine samples completed I drove to Guelph for a my longest session of the build, (5km warm up, 26.2km marathon effort, 4km cool down).

During the 26km marathon effort my stomach didn’t feel great and I blamed it on the extra fluid I drank that morning. However when I got done my cool down I found out my son had puked up his breakfast that morning. Perhaps I had a little bug too? But I really didn’t feel that bad and still averaged 3:11/km for the 26km. I was hoping to average 3:09/km for that session so I really wasn’t that far off and it was a little warm.

That’s why it was sweet to run 46:15 for 15km today when I had expected to run about 47:00.

STWM should be an interesting race for the spectators. There are a lot more quality Canadian men than usual because of the trials nature of the race. I could see a big pack going out faster than 2:14 pace. Whereas usually there are only 1-4 athletes going out at that pace or faster.

Cam Levins, Tristan Woodfine, Trevor Hofbauer, Thomas Toth, Aaron Cooper, Rory Linkletter, Evan Esselink, Kevin Coffey, Sami Jibril, Chris Balestrini and Dylan Wykes. I might be forgetting someone right now but that is a lot of guys who have potential to run a fast marathon.

STWM OCT 20, three weeks to go!

Coming around

August 29, 2019

On August 3rd I ran the Beach to Beacon 10km in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. The race is fantastic and I highly recommend it, I had a great time. In fact, I was enjoying it so much I thought I’d take more of it in and stay out on the course a little longer (that’s a joke). I ran 30:45 for 10km and truthfully that was about 45 seconds slower than I thought I was going to run. I was rattled by my performance because I just couldn’t get it going that day. In the big picture I wasn’t too worried because I really felt I was just flat from upping my volume plus, I had another race in 3 weeks to turn the tables.

Right before the finish at Beach to Beacon. (I threw a few cups of water on myself during the race).

I started training for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon towards the end of July. Right before I started the build I took a few days off and went fishing with friends in Northern Ontario. As usual I crave some downtime, eating whatever and drinking beer. And then, as usual, I’m craving the hard training even more.

My second race in August was the Crim 10 Miler in Flint, Michigan. Also a very fun race, great atmosphere although not as scenic as Maine. My goal at Crim was to run a faster pace than Beach to Beacon. Luckily I found a good pack to run with so I never looked at my watch. Well, not until after 9 miles. I rolled with this chase pack, faded off from them up the hills around mile 5 and then caught back up with them. And then faded again around 8 miles to finish 14th.

I averaged 3:03/km (faster than Beach to Beacon) and ran my last two km at 3:01/km. Needless to say I was pretty happy with the way Crim went and was pleased to get the Canadian Masters record 49:13 (as long as I get the paperwork done). The nice weather at Crim certainly helped with the fast pace but more than that I was able to push into a gear that wasn’t available at Beach to Beacon. Simply getting used to 180km weeks made the biggest difference.

Right before the finish line at Crim

 

Next up is the Rock & Roll Philly Half on Sept 15th.

 

On the line Paul boasted that he once led the Crim.

 

He didn’t lead this year but he did get out hard and got in front of me. I think I passed him 100m into the race.

 

 

 

Worst blog ever

July 31, 2019

Whoa, July just zipped by! It was only after 8pm on July 31st that I realized I hadn’t wrote a blog this month. I thought about writing one earlier this month after I raced Edmonton but decided to put it off in hopes I’d have more to share by now… Should have written a blog a couple weeks ago.

Canada Running Series once again put on a stellar event at the LuluLemon 10km in Edmonton (July 7). My expectations going into the race weren’t high as it was only 6 weeks after the Ottawa marathon. I took a full week off running and then a very easy week after the marathon. I won the race in Edmonton the year before but I had a lot more time after my Spring marathon.

Early on during the 10km I felt as though I was holding onto the chase pack (Levins, Watson, Ballestrini, Coffey, Rawlings) and wasn’t even concerned about Essalink and Chesoo a few seconds up the road. Sometime before the halfway mark I put myself into the mix and started to feel better. My previous 3 races I had talked myself out of it for one reason or another and this time I started to tell myself “it’s just an early season race.” But I pushed those thoughts out of my head and found the fire to compete.

At 9km there was still Levins, Balestrini, Coffey and myself shooting for the last place on the podium. I started to push the pace hoping to drop anyone, or everyone. As we rounded the corner with less than 50m to go Levins went by me pretty quickly and I looked back, saw Balestrini and knew I had to keep on the gas or get passed. I held onto 4th place and was very pleased with the result. It had been quite a while since I surprised (a good surprise) myself in a race.

Since then my training has progressed well and I’m starting to raise my volume ahead of a fall marathon. In the meantime I have a couple races that I’m really looking forward to:

August 3rd – TD Beach to Beacon 10k

August 24th – Crim 10 Miler

Beach to Beacon will be my first race as a master. Although I like the idea of competing for an added prize money pool my ambitions to do well in the overall race are still my goal.

Ok, time to pack for my flight to Portland, ME tomorrow.

Like some cheese-eating high school boy

June 30, 2019

I re-watched the Ottawa marathon broadcast. I can’t believe how annoying it is to see myself always flicking sweat off my face.

On a hot run earlier this month I started to sweat and, consequently, flick sweat off my face. Then I tried to not touch my face. When a big drop of sweat is sitting on my face it’s like an itch and I automatically swipe it. It took all my mental fortitude to not touch my face and the instant something distracted me, (such as looking for traffic) I would wipe the sweat away. I think when I’m focused during a race that if I tried not to touch my face I’d lose focus on trying to go fast.

Anyways, recovery from Ottawa went well and I resumed running after a full week off. My first week was easy and then I started to ease into workouts. I still feel sluggish 5 weeks after the marathon (one week out from Edmonton Lululemon 10km) but each week I see improvement.

Last year I won Edmonton 10km but it was 12 weeks after Boston. 12 weeks and 6 weeks is a massive difference. Thankfully my training has gone smoothly and I hope to have a decent race and a kickstart to the rest of the summer season.

***

On a run last week I passed a group of high-school boys walking on the rail trail. About 100m later one of them was running beside me. He was wearing his school uniform and did not look like a runner.

Me: “Only 26km left.”

High-school kid: “You got something on your hat.” And flicked the top of my hat.

Me: “Showing off for your buddies, eh?”

HSK: “Actually, I get five bucks if I run beside you until the top of the hill.”

Me: “Hmmm, I’ll have to decide if you get to keep the five dollars or not.”

And then I picked up the pace for a few strides. He cockily smiled as he kept up. Five seconds later he realized he was in big trouble and the smirk quickly disappeared. I slowed back down and let him regain his composure. At that point we started to go up the hill and I had to slow down.

Me: “Maybe I’ll let you get the five bucks.”

HSK: Out-of-breath.

Me: “We’re crawling now and this is getting boring, I’m going to put you out of your misery” I then took 3 fast steps and realized he had nothing left. I felt for him so slowed way down for the final 20m of the hill.

Me: “Let me know when you’ve earned the five bucks.”

We crested the hill side-by-side.

HSK: “That’s…good….thanks”