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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”

Ottawa 2019

May 30, 2019

Last minute blog to maintain posting once a month. Here we go.

Running 2:17:37 at the Ottawa marathon was about four minutes slower than I originally wanted but it wasn’t all that bad. Here are the pros and cons.

Pros:

Training went really well. It was my best build-up since 2016.

I felt comfortable running ~3:10/km early in the race. In the past I’ve been able to feel a pace and figure out if that pace was sustainable or not.

I got all my bottles and consumed more carbs than planned. I’ve never done that before.

Ottawa was a really fun race and the crowd support was amazing.

First Canadian came with a good payday. 8th overall paid as well and added some bonus points towards world ranking.

Recovery went well and I felt like going for a run on Wednesday (I didn’t, I’ll wait a few more days).

Cons:

I didn’t change my planned pace even though it was 17C at the start and got hotter when the sun came out. I was too stubborn.

The humidity made it a tough day and I struggled to push really hard in the final 7km.

It was a little lonely out there, I only passed 2 runners throughout the race and once I caught them I didn’t see another runner as they were too far up the road.

Even with the bonus points for finishing 8th my time was too slow to really help with Olympic qualification.

The morning before and after the race the temps were cool and it was calm. I know that doesn’t make a difference for the actual race, but it somehow makes it more frustrating to think of what could have been.

***

On the topic of Olympic qualification. (Edited June 1st after I crunched numbers on IAAF.org again) I feel that it will take about 1120 points to be ranked high enough to make the Olympics. [I still have to calculate how many runners not ranked in the top 80 (3 per country) have achieved an auto standard of top 10 at WWM, top 5 at GL…]. That’s just a guess and to be safe I’m aiming for 1125 points. A 2:12:05 gets you 1125 points. If I had run 2:13:48 (1095 points) and finished 8th at Ottawa, the extra 30 placing points would have given me one performance at 1125 points.

Or, just get the auto 2:11:30. Right! haha

Running 2:11:30 doesn’t seem likely for me (unless training really improves in the next few months). However, I do feel that sub 2:13 is within my capabilities and that might be good enough if I can get two in that range with some placing points.

My last three races have been my slowest marathons of my life (Boston 2018, STWM 2018, Ottawa 2019) which is starting to screw with my head more than it should. I know why each race was slower than it could have been but I’m still guessing as to where my top-end lies.

I’ll have to wait about 5 months to have another crack at the marathon. In the meantime I’ll get after some shorter races and chase the Speed River guys to find some turnover.

 

Weather in Ottawa on Sunday was not ideal.

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Homecoming

April 29, 2019

A few people have already guessed this announcement: I’m planning on running Ottawa Marathon on May 26th!

In my last blog I wrote how I was pulling out of the Hamburg marathon because I was behind in my training. It was an easy decision for me because I knew that if I could get quickly back into training then I’d have plenty of time to prepare for Ottawa. When I was scheduling a Spring marathon my five possibilities were Hamburg, London, Prague, Ottawa and Boston. It made sense to race at the end of April because we planned a Feb/Mar/Apr training camp/vacation and Hamburg had a good pace option for me. But when that date was out the window it was a no-brainer to pick Ottawa.

After a couple of relatively low-key workouts in early April to get back into the groove things started to click again. I had a solid 60′ marathon-effort on April 19th (with coach DST following in a car with bottles) and then a few days ago I ran 4 x 5km and was pumped to have averaged 15:52. I’ve been running my fartlek sessions and long-runs with the Boulder Harriers and those have gone well, having people to push me has been very valuable. I’ve averaged about 180km/week the past four weeks and that seems to be my sweet spot these days. With one month until Ottawa I’m happy where my fitness is.

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4 x 5km on the “Honda Loop” in Boulder

10 years ago I ran my debut marathon in Ottawa (2:17:09). I’ve always wanted to head back but I’ve actually only run four Spring marathons since then (2013 Rotterdam DNF, 2014 London 2:13, 2015 Rotterdam 2:11, 2018 Boston 2:25 9th place). It’s funny to think how green I was to the marathon in 2009. The thing I remember most is being very curious as to what the final 12 kilometres were going to feel like, (spoiler: it hurt!!). I’d say my race in Ottawa was a success as I hit my goal (qualified for 2009 World Champs) and wanted to race another marathon. I’m heading back to Ottawa with a good feeling about the race.

Some funny things I wrote down 10 years ago in my post-Ottawa blog: The most I ran in a single week leading up to Ottawa was 145km. I only had two days where I ran twice in the same day, (but many days had a second x-trainign session). I only planned racing the marathon 6.5 weeks before race day. Due to breaking my foot the previous November, I only ran 96 of the 168 days leading up to the race and my first running workout was March 29th.

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2009 Ottawa Marathon

***

I finally made it to the infamous Magnolia Road last weekend for a long-run. It reminds me a lot of the hilly dirt roads around Iten, Kenya. Even though they are dirt roads the undulation beats your legs up plenty. Great marathon preparation and great views.

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Magnolia Road (photo: Max Paquette)