The sun can’t shine everyday
It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog (I’ve been busy with a couple other writing projects) so I’ll try and write a quick update leading up to the Cardiff World Half Champs. Basically this is where I lay the ground work for excuses.
Kenya was very productive for me in terms of training. I wasn’t all that fit when I went there and had a slow adjustment period but after two weeks things really clicked. The sessions got better and I started to feel really good. My aspirations for Cardiff were sky-high and I was confident I would run a PB, hopefully challenging for a top-20 finish.
My last track session in Kenya on March 3rd I ran 7 x 1000m with ~2:15 rest (2:55 average), 8 x 600m with ~3:25 rest (1:43 average) with a select group of runners. These guys were doing 15 x 1000m and I hoped to do 10 with them. I started to lose the pack on #7 and decided it was better to run with them instead of getting gapped so I switched to 600m intervals. I was able to handle 600m well and they asked me to lead the last two intervals. I finished that workout feeling really good about my fitness.
Two days later I ran a fartlek of 25 x 1 min hard/1 min easy. During that workout my right low-back was tight, it felt as though my right SI joint was stuck. I didn’t think much of it and got a massage that afternoon.
The next day I flew home. 45 minute flight to Nairobi. 2 hour flight to Addis Ababa. And then 17 hours from Addis to Toronto with a fuel stop in Dublin. The crappy part about the fuel stop is you don’t get off the plane.
That 17 hour flight did me in. My back felt really locked up on Saturday morning when I landed in Toronto. I had an easy run that afternoon which didn’t feel great, especially my right hamstring. On Sunday I ran 30km and by the end of the run I felt pretty wrecked, right hip, right hammy and right low-back all a big mess. On Monday I got physio and chiro and put off my workout two days to let things settle. This was also the day I declared for the World Half team, fully thinking that this tightness and would be gone by the end of the week.
I was hoping to make some gains at sea-level between Kenya and Cardiff but all I could do was try and maintain fitness. Every run was uncomfortable but I did seem to be getting better and I thought once I tapered I could be fine. My sessions weren’t that bad either. I had to hold back a little but I still hit good paces.
My confidence in that time period eroded. I went from ambitious goals to that of proving fitness for Athletics Canada towards Olympic selection. From my last week in Kenya until race week my time-goal slowed by two full minutes.
Finally on race day, less than 10 minutes before the start, I had a couple of strides that didn’t feel all that bad. Adrenaline was working it’s magic. There was still hope!
On the start line I went right to the back because accelerating off the line has felt horrible lately. When the gun went off a few guys from the mass participation field passed me but by 500m I was moving up through the championship field.
By 3km I was in a solid pack and starting to feel better than I have in a few weeks. I was very optimistic that I could have a decent day given how I was feeling. In a windy stretch around 4km I was doing some of the leading into the wind as, aerobically, I felt quite comfortable at that pace. I was tempted to try and bridge the gap to the next pack but I also knew I should not push too hard too early.
Our pack came apart by 7 or 8km and I was trailing a bunch of the guys but still feeling OK. I passed 10km around 29:53 and knew that my fitness was good enough to sustain this pace and probably pick it up off the back end.
As I was running, unbeknownst to me, my timing chip was not working at all and people tracking the race were getting zero splits for me. I told a few people before the race that if I felt as though I was doing bad damage that I would stop running. The team staff all assumed, and rightly so, that I had dropped before the 5km mark as chips rarely malfunction.
Around 15km I started to feel uncomfortable, mainly my hip and low-back. My hamstring never felt great but it didn’t get too much worse. I kept trying positive self-talk knowing it wasn’t that far to the finish. Each passing kilometre things got significantly worse, both in terms of weather (rain and wind picked up) and my body.
By 18km I wanted to stop but I knew I would fight to finish. The three main reasons why I was determined to stay in the race were: 1) I hate dropping out (I’ve only done it twice). 2) Knowing my 15km split I thought I was still 0n pace to prove fitness for Olympic selection. And 3) this was a national team event with 3 to count for team scoring.
Jared Ward from the U.S. passed me around 18km and as we were going up a hill I felt a little better and it was nice to have someone to key off of. Once we were on flatter ground he ran away from me. The wind started to thrash us and the two athletes up ahead of me were still coming back to me which gave me a little more fight. At the same time a pack of 5-6 guys working together came up behind me. In the final kilometre guys started to ramp it up and I felt too uncomfortable pick it up. The last 500m were quite painful on my body.
Finishing 38th in 64:56 was a bummer of a result but given how my body was feeling I couldn’t have asked for much more. In fact I held it together better than I thought I would for the first 15km. Considering that on Thursday I did 3 x 2 minutes and by the end of the second interval I was hurting I’m surprised how much better I felt on race day. That is partly due to the great job of team Canada physiotherapist and massage therapist Brenda and Casey.
At the finish line I was notified that I was selected for drug-testing. Seems as though they had selected me before the race started. The guy who found me probably wondered why they picked a guy who ended up 38th.
What a frustrating race for me because it could have easily have been a much better experience for me. The course was really good and there were a lot of guys I would normally like to be competitive with. I like championship racing and a half marathon is a great distance for me. Had it not been a national team event a week or two before Cardiff I probably would have chosen to do different half marathon later in the Spring. Rob Watson and Brandon Lord also had rough days and we finished 12th as a team. The Canadian girls, on the other hand, all raced well and earned an impressive 6th place team result!!
My plan was to race the Sun Run 10km April 17th, a race I’ve been wanting to do for years. Instead I will take this week off, get some therapy and see where that leads me. The encouraging thing is that I would see improvement when I took one day off. I just didn’t have the luxury of taking more days off with Cardiff approaching. Now I’ll take the time and get healthy with a big year ahead of me.