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When your ice bucket doubles as your puke bowl

November 21, 2017

I ended up running a marathon this year! Didn’t hear about it? I guess 2:37:51 isn’t exactly newsworthy. Good thing I have a blog where I can tell you all about it…

On November 12th I ran the Shanghai marathon along with 38,000 other runners. You’re probably wondering why I would run a marathon so soon and go all the way to Shanghai?.. You see, Shanghai Marathon is an IAAF Golden Label race and to maintain their status as such they need to have a certain amount of Gold Label athletes from a certain amount of countries. Having placed inside the top 25 in the Olympic marathon I am a Gold Label athlete. Otherwise the standards for Gold Label men are sub 28:00 10km, sub 1:01:00 half marathon and sub 2:10:00 marathon.

It’s actually a scramble to get 5 different countries on a start-list so races will invite Gold Label athletes even if they aren’t in PB shape. When I got an invite a few months ago I gambled that I would be in good enough shape by mid-November to tackle a marathon. Thankfully training has gone fairly well since mid-Septmeber.

This was a quick trip. I left Wednesday and arrived in Shanghai on Thursday at 4pm and was back in Hamilton by Monday evening.

When I arrived in Shanghai I saw a bunch of Ethiopian athletes (including my roommate from Rotterdam 2015 who finished 4th at 2016 World Half Champs) ahead of me in the hour-long customs line. On the other side I greeted a Chinese chaperone with some athletes. He told me this was not the Shanghai marathon group. I then spotted my name on a sign and met the greeters from the Shanghai marathon. There was a massive amount of Kenyans and Ethiopians around. I saw Terer, (who I trained with in Iten), and he was actually going to another race (in Nanjing). China is having a running boom by the way. I randomly talked to Canadian who is a principal at a local school for a while as we waited for some of the Ethiopians to clear customs (ones who were originally ahead of me in line).

That evening I ran, actually shuffled, around Shanghai a bit. 14 hour flights do a number on your legs. The next couple of nights I slept fine considering the 13-hour time difference and woke up at 4am. The second day my legs still felt like garbage and I did a bunch of 30 second strides to put some life into them. By Saturday my legs felt good on my short run and I was looking forward to going out with the leaders who were scheduled to chase 3:00/km.

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Running by some bamboo in a park.

Not being in Shanghai to run a PB gave me the freedom to walk and explore the city more than I would normally when I travel to a race. Ian Burrell, an american who finished 25th at the 2015 World Champs, was in the same boat as me so he came with me for an afternoon of sightseeing the day before the race. We went to Shanghai Tower, the second highest building in the world with the highest observation deck in the world. The elevator goes as fast as 64 km/h so we got to the 118th floor faster than it took to get to the 11th floor at the hotel. (I kept imagining a kid running his fingers down 118 floor buttons but there were only 3 buttons on this elevator). After that we checked out Nanjing Rd and then walked to Old Shanghai.

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View from 118th floor of Shanghai Tower (this observation deck is at 561m compared to 446 of the CN Tower)

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Looking down on the 9th tallest building in the world, Shanghai World Financial Center

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Nanjing Rd is a pedestrian only shopping street.

 

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Old City of Shanghai

 

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Not your typical pre-race food.

On race morning I set-out to cover 10km with the leaders but knew that I had to finish the race so not to kill myself if the pace felt too fast. I was able to settle into a pack of 12 or so Africans and ride the train. We seemed to be right on pace at every km and I felt good clicking along at 3:00/km. For some reason, perhaps the pacers thought they were behind schedule, the pace got quicker on the 10th km. I thought it was just me moving up from 12th in the pack to right behind the pacers. I went through 10km in 29:52 and then shifted into cruise control. Afterwards Stephen Mokoka (the eventual winner in 2:08) told me he got dropped on the 10th km as the pacers ran 2:48 and it took him a few km to catch back to the lead pack.

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I’m right in the middle, Stephen Mokoka to my right in the orange.

 

From 10km to 36km I ran about 4:00/km stopping twice, once for a bathroom break and once to grab a drink. At 36km I started to get tired and bored so I picked up the pace. The guys who were running around me at this point were competitive with me and I hoped to pull them along to the finish in the big stadium. I ended up letting one of them catch me at the line and I finished in 2:37:51 (2:36:25 on my watch).

As an aside… Off the start no one set out to run between 2:10 and 2:20. It was either the first pace group at 2:06 or slower than 2:20. Once I was done with the front group and started running 1 minute per km slower I was only passed twice in the next 6km, and it was by other guys who had fallen off the front group earlier than myself. I didn’t really want to go to China and run alone so it was all-or-nothing.

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The race started in the Bund area of Shanghai. Across the river is the Shanghai Tower.

I didn’t seem too beat-up from my effort even though it had been my longest run by about 10km this year. And although my 4th metatarsal was a bit sore it wasn’t too bad and it felt *normal the next time I went running. [My *normal for that 4th metatarsal and toe is not normal.]

After the race I explored the city a bunch more, both on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. Basically I would pick a spot to visit and then get off the subway a stop or two early and walk to my destination, hoping to get a little lost along the way. I find walking is usually good for recovery for me and I love to explore new places.

While I was away Louis and Marie went to Halifax to visit Marie’s family. On the flight there Louis got sick and threw-up all over Marie. Louis wasn’t feeling much better a couple days later so he went to the hospital where he was put on an IV because he was really dehydrated. In the hospital Marie ended up getting sick too. All the while I felt useless on the other side of the world. But they were troopers and they even made their flight on Monday evening.

When I picked them up from the airport on Monday night they were recovering but far from feeling healthy. By the time Wednesday rolled around they were feeling fine and I was glad I had dodged the sickness. (We had all got our seasonal flu shots a couple weeks prior in case anyone is wondering).

After decent runs on Tuesday and Wednesday I decided to do my first workout back on Thursday. I started off with some fartlek on the roads before I picked up my spikes and went to the park. I hadn’t worn spikes since National XC in 2015 and I got a new pair of NB XC5000’s as I need a bigger size now so my toe has more room. My first 4 minute interval went well and then early into a 1 minute interval I stepped on a stick hidden in the grass in a very awkward way and my ankle rolled right over. I knew it was bad the second it happened but the exact severity takes a minute to assess after you roll your ankle. After trying to walk it became clear to me that this wasn’t too bad (complete tear or break) but I wasn’t going to be running again that day, (or as it turned out the next few days).

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Beauty spikes!

 

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An hour after I sprained my ankle it felt much worse than it looked.

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A few days later my ankle looked much worse than it felt.

Thankfully I was about 600m from my house when this happened. I was able to hobble home all the while frustrated that my ambitions of running, or at least doing well at, National XC on November 25th were done.

Before Shanghai my plan at Nationals was to help the Speed River team-score, use the race as another fitness boost and have fun. After I surprised myself with the control of running 29:52 in Shanghai I figured if I had a couple of good workouts in my spikes I could mix it up with the front pack.

When I woke up Friday morning I was sick as a dog. I spent the next two days in bed eating very little and sweating through t-shirt after t-shirt. I kept on forgetting my ankle was busted-up until I would get out of bed and put weight on my feet. By Sunday I was feeling good enough to get outside for a walk. Walking didn’t aggrevate my ankle but any time I stretched it to the side there was a distinct pain.

On Monday I went running, I was still really weak and my ankle felt manageable running slowly. Today (Tuesday) my ankle felt much better and my overall strength is coming back. At this pace I should be able to try some 1 and 2 minute intervals tomorrow to test out the ankle. And then hopefully recover some more strength and get some more mobility in my ankle by Saturday.

I’m pretty sure at this point I’ll race in Kingston this weekend but I’m definitely back to my pre-Shanghai goal of trying to help the Speed River team-score if I can. It seems 2017 is trying it’s hardest to prevent me from having a decent result but there’s still a race on Boxing Day in my neighbourhood. Probably going to be a blizzard that day, haha.

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