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Mountains Beyond Mountains

February 28, 2019

The drive to Boulder, CO went fairly smooth. After a few days at my parent’s house in Michigan we spent three days on the road. Each day on the road typically went like this: 22km morning run. Stretch, shower, play with kids. Lunch. Pack car just after noon and start driving. Drive three hours, kids typically slept that block. Stop at random public library (great place to stretch legs and kids can play with toys). Another two hours of driving. Dinner stop. Try and drive another hour or so until we get to a hotel.

That schedule made the 19 hour drive manageable.

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One of the first things I noticed about Boulder is the amount of athletes and outdoor enthusiasts here. On our third day here Marie and the kids met up with a group of moms that do hikes. We drove to the parking lot where the mom group was meeting and there were guys doing strides, getting ready for a workout. I noticed the coach was Lee Troop (2:09 Aussie marathoner) and went over to say hi. I started my own run and then a couple km later I saw another group of athletes doing a fartlek workout. I noticed Kathy Butler (Canadian/British Olympian) and stopped to talk to her for a bit. Both Lee and Kathy were very welcoming and had some good advice. Towards the end of my run I passed the Roots Running group, another elite run team here in Boulder.

On top of all the elite running groups there are a lot of people biking and running on the sprawling trail network. Apparently they are having a cold February and you’ll see a LOT more bikes once the weather is a bit nicer.

A week into Boulder I had a epic long run. I met up with Dewi Griffiths (2:09 Welsh marathoner) who was finishing up his training camp in Boulder. He stays with Steve Jones (2:07 Welsh Marathoner) and trains with Jonesy’s group, The Boulder Harriers. We set off for a 35km run and after a few km we started to head up the mountain (Boulder Canyon). We kept climbing (Four Mile Road) and then the road got really steep (Poormans). By this point the six of us were spread out and I was losing contact to Dewi. I looked up and thought “there might be another 4 or 5km of this” and started to slow drastically in order to survive. At that point Matt Hensley (not the skateboarder) passed me and let me know the climb was done in about 300m. After we crested the top we headed back down (Sunshine Canyon) and then Dewi and I ran the last 10km out towards the reservoir and back at a pretty good clip.

The hilly runs will be good to toughen up the legs for my next marathon (more about that below). I did another pretty hilly run (Lions Lair) with Tyler McCandless (2:12 marathon) on Monday and then yesterday’s run with Luis Orta (63:09 Half) and Jeff Eggleston (2:10 marathon) still had some good climbs.

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Parking lot shot before heading up Lions Lair (Mt Sanitas)

As I mentioned, it’s been pretty cold here but we’ve also had a few days around 13C. With the mountains so close and lots of great hikes we’ve been trying to get out but it’s been a little cold most of the time for long hikes with the kids. When we have gone on a hike I’ve counted it as a weight session as I have Louis on my back most of the way.

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One day we drove up Magnolia Drive (made famous from Running with the Buffaloes) and had lunch in the mountain town of Nederland. The first 8km or so of Magnolia is VERY steep, the mini-van was working hard. After the killer part it’s rolling with decent climbs. When I asked some of the runners if people actually run the first section I found out that it’s pretty much only trail runners and people who don’t know that it’s customary to start at the 5 mile mark (once the road is unpaved and has levelled off some).

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The start of Magnolia Drive.

As I mentioned, I’m here preparing for a marathon. Specifically, the Hamburg Marathon on April 28th. I picked Hamburg because it’s known as a pretty fast course and they are supposed to have a 2:12-2:13 group. Although nothing in my training so far points towards 2:13 I’m happy with how my body is feeling. I think that once I’m acclimated to the altitude and I have some solid weeks under my belt that I’ll be able to progress. We will see where that progress takes me and what type of goal time I’ll end up choosing two weeks out from race day.

Theoretically by race day I’ll know what the Athletics Canada standard for the Olympics will be. If that standard seems faster than what I’m ready for I’ll most likely shoot for it anyways.

Thanks again for tuning in.

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2019 – Goals and Resolutions

January 21, 2019

Now that it’s 2019 it means the qualifying window for the 2020 Olympics is now open. Tokyo is the big goal. The lure of the Olympics is definitely the reason I’m training as hard as I am. Of course there are short term goals, but those all tie into the Olympics.

I have three New year’s resolutions: sleep more, blog more and focus more on the “extras.” Now that Elodie is approaching 8 months our sleep is getting a little less interrupted and I’m getting into a better routine. The better routine should allow me to accomplish my resolution goals.

If you’re wondering what the “extras” are… well that’s lifting weights, drills and core work that go hand-in-hand with running. I haven’t lifted weights for many years but I feel the need to now and started to lift in December (squats and deadlifts). I’ve been inconsistent with drills and core in the past 2 years and I need to be on top of that stuff.

With sleep so important to runners (and especially ageing marathoners) I wanted to upgrade to a king size mattress to accommodate the kids crawling into bed. Luckily I was able to partner up with Recore, (by Goodmorning.com) a Canadian made mattress. It’s really comfortable and I have had great sleeps since using it. I was a little worried that a foam mattress would be hotter but it’s made with graphite-infused foam that disperses heat and has vertical air channels to allow air flow. And if I didn’t like it, well there’s a 120-night trial where you’re able to send it back, free.

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Another reason it works well for us is that the top cover zips off easily for laundry and is made with antimicrobial fabric. Plus, with it’s latex construction there is very little motion transfer, which means Louis can be jumping on the bed and I barely notice.

I’m excited to say that I’m going to continue to represent New Balance in 2019. The shoes continue to work really well for me. I use the 890 for the bulk of my running, 1500 for tempo and intervals, 1400 for intervals and racing and the Hanzo to race 10km. Plus I use the 910 and Summit Unknown trail shoes for snowy weather and technical trails.

I’m also going to keep using Endurance Tap to fuel my marathons. I’ve been using Endurance Tap for years and will start using it more during my marathons.

***

There are two big things coming up: A 10-week training camp leading up to a Spring marathon. Unfortunately I don’t have anything to report on the marathon front as I’m still finalizing details and even when I have that confirmed I will probably have to wait for the official announcement date.

The training will take place in Boulder, CO. I’ve never been to Boulder but have heard great things about it and have wanted to go there for years. One of the reasons we picked Boulder is that the whole family is driving there and it’s significantly closer than other altitude locations I was considering. As in two days less of driving!

We will spend some time in Michigan with my parents and then make the rest of the journey from there. The drive from Michigan is about 19 hours and with two kids (plus fitting in a run each day) we will want to spread the driving over four days.

***

Athletics Canada sent out a High Performance Newsletter email the other day that had a very interesting piece of news in it: The first Canadian man and woman at STWM 2019 will automatically be selected to the 2020 Olympic marathon team (as long as that athlete achieves the IAAF and AC standard for the Olympics).

I like this idea and it should make the race that much more exciting. On the men’s side if Cam goes and runs even faster than last year it might not really make any difference, but cool nonetheless. However, on the women’s side the auto-selection could be very interesting and exciting. There are many more women than men in Canada right now with Olympic qualifying potential . The IAAF marathon standards for the 2019 World Champs are 2:16 for the men and 2:37 for the women. In the past year there have been 2 men under that time (Levins and Woodfine) but there are 8(!) women under 2:37 (Cliff, Tessier, Middleton, Elmore, Gollish, Myrand, Sexton and Duchene).

There are drawbacks to allowing auto-spots coming from a race that also includes many other elites from other countries. Anyone could recruit other runners to act like pacemakers. Once again, this is more relevant to the women as they could easily recruit men running in the 2:26-2:37 range to help them out. Picture a woman running behind 3 men in a “V” position for 42km snagging that spot.

Also, someone like Cam Levins, who should easily qualify for Tokyo may want to race Worlds in Doha (both STWM and Doha are in October). What would prepare Cam better for the Tokyo Olympics? Another paced marathon in cool temps (he’s running London this April) or, running a championship race in hot conditions? (Tokyo is forecasted to be very hot) Otherwise Tokyo will be his first championship marathon and probably his first hot marathon. Having only 1 auto-spot at STWM will give athletes an opportunity to run Worlds in October if they should desire to do so. If it sounds as though I’m trying to convince Cam to race Doha to give me a shot at the qualifying spot you’re only half right, haha.

The IAAF standards for the 2020 Olympics are supposed to come out in March and AC said they would follow shortly thereafter with their standards. Will IAAF keep to their word and use a World Ranking system to get to 80 entrants in the marathon or will they revert to a time standard like they did for WC 2019?

In the meantime it doesn’t really matter what the standard is, I will keep training to run as fast as I can in the marathon this Spring and see where that lands me. At least I should know the standard before I toe the line.

***

Boxing Day 10 miler in Hamilton went well. I ran 49:37 for 16km (yes, I believe the course to be about 90 metres short) for fourth place. Going into the race I wanted to average 3:03/km and I ended up with 3:06/km. The conditions were good this year and the field was even more competitive than last year. There was a group of 6 of us through 4 miles when Ben Priesner and Wendimu Adamu faded off the back. I fell off the trio of Matt Hughes, Tristan Woodfine and Mike Take 800 metres later. At the halfway mark I was only about 5 seconds back from them but after a couple of corners and a downhill I was destined for fourth as I lost a lot of ground very quickly. Those 3 guys all beat the old course record and I hope they all run fast in 2019 to put my ass-kicking into perspective. (Tristan just chopped 3 and half minutes off his marathon PB in Houston yesterday with a 2:15).

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I analyzed that race a lot in the days afterwards because I couldn’t decide if it was good or bad (spoiler alert: neither). If I had averaged 4 seconds per km faster (3:02/km) I would feel as though I was ready to PB in the marathon this Spring. Had I run 4 seconds per km slower (3:10/km) I would be very worried about my fitness. It’s funny how such small differences can mean a lot in this sport.

Since then I’ve been plagued with a cold that will just not go away. I’ve backed off my intensity until I kick this thing. That means I’ve cut some workouts out and reduced others to 12 minutes of work. A few days ago, feeling a bit better, I did 7 x 3 minutes and that went alright. Usually I would be between 30-60 minutes of work at this time in my training. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise and I’ll have less wear on the body going into marathon training.

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https://www.goodmorning.com

Am I getting too old?

October 22, 2018

 

I keep asking myself if I’m too old to expect marathon results under 2:12. It’s a fair question at 39 years old. Yes, there are examples of marathoners around my age who have continued to excel, but there are many more examples of marathoners whose performances declined before 39.

As much as I try and think about my body’s ability to train and race I also try and not focus on age and convince myself I can still race at a high level.

2018 Boston marathon was my first serious marathon in 16 months and I thought it was going to tell me a lot about what I could do in a marathon. With treacherous weather the last 15km wasn’t about fitness, it was about survival. I finished that race and had little information about what I could really do in a marathon.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 21st was going to be the race where I really got to test my marathon capabilities. Coming almost 14 months after I resumed training from my 2017 foot injury I felt that was enough time to gain back anything I lost from taking six months off running.

After Boston I focused on 10km training and did 7 races culminating in the Edmonton 10km on July 22nd. I was pleased with how training went and I was ready for the marathon build-up.

August went smoothly and I was building up my weekly volume to 200km. I raced the Mexico City marathon on August 26th. I usually run the marathon distance in my build so I thought why not race a 2:25 or so. I ran 2:27 after fading towards the end. I was perplexed why I slowed down when the pace seemed very comfortable for so long. Not having any appetite for 5 hours and then finally eating some soup broth, which I threw-up 5 minutes later made it clear I picked up a bug.

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The flight back the next day wasn’t comfortable, having to go to the bathroom every hour or so. Another day of messed up stomach followed before I could resume running. When I finally felt alright on the Thursday I twisted my ankle. At first I thought it was really bad but I only missed a couple of runs.

Despite a sore throat and sinus infection September went well and I was making good progress. I did a couple more races (Rochester Half 67:31 and Ajax 15km) and was pleased with the results. And then on October 2nd I got quite sick, missed some running and dealt with GI issues for quite some time.

The first workout back I tried was a ‘progression’ run starting at 3:15/km. I ran 2km around 3:15/km and then turned it into a ‘regression’ run. After km splits of 3:21, 3:25, and 3:28 I called it quits after 5km. I was struggling hard and realized my GI issues were affecting me more than I thought. This was 2 weeks to the day before STWM and there was no way I would have been able to break 2:45 in the marathon that day.

4 days later I had very low expectations for an interval session but it actually went alright. I ran 1200m intervals averaging 3:25 (2:51/km) and felt I was over the worst of the sickness. And all of a sudden it was time to taper.

The final week I felt good enough and was hoping I could run under 2:14 at STWM. There was a pacer going for 2:13:00 and I was the only one in the marathon looking to go with him.

I felt really comfortable for the first 10km (31:48) after going out a little conservative for the first few km. When I hit halfway in 1:07:16 I still felt an even split was in the cards despite the second half of the course being a little tougher with more turns and a couple trips over the highway overpass.

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Feeling pretty good at this point. Maybe around 18km?

 

I hit 30km in 1:36:06, which is right on 2:15 pace. 2:15 was my secondary goal because if you run slower than 2:15 prize money gets deducted by 50%. However, my legs started to fatigue and slow around 30km and I felt things slipping away.

A few times along the course it doubled back and I could see the leaders, then Cam’s (Cam Levins) group and then behind me I could see the rest of the Canadians. I could tell when I doubled back at the ~33km mark that the Canadians were gaining and I was fading from Cam’s group.

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Not feeling good at this point. Around 34km

The pacer, Nicholas Kipkemboi, made it to the 35km mark and at that point I tried to pick up the pace, knowing I was going to need a fantastic last 7km if I were to break 2:15:00. But my legs felt useless and I wasn’t able to maintain a decent pace and fell right back into ~3:20/km. I hit 40km in 2:10:04 and knew that if I ran really poorly that I wouldn’t break 2:18:00 (you lose 75% of your prize money if you don’t break 2:18). So I picked it up a bit for the next 1 km and then knew I was safely going to be under 2:18 and ran the rest of the way taking in the atmosphere.

Right when I crossed the line I asked Alan Brookes (race director) how Cam ran. He ran 2:09:24 to break Jerome Drayton’s national record! It was cool to be in the race where it got broken. Had someone broken it a few years ago when I was really close it would have been a tough pill to swallow. But knowing Cam’s talent and training volume I thought he had a good chance to do it. If not in his debut then probably the next race. And given that I wasn’t even in close to great shape there was nothing I could do about it.

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I’m not sure how I feel about my race. I ran 2:17:37, finished as the second Canadian and 10th overall. It’s not the result I was hoping for but it wasn’t a complete disaster and had the race been 10 days earlier, it would have likely been a complete disaster. I really don’t know how much my health impacted me yesterday. My age, motivation to dig deep, training leading up to the race and my health all had something to do with yesterday’s performance and I don’t know how much each contributed. I need to have a smoother build and be in good health to assess those other factors more accurately.

Some people asked me if I would not race STWM, get some more training in and target another race later this year. I wasn’t interested in doing that for a few reasons. First of all given that I had a few setbacks, even with a few more weeks of training there was a good chance I wasn’t going to have a great race. Sure, maybe better than 2:17 but nothing big. Also, I still don’t quite feel 100% healthy so I think I need to take a break and let my body recover. I want to get healthy and have plenty of time to get ready for 2019. Stretching this build into December wouldn’t put me in as good of a position for a Spring marathon.

Most of all I wanted to race STWM. I haven’t raced it since 2011 and I’ve wanted to race it plenty of times since then. I had a great experience this year and really enjoyed racing a local marathon that is a premiere marathon in the world. The support from my fellow runners and fans along the course is unbelievable. My family was able to watch me and I even gave Louis a high-five at the 20km mark.

One of the most important things in continuing to stay in the game here is to be injury free. And I have felt really good this build-up. I’ve been able to enjoy my runs pain-free (which wasn’t the case before Boston) and I feel as though I’m moving well. That means I’m at least in a position to train hard and see what I can do.

First thing on the agenda is to get healthy. Next month I’ll plan a Spring marathon and hopefully get that confirmed in December or January. I will likely only race one more time this year, the Hamilton Boxing Day 10 miler. The IAAF will release details about 2020 Olympic qualification in November and hopefully Athletics Canada will release their standards by January when performances towards 2020 will start to count.

Some vids from Canadian Running:

 

 

 

Here Comes the Rain

May 14, 2018

Here’s where I make excuses for why a Boston Marathon post has taken me a month to write… After Boston Marie, Louis and I went to Halifax to visit Marie’s family. With baby #2 on the way that was the last week Marie should fly. Once we got back I started to catch up on the chores I put off before Boston. We bought a mini-van (and, if you’re in the market, we’re selling our 2014 Jetta) and are getting ready for the new arrival.

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It seemed as though there were two prevailing fears in terms of clothing choices heading into the Boston Marathon. On one hand you didn’t want to wear too much clothing and be weighed down with wet gear. On the other hand you wanted to wear enough layers (or the proper ones) that you would’t get too cold. The forecast was calling for rain and depending on how much rain fell in the race you could easily over-dress or underdress, there’s a fine line.

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A temperature of 5C for a marathon is pretty good. But with a stiff headwind and driving rain it would mean 5C would feel a LOT colder. I don’t think any of the other elites had raced a marathon in such conditions before.

As I was doing a light jog to warm-up in Hopkinton before the race the rain wasn’t too bad. That was until the gun went off for the women’s race (about 30 minutes before the men and masses). The rain got heavier and heavier throughout the morning.

The race organizers handed out extra numbers to all the elite competitors to give us the opportunity to wear a jacket and if we wanted to take if off mid-race we’d still have numbers on our gear. I chose to put my extra number on a lightweight jacket. Beneath it I was wearing two singlets and for shorts I had a pair of half tights and a base layer half tight underneath. I put lots of vaseline on my exposed quads, knees, hammys and calves and wore a hat to keep rain out of my eyes.

I really didn’t care that the weather was brutal because I wasn’t chasing a time, only place and I figured training in the Canadian winter would have prepared me better than many of the other guys. It added another dimension to the race and in my opinion made it more interesting. Not that the Boston course needs anything else to help shake it up. The hills are enough to make it more interesting than a time-trial type race.

Right off the bat Yuki Kawauchi went to the front and pressed the pace. He gapped everyone and very early on I was sitting in the top 5. By 1km I was in a big pack and already soaked. A few km later the big pack (with Yuki still ahead of everyone by a bit) split into two. I was near the back and as I looked to see who was forming this pack I decided to stay put. There were two guys who have run 2:08 (Lusapho and Gabius) and another 2:10 guy (Vail) plus three americans in the 2:11-2:13 range (Elkanah, Scott Smith, Bumbalough). There were about 15 guys in the first pack that slowly moved away from us.

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Soaked and cold. Photorun.net

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Elkanah was doing at least 90% of the leading in our group. I went to the front a few times to help push the pace along. The wind was stiff which made leading hard but the other thing I really noticed was that it made me much colder. My pulls at the front would only last a minute or two and then I’d tuck back in and feel much more comfortable. I felt bad for not helping out much but there were guys in the pack doing less than me and I wasn’t concerned with time.

Our 10k split of 30:40 surprised me because with the wind and my effort I wasn’t expecting to be under 31:00. However the course is primarily downhill for the first bit.

Our pace kept getting slower and slower and we kept losing guys from our pack. Ryan Vail told me that his hands were too cold to pick up his bottles and that he was screwed. A few km later he drifted off the pack. By 25km there was Elkanah, Bumbalough, Scott Smith and myself left in our group. Not too long after Typer Pennel and Tim Ritchie caught our group and pushed the pace. I fell off a bit and then pushed to get back on the back. This happened again but the third time I lost contact I never got back on.

Once I was running alone I felt the wind a lot more and the uphills were coming one after the other. I was getting cold and it was miserable to have lost the momentum of that pack. My stride was choppy because my muscles were sore and my pace was getting much slower. I kept expecting people to start passing me.

Instead I started to pass other guys. First I passed back Tim Ritchie and then not too long after I passed Abdi Abdirahman up heartbreak hill. I kept slowing down and slowing down and I was getting colder and colder. I knew the fastest way to get back to my hotel room was to finish the race. Also, I had the feeling I was getting into the top 15 as I passed a couple more runners.

I never took my jacket off throughout the whole race and towards the end I thought maybe I had to show my bib with my last name across the line so I unzipped it a bit but quickly zipped it back up to retain as much heat as possible. I also threw my hat off with a few hundred metres to go, I’m not sure why.

When I crossed the line I was happy to be done and get warm. Derek Myke from John Hancock elite team helped me out and told me that Krista had finished 3rd. My response was “third master?” and he said, “no, third overall.” Krista was aiming to do well in the masters division and wasn’t even really talking about top 10, third place is amazing! I also had no clue about my place but judging from my finish time I figured I couldn’t have improved much other than the few guys I passed in the last 15k.

I got to the hotel pretty quickly and got into some dry clothes and was drinking hot chicken broth when I finally saw some results that Dan Lilot handed me. I was shocked to see that I had finished 9th and that the guys I had been running with finished 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th. Our second pack, that was occupying places 16-22 past halfway, ended up with 5 in the top 9!

Many guys dropped out on the course and headed directly into a medical tent for warmth, hence why I didn’t pass them on the course. I was ranked 17th going in and was aiming for a top 10 finish. In the end I don’t care that I ‘only’ ran 2:25:02 because place was my primary goal.

It seemed some athletes froze and couldn’t continue on and others weren’t as bothered by the conditions. Then there were athletes like myself who fell in between. I froze out there and was reduced to a shuffle but it came on late enough in the race that I was able to get to the finish line.

All-in-all an incredible experience from the great hospitality and organization of the Boston Marathon and John Hancock Elite Team to the battle we had to wage against the weather.

I really thought that after Boston I would have an idea of what kind of marathon shape I was in and what to focus on this fall. However I was not able to test my marathon fitness in the last 12km as it was the elements that I had to battle. I could have been in worse shape and dressed better for the race and placed just as well.

I was really sore for two days after the race. Usually when I get really sore it’s my calves or my quads or my hips. This time it was every muscle in my legs. The downhill nature of the course most likely had something to do with it but I think the main culprit was the cold rain. It was as though I was running hard on muscles that weren’t properly warmed-up. After a week off I started to run lightly and one month since race day I’m feeling pretty good.

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Award ceremony

***

In the next few months I’m going to focus on 10k races and see what kind of shape I can get in. I’m also going to race more and use local races to help my training. Next up is the MEC Burlington 10k on May 19th.

If you’re in the Hamilton area come out to Lower City Runners group run on May 22. We’re meeting at City Hall at 7pm. There will be easy 3k and 6k runs ending at Merit Brewery where the first beer is on the house. Free run and good company.

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2018 Boston Marathon Results

1 Kawauchi, Yuki 2:15:58 JPN
2 Kirui, Geoffrey 2:18:23 KEN
3 Biwott, Shadrack 2:18:35 USA
4 Pennel, Tyler 2:18:57 USA
5 Bumbalough, Andrew 2:19:52 USA
6 Smith, Scott 2:21:47 USA
7 Nageeye, Abdi 2:23:16 NED
8 Kibet, Elkanah 2:23:37 USA
9 Coolsaet, Reid 2:25:02 CAN
10 Vassallo, Daniel 2:27:50 USA
11 Daly, Daniel 2:27:54 USA
12 Herzig, Matthew 2:27:55 USA
13 Zywicki, Benjamin 2:28:02 USA
14 Sambu, Stephen 2:28:07 KEN
15 Abdirahman, Abdi 2:28:18 USA

 

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60% of the John Hancock Elites dropped out of the race and yet 95% of the rest of the field finished. It’s a big discrepancy but there is good reason.

Yes, many elites underdressed for fear of being weighed down by wet clothes and many of the elites are very thin and probably get affected by cold rain more severely. But the real factor is the motivation.

Elite athletes aren’t looking simply for a finish. They are looking for a good result and to get paid. It’s not as though the elites have gone out and bought a Boston Marathon jacket that they would not want to wear around if they had dropped out. The masses came to Boston to run well, yes, but finishing is higher up their list than most elites once a slow time is inevitable.

Many of the elite contracts say something along the lines of “if you don’t break 2:15 then your appearance money gets cut in half.” Financially speaking, not making a time cut-off and dropping out nets you the same amount of appearance money. Once you know you’re not going to finish under your pre-determined time cut-off, and you’re not in the prize money, and you’re going to have a slow time beside your name. Then you might as well save yourself for another day.

NB Chilly Half

March 6, 2018

It’s March 6th and this is my first blog of 2018. Pretty lame, I know. I’m just happy I remembered my WordPress password.

There are two main reasons why I haven’t written in a 3+ months. If I have free time (which there is less of now) I find that I don’t like to sit and that I need to be doing some self-therapy. This comes in the form of foam rollers and balls of different sizes and densities.

The other reason is that I didn’t want to blog about reasons I didn’t race up to my fitness, again.

In my last blog I was buttering up my excuses for the upcoming National XC meet. That ended up going about as well/mediocre as I thought; 9th place and didn’t mix it up at the front of the race. I did help Speed River win another senior men’s title, that was cool. And the race itself was a lot of fun, that Fort Henry course makes for a great XC race.

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Speed River senior men’s team

After that it was the Boxing Day 10 miler in Hamilton. It was -11C and felt much colder with the windchill. I was training through that race and didn’t pick the right footwear. I ended up 3rd in 51:45 (behind Matt Hughes and Ross Proudfoot and just ahead of Ben Preisner). I figured that I would just wait until after Houston Half Marathon (mid-January) to write about a race I was peaking for and represented my fitness.

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Photo: Luca Simpson

On Thursday before Houston I puked everything up on my run and couldn’t eat anything that day except a little soup broth before bed. I was already in North Carolina (Marie’s work convention) so decided to keep rolling with the trip and hope that it would pass. I actually felt pretty good by Saturday night and thought the race would go alright.

I felt good for about 3km in Houston. After that my stomach was bad but thought I could tough it out, it would be uncomfortable but my legs would be fine. Not the case, by 7km I was hurting and whatever bug I had was still affecting me. I threw in the towel around 10km and hit a port-o-potty shortly after. I just wanted to get back so I jogged the rest of the course knowing that would be the fastest way back to the hotel. Only one quick puke around 14km and then brought it home in 1:14 or something.

2018 Houston Marathon Weekend

Photo: Victor Sailer

It took me many hours after the race to get my appetite and then I finally had some pizza. I spent that evening on the toilet, in agony.

I’ve been sick (throw-up type sick) twice in the past 8-9 years, this past November and January. And I didn’t feel like writing about a string of crappy races so I said I would just wait until I run a race that reflected my fitness before I post a blog. That brings me to this past weekend at the New Balance Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington.

The NB Chilly Half fell about 6 weeks before the Boston marathon. I’ve been happy enough with how my training for Boston is progressing. I’m certainly behind (in terms of speed fitness) where I’ve been in past marathons but I’m also seeing bigger gains every week than I normally see throughout a marathon build-up.

Heading into Chilly Half I was hoping to be around 64:00 in good conditions. I ran 63:37 there in 2015 in similar temps (hovering around 0c) and secretly hoped I’d feel great in the second half and break 64:00 again.

I’ve been doing a few workouts with Evan Esselink (link to his blog), Robert Winslow and Hussein Hashi in Guelph and convinced Evan it would be good to get some Half marathon pace work on a closed course ahead of the World Half Marathon Champs March 24 (his next big race).

Evan ended up pacing me for 8km, into a headwind after 2.5km (thanks again Evan!). I pushed through the rest of the headwind and made the 180 turn at 13km having averaged 3:06/km up until that point. I wanted to run 3:03 on the way home and managed 3:04/km. Given the wind I would have been happy in the 64:40 range but had to settle with 65:15.

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photo: Night Terrors Run Crew

At first I was a little put-off to not have broken 65:00. However, I averaged 3:05/km for 21.1km and I have not done anything on that level for 15 months. I believe this will help me reach a new level in training. Also, I wasn’t sore after the race and recovery was incredibly quick. Which is good in terms of my legs being marathon tough (especially ahead of a hilly Boston course) but maybe not in terms of how hard I pushed myself.

Moving forward… I plan on using Around the Bay 30k as a training run ahead of Boston. I don’t want to risk racing 30km hard only 3 weeks ahead of Boston so I’m going to break it up and get in about 24km of marathon pace.

And then my first Boston Marathon April 16th! In fact this will be my first marathon in the US.

Thanks for tuning in.

DCIM101GOPRO

 

 

 

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.

Keeping the flame

October 15, 2017

It’s been a while since my last post. I kept putting this one off until I knew how my foot was holding up and what my race plans are. Spoiler alert; foot is still problematic and plans are still up in the air.

Beyond not having a good read on my foot and not knowing if it’s going to crap out on me any day (I just tell myself I’m healthy) and not knowing what races I want to do I figure it’s easy to get tabs on my running through social media. Between Twitter, Instagram and  Strava it’s easy to get a snapshot if I’m back running/racing/travelling.

Here’s a quick recap of my 2017 running timeline: 4 months off, 7 weeks running, 8 weeks off, 7 weeks running. That brings me to today where I’ve just capped off my highest week of the year (152km) and yesterday my first 30km run of 2017.

My fourth metatarsal and toe have been the problem all year. In January I was told I had no blood flow in the metatarsal. In May an MRI showed that blood flow had returned even though there was still some pain. We hoped that running would make it feel better but of course, that was wishful thinking. After another 8 weeks off my foot felt much better when I started back up running in late-August. After 8 runs I had another MRI in September and I was confident the MRI was going to be the green light I was looking for.

The MRI was more of a red light. I was really surprised to hear the MRI showed that some of the swelling and plantar plate were worse. But my foot doesn’t feel too bad running so at this point I’m going to keep on running. There was no mention of fractures, loss of blood flow or flattening of the met head (the main things that would concern me). I’m still going to seek out another opinion and I’m just waiting to hear when my appointment is.

Last weekend I ran the Victoria Half Marathon (great trip and race btw) where I surprised myself by running 67:28. Two months before that I agreed to come out and talk at the expo and pasta dinner and perhaps jog the half marathon. Things came around in the two weeks leading up to Victoria so I decided to run it as a tempo. Every few days my goal would get a little quicker. By race day I wanted to try and run 3:15/km and off the bat I settled into 3:12/km and it felt sustainable. I ended up holding that pace throughout the entire race.

In my last 8 weeks off I really got into road cycling. Marie, Louis and I went to Halifax to visit Marie’s side of the family and when I was there I took her old road bike out for a ride with her dad. By this point I was so sick of the elliptical and pool I decided to take the bike back to Hamilton and use it as my main (turned out the only) cross-training tool.

I’ve been a fan of professional cycling for the past 10 years but I’ve never trained on a road bike before. Right away I just started riding about 100km a day. It was a nice change to be outside and discovering new roads and places I haven’t seen.

Now that I had a road bike I was going to try the climbs around Hamilton and see how I stack up on Strava segments. Turns out riding takes a lot more power than running does as I would do a 4 minute climb and think I did alright only to find myself outside the top 50 on that segment and 1 minute off the leader. Over the weeks I got more used to riding and figured out how to hurt on a climb. At first my heart rate was only in the 140-150’s on climbs (similar as to what I would get on the elliptical during intervals) but then I was more in the 150-160’s (similar to running efforts) and improved a lot on the Strava segments.

Strava definitely gave me some goals to shoot for and push a little harder. Basically I would try to get into the top 10 on any significant climb (longer than 2.5 minutes) within about 30km of my house. Riding with Jeremy Rae opened my eyes to real climbing and seeing him pull away from me helped me dig deeper too.

When I started back up running it didn’t feel as though I had gotten any shape from cycling as my stride didn’t feel comfortable. That probably has to do with sitting on the saddle all the time and never extending my hips on the bike. HR indicated that I had worked hard on the bike and sure enough once I had a couple of weeks of running I felt decently fit for not having run much.

My only race plans in 2017 were to mix it up in the Shanghai marathon for a little bit (I’ll write a blog on that after the Nov 12 race) and help out the Speed River team at Cross Country Nationals in Kingston. After Victoria I felt I was fit enough to help out some guys at STWM so I’ll pace a pack there next weekend. Also, now I feel as though I’m closer to real racing than I thought one month ago.

Ultra marathons have always been on my mind and a few weeks ago I was certain that I was going to start working towards my first ultra in early 2018. Now that 67:28 came quicker than I thought I’d like to keep more options open. I’ll train for 10km XC and see what kind of shape I get in and then decide in what direction I want to go. If I think there is a chance of a marathon performance that will excite me I could see myself training for that. But if I feel I’m going to be off of my best then it might be a good time to experiment with ultras. Of course both options depend on my body holding up.

 

Louis turned 1 two weeks ago and Marie is back at work a few times a week. It’s been a smooth transition for Marie at work and Louis at daycare (9am-12pm most days) and myself finding time to stretch again.

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Marie pulled Louis in the bike chariot and gave me company for a 25km run the other week. Louis is earning his allowance as a waterboy (Maurten and Endurance Tap).

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