Skip to content

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.

DCIM101GOPRO

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.

image2-6

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.

image3-6

Magnolia Road (photo: Max Paquette)

 

Where do we go now?

March 30, 2019

March flew by and I need to keep my 2019 resolution to blog at least 1 x month. But this isn’t a blog to simply check a box, lots to report here.

This month started off really well. On March 1st I did a session that involved 2km hard followed by 1km “float.” I did this for 20km straight and averaged 3:19/km for the whole thing (2km @ 3:08/km and 1km @ 3:42/km). This was over 8 weeks before Hamburg and I felt that I was in a great position to have a good marathon on April 28th.

Two weeks later I caught a flu (vaccine didn’t protect me from this strain) and was in bed for two days. I missed a big workout (6 weeks out) but only missing one workout isn’t a big deal. My first workout after being sick was compromised but I was improving and thought I might as well still race Papa John’s 10 Miler in Louisville, KY that weekend (March 23rd).

I flew to Louisville on Friday night and met my parents for dinner. Raced the next morning at 8am and was back on a plane at 3pm. I was only in Louisville for 20 hours.

The race itself wasn’t great. I could tell 1km in that I wasn’t running with full power and knew I should change my expectations. Those expectations kept getting slower throughout the race and I ended up averaging about 3:10/km for 50:42 (5th place).

Although I know I should have been faster than 3:05/km if I was feeling good it was still a solid effort and a good session to prep for Hamburg. My legs didn’t feel sore from the race but I think the downhills started to throw something off in my back.

I decided to get back on schedule right away and do my long-run Sunday. The run itself went well but that afternoon my back was stiff and sore. I didn’t think it was anything to worry about and was telling Marie that if everything fell into place I was confident I could have a good race in Hamburg. The next day things fell out of place.

image1-7

Long Run with Luis Orta and Parker Stinson

The next morning (March 25th) I ran easy for 15km but I felt off right from the beginning. My back was sore and I felt I was protecting it each stride. After the run it started to tighten up really fast. Luckily I had a massage already lined up.

The massage loosened everything up and I left there feeling pretty good. But 10 minutes later I was in pain again. My friend told me about a good chiro I could get in to see. He concluded that my rib head was out of place and that my vertebrae was also mis-aligned. I had immediate relief but I could tell this wasn’t over.

The next afternoon I had brutal back spasms where my muscles around my rib head would tighten up and not let go. I’ve never felt much relief from ibuprofen in the past but it’s been a saviour for me lately. Without it I was pretty much immobile on Tuesday.

Wednesday I could tell that I was actually recovering. No more spasms and the ache was duller. I’ve run short and easy the past two days but it still hurts to breathe deeply. I’ve had my rib pop out before. About 13 years ago it happened and I recovered from it pretty quickly once I saw a chiro and had it adjusted. I’m hoping that this can be similar and by early next week be back into normal training.

However, I think that is just a little too late to have a legitimate shot at a good race in Hamburg. Missing a workout 6 weeks out, then having some compromised training and now missing all quality this week and likely just easing back into workouts next week is just too much. I won’t be racing Hamburg marathon. A bit of a bummer, but there will be other races.

In hindsight the long-run the day after my race may have been the culprit for putting my back out. Perhaps I had run easy and got proper recovery it wouldn’t have gotten so messed. Who knows?

At this point I’m training to qualify for the 2020 Olympics so I only want to race unless I have a good shot and making headway towards qualification. Qualifying for the Olympics is whole other topic. I wasn’t going to write about it because I know it will take a long time. But I’ll try and break it down without writing a novel.

***

The IAAF announced the Olympic standards for Tokyo 2020 this month. There is a new way to qualify that is different than past Olympics. This time there is a set of standards that are supposed to capture 50% of the field (2:11:30 for men’s marathon). The next 50% will be filled from the world rankings.

With the IAAF aiming to have 80 marathoners in each the men’s and women’s marathon (there were 155 and 156 in Rio for men and women) the standards will be quite harder for 2020. But not necessarily for Canadians.  In 2016 the IAAF standard for men was 2:19:00 and the Athletics Canada standard was 2:12:50. You can most-likely run slower than 2:12:50 and qualify for Tokyo via the IAAF qualifying process.

I calculated that in order to be ranked in the top 80 (3 per country) you’ll need to run about 2:14:00 twice, or 2:14:00 and 1:02:29 for the half (you need two results in the past 18 months to have a world ranking). Basically, your average time will need to be about 2:14:00. So a 2:12:00 and a 2:16:00 might be good enough. There are bonus points you can get from placing well at certain races (World Marathon majors and Gold Label races have good points for top 10).

Fot instance, if you place 8th at a Gold Label marathon (STWM and Ottawa are gold label btw) you get an extra 30 points. If you run 2:15:15 and get 30 points that is equivalent to running 2:13:31. So yeah, points can make a BIG difference when trying to get a good world ranking.

Also, if you finish top 5 at a Gold Label marathon or top 10 at a World Marathon Major you get an auto qualifier. If there are many athletes hitting the 2:11:30 standard and placing well at majors/gold label who aren’t ranked then you’ll need to be up higher than top 80 (3 per country) in the world rankings.

But the big thing for Canadians will be what Athletics Canada decides to do. If they go with the IAAF qualifying route then they might have to compare and choose between athletes who have qualified under different routes. Take this for example:

Athlete A: 2:09:30 (auto standard, only result = no world ranking)
Athlete B: 2:12:45 and 2:13:15 (ranked 65th in world rankings)
Athlete C: 2:14:30 and 1:01:45 (ranked 60th in world rankings)
Athlete D: 2:18:00 (8th at Boston) and 1:03:00 (ranked 75th in world)
Athlete E: 2:14:15 (10th at New York City, only result= no world ranking)
Athlete F: 2:14:00 and 2:15:00 (1st Canadian at STWM and ranked 78th in world rankings)

Here are 6 athletes who have met IAAF qualification for 2020 Olympics. Who do you pick? (Each country can only pick 3 who have met IAAF qualification).

I say you go off of fastest marathon time for those who have qualified, after you add the first Canadian at STWM (AC already announced that that athlete would get auto-selected given they meet minimum IAAF standard). It’s too hard to say what is better, a 10th at Boston or 8th at NYC.

And it might not be great to go off of world rankings because there might be a half marathon specialist who isn’t great at the marathon. Or, you might get someone who is 2 minutes slower but got an extra 35 points for a certain placing and therefor is ranked higher. Or, an athlete who isn’t even ranked because they only have one result but that result is a great marathon time.

Here are the three athletes I would pick:

Athlete F (due to first Canadian at STWM rule already in place)
Athlete A 2:09:30 is the fastest marathon
Athlete B 2:12:45 is next fastest time

I could go on and on about the new world ranking system. But I’ll say this: I don’t like it. It’s too confusing to the average fan and the way placing points are distributed isn’t going to be fair.

***

Boulder has been fantastic. There are so many great places to run here with lots of variety. I often end up driving 10-20 minutes to get to trails but it’s worth it. I still have yet to run Mags, but once my back is better it’s on the list.

We’ve been on some pretty cool hikes too. Our favourite was Rocky Mountain National Park. We weren’t expecting so much snow because we didn’t realize how high we were going. At almost 3000m (10,000 feet) of elevation you’re going to get a lot more snow! (As a note: I haven’t loaded Louis on my back, lifted weights or run many hills in the week leading up to my back injury because I was prepping for the 10 mile race, and sick the week before that).

image4-5

Betasso Preserve

image3-5

Rocky Mountain National Park

DCIM101GOPRO

Top of Mt Sanitas, overlooking Boulder (hilly run)

 

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.

image1-5

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.

image4-4

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.

image1-6DCIM101GOPRO

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).

image3-4

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.

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.

image3-3

image2-3

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).

img_0988

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.

image4-3

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.

IMG_6323

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.

IMG_0262

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.

IMG_0268

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.

IMG_0261

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.

***

IMG_5017.JPG

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.

IMG_5048

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.

2018 Boston Marathon

Soaked and cold. Photorun.net

IMG_5062

 

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.

IMG_4831

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.

IMG_4999

 

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

 

IMG_5049

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.

IMG_3655

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.

IMG_3937

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.

IMG_4588

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