I guess it’s been a while—two months—since my last post. This leisurely pace of releasing blog posts kind of mirrors the more relaxed approach to training I’ve been adopting over the last year. I’m trying not to sweat the small stuff too much (at least until a race is right around the corner) and to instead focus on getting in the miles with a few workouts each week, trusting that the consistency over weeks and months will lead to the results I’m eager for.
Since January, I’ve raced twice. And did a race really happen if you don’t post it to Strava, Instagram/Facebook, and write a blog about it? I guess not because here I am…
The first race was the Robbie Burns 8K at the end of January. I knew ahead of time there were a bunch of guys I wanted to race to see how I stacked up. (At the Chilly Half last year, Blair Morgan beat me by a minute, Paul Rochus and I ran together for most of it, and Rejean Chiasson blew by me on the back half.) I was also just excited to get out for a rip after grinding through the winter months.
This wasn’t a goal race so I wasn’t too strict in the days leading up. I ate more than my fill of tourtiere and cookies at a party the day before and enjoyed catching up with old friends over a few imperial stouts. I ran a race I was happy with, getting in a good effort over a shorter distance that I don’t race often, running 24:53 for 3rd place behind Blair and Tim Heubsch.
The second race was the Chilly half marathon just this past weekend. This race seems to have exploded in popularity in recent years and has been attracting awesome fields of runners. This year had Reid Coolsaet, Robert Winslow, Tristan Woodfine, Trevor Zimak, Josh Bolton, and many others I was excited to race with.
The week before the race, I was feeling depleted, tired, and was struggling in my workouts. I started off the week planning to continue holding my mileage steady at 150-160 km/week but I had to evaluate my priorities as pain appeared in my lower leg a few days before the race. Was this a stress fracture? If it was, my shot at a marathon later this spring was already ruined so I figured I better make the best of the race to get something for all the training I’ve been put in. I’d been indecisive about choosing a marathon up to this point and I wasn’t feeling particularly excited about either Toledo or Ottawa. In the end, I wanted too badly to race against this field and give it my best effort so I took an unplanned rest day, then cut my mileage for the remaining two days by more than half in a last ditch effort to kick the fatigue that had been plaguing me for almost two weeks and to give my leg a chance to heal. Fortunately, it seems I was able to work out the pain in my lower leg as some sort of calf tightness that massaging, heat packs, and foam rolling loosened up. I got myself amped up for the race, willing to accept the possibility that it might be the end of my spring racing season. I was hopeful that I was in shape to maintain 3:09-10/km for a time between 1:06:30 and 1:07:00.
Conditions were pretty good on race day with cold temperatures and clear skies. The only catch was that there was a decent wind for the first half or so of the race which would turn into a tailwind for the final 8 km (out-and-back course). I broke the race up in parts in my mind:
1) The first 2 km with tailwind and slightly downhill. I needed to take this easy and not get caught up in the excitement of the race. Roll comfortably. And we did. Josh, Trevor, Lucas and I rolled as a group, passing by Tristan (unexpectedly) before the turnaround around 2.5 km.
2) The next 2 km were almost directly into the north wind and would probably be the hardest of the race. Josh and I decided to switch the lead for a bit. I lead that 3rd km in something like 3:15 which was slower than my 3:09-10/km goal and I was really working for it. Josh lead for the next km and we were still hovering around that pace and that’s when I decided I couldn’t afford many more km like this and made a push to get back on pace, putting a little space between me and the group.
3) From kms 5-13, we were running NE into a slight headwind. Thankfully, the wind seemed inconsistent so it wasn’t as bad as the previous section. There were a couple mild hills and each time the wind gusted, I put my head down and just grinded it out. I came through 10 km in 31:51-ish, about 20 seconds slower than I wanted. This was the hardest part of the race and it seemed to take forever for that 13 km marker and the turnaround to appear. I urged myself to keep the pace going so that I could set myself up well for the final 8km with the tailwind. One of the biggest motivators mentally was knowing that I had decided to pull away from the group I was working with at the start of the race and there was no way I was going to let them catch me.
4) Finally, the last stretch home from 13km to 21km. I still only managed to run around my goal pace, not able to make up much time because my legs were cooked… there was no extra gear. The nice thing about this part of the race is that there is a sea of runners still on their way out who shout cheers and encouragements as your paths cross. This was a big boost for me and I used it to keep motivated. When I cross the 19 km mark, my watch said something around 1:00:37 which meant I had 6:23 to cover the last 2.1km if I wanted a 1:06:xx time. I was working too hard to think about it too hard and just committed to hammering as hard as I could to the finish so that I couldn’t have any regrets if I wasn’t able to get that goal. I would’ve had to run significantly faster in order to actually hit that goal, but the mindgame worked in so much as it provided motivation to finish as best I could. In the end, I made the final turn and could see that I wasn’t going to make it as the clock counted up from 1:06:50 with a couple hundred metres to go. I cross the line around 1:07:10, happy with my effort and a 30-second PB from the fall, and a second place finish to Reid Coolsaet!
I didn’t get that 1:06-high time I was hoping for but in talking with Reid after the race, he seemed to think that without the wind 1:06 seemed very likely for me. That’s a big confidence boost but I still want to run it before I bank on it.
Now that this race is behind me, I’m trying to find motivation for my next goal. While I figure that out, I’m back to the training routine and looking forward to seeing the spring marathon results pouring in.
Good luck to everyone running NYC half, Arouns the Bay, Boston, and Mississauga!