STWM 2017


I improved my marathon personal best from 2:28:12 to 2:24:39 in Toronto last weekend after failing to survive training for a fall marathon the last three years. I’ve been wanting to run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon for a while because it attracts such a strong field of competitive runners, many of whom are vying for the annual Canadian Marathon Championship title. This year didn’t disappoint even with the absence of our two best marathoners of recent years–Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis. In fact, I think it made it a little more interesting as the next group of distance runners got to contend for the national title. It featured Trevor Hofbauer’s much-anticipated debut, Sami Jibril’s second attempt at the distance, and shots at redemption for Kevin Coffey, Rob Winslow, John Mason, and several others after the unusually warm and humid conditions of last year’s race. As a fan of road running, I was almost as excited to see how everyone else did as I was to race it myself!

What does that 2:24:39 mean to me? That’s what I’m trying to decipher now that the race is over. If you look at my splits for the race (1:11:30 first half, 1:13:09 second half), you can tell that 2:24:39 wasn’t the time I was shooting for so there’s some disappointment there. In fact, if you look at the two previous marathons I ran (splitting Ottawa 2016 in 1:12:29 and Ottawa 2015 in 1:12:11), this 2:24:39 is slower than what I thought I’d be able to run 2 years ago. Yikes. And days before the race, I was thinking of going out at 1:11:00 flat and considering that a ‘conservative’ target so that I’d be able to speed up the second half, dipping into the 2:21s… Didn’t exactly go to plan.

Running 1:07:38 with Josh Bolton at the Springbank Half earlier in October

I felt reasonably confident after proving myself over the half marathon distance twice this year at Chilly (1:07:47) and Springbank (1:07:38) after recovering from a stress fracture in May. That 1:07:47 was a breakthrough performance for me and it felt like everything went perfectly – weather was cool, I had people to run with and race, the course is straight and pretty flat – and I achieved my A goal of 1:07:xx. I expected a faster time at Springbank but it is a much more challenging course with more twists and turns and it came at a point in my STWM training cycle where I had been at peak mileage for 4 weeks (no taper). I didn’t hit my time goal at Springbank, but I did run a small PB that at least confirmed my performance at Chilly wasn’t a fluke. As an extra vote of confidence, Josh Bolton, who has a similar half marathon PB was going to be running STWM and had similar goals to me which made me feel like it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility to expect a 2:21-22. 

Punch those 1:07-high half marathon times into an equivalency calculator and you’ll get something like 2:21:30-2:22 in the marathon. That’s really what I wanted to achieve at STWM this year – a time equivalent to my half marathon PB.

That’s been a real challenge for me in the six marathons I’ve now run. The closest I’ve gotten was running 2:41 in Waterloo after a 1:16 half (roughly equivalent to 2:40). The 2:31 I ran in Ottawa 2015 came after a 1:11:15 in Springbank (~2:29) and a 1:09:30 in Burlington (~2:26). The 2:28 I ran in Ottawa 2016 still didn’t equalize my year-old (at that point) 1:09:30 half PB. The 2:24:39 I ran this year is just a bit better than that half marathon time I ran 2.5 years ago and obviously lagging behind the 1:07:38 (~2:21:30) half I ran this year. I’m not sure why that is… The marathon sure is hard to predict and I don’t feel like I’ve cracked it yet. I am envious of guys like Eric Bang who have had success converting their shorter races into equivalent marathon performances. I might have to do some deeper review of Eric’s training – he’s freakishly consistent!

Where’s Waldo? #STWM mass start.

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One thing I am very happy to takeaway from Toronto is a more evenly-paced race than my last two outings. I thought I was being conservative with a 1:11 half goal (2:22) but I decided to slow my plan a bit more when I learned that the pace group for the lead women was targeting 1:11:30 (2:23). It seemed to make sense to go with them but when the race started, they seemed to be way ahead of target so I stuck to the plan of 1:11:30 and split just a couple seconds slower than that after the women went through half around 1:11 flat. Although it would’ve been nice to have some company out there (I ran the race solo from ~18 km after Josh started to fall off pace), it helped to have people in front to chase. I was able to chase that pack down and overtake the lead woman just after the 30 km mark.

I did slow a bit over the second half (by a minute and thirty-six seconds) but that pales in comparison to my last two marathons in Ottawa where I slowed by 3:15 last year and 7:23 the previous year. More than the even-ness of my race, I’m happier still with my performance relative to the rest of the elite field. Excluding pacers who would later drop out, at 10K I was 29th. By halfway, I was passed by one person, I caught two people, and one person had dropped out leaving me in 27th. By 30K, three more had dropped out and I had passed seven people (including the guy who passed me before halfway), leaving me in 17th position. Over the final 12.2K, one more person ahead of me dropped out and I caught three more people for a final placing of 13th overall.

My 1:13:06 second half was the 11th fastest in the race and my final 12.2K split was the 10th fastest in the field so even though I would’ve preferred a faster time and a more even split, I think all things considered I made out pretty good in the later stages of the race. I am happy not only with my patience, trusting that people would come back to me, but also with the effort I somehow pulled out of myself over the final few kilometres. At the final switchback turn around the 32 km mark, I had counted three Canadians ahead of me – Trevor Hofbauer, Sami Jibril, and John Mason – and I could see John up the road from me. At halfway, John was 2:30 ahead of me and he increased that lead to 2:50 by 25K. That’s where the momentum started shifting my way and I made up a minute on him by 35K. I gained another 1:22 by 40K and then finally caught him at 41K, putting 1:30 into him over the final 1.2K. I was telling myself that if I wanted that third Canadian spot, it could be mine but I had to hammer those last 5K.

Jeff Costen who finished 4th Canadian ran a very consistent race too, equaling or bettering a bunch of my splits. I was a little nervous seeing him looking strong and only 40 seconds behind me at 35K and 40K. He came within 3 seconds of catching John, too, making up two-and-a-half minutes over the final 7.2K! Matt Suda also ran well over the final 10K, splitting the 35-40K segment faster than me and then running the final 2.2K faster than Sami, John, and Jeff. John looked pretty rough when he crossed the line so I was happy to hear he was alright… definitely don’t like seeing people suffer through dehydration or things like that at the end of a marathon. It was toasty out there when we were crossing the finish line.

Less than a km to go!

With two of the top Canadian contenders out of the race (Rob and Kevin) and catching John with a kilometre to go, I walked away with the third Canadian spot at our national championship race. That was a nice bonus and something I was definitely not expecting, knowing things would have to go poorly for not just one guy but a handful of them if I were to get one of those medal positions.

Funny story: After I crossed the line and congratulated a few guys, I made my way to the bag check area to get changed and head to BeerBistro for a celebratory beverage. After navigating the maze of people in the finish area and painfully staggering 2 km to the bar, I got an email from Reid Coolsaet letting me know they were looking for me to show up at the awards ceremony which started in 4 minutes. There was no way I could possibly get back in time so I missed what could have been a pretty cool moment. Priorities though, am I right? Celebrations were in order after months of dedicated training. Maybe next year STWM will have a beer tent in the finish area… (or maybe they’ll try to communicate with people they want to stick around…)

I had a lot of fun following the training of all those guys – Trevor, John, Rob, Kevin, and Jeff – on Strava heading into STWM. They are all a huge source of inspiration and motivation for me.

A special thanks to Eric Bang for finding me a place to stay on short notice after I had planned to stay in Kitchener and drive into Toronto the morning of the race but then was notified the week before the race that I had to be in Toronto on Saturday for the technical meeting… It was great having a chance to chat with Eric the night before the race after his killer 2:23:54 in Chicago and then have his support out on the race course. Thanks Eric!

Post-race IPAs at BeerBistro

Thanks also to my wife and parents for enduring Toronto’s traffic (arrgghh) and crowds to cheer me on. I literally wouldn’t be able to do the training required without their help and support every single day leading up to this race (and every race before it). I try my best to minimize the impact my training has on other aspects of our lives but sometimes long runs need to happen at the same time that children need tending to and so I appreciate being able to slip out for an hour and a half each day to run.

While on the topic of marathon running, do yourself a favour and check out these other post-race blogs (although, truthfully, if you made it through all that boring ‘running talk’, you’ve probably already read these blogs or you’re my wife and I’ve already talked your ear off about them 😜😘):

What’s up next? Three weeks off is the plan (I can hear you laughing, Lindsay)… After that, I’m going to take advantage of the fact that there are no big races on the horizon and try a long, slow build towards a spring marathon. It’s been a few years of battling injuries and always having to cram a training cycle into a condensed period of time. I’ve made it through marathon training healthy this time and it affords me more flexibility than I’m used to. After the stress fracture at the beginning of May, I had 8 weeks of no running and lots of cross-training, followed by three short weeks of easy running before getting into 13 weeks of training for STWM. Things came together well considering but this time I’ve got almost 26 weeks to work with so there’s lots of time to build some base mileage before I get into the specific marathon training. That’s the plan anyway… we’ll see how it actually plays out in the coming months.

Thanks for following along!

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Still on the bike

Not much to report from me over the last two weeks. I’ve been cycling 5 or 6 days per week (averaging almost 10 hours per week) and my heel has been feeling normal for a couple weeks. I got out for two brief run/walk sessions just recently and after the second day’s run/walk I started to notice some irritation. Not sure if it’s just some soft tissue or the bone, so things are up in the air again.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been thankful to have such amazing weather this spring/summer to get some cross-training in. There’s no way I’d be getting as much time on the bike if I had to do it on an indoor trainer or an elliptical.

Up with the sun this morning to beat the thunderstorms

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There have been lots of good running races to follow with two national championship races at the end of May. Eric Gillis and Rachel Cliff took the national 10K titles in Ottawa while Kip Kangogo and Rachel Hannah took the half marathon titles in Calgary. There’s another national championship race this week and a couple other big races with Canadian contenders. Check out the details below.

 

inferno

Speed River Inferno featuring the 10,000m National Championship – Wednesday, June 14 — Start List | Live Stream

  • Kevin Blackney (2nd at 10K nationals)
  • Kevin Coffey (3rd at 10K nationals)
  • Evan Esselink
  • Anthony Larouche
  • John Mason
  • Blair Morgan
  • Andrew Nixon
  • Paul Rochus
  • Rachel Hannah (half marathon champ)

waterfront10k

Waterfront 10K – Saturday, June 17 — Start List

  • Eric Gillis (national 10K champ)
  • Reid Coolsaet (returning from injury)
  • Tristan Woodfine (4th at 10K nationals)
  • Kevin Coffey (3rd at 10K nationals)
  • Matt Loiselle
  • Sami Jibril
  • Krista DuChene
  • Natasha Wodak (national 10K champ)
  • Leslie Sexton (returning from injury)

grandmas-marathon-logo

Grandma’s Marathon – Saturday, June 17

  • Terence Attema (2:19 last marathon)
  • Trevor Zimak (2:26 last year, 2:31 earlier this year)

Hopefully things get back on track for me sometime this summer. I’m holding out hope that I’ll be able to run the Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) in October but we’ll see. I’m just going to keep grinding it out on the bike and hopefully that effort is rewarded when I get back on my feet. 

I’m very likely going to miss some of the local 10K road races I’ve run over the last few years – like the Boys’ Home 10K on Father’s Day just down the road from me. That’s one of my favourites as it’s local and a certified course. Plus, they put on a pancake and sausage breakfast for the community following the race and it raises funds for a good cause. I’ve won the race the last three years and it would’ve been fun to see that streak continue but what can you do? If you’re in the area, check out this race for sure! You will never find a flatter 10K.

Just about my bedtime so I’ll wrap this up. Thanks for following along!

Canadian 10K and Half championships

This weekend has two races to watch – the Ottawa 10K and Calgary Half Marathon, both of which are national championship races and can be streamed online (links below). Start lists are out and here’s who I’m watching for:


Ottawa 10K — Start List | Stream | Results

  • Eric Gillis (1:03:49 half in March)
  • Thomas Toth (2:18:58 marathon in April)
  • Tristan Woodfine (1:05:27 half in March)
  • Kevin Coffey (14:07 5000m at the end of April)
  • Blair Morgan (2:22:14 marathon earlier in May)
  • Anthony Larouche (1:07:48 half in April)
  • Kevin Tree (30:29 downhill 10K in April)
  • Adam Hortian (30:36 downhill 10K earlier in May)
  • Maxime Leboeuf (31:40 10K in April, 31:06 10K earlier in May)
  • Paul Rochus (1:08:21 half in March)
  • Josh Bolton (1:09:03 half in April)
  • David Le Porho (DNF’d a half in April – 35:48 at halfway mark)
  • Matt Loiselle (25:36 8K in April)
  • Eric Bang (1:10:57 half in April)


Calgary Half Marathon — Start List | Stream | Results

  • Geoff Martinson (29:46 downhill 10K in April)
  • Sami Jibril (30:00 10000m earlier in May)
  • Kip Kangogo (1:06:08 half earlier in May)
  • Terence Attema (2:19:49 marathon last fall)
  • John Mason (1:07:40 half in April, 30:16 downhill 10K earlier in May)
  • Dylan Wykes (31:21 downhill 10K in April)

This is (I believe) the last weekend for folks to try for a Worlds qualifier and since all the big guns are running the 10K or HM champs (or injured), it seems the pool is set for our men’s marathon team: Eric Gillis, Reid Coolsaet (although he has indicated he won’t run London as he’s just now returning from injury), Rob Watson (although he seems to be missing the national championship race criteria), and Thomas Toth. Looks like we might just have a team of two.

30 degrees out and I'm stuck in this foot-warmer for the next 4-6 weeks 😒

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I was hoping to try the Ottawa Marathon again this year after I pulled out of plans to run Toledo eventually gave up hope as my injury worsened. The Ottawa 10K was my backup (backup) plan so you’ll see my name on the start list but I won’t be running. I’m still wearing the boot to let a probable calcaneal stress fracture heal. I’ve avoided impact for almost three weeks now, so another 3-5 in the boot and I’ll try some running again. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to get in as much cycling as I can.

For the most part, weather has been favourable. Although I’d rather be running, I’d rather be injured when I can bike outdoors as there’s not much worse than cycling on a trainer or using an elliptical. I’ve signed up for some weekly group rides which is helping to break up the monotony of my daily routes.

I’ve even stepped up my cycling ‘seriousness’ a step by purchasing some new parts for my freebie bike. I had the bottom bracket replaced as it had been squeaking and wobbling for a while and was starting to sieze up. I also found a 13-28–tooth freewheel cassette to give me a tiny bit more breathing room at top speeds compared to the 14-28 cassette I’ve been using to this point.

Just beat the sunset home after a 60 km ride! 🚲🌤👌😎

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Last weekend, I completed my longest ride to date with a 103 km loop through Petrolia, Corunna, and Camlachie. That was a fun challenge and by the end I was feeling like my reserves had been emptied.

Best part about biking in the country: you can stop for a pee break anywhere! 💦

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My focus has shifted to the long-term as I didn’t want to put pressure on myself to get back to racing too soon. If all goes well, I’d like to make it to the starting line of STWM this fall (5 months away! 😩) and maybe a 10K and/or half marathon as a tune-up before then. More than anything, I just want to get out of this boot and back to running regularly.

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend! Wish I was out there, too!