Deciding on races for 2016

Houston Recap

First, I want to quickly recap what went down at the Houston marathon last weekend. This seems to be a huge event with tons of Canadians running. I guess it makes sense to escape our cold winter and head somewhere warm like Texas. It’s always fun when a bunch of Canadians duke it out in the same race as it lets us see how people stack up.

This year had Rob Watson, Brandon Lord, Sami Jibril, and a couple Speed River guys running the half. A couple of my buddies—Adam Hortian and David Freake—were slotted to run but pulled out (I really wanted to see how they’d do after their 1:08 halves at STWM in October!). In any case, it looks like Robert Winslow (2:19 at STWM) had some trouble and dropped out after 5K, while John Mason (2:22 at STWM) didn’t start.

Rob Watson ran 1:03:58 after going through 10K on pace for ~1:02:30 or something crazy fast around that mark. Brandon Lord ran 1:04:03, a few seconds slower than his 1:04:00 from November. Sami ran 1:04:30 and was eclipsed by Thomas Toth, a Canadian who was previously unknown to me (but is now on my list), running 1:04:26. That was a pretty epic debut half marathon for Thomas. (Calum Neff ran 2:23:19 in the full after coming through half on pace for 2:18.)

This shakes things up a little for the world half marathon championship in Cardiff as Rob climbs into the second of three spots (behind Reid Coolsaet’s 1:03:xx from Chilly last year). With Brandon Lord claiming the third spot, Trevor Hofbauer’s breakthrough 1:04:28 is unfortunately bumped out of a qualifying spot. It will be interesting to see in the next few weeks if Trevor, Thomas, or Sami take another crack at a sub-1:04 for a spot on this team.

Thinking about 2016 races…

I keep going back and forth on which races I want to run this year so I thought it might be interesting (or maybe not!) to talk about what I look for in races, which ones are on my short-list, and maybe by writing this out I’ll be able to settle the debate in having with myself.

First up, I’m committed to running the Chilly half marathon on March 6 in Burlington. I ran this race last year and the course and organization was top-notch. There was also a crew from Speed River there last year for me to chase and I hear there may be a few this year as well. The hope is that we get decent, spring-like weather on race day so I can take a chunk off my half-marathon PB. I haven’t looked over my training close enough to guess yet, but I’m hoping to be in 1:08-mid shape right now and, with another month of training, it would be awesome to be in sub-1:08 shape. I’ll talk about my race expectations in a later post, closer to the race.

Once we get to April and May, there are a bunch of races all over that look like a lot of fun. Generally, I’m looking for something within a reasonable drive as I likely won’t qualify for travel assistance. This usually means my limits are London, Kitchener/Waterloo, Hamilton/Burlington, Toronto, or maybe into the States (Buffalo, Detroit, Toledo, etc.).

I’ve been working on the assumption that I’ll run the Glass City Marathon on April 24 in Toledo, OH. The trade-off is missing out on running the Canada Running Series’ (CRS) Montreal 21.1K half-marathon on the same date. This HM often features some of Canada’s best runners (Eric Gillis, Terence Attema, David Le Porho and others ran last year) and would probably be a good chance to run a fast half. Montreal becomes more interesting when you consider the other Canada Running Series events I’m likely to run later this year… but more on that later.

The next big event at the end of May is the Ottawa Race Weekend which features the Canadian 10K road championship on Saturday, May 28 and the full marathon on Sunday, May 29. The Ottawa Marathon was a superb event and I was thrilled to be a part of it last year, but it was a little more expensive for me since it involved 1400 km of driving and a hotel stay. (For all other races that I ran last year, I was able to drive up the morning of.) My family came to watch me run the marathon so we stayed a couple extra nights to explore the city, but if I were to run the 10K this year then maybe I could just sneak away for the weekend and find family or friends to stay with for a night or two.

Once we get into summer, there are a bunch of local 10Ks that I like to run – the YMCA Bridge Race, the Huron House Boys’ Home 10K, and the St Clair River Run 10K. (If you’re also interested in running those races, do me a favour and sign-up with these referral links and RaceRoster will send a buck or two my way!) Another big race I plan on running is the Toronto Waterfront 10K put on by the CRS crew in June. This is a new event, replacing the downhill Yonge St 10K I ran last year. The summer timing actually works out better since it doesn’t collide with spring marathon training. I expect there will be a huge crowd (~6000 at the Yonge St 10K last spring) and lots of people to chase.

Although it’s funny to think this far out, I’m pretty sure my fall goal race will be the Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 16 which is also part of the CRS series. It doubles as the Canadian marathon championship so I’m sure that – much like last year – there will be quite a crowd of guys to run with. That makes two CRS events that I’m pretty sure of and the scoring for the series title takes three races with one being outside of your home province. I guess this is what makes the Montreal half kind of tempting. Besides Montreal, the only other options are to find a CRS race in Vancouver which probably won’t be feasible for me. Finally, with where I guess I’d place in each race based on past results, I don’t think I could get enough points to place in the top 3 (extra prize money) to warrant the focus on running that third event. The result, is that running Montreal sounds like fun but probably isn’t important enough to change my plan of running Toledo.

One of the reasons that I’m not feeling 100% committed to running Toledo is that it’s a big commitment time-wise. I don’t mean training time; I mean not-racing time. To prepare for a marathon, you probably want at least 12 weeks of training with maybe one race as a tune-up. So you’ve got 6 weeks after your tune-up to finish training and tapering, 2 weeks completely off after to recover, then several more weeks of building back up before you’re race-ready again. To dedicate effectively three months to a single race’s preparation and recovery is a big deal when you could just run a 10K every weekend without too much trouble. When I only run one or maybe two marathons a year, I want to make the best of them and be sure I’m prepared to run better than last time. Could I improve on 2:31 right now? I feel like my training has been going very well, my workouts have been getting better each week, and my last two races have been among my best. Hopefully after my epic fade in Ottawa, it’ll be a bit of a soft PB for me to attack this spring but I think until I see how Chilly goes in March, I’ll be a little unsure. For now, the plan is to continue gearing up for Toledo and I’ll just do one last sanity check after Chilly to make sure I’m psyched up and ready to run a fast marathon.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention prize money (often). I’m in a position where my chances at prize money are pretty remote in the big races where there is competition to help you race well. In those cases, it’s better to not even think about prize money and if you happen to do well enough to qualify then hooray, you just had an excellent race AND walked away with some extra cash. The opposite, of hoping you get prize money or worse, expecting that you get some, I think is detrimental to racing well. If you find yourself in the position to claim prize money, you might not push yourself faster; you settle for ‘good enough’. Worse, if you find yourself outside of the money, you might throw in the towel early when you could have still managed a good race result. For those reasons, I’m trying not to pick my races based on my chances at prize money but instead to find a fair, flat course with some other competitors to challenge me, and hopefully help me run a PB.

Anyway, enough rambling. Here’s what the last few weeks of training looked like for me:

Week of 2015-12-28

I was a little short on time and mileage this week as I did a lot of drywall work in the basement and had some travelling for New Years Eve. I ended up playing a game of ‘pick-up’ volleyball on NYE and smacked my knee off the hard gym floor. I played the rest of the game but later that evening, my knee was pretty sore. The timing really couldn’t have been better for something like that to happen as the coming week was a planned recovery week with only three runs. I started the recovery early and finished off the week on the bike while the roads were still clear from snow. Thankfully, the knee seems to be fine after a few days of taking it easy (no bruising or swelling).

Last workout of 2015 in the books – 16'@3:20, 12'@3:13, 8'@3:10 – and in shorts, no less!

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Week of 2016-01-04

Despite starting recovery early in the previous week, I decided to stick to the plan for this week by cross-training a few days and only running three easy, short runs. Thankfully, the weather has been extraordinary for this time of year so I was able to get in a few outdoor bike rides. Nothing overly exciting this week; just cashing in on the last block of training, letting the legs absorb that good training, and getting a little rest before the marathon specific training that will start in February.

  • M: Rest
  • T: 60′ bike
  • W: 8 km run
  • Th: 60′ bike
  • F: 10 km run + 30′ core
  • S: 105′ bike
  • Su: 13.3 km run
  • Total: 31.4 km + 4.25 hours of extras

Week of 2016-01-11

It got really cold this week but the roads have been clear, permitting me to get in a few quality sessions. The 3×12′ went very well, despite the -15ºC windchill and battling cars for room on the road. I was able to meet up with Taylor for the 22×1’/1′ which is probably the biggest short-interval workout I’ve done since running 15×1’/1′ in November (averaging 3:04/km) and 15x400m in July. Fortunately, this session fell on a day with above-freezing temperatures so I was able to wear shorts (!!). Travelling to meet up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while took priority on Saturday and I wasn’t able to find time to squeeze in a run. To make up for it, I went out to Arkona on Sunday to run a hilly loop (pic below).

Spring fitness is built on snow-covered roads. #RunGCM2016

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What’s next?

If you made it this far – wow! Thanks for hanging on! I’ve got a few more weeks of grinding out workouts in sub-zero temperatures and then hopefully we’ll be starting marathon prep in February. Stay warm out there and watch out for snow plows! (Seriously, you should run against traffic so you can see them coming)

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