The hamstring injury that wouldn’t quit

Following the Chilly Half, I made it through one run before my hamstring seized up out of nowhere during an easy run. That injury, which I suspect was some kind of strain, took about two weeks to heal. I got back into a training groove for a week before running Around the Bay 30K (since I was already registered), knowing my legs were feeling heavy and that I probably wouldn’t be in prime condition. I didn’t expect any miracles but hoped to get in a good long run effort at marathon pace or if things didn’t feel great, I’d slow up and just check out the course for future racing opportunities. Fortunately, my hamstring had been feeling 100% all week and had no issues during the race.


I ran beside Josh Bolton for nearly the entire race and having him to work with made the kilometres pass quickly. Thanks for the help out there, Josh!

We started off around 12th place and began picking off guys who were falling off the lead pace. Eventually, we ended up in 7th and 8th positions without being overtaken by anyone behind us.

I was happy to make it through that hard effort without any hint of the hamstring issue, but four days after it struck again during a short marathon-paced tempo. I immediately pulled the plug and began the slow jog home. Last time I tried heat packs, ice packs, massage, and stretching and I think that maybe aggravated the injury a bit. This time I’m resting immediately and trying compression.

I could've sworn it felt like summer a few days ago…

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The timing of this second round of hamstring issues means I probably can’t get anymore quality workouts in before Toledo (3 weeks away) as I expect I’ll have another week or so letting the hamstring heal before just getting back into running regularly as the taper would begin. If I’m going to run Toledo, it will be on whatever fitness I’ll have managed to hang onto since Chilly 4 weeks ago. That’s not how I wanted to head into this race…

I can’t help but look ahead to the Ottawa 10K which is 5 weeks after Toledo. As the Canadian 10K road championship race, I really wanted to run a good one there and see how I stack up against that field. Part of me wonders (and was wondering a few weeks ago when this hamstring issue first came up) if pushing through with my plans to run Toledo will result in two mediocre race results instead of resting now, forgoing Toledo, and possibly running a better race in Ottawa. Hard to know. I’ll have to think on that this week as I nurse this hamstring back to health.

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Chilly Half 2017

I wrote a couple weeks ago that my goals for the Chilly Half were A) 1:07:xx, B) 1:08:xx, and C) a PB (better than 1:09:30). I was pretty confident that I was back carving out new levels of fitness which is why I wanted a PB. My long tempo and threshold interval workouts were faster than ever. When I looked back on my training before the last half marathon I raced (Chilly Half, 2015), every workout I’ve run this winter blew them away. My mileage had been consistent and just a little higher than ever before. I’d encountered only a couple deviations from my plan this winter and I’d been able to correct-course quickly. Things had been going very well. I was primed for a good race after a couple disappointing marathons, a bunch of injuries and missed races, and—finally—a lengthy stretch of consistent training.

Chilly Half recap

I had all my gear packed the night before so all I had to do in the morning was get dressed and throw my bags in the car. The 2 hour drive to Burlington was a piece of cake as the 402 and 401 were deserted and I had the tunes pumping. Once I arrived, I met up with Mitch Free to get my race kit/bib and we found the hospitality area for the elites/VIPs. Having a warm place to hang out before the race was a huge perk and it was great to meet up with some other hard working runners like the GRE folks and to meet and chat with Canadian Olympian and marathon champion, Krista DuChene!

The big question on everyone’s mind was whether to wear shorts or tights as the forecast said -6°C with ~20 km/h wind bringing it down to -14ish. I decided on shorts after my warmup and I’m glad I did because I was sweating pretty good for the last 3 km of the race.

After the gun went and everyone found their place in the field, I think I was in roughly 10th or so. Over the first two km, Paul Rochus and I joined up and managed to pick a few guys off early. Around the first hairpin turn (~3 km), we rolled up on John Parrott and he joined us as we eventually reeled in Kevin Blackney around 5 km. John started to fall off our pack around 7 km and the rest of us remaining kept clicking away the kilometres, fighting the wind and averaging 3:13/km.

"A burden shared is a burden halved." [📷Edison Yao]

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We crossed the 10 km marker at 32:01 and finally made it to the second hairpin turn (~13 km), where we were ready for the tailwind all the way to the finish. Somewhere around 14 km, our pack started to fall apart as I found myself briefly in third after pulling away from Kevin and Paul. At this point in the race, I could still see Blair Morgan in second a long way up the road so I just tried to draw whatever motivation I could from the fact that there was someone in front of me. I could hear the crowds cheering “Rejean” and soon figured out that Rejean Chiassion had been gaining on me and he flew by me like I was standing still at 17 km. I told myself he must’ve been just trying to mentally crush me with that move and to just keep digging and chasing him down in case he slowed after passing me. I never caught him, but he sure helped me draw some extra effort from myself. For the final 4 kilometres, I was counting down the minutes… “3 km, that’s like 10 minutes tops – keep going!”

As I made it to the turn off Lakeshore Rd towards the finish line, I looked at my watch and it had just clicked over to 1:07. I could see the finish line and started hammering, almost sure that 1:07:xx ‘A’ goal was mine. I crossed the line with a fist-pump in a time of 1:07:46.

Thanks to Edison Yao for sharing this pic.

Post-race, I enjoyed talking with the other runners who I usually only interact with online (Strava), hearing about how their races went and what their upcoming plans are. Congrats and kudos all around – especially to Eric Bang on his new PB (1:10:55) and Mitch Free on being a few seconds shy of his PB after a few weeks of issues. Good luck to everyone tackling a spring marathon at Boston, Mississauga, or elsewhere!

What’s next?

I’m now officially signed up for the Glass City Marathon in Toledo, OH on April 23 – it’s only six weeks away now. Unfortunately, my body has kind of fallen apart on me after the Chilly Half. My immune system must have taken a big hit as I was sick the next day and I’m still dealing with a cold a week later. Also, my hamstring has been hurting since the day after the race so I haven’t done much running this week. I’ve been trying to use heat, massage, ice packs… really anything I can think of to help this hamstring heal but as it stands right now, I’m resigned to taking a few days completely off running after three days of minimal jogging.

My first thought when the hamstring issue appeared was that I’d bail on the marathon plans, take a week or two off to recover and absorb this good training I’ve put in up to Chilly, and then put in 8-10 weeks of focused training for the Ottawa 10K (Canadian Championship race). After a lot of thought and weighing options, I think I’m still going to give Toledo a shot. I’ve had good marathon results off really poor/inconsistent training in the past so I’m working to convince myself that the build-up doesn’t need to go perfectly to have a good race. I have some base fitness and I just need to bring that to the starting line and I believe I can improve on my 2:28:12 PB from Ottawa last May.

Time to wrap this post up. Hopefully I’ll have some good training to write about next time!  Thanks for following along.

8 weeks to Toledo

Alright. My kids are in bed, my wife is playing soccer, and I’ve got a beer in hand. If I can’t get this posted now, it’s never going to happen!

My training has continued to go well. I’ve lost only three days to injury prevention and maintenance this cycle. I’m still running so that’s what is important with a marathon eight weeks away. Workouts have been going very well and I feel like I’m rolling better than I ever have in the past.

Within a day or two of posting my last blog entry and saying how great training was going, my tibialis anterior tendon flared up and forced me to take a few days of unscheduled rest. The tendon felt pretty bad for a couple days and in the end it took two rest days and three days of reduced mileage to put that issue behind me. A couple weeks later, a quad or sartorius muscle seized up at the end of an easy run and forced me to take another rest day.

Look who finally showed up! Snow on the trail and it's nearly February.

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It always surprises me how quickly these little injuries can appear. When this type of stuff comes up, it’s really difficult to just set running aside and shift my focus to other things. Maybe it’s like a brief depression as you mourn the disruption to your best laid plans. I should probably know by now that it rarely–if ever–goes to plan and you have to kind of roll with the punches and make the best of your situation. Sometimes ‘real life’ needs to take priority. Sometimes your body needs a break. Sometimes a blizzard makes it impossible to run outdoors. I guess I just need to remind myself that – as much as I’d like to think otherwise – I can’t control how my body reacts or if/when it will break down. I can only listen to the cues it gives me and adjust my training accordingly.

Despite those brief scares, I’ve logged 140 km and 150 km the last two weeks and I’m on track for another 150 km week as I head to Burlington this weekend for the Chilly half marathon. Overall, this training cycle has been going better than all previous marathon build-ups. For the first four weeks (of twelve before the marathon), I’ve averaged 125 km/week compared to 101 for Ottawa 2016, 123 for Ottawa 2015, 105 for Waterloo 2014, 66 for Amherstburg 2013, and 59 for Niagara-on-the-Lake 2013. In the twelve weeks prior to starting a build-up, I averaged 95 km/week this time, 62 last time, 101 before Ottawa 2015, and 95 before Waterloo. Maybe this increased length of consistent running will finally give me that breakthrough I’ve been looking for the last two years. Just gotta keep going steady for another 6 weeks and then it’ll be time to taper and rest up for the race!

Chilly Half preview

The Chilly half marathon is on March 5 and there’s a great looking field of guys that I’m excited to run with/against. Two years ago (the last time I raced a half marathon), I ran 1:09:30 at this race before running 2:31:45 at the Ottawa marathon two months later (splitting the first half in 1:12:11). Since then, I’ve run 2:28:12 last spring in Ottawa (splitting 1:12:28) and just a couple weeks ago I ran a 70′ tempo workout, covering the half distance in about 1:11:30. I’m reasonably confident that I can run better than 1:10 in race conditions and given where my workouts are, I’m hoping to run more like 1:07:50 (3:13/km) to 1:08:30 (3:15/km). Those paces are intimidating but hopefully the legs have it in them on race day. (And hopefully the 30 km/h SW wind that’s forecast for race day calms down or else the last 8 km are going to be a grind!)

There should hopefully be a bunch of guys to work with on Sunday. Some are out of my wheelhouse but I think there will be a few with similar goals as mine. It helps to have people around you, pushing you, keeping those competitive juice flowing. Here are the guys I’m watching for:

  • Blair Morgan (1:05:56 downhill at Hamilton 2016),
  • Tristan Woodfine (1:08:03 at Chilly last year, 1:06:18 in Barcelona 2015),
  • Josh Bolton (1:09:00 at Chilly last year and 1:07:40 in Montreal last April),
  • John Parrott (2:26:10 at the Ottawa marathon last year),
  • Paul Rochus (1:09:41 last year),
  • Lucas McAneney (1:09:34 last year),
  • Dancan Kasia (1:07:53 at Chilly in 2015),
  • Rob Brouillette (1:11:54 last year and 1:10:19 downhill at Mississauga), and
  • Eric Bang (1:12:31 last year en route to 1:11:42 in Ottawa)

My goals are: A. 1:07:xx. B. 1:08:xx. C. Better than 1:09:30 for a PB. I’ll try to write up a quick race recap post sometime next week.

The last remnants of winter #lakehuron #seemyrun

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Marathon Fueling

Another thing I’m starting to think about with only 8 weeks until the marathon, is fueling. Last spring before Ottawa, I had a condensed period in which to train and I only had 5 runs with focused fueling. In those 2+ hour training runs, I averaged one gel per hour in liquid carbs (32g/hour). I’ve read more recently that you should target 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour so I’ve been trying to work on that this time around. In my long run last weekend, I got down a gel every half hour for 59 g/hour. I’ll practice that a few more times in the coming weeks.

That’s all the time I’ve got. Thanks for following along!