Robbie Burns 8K and Chilly Half 2018

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…

Blair Morgan out front in the Robbie Burns 8K. I'm tucked in with Jeff Costen and Tim Heubsch.

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 was that there was a sea of runners still on their way out who shouted cheers and encouragements as our paths crossed. This was a big boost for me and I used it to keep motivated. When I crossed 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 crossed 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, Around the Bay, Boston, and Mississauga!

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Plans for spring 2018

After STWM, I took three weeks off and then got back into the swing of things with five weeks of easy running, building mileage, and incorporating a new warm-up routine (lunge matrix and leg swings). This was the longest break I’ve had from running while healthy since since I started running regularly in 2013! The last three marathons I’ve run have been run off compressed build-ups following injury, so I’m really looking forward to (and hoping for) a long, slow build-up to a spring goal race.

It’s been hard to think of much to write about during this period because more often than not, the training is simple, repetitive, and not particularly exciting. For me, it’s been a time where I can do a bunch of running without having to think very hard about it. Get out the door, log the miles, and then back to real life.

For the last three weeks, I’ve started doing some workouts and two-hour long runs. The weather has been cold and snowy and so the road conditions have been mushy and slippery. My focus through these workouts has been on effort without putting too much stock into what the paces end up being. I’ve run some 3′ intervals faster than 2’s and I’ve run 10′ intervals faster than 8’s. In the past, I might’ve tried to hit Daniels’ prescribed paces and there’s just no way some days when footing is poor. I think this approach will allow me to get in more quality than if I were to try (and fail) to hit specific paces. I know the paces I want to see will come around soon enough.

Winter running. Looks like a black metal album cover.

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I’m now on my fourth week at 10 hours of running (roughly 130-140 km/week, depending on road conditions and fatigue) and I’m feeling like the base miles have conditioned me well to handle the training ahead. *fingers crossed*

I did a little review of my training to see if/when I’d run four consecutive 10+ hour training weeks and I’ve only done it a handful of times.

Hopefully I’ll see a similar pay-off this spring!

Now, it’s time to start looking forward to a spring 2018 marathon! I have been searching all over North America for a flat race in March/April with cool temperatures and other people around the 2:20 mark but apparently that is a really tall order! The best options seem to be Toledo (flat and cool but the depth of the field is really hit-or-miss) and Ottawa (flat and people to race but warm). I feel like the last three marathons I’ve run have been warmer than I’d like so maybe it’s time to try something different. I do almost all my training alone — including long, marathon-paced workouts — so I don’t think I should be worried about racing solo either.

I was also playing with the idea of an IAAF label race in Europe (Rotterdam, Hannover, or Vienna) since they can check off all three boxes (course, field, and weather) but it just seems crazy to spend so much on flights and hotels to run a race. So, for the time being, I’m set on Toledo’s Glass City Marathon on April 22 as it is only a 2.5-hour drive from home. I have had this race on my radar for a couple years now but have succumbed to injury in the build-up the last two years. Here’s hoping the third time is the charm as it was for getting on STWM’s starting line last year.

This place is completely unrecognizable! #lakehuron #seemyrun

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My rough plan right now is for another 3 weeks of general workouts and long runs. After that, it’s twelve weeks of longer workouts with more volume but only twice per week (compared to three right now). I’m picturing this phase looking a lot like what Eric Bang, Leslie Sexton, and Blair Morgan did before their last marathons: one mid-week workout with a weekend long run alternating easy one week and long marathon-pace tempos the next.

I’m hopeful that with that base, I’ll be able to maintain a higher average weekly mileage. For the last three marathon cycles, I’ve averaged 110, 120, and 130 km per week. Maybe I’ll be able to average closer to 140 this time.

The road I’m on…

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Well, that’s all I’ve figured out so far. I don’t imagine I’ll have anything exciting to report for another two months while I just focus on getting more miles in the legs. I did sign up for the Chilly Half again this year so that’ll likely be my next race. I saw Rejean Chiasson on the start list and Reid Coolsaet mentioned it as a possible tune-up. Hopefully we’ll see a few more guys sign up after the World Half Marathon team is picked (everyone’s gunning for a qualifying time down in Houston next weekend so I imagine they’re waiting to see how that shakes out before committing to spring plans).

Hopefully over the next few months we’ll hear where everyone is racing this spring.

Thanks for following along!

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.