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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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!

Racing back into fitness

It’s been four weeks since I ran the Ottawa marathon. I had planned to take 10-14 days off following that race but I was eager to get back to training and hopefully a better race this fall. I ended up taking three days off before getting out for two really easy jogs in that first week back. My legs were a little achy but otherwise I felt good.

In the second week, I got in 100 km of easy running at roughly an hour per day. I had been taking care to run especially easy to be sure I was recovered before I got in any harder efforts. By the weekend, I was feeling ready and I ran a 25 km hilly progression run down to 3:20/km and that put some sting in the legs; a sign of a good run.

One last shakeout on the trail before heading to Toronto for the @runcrs #Waterfront10

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For the third week back, I ran a 6×4’/90″ workout averaging 3:08/km which was pretty good but not my best. That weekend, I ran a local race—the 30th annual Huron House Boys’ Home 10K. I have run this race the last couple years and love it as it is perfectly flat and covers roads that I train on every day so it feels a little like my ‘home course’. I wasn’t sure what to expect three weeks after a marathon but I figured I’d use this as a test before the Waterfront 10K in Toronto the following weekend. I went out hard and basically faded my way to the finish line, with my first km in 3:04 and my slowest in 3:20. I finished in 32:16, which was 17 seconds faster than my time last year at the same race so I took that as a positive. It was good to see the legs coming back into form so quickly after Ottawa.

Envisioning the pancake tent

In the fourth week back, I got in a midweek 8x1000m/400m workout on the track, running arguably my best set of Ks, averaging 3:03/km. Everything felt controlled and smooth. This workout was a good confidence booster heading into a race on the weekend.

I drove to Toronto for Canada Running Series’ inaugural Waterfront 10K. This race replaced the Yonge St 10K where I ran 31.00 last spring. The old course was net downhill, dropping 8.5 m/km, but thankfully, the new course is much fairer, dropping only 1.3 m/km. I think that means it’s still not a record legal course (limit is 1.0 m/km), but there was a pretty good hill at about 7 km that makes me feel okay about calling this a fair course.

CRS put together an awesome field of athletes, including Rio-bound marathoners Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis, and Krista DuChene. I figured Reid and Eric would be out front, there would be a second pack of Thomas Toth and Sami Jibril, and a possible third pack of Josh Bolton, Colin Fewer, and Jeff Costen. I imagined I’d be somewhere in the fourth pack hoping to stay close to Josh, Colin, and Jeff.

The lead pack
Heading toward Lakeshore Blvd

After the gun went, there were probably twenty people ahead of me and I tried to settle into a good pace. We came through the first km in 3:03 which was too quick but shortly after I settled into ~3:08/km pace. I found myself in a group with Josh, Colin, and Matt Loiselle with Seth Marcaccio about 10m ahead. This pack stuck together through roughly 7 km.

Doing my best to hang on to Josh’s shoulder

There were plenty of people out cheering along Lakeshore Blvd so that helped me keep pushing. At the turnaround point by 7 km, I started to make my move as we climbed a long, steady hill/overpass. I managed to pull away from the pack I had been running with although I’m not sure by how much. I was counting down the minutes and telling myself to keep pressing the pace and not to let anyone catch me. With about a km to go, I reeled in Behanu Degefa and then I could see the finish line and my watch read 30:45 so I dug deep and finished hard. I crossed the line in 31:21 which is a 30-second personal best from the 10K I ran in December. I ended up 9th overall behind fellow Canadians: Eric, Reid, Tristan Woodfine, Thomas, and Sami.

I’m happy with my effort and how I executed the race (being aware of tangents when others ahead of me weren’t, sticking with a group and not letting them pull away, making a break when I felt strong and confident that I could keep the hammer down to the finish line). It makes me hopeful that if I can run a 10K PB with only 2-3 workouts in my legs after a marathon, I should be able to get a better marathon out of myself in the fall. Perhaps I didn’t push myself hard enough in Ottawa although it certainly didn’t feel that way at the 40 km marker! In any case, it’s great to see progress.

After the race I had the opportunity to chat with a number of runners I’ve met through Strava (basically Facebook for runners/cyclists). It’s cool to put faces to names and chat a bit about non-running stuff, too. The Canadian road running scene is made up of great people. Shout out to the GRE crew (Rob, Josh, Tyler), Jeff, and Steve and Colin for letting me tag along for a cooldown.

That’s it for now. Thanks for checking in!