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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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.

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!