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.

Ottawa Marathon 2016 Recap

The short version…

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I ran 2:28:12 at the Ottawa marathon yesterday. That’s three minutes faster than I’ve run a marathon in the past but several minutes slower than I thought I’d be capable of. In fact, 2:28 was my target in the fall of 2014 so I’m a little disillusioned with this result (and my result from last year). But the positives are that I made it through a training cycle healthy and I’m improving.

The longer version…

Two weeks out from the race, I ran a 34.5 km workout with 26.2 km at marathon pace (3:26/km) and it felt great so that became the goal pace (roughly a 2:25 marathon). I felt confident that I had done all I could reasonably accomplish in the 10 weeks I had to rebuild mileage and get workouts in before I had to taper for the race. All my workouts during the cycle had gone well. I felt fitter than I have been in the past. Would I have liked more weeks of training and more time to build mileage? Yes, but there wasn’t time unless I wanted to start creeping into the summer and stealing weeks from my fall training cycle. This was a last ditch effort to run a marathon for real first time in a year. But like I said, I felt I had done all I could to get ready.

After that 26 km race simulation workout, I only had a couple easy goal-pace runs to remind my legs of the pace and make sure it felt comfortable over the final two weeks. Things went off without a hitch except the weather turned from snow one week to record-breaking highs the next. The long-term forecast for southwestern Ontario was looking brutal leading up to the race; highs of 30+°C and lows in the high teens (the ideal temperature for running a marathon is closer to 5-8°C). A couple days before Ottawa (the day before I was to leave for the drive), I evaluated my options for other races. I didn’t want to bail on Ottawa but I definitely didn’t want to suffer through a scorching hot marathon for a time I wouldn’t be satisfied with. After all, the hard work in training had already taken place and that’s more important to my long-term plans than cashing in on that fitness at a race. I’ve always maintained that the only race more important than the current one is the next race. Every race is a stepping stone to the next. The fitness gained in training should be carried forward into the next cycle.

So I found a race in South Bend, Indiana the first weekend in June and the forecast was 10° cooler than Ottawa so that was really tempting. I talked it out with my wife and some friends and decided to go through with Ottawa. As we got closer to race day, the temperatures were coming down a bit and it didn’t look as terrible. My ‘hopeful’ race plan was to go through half in 1:12 and then magically find another gear to run the second half in 1:10 (2:22 at the finish). With the temperature where it was, I had to bail on that plan and wondered if I’d even be able to run sub-2:30. I decided to go for 2:25 or broke as there was significant prize money for the top three Canadians but you had to run 2:25. I figured the conditions weren’t ideal for my “A” goal so I might as well go for it.

The day before the marathon, I probably spent a bit too much time on foot getting to the technical meeting to hear about pacers and water bottle locations, and exploring the city, so I decided to skip my last shakeout jog. In hindsight, I probably should have tried to stay off my feet the day before the race.

Another factor leading up to the race was some poison ivy/oak that I had picked up the weekend before the race while helping my dad cut down dead trees. I had a couple sleepless nights battling the itchiness and fighting a sore throat as a result. The throat cleared up by Thursday but my arms and right leg were swollen and covered in painful blisters even as I stood on the starting line. I doubt this had any impact on my race, beyond affecting my sleep. Next time though, I’ll be more careful about avoiding strenuous activities the week before a goal race as I could have hurt my back hauling logs around just as easily.

With the obligatory pre-race kit photo out of the way, time to sleep!

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In any case, race day finally came after one last sleepless night and I was up at 4:45 to eat a bagel, get dressed, and make my way to the start area. Mercifully, it was cooler than it had been all week as I jogged a short warm-up. The first 15-20 km of the race were mostly uneventful as I ran primarily with a pack that formed around the lead Ethiopian women. In that pack were fellow Canadians John Parrot running his debut and Nicholas Berrouard (who passed me in the final stages of the race last year). The only hiccup was that I had the water bottle table locations mixed up and I missed my first bottle at 5 km. I knew I had to be sure to get my next bottle at 10 km but I still was unsure of the location. All of a sudden, we were at 10 km and I saw my bottle out of the corner of my eye as I ran past it (I recognized it because of the bag of sour jujubes taped to the side). I had to stop, run back, grab it, and then spent the next km or two catching back up to the pack. I made sure to finish that whole bottle to make it worth it.

There were hundreds or maybe thousands of volunteers across the length of the race handing out water and sponges for cooling, food and gels, and even spraying misters/sprinklers. I took two or three cups of water at every stop, dumping them on my head to help evaporate heat and grabbed sponges every chance I got. I was doing my best to stay cool and comfortable.

As we got closer to the halfway mark and crossing into Gatineau, the hills started appearing. I’m sure they weren’t too horrendous but I get very little practice. They felt fine at the beginning but they slowly took their toll on my legs. I even remember feeling fine crossing the Alexandra bridge back into Ottawa (around 26 km?) when last year that part of the race was torturous so I was in a good place this time, feeling comfortable.

Thanks for the photo, Sean

As we crossed back into Ottawa, the pack exploded, the two lead women split apart, and I found myself running with John Parrott (another Canadian) and Mok from Singapore who I had met the day before. We ran together roughly from 25 km to 35 km or thereabouts, doing a decent job of keeping the pace on target until I started falling off. Not drastically, but I was losing contact and eventually they were both out of my sight. Legs were getting tired and heavy. My stomach was starting to feel nauseated and I started to feel the rumblings of an impending bathroom break. The crowds cheering at this point in the race were awesome and, although my face certainly didn’t show it, it was very much appreciated! So many people were lining the streets out to support the runners!

Suffering through the last couple km. Thanks for the photo, Richard!

I started to slow down and was overtaken by the lead woman somewhere around 40 km after I had pulled away from her somewhere around 28-30 km. I was really trying hard to not crap myself maintain composure in front of all the people cheering and the live TV camera that was following the lead woman! The last km went by and I crossed in 2:28:12 (a 3 minute improvement from last year), 14th overall (an improvement from 23rd last year), and third Canadian behind Kip Kangogo (who ran a conservative 2:21, taking home the $5000 payday for top Canadian!) and John Parrott (who clocked a debut marathon of 2:26:09!).

I’m happy with the PB but I wanted more, obviously, or I wouldn’t have gone out at 2:25 pace! I figured with the forecasted heat, it was a long shot, although the heat wasn’t as bad as anticipated. I can’t be too upset; I gave it my best. My legs are thoroughly thrashed.

This result leaves me feeling a little disillusioned. Do I have much better in me after only improving from 2:31 to 2:28 after a whole year? Admittedly it was a year of ups and downs with a couple tendon injuries but 2:28 is the time I thought I’d run back in the fall of 2014 (a year-and-a-half ago)! And even last year—a whole year ago—I thought I might run 2:23-2:25 in Ottawa. Yet, here I am, now just running 2:28. I’m happy because it’s an improvement from last time and I’m happy that after some injury trouble last year I was able to make it through a short training cycle and get on a starting line… But I have questions unanswered. What more do I need to do? More weights? More hills? More miles? More speed work? More core work? Why have I been thinking I’m capable of faster results but failing to make it happen on race day? Am I naturally better suited for running shorter races? Maybe the 26.2 km race simulation workout I ran should have been on a hilly route to more closely mimc Ottawa. Maybe the weather during my training runs was a few degrees cooler than race day. Should I have adjusted my expectations based on those variables? Maybe. Probably. But I felt like I could do better and I wanted to do better.

Anyway, I’ve got a few weeks to think on this as I give my body some time to rest before I get back to it. Not sure what’s next on the immediate horizon but the Toronto Waterfront marathon will probably be my next goal race in October.

Regardless of the outcome or how I feel about my race, I appreciate everyone who cheered along, gave me a hug or a high five, and supported me in one way or another as I work on this hobby; most especially my wife and my parents! And the insane number of volunteers who helped put on an awesome weekend of road running in Ottawa!

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Cheers!

Detroit Turkey Trot 10K

Since I last posted, I have two more weeks of training in the bank and my first race to recap since July!

Week of 2015-11-16

I had the swelling in my knee looked at and it appears to be bursitis which is some inflammation of a round sac that’s supposed to help reduce friction (a ‘bursa’). I guess it just looks worse than it actually is when I straighten my leg since the IT band is pushed outward and rests on top of this swollen bursa. Icing and foam rolling around the IT band is in order. Thanks to Jenny at Archway for helping figure this one out. It’s been noticeably inflamed for several weeks now so I’m a little worried, but still no pain. (I think I caused this when I twisted my knee getting into the car… Stupid, eh?)

I got in a great track workout on Wednesday where I ran some of my best 1200m intervals, despite it being cold enough that my teeth were chattering during warm-up. I averaged 3:42 but had a nice progression within the workout from 3:44 down to 3:39 which is the direction you want your splits to go. On Friday, I ran a 3×9′ tempos with 3′ recoveries. Target was ~3:19/km with the 2nd 9′ changing gears from 3:25/km to 3:13/km every 45 seconds. I came through the first 9′ at 3:19/km, the second 9′ averaging 3:10/km for the fast 45″s and 3:27/km for the slow 45″s (3:18/km for the full 9′), and 3:16/km for the final 9′.

  • M: Rest
  • T: Workout: 5 km warm-up, 6 x 1200m (3′ walk/jog recoveries) [3:44, 3:42, 3:41, 3:41, 3:40, 3:39], 5 km cool-down (20.2 km) + 30′ core
  • W: 17 km + 15′ drills
  • Th: 16 km + 30′ core
  • F: Workout: 5 km warm-up, 3 x 9′ (3′ jog recoveries) [3:19/km, 3:18/km, 3:16/km], 5 km cool-down (19.5 km)
  • S: 21.8 km + 30′ core (one bonus core session to makeup for the one I missed last week)
  • Su: 45′ bike + 19 km run (including Mo’Run Sarnia 16K) + 45′ bike
  • Total: 113.9 km in 8 hours of running (3.25 hours of extras)

Week of 2015-11-23

I had the Detroit Turkey Trot 10K on Thursday and my lead-up workout on Monday was 15×1’/1′ reps, averaging ~3:05/km for the fast ones. I would have liked to see the pace a little quicker but the effort felt right. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself as this race came after only 8 weeks back to training but it was a last shot at a 10K before winter. Admittedly, I wanted a good result to record some progress since July (and to reaffirm that the weeks of cross-training were worth it) but I was ready to admit that fitness might still be coming around.

My expectations going into the race were mixed. I felt like my cross-training and running from the last 12 weeks had me in good shape – not to the point where my recent workouts were objectively better than past workouts, but I was feeling healthy and fit. Looking back at the 10Ks I ran this past summer, I figured I should have 15-30 seconds for free due to the heat/humidity I endured during those races but I tried to keep thinking that if I wanted those seconds, I had to earn them on race day. While it is a fun exercise to evaluate past performances, workouts, and other runners’ results to predict how you expect to finish a race, you have to show up on race day and prove it.

The race started at 7:30 am so I was up around 4:30 and on the road by 4:45 for the 90 minute drive to Detroit. My little sister came along to help navigate and watch my gear so I didn’t have to use bag check. (It’s a good thing, too, because the line for it was insane.)

I picked up the my race kit and headed out for a 5 km warm-up. When I finished warming up, I had 15 minutes to switch shoes, pin my bib to my singlet, and get to the starting line. When I left the Cobo Center, I had 10 minutes which seemed like a lot until I saw the thousands of other people heading the same direction as me. I saw some fast looking guy jogging so I followed him – figured he knew where to go.

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16,000+ participants in the 5K and 10K combined.
I was weaving around people and cars as I worked my way toward the start corrals only to find another street packed full with people when I turned onto Woodward. I had 6 minutes to find the Wave 1 corral and try to get as close to the starting line as possible. I didn’t know where the entrance to the corral was and I didn’t have time to look, so I hopped the fence about 10 rows back and started weaseling my way closer. I got to the 3rd row when they started singing the national anthem and then I somehow got on the line when they removed the barriers and let us walk up to the real starting line. Phew, that was way too close.

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Weaseling my way onto the starting line.

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A bunch of high school kids took up spots on the line to sprint for 50 metres and then start jogging. Good thing they didn’t start in front of me…
My plan was to run 3:12-3:14/km for the first 5 km and then see if I had an extra gear to bring it home in under 32 minutes. The gun went off and I did my best to let people go as I came through the first km a little quick in 3:08. Once I got into my 3:12/km rhythm, I was in 7th place with a pack of 5 at the front about 20-30 metres ahead of me. I ignored the lead pack, focusing on my own pace. I knew we had the wind at our backs for this straight-out portion of the course so I didn’t want to overdo it and fall apart when we turned back into the wind. Fortunately, it seemed that the lead pack didn’t increase the gap and when we came to the turnaround point at 4-4.5 km, I made a move to catch the pack and tuck in behind. At this point, there were four or five other guys in the pack. Our pace was slowing to ~3:20/km and I became nervous about losing ground on 32 minutes but the wind was pretty fierce so I continued to let the other guys do the work.

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Making a move into 2nd place; I met Damon (3rd) after the race – nice guy 
Over the next 2-3 km, guys started dropping off one at a time and eventually I was left in 2nd place. It was a grind for a while there as we winded our way back toward the river. I had to literally put my head down and tell myself to keep hammering. Despite the head-/cross-wind on the second half, I moving well and making up time. I made the final turn toward the Joe Louis arena, saw the finish chute, and kept on the gas – crossing the line in 31:51. I’ll count that as a new PB since the only faster time I’ve run (31:00) was on a downhill course – so that’s a nice improvement from July (32:24).

Fun fact: The guy who won (by over 30 seconds), Lex Williams, is a sub-4:00 miler who is sponsored by Brooks!

 

  • M: Workout: 5 km warm-up, 15 x 1’/1′ reps, 5 km cool-down (18.2 km) + 15′ drills
  • T: 16 km
  • W: 8 km
  • Th: Race: Detroit Turkey Trot 10K in 31:51, 2nd OA (21.3 km with warm-up/cool-down)
  • F: 45′ elliptical
  • S: 26 km
  • Su: 30′ core + 17 km + 60′ bike
  • Total: 106.8 km in 7.5 hours of running (2.5 hours of extras)

Anyway, that’s it for now. Next block of training is four weeks to get ready for the Boxing Day 10 Miler in Hamilton. Should be a fun way to break up the winter training and there’s usually a good field of guys there. Last year had Rob Watson, Sami Jibril, Berhanu Degefa, Lucas McAneney, Dancan Kasia, and Terence Attema. I’ve had the pleasure of getting whooped by five of the six of them.