After being injured for almost all the fall and most of the winter, I have finally been able to build up mileage and get into decent shape! I was able to start building up mileage again in April, and from May to now I have been able to do workouts again while managing around 80 miles per week, mostly on singles, one day off per week. I usually only run once a day, as I feel it is a good cautious approach, especially coming back from an injury. I still have a few lingering issues with my back and my psoas/groin on my right side, but with some chiropractic help, lots of stretching, and carefully reading my body being cautious not to build up too much too soon, I am able to train near the level that I want to. The only thing I am really removing from a typical 100 mile week is a few morning easy runs. Based on where I am at right now, these are not worth the added risk of injury for what I would get out of them, I am better off getting 24 hr recovery between runs.
So needless to say, I am in a much better mood than I was this winter, when I was injured, unemployed, and single. Since this spring, I have been able to run again, my girlfriend and I are back together, and I have been able to do some math tutoring to high school students in Guelph, as well as some online tutoring. This is good experience as I am going to teacher's college in Windsor this fall, I enjoy tutoring, and it is a bit of extra cash to help pay for teacher's college. I was able to do a few races in May and June as well! I started with three low key races, with the main goal of getting my confidence up, and if I win any prize money in the process, it would be a nice bonus.
Buffalo Half Marathon was my first race in a long time. Flashback to when I ran this race back in 2011. That year, I came 3rd, but because of a marshaling error at the end of the race, they gave the first place prize to both runners ahead of me, and I was bumped up to 2nd place. The marathon and the half marathon took place at the same time, and as the leader was approaching the finish line, he was incorrectly lead on to the marathon route. They did the right thing, took full responsibility for their mistake and gave both runners the prize money. Why do I bring this up? I will explain later when I talk about the next race I ran. As for my Buffalo race this year, there was a good group of runners running at 67:30 pace, some were in the marathon and some were in the half marathon. The field was a lot deeper than previous years, but there was nobody who wanted to push the pace beyond something that I was capable to go at, so it was a perfect pace for me to run the time that I wanted to. Mentally, I often split half marathon into 3 parts, first 5 miles + middle 5 miles + last 5k. My splits for this were approximately 26:00 - 25:20 - 16:20 for a time of about 1:07:40. I was happy with this effort, as it has been so long since I raced. I was able to hold with the lead pack for the first 11 miles, and the last 2 miles was a bit of a struggle, but that is to be expected based on where I was at in my training.
The second race I did was Barrhaven 10k in Ottawa. I ran this last year also. As I did last year, I stayed at my cousin's place. My brother was taking some summer classes at Ottawa, so I met up with him too. This race has a decent prize purse, but only two places would earn me money, and 3rd place would pay for my travel expenses. Based on previous results, I had a pretty good chance to get top 2 if I could manage around a 31:00, which I felt I could do. It would be nice to earn some money running, as I have spent decent money on chiropractor and physiotherapy in an attempt to get back into where I was before the injury. I guess I sort of saw this race as a gamble, but not really, because if I don't get top 3, at least it was a nice weekend trip to hang out with my cousin and my brother. Within a few kilometers of the race, from what I remember, there was only 3 of us in the lead pack. Johana Kariankei, followed by myself, and Kevin Coffey. The race route does a lot of overlapping, and it was switched from the previous year. Apparently the lead biker was not aware of this, (neither was I) so he took us down the wrong turn at about the 2km mark. It took quite some time before some body shouted at us WRONG WAY! but by this time, there wasn't much we could do. There was very little effort to get us back on track, and if we were to turn around, we probably wouldn't have caught up. So it ended up being a tempo run for us top 3 runners. We reached 10k close to where the finish was last year, and according Johana's GPS, he ran 10k in 31:11, and I was a few seconds behind him. Not a bad effort considering the heat! Once we hit about 11k, Johana started jogging, and then I started jogging. Then we had a nice chat, and walked back to the actual finish line. At first, the race director tried to put the blame on us, claiming that we should have known the course. It just kind of irked me a bit that he did this. The course does have a lot of turns, and it overlaps at certain places. It wasn't exactly a straightforward square course to memorize by any means. Check out their course website under race maps if you want to know what I mean. Also, the race changed from last year, so there should have been extra care made to instruct the lead biker and course marshals about this potential error. I find it hard to believe that I have to memorize the course with such confidence that whilst running at 3:00/km clip in 30 degree heat, I will have the confidence to say "Excuse me Mr. Biker, but I believe you are directing us the wrong way!" I can forgive him for trying to put the blame us, and I think he realized the absurdity of his statement after he said it. I can realize from a race director's point of view that this sort of occurrence is a bit of a nightmare, especially when there is prize money on the line, and I am sure the biker felt horrible too. I am thankful that they were at least willing to take part of the blame, and offer us about half of the prize money we would have won. I am not sure if they gave the full amount or half of the amount to the actual winners of the race, but either way, I'm sure they would be thrilled, because it's not every day a 36:00 10k wins prize money! A women nearly won the race. Lioudmila Kortchaguina, who impressively also ran the bread and honey 15km race the next day! It would’ve been nice if they gave us the full amount, and took full responsibility for their mistake like the Buffalo Marathon did in 2011, but I can respect the way the handled it. I wasn't going to fight for the other half of it, especially since the race is quite small and mainly a charity race. For somebody like Johana, a more accomplished runner, who came here to Canada for the purpose of earning money in road races, he was understandably more upset than I was. It may be mainly a charity race, but once you put a significant prize purse and advertise your race to elite runners using social media, it is no longer just a charity race for those people. Those in contention for the prize money are either professional or semi-professional. Whether they are trying to make a living from the sport or just trying to pay for the physiotherapy and shoes, they are there for more than another finisher medal, and a t-shirt. (I do appreciate the t-shirts though. For the amount of races I enter I will never have to buy a t shirt for the rest of my life!) I just think that an incident like this could have easily be avoided, and I’m sure the organizers of the Barrhaven run will make extra precautions next year. There needs to be extra caution to make sure all the volunteers know exactly where they are to lead the runners, especially at an intersection where the runners are supposed to go through once the first time and turn left the second time. It’s a big fear of both the race directors and the runners that we will be sent the wrong way, so taking preventative measures can greatly reduce the risk of this happening.
My most recent race was last week. I ran the Peach bud 10k, a race near my hometwon, that is now a memorial race for the late race director Jerry Friesen. Jerry was an awesome race director, and it was such a devastating loss when he passed away in 2011. He did a great job with the Niagara running series, and he was able to assemble a solid elite field for each of the races in the series. The first road race I ever ran was part of this series, it was the Benchberry 5k, when I was in grade 9. I can remember being amazed how fast the elite runners were able to complete 5k on a hilly course in the heat. It was inspiring. I am very much appreciative of race directors that value elite running enough to add prize money. It allows for competitive racing opportunities with a chance to earn a little bit. Does adding a prize purse increase the race numbers enough that it is worth it from the race director’s view? It is debatable. Since Jerry passed away, prize money was no longer offered, and the race numbers have dropped each year. (The peach bud still offered prize money up until last year, but it was poorly advertised, not even on their website). There may be other factors that have lead to decrease in numbers, but once you take prize money away, elite runners have little reason to travel to show up, and although the top guys are usually given complimentary entries, there are also the sub elites that would be keying off those elites that are less likely to enter. It could have a trickle down effect, and it has gotten to the point where there is only a dozen or so people are under 40 minutes in the peach bud race and 45 minutes gets you on the first page of results on sportstats.ca. This is really disappointing, considering how a few years ago, it would take until page 4 to get to 45 minute runners. It is sad to see the decline of this race, especially on the more competitive end. Even offering a small prize purse would attract a decent field of competitive runners as long as they advertise it a little bit or at least announce it on their race website. Hopefully the new race director considers that. Without any incentive, we can just run a tempo on our own, and not pay an entry fee. But anyways, after that rant, I'll now talk about how that race actually went. I was lucky enough to have somebody to run with despite no prize money being offered. Dancan Kasia went out 3:00km pace for a few km's, and then we slowed down to 3:10-3:15. I guess the heat got the better of us. It felt a little tougher than it should have, but I was able to finish the last 2k in a respectable 6:10. So I won the race with a time 20 seconds slower than I typically run this race in. Other years, I came 7th, 5th and 2nd each of those years I had a time around a 31:20. When I finished, I circled back and paced my 13 year old youngest brother Jared for his last km. He ran 41:30, pretty good for his age! My girlfriend also ran. I convinced her to start distance running, and she is a former triple jumper, so it is a bit of a change for her. Anyways, I'll admit, 31:40 isn't really deserving of prize money, but at least I got a prize pack from some of the race sponsors, including a box from Tim Hortons. I though it was going to be donuts, man was I disappointed! Inside was a roll up the rim t-shirt, a travel mug, and a bumper sticker that says 'I love Tim Horton's'. There was also a $2 Timmies card. I gave the shirt to my Dad to wear as a barn shirt, and I see no use for the bumper sticker since I don’t have a car and I don’t like Tim Horton’s enough to put a bumper sticker on my car that makes that statement. If I’m going to advertise for them , I think they should pay me J. Maybe they could sponsor me and give me an unlimited supply of Iced Cap's. Then I would wear their shirt around! I can use Iced Caps as marathon fueling! They could make a commercial of me taking an ice cap in the middle of a marathon while everyone else is taking their traditional fueling drinks. It would be better than any of the lame advertisements they typically have! On a side note, I stuck around my hometown for the week, and went to our town's annual Poultryfest with my girlfriend. I entered a wing eating contest there and came second, which was good enough for a $15 coupon. This prize was almost greater than winning the peach bud, and the entry was free! So perhaps I should get into competitive eating instead? Or even better, contests with running and eating combined. Krispy Kreme challenge in North Carolina is still on the bucket list!
Just a quick disclaimer here: Although I mentioned prize money a lot in the last few paragraphs, I want to make it clear that this is not the reason I run. I’d be a fool if I thougt I could rely on it for income to support myself. Anything I win is really a bonus of being able to actually earn something doing something I love. I will admit that I look for races where I think I might earn something, especially since I don’t have a full time job yet and I am spending another year on schooling yet. Every little bit of income I can get helps! The fact is, that there is a strong correlation between prize money offered and competition that is attracted. There were instances where I finished outside a money position, but I was pushed to run a personal best, and that is a much greater feeling than winning prize money. I am grateful for race directors who take the effort to assemble an elite field for their races. Alan Brooks of the Canada Running Series is a great example of this. Jerry was another example of someone who did this, but more on the local level.
So I took a few days off last week, and now the plan is to build up for a fall marathon, location TBD, but I have a few options in mind. I will be more cautious this time around, reading my body and adjusting the time in between workouts accordingly. I'm essentially training by myself this time around, as I am about to leave Guelph, spend some time with my family, and then head to Windsor for teacher's college. I'm not going to have a goal of hitting a certain time, I just want to get back to staying healthy enough that I can enjoy running and competing. I figure if I can do that, the results will come naturally out of that. I will set a bit of a training schedule for myself, but I have to be ready to adjust if needed. With teacher's college starting up in September, running won’t be the only thing keeping me busy, which is a good thing. It's important for me to not let running be the most important thing in my life, because that puts too much pressure on myself, and it really sucks even more if I get hurt. When I am keeping busy with something else, I find running is a good stress reliever, a time to relax and think. There are plenty of elite runners who are able to do what they do along with a demanding job. Wesley Korir is a great example. He won Boston Marathon a few years ago, and he used that as a platform to get elected as a politician in Kenya. He is also a Christian. He is a great example of someone who is using his running for God's glory. God gave him the gift of running, and he used his Boston win as a platform to get elected, and change his country for the better. For me, I think it is important to work towards a career that I believe God has gifted me in, and right now I think that is teaching high school mathematics. While remaining in Guelph to train with Speed River would have been a great opportunity, at this point in time, I believe I should first pursue a teaching career and see where God leads me next. I have to have my priorities straight. Teacher's college increases to two years after this year, so I am lucky to get in this year and save a year of schooling. I believe this is the best option for me, and it is an option I might not have considered if things were going really well last year. God's plan is higher than mine, so I continue to put my trust in Him as I go through this next phase in my life.