Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Blog #17 Spring Races 2015

Here is a summary of my spring races of Aroud the Bay 30k, Montreal Half Marathon, and Ottawa Marathon:
On the last week of March, I ran Around the Bay once again, for the 3rd time in 4 years. It is a race in which I have a history of success, so it was a good one to kick off the spring racing schedule with. This year would be a slight course change. Due to construction there would be no heartbreak hill at the 26km mark. There was a decent tailwind for the first 10k of the race, so the lead pack really banked some time. In that pack included last year’s defending champion, as well as Kip Kangogo and Sami Jibril. After a few km, I had to decide to let them go, and hope that I could reel some of them in later.  I went through 10k in 30:30 apparently, but I don’t really trust those km markers.  Regardless, I paid for it in the final 10k! There was some speculation that the overall course distance was inaccurate, whether it was too long or too short I’m not sure. What it means for me is I didn’t really care too much of my final time in this race, but looked at my time behind Sami Jibril and Kip Kangogo as a better measuring stick for my performance. Those are both very solid runners, more accomplished than me, so to be within a minute of them indicated that I was on the right track.  

 At the end of April, I raced the Montreal Half Marathon. It was also the week that I finished my final practicum of teacher’s college, so I was excited to be finished up with that. I am so thankful to God that I was able to get into the one year program, because next year it is a two year program! It is definitely  a money grab to turn it into two years, as the program definitely doesn’t need to be that long. Oh well, good for me, as it might allow the job market to open up as less people well be admitted.  For the Montreal race, I stayed at my brother Ian’s place.  He is in his first year at law school at McGill University in Montreal.  Olympic marathoner Eric Gillis would be running, so top 2 would be a good goal for me. He mentioned he was planning to run a conservative pace (for him), so I decided to run with him for as long as I could. We went through 10k in 31:00 , and that is about where I started to fall off. I was able to catch a runner who beat me at Around the Bay in the previous month, so I was happy with my ability to hold a decent pace in the back half of the race, despite being on my own for much of it. It was a decent result to finish 2nd place in 1:06:39. This was a bit over one minute above my personal best, but considering my less than ideal training in the weeks heading into this race due to some tendinitis in the top of my foot, I was happy with this.

This past weekend was Ottawa Race Weekend. I’m not quite at the standard to hit elite A status yet, so I didn’t get a hotel room, but thankfully my cousin Michelle lives nearby in Gatineau and was willing to host me for the weekend!   I set an ambitious goal of trying to hit below 2:18, an attempt at Pan-Am standard. Lucas MacAneney had the same goal, and we would have a pacer to help us out with this. We went through 5k in just under 16:30 and 10k in 32:45, so we were already off pace a bit early on, even though our pacer kept telling us we were on pace according to his GPS. I guess that's why I don’t invest in those things. Can’t trust them. Had I been a bit more confident in my fitness and ability to go sub 2:18, I might have made more an effort to tell the pacer to pick it up, but considering my inexperience in the marathon, a conservative pace to begin with wasn’t too bad of an idea.  As it turned out, I started to fall off pace at around 25k, and the rest of the race was basically just ‘long run’ pace in survival mode, just hoping for something in the low 2:20’s. Lucas was able to keep pace much better, nearly catching Rob Watson, who went through half way about 3 minutes faster than us. I ended up 10th place. As I struggled through the final stretch and finally saw the finish line, I heard the announcer say “This is not the women’s champion yet, this just another one of our men’s finishers” ...  a relieving feeling to know that I was not going to get ‘chicked’ in this race, a very real danger in these more elite races, where the women  very well be capable of low 2:20’s or under. I can take consolation in the fact that I was 3rd place Canadian and 10th overall in one of the most competitive Marathons in Canada. I look forward to taking some recovery time, and then to come up with a training strategy to decrease my chances of falling apart in the late stages of the race. A lot of time can be shaved off if I can just hold myself together a bit longer. Those painful 3:40 km’s at the end really add up! Even if I make it up to 35km on pace instead of 25km before falling off pace like that, I will be able to shave enough off my time to dip under 2:20.

  Considering I was busy balancing finishing up teacher’s college with my training, it has been an okay series of spring races. I am not hugely disappointed with my results, but there is a lot of improvement to be made at the Marathon distance based on my personal bests in half marathon and 30k. It’s okay though, it takes a few attempts at the Marathon before being able to master it and run your full potential.  All though I had no major injury troubles this build up, I did have some tendinitis issues at the top of my foot that caused me to do a bit of cross training.  Once in February , and again another week in between Around the Bay and Montreal Half Marathon. What I have learned in the past is the importance of reading you body in these situations and trying to make the most of cross training while this happens. It can be easy to panic about losing fitness, but it is critical to listen to your body rather than  to run through injury. There is that fuzzy grey area where you are not sure if a pain is something you are able to train through or not, and this can be frustrating. My rule of thumb is if it hurts enough that it sucks the joy out of running, then it is time to do some form of cross-training. A week or so of elliptical will not have too much of a detrimental effect on your fitness, especially if you have the mental ability to train HARD on it. Yea, simulating a 2-hr long run on elliptical is incredibly boring, but you gotta do what you gotta do. A bit of non-impact training might just be what my body needs to recover from the pounding on the roads. That being said, these small little injuries can impede a marathon training schedule a little. In this particular build-up, it prevented me from being able to do some of those hard effort 20+ mile long runs where I start at 6:00 and try to close at 5:30 pace. These where the type of runs that I was able to do in some of my more successful training stints, (such as my 2012 and 2013 spring racing seasons). Still, being able to get to the start line at Ottawa with an opportunity to get more experience at the Marathon distance is more valuable than trying to run through injury and finding myself injured in April and May when the weather is finally nice. I was still able to get some solid 40-65 minute tempo runs in the 3:10-3:13/km range, and my Around the Bay 30k/Montreal Half Marathon results were only a minute or so slower than my best. These indicated that my fitness was comparable to what it was in previous years. Perhaps it is my lack of getting in those quality long runs that would be my downfall in not being able to survive at 2:18 marathon pace for more than 25k. My body simply wasn’t prepared for hard efforts past the 90 minute range. I know I have it in me, but I think it comes down to tweaking my training, and making adjustments. Of course, if I can stay relatively injury free, that will go a long way.  A 2:22:53 is not a time I am hugely disappointed about, but there is a lot of improvement to be made for the next one!

I will now take some time off to recover, as I start to think about how I will schedule my fall racing schedule, and what Marathon I will focus on. I have some ideas in mind, but nothing determined for certain yet. Some likely build up races are the 10k Zoo Run, and Run for the Toad, (this time, just the 25k). I think I will tweak my training philosophy as well for the next build up.  Instead of running an even amount of mileage each day, I will try running the majority of my mileage on the 3 most important training days, the long run, the tempo, and the interval/fartlek/race day.  For example, if I average 20 miles on those 3 key days of the week, even if I only combine for 20-30 miles in the other 4 days , that would total 80-90 miles. Some people might argue 80-90 miles is not enough for a marathoner, but I would disagree. There is no ‘X’ amount of mileage that will lead you to success, and sometimes runners can get wrapped up in the trap of overemphasizing reaching a certain number for the week. Why measure things on a seven day scale? Why start your counting on Sunday, or Monday? (or whatever day you chose). These things are all arbitrary, but they determine that magic ‘number’ that some people think is more meaningful than it is.  It’s kind of like how baseball fans get excited over a pitcher’s W-L record or amount of ‘saves’. Sure they are ‘predictors’ of how good the pitcher is, but they are extremely poor predictors, based on arbitrary conditions. In the same way, number of miles run is extremely poor predictor in how effective your training is. Much more important is to make sure the key elements are there. For marathon training, its the long run, the marathon pace tempo, and the speed sessions at half-marathon to 10k pace.  For my next build up, I am not planning to increase the amount of mileage, or even focus at all at hitting X amount of miles for a week. More focus will be on changing the way those miles are run. If I do more of that mileage on quality days, and focus on recovery during the other days, I believe I will be getting most bang for my buck in training days, while minimizing risk of injury by doing only short runs on the recovery days. 


After graduating from teacher college in Windsor in April, I moved to Markham this month, and I am renting a place near my girlfriend Anne. She is finishing up her internship to become a Dietitian this summer. I am working part time over the summer at a Private School/Tutor Center in Markham. I also do some online tutoring, which is a convenient gig to earn income without leaving home.  The job market is tough to find full time teaching work at the moment, but I am content at least for the next few years to do part time tutoring which will still give me enough time to continue running seriously. I will still be continuing to trust God and seek his will as he guides me on the next stage of my life. There are certainly a lot of unknowns at this point in my life, but I trust that God will provide. 

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