Kick it, all the way to the finish!

Me and Tania Jones at the finish line at the Ottawa Race Weekend

I’ve been putting off writing this blog post because it’s likely my last one as an iRun Runner Makeover participant.

The program is drawing to an end and with the release of the July issue of the magazine, I will be set back out into the wild, on my own, like the proverbial displaced prairie runner that I am.

Maybe if I waited another 6 months to write this post I would maintain my access to coach Tania Jones, nutritionist Lauren Jawno, receive more Adidas gear and live off the encouragement of the iRun Magazine team… but I don’t think that is how it works. So, here I go.

We Makeover-ees were asked a few questions that the editors thought you blog reading folks would like answered:

What have you given up in order to get your runs in?

Like anyone with a hobby, a life and a day job, I mostly gave up sleep. In the dead of the Edmonton winter I was getting up at 5:15am to be at the Kinsmen Sport Centre and on the track by 6:00am. I often did my resistance training at lunch or in the evening at home so I didn’t have to sacrifice any fun “real life” activities… though I often was in bed (or asleep on the couch) by 10pm.

What was the payoff?

Well, obviously – the free stuff! Not to be crass, but who doesn’t love free stuff? And Adidas was very generous with their shoes, socks, shirts, shorts, pants, jackets and electronics.

The speed! When we started this process I remember saying to Tania “my comfy speed is around 5:30/km”. Yesterday, during my Long Slow Distance run, I had trouble keeping myself slower than 5:00/km. That’s 30 seconds per km faster at a comfortable rate of exertion – WHAT!?!

The food! I have always considered myself to be a healthy-ish eater (even when not following my own best advice) but I now feel like I have enough knowledge to maintain and sustain my own sustenance as my training increases towards my personal autumn marathon BQ goal.

What things made it easier?

Knowing that Tania and Lucy were scrutinizing my workouts gave me that extra kick-in-the-butt that everyone needs on a minus 30 degree morning at 5:15am (Adidas miCoach reports are displayed online for coaches to peruse). Also knowing that Goalspeed, Lauren, Adidas and iRun were devoting time, energy and gear toward making me a better runner added some internal pressure that made it easier for me to roll out of bed and hit the track with tutto gusto.

Oddly enough, this blog kept me going too. The idea that anyone might be following it (hi mom) made me want to kick some serious butt. The last thing I wanted was for some reader to think “Who is this joker? I deserve a makeover more than him.” And maybe you do… but I still gave it 110% every day!

What were the challenges?

I think my biggest challenge (and by no means do I think I am alone in this one) was/is faith in myself. Whether it is fear of injuring myself (or “busting a gut”) or just plain disbelief in my own speediness, I don’t know. Probably both. What I do know is that it is certainly the biggest hurdle that I have yet to clear.

Has your view of running changed from this point forward?

When I was looking for some advice before a race in April, I wrote to Tania and explained my usual approach to racing:

“Go out easy, take it easy, maybe slow down a bit, take a gel, pick it up a little… nope, take it easy, 20km to go?! What = Take it easier… walk… cry… drink beer.”

She responded by giving me her approach:

“Go out strong, pick it up, drive hard, refocus in the middle, gut out some strong kms, take gel, only 5 km to = giv’r, kick it all the way to the finish!”

I am much more on her side now. Need I say more?

In closing

Well, I guess that is that. It’s been amazing, everybody. Thank you, thank you, thank you – to one and all.

If you enjoyed following my journey, keep in touch. I’m on Facebook and Twitter and I have a website of my own – come by and visit. We’ll go for a run… or a snack.

Oh yeah! I am planning to run the Disney World “Goofy” in January with Team in Training. Drop me a note if you are Goofy too and I will hook you up!

I’ll leave you with a line from one of my favourite Kris Demeanor songs that seems apropos:

“Yes, I’m happy. Yes, I’ve changed. Yes, I’m happily changed. It’s all eggs in the bank or a basket, some of them broken, others rearranged.”

iRun Interviews at the Finish Line

Some footage that was shot by iRun Magazine at the finish line of the Ottawa Race Weekend

Two weeks after his goal race, Brock set yet another 10K personal best in Ottawa; the next day, Aleks ran her goal race. And we got it all on video!

Featuring: Me, Tania Jones and Aleks Spalvins

iRunner Madeover

Tania, me and Aleks - immediately after I crossed the finish line. Photo by Sheena Denscombe

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be part of the Ottawa Race Weekend through my involvement with Team in Training. I was the on-course coach for the Prairie Region (Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatoon).

I love being on-course support. Not only do I get to meet a lot of wonderful runners, walkers and other TNT coaches and staff from around the country but I also get to help anyone on the race course who needs it. As an added bonus we coaches are given free access to the marathon course for the entirety of the race. This is akin to an “all-you-can-run buffet” for some of us.

I put on 50.15km during the race on Sunday at an average pace of 7:54/km. At the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco last year I put on 57km. That’s how it goes for some of us… but I digress.

I took advantage of my own presence in Ottawa for race weekend and cajoled Coach Tania into scrounging me a 10k race entry (forgoing a Team in Training event to run it… sorry ducklings). So, leaving immediately from the TNT Coach’s Meeting, I made my way down to the start line, downed a gel, limbered up (by jumping up and down trying to get Tania’s attention way up there in the elite corral) and be darned if I didn’t make another PB!

41:28 was my finishing time. That’s 93 seconds faster than my 10k in April (43:01) and over 4 minutes faster than the one I ran in March (45:19). Woo!

Truth be told, I was aiming for under 40 minutes and I was on track too… until about 6kms in. The humidity hanging in the hot/still air was just too much for this prairie boy. From 750 metres onward I was pretty much as sweaty and hot as I could possibly be and I paid the price in the last half of the race.

But, what the heck? Who cares? I was in Ottawa for another important reason and this race was just the “electrolytes in a very busy sports drink” so to speak. I had been up since 4am on a bus then a plane, I had walked around the race expo for 2 hours, ate pancakes and eggs with Tania for lunch and arrived at the start line directly from a meeting. What was I expecting? A world’s record? No. Just a PB – and I got one. Wait… let me rephrase that. I got ANOTHER one.

9mins & 19secs

Photo of me running in the rainI’m going to cut to the chase here. I’m not going to go through any fanfare or hype. I’m not going to beat around the bush. I’ll just get right to the point of this post which is to tell you what my finishing time was at the Toronto Goodlife Fitness Half Marathon at 8:00am on May 15, 2011. The race I have been training for since February with the extreme assistance of the iRun Runner Makeover team – featuring:

Ok… enough fooling around.

I ran 21.1 kilometres (13.3 miles) in the midst of Toronto’s wind and rain in… hold on to your socks, hat, pants, shirts and wallets… 1:31:31 (chip time).

Woo! Heck yeah! Beating my previous PB of 1:40:50 (set just weeks after beginning the makeover on Feb 13) by 9 minutes and 19 seconds. Yes!

I am very excited and proud… but I have to admit that I was aiming a little bit higher than that. I was hoping to come in under 1:30. Ambitious? Yes (insert Tania telling me “Brock – you cannot be disappointed!! We all wish we could nail 9 minute PB’s!!”) but I still think that I could have done it.

The biggest issue I had on the course was my own disbelief in the idea that I could actually sustain a pace of 4:15/km (or higher) for the entire race. I kept glancing at my watch and panicking when I saw 3:55, 4:05 or even 4:10 and consequently slowed myself down to a pace I felt more sure of and, in a way, short-changed myself into a slower overall/finishing time. So, when Ilia said to me “You did not go deep enough” he was absolutely right… but that’s not necessarily a negative thing.

This is a huge lesson for me. As essential as the actual training is (it is the reason that I am even able to hit paces like 4:05/km) another huge component is the need for belief and faith in my own abilities as a runner. I now know that I can hit and sustain those speeds without “busting a gut” (as Tania frequently says) in the middle of a race. I believe it was Lucy who added “If you think you could have done better, that’s great. It means you are ready for the next step”. Amen to that!

So, valuable lessons learned, a new awesome PB and some great stories to tell. Today I am a satisfied runner. Tonight, I start training again – 8km easy around High Park. Wanna race?

Yes, maybe… probably!

It’s Friday, May 13th (insert ubiquitous bad-luck joke here). The Toronto Marathon is on Sunday. I just flew in to The Big Smoke with as many of my worldly possessions as I could fit in two suitcases and am currently standing (the chairs are in a moving truck somewhere around Moose Jaw) in the kitchen of my new Toronto home. All things considered, I am pretty content… and yet…

The first official interaction I had with Tania regarding this Makeover was on Feb 1st and since then I can (boastfully) say that I have not missed a single workout. To be honest, I didn’t know that was an option. Tania and Lucy told me what I needed to do and I did it (training is easy that way). And yet some how, at this late stage in the game, I feel unprepared.

I have seen remarkable growth in myself as a runner in those 3 months. Growth that I can literally measure in seconds and minutes and still I feel oddly skeptical of my own abilities. Can I sustain 4:15/km for 21.1km? The math says “yes”, my training logs say “yes“, Tania, Lucy and Ilia say “yes”, but my inner skeptic says “maybe“. I can coax him into saying “probably” but that is a far as he will go.

I am familiar with being nervous. I played in the band Captain Tractor for 12 years to every size of audience – 25,000 to 25 people. Prior to that I was a “Male Ballerina” (as Tania calls me) and I have also dabbled in acting, so I feel qualified to say that the feeling I have right now isn’t nerves… it’s just plain, old, unadulterated, doubt.

So, what am I going to do? Here’s the plan: I’m going to remind myself of my training sessions (luckily I have them very well documented), rest lots, eat well, go through my race plan with Lucy and Ilia (I have already gone through it with Tania), enjoy the race expo, try to be congenial (despite my worry level) at the Brunello Carbo Dinner, prepare my awesome Adidas race gear, sleep as well as I can and then “trust in the process” as they say. If that fails… I will high-5 every kid on the race course and finish with a huge smile on my face!

All Day I Dream About… Shoes!

Adizero Boston, Tempo and Adios
The shocking truth is that before this makeover I had never owned a pair of Adidas shoes *gasp*. It’s true! In fact, I had only ever owned 1 pair of Adidas warm-up pants and… that is all. Why? I don’t know. No particular reason, I just didn’t.

Currently I own 4 pairs of Adidas shoes (2 Adizero Bostons, 1 pair of Tempos and 1 pair of Adios) and I love them all for different reasons. I also have 2 pairs of Running RESPONSE Dual Baggy shorts, 2 pairs of running pants (including the ones I owned previously), a RESPONSE 3-Stripes Wind Jacket, 6 pairs of Formotion socks and more Trefoil, Formotion and Climacool t-shirts than I can count (mostly because it would involve rooting through the laundry hamper and I am not prepared for that this morning).

Last weekend I PB’ed (or is it PR? Ha ha) at a 10k in Edmonton (42:49) and here’s what I was wearing: The Adizero Adios shoes, Adidas shorts, a black Adidas Formotion singlet (over another brand’s long sleeve compression shirt… shhhh) and the Adidas Formotion socks. It was a perfect outfit for a cloudy spring morning in Edmonton.

That race solidified it for me – I am wearing the Adios shoes in the Toronto Goodlife Half Marathon next weekend. They are light, fast and don’t have any kind of extra cushioning that could get in the way of my body’s own natural running motion or foot-fall. To top it off, Haile Gebrselassie wore these shoes when he ran a World Record 2:03:59 marathon… so what the heck?!?!

In contrast to the Adios, yesterday while coaching my Team in Training’s Peak Distance session (the longest distance my “running ducklings” will encounter before their race) I wore the Adizero Tempo shoes. The Tempos have a honkin’ heel, tons of cushion and some stability control. They are pretty darn perfect for those long slow sessions where comfort and protection are more important than speed and agility.

Up until lately I have been primarily using the Adizero Boston shoes, which are very versatile (I have worn them on the track and the trails) but with the weather getting better here in Edmonton and (most of) the snow being gone, I have been bustin’ out of my winter cocoon. The Boston’s are likely what I will continue to use as my “everyday shoe” but it is fun to have other options for other workouts.

The shorts are great, though I will pick up a size small next time (the size mediums are baggy enough that I have some skin-on-skin action ‘tween my thighs – eeeee!). The Trefoil and Formation shirts are super cool in both senses of the word. And the socks! Man, I cannot say enough about the socks. Do your feet a favour and go get some. Pure awesomeness. Awesomesocks? Yeah. I’ll go with that.

Suffice to say that I am an Adidas convert. Brand loyalty has never been my strong suit but when I find something that works I stick with it – and this stuff works! Thanks Adidas and iRun for hookin’ me up.

* For more info on the gear (and a photo of me squatting)
see the post Look and feel like a ‘real’ Runner.


Stretching, rolling, getting healthyWell, ok. It might be time to face facts… I am injured. Not badly. Not badly at all. Nowhere near bad enough to pull out of the race or even take time off of training. No no, dear reader, fear not! I’m merely injured bad enough to have enlisted a chiropractor, a massage therapist and a physiotherapist all in one week.

It’s all in my head back. My sacroiliac to be exact. Apparently I run a little lopsided (who doesn’t?) and as my mileage increased, my right sacroiliac joint started to feel the pressure and lock up. The problem first manifested itself as knee pain (weird) which dissipated soon after my first ART treatment (phew!) but has now become a real pain in the butt… literally.

Currently the pain is more localized just above the right dimple in my lower back. I have this strange urge to get a very large man to pick me up by my ankles and hang me upside down until something pops back into place. I know that is not how the body works but… you know – a runner can dream.

This morning my physiotherapist used heat, tens (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), acupuncture and some massage on me. It feels pretty good right now. Tomorrow morning the chiropractor will do some ART (read: wail on me with both hands) on my hip, gluteus medius, iliopsoas and IT band for a while. On Thursday the massage therapist will concentrate on my right gluteus medius, iliopsoas and the muscles above and below (collateral damage).

On my own I have a regime to follow: stretching, foam rolling and strengthening weak areas. Tonight, while watching and waiting for Federal Election Results to come in, I will do: a few sets of Janes, Prone Glute Raises, TA Squeezes and Clamshells until the cows come home. Then on to Cat-Camel, Cobra and a Standing Lateral Bend. Then I’ll spend some time foam rolling everything that is connected to my hip. Finally a quick Ice Bath and to bed early with my heating pad. After all, I have to run 10k @ 5:15/km tomorrow morning!

Feeling Like a Pro

I spent the last week in Toronto sleeping on an air-mattress, sitting on bamboo floors and eating out of tupperware with one spoon. Glamorous, I know! Moving across the country has its moments… but there is a major upside to this “living like a 17-year-old” adventure – I got a chance to run on the track at York University with Lioudmila “Lucy” Kortchaguina and her husband (and coach) Ilia Kounavine. It was an aspiring runner’s dream come true (sorry Tania, it was super cool getting to run with you too but we were running through a graveyard, jumping over puddles, between client meetings on Bay Street).

After about 10 minutes of easy running to warm-up, we planned out the session: 6 x 1000m @ 4:00 to 4:05 (which translates to about :48 / 200m lap). We stretched a little, chatted a little and then after a couple of increasingly faster laps, we began.

Ilia and Lucy stood on the inside of the track as I ran my heart out around them. Each time I passed Ilia would call out my time. “48 and 5″, “47, good”, “52, speed up” and so on. Between each 1000m set we would walk a lap together and I would get notes on my arm swing (too tight and close to my body), my stride length (short, but I’m not to worry about that yet) and what I would be doing in the months to come leading up to my attempt at a 3:20-ish (and Boston qualifying) marathon in the autumn.

My times were consistent and pleasing to all of us: 1000m @ 3:59:11, 3.58.92, 3.58.89, 3.56.42, 4.00.43, 3.52.87. Ok, I am not ecstatic with my 5th set… but whatever! I felt like a pro. I was living the dream!

After my 6th and final set we took another walk and Ilia told me that Lucy wanted to see how fast I could do 200m. Now? Well… OK! Why the heck not?! We neared the start line and I started to speed up… I ran with all the gusto I could muster = 200m in 36 seconds. I won’t be challenging Usain Bolt to any races (he runs 200m in 19.93 seconds) but I was pretty darn proud.

We cooled down, did some more stretching, chatted a little and called it a night.

I was still vibrating and itching to brag to someone about the experience so I texted Tania. “I think I did well. The Russians are upping my workout next week.” Tania responded with “Sure changes things when you have an audience during training!” Funny. I hadn’t actually thought of that. I was so engrossed in the moment and in trying to learn everything I could that I missed the fact that they were watching me! Ha! I hope I put on a good show.

Distancing Myself

I had an informal goal last year. It was to run 2010kms in the year 2010. Well, I ended up running 2100.2km (as well as swimming 65118.4m and cycling 2122km). Not bad, if I do say so myself. I know it is nothing like the mileage an elite runner puts on (right Tania?) but I am a musician who teaches university level nerd courses.

Fast forward to this morning —>> so far this year I have run 993.5km! The best part is that it’s only mid-April! At this rate I will likely hit 2800km before 2011 is over!

The bulk of this year’s running I owe to Lioudmila and Tania. They have me on a very steady diet of kilometres, kms and klicks. Last week alone I ran 119.9km divided up over the week as: Monday 8kms easy, Tuesday 14km steady, Wednesday 12km a little faster, Thursday 18km quality (speed), Friday 14km easy, Saturday 21km very easy, Sunday 26km comfortable. Throw in 5km of Hill Repeats with my Team in Training-ers on Tuesday night and you have yourself one spicy meatball!

If you are interested in taking a closer look at my workouts you can go to and take a peek. Yes, I love data and between my Adidas miCoach and my Garmin 310xt I track everything meticulously.

*Disclaimer – don’t try this at home unless you have a couple top coaches that will keep an eye on you, some awesome Adidas running gear, a wicked nutritionist tracking your food intake (plus regular appointments with a Registered Massage Therapist, ART Certified Chiropractor, a foam roller, and nightly ice baths). Basically – the iRun Runner Makeover!

The Unwanted Passenger – Negativity

My dutiful gear, waiting patiently for me to get moving.I woke up this morning with a strange feeling: I didn’t feel like going for a run.

Sunday is my distance day and this morning I was scheduled to run 20km @ 5:25/km. No problem, usually… but this morning was different. I had no motivation and worse yet all I could think about was how much work I had to get done today.

Don’t worry, dear reader, I did get out there and ran 21.3km in 1:58 but it was hardly the relaxing, enjoyable run I usually have on Sunday morning. Usually it is just me, my Adizeros, the soothing voice of miCoach (I prefer the “UK English Female”), the Edmonton river valley and as many science/health podcasts my crappy old iPod can carry. This morning I had an extra passenger along. An unwanted passenger. I believe his name is Negativity and he is a jerk.

It’s true that I have 30+ projects to mark for the class I teach at MacEwan University, workflow documents to prepare for a client, a Team in Training newsletter and this blog to write, an ‘intro to running’ session to plan for an AFLCA certification class, PLUS an afternoon tea my significant other signed me up for (I guess there are worse things than that but I don’t even drink tea). All of that is pretty normal for me and without Mr. Negativity on my shoulder I would have greeted this day with determination and grit. Instead I had to kick my own butt (several times), drink an extra coffee, take a deep breath and just jump in – kicking and screaming (on the inside).

Last weekend my coach, Tania Jones, and a load of other iRun folks, ran the Around The Bay 30k race in Hamilton, ON. When Tania emailed me about the race later that day, she said:

“It was a war out there at ATB. Fought for every km. At least I know that my marathon toughness is still sharp… gave me the confidence that I am tough enough to go back to the marathon…”

Check out her choice of words – fought, toughness, confidence, war. I know we are just runners but this is the type of determination I hope I was building this morning when I dragged myself out there and kicked my own butt around the city. I am hoping this will help make the difference between a small but easily attained PB and a hard fought, toughness inducing, all-out war when I run Toronto’s Goodlife Fitness Marathon on May 15th.

PS – My interview with iRun’s own Mark Sutcliffe has been posted for all to hear. Check it out: iRun The Running Show – March 26, 2011 (my interview is near the end of the show).