Night Before the Oasis – Montreal

Photo of me holding a map of Montreal

Tomorrow at 8:45am I am racing another 10k. This time I am in Montreal for the Montreal Oasis Marathon. The Russians (my coaches, Ilia and Lucy) have me running a number of shorter races instead of killing myself with tempo runs. So far it has been a lot more fun than running alone and I am likely seeing more benefit from the extra effort. Time will tell – i’m only 2 weeks from the Chicago Marathon (and my BQ).

This morning I got up and did an unfed (aside from water and a cup of coffee) 8km @ 5:15 training run. Unfed because I am trying to drop a couple more lbs before Chicago and because they say you can absorb more carbs (glycogen) when you get your muscles and liver stores are depleted from exercise before fuelling them up (short of a shortcut to carb loading). After the run I sprayed about 20 pumps of Magnesium on my legs and then had a whey protein smoothy (with a banana, coconut and almonds) in an ice-bath. Then, after I packed and got ready for my flight, I had another glass of water, and some sweet potato, regular potato, quinoa, wild rice, beet and yogourt in a bowl with a little salt and pepper – delicious!

At the airport I ate a few almonds, another cup of coffee and a couple cookies. On the plane I had some water and a small chicken and veggie wrap and come chocolate.

After hitting the Race Expo I grabbed a bowl of pasta with meat sauce, more water, cranberry & soda and later a cappuccino and a little bowl of decadent chocolate mousse.

For “dinner” I had a banana, a little bag of almonds, 2 scoops of Super Greens (with water) and a couple cookies from the plane. That’ll be it until morning.

I have been taking 2 x 3 Extreme Endurance tablets for about a week now and 7Systems since Thursday (along with my daily Vitamin D drops and Fish Oil capsules).

For breakie tomorrow I have a banana and a cliff bar. There is some coffee in the room that I am sure I will break-out too. Then a GU Roctane at the start line a few minutes before the race.

I think that about covers it – bed time (9:40pm)… though I will probably watch something on NetFlix for a while before sleeping.

Run for the Grapes 21.1 – St. Catharines ON

Photo of Brock crossing the finish line

Official chip time was 1:34:32 but it felt more like forever:lifetime:eternity.

Ok, I am being dramatic. It wasn’t THAT bad but it was a tough race. Especially the last 3km. What’s with all the damn hills, St. Catharine?

The biggest problem with the race was the fact that I have been sick for a week. Not badly ill, just a cold, but it has annoying been enough to slow me down and make me a little miserable.

I finished my 34km peak distance run on Sunday, Sept 11 and felt great! It went so well. I nailed my pace of 5:05 min/km for the entire run and then I managed to pick up the pace for the last 2km. GREAT! Sadly, a few hours after I started to get a sore throat. Then and stuffy nose. By Monday afternoon, I was sick. I did my best to keep training normally but Lucy rearranged a couple of the workouts (and I suspect took out a speed session) and I made it through the week, popping vitamins, guzzling fruit smoothies and trying to sleep as much as possible.

Race morning I was feeling better… actually, pretty good. Not coughing too much but still blowing my nose like mad. Mostly I just had a dry feeling in my chest. Not a great way to feel at the beginning of a race. A race? Is this a race? Oh yeah – this is not my race! This is a training run. Everything I am doing right now is leading up to Chicago (which is only 3 weeks away at this point) but it is hard to remember that as you are standing in the crowd at the start line, hopping up and down to keep your calves alive and downing your pre-race gel.

It’s even harder to remember when a guy you blew past at km 7 passes you at km 15. The feet instinctively pick up the pace, the heart rate rises and the arms start to pump. WHOA – training run, training run, training run! Save it for Chicago!

In any case, mental battles aside; runny nose, plugged ears and a lung-butter cough aside too;It was a decent race. Not an awesome race, not a terrible race, but a decent one. If nothing else if was a beautiful sunny day spent running in the wine country of southern Ontario and it is hard to beat that!

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!