Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Weeks Away from the 2016 Rio Olympics Krista DuChene Is Ready

Since January, I have more or less built for three weeks then had a taper week that included a race. It is a pattern that has worked quite well, which I have quite enjoyed. So upon recovery from the Calgary Half Marathon I ramped up the kilometres again for a few weeks before decreasing to compete in my final scheduled race before the Olympic Marathon. Prior to my taper week, I hit 170+ km, which was a good taste for what is to come in July. There was one particular day that I had 1 k repeats to do. Boy, did the previous day's 31 km run take the speed out of my legs. I only had 7 repeats to do but they were slow! I could have done them over and over but not any faster. I never get concerned about workouts that don't nail the target. Rather, I look at the big picture to know why and then move forward. As expected the next week I hit my 400's with speed. Definitely the lower mileage helped as did the numerous hours spent off my feet while unfortunately, my three children suffered through a nasty and lengthy gastrointestinal virus. Other than the extra laundry and cleaning, and seemingly endless rinsing of buckets, it was a fairly physically relaxing week. After all, sick children don't need meals, don't go anywhere nor have the energy to fight with each other. Once my husband returned, I escaped to the basement bed where I successfully caught up on my sleep and headed straight to Toronto after my midday massage on Friday. There was no way I was going back to that house!
The weekend was going to be a big one and I had been looking forward to it for weeks. Marathon training with children doesn't give much opportunity for a social life. I wouldn't change it for the world. I don't think many training for the Olympics have much of a social life. After arriving in Toronto on Friday I had a lovely dinner with Dayna and Catherine then another very restful sleep. There was some partying going on across the street but it was just background noise for me. Not having to get up for anything in the night was refreshing. Saturday's inaugural Toronto Waterfront 10 km was incredible. It was the start to what ended up being a wonderful day. I had a good warm up, tossed the watch, and decided to keep the leader within reach while embracing the pain. Dayna was ahead for much of the race and just before the 8 km mark I decided I needed to make my move on the hill. Fortunately it worked; I was able to close the gap, surge ahead, and hold on for the win in 33:50. My normal style is to run my capable pace, consistently from beginning to end, so the change was welcomed. Immediately upon finishing was a flurry of activity. From several media interviews and photos with Peter Fonseca and John Tory to Canadian Olympic Committee autograph signing and a Rio send off celebration with Reid and Eric, it was a very busy and fun morning. Alan and his Canada Running Series crew did an amazing job. It's times like these where I make myself pause, take a deep breath, and savour every moment of what is happening around me. Once the activities ended, I jogged a 2 km cool down then walked to the Ex to catch the Go train west. Back in Brantford I attended the grand opening of the new Kiwanis track & field facility at Pauline Johnson Highschool where I was honoured with another signed Canadian flag as a Rio send-off. Thank you, City of Brantford! Back at home with the air conditioning busted amidst a 30+C day, Jonathan, the kids and I had a quick swim and dinner before I headed out with Rick to the Guelph Inferno track meet. I enjoyed a half sweet mocha from Second Cup and cheered for those competing in their various events that evening. I could have been a rabbit for the 10,000 m but kindly declined; it was nice being a spectator. Eric, male winner of the morning's 10 k, pulled off a second victory by capturing the Canadian 10,000 m title on his home Speed River track. Quite the double-double and once again, with his fine form, made it look easy! He's completed five marathons within the 2:11-2:12 range and is expected to be named to his third Olympic team in just over a week. It was an honour to share my Rio send-off with him and his teammate and good friend Reid, another accomplished marathoner. Unfortunately the night did not end well for everyone. The final weeks leading up to and including the Olympic trials can be disappointing for many. And my heart aches. I know each and every day is a gift and simply bumping my toe can end this Olympic dream so I aim to appreciate and be grateful for every day leading up to August 14. After getting to bed later than ever that night, I enjoyed another restful evening and was able to sleep in until nearly 8:00! Once home from church, I put on my layered running gear, filled my Eload bottles and headed out to run 33 km with temperatures soaring at 32 C. I had my fluids on ice in the van, stopping to hydrate after each of my six 5.5 km loops. The beginning of the last loop was definitely the most difficult but I managed to finish with a solid final 2 km. Since then I logged a steady week in transition from my taper week to my upcoming three highest training weeks. Rest, hydration, diet, sleep, heat acclimation, and preventative maintenance are of highest priority now. In fact, I am treating one of these upcoming weeks as a stay at home training camp as Jonathan and the kids will be away. I will make the most of it, much like my training week with Mary Davies in March prior to the Rotterdam Marathon where I ran my 2:29 standard. 
Only 6 weeks to go! Onward.

Joy. Huge smiles when breaking the tape at the Toronto Waterfront 10 km. Canada Running Series (CRS) photo.

Rio send-off with Alan Brooks, local dignitaries and Brazilian dancers! CRS photo.

Canadian flags given to Reid, Eric and I. What an honour.

Thanks for the cookies, Sue! So glad you have been on this road to Rio with me.

Stoked Oats and Liberte yogurt parfait (also includes berries, hemp, chia, flax, whey protein) as a snack after a 40 km treadmill run.

Loving my egg and kale wraps these days.

Hitting the track at Lions Park in Brantford.

After my session, Leah had her turn on the reformer for some core work.

Love these guys. Happy Father's Day, Jonathan. Best ever.

Thanks, City of Brantford, for the Rio send off Canadian flag at the Kiwanis track grand opening. It was the third flag that week, counting the CRS that day and the one I received from my coworkers at PrimaCare Family Health Team! Thanks, everyone!

Scorcher of a run on Sunday afternoon.

Decent forecast when wanting to acclimate for Rio.

Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate.

Carnage. More vomiting than I ever care to see at once.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Getting closer ...

I'm getting closer, much closer to that 2016 Olympic Marathon; 10 weeks (from June 5) to be exact.
So what does it take to make it to the Olympics? This seems to be something that I find myself explaining to a lot of people. It's not as easy as one might think but comes down to four steps:

1. Achieving the Canadian qualifying standard of 2:29:50 within the January 1, 2015 to May 29, 2016 qualifying period. Note: international standard is 2:45.
Completed a 2:29:38 on April 12, 2015 at the Rotterdam Marathon. 
2. Proving fitness, or competitive readiness, by running a 1:13:00 half marathon because I achieved my qualifying standard prior to March 1, 2016.
 Completed a 1:12:30 on April 24, 2016 at the Montreal Half Marathon.
3. Staying in top three ranking of fastest qualifying within the qualifying period.
Completed May 29, 2016. Other than Lanni Marchant, no other Canadian woman achieved the Canadian qualifying standard. Athletics Canada official team announcement to be made July 11, 2016. 
4. Getting to the start line fit and healthy.
If competitive readiness is questionable due to lack of fitness, injury, or illness, athletes may be removed from the team at any time. Final decision date to be July 28, 2016.
For more information about Rio 2016 Olympic Games Selection Criteria: here. 

So, I think it is safe so say that I will be named to the team! Whoohooo! It is so very exciting. I look forward to calling myself an Olympian once I cross that finish line after 42.2 km on August 14.

So after achieving my proof of fitness at the Montreal Half Marathon, I had a relaxed week of my usual cross training, strength, and preventative maintenance routine, running only mileage and no workouts. I then started to increase the weekly mileage and resume tempo and interval workouts on the track, trails, roads and treadmill. Additionally, I started to implement a bit of heat acclimation training, mainly with the sauna, extra layers of clothing, and timing of runs. I realize it's early but we are taking a slow and sensible approach, which seems appropriate particularly considering my 2013 World Championships experience: here.  I certainly do not want to repeat that again!

This past weekend was the Canadian Half Marathon Championships in Calgary, a race I was favoured to win (here), particularly due to the fact that much of the field was divided between the Calgary and Ottawa Marathon race weekends. Ottawa hosted the Canadian 10 km Championships and provided the last day of qualification for the Olympic marathon standard. Unfortunately Ottawa faced sweltering heat, which forced many athletes to alter their game plan. Tarah Korir ran an impressive 2:35, certainly making her mark in distance running! She is someone to watch out for now! Way to go, Tarah! Out in Calgary, we had excellent racing weather. Perfect, in fact. Everything leading up to the race was ideal. However, for me, while I didn't have to suffer through the heat in Ontario, I had a new challenge of my own by running at altitude. I am aware that the elevation in Calgary is much less than that of the training camps where many athletes spend weeks at at time. Usually I get headaches when I am in Calgary but I didn't this time. Shake out runs with some pick ups on Friday and Saturday felt great so I was cautiously optimistic I could run around 1:12-1:13 for the win. However, around 4 km into Sunday's race, I knew it was definitely a factor. I should have been feeling settled into a pace that was familiar to me but was struggling. Emily was running with me but by about 8 km, I let her move ahead and decided this was a race I was just going to have to grind out. I felt like I had already run a marathon while I was only a third of the way into the race. I kept my eye on Emily the entire race, ignored my watch, and figured the only way I would get the win is if she came to me. There was no way I was going to be able to close the gap and get to her. She finished about 50 seconds ahead of me and I was so happy for her. Although unfamiliar to some, Emily is not new to the running scene. Sunday's race was the second time she beat me at the national half marathon championships. The last time was in Montreal in 2010! Shortly after that, Emily took a break from competing; moving and travelling for work and school with her new husband.  It was so nice to get to know her more on the weekend and see her back, making her mark again. Watch out, Canadian women!
Back to my second place finish. It is not new to me, here.
This season it seems to be something that is happening a lot; I've been 2nd at four out of my last five races! Of course I was disappointed to not get the win but being humbled is always a good thing. Losing to Emily Setlack, Risper Gesawba, Leslie Sexton, and Dayna Pidhoresky this year is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. They are very talented women. I've always respected and valued the importance of winning and losing with grace. The goal has always been about Rio this year and so far my best race of the season is the one I needed most; proving fitness with a 1:12:30 in Montreal last month. Everything came together perfectly that day.
The next 10.5 weeks is all about sticking to our training and racing plan, while crossing all t's and dotting all i's to stay fit and healthy. Onward!
In my relaxed training week I enjoyed these flowers from Jonathan and the kids, "Open Heart, Open Mind" by Clara Hughes, and a few sweet treats.

Nothing to be concerned about. Every week at physio seems to be about preventative maintenance as I have no complaints. My left upper leg and right lower leg tend to be the weak links so once in a while Paul (physio) does some acupuncture to keep the area healthy.

Fun picture captured by Saucony during the videoshoot.
Photo Credit: Saucony Canada.

Photo Credit: Saucony Canada.

Another moment from the shoot.
Photo Credit: Saucony Canada.

My little assistant, showing me a new strengthening exercise.

She was pleased with my attempt.
I'm often asked what I eat so posted about it here. 

Another year with Saucony. Superb support over the years (;

Preparing my drinks for a 38 km run on May 24 weekend. Was in bed shortly after 9 pm that night, only to listen to evening 1/4 (Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon) of fireworks! I'm crazy like that on long weekends.

Traditional post long run brunch with Darren.

Darren taking a few moments to work with Seth at the piano. Thanks, Darren!

Absolutely love our backyard. Many bbq's, coffees, and much R&R already enjoyed here.

More long weekend beverages consumed post 25 km run, which included a 16x400 m track workout.  

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Day in the Life of Canada's Marathon Mom, Krista DuChene

Happy Mother's Day!
Hope you enjoy this video about motherhood and my Road to Rio.
iRun had this to say, here.
Canadian Running Magazine described it, here. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Photo: Credit: Inge Johnson/Canada Running Series

It’s a word that has taken on a whole new meaning for me this past month.
“Boom" has resonated with me since reading Mr. Eriksson’s words in Paul Gains’ CBC sports story,Canadian marathoners upset with Athletics Canada’s Rio qualification policy”, which was written shortly after the Around the Bay 30 km race where I failed to prove fitness on a cold and windy day with a 1:47. In the story, while addressing the requirement to prove fitness, Mr. Eriksson says, “Boom, off we go. Now you have got to do it.” And "Boom," yesterday I did it at the Montreal Half Marathon.
While I am glad to check the box in order to fulfill my requirements to be named to the 2016 Olympic team, running a 1:12:30 half marathon in April does not mean I will peak in a marathon in August. It doesn't mean I won't. The plan is to be at my very best, August 14 and I will do everything to make that happen. However for me, running a half marathon at marathon pace 6-8 weeks out, has proven that I am fit, and worked well in my previous builds to peak for my goal marathons. Replicating this pattern was not an option. It was 1:13:00 or try again. And again.
There have been inaccuracies in some of the stories and a lot of opinions with misinformation, and I am not about to address those. Not because I have now proven my fitness, but because I don’t feel it's necessary to engage. In his article, Mr. Gains did an excellent job in showing that making it to the Olympics is more than just achieving a qualifying standard. Shortly after Paul’s article, Reid Coolsaet followed up with a post on his blog, explaining his situation after also just falling short of the required time to prove fitness, at the World Half Marathon Championships where the men’s race ended in heavy rain and winds. I've always looked up to and respected Reid and was again impressed to read his blog with his objective way of showing his frustration with the system. That guy is an experienced marathoner who knows his body, knows his numbers, and knows what it takes to be at his very best.  Reid has run well under the Olympic standard twice in the qualifying period! He settles for nothing less. We're all trusting that the right decision will be made.
So, back to the “Boom!”
I had three weeks to recover from the Bay and prepare to run another race that would hopefully provide decent, not perfect, but decent racing conditions. Coach Rick did an excellent job of researching my options for a certified course, which was not easy. Montreal was the #1 pick. A big part of choosing a race involves the science of determining the best course layout, competition, previous times, weather, and travel logistics. But it can also involve the art of emotion. I know Eric Gillis has often chosen to train and race closer to home for this reason. Also a parent, he knows the benefit of staying local and drawing on the positive energy that comes from balancing family and life as an athlete. Not only did Montreal provide another great opportunity for me to race with the incredible Canada Running Series (CRS), but it allowed me to return to the race where I finished with incredible pain and tremendous emotion after fracturing my femur while defending my national title in 2014.  I know some are fatigued by me writing about my broken leg, old age, Christian faith, and life as a mother of three, but it's who I am. I've always wanted to be real and tell my story to encourage and inspire others, some who are reading it for the first time.
So back to choosing Montreal. The plan was that I would travel there, and decide to race if the weather looked decent. If it wasn't, I would wear my training shoes and run it as a tempo training run while waiting to prove fitness in another race. Fortunately, the forecast didn't change and we had a beautiful day. It was likely about 5C and sunny with a small amount of wind, which is always expected on the Parc Jean-Drapeau course. I felt comfortable and relaxed, trusted my fitness, and just treated it like any other race. I had a great group of men to run with and just started chipping away at 3:26 per km, the target goal pace. Like many races, I was conservative, which worked to my favour; every kilometre felt the same, a good sign of fitness.
There were many thoughts that went through my head during the race: 1. I kept thinking about my son who reminded me that we didn't get all those travel vaccinations for nothing. 2. Today was the day to do it. 3. The last time I ran this race, I hopped on one leg to finish. It would feel good to fly down the last 500 m today on two healthy legs!
I did it. And as I crossed the line, I couldn't help but smile. In my interview, just a few seconds after finishing, I thanked the CRS and the people of Montreal and the team at the Montreal General Hospital for their incredible support in 2014.
So what is next? A bit of well-deserved down time with training, some sweet indulgences, a video (Saucony) and photo shoot (an iRun cover!), and other extra activities. I will officially start my Rio build in May, which will include running the May 29 Calgary half marathon, which is also the Canadian championships. Onward we go.

Rarely does everything come together on race day. But today it did with a group to run with, excellent weather, and great fitness and health. Photo: Canada Running Series/Scotiabank Montreal Half Marathon.
"Here comes the BOOM". At 42 years of age, a high school teacher and former wrestler saves the school music program by earning money by moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter. Like I say about my athletic career, just because it hasn't been done doesn't mean it can't be done. Age, major injury, a hockey background, and parenting doesn't stop me.

Just happened to notice the name of this radio station I was listening to on the way home from Montreal.

Good day for Saucony and Coach Rick Mannen. Krista with Kip Kangogo, winner of the men's race.

My son's baking tasted wonderful upon my return home. Wonderful. 
Excited to see the final product of a day in the life of Krista DuChene. The kids quite enjoyed having Gordon and Vance around. Glad to have scheduled this, a photo shoot, and a few other extra things before Rio training begins.

With the Saucony video shoot and a photo shoot for iRun magazine, it was fun choosing Saucony outfits.

Practising for the photo shoot while trying to stay warm in the van between sets. Not a regular or natural thing for me but honoured to be asked. Yes, there is grey hair there. I'm ok with that.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

We've Still Got This

Prove it!

A few days have passed since I raced the Around the Bay 30 km race in Hamilton so I figured I should write some sort of race report. 
I'll get right to the point in addressing what most people are wondering and asking. Did I "prove" my fitness in order to be named to the Olympic team? No, I did not. Despite my 1:47:47 time in very frigid and windy conditions, I did not run the required 1:46:30 to "prove" I am fit. I ran a solid race, narrowly missing the win (to a Kenyan) by 10 seconds. It was likely one of my best Around the Bay performances and the third time I ran a 1:47. Consistency is key.
Now, it was tough, like any race should be. I've always said the Bay is pretty close to running a marathon because it is so difficult. It was my 8th Bay race and I've completed 11 marathons so I feel credible in making this statement. There doesn't seem to be any point in the 30 km where you just settle into a rhythm. The course has changed in the past few years and my description is likely not completely accurate with km markings but it's close enough: The first 5 km can be fast so you must control yourself. Then you have about 5 km to get up and down the overpasses. After that it was straight into the headwind for 7 or 8 km. Then about 5 km of rolling hills, which is where I lost more time than I thought. It seemed harder this year than others because I didn't have the hilly training I used to get when I pushed my kids in the running stroller! The final 7 km are flat, in which I pushed for a solid finish. The leader and I ran much of the race near each other but in the final third, her lead was just enough ahead of me that I didn't catch her. It reminded me of the 2013 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon where Lanni Marchant kept enough of a lead to earn the fastest Canadian Marathon title. Another second place finish for me, which makes three in the last three races this year. I'm itching to break the tape again.
So how do I feel? Well, I'm not ashamed to have been beaten by Kenyan, Risper Gesabwa. I had no idea who she was or what she was capable of running. Now that I've done some research, this young 27 year old has very similar personal best times to me. She was solid and steady. I will never be a sore loser and disrespect my competition. She deserved the win.
Physically, I've been feeling stronger and faster every week. I can really tell that the 1.5 hr weekday pool running routine and steady mileage and solid workouts are paying off. I'm getting leaner and more fit, which is excellent at the beginning of spring. 
So back to the required proof of fitness. What does it mean now? The Olympic team will not be announced until July so technically I have until close to that time to prove my fitness in a half marathon. The difficulty is that there are not a lot of decent certified half marathons at this time of year, anywhere in the world. I am willing to travel and chase this proof of fitness thing if that's what it takes but the problem is that it sets the athlete up to burn out prior to Rio, or to peak too soon. Kinda defeats the purpose, doesn't it?
But you know me, the glass is half full. As I crossed the finish line, the first person I saw was Coach Rick. Then I was pleasantly surprised to see my husband and 3 kids. My kids asked, "Mom, did you do it? Are you/we still going to Rio?". I told them that I did not run the required time, but said that Coach Rick would come up with a plan. On the way home I had the boys with me and it was a great opportunity to explain that I am completely trusting God's plan, as it's always better than our own. I believe I will be in that race, running my legs and heart out, on August 14. And they will be there, cheering for their mom! Besides, as one of my kids pointed out, our family already got all those required travel needles!
Mentally, I started moving after finishing.  I was prepared to train through April if I had to so that is what will happen. Currently we are looking into running a race in late April/early May. Funny thing is that I know I could "prove it" on the treadmill but that won't count. 
I'm recovering nicely since Sunday, not looking back but only forward. Before the race I kept thinking, "We've got this". So now it's, "We've still got this!".  
I've had incredible support and am grateful for every message and well wish received. I've been reading the Rick and Dick Hoyt book, "One Letter at a Time" and believe "Yes, we can" ... "prove it"!
1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.

Canadian Running Magazine, "Krista DuChene reflects on proof of fitness requirement despite having Olympic standard".
CBC, Canadian Marathoners upset with Athletics Canada's Rio qualification policy Paul Gains.
Reid Coolsaet's, "Competitive Readiness" 

Congratulating the 1st and 3rd women.

Coach Rick!
Credit: Alan Brookes.


Credit: Canadian Running Magazine.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

When My Kids Need Me, They Need Me.

After writing, "Krista DuChene on the 2016 Chilly Half Marathon" I was really hoping to have an exciting post race report. But unfortunately it is not the case this time.
Going into Sunday's race, my training proved I was fit. The mileage was appropriate and I was hitting workouts close to when I ran my PB of 1:10:52 in 2013.  I was told that the time to beat to make the World Half Marathon team was 1:13:13 and I knew it was definitely within my capability. I ran 1:14 earlier this year in January and training had only improved since then. Other than a slow 1:16 in February in Vancouver due to inclement weather, I was confident that I could get the job done. Then I got sick. Now, I'm not new to this sport and know that when one gets sick or injured, it can be an indication that you are in too deep. You push your body to the limit but sometimes it fights back, telling you to take it down a notch.
Enter the marathon mom explanation.
Feel free to quit reading if my parenting talk exhausts you. That is fine with me. Or, think about everything your mom did for you as a child. Because I am no different.
For reasons I don't feel necessary to explain, I have not slept well for the past two months due to being up in the night multiple times for multiple reasons with multiple kids (and at times, the dog!). It has been exhausting. Five days before the race I had that trickle in the throat that hinted something was up. I continued with my normal routine, tapering for Sunday's race, having solid afternoon naps, eating well, drinking plenty of fluids, and getting to bed in decent time. I even slept in our basement with earplugs for the two nights before the race. But it wasn't enough. I thought I was fighting this nasty virus that was going around, and went into the race refusing to make it known because a) I was denying it myself and 2) I was proud and didn't want people to think I was already giving an excuse for a bad race before even starting. The two indicators that proved I was sicker than I thought were 1) my resting heart rate was high, averaging about 39 all week. Normally it would be in the mid-30's. My RHR tells me lot about myself. 2) due to my pounding headache, I actually took something for it the night before the race. The last time I took any sort of pill for pain was 2 years ago when I had my stress fracture. That tells you something.
Race morning was uneventful; everything was routine and going well. The weather was absolutely perfect and my legs were fresh. I was close to target at 5 km but as the race progressed, I slowed. I felt like my effort was there but just didn't have the pop or the numbers to prove it. At some point in the race I started to think about my B goals. I still had my time from last year that might earn me a spot on the team, and I still wanted the win. Then at 17 km, Leslie Sexton made her move. She is training for Rotterdam and had the steady-pacing rhythm nailed perfectly. Her coach rode past me on his bike and my body just didn't respond. She gained a decent distance from me and secured a solid win. After crossing the line, I was pretty upset. I congratulated Leslie. She is one solid runner, starting to really make her mark. Normally I'd stick around for pictures and the like but this time I just wanted to change my shoes, do my cool down, and have a good cry. Immediately upon finishing my head was pounding and fellow Saucony runner and masters champ, Predrag came to the rescue when his wife found me an Advil. He was also right there for me when I broke my leg, two years ago. I was so desperate that I swallowed the pill dry before heading out for my cool down. Once I returned I found a quiet corner and let the tears flow with Coach Rick and Josie. I've had my share of letdowns but this one really stung. As a mom, you hear every cough, sniffle, sneeze, cry, moan, shriek, sigh, door close/open, toilet flush, and faucet run in the middle of the night. It is not something you can easily turn off. When my kids need me, they need me. My husband is an incredible dad who works hard to provide for us but when his head hits the hay, he hears nothing! My tears were flowing because even though I have learned to be better at saying no more than yes this year in order to put everything into my Olympic year, I still struggle. Making sacrifices is one thing. But trying to be a princess with perfect sleep, rest, nutrition, training, preventative maintenance etc. is another. It's tough, incredibly tough.
In a few days the announcement will be made for the World Half Marathon team and I will not be on the list. Running the Around the Bay 30 km race was always the alternative so that is the plan right now. I have a bit more time to get over this cold, do some decent workouts, and get out on one of my favourite courses. Can't go wrong with another local, high-class race! I've done it several times and it will be an excellent way to prove my fitness for Rio, and end my winter/spring season.
I was looking up some verses on disappointment to help encourage me and remembered my own words, "God's plan is better than mine.". Onward I go.

Checking the watch. Photo credit: Fleur-Ange Lamothe.

Stretching out the arms. Photo credit: Fleur-Ange Lamothe.

Striking some sort of pose. Photo credit: Fleur-Ange Lamothe.

#TeamDuChene,  a great cheer-up after a bad race!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

2016 Chilly Half Marathon

The 2016 Chilly Half Marathon is quickly approaching. On March 6, runners in Burlington will be racing for various reasons: a rust buster after holiday indulging, a training run in preparation for a spring marathon, a fitness test after time off from injury or illness, or in my case, a chance to make the 2016 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships (WHMC) team.
Last year at this event, Reid Coolsaet ran 1:03:37, which still stands as the fastest qualifying time for the men’s WHMC team. At the time, he was using it as a sharpener for the 2015 Rotterdam Marathon where he would be aiming to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, which he did. I too was using it for the same reason, and also successfully met the Canadian standard, which was announced a few weeks after we competed. But last year’s Chilly Half was even more significant for me as it was the first half marathon I raced since fracturing my femur at the Montreal/Canadian Championships Half Marathon just over 10 months before. After crossing the line in 1:14:01 on that brisk morning in Burlington, I clearly remember putting my arm in the air, elated and grateful, knowing I still had it. I was overcome with emotion as I realized that I hit my target exactly, and knew that with six more weeks of training I would be able to attack the Olympic marathon standard with complete confidence. It is a memory I will cherish for a long time.
The only other time I raced the Chilly Half Marathon was in 2012 (read about it here). It too was a significant year. Our daughter, who I was still breastfeeding, turned 1 that day. And after racing a strong Around the Bay race a few weeks later, my coach and I decided to compete in the Rotterdam Marathon as a stab at the 2012 Olympic Games Marathon standard. I ended up running 2:32, taking 7 minutes off my personal best but it wasn’t enough for the required 2:29:55. But 2012 became the year I put myself out there. I became a serious contender, able to compete at an international level. And the Chilly Half was a big part of that.
The Chilly Half Marathon is an excellent event for runners of all types. For me as a parent, it is ideal because it is close to home; I can be there and back with my family in half of a day. This year we will be celebrating my daughter’s 5th birthday once I return. Racing locally also allows me to avoid lengthy travel, eat my own food, and sleep in my own bed the night before. For me as an elite athlete looking for a fast time, the course is certified, record and ranking eligible, and flat with an out-and-back layout, my preferred type of race. While you can experience some wind off the lake when returning to the finish, the support from the other runners on their way out is motivational and encouraging.
In preparing for this event, I started with a similar build to last year by racing the same 10 km and 10 mile races in December. But instead of the 8 km race I would normally do in January and because I didn’t race a fall marathon due to a fractured metatarsal in my foot, I moved up to the half marathon distance right away. I completed the half marathon in Houston in January, and Vancouver in February. I didn’t expect to run personal best times at these races but knew I needed them to build my strength and fitness to have a spring minor peak before my summer major peak in preparation for Rio. I’ve averaged 125 km/week for a few months with plenty of cross training, weekly interval workouts and tempo runs, and most long runs of 30 km. The numbers are there and I believe I am ready for a solid race, particularly if the weather cooperates.
With “Chilly” in the race name, one can expect less than ideal weather conditions but based on the relatively mild Ontario winter we’ve had so far, I and many others are likely approaching it with optimism. If it is a cold and windy day, I’ll likely wear arm warmers or a thin layer under my singlet with a hat and gloves. Regardless, I will be in shorts with my usual compression socks as I find anything longer restricts my knee drive. Fortunately one can get away with wearing less clothing on race day as opposed to a training run because you heat up quickly with exertion, have the benefit of adrenaline, and if you are cold it can motivate you to run faster to get it over with sooner!
As for sport nutrition, if one uses gels, you should plan to ingest the same amount you normally would in such an event, regardless of the weather. As for hydration on a winter day, drinking less liquid would be appropriate as opposed to more when racing in hot and humid conditions. For me, I have an early light breakfast and hydrate well before the race so will likely skip the water stations but consume 3 gels, particularly because of a later 10:05 am start.
For those looking for a shorter race, consider the Frosty 5k that is also also a flat, fast, out and back course.
To all running, for whatever reason, have a wonderful race. Hope to see you smiling at the finish line with your arm in the air!