Sprinting side by side across the Strait of Dover

By May 11, 2011News

A long overdue update, so there are a few topics I’d like to cover:

First, it was a very sad day on Monday May 2 when we found out that Danny Kassap had passed away. My heart goes out to Danny’s family and close friends. I did not know Danny very well but my lasting impression of him is of someone who was constantly smiling and optimistic. Even at last years Ottawa marathon, after he was forced to stop just a few kilometres into the race with an ankle injury he was all smiles and upbeat. My most memorable competitive moment against Danny was actually when we were in different races, but on the same day at nearly the exact same time. In 2008 Danny and I were running the London and Rotterdam marathons respectively, on April 13th. I can remember soon after finishing wondering how Danny had done on the other side of the North Sea. Funnily enough our times came out about 5 seconds apart. If we had have been in the same race we would have been battling up the home straight stride for stide. Danny was just off his PB and that was my first marathon, a good day for us both, I think. Danny will be greatly missed by his competitors and the entire running community.

My most recent race was at Stanford University in lovely Palo Alto, CA on May 1. I had the privilege of competing in the Kim McDonald Memorial 10,000m at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitation track meet. I wrote the following on the plane to Europe the day after the race:

This race was a great experience for me. Going in I was probably the slowest guy, based on previous 10,000m best by a good 30 secs, but somehow managed my way into the top section (based on either my 1:02 half or 13:43 5000m). Historically this race is very fast, and last year was where the both the American and Canadian national 10,00m records were set. This year was no exception. Despite running what for me was a very strong race I placed 23rd in the race in 28:12.82.

With the instructions from Rich to be as conservative as possible, I went straight to last place from the gun. I looked behind me after about 250m, saw no one and thought ‘well this is as conservative as I can go’. After a slow first lap and a few frantic, quick laps I settled into a good spot about 5th from last, on the rail, just starring at the back of the guy in front of me. I tried to shut off mentally and just stay there.
The train of 35 or so guys didn’t start to splinter until about 3000m, at which point I stayed where I was and ended up following Jason Hartman, probably the only athlete taller than me in the race 🙂
I was pretty worried between 4000-6000 that I had gone out too hard and was going to blow up completely. But I managed to hold my position. We went through 5000m in 13:59-14:00 and I was working hard but still felt ok.
By about 6000m we started to slow from 67 second laps to 69s. I could feel this happening, but wasn’t interested in asserting myself to maintain the 67s, as I needed the ‘break’ and was still nervous that any moment I would crack and fall off the pace.
A solid group of us came together with about 6 laps to go and the pace started picking up to 67s again and guys started moving positions. I was very tired at this point, but determined to compete against the guys around me til the very end. I took the lead of our group briefly with 2000 to go as some guys started tailing off a bit. I set my sights on catching a few guys that were drifting off the pace in front of us.
With 4 laps to go I looked at the clock, it was at 23:43-4. But I was too tired to make sense of what kind of time I might end up running. I knew I was still running decently but that the pace had slowed quite a bit for a while. With 2 or 3 laps left I heard Rich yell that I was on for sub 28:20. This motivated and refocused me.
Jorge Torres was pushing the pace in our little group at that point.  I just starred at his back and held on for dear life. I had a little left in me and put up a decent fight on the last lap, passing Jorge with 350m left. Another guy came by me with 300m to go and I tried to latch on but couldn’t quite close the gap.  Jorge then re-passed me in the home straight and I raced him to the finish. He held me off.

A weird mix of emotions at the finish. At first I was just relieved to be done and been able to race the entire way. Then I was a bit distraught that I was so far back in the race that my final time wasn’t even flashed on the scoreboard. But I came around quite quickly to the fact that I got the most out of myself on the day.

There is a video of the race here (sorry I haven’t figured out how to embed videos from flotrack). I don’t get much ‘screen time’, but the race at the front was great too.

Racing at 9:55pm can be tough for several reasons. One of them is figuring out what to eat and when. Here’s what I had before the race

A big stack of 'Lumberjack' pancakes at Stacks in Burlingame, CA

I’ll update in the next few days on my training here in Switzerland and my upcoming race The BUPA Great Manchester Run.