“And you will make it, but only if you run…Only if you run.”

By January 3, 2012News

Goodbye 2011. Hello 2012.

The new year is a time for making some resolutions and setting some sort of goals for the year ahead. The turn of the calendar didn’t really prompt me to do much goal setting, at least in terms of my running. I don’t operate well without goals. I like to have a purpose or a goal race in mind when banging out the hard sessions. So, I didn’t waste time in setting new goals this fall following STWM. In fact, I think my coach tried to have a goal setting/new plan of attack meeting within an hour of the races completion 🙂 And surprise surprise the goals this year are the same goals I had all of 2011….2:11:29 (i.e. the Olympic marathon Standard).

But, the holiday season is also a good time for ‘years in review’ and ‘best of’ lists, basically reflecting on the year that has passed.  I’ve spent a little time reflecting on my year of running in 2011. Read below if you desire:

The Clif Notes version:

4* Personal Best’s (5,000m, 10,000m, half-marathon, marathon)

3 the number of times I lost the nail on my second toe.

2 Wins (McNeill Bay Half, First Half Half)

1 attempt at the Olympic Marathon Standard

0 Olympics Standard’s obtained

*I have to now consider 2:12:57 from STWM my PB because like it or not CIM is an aided course. That said I’m counting NYC Half as my new half-marathon PB even though it too is aided. I just figure it’s so much better than my next best time (1:03:53) that it was a PB effort regardless. Contradictory I know 🙂

January – this was a ‘rebuilding’ month for me…after spending most of December 2010 recovering from the California International Marathon it took me a while to get going again. I ran a little road race while at home in Kingston and needless to say it was an eye opener…I was really out of shape.

February – I headed back out to Vancouver in mid-January after some fun times with friends and family in Ontario over the holidays. The real grunt work started mid-January and I was a hurting unit. It took me a lot longer to get back into shape than I expected. We started hitting the track on Tuesday nights with the UBC team. The combination of the volume of those workouts and the weather made for tough slogging. I eased off the heavy hitting a bit for a couple weeks in February to give myself a shot at running okay at the First Half Half marathon. Luckily things started to click just in time and I eeked out the course record by a couple seconds. After that it was back to some good training.

March – Lots more of those grueling Tuesday night track workouts and lots of school work filled March (and January and February for that matter). In a 4 day span I managed to defend my MSc thesis at Queen’s University and run a half marathon in 1:02:14 in NYC, NY. It was a pretty exciting few days. I think I slept well, very very well after that week.

April – We got back on the saddle straight after NYC half. I was all chuffed with myself and my coach was all ‘you gotta aim higher’. I had my sights set on the Vancouver Sun Run for a long while. Having placed 2nd on two previous occasions I was thirsty for a win. But, Eric Gillis got the best of me and Kip Kangogo. I had to settle for yet another 2nd place. What I didn’t have my sights set on was hitting the track less than a week later down in Eugene, OR. But, running a 5,000m PB at the Oregon Relays was probably the funnest race of my year. A big shout out to all the UBC/Pt Grey crew who were down there cheering me on. I hadn’t had that many people cheering for me since my Providence College days.

May – the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational track meet at Stanford University had been my nemesis for two straight years prior to 2011. It took some convincing by my coach to get to me even run this race. But, riding on the coat tails of my NYC half I agreed, thinking maybe I was fit enough to have a good one. All those agonizing workouts up at UBC on Tuesday evenings throughout the winter and spring payed off on the day as I ran a huge PB of 28:12. I scurried over to Europe after that race and things started to unravel a bit. I was pretty fried from the back-to-back-to-back races I put together from the Sun Run to Stanford. I laced up for a very competitive 10km road race in Birmingham, England and came up flat, a 29:30. From there I tried to hold together the pieces until Ottawa race weekend. But, I was all out of gas at that point as I struggled home in 30:??, well outside my expectations.

June – It was time to recharge the batteries. I hung out with friends and family in Ontario for most of the month. Did some half ass training and got a serious wake-up call upon returning to Vancouver when I ran 1:04:35 at the Scotiabank Vancouver Half marathon – a well beaten 4th place.

July – And marathon mode began. I knew I wasn’t in the greatest shape of my life going into the buildup for STWM but I tried to look at the positives. July 4th was 15 weeks out from the race. Plenty of time to get into great shape. I tried to string together as many good workouts and high volume weeks as possible. Training was solid, no injuries, and the weather was fantastic.

August – much more of the same as July. We went down to Seattle for an 8km at some point (maybe it was still in July?). It was a good rust buster and fun little trip.

September – STWM starting looming large at this point. Key marathon pace sessions and long runs along with live chats, interviews, and press conferences. It was a unique experience. Training was going ‘decently’ at this point. I wasn’t knocking the workouts out of the park, but I was running consistently higher mileage than ever before. So, I was hoping that would pay off on race day. Two decent races were thrown into the month – McNeill Bay Half marathon – a solo 1:04:02 and the Zoo Run 10km – a not so stellar 30:2? 5th place beating. I was a bit mentally scarred after the Zoo Run, but gave myself the usual pep talks about how the marathon is way different from any other race, what happened in the 10km is not an indication of what can happen over 26.2miles, etc, etc, blah, blah, blah.

October – I sat in a hotel room 10km west of downtown and stare at the flags outside my window for 3 days wondering WTF I’d gotten myself into. The wind, oh the wind! I woke up on race day and stuck to the plan, put in on the line and completely blew up with 7km to go. Definitely a tough pill to swallow. But, in hindsight a good effort. Something to build on maybe. And a big step for Canadian marathon running…at least two guys will be toeing the line at the Olympic marathon with the Canada singlet on as Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis got ‘er done.

November – Recover, get motivated, and start training again.

December – more of the latter from November.

So, all-in-all it was actually a pretty good year. The performance I’m most satisfied with from 2011 is my 28:12.82 10,000m PB. I’d all but given up on the track after a 29:2? and a DNF in my 2 attempts at 10,000m in 2010. I know the real barrier for being a ‘good’ 10,000m runner is 28:00. But, I never thought I’d see 28-anything next to my name in a 10,000m race again. I raced hard that night and even exceeded my coaches expectations. Even though I got trounced in the race, finishing 23rd, I was pumped. Hopefully I get a chance at sub-28:00 in the next few years.

Looking ahead to 2012. It’s all about qualifying for the Olympics. Next up on the race calendar is the P.F. Chang’s RnR Half Marathon in Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe on January 15th. Should be a good ‘blow-out’ and a good indicator of where my fitness is at. Plus I absolutely love P.F. Changs…gottta get me some lettuce wraps!

All the “best of” lists have prompted me to get caught up on all the music I missed this year. But, I’ve got so much to listen to I don’t think I’ll ever catch up. Just to show how out of touch I am….I’m still listening to music from 2009!?! Nonetheless a great song. Julian Plenti is Paul Banks of Interpol for those of you that recognize the sound.