Okay, that title requires some qualification. No, I did not win the elite race: that honour belongs to Nick Willis. No, I was not even the fastest man in the 35-39 age group — thanks, again, to Nick Willis, who is 36, and a few other middle-aged elites.
But I did win the Men 35-39 open race.
Which, Nick Willis notwithstanding, still merits an OMG.
Okay, the season was supposed to be over after NCCs.
It was all perfectly set up. I had a conference to go to in Pittsburgh two days after NCCs ended, and the plan was to stop running completely for a couple of weeks starting then, letting my body recover from all the hard racing in the gorgeous environs of Steel City. (Seriously, though, Pittsburgh is great.)
The problem was that I didn’t feel like I needed recovery. My body was fine. No injuries, and not even really any aches or pains. So although I did take it pretty easy in Pittsburgh, only running a couple of times on the treadmill, I started running again as soon as I got back.
The season ended today. Since I started writing this blog, I’ve been focused on building toward two goal races: 1500s at the AOs (the Athletics Ontario Open Championships) and the NCCs (the North America, Central America, and Caribbean World Masters Athletics Championships). On the advice of my club mate Simon, I was looking for a fast time at AOs, where I’d be up against a bunch of collegiate runners — and I was looking for a medal at NCCs, where I’d be racing masters runners my own age and trying not to get a particular time but to beat them. With lots of careful planning and lots of good advice like Simon’s, I achieved both my goals: a good time of 4:15 at AOs and a gold medal at NCCs. (As a nice bonus, I also got a bronze medal in a non-goal event, the 800m.)
After lots of careful season-planning, base-building, VO2 Max-increasing, and speed-tuning, now we’re into the important races. This weekend, I race the 1500 at the Athletics Ontario Open Championship, where I’m hoping to run my fastest time of the year. The next weekend, I run the NCCWMA championships, where I hope to take home a medal or two.
Over the past week, I’ve raced another 1500 (and set another PB) and started what Coach Paul is calling “Special Endurance Workouts,” designed to provide that last bit of fitness before the big goal races. Each gets a section below.
One of the many things I’m enjoying about racing track rather than marathons — which I how I got into running — is how much you get to race. So much for the “three times every two years” rule. With track, you can race every week. Or twice a week, for that matter.
Today, after doing my first two outdoor 1500s last week, I ran my first 800m race. My main reason was to work a bit on my speed, which I know is useful for the 1500, my main event this summer. But I’m also still just curious to know what distance I’m best at. I definitely haven’t thought of myself as a sprinter (800s are the tomato of track events, both a sprint and middle distance race) since I started running, but what do I know?
On May 31st 2019, having just turned 38, I did my first ever outdoor track race. It was a mile at the UBC track in Vancouver, and I ran it in 4:40.11. A little over a week later, at the York University Twilight Series Meet #1, I ran a 1500 in 4:18.50. Five days after that, last night, I ran another 1500 at the London 1500 night, in 4:17.95.
What follows is the story of those two 1500s — how I raced them, how they felt, and what I learned.
I always plan trips at exactly the wrong time — during stretches of beautiful weather in Toronto, or the exact date that a band I like is going to be in town playing a show… or the weekend of a bunch of great races. Of course that was the case for late May/early June, when I had to be in Vancouver for a series of conferences, and when two really interesting races happened to be planned: a meet at U of T with what would have been a perfect season-opening 1500, and the Streetsville Mile road race a few days later.
I was a bit bummed out until searched around and saw that there would be a perfect race while I was in Vancouver: the Vancouver Distance Series’s Mile Meet. The prospect of running a proper mile on the track is inherently interesting to a newbie runner like me — Bannister associations, etc. — and this looked like a particularly good one, with lots of runners organized into several heats, so that there was a good chance someone would be running my pace.
My partner’s parents live near the Dixie Outlet Mall in Mississauga, and we stop there fairly often. Much of my wardrobe consists of weird castoffs that Tommy Hilfiger couldn’t sell in his normal stores, Levi’s 501 jeans purchased at 50% off markup, and weird odds and ends from Winner’s.
But for some reason I’d never thought to investigate the Nike Outlet Store. Until one fateful day in February, that is.
I went in expecting to find a bunch of “lifestyle” sneakers and basketball shoes. I definitely wasn’t expecting to find running-nerd shoes like track spikes. But the first thing my eyes landed on when I entered the store was a pair of Nike Zoom Victory Elite 2s. I’d just read a review of these a few days before — I was thinking about buying my first pair of spikes for my indoor track training, and I was curious to see what the equivalent of the Vaporfly was (you know, something ridiculously fast and ridiculously overpriced). What I came up with was the Victory Elite 2s, which have a carbon fibre plate and cost in excess of $250 CDN.
Well, the ones in the Outlet Store didn’t cost $250. They were a totally reasonably-sounding $79. I texted my club mate Jay to make sure these were good spikes and this was a good price. He replied that they were, and it was, and asked me to pick him up a pair as well.
This morning, I ran my first serious race of the 2019 outdoor season: the Bum Run 5k.
I’d first heard about the Bum Run from Alex Hutchinson, who won the race for three straight years in 2015–2017. Apparently the race had big cash prizes but was somewhat under the radar, so these prizes were within reach for runners like me. I was curious, but also a little leery of stepping on toes. But a few weeks ago Alex told me he didn’t plan on running it this year. Then Jay, Simon, and Phil from my club expressed interest in forming a team and running it together. I was in.
The prizes weren’t so great this year — in fact, it wasn’t really clear what they would be, beyond possibly involving Saucony shoes — but there was plenty to get excited about nonetheless. The route was appealing to me: starting in Queen’s Park, then heading around the U of T campus before looping back along Bay Street and St. Michael’s College, it was close to home and passed many of my favourite spots in the city. My friends would be there. And the race, which is run in support of colorectal cancer research, has a very good sense of humour. For instance, there was was a gigantic inflatable rectum at the start/finish today, big enough to walk through. Truly “a 5k to get behind,” as their tagline goes.
After a great (fun and fast) Spring Run-Off last Saturday, I was feeling pretty great. I felt really tired the next morning, but not sore. Then I went for an easy run — it was warmish out, but I definitely under-dressed — and I came home and felt horrible. My partner had been sick all weekend with what we thought was food poisoning. But maybe it was a virus, because when my immune system dipped after the race and that chilly easy run, I picked something up. For two days, I had chills, I was nauseous, and all I wanted to do was sleep.
Of course, running addiction being what it is, I still really wanted to run. Thankfully, I pretty much literally couldn’t. I sat out a UTTC Masters workout on Monday, then took a day off easy running. By Wednesday, I was feeling somewhat decent, and decided to try out a treadmill run. It was mildly unpleasant, but I made it through. I ran a somewhat sluggish track workout Thursday night (followed by a very fun pub night), by which time my flu-like symptoms were morphing into a chest cold. This never got particularly severe, but my usual Mount Pleasant tempo on Saturday felt harder than usual. It was still kicking around for the track workout tonight — there was still plenty of phlegm to jettison — but I’m mostly over it.