Holly Jolly S*^% That Was a Fast 5k

I’d been looking forward to the Holly Jolly Fun Run — a 5k along the route of the Toronto Santa Claus parade —since the moment Phil mentioned it earlier in the fall. It has absolutely everything I love in a road race:

  • Late start time (11:45am, 30 minutes before the actual parade)
  • Massive crowd (all there to watch the parade, not the race — but I’ll take what I can get)
  • Cold temperatures (okay, maybe a little too cold at about freezing at race start — but the sun was out)
  • Very few turns on the course (two 90-degree left-handers)
  • Net downhill
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Gold at the Ontario Masters Cross-Country Championships

My cross-country season last year was short but glorious: I ran two races, the Sunnybrook 8k and XC nationals in Kingston, and I had a blast and posted some good results.

This year was the same story: two races, both very fun, both with good results. Last week, it was the Sunnybrook 8k once again. Yesterday, it was the Ontario Masters championships in King City.

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A week of fall racing: Wild Mile and Sunnybrook 8k

This is my favourite time of year. I love the leaves, the cool days, the way you appreciate every moment of sunshine, since the days are getting cloudier and shorter… And I also love cross-country and some of the other weird races that only happen this time of year. Such as these two.

Wild Mile

I got an email about the Wild Mile shortly after getting back from the 5th Ave Mile. Naturally, I was going to sign up for anything one mile long at that point. The race did sound a little weird, though: a Wednesday night “road mile” on a gravel trail, on an out-and-back course with two fairly steep elevation changes. In fact, it didn’t just sound weird — I knew it was weird, since the race was in the Nordheimer Ravine, where I run pretty much every day on my easy runs. It would be steep, and there would be a million different surfaces: hard-packed gravel, loose gravel, mud, dirt, wooden bridges, some interlocking brick…

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Sub-16:00 at the Scotia 5k

Today I ticked a big box on my running wish list: I ran the Scotia 5k in 15:56. Here’s how it all went down.

Resetting my paces

Last month, I ran the greatest race of my life (and had one of the best experiences of my life) when I won my age group at the 5th Avenue Mile. My time, a 4:27, was also by far my best running performance ever.

One of my favourite things about setting a new “overall PB” is seeing how it affects all your training paces and equivalent race times. Since 4:27 was almost ten seconds faster than I was supposed to be able to run a mile, it radically changed all my paces and times. Here’s what the McMillan Running Calculator currently thinks I can do (and the insane things I’ll need to do to be able to run a 4-minute 1500):

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End of the season

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.

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PB at AOs, Two Medals at NCCs

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.)

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Peaking

Here we go.

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.

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Another Week, Another Race: My First 800

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?

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Two 1500s in One Week

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.

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