Update from Glasgow!

With 7,500 athletes and officials from 71 Counties/Territories the Commonwealth Games Athlete Village is exactly that…an actual village! Complete with 700+ housing units, multiple dining areas, cafes, bars, gyms, recreation centres, retail shops and a medical facility this place is humming 24 hours a day.

My first morning in the village followed a long day of travel and a short night’s sleep. I was still pretty tired when I finally pulled myself out of bed and stumbled towards the dining hall to get my first cup of coffee and bite to eat. Nothing could have prepared me for what I faced as I walked into the main dining hall. Thousands of people, line ups and incredible noise! I was half in the mind of turning around and heading back to bed. I pushed on (literally) and got my coffee, oatmeal and got out of there. That was madness.

Despite the rough start, after having been in the village for over a week I have fallen into a good little routine: Eat, Run, Eat, Nap, Run, Eat, Sleep, Repeat.

Not overly exciting but don’t let anyone kid you, life as an athlete can look more glamorous than it actually is. The key to life in the athlete village is to find a good balance. Don’t do to little or too much. With still 5 days till my race I got to stay activated and avoid getting too stale. The great thing is that we are in Scotland, in a new city with an international games going on. There is plenty to see and do! I have taken a couple of trips into Glasgow to see what the largest city in Scotland has to offer. I have heard plenty about Glasgow over the years and knew that Glasgow didn’t historically have the reputation of being particularly beautiful. Glasgow has a reputation of being a pretty rough and tumble town built on the River Clyde and based almost entirely on ship building. At one point in time 1/5 of all ships in the world where built here in Glasgow. Well times have changed, the shipbuilding industry has all but died and the city that once had 1.2 million people living in it has been reduced to roughly 600,000. But the story of Glasgow is far from over and all over the city you can see signs of rebirth and resurgence. The Commonwealth Games hope to play the role of catalyst in this showing off Glasgow’s new face to the rest of the world.

“People Make Glasgow” is Glasgow’s mantra and it’s the absolute truth. I honestly can’t say that I have met a friendlier group of people. Everyone from the volunteers to the locals seem to love Canadians and it’s hard to go anywhere without them wanting photos with us and asking if we happen to know their friend’s younger son who works in the “Virgin” store in Vancouver (I don’t). The locals (AKA Glaswegians) have made all of us athletes and official feel so welcome it’s been amazing!

We didn’t get to walk in the opening ceremonies as for anyone that has participated in these types of things in the past can attest that they are long and tiresome. Lots of standing around and waiting to finally enter the stadium near the end of the show, missing most of the entertainment. Instead we got tickets to watch the opening ceremonies from inside the stadium. This was the best deal because we got to see much of the show that we would have missed had we been outside the stadium waiting to walk in. The Opening ceremonies were spectacular with Rob Stewart and Susan Boyle as the headliners and Queen Elizabeth II making an appearance. The music was fantastic in the energy in the place was electric! I left those ceremonies inspired and feeling very fortunate to be a part of these games.

The athletics portion of the Games started yesterday, taking place at Hampden Park stadium (Scotland’s National Stadium). After having competed at the World Track and Field Championships last summer in Moscow where the stadium was left mostly empty for the morning sessions I expected that for the first day, of which mostly only heats and qualifying rounds were contested, the stadium would be half full. Not a chance! The Stadium was packed to the brim and the Scots were showing how much they love to cheer! There were flags flying from all over the Commonwealth and it didn’t seem matter if you were winning the race or 2 laps behind. The fans were knowledgeable and passionate! It was something special.

With only a couple days to go I am in full taper mode. Just a couple light tune up sessions to come and plenty of rest. There are only 12 men in my final on Friday evening, 3 Kenyans (including the Olympic Champion), 3 Brits, 3 Canadians (myself included), 1 Aussie, 1 Ugandan and 1 lad from the home nation Scotland. Training has been going about as well as I could hope for. Just need to get to the line healthy and the good things will follow!

Cheers

Chris

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Race Update – Switzerland is good to me

Switzerland has been good to me. Two summers ago I came to Luzern completely new to the whole European racing scene. I had no idea how it all worked and I had no idea about the “politics” involved. I quickly learned. You come to understand that in many cases, as in many things, it’s not what you know (or how fast you are) it’s all about who you know. In track and field it’s all about agents and meet directors. These people will ultimately decide which races where you can can’t race. I count myself very fortunate to work with a great agent, Kris Mychasiw. Over the past couple of seasons Kris has helped get me into races that I on my own simply could not. Because of this I feel that I am always having to prove myself. I take nothing for granted. If I’m given an opportunity I better not screw it up! In 2012 Luzern was one of these first opportunities and as a result I was just a tad nervous. Luckily I had my training partner and friend Alex Genest with me. He’d been around Europe and back a few times and knew how it all worked. I followed Alex around and just kept on saying please and thank-you. When it came to race time I continued to follow Alex all the way to the finish line where i ran a new Personal Best (PB) of 8:28.4 dipping under 8:30 for my first time!

Fast forward two years and I found myself back in Luzern. I’m much more experienced with european racing but my PB still stood at 8:28.4. My hope was that by returning to Luzern that I may be able to channel some of that similar magic from summers past. This time around I did not have Alex with me but I did have Taylor Milne. I always like having a friend/training partner with me at these meets as it helps to provide a sense of normalcy allowing me to relax. On the start line I was so relaxed that I even managed to pop a joke. The announcer kept pronouncing 3000m (trie thousand meters) which sounds an awful like 5000 meters. I mentioned that nobody wants to run a 5000m steeplechase…

The joke fell on deaf ears but luckily for me I was saved by the starter’s pistol and the race was underway. I didn’t have the greatest start and quickly found myself at the back of the pack. I tried to reassure myself that the lead pack had gone out too quickly but, after passing through 400m in 67-68 I realized I had not got out fast enough. I was buried at the back end of the field. I had some work to do. Over the next 600 meters I had managed to work my way up to the back end of the chase pack that included the 3 Americans and Taylor. It crossed my mind that I may have wasted too much energy in making this move so early in the race but once there I found my rhythm and felt pretty solid. A single file line formed with Donn Cabral leading the way. The race stayed this way until about 600 to go when all of a sudden the front pack that consisted of 3 Kenyans and 1 Bahraini started to come back to us. The last lap was a bit chaotic with our chase pack catching the leaders. I managed to keep out of trouble and saw that with a lap to go I was right on pace for a PB, I just needed to stay strong and get over the remaining 5 barriers safety. Coming down the home stretch I knew it would be close and so I leaned hard at the line. I had to sit tight for a few minutes and wait to learn my time…. 8:28.1! Although only a PB by 3 tenths of a second it was still my fastest time ever! Double fist pump! A couple of other guys ran PBs that night and so the mood around the finish line was a happy one. We all joined in a collective cool down jog and the watched a great series of fireworks put on by the meet.

Upon reflection I would have loved to have broke 8:28. It’s now the 3rd time I’ve run 8:28 and 4th time under 8:30. I’m over it and ready to go faster.

Next up is a 1500m at Heusden this weekend and then it’s off to Glasgow to put in some final prep for my race at the Commonwealth Games August 1!

Onwards to Glasgow!

Result – Men’s Steeplechase

1. 283 Kemboi Clement Kimutai 1992 KEN Kenia 8:21.50 1./I
2. 284 Kipsang Lawrence Kemboi 1993 KEN Kenia 8:22.25 2./I
3. 471 Cabral Donn 1989 USA USA 8:22.40 3./I
4. 390 Nganga Bernard 1985 KEN Kenia 8:23.18 4./I
5. 365 Forys Craig 1989 USA USA 8:24.09 5./I
6. 271 Bayer Andrew 1990 USA USA 8:25.71 6./I
7. 378 Uliczka Steffen 1984 GER Germany 8:26.79 7./I
8. 389 Koech John 1985 BRN Bahrain 8:26.82 8./I
9. 344 Winter Chris 1986 CAN Canada 8:28.17 9./I
10. 407 Steinhammer Christian 1988 AUT Austria 8:43.40 10./I
11. 369 Cotter Tomas 1990 IRL Ireland 8:47.23 11./I
12. 343 Milne Taylor 1981 CAN Canada 8:48.12 12./I
13. 368 Neeman Noam 1987 ISR Israel 8:55.08 13./I
14. 346 Hentschel Felix 1988 GER Germany 8:57.67 14./I
15. 129 Engelhardt Adriano 1992 SUI US Ascona 9:05.48 15./I
16. 130 Kern Marco 1987 SUI LC Schaffhausen 9:25.62 16./I

 

Check out this video for highlights from the meet!

Planes, Trains & Ridiculously Expensive Coffee!

After a 10 hour flight from Vancouver to Paris aboard the luxury airliner Air Transat, a 4 hour layover in Charles De Gaulle airport (I’ve seen better airports) and a 50 min flight to Zurich, I was pretty much wrecked. I managed to find a shuttle to my hotel for the night and even mustered up enough motivation to get in a 30 min shakeout. After being cramped up for 10+ hours on a plane with only a couple hours sleep this was one of those runs that you absolutely dread. I so desperately just wanted to remove all the compression gear I had been wearing for 16 hours and crawl into my bed and sleep. However, every now and then you surprise yourself. Once out for my run my legs didn’t feel that bad and the route through the rolling farmlands near the Zurich airport was stunning with the sun just setting and a thunder and lightning storm in view but not posing any immediate danger. I finished the 30 mins refreshed and smiling. It was great to be back in Europe.

It was not so great being wide awake at 3am but that’s what a 9 hour time change will do to you. I managed to keep myself in bed until 6:01 am when I finally decided it was a reasonable time for me to crawl out of bed and grab my first real meal in the past 24 hours.

I hung out at my hotel for a couple of hours before hopping a ride over to Luzern, Switzerland where my first race is tomorrow night. I had been looking forward to the drive through Switzerland’s famous mountains and valleys but it turns out that Switzerland isn’t up for all that and instead they just bore holes through the side of these mountains. So most of the ride was spent in tunnels. Very long tunnels!

Arriving in Leuven was a great feeling. Not only was the first major leg of travel completed, but I also have great memories from Leuven. It was one of my first European races back in the summer of 2012 and it’s where my current Steeplechase PB was set. I’ve come back again this year to hopefully conjure up some of that same magic.

Luzern is also a beautiful place set low down in a valley alongside a lake surrounded by the Swiss Alps. Towering over the city is Mount Pilatus which according to people, in the Middle Ages, a dragon with healing powers and spirits used to inhabit. It was also believed that the ghost of a Roman governor once found solace in Lake Pilatus and because of that for long time climbing the mountain was forbidden, as it was believed that woe betide anyone who disturbed him. Now it’s a major tourist destination.

The only knock I have against Switzerland is how expensive everything is! The cost of things is outrageous! A simple lunch of a Sandwich and a small bottle of water cost me $15 and a small coffee (No milk foam, or syrup or anything fancy!) from Starbucks was $7! This is madness. Otherwise Switzerland is top notch in my books.

Tomorrow’s race looks to be a good one. There are a couple of Kenyans up front then some familiar faces including my teammate Taylor Milne. The goal for the race is pretty simple, get out fast, stay out of trouble and run hard. I’ve ran a lot of races in the 8:28-8:32 range in the past 2 years and I’d love to take a shot at something faster. Tomorrow should be a good opportunity then it’s aboard a long train ride north to Leuven, Belgium to reunite with the Speed River crew and prepare for the next race!

Start List

3000m Steeple, Mens

StNr. Name Jg. Nat. Verein SB PB
283 Kemboi Clement Kimutai 1992 KEN Kenia 8:16.96 8:16.96
390 Nganga Bernard 1985 KEN Kenia 8:17.29 8:05.88
284 Kipsang Lawrence Kemboi 1993 KEN Kenia 8:19.90 8:19.90
389 Koech John 1985 BRN Bahrain 8:19.99 8:16.96
365 Forys Craig 1989 USA USA 8:26.30 8:26.30
343 Milne Taylor 1981 CAN Canada 8:27.81 8:27.81
378 Uliczka Steffen 1984 GER GER 8:28.86 8:22.93
344 Winter Chris 1986 CAN Canada 8:31.25 8:28.46
271 Bayer Andrew 1990 USA USA 8:37.21 8:37.21
368 Neeman Noam 1987 ISR Israel 8:38.15 8:38.15
407 Steinhammer Christian 1988 AUT Austria 8:43.67 8:43.67
369 Cotter Tomas 1990 IRL Ireland 8:44.15 8:41.02
130 Kern Marco 1987 SUI LC Schaffhausen 8:46.92
346 Hentschel Felix 1988 GER GER 8:51.63 8:40.87
129 Engelhardt Adriano 1992 SUI US Ascona 8:56.54

Luzern

Luzern2

Luzern Selfie

Luzern Track