World XC Champs Decision

As some of you may have seen, today Athletics Canada announced the teams headed to the Panamerican Cross Country Cup in Barranquilla, Colombia on February 21st and to the World’s in Guiyang, China on March 28. If you did you’ll see that my name is missing from the list. Let me explain why.

Ask anyone close to me and they will tell how hard this decision was for me. I take competing for Canada very seriously and I know these opportunities don’t come along very often and that they should not be taken for granted. However, I have some very big goals for this spring and with the world cross-country champs so late in the year (March 28) and with so much travel involved, it would have been challenging to try and do both.

Track season in North America starts far earlier than it does in the rest of the world. This is due to the NCAA season, where many of the best opportunities for fast races are held in early April and May. This year it is very possible that my first Steeplechase could be as soon at April 16 at the Mt SAC relays. That would have only given me less than 3 weeks to recover from a hard 12 km XC race held across the world in China.

Additionally 2015 presents a unique challenge with 2 major championships this summer. The Pan Am Games in Toronto in Mid July and then the World Track and Field Championships in Beijing in late August. To qualify for one or both of these teams will take a lot of hard work and some very specific prep. The steeplechase in Canada is by far the deepest it has ever been in Canada with 4 guys all having run equivalent to the World Champs Standard (8:28). To give myself the best chance at making either of these teams I’ll need to give 100% of my effort and focus.

Cross Country is a fantastic sport which I have always really enjoyed competing at. Some of my best experiences have been travelling to to the World XC Champs both as a junior athlete and 2 years ago to when I travelled to Poland as part of the senior team. I believe that XC is a huge asset for all middle distance runners and that it really helps to build that aerobic strength you need in the Fall which carries over to great performances come the Spring time.

I will be sad to watch the Canadian team head off to worlds in March but I wish them all the very best. We are sending a very solid team that I know will give everything they have on the day and will do Canada proud.

I truly hope that come September I won’t have any regrets about giving up my spot for the team headed to China this March and that I’ll look back and say that it was worth it.

Hope you all understand

Cheers

Chris

Canadian XC Champs

I haven’t made a post in a while…this is part due to the fact that I haven’t raced, or done much of interest this Fall. Fall for me (along with most runners) is base building season. It’s a lot of unsexy work. Fartleks, Mileage, Tempos, Mileage, Long Runs, Weights and more mileage. For me there is no magic formula and I dont even wear a Garmin. It’s just me and the beautiful trails that make Vancouver such an amazing running city.

It was about 6 weeks ago that I looked at the calendar and realized just how close Nationals XC Champs were. It was time to get to work. There wasn’t a dramatic change in training, but a change in mentality. I wanted to win nationals…badly! Nationals have been held in Vancouver for the past 3 years and they have gone quite well for me each year. I have been 4th, 3rd and last year I finished 2nd in a great race with Luc Bruchet. This was to be the 4th and final time thats nationals would be held in Vancouver. It would be my last hope at winning at home, on a course that I run almost every day. (I live 10 block away and sections of the course make up my morning run route.)

In the past couple of weeks leading up the race I tried to get on the course as much as possible, but we had some cold weather which caused the mud to freeze, making it very challenging to run on. Finally the course thawed and I was able to get on it to do a couple of sessions.

Since I do most of my workouts alone it is sometimes hard to gauge how fit I am. I typically just have to believe that if I have put in all the work than it’s likely I’m pretty fit. That said, about once a season I’ll hop on the track to do 4-5 * 1 Mile with 5 minutes rest just to see where I’m at. I did this workout a couple of weeks back and I rolled 4:29, 4:25, 4:24, 4:22 and felt pretty smooth. With that workout I knew I was fit. Big shout out to Rob Watson who came out to the track that day to run around and scream at me!

The week of nationals Vancouver saw an absurd amount of rain. Something like 150mm+, which is twice the amount that Toronto sees in any given month. It’s a lot of rain. On Wednesday of race week the course was a swamp but by Friday it had actually managed to dry up a bit. That said, when you put 600+ runners on it, it never seems to matter how “dry ” it is; the course will always turn to mud. Plus, on Saturday morning we woke up to 2-3 cm of snow on the course. When I opened the blinds to see this snow I smiled. I’m a mudder. I like it when the course runs tough. I was looking forward to the sloppy mess.

With the exception of Cam (Levins) and Mo (Ahmed) this years field was pretty loaded…

  • Kelly Wiebe – Sun Run Champ; CIS XC Champ
  • Luc Bruchet – Canadian XC Champ; 13:33 5000m PB
  • Alex Genest – Olympian (Steeplechase)
  • Taylor Milne – Olympian (1500m) and 8:27 Steeplechaser
  • Barry Brit – 2014 National Champ – 10,000m
  • Plus a whole bunch of other really solid runners

I figured Luc and Kelly would take it out hard. They aren’t much for sitting and kicking. They did exactly that and within 2km the front pack of 10 or so had been established. I worked my way up to the front and stayed with Kelly and Luc as they made a number of surges, slowly thinning the front pack to 5. I took the lead around 4km and began to put in a few surges of my own. I stayed at the front, pushing, until 1 lap to go and it was down to just Kelly and I, shoulder to shoulder. It was XC running at it finest. Two guys just hammering each other, neither guy giving an inch. Kelly made a strong push with 1km to go and I wondered if that might be it. We were running in mud halfway up our shins and it was tough to respond. I hung tough and as we came down onto the grass field and with about 800m to go I slowly started to catch Kelly. Finally with 500m to go I caught Kelly and as I so eloquently put it to the reporters afterwards…I “Unleashed the bear” to grab the win. (Ah The things you’ll say after running your brains out for 10km!)

This was a very special moment. This was my 1st senior national title. As I crossed the line I ran into the arms of friends, family and supporters who have been there for me the past 20 years as I’ve rode the ups and downs of an elite athlete.   Thanks to all those who showed up to cheer all of us runners on and to those who couldn’t be there in person but sent their support through other means. It means a lot!

Major props to Kelly Wiebe for a great race! I won’t soon forget it. I remember thinking with about 1 mile to go how awesome of a race we were having. It’s what the fans had come out to see and we delivered.

You can watch the race replay here on Trackie.ca

Full results here

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Photograph by: Manto Nakamura Manto@show.ca
Photograph by: Manto Nakamura Manto@show.ca