Yesterday was the first big track specific session of the year. There were hurdles, spikes, and a whole lot of lactic acid. It was great! When I woke up this morning I was tired and I was sore. My motivation was…low. Luckily I have a good friend who was willing to accompany on his bike for my 10-miler through Stanley Park. Armed with a GoPro he captured some great shots along the way. Thanks Blaise for the company!
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
Blaise Sack, a good friend of mine, is producing a video series documenting my run up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Here is the first installment which focuses on my preparation for the 2014 Canadian Cross Country Championships on Nov 29th, in Vancouver, BC.
Well this post is a little delayed (sorry) but, after a long travel home from Glasgow I slept for a few hours in my own bed then turned around and headed off for a week of serious R & R on my parent’s boat. No internet, no TV and most importantly no training. Just Rachel, Andrew (my twin brother), Mum & Dad and me out on the open sea (more like sheltered inlets) for a week. The weather was warm, the beer was cold, it was great! But I’m back home now and figure it’s time to do a little recap from the Games.
To sum it up in a single word the Games were incredible! Glasgow outdid itself as a host city and my expectations for the Commonwealth Games were well surpassed. Beside the fact that the stadiums were all sold out, the competition was strong and the organization was top notch, the people from Glasgow (and all of Scotland for that matter) were the damn nicest people I have ever met. Seriously! They were the most helpful and genuine people you can find on this planet. There is a saying (apparently) that, in Edinburgh, if you ask someone for directions, they will give them to you very politely. In Glasgow, with equal politeness, they will say, “Come on, I’ll take you there”. This proved true more than a few times. And, the Scottish hospitality didn’t stop there, they even dished out some of the best Scottish weather you can hope for… 15 degrees and raining almost every day! I felt like I was back home in Vancouver!
So I got into Glasgow quite a bit before my race, like 12 days before. But, this being my first major games I have no regrets, however, it was a long time to sit around and wait. Sure there was tons to do; opening ceremonies to attend, events to watch, castles to visit, scotch to drink, but when you preparing for the biggest race of the year (and arguably your life) you’re not so interested in walking about castles and tasting Scotch (as good as it may have sounded). Instead we were doing our final training runs and resting in our rooms. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner were the highlights and luckily the food was pretty darn good! …especially considering the 7000 person army they were feeding!
My last few workouts went great. I was coming off recent PBs in both the steeple and the 1500 so my confidence was high and I knew I was ready to lay down a good one. All week people kept on telling me how amazing the crowds have been and how they have just lifted their performance with the strength of their cheers. They didn’t lie. As I walked into the stadium that night and 50,000 people rose from their seats I got chills down my back. I remember looking back at Taylor Milne and just giving him the goofiest grin. This was special. We walked in single file around the curve and down the backstretch where we were then given a few minutes to do our final strides. With a Scot in the race the crowd was already cheering loud and when someone cleared a height in the pole-vault the crowd roared so loud I could barely hear myself think. Amazingly (But not surprisingly) above the noise there was one voice that rose above them all. When I looked over there was Thelma wright about 20-30 rows back on the back strength waving her Canadian flag madly, screaming at me, Taylor and Matt. I have known Thelma for most of my athletic career and it was pretty special seeing her at that moment.
On the start line there were 3 Kenyans, (and not just any Kenyans) one of them was, Ezekiel Kemboi the 2x Olympic Steeplechase Champion (Pretty good), One of them had run the fastest time in the world this year at 8:03 and the other one ended up beating them both to become the Commonwealth Games Champion. They were all studs. Then there were 3 Canadians, 2 Brits an Aussie and a Scot to make 10. Not a big field by any means and when the race went out at ridiculous 59 seconds for the first 400 meters (World record pace is a meagre 63 seconds) the field was shattered apart. 2 Kenyans led and I was hanging onto the back of a small chase pack that had formed which included Kemboi, Matt Hughes from Canada and Wilkinson the Brit. We were rolling and came through the first 1km in 2:42-2:43, by far the fastest opening 1000m of my life! But I felt relaxed and strong and kept rolling with it. I tried to keep the gap to a minimum but around the halfway mark in the race the gap had opened up just enough that I was then on my own. I had put a good gap on the group behind me so I was left on my own to get through the final 3 laps. It never got ugly and I worked hard to stay with it but the time just seemed to slip away and I crossed the line in 6th just managing to duck under 8:30 for a final time of 8:29.83. My 2nd fastest time of the season and 5th fastest all time. There were no fist pumps or pictures of me taking off my singlet coming down the homestretch but, after I crossed the finished line I took a look around at the 50,000+ fans packed into Hampden Park Stadium that evening and smiled. I came into the race hoping for a bit more but I was pleased with my effort that night. It was a special moment and an experience I won’t soon forget.
Throughout the games, and especially afterwards, when the media and bean counters all looked to sum up the Games and put them into perspective, it seemed that all everyone wanted to do was to compare these games with the Olympics. This confused me. I’m not sure why anyone would walk to try to compare anything with the Olympics. The Olympics are on a stage of their own and I’m not sure there is anyone out there that believes the Commonwealth Games are “more” important or even on a same level. That said, the Commonwealth Games still serve a purpose and are unique and special to themselves. They are a huge milestone in any athlete’s career and anyone that suggests the Commonwealths Games are no longer relevant were not in Glasgow this summer and I bet you that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that attended a session at Hampden Park to say these Games don’t mean anything anymore. These Games were electrifying and provided every competitor with a great experience that will help prepare them and set the stage for Rio in two years’ time.
I just want wrap this little wrap up with a big thanks to everyone who has been there for me this past season. There were many of you! Thanks to DST and the whole team at Speed River, Chris Napier, Chris Munford, Kris Mychasiw, Trent Stellingwerff, Kirsten Barnes and especially to my family and Rachel. I’d also like to say thank you to my great sponsors; New Balance Canada, Inbox Marketer and MountainStream Elite! This was a year with some major highs and lows, thanks all for being there for me to help me get me back on my feet and chasing my dreams. Onwards to Rio!
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!
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|
|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!
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!
|283||Kemboi Clement Kimutai||1992||KEN||Kenia||8:16.96||8:16.96|
|284||Kipsang Lawrence Kemboi||1993||KEN||Kenia||8:19.90||8:19.90|
|130||Kern Marco||1987||SUI||LC Schaffhausen||8:46.92|
|129||Engelhardt Adriano||1992||SUI||US Ascona||8:56.54|