Austin Top 8!

After a great holiday season with a little too much good food & drink I was really looking forward to heading down to Austin, Texas for a week and a half to hook up with my teammates and coach and get the ball rolling for the 2015 season.

While Vancouver is about as good as it gets in Canada during the Winter nothing beats 20+ degrees (Celsius) in mid-January. Plus, Austin has a great reputation as an outgoing, athletic-minded city with good eats, beer and music. Some liken it to the Portland of the south. (or is Portland the Austin of the west?….)

After 8 nights in Austin I’ve put together my Austin Top 8!

  1. The State of Texas – Out of all the states in the US, Texas has got the reputation for being the biggest, baddest, all around most “American” state of them all. Having never been to the great state of Texas before I was excited to get down there and see what all the fuss is about. Well after finding a 2 inch long bullet on my first run (through a very quiet picturesque neighborhood) some Texas Stereotypes defintely rang true!
  2. The Weather – 20+ degrees (Celsius) in mid-January….enough said!
  3. The People – While we operate in a bubble during this type of training camp, the people of Austin we did meet seemed like pretty good people. They like to exercise and to eat good food. They are also a bit weird and they are proud of it. One afternoon we were warming up for a session on the track when a senior citizen rode by on his bike wearing nothing but a G-string! This got quite the reaction from our group which only encouraged the old man to start slapping his naked ass. Very nice Austin, very nice!
  4. Town Lake Running Trail – This trail is found right downtown Austin and runs alongside the mighty Colorado River. It’s 10 miles of crushed gravel with a few small sections of bike bath. It’s an amazing trail for doing off day runs and long tempos. It is also where every runner in Austin seemingly runs and on a nice day it can be tough to navigate.
  5. Entourage? I don’t mean the hit HBO series that ended back in 2011 do I!? Yes sir! Between training runs we literally just watched Entourage. Starting from Season 1, within the 8 days I was in the house we had cruised well into Season 6. Some say it was in prep for the new movie coming out soon, but I’m fairly confident it’s just an excuse to rest and do nothing else for hours at a time.
  6. Tex-Mex – I came down to Texas for 3 things… #1 a warm weather training camp. #2 Texas BBQ. #3 a sampling of some of the finest Tex-Mex you can find. Now I’m sure every Austenite has their favourite joint, but we hit up Polvos Mexican Restaurant and it did not disappoint! Enchiladas, Tacos, and Margaritas it was a feast fit for a luchador!
  7. Texas BBQ – If there is one thing that Texas does bigger and better than everyone else it’s BBQ. One night after a hard session on the track the team drove 20 miles out into the bush to “The Salt Lick”. Now this place is something out of a legend. It’s like the baseball field in “Field of Dreams” except, replace an Iowa corn farm with a big ol BBQ pit full of cooked meat, and the Chicago Black Sox with the Speed River Track Club. It was glorious! We ate a gross amount of meat products and then slipped into a meat induced coma.
  8. Speed River TFC – Even with all the delicious food and great weather, the main reason I went all the way to Texas was to spend some time with my team and coach. I’ve been living back on the west coast for 2.5 years but have stayed a part of the Speed River TFC the whole time. While there have been lots of changes over the years the core group has remained the same and it is always great to catch up with old friends. During the week and a bit I spent in Texas the group laid down a number of solid sessions and it felt great to be back training once again apart of a group.

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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

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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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

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Luzern Selfie

Luzern Track

The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time

Where does time go?! 6 weeks ago I was in a major funk. I was struggling to get over my lingering health issues and had finally decided to take a week completely off from training and just relax. I wasn’t confident in my body and each run was a major stressor. I had another cardiologist appointment coming up and a figured I’d just hang tight until I met with him. During that meeting he had me do an Exercise Stress Test and he cleared me to keep training and to head to altitude for a planned training camp. I got back into some easy running for a few days and then headed off to Phoenix fitted with a nifty Cardiac Event Monitor. This little device was going to be my training partner and roommate for the next month. Other than a daily shower I was going to be wearing it full time to ensure than there was nothing funky going on with my heart that they couldn’t catch in short term monitoring. (I thought about wearing this thing while on the plane, but had second thoughts when I imagined what the TSA would do when they saw this “device” strapped to me! Ha!)

So there I was, In Flagstaff, Arizona at 7,000 ft and in pretty awful shape. I knew the next couple of weeks were going to be rough. And they were. Altitude has this amazing ability to make even the best athlete feel like the little fat kid in gym class. Everything is hard. So when you’re not in great shape life sucks. The first workouts were the worst! That said I just tried to keep everything in perspective. I adopted the Oregon Football motto “Win the Day”. I just took each day as it came and tried to get the most out of it as I could. With each workout I saw improvement and by the end of the 3.5 weeks at altitude I could see the light. I felt like a runner again.

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Once back down at sea level I got to say goodbye to my event monitor. That little guy I will not miss. The data from the previous month was analyzed and again I was given the all clear. This was good news. It was time to start thinking about racing!

A couple of quality workouts and there I was, standing on the start line at the Payton Jordan Invitational. Nothing like one of the best meets of the year to use as a “rust buster”! My goal was to just get in the mix and feel it out. And it felt great! I lacked some confidence and my hurdling was awful, but I managed to roll an 8:37 and I felt pretty darn good doing so!

payton jordan 2014
payton jordan 2014 (Photo Cred: Aric Van Halen)

Before this past weekend I had my trepidations about racing. It had been almost 6 months and training had gone off the rails a few times. Now with one under the belt I’m pumped for the next one down in LA in a week’s time.

"Team Canada"getting in a pre-comp workout
“Team Canada”getting in a pre-comp workout

 

Cheers

 

Chris

The Mountains are Calling and I Must Go

Every year teams of runners ascend to Flagstaff, Arizona for its many soft trails and ultra thin air. Americans, Canadians, Germans, Australians, Swedes, you name it, they are here. And while we all represent different teams and countries, for the few weeks we spend up here, we share the same trails, tracks, gyms, coffee shops and restaurants. It’s a unique atmosphere and there is a certain type of comfort seeing other runners from all over the world coming to the same place to do the same thing and chase the same goals. Later in the season these same people will be our competitors, but while up here the atmosphere is relaxed and everyone is on the same page.

This is my second stint at altitude and I already seem to be acclimatizing a little bit better this time around. Maybe it’s because I know what to expect, or maybe it’s because I came into camp a little more rested. The experts will say that your body adjusts faster the more time you spend at altitude. Whatever the reason, the first few runs have felt better and I seem to be surviving a little better on the hills this time around.

I’m actually a bit shocked I even made it to Flagstaff. After the up and down last couple of months I’ve had I had almost written off going to altitude. Even last week I hadn’t put too much thought into the trip. However, after seeing another Cardiologist late last week, where I did and passed a Cardiac Stress Test, I was cleared to continue training and to go to altitude. Two days later I was on a plane headed South.

So far it’s been a great move! It’s great to be back with my Speed River teammates, Alex Genest, Taylor Milne, Kyle Boorsma, Rachel Aubrey, Chantelle Groenewoud and Andrea Seccafien. After doing much of my running on my own it’s great to have some training partners and to spend time with some really good friends.

The first few days at altitude are all about acclimatization, this means running a little bit easier on runs and making sure you are recovering as much as possible between runs. No matter how easy you go the altitude still gets to you and after being up here for three days I’m starting to feel its effects… but I guess that is the point!

My goal for the next 3.5 weeks is to not only get in a great block of training, but more importantly I just want to get back to enjoying running. The last couple of months have been nothing but doctors appointments and stress and that took a toll on both my love for running as well as my hairline ;). Hopefully after a few weeks of good training I’ll return to sea level with a renewed confidence in myself and motivation for the training and racing to come.

 

A few shots from a hike we did earlier this week:

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Sitting at 8,500ft with the city of Flagstaff in the background below.

 

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Using the timer on my camera resulted in a super awkward group photo

 

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Chantelle, Alex and Andrea sharing a laugh
A Couple of Bros
A Couple of Bros

JESSICA SMITH AND CHRIS WINTER NAMED ATHLETE REPRESENTATIVE DIRECTORS FOR BC ATHLETICS

JESSICA SMITH AND CHRIS WINTER NAMED ATHLETE REPRESENTATIVE DIRECTORS FOR BC ATHLETICS

BC Athletics is pleased to announce Jessica Smith and Chris Winter as our new Athlete Representative Directors.  Jessica and Chris will be working closely with BC Athletics in their new roles.   As Athlete Representative Directors, they will be responsible for initiating, coordinating and presenting communication between athletes and the BC Athletics Board of Directors.  If any athletes have concerns, suggestions, proposals for change or other important input, they are asked to please contact either Jessica or Chris at the information below (email or twitter).  Please join us in welcoming Jessica and Chris to the team!