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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Memories of Glasgow

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!

The Water Pit - Photo Courtesy of Brendan Cleary
The Water Pit – Photo Courtesy of Brendan Cleary
Photo Courtesy of Brendan Cleary
Going over the hurdle – Photo Courtesy of Brendan Cleary

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