14th Long Course World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy

14th Long Course World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy

By: Matt Setlack

About one week before the event, I was given the opportunity to race the 14th Long Course World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy on 06 Aug 2017. I am very thankful that Adrian Lambert gave me the opportunity to race as a member of the Canadian Team. This article will describe my experience during the race and demonstrate that not every race I do is "sunshine and rainbows".

Pre-Race

On Fri 04 Aug 2017, Adrian and I drove to the Milan Malpensa (MXP) airport, returned the rental car and met Mario and Nicola again at the airport welcome booth. We then met Marianne Hogan, Shelley Doucet and her sister Marcy at the airport. We all jumped on a Police bus, which drove us to Premana. That evening we had a team meeting where everyone introduced themselves, which was a very good idea.

View outside our bedroom window.

View outside our bedroom window.

Dorm style bedrooms.

Dorm style bedrooms.

Team Canada (Long Course)

The team was composed of Adrian Lambert (Team Manager/Head of Delegation), Lisa Heidt, Shelley Doucet, Marianne Hogan, Greg Smith, Natalee Peeters and Matt Setlack.

Lisa Heidt, Shelley Doucet, Marianne Hogan, Greg Smith, Natalee Peeters and Matt Setlack.

Lisa Heidt, Shelley Doucet, Marianne Hogan, Greg Smith, Natalee Peeters and Matt Setlack.

Opening Ceremony

On Sat 05 Aug 2017, we ran in the morning and then went to the Opening Ceremony in the afternoon. There was a short parade of athletes up the main street and then we sat down in some chairs. It was a good ceremony; short and sweet. There were flag dancers.

Matt and Marianne running.

Matt and Marianne running.

Matt and Marianne waiting for the Opening Ceremony.

Matt and Marianne waiting for the Opening Ceremony.

Open Ceremony for Long Course.

Open Ceremony for Long Course.

Race Profile

The long course race was 32km long and had 2,900m (9,512 feet) of ascent and 2,900m (9,512 feet) of descent. There were three mountains we needed to run up and then down again. The start line and finish line were pretty much in the same spot in downtown Premana.

Elevation Profile of Long Course World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy.

Elevation Profile of Long Course World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy.

Long Course Race Day (Sun 06 Aug 2017)

I woke up at 5:30 am and had the provided breakfast (cereal, yogurt, banana, coffee). During the bus ride to the start line, I remember feeling extremely good mentally, physically and emotionally. Everything in life was going really well. A euphoric feeling as if I was on top of the world.

Lisa Heidt, Marianne Hogan, Shelley Doucet, Matt Setlack, Natalee Peeters and Greg Smith.

Lisa Heidt, Marianne Hogan, Shelley Doucet, Matt Setlack, Natalee Peeters and Greg Smith.

I did a short 20 minute warm-up down the narrow alleyways of Premana and then went through the call room and stood at the start for 10 minutes. They called each country up to the start line individually. I missed Canada so tried to blend in by running with the Suisse who were also wearing red singlets. I don't think anyone noticed (except maybe the live tv cameraman). The start went off fairly fast but it was slightly downhill so that was to be expected. I looked up and saw (and could hear) a helicopter with a film crew inside videotaping the race! How cool is that!? I have had motorcycles and Tesla electric cars as lead vehicles before but never a helicopter! I could hardly believe my eyes!

The first 2-3 km were all downhill with a fair amount of bottlenecking. I remember being super pumped and kept thinking, why is everyone running so slow? I wanted to pass a whole bunch of guys but the trail was so narrow that it was nearly impossible. On the way up mountain 1 of 3, there was some shuffling and I passed a few runners. Everyone sort of settled into a pace after that and went into the grind. There was thunder, lightning and rain.

A video of the race is shown below. Although it looks like the runners are going super slow, it is much more challenging than it looks especially with the elevation change.

For the first several aid stations, I only drank a bit of water. I passed a few people who stopped to walk at the aid stations. I was thinking, that's strange, why are they going so slow through aid stations? In a 10k or a half marathon, I never eat or drink anything during the race (and in the unlikely chance that I do, I keep running the same pace through the aid stations).

The descent from mountain 1 was pretty intense. The trail and all the rocks were wet and slippery. We were fairly stretched out by this point but I saw numerous runners fall town in front of me. I then fell flat on my back after slipping on a rock, which nearly knocked the wind out of me. I also managed to bang myself up in a few places (elbows, right shin, left hand, right buttock) and started bleeding in a few places. The blood from my right shin kept flowing but I was so pumped up with racing in this incredible race, that I didn't even notice. Although a few body parts like my left knee, bleeding right shin and left hand were a little sore, there was no significant damage that would prevent me from running.

About 1/2 km later, I slipped on the wet grass and fell to the ground again, then rolled a couple of times and got up (hopefully not losing too much time). During the entire episode, I'm pretty sure I was constantly moving forward (even if I wasn't necessarily "running" forward). A few hundred meters later, there was a large group of spectators who clapped as we went by, I gave them a wave and they went wild. Like a noticeable increase in their volume, clapping and cheering. It was awesome!

The first 14 of 32 km went really well. I felt amazing. According to my Strava account, I covered the first 14 km (1677m up, 601m down or about 75% of all the climbing on the course and about 25% of all the descent in the course) in about 1 hour 53 minutes.

Almost at the col/top of mountain 2 (PC: Aaron). Only about 2 people in the entire race ran all the way up this hill.

Almost at the col/top of mountain 2 (PC: Aaron). Only about 2 people in the entire race ran all the way up this hill.

On the climb up to the col (the highest point of the race at the top of mountain 2), I was starting to feel a little weak but still alright. When I almost got to the top of mountain 2, that's when I really started to feel knackered. It was quite a steep climb once you left the road/horse cart trail and I found myself "aggressively hiking/power walking" more and more. I got to the top of the col and that's when things really started to go south...There was A LOT of rain, the trail was completely soaked as well as all the rocks. After climbing, it took a while for my legs to get used to the relatively steep and technical downhill going down mountain 2. After a while on this descent, the first non-world mountain running runner passed me AND I even had a 5 minute head-start on him. I was unbelievable how fast some of the runners were descending.

When I saw Adrian Lambert at around 20km (somewhere around 2 hours 30 minutes I think), I was feeling pretty wrecked. "What's going on?", I thought to myself. I still had not eaten anything and drinking water, pink juice (Gatorade?) and Coca-Cola only gets you so far. After the race, many fellow runners mentioned that the aid stations had food to eat like chocolate but to be honest, I didn't even notice one aid station with food to eat. During this stage of the race, I felt like the life had been sucked out of my body like there was no energy left (low blood sugar?). At this point, I was in 43rd.

Around 20km into the race (PC: Adrian Lambert).

Around 20km into the race (PC: Adrian Lambert).

The picture looks the same way I was feeling (PC: Adrian Lambert)

The picture looks the same way I was feeling (PC: Adrian Lambert)

The climb and descent of mountain 3 was by far the worst. It started raining cats and dogs (literally, the most intense downpour I have ever seen in my life). I was completely soaked as if I had jumped into a swimming pool. This was by far the most mentally challenging part of the race. When I race, I am always competing against someone else or at the very least competing against myself or the clock. However, at this point in the race, I was not even sure if I was going to finish the race but I knew that if I dropped out, it would probably be a farther run back to the start than just running the proper race course. haha so I pushed on. I felt like a turtle (and probably looked like one too). The ascent and descent of mountain 3 seemed to go on forever. I was wishing that the race organizers had put up race distance signs (apparently they did, but I didn't even notice). At one point, I thought, I must be getting close to the finish now thinking I was only 2 km or so away but then I checked my GPS watch and saw that I had about 8 km to go!

Matt Setlack finishing the long course race (PC: Adrian Lambert)

Matt Setlack finishing the long course race (PC: Adrian Lambert)

Eventually, the race turned into a race of survival and I told myself just to keep moving forward (don't stop and don't move backwards). Don't even worry about pace, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I must have stubbed my toes on ever single rock and tree root on the course. The way I felt was very similar to the way I felt when Josh Kutryk and I skied from the Athabasca Glacier parking lot to Mount Columbia and then back to our high camp on the Columbia Icefield. It was a 20 hour epic day and by the time we got back to our tent at 1 am, I was so knackered after that ski that I could have fallen asleep with my ski boots still on.

Matt Setlack finishing the Long Course World Mountain Running Championships (PC: Abigail Smith).

Matt Setlack finishing the Long Course World Mountain Running Championships (PC: Abigail Smith).

After what seemed like forever, I did make it to the finish line in a time of approximately 4:09:36, placing 53rd overall (1st Canadian). I am relieved that I even made it to the finish line in one piece but am not at all happy with my time or placing. However, I did learn many valuable lessons.

Post-Race

The post-race dinner was pretty decent and the post-race gathering/awards ceremony was a lot of fun.

Post race meal provided by race organizers.

Post race meal provided by race organizers.

Awards Ceremony

Awards Ceremony

Lessons Learned

  1. Attitude is Everything - Going into World Mountain Running Championships and Long Course WMRC, I was very careful about what I thought about. I knew that I was coming from Cold Lake, Alberta - literally one of the flattest areas on Planet Earth (the nearest mountains are 800km away). Thoughts lead to words and words lead to actions. I did not want to go into the race with a defeatist attitude (making excuses before the race even started) and having already made up my mind of how the race was going to go. The majority of the Canadian Team (and other world mountain runners) are from the mountains. Instead of focusing on what I did not have, I focused on what I did have, namely that my training and racing over the year leading up to the race was very consistent and my results proved that my aerobic fitness was fairly high. Also, living and training in Cold Lake in northern Alberta all year around, I believe provides a perfect environment to build mental strength and stamina.
  2. Running 6,000m (almost 20,000 feet) of vertical in the week immediately before a race is probably not a good idea. That amount of ascent is the same amount as I would typically do in 3 months in Cold Lake. However, I really needed to take advantage of my surroundings being in the Dolomites and would not trade the mountain runs I did in Italy for anything. I had the time of my life!
  3. Not eating anything for 4 hours while running a 32km race with 2,900m of elevation ascent/descent is a bad idea. I went into the long course race thinking that it would be a half marathon (21.1km) with a 10km race tacked onto the end. However, it felt more like a marathon with a 10km tacked onto the end (and my time was even slower than these two races put together) or ultramarathon. When I'm racing 10km and half marathon, I never eat or drink anything. When I am doing my Sunday long run (33km at 4:20/km average pace), I do not eat or drink anything even when the temperature is +30C. This race was much different than any other race I have done before and I should have followed more of a "slow and steady" pace than a "balls to the walls" pace. I should have gone out of my way to try and find energy gels somewhere in Italy or borrowed energy gels from teammates (if they might have been available) or at the very least, borrowed a couple of Shelley's protein bars.
  4. The Power of Positive Thinking - Without sounding too philosophical, I really believe that if you smile at the world, the world will smile back at you. If possible, I always try to see the good/positive things in people and my environment. I really do believe that you can always find something positive out of every situation. I have found that positivity/optimism (while still being realistic) has a snowball effect, the more positive things that happen to you seem to bring more positive things (but the opposite is also true). On every run I go on, I try to love and appreciate every step, and to always see at least one positive thing. For example, the temperature is perfect for running, the sun is shining, I have a beautiful Millennium Path to run on, people are super courteous to me while driving by, I am surrounded by amazing people, I am healthy/not injured, etc. There is always at least one thing to be thankful for so try to focus on that, if you can. It will make you feel better about your current situation and about the environment around you.
Beautiful morning sky back in Cold Lake where almost every vehicle on the road is a truck :)

Beautiful morning sky back in Cold Lake where almost every vehicle on the road is a truck :)

Thank You

I would like to thank Adrian Lambert for allowing me to race the Long Course World Mountain Running Championships, Tony Lambert for providing us with team uniforms and all of the people who have supported me along the way including my wife, Emily, parents, Wayne and Patti Setlack, family, friends and supporters (Canadian Armed Forces, PSP, Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment, City of Cold LakeRunning Room, Ronhill, and Zizu Optics).

33rd World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy

33rd World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy

By: Matt Setlack

I had an incredible experience competing in the 33rd World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy on 30 Jul 2017 as a member of the Canadian Team. This post will describe my journey and hopefully it will inspire and motivate potential runners to get into the sport of mountain running.

Qualifying for Worlds

To qualify for the World Mountain Running Championships ("Worlds"), there were two things I needed to do. First, I needed to qualify for the Canadian Mountain Running National Championships in Canmore, AB on 10 Jun 2017. To qualify, I needed to run under 36:00 for 10km, which I did by running 31:40 at the Vancouver Sun Run on 23 Apr 2017. Second, I needed to either place in the top 3 at Nationals or be selected for an "at-large" spot on the team (as shown in this website: http://mountainrunning.ca/news.php?id=101). I placed 4th at Nationals but based on my race results from 2017, I was selected for the Canadian Mountain Running Team. This was my second time competing with the Canadian Mountain Running Team. Last year (2016), I competed in the World Mountain Running Championships in Sapareva Banya, Bulgaria.

Getting to Italy

I left Cold Lake, AB on Tues 25 Jul 2017 and stayed at my sister, Steph and brother-in-law, Hugh's beautiful home near Edmonton. Everything on the way was super smooth and enjoyable. It was one of those days where everything aligns. No holdups or traffic, you breeze through all the green lights. This was the first time I noticed that petrol was less expensive in CL ($0.869 per litre) than Edmonton ($0.909 per litre). Smile at the world and the world will smile back at you :) 

This is all I brought: Trail shoes and 30L carry-on backpack

This is all I brought: Trail shoes and 30L carry-on backpack

Driving to Edmonton

Driving to Edmonton

I ran into Mat Strong, Bri Strong and Vanessa Fulford at the Edmonton Airport. That was awesome! They were on their way to Tomorrowland in Belgium. I really enjoy running into cool friends like that. They are full of super positive energy and are awesome people. At the Toronto Airport, I hung out with Paul Kirsch (Junior Team Coach or Manager for USA Team). It's always great to see familiar faces.

Matt, Mat, Bri and Vanessa at Edmonton Airport

Matt, Mat, Bri and Vanessa at Edmonton Airport

Packed my own lunch for the airplane

Packed my own lunch for the airplane

Whenever I'm travelling, I make sure to drink lots of water, wash my hands with soap and water frequently and do not touch my face. I like to pack my own lunch as well to ensure I'm not paying inflated airport prices and it's nice to be able to eat whenever I like. We were greeted by Mario and Nicola at the Milan Malpensa (MXP) Airport and taken on a Police bus to Premana, about a 2.5 hour drive NE of MXP.

Mario, Gareth, Allan, MattT, MattS and Nicola at the Milan Malpensa Airport

Mario, Gareth, Allan, MattT, MattS and Nicola at the Milan Malpensa Airport

Pre-Race

The days leading up to the race were relatively relaxed. There was very little running and a lot of resting. I ran fewer km that week that I have run all year (only around 40km compared to 130 to 170 km per week). We arrived in a small hotel (CFPA Casargo) just outside Premana in the afternoon of Thurs 27 Jul. That afternoon, the senior men and Heath went for a short 6km run on a narrow road. David and 3 junior Canadian women were about to head to the race course that afternoon so I managed to jump into their vehicle at the last minute and we walked over about 2/3rds of the race course. During this partial walk through, I wore my Salomon S-LAB trail shoes.

Walking/jogging over the race course. It was pretty steep.

Walking/jogging over the race course. It was pretty steep.

About 500m from the start line, the course narrowed to about 6 feet through a cobblestone alley.

About 500m from the start line, the course narrowed to about 6 feet through a cobblestone alley.

On Fri 28 Jul, David drove us back to the race course in his rental car and the senior men ran over the entire race course together. I wore my Brooks T7 racing flats. They are very thin/worn and you can feel the rocks through the shoes. They do not have a lot of grip/traction.

Matt Setlack on uphill section of race course

Matt Setlack on uphill section of race course

MattT, MattS, Allan and Gareth

MattT, MattS, Allan and Gareth

On Sat 29 Jul, we did a short 20 minute easy run with the senior men's team on the narrow road again. In the afternoon, we went to the Opening Ceremony in Premana. It was very impressive and the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) did a fantastic job organizing it and carrying it out. 35 different countries were represented in this year's championships. I noticed that almost all the locals (including photographers and school kids) were wearing Salomon trail running shoes (the Speedcross is very popular).

35 different countries were in attendance at Worlds.

35 different countries were in attendance at Worlds.

They played a song at the opening ceremony and throughout the championships called Come il Vento (video below). I'm pretty sure they created this song/anthem especially for Premana 2017.

Team Canada

Team Canada for World Mountain Running Championships on 30 Jul 2017 was comprised of 15 athletes and 3 team managers as follows:

Senior Women: Meggan Franks, Adrienne Gomes, Chantelle Groenewoud, Adele Blaise-Sohnius

Senior Men: Matthew Travaglini, Gareth Hadfield, Allan Brett, Matt Setlack

Junior Women: Annika Austin, Katia Lumb, Lea McCroy

Junior Men: Aidan Doherty, Austin Sutherland, Ross Henderson, Kieran Lumb

Team Managers: Adrian Lambert (Head of Delegation), Sue Lambert (Senior Team Manager), Pascal Gray (Junior Team Manager)

Back Row (L to R): Austin Sutherland, Adele Blaise-Sohnius, Adrienne Gomes, Chantelle Groenewoud, Matt Setlack, Gareth Hadfield, Allan Brett, Matthew Travaglini.   Front Row (L to R): Aiden Doherty, Kieran Lumb, Ross Henderson, Lea McCroy, Annika Austin, Katia Lumb.

Back Row (L to R): Austin Sutherland, Adele Blaise-Sohnius, Adrienne Gomes, Chantelle Groenewoud, Matt Setlack, Gareth Hadfield, Allan Brett, Matthew Travaglini.   Front Row (L to R): Aiden Doherty, Kieran Lumb, Ross Henderson, Lea McCroy, Annika Austin, Katia Lumb.

Race Day (Sun 30 Jul 2017)

The senior men's race started at 12:30 pm so we were lucky to be able to sleep in before the race. This race start time was ideal for me as I usually do my long runs at 12:00 noon. We arrived at the race start and did a 20 minute warm-up through narrow alleyways on cobblestones with the senior men's team. There was a really good dynamic among the Canadian Senior Men's Team; we did everything together.

Taking the bus to the race start: Senior Men's Team - MattT, Allan, Gareth, MattS

Taking the bus to the race start: Senior Men's Team - MattT, Allan, Gareth, MattS

There was a lot of tension in the air before the start. I was 5 people back from the front line. MattT started in the very front row or 2nd row from the front. The pace went out very fast as expected. I was quite aggressive at the start and moved up several places in the first 200-300m (before the narrow 6 foot wide alleyway bottleneck). The pace was really strange; at first it was super fast, then it slowed down, then it sped up again, surging faster then slower.

The race was 13km long (2 laps of 6.5km per lap) with about 850m of elevation gain and 850m of elevation loss. The race started and finished at almost the same spot. 

On the first uphill, I was thinking that maybe I should have done more trail runs, gone to the mountains more or done more incline training on the treadmill. The temperature was about +25C with little if any wind. There were sections of the race course where you would hit a wall of heat (like running into an oven) just before going entering the forest. I found it warm but not unbearable and much better than the temperature that I had been training in while in Cold Lake, AB (+30C with heat warnings in effect). The heat did not affect me as much as it affected other runners, I believe because I have done many long runs (2 to 2.5 hours) in temperatures of +31C and +27C. It was hot, don't get me wrong, but I think my brain/body sort of knew what to expect. Maybe I just got lucky.

The crowd support was amazing! It was like we were in the Tour de France. There were gigantic cow bells ringing, music pumping, the hoards of people on the sidelines were yelling at you and reaching out and touching your shoulder as you ran/aggressively hiked by. It was so loud and I actually found it a little hard to concentrate and I was thinking to myself, "I should have brought ear plugs". haha

To give you an idea of how fast the senior men's start was, watch this video at at 7:58. Keep in mind that the race was much more challenging and steeper than it looks.

During the two descents (especially the second time going down), I was thinking about Allan Brett's saying, "#Jesustakethewheel" because my legs were pretty much shot by then. On the second downhill, it felt like I was unintentionally braking with each step even though I didn't want to be doing that.

There was a lot more shuffling than I thought. I passed about 5 guys on the first uphill, then one or two on the first downhill. I came across Lap 1 in 31:00 and 53rd place. Second lap was A LOT slower and I ran it in 34:10. I ended up finishing the race in 1:05:10 placing 56th overall (1st Canadian in senior men's race) and was quite happy how it went.

Matt Setlack at the finish of the World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy

Matt Setlack at the finish of the World Mountain Running Championships in Premana, Italy

There were Italian kids near the start line and they put out their hands so you could give them high-fives. It was awesome. It gave me a boost of energy. When I heard people cheering for CANADA, it gave me a boost of energy as well. However, when they kept saying, "die Canada die", I was thinking, I know I'm dying, you don't need to remind me. I later learned that this meant "Go Canada Go".

World class athletes

One of my favourite things about competing in World Championship events are the amazing world class athletes you meet. I was very fortunate to run into a number of friends while in Premana, Italy.

Matt Setlack and Zak Hanna

Matt Setlack and Zak Hanna

Matt Setlack and Joe Gray

Matt Setlack and Joe Gray

Sarah Tunstall, Matt Setlack and Joe Steward

Sarah Tunstall, Matt Setlack and Joe Steward

Adele Blaise-Sohnius, Matt Setlack and Francois Leboeuf

Adele Blaise-Sohnius, Matt Setlack and Francois Leboeuf

Thank You

I am extremely impressed with the level of support I have received from so many people and am forever grateful.

Canadian Armed Forces - I would like to thank my chain of command at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (AETE) and 4 Wing Cold Lake for supporting my request to compete in the World Mountain Running Championships. Specifically, I would like to thank Major Renaud, Major Bergeron and Colonel Grandmont for their support. I would also like to thank the 4 Wing Commander, Colonel Doyle for supporting my request.

4 Wing Personnel Support Programs (PSP) Staff and PSP National Sports Office - One of the things I love about 4 Wing Cold Lake is the incredible support we receive from the PSP staff. Specifically, I am extremely appreciative of work that has been done by Ms. Josey Yearley, Fitness and Sports Manager and Ms. Diana Warbeck, Senior PSP Manager at the very last minute under very tight timelines to submit my request to the PSP National Sports Office. I would also like to thank Mr. Denis Gaboury from the PSP National Sports Office for supporting my out service sports competition request.

City of Cold Lake - I would like to thank City Council for supporting my request for funding to compete in the World Mountain Running Championships. I am very grateful.

Local Organizing Committee (LOC) - The LOC, based out of Italy was responsible for organizing the entire event. They did an absolutely phenomenal job of organizing Worlds and I cannot thank all the organizers and volunteers for putting on a world class event.

Local Newspapers - Thank you Mamta Lulla from the Cold Lake Sun newspaper for writing an article in the newspaper. The article can be found here. Thank you to Meghan Pecjak from the Bonnyville Nouvelle newspaper for writing an article about the competition in the newspaper. The article can be found here.

The Terminal Mile - Thank you Michael Rochus for interviewing me after the World Mountain Running Championships. You can listen to the interview below.

Adrian Lambert and Tony Lambert  - Thank you to the Head of Delegation/Team Manager, Adrian Lambert for organizing all the administrative details, going to the technical meetings, taking care of the lost baggage issue, managing all of the social media posts, taking care of race registrations and accommodation bookings. Thank you Tony Lambert for paying for our Team Canada uniforms. We looked really sharp in them.

My Family - I would like to thank my wife, Emily for her unwavering support, my parents, Wayne and Patti Setlack for their continuous support throughout my entire running career and my life. Thank you as well to my sister, Steph and brother in Law, Hugh who are always so kind and generous hosting me in their beautiful home anytime I ask. You guys are a lifesaver! Thank you to David and Sue Tallen who have also been extremely supportive of my running. Family will always be there for you and I am extremely lucky to have so many amazing people in my life.

Running Room, Ronhill and Zizu Optics - Thank you for your continuous support. You allow me to do what I love everyday. I am very lucky to have such amazing supporters and believe in you 100%. 

To the community in general - THANK YOU to everyone who has congratulated me and provided me with continual positive energy. There are too many people to list here but I just want you all to know that I appreciate your amazing feedback. I am super lucky to do something that I love.

Long live mountain running!

BMO Vancouver Half - One of the Greatest Race Weekends of my Life

BMO Vancouver Half - One of the Greatest Race Weekends of my Life

By: Matt Setlack (start line photo by Christopher Morris)

The 2017 BMO Vancouver Half Marathon experience from 05 to 08 May 2017 was like no other experience I have ever had before. I have had the incredible opportunity to compete in races across North America and around the world but none of them have come close to the elite hospitality experience I had at BMO Half.

Do you ever have those days when everything clicks and slides effortlessly into place? The experience I had at BMO Half was just like that from the time I left to the time I returned. There were no hang ups and rarely any waits; I parked at the airport, walked towards the shuttle bus stop and just as I turned the corner, the bus pulled up. I could not have planned that if I tried.

Friday 07 May 2017

I left Edmonton in the early morning and flew non-stop to Vancouver. Emily and I met in the race hotel (Coast Coal Harbour Hotel; probably the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in) and walked to the Race Expo at the convention center (only a couple blocks away) to pick up our race numbers. We met a lot of great people from Saucony there and I also had the chance to connect with John Stanton, the founder of Running Room. He invited us to the Free Running Room 3k Friendship Run that was scheduled for the next morning.

Matt Setlack and John Stanton at BMO Vancouver Marathon Expo

Matt Setlack and John Stanton at BMO Vancouver Marathon Expo

In the afternoon, Matt and Sarah Clout picked us up and I had the opportunity to see a horse dressage competition. Sarah was competing in it that weekend and she ended up taking home the First Level Amateur Division Championship. I had no idea that there was so much to dressage as there is. It was really interesting to watch and have Matt and Sarah there to explain the rules to me.

Matt Clout, George and Sarah Clout at Southlands Riding Club

Matt Clout, George and Sarah Clout at Southlands Riding Club

Around dinner time, food was prepared for the elite athletes in the hospitality suite (chicken, rice, vegetables, fruit, fruit to go bars, water, carbonated and flavoured water, etc). Lynn Kunuka was the Elite Coordinator and she did a phenomenal job. Just outstanding! Arlene and Cheryl were in the hospitality suite kitchen getting all the food ready for the athletes. I was extremely impressed with the food that they provided for us; it was exactly the type of food that we eat at home.That night, I watched Nike's Breaking2 commercial, which was very impressive. Eliud Kipchoge ran a 2:00:25 marathon time trial on a formula 1 race track near Milan, Italy.

The whole BMO Half experience felt like a family reunion. Many of the elite athletes and volunteers hung out in the hospitality suite and we got to know each other.

Saturday 08 May 2017

Emily and I decided to go to the Free 3k Running Room Friendship Run at the Vancouver Denman Running Room. This was the first time I had been to a Friendship Run and was expecting just an easy 15 minute jog and done but when I got there, there were tents set up, there was a start/finish line arch, free refreshments available and photographers/videographers walking around. I felt a little like I was on the set of a movie that was being filmed. 

Running Room Athletes Daniel Kipkoech, Matt Setback and Jane Murage

Running Room Athletes Daniel Kipkoech, Matt Setback and Jane Murage

John Stanton gave a speech, the Running Room pace bunnies were introduced and many of the elite athletes were introduced. A cheque was presented to the Thunderbirds Track Club by John Stanton. The 3k run went off without a hitch and then it was time for the BMO 2.5k Kids Run.

The BMO 2.5k Kids Run was definitely one of the highlights of the entire BMO Half Marathon Experience. Jim, Mary, Daniel, Jane, Emily and I drove over to the run. Lynn, Kip, Mike were already there. As soon as we arrived, they called us up on stage and introduced us. I was thinking, "I think the race organizers have maybe mistaken me for an elite runner/Olympian or something". haha The national anthem was sung before the race (I really like it when race organizers do this) and then we got to cheer the kids on. Lynn gave everyone blue BMO Saucony t-shirts that read "ELITE" on the front and back and then we were then given BMO Kids Run medals to present to the kids as they crossed the finish line. It was so awesome! I felt like a million bucks!

Kip, Daniel and Matt (Photo by Mary Hinze)

Kip, Daniel and Matt (Photo by Mary Hinze)

Daniel, Emily, Mike and Kip

Daniel, Emily, Mike and Kip

After that was done, we went over to the podium and got photos taken with any kids who wanted their photo taken. There was a huge lineup of kids. Then the kids started asking for our autographs! haha I was thinking, "I think you have the wrong guy (reference myself)". This event was so much fun and I had such a great time that my face actually started getting sore from smiling so much. I didn't know that was even possible. After the entire event was over on Sunday, we took the elevator with a family comprised of a father, two young girls with BMO 2.5k Kids Run medals around their necks and a mother with a BMO Full Marathon medal around her neck. We were wearing street clothes (unusual, since we usually wear running clothes) and the dad recognized us and said to us, "You guys are the elite athletes who went up on stage yesterday". It made me very happy to see an entire family partaking in the event. They looked very proud of themselves for finishing their races.

BMO 2.5k Kids Run (Photo by Mary Hinze)

BMO 2.5k Kids Run (Photo by Mary Hinze)

A course tour of the BMO Half was scheduled for 12:30 pm on Saturday. I thought there would be a bus or a 15 passenger van. Because of Vancouver traffic, we ended up getting back to the hotel a little later than expected. When we got to the elite suite, we realized that the tour wasn't an entire bus/van, but was instead just a group of elite athletes that would be driven over the course by one of the volunteers. Ferg Hawke volunteered to take anyone for a course tour. Emily and I asked to go but nobody else showed up. Jonathan also volunteered to navigate the course tour. We left the hotel, walked to the vehicle, got inside and realized it had a leather interior and was freshly cleaned (and I mean immaculate). We asked the other volunteers at the finish line arch if we could drive through since the other end of the street was blocked off and they said, "sure". So here we are driving/slaloming around these blue baricades trying to look like we belong there. It was pretty funny. Ferg drove over the entire 21.1k course for us in his own vehicle during Vancouver rush hour traffic while Jonathon navigated and called out the km splits as we passed them. Emily and I were thinking, we are so lucky; I can't believe we're actually getting a personal course tour. This is incredible! This tour ended up helping A LOT during the race since we knew exactly when and where the next turns were coming up. This was my first time doing this race. Thank you so much, Ferg and Jonathon for the amazing course tour! We really appreciate you guys going out of your way to do that for us!

We returned to the hotel and it was time for the technical meeting at 4:30 pm. Lynn gave us a complete run-down of the course and what the sequence of events would be and then the course director, Eric Chene actually came in and went through the half marathon and full marathon courses with us on the course map. After that, we had a pasta dinner together. There was more than enough food to go around. During dinner, I met an interesting gentleman and as he was talking, I was thinking, "this guy has the perfect voice to be a narrator for a film or an announcer or something". Turns out the gentleman I met was, Steve King and he was the announcer for the BMO Half and Full. He is the elite of race announcers!

Sunday 07 May 2017 (RACE DAY)

We woke up at 4:30 am (who schedules a race start for 7 am? haha) and went to the elite suite where Arlene and Cheryl had food all set out ready to go. The bus left at 5:30 am to take us to the start line. They had a gym open for us to warm up in with bathrooms to use. This was absolutely perfect. There was even a special passageway blocked off for the elites to get to the front of the race start line. How cool is that! I saw John Stanton up on the stage; he gave me a thumbs up and I waved. While we were warming up inside, the national anthem was played (love it when they do this). The weather was perfect with the temperature around 6-8C and the wind 11kph from the ENE. There was a Tesla electric car at the start line and I believe it was used as the lead car.

The gun went off and the pace was really slow. I was thinking, "this is like ultra-marathon pace" and we were running a half-marathon. No offence to ultra-runners out there :) I was waiting for the Kenyans to blow past me but they stayed behind me for like 500m. On the way down Cambie Street, the first 3 km or so are straight downhill (with a small uphill bump to cross over Cambie Bridge). I wanted to take advantage of gravity on the downhill so I tried to maintain the proper effort and not worry about pace. Knowing the course enabled me to take the tangents (run the shortest distance on the inside of the turns). As I was crossing over Cambie Bridge, I saw the lead pack ahead of me way over on the left hand side of the road while I was on the right hand side of the road because I knew that a right hand turn was coming up. I have studied the USATF Course Measurement and Certification Procedures Manual and have a pretty good understanding of exactly how race courses are measured.

Benard, Andrew and Matt running as a team (Photo by Alvin Lee)

Benard, Andrew and Matt running as a team (Photo by Alvin Lee)

From Cambie Bridge at about 3k to about 6k, I ran by myself and then caught up to Kenyan runner, Benard. As I was passing him, he picked up his pace and we ran side by side. Then Ireland's Andrew joined in on the fun and the three of us ran together for pretty much the rest of the race. We didn't say a word to each other (besides me saying, "tangents! take the tangents!") the entire race. In retrospect, I'm not sure if Benard knew what that meant...because we rubbed elbows several times. There seemed to be an unspoken agreement that we were going to push each other to the finish line, two guys would run in front, one behind and then we would switch. I felt like Benard and Andrew surged on the uphills and then slowed down on the downhills and flats because I would fall off the back by 10-20m and then make the ground back up on the downhills/flats. Thank you to everyone who cheered for me during the race. It really did make a big difference. 

With about 1.5k to go, Benard and Andrew really picked up the pace and I fell back at least 20-30m but I kept running pretty hard slowly closing the gap until we were on the final 500m stretch up Pender Street (very slight uphill). I was thinking, "there is no way that I'm going to run with these guys for 15k and then getting dropped in the end so I ran as fast as I could (grunting and spitting all the while...there may have even been froth coming from my mouth like a rabid dog). In the final 50 to 100m, I could see that Andrew (from Ireland) was in the middle of the street, Benard was just to the left of him and I was to the left of Benard. I think I had a bit of an advantage coming from behind because they could not see me. With 10m to go, I got a little jolt of energy (from where, I'm not sure) and Benard and I were literally neck and neck (photo finish style). It was very tight at the finish line and we rubbed elbows a bit as we raced to the finish line. In the end, Andrew came through in 5th in a time of 1:09:23 and I came in 6th in a time of 1:09:24. I was happy to have set a new personal best in the half marathon by 2 minutes 4 seconds. I believe I was the 2nd or 3rd Canadian overall. Emily also set a new 2 minute PB running 1:13:28 (2nd woman overall, 2nd Canadian). It was fantastic to see Emily finish the race a few short minutes after I finished my race. We also saw each other at the two 180 degree turnaround points on the race course. As we passed each other, we bellowed out words of encouragement to one another. Emily said that this really lifted her spirits.

Emily at the finish (Photo by Mary Hinze)

Emily at the finish (Photo by Mary Hinze)

Jane Murage (3rd), Natasha Kodak (1st) and Emily Setlack (2nd)

Jane Murage (3rd), Natasha Kodak (1st) and Emily Setlack (2nd)

After Emily crossed the finish line, I asked her how she did, she said, "I ran a 2 minute PB". She then asked me the same and I said, "I ran a 2 minute PB as well". This is the second race in two weeks that we have both set new PBs in races together.

After we finished, our bags with warm-up gear were waiting for us at the finish line. Thank you, Ferg for bringing all of our bags to the finish line. It was just perfect how they were right there waiting for us. This was a point to point course. Medals were given out and post-race interviews were done. The entrance to the race hotel was literally 10m from the finish line (Pender Street entrance) so we could be in our hotel room within 5 minutes.

Emily and I did our warm-down going backwards over the marathon course so we could watch Mike Trites and Marty Robertson finish their races. Mike ended up placing 1st Canadian.  

Announcer Steve King (L) and Mike Trites (R) - 1st Canadian in the BMO Vancouver Full Marathon

Announcer Steve King (L) and Mike Trites (R) - 1st Canadian in the BMO Vancouver Full Marathon

Emily and Mike

Emily and Mike

Mary gave us hospitality lanyards/passes and we could go into the hospitality/VIP section right at the finish line. There were food tables set up, cappuccino machines, sandwiches, washrooms, unlimited beer and wine available. You could eat and drink as much as you wanted while cheering for fellow runners as they crossed the finish line and talking with friends. Everything was complimentary! The sun was shining. It was absolutely incredible!

That night, Emily and I decided to splurge and go out for dinner (when we are on our own we usually end up eating peanut butter sandwiches on a park bench somewhere or having a picnic down by the water). We went to Cardero's, which Matt and Sarah Clout introduced us to. We love this place!

Emily and I having dinner at Cardero's

Emily and I having dinner at Cardero's

Monday 08 May 2017

We received an email and a note from Lynn asking if we would like to go for a post-race shuffle at 9 am the next morning. We went out for a 30 minute easy shuffle with Lynn, Allison, Mo and Andrew.

The rest of the day was spent taking it really easy and then walking along the water. We are always extremely cognizant of how lucky we are to come to beautiful places like Vancouver where the grass is green, there are flowers everywhere, birds are chirping and the sun is shining. We ran into Mike Trites and talked with him for a while. Our return to northern Alberta was uneventful.

Thank You

I owe the following people a debt of gratitude for all the volunteer work they did in organizing the event and spending their time to ensure the athletes were taken care of extremely well.

Lynn Kanuka - She was the Elite Coordinator the BMO Vancouver Half and Full Marathon. She is full of life and an Olympic athlete herself who still holds the Canadian 1,500m record (click here). She does an incredible job of treating the athletes remarkably well. Lynn always has a smile on her face.

Lynn Kanuka and Mary Hinze (Photo by Debra Kato)

Lynn Kanuka and Mary Hinze (Photo by Debra Kato)

Jim and Mary Hinze - I had the priviledge to meet Jim and Mary for the first time at the Vancouver Sun Run this year. Jim and Mary are two of the kindest people I have ever met. There is a positive energy surrounding them. I had just met them but by the way they talk to you, it's almost as if you have known them for years. They are very respectful people. They are both extremely considerate and I feel like they would give you the shirt off their back to keep you warm.

Jim and Mary Hinze - Two of the kindest people I have ever met.

Jim and Mary Hinze - Two of the kindest people I have ever met.

Graham White - Executive Director of Vancouver International Marathon Society. Thank you for putting on a phenomenal race.

Graham White - Executive Director of Vancouver International Marathon Society

Graham White - Executive Director of Vancouver International Marathon Society

Arlene and Cheryl - These wonderful ladies volunteered their time to prepare the food in the elite hospitality suite and ensure everyone had anything they needed. They were so kind and caring and really made Emily and I feel at home with their pleasant and caring way. They got up before 4:30 am on race morning to open up the elite suite so athletes could have breakfast before their race.

Ferg Hawke - Ferg is a machine. He has competed in the Badwater Ultra-marathon and competed with Tony O'Keeffe at Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii. His son, Carter finished the marathon in 3:04:58. Thank you, Ferg for taking us on a course tour.

Jonathan - Thank you, Jonathan for navigating the course tour for us. We would have been lost without your help. It was a pleasure to hang out with you after the race.

Running Room and Ronhill - Thank you very much for your amazing support. I am able to do what I love because of you. 

All Organizers and Volunteers - Thank you for helping to put on an amazing event. Races like this could not happen without the hard work and dedication of hundreds of volunteers. Thank you! 

My next race is the Canadian Road 10km National Championships in Ottawa on 27 May 2017.

BMO Half - Beautiful Fast Course, Outstanding Elite Hospitality, Friendly Volunteers!

Common Run Commute Challenges

Common Run Commute Challenges

By: Matt Setlack

This article is the third and final article of a three part series regarding my experience with the run commute. The goal of this particular article is to outline some of the common challenges I face with run commuting and provide suggestions of how to overcome them.

The series was comprised of the following three parts:

  1. Part 1 - WHY do I Run Commute? (previous article, please click here)
  2. Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute (previous article, please click here)
  3. Part 3 - Common Run Commute Challenges and How to Overcome Them (see below)

MY BACKGROUND

I have been run commuting to and from work practically every weekday for the past three years. I run all year around in temperatures as cold as -45C with the windchill in the winter and as warm as +35C in the summer. From mid-October to mid-February I run to and from work in the pitch dark. My run commute is approximately 10 miles round trip.

Part 3 - Common Run Commute Challenges

These are the biggest run commute challenges that I have had to overcome in the process of getting into a good run commuting routine. Once you overcome these challenges, your run commute will be much more enjoyable.

LOGISTICAL CHALLENGES

How Much Time is the Run Commute Going to Take? - This is the very first thing I wondered so I used Google Maps to map out my route. The first few times I run commuted, I didn’t know how long it would take so I started at work and ran home at the end of the day so I wouldn’t be late for work.

What to Wear? – It's fairly straightforward to dress for one temperature but the main challenge comes with regulating your temperature (thermoregulation) in conditions that are continually changing. I would estimate there is generally a 5C temperature swing during my typical one way run commute. 

I would err on the side of caution and bring an extra layer or two. If you start to feel too warm, even in the slightest, first take off your tuque and gloves or mitts and if that doesn’t help enough then take off one top layer. Remember that in the winter it is common for wind chill factor to easily drop the temperature 10C, just by turning into a stiff headwind. Bring a small light backpack that you can put your extra clothes in.

What to do with Work Clothes? – Leave them at work and only take them home when they need to be washed.

Having a Locker and Showers at Work - I am extremely lucky that the building I work in has locker rooms with showers as well as a fantastic gym. This makes a tremendous difference. If I didn’t have this setup, I would probably have to run to the 4 Wing Cold Lake JJ Parr gym first, change, shower and then walk 10 minutes to work. That would be a lot more hassle. Without showers at work, I suppose one could use wet-wipes or a camp shower on a balcony instead (like Calum Neff).

Working Regular/Consistent Hours - This makes getting into a routine much easier. It’s not impossible otherwise but it certainly helps.  

MENTAL CHALLENGES

Mental Attitude - For some people, one hurtle to get over is the mental change that comes with doing something different. Sometimes it can be challenging to determine why you are run commuting to work when literally hundreds (or thousands?) of other people are drive commuting to work (in the same direction, at the same time, at the same speed, to the same location). Please don't fall into the trap of doing something just because everyone else is doing it and that's the way it has always been done.

Why Am I Doing This? - What motivates you to run commute? Perhaps you’re training for an upcoming race or you want to lose a bit of weight? Finding your WHY will help to get you out the door when it’s pitch black and -35C outside.

Goals - This is extremely important. Once you determine your why, make a list of the goals that you would like to accomplish. Write out these goals on a piece of paper and stick that piece of paper on the front door of your refrigerator or on your bathroom mirror. Include on this paper a list of your goals in addition to how you plan to achieve your goals. Maybe you want to run every day for the next 52 years? Having goals will give you a target to shoot for; otherwise you may end up drifting in an ocean of uncertainty with no direction not knowing where you are going.

Priority - How important is running and fitness in general in your life? Do you run consistently right now? Perhaps the run commute would force you to train more and get into shape or maintain your current level of fitness. Emily and I place a very high priority on running/fitness in our lives. While we are on vacation, for example, the first thing in the morning that we always think about is, “When and where are we going to run today?”. It is so engrained in our minds that everything else while on vacation takes a back seat. Our eating schedule revolves around running, the location of the accommodations we stay in a city/town is determined by if there is anywhere to run nearby (parks, nature trails, etc). I can’t tell you how many times we have changed into our running clothes while in the car. Running to us is like eating in that it is just something that we have to do to survive. Human beings were born to move, not to sit still.

An important point to remember is that to us, the things that we do are not sacrifices but instead, they are choices. The choices that we make help us to become healthier, fitter and ultimately lead a happier and more fulfilling life. Are the choices that you are making every day affecting you in a positive or negative way?

PHYSICAL CHALLENGES

Running Route - I am very lucky to have a beautiful Millennium Path to run on that is separate from the road. It is a paved path about 2 meters wide. The path is cleared of snow usually within hours of the snowfall. The City of Cold Lake and 4 Wing Snow and Ice Clearing Team do a PHENOMENAL job clearing the snow. I am extremely appreciative for all the excellent work that these snow removal teams do and it makes a night and day difference to the run commute. Next time I see one of these members clearing the snow, I will buy them a coffee. If I didn't have a beautiful path to run on, it would be much more challenging to run commute.

Running Distance to Work - When I lived about 2km from work, I walked to work in my work clothes. When I moved to a new location about 5 miles from work, I first started riding my bicycle in the summer and then when the snow started to fly, I switched over to running instead. If you live too close to work, then I recommend walking to work. If you live far from work, then that doesn’t work either (unless you’re an ultramarathon runner lol). I would think it would be quite challenging for someone to try and run commute to work from Cold Lake North (about 14km each way) because they would be spending over an hour running each way and that’s quite challenging to maintain (but riding a bicycle would be very possible). The distance to work is one of the reasons Emily and I chose to live about 5 miles from work – not too close and not too far. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

I hope that you have found this article on run commute challenges helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments and I would be happy to answer them.

How to Run Commute

How to Run Commute

By: Matt Setlack

This article is the second in a three part series regarding my experience with the run commute. The goal of this article is to provide guidance on how to start run commuting and to provide a few tips on how to keep up the momentum with run commuting.

The series will be comprised of the following three parts:

  1. Part 1 - WHY do I Run Commute? (to view this previous article, please click here)
  2. Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute (see below)
  3. Part 3 - Common Run Commute Challenges and How to Overcome Them (future article)

MY BACKGROUND

I have been run commuting to and from work practically every weekday for the past three years. I run all year around in temperatures as cold as -45C with the windchill in the winter and as warm as +35C in the summer. From mid-October to mid-February I run to and from work in the pitch dark. My run commute is approximately 10 miles round trip.

Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute

The bottom line is that if you want to run commute, just go for it. There is no magic formula or secret method to achieve success with the run commute BUT the tips and advice that I am about to offer in this article will likely make your journey a little smoother.

run commute cfb cold lake

A Day in the Life:

I always wake up at the very same time every morning. From the time I get up to the time I’m heading out the door, it is 35 minutes max. Sometimes I even set a second watch alarm 5 minutes before departure to ensure I will be on time. If it’s really cold outside, I like to have a warm cup of cocoa in the morning and put on a massive red North Face Himalayan parka (the ones people wear up Denali and Everest) and down slippers/booties around the house as I get ready – these things help warm up the core. Emily and I are quite "energy conscientious" and like to keep the temperature overnight cool. My run commute typically take 35-40 minutes each way. If I’m running through a foot of snow and snow drifts up to my knees, then it takes about 50-55 minutes each way. However, the city of Cold Lake and the 4 Wing Cold Lake Snow and Ice Clearing Team are phenomenal at clearing the Millennium Path quickly and efficiently. It’s the perfect setup; I couldn’t ask for anything better.

ROUTINE

Routine is incredibly important for me. Getting into a routine makes run commuting A LOT easier. It is much more challenging to run commute (or even train consistently) when your schedule is all over the place (i.e. during vacations, courses, etc).

Breaking the Old Routine and Setting a New Routine – This is one of the first obstacles that you will have to overcome if you would like to run commute. Getting into run commuting can be challenging at first but once you get used to the new routine, it will feel natural to you and you won’t even think about it anymore. Friends often ask me if I ever think about not run commuting and the answer is: when I first started I considered it but now that I have run commuted so much, I don’t even think about it; it’s just what I do now. There’s not even a moment of indecisiveness.

Waking Up a Bit Earlier – To deal with this, I started going to bed at a fixed time every night like 10:00 or 10:30 pm so I wouldn’t be tired in the morning. Every morning (even weekends), my alarm goes off at the same time. I have done it so many times now that I tend to wake up at the same time every morning even without an alarm.

Going to Bed Late – If you stay up until 2 am and expect to wake up at 6 am to start the run commute, chances are you will be too tired to run commute and will fall back to your old ways of driving a vehicle to work.

Be Prepared – This is a big one. Physically lay out you running clothes next to your bed the night before so you will see them first thing in the morning. Jump out of bed and straight into your running clothes. Some people prepare their lunch the night before but I like to prepare it in the morning so that the vegetables are freshly sliced.

CONSISTENCY

If you want to be successful with the run commute, I personally find that it’s much easier to just do it every day rather than starting then stopping then starting again. Remember Newton’s First Law, an object at rest tends to stay at rest and vice versa. 

However, if you are brand new to run commuting, consider the following options:

  1. I would strongly recommend that you start with bicycle commuting in the summer. It is faster, easier, and you can even wear your work clothes if you like as you probably won't break a sweat. Once you get comfortable bicycle commuting, then you could gradually transition into run commuting.
  2. If you decide to jump right into run commuting, then consider asking a friend/co-worker to drive you to work Monday morning with all your heavy work clothes in a bag and you wearing your running clothes. You can then run home Monday afternoon and to/from work every day. At the end of the week, ask your friend to pick you up on Friday afternoon.
  3. Consider alternating run commuting days with drive commuting days. That way you only need to run commute two or three times per week.

WHAT TO WEAR

Thermoregulation - This is a big one. The weather in Cold Lake is constantly changing. It is not unusual for the temperature to be -10C in the morning and +10C in the afternoon. To deal with this, I check the Environment Canada website every morning (and evening) before I start running and dress accordingly. I always use the same website so it is consistent as different weather websites show different temperatures. Generally, I account for headwinds and tailwinds (wind chill factor can make a big difference in the winter).

Good Quality Running Clothing – If you buy quality running clothing once, you will have it for years; it is also good for the environment. Ronhill and Running Room make fantastic running clothes for running all year around.  Stay away from cotton! A few years ago, I did a complete cleaning of the house and I put all of my cotton clothing in a box and donated it to the Bee Hive Thrift Shop and Orbiting Trends second hand store. I NEVER wear cotton socks (that is asking for blisters) or any type of cotton clothing.

WHAT TO CARRY

Carry as Little as Possible - I pack my Ronhill Commuter Xero 10L + 5L Vest running backpack in the morning and ensure it is as light as possible. The only thing I bring in it is my lunch for that day and a spare change of underwear and socks, identification, and an extra tuque and mitts. Depending on what the weather is like, I will bring a spare t-shirt or long sleeve shirt in case the weather warms up/cools off.

WORK CLOTHES

Leave Work Clothes at Work – This is another big one. Only bring your work clothes (not your footwear) home when the clothes need to be washed. You can even bring a few sets of work clothes to work at the start of the week. Lugging your work clothes and heavy steel toed work boots (aka: leg weights) to and from work every day will make you very discouraged very quickly. You are unnecessarily burdening yourself by carrying extra weight. Don’t punish yourself by doing this. Be as lightweight as possible. Light is Right!

Dry Your Running Clothes at Work – This is not essential because you could always bring a spare change of running clothes in your bag but it is really nice to have as you don’t have to carry unnecessary weight.

I hope you have found these guidelines for run commuting helpful. Run commuting is a very enjoyable activity. The hardest part is getting started and getting into a good routine. Once you have done that, then it becomes easier and easier every day. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Stay tuned for Part 3 – Common Run Commute Challenges

What it Feels like to Run in -30C

What it Feels like to Run in -30C

By: Matt Setlack

I ran to work this morning as I usually do, and today the outside temperature was -30C (-22F) without the wind chill. Earlier this winter I ran in -45C (-49F) so this wasn’t my first rodeo :) I run outside in all sorts of “extreme” weather in Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada because I know that if I only ran when it was not cold, not dark, not snowy, etc, then I would probably do all my training runs on a treadmill. There is generally snow on the ground in Cold Lake from mid-October to end-April (depending on the year) and a couple years ago, I even saw ice still on Cold Lake in June! I’m not a Polar Scientist but I have run many hundreds of days to and from work in Cold Lake and these are my personal observations of what it’s like.

How Dangerous is Cold Weather?

Some people (even many Canadians) don’t have a genuine appreciation for what it really means to be cold and how dangerous cold weather can be. I do not find this unusual because maybe they simply have not had the “luxury” of spending time in cold environments. Obviously, if you lived in Australia or Saudi Arabia, you would never have the opportunity to experience -40C (-40F), just like I have never experienced +40C (+104F) while living in northern Alberta.

Let me explain how dangerous cold weather can actually be since seeing a temperature on a screen does not really do it justice. If you were driving from Cold Lake to Edmonton when the temperature was -40C (-40F), for example, and your car broke down, you didn’t have a warm jacket and no shelter, you would die. Period. It’s not even a question of “if” you would die, but a question of “how soon” you would die. Trying to survive in those conditions would be like being dropped into the middle of the ocean without a life jacket or life raft...there's no question what would happen to you eventually. You really need to respect the conditions and dress appropriately.

What Does Running in -30C (-22F) Feel Like?

The air feels crisp and fresh. There is a stillness in the air.

When you look out the window in the morning, you notice that there is the white furnace exhaust coming out of all the house chimneys. It billows out and lingers in the air. When you first leave the house, it feels like you just jumped into a deep freezer. It usually feels a bit cool at first, which is a good thing because if you felt warm to start, then you would be a sweaty mess (and possibly a hypothermic popsicle) by the time you got to work. Once you start running, the relative airflow over your body cools you down a bit more. According to the Environment Canada Wind Chill Calculator found here, running 12kph in still -30C (-22F) air makes the temperature to feel like it's around -40C (-40F). 

After a few minutes, the soles of your running shoes freeze solid like the consistency of hard leather and the sound of your running soles hitting the pavement is as if you are wearing leather dress shoes or mountaineering boots (“click, clock, click, clock”).

When it’s really cold (like -35C (-31F) and colder), many materials (like a nylon jacket or backpack) freeze and they develop the consistency of tissue paper; they are no longer soft like a fabric but instead crinkly like paper. The sound of snow crunching under your running shoes makes a different noise when it’s really cold outside; the snow actually squeaks under your feet like Styrofoam.

Any exposed skin freezes within minutes. The only exposed skin when I run is around my upper face/eyes. When you’re running outside in these temperatures for long enough, any exposed skin eventually starts to feel like you’re being given a thousand flu shot needles into your face at the very same time or like you’re being stung by a thousand bees simultaneously. Your only saving grace is the fact that the warm air coming from your lungs rises and passes over your upper face, which warms it slightly.

This moisture also freezes on your eye lashes and eye brows – I’m sure you have seen the white frosty look that many runners get (see photo below). Eventually, the frost builds up around your face and eyes so much that it starts to restrict your vision if it is not cleared off. When you wear a fabric facemask like a buff, the cold air outside is usually warmed before it goes into your lungs BUT when it’s super cold (like -40C (-40F) cold), the air doesn’t warm up that much and it feels like you’re breathing in cold air no matter how hard/frequent you push the hot air out of your lungs.

Ironically, it is more common for me to make the mistake of dressing too warm for the conditions than too cold for the conditions. When you’re running in these conditions, it is really really important to stay dry (dry from snow from running through snow drifts and also dry from not sweating). If you get wet, the moisture freezes and really drags your body temperature down. As long as you keep moving, you will stay warm but as soon as you stop (like for traffic lights), then you really cool down quickly.

The cold also affects your joints; it makes them seize up and sometimes it can be a bit of a struggle just to move them. I notice this first in the joint where my thumb connects to my hand (that’s the area exposed to the relative wind and also relatively far from the heart. The fact that you’re running forward (versus standing still) means that the airflow over your body cools you down a bit more.

Mentally, the cold has an insidious effect; it makes your mind weak and saps your willpower. You need to deliberately force yourself to keep moving. Eventually, if you’re out in the cold long enough and you get cold enough, your body/mind just wants to lay down and go to sleep, which unfortunately would result in freezing to death from hypothermia.

Cold weather can be a challenge to run in but it is not impossible if you dress appropriately. I hope this short article has given you an appreciation for some of the challenges that a runner faces when running in cold temperatures. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Turning Obstacles into Secret Weapons

Turning Obstacles into Secret Weapons

By: Emily Setlack

I ran on the treadmill today; I felt so effortless and strong--my feet moved beneath me and my mind wandered. As I looked in the mirror, my mind fluttered back to "the old me", I felt a rush of empowerment as I thought back to the struggles I have overcome upon arriving in Cold Lake, Alberta three years ago.  For those unfamiliar with Cold Lake, it is a small rural town situated 300 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. It's in the middle of nowhere and it's cold most of the year. 

Matt Run 4-2.JPG

I am a military spouse; it's tough. Often times I feel like my career and life take a backseat while I follow my husband across the country. I struggle to land on my feet when we move to a new town and am slow to adapt. I am not good at change and don't do well when I am away from my family. When we first moved here, I was sad. I remember walking home from the gym bundled in my warm jacket; tears streamed down my cheeks. It was going to be impossible to live here; the closest city is 3.5 hours away. I didn't connect with the small rural town and I missed Kingston. I missed my sisters, parents, nephews, niece and training group. How on earth would I train here? How can I spend the next four years here? It's cold for most of the year and isolating. I felt like I was living on the moon and I not only didn't like it--I despised it. 

The Maley's 

The Maley's 

Then my husband, Matt and I met the Maleys; Joel, Claudia, Clara, Ruth and James. They opened their arms and took us under their wing when we first arrived in Cold Lake. Joel Maley not only competes in IronMan races, he is one of the best. Joel inspired me; he did all of his training on a rickety old treadmill in a cramped basement. He explained that Cold Lake was his secret weapon, it made him stronger mentally and gave him an advantage in races. No distractions, no restaurants (unless you count A&W, Boston Pizza and Dairy Queen)to go to, no theatres, no starbucks-- but lots of time to train. I remember leaving their home feeling a new sense of motivation, what he said that day stuck with me and I often think back to "living in Cold Lake is a secret weapon".  If Joel can do it-- If he can train for an ironman in Cold Lake, so can I. The Maleys adopted me into their family like a temporary Auntie to their kids. They are one the nicest families I have ever met and I am so grateful for their kindness. They have since been posted out of Cold Lake but the cool thing about the military is that you always see people again...goodbye is never really goodbye!

From that point on I put my head down and worked hard. I enjoyed the process of getting out the door everyday and I slowly stopped using where I lived as an obstacle. I learned that living here is only obstacle if I can't find my way around it.  Somedays I felt like I was in a vortex patiently weaving my way around road blocks. It can feel impossible but I am persistent and determined to use my obstacle to make me stronger.  Running on the roads here is not enjoyable, it's borderline dangerous as big oil trucks practically run you off the road. I learned to love trails; something the "old me" would have steered clear from as I thought it was too slow and I was wasting an effort running slow on the trail. I've learned to love the process of letting my mind wander on the skidoo and ATV trails, connecting with nature. The trails are beautiful in Cold Lake, there are hundreds of kilometres of ATV trails that weave around the town. It's empowering to run on the trail alone, to watch and feel the sun break through the leaves as my feet sink into mud and sand hearing nothing but the sound my body makes as it shifts and turns it's way through the meandering trail.   Until an F18 roars above me, those jets are LOUD! 

I felt a rush of emotion at the start line of each and every race last year, I did it. I made it to the start line, I made my way around obstacles and turned them into my secret weapon. My heart swelled and I felt proud to be on the start line. The new me feels like a pit bull at the start line of races. I have worked too hard to back down at any point in a race, I am here to fight for every fraction of a second and I am not willing to back to down to anyone; but most importantly myself. I deserve to be my best, and give it everything I've got.. l found a way around the obstacle and have run some of the best times over 10km to half-marathon in my entire life. Upon arriving in Cold Lake, I never imagined it would be possible. That's why I smile at the end of every race. I am grateful for the community of runners that support one another. I am grateful for the volunteers, race organizers and coaches who make the sport possible (especially my coach- Matt Clout who volunteers his time, energy and knowledge to help me). Above all, I am thankful I can run, the finish line marks the feeling of everything summed up in a fraction of second; two hour runs in -20C, lonely km repeats on the track, 30km on a treadmill ... the list could go on forever. 

Matt Running with RH Run Commute Pack-2.JPG

We all have obstacles, they are different for everyone. Find a way around them and you will be stronger than you ever imagined. Believe in yourself and be persistent.

Why I Love to Run Commute

Why I Love to Run Commute

By: Matt Setlack

This article is the first in a three part series regarding my experience with the run commute. The goal of these three short articles will be to shed light on why anyone would want to partake in this activity and possibly encourage anyone who might be on the fence with respect to run commuting to take the plunge and go for it.

The series will be comprised of the following three parts:

  1. Part 1 - WHY do I Run Commute? (see below)
  2. Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute (future article)
  3. Part 3 - Common Run Commute Challenges and How to Overcome Them (future article)

My Background

I have been run commuting to and from work practically every weekday for the past three years. I run all year around in temperatures as cold as -45C with the windchill in the winter and as warm as +35C in the summer. From mid-October to mid-February I run to and from work in the pitch dark. My run commute is approximately 10 miles round trip.

Part 1 - WHY do I Run Commute?

If only I had a penny for every time someone told me, “You’re Crazy” when they see me run commuting in the winter, I would probably be a millionaire :) The fact of the matter is, I’m not crazy, it's a matter of perspective. If you picked me up and placed me in Canmore or Squamish (the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada), run commuting and exercising in general would not be out of place at all.

My personal reasons for running to and from work (aka: run commuting) in order of importance are as follows:

1.     More Efficient Use of Time – As a serious runner, I run every day. A few years ago, I drove a vehicle to work and then ran inside on the treadmill for 60+ minutes every day for hundreds of days on end. I would spend approximately 30 minutes total driving to/from work, which means I spent about 90 minutes total driving and running. With the run commute, I spend approximately 70 minutes running, which gives me 20 minutes PER DAY to do other things. Time, to me, is one of the most valuable commodities. We are all given 86,400 seconds every day, how you use them is up to you.

2.     I Enjoy Run Commuting - It Makes Me Feel Good – Ironically, running makes me feel more energetic instead of less energetic. People think that I must be really tired from running so much (I generally run around 130km (80 miles) per week) but in fact, I feel more tired when I don’t run. It’s a great way to start the day. You get to work and you’ve already completed one task (running to work) so now that you have the ball rolling, it is easier to keep the momentum up and be productive. You feel good when you know that you have travelled to a place under your own power instead of pressing a gas pedal. Run commuting is good for my health; it helps me maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. During a medical exam earlier this week, my resting heart rate was 37 beats per minute.

3.     It Saves Money - I abhor waste and continually strive to be as efficient as possible in all aspects of my life (efficiency with respect to time, money, energy, et al.). My wife, Emily and I share one vehicle (unusual by North American standards but perhaps typical or even excessive by European standards). When I first owned the car, it cost around $10,000 Canadian per year to own, which includes car payments, insurance, petrol and maintenance. Obviously, the cost of owning this car costs less now than it once did but remember that vehicle ownership is expensive. By run commuting, I ensure that Emily has the car so she can drive to school to teach. Even when Emily is away on vacation and the car is available to use, I still choose to run commute.

4.     Run Commuting is Better for the Environment than Driving – When you run, you don’t pollute the environment burning fossil fuels. Run commuting allows Emily and I to share one vehicle which means one less car on the road polluting the environment. Running is also a lot quieter than driving, especially compared to a jacked up mini-monster truck with a modified exhaust.

5.     Run Commuting Gives Me Time to Think – In the technologically advanced world that we live in with computers everywhere, phones ringing, emails coming in, etc, it is nice to “unplug” and just enjoy/embrace the sound of silence. You would be amazed at how many great ideas you come up with while running. I don’t listen to music on the run commute. I feel that it allows me to be more in tune with my body and it is also important to hear what is going on around you from a safety perspective.  

This short article has outlined the main reasons why I run commute. Please feel free to email me with any comments or suggestions. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute

NACAC 10km, Staying calm when things get rough

NACAC 10km, Staying calm when things get rough

Still Learning & Making Mistakes 25 years into the sport

By: Emily Setlack

Sometimes racing is rough; okay, maybe it's always hard. But I love that my feet take me on an adventure and I get to see the world from a different perspective. Racing in Guadeloupe, France was an incredible experience and I was lucky to have my sister, Kendra Brennan there to share it with.

Something about racing  pulls me in, the intangible drive to capture everything aligning. Those "magical" races when everything goes right are addictive, it's what keeps me hungry for more and terrified at the start line. Within every race, I get to a point where I have to make a choice to either settle or go to the "dark place". The challenge is recognizing when the choice to settle/push is presented. When my legs are burning and I'm gasping for air, it is difficult to recognize that the "dark place" is within reach.

Maybe that's why I have a love/hate relationship with racing and get nervous to the point that I feel sick to my stomach; my body knows how much it's going to hurt. I'm still learning to stay calm and have found it helpful to read articles about racing, draw, attempt to write poetry or listen to music. What helps me most is remembering to be grateful that so many volunteers, coaches and athletes have created an incredible community that bring us  together to do what we love. At the end of the day, we're all trying to do the same thing - push ourselves and do the best we can. Whether you finish first, 50th or last -- we're probably all feeling a similar level of pain and sense of joy when we cross the finish line.

Setting Goals

I don't like setting big goals and focusing solely on an external outcome. I would rather learn to appreciate and understand the cycle and process of what I am doing day-in and day-out. I set goals for myself going into big races but they are usually in the back of my mind, I am focused on the smaller steps and the moment I am in. Racing at the NACAC Championships I did just that, I wanted to win but most importantly I wanted to get to the start line healthy, feeling thankful and be prepared to get to the dark place (I may have had a few thoughts about winning some euros and blowing them on travelling around the island with my sister too...).   

Getting to Guadeloupe

Getting to Guadeloupe from Cold Lake, Alberta was quite the ordeal.  I left Cold Lake at 5:30am on the military shuttle bus known as the IBBS in military terms. (IBBS -- and I am not talking about Irritable Bowel Syndrome folks). I arrived at the Edmonton Airport after 5 hours on the bus and waited around for a few hours before flying to Toronto. I then met up with  my sister Liza Tallen and we shared a lot of laughs over a few pints. It was so nice to catch up, being a military spouse means living away from the famjam so I cherish every moment I get with my family.  We didn't cherish waking up to bed bugs on the walls at the airport hotel. It was gross, but I got a few free nights out of a nice hotel so I was stoked; I like free stuff.

Snow in Oct 2016.JPG
Sand on Beach.JPG

Next morning I flew from Toronto to Barbados, spent the night in Barbados and flew the next morning from Barbados to Dominca and finally Dominca to Guadeloupe. It was a long trip that took three days total.

I enjoyed meeting other runners and we shared plenty of laughs trying to understand one another.  I was absolutely spoiled by the NACAC race organizers, from getting to and from the airport, meals and accommodations couldn't have been any better!

The race itself was rough, it was quite warm and I started off too quick. I ended up running solo for the second half of the race and really had to focus on staying in the moment to get through it -- the wheels rolled off and down the hill somewhere out of sight, leaving me lactic and done like dinner. I broke the race into segments and focused on staying positive which really helped pull me through. I couldn't help but smile when I saw the long awaited finish line and my sister, Kendra Brennan waiting for me. I was so happy to see her.

Had the PRIVILEGE of chatting with Micheal rochus At the terminal mile, check it out.... 

Back in Cool Pool

I arrived back in Cold Lake to frigid temperatures and pretty landscapes.  The other day I tossed my camera in my pack and hit the Iron Horse Trail. As I stood on the trestle bridge I watched as the steam rolled off the river and a moose swam underneath me. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Nature always resets and calms me and I feel so lucky to have connected with it.

THANK-YOU

Massive thanks to the team of fantastic people at NACAC and the town of Petit Bourg for treating me so well. It was a true honour to race in Guadeloupe. Coach Matt Clout, for intricately putting training together for me; I am so thankful for your help. I would not have had this opportunity if were not for all of your help, thank-you! My famjam, for cheering and supporting me every step of the way-- thanks for caring! And finally, my husband Matt Setlack for pushing me to work harder and encouraging me every step of the way. I was also really touched by all of the people who reached out to wish me luck and congratulate me after my race, it meant the world to me - thanks!

Happy trails and don't forget to LOVE & APPRECIATE EVERY STEP

SEE YOU AT THE CANADIAN CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS IN KINGSTON

-Em

Altitude Training Camp in Flagstaff

Altitude Training Camp in Flagstaff

By: Emily Setlack

Before arriving in Flagstaff, I received some exciting news from Athletics Canada.  After finishing off a row of Peak Frean cookies, I checked my email and was beyond thrilled to discover that I was selected to represent Canada at the NACAC 10km Championships in Guadeloupe, France.  Athletics Canada used the national rankings over 10km road times to go and at the time I was ranked second in Canada over 10km.  Time to put the cookies down and start training.  

I have been very fortunate to spend time training at altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA with Team West Coast Endurance for 3.5 weeks in September.  It was great having elite marathoner and team mate Erin Burrett there in addition to my coach, Matt Clout.

To get to Flagstaff I took a flight from Edmonton to Phoenix, Arizona and then drove two hours to Flagstaff. I stayed in an excellent location just off of Lake Mary Road with close access to trails.  I naively arrived with fresh legs and my handy little book on hiking trails in Sedona and Flagstaff with the intention of bagging a few peaks. Needless to say, running over 90 miles per week and putting in challenging workouts is pretty exhausting and the book got a little dusty (mostly used as a coffee coaster).  

So, why train at altitude? Training at high altitude triggers a production of red blood cells which help deliver more oxygen to your muscles and this makes you run quicker.  At the end of the day, hard work is hard work and pavement is pavement.  I truly believe that regardless of where you live there will always be obstacles.  However, Flagstaff's Urban Trail System (FUTS) city-wide network of trails made my training a little more enjoyable than HWY 897 in Cold Lake and running at 7000FT makes sea level feel like a piece of cake.  The trails in Flagstaff were beyond epic, 56 miles of clay and dirt trails that weave through the town connecting parks, national forests and canyons.  It was beautiful.   Without trails I'm not sure if I would even run, connecting with nature is a big part of why I get out and run everyday.  This winter and "fall", I'll be connecting daily with the PRECOR, so I better find another reason to run. Music will get me through it. 

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

Mailboxes on the way to the Grand Canyon

Mailboxes on the way to the Grand Canyon

Drive-Through Coffee Shop in Flagstaff

Drive-Through Coffee Shop in Flagstaff

Thankfully, Flagstaff is a pretty hip little town and it seems there is always something going on, I was lucky enough to it be there during SciFest so I made my way to as many events possible. I need balance, the biggest challenge of spending time in Flagstaff was living like an elite and running, napping, running again, going to bed early and doing the same thing again the next day.  I'll be honest, the naps didn't happen--at all.  Regardless of how tired I am, I can't let the best part of the day get away on me.

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Arizona Trail, Flagstaff

Arizona Trail, Flagstaff

The last three weeks could not have gone any better and I have logged more mileage than ever.  Workouts have been going well too.  Having Coach Matt Clout there was awesome, it was nice to have his help in workouts and it was a good reminder that I need to push a little harder in workouts when I'm in Cold Lake. I was a little hesitant about coming to Flagstaff and almost cancelled the trip as three weeks before arriving in Flagstaff I found out my ferritin levels were 10!  Ever since then, I have been extremely diligent with my diet, at times consuming more iron than I probably need.  After one week of taking iron supplements I felt like a different runner and I'm feeling like my old iron enriched self again.  

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

The plan was to train at altitude and go after a fast time at the ScotiaBank Toronto Waterfront 1/2 Marathon.  Before leaving for Flagstaff I received an email from Athletics Canada with an invitation to compete at the NACAC 10km Championships in Guetaloupa, France. I'm really thankful for this opportunity and cannot wait to lace up my flats and put on a Team Canada singlet again (even though my uniform is stuck in the post office, Cold Lake snail mail - things take unusually long to get here).  I'm looking forward to making it hurt, running hard and going for the course record that Laura Battering set last year.

When I think of racing, I'm terrified.  I've been reading a lot on mental preparation for races and how to prepare your body to "Flow" and be in that state where everything aligns and you can transcend beyond what you're capable of and shut your mind off.  And so, I made a little poster to remind myself and others about achieving a "Flow State".  There is a really great article from the Hufftington Post about reaching your "Flow State"-- worth a read! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/builtlean/flow-state-how-to-achieve_b_9480926.html> 

Finding Your Flow

Finding Your Flow

Calgary Global Energy 10k Race

Calgary Global Energy 10k Race

By: Matt Setlack

While I was in Bulgaria, I came across a 10k race online where the 1st place finisher (both male and female) won an all expenses paid trip including airfare, accommodations and spending money to a Global Energy Race anywhere in the world. I immediately signed up.

On Sat 24 Sep, I drove 600km from Cold Lake to Calgary (1,200km round trip, 12 hours driving) and made sure that I arrived at Strides Running Store before 4 pm to pick up my number because I know based on previous experience (i.e. 2015 Edmonton 10k) that it is important to pick up your race number the day before the race. On the morning of the race, I made sure that I was parked at the event site 2 hours in advance of the start and at the start line 5 minutes before the start (10:15am).

I felt very fit standing at the start line as I had just came back from the World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria. During the two week Bulgaria trip I had also covered over 8,000m (26,240 ft) of vertical elevation gain and was ready to rock and roll. I showed up at the start line at 10:10am but there were only about 40 people at the start line (nobody was toeing the line and there were still 3k finishers coming across the finish line) so I asked a couple of nearby runners:

"Where is everyone? I thought the race was supposed to start at 10:15am", I asked.

The runners replied, "they just made an announcement and the race will now be starting at 10:30am because they are running behind schedule."

Not wanting to stand around at the start line for 20 minutes, I decided to quickly use the washroom. While I was in the washroom I heard "5, 4, 3, 2, 1...." and immediately thought, "that's odd, the 10k race is not supposed to be starting for another 15 mins". In any case, I quickly exited the washroom only to find the start area deserted. One of my initial thoughts was that those two runners I talked to must have been working for Jeremy Deere. I thought that maybe they wanted to give him an advantage.

In any case, I quickly ran back to the start line (the opposite direction to the race course), around the marshalling corrals and then across the timing mat. It was a little disheartening to be starting behind even before my race had started, to say the least. This little mishap cost me 32 seconds. By the time I wound my way through the masses, I could see someone in a white shirt who I thought was the race leader about 200-300m ahead of me (in retrospect, it turned out this person was actually in second place).

I eventually caught Geoff Hopfner (2nd place) around the 6k point. I couldn't catch Jeremy on that day though and according to chip time, he ran his race 6 seconds faster than I ran my race. I am still a bit in disbelief that this actually happened. I ended up taking home a $20 gift card to Walmart and a bag of Dempster's bagels so not all was lost. Regardless of how I placed, I am extremely impressed with how well the Calgary Global Energy Race was organized. I would definitely race it again and make sure that I don't leave the start line under any circumstances!

Don't believe everything you hear!

32nd World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria

32nd World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria

By: Matt Setlack

I had an incredible experience at the 32nd World Mountain Running Championships in Sapareva Banya, Bulgaria from 04 to 17 September 2016 and I would like to share it with you. My hope is that potential future mountain runners may be encouraged to get into the sport.

Selection

In order to compete at the Mountain Running World Championships (http://saparevabanya2016.info), I first had to qualify by competing in the Canadian Mountain Running Nationals, which was the Sea to Sky Scramble Trail Race in Squamish, BC (just north of Vancouver) on 25 Jun 2016 and place in the top 5 Canadian men. The race course at Nationals was about 6km (or 7.5 km?) with 1000m of elevation gain ("up only" race). The race courses switch ever year; one year it is an up only race and the next year it is an up and down race. I ended up placing 4th Canadian at Nationals.

For more info on Canadian Mountain Running, check out http://mountainrunning.ca/series.php

Near the start of the Sea to Sky Scramble Trail Run (Canadian Mountain Running Nationals)

Near the start of the Sea to Sky Scramble Trail Run (Canadian Mountain Running Nationals)

During the Race (PC: Emmanuel Mercier)

During the Race (PC: Emmanuel Mercier)

Pre-Race

The outgoing trip to Mountain Running Worlds in Bulgaria took about 17 hours (Edmonton-Toronto-Frankfurt-Sofia). I left Edmonton around 11 am Sun 04 Sep and arrived in Sofia around 1 pm Mon 05 Sep. On the way back I flew Sofia-Munich-Vancouver-Edmonton, which also took about 17 hours. Bulgaria (UTC + 3 hrs) is 9 hrs ahead of Alberta time. For the long outgoing leg (Toronto-Frankfurt), I flew in an Air Canada Boeing 747-400 and it took about 7.5 hours. On the long return leg (Munich-Vancouver) I flew in a Lufthansa Airbus A340-400 and it took about 10.5 hours. The bathrooms in this aircraft were around mid-cabin in the “basement/cargo hold”; to get to them, you had to take a staircase down about 10 steps and then there was a small hallway with three washroom on the left and two (or three?) washrooms on the right. They also had free wifi on board while you were flying! Slow but it still worked. 

Typical narrow side street in downtown Sofia

Typical narrow side street in downtown Sofia

I stayed in Sofia for the first three days. The time was spent sleeping, running in a city park and taking a free walking tour of Sofia. I met Kris and Shaun on Wed and we went out for dinner. I did not like Sofia very much and personally would not recommend spending more than a day there. I stayed downtown Sofia and it was challenging finding anywhere to run that is not on rock-hard sidewalks, dodging traffic/people and breathing in exhaust. Although I eventually found a nice park to run in (similar to Woburn Sands in the UK but not as nice), I felt like a caged bird running back and forth. On Thurs 08 Sep, we met the race organizers at the Sofia airport and drove 1.5 hrs on bus to Sapareva Banya. Stayed at small mountain “resort” nearby called Panichiste (half way up the mountain) on Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sun night.

The hotel room where Kris, Mike and I stayed in Panichiste. Can you guess which bed is mine?

The hotel room where Kris, Mike and I stayed in Panichiste. Can you guess which bed is mine?

Canadian Mountain Running Team 2016

Everyone on the team was super friendly, had very positive energy and was willing to share their knowledge about the sport. It was very refreshing to spend time with athletes who are so passionate about running.

Canadian Mountain Running Team 2016 (Back Row L to R: Adele Blaise, Sue Lambert (Team Manager), Benoit Gignac, Mike McMillan, Kris Swanson, Mark Vollmer, Shaun Stephens-Whale, Emmanuel Mercier, Greg Hetterley. Front Row L to R: Aidan Doherty, Mirabelle Tinio, Marianne Hogan, Ashley Ramsay, Mitchell Cauchi, Matt Setlack) 

Canadian Mountain Running Team 2016 (Back Row L to R: Adele Blaise, Sue Lambert (Team Manager), Benoit Gignac, Mike McMillan, Kris Swanson, Mark Vollmer, Shaun Stephens-Whale, Emmanuel Mercier, Greg Hetterley. Front Row L to R: Aidan Doherty, Mirabelle Tinio, Marianne Hogan, Ashley Ramsay, Mitchell Cauchi, Matt Setlack) 

Before the race, I ran in a mountain trail shoe (Salomon S-Lab Sense Ultra 5) and a road racing flat (Brooks T7 Racer). Personally, I would definitely choose the racing flat for an up-only course every time unless the trail was super technical and/or muddy because it is much lighter (and weight seems to be very important in mountain running).

Around 3/5 of the way up

Around 3/5 of the way up

The crux of the route

The crux of the route

Yes, we had to run over the log

Yes, we had to run over the log

About 300m before the finish line

About 300m before the finish line

Bulgarian Food tasted amazing! Half the time I wasn't sure what I was eating (was it veal, schnitzel or something else?) but it still tasted awesome. While we were in Panachiste, the race organizers served us food, which I much prefered compared to buffet style. Usually there was a salad at first, then a main course and usually dessert.

Race Day

Race day was Sun 11 Sep 2016. The race started just before midday, which was perfect for me as I do not like races that start at 7am or earlier. The senior men ran 12.7km with 1380m up only. I paced myself by breathing out ever third step, which seemed to work fairly well. During the race, my ears popped while I was running up. I was really winded at the finish line. Towards the end the my vision was getting a little blurry (party from sweat dripping into my eyes) and I felt myself stumbling a bit on the rubbly ground. I crossed the line and immediately sat down on the ground (I have never done this ever before in a race). I was completely out of it. My whole body felt like a wet noodle. 

Canadian Senior Mens Team (L to R: Mike McMillan, Kris Swanson, Benoit Gignac, Mark Vollmer, Shaun Stephens-Whale, Matt Setlack)

Canadian Senior Mens Team (L to R: Mike McMillan, Kris Swanson, Benoit Gignac, Mark Vollmer, Shaun Stephens-Whale, Matt Setlack)

I finished the race in 1:16:38 placing 84th of 137 (4th of 6 Canadian men). Considering that this was my third ever mountain race, I was very happy to have placed in the top 2/3rds. I feel like I have a lot of potential with mountain running. I am very passionate about mountain running and I see myself improving a lot in the future. Mountain running is the purest sport on Earth.

Kris Swanson and I after the race.

Kris Swanson and I after the race.

After the race, it is customary to trade team uniforms with other countries. I didn't realize that this was going to happen during/after the closing ceremony so was not entirely prepared. I wore my Team Canada uniform to the ceremony and did not carry anything to trade (besides what was on my body). By the end of the night, I had traded almost everything I was wearing (minus the running shorts). Team Canada kit by Nike provided by Athletics Canada is amazing and was high value item. 

I am a big fan of singlets as I spend a lot of time running on the treadmill during the winter.

I am a big fan of singlets as I spend a lot of time running on the treadmill during the winter.

What did I Learn (a couple of many things)

1. Kris Swanson is very knowledgeable about the sport of mountain running and he passed on a lot of useful advice. He recommended that if you start hiking up the steep sections, always have a marker (tree, rock, bush) where the trail gets less steep so you don’t walk for too long. Everyone is hurting but it is important to keep moving fast.

2. The Company You Keep (Birds of a Feather Flock Together) - I have known this for a while but it was especially relevant during this World Championships…remember that you become the people that you spend time with so choose the people you hang around with wisely. I felt myself getting fitter just by spending two weeks with many of the greatest mountain runners in Canada (and the world). It doesn’t just affect the way you train but also the way you think (your attitude).

Thank You

I most certainly would not have had the incredible opportunity to compete at Worlds if it were not for the help of a number of key individuals. I would like to thank my beautiful, kind and caring wife, Emily for keeping me on the straight and narrow and always supporting me. Thank you to my coach, Steve Boyd for providing his running expertise and coaching guidance. Thank you for Sue Lambert for being the Team Manager and ensuring everything ran smoothly and to Adrian Lambert for his great contribution to the sport of mountain running in Canada. I would also like to thank the Canadian Armed Forces for allowing me to compete at Nationals and Worlds. Thank you to all my friends and family for their support.

Mountain running is something that I am very passionate about and I am eager to pass on all the knowledge I have. Please let me know if you have any questions and I would be happy to answer them.

Благодаря

Blagodarya (thank you)