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Race Recap - 2018 Ottawa 10k

Race Recap - 2018 Ottawa 10k

By: Matt Setlack  

The purpose of this post is to share my experience at the Ottawa 10k and, for those who may be interested, to give a brief explanation of what Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Running Nationals are. The Ottawa 10k is considered the Canadian 10k National Championships as well one event of the Canadian Armed Forces National Running Championships (the other events are 5k, 21.1k and 42.2k).

Just before the finish line. Photo by Michael-Lucien Bergeron

Just before the finish line. Photo by Michael-Lucien Bergeron


On Fri 25 May 2018, I woke up at 4 am, drove 4 hours to the Edmonton Airport, flew 2 hours to Winnipeg, flew 2.5 hours to Ottawa and then took a short taxi ride to downtown Ottawa arriving around 18:30 hrs local. My roommate for the weekend, Conrad who is from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories actually took less time to travel to Ottawa than me! 

Upon checking into our student dorm accommodations at 90 University Private (Stanton building), my younger brother, Anthony picked me up and gave me a personal tour of the RCMP Musical Ride Stables located in Rockcliffe. It was interesting and I greatly appreciated it.

Anthony 1.JPG

The Race

The atmosphere at the start line was electric. The electronic dance music was extremely good and they had the best energy/ambiance that I have felt at a start line anywhere before. The elite women started at 18:26:20 on Sat 26 May 2018 and the elite men/masses started at 18:30:00.

10k map.JPG

As a male athlete, I like the women/men staggered start; to me, it equalizes the field and gives you a good idea of how you really compare to your female counterparts. It also makes it a fair race as the women are not able to able to draft/pace off the men for the entire race.

The 2018 Ottawa 10k race video can be found below: 

As usual, the start was chaotic and felt like thousands of buffalo trampling the ground. I started very fast (I saw 2:50/km on my gps watch) but then got into a good groove after 500m. I deliberately kept a conservative pace of around 3:15/km as I was not sure what I was capable of this early in the season (and I had run around 180km per week for the past three weeks). I kept this pace and slowly started to pass people for the first 2-3km. I was extremely surprised that nobody in front of me was taking the tangents (i.e. running on the inside of a turn / running the invisible line that the race distance was measured on).

Just before the finish line. Photo by Michael-Lucien Bergeron.

Just before the finish line. Photo by Michael-Lucien Bergeron.

I went through the first 5k in 16:12 and the last 5k in 16:41. In the Ottawa 10k, it is very unusual to run the second half faster than the first half due to, in my opinion, the winding nature of the second half of the course. The 1st place runner, Andamlak Berta ran the second half 22 seconds slower than the first half. The first Canadian, Evan Esselink, ran the second half 33 seconds slower than the first half.


The 2018 Ottawa 10k was the most comfortable 10k I have ever done. I was really conservative with the pace, thinking I was going to blow up (I had done very few quality sessions over the past few weeks) but that never happened. It almost felt like I was doing a tempo session. I really enjoyed the experience. Conditions were ideal and the competition was very strong. I ended up running 32:52 placing 29th / 20th Canadian / 1st in CAF. Overall, I am happy with the Ottawa 10k. I do consider it a rust-buster and I am looking forward to the upcoming race season.

I would like to thank all of the people who made competing at CAF Run Nats possible including, but not limited to, Ms. Kori Klein, and all of the 4 Wing and Ottawa PSP personnel.

A few thoughts on the race

  1. If you want to run faster, I believe that the majority of runners could benefit from running MORE. In my personal experience, leading into the Ottawa 10k this year, I barely did any quality sessions (see my STRAVA training log here) but instead focused on building a good foundation for the upcoming summer racing season (as I was away on Phase 1 PFT during the winter months and did not run as much as I should have during this time). I averaged about 180km of running in the three weeks leading into the Ottawa 10k. I also did not taper for this race. Nonetheless, I still ran pretty much the exact same time (and placed in the exact same place), with much less effort, as last year's Ottawa 10k. Strange. 
  2. What works for one runner may not work for another runner. I personally choose to run commute to and from work everyday (in addition to running at lunch and on the weekends). Each run commute is 5 miles and accounts for about 50 miles of running per week. I would HIGHLY recommend run commuting especially for busy people who have a full time career in addition to competing in running. Do what works for you, what fits your schedule and what allows you to train consistently.
  3. I think specificity of training is important. If you want to become a better runner, you need to RUN. Simple but some people forget this simple fact. If you want to do something really well, for the most part, it really helps if you can focus all of your time and energy on that one activity. This point was really driven home to me over the past month when I exclusively focused on running (mainly due to the AETE Step Challenge).  
  4. If your race does not go well, the first thing you should be asking yourself is, “how was my training over the past weeks/months/years leading into this race?” I feel that people (including myself) have a tendency to point the finger at a whole bunch of minuscule things that affected their race but forget about the big picture. They over-analyze things like, I only slept 6 hours the night before, it was a little humid, the temperature was 5 degrees warmer than I’m used to, I wasn’t wearing my favourite racing singlet, etc. Paying attention to the details IS important but I believe that the fitter you get, the better your body will be able to deal with these little changes in the days leading up to the race. I learned this lesson back in 2015 at the CISM Military World Games in South Korea. Everything was perfect leading up to the race; the Koreans treated us incredibly well...but my race was not as fast as I would have liked. I spent many hours writing down all the little details until coming to the conclusion that my inconsistent training program leading into the race was the main reason I did not perform well. Don't lose the forest for the trees.   
Cold Lake Runners from L to R: Matt Setlack, Marie-Michele Siu, Alana Cadieux and George Beatteay

Cold Lake Runners from L to R: Matt Setlack, Marie-Michele Siu, Alana Cadieux and George Beatteay

A Note on Course Measurement

I have studied and understand very well how running race courses are measured and certified. As a result, I have a great appreciation of an accurately measured and certified distance race course. If you want to improve your race times without putting in any extra effort, I highly recommend that you RUN THE TANGENTS (and review the Course Measurement Certification procedures). Not running the tangents is kind of like running a 10,000m track race in lane 2!

Athletics Canada Course Measurement page can be found here:

By clicking "Manuals & Forms" and then "Download Booklet", you will get to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the Measurement of Road Race Courses, Second Edition, 2004 Updated 2008. There is a lot of good info at the link above including a list of certified courses and even the Athletics Canada Road Race Measurement Certificate for the Ottawa 10k.

This is a very interesting GPS accuracy article that I highly recommend reading:

Runner threatens law suit over course measurement disagreement (True Story)

    CAF Running Nationals

    If you are a member of the Canadian Armed Forces (regular force or reserve force) and you are interested in competing in CAF Running Nationals, then you will first need to run a qualifying race under the qualifying time. This qualifying race must typically take place no more than 14 months before race day. The qualifying race must be the same distance as the race you want to compete in at CAF Running Nationals (i.e. if you run a 10k qualifying race, then your time in that race will qualify you for the 10k at CAF Running Nationals).

    Qualifying Times  


    I believe it would be a good idea for the qualifying times to be reviewed and possibly revised so that they are determined using an age grade calculator. Age grading is a way of putting all runners on a level playing field, regardless of age or gender. As you can see, the current qualifying times are heavily biased towards older runners. For example, a 55 year old female needs to run the 5k in 40:00 (43.2% age grade) while a 19 year old male needs to run the 5k over twice as fast in 17:30 (74.7%). This potentially means that some younger faster runners may not be getting the opportunity to compete at CAF Nationals.

    I took each of the above qualifying times and created a graph to clearly show the decrease in age grade percent with increasing age. If interested, the numbers and graph can be found in my Excel spreadsheet. The data is from the 2017 CAF Run Nats.

    In the Dec/Jan timeframe, contact your local Base PSP and let them know that you would like to apply to compete at CAF Run Nats. The Base PSP will compile a list of all the qualifying times and choose the fastest 20 runners within each region in Canada. I believe there are 6 regions in Canada so about 120 athletes compete at CAF Run Nats. Once the regional athletes are chosen, you will be notified in the Feb/Mar timeframe. 

    You will be on TD for CAF Run Nats and everything is paid for including your airline flights, accommodations, food and race entry. It is an extremely good opportunity and I highly recommend competing in CAF Run Nats.


    57th World Military Cross-Country Championships in Hungary

    57th World Military Cross-Country Championships in Hungary

    By: Matt Setlack

    This article will describe my experience at the 57th World Military Cross-Country Running Championships in Balatonakarattya, Hungary from 02 to 08 November 2017. Hopefully, this article may provide motivation to serious CAF runners who are not currently part of the CISM running program to train/race hard and become a member of the team. Being a part of the CISM running program is an amazing opportunity and one that I would highly recommend.

    Several members of the Canadian Team, L to R: Natalia, Isabelle, CJ, Lori, Vincent, Craig, Matt, Denis and Mike.

    Several members of the Canadian Team, L to R: Natalia, Isabelle, CJ, Lori, Vincent, Craig, Matt, Denis and Mike.


    I left Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada at 6 am on Thurs 02 Nov and did not arrive in Balatonakarattya, Hungary until 7 pm on Fri 03 Nov. The first leg of the trip was the standard 4 hour bus ride (IBBS) from Cold Lake to Edmonton Airport then a 3.6 hour flight to Toronto (Airbus A320-100/200) followed by a 7.7 hour flight to Munich (Boeing 777-300ER) and a 1.3 hour flight to Budapest (Airbus A320). Upon arriving in Budapest, we were greeted by the Hungarian Delegation and took a 1.5 hour bus ride to Balatonakarattya, Hungary. Total travel time was around 30 hours. Hungary time (GMT + 1) was 7 hours ahead of Cold Lake, Alberta, Canada time.   

    Boeing 777-300ER aircraft that we took from Toronto to Munich

    Boeing 777-300ER aircraft that we took from Toronto to Munich

    On the Toronto to Munich leg, I was lucky enough to be given seat 13C in the "premium economy" class. In this class, the seat configuration was 2 seats/aisle/3 seats/aisle/2 seats versus the "economy" class seat configuration of 3 seats/aisle/4 seats/aisle/3 seats. The additional room was nice and they also give us food on glass plates and bowls with metal utensils versus the plastic that the economy class gets.


    1. While travelling, I try not to touch my face at all and I wash my hands with soap and water often. There are a lot of germs in the airport/airplane and I don’t want to get sick.

    2. Food in Hungary – I pack my pre-race favourite foods (Vector bars, oatmeal, granola, bagels). Eating exotic/foreign foods that your body is not used to before a race that you have spent months/years training for is not advisable.

    3. Food During Travel – I like to bring my own food (celery, strawberries, carrots, bagels) while I travel. I always bring a water bottle to fill up once past security and drink loads of water.

    4. Time Change – Personally, I like to start going to bed a bit earlier and getting up a bit earlier about a week in advance before flying out. Maj Erin Smith told me that this seems to help with time change. When I get to Hungary, I plan to get on the local time asap, which usually means staying up the first day and not sleeping until it is night time there.

    5. Racing spikes/flats – I start wearing them during workouts well in advance of the CISM race.

    6. XC Terrain – I like to do a few training runs/workouts on the type of XC terrain that I can expect during the race (grass, dirt).

    7. Alcohol – I personally stay away from drinking the free alcohol (and coffee) while on the airplane ride to Hungary.

    8. Earplugs – BRING THEM! Maybe even bring a spare set. Some people like black-out eye covers as well.


    On Saturday 04 November morning, I ran with Denis and other team mates around the course and ran over the obstacles with spikes on. We only ran around 20-30 minutes, which I believe is the shortest run I have ever done. haha

    Mike, Denis, Craig and Matt.

    Mike, Denis, Craig and Matt.

    At 4 pm, we had the opening ceremonies where everyone dressed up in their military uniforms. The ceremony lasted about 45 minutes, which I found to be perfect. It seemed to take much longer to say something in Hungarian than English. There were approximately 300 people total among 25 different countries competing in this championship.

    Pre-race meeting and timing chip distribution.

    Pre-race meeting and timing chip distribution.



    I believe that the place we stayed in Balatonakarattya, Hungary was a resort for Hungarian military personnel and their families.The location and quality of the accommodations (Hotel Aranyhid) where the Canadian team stayed was perfect. Our accommodations were literally about 100m from the start line of the race course. We walked about 300-400m to the dining hall. There were ample places to run around the race course area and there was a 2km loop around the perimeter of the resort.

    Hotel Aranyhid

    Hotel Aranyhid

    My bed. My room mate was Sam.

    My bed. My room mate was Sam.

    A short walk to the dining hall.

    A short walk to the dining hall.

    There were at least 10 people raking.

    There were at least 10 people raking.


    I found the food to be decent. The three meal times per day were good but when I am home I personally prefer to eat continuously throughout the day rather than in three large chunks. For some reason, we were only given very small plates the size of dessert plates instead of larger dinner plates. Unfortunately, I didn't eat nearly as many fruits and vegetables as I normally eat and for some reason, I had very limited protein intake.


    There were a total of 19 members on the Canadian Team including Maj Michael Mueller (Team Manager), WO (ret'd) Denis Cloutier (Coach), Capt Nathalie Royer (Physio), MGen Alain Pelletier (CAF Running Patron) and 15 athletes as shown below.

    15 athletes were part of the Canadian CISM Hungary Team

    15 athletes were part of the Canadian CISM Hungary Team

    Long Course Male Team, L to R: Michael Bergeron, Matt, Chris, James and Alex. Note that Sam is missing from the photo.

    Long Course Male Team, L to R: Michael Bergeron, Matt, Chris, James and Alex. Note that Sam is missing from the photo.

    Short Course Female Team, L to R: Isabelle, Maria, Natalia, Lori and CJ.

    Short Course Female Team, L to R: Isabelle, Maria, Natalia, Lori and CJ.

    Short Course Male Team, L to R: Mark, Logan, Vincent and Craig.

    Short Course Male Team, L to R: Mark, Logan, Vincent and Craig.


    The race course was a looped course. Each loop was 2.3km long. They had a jumbotron (massive screen) setup next to the start/finish area. The course was extremely friendly for spectators as you could see your team mates at numerous locations during every loop.

    The Hungarian Delegation did a fantastic job of taking photos of all runners in the days and weeks leading up the race as well as during the race, during the opening and closing ceremonies and after the race. Photos and videos were posted on the Facebook page right after they were taken.

    Map of Race Course. Red line is one 2.3km lap.

    There was live streaming of each athlete position during the race. Unfortunately, since it was 3 am in Alberta when I was racing, I'm not sure how many people watched. There was an incredible energy surrounding the race. There was really good high energy music being played at all times during the race.

    RACE DAY (Sunday 05 November)

    The men's long course race started at 10 am, which I found to be the perfect time to start a race (well done, Hungarian Delegation). The short course men started 1.5 hours later at 11:30 am and the women started at 12:30 pm.

    Based on our seed times, I toed the line at the front of the Canadian Team next to James. I went out quite aggressively because the course was fairly narrow and windy. If you get stuck behind 100+ other runners, you have to expend a lot of energy unnecessarily. The first obstacle was a log jump (see photo below). I found it easier than expected and hurtled the logs each lap except one. Next came a water jump; it was about 2m long and 30-40cm deep. Because you couldn`t see the bottom (muddy), it was a bit of a surprise when your feet touched the bottom of the water. After the water came about 10-15m of sand (volleyball court sand) and a sandbag embankment covered in AstroTurf about 70-80cm tall. Then more sand, another water jump and a short section of pebble gravel before finishing the 2.3km lap. There were also 2-3 road crossings (the pavement was covered in thick rubber mats), where you had to run up and down about 70cm or so. Overall, I though the course was very fast despite the obstacles. 


    Official results from the race can be found on

    Long Course Male (5 laps x 2.3km/lap = 11.5km)

    1. Matt Setlack, 57th, 39:18
    2. James MacLellan, 72nd, 40:52
    3. Christopher Busset, 77th, 41:27
    4. Michael Bergeron, 80th, 41:38
    5. Alexandre Boule, 83rd, 42:23
    6. Samuel Serviss, 86th, 42:40

    Canadian Long Course Male Team placed 14th out of 19 teams. 108 runners started the race and 105 finished. 1st overall male ran 35:11.

    Short Course Male (2 laps x 2.3km/lap = 4.6km)

    1. Craig Fettes, 36th, 15:23
    2. Logan Roots, 46th, 15:51
    3. Vincent Duguay, 53rd, 15:59
    4. Mark Brown, 54th, 16:03

    Canadian Short Course Male Team placed 12th out of 16 teams. 66 runners started the race and 64 finished. 1st overall male ran 13:28.

    Short Course Female (2 laps x 2.3km/lap = 4.6km)

    1. Celine Best, 33rd, 17:52
    2. Maria McGregor, 41st, 18:23
    3. Isabelle Turner, 45th, 19:03
    4. Lori Coady, 47th, 19:12
    5. Natalia Borszczow, 49th, 19:38

    Canadian Short Course Female Team placed 9th out of 13 teams. 62 runners started the race and 64 finished. 1st overall female ran 15:28.


    Cultural Day

    Once the races were over, there was an awards/closing ceremony where everyone dressed up in their military uniforms. The Cultural Day was on Monday 06 November. We were bussed to a local town where we took a tour of a castle/fancy house and a walking tour of the downtown area.

    In the evening on Monday, there was a banquet with all the athletes. There was food, live music (two separate bands) and a CISM Bar with Hungarian beer. 


    To travel back to Canada, I reversed the process of getting to Hungary but except going forward 7 hours, I went back 6 hours (Daylight Shifting Time in Canada occurred while I was away). While walking to my seat before the trans-Atlantic flight from Munich to Toronto, a gentleman pointed out that I was wearing a Ronhill jacket. This gentleman said that he competed against Ron Hill in the 1970 Boston Marathon and in that race, Ron Hill won the race while he placed 10th overall. 

    This gentleman's name was Wayne Yetman and he competed as a marathon runner in the 1976 Olympics. His personal best time in the marathon is 2:16:32, which there are very few Canadian marathon runners today who can run that fast of a time. Wayne mentioned that Ron Hill created a new style of running shorts with slits up the sides, which made running much more comfortable. Although it may seem trivial, split shorts were a revolutionary technology at the time. Michael Bergeron (in background of photo) and I really enjoyed talking to Wayne.

    Upon returning to Edmonton, the captain of the airplane said over the intercom, "welcome to winter" and he was not kidding. For comparison purposes, I took a photo of a Hungarian field (green grass, top photo) and then a photo of a Canadian field (white snow, bottom photo) on the bus ride to Cold Lake. The very next day, it was back to work and back to the run commute. Once again, Cold Lake lived up to its name with an outside temperature of -19C (-25C with the windchill) on 09 November.

    For those interested, below is a really good video of Ron Hill's running streak that lasted 52 years and 39 days, the longest running streak in history.


    I would like to thank the Hungarian Delegation for putting on an extremely well organized, world-class event. I would like to thank the team leadership for all their hard work including the Team Manager, Maj Michael Mueller, the Team Coach, WO (ret'd) Denis Cloutier, the Team Physio, Capt Nathalie Royer and our CAF Running Patron, MGen Alain Pelletier. I would also like to thank my supporters including my family and friends, my chain of command at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment, the Canadian Armed Forces, city of Cold Lake, Running Room, Ronhill and Zizu Optics. I am incredibly grateful for all of your fantastic support. Thank you!

    Team Canada

    Team Canada