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Matt Setlack

Saskatchewan Marathon 2019

Saskatchewan Marathon 2019

By: Matt Setlack

This post will describe my experience at the Saskatchewan Marathon, which took place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Sunday 26 May 2019.

Pre-Race

Saturday 25 May 2019 was the Canadian 10k Championships in Ottawa, ON. My wife, Emily was competing in that race and ended up finishing 3rd Canadian (10th woman overall) in a time of 33:02. This was a new PB for Emily and she was very happy with how the race went. Fortunately, I was able to watch the livestream of the race online from Saskatoon.

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The elite women started the race 3 minutes and 40 seconds before the elite men. The first person (man or woman) to cross the finish line would win $2000. This year the elite woman was the first across the line.

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The morning before the race, I drove over the race course. I had also previously studied the course extensively on Google Streetview. After I watched the Emily’s race, I ran over part of the gravel trail portion of the Saskatchewan Marathon race course.

Race Day

The race start was 07:00 am local so I woke up at 04:15 am. I set three alarms: one for waking up at 04:15 am, one for 05:30 am when I needed to leave the Airbnb and one for 06:00 am when I needed to start my warm-up. I made sure that I was at the start line at least 10 minutes in advance since I had a nightmare a few weeks ago of missing the race start and did not want that to happen. I was very happy to hear the Canadian national anthem being played before the start.

Race Course

The half and full marathon both started at 07:00 am and both races were the same course. For the most part, the marathon course essentially did two laps of the half course, which was very nice. I believe there were water/gatorade stations every 3 km or so. The course this year was different than it was in previous years. There was a light wind coming from the south and the temperature felt like it was around 8C at the start and around 15C at the end. The full marathon course is below.

I never thought I would say this but Saskatoon has some really nice areas. Along Saskatchewan Crescent West (photo below), there was a “tunnel” of old trees. We ran over an old truss bridge called the Victoria Bridge and under an arched span of the another bridge.

Part of the course (km 17.5 to 19.5 and km 38.5 to 40.5) was on a gravel path along the river called the Meewasin Trail. It felt like we were on the winding yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz. Part of the course was on the paved portion of the Meewasin Trail and a couple short sections were on a sidewalk brick surface. Overall, the course was very flat but there were a lot of turns on the trail/path sections.

Matt’s Race

Standing at the start line, I saw Michael and Lisa Stewart spectating. Michael ended up placing 2nd male in the Saskatchewan 10k and Lisa ended up placing 2nd female in the Saskatchewan 10k. I went out fairly conservatively and reminded myself of what Emily told me in that the “race starts at 35 km”. I also did not want to go out too quickly and blow up. I planned to take a gel every 25 minutes.

There was the usual shuffling of positions in the first few kilometres but eventually I settled into 3rd place. The 1st place man, David Mutai, went out fast and maintained that pace for the entire race. It was extremely impressive! At around 6 km, I had to use the toilet so I stopped at a porta potty. I have never done that in a race before but I thought that I would lose more time by holding it in compared to just using the washroom. This bathroom break cost me 31 seconds. While I was in the washroom, a group of three guys passed me but I caught back up to them within one km. I think I need train myself to use the washroom while running.

As shown in the graph below, my overall pace was relatively consistent throughout the 42.2 km race.

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At km 20, Adam Buzinsky caught up to me and ran right behind me for about 4 km. He was so close, I think I could feel his breath on the back of my neck. He didn’t pass and he didn’t lead. When I saw his Mile to Marathon singlet (and later learned that he is coached by Kevin Coffey), I knew he was a very good runner. One of the things I really liked was how friendly all of the other runners were. It may sound amateur but we even high fived each other at the turnarounds. Eventually, Adam passed me at km 24 and gapped me by 100m or so. I maintained the gap up until km 32 when I slowly passed him. As soon as we were running line abreast, he picked up the pace and ran next to me. I thought, “here we go again”.

I threw in a spurt of energy (short surge, PCL MAX) and gapped him by a few metres. It felt surprisingly comfortable. From that point on, I focused on trying to maintain 3:40/km or less. I didn’t know how far behind Adam was and didn’t want to look back to check.

Every 25 minutes throughout the race, I did somewhat of a 5T check (time/turn/track/throttle/talk). I took a gel every 25 minutes whether I wanted to or not. I felt very good throughout the entire race and had confidence that I could handle the distance fairly well since I had run 200 km per week for the past 7 weeks. My Strava training log from April and May 2019 is below. I did taper during race week and only ran 146 km.

Apr and May 2019 Training Log.png

It may have been a good idea to do more than one tempo session before the marathon. I felt that my endurance was good but my speed could have used more work. I felt like I was in 5th gear and couldn’t quite drop it down to 4th or 3rd to accelerate and get some more speed.

There were lead cyclists ahead, which was great since they could let other runners ahead know I was coming and ensured that the path was clear. David Mutai (right) placed 1st in a time of 2:22:09 (new course record compared to the old one of 2:25), which is really incredible. I ended up crossing the line in 2nd place overall (centre) in a time of 2:34:40, which is a new personal best time for me. Adam Buzinsky (left) placed 3rd in a time of 2:37:26.

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Results from the Saskatchewan Marathon held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on 26 May 2019 are below. The full results can be found at: https://www.sportstats.ca/display-results.xhtml?raceid=103560.

Race Fuel

For the first time ever, I took Maurten 100 gels. I placed 6 of them in my SPI belt (kind of like a fanny pack) and ended up eating 5 during the race. The SPI belt worked extremely well and I highly recommend it. It did not bounce around, did not chaf and was comfortable during the entire race. It is a simple yet very effective design.

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I was apprehensive about the Maurten gels/powdered drinks before trying them. I thought everyone was just “drinking the Koolaid”. My opinion has changed since using them. The Maurten 100 gels are very expensive ($5.50 plus tax per gel). However, they work much better than a standard CLIF or GU gel, in my opinion. Gels in the past have had a tendency to upset my stomach and the syrupy, sticky goo ends up getting all over my hands and face, which is annoying. The Maurten gels do not leave a sticky residue on my hands and they did not upset my stomach. I didn’t even need to take them with water. I drank a sip of water at each water station anyway. I did not take any gatorade during the race; only water and 5 Maurten gels. The consistency of the Maurten gels is exactly like Jello. This is nice because you can put some gel in your mouth and then swish it off inside your cheek while breathing (rather than having a sticky mess inside your mouth like with the traditional gels).

To justify the high cost of the gels, I asked myself, “would I be willing to spend $5 on a beer?”. If yes, then it seems like a reasonable expense to spend this much money on something that is important to me and will improve my performance. I purchased the Maurten gels online at Vancouver Run Company but you can also find them at Brainsport in Saskatoon. I am not sponsored by Maurten.

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I drank three Maurten 320 drinks before the race: two the night before the race and one 1.5 hours before the race. I did not take a gel before the race. Rachel Hannah did a great write-up about marathon feeling on Black Toe Running at: https://www.blacktoerunning.com/blogs/news/maurten-gels-and-carbohydrate-fueling-guidelines.

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This is the nutritional information of the Maurten 320 powder drink (left) and Maurten 100 gel (right).

This is my race kit. Everything worked out very well and I highly recommend it. The Hilly socks are amazing and they feel like they were custom made for my feet. I have never had a blister with Hilly socks. The white Running Room ball cap kept the sun out of my eyes and the mesh material did not cause my head to overheat.

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Several people have commented on the Nike Vaporfly 4% racing flats. I wrote a review on the Nike Vaporfly 4% FLYKNIT (2nd version) racing flats after I raced Chicago Marathon in October 2018. The review can be found here. I do not like the Nike Vaporfly 4% FLYKNIT (2nd version).

However, the Nike Vaporfly 4% ORIGINAL (1st version) fits my foot WAY better than the Flyknit version. The Original version is one (if not THE) best racing flats I have ever worn. I had absolutely no issues with this shoe during the race. The Flyknit Vaporfly and Original Vaporfly are two different shoes and fit very differently.

In preparation for possible rain and wet roads on race day, I scuffed up the black rubber on the bottom of my shoes with 60 grit sandpaper. The course was dry so I can’t tell you if it made any difference. I wear a size men’s 10.5 US in the Original Vaporfly and a size men’s 10.5 US in pretty much every other running shoe I have ever worn. They fit true to size. Thanks to Karl Augsten for letting me try on his Original Vaporfly’s (he’s also 10.5).

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Thank You

I would like to thank Kim Ali, the Saskatchewan Marathon race director and her team for organizing and carrying out a fantastic event. Thank you to all the volunteers and course marshalers out on the race course. Whoever marked the course did a really good job. There were large km marker signs every km and the course marshalers held a large signs with arrows to tell you which way to go. There were plenty of aid stations and everyone was really friendly.

Thank you to Running Room Canada and Ronhill UK for the amazing support.

Thank you for reading this post. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know using the “Contact” link above.

Train Hard. Dream Big.

1 Million Steps in 30 Days

1 Million Steps in 30 Days

By: Matt Setlack

The purpose of this post is to describe what it was like to do 1 million steps in 30 days. The exact number was 1,026,659 steps between 01 and 30 April 2019. This corresponded to a running distance of 878 km in about 77 hours (an average of 29 km of running in 2 hours and 34 minutes per day).

I am passionate about running and flying. I am lucky to have the opportunity to do what I love everyday. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m intense and that I don’t do anything half-way; I either go all out or not at all. I hope that this post may not only inform but also motivate others to set a goal for themselves and then work hard to achieve it. I hope it will motivate you to find something that you’re passionate about and follow it. That could be running, learning a new instrument, learning a new language, volunteering in your community, etc.

Background

I started Phase 2 Basic Flying Training on the CT-156 Harvard 2 at the end of October 2018. The first three months (November 2018 to January 2019) were very busy and I spent every free moment studying. We then moved on to a month of simulator missions (February 2019), which freed up time to train. Once sims finished, I thought we would move right onto the flight line and start flying but instead we waited, and waited, and waited, and then waited some more. During that time we did personal studying and tried to stay sharp.

Because I had previously been in the routine of studying during all my free time and exercising very little, that routine carried through to March 2019. I found myself unfit (I had gained about 12 lbs since the start of course) and I didn’t like the trajectory that my physical fitness was going in. I wasted a lot of my free time on things that did not matter. I thought that since I had the time, I would do something about my plummeting physical fitness and took up a personal million step challenge.

Breakdown

My goal was to do 1 million steps in 30 days. In order to do this, I would have to walk/run an average of 33,334 steps per day. It was a good idea to break down the bigger goal into a daily goal because it kept me on track. If there was ever a time when I didn’t feel like running, I knew that if I didn’t run, then I would have to make up those steps (usually an additional 60 minutes of running) the next day. When you are already running about 2.5 hours per day, it is quite a jump to have to do 3.5 hours per day. Having a vision/goal is EXTREMELY important. It gives what you’re doing purpose and also gives you motivation to get it done.

As shown in the chart below, I was relatively consistent in terms of number of steps completed per day.

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The Most Challenging Part

The most challenging part of this entire 1 million step challenge was getting into a ROUTINE the very first week. It was also fairly physically and mentally challenging at first since I had not been running a lot of mileage in the months leading up to April 2019 (see my Strava). Once I got into a routine, it became much easier to run 2.5 hours per day. As shown in the training log below from April 2019, this was typically broken up into a longer morning run outside at 6:30 am and a shorter lunch run or afternoon run on the treadmill.

I had previously completed a step challenge in May 2018 with the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment (see post here). One of the big differences between this challenge and the previous challenge was that I almost always did two slightly longer runs per day (April 2019) rather than three shorter runs per day (May 2018).

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Other challenging days were when the schedule changed. It’s much easier when there are set timings to complete various tasks throughout the day. Get up at the same time, go to work at the same time, run at the same time and go to bed at the same time. I found it really challenging when I had to get up at 4 am for a sim mission because then it threw everything else off.

The photo below is from the most challenging run I did in the entire month. The temperature was around -2C with sleet/rain/snow and winds of 44 kph. With the windchill, the temperature felt like -8C. I did a 2:50 run up and down the road near Valley View in Wakamow Valley. My feet were completely soaked the entire time and my sunnies kept icing up. If I took them off, then ice pellets would sting my eyeballs. The advantage of doing these challenging runs (as long as you don’t get sick or injured) is that when you’re facing adversity in a race, you can look back and know that you have run through much worse before.

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When I was in the mountains over Easter long weekend, I found it challenging running 90 minutes in the morning, sitting in a vehicle for 8 hours, getting back as the sun is going down and then going for another 60 minute run. It was also fairly challenging to shovel dirt or frame a house for 8 hours and then go for another 60 minute run in the evening. However, I genuinely enjoy volunteering to build houses so I did not mind at all.

The breakdown of runs I did in April 2019 is below (from my Strava training log).

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Where did I run?

The thing about running from 15 Wing Moose Jaw is that you are on an island in a sea of fields. If you want to leave, there are only two options: left or right. To get to 95% of my runs, I ran on a single rut/trail in the ditch of 9 Avenue SW. Thankfully, there is an amazing trail network in the Wakamow Valley and I spent most of my time running there. Sometimes I ran on the trail network in Moose Jaw.

For a pdf of the Wakamow Valley trail map above, click here.

For a pdf of the Moose Jaw trail map below, click here.

Unintended Consequences

While running an average of 29 km per day for a month, this is what happened to me:

  1. I got a wicked farmers tan because I was spending so much time outside. I also got a lot more fresh air, which was nice.

  2. I felt better both mentally and physically than I have felt in months.

  3. I discovered so many new trails and got to know Moose Jaw much better. There is no way I would have done this if I had not started the challenge.

  4. My alcohol consumption decreased. I enjoy having a few drinks with friends at the mess on a Friday night. However, when you have to get up at 6:15 am to go for a 90 minute run, that puts a little damper on things. I found that I drank less and generally went to bed earlier.

  5. I generally ate better food. I always run before meals but occasionally after meals. Running with a Swiss mushroom burger, curly fries and a cheesecake dessert does not feel very good in your stomach. As a result, I didn’t intend on eating any healthier, it just kind of happened. I ate basic foods that would make me feel better in the long run rather than for the immediate gratification.

Running Kit

The great thing about running is that it requires very little kit. All you need is a pair of running shoe really. These are the things that I could not live without:

  1. iPod Shuffle - Big thanks to Dylan Wykes and Alex Palardy for giving me their iPod Shuffles. If you have a Shuffle that you’re not using and would like to sell it to me, I would be willing to give you up to $20 for it. Please let me know.

  2. Running Shoes - The running shoes I wore most frequently were: Hoka Bondi 6, Hoka Clifton 6, New Balance 1080v9, Mizuno Waveknit R2, and Salomon Speedcross 4. I pick my shoes up at Running Room (they have a military discount). My favourite Running Room store is the 109 Street store in Edmonton.

  3. Garmin 230 GPS running watch - Highly recommended. I am still waiting for Garmin to put a camera (in addition to bluetooth music) in their GPS running watches.

  4. Ronhill Apparel - I absolutely love Ronhill Apparel (and Hilly socks too). It fits me as if it was custom made for me.

  5. Ball cap and polarized sunnies - I always wear them. Since Moose Jaw is the windiest place I have ever been, the sunnies prevent dust and debris from blowing into my eyes. They also prevent me from poking my eye out on a branch in the forest. Sometimes it is so windy that my ball cap nearly gets blown right off my head.

Schedule

Everyday I ran about 2.5 hours, which did not include changing, showering, getting to the gym, etc. Usually I ran 90 minutes in the morning (6:30 am) and 60 minutes at lunch or after school. In addition to running, I did the following things:

  1. Monday - volleyball in evening 75 minutes

  2. Tuesday - #40 RCACS in evening

  3. Wednesday - nil

  4. Thursday - volleyball in evening 75 minutes

  5. Friday - mess

  6. Saturday - helping to build a house all day with Habitat for Humanity Moose Jaw

  7. Sunday - usually did one run of 2.5 to 3 hours.

How to NOT get injured

If you have seen my Strava training log, you may have noticed that I went from running about 25 km a week from November 2018 to March 2019 to running 200 km per week in April 2019. Generally, I don’t recommend bumping up your mileage that drastically. However, to mitigate the steep increase and reduce the probability of getting injured, this is what I did:

  1. Slow easy effort - all my runs were done at a very easy effort. I did not look at my watch at all; I just ran by feel. Usually it was somewhere in the range of 5:00/km to 5:30/km.

  2. Soft trails - 95% of my outdoor runs were done on soft trails in the Wakamow Valley.

  3. Cushioned running shoes - the majority of the time, I wore the maximalist Hoka Bondi 6.

  4. Treadmill runs - 60 minutes per day were done on the treadmill at 1% incline.

  5. Sleep - I generally went to bed at 10:30 or 11:00 pm and woke up at 6:15 am.

Giving Back to the Community

Once I got into the challenge, I noticed that I was generally more productive in areas of my life outside of running. Not only had the physical fitness component of my life improved, but other components of my life like work and volunteering also improved. I volunteered to teach aviation classes with #40 Snowbird RCACS. When I was younger, I went through the air cadet program and found that it helped me to become the person I am today. I wanted to give back something to the program. I thought that my education and experience would be beneficial to the program.

The Wakamow Valley trail network is one of the best trail networks I have ever run on so I volunteered to help maintain and improve the trail network.

I also volunteered to help build houses on the weekend for Habitat for Humanity Moose Jaw. I really believe in the program and I enjoy working as a team for something that is bigger than myself.

Conclusion

Although the million step challenge was not easy, I would recommend that you consider doing it. It will improve you as a person both physically and mentally. If you have any questions or would like more information, please email me at the “contact” link above.

You will always find time for things that are important to you.

Chicago Marathon 2018

Chicago Marathon 2018

By: Matt Setlack

This post will describe my experience at the Chicago Marathon on 07 Oct 2018. Although I have participated in six marathons when I was 17 to 21 years old, this was the first marathon that I seriously trained for and raced competitively (that was the plan anyway). At first, I was apprehensive about sharing my experience as the Chicago Marathon was most certainly not sunshine and rainbows. However, sometimes you can learn just as much, if not more, from a less than ideal race experience than from a good one.

Tues 02 Oct 2018 - Travel from the Great white north

Because of the poor road conditions, it took Emily and I about 9 hours to drive from Cold Lake to Calgary. As we got closer to Calgary, the weather deteriorated and we saw numerous vehicles in the ditch. It was so icy that most sensible motorists were driving around 70 kph rather than the posted speed limit of 110 kph.

A motorist who was driving 100 meters in front of us lost control, spun around three times, struck the front end of his vehicle on the centre median and then slid into the ditch backwards. We stopped to make sure he was okay (he was) and waited with him until a tow truck arrived. Further on, we had to divert around a section of road that was closed to traffic. There was a snowfall warning in effect for Calgary and I saw on the news that this was the most snow Calgary had seen on 02 Oct in the past 104 years!

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Wed 03 Oct 2018 - 2nd day of travel

I decided to fly out of Calgary rather than Edmonton because there was a direct flight from Calgary to Chicago O’Hare, the flight was much less expensive, the flight options were more numerous, and the flight was only 2:38 versus close to 6-7 hours flying out of Edmonton.

The international departures area of the Calgary Airport was extremely nice. It looked new and recently renovated. The sun was shining through the big windows and it was quiet like a library. Hardly anyone was around and there were plenty of comfortable seats.

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The Chicago O’Hare airport looked quite industrial. I rented a car and drove to the Marriott hotel in Burr Ridge (30 minutes SW of downtown Chicago). Thanks to Emily for finding and booking this for me.

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Thurs 04 Oct 2018 - In search of the Vaporfly 4% Racing Flat

This is a story in itself. If you’re interested in hearing about my impressions of the Nike Vaporfly 4% racing flat, what Nike touts as the fastest running shoe on earth, please click the “REVIEWS” section above.

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Fri 05 Oct 2018 - Race Expo Day

I drove to the race expo and joined the 45,000 other runners to pick up my race bib number. It was extremely busy, noisy and crowded and after an hour I was ready to leave. Most runners there were walking at a “Sunday Stroll” pace rather than the “move with a sense of purpose” pace that I like.

Thankfully, I received the “discounted parking rate” of only $10 USD (compared to the $23 USD regular parking rate). The parking company is making $450,000 USD on parking alone over two days for this event. Not a bad deal for them. haha.

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In the evening, I ran 30 minutes on the hotel Life Fitness amazing treadmill. I ran with energy gels in my back pocket and in my hands. 4 gels in the centre back pocket of my Ronhill Everyday Split Shorts (amazing shorts, by the way) had a tendency to bounce up and down (each gel is about 32g so that is 128g total of gels). 3 gels or less, however, did not bounce up and down. I decided that I would carry one gel in each hand and two gels in the back pocket. When I’m down to 3 gels, I planned to place 3 in the back pocket because otherwise I might have a tendency to drift, while being laterally unbalanced. haha

Food

I ate all my meals from the local grocery store called Brookhaven Marketplace. It is similar to Sprouts grocery store. They have a lot of imported foods and the prices reflect this. I usually buy a pre-cooked pasta dinner or salmon with rice dinner for $6 to $9 USD with a bottle of apple juice. I like that I can see exactly what I am getting and I also like the price (compared to eating at a restaurant).

Marathon Fuel

I was a little uncertain of what to eat during the marathon. I never eat anything on any runs even for long runs up to 2:15. There is a lot of selection of different gels, drink mixes and energy chews. They all seem slightly different in terms of composition but I’m sure they all do the same thing.

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I planned to take a gel before the start and every 30 minutes after that so I planned to carry 4 gels (1 in each hand and 2 in my back centre pocket). I also planned to to drink a lot of water and gatorade while on the course especially during the first half as was recommended to me by my friend, Karl Augsten (who ran the 2017 New York City Marathon in 2:31).

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Sun 07 Oct 2018 - Race day

I thought I felt quite good going into this race. I woke up at 3:30 am and left the hotel at 4:15 am. I arrived at the parking garage beneath Grant Park at 4:55 am and was ready for the race well in advance. I was so early that it was still dark out and difficult to see anything inside the portable toilets. It was exciting to warm up with some of the world’s best marathon runners including Galen Rupp. I also saw Dayna Pidhoresky and Melanie Myrand during the warm-up.

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Start

I followed Tom McGrath’s (an experienced marathoner) advice to start on runners left at the very start. This worked out really well and there were numerous other Canadians in the same area including Brian Yorke, Eric Bang, Kyle Wyatt, Shelley Doucet, myself, and another Canadian female racer.

For the start of a race with 45,000 runners, I thought there would at least be a “3, 2, 1 go” countdown or “on your marks, get set, go” but there was nothing, just the pop of the starter pistol. Thankfully, I could see a bystander (maybe she worked for the race organization) holding up one hand and clicking down the seconds with each finger in silence.

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0-5 km

I was very surprised at the thick density of runners from the start right up until at least 5 km. It seemed that everyone went out quite fast. Around 4 km or so, I caught up to some of the best elite women racers in the world and ran next to them, with a bunch of other men, for a few kilometres.

My goal time for 5 km was 17:05 and I went through in around 16:45 to 16:50. I felt very relaxed even though I was not drafting behind anyone.

5-10 km

I still felt quite fresh as I continued to run by myself. At 30 minutes into the race, I ate a gel with water. Throughout most of the race, with the exception of the last 5 to 10 km, I took gatorade at every station.

My goal time for 10 km was 34:10 and I went through in around 34:05, I think. I was still ahead of schedule.

10-15 km

At 12.5 km, the course makes a big “u-turn” and you go from running north to running south. As soon as I turned the corner to head south, I could feel a headwind and the next guys ahead of me were at least 100m ahead (Paddy Birch in a black Team Canada singlet with a group of guys). Still running by myself.

51:15 was my goal to go through 15 km and I remember being ahead of pace at this point.

15-20 km

I still felt quite good. I continued to take in one gel every 30 minutes. I was still running into a headwind. At about 20 km, a guy in a blue singlet ran past me and made a motion for me to tuck in behind him. That was awfully kind. The thing I love about the marathon is that everyone seems to be willing to help out everyone else (rather than directly competing against them which tends to happen in other races).

21.1 km (half way)

My goal for 21.1 km (half-marathon) was 1:12:04 and I went through half in 1:12:04 feeling smooth, strong and in control. Perfect.

20-25 km

After 21.1 km, I was still keeping a decent pace but was starting to slow down. I was still running by myself. I really started to notice that my new Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit racing flats were not as comfortable as I thought.

25-30 km

This is when things really started to get ugly. 27 km was definitely the point at which I thought about dropping out of the race. I was still by myself, people started to pass me and it continued to rain. At about 27 or 28 km (around 90 minutes into the race), my condition seemed to deteriorate rapidly.

At about 28 km, I started to feel a little twinge in my right leg. I had felt this before (at a much lower magnitude) while running on the treadmill in the two days leading up to the race. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. However, little things become big things very quickly (and they magnify not linearly but exponentially in a marathon). It was more than a simple discomfort. It was at a level where it was affecting the amount of power I could push off from my right leg with. My left leg felt fine.

From about 27 or 28 km onwards, I was no longer “racing”, I was simply trying to get to the finish line. Not even get to the finish line quickly, just get to the finish line so I could get out of there.

30-35 km

Things were quite bad in this section, I definitely thought about dropping out but did not want to let down my family, friends and all the people who had supported me. I thought that I may as get to the finish line. Besides, I had already paid the $220 USD entry fee, paid for the airline ticket, hotel, etc. May as well get my moneys worth.

35-42.2 km

For pretty much the entire second half of the race, other runners passed me; only a few people at first but then more and more people as I progressively slowed down. It was extremely embarrassing to be passed by so many runners.

What went wrong?

I think it was a combination of factors.

Pacing - It is possible that I went out a little too quick in the first half. My half personal best is 1:09:24. I ran 1:12:04 for the first half in the Chicago Marathon, which I thought (at the time) was quite conservative. Even if I had run 1:15 for the first half, I would have still had a faster finish time overall.

Right Leg - The biggest/main issue was my right leg (I think it was the hamstring behind my leg and deep down in my gluteus maximus). My right leg didn't feel 100% while running in the 2 days before the race. There was severe discomfort/pain in my right leg that got progressively worse. It was not just uncomfortable; I felt physically unable to generate any useful power out of the right leg. Not sure how this issue came about. A year or two ago, I felt the exact same thing in my right leg. It could be an overuse injury or maybe sitting for long periods of time could affect it as well (i.e. driving long distances like 9 hours and sitting for many hours each day for many months/years).

I think I was in 70th place around 21km but as I gradually slowed down, many many many people passed me (about 130 or so) and I ended up in about 190th or 200th place overall. It was extremely embarrassing. I considered dropping out around 30km but instead decided to jog easy to the finish (at a pace that was slower than my easy pace).

Gels - I took a gel every 30 minutes as directed by my coach (at 30 minutes into race, 1 hour, 1.5 hours, 2 hours). I definitely felt like my stomach/digestive system/bowel) did not like those gels. I had some minor stomach cramps but nothing major. I considered using the bathroom during the race but thought I would lose more time than I would gain.

Racing Flats - I think the brand new orange Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit racing flats could have affected me as well. I think the extreme stiffness of that shoe could have made me use different muscle groups that I'm not used to. In addition, the forefoot and mid midfoot is quite narrow and after wearing the racing flat for 2.5+ hours, the centre of both of my forefeet were both blistered/skin folded over from being squashed inside the shoe. The shoes felt fine during the two 30 minute runs I had done in them before the race.

Weather Conditions - The temperature was around +10 to +15C. Intermittent rain. Wet roads. Fairly windy. I ran most of the race by myself, which was ironic because I believe there were about 45,000 runners in the Chicago Marathon. Everyone faced the same conditions and therefore this was not really a contributing factor.

Possible Contributing Factor - I think when things are not going well in the non-running aspects of your life, they can negatively affect your training and racing performance. The opposite is also true (as was the case for me in 2017). For example, losing half your life savings because you were posted to Cold Lake (the mini Fort McMurray) and bought a house just before the worst housing market downturn in the past two decades.

Overall Thoughts on the race

Overall, I am extremely disappointed in my race especially considering how much time, effort and money that I put into it. It was very likely one of, if not THE, worst race I have ever run. It most certainly did not represent what I was capable of. However, I can honestly say that I don't think I could have done much about it on that day. Even if I went out slower, I think the leg issue would have still arisen. I am still trying to determine what good/lessons learned I can pull from the Chicago Marathon.

I ran the first half in 1:12:04 (3:25/km avg) and the second half in 1:26:36 (4:06/km avg). I finished the race in 2:38:40, which although is a new personal best marathon time for me, it is not the time I was hoping for and capable of. The marathon is a beast and if anything is bothering you before the race, it will be magnified on race day.

What I would do differently next time

Trying new things before a 42 km race is a bad idea. Before this marathon, I had never used gels/water/gatorade on any run (even 2:15 long training runs). I also had never raced in the Nike Vaporfly 4% Flyknit racing flat before (I only ran two easy runs of 30 minutes each).

Pay close attention to any aches/discomforts in the months, weeks and days leading up to a marathon. Don’t assume slight pains won't manifest into agony on race day. Consider not starting if there is any doubt regarding injury.

Thanks for reading!

Edmonton Army 10k 2018

Edmonton Army 10k 2018

By: Matt Setlack

This article will outline my experience at the Edmonton Army 10k, which took place on Sunday, 19 August 2018.

Race Course

I have competed in this race a few times before but last year, the race course was different as there was road construction being carried out. In terms of race courses go, this is an extremely fast race course; there are minimal turns (two right turns, two left turns, one 180 degree turn), the course is very flat, the elevation of Edmonton is 645m ASL, the wind is typically minimal in the morning and also blocked by the tall buildings and trees, and the temperature is nice and cool in late August.

Pre-Race

I drove to Edmonton on Friday 17 August 2018 and arrived at the race hotel, the Chateau Lacombe, which was right downtown and about two blocks from the race start (at the Shaw Conference Centre). The hotel is cylindrical in shape and the hotel rooms are pie-shaped. There were a few treats waiting for me in the hotel room.

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As you can see in the photos below, I was very concerned about the air quality with the extensive and widespread smoke coming from the BC forest fires. Many racers did not race because of the poor air quality and the race organizers gave racers the option of shortening their race distance for free.

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I was an ambassador for the Edmonton Army 10k so on Saturday 18 August 2018, I worked the race expo for a while in the morning before attending the Running Room Friendship Run. Unfortunately, because of the smoke, the Friendship Run was cancelled and instead John Stanton did a Question and Answer period with a few of the runners including myself.

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The night before every race, I always lay out my race uniform to ensure that I have everything. I then place my race kit in a running backpack. The black Ronhill backpack is the Ronhill Commuter Xero 10L + 5L. I have been using the grey older version of this backpack for several years and it has been working out well. The nice thing about having your race kit in a backpack rather than a fabric shopping bag is that you can do you warm-up and warm-down while wearing the backpack rather than having to stash/check it somewhere.

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I really liked the bright yellow/lime green New Balance race t-shirts this year. All race distances received the same shirt, which I think is a good idea. I do a lot of running on austere roads in northern Alberta and having a bright shirt to wear helps motorists see me better.

Race Day

The Edmonton Army 10k started at 10:30 am on Sunday, which is a lot later than most running races I have done. A few runners expressed their displeasure with the late 10k start time to me at the race expo. I personally don’t mind running a little later but running earlier is a little cooler.

Thankfully, the smoke cleared on Sunday morning.

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As usual, I ran the treadmill for my warm-up of 35 minutes easy. I run on the treadmill before I race because I like being away from the nervous energy of the start line, having a washroom nearby, and running in a place where I do not have to run about dodging people and vehicles.

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I started the race at what felt like a decent pace and splits were very even throughout the race. 100m into the race I looked to my left and saw Jevin Monds running next to me. When I saw about five people in front of me, I got a bit concerned but my race experience kicked in and I told myself not to panic and to be patient. As we raced down Jasper Avenue, the front runners began to spread out and Jevin pulled ahead.

From approximately 2-5km into the race Jevin and Dejene Guililat ran together about 20 meters ahead of Jesse Bauer and I. Throughout this time, Jesse and I raced one another and shared the lead. Around 5km I managed to break away from Jesse and slowly closed the gap between Jevin and Dejene. At about 7km, I caught up to them and felt a rush of excitement and energy. I tried to maintain my pace and gradually inched ahead of them. Dejene put in a strong surge and put a few meters on Jevin and I. I maintained pace and caught back up Dejene when the pace settled. At roughly 8.5-9km I managed to break away from Dejene. At this point, I ran as hard as I could and did not look back. My final kilometre was my quickest at 3:00 minutes per km.

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I crossed the finish line in second overall in a time of 32:22. Although it was not my best time, it was a tactical race and I was very surprised by my result because there were so many strong runners in the race and had been running in fifth place for most of the race.

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Thank You

I would really like to thank all of the volunteers and organizers who volunteered their time to help out with this race. Also, big thanks to Brian Torrance, the elite coordinator for providing amazing support over the entire weekend. Thank you to the members of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment the excellent race expo displays, for marshalling during the race and for handing out medals at the finish line. Thank you for everyone who cheered for me during the race; I heard everyone and it gave me a burst of energy. Thank you!

Course Check - World Mountain Running Championships - Andorra 2018

Course Check - World Mountain Running Championships - Andorra 2018

By: Matt Setlack

On Wednesday 29 August 2018, my wife, Emily and I decided to run over the course in preparation for the upcoming World Mountain Running Championships (WMRC) in Canillo, Andorra on 16 September 2018. I have competed in WMRC Bulgaria 2016 and WMRC Italy 2017. This will be Emily's first time competing in WMRC.

We re-ran over various sections of the race course on 10, 11 and 12 September 2018. As of 12 September 2018, the race course has been officially marked with red triangular flags and red/white flagging tape.

References

  1. Race website at https://www.wmrch2018canillo.com/en/courses/

  2. Another course check that was done by Timo Zeiler at https://timozeiler.com/2018/06/16/andorra-world-mountainrunning-championships-course-check/

Course Description

From the race website, "The Senior route starts in front of the Canillo Parish Hall (Edifici del Comú de Canillo) and continues along a 1.3 km stretch of tarmac with an average gradient of 7%. It then switches to a mountain path combined with a forest trail. Runners then pass by a man-made lake and reach the mid-point (4,720 metres from the start) at an altitude of 2,050 metres (feed stop 1).

Here, the route dips down for a short while to the 5.8 km mark, following a trail into the woods with a number of small rises (but little elevation gain) until it reaches the Ribaescorxada refuge 9.2 km into the run (feed stop 2).

It is uphill on paths from here on until the 11-km mark, followed by a last flat section with a small rise to an altitude of 2,430 some 11.93 kilometres into the run (finish at Forn de Canillo chairlift)."

Course Map

Click on the map below to be directed to the https://www.openrunner.com/r/8038564 website.

Elevation Profile

Accessing the Race Course

By Gondola - There is a cable car/gondola that starts right near the start of the race and ends at the "mid-point". The mid-point is 4,720m from the start. I have not personally taken the gondola before but info on it can be found here: http://ww2.grandvalira.com/en/mont-magic-canillo.

By Car - Another option is to drive almost all the way up to the mid-point. There is a paved road called Ctra. de Prats/CS-250, which then turns into Ctra. del Forn. It is the one that we run on for the first 1.3k of the race that you can drive on. Instead of turning off this paved road around the 1k mark, keep driving on it all the way until the pavement ends. You can park your car and then walk up a gravel road for 700m or so to the mid-point. Once you pass under the chairlift, you should see some red flags going up the grass slope towards the blue arches/hoops.

Course Photos

The red line represents the approximate race course. I took this photo from Mirador Roc Del Quer looking SE. I drew the red line myself and it is not perfect but does represent the approximate route.

The red line represents the approximate race course. I took this photo from Mirador Roc Del Quer looking SE. I drew the red line myself and it is not perfect but does represent the approximate route.

The following photos were taken by Matt Setlack. The perspective of all photos is from the point of view of the runner running the race. I believe that the photos I took make the course look less technical and less steep than it actually is. It is steeper than it looks. I would not underestimate the course. I think there are some sections where walking may be necessary such as the area just before the "mid-section" and in the area about 500m past the refuge. 

Compared to WMRC Bulgaria 2016 (1,380m up over 12.7km), WMRC Andorra 2018 (1,028m up over 11.7km) does appear to be more runnable. I personally prefer the Andorra course over the Bulgaria course and I think the finish times will be fast.

Start area in front of the Comu de Canillo.

Start area in front of the Comu de Canillo.

This is the topographical map (scale 1:40,000, which was not ideal) I used. In the future, I plan to use a GPS track and/or mobile phone with data to determine exactly where the course went the first time. Before the race course was officially marked, there were various sections that were not straightforward and without a GPS, would be extremely difficult to determine correctly.

This is the topographical map (scale 1:40,000, which was not ideal) I used. In the future, I plan to use a GPS track and/or mobile phone with data to determine exactly where the course went the first time. Before the race course was officially marked, there were various sections that were not straightforward and without a GPS, would be extremely difficult to determine correctly.

The first 100m are on bricks before the route turns to asphalt.

The first 100m are on bricks before the route turns to asphalt.

After about 100m, you make a left turn (where you see the blue "P" (for parking) sign in this photo)

After about 100m, you make a left turn (where you see the blue "P" (for parking) sign in this photo)

This is right next to that blue "P" (for parking) sign. You head up this road for another 1.1 km. From the course start, the asphalt/tarmac section is 1.3 km.

This is right next to that blue "P" (for parking) sign. You head up this road for another 1.1 km. From the course start, the asphalt/tarmac section is 1.3 km.

Emily (in pink shorts) running on the asphalt section. The first 1.3 km are a steady uphill (average gradient of 7%).

Emily (in pink shorts) running on the asphalt section. The first 1.3 km are a steady uphill (average gradient of 7%).

More tarmac.

More tarmac.

More tarmac.

More tarmac.

The white RV is pointing in the direction that the course goes. You make a right turn off the main road. This is just before 1 km into the race. There is a gentle downhill here.

The white RV is pointing in the direction that the course goes. You make a right turn off the main road. This is just before 1 km into the race. There is a gentle downhill here.

Emily is about 1 km into the race here.

Emily is about 1 km into the race here.

The race goes through the village of Prats. I'm pretty sure there will not be cars parked on the side of the road on race day.

The race goes through the village of Prats. I'm pretty sure there will not be cars parked on the side of the road on race day.

The white truck is parked at a fork in the road. The race takes the left fork and from there you go another 100m or so to reach the start of the trail portion.

The white truck is parked at a fork in the road. The race takes the left fork and from there you go another 100m or so to reach the start of the trail portion.

Taking the left fork.

Taking the left fork.

This is the very start of the forest trail portion. There is a red bunny rabbit marking the trail (seen on the sign on the right). The route goes up and to the left behind the building.

This is the very start of the forest trail portion. There is a red bunny rabbit marking the trail (seen on the sign on the right). The route goes up and to the left behind the building.

This photo was taken just past the red bunny rabbit sign (seen above). The route goes up and to the right. There are wooden steps that are staked into the earth with steel stakes (concrete rebar), which protrude from the stakes a bit in a few areas.

This photo was taken just past the red bunny rabbit sign (seen above). The route goes up and to the right. There are wooden steps that are staked into the earth with steel stakes (concrete rebar), which protrude from the stakes a bit in a few areas.

Taken at a T-intersection. You go straight through the intersection, following the red bunny rabbit sign.

Taken at a T-intersection. You go straight through the intersection, following the red bunny rabbit sign.

Following the red bunny rabbit.

Following the red bunny rabbit.

The course map shows the route going to the right here. This is about 2 km into the race.

The course map shows the route going to the right here. This is about 2 km into the race.

On one of three switchbacks before getting to the paved road.

On one of three switchbacks before getting to the paved road.

Come out (running towards the camera) on the gravel road on the right, turn right and go up the paved road for about 50m.

Come out (running towards the camera) on the gravel road on the right, turn right and go up the paved road for about 50m.

Run up the paved road for about 50m and turn right on the gravel road on the right.

Run up the paved road for about 50m and turn right on the gravel road on the right.

After the first creek/river crossing, run up a gravel road and turn left on the narrow single track path.

After the first creek/river crossing, run up a gravel road and turn left on the narrow single track path.

Take the left fork and go up a steep single track.

Take the left fork and go up a steep single track.

One of the steepest sections of the entire race course. Approximately 2.6 km into the race.

One of the steepest sections of the entire race course. Approximately 2.6 km into the race.

Crossing back over the stream/river for the second time.

Crossing back over the stream/river for the second time.

Gravel road (ski run in winter). This is about 3 km into the race.

Gravel road (ski run in winter). This is about 3 km into the race.

The gravel road is nice and smooth in this area but changes to rougher rock/gravel later on.

The gravel road is nice and smooth in this area but changes to rougher rock/gravel later on.

The rock is a little rougher here.

The rock is a little rougher here.

Just before getting to the man-made lake, where the blue flag is.

Just before getting to the man-made lake, where the blue flag is.

This is the man-made lake at 4 km into the race. The race map shows us going around the left hand side (over the wooden boards in this photo). HOWEVER, as of 15 September 2018, the actual race route has been marked with red/white flagging tape and the route goes around the RIGHT hand side of the lake (NOT the left hand side of the lake).

This is the man-made lake at 4 km into the race. The race map shows us going around the left hand side (over the wooden boards in this photo). HOWEVER, as of 15 September 2018, the actual race route has been marked with red/white flagging tape and the route goes around the RIGHT hand side of the lake (NOT the left hand side of the lake).

The path is to climber’s right of this gravel path.

The path is to climber’s right of this gravel path.

This is just past what the race website refers to as the "mid-point" of the race (4,720m from the start and 2,050m elevation (feed stop 1)). I believe we run through the blue arches. You are aiming for the bottom of the tube and running just beneath the gondola in this photo. The course is downhill from here to the 5.8 km point.

This is just past what the race website refers to as the "mid-point" of the race (4,720m from the start and 2,050m elevation (feed stop 1)). I believe we run through the blue arches. You are aiming for the bottom of the tube and running just beneath the gondola in this photo. The course is downhill from here to the 5.8 km point.

This is just beneath the gondola where you enter the forest. More downhill.

This is just beneath the gondola where you enter the forest. More downhill.

You pass by a horse display (where the three people are standing) and then run a few switch-backs downhill.

You pass by a horse display (where the three people are standing) and then run a few switch-backs downhill.

You get to an open meadow, which you run around the right side (along the stone fence). The small opening between the logs (next to the sheep display) has a black arrow on it. The meadow is just past 5 km into the race.

You get to an open meadow, which you run around the right side (along the stone fence). The small opening between the logs (next to the sheep display) has a black arrow on it. The meadow is just past 5 km into the race.

The opening between the logs. I believe the black x's mark the WMRC route. I also saw blue circles, red circles, yellow circles, orange circles and grey metal poles but I don't think those are for our race.

The opening between the logs. I believe the black x's mark the WMRC route. I also saw blue circles, red circles, yellow circles, orange circles and grey metal poles but I don't think those are for our race.

Following the stone fence around the meadow. This section is still downhill on grass and some rocks.

Following the stone fence around the meadow. This section is still downhill on grass and some rocks.

More meadow.

More meadow.

The start of the single track. Mostly dirt with some rock and some grass. From about km 5 to km 9, the single track trail traverses around the mountain to another ski resort. From km 5.8 to km 9, the course is relatively flat with some small up and downs.

The start of the single track. Mostly dirt with some rock and some grass. From about km 5 to km 9, the single track trail traverses around the mountain to another ski resort. From km 5.8 to km 9, the course is relatively flat with some small up and downs.

More single track, still going downhill.

More single track, still going downhill.

Passing beneath the gondola still going downhill. Where this photo was taken, there are wooden steps going up and to the right just beneath the gondola; do not take these steps. I'm quite sure that the course will be really well marked on race day though.

Passing beneath the gondola still going downhill. Where this photo was taken, there are wooden steps going up and to the right just beneath the gondola; do not take these steps. I'm quite sure that the course will be really well marked on race day though.

One of the uphill sections.

One of the uphill sections.

I am not sure what the yellow, red and blue paint is for.

I am not sure what the yellow, red and blue paint is for.

Typical terrain from km 5 to km 9.

Typical terrain from km 5 to km 9.

Some sections are grass.

Some sections are grass.

Another of the uphill sections.

Another of the uphill sections.

More single track.

More single track.

The single track trail widens up a little just before you enter a wide grassy trail.

The single track trail widens up a little just before you enter a wide grassy trail.

This is the wide grassy trail, which starts at about km 8. Mostly downhill until the Ribaescorxada refuge at 9.2 km into the race (feed stop 2).

This is the wide grassy trail, which starts at about km 8. Mostly downhill until the Ribaescorxada refuge at 9.2 km into the race (feed stop 2).

The wide grassy trail to the refuge.

The wide grassy trail to the refuge.

More of the wide grassy trail with some dirt/gravel.

More of the wide grassy trail with some dirt/gravel.

This is the Ribaescorxada refuge (9.2 km into the race). We run right past it.

This is the Ribaescorxada refuge (9.2 km into the race). We run right past it.

At the refuge, the trail goes downhill for a short distance until the gravel road, then turns right. The race finishes to the right of the dark hump/mountain/hill in the middle of this photo.

At the refuge, the trail goes downhill for a short distance until the gravel road, then turns right. The race finishes to the right of the dark hump/mountain/hill in the middle of this photo.

The gravel road. This is at a different ski resort to the ski resort we ran past at about halfway into the race.

The gravel road. This is at a different ski resort to the ski resort we ran past at about halfway into the race.

Just past the refuge, leave the gravel road and run on the grass up to the right. It is hard to tell, but we are aiming for the green path just to the left of the trees.

Just past the refuge, leave the gravel road and run on the grass up to the right. It is hard to tell, but we are aiming for the green path just to the left of the trees.

Follow the red triangular flags straight up and to the right.

Follow the red triangular flags straight up and to the right.

The author/photographer, Matt Setlack standing on one of the steepest sections of the entire race course.

The author/photographer, Matt Setlack standing on one of the steepest sections of the entire race course.

Continue up the grass ski slope. The grass is long and the trail is faint but I think it will be well marked on race day.

Continue up the grass ski slope. The grass is long and the trail is faint but I think it will be well marked on race day.

The course flattens out here.

The course flattens out here.

A steep section a few hundred meters before crossing the gravel road.

A steep section a few hundred meters before crossing the gravel road.

Cross over a small trench, then cross the gravel road. We are aiming for the grass on the inside of the turn. We go around the far side of the far fence.

Cross over a small trench, then cross the gravel road. We are aiming for the grass on the inside of the turn. We go around the far side of the far fence.

Around 10.8 km or so.

Around 10.8 km or so.

About 11 km into the race. Less than 1 km to the finish line. The course goes up and to the right and parallels the ski lift that we see in this photo. From here until the race at 11.93 km (2,430m ASL), it is relatively flat.

About 11 km into the race. Less than 1 km to the finish line. The course goes up and to the right and parallels the ski lift that we see in this photo. From here until the race at 11.93 km (2,430m ASL), it is relatively flat.

The red flags mark the way. Run straight ahead, cross over the road and then bend to the right (uphill) nearly underneath the chairlift.

The red flags mark the way. Run straight ahead, cross over the road and then bend to the right (uphill) nearly underneath the chairlift.

The red flags show us going uphill along the fence on the left (not on the gravel road). We run nearly underneath the chairlift. This is about 11 km into the race.

The red flags show us going uphill along the fence on the left (not on the gravel road). We run nearly underneath the chairlift. This is about 11 km into the race.

I hope you enjoyed the photos and short descriptions. If you have any questions, feel free to email me using the "contact" button above.

Good luck to all racers competing in the World Mountain Running Championships 2018!

 

 

 

Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon 2018

Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon 2018

By: Matt Setlack

This was my first time racing the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon, which took place on Sunday 24 June 2018.

The day before the race, Emily and I drove over the course to ensure we knew all of the turns beforehand. On the morning of the race, I checked the YVR METAR and saw that the winds were 7 knots from the east, which I knew might affect me on the section near Jericho Beach. 

I really like the format of Dayna Pidhoresky's blog posts (Dayna placed 1st in the Scotia Half) so this blog post will follow her format. Dayna's website is www.daynapidhoresky.com.

Going into this race, I felt fairly decent. For the two weeks leading into this race, I had been waking up at 2:45 am and running to work at 3 am everyday. There was also a heatwave in Cold Lake, which made it a little challenging sleeping when it was +25C in the house. In any case, getting up this early probably helped me to get up early the morning of the race.

Photo by Debra Kato

Photo by Debra Kato

0-5 km – 16:46

The race started at a fairly decent clip but then seemed to slow down after the first right turn. I found myself in the lead pack and was very surprised that runners were not running the tangents. After the first turn, I literally pointed at the next corner and said, “let’s run the tangents”. Running down Marine Drive was quite relaxed with Kip Kangogo, Tony Tomsich and I in a pretty tight pack. I ran in the front for a bit but then thought it would be more wise to draft off another runner.

Photo by Alan Brookes

Photo by Alan Brookes

While running back Marine Drive (slightly uphill) after the turnaround at about 3km, the lead pack started to space out a little bit. I found myself in 6th as seen in the photo below.

5-10 km – 16:55

At about 5km, there were numerous guys ahead of me and then a couple guys with me. I focused on keeping a decent pace and running the tangents (which, for some reason, nobody in the lead pack chose to do). I would be curious to see their GPS distance for this race compared to mine.

Photo by Debra Kato

Photo by Debra Kato

At km 7, I broke away from the other two guys I was with (in the 2nd pack) and then I was all by myself. I ran by myself for most of the remainder of the race. I focused on closing the gap on Benard who was about 50-100m in front of me.

10-15 km – 16:25

It was around 10km that the course levelled out near the beach. There was a bagpipe band there and I was really impressed by this. I thought I would run the downhills faster than I did. Unfortunately, it felt like I was unintentionally breaking with each foot strike.

15-20 km – 16:26

From km 17 to km 18, the route was a little confusing in a residential neighbourhood. There were several turns and since I had never run this race before (and was completely by myself), I had to yell out to the volunteers on several occasions asking them which way to go.

At km 18 just before the Burrard Street Bridge, I heard Jim Finlayson run up from behind me and then pass me. I could hear him for the past km or two. I used the cheers from the sidelines to gauge my distance. Spectators would cheer for me, then I would count and when I heard the spectators again (cheering for Jim), I would know how many seconds of a lead I had.

I put myself in Jim's head and asked myself, what he must be thinking. When Jim passed me, I thought, “this is a race”. If he is going to beat me, then he is going to have to work for it. There was a gap of about 10-15m between us, with Jim in front. After we crossed the bridge, I was completely focused on catching back up to Jim. It was as if I was possessed. Nothing else mattered. We were going down a slight decline along Pacific Avenue and Jim could definitely hear my breathing and footsteps behind him. He looked behind him several times (likely to see if there was anyone behind me). When I saw the km 20 sign, I passed Jim and ran as hard as I could. I thought Jim was right behind me.

At this point in the race, Kip, Tony and Benard were ahead of me. I thought I was 2nd place Canadian and if Jim finished ahead of me, I would then be in 3rd place Canadian and lose several hundred dollars of prize money. For some reason, I had it in my head (wrongly) that losing one Canadian place would cost me $700 so that really helped me run a lot faster. According to my Strava account, I ran km 19 to 20 in 3:13/km, km 20 to 21 in 3:10/km and the last 220m in 2:44/km.

Photo by Mary Hinze

Photo by Mary Hinze

My total time was 1:10:16 and I finished 4th overall.

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Canadian Mountain Running Championships 2018

Canadian Mountain Running Championships 2018

By: Matt & Emily Setlack

This post will outline Matt and Emily's experience at the Canadian Mountain Running Championships at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort near Golden, BC on Saturday 09 June 2018. Matt's race experience is followed by Emily's race experience below. 

Most photos in this blog were captured by Sean Nielsen

Pre-Race

We started our epic 9 hour drive from the desolate, remote northern reaches of Alberta (i.e. Cold Lake) and drove to Calgary Thursday night. It was 867 km each way (1,734 km total - that's farther than driving from London, England to Warsaw, Poland!). We were lucky to be able to stay at Matt Travaglini's home. He was extremely generous to give up his home and allow us to stay there overnight. Thank you so much Matt! On Friday 08 June 2018, we continued the trip to Golden, BC. Thankfully, Golden was on the same time as Alberta even though it is in BC and most of BC is an hour behind AB time. To be honest, the 18 hours of driving to and from the race was more challenging than the race itself! Imagine sitting in a chair (even a LazyBoy recliner) for 9 hours straight. I think the word for this is "stress position". 

Race Day (Saturday 09 June 2018)

The race started at 10 am so we woke up around 7 am, had a bite to eat and went down to the start line to pick up our race numbers at 8:30 am. We thought it would only take 5-10 minutes but it ended up taking closer to 30 minutes. Matt then started his warm-up late and only got in 25 minutes versus the 35 minutes that he usually likes. He ran on the treadmill in the Glacier Lodge (at the bottom of the ski hill about 10m from the start line) and this worked perfectly.

The Course

This year, the Canadian Mountain Running Championships were on an "up-only" course meaning that we started at the base of Kicking Horse ski hill and ran to the Eagle's Eye restaurant at the top of the hill. The restaurant is at an elevation of 2,350m (7,700 feet). The distance was 10 to 11 km with 1,205m of ascent and 135m of descent.

Approximately half of the course was on single track mountain bike trails that zig-zagged their way up the hill. The trail was mostly dirt and almost all the turns were steeply banked at what felt like 45 degrees. Magi Scallion and her team at Golden Ultra did a great job making this a true mountain race with a lot of challenging twists and turns.

Course Profile

Matt's Race

Standing at the start line, I was getting a little concerned as the competition looked extremely strong. There were many strong mountain runners that I knew personally there including Matt Travaglini, Allan Brett, Gareth Hadfield (these were the top 3 at Cdn Mtn Nats in 2017). 

Race Start - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

The pace went out a little slower than I was expecting. This was likely due to the number of experienced mountain runners on the start line. I thought it would go out extremely fast with the single track that was to be expected on the course. Initially, I was around 10th after the first 100-200m then slowly moved up to 6th. I was behind a couple guys and I could see Gareth and Matt T pulling away from the us (opening up a 20-30m gap) so I surged ahead of them as soon as I could and moved into 3rd. I heard a few runners behind me but after about 5-10 minutes, their breathing faded away (even though Kris will claim that he was in fact within striking distance of me the entire race).

I was then passed by Karl on the major downhill section about 3.5km into the race. I was being very conservative on the slippy/muddy/grassy downhill as I was wearing New Balance 1400V6 road racing flats. I thought, "the last thing I need is to fall and hurt myself this early in the race". As Karl passed me, I did not take him as seriously as I should have. I didn't know who he was and had never heard of him before. Because I did not know who he was, I thought that I would easily catch back up to him. I could not have been more wrong as Karl ended up winning the race and proved that he is a world class mountain runner.

All of a sudden, I felt like I was completely alone. I am extremely happy that the race volunteers marked the course very well as there were a number of times that I was not even sure I was on course but then I saw the orange arrows on the ground and knew I was on course. I ran by myself for the majority of the race.

About 2/3rd into the race, I heard someone come up behind me and run immediately behind me for what felt like 15 to 20 minutes. It was Kris Swanson. I wondered why he was running behind me for so long instead of just passing me. We slinkied a bit (I would pull away on the flat/downhill sections and he would catch up on the steeper uphills). Eventually, Kris passed me and slowly opened up a gap. It was the most bizarre thing to be passed in a mountain race going uphill because everything happens in slow motion. We were probably running 6:00/km to 7:00/km and the closure rate was super slow. I approached this mountain race more as half marathon rather than a 10km road race as the elapsed race time was very similar to my half marathon time. I ran up almost the entire course with the exception of some sections of the course that were very steep. On these sections, it was actually faster to walk/power hike than run. I made the mistake of simply walking up these short sections rather than power hiking up them with my hands on my knees. Kris did not make the same mistake. 

Matt Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

Matt Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

As I was running, I kept telling myself to keep running forward no matter how challenging it may be. My endurance and recovery time during this race felt very good, which is likely due to the distance I have been running over the past couple months.

Another thought that crossed my mind was, "maybe I should have done at least one mountain run (or even hill run) in the past 9 months". Unfortunately, Cold Lake is one of the flattest places on the North American continent so instead of running vertical, I ran A LOT of horizontal (867 km in the month of May 2018, to be exact). According to my Strava training log, while training in Cold Lake, it takes me about two weeks (and 400km of running) to run the same elevation gain that I covered in 1:11:58 at this race. You may notice that the majority of the top athletes in mountain races seem to come from places with easy access to the mountains. I don't think this is by accident. Maybe I should get into the sport of running across frozen lakes in the winter time?

Once we got onto the service road at the very top (2-3 km before the finish), I slowly closed the gap on Kris. However, on the switch-backing service road, you could easily see all of your competitors and all of your competitors could easily see you. This was completely opposite while running on the single track forest trails that were shrouded in cloud and I could not see any other runners. I crossed the finish line feeling pretty winded and ended up finishing 5th overall. I was happy with my performance but I could have been much happier with my placing. The Men's Overall Results are below. Note that Matt T finished 3rd overall at the Vancouver Sun Run 10km on 22 Apr 2018 in a time of 29:49 and Karl Augsten finished 18th in a time of 31:06 at the same race.

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Emily's Race

I am a "flatlander", I live on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border so I knew this race was going to be painful. Matt and I have spent a bit of time travelling in the mountains so I have a good idea how to move efficiently but it had been a while since we actually ran in the mountains.

One of things I love most about Mountain Racing is the community surrounding it. I love the people that I get to meet at races, and always love catching up with friends at races.  I am not sure how others felt, but I felt a sense of camaraderie as we all tackled something challenging. I just looked through some of Sean Neilsen's photos from the the race and it confirms my notion that we were all probably questioning WHY we paid to run UP a mountain. One can't help but notice the puzzled expressions as we anticipate what is about to be over an hour of pain. The photo below was taken by Sean Nelson (@seanielsen). 

I signed up for this race as I just wanted to get into a race that allowed me to focus on the process, not the outcome.  In

March, I represented Canada at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Valencia, Spain. I felt a bit bummed and unmotivated training following this race and was in a bit of a "running slump" for a few weeks following the race. I worked so hard and performed below my expectations. The Canadian Mountain Running Championships  would provide a really great opportunity to focus on the basics-- "run hard, make it hurt, do the best you can". One of the things that separates Mountain Racing from Road Racing is that you don't have to push yourself to get to the "dark place", it's inevitable, it's a question of when.  As I climbed up a very steep section of the course. My breathing and heart rate felt like it was "through the roof", similar to how I might feel in the final 50m "sprint" (I can't sprint) of a race. Not sure how one paces themselves in a mountain race, it's going to hurt climbing up a mountain whether I run fast, steady or slow. I went with the rapid burn. 

Emily Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

The course was far more challenging than I had aniticipated. In the past, it was along the service road leading up Kicking Horse ski hill. Sure footing, smooth steep inclines--perfect for a road runner that doesn't have much expericene on technical terrain. This year's course was the flip side of that. At one point I was using my hands to pull myself up a very steep section of the course. I really enjoyed the simple process of movement with one goal in mind: push yourself. No time to chase, no place to go after--just move as fast as you can to get up to the top of the mountain. As the relentless climbing continued, I could feel the air getting cooler and thinner at 9km into the race it was approximately 6,500 feet. Matt and I have spent a bit of time climbing and running in the mountains (however, not recently) so I knew that the best way to get up the mountain quicker was to KEEP MOVING, use any small declines to accelerate and pick up the pace on the smaller uphill sections. Towards the end, we passed over some snow covered sections of the trail, I felt  like a panda on skates frantically trying to move fast while sinking into the snow--it was ugly but so much fun.

Emily Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

Emily Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

As I reached the 9km mark I was happy to get off of the single track routes that involved roots, mud, snow and rocks. The gravel road gave me mental relief, I felt better as I could get into a bit of rhythm and was more familiar with the predictable feeling of putting one foot in front of the other without having to dodge roots and large rocks. At this point, the guy (Geoff Michalak) I spent most of the race running with put a few meters on me. I tried to distract him (and myself) from the pain and told him to "look right, look right, check out that beatuful view" he laughed as I think he thought I was trying to distract him and deek past. No hope, he finished strong and put 8 seconds on me in the final 400m, haha. The views at this point of the race were spectacular and seeing the finsih line was nice but it seemed to take a really long time and considerable amount of pain to get there. Having Matt cheer for me was so nice, it made my heart warm to look over and see him running beside me cheering for me to push up the final stretch of the Kicking Horse ski hill.

I ended up wining in a very strong field of talented women. The Women's Overall Results are below.

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Post-Race

We hung around at the top of the hill for a while before heading back down to the bottom for the awards at 1 pm. That afternoon/evening, we all went out for drinks and pizza at the Whitetooth Brewery in downtown Golden. It was a hoot and we had a really good time.

Thank You

Race Organizers - Big thanks to the team at Golden Ultra including Magi Scallion who put so much work into making this race possible for all of us. From registration to course marking and awards--you guys crushed it, thank-you

PC:Sean Nielsen 

PC:Sean Nielsen 

The Lamberts - The Lamberts have been a fixture in the Canadian Mountain Running Community since it started. If it were not for them, perhaps these events would not even happen. They generously donated prize money for the top three men and women and are there most years to cheer everyone on. Thank-you.

Matt Travaglini - Thank you for allowing us to stay in your home. We greatly appreciate this kind gesture.

Andrew Craig - Thank you for allowing us to stay at your place at Kicking Horse. It was the perfect place to stay as it was about 10m from the start line.

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

Pre-Race

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.

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Anthony.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.

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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.

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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:

http://athletics.ca/ac-road/course-measurement/#sthash.jrfv1OU1.dpbs

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  

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    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.

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    Race Recap: Edmonton 21.1k

    Race Recap: Edmonton 21.1k

    By: Matt Setlack

    This article will outline my experience at the Edmonton 21.1k road race on Sunday 20 Aug 2017.

    Pre-Race

    Everything went really well. I drove down to Edmonton on Friday evening and settled into the race hotel, Chateau Lacombe. 10 minutes after I arrived, Dylan Wykes arrived from Vancouver. The ironic thing is that it likely took Dylan less time to get to Edmonton from Vancouver (1.5 hour flight) than it took me to drive from Cold Lake to Edmonton (3 hour drive). haha I found it strange being roommates with a friend but also a fellow competitor, Dylan (a dichotomy?). In any case, the amazing thing about being an elite runner is that all you have to do is show up and everything is taken care of. It was so awesome! Thank you so much, Brian Torrance!

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    On Sat 19 Aug morning, I went to the Running Room Friendship Run at the Shaw Conference Center. I always enjoy going to these runs as it gives me an opportunity to meet other runners in a completely inclusive environment and as an added bonus, they usually have free food after the run. In this case, they had free food AND free Starbucks coffee. I talked with Cam Cook at the run and also met Jonas Eastcott for the first time. 

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    After the Friendship Run, I made sure to pick up my race number and race shirt. I know all too well that if I leave these things to race morning, it is very possible to miss the start (ref: Edmonton 10k a few years ago). In the afternoon, I went to the grocery store and bought pre-race breakfast foods that I like (bagels with peanut butter, Clif bars, bananas, sparkling water, vanilla Greek yogurt, granola). Although the race hotel did provide breakfast, I did not want to risk it.

    Race Day (Sun 20 Aug 2017)

    The Edmonton 21.1k race start was at 8 am (the perfect time to start a race, I think) so I woke up at 5:30 am and ate breakfast. One hour before race start, I did a 25 minute warm-up (usually I do 35 mins) on a treadmill in the hotel fitness centre. I like doing this for a number of reasons: the bathroom is right there, the temperature is warm, I can wear my race outfit and ensure everything is good to go, I can get in a continuous warm-up (any speed) without having to worry about traffic, other runners, obstacles, etc., and there is a neutral energy in the air compared to the typically extremely nervous energy that you find at the start line.

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    The unusual thing about Edmonton 21.1k was that in the days leading up to the race and right before the gun went off, I didn't feel nervous at all but instead felt completely mellow. Not sure if this is a good thing or not. I can always tell if I'm ready to have a great race because I can feel an energy deep within my soul; I feel like I'm ready to attack the race (be on the offensive rather than reacting to whatever comes).

    I really liked that the race organizers played our national anthem at the start of the Edmonton 21.1k. I am extremely proud to be Canadian and I am not at all afraid to show it. Whenever our national anthem comes on, I sing as loud as I can. The gun went off and the race started at a very relaxed pace. I was wondering when Daniel Kipkoech was going to pick up the pace and it wasn't until about 500m to 1 km in that the pace started to speed up. Within 1 km of the start, the front 5 runners had fragmented (group 1 was Daniel and an Ethiopian, group 2 was Kip Kangogo and Dylan Wykes and group 3 was Matt Setlack). I didn't want to go out too fast and blow up (perhaps there was some residual feelings from Long Course World Mountain Running Championships?) so took it pretty easy in the beginning.

    Around 2 km in, we started passing the 10k runners going the other way (they started 30 mins earlier than us around 7:30 am). At first, I started cheering for all my friends in the 10k race (Michael Stewart, Lisa Flemming, Shari Boyle, Alecia Kallos, Marie-Michele Siu, etc.) but after a while, because I was cheering so much, I started to lose my breath so I had to stop and switch to attempting to smile and giving a thumbs up.  

    At the first 180 degree turn I could see Dylan up ahead. I think he had a 30 second lead of me and with around 12 km (?) left in the race, that meant I would only need to increase the pace by 3-4 seconds per km to catch him - completely doable.

    On the 2nd 180 degree turn, the gap between Dylan and I had narrowed and there was an even bigger gap between me and the guy(s) behind me. There were a lot of twists and turns running around a residential area for quite a while. Around 10k, I believe, Dylan stopped running because of an issue with his hamstrings so then it was just me. Up until this point in the race, I had seen Jody Bailey way up in the distance on his bicycle with a massively long lens taking photos of the racers. Thank you Jody for being there; it really made the race feel less like a personal time trial.

    Coming out of the residential area, I joined many hundreds of other runners again but it was pretty good for me because I could run in a almost entirely clear centre lane. I also like running by people because it makes me feel like I'm running faster than I actually am. haha

    Matt Setlack near the finish line (PC: Jonas Eastcott)

    Matt Setlack near the finish line (PC: Jonas Eastcott)

    I crossed the finish line in 1:10:55, which is by no means something to write home about (not a personal best) but I was really quite happy with this time considering that I ran completely by myself in "no-mans land" for 20.5km. I really enjoyed the race. For the first time ever, I just took it all in; I read the encouragement signs (there was one sign along the lines of, "You trained in sleet for this" and I was thinking, I'm from Cold Lake...I've trained in much worse conditions than sleet haha).    

    As I was running down the middle of the road in downtown Edmonton, I was thinking about how lucky I was to be doing this and to have the incredible support that I have. All of the volunteers and police officers came out early (on a Sunday morning at that!) and stood for hours blocking off the streets (and gave water and cheered) so we could run. How cool is that? All I had to do was show up and do something I love to do!

    Post-Race

    After the race was over, there was a brunch in the Shaw Conference Centre. This is one of the greatest post-race brunches I have ever seen and I was super impressed with it. I warmed down with a few of the Running Room athletes and ended up missing the awards ceremony but thankfully Marie-Michele Sir was there to pick up the award for me. Thanks, Marie-Michele!

    Matt Setlack and Lioudmila Kortchaguina (2nd female ovrl)

    Matt Setlack and Lioudmila Kortchaguina (2nd female ovrl)

    Mike Trites, Andrew Peters and Matt Setlack

    Mike Trites, Andrew Peters and Matt Setlack

    What's Next?

    I am currently looking for another 21.1k race to do this autumn. Although I have never raced them, I have heard that Victoria 21.1k (08 Oct 2017) and Philadelphia 21.1k (18 Nov 2017) are both good races. After that, if selected, I will be competing in the CISM Military World Cross-Country Championships in Hungary from 03 to 07 Nov 2017.

    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!