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34th World Mountain Running Championships in Andorra

34th World Mountain Running Championships in Andorra

By: Matt Setlack

For the first time, Emily and I had the opportunity to both compete in the World Mountain Running Championships. This post will describe my experience in Andorra (a small country of 71,000 people in between France and Spain) from the three weeks we went there ahead of time up to race day on 16 Sep 2018.

Travel to Andorra

Getting to Andorra from Cold Lake can take quite a while. We awoke at 4 am on 25 Aug 2018 and drove to the Edmonton International Airport, which is a 331 km drive away. We then flew from Edmonton to Montreal and Montreal to Barcelona, Spain. Once in Barcelona, we drove north for about 3 hours to a small town in the hillside called Pas de la Casa, Andorra. It took us almost 30 hours of travelling to get to Andorra, it was beautiful that we forgot how tired we were.

WMRC Andorra 2018 - Matt and Em.jpg

We stayed at a apartment called Pierre & Vacances Princesa in Pas de la Casa, where the elevation was about 2,200m ASL. It was also only a 5 minute drive up a winding road to Port d’Envalira (a pass in the mountains at 2,400m ASL). Staying here made me feel like we were living in the clouds, which we were, just like in the movie Oblivion.

WMRC Andorra 2018 - Princesa.jpg

We were extremely lucky to be able to train in such a beautiful place, which was also quite high up. When we first arrived, I noticed that I was breathing a little more heavily than I normally do particularly when walking up stairs. The pace of my runs also slowed down noticeably even though my perceived effort remained the same.

WMRC Andorra 2018 - Em Running.jpg

After a couple of days in Pas de la Casa, we drove about an hour east to Font Romeu, France. We found another apartment there located at about 1,800m ASL. We specifically checked the GPS coordinates of the apartment and crosschecked with a topographic map to ensure we were staying at a decent elevation. We specifically went to Font Romeu so we could train on the track at the National Altitude Training Centre but unfortunately, the track was completely torn up and being reconstructed when we were there.

WMRC Andorra 2018 - Alt Trg Centre Font Romeu.jpg
WMRC Andorra 2018 - Alt Trg Centre Font Romeu 1.jpg

All was not lost though as there was an AMAZING network of trails in Font Romeu. We bought a map with 76 different trails shown on it. This was the best trail network I have seen anywhere in the world in my life. The signage was perfect, the trails were well maintained, there was ample free parking at the trailhead and the trails were very runnable.

Font Romeu Signage.jpg

After staying in Font Romeu for about a week, we returned to Pierre & Vacances Princesa in Pas de la Casa for about four days right up until the time when the apartment closed to prepare for the winter ski season. We really enjoyed it here A LOT.

Two days before the rest of the Canadian Team arrived on 13 Sep 2018, Emily found a really nice hotel in Canillo that was right on the race course.

Pretty much everything we did in the three weeks leading up to the World Mountain Running Championships in Andorra was planned and deliberate. We left no stone unturned. I used almost all of my yearly vacation days and we flew to Andorra about three weeks early. We did this for the following reasons:

  1. Allow sufficient time to get over the 8 hour time difference.

  2. Train on mountain trails. The nearest mountains to Cold Lake are a 700 km one way trip (1,400km round trip) away. There are very few (if any) hills in Cold Lake to train on. In two weeks, we ran about 11,000m of vertical without even trying. It takes over HALF A YEAR of running at least twice per day to run the equivalent vertical in Cold Lake.

  3. Train at altitude. Cold Lake is at 500m ASL. We trained at elevations of around 1,500m ASL at Lac de Matemale, France to 2,400m ASL at Port d’Envalira, Andorra.

  4. Become accustomed to race course. I didn’t just run over the race course, I studied it, I took photos of it and then a went back to my hotel and analyzed it. I discussed the race course with the course marker, Roxanne. I pretty much knew every twist and turn. By the time race day arrived, I could almost run the race course blindfolded (not really).

  5. We also love taking running vacations and think the best way to explore an area is on foot in a good pair of trail shoes.

13 to 15 Sep 2018

On 13 Sep 2018, Kris Swanson, Emily and I checked into one of the race hotels called Ski Plaza. It was an extremely nice hotel. There was a buffet for each meal of the day. The food was delicious and plentiful. The team spent at least 1.5 hours socializing at each meal and enjoyed everyones company.

hotel food.jpg

While walking over the upper section of the race course one day, we had the opportunity to meet the WMRA President, Jonathan Wyatt and Council member Sarah Rowell. Jonathan Wyatt placed 21st in the 2004 Olympic Marathon in Athens, Greece in a time of 2:17:45. He ran 2:13:00 at the 2003 Hamburg Marathon and is a multiple World Mountain Running Champion. Sarah Rowell placed 14th at the 1984 Olympic Marathon in Los Angeles, USA in a time of 2:34:08. She ran 2:28:06 in the 1985 London Marathon.

With Jonathan Wyatt.jpg

Race Course

The race was 11.933 km long with 1,028m of elevation gain and 117m of elevation loss. The race started in the town of Canillo at 1,515m above sea level and finished at the top of the Forn chairlift at 2,430m above sea level. The temperature was about +20C with a light wind, which I found to be perfect. I knew the course extremely well as I had run over it many times in the weeks leading up to the competition. There were a couple of very steep sections (45% incline) that lasted for 500m to 1000m.

For a complete course check post with many photos, please visit my other blog post here.

course profile.png

Team Canada

Team Canada was composed of one junior women, two junior men, one junior team coach (Allan Brett), four senior women, four senior men, one senior team coach (Sue Lambert) and one team manager (Adrian Lambert).

Team Canada Andorra 2018.jpg

Race DaY - 16 Sep 2018

The senior women’s race started at 10 am and the senior men’s race started at 11 am, which I found to be a really good time to race. I started my warm-up around 9 am and ran on the treadmill for 35 minutes; the standard warm-up for me. I prefer to be away from the nervous energy of the runners at the start line.


The four senior men (Karl Augsten, Gareth Hadfield, Kris Swanson and Matt Setlack) checked into the start line 15 minutes before 11 am. I started in the 7th row back and in retrospect, that was a bad idea. In future races, I would recommend starting closer to the front of the line. Standing on the start line, I felt extremely well prepared for this race and was likely in the best physical shape of my life.

There were 106 senior men on the start line, which was about 4 meters wide. After the starter pistol went off, it was a mad dash as everyone jostled for position while trying not to trip over all the surrounding runners. The pace went out very fast as expected since the first 1.3 km was only a 7% incline.

Mountain running, and particularly a championship event like this one, is much more strategic than your standard 10k or half marathon road race. After the gun went off, the only thing on my mind was trying not to trip over the feet and legs all around me. As was to be expected, everyone had the same idea and bolted off of the start line in an attempt to get to the single track forest mountain trail that quickly bottlenecked and resulted in a slower pace (if one gets caught in the wrong spot). I ran fairly conservatively for this first section and quickly found myself quite far back in the pack. However, when I got to the forest trail, I felt quite relaxed and I easily passed 5-10 runners.

From about 1.7 km to 2 km, there were three switchbacks where we ran on a grassy gravel road. The right side of the path was smooth but the left side was quite rough and rocky. It was really odd but everyone arranged themselves in a single file line on the right side of the. path and practically no passing happened even though the grade was quite shallow.

I got to the really narrow steep (45 degrees) forest single track feeling decent. I knew that at this point, I shouldn’t try and pass anyone since it would use up a lot of energy.

Steep Singletrack.jpg

Getting onto the gravel forest road, I felt quite good and passed a few other guys. I was trying to keep a constant pace. It was challenging to go from running up a relatively steep hill to running flat or downhill. It felt like the legs were stuck in a big gear and leg turn over was not as fast as it should have been.

I arrived at the mid-station around 4.5 km feeling excited to open up the throttle on the downhill section immediately ahead. Unfortunately, there were two guys in front of me and I couldn’t open up the throttle all the way. I felt like I was braking just a little bit to prevent from running into the guy in front of me.

As we were crossing beneath the gondola, I managed to pass a guy in front of me while yelling “on your left, on your left”. I hoped he spoke English or at least understood what I meant. I am glad that I didn’t go over the side of the trail as if I did, I would have taken quite a tumble. I was running so fast on the downhill section, I thought, “if I make one mis-step now, they might be taking me out of here on a stretcher”. It was definitely all or nothing. There was no holding back.

For the 4.5 km rolling traverse section, I felt very good (maybe I wasn’t running hard enough?). I slowly closed the gap between me and the guy in front of me. At the end of the traverse section around 8.5km, I passed another guy while going up a hill. Everyone definitely sped up running down the grassy trail hill just before the refuge. I grabbed a water cup at the refuge, tried to pour it in my mouth but most of the water ended up on my face and chest.

Up until km 10 of the race, I was feeling like I was running at an intense pace but nothing that I could not handle. I continually passed a number of runners throughout the first 10kms of the race (the race was about 12 km long).

Steep Slope.jpg

After the refuge, we turned right onto a boggy, grassy, steep ski slope. We crossed a stream and then the terrain got quite steep up a grassy path. All of a sudden, the two guys in front of me started walking. I thought about passing them (and in retrospect, I should have at least tried to pass them very early on) but I thought that I would expend too much energy on such steep ground and I would also have to run through grass that was about a foot tall. Maybe it would be better to try and pass on less steep terrain, I thought.

Grass Slope Course.jpg

I made the decision to walk behind the guy walking in front of me, and all the while I was thinking, everyone who I had passed is coming up fast behind me (just like approaching a car wreck on the highway). Up until this point in the race, I had been running almost entire thing and had only walked a short while between 2.3 km and 2.6 km.

My momentum really suffered and when transitioning from walking to running, my feet slipped on the wet grass (I was wearing Brooks T7 racing flats that were at least 10 years old with minimal tread left on them) and I fell flat on the ground. The segment from 10 km to 11 km was definitely one of the steepest and most challenging sections of the entire race. Eventually once we reached 10.8km or so, I was able to run at a decent pace again and started closing the gap again.

Matt near finish.jpg

As the elevation increased, I noticed that some racers were more affected by the elevation than others. The race finished at 2,430m (about 8,000 feet) above sea level. Fortunately, since I had been training at altitude for the three weeks before the race and had run over the race course many times, I felt relatively good in the upper section of the course.

There was amazing crowd support in the final 1.5 km of the race. I heard so many people calling out my name and cheering for me. One of the things I love about mountain running in particular is the camaraderie that is developed among athletes.


I finished the race in 58th place overall (2nd Canadian) in a time of 1:05:23. I was very happy with my result and how the race went. This was better than my last uphill only race, World Mountain Running Championships in Bulgaria in 2016, where I placed 84th overall (4th Canadian).

In terms of lessons learned, I think that if you want to do well at uphill only courses, it is a good idea to learn how to walk uphill faster. You lose way more time by walking slowly on the steep uphills than you gain by running super fast on the shallow uphills or flats.

Also, if I was to race this again, I might consider wearing a racing flat with a little more substantial tread on the bottom. The worn out Brooks T7s were not ideal for the steep, boggy, grassy uphills.

Emily and Matt Andorra 2018.jpg

Video of Race

Here is a cool video of the race. I did not create it; I found it on Youtube. The race course is much steeper than this video makes it look.


Start Lists - click here

All Results - click here

Junior Canadian Women (7.349 km, 576m ascent, 117m descent)

  1. Melina Stokes, 55th in 1:09:28

Junior Canadian Men (7.349 km, 576m ascent, 117m descent)

  1. Nicolas Courtois, 61st in 49:10

  2. Olivier Garneau, 64th in 1:02:02


Senior Canadian Women (11.933 km, 1,028m ascent, 117m descent)

  1. Emily Setlack, 11th in 1:10:56

  2. Emma Cook-Clarke, 36th in 1:15:52

  3. Adele Blaise-Sohnius, 47th in 1:19:10

  4. Colleen Wilson, 63rd in 1:25:55

77 senior women finished the race. The Senior Canadian Women’s Team placed 9th team of 17 teams.

Senior Women Results - Team


Senior Canadian Men (11.933 km, 1,028m ascent, 117m descent)

  1. Kris Swanson, 55th in 1:05:08

  2. Matt Setlack, 58th in 1:05:23

  3. Gareth Hadfield, 76th in 1:09:11

  4. Karl Augsten, 87th in 1:11:48

106 senior men finished the race. The Senior Canadian Men’s Team placed 17th team of 25 teams.

Senior Men Results - Team

Senior Men.jpg

Thank You

Canadian Armed Forced - I am extremely impressed with the level of support I have received from many people. I would like to thank the Canadian Armed Forces, 1 Canadian Air Division, the leadership at 4 Wing Cold Lake and my chain of command at the Aerospace Engineering Test Establishment for supporting my request to compete in the World Mountain Running Championships.

PSP Staff - I would also like to thank the 4 Wing PSP Staff for submitting my competition request to the PSP National Sports Office and for the incredible support they have given me not only in this competition, but in all of the competitions I have competed in over the years. Thank you to Mr. James MacKenzie from the PSP Regional Sports Office and to Mr. Denis Gaboury from the PSP National Sports Office for supporting my competition request.

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

Adrian Lambert, Sue Lambert and Allan Brett  - Thank you to the Head of Delegation/Team Manager, Adrian Lambert for organizing all the administrative details, going to the technical meetings, managing all of the social media posts, taking care of race registrations and accommodation bookings.

My Family - I would like to thank my parents, Wayne and Patti Setlack for their continuous support throughout my entire running career and my life. Thank you to David and Sue Tallen who have also been extremely supportive of my running.

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

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

I am forever grateful for all the amazing support I have received.

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

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.


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!

Altitude Training Camp in Flagstaff

Altitude Training Camp in Flagstaff

By: Emily Setlack

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

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

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

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

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

Mailboxes on the way to the Grand Canyon

Mailboxes on the way to the Grand Canyon

Drive-Through Coffee Shop in Flagstaff

Drive-Through Coffee Shop in Flagstaff

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

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Arizona Trail, Flagstaff

Arizona Trail, Flagstaff

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

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

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

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

Finding Your Flow

Finding Your Flow

Calgary Global Energy 10k Race

Calgary Global Energy 10k Race

By: Matt Setlack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't believe everything you hear!