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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.


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.

Emily Ottawa 10k 2019.png

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.


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.


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.


Results from the Saskatchewan Marathon held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on 26 May 2019 are below. The full results can be found at:

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.


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.


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:


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.

Number of Steps in April 2019.png

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).

April 2019 Time Run.png

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.


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).

April 2019 Distance Run.png

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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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).


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.



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.

Race Course Chicago Marathon 2018.png

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!

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.


57th World Military Cross-Country Championships in Hungary

57th World Military Cross-Country Championships in Hungary

By: Matt Setlack

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Mike, Denis, Craig and Matt.

Mike, Denis, Craig and Matt.

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

Pre-race meeting and timing chip distribution.

Pre-race meeting and timing chip distribution.



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

Hotel Aranyhid

Hotel Aranyhid

My bed. My room mate was Sam.

My bed. My room mate was Sam.

A short walk to the dining hall.

A short walk to the dining hall.

There were at least 10 people raking.

There were at least 10 people raking.


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


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

15 athletes were part of the Canadian CISM Hungary Team

15 athletes were part of the Canadian CISM Hungary Team

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

RACE DAY (Sunday 05 November)

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

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


Official results from the race can be found on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cultural Day

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Team Canada

Team Canada

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 07 May 2017

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

Matt Setlack and John Stanton at BMO Vancouver Marathon Expo

Matt Setlack and John Stanton at BMO Vancouver Marathon Expo

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

Matt Clout, George and Sarah Clout at Southlands Riding Club

Matt Clout, George and Sarah Clout at Southlands Riding Club

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

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

Saturday 08 May 2017

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

Running Room Athletes Daniel Kipkoech, Matt Setback and Jane Murage

Running Room Athletes Daniel Kipkoech, Matt Setback and Jane Murage

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

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

Kip, Daniel and Matt (Photo by Mary Hinze)

Kip, Daniel and Matt (Photo by Mary Hinze)

Daniel, Emily, Mike and Kip

Daniel, Emily, Mike and Kip

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

BMO 2.5k Kids Run (Photo by Mary Hinze)

BMO 2.5k Kids Run (Photo by Mary Hinze)

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

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

Sunday 07 May 2017 (RACE DAY)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily at the finish (Photo by Mary Hinze)

Emily at the finish (Photo by Mary Hinze)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily and Mike

Emily and Mike

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

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

Emily and I having dinner at Cardero's

Emily and I having dinner at Cardero's

Monday 08 May 2017

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

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

Thank You

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

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

Lynn Kanuka and Mary Hinze (Photo by Debra Kato)

Lynn Kanuka and Mary Hinze (Photo by Debra Kato)

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

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

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

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

Graham White - Executive Director of Vancouver International Marathon Society

Graham White - Executive Director of Vancouver International Marathon Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Common Run Commute Challenges

Common Run Commute Challenges

By: Matt Setlack

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

The series was comprised of the following three parts:

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


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

Part 3 - Common Run Commute Challenges

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

How to Run Commute

How to Run Commute

By: Matt Setlack

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

The series will be comprised of the following three parts:

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


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

Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute

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

run commute cfb cold lake

A Day in the Life:

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

Stay tuned for Part 3 – Common Run Commute Challenges

What it Feels like to Run in -30C

What it Feels like to Run in -30C

By: Matt Setlack

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

How Dangerous is Cold Weather?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why I Love to Run Commute

Why I Love to Run Commute

By: Matt Setlack

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

The series will be comprised of the following three parts:

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

My Background

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

Part 1 - WHY do I Run Commute?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned for Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute