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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.


Race Recap: Edmonton 21.1k

Race Recap: Edmonton 21.1k

By: Matt Setlack

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


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

hotel room 1.JPG
hotel room 2.JPG

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

friendship run.JPG
friendship run 1.JPG

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

Race Day (Sun 20 Aug 2017)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Matt Setlack and Lioudmila Kortchaguina (2nd female ovrl)

Matt Setlack and Lioudmila Kortchaguina (2nd female ovrl)

Mike Trites, Andrew Peters and Matt Setlack

Mike Trites, Andrew Peters and Matt Setlack

What's Next?

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

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.

Altitude Training Camp in Flagstaff

Altitude Training Camp in Flagstaff

By: Emily Setlack

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

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

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

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

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

Mailboxes on the way to the Grand Canyon

Mailboxes on the way to the Grand Canyon

Drive-Through Coffee Shop in Flagstaff

Drive-Through Coffee Shop in Flagstaff

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

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Arizona Trail, Flagstaff

Arizona Trail, Flagstaff

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

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

Snowbowl, Flagstaff

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

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

Finding Your Flow

Finding Your Flow

Calgary Global Energy 10k Race

Calgary Global Energy 10k Race

By: Matt Setlack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't believe everything you hear!