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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.

Canadian Mountain Running Championships 2018

Canadian Mountain Running Championships 2018

By: Matt & Emily Setlack

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

Most photos in this blog were captured by Sean Nielsen


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

Race Day (Saturday 09 June 2018)

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

The Course

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

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

Course Profile

Matt's Race

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

Race Start - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

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

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

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

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

Matt Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

Matt Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

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

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

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

Open Men Mtn Run Nats 2018.png
Men Podium Nats 2018.JPG

Emily's Race

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

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

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

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

Emily Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

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

Emily Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

Emily Setlack - Photo by Sean N (@seanielsen)

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

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

Open Women Mtn Run Nats 2018.png
Women Podium Nats 2018.JPG


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

Thank You

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

PC:Sean Nielsen 

PC:Sean Nielsen 

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

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

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

Race Recap - 2018 Ottawa 10k

Race Recap - 2018 Ottawa 10k

By: Matt Setlack  

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

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

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


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

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

Anthony 1.JPG

The Race

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

10k map.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

A few thoughts on the race

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

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

A Note on Course Measurement

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

Athletics Canada Course Measurement page can be found here:

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

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

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

    CAF Running Nationals

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

    Qualifying Times  


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

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

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

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