Howdy everybody, let’s rewind:
March – After my 24-hour indoor season in Seattle, our training group headed back to Victoria for a month and a half of training at our home base before we headed to Flagstaff, Arizona for some weeks at altitude. I felt really good about where my training was at for this month. I continued to gain momentum after the layoff I had in December/January with my bout of mono, and this was evident from my workouts and additional physiological testing we did in the lab at the Pacific Institute of Sport Excellence. Since things were going well and my base fitness was in a real good place, Heather and I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to try out a 5k at the end of March at the Stanford Invitational before we headed to altitude. The only catch was that I was restricted to wearing racing flats due to some chronically dull Achilles pain I’ve been experiencing (heel drops are still my best friend for this). I was hoping to possibly get under the 14 minute range if things went really well, but ended up with a 14:17 result (3k->4k in the race is a real bugger). Overall it was a good learning experience in an event thats still pretty foreign to me, and I’m excited to chop some more time off the next time I get into one.
World’s Tallest Totem Pole
Stanford Invite 5k
Cherry Blossoms come early on the island
Photoshoot with Arthur Images
Stanford Invite 800
April – Flag. Man this place is beautiful, but boy does it need some more oxygen. Basically the easiest way for me to describe the landscape is if the movie 3:10 to Yuma and Northern Ontario decided to have a baby, moved it to the top of a mountain and named it Flagstaff. The suburbs offer endless trails and dirt roads for easy mileage, and AC does an awesome job setting up accommodations and support from Northern Arizona University and Hypo2 to use facilities and get testing done (Big shout out to Hypo2, you can learn more about what they do here: https://hypo2sport.com). These benefits helped offset the exhausting fact that being up at 7000ft makes your lungs feel like we all smoke a pack a day. Our Victoria crew along with a large contingent of other Canadian athletes stayed up at the camp for just under 4 weeks (a long enough time where you can measure fitness gains made from living at a higher altitude, but short enough where you don’t go absolutely stir crazy). Training continued to roll up here which was a huge positive since this was the first time I’d been to altitude. We’d all been warned from multiple experienced athletes and staff about the horror stories of athletes who come to altitude only to crash and burn up from going too hard at the start of camp (in the wise words of Trent Stellingwerff, ‘make the last week count, not the first’). Coming off of altitude, our group headed to Corvallis, Oregon for the Oregon State High Performance Meet which I would use to take my first stab at a 1500. A 3:44 clocking felt groggier than I’d hoped, but was able to come back the next day and clock a more satisfying 1:51 in the 800. It was also great to see fellow Newmarket Husky Ben Richardson, who would go on to qualify for the Canada Summer Games this past month.
Blockhead and I
The deer followed us from Vic
Andrea working on them wheels
Kate VB evening jaunt
The one and only Rach Fran
NAU – aka, death by oxygen debt
Buffalo Park, famous for beauty tempos
May – Time to cash in on the investment. When you go to altitude, the science says that the best time to race is either 48 hours after leaving the thin air, or 21 days after. In-between those times some people see a physiological lull. Because of this we decided that the beginning of May would be a good time to continue to get race sharp, and then really go for a good time in that second window. Our initial plan was to race at the first Portland Twilight meet, and then head to the USATF Distance Classic at Occidental College (Oxy for short) just outside of LA. The latter meet is set up really well by the USA track and field association to give American distance athletes a highly competitive, domestic race opportunity to hit world championships standards. A week before we were set to depart for Portland, I heard from former Villanova Assistant Coach Adrian Blincoe that I had a spot on the start line of another race, the Swarthmore Last Chance Meet, if I wanted it. This meet became famous in 2012 when Nick Willis (double olympic medallist for New Zealand) rabbited a slew of professionals and collegians to super fast times (sparking a debate whether the track was actually 400 meters). The race was being set up in a similar fashion this time around and it became apparent it was an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse, even though it was on the other side of the country (but conveniently a 25 minute drive from Villanova’s campus). The race lived up to the hype with Johnny Gregorek taking the win in 3:36 over Jordy Williamsz, my training partner for 4 years while we were at ‘Nova (later in the year they both qualified for the world championships that are currently happening in London England, atta be boys). Myself and a slew of other men came across the line in 3:39 which was both a personal best for me and the first time I broke the 3:40 barrier. Getting under that mark was immensely satisfying, especially to do it back at Villanova with a bunch of my friends and surprisingly my Dad, Mom and sister who flew in last minute to see it all happen. Huge shout outs to Dusty, Pat, Ali and Sarah for housing me on a whim and Chris Fitz for basically being my personal uber for the time I was in Philly. It was awesome to reconnect with many people I hadn’t seen for a full year. The Swarthmore Last Chance Meet was on a Monday, and the Oxy high performance meet was on that same Thursday. Ideal to take a 6 hour flight from Philly to La the day after to try to run another personal best? Negatory, but when the iron is hot, might was well strike it. Long story short, I ran out of gas in LA and ran 3:44. Disappointing? Yes. Understandable? Also a yes, which made that performance much easier to swallow than other poor outings.
USATF Distance Classic
Cool Film pic from @CarolynDenault
Ben Rich and I after a rip at Oregon State
As if he never left
The Ole stomping grounds
June – The best thing that came out of May was that I’d achieved a goal I’d set for myself pretty early in the year, which left me hungry for more with still a lot of the season left to go. Running a personal best with more domestic opportunities available also opened doors that allowed me to get into faster races. Our next racing opportunities were in Victoria at our very own Vic City Elite Invite on a Thursday, and then at the Portland Track Festival the following Saturday. We decided that Victoria would be a good place to try another 800. Well, it wasn’t, and I ran a pretty poor 1:54 in windy conditions. Heather and I chalked it up to just a bad day, but I couldn’t help but let the negativity of the performance linger (something not to do there kids). We headed to Portland to refocus and take another shot at a fast 1500. I got into the top section, and although competed better than I had in the race that I’d set my PB in, was off the mark I was hoping for and ran a 3:41. Doubt crept into my mind at this point, did I deserve to be in the sections I was in? The past 4 races I competed in I finished in the back half of the field. Was my fitness vanishing out of thin air? Reflecting back on it now, I was definitely over thinking things. I let a single weekend dictate my confidence as opposed to thinking about the controllables such as months of solid training and good performances I should have been relying on. I was also facing a whole new level of depth of competition, which is easy to be negative about when I look at the results sheet and see my name further down the results list than I’d hoped. I made it my goal to get refocused and back on track (no pun intended) at the Harry Jerome Track Classic in Vancouver, my last race effort before the National Champs in Ottawa in July. I ran another 3:41, but instead of locking up in the last 200 like I had in Portland, I had much more fight at the end of the race and was happier with my overall execution.
Portland Track Fest
Pandemic = addictive
Summer days in Vic
July – One of my primary goals of the year was to medal at the National Championships. With a 4th place finish at the Olympic Trials last year, it was only logical to think that I had a chance to improve upon my placing although I knew it would be a tough task. In the 1500, tactics play a huge role in how your race plays out. This makes watching the race exciting, but increasingly stressful to actually be a part of. I knew that last year I was disappointed with my positioning when a crucial move was made in the pack, so this year I was more concentrated on being closer to the front of the pack to cover a surge in the pace. The gun goes off, and I’m spit out to the back of the pack (bad move on my part), but made a move to get up onto Olympian Chuck PT’s shoulder 500 meters in. I maintained my position and decided to make an initial move at 450 for the lead. Not long after my move I was passed by the chase pack, and was left fighting over the last 300 to try to regain contact. I ended up coming 5th overall, a real hard pill to swallow after having medal aspirations from the year prior. As hard as this was I’m happy with my execution and took away some valuable racing knowledge (you learn way more about the races that don’t go your way as opposed to the ones that do). Unfortunately, 5th not only left me off the medal stand, but also out of contention to be selected to represent Canada at the World University Games which takes place in August in Taipei. Right after nationals, a group of Canadian athletes hopped the pond to Leuven, Belgium to end out the season with a European racing circuit. First stop: Ninove in Belgium for a Flander’s Cup race. I clocked a 3:49 in a race that was won in 3:38 (ugggggly). Next week was Heusden Zolder, where I mustered a 3:48 on a windy day (just ugly, not uggggggly). What happened here? Still figuring out from a training perspective, but a large part was being emotionally drained and frustrated, with a dash of jet lag to add to the mix.
Ice tubing with a legend
Iceland with Block
best 17 euros I spent in Belgium
I didn’t envision myself running 9 seconds slower than my personal best in my last race of the season, but things don’t always go the way we drew them up to be. Am I discouraged? Of course, I went to Europe and ran times that I was surpassing in my freshman year at Villanova. But in the wise words of Rocky Balboa, the world ain’t always sunshine and rainbows. For more digestion of the season as a whole, check out another separate post (since this one is already aggressively long).