Week 9: Reaching 32 km and the End of Summer

Week 9 kicked off the second half of my 16 week marathon training program. As summer winds down, I’m feeling good about where I’m at. Comparing my current training to my training in the winter, my total kilometres run is slightly down, but I’m doing better, more diverse workouts. I’ve mixed in about 80km of cycling each week, as well as some strength training. I’m still getting in my three keys runs every week - speed, hills and long run.

Week 9 not only signified the start of the back half of my training, but it also marked a long run milestone - the 32 km long run. That’s the furthest I will go in my training, and I’ll probably do it 3 or 4 times before tapering off a few weeks before the marathon. 32 km is far. It takes a lot not only to run that distance, but also in the mental and physical preparation. I woke up early on Saturday morning and headed out onto the cottage roads with 1 litre of water and 3 Gu’s to help fuel me through the run. Despite the humidity, it went well. I was able to shave about 7 minutes off my previous personal best for that distance, running the 32 km in 2 hours and 34 minutes. Since I was at the cottage, I traded in my usual ice bath for a nice long dip in the cold lake. Doesn’t get much better than that.

As we enter the fall season, I’m looking forward to the cooler temperatures. Summer training brings on its own set of challenges, namely the heat. Just over halfway through my training, I’m feeling really good. My legs have never been stronger and the work I’ve been putting into my core and upper body are paying off. My cardio has also never been better. I’m starting to get excited for my 4th race of the season, the Canada Army Half Marathon in Ottawa later this month.

With the marathon only 47 days away, my focus right now is on staying strong and healthy over the next month and half. Continue to work on my endurance and my speed. The goal in Toronto is still a sub 3 hour marathon, with hopes of qualifying for Boston 2016.

Just a reminder that I am still raising awareness and money for the Asthma Society of Canada during my training - you can make donations here and spread the word! Thanks everyone!

Battling the Summer Heat

Marathon training is tough. Most non-runners get that. They understand the time commitment, have trouble fathoming running over 20km at once, and truly respect you for your dedication.

What most people don’t get is how much weather affects you. My training for the Ottawa Marathon started on January 7th. The dead of winter. If you’ve ever been to Ottawa in the winter, you know that January and February aren’t the kindest of months. Most people have trouble managing the 20 foot walk from their car to their office. Now add marathon training into the mix. Spending hours at a time, outside….running. People really don’t get how or why I do that.

Winter Running

To be honest, training in the winter wasn’t all that bad. Sure it took some getting used to. But if you have the right gear, and the right mindset, you’ll be fine. My only memorably bad experiences winter training was the days I brought the wrong gloves and my hands went numb within 5 minutes in the minus 40 degree celsius weather. Other than that, it was fine. Actually, it was kind of great. I loved it. Most people don’t spend enough time outside in the winter, and they are truly missing out.

Summer Running

Fast-forward to July. It’s Canada Day in the capital, and my first official day of training for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October. Training in the summer - a marathoner’s dream. Right? Not so much. My first run was 8km. I left my apartment at 11 in the morning and headed down towards to canal. Less than 2km in, I couldn’t breathe. I was sweating like a pig. I wanted to give up, and go home. The two water fountains on my route were not nearly enough, and there was no shade to be found. It one of the most uncomfortable and horrible runs I’ve ever been on. I came home dejected, dehydrated and frankly, pissed off.

When you train in the winter, it’s often dark outside. You love weekends, because you’re able to run in the midday sunshine - not confined to before or after work. For me, the optimal time for a winter long run was 10AM to noon. The summer is the exact opposite. I’ve learned to finish my morning runs by 10AM, or wait until after 8PM, which offers a nice bonus of catching a nice sunrise or sunset. Any time in between can be insufferable. The heat and humidity can drain you physically, dehydrate you, and can give you a pretty wicked sun burn - all things I would prefer to avoid.

I’m slowly making the transition to summer training. I’m still learning when to run, what to wear, and how much water to bring. To be honest, I’d rather run in a winter blizzard than in the mid-summer scorching heat.

There is one thing about summer running that is better than winter running: access to paths. In the winter, most major paths are snowed in, meaning that you are confined to street sidewalks or, if you’re lucky, the one plowed path along the Rideau Canal. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great path, but it can get a bit tedious. Ottawa boasts countless runner-friendly paths along both side of the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers, and many others throughout the city that make summer running a treat. I’m constantly discovering new areas of the city that I thought I knew so well.

Training is going well. I’m currently in the midst of week 6 training, with a 25 km long run coming up at the end of the weekend. Patience, focus and dedication. I’m doing everything I can right now to make my goal of running a sub 3 hour marathon and qualifying for Boston a reality.

Thanks for checking in - I’ll touch base soon.

Learning From My Mistakes

I’m back at it. After taking June off of training, I jumped right back into things in July, ramping up my training for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I learned a lot from my training earlier this year for the Ottawa Marathon. I learned about running in the winter. About how to push yourself without overdoing it. How marathon training is about much more than running - cross training, strength training, hydration, diet and recovery. I made my mistakes, and I’ve learned from them.

I’m now 4 weeks into my training, and I’m already noticing the improvements from the small tweaks I’ve made. My running schedule itself hasn’t changed much. I try to get out there 3-4 days a week, ensuring that I always do my long run and hills, mixing in some speed, tempo and fartleks where I can. 

There’s something different this time around. I’m finding my training easier. Easier probably isn’t the right word, because there is nothing easy about marathon training. It is still a mental and physical battle. Getting up at 6AM to run hills is always tough. Going out for a 20km long run after a long weekend at the cottage is exhausting. But I’m finding myself more confident in my running. I feel stronger. My mental state is rock solid. A 20km run doesn’t feel daunting. It is no longer the unknown. I know I can run 20+km. I’ve now done it dozens of times. That is not something I thought I would ever say.

Marathon training is like life. Sometimes it’s scary. There are a lot of unknowns. It challenges you and beats you down at times, but rewards you for your hard work. You have good days, and bad days. You make mistakes, and you learn from them. As I get into the heart of my training for my third marathon, here is what I have learned.

Don’t Overdo It
Training for a marathon is extremely taxing on your body. With all of the hours and kilometres of training that you put your body through, you need to give it a chance to rest and recover. This isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s patience and smarts. Even elite runners like Rob Watson will tell you to chill out, and kick back to give your body the rest it needs, when it needs it. Get yourself to yoga to stretch out. Buy a foam roller and use it religiously. And sleep. Lots of sleep.

I’ve made the mistake too many times of pushing myself too hard in a week, wanting to squeeze in an extra 10km run when all my body needed was a day off, only to end up more banged up and even hurt to the point where I was sidelined for a few weeks. Do yourself a favour and take a day off if you have to. Heal up those aches and pains, throw that guilt out the window and do something else if you have to, like riding a bike or some strength training. That one run you missed 2 months before the marathon won’t matter.

Stay Hydrated

Too many runners only hydrate after their runs. They go out and run 20 km, and then come home and drink a glass of water. Sorry to break it to you, but by that point you’re already screwed. People ask me “When do you hydrate?” I say “all the time”. Literally. I’m never more than a few feet away from a cold glass of water, day and night, and I probably drink anywhere from 5-10 litres a day. You should be hydrating as much as possible - and don’t forget to hydrate during your run. It doesn’t matter if it is hot or cold, sunny or cloudy, raining and snowing. Your body needs to stay hydrated. It’s not a weakness, it’s a necessity. 

In the winter, I carried a water belt with me. Yeah, it was clunky and uncomfortable, but I needed it. In the summer, I leave the belt behind and plan my runs based on the availability of public water fountains. I also use DripDrop, a medical grade powdered hydration solution, that when added to water provides up to three times the hydration as regular water and 2-3 times the electrolytes as sports drinks, with far less sugar. It’s a really effective solution that tastes great - check them out.

Cross Training & Strength Training

When I was training for the Ottawa Marathon, my focus was almost purely on running. Over time I learned that it is important to mix it up. Yes, you need to run a lot - but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do. I’ve made a bigger effort to incorporate cross training and strength training into my training routine, and have seen a huge impact.

Cross training activities for runners typically include cycling, swimming and cross country skiing. Basically, any kind of exercise to compliment your running that will help build your flexibility and strength. Cross training often works different muscles and helps keep you lean, fit and injury free. I’ve been cycling to and from work 4 days a week, a 20km ride each day - about 80km a week. I find it helps my legs recover from my running, but it also works very different muscle groups, which has helped improve my overall lower body strength.

I also built strength training into my program. Strength training, similar to cross training, helps you build muscles in complimentary areas, balancing you out and ensuring that you are in top shape. Those who know me, know that I despise going to the gym to lift weights. Never been my thing. But after missing my goal in Ottawa, and struggling with a few injuries, I decided it was time for me to bite the bullet and start strength training. After hours of research and planning, I built a strength training routine into my training program that I’m actually enjoying quite a bit. In addition to help strengthen my lower half, it also focuses on a variety of muscle groups including back, shoulders and core. I’ll write about it more and share the actual plan a little later on.

12 more weeks

With the Toronto Waterfront Marathon only 12 weeks away, I’m more motivated than ever. I feel confident, calm and strong. I’m taking my time, but sticking to my routine. The long runs don’t feel so long and the hills not as steep. I just have to stick with it and be patient. One day at a time.

Supporting the Asthma Society of Canada

As most of you know, I’m on a mission to qualify for the Boston Marathon. After narrowly missing my qualifying time by only a few seconds at the Ottawa Marathon in May, I took a month off of running to let my body rest up. But now I’m back at it, training for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 19, 2014. This race is also a qualifying race for Boston, and I am determined to meet my goal this time around!

Attempting to qualify for Boston wasn’t my only goal when training for the Ottawa Marathon. I decided to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society, and was overwhelmed by the support I received from my family, friends, colleagues and even people I’ve never met. Together we raised almost $2600 for cancer research.

The Asthma Society of Canada

This time around I wanted to support a new cause. Something that I don’t know much about.I was approached by an old friend of mine from university who recruited me to raise funds and awareness for The Asthma Society of Canada. Please support this amazing organization and great cause by sponsoring me during my training. The ultimate goal is to is to empower every child and adult in Canada with asthma to live an active and symptom-free life.

Please visit my donation page and learn more about this cause at www.asthma.ca. Thank you all for your continued support with my running goals, and for your generous donations.

My experience running a Spartan Race

I’m officially a Spartan. This past weekend I ran my third race of the year, and my first Spartan Race.

On Saturday, we made the trip up to Edelweiss Ski Hill in Gatineau Park for my first ever Spartan Race. Now, for a guy that is used to road races - marathons and half marathons - the Spartan was quite different. It was a good experience, but I’m not sure I would do it again. I get why people love them, but it’s just not for me, I guess.

The Spartan Race is a 5km “race” that brings you through the mountains and trees, leading you through a series of obstacles and challenges. As you arrive at the obstacles, you have one chance to complete it. If you fail, you must complete 30 burpees before advancing. My advice: do your best to complete the obstacle, because 30 burpees in 30 degree heat sucks. The kicker here is that the race organizers don’t tell you in advance what the obstacles are going to be, leaving a bit of intrigue for race day.

The race kicked off in the mid-afternoon heat, with a few hundred anxious racers lined up, not quite sure what to expect from the next hour or two. As we took off through the gate, we went straight uphill. Literally. After a few hundred metres, it got steeper. And muddier. Many people slowed to a walk, while others did their best to run up hill.

As we reached to top of the first big climb, we were faced with our first obstacle. After trudging through knee-to-waist deep muddy water, we needed to army crawl under some barbed wire before reaching a series of wall climbs.

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Success. Down the next hill we found ourselves at a series obstacles, starting with the infamous rope climb that we all remember from middle school gym class. Wet and muddy hands lead to my first failed obstacle. 30 burpees. Immediately after the rope climb failure was another rope obstacle know as the Herculean Hoist, which requires you to hoist a heavy object such as a bucket or propane tank off the ground using a pulley system. Success.

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Next up was the lateral rock wall climb, which required you to scale across a makeshift rock wall. Wet and muddy hands lead to my demise again. More burpees.

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A missed spear throw lead to another round of burpees. That’s 90 so far. Okay, no more of those please.

After a sand bag carry up a hill and around a set of trees, we moved on to some more upper body obstacles with the monkey bar traverse. Thanks to my long arms I was able to cross this obstacle successfully, going 5 or 6 bars at a time. Right after the monkey bars was a similar obstacle that required you to transition from a series of rings, to some ropes, finishing on some more monkey bars. Done. Moving on.

As we continued into another stretch of running up hill, the heat was getting to us and we had yet to see a water station. After another kilometre running up to the top of the ski hill, we finally found the water that we so badly needed. Hydrated, we carried on to another series of wall climbs, following by intense water and mud pits that were accompanied by the ski hill’s snow making machines blasting you with a heavy mist.

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Muddy, soaking wet, off balance and a bit disoriented, we arrived at the “ball carry” station, which required us to pick up a large, slippery, heavy bowling-type ball and carry it about 20 yards and back without dropping it.

We began our decent down the mountain where we went through yet another obstacle that required you to traverse an area using you upper body strength and bars. We met a few more mud ponds and a great downhill trail run before reaching an obstacle that required us to step in an out of a series of large tires before leaping over 3 sets of large hay bails. Next we had to climb up a large rope net that rested at a 45 degree angle, and then down the other side.

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Down the final hill to the famous fire jump, which was actually pretty fun.

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The final obstacle was a steep incline wall with a rope to pull your self up with, completed with a rope to climb straight down the other side.

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Finish line. Medal. Water. Hi fives.

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I’m not going to lie, I had more fun that I thought I would. If you’re thinking about doing one, I would definitely encourage it. Here are a few of my takeaways:

  • Get muddy - right away. Don’t avoid the inevitable. The faster you embrace the dirtiness of this race, the more fun you will have. Also, bring a change of clothes for afterwards.
  • Run with a partner. Katie and I did the race together. It’s good team building, and it’s fun to help your partner out by cheering them on, and boosting them over those wall climbs.
  • Don’t treat it like a race. I know it’s the Spartan “Race”, but unless you are in the elite class, there isn’t much racing. The paths are super narrow, so you don’t have much opportunity to pass people. Every obstacle acts as a bottle neck and you will will wait in line for your turn.
  • Enjoy the experience. You’re out there on a nice summer’s day, on a mountain, with hundreds of other people getting outside their comfort zone. It’s kinda cool.

I’m happy I did it. I can now cross that one off my bucket list. If nothing else, the Spartan race reaffirmed my love of trail running. Now it’s time to refocus on my true passion - half and full marathons. With that said, my training for the Army Run Half Marathon in September and the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October has officially begun. Here we go!

How I Fell In Love With Trail Running

I love road running. There are few things I love more in this world than getting up with the sun and hitting the road for a morning run. The feeling and sound of pavement beneath my feet is just incredible. Ottawa is an amazing city for “road running” because we are blessed with dozens of kilometres of maintained paved pathways all over the downtown core and surrounding neighbourhoods, helping you stay off the actual road and avoid the crowds on city sidewalks.

Earlier this year I was introduced to trail running. Armed with a new pair of Merrell ALLOUT Fuse trail runners, I hit my local trails to see what all the buzz was about. I immediately fell in love.

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Here’s what makes trail running amazing and different.

Be at one with nature
Trail running had allowed me to explore the wilderness in a new way, combining my passion for running with my love for the mountains, woods and nature. To me, it is the perfect way to discover and experience the great outdoors.

Less injuries, better workout
Road running is hard on the body, mostly your knees. Trail running often offers softer surfaces to run on, such as firmly packed dirt. Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of ways to hurt yourself on a trail, but the impact on your legs is more forgiving on the trail. Also, the ever changing terrain of a trail makes you work on different muscles, improving your balance and agility which is essential for injury prevention. In fact, some studies show that trail running can help you burn up to 10% more calories than road running. Not bad. If you’re training for a full or half marathon, add trail running into your program as cross-training or for your hill training.

An exhilarating rush
Road running can be predictable. Most people I talk to who don’t like running say that they find it “boring.” Often times, you’re able to get into a flow with your pace and kind of zone out. No zoning out in trail running, that’s for sure. With trail running, you never know what’s next. Mud, puddles, branches, rocks, hills, ditches, grass, dirt. You’re fully engaged in every moment of your run, from pushing up that brutal hill, to jumping over that mud puddle and ducking to avoid a broken branch. It’s really a lot of fun. I recently ran a half marathon trail run in Gatineau Park. The race day excitement combined with the exhilarating rush of a trail run was truly something else. I highly recommend it.

Have I convinced you yet? Okay, here’s how you get started.

  1. Find your trail
    It can be anything - a national park or a mountain, or simply a dirt path in your neighbourhood. Just get yourself out there and enjoy the challenge. When I’m in Ottawa, I find dirt paths throughout the city that give me my fix, or I make my way up to Gatineau Park. If you’re going on vacation, bring your shoes with you. I’ve experienced some incredible trail running onb my vacations, including this phenomenal experience on my latest trip to San Francisco.

  2. Get the right gear
    One thing I have learned over the past few years is that not all running shoes are made equal. I have different shoes for road running, trail running and ever for court volleyball. Get something breathable, flexible and with some solid treads. My suggestion is to check out Merrell - they are the trail blazers (sorry for the pun) in this space. Trail running is what they do. There’s nothing better.

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    Also, get yourself a fuel belt or water bottle. It gets hot in those woods, and water fountains tend not to exist out in nature. If you have a weak ankle like I do, invest in a good brace - the last thing you want to do is roll it out there. Lastly, bring a phone. if you end up getting hurt or lost, you’ll want to be abel to call a friend or access Google Maps.

  3. Take it easy
    Expect your pace to be a lot slower on the trails. The uneven, sometimes forgiving ground, hills and natural obstacles with slow you down. My pace during the trail half marathon was almost 30 seconds/kilometre slower than my full road marathon a few weeks later. Don’t push it too hard and hurt yourself. Forget about your pace and your time. Don’t get discouraged. Trail running is really hard. Just get out there and enjoy the challenge.

  4. Take it all in
    Feel free to stop during your run to take in the views, or to observe wildlife. You’re not out there to break any records, you’re out there to experience nature. So experience it. Take a breath, have a drink, and take it all in. You’ll be happy you did.

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  5. Bring your dog
    I love running with my dog, but he’s not so great on leash, meaning that when I run in the city I often have to leave him at home. But once we’re out on the trails, I can let him loose and we have a blast. It doesn’t matter if he gets a bit ahead of me, or falls back a bit. He knows when to wait for me, or to catch up if he needs to. I swear he enjoys those runs more than I do.

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  6. Get Dirty
    You’re out in the woods, don’t be afraid to get a little mud on you. My Merrell ALLOUT Fuse’s used to be bright blue, although you wouldn’t know it by looking at them now. There’s just something about being covered in dirt and mud after a good, long, tough run that makes you feel that much more accomplished.

What are you waiting for? Get yourself some gear, find a trail, and get out there. You’ll be happy you did. 

Running the Toronto Waterfront Marathon

After running the Ottawa Marathon last weekend, I said that I was going to take a little break from marathons. Well, it turns out that was half true. In reality, I’m taking one month off and then getting right back into the mix, training for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October.

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This is my chance to make up those 8 seconds. Heck, to break 3 hours. I know I can run this race fast and qualify for Boston. The last 5 months taught me so much about marathons. Most importantly, they are brutally tough - no matter how much you train. They beat you down, both physically and mentally. But it’s how you deal with that beating that makes a difference.

Those 8 seconds in Ottawa didn’t bother me, they really didn’t. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again. I left everything out on that course. I am extremely proud and satisfied with that run. On that day, 3:05:07 was my absolute best. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want Boston anymore, because I do.

Instead of waiting 12 long months to give it another shot, I’ve decided to run another qualifying race this fall - the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. My aerobic levels will still be pretty high, I’ll have a month to recover before training starts up again, and training in the summer will be a nice change from the cold, dark January mornings. Unfortunately, since this race is late in the season, it would act as a qualifier for Boston 2016, not 2015. But hey, Boston is Boston.

For now my focus shifts to resting and letting my body recover. At the end of June, I’ll get back into it and start building on that success I had in Ottawa and on the strength and endurance I’ve gained over the past few months. I know what I need to do to crush it in Toronto. I know what areas need improvements and where to make adjustments. Every race you run leaves you with little nuggets of race wisdom that you take to make the next one that much better.

Okay Toronto, let’s do this. It’s on.

Running a Personal Best Marathon in 3:05:07

Well, it’s done. I did it.

I finished the Ottawa Marathon on Sunday with a time of 3:05:07, a personal best and over 28 minutes faster than last time.

It was a good, tough run. I pushed my body and mind to the absolute limit, giving everything I had. I ended up placing 248th out of 7055 runners overall, and 35th out of 331 racers in my age category.

That was truly the hardest thing I have ever done.

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While I narrowly missed my time goal of sub 3:05 by only 8 seconds, a time I needed to be eligible to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2015, I’m very happy and proud of my run. I know I left it all out there on the course, and that’s what matters most to me.

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Don’t get me wrong, I wanted Boston. Really badly. And I missed my chance by only 8 seconds. But those 8 seconds don’t really matter. What matters is the other stuff. The important stuff. Making new friendships, and becoming closer with those around me. Learning about myself, both physically and mentally, and pushing myself every day for the last 5 months. Raising almost $2,600 for cancer research. Working with some really awesome people from Merrell, the Ottawa Marathon, and of course Rob Watson, who was my mentor and virtual coach.

At the end of the day, I’m feeling an enormous sense of accomplishment. 3:05:07. Yeah, I think I can live with that.

Some Thanks

Thanks again to everyone for all of your support through my training and during my run. I’m so fortunate to have so many people behind me. There are too many people to name, but here are some folks that really made a big difference.

Katie - My rock, best friend, and biggest fan. From encouraging my to get out there on early winter mornings to prepping my ice baths to keeping a flexible schedule to allow for all of my running, Katie has supported me through it all. You always believe in me and encourage me to push harder to reach my potential. You’re the best.

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Chelsea & Brad - These guys were the ones who encouraged me to go after Boston, and have been the most supportive friends over the last 6 months. From helping me build my training program, to doing hill and speed training with me, to meeting me at 6 AM on race day for motivation, these guys exemplify what friendship really is.

Family - Both the Fabers and the Flemings have been incredible supporters of me since day one. Not to mention the extended families on both sides that always asked how my training was going, cheered me on and supported my fundraising efforts. Thank you all.

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Rob Watson - Rob provided me with so much more than tips and tricks the last few months. He was my mentor and my coach. He motivated and encouraged me to take my running to the next level. The best part is that he is just an awesome human being. Just a regular down-to-earth dude who just happens to be an insanely great runner. Thanks for always making time for me Rob, and being a genuinely great guy.

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Ottawa Marathon - Not only did they put on another world-class event in our beautiful city, but the folks at the Ottawa Marathon were gracious enough to include me in their “Le Team Du Rob” program, which lead to work with Rob Watson. Thank you.

Merrell - The great folks at Merrell have been amazing supporters of me and my training, supplying me with some incredible equipment and gear along the way. Not only are they really awesome people, but their gear is top notch as well. Check them out.

Friends - So much love from so many people. From people who are amongst my best friends, to people that I haven’t seen in years, to people who I don’t even know, the support was amazing. My Twitter, Email, Instagram and Facebook feeds were jammed with messages of encouragement and congratulations. Just amazing guys, thanks.

What’s Next?

A few people asked me this yesterday. I haven’t thought to much about it to be honest. I’m going to take a little break from marathons, that’s for sure. I want to focus on staying active and spending more time with Katie, like playing volleyball, hiking and cycling. I have a Spartan race coming up in June and am planning on running the Ottawa Army Half Marathon and the Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon in the fall

Thanks for reading, it’s been fun! I’ll continue to write about running and training on the blog, so be sure to come back!

The Final Stretch

Less than a week to go until the big day. I’m trying to keep myself calm, but my excitement level is through the roof right now. Tapering has been going well, but it’s tough to not go out there and run as hard as I can every day.

With a long weekend on the horizon, I planned out my training and tapering schedule. I ran my final speed training run with Chelsea. It was the toughest one yet - five 1.6 km intervals at 3:40/km pace. It was also a very humid morning, which made things even tougher. Sore from my speed training, I found my way to a much needed yoga session on Friday night which helped stretch me out and give my body a much needed refresh.

For the weekend, I had three runs planned. The first was a 16 km race pace run on Saturday, designed to give my body and legs one final look at running a long-ish distance at a consistent, strong pace. My target pace for race day is about a 4:20, but on Saturday I was feeling pretty good. I finished in a tidy 1:06:49, with a 4:10 pace.

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Sunday, my planned run was a short one meant to keep my legs loose. I took the dog out to Uplands, a great piece of land just outside the city where he can run around through the fields and woods. We did a great 5km trail run together first thing in the morning. He then slept the rest of the weekend.

My third and final run was a 12km race pace on Monday. Another excellent run to cap off yet another beautiful weekend in Ottawa. Finished my 12km in about 50 minutes, keeping consistent with my 4:10 pace.

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Other than running, I dedicated most of my weekend to grocery shopping and prepping food, ensuring that I had all the right stuff in the house to fuel me the right way in the week leading up to the race.

This is it, the final stretch. As my 4 months of training comes to a close, I focus on preparing myself physically and mentally for Sunday. This is going to be fun.

Let the Tapering Begin

12 days. That’s all I have left until the Ottawa Marathon. I cannot believe how fast it has come. It seems like just yesterday I was strapping on my shoes for my first sub-zero training run of the season.

As I began week 18 of my training last Monday, it was time to start tapering while I finish up my speed workouts. Think of marathon training like building a house. During the last 18 weeks I have worked on building the foundation with my long runs, and putting up the frame with my hill training. Endurance and strength. In the final few weeks, you focus on your speed training, getting your body used to managing pace and exploding when you need to, but holding back at times too. This is the roof. Finally, before you move into the house, you need to clean everything up, sweep the floors, wash the windows, and make sure it is liveable. This is where tapering comes in.

Tapering: When, How and Why?

Tapering is one of the most important yet often overlooked aspects of marathon training. During the last 2-3 weeks of your training, it is suggested that you taper, meaning that you run less and rest more. Most marathoners find this very difficult, because they are competitive people, motivated to run harder, faster and longer. Starting to cut back and ease off a few weeks before the race seems wrong. Many runners get anxious and stir-crazy. But it is important to follow your plan and taper appropriately.

Two good weeks of tapering will do a few things. First, it will allow your body to rest for race day. Your muscles, joints, lungs and brain will be fresh and ready to go. If you’ve trained properly over the last few months, you will already have done the majority of the running to get you to where you need to be. You won’t lose any fitness during these weeks, so don’t worry. Relax, and enjoy a bit of rest before you give your everything on race day. With your long, hard strenuous workouts behind you, you can focus on stuff like planning our your race day strategy, preparing yourself mentally, doing some runs at your race pace, and beginning to think about what you will eat the week and days leading up to the race.

Last year, I only ran 275km of training before race day. So far this year, I’ve ran over 750km. I learned from my training mistakes in 2013, and adjusted to ensure I am better prepared. Since I was injured all of April last year, when I got back on the road in May, I made a desperate attempt to ramp back up my distances, which had me running my first and only 30km run the weekend before the marathon. 7 days. That is crazy. Not only had I not prepared properly with long runs, I didn’t taper - at all. I had run my hardest, longest, most strenuous run a week before the race. It’s no surprise I struggled on race day, hitting the wall at kilometre 34.

This year I ran six 30 or more km runs, and began my taper three weeks out. That’s the difference. Plan, train, prepare, and be patient.

Week 18

With speed and tapering on my mind, here were my workouts from week 18.

On Monday, I ran yet another 10km personal best, finally cracking 40 minutes, something I’ve had my mind set on all season. 10km, 39:37. I was really pumped.

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Thursday was another instalment of speed interval training. This week I had to do four 1.6km intervals at a target pace of 3:47/km, but Chelsea challenged me to run every interval in under 3:40/km. It was tough, but I did it. My interval paces were 3:38, 3:36, 3:35 and 3:38. 11km total. Exhausted, but feeling good.

After a light run with the dog on Friday morning, and a 6km jog with Katie on Saturday, Sunday was my final “long-run” of my training. I use quotes because technically, 23km is a long run. That’s far. But to me, at this point, it doesn’t seem that way. I’ve done twelve 20+km runs since February, half of which were over 30km. The physical and mental improvements that you see over a few short months when training for a marathon is amazing.

Sunday was gorgeous. We had our first true summer weekend. With nice weather and the Tulip Festival kicking off in Ottawa, the city was packed with tourists, families and a ton of runners. I went down the Canal to Dow’s Lake, through the Arboretum to Mooney’s Bay (where I did a couple of hill repeats jut for fun), and then back up the East side of the Rideau River towards home. A beautiful, scenic 23km run.

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So now, I continue to taper. It’s weird, but I know it’s the right thing to do.

12 days. I still can’t believe it.

The final stretch. Bring it on.