Monday, 9 July 2012

July 10th News & Notes

Hello everyone! I hope you are sitting, because this post might make you a little weak in the knees. No, no, not in the "50 Shades of Grey" drivel kind of way, but in the way in which you see someone else get hit in the groin or hit their shin off of something - where a pit in your stomach grows because you know you've felt that  discomfort before (you know exactly what I'm talking about).

This week I'm going to tell you about the most ridiculous race ever as well as my strong feelings toward the Canadian Olympic qualifying standards. I was even about to talk about how between Canada and USA we actually had a chance at a medal at the Olympics in the 5,000m and 10,000m... err... I was going to do that until 2:13pm Eastern Standard Time on Friday, July 6th, 2012. 

In fact, where were you at that time? It's actually a valid question! In my opinion it's in the same vein of asking 'where were you when JFK was shot?' or 'where were you when Paul Henderson scored the infamous winning goal in the '72 Summit Series?'

Before I get to why I ask such a question, let me add a little more suspense by rambling on about 5k races. Undoubtedly, anyone who is reading this blog has raced a 5k before (or the equivalent for the non-runners reading this). You know the feelings that it conjures even just thinking about it: the lactic acid storm in your already anxious and nervous muscles, the constant mental struggle between holding the pace or just easing off... or coming to a dead stop. To be honest, most people move up to the longer distances because they hate the terrible discomfort that comes with the 5,000m distance. Such feelings are true for every runner regardless of their pace. There was a time when I - now a 16:30 5k runner - couldn't imagine ever breaking 20:00. Just thinking about running a 3:50/km made my stomach turn into knots... in fact it even made me weak in the knees. I get the same feeling when I watch the professionals. I watch them, see the clock, and feel my legs ache and the pit in my stomach grows because I can't even fathom running 200m at that pace without wanting - or needing - medical attention.

Well that feeling hit me 11 times this past Friday.

Note: at this point you should be asking me "Mark, what the **** are you rambling on about?"

Let me allow THIS GUY to explain:

Dejen Gebremeskel (Ethiopia)
To be honest, I'm sure he's still catching his breath after his victory at Friday's Paris Diamond League meet. For he was one for ELEVEN men who broke 13:00 minutes for 5k - 4:11/mile or 2:36/km. Now some of your track-savvy fans may say... 'easy Mark, many of people have broke 13:00 before... big deal." Granted. But if that doesn't impress you, then how about this:


* 4 of the 10 fastest 5,000m times EVER were ran in this race! 

* Kenenisa Bekele the fastest 5,000m & 10,000m man of all time was.... 9th. 

* SIX of those 11 broke 12:50 - 4:08/mile or 2:34/km. I'm sure you can all appreciate how different 10s is in a 5k race. But lets go a little further...

Gebremeskel (pictured above) literally cruised across the finish line in an absolutely foolish, knee-weaking, mind boggling, time of 12:46.81... You may now pick your jaw up off of the floor. But what's truly astounding is that his last mile was run in 4:01.01. He covered the last 400m in 54.66s...........


There was a time where breaking 4:00 for the mile was thought to be impossible. Here, we have runners sub-4 at the end of a 3-mile (5k) race. It's just phenomenal to be a runner / running fan when these result occur.


Here's the video of last 2 laps of the race. Two things to note:
1) Just how fast they are actually moving... especially on the last 500m (fast forward to 3:00)
2) How the winner actually slows down for the last 10m to celebrate, easily wiping a second off of his time.


Results:

Click here for my rant on the Canadian Olympic qualifying standards.

Canadian Olympic Qualifying Standards


Question for all of you: If you didn't have feet, would you wear socks? 

This is precisely the approach that Athletics Canada takes when setting their extraordinarily strict Olympic qualifying standards - If the athlete isn't going to compete for medals, then why send them.


Before we get into some pros/cons, let's just compare some times from 800m to the marathon, first men then women. Note: USA times are the qualifying times to reach the Olympic Trials, where they then have to make the top 3.


Notes:
1) Notice the diverging trend as the distances increase. There is a WORLD of difference between someone who can run a 28:15 and 27:45 in 10,000m. Heck, at that distance even 10s is a phenomenal difference. In much the same vein that 2.0s in 1500m is a lifetime!

2) UPDATE: Since posting this blog I have been informed that the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) in the end holds the final say on standards: See HERE
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Remember when you were you a kid and your older brother would steal your ball and hold it up in the air just so high that no matter how high you jumped you could never actually reach it? You'd kick & scream, call out to your mother - who would just tell you to stop 'sookin' - and eventually you'd just say 'shag this, I don't even care anymore I'm going to go pick my nose'.

Welcome to the tumultuous world of setting a bar too high.
Better luck next time kid...
Athletics Canada has done exactly that. Their logic is that they want to send athletes that will actually compete for medals not just make a final or PB - which is a worthy approach. After all, everyone looks at the medal table to compare countries. No one is comparing 'the # of personal bests for athletes in countries'. Also, they are paying for all travel expenses for the athletes, coaches, trainers, etc., so financially it also makes sense to spend money on the serious contenders. 


However... and this is a BIG however... this mentality stifles the progression of so many athletes in their quest for Olympic glory. I mean it's the freaking Olympics! Every single - western - child wanted to go to the Olympics for some event at some point. Even if you are professional 10,000m runner, your greatness is essentially boiled down to your Olympic successes. You could with 3 World Championships but if you don't have the Olympic Medal then you haven't 'made it'. 



Let's look at the female standard for 10,000m as the best example in futility and dream crushing: 
A    32:45 (USA) vs. 31:45 (CAN) 
B    34:00 (USA) vs. 32:10 (CAN)


31:45 is an absolutely ridiculous standard for the following reason... only 10 women in the WORLD have broken that time this year. Only a dozen more have broken the B standard.

*Canada has ZERO females in the 5,000m & 10,000m with only ONE male in the 5,000m (Cam Levins) & 10,000m (Mohammed Ahmed). Cam Levins - Canada's distance running saviour - has qualified for 10,000m as well, but chose to run the 5,000m. 


I'm usually not one to use America as an example in many issues, but in this case USA has got it right. Set the bar high, but not so high that athletes won't even CHASE the time. That's the problem with Canada, the bar is SO HIGH that it's not even worth chasing (you might as well go pick your nose). But, when the standard (A or B) is attainable then it makes people work that much harder. Even if they do just squeak into the Olympics, the experience they will gain there will undoubtedly convert all their remaining energy in the future to become faster/stronger and come back and do it again.

Canada's Should-Be Olympian
I can't imagine the bitter taste that must be in the mouth of people like Sheila Reid. Sheila Reid is the standout NCAA runner who should, unquestionably, be going to the Olympics. Alas, she is not even though:


* She has run 15:23.64 - under the B standard once and likely would have again had the trials not been held at altitude or if she had more competition. 
* WON Canadian Olympic Trials
* Only 10 females in North America have run faster than her this year.
*What's even worse is that she was 1.7s off the ridiculous 1500m standard and decided that it wasn't even worth running the even in the Olympic Trials. 




I have two final stomach-wrenching points.

Canada's almost wasn't Olympian
1) Jessica Smith was 0.09s from NOT travelling to the Olympics even though she already achieving the A-standard in 800m. Why? because she almost beaten by Diane Cummins in the Olympic Trials / National Championships. Diane Cummins did not have the Olympic standard and had zero chance of getting it due to the Olympic Trials being at altitude (see #2 on that point).


So essentially, if Cummins came 3rd at Olympic Trials.. she wouldn't be going to the Olympics because she didn't have the standard AND Jessica Smith, who has the A standard, wouldn't be going either because she didn't finish top 3. Cummins' bronze would have meant she stood on the podium and crushed someone else's dream... Nothing against Cummins' as she wanted to be the best she could be, but the process is incredibly absurd.
*Note: this is why USA has separate Olympic trials for athletes who already have the standard and the top 3 make the team.




2) WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU HOLD OLYMPIC TRIALS AT ALTITUDE (Calgary, AB)?!? You automatically give athletes who are on the bubble ZERO chance to reach the standard. It's absolutely absurd and Athletics Canada needs a wake up call if they want to actually 'Own the Podium'. If you don't send athletes then they certainly have no chance of winning their country a medal.


Aye yi yi......  

See you next week for a look into the USA 5,000m & 10,000m hopefuls!


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

We're Back and We're Going to the Olympics!

Hey everyone! I first, and foremost, must apologize for my 3-month hiatus from writing this blog. Like most things, once April hit, life got in the way. I want to thank you for all the kinds words and support for creating this blog. I've been asked on many occasions when I was going to get back to it - that time is now! I'm excited

Let me give you a quick run down on what led me to have little time to write this blog in April, May, & June. In April, I was studying for/writing 3 graduate school final exams + running 100km/week + studying for the medical school entrance exam (MCAT) in June + I was invited to referee at the Dallas Cup - 'World's Biggest Youth Soccer Tournament' (April 1-8) + began working an 24 hr/week research assistant position! May was much different, courses were over but still studying for the MCAT + a much needed week in Cuba where I still ran/elliptical'd for an hour each evening and studied for an hour each morning. Then, I was off to Toronto for 2 weeks for refereeing again and for some down time that included work and study + more 110-120km/hr weeks. Then June rolled around where the study, running, and work was compounded by completing data collection for my Masters and adding 3-4 games of reffing soccer per week! overload.... 

Needless to say, something had to give and as far as priorities went, the blog had to be laid off. However, life has become extraordinarily more free since courses have ended and exams have been written (which I'm relatively pleased about!). Currently, I'm focused on running 120km/week, getting some racing in when I can, reffing a few games per week and enjoying this thing called... 'FREE TIME'. Never really experienced before - apparently it's this thing people do where they just sit down and don't do anything. They might watch TV or read a book or actually just sit and do absolutely nothing! ha I'm looking forward to trying such a ridiculous concept. 

In the end, I'm very pleased I was able to keep my sanity during the last 3 months. It was a whirlwind to say the least. But I did one learn very important truth: There's only so much you can do, before you start to achieve diminishing returns. I felt the full brunt of this. I was balancing so many things, that it became near impossible to 'master' any one of them. I'm a person who likes to give everything 110% and that was just not possible. The same goes for running, if you push yourself all of time and never give yourself enough rest or easy days to appropriately recover, then you'll never get faster - you'll actually get slower. 
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OK OK.. enough about me, lets get down to business. I'm not going to recap the last 3 months as that would take you a month to read and me 3 months to write. But, this is a great time to start up this blog again as the Canadian and USA Olympic Track & Field Trials just finished up this weekend and the Olympics are just around the corner.

I'm going to cover who is travelling to London in ~3 weeks in the distance events (from 800m to 10,000m) and tell you about some of the more notable races / performances in those events.

This week:
- 800m
- 1500m (will recap 5,000m & 10,000m next week)
- Two amazing finishes that are hard to believe..

Such as....... This picture showing the 3rd/4th place finishers for the USA Women's 100m. 
Who actually made it to London? 




800m

I'm not going to mention the 100m, 200m, or 400m as that is kind of out of my league and that kind of speed just hurts my head. So, I'll start with 800m results for the females: Canadian first, then American. Then, into the 1500m.

First, it needs to be noted that in order to get a trip to the Olympics you need to:
1) Have the Olympic 'A' standard - specific to each country
2) Finish in the top 3 in that same event in the country's Olympic Trials 
* Canada has a few other weird rules like: if you hit the 'B' standard twice between April 1 - June 30, 2012.

Canadian Female 800m
*Olympic 'A' Standard Time: 1:59.90

Smith and Bishop - Side by side in races... and on the plane to London!


Jessica Smith 

The 22-year old North Vancouver, B.C. native and Simon Fraser University alumni (and significant other of speedster, 2016 Olympic hopeful Ryan Brockerville) has punched her ticket to London, England after a 3rd place finish at the Canadian Olympic Trials this past weekend in Calgary, AB.

On June 10, she competed at the famous Harry Jerome International Track Classic in Vancouver. She didn't disappoint with her friends and family in attendance. She not only won her 800m final, but she dipped under the 'A' standard with a time of 1:59.86. The 4th fastest time in Canadian history! 

Melissa Bishop

The 23-year old from Eganville, Ontario (1.5 hours west of Ottawa) decided to take a year off of school post-undergrad to focus 100% on making the Olympics. Obviously her plan was successful as she will be heading the London after her 2nd place finish at the Canadian Olympic Trials. She broke the 'A' standard on June 1st at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon with a time of 1:59.82 in what I believe was the 3rd fastest time ever for a Canadian Female. 

These two young superstars will be in tough this year at London (current world leading time is 1:57.93) but have the ability to be in the mix. Undoubtedly they will gain some valuable experience which will help them in 2016 when they will hopefully re-live their Olympic dream in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Note: Canada in front of USA!
This is actually just pics of a workout! 

*I'd like to give a shout out and my utmost respect to a friend, and inspiration, of mine Julia Kawamoto (nee Howard) who chased her Olympic dream in the 1500m and 800m. Unfortunately, Julia didn't achieve the results she, and many others, had hoped for. Regardless, I'm incredibly proud of her for going after it. No doubt, this journey has made her (and others who won't be travelling to London) a stronger runner and person all-around. Now, I hope she takes all that kick-ass speed and moves up in the distances to have total world domination!







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American Female 800m
*'A' standard - 2:01.30 (1.4s slower than the Canadian mark)

USA is known for their running prowess from 100m right up to 1500m they are a force to be reckoned with. Their 800m Olympic Trials final was blisteringly fast from the gun. The eventual winner was Alysia Montano who went through the first 200m in 26.5s and 400m in 55.9 (!!) - that's faster than most male races! Note the ages of the American women. Much older than the Canadian contingent! Who says you get slower with age?!

The top 5 females all broke 2:00.0 but only 3 can go and here they are: 
1) Alysia Montano (age 26) - 1:59.08 
2) Geena Gall (age 25) - 1:59.24
3) Alice Schmidt (age 30!) - 1:59.46

Montano, Gall (deservingly celebrating), and Schmidt meters from the finish and the Olympics

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Now for the men....


Canadian Male 800m
*Olympic 'A' Standard Time: 1:45.60


Due to Athletics Canada ridiculously harsh qualifying standards, no Canadian males have hit the 'A' standard this year. Andrew Ellerton ran 1:45.04 last season, but that doesn't count in the process.


However, Canada will send one male to London for the 800m. Halifax, Nova Scotia's Geoff Harris earned a RISING STAR Olympic position by running under 1:46.30 twice in the last month and winning the Canadian Olympic Trials! He took the roundabout way, but no matter how you cut it. He's an Olympian.

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American Male 800m
*'A' standard - 1:46.50 (1.1s slower than the Canadian mark)
** Note if Canada used this standard we'd have 3 men travelling instead of 1

Like the women, the USA males showed their 800m dominance. Their top 6 finishers all broke the Canadian 'A' standard. With Nick Symmonds winning his 5th straight 800m American Championship and gaining his second trip to the Olympics.

1) Nick Symmonds (28) - 1:43.92
2) Khadevis Robinson (35!!!) - 1:44.64 [finished 4th place in 2008, revenge is sweet]
3) Duane Solomon Jr (27) - 1:44.65 [personal best... good time to get it as well]!

I'm this happy when I finish a workout! Perhaps I need to rework my game face...

Monday, 2 July 2012

Noteworthy Results

As we've mentioned a few times in this post, if you want to make the Olympics you have to:
1) Hit the qualifying standard
2) Finish top 3 in the Trials

Well American decathlete (10 T&F events with points awarded for each event) Ashton Eaton decided that process was a little too easy. He decided to set a world record in his first of 10 events, the 100m. He covered the 100m in 10.21s, which absolutely ridiculous as many sprinters who train solely for that event can't run that time! Not a bad start...

That was so much fun, I want to do it again...

However he had to complete 10 events, with 9 left to go he could have put it into cruise control and just booked his ticket to The Games. Alas, that would be too easy. So he decided to SET ANOTHER WORLD RECORD IN HIS NEXT EVENT - Long Jump.  Where he jumped 8.23m!


With TWO world records in the bag, he could probably not even show up for the rest of the 8 events and still make the Olympics. He opted against that choice and decide to punish the next 7 events, building a dramatic scene in the final event - the 1500m. If Eaton ran a 4:16 he would have THE WORLD RECORD for the Decathlon. So why not... With 400m to go, Eaton was in striking distance, needing 'only' 64s to get another 'WR' next to his name. After an incredible 9 events Eaton capped it all off with a 62.26 last lap to become the best Decathlete...ever. 

[Note: Eaton was in 2nd place in the 1500m on the final 100m but Curtis Beach, the leader, slowed down 
to let Eaton actually win the 1500m to make it all the sweeter! Classy move]

Why not! 

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In probably the 'weirdest' result of the entire USA Olympic Trials was from the Women's 100m final. 


This picture shows the race for the 3rd and final Olympic position between teammates/training partners Jeneba Tarmoh (lane 1) & Allyson Felix (lane 2). 

Tarmoh was declared the winner by 0.001 of second (no, there's no type... that's 1 one-thousandth of a second). Tarmoh went to the press conference elated to be the 3rd place finisher, however that was all to change. As an hour later the race between Tarmoh and Felix was declared an OFFICIAL DEAD HEAT. See the explanation of that decision by the official timer Roger Jennings here.

So what to do? Well, the options were: 
1) Flip a coin
2) 100m Run off
*Both runners had to agree to a run off or it would be down to a coin flip, which is just harsh.

Obviously everyone wanted the latter option and that were granted such a wish as the runners on Saturday agreed to compete in a 100m run off on Monday. However, on Monday morning Tarmoh bowed out and conceded her position on to Felix. Reasons aren't clear as to why, but she may have felt exhausted from the week of racing. Felix will travel to the Olympic Games with Tarmoh as an alternate.

1500m

Ahh... the 1500m. The golden event of the track and field portion of the Olympics. In my humble, (very) amateur opinion the 1500m is unquestionably the hardest distance to race (the 800m is a very close second). For you essentially need to be one notch below sprinting for 3 and 3/4 laps of the track. You're undoubtedly in a lactic-acid haze within a lap and just holding on for dear life - which probably feels like it's about to end with each passing meter. There's not too many fresh faces after a 1500m. In any case, let's recap the North American hopefuls heading to London. Sadly, the tough Canadian standards were overcome by 3 athletes at this distance.


Canadian Female 1500m
*'A' standard - 4:06.00

2 out of 3 ain't bad... right?! (I beg to differ)

Nicole Sifuentes


26-year old Winning, Manitoba native continued her recent successes in the past year with a 3rd place finish in the Canadian Olympic Trials earning herself a trip to London after running well below the 'A' standard with  blazing fast 4:04.76 in San Diego, California just 2 weeks ago.

Hilary Stellingwerff

The veteran is at it again. At the youthful age of 30 years, Hilary showed the rest of Canada how it's done by placing 2nd at the Canadian Olympic Trials to seal the deal and I'm sure her bags are already packed in anticipation. In May, Hilary cleared the 'A' standard during an European meet in Rome, Italy in 4:05.08.

*Next closest female was Sheila Reid who had a 4:07.77. Although only 1.7s, that's a significant amount of time to make up in 1500m.
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American Female 1500m
*'A' standard - 4:12.93 (6.93s slower than the Canadian mark)

Just to tell you HOW RIDICULOUS the Canadian standard is, only 5 American women went under 4:06.00 this year - remember that USA is a 1500m superpower.

I'm more impressed that she can raise her arms after running 60s for 400m!

As to who from American will be travelling to London, it was a no brainer. In the Olympic Trials final we had the 2011 World Champion - Jenny Simpson, the 2011 World #1 based on race rankings - Morgan Uceny (note: Morgan would have been the 2011 world champion if she didn't fall in the final race), and the 2009 World Championship bronze medallist - Shannon Rowbury. It wasn't even close, it was just a matter of what order they would finish.

1) Morgan Uceny (27) - 4:04.59
2) Shannon Rowbury (27) - 4:05.11
3) Jenny Simpson (25) - 4:05.17


*Awesome quote: Uceny, who ran a 60.14s last 400m, was quoted to say: "I like making other people hurt, I like making other people hurt a lot. I’m happy with the outcome."
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Canadian Male 1500m
*'A' standard - 3:35.50


Raise your hand if you're going to London for the 1500m...

Pictured above is one of Canada's most prolific track and field runners - Nate Brannen. I first heard of Brannen when I read Chris Lear's book 'Sub 4:00: Alan Webb and the Quest for the Fastest Mile'. Brannen, now 29, was a teammate and training partner with America's fastest miler, Alan Webb at Michigan State University. Although Webb has a faster mile (3:46.91 vs. Brannen's 3:52.63), Brannen will be heading to London this year - Webb will sadly have to watch his old partner take on the best in the world for 3 and half minutes. 


Brannen ran a personal best time of 3:34.22 on May 27 in the Netherlands to comfortably dip under the 3:35.50 standard. Then, to seal the deal he took home the gold at the Canadian Olympic Trials. 


It breaks my heart that Taylor Milne (2nd place in the picture above) didn't make the Olympics. From what I've gathered, there is no one who trains harder or races harder than Milne. I've watched countless videos of him putting his heart and soul on the line and always pushing the pace in every race. I hope he continues his quest for Olympic glory.
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American Male 1500m
*'A' standard - 3:39.00 (3.4s slower than the Canadian mark)

By far the most anticipated event of all the USA (and even Canadian Trials) as there were 4 big names, but only 3 can go. Like the female race, there were many decorated runners vying to not win, but to not be 4th! Matt Centrowitz won bronze at the 2011 World Championships, Leo Manzano a 4-time medalist at the USA championships, Andrew Wheating who is the 2nd fastest American-born 1500m runner, and the young gun Robbie Andrews who is known for his vicious kick.


All of these men have 1500m personal bests well below the Canadian and American standard. But in the end   it seemed experience won out. Leo Manzano won his first, and well deserved, national 1500m title which couldn't come at a better time. 


1) Leo Manzano (26) - 3:35.75
2) Matthew Centrowitz (23) - 3:34.84
3) Andrew Wheating (24)- 3:36.68




** As much as I would love to see any of these 4 North American males, they quite frankly have zero chance against the Kenyan superstar Asbel Kiprop (his resume is just outlandish... see here) has already run 3:29.78 this year. While his fellow Kenyan Silas Kiplagat has run faster 3:29.63. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

March 12 - News & Notes

Welcome back to another edition of Going Pro! Where I try to bring professional (& the top university) running news and stories to the amateurs... the weekend warriors... to those that rack up countless miles on their shoes but need a little motivation... and those that actually keep the sport going!

I took a two week hiatus from writing the blog for two reasons:
1) I was nearly buried alive with school work and life scheduling that I just didn't have enough time to sit down and construct something worthy of posting.
2) That was easier to do as there wasn't much news to write about for an entire blog piece in those weeks. But you better believe I have some serious ammo now! It's hard to know where to begin.

This week I'll cover:
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Let's begin shall we:

I was looking forward to tell you all through this blog that Canada had officially qualified its 3rd male marathoner for the London Olympics this summer. Alas, I cannot do that. Two weekends ago Dylan Wykes ran the Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan in hopes of making the standard of 2:11:29.



However, stomach problems got the best of him and he had to drop out of the race at 26km. On facebook Dylan posted: "Unfortunately I was unable to finish today as I had some terrible stomach issue that put me on the side of the road several times before stopping for good around 26k. A very tough day. But thanks to all for your support I really appreciate it."

He has also confirmed the he will not try to run another qualifying marathon before the olympics. Instead... he's going after the 10,000m! We wish him all the best! More to come on Dylan in the workout recovery section of the blog.

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This past weekend in Istanbul, Turkey some of the world's top runners took part in the World Indoor Track and Field Championships. Indoor track and field is bit of a different beast... First off, the track is 200m long with banked turns which means double the amount of laps than for the equivalent distance on a normal outdoor track (400m).

Also, the distances are a bit different, for example the 100m is shortened to 60m
  •  110m hurdles --> 60m hurdles
  • 5000m --> 3000m (which is the longest distance)
In anycase, like any world championships, each nation had their own qualifying races sending 3 runners per event (assuming they met the international standard).

The two main events of note were the men's and women's 3000m.

Mens 3000m

On the men's side our old friend Bernard Lagat (USA)was chasing his 3rd consecutive world indoor meter title at this distance. If he was to win he would tie the famous Haile Gebrsellasie with the most championships in history! don't forget that he is 37 years old!!!

He was up against the fastest man in 2010 in 3000m Kenyan Augustine Choge and the UK's Mo Farah, the 2011 world champion in 5,000m.

Mo Farah leading the pack.

As the raced unfolded that passed the mile in a pedestrian 4:14 and 2km in 5:16 (both 2:37/km) until they really ramped it up at the end. With one lap (200m) to go it the 3 men mentioned were neck and neck until the 37-year old unleashed a devastating kick that buried the pretenders. They never stood a chance. Lagat covered the last 200m in blistering ~24s!! That is absolutely outrageous.



After the race someone asked him how he still does it at his age, he responded with: 'I've been injury free and that is the key to staying strong.' So Bernie, is that all I have to do to run 2:35/km for 3km?

Finally as my go to site for running news, www.letsrun.com, said: "Lagat was born to run the 3000m. The perfect combination of speed and distance. Winning the gold in the 5000m in London will be tougher."
Below is the final 60m or so where you can see how no one else was even close to him.



Womens 3000m  There is truly only one name to mention when it comes to the womens 3000m:

Ethiopia's Meserat Defar

She has won this event in four  consecutive years. Needless to say she was the favorite going in, however Kenya's Hellen Obiri planned on halting the streak.

This was actually the fastest women's 3000m race I've seen! They went through the mile in 4:48 (2:58/km) and became progressively faster as the meters ticked off. With 400m (2 laps) to go they were averaging 2:55/km and then it really got going. Defar started her move running 32 seconds for the penultimate lap, but still have Obiri hanging on. With 100m to go Obiri found something extra, passed the indefatigable Defar and won convincingly - running the last 200m in 29.3 seconds!

The NEW 3,000m world champion Hellen Obiri!

Here's a video of the last 100m where Obiri leaves Defar in her dust. Absolutely amazing to watch.


*One thing of note: All of the male 3000m finalists ran within 17 seconds of the winner. However, the women's final was spread over 38 seconds. As you can see runners getting lapped at the end!

Up next is the NCAA Indoor Championships

NCAA Indoor Championships

Not only were the world's best on display this weekend, but so were the best collegiate runners in  NCAA indoor track and field championships in Idaho.

The main reason why USA produces such high quality runners is... well.. their high quality collegiate athletics system. I absolutely love the NCAA system for many reasons. First of all, NCAA athletes can race all year round if they so choose. In the fall, XC season is underway from August to November. From December to March is indoor track and field and from April to June there is outdoor track and field. This constant racing with the best of the best keeps athletes in consistent competition and at their best. Secondly, it is totally a team event: from the 60m sprinters to the pole vaulters everyone plays a part.
2010, 2011, & 2012 Male Champions - Florida State Gators

Finally, before you can even make the championship weekend of races you have to run as fast, or faster, than the qualifying time which are:

               Women    Men
400m         52.60     46.00
800m        2:04.5   1:47.3
1 mile       4:37      3:57.9
3000m      9:10      7:52.3
5000m    15:57     13:44.6

Insanity.
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I want to share two stories from this weekend for you - two of which are some serious Canadian content:

Story #1) Rudy... Rudy... Rudy...

My 'Rudy' chant should immediately give away which school I'm about to discuss: the famous Notre Dame (and their 'Fightin' Irish'). In particular lets focus on the DMR which stands for Distance Medley Relay. This is a relay race where each person runs a different distance (1200m, 400m, 800m, 1 mile). It's a phenomenal event to watch and is usually the last event on the schedule as so many people and teams are involved.

This year the winners of the men's DMR was none other than Notre Dame. Now why bring this up? I mean someone has to win right? well it's because the anchor (or mile) leg was run by one of the fastest Canadian milers: Jeremy Rae.

Jeremy Rae
Rae is a 21-year old lightning bolt from Fort Erie, Ontario. In the weekend before NCAA championships, he ran sub 4:00 for the mile to qualify his DMR team.
*When I was running at Trent University in Ontario, I remember hearing a LOT of talk about him because he was trying to break 4:00 in high school which has only been done by a handful of people. I believe, if memory serves me correct, that he came pretty darn close!

Congratulations Mr. Rae, you are a national champion.


Story #2) Chris Derrick vs. Lawi Lalang

The most antipated race(s) of the weekend were by far the men's 3,000m and 5,000m. Why? well because the fastest 5,000m collegian EVER Arizona State's Lawi Lalang (from Kenya) was racing against the America's #3 fastest indoor 5,000m runner ever, Stanford challenger Chris Derrick.

Lawi Lalang
Chris Derrick
Lalang PBs:

3,000m: 7:44 (4:10/m 2:35/km)
5,000m: 13:08 (4:14/m 2:38/km)

Derrick PBs:

3,000m: 7:46 (4:10/m 2:35/km)
5,0000m: 13:19 (4:17/m 2:40/km)

Advantage: Lalang.

But would Derrick make it interesting?


Quick note: In both of the events it was a two horse race but we had another worthy competitor, a guy you've never heard of...Canadian Cam Levins. ha! He's only been on the front page of this blog in the last 3 posts. But he ran two incredible races but was simply outmatched by the class of the field in Derrick and Lalang.
First, the 5,000m... It was never really a question who was going to be 1st and 2nd (although Lalang's teammate Stephen Sambu was a close 3rd with Cam Levins in 4th). But who would pull it off?

They were neck and neck until 800m when Derrick decided that he needed to up the ante and he took the lead. Which Lalang battled back for the lead, and with one last push at 300m Derrick made one final surge opening a slight gap between the two. However, with 200m (one lap) to go Lalang pulled away for the win thanks to a 28 second final lap. Winning by 0.23s in a time of 13:25 (4:19/mile or 2:41/km). An absolutely incredible effort from Derrick.

Soooo.... close. Even Lalang didn't know he got him.


In the 3,000m, it was a similar story Derrick, Lalang, and Levins. The lead pack were still together with 600m to go until Lalang and Derrick surged created a gap between the eventual third place finisher Cam Levins (7:49). With 400m to go, Derrick and Lalang exchanged the lead and were neck and neck at the bell (1 lap to go). On the final turn, Derrick went wide to pass Lalang but just couldn't close the game. Lalang was victorious again... by 0.17s in a time of 7:46.64 to 7:46.81 (4:10/mile and 2:35/km).


This is probably how you feel after reading this... much like Derrick did after the two events. Incredibly performances by both athletes.

What do I have to do to beat this guy?


Up next is my two cents on: workout recovery and smart training.

Workout Recovery

As I assume 95 - 99.9% of people reading this blog are either runners or athletes in trainings (say for a triathlon), you all probably fall into the same trap: over-training + under-recovering.

Probably how you feel all of the time if overtraining.

It's just the way of life for runners in training. We become obsessive and compulsive about our training. We always feel like we should be doing more and feel guilty when we take time off (and we wonder why people think all of us runners are crazy). You may see short-term improvements in workouts and races. But, you are dramatically increasing rate and severely of inuries as well as burnout. There are countless stories of people who have over-trained, lost the love of the sport, and gave it up all together. I personally had this happen to one of my good running friends and part of is always checking race results in his area to see if he has come back, but nothing yet. 'Running OCD' reared it's ugly head again.

With all of that being said I want to share 3 pretty solid articles with you (one of them is the main reason why I'm training full-time now, we'll save that for the end).

1) Our good friend Dylan Wykes offered up his thoughts on what he does after a hard workout to ensure proper recovery. (Note: he has access to a few gadgets that all of us don't, but the concept is there).

Click here to read his blog article. Very interesting.
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2) Ryan Hall is currently on his way to London as USA's 2nd fastest marathoner at the January Olympic Trials. In the recent years he has left his coach and went own his own 'faith-based' program. He went from running 120 miles per week down to 100 miles and with a day off each week. The majority of runners at his level or aspiring to be at his level would a) never settle for 100 miles per week or b) be ok with a day off. So how do he go about making this decision?

He talked to this guy: Matt Dixon.
Hall on left, Matt Dixon on Right
Dixon is a former competitive triathlete who suffered the a serious case of over-training.

Here are some quotes from www.runningtimes.com article:

"Dixon helped Hall see anew the benefits of recovery, encouraging him to incorporate more rest into his training and to eat more post-run to aid recovery"

"Dixon isn’t a 21st century wizard with secret knowledge; he just believes that recovery is under-valued and under-utilized. “Our goal is not to train as hard as we can, but to perform well,” Dixon says. “And to perform well you have to be very fit, but not fatigued.”
 Recovery, however, shouldn’t be confused with easy. “Recovery is the thing that enables hard training,” Dixon says. If you’re rested and fueled, you can you push yourself to new heights in key workouts and increase fitness.
I suggest you read the uber informative article, found here.
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3) Hands down the best article I've ever read on training properly / smartly with almost a guarantee of getting faster (assuming you aren't already injured) was written by the co-founder of www.letsrun.comWeldon Johnson.

The article is called 'Why I Sucked in College'. It talks about Weldon's rise from a fairly competitive 10k runner with a personal best time of low 30 mins for 10k to one of the top 5 American times for the year in 28:06 - 4:31/mile or 2:49/km. Another cool note about Weldon was the fact that he paced Paula Radcliffe, the female marathon world record holder to her first world record of 2:17.18 in Chicago in 2002.
Paula Radcliffe with Weldon pacing

The whole article is essentially one big quote. I can guarantee you there is nothing you will read about training that is more true than this. Some highlights (all of the bold and capital letters are part of the article):

"Running is a very simple activity. It is largely an aerobic activity (and more so the farther you run in distance). The better aerobic fitness you have, the better you'll do. The more you can train and the more consistently you train the better you'll do. Most of us however, especially college runners, are out there running ourselves ragged, pounding away at intervals, without taking a step back to see what we really should be doing."

"The goal of every interval or every workout is not to run as fast as you can. Let me repeat that, THE GOAL OF EVERY INTERVAL OR EVERY WORKOUT IS NOT TO RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN"

" In running however, there are not bonus points for running "hard." The point is to run fast. There is a difference. Don't forget that. Too many people confuse "hard" with fast. The next time you see Bernard Lagat running, tell me how "hard" it looks like he's running."

Happy Running!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Feb 21 - News and Notes

Welcome back for another weekly installement of Going Pro!

Last time, I introduced you to arguably the two best American runners in Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat! This week...
  • I'll be shedding light on the current world 5,000m champion, who is also Rupp's training partner, UK's Mo Farah.
  • Of course, I'll keep you up to date on the all of the Canadian Content in the week that just passed.
  • Plus, I'll let you know what elites are running the upcoming Boston Marathon & New York City Half Marathon in preparation for the summer Olympics in London.

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The running 'Mecca' of the United States is located in Eugene, Oregon. That's where prolific names like Bill Bowerman, Pre, Kenny Moore, Bill Dellinger, & Galen Rupp made a name for themselves. Currently, the professional runners who train in Eugene run for the Oregon Track Club (OTC) - with the premier athletes coached by the legendary Alberto Salazar (all sponsored by Nike).

 Alberto today.                                                            The Golden Boy back in the '80s.

Galen Rupp has been training under Salazar for the last ten years and in 2011 he gained a significant training advantage when the UK's top distance runner Mo Farah decided to move to Oregon to train.

Farah doing what he does best...screaming at camermen.


Now just who is Mo Farah you ask? Well with great pleasure I'll introduce you to the 2011 5,000m World Champion. (Not a bad title to have eh?)

The 28-year old Somalia-native moved to England at age 8 not speaking a word of English. At age 13, he entered his first high school XC race, finishing 9th and then won the next 5 years in a row... obviously!

With such a positive start to his running career, he continued his domination through College and eventually turning pro. In 2005, the extraordinarily hardworking Farah moved in with a bunch of other pro runners including many Africans. On this, Farah said: "They sleep, eat, train and rest, that's all they do but as an athlete you have to do all those things... If I ever want to be as good as these athletes I've got to work harder. I don't just want to be British number one, I want to be up there with the best." That pretty much sums up how and why he is the current world #1.

He, like Rupp, is so incredibly impressive because of his range of his running ability. Last week, I told you that Rupp ran 60:30 in his half-marathon debut at last year NYC Half Marathon. What I didn't tell you was that Rupp finished 3rd in that race, Farah won in his own debut in 60:23 (4:36/mile or 2:52/km).

Rupp and Farah in the 2011 NYC Half Marathon



Since last March he has been utterly demolishing competition*, check out these stats:
  • European XC & 3,000m champion
  • Broke European indoor 5,000m record in a time of 13:10 (4:14/mile or 2:38/km)
  • Broke European 10,000m record in a time of 26:46.5 (4:19/mile or 2:41/km)
  • Broke British National 5,000m record with a time of 12:53 (4:08/mile or 2:34/km)
  • World 5,000m Champion (beating Bernard Lagat)
*Last week, I told you of Rupp's new 2-mile record in 8:09.1. Well... on Saturday in Birmingham, England, Farah beat his training partners time running 8:08.1 (4:04/mile or 2:31/km) - breaking the European record!! Amazing time and all, however he did not win! He was beaten by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge who ran 8:07.3!

 Farah is well on his way to an Olympic Medal in the 5,000m in his home country! He has his work cut out for him to get gold, but he is a strong favorite and certainly has my vote!

Below is the video of Farah's 2011 World Championship victory! Fast forward to 6:00 to see the last lap! You can literally seem him change gears at least 3 times. Also note how in control he is when he is looking around at the start of the last lap!

 


 Up next is the Canadian Content of the week past.

Canadian Content

Our Canadian honourable mentions this week are a bit less than normal (at least from what I could find / what I heard about). But lets get at it anyways:

First and foremost, I need to give a little love to our local superstar - who I introduced last week - Ryan Brockerville. 'Brock' is one of, if not thee, the top track (and XC) runners for Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia. This year SFU has begun competing in the NCAA which upped the competition level dramatically.

Brock


This weekend, Brockerville and SFU were down in Idaho at the Great Northwestern Athletics Conference Indoor Championship.

Brockerville competed in the Mile and the Distance Medley Relay (which consists of 4 runners taking on legs of 1200m, 400m, 800, & 1600m respectively.

In the mile Brockerville finished 2nd overall by 0.2 seconds in a time 4:12.7. While his SFU distance medley relay team won by beating their previous meet record by 1 second!
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Back in Canada, there was a big Ontario University Athletics (OUA) meet at the University of Toronto. Some notable performances:


I always find the 1,000m to be an incredible event. As runners everything we do is broken down into 1km splits. I have never run a single kilometer as hard as I possibly could, but I always wonder what I could do. However, I can promise you that it isn't as fast as these guys (and many professional females):

Guelph's Rob Jackson
Men 1,000m:


1 Jackson, Rob Guelph 2:25.77
2 Boulay, Benoit Guelph 2:26.29

3 Holmes, Steve-o Guelph 2:26.36

4 Armstrong, Ryan Western 2:27.27

5 Sayers, Trent Western 2:27.00 2:27.64

6 Stevens, Evan Guelph 2:27.66







Women 1,000m:

1 Jewett, Tamara U of T Varsity  2:52.91
2 Phelan, Jaimie Laurel Creek  2:54.713 Sawyer, Kailee Laurel Creek 2:54.934 Housley, Katie U of T Varsity  2:56.225 Maher, Paulina U of T Varsity  3:05.006 Thompson, Lindsay Windsor 3:07.167 Van Hie, Carrie Trent University 3:10.65
** I had the pleasure to run with Carrie at Trent! Super athlete! Keep up the awesome running!!



 Men 1,500m


1 Davenport, Ethan U of T Varsity 3:51.79
2 Bowes, Graham McMaster University  3:54.803 Parker, Kaelan Guelph 3:58.824 Denault, Alex U of T Varsity  3:59.205 Hynes, Brendan U of T Varsity  3:59.50



Megan Brown at it again!


Women 1,500m


1 Brown, Megan Athletics Ontario  4:20.762 Thompson, Carise Guelph 4:31.173 Frost, Nadine Guelph 4:31.394 Hennessy, Colleen U of T Varsity 4:33.115 Malleck, Julia U of T Track Club 4:42.91



More Canadian Results can be found here

Reid Coolsaet's Road to London

Speaking of Canadian Content! Hello...



Reid...


Coolsaet.

Canada's top marathoner has long since cracked the 2:11:29 Olympic standard time. In fact, he's dipped under that mark twice: 2:11:22 and 2:10:55 at the 2010 & 2011 Toronto Waterfront Marathon, respectively.

He's just returning from a training phase in Kenyan where he ran countless miles with some of the best in the world - even doing some races against them! On February 12th, Reid raced the Diekirch Cross Country race in Luxembourg on a 10.2km course. In a deep field with both young and experienced runners Reid placed 4th in a time of 31:17 (4:56/mile or 3:04/km).

Over the last year Reid has documented his 'Road to London'. In his non-running, eating, and sleeping hours, he has edited together what looks like it going to be an epic montage of his training.

Check it out here.



2012 Boston Marathon Elite Field

It's almost that time of year again. Ahh... April! Where us in Newfoundland are still shovelling while most marathoners fly across the pond (i.e. Atlantic Ocean) for the London Marathon or south for the Boston Marathon or N.Y.C. Half Marathon.

If you, or someone you know, are making the trip to any of these prestigious races I guess you should know your competition. Keep in  mind that this is an Olympic year so those with a trip to London will be cautious in racing a spring marathon, you might not see ALL the big names.

Let's start with the most famous of all

Monday, April 16, 2012


Elite Men
In the order I think they'll finish!
*12 elite  men have personal bests faster than 2:08:00 (4:53/mile or 3:02/km)
1. Geoffrey Mutai (Kenya) - Unofficial world's fastest marathoner & 2011 Boston Marathon winner
                                            - PB = 2:03:02 (4:42/mile or 2:55/km)



2. Gebre Gebremariam (Ethiopia) - Winner of the 2010 NYC Marathon, 2nd at 2011 NYC Half
                                                       - Always wears sweet hats!                                                      
                                                       - PB = 2:04:53 (4:46/km or 2:58/km)



3. Robert Cheruiyot (Kenya) - Winner of the 2010 Boston Marathon
                                               - PB = 2:05:52 (4:48/mile or 2:59/km)




Elite Women
In the order I think they'll finish.

1. Aselefech Mergia (Ethiopia) - Winner of the 2012 Dubai Marathon
                                                    - PB = 2:19:31 (5:19/mile or 3:18/km)


2. Caroline Kilel (Kenya) - Winner of the 2011 Boston Marathon and 2010 Frankfurt Marathon
                                           - PB = 2:22:36 (5:26/mile or 3:23/km)



3. Sharon Cherop (Kenya) - 2nd in 2011 Boston Marathon (she's in the above picture behind Kilel)
                                              - Winner of the 2010 Toronto Waterfront Marathon
                                              - 2:22:42 (5:26/mile or 3:23/km)


 
Up next is the NYC Half Marathon Field