Monday, 7 August 2017

Icarus - My Canada Games Nightmare

In Greek mythology, it is thought that a talented craftsman named Daedalus patented two pairs of wings out of feathers and wax. He made one for himself, and he gifted the other pair to his son, Icarus. Due to a dispute with King Minos, Daedalus feared his life on the island of Crete. The wings were his and his son's only way of escaping the island and finding safety elsewhere. Before handing the wings to his zealous son, however, Daedalus warned him to use the wings with caution. Flying too close to the sun would cause the wings to burn. Icarus, thrilled about the idea of flying high, ignored his father's warnings and fell victim to the hands of hubris. He flew near the sun, his wings got burned, and he harrowed to the ground.


***

"Hey Cyr, what are the odds you actually medal today?" asked Damon MacDonald, sitting at a table in the lounge of floor 11 of Pembina Hall, University of Manitoba's tallest student residence. I looked up from my phone. Eight guys were looking back at me, awaiting my answer. "Uhh, well that's my goal, I guess." I had been caught off guard with his question. I was in the middle of reading the electronic version of The Guardian and The Journal Pioneer's front page sports story of the day: "Alex Cyr Ready to Run at Canada Games", well written by Jason Malloy. He had asked to write a feature on me, so we had spoken for the better part of an hour, two days prior to the article's release. I seemed to be the headliner for our track team at these games.



I remembered reading a similar feature on Connor McGuire in 2013. At the time, he was the one: the saviour, the medal hopeful, the athlete slated to place Athletics PEI on the map. Whether or not he initially believed it to be possible, the idea of medalling at the Canada Games for PEI had been pounded in his brain by coaches and supporters so hard that anything less than a podium finish would come as failure. He was an AUS champion, a PEI record holder, and the face of distance running in our province. There was only one problem: Connor had been injured. His training regime had been strained over the summer, but the expectations remained the same. He had told no one; his supporters found out the hard way. In front of a sea of fans draped in green and white, collectively ignorant to his recent struggles, Connor crossed the line in 10th place, devastated.

I was 17 and mesmerized. From the stands, I wondered if I would ever be the one to bring the entire PEI delegation to the track, in the hopes of witnessing a medal-winning performance. I wondered if I would ever be the subject of an article on the front page of the sports section.

The time was now. I had waited four years, and was now racing in two hours. I had worked on my credentials. I, too, now had provincial records. I, too, had become an AUS champion at St. FX. My times had become similar to Connor's. That was enough for me to confidently believe in my chance at a medal. Rich had told me: "You have beaten many of these guys before, and you can beat anyone in this race on a given day. So why can't you just beat all of them today?" There was the mindset. I was not a favourite to win a medal, but I had a chance at a medal. That's all I needed. That's all PEI needed. A chance. It was enough to get people excited. Enough to get me excited. I had one shot to race well and go down in history with Connaughton and few others as a Canada Games medallist. "Cyr, we're painting your name on our chests, just so you know," continued Damon. I couldn't tell whether he was joking or not. "Can't wait," I said. I was nervous, but confident. With that, I said goodbye to the guys, took the elevator down from our high floor, and as Connor McGuire had done exactly four years ago, I marched on to my death.




***

"2:50, 2:51!" someone called out as I ran through the first kilometre. I was in the lead group, running comfortably. The pace was hot, but it was what it took to make it to the podium. I refused to step off the gas pedal. The second kilometre was, despite my increasing effort level, slower. "5:46, 5:47!" I had run a 2:56. Quick mental math told me that I was still under 14:30 pace. I kept grinding. By the third kilometre, I had slowed to a 3:04. Russell Pennock and company were out of sight. Soon, Brady Graves passed me. Then, Andrew Peverill. The fourth and fifth kilometres were painful. I blew up. I stepped off the gas pedal and pitifully heaved around the track for a few more laps. I crossed the finish line in 15 minutes and 11 seconds: my worst time in years. My placing? 10th. Never had I been so distraught and angry after a race. The only word I could utter: "F*ck." I left the premises. I could not stand people telling me that I had done a great job. I don't know if some people complimented me out of pity or ignorance, and I could not decide which possibility was worse. Disgusted with my performance, the reactions, and myself, I retreated to my residence.

---

I wondered why I had raced so poorly, and why I was so pissed off. Without question, I had an off-day physically. But, I then realized that I had also set myself up for a mental disaster. I had spent four years working on my wings, trying to get closer to my sun of glory. I had become Icarus, and I had flown much too high in a few ways.

-I had abruptly jumped into 3 hard track sessions per week in May, while ignoring the little pains until they became big pains. Rich had no idea I was hurting, because I had not told him. Just like that, I missed a month of training.

-I then came back fast, trying to fit in a whole season of running in the 7 weeks I had left before the games. My body had grown weary.

- I split 2:50 for my first kilometre, having never run close to 14:10 before, because I thought I was fit enough - no, I forced myself to believe I was fit enough.

- Then, I flew too close to the sun in my mental preparation. I stopped feeling hopeful for a medal, and began feeling entitled. I'm not sure how this thought manifested, but it may have had something to do with people's expectations. I consider myself good at blocking out those thoughts, but sometimes they still creep in.

I think my problem stemmed from the fact that I got too caught up in the glamour of winning a medal, and refused to go with the flow in my training. I never modified my expectations for what my body was telling me, or for the time frame I was given after my injury. Then, when I first noticed that my race was not going as planned, and I was slowing down after 2 kilometres, I considered my master plan foiled. One small hiccup and my perfect vision was ruined, and my mindset plummeted. I thought of my chances too good, the possible triumphant moment too great, to miss out on. In the end, I found out that my mental preparation for high-pressure events needs a bit of work.

No better time for a master's thesis in sport psych. I could do it on myself...now that's flying a bit too close.

AC




Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Winnipeg Bound!

Keeping this one short. I promise. Gabe Quenneville has been complaining about the length of these posts. As if he even reads them.

I am leaving the Charlottetown airport tomorrow at 8:00 am en route to Winnipeg, Manitoba for the 2017 Canada Games. After some thought, I will only be racing the 5000m on Friday night, August 4th. I was originally slated to race the 1500m as well, but given the feedback I received from my workouts, I am much more 5000m ready than I am 1500m ready.

After taking three weeks off to heal a hip injury in late May/early June, followed by two weeks of minimal mileage and no workouts, I did not feel very fast. I was able to hold on to a solid aerobic base thanks to the Dalplex's crappy bikes and precarious pool schedule. Coming back to the track, a few workouts helped me find my stride again. I felt fit within two weeks. I still don't feel fast.


That likely has something to do with the way we decided to tackle the training block. With the guidance of Rich I decided that, given the timeframe, it would be best to focus on the 5000m until the games to make the transition into cross country racing more fluid.

During this training block, I hit a few high points, all things considered. I won the Highland Games 5 mile road race, one of my favourite racing events, against a field of strong (albeit banged up) runners. I consistently logged 90-100km without re-injury, and began enjoying it again. The good thing that came out of this injury was the rekindling of my love for the sport. I had been healthy for a long time, and had forgotten what it was like to not be physically able to run. Now, I feel fortunate every time I get out the door, and this feeling makes the workload much more bearable.

Highland Games 5 miler


Another high point within this training block was my run of last Thursday: 22 km in the back roads of Antigonish with some good company. Fragile Scotty D made it to 50 and looked good. Mr. Jathan Neffs went for 60 sporting the classic blue and white striped shorts, and this Eric Gillis guy joined me for most of my run. Talking to him about the future of our program at X is exciting, and makes me wish I'd be around to witness the changing of the guard. I can't wait to see how Eric and Bernie whip the guys into shape this year. Along with Angus' amazing performance at Senior Nats, things are looking good on all fronts.


But, back to the Games. I think I'm ready for a good race, and I'm looking forward to catching up with friends from all over.  Catch my race on Friday night at 6:20 pm CDT (8:20 Atlantic). Here is the link : http://www.trackie.com/track-and-field/TrackieTV/Live/

#PEIStrong
AC

Friday, 26 May 2017

Why I Sucked Pt. III - What Made me Improve

Short answer: Because I was healthy.

***

Longer answer:

Consistency breeds results. Results breed confidence. Confidence breeds consistency in one's methods, I guess. It's like a positive feedback loop. When you're on a roll, it is hard to falter and lose momentum. Think of it this way: when are you most likely to get injured? Maybe this is only true for me, but I always seem to deal with minor pains and strains at the beginning of a training cycle. When I am fresh off a week or two of rest and trying to ramp up mileage or intensity is when my body is more likely to reject the change in training load. Most times, when I make it to the middle of a season with a clean bill of health, I cruise to the end without problem.  I've learned that if one finds a way to begin each season building off the past one without interruption, success, or at least improvement, is likely. That is how I improved over the past years. That is how I ran PBs. But, it is rather when the cycle of consistency breaks, that I leave things to chance.

I let the cycle break after taking nearly 3 weeks to recover after the U Sports 1500m this year. Don't get me wrong: breaks are necessary. But, they have to be done properly. Following this break, I may not have spent enough time in the gym strengthening, or I may have committed errors in the way I tried to ramp up my training load again. It has since been hard to find consistency, results and confidence again. This time, things have not been going my way. A foot problem carried over from indoor season. After taking care of that, my left foot starting hurting again, at a different location. After missing patches of training, I was able to get over this problem and run healthy for 8 days. They were great. But that was not the end. As I write, I am sitting on my porch in downtown Halifax, my abode for the summer, with my legs in the air. I have two icepacks in my vicinity. My summer job starts next week, and my regular training sessions ended last, due to a still-undiagnosed hip annoyance. After a hectic end of school year when running was being balanced with thesis work, classes and senior/graduation events, I now have plenty of time on my hands, and I'm trying to find ways to make use of it. I am very frustrated for two reasons.

1- I decided to move to Halifax for the summer to join Halifast Athletics, in the hopes of running PBs in the 1500m and 5000m, and ride a new fitness to big races such as Senior Nationals and the Canada Games. Though this hope is still well alive, these past two months have done little to reassure me. Other than a strong string of workouts in mid-May, training has, like I said, been spotty. One small injury substitutes itself for another, while I helplessly chase physiotherapists and chiropractors between my rolling and icing sessions. Being injured is being injured, and everyone goes through it, but this timing sucks. I elected to move away from my family and friends on PEI, and away from part of my crew in Antigonish, NS, to blindly move into a new house in a new neighbourhood. At the time of my decision, I still had no job. Put simply, I came here to run. After using my last month at St. FX to have fun and enjoy myself a bit more than usual, the mindset was completely shifted towards running. I wanted to see what would happen if I trained and lived like a professional athlete. Halifax would give me the facilities and 1500m training group that would enable me to do so. As well, moving into a new city would help me escape distractions. For the week I was healthy, things were going smoothly, as planned. I love the training group and environment, as I expected I would. But now, I cannot run, and I am questioning this entire decision.

2- I think my frustration also stems from the fact that I've become spoiled. I was blessed with a clean slate of health, as of late. Since 2015, I was able to compete in every AUS championship and even represent my school on the national stage, after missing my first three AUS races due to anemia and other injuries. I may be the only AUS distance athlete who has medalled in every conference distance championship race thus far in 2016 and 2017.
2016 AUS 1500m - 3rd
2016 AUS 3000m - 2nd
2016 AUS XC - 2nd
2017 AUS 3000m - 3rd
2017 AUS 1500m - 1st

Not because I was better, but because I was on the line and healthy on every occasion. None of my teammates can say that. All had been held back by an injury or burnout at some given time in these last two years. So, maybe this is simply the Regression to the Mean phenomenon in effect. Everyone has their turn. Who knows, maybe this is my turn to be out for a while. The hope that this injury is simply a short term thing like all the others I worked through in this last month, is what keeps me going. That being said, it has been difficult to suck it up and hit the stationary bike after having been away from it for so long. I guess this test is one of discipline.

So now, I'm trying to get myself out of this brooding state of mind. I did not compete for Team PEI at the last Canada Games, and a big goal I set for myself was to be competitive with the best when 2017 came around. The Games are romanticized on PEI, and become a big deal for us. It represented the end of a cycle for me - the end of my undergraduate career. Now, the chance that I make it to the games in peak fitness is shrinking every day. I am trying my best to believe that there isn't a good time to be injured, and that I am not cursed. I could have been hurt for my final XC or track season at St. FX, and that would have been no better. I guess I am writing this to remind myself to stop overthinking about my helplessness over what is to come. We all do it, but it's useless. All we can do is try to maximize our potential one day at a time. I am doing my best to get back on that consistency, so that I can reach a new height, so that I can keep improving. That being said, hitting the shitty Dalplex bikes in 10. See you around.

AC

***

On a more positive note, I want to take this opportunity to send a few birthday shoutouts.

1- (May 26th) This guy is funny and smart and is doing a masters next year to escape the work force so he can have more time to work on his rapping. Happy birthday Scott!


2- (May 26th) This girl is a brilliant, soon-to-be teacher whose excellent taste in sushi is only rivalled by her taste in men. Happy birthday Ellen!


3- (May 26th) This was going to remain a St. FX thing, but I see it's Roman Run Justinen's birthday too. This guy runs fast and can grow a beard and sometimes sends me snapchats. Happy birthday!

(No photo available)

4- (May 27th) This girl's name is Booty K. I miss her and I still don't know her real name. She means business. Happy birthday!








Wednesday, 7 December 2016

XC - CIS 2016

So much has happened before CIS. So much has happened since. I could talk about it all, but sadly, time escapes me. Exams, applications, briefly being social, etc. I have decided to keep it down to basics. Despite getting a good amount of compliments on my blog posts, I have never been told by anyone to make them longer. So, there you go. Also, a new writing project has been taking up a lot of my free time and running stories. More on this later, but stay tuned! Let's jump right into it.

RACE

Brenda Chisholm looked me in the eyes five minutes before the gun. "Be gutsy, Alex" is what she told me. I did not take that comment lightly. That's a woman who has kept Bernie in line for 40 (?) plus years. That's a woman who has seen things. That's a woman with whom you do not disagree. So I listened. I marched my way to the start line, and ran into Scotty. "Cyr, we're bunched up here. I don't want to get boxed in. I'm expecting you to go out hard, faster than the guys next to us." "Ok Scott, got it." I thought to myself, "hey I have pretty good leg speed. Not too many of these guys can beat me over 1500m. I should be able to get off the line faster than whoever is there if I really try. Unless it's like, Corey Bellemore. That would really suck. Nah, what are the odds? I'll be fine." I then check to see who is lining up to my right. Oh sweet, it's Corey Bellemore. (Spoiler: I did win the footrace off the line. He soon passed me. Didn't see him again until that night in one of Chuck's AP busses. He's pretty nice.)

Soon after, we were off. 500m into the race, I was sitting in fifth place. Away from danger, but much higher up than I would eventually finish, and I was aware of this. The individual leading the race was a man who was quoted saying "if you go out in front of Yves, Bellemore and Tree, you're an idiot." That man was Cal DeWolfe. He was jacked up on caffeine and adrenaline, as we all were. He soon settled in a few places behind me. I was told I was in 25th for the first lap. Feeling great, I thought it would be a good idea to pick up the pace. During the next two laps, I was a man on a mission, targeting runner after runner and picking them off. With one lap to go, I was 17th. I'll interject for those who are not familiar with the CIS scene: 170 runners toe the line. 14th is All-Canadian. My placing last year was 39. For my standards, I was in a good place.

Then, it came. Like a hot flash, a wave of lactate consumed my legs. I was quickly passed by runners who had better gaged their effort levels. Rome, Ullman, Racine, Cal, Seneca and company paraded by me and my failing running stride. I was cooked, and crossed the line in 31st. I retreated to my parents' car and sat down for a solid hour, replenishing my debt in oxygen. Never had I pushed so hard in a race. Big shout to Therapist Laura for bringing me back to life.
Snapchat credit - Cullen MacInnis

THOUGHTS

What do I think about this? I don't know. Cal and I talked about how people's interpretations on XC seasons are often skewed because of the overemphasis placed on CIS. I don't want to fall in that trap and quantify my season using one race results, one number. 31. By this logic, last year would then be quantified by last year's placing, 39. In a full year of consistent training, have I only improved by eight places? No way! In some ways, I believe I have made great jumps in the last calendar year. My 1500m time has improved. My AUS race was a good one. I ran workouts faster than I ever have before during this season. So, to limit my self-evaluation to one event, one race, is selling myself short. A high CIS finish is sexy as all heck, but it is not the only way to define a season. Even if it was the only way, no ragrets.



I've been joking with the guys lately by telling them that as soon as I cross that CIS finish line (and it's still CIS by the way) I will demand to be called "Alex Cyr, The Miler." I want to spend some time going down in distance to focus on the 1500m. If all goes well, I hope to ride this wave until the summer, and see if I can improve my 800-1500-3000 times. It's just a fun experiment, but one that I am motivated for. Gonna seek out some pointers from Willy Russ and ViJake; the Centros of the east. For now, I am taking a bit of time to recuperate before the indoor season. My main goal is to stay healthy so that I can have a fun last season in the blue and white.

MOVING FORWARD

I intend on reflecting more about this in an upcoming post, so I will not eternalize myself. I realize that I am reaching a transitional period in my running. My time at X is soon over. I plan on pursuing my education and training at a new destination, and where that is, I am still unsure. More on this in a few months. For now, an understanding of whatsoever situation I find myself in is enough. I realize that my undergraduate career is over. I am no longer "expected" to run. To me, this means that running no longer symbolizes a compliment to my schooling, but rather an adult commitment. To decide that I will continue to train seriously is to consciously understand what that entails. Eating better, sleeping more, avoiding negative distractions, etc.

At 21 years old, I can only rationalize a continuation in my training if this means a continuation in the betterment of my lifestyle. The second I notice myself going backwards in my commitment level will be the time I retire from competitive running. For now, my decision is to continue seeking improvement. I want to try taking it to a new commitment level; one I have not yet reached. I am still enjoying the process, so I may as well dig deeper.

SHOUTOUTS

Ok, wasn't going to do these in fear of getting repetitive. But, I heard from a few that they were well received, so let's go at it once more.

Shoutout to Callum Drever for replacing Matt McNeil for best D-floor presence in the AUS.

Shoutout to Addison Derhak for being runner up in this category for his antics with dance floor poles.

Shoutout to Daniel Maguire and Angus MacIntosh, the merciless haunters of new Facebook friendships.

Shoutout to Cal for getting into Dal law and becoming dead to all of us.

Shoutout to Rome for bringing Castaway's Tom Hanks back to life.

Shoutout to Michaela Walker for magically becoming a cross girl

Shoutout to Nick MacMackin aka The Kitty Cat #353in16 #9Lives

Shoutout to John Peverill for bringing the slicked back wide blonde gel-stricken mohawk back in style (or in style for the first time I guess)

Shoutout to G. Hathaway and his boys for great hospitality on XC Nats weekend. Still learning how to #PullAGavin

Shoutout to Gary and the boys at Sunset and Randolph for a great time in the City of Roses

Shoutout to Andrew Peverill for confirming he's coming to X next year (disclaimer: no verbal commitment yet, but he said it with his eyes I think)

Shoutout to Les Boys for capturing the elusive gold on home course. Knew it was just a matter of time before the french prevailed on Les Plaines.

Shoutout to my boys - DBC, Naughty, Ostrich, Fabio, Beef-Goose, Frisky, Silk and Boutine. A memorable year with a rough ending.

Shoutout to our massive cheer squad. I'm sure no other school coming from that far out had quite the support staff that we did. Having you guys spread out on the course made that last loop slightly more tolerable.

Shoutout to Manu #LeSauveteurDuSoir

Shoutout to Taylor Milne, an ageless wonder.


PHOTOS

Speedgoggles
Start line at CIS
AUS Championship

AUS All-Stars (Missing from photo: Lee Wesselius)
Coaches can get krabby before race day
My bosses at the St.FX Wellness Centre, Joe and Gerry. They grew out their facial hair in support of the XC team! This photo is only 2 weeks in, you should see them now!
The boys 
Our PEISAA crew

The Frenchmen ft. Liz
Windsor!



PS  - DJ Scotty D and I had prepared a little pump up jam leading into the race. Turns out, our rapping ability is only good for a 10th place finish..


video

À la prochaine,
AC

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Walking on glass

This one will be short. Why? Because for the first time in my adult life, I don't have much to say. I've typecast myself as a writer of long, illustrious posts in the past while. This one will unfortunately not live up to expectations. Most of my ramblings have been locked away in another writing project on which I am currently working, and it has got me excited! More on this in a few months. This post will only answer the Maine questions.

In contrast to the summer of 2015 that saw me flirt with the local road racing circuit a bit more than I should have, the summer of 2016 was rather uneventful. Following a semi-breakout block in which I focused on the 1500m, the main goal was simply to load up the legs with mileage. I did that in July, but it has been a different story since then. Strep throat, ghost shin pains, and annoying cases of peroneal/achilles tendinitises (tendonii?) took the fun away from my supposed favourite time of the year, XC prep. Luckily, for the last 7 days, I have been running well and healthy. Since I have little to no recent interesting and concrete stories to share this time, I will share pieces of my mindset entering this fourth and final year with the X-men.

Q- Am I fit?
A- I'm not unfit. I've been fitter. Maybe this is good. 
Do I think I am in the best shape of my life? Maybe not quite, but I am close. The amount of workouts (or lack thereof) I had to do to feel close to the top of my game excites me. I think there is a lot of room for growth if all goes well. I find solace in the fact that I at least should avoid burnout. I have peaked early a few times in the past, so perhaps a late start is a blessing in disguise.

Q - How does the team look?
A - Promising
As a predominantly senior team, we know what makes each other tick. Pushing each other in workouts has become second nature, and I count this as a huge advantage. But, as every seasoned XC runner knows, a good team on paper is not everything. Consistency and durability dominates our sport, and the real questions will only be answered in two months. For now, we have one race result under our belt, and things look fine.

http://www.trackie.com/track-and-field/results_docs/bowdoin-invitational2016-09-18-03-59-24.pdf



Q - Do I want to win the individual AUS gold medal?
A- Yeah.
So do, like, all my friggin roommates. So does God knows who in the conference. The individual battle will add some spice to the season, having no clear and away favourite picked out just yet. The good thing about cross country is the following: by wanting to outdo each other, we will only get fitter, and this benefits the team. So, at a time, I want to be as fit as I can to hand a whooping to the best versions of Neuffer, Scott, Cal, and friends, but also to assure that these guys are on the strongest team possible. I'll be damned if they don't think the same way. It is also worth mentioning that after running with the same guys for 3 years, I have become comfortable losing to them in knowing the extent of the effort they put into the sport. There is no hiding that we are all competitive guys, but we have learned to use that trait to our advantage over the years. The overarching goal is the success of our team, and we are all fully invested in this purpose. With this special group, it's now or never.

Oh yeah, last thing. This is my message to all the Trackie trolls out there. If you have enough time to post repetitive and foolish predictions on that website, I imagine you take the time out of your day to read this blog too. Here are the real predictions.

Dark horse: Josh Shanks
Dark horse II: Lee McCarron
Dark horse III: Connor McGuire
Best name: Addison Derhak
Best hair: Jake Wing
Father time (Riley Johnston memorial): Jeremie Pellerin/Scott Donald
Voice of the conference: Jonathan Peverill
Biggest hype men: The entire Memorial Men's cross country team
Best Angus: Angus MacIntosh
Fishbowl friend award: Will Russell
Rookie of the year: Who knows, they're rookies. They're all stupid! I may have been the dumbest one of all and I turned out ok!

And please will you all stop throwing Graeme Wach under the bus. He's a decent guy who does not deserve this kind of treatment. Looking at you, "AUS scout."

Wishing you all a long and healthy season,
AC






Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Thoughts of a Hermit

Good things come in twos. Crosby and Malkin, Ernie and Bert, Chuck et Albert etc. That was good enough logic for me to compose this blog in two parts. If you are short for time, enjoy the first half, as the hardware precedes the software. If you want a glimpse of my inner thoughts, hang tight.

First, lets hit up some hard results

May 7th - ANS Open meet - 1500m - 3:56.9
May 14th - Boston New Balance Twilight meet - 1500m - 4:00.8
May 27th - Totally Official PEI All-Comers meet 3000m - 8:30.6
June 22nd - NTL Aileen Meagher Classic - 1500m - 3:52.22
June 24th - East Coast Games - 1500m - 3:52.28

As you can infer from these results, I only really started hitting my stride later in the season. I think there are a few reasons for that. Ever since coming back from my year of sickness and injury, I have gained an affinity for racing. I think this sentiment was a by-product of the motivation that I drew from my rapid improvement. When I began achieving times that my longtime-anemic mind perceived impossible, racing was so satisfying that it almost became addictive. I was warned about the perils of over-racing by some smart people. This awareness helped me make peace with the idea of staying off the racing scene for almost a month following the PEI open meet. The decision payed dividends. After four weeks of rounding the StFX track, DJ O'Regan and I began our road trip towards Halifax.

Aileen Meagher Classic

This was my first time competing in the International Section of this NTL meet, and the experience was great. I lined up with the second slowest seed time in the field, but I was not intimidated. In the weeks leading to the race, I had the pleasure of training with John Corbit, who has gone 3:47 for the 1500m. Going from training with a group of guys that I consider equivalent to me in terms of speed, to training with someone considerably faster than me pushed me to a new intensity during workouts. By training with John, I came to know what to get ready for, so the competition itself did not startle me. And it shouldn't have anyway. We split 800m in 2:06. Pedestrian for them, very manageable for me. I ran most of the race in the vicinity of Little Peverill (Brother of Big Peverill), Jean Marc Doiron (alias coach JMD) and Will Russell (alias Wu-tang Will). As the pace intensified in the last lap, I found myself chasing Jean Marc, and his presence helped me kick in the last 100m. This brought me to a new PB of 3:52.22, and put me in 6th place in the strong field of 9. I also finished 4 seconds behind Mike Tate, who won the race. Last time we raced a 1500m, I think he beat me by 12 seconds. Based on my research, assuming the trend of me gaining eight seconds on Mike stays consistent, I will beat him by 4 seconds next time, and by 12 seconds the time after that. Better stay down in Utah and far away from me, buddy. Big thanks to Will, Lizzy, and Michaela "Orange Blur" Walker for their hospitality. Maybe I should thank Rusty Matt McNeil as well, I don't know. Need a source on this. 


With Olympian Jenna Martin
After 2 shiny new PBs
A bit of post-race debrief



East Coast Games

After a fun night with the Dal crew, DJ and I grabbed our new PBs and fled for Saint John, NB to meet with the MacMackins at the track for a little shakeout practice. Tell you what, there is nothing I wanted more than to get dropped by Nick like a sack of PEI potatoes on some 100m strides after a 4 hour car ride. Unofficial 11.7 wind-aided 100m for him. I definitely did not crack 12. We then retreated to Quispamsis for the night. I was amazed by two things. The first was the amount of deer that hang out in their backyard. The second was how closely his mother Patti follows track and field. She is an encyclopedia (shoutout to Patti if you are reading this)! Love you Mom, but you have some catching up to do. 

Fast forward to the race. Meet Director Bill had assembled a field that had to be one of the strongest ones Atlantic Canada had produced in years. Graves, Grimshaw-Surette, Doiron, MoSpeed Pellerin, Russell and MacMackin, among others toed the line. The pacing was brought to us by both Mr. BSL, and the author of the well-acclaimed best seller, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown. Like on Wednesday, we crossed the 800m mark in around 2:06. From there, I took the lead. For a while, I thought I had taken the field by surprise, as I wasn't hearing anything behind me. Little did I know, Wu-tang Will was creeping up on my shoulder, and passed me with a lap to go. With 150m to go, he still had the same gap on me when I saw Nick's pain-distorted face pass me, then Will. At this point, it became an all out kick match. Somehow, though slower than 11.7, my last 100 gave me the win in 3:52.28, edging Nick by just a hair. Gotta say that it was a cool feeling to win in a field so close in speed with a good amount of people in the stands. While cooling down, I came to the realization that this was one of the moments I will think of whenever I catch myself wondering why I do it all. I had just won a strong race, and a fun night with the whole racing crew was awaiting me. It made the last few months feel worthwhile. I think this ties in well with part 2.




Part 2


Warning: This is a rant/ramble. As a runner, I get to interact with many other runners. A major topic covered in conversations is training habits/methods/purposes. This is my elaboration on the topic of commitment to training. This passage is however blind to the issue of injuries. If any injured people are reading this, the perspective is definitely different. I think I voice my most concise opinions when I write them down, so this is just as much for me as it is for anyone else. Feel free to read and opine!

"Do you have what it takes to make it to the next level?" As beings of the 21st century, we have all heard this phrase that gets thrown around by hockey coaches, strength trainers and so on. So much so that it has almost lost its punch, its meaning. Because of its overuse, this phrase only represents a vague idea that is lost in translation between the messenger and the receiver. These so-called levels should be defined to the seeker. If not, the question itself is empty. While at different magnitudes, I think anyone has what it takes to improve. What some people may lack, however, is the ability to understand how to do so, or even the ability to commit to the idea. So, when trying to separate "the men from the boys" or whatever tacky expression these same hockey coaches use these days, the question should be remodeled. It should be "Do you know how to get to the next level, and if so, do you want to do it?" A bit less ring to it, but far more accurate..

Two months ago, by committing to this idea of placing more importance into my running, I gave myself an opportunity to reach one of these "next levels." Instead of going home to my family, I decided to keep living under the roof of 18 Greening, in Antigonish. Instead of applying for full time work, I opted for a part time job that is easy on the body. Why these changes? My choice of lifestyle at the time was widening the gap between how much attention I was attributing to my running, and how much attention I WANTED to attribute to my running. Lately, I made the conscious decision to invest myself more into my training. I started choosing good meals over bad ones, choosing sleep over nightlife etc. By no means do I make every right choice, but I am improving in my consistency.

Going from one level to the next in terms of investment made me ask myself the same two aforementioned questions. The first: Do you understand how you could take it to the next level?
My answer included some broad concepts (include more strides, pay more attention to your pre/post run routines, go to sleep earlier) and some more specific ones (ditch Kraft Dinner). I did not make vows, I just set some general guidelines for myself to try and follow, most of which I had never payed attention to before this training block. 

The second: Now that you know how to do it, do you want to do it?
My answer was yes. This part was tricky. Anyone can convince themselves they are going to be dedicated to their plan, sticking it out for months is another story. That is when the understanding part becomes important. If you know why you are doing something, you will be more motivated to do it. 
  
If it sounds this way so far, be advised that this ramble is not about, or meant to come across as, something along the lines of "what it takes to become a champion." Far from it. In my own terms, I am not a champion (a champion is invested at 100%), so the last thing I want to do is to instruct others on "how to become one" when I have not yet experienced the required commitment for myself. I have, however, noticed a trend in my attitudes towards running. I am slowly beginning to attribute more importance to it, in a healthy way. My current level of dedication is making me happy. Simply put with the help of arbitrary numbers, being 60% invested into running made me happiest in my second year. Being 70% invested into running made me happiest in my third year. Being 80% invested into running is making me happiest now. 

After exploring this concept of self-reflection for a while now, I notice that what an athlete should strive to avoid is disconnect between desire and the actions taken. Everyone has probably encountered a person who dreams big, but cannot produce big results because they do not make the sacrifices necessary to achieve their goals. To use an arbitrary numbers example, they want to run times that they could achieve if they were 80% dedicated, but they are in fact only 50% dedicated. Another example of the disconnect would be an athlete struggling to reach their goal because they are actually doing too much, and it is hurting their short term and long term development. Another thing I notice from interacting with members of either side is that neither is satisfied with their experience with running. The troubling part is often that an athlete on either side cannot recognize the disconnect. Once an athlete can realize they are not doing what it takes - again, not to "be the greatest," but to reach their goal - they become aware. Once someone is aware they are not doing the right thing to make them reach their goal, they will change that. This is why awareness is so important.

The reason I bring this up, is because I believe I have finally adopted a completely healthy approach to my running. Because I am aware of what I am doing, and aware that I want to do it, the questions about priorities stop. I know how invested I want to be, and respect that desire. This provides me with mental consistency and purpose. Before making a commitment to searching for the next level, one should try their best to comprehend what this level entails. Improvement does not come by wish or prayer, nor does it come with overworking. I think everyone should take the time to ask themselves these two questions. Do I have an idea what to do in order to reach higher? If so, do I want to do it?

Try it if you’re bored. If you made it this far, you definitely are.

AC












Thursday, 3 March 2016

Indoor Track 2016 - From Every Angle

It's about that time again. The bruises are being treated, the spikes have been put away, and some Snyder's Hot Buffalo Wings pretzels are being consumed by Cal and I. (Yo Snyder's, this is a total attempt at snagging a sponsorship!) Another season has passed. My usual mid-semester lethargy has kicked in with an apparent vengeance, so I guess this leaves me more time to dedicate to two critical things: kicking Neuffer's a$$ in NHL 16, and of course, blogging. I noticed my post following the XC season was well-received, so I am choosing to mimic its format to not upset the readers or worse, the Runner Gods. Formalities at the start, and a bit of freestyle at the end...here we go.

The Preparation

In November, I left the cross country course with a broken body. I was fortunate to undergo a steady buildup throughout the summer. This at a time helped me get fit and ready to race. Looking back, the "ready to race" aspect was perhaps overdone, as I came in pretty sharp, and quickly developed an injury. I spend the most of my season trying to hang on, rather than trying to improve. This hanging on took an important toll on my body, and it took me a good month to get back up to light workouts. Once I recovered, things started rolling well. Most of my preparation was aerobically focused, knowing that we usually allocate enough time to race pace specifics once the season gets rolling. 

The Season

In chronological order...

Jan 19th - ANS Warmup meet - 1500m - 4:02 - 1st
Jan 19th - ANS Warmup meet - 3000m - 8:45 - 2nd
Jan 29th - McGill Team Challenge - 3000m - DQ*** (see below)
Jan 30th - McGill Team Challenge - 1500m - 3:58 - 16th
Feb 7th - Tiger Track Classic - 3000m - 8:29:21 (PB) - 1st
Feb 14th - SMU Open - 1500m - 3:55:71 (PB) - 2nd
***
It's a good thing I was not asked to walk the line on that night


The Mental Game

Fortunately, (or unfortunately) my track season grew to become eerily similar to my XC season. A few good weeks at the start, followed by the looming of a pseudo-injury. This time, it manifested itself as an annoying case of post-tibial tendonitis in my left leg. At its worst, it hurt to walk around. This then lead me to overcompensate and develop a neuroma in my left foot. This double-whammy brought me to a low point in my season. I was essentially facing the same dilemma I had faced in the cross-country season. The difference, however, was in the reaction to the threat. Looking back at my XC championship season, one word came to mind: average. I did not exactly under-perform at AUS and CIS XC, but did not exactly set the course on fire, either. I suspect this subtle decline in performance was a product of my cutting mileage and workouts in the hopes of making it to the championship. With that in mind, I decided to adopt a more breakneck approach this time around. (This is the PG section of this blog. Kids, don't do this at home.) The choice was simple. To call the season quits, or to attack it with full force, as if my ailments didn't exist. No in-betweens. Naturally, I decided to YOLO it. I cut mileage very slightly, but the rest was the same. I did every workout and ran almost every day. At this point, I had 35 days left to suffer.

I must have had someone watching over me, because my tendonitis healed on its own. Call it Cal Dewolfe syndrome. This helped me stop thinking about survival, and made me fall into a much more positive train of thought. We were closing in on AUS, and all of a sudden, I was healthy and in the hunt for medals (this made me a minority on this year's unlucky X squad.) The last few weeks were very motivating, as I was just coming off a few new PBs, and workouts were feeling good. For the first time in a while, I felt like I was nailing my peak. 

The Championship

1500m - Like a good championship 1500m is bound to be, the metric mile was a tactical affair. We crossed our first 500m on 4:12 pace, with none other than Beef Rawling leading the pack. As the pace picked up after this, I thought it would be enough to suck the juice out of my competitors legs, and oh boy was I wrong. With three laps to go, I was mixing it up in the lead pack with Jake Wing and Will Russell, only to see them pull away quickly in the last 200m, with Will taking the coveted W. By stepping away from this race and evaluating it, I realized I did not run the race that permitted me to win. I knew it was a three-horse race. I knew the other two horses had better top-end speed than I did. My chance at winning was by stringing it out in 2015 Matt McNeil style and hope to win on strength rather than speed. Easy to say now, but in the heat of the race, I had been outraced and outsmarted, For that I give props to the boys from Dal on executing their plan. Still able to take some positives and learn from this one.

3000m- This race made me feel better about my weekend. I ran an 8:36, which is not a PB, but a good time for me in the CEPS. Matt took control of the race early on and opened in a 2:45. I followed in a 2:48, and lost a lot of ground between 1 and 1.5km. I reeled him in enough to get The Look from Lee McCarron (**see below), but was never in real contention. Matt finished in an 8:33, so the gap grew and shortened only to remain the same as it was after a kilometer in the race. I was alone chasing, so it made for a mentally difficult endeavour. Gotta give it to Matt though. I don't think he's lost an AUS 3k since the days of The Black Eyed Peas and Connor McGuire. 

The AUS Top 10 

***Disclaimer: This is not a list of the top performances.

10) Year of The Josh Shanks Redemption
One day, I want to go fishing with Josh Shanks. The guy looks like he could steal fish from a polar bear with a pole and a string. Rumour has it he is building a log cabin in the forest near Chance Harbour, and inhabiting it this summer to train like Cassidy off a diet of wild rabbits and deer. Just a rumour, though. The Bass Pro Shops trucker hat is a nice touch.

9) The Lee McCarron stare
When you run against Matt McNeil on the UdeM 167m track, you will usually run into a problem. The turns are tight, and that makes it hard for you to see how far away he has escaped you, as he is never straight up in front of you, but on another edge of the circle. To gage how close I was to Matt, I had to get creative. He had spaced me early on, but I began closing the gap. I first realized I was approaching him with 5 laps to go, when I spotted Lee next to the finish line putting his hands on his hips. With 4 laps to go, he began giving Matt orders. Then, by the next turn, I saw it. Eyebrows frowned, mouth slightly opened, neck following my stride. That is when I knew that I had made my mark on that race and had proven myself a legitimate threat to The General. I did not beat Matt on that day, but I had, nonetheless, accomplished something. I had earned the look. I had transcended into a new dimension of respect in the realm of Atlantic running. On that day, I became a man.

8) Paul MacLellan's 2833m PB
Blame it on the lap counters, the CEPS air, or something else...People were impressed when the 4th prodigal son unleashed his kick with 200m left in the race. There was only one problem: Paul hadn't realized that a 3000m consists of 18 laps, and not 17. Nonetheless, props to Paul the Reaper for rallying and completing the last lap. 

7) Jonathan Peverill is actually not boring
I don't care what the twitter account has lead you to believe, the guy is almost Dos Equis worthy. From quadrupling on AUS weekend, to pacing a friend in the 3k, to showing absolutely zero amounts of chill in the 1500m fast heat, the guy does it all. Reports saying he is the first man to out-kick Jeremie Pellerin since the 2004 Grand-Digue kids fun run (need a source on this.)

6) Michaela Walker - The Orange Blur
Need to send a shoutout to a fellow PEIslander. Wins best matching award between her hair and her spikes. Her stride was so smooth that a certain friend (who will remain unnamed) confessed to me his unorthodox attraction to her flawless running gait. 

5) Shayne Dobson's peanut butter cookies 
If you didn't run into Shayne and snag a peanut butter/chocolate cookie, you missed out. Not sure how he made them, but they seem to have been working for him lately. He gave my sister the recipe, so I am hoping that I, too, will make a national team soon. 

4) Jeremie Pellerin's Power Pants
Ok, I can't simply spot him at a race and not talk about The Pants. The quickest Acadien I know has been wearing them since that 2004 Grand Digue kids fun run, and they haven't lost their glow. Still waiting for him to try on the top part of the Power Rangers suit. If he does, we will all be in more trouble than we already are.

3) Jake Wing and Bridget Brennan
Need to mention something about the MVPs.
Bridget: The only individual on the X team who has my pain face beat. Watching her run that 800 was downright scary. I think she should challenge Tim to a race. 
Jake: You may have beaten me in the 1500, but once Neuffer gets his guitar tuned, Stu learns something other than Itsy Bitsy Spider on the keyboard, and Lee cleans his pots and pans, we challenge you to a battle of the bands. 

2) Angus Rawling serving the lunch
Borrowed the saying from our Laval friends, and we do not use it lightly. When I say Beef served the lunch, I mean he served the MF lunch. His silver medal performance in the 1k made everyone wonder how there even is room for his legs in his shorts. 

1) The team 
Gonna go soft now. The best highlight for me was to reconnect with our big track family here at X and to take on the conference as a whole. From seeing Shawn Costello chuck a weight around, to keeping up with JM&JT's successes in the Hept, to reminding Beth and Allie to kick with 150 to go, the season has been memorable. Track and field is particular in how it unites athletes on polar ends of the athletic spectrum. Despite the difference in the nature of events, there is a mutual understanding for one another, as everyone is on the habitual mission of improving on past marks. The atmosphere that is present among this team on championship weekend is something to behold.

The Future This part, I will keep rather brief. I believe this time of year is the most spontaneous and directionless for a university runner. There is no immediate or obvious reason to hammer workouts. Even less are there expectations placed on us concerning what distance to race or what event for which to peak. In a way, that is what makes it exciting. As of late, we have been concocting a recipe for success here in Antigonish. These next few months will be used to explore the spring racing scene, with Senior Nationals being on the long term radar, before re-entering into the faithful XC buildup. 

The Pics


AUS 3000m


AUS 1500m

               

AUS 3000m





AUS 3k podium pic
AUS 1500m
4x800m relay
Can't write this without paying an appropriate tribute to my teammate and roommate who has fallen in the tumultuous ring of fire this season. Wishing him a hose-down and fast recovery. #CrispCity2016

The Tunes