Tuesday, 30 May 2017

CISM - World Military Marathon Championships – May 2017

All setup and ready to race!

It’s not every day that you get to race a Military World Championships on your home soil, but this past weekend that is precisely what I got to do. I was selected to the Canadian CISM Running Team this past fall in preparation for the Championships as part of the Ottawa Race Weekend. I was pretty stoked to be part of the team and excited to be taking another crack at a sub 2:40 marathon. I had finally broken that mark in February this year at the Mesa-Phoenix Marathon (2:39:32) – in my laziness I never got around to writing that race report.

Anyways as the weeks trickled by after February, I wasn’t really sure how my fitness was coming along. I wasn’t as consistent as I would have like to be and honestly, I was a little depressed. CISM Triathlon Training Camp in Clermont in March was fun, but I left that camp wondering if I really wanted to race triathlon this year. Things didn’t go as I would have liked during Camp and instead of leaving camp encouraged to pursue excellence, I left camp wondering if I should give up triathlon, do some bike racing, and do what I enjoy most, run! 

Team Canada ready to race!
March and April in the military are always busy as we scramble to complete everyone’s Personnel Evaluation Reports (PERs). As an Officer Commanding a Flight (equivalent of a Company in the Army) the responsibility for everyone’s PERs rests completely on my shoulders. It often feels like you have no life as you frantically try to do your “normal” job while trying to push a final product out that meets the detailed requirements of higher headquarters. Least to say we are finally through that hump for this year.

Team Canada at the Awards Ceremony

Searching for a will to train coupled with an enormous burden of trying to represent your folks in the best manner possible weighed on me heavily. I was constantly tired and torn between going in early or staying late or taking the time to train. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I felt my allegiance being pulled to work. I hate not being able to train…if you don’t believe me ask my wife. 

Anyways, enough of my ranting; this is supposed to be about running. I knew I had the fitness and the base to run another good marathon so in late April and early May I hunkered down a little and put a few good weeks of training in. I knew I was still lacking a little speed but I knew I had enough tempo work to be fine. As the race approached I felt more and more like bailing. I didn’t feel like I was in the shape I should be for a championship and I honestly didn’t want to let my team down.
Anyways, race week finally arrived and on Friday I found myself on a plane heading to Ottawa. Upon arrival at the airport we were greeted by our amazing guide Ron. Each of the teams was assigned a guide (probably less important for the Canadian Team but for some of the countries that didn’t speak English having a guide who could translate was paramount). I met the remainder of the team in the Team Canada HQ (ie. Mike Mueller & Denis Cloutier’s Suite) and then we proceeded to do our check-in. 

The gentleman himself, Ron our guide.
I elected to stay at my parents and so after our Friday evening activities were over, my brother Samuel and dad picked me up from Ottawa U. I got up Saturday morning, did a quick shake-out run and then headed back to Ottawa U for the Canadian Armed Forces Nationals Brief (the Canadian Armed Forces Running Nationals are always held as part of the Ottawa Race Weekend). Hosting the Championship in Canada meant the Canadian Athletes could compete in Running Nationals and the World Military Championships. The rest of Saturday almost seems like a blur. After the Nationals brief I had a quick tour of the Expo with Phil, then a bite to eat at Ottawa U Cafeteria and then we got ready for the CISM Opening Ceremonies. Thankfully the ceremonies we efficient (ie. Professional, but short and to the point).

Phil and I made sure to stop in and say hi to our friends at the Compressport Booth
After the opening ceremonies I quickly changed and then headed back to my parents. The house across the street from my parents had gone up for sale (or at least the for sale sign had gone up on Thursday – the property wasn’t officially going to be listed until this Wednesday). Michelle Kupe, our Real Estate agent, had coordinated a showing for 1600hrs on Saturday afternoon. The house was in pretty good condition and well we certainly couldn’t complain about the location: across the street from my parents and brother/sister in-law and backing onto a Park. Well so much for an early bedtime. After a few calls, text messages, back and forth between Claudia and me and me and Michelle, we were submitting an offer. By the time that was all done it was almost 2300hrs. Least to say I was in bed shortly after 2330hrs, but I didn’t fall asleep till well after mid-night. At 0400hrs I was up, had my standard pre-race breakfast (a couple eggs, a couple pieces of toast with jam, a cup of coffee, and a glass of orange juice) and then headed downtown to Ottawa U.

The Race itself was awesome. The National Sports Office did an amazing job coordinating the CISM - World Military Marathon Championships and along with the Race Director and his team pulled off an amazing event. The CISM athletes were included as part of the Elite field. This meant that besides the normal aid station we had our own bottles every 5kms. This meant I got to use F2C Glyco-Durance and Electro-Durance as my on course nutrition). We were lined up in the front of the field and at 0700hrs we were off. I so enjoy racing in Ottawa wearing a CAF singlet and wearing a CAF CISM singlet this year was even more special. The cheers from the crowd for being a Canadian and a member of the Forces was unreal.

Phil and I knew we would be running a fairly equivalent Marathon and so we had agreed prior to the race that we would try and stay together and pace off each other. Having such a talented field meant packs would surely form. In the first 5kms of the race I settled in, found a good draft, and avoided the urge to go hard. After about 5kms, the pack that Phil and I were with started to thin out. I realized that we could either surge a little and bridge up or we might end up in no man’s land. So Phil and I slowly surged and bridged up. A few kms later we had added James MacLellan our team mate to our pack and set about pulling in the next pack which included the speedster Alex BoulĂ©. Shortly after entering the Parkway, we slowly closed the gap on that pack and as we headed towards the Gatineau portion of the course Alex, James, Phil, and I were all running together in the same pack. However, that was short lived and as we entered the first few rolling hills in Gatineau, Alex and James pulled away.
I felt great the opening half of the marathon - much, much better than I had felt in Mesa-Phoenix earlier this year. However, the small hills in Gatineau, the infamous bridge, and the rollers along Sussex and into Rockcliffe quicky took their toll. By 30kms I was starting to slow and as I hit 32 I remember thinking to myself that as long as I ran 4 min kms for the remainder I would be sub 2:40 again. Thankfully a small pack including a Lebanese Army Gentleman and one of the Polish girls passed me and I realized my best option was to jump in with them. I was able to enjoy their draft for between 4-5 kms however once we hit a few small hills they pulled away. With 5kms to go, I was struggling, but I knew the end was in site. 

The last kick to the finish!
Finally the finish arrived and I was relieved to see 2:39 on the clock knowing that I was going to break 2:40 for the second time this year. Final time 2:39:39 (7s slower than Mesa-Phoenix). I was 64th overall, 21st in my age category, and 41st in the Military (yes, I did get chicked by two of the Polish girls – but at least one of them is an Olympian.). The effort was good enough for third overall in the Canadian Armed Forces behind Alex and James and second in the open division (Alex races in the Master's division).

The guys may have gone home without any additional hardware, but the girls locked up 3rd place in the team competition. Well done ladies!
It was totally an awesome experience that I will not soon forget. I am already looking forward to next year hoping that I will be selected as one of the athletes sent to race the 50th CISM World Military Championships in Beirut, Lebanon in the Fall of 2018.
Hanging out with the fast Polish Team. They swept both the Men's and Women's podiums!

A special word of thanks to Active Physio Works, F2C Nutrition, and Compressport Canada for supporting me on this amazing journey. 

Accepting the Silver Medal (Canadian Military Open Division) From MGen Pelletier, CAF Running Patron

Thanks also to Spencer at the Tech Shop in Edmonton for ensuring I had a new pair of kicks to race in.