Tuesday, 29 September 2009

P-K Profile #4-- Bob McGraw

This week, I offer another in my series of profiles of group athletes (it's been a while since the last one!), this one of local member Dr. Bob McGraw, who's been on something of a tear over the past year, making life miserable for his competitors in the 50-55 age bracket.

It feels as though Bob's been close to the group for a number of years (in part because his kids have run in the junior group since primary school), but it's only been in the past 18 months that he's been a regular feature at local workouts. An emergency meds doc, father of three, and travel enthusiast, Bob hasn't always had the time to train as consistently as he'd like, although he's managed to keep a hand in it all his life. A multi-sport competitor in the early years of the sport in Vancouver and Kingston, Bob would eventually begin to pare his athletic life down to running as the demands of his personal and professional life grew. After a couple of injury-related false starts with the group several years ago, Bob finally found his groove in the winter of 2008, and has been doing some of his best running since turning 50 in that year.

On the road, track and trail, Bob is the picture of calm, power and economy. I never saw him compete as a younger athlete; but, with some 70s era hair and a vintage mesh singlet, I imagine he'd have looked like one of the great European athletes of that era-- short, barrel chested, and light of foot! At 50, his stride is still smooth, light, and compact. (As I do with many of my talented masters athletes, I often wonder what Bob might have done in his teens and 20s had he elected to train seriously.)

Bob's recent run of racing success began with his 1:19:30 age-class victory at the Niagara Half Marathon, his first race of this length in years, and continued a month later at the National Masters Cross Country Championships, where he was the oldest member of our winning men's 40-49 team. A complete cycle of winter training, including some frigid tempo and fartlek sessions around our regular neighborhood circuit and a stack of very solid interval sessions on the indoor track a the Royal Military College, left him poised to rewrite his masters bests this spring and summer. Work, travel, and suboptimal weather conditions kept Bob from hitting his time goals in the first half of the racing season, but he started the second half with a bang, running a huge masters personal best of 17:00 at the Army Run 5k a little more than a week ago, winning the category by 40-odd seconds. Since he was involved in a fall at the start of this race, and since he elected to maintain a moderately high training volume going into it (his seasonal goal races being the provincial and national X-C championships), we can no doubt expect him to repeat, or even improve on, the quality of this performance before the year is out (fellow Canadian 50-55 competitors, consider yourselves warned!). And, having seemingly found the sweet spot in his work and family routine, I expect Bob will continue to be a top performer among the 50-somethings for as long as he'd care to.


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