Wednesday 17 February 2010

January POM and P-K at the Kingston Twosome

Since I generally council against serious racing in the weeks between the end of the long Canadian racing season in early December and its beginning in late March, there's rarely much meaningful club racing action on which to report for the weeks before X-mas until the clocks "spring forward". There was, however, one performance in January which would be a worthy Performance of the Month nominee in any month-- Dylan O'Sullivan's 23 second personal best over 3k in Thunder Bay-- and it is the POM for January.

Following almost 8 months off for various health-related problems beginning in January 2009, Dylan returned to action very tentatively in the late summer of the year. In his first few harder sessions, a pace of only 3:45/km was sufficient to put his heart rate into threshold-pace range. But, in a little more than 3 months, he had become a scoring member of both his school's OFSAA silver medalist team-- finishing a flat-on-the-back 23rd place-- and the P-K junior boys medal-winning team at the National X-C championships in Guelph, where he finished 33rd. After a short break, followed by 5 weeks of hill and fartlek training alongside yours truly and his high school team mates*, Dylan decided to enter an indoor 3000m race-- his first track race in almost 2 years-- while on a recruiting trip to Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. He would proceed to win the event with the aforementioned 23 second personal best-- a negative-splitting 8:52 (4:30 and 4:22)-- completing his year long rise from the ashes.

*In related news, the "Sydenham Boys" (Jeff Archer, Dylan O., and Rob Asselstine) finished 2,3,4 (behind P-Ker Rejean Chaisson)in a 3k race at the Dome Louis Riel (an indoor 400m complex near Orleans in East Ottawa) in 8:41-43 respectively. These results represent a remarkable improvement for all three. Even since late fall, these boys have made tremendous gains in both fitness and confidence. From the unique perspective of coach and regular training partner, I can assure all of their competitors in the upcoming school and summer club seasons that they will be forces to be reckoned with. Forget their fall 09 incarnations; the Sydenham boys will be all but unrecognizable when they hit the outdoor track in 2010, and may even make a little OFSAA history-- for very rarely, if ever, have three distance runners from one small high school performed simultaneously at the the level they are fast approaching. (And big congrats go to Rejean, who ran a solo personal best of 8:33. Look for R.C. to pick-up where he left off in Niagara Falls last year, where he finished runner-up in a 3min. personal best of 1:06:33. Next stop: Sub- 1:06 and sub 30/10k!).

(For those interested in the details, the Sydenham boys' 3000m times were achieved without any focused max V02 work at all. Their training since December has been confined strictly to: one fartlek session of 16 to 26mins total, with speeds ranging from 1500 to 10k race effort separated by "recoveries" of 40-90 secs run at 3:20-40/km; and, one session of hill or track reps @1500 race effort, with recoveries of 75secs to 6mins [e.g. 6x600m in 1:33-36 with 3-4mins recovery]. Throughout, they have maintained weekly volumes of 90-100km/week. Further and perhaps even more rapid improvements are expected over the next 6-8 weeks, as the focus of their training shifts to tempo and interval sessions, and as their weekly volume increases to 110-115km/week. They will race only once more indoors this year-- at the NCIS meet in New York City on March 12th.)

In other P-K racing news, the local group competed at the Kingston Twosome event-- a Valentine's weekend tradition here in town-- with notable performances by the following athletes:

-New members Aimee Young and Colleen Coderre, who ran 40-50 second personal bests with their times of 21:10 and 21:28 respectively.

-New masters member Kevin Armstrong, who came close to a personal best with his 18:46.

-Dylan Wykes, who won the event over-all in 15:20 (following a 3min break from doing the course beforehand in 15:30!). Dylan looks to be fully rehabbed following a slight injury to his achilles in early January. Dylan will race next in Vancouver's Spring Run-off 8k on March 7.

-Emily Tallen, who won the women's division and finished 4th over-all in 16:53. If all goes according to plan, Emily will race next at the Around the Bay race at the end of March.

I'm still awaiting that guest-post from Performance of the Year winner Mike Gill, which I now expect to be a major milestone sports-literary blogging!!

Thursday 4 February 2010

P-K Spring Performance Preview

As I await the final version of Performance of the Year winner Michael Gill's guest posting (expected imminently), I thought I'd satisfy a recent non-member's request for a little insight into the progress of P-K Athletes as they prepare for the upcoming competitive season. While it's impossible to make any meaningful predictions concerning who will do what over the course of the entire season, there are a few members whose consistently strong workout performances over the fall and winter have my spider senses tingling when it comes to their early season potential. But note: what follows is in no way intended to slight the work of athletes who go unmentioned. In fact, running being running, I fully expect that I will entirely miss at least one standout performer and administer the "kiss of death" to another by singling him/her out for early season greatness, only to have him/her encounter problems and fail to launch in the spring. The truth is, P-K athletes have in general been remarkably consistent in their training in what has been a challenging winter in just about all regions of the country.

P-K Juniors:

Foretelling the performances of kids in all but the shortest possible term makes trying to predict the weather look like the most exact of sciences. As I complained about in a much earlier post, kids rarely follow any predictable patterns or obey any known rules when it comes to either psychology or physiology. To borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill, the age-class runner is a puzzle inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma (also a description of Wendy's latest seasonal treat, but that's another story!). Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that the following athletes will not move up a level starting this spring, such has been the extent of their recent progress in training:

-The trio collectively referred to as "The Sydenham Boys" (by me, anyway)-- Dylan O'Sullivan, Rob Asselstine and Jeff Archer. Since I have had the priviledge of working out alongside them since the end of the 09 X-C season, I've been able to feel their growing strength over the past few weeks in particular, and not just chart it on a stopwatch. And it has been considerable. All three have been consistently hitting close to 100km/week in training, and have been nailing their Tuesday (progressively longer fartlek) and Friday (hills and reps) sessions with remarkable power and precision. I am in my best winter shape since 2005, and it has been all I can do to keep up with them (and, in the fastest sessions, I have not even bothered trying!). Dylan provided a clue to the progress of all three when he recorded a race-winning, negative-splitting (4:31/4:22) 3,000m personal best last month in Thunder Bay (coming at the end of what had been perhaps his worst week of training all winter.) And the fitness of all three has continued to grow since then. They (along with and yours truly) will line up for an end-of-phase test of fitness next week over 3k in the Winternational meet at Ottawa's indoor "Dome" complex.

(Also included in this group is newly minted senior athlete Nick McGraw, who has now regained the form he had before his travel hiatus in 2008-09. Nick will hit the roads in the spring, aiming for a big 10k P.B. in Vancouver in May.)

-Grade 9 athlete Adrienne Morgan, who finished her first high school X-C season with a strong run at the provincial championships, and has been quietly making huge fitness gains of late. If she can translate her workout form into race results, Adrienne will create some pleasant surprises on the track this spring.

-Grade 10 athlete Adrian Noble. Despite a plague of minor illnesses, Adrian has continued to loom larger and larger within his training group, in spite of being its youngest member. With a healthier next few weeks, Adrian will continue the breakthrough he started last fall with his strong finishes at the high school and club X-C provincials.

Local Group Members:

Being composed of mainly masters-age athlete, the performaces of this category of athletes is as easy to predict as kids' is difficult.

-The new cluster of athlete's referred to in my notes as "Sub-Group One"-- Amy Young, Colleen Coderre; Will Baird, Bonnie L'Abbe, and Kitty Kerr. All newcomers to the group last fall, with recent 5k bests of between 22 and 25mins, and all having taken to harder, more structured training with aplomb, I expect members of this group to be among the contenders for the 2010 group performance of the year. All appear to be in shape to run between 20:30 and 23mins before the season even begins. Amy is currently preparing for Boston, and some of the others will test the waters in our local Valentines Twosome race on the 14th.

Fifty-plus ace Bob McGraw. Coming off his outstanding 4th place finish in a stacked 50-55 field at the National X-C championship last fall, Bob has continued to train at a consistently high level, and is poised to record some of his highest volume totals ever as he prepares for an assault on the 35min mark at this spring's Vancouver Sun Run. To do it, he will have to surpass the conditioning that enabled him to run 17:00 for 5k last fall, but all signs suggest that he may be already there, or very close to it.

P-K veteran Agathe Nicholson. Since she has an airway that is reactive to cold, dry air, Agathe is normally fairly quiet on the training front until the first intimations of spring. This season-- her first non-marathon focused one in a while-- however, Agathe is already looking strong. She recorded one of her best 5k times ever this fall (18:52, and on a slowish course) while in the later stages of marathon prep), and so is well positioned to challenge her P.B. this spring (18:37)-- and at the age of 49!

On-Line Athletes

With this group-- a much larger and more varied one than either of the others-- my main concern is that I will leave someone out (for which I apologize in advance)! However, obvious candidates for strong spring performances include:

Up-and-coming senior elite road competitor Rejean Chiasson. Building on the fitness that enabled him to chop a mere 3mins(!) from his HM personal best (1:09:33 to 1:06:30), Rejean has been racking up big volume totals (routinely 140-160kms/week) while also working on the high-speed end of his racing range. Now almost finished the current training phase, Rejean will shortly embark on period of yet higher volume, following which he will attempt to revise his 10k and HM yet further, when he lines up at National HM Championships in Quebec City in April and the Vancouver Sun Run in May.

Fellow twenty-something racer Matt Pieterson. Matt is coming off a breakthrough summer, which saw him shed 30-odd seconds from his 5k P.B., and an X-C season in which he qualified to represent Canada at the World Student X-C Championships (to be held in, of all places, Kingston, Ontario in mid-April). Since the fall, Matt has also recorded some prodigious weekly volume numbers (albeit on the soft terrain of Victoria, B.C., where he is pursuing his LLB.) At present, he is preparing to represent the U of Vic in a series of indoor track races which, his recent track work suggests, will see his current P.B.s shortly consigned to the trash bin (or recycling box, since we're talking about B.C. here!). Looking to the spring and summer, Matt is as good a candidate as any to claw his way onto the lower ledge of first-tier Canadian distance running.

P-K Performance of the year owner, Mike Gill. Mike's 2009 run of improvement was so rapid that it can't possibly be finished yet. Expect him to raise eyebrows and provoke puzzlement (as in: "Who's that guy?") near the front end of races this spring and summer.

New-ish masters member Ray Moorehead of Nova Scotia. Ray has kept his racing to a minimum since joining, but has trained as consistently and well as anyone I've ever seen. Currently embarking on an ammbitious plan for success at the Boston Marathon, Ray looks set to make his mark as the spring and summer racing campaigns unfold. I fully expect his name to come up on the Performance of the Month nomination lists throughout the year.

Fellow master Troy Cox of frigid, snow-bound Huntsville, Ontario. Although not against the occasional retreat to the safety and comfort of his t-mill, Troy is support for the old theory that running in harsh conditions makes northern runners strong. Coming off a fall which saw him set an outstanding masters HM P.B. of 1:12:40 and perform strongly on P-K's provincial and national champion men's 40-49 X-C teams, Troy has managed to hold his training together nicely in the face of the elements this winter. Like Agathe, this spring will be his first non-marathon dominated racing season in a while; likewise, I expect to see very strong numbers beside his name as soon as the spring racing season gets underway.

Again, apologies those names I undoubtedly overlooked in this and the above categories. As I said, P-Kers in general have maintained an exemplary level of training this winter; thus, with winter consistency being the key to spring and summer success in this country, I expect all members to perform at very high personal levels this spring and beyond into summer and fall.