Friday 18 October 2013

Project Me, Update #3; POMs

I'm not even going to bother apologizing for the length of time between this post and my last. My excuse is the best one that it's possible for a running coach to offer: I have been too busy coaching and running to offer any sustained reflections on it!

But, I thought it was time to provide an update on that new/old athlete I introduced you to last year: me. I've finally turned 50-- although, like the stock market and impending bad news, I had already built the fact into my expectations and future modelling. I my mind, I had been 50 for about 18 months. As I announced around this time last year, my goal was to defend my master's national X-C title in Vancouver. This is still my overriding focus. An earlier and secondary (because far easier)goal of breaking the 50+ 5k and half marathon records had to be shelved, due to injury and, in the latter case, a scheduling snafu. These will now become spring goals. As for the injury, let's just say it was related to another one of those "tectonic shifts" I wrote about a couple of years ago. Six weeks into my build-up for the HM, and seemingly out of the blue following a routine tempo session, I developed a pain in my calf that seem to originate further up the chain, in my right low back/glute-- a case of nerve compression, experience told me. My dice-roll attempt to train through it, as I had so many times before, came up snake-eyes and I as forced to eliminate all longer and faster training, and running on pavement, from my routine for what turned out to be five weeks. I resumed regular workouts and full volume last week and will be hitting the turf in earnest in the time remaining before boarding the plane for Vancouver in late November. I'd like to report that I have learned something from this experience-- my first real battle with injury in a couple of years-- but I would be lying. From coaching so many older runners, myself included, I've learn that, even when following the best training protocols, and adapting these guidelines to the individual athlete, shit just happens. With younger athletes, it is almost always possible to isolate both the cause and the precise moment of an injury. In the case of older runners, however, matters are sometimes completely inscrutable; or, if there are discrete causes, most of us don't have the patience or money to do the necessary investigations, especially when the body we are investigating might end up being a very different one before the investigations are complete. So, as with my last half a dozen or so injuries, I was content to muddle through using a combination of cutting back and strength/x-training. I am happy to report that I have come out the other end, and, once again, happy just to be there. I'm also hoping that the higher than average volume I've managed over the past year will see me through. This is one aspect of training that seems to apply equally to runners of all ages: run more, run faster.

And now to that raft of delinquent POM announcements:


The nod goes to resurgent near-master, online athlete Christian Mercier. Chris is a marathon specialist who ran a personal best of 2:23 last fall (the POM for November, if I recall). In April, he proved that one can still excel at the shorter distances in spite of (it's really because of, in my view) running all those miles and longer sessions. Following an eye-opening and course-length questioning P.B. of 15:01 over 5k, Chris made a joke of his old 10 best by taking a minute off of it, finishing 11th at the venerable Vancouver Sun Run with a hard-kicking 30:43-- an early contender for POY, no doubt!


The May POM goes to junior runner Nick ("Little Nick") Adams for his gutsy, coach-defying 800m run at the OFSAA East Regional Qualifier. Losing out the night before in the 1500m (due to illness), the grade 9 Nick went on a fearless mission to make it to the big show the next day over the shorter of his two distances. A late race blow-up looked inevitable when Little Nick passed the 200m market with a 10m lead, obstinately ignoring a stiff breeze on the back straight, his jaw set in determination. Witnesses can confirm that I did not rate his chances of hanging onto the required 4th place qualifying spot, let alone the lead, very highly when he passed 400m, still in the lead, but giving up ground steadily. To my astonishment and pleasure, he allowed only two runners past, and was rewarded with his first trip to the storied provincial finals (with a sizable personal best-- one that would last only till the following week-- into the bargain). Congrats on your first POM, Nick!


There has rarely been an easier POM selection than Heather Jaros' OFSAA winning and record setting (personal, meet, and club) 1500m race. Knocking 8 seconds off her best, Heather won in commanding fashion, running one of the fastest 1500m by an Ontario high school girl of ANY age-- 4:26.84-- and qualifying to represent Canada at the World Youth Championships in Ukraine. Heather now has two full seasons in which to become the fastest ever Ontario (and quite possibly Canadian) high school girl, needing to knock only 4 seconds from her best before graduation in 2015 to accomplish the feat.


Still with the juniors, Nicole Armstrong won her first medal at a National Championship (at the Junior Championships in Quebec), becoming only the third junior PK athlete to do so. Running against girls up to two years older, Nicole moved through the heats with ease and ran a very poised final to grab the bronze medal and some consolation for just missing (i.e by .4 secs) joining team mate Heather Jaros on the World Youth team.


Moving all the way across the age class spectrum, the August winner was a double first-- the first ever nomination for 50+ runner Clive Morgan, and the first for a triathlon performance! Clive consistency in this event is astounding (he was done 30 consecutive editions-- yes, I said 30) and the quality of his performances throughout has been remarkable. His 3:04:21 performance was one of his best in years (even allowing for the some alterations to the bike course)in spite of the fact that he trains almost exclusively for running these days. Congrats, Clive!


September's POM goes to former Junior star Rob Asselstine, who, after gaining admission to Dartmouth College in the Division I NCAA, sustained a complicated, nerve-related injury to his hip that took him out of the sport for almost 2 years, and threatened to end his career altogether. On less than 3 months of training since being able to run symptom-free, Rob ran his first ever 10k cross country race, and his first cross country race in over 2 years, at the very competitive Vic Matthews meet in Guelph, where he hung tough against many of the top athletes in Canada, finishing a very respectable 23rd in 32:50. Seeing Rob out there at all, let alone mixing it up the way he did, was an inspiration to all who have followed his career as a PK athlete. Expect this to be the first of several more POMs for Rob as he resumes his career at the collegiate level.