Sunday, 22 November 2015

XC2015 - The Aftermath

8 days have passed
2lbs have been gained
60 perceived lbs have been gained
1 cold has been caught
About 20 blurry pictures have been deleted off my phone.

Yeah, I guess this is what we call the fallout. The hangover that follows the cross country season is dire. I can't say I've experienced it before, as this is in fact the first season I finish (or conquer, really). I am having trouble pinpointing my emotions when I reflect on my season, and maybe this is why the descent back to reality has yet to happen, and why my current chocolate covered almond consumption would put Graeme Wach to shame (this is probably untrue).

As you may have inferred, 8 days marks the time between the present and the CIS championship. It isn't much, but it was enough time for me to reflect on many components of the season. It has been said that eventual perceived outcome is 10% circumstantial and 90% reactional. With respect to this, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about how to interpret this season as a whole. Now that the spikes have been put to rest, I can choose to focus on the positives, or to dwell on the negatives. In my own mind, neither approach does my season justice. I recognize that I have gained a wealth of knowledge and experience, but I also realize I need to familiarize myself with the mistakes I have committed in training. This post helps me critically evaluate my training plan, and I believe this is instrumental, as failure to do so can be costly.

This post is also a way of reminding myself why I love what I am doing. When running becomes forced upon rather than sought after, it becomes harder to romanticize. To lose sight of the simplicity of the sport in the over-glorifying lights of the CIS is inevitable at this time of year. Coupled with a tireless class schedule, the fall is a recipe for disaster. Healthy bodies showing promise in all of September crumble under physical and mental strain, and even thinking becomes laborious. So, to finally gain perspective by sitting back and reflecting on what exactly happened, in a sense, is therapeutic.

However, for now, focusing on lighter aspects seems timely. At CIS, I've had the pleasure of meeting many fellow runners who told me they followed my posts. Now that I have concrete evidence that this blog has real readers other than my mom and sometimes Cal and Neuffer, I will try to include something for everyone. So, in no particular order, I present to you my season from a few different angles. Feel free to jump around.

The 2015 Cross Country Season in pictures

2015 AUS-RSEQ Interlocking meet


2015 RSEQ Interlocking meet All-Star team
Moncton Invitational

Moncton Invitational 
Front row (Left to right) - Jeremie Pellerin, Jeremie Pellerin, Jeremie Pellerin



2015 AUS Championship



AUS Banquet - Community Service award winners - Ft. Father Stan
AUS All-Stars #833in14
We abducted a new Xman in Laval in BuddyBuss
Dropping beats with DJ Scotty D
Xmen and Xwomen 2015-2016

CIS 2015
CIS AP 2015

CIS AP 2015

The 2015 Cross Country Season in Results:

September 26th - StFX Invitational 8k - 6th - 27:11 - 
October 3rd - RSEQ-AUS Interlocking meet 8k- 6th - 25:40 - 
October 17th - Classique Universite de Moncton 8k - 2nd - 26:04
October 31st - AUS Championships 10k - 4th - 32:21
November 14th - CIS Championships 10k - 39th - 31:43

The 2015 Cross Country Season in Pros and Cons

Pro: I sidestepped the StFX XC Mononucleosis scare of 2015
Con: I did not sidestep whatever weird virus Paul MacLellan picked up from a local Dairy Queen Boutine.

Pro: I was healthy in time to participate in the StFX invitational in which we drew straws to determine the order of finishers.
Con: I only picked straw #6

Pro: Our XC rec hockey team is above .500
Con: I forgot how to dangle and snipe, and consequently, I cannot celly.

Pro: I saw Oldster making it rain dollar bills. 
Con: I did not make a bet with him.

Pro: I made a rap. 
Con: I am not a rapper.

Pro: I went on a run with Lee McCarron once this year.
Con: I twisted my ankle.

Pro: 3 out of the 5 Greening Boys made it to the AUS/CIS start line.
Con: May Stuart MacPherson's ITB and Alex Neuffer's shinbones rest in pieces.

Pro: I found my shade of Just for Men (medium-dark brown)
Con: My facial hair game still heavily relies on Just for Men. 

Pro: I made an appearance on JDM's prestigious twitter page.
Con: I did not make the cut for Muchachos and Mustachios.

Pro: I got my picture taken with Taylor Milne.
Con: I got my picture taken with Taylor Milne.

The 2015 Cross Country Season in Shoutouts

Shoutout to the boys from Calgary for finally getting my name right. Hope you all fed Rome some Gatorade on Sunday.

Shoutout to Les Boys à Laval for a strong showing across the board. Vous nous avez démontrés comment vous roulez toujours!

Shoutout to Alex Bussières for being our tour guide in Laval, and for practicing his english.

Shoutout to Jake Wing for getting his own version of Hotline Bling stuck in my head.

Shoutout to David Freake for the quality coverage of the CIS on here - http://thetrialofmiles-adistancerunnersblog.blogspot.ca/2015/11/week-in-training-and-cis-post-mortem.html

Shoutout to JDM, the modern-day CIS Hype Machine.

Shoutout to Matt McNeil and Alex Wilkie. Cause sheesh.

Shoutout to Angus MacIntosh for almost mastering The Pain Face.

Shoutout to Matt Noseworthy - fastest hair growth in the CIS.

Shoutout to Jeremie Pellerin - Best accessories in the AUS (power pants, sunglasses, wool hats, terminator arms. etc.)

Shoutout to Pierre Dumouchel and Blair Morgan for hanging on after an AP FFTF.

Shoutout to the boys of UPEI in their inaugural season. Big things to come for the boys in green!

Shoutout to DJ Scotty D, DJ O'Regan and to Raymond and all our other faithful callers.

Shoutout to Graeme Wach and whoever runs the Graeme Wach instagram account. Well done.

Shoutout to the Boys at 18 Greening for a good house showing and for all being dusters at NHL 16

Shoutout to coaches Bernie and Kevin and manager Brenda for all their help along the way.

Shoutout to all the X boys and girls for another great year together.

Shoutout to Taylor Milne.

The 2015 Cross Country Season in Analysis:

Ok, this is where you stop reading if you aren't about the training talk. I am still trying to decide whether I finished the season on an upswing or on a downswing. The matter is the following: I placed best against my competitors in my first meet of the year, Interlock, coming off two weeks of no running at all. Following that meet, my results were still good, but the edge that I seemed to have on that day was gone, or at least less sharp. This could mean that I had gotten worse, or my competitors had gotten better. Either scenario should be enough to send me thinking about why that is. In my mind, the three indicating questions I must answer in baptizing a training block as good or bad are the following: did I get injured, did I get burnt out, and did I stagnate?

On one hand, I can favourably answer these questions. I ran pretty well to extremely well for my current capabilities from June to mid November. I was able to run all the races I wanted to run without suffering from obvious burnout, and consistently ran PBs . On the other hand, things could have gone better, as technically, I was injured. Since the beginning of September, to suppress a looming stress..uhm.. reaction (trying to avoid the F word), I enrolled in the Lee Wesselius School of Reduced Mileage and Intensity. I averaged just over 60km per week. This is including the two weeks I took completely off. I know for a fact I was never burnt out, simply because I was not running nearly enough. While I can infer that my competitors improved, and by way of this, reject the hypothesis that I went backwards, I still need to figure something out. Why did I not improve with them?

This has become a common theme in the last few seasons for me. I seem to come to fitness quite quickly, only to keep the same level or slightly worsen by the end, rather than nailing a peak. I could hypothesize and question about many things, like the lack of miles in my legs, but I believe my answers will only come with experience. A couple things I want to look at closely include my amount of summer racing, which this time around, was rather substantial. I also intend to change my way of tapering a bit, among other things, but that is mostly for me to figure out by visiting different aspects of training.

Inside these aspects lie the eternal questions that only each individual runner can answer for themselves - to go fast or slow on easy days, to run two or three workouts per week, when to pick it up and when to tone it down, etc. It is very easy to collect theoretical answers, but to choose those that work well with the individual is another dragon to slay. I guess in my case, I have a lot to learn, but I believe I have grasped the most important idea, and that one is to always be flexible, and to always be learning. Being stuck in one's ways is probably the most detrimental approach to training. With this in mind, I will work on different things in order to not only keep the early season edge, but to try and build on it.

Moving forward, a recent hot topic on my mind has been mileage. I am entertaining my own version of bravado, which has nothing to do with bench press, but rather how many miles I could run in a week. The thought of jumping into 100+ mile weeks is enticing, as there is an attractive quality to the idea of training rigorously, and going beyond all that is presently logical inside my 20-year-old runner's body and mind. I'm talking about a lifestyle change that would put everything secondary to running. One of complete dedication, without distraction of any kind. Nothing is more foolproof than simply out-training your competitors, right? (Aside from a plethora of injury and burnout possibilities...). It is tempting to throw rationality out the window and just completely immerse oneself into one's sport. Countering this rather radical idea is the one of balance and patience; the one of slowly increasing everything over years. I believe if this extreme lifestyle is for me, it will find me eventually. For now, a slow gravitation towards it seems like the healthiest option.

So for now, these are the extents of my thoughts in training. The fact that I have become increasingly interested in my next training phase is a good enough indicator for me to put those chocolate-covered almonds away and to reboot. I wish to convert these thoughts into results in February in the land of 167m ovals. I leave you on a high note, or notes, rather.

The 2015 Cross Country Season in Music









AC







Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Summer of training 2015

I’m writing this post staring out the window of our newly floored and revamped home on the top of Greening hill. Other than the melting of snowmen, Antigonish hasn’t changed since the end of our indoor track season of 2015. An air laced with the scent of the local A&W complimented by the musk of the 50 pairs of shoes lying around the house takes me straight back to the ending of my second year, where I was gearing up for a long summer of training.

I guess I could say that The Running Gods were watching over me. I was fortunate to be healthy and running for the entire summer. This caused me to get excited, perhaps even too much so. Despite my endless self-reminders that the real races only happened in October and beyond, one could say I became caught up in the moment. A combination of nice weather, consistent running, and other factors led me to race more than the average November-peaking cross country athlete. 

In bullet point fashion:

Highland Games - 4th in 5 mile race - 26:11 - No running pictures, this will have to do. 

 I was always wanting to pay Antigonish a summer visit, and even more if it involved a running reunion of sorts. The competition was great, and so was the atmosphere. Was really pleased with this one, considering it was at the very start of my training cycle, so I had not put in much work beforehand.


                                   
                                         July 19th - Cox and Palmer 10k - 32:15



Cox and Palmer 10k. Just one of those days. Planned on running at a tempo pace and opened stupidly in a 2:58 and settled in to run a 32:15 that felt quite comfortable once I adjusted the pace. My face suggests that I definitely worked harder than I should have for a tempo day. Shoutout to DJ O'Regan for grabbing the best door prize around.


July 26th - Atlantic Track Champs 5k - 14:51:91

Atlantic 5k champs - Believe it or not, I hadn’t run a real outdoor track race since 2013. Was a bit nervous going into that one, because I really had not focused on sharper, faster, 5k training. Most of my work was being logged in the form of mileage. I was pleasantly surprised with my time, and it showed me that things were going in the right direction. Big shoutout to The Shankster himself for sharing the lead with me!

Gold Cup Trot 5k - 15:06

Gold Cup trot- This one, I was really keen on entering. The Gold Cup Trot 5k creates a unique atmosphere, as runners pass on the Gold Cup parade route, in front of many spectators. This opportunity is seldom granted on PEI, so it makes for a cool concept. I guess it may have fired me up a bit too much, as I opened up in total hot turkey style with a 2:46 first kilometer. Realized I was being stupid and backed off the pace a bit. Was happy with the time for a very hot day on the road.



So I come into training camp probably leading the AUS in races run, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. I can find solace in the fact that those races were run strictly off of base mileage and very few aerobic workouts, so in no way do I currently find myself burnt. I do realize, however, that these two months coming are the most physically demanding of the year. The fine but vague area between doing too much and too little is tight and ever-shifting but I am hoping that the plan will bring me to where I want to be. To find out if my body can not only survive these months, but can as well improve with the training they will bring, I will have to stay tuned. 

Individual training aside, I am extremely excited for what is to come for this StFX XC team.  From Gramps to the rooks, we have an interesting group. I am aware, however, that all we are for the moment is a number of athletes with potential. Everything is to redo, re-prove. Easy as it is for me to look back and reflect on the good string of running I was fortunate enough to have in this past track season, I can't take solace in the hope that it will simply happen again. It's something to re-earn. 


Leaving you this time with a few more pics. Wanted to give the right brain a bit more work for once.

AC





Had another great year with this gang. From booty goggles to muscle milk, it was a summer filled with good times, on both the social and track sides! Can't wait to get back at it next year if we all survive the cross country season. #PEFF #NEP 



I'm super lucky to have been hooked up with a great sponsor in Caissy Performance! Improving strength and correcting weaknesses are two things runners need to stay consistent in their training, and working with Mitchell has already helped me improve those parts in my running.

 Breakfast at 18 Greening. Shoutout to the rooks for making mean pancakes.




StFX XC 2015








Sunday, 9 August 2015

A Tribute

She hated hockey. If she would have had it her way, she would have spent her days locked in her room eating All Dressed Crispers while playing with her TY brand plush kittens. But she needed to do something to gain her share of the family limelight back from her brother, who was at the time, by the standards of the PEI Atom AAA hockey league, a remarkable young player. Mom and Dad were often asked about their hockey playing son, but not as much about their curly-haired daughter sitting in the stands, and this did not suit her. She wanted to make noise of her own.



I don't know when and how she fell in love with the sport of hockey through the years. I know even less if it was the sport itself that eventually appealed to her, or if it was the sense of pride that came with her own establishment as an athlete and performer. Like big brother, she needed her time on stage, too, and figured that the best way to do so was by imitating him to the best of her abilities.

Following in my footsteps was a trend that quickly switched from figurative to literal as she later began to run. Her presence was quickly felt, as she put everything she had into this commitment. And the things I would do to feel it again. But now, as I run in solitude along the PEI confederation trail, the only presence following in my footsteps is the brisk, atlantic wind.




---

Her hockey beginnings were humble. I remember getting mad at her after one particular game in which she had barely moved away from her own crease, even when the puck had long escaped her zone. "Get out and play", I would say. "You're not the goalie!" When I laugh and remind her of that incident, she refuses to believe she did such a thing. This disbelief would probably be shared by most people who have recently watched her play.

What I didn't understand then was that the action of taking the puck from one's own end, skating around five helpless players, and faking a shot only to quickly shift to a backhand deke to fool the goalie didn't come as naturally to her as it did to me. However, if she needed to practice a skill in the basement for two hours before getting it, she would work at it for three, and master it. I was a natural, she was a worker. I was outspoken and confident in my athletic abilities (sometimes too much so), she was quiet, reserved, and would rather let her actions do the talking. Weirdly, as different as we were in our demeanours, we would often achieve comparable results. This, along with our personality differences, caused us to become rivals of sorts.




For years, we competed. Maybe she wasn't quite as naturally talented, but for what she lacked in talent, she made up for it through sound trainability and astounding discipline. At first, it was in the rink. I was a centre and she played defence, but we always found ways to quietly compare our young careers. Player of the Game awards, team captaincies, positions on spring or elite hockey teams, etc. All was tallied, and the nature of our endless competition was becoming unhealthy. However, when one of us would suffer an important blow, all egos would temporarily be put aside. The first time I can remember this happening was in 2011, when my opponents were hitting puberty and I was still searching for an armpit hair. I was cut from the 2011 Canada Winter Games PEI hockey team, a setback that I still consider being the nail in the coffin of my then-fast-dwindling hockey career. On that day, we briefly ceased being competitors. This was the beginning of our understanding that as different as we were in nature, we rooted for each other. Her success represented my own, and vice versa. Despite our endless competition, to the core, we were allies.

U-18 Team PEI at Atlantic Challenge Cup


My cutting from that Canada Games team, for a number of reasons, hit me hard. Hard enough to make me start detaching myself from the game. The beginning of my alienation from hockey culture occurred around the time she really picked it up. The same year I was cut, she had made the provincial team. For the first time, there was separation in our sporting goals. Having won a few school cross-country titles, I had begun reinventing myself as a distance runner (maybe the furthest thing from a hockey player on physical, mental, and sociocultural levels). For a period of time, I had my thing, and she had hers. These times were when we'd get along the best. But it did not last. As she did with hockey, she quickly mimicked my habits, and picked up running. Again, her beginnings were not as successful as mine (she had barely made it to her first provincial championship while I had broken a long-standing elementary school record without any formal training), but her focus and desire caught her up to me in no time. Before we knew it, we were both on the provincial track and field team. The more we ran, the more we liked it.

2012 Legion Provincial Track Team


---

As the years passed, it slowly became apparent that the Cyrs were not destined to become hockey players. However, we were athletes, and could adapt to our environment. As we are Canadian, the most prominent influence came from the hockey rink from a young age. Despite our slender body types and our milder nature, we were skilled enough to adapt to the gameplay and clever enough to fake tough. In reality, our genetic and mental makeup screamed running. We lived excessively healthy, had little to no desire to go out on weekends, and had no problem logging long hours of aerobic training. The older we got, the more obvious it became that we would faster find success by trading in hockey skates for running spikes.
2012 Juvenile Girls and Senior Boys Cross Country gold medals

By the time I was 17 and she was 16, the sibling rivalry resurfaced on the track, as our progression became eerily similar. As we were so alike in skill, none of us would give an inch. But, as high school ended for me, and I left for St.FX university, the competition subsided, or at least, simmered. Being separated for the first time presented a new dynamic to our relationship. She again had her own world, and I had mine. But this time, it was becoming permanent. Our self-evaluations were no longer co-dependant of our counterpart's performance. For the first time since playing competitive sports, we were on our own.

 As soon as I left, I began coaching her in running. I would give her a bit of advice, and make her a training program based on how much she had been running in the past year. After a winter of hockey where, due to her small runner frame, she got bumped around, she returned to running to try and defend a track and field provincial title.

2013 Canada Summer Games - a 16-year-old Myriam in a U-23 competition. After those games, running had become the focus.
The programs I sent her were conservative in nature. I was especially aware of the dangers of overtraining, as I had recently been exposed to a world of struggle. At the time, I was unknowingly suffering from iron-deficiency anemia, and this robbed me of all the energy and durability I had. I seemed to come down with something different every second week, and between injuries, I was garbage. As I continued sending her the training plan, I was looking for answers for myself. I especially did not want to make her go through the same struggle by prescribing her too much running and have her drop out of her senior track and field provincial 3000m at the 1400m mark by succumbing to a nasty case of achilles tendinitis, just like big bro.

Despite my injury-riddled freshman year, I was having a great time with the X-Men. I had played hockey since I was very young, but never had I felt this close to a group of guys. I had made many great friends in the hockey dressing rooms over the years, but never had I made friends like these. These people were different. Not better or worse, just different. The approach to training was different, the locker room jargon was different. A different that I needed and, as it turned out, loved. I remember talking to her about this; how there was a group of people out there who were very similar to us. A group of people with whom we would not have to change our personalities to fit in. Later on, I would tempt her to come to X by telling her stories about the team. I would ramble on about my improvements as a runner, and I would attribute this to my time spent on the team. A trip to StFX on recruit weekend solidified the feelings she was beginning to have. She began realizing that, like me, she would fit in better with a running team, and became extremely excited when universities began contacting her. At that time, hockey was but something to occupy the hours when she wasn't training to become a future force on the AUS cross country circuit.

StFX Cross Country recruitment trip. Before knowing her fate, becoming an X-Women seemed likely.

As I had gotten her excited to join our ranks, I was afraid of getting booted out of them and getting cut from a team. My struggling got us closer, as I suspect on a deep level she needed me to understand what it was like to have to work for success, like she had done all her life. We started to talk about every aspect and detail of her training. One night, she messaged me about a weird twinge in her foot that had been bugging her since the Moncton Open Indoor championship in late February. I didn't think much of it, but became a bit concerned when it was still bugging her after a week. Then two weeks. Then a month. She began seeing a physio, and we were quickly realizing that it was not helping. Not knowing what to say, I told her to ice her foot, and that it would be fine. 

Except that it wouldn't be. Flash forward a few months, and she was dropping out of her senior track and field provincial 3000m at the 1400m mark. Stranded on the side of the UPEI track, watching her rival break the PEISAA Senior 3000m record, wondering what her future holds; wondering when (or if) running will one day be effortless again. Those were not the footsteps in which I hoped she would follow.

---



Sesamoiditis is a nasty beast. In short, it is an inflammation of the sesamoid bones, under the ball of the foot. Apparently, hers were so inflamed that the tendons and ligaments around it, responsible for bringing the bone its blood supply, had lost function, and the bone had rotted. As she was tearing up the track at the Canada Games in 2013 with me watching, injured, there was a common thought amongst casual observers. ''Well Alex is talented but injuries are going to kill his career. But his sister Myriam, she's durable! She will do great things.'' Little did we know, she was a ticking time bomb. In addition to having a stride that would make her land heavily on the ball of her foot, she was diagnosed with a bipartite sesamoid. This means one of her sesamoid bones is in fact split in two, making it more prone to malfunction. It had been there since the day she was born, waiting to tarnish a youthful and promising career.

In June of 2015, there was no more waiting. 16 months after the initial injury, she was finally seeing the best specialist in Atlantic Canada. She had gone through countless unsuccessful physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths to reach him. My parents had both accompanied her to St. John, NB, and I was working in Charlottetown. Right around lunchtime, I received a lifeless, abbreviated text message suggesting me to call her. To our dismay, the news was grave. 'You should probably give up running,' were the words of the specialist.

She took it hard. We all did. It was something we all suspected could happen, but not to her. After all, we never expect the horror stories to actually come true. With this news, she naturally tried to find a way to get around her fate. To this point, it has been to no avail. She could opt for surgery, but the health risks would be too great. After all, there are more things in life than running. There is school, there are friends. There is hockey.



For some time now, instead of running intervals, she is lifting weights. Her track spikes have been traded in for rollerblades that she uses for summer training. The slenderness and aerobic efficiency she has worked so hard to build as a runner is quickly being destroyed, as anaerobic power and hypertrophy are now the priority. She is still an avid running fan, but knows where her future lies. She is currently training hard in order to have a chance at making the Université de Moncton hockey team as a rookie. It will not be easy, and nobody will do her any favours. University cross-country coaches were knocking at her door. Now, she must ignore them all and do her own knocking, as the hockey coaches have not yet been as eager. She will need to fight her body type, her mindset, and her intuitions in order to rediscover the hockey life. She knows it will be an uphill battle, but as she approaches everything else, she approaches this too with unparalleled focus and effort.

---


So why am I writing about all of this?  Firstly, for the simple purpose of information. She hates it when people ask her how her running is going, or why she hasn't raced recently. The process of repeating herself one other time is mentally exhausting, and the content of her message is sometimes difficult to capture. How do you explain such a complex condition without fully understanding it yourself? This is not to mention how the receiving end of the conversation reacts. In the best case, she will be speaking with someone from the sport community who will sympathize with her and wish her well. In the worst cases, people will view her as a quitter, or a coward, and when I hear this, I cringe. I've seen her annoyed, I've seen her in distress. I've even seen her in tears, but in these 16 months I've never seen her quit. When she hadn't run for over 500 days, but was still doing her strength and core routines in the hopes that the end of the nightmare was near, I realized that I had never witnessed desire better personified.

Secondly, I use this as therapy. Once the cards had fallen, and her fate was accepted, the pondering inevitably began. It could have been me. I was the injury-prone one. I was the one who skipped on the stretching. I was the one who often forgot to value the gift I was given. I now sit and reflect on my life and all of its dependant layers. Running has brought me so much already, and I am still relatively new to the sport. Without it, my identity would surely take a substantial hit; it is a great part of who I am. To process the thought that my identity is unstable and futile without this simple sport is sometimes too much to bear, so I cannot even begin to fathom the gravity of her worst thoughts. Had it been me who would have gotten injured, I would not have went to St.FX. I would not have met some of my absolute closest friends. I would not have accomplished my goals. I could not have set new goals. I would not have been able to create this identity that people see through social media, an identity that helped me create somewhat of a name for myself. A name that I know, by living vicariously through her during this process, could be burned to ashes in a matter of days if I lose this luck.



As I lace up my shoes to run some strides, I look ahead, but I don't see what I used to see. I hope for long term success, but I don't assume it. I don't think of one day contending for an AUS championship. I don't think of the times I want to hit when I'm 21, 22, 40. I don't even think about the next season. I think of the gift I was given today, to be healthy enough to run at this moment, and what I have to do in the present to honour it.

 At the same time, if I am as lucky, I someday want to turn some heads with my own running in my sister's honour. I want to accomplish something for the both of us. I want people to say ''he made it, so she would have made it, too.'' I am constantly haunted by the thought that the cards could have fallen differently, and I could be the one cheering from the sidelines, secretly wondering how far I would have taken this sport. As it stands, I'm not the better one, and I certainly am not the most deserving. I am simply lucky. With this luck I will run as far as I can, because I was given the opportunity we both wanted. My luck will eventually fade, sooner or later, gradually or suddenly. When that happens, when I will struggle, I will think of her. I know she will make the best of her current situation, and no matter how cloudy the future may seem, I will need to mimic her and do the same. When that time comes, it will be my turn to follow in her footsteps.





Now bid me run, and I will strive for things impossible. - William Shakespeare



Friday, 29 May 2015

Ottawa Race Weekend - The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

-HOW'D IT GO
-Ahh not bad I ran a 10k in 32 min
-OOH I HAVE A FRIEND WHO DID IT IN LIKE 7 BUT DONT FEEL BAD SHE DOES MARATHONS

-Everyone

Above is an excerpt from my hilarious twitter account that I advertise way too much (that's @cyresy_10 by the way). Where does this quote come from? Well, yeah. From EVERYONE. I guess nowadays 10k just doesn't cut it. Don't believe me? Just walk into the nearest Running Room and you'll know what I mean. Just hang tight by the water bottle belts and intermittent tales about 'mile 21' or 'Meb what's his name who won Boston that one time' will resonate with the flow of an old-time nursery rhyme. The most popular distance in running is attracting more and more runners by the year, and in consequence, 10k's are not cool anymore, 21.1k's just half impressive, and you may as well just walk down your driveway and grab the mail if you were planning on running the 5k. Yeah, somehow, someway, running longer must be becoming easier because the marathon is becoming mainstream. So to all who contributed to the ubiquity of the question, 'Why are you going all that way just to run 10k?' here is my answer. I'm not running to finish it. I'm running to finish it fast.

And I started fast, so I was half right. More on that later.

THE GOOD

The trip itself was a blast. I don't know of any other university XC team that is tight enough to set up a massive rendez-vous in the nation's capital, veterans and rookies alike. Even after two years, I often take a step back and realize how lucky I am to be a part of this X family, and it is something I never take for granted. Us maritimers were beautifully hosted by the locals who showed us the city and gave us food and shelter when we had run out of money. Couple insta pics validate how much fun we had because, of course, if no pics are taken, did it really happen?

Add caption

Some post race tourism




On another note, it was awesome to experience the professionalism and extensive organization of the race itself. From the race expo to the elite tent, this event exhibited a level of know-how like I had never seen. Believe it or not, PEI had never held a race quite this big. We soaked it all in by buying running apparel and meeting new people at the expo and also by taking full advantage of the free banana tray in the elite suite. 

Speaking of meeting people, I need to return a shoutout. This one goes to the guy behind the blog and the Saucony running kit, David Freake. You had a nice fast one in 31:53 and I didn't see you once on the course, so it must have been ballsy! It was great meeting you and learning from you this past weekend and I really look forward to racing again in the near future. He is definitely worth the read http://thetrialofmiles-adistancerunnersblog.blogspot.ca/ - strong insta game as well I hear. 

THE BAD

So this is where I talk about the race. Ok, so 32:21 is still a PB, and I don't want to sound ungrateful because the running Gods don't like that, but I was shooting for faster. After a 15:03 5k and a 49:13 15k, along with many good workouts hinting towards something more like 31:30 to 31:45, I was left somewhat disappointed when death entered my legs at 6km. The last 4km were painful and brutal and made me want to quit running in its entirety. I went to the well and got buried with the donkey. Looking back now, I can only tell myself that what I had all spring, I didn't have on that day, and that's ok. If I lay it out on the line 10 times out of 10, and I only get what I want out of my effort 8 or 9 times, I still like my odds. 

So why the bad day? This may have been the most important race of my spring, my best shot at a huge PB. Maybe I tapered too much. Maybe I didn't sleep or drink enough. Maybe it was something else altogether, but I won't beat myself up about it. The positives of this trip vastly outweigh the negatives, and I'd rather win than make excuses so I'll drop the pondering. However, this weekend made me realize how weary my body has become. Having barely taken any real time off since November, I think it's time for a short break. 

On a more positive note, shoutout to Cal and Neuffer, my 2 roomies for the trip who both dipped under 32! Looking at a time like that should make you both feel super pumped for XC, as I am!



THE UGLY

Photo credz to Liz MacDonald

Hey ya can't always look good

Onward, upwards and a bit to the side
AC

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Those 3 words

60 long treadmill minutes have finally passed. Sweating, I glance at my faded reflection in the window overlooking the Evangeline ice surface. 3 words come to mind, and this time, they are not 'tall, dark, and handsome.' No, these 3 words are no joke. They are as beautiful as they are dangerous, calming as they are overwhelming. These 3 words can put one's guards down quite quickly, as their virtue is just that - they represent the ending of a physical and mental war. To me, they represent a past mistake that I do not want to replicate. I walk to the locker room, change my shoes, and begin walking home as these words still dance in my head. I eventually force them out, but they come back in. I succumb to them and enjoy a moment of bliss. Staring at my shoes, I slowly let them out: I did it. 

What did I do, exactly? For starters, I had just run 60 minutes in a row in a routine, nonchalant manner. In contrast, a year ago from today, after only 15 minutes my face would have expressed the trademark exhaustion and redness of Rob Ford's. From then on, my health had returned to normal, and it thankfully showed in performance. In a matter of months, to the public eye, I had went from total crapshoot to AUS medallist in a track season that rekindled my love of running, and winning. This then set me up for a - so far - good spring season. Shortly put, one good season followed another, and I was lucky enough to stay healthy during this time and enjoy new PBs in every distance. In this fortunate string of running, I may have surpassed other people's expectations, but most importantly, I have surpassed my own. Most recently, I entered in a 15km and 5km with the results I was looking for:

5k - May 2nd - Proude Shoes 5km - 15:03

New Saucony Mirage - courtesy of Proude's Shoes

15km - April 25th - Le 15km de Grande Digue - 49:13 (3:17/km)

If you look closely you can maybe spot Matt McNeil beginning his cooldown

This whole year has finally permitted me to re-gain the confidence I once had before the injuries and sickness. One race and workout at a time, it has re-taught me how to deal with pain, how to be mentally strong. I believe those traits cannot be taught at once, but can be picked up through time. Kind of like a Leafs fan slowly latching on to a more successful hockey team.

So, to backtrack, why all this fuss over these 3 words? Why are they unwanted in my regular stream of thought? The answer is simple: Icarus. Now, I was far from fond of English class, but this is one fable that stayed with me. In Greek mythology, Icarus had received artificial wings from his father, but was cautioned not to fly too close to the sun, or they would burn. Ecstatic about the idea to fly, Icarus did just that, and the sun burnt him to the ground. The moral of the story: don't get too greedy; in physical AND mental terms. The last time that I began looking at my achievements instead of seeking new ones, the last time that I uttered those 3 words (2013), I fell hard...like drop out of provincials and watch Neuffer break a record hard. Out of all people. Neuffer. Yeah. That one hurt. Where was I? Oh yeah.  

In 2013, in my last indulgence of overconfidence, on the physical side, my newfound swagger (sorry..really tried to find a better word)  had caused me to overthink, overtrain, overdo. Improvement is like a drug; when you reap its benefits, you will get addicted. Being too aware of my fast development caused me to expect it to continue in a linear fashion, and as soon as that was no longer the case, training mistakes ensued. I spent most of my grade 12 spring trying to patch up stagnancy with additional training. That did not end well. That never ends well. 

On the mental side of things, feelings of overconfidence completed a strange paradox. Nourishing this thought that I had become invincible as a runner encouraged me to rest on my laurels and to not chase the next level, being content with the one I had reached. 

Mentally I was confident and comfortable, physically I blindly longed for more. I had it all backwards.

Back to the present, after speaking with a fellow AUS runner back in XC season, I was left inspired. This runner, who is very well respected for his wisdom and his experience exceeding that of his peers, shared with me his way of thinking. "At first, you become the best in your school. Then, the best in your district, and then provincial champion. Maybe someday, you will be AUS champion as well. You can choose to stop there and be content, or to buck up and strive to eventually become the CIS champion. AND THEN, the concept continues. Will you stop there, or take on the world?" 

This notion, taken all at once, seems superfluous and out of reach. But, I believe this style of thinking places an athlete in the right mindset. It allows one to never get too high on oneself, to never be completely satisfied, and that is what keeps one going. Personally, it allows me to never repeat the mistake I made in 2013. It allows me to remain grounded by putting into perspective how much room there is for improvement. So, in the end, what did I do? In the grand scheme of things, not all that much. 

Looking ahead, the next big stop is the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. A group of X-Men and X-Women are hitting it up for good times on the race course and beyond. It will be wild. I, along with Naughty, Hot Wheels and many others, will be running the 10k. 

See you in the Capital
AC



PS - I entered a contest. It's cheesy. But it gives me a chance to win a bit of cash. So, if you have 30 seconds, follow this link https://www.facebook.com/PEICreditUnions?fref=ts  , scroll down to my video, and vote for it by liking it. If you want to listen to a rap about university finances, take 2 and enjoy...





Wednesday, 4 March 2015

2 in 1: AUS Ch'ships / Why I Don't Suck Anymore - The Sequel


If this title seems odd to you, and you're not getting it, take 5 and read this. http://alexcyrruns.blogspot.ca/2014/04/why-i-sucked.html Now that you're caught up and this makes more sense, it's time for some real talk.

Before going deeper into that topic, lets talk about last weekend. After a week of me guiltily staring at the cover of my ochem textbook daring not to turn the cover while watching Netflix and petting my cat (just kidding, he hates me) all systems were ready for the AUS Championships in Moncton, NB. After a great year of racing and grinding through this especially demoralizing Canadian winter, lining up next to those who had went through more of the same couldn't come quickly enough. The 1500m was first, and this AUS field was deeper than ever before.

The 1500m was electrifying. Around those tight turns the leaders took us through the first half in a torrid pace. The battle of pride quickly became a battle of wits, as a cloud of realization and realism came over the field. We had bitten off a bit more than we could chew. It was with 500 meters done of the race that I realized that nobody would be moving forward, rather those who would make up ground would only be moving backwards slower than their suffering opponents. This caused me to hang behind the group of 4 who had left the distance race connoisseurs startled by the early quick pace. This tactic worked as well as it could have for me. I was able to climb to 3rd place by the race's end in a time of 3:57:37, just under a second behind the leaders. I went on to take part in the 4x800m relay, where our team finished in second behind Dalhousie. The 3000m was the next day, and I was 4th in a time of 8:45 on pretty beat up legs. All in all, I classify the weekend and season as successful, and I am excited for what is to come.

This is a video of the last 2 laps of our 1500m race. Shoutout to camera girl Becky Clark for great filming and commentary!
video


Start of 1500m

Final stretch - Ahead of me are Jake Wing of Dalhousie and Scotty D. Behind me is a mesmerized Kendra McNeill



Lets change gears here. It's time for some really real talk.

Why I Don't Suck Anymore - The Sequel

**If you only read this blog for the pictures and the occasional joke, stop here**

In February 2014, after running a 4:32 1500m at the Dal Tiger Track Classic, a time that would have closely rivalled a 14 year-old version of myself, I shoved my black singlet in my blue StFX bag; a bag I could as well have considered stolen for the amount of good running I had repaid them with in that year. I sat quietly in the back of the track bus and listened to music until we'd get back to the Antigonish-based campus. In my residence room, I immediately pulled out a pen and paper and began constructing a training plan for the spring.

I needed to increase my mileage by 20%. I had decided this after finding an obscure article saying so on Letsrun, ignoring the other ones telling me otherwise. I included a few more hill sessions at the end of easy runs just to make it seem harder. I pledged to approach every workout as if I was Steve Prefontaine. If I wasn't doubled over coughing up blood by the end of it, I might as well have hung up the spikes.

The final plan was built on an excel file, more sophisticated than any work I would have passed in for any possible class. I followed it to a tee, and it mangled me to shreds. I was beat up. The worst I got, the more determined I was to finish it. Peak fitness had subconsciously stopped being the goal. Instead, I was simply running on pure hate and decreasing iron, willing to prove to myself that I could finish something tough. Yeah, kinda went bonkers for a few months. That my body refused to take any more pounding may have been the best warning sign I could have gotten. From then on, I began listening to my body.

Now that this lesson has been well learned, I would like to share it with anyone who may need to hear it. I was stubborn, and needed to experience the darker side of overzealousness to understand it was bad. I don't want another runner to go through this thing, but some may argue that a personal experience is necessary to experience true growth. Based on the number of people I was ignoring who were telling me to slow down until my body cried for help, I can strongly support that statement. Nonetheless, here are my words of half-wisdom.

Firstly, if you have been following my races, you have noticed my improvement in the past year. Of course, a normal iron level is likely the main contributor, but a much needed change in mindset was also instrumental. In case you were still wondering, and I can't stress this enough, it wasn't by trying harder or 'becoming tougher' that I improved. That notion instilled in us, to always be tougher, to always work harder, in the interest of most passionate runners (and if you are still reading you are probably considered as a member of that category) is bullshit. Everyone tries hard. At the university level, or even in the better high school circles, you will be hard pressed to find a runner who doesn't work hard enough to improve at his or her pace. Don't get me wrong: Hard work is important, but it you are struggling and are looking for a cause, pounding your head against the wall harder than you already are is likely not the answer. Hard work, because it is already so common amongst serious athletes, is a minuscule part of the equation. Improvement comes from talent, vigilance and consistency.

Be vigilant. Listen to your body, listen to your coach, listen to your teammates, listen to SOMETHING. Running is meant to be fun and fulfilling. The second it is not, ask yourself why it isn't. A career in running is meant to be spent in progression. If you are not progressing, find out why. If the issue is in health, first and foremost, take care of yourself. If you are injured, let your injury heal. Be proactive to speed up healing. If you are deficient in something, take the time to replenish. Better to sacrifice one race than to sacrifice two. The long term approach to training should always be the athlete's and coach's main focus. Usually it is our frustration and pride, and not our true will to succeed, that pushes us to beat our bodies when they are refusing to advance any further. A runner is strong, but never invincible. In those periods when your body does not absorb the training, your talent is not lost, and it will not go away if you miss a few days of training. In those times, do not ignore the problem. Take an active approach. If you cannot fix it, seek help.

Learn about your highs and your lows. Enjoy your running highs, recognize them, know they will eventually fade to make room for future ones. Familiarize yourself with the lows, learn to deal proactively with them, and take them for what they are, temporary.

Learn to communicate with your coach or teammates. If something is wrong, try something new, don't be set in your ways. Never think that you know enough, because you don't. The best coaches in the world are still learning. Discover yourself as a runner; what works for you, what doesn't? The only way you will find out what makes you better is by trying new things. Learn the sport. Understand why you are running certain workouts in certain ways.If you don't know, ask your coach: What is this supposed to help me with?

 Don't just work hard to work hard. Instead, work smart. Work with a purpose, with an understanding for your actions and for an appreciation for the process.

Be conscious of what you are doing. Understand what you need to do to get better. Sometimes it's more, sometimes it's less. Sometimes it's immediate, sometimes it requires patience.

As soon as I stepped back to truly evaluate my situation and understand what was wrong, that was when I became physically and mentally prepared to improve. That is when I've stopped sucking.

AC


Friday, 6 February 2015

Half of the way

Ok, so this title isn't relevant anymore. We are well past the halfway point of the season, but there is just nothing catchy about a blog titled 'Somewhere Between Two Thirds and Three Quarters' so I'll just leave it. I don't usually procrastinate with my blogs. In fact, I usually use them as a tool of procrastination. In the midst of these midterms, workouts, meal hall discussions and so on, I have found myself swamped. A guy can only draw a number of sticks and dots around carbon atoms and not feel the need to stick a fork into his eye, and I have well surpassed this number, so it's time to take a break.

 I can justify this break. The only way that this post was happening was in the occasion that the St.FX  campus was to be immersed in snow and that we were to be stuck in the comfort of our lovely home on 18 Greening. Luckily for you guys, and for my grades, we have missed almost as much school in the past weeks as the poor victims of the PEI school boards, God bless their souls, so it's time to talk. And this layoff comes at a perfect time, because a few things have happened since we last chatted.

I will apologize in advance about this post along with other recent ones. I am aware that they are centred around only one part of my life; the running part. But I guess it is to be expected. What did you expect when you clicked on a link titled alexcyrruns? I'm not a politician, nor do I have irregular bowel movements. Iron is good for that, actually. To be fair, the reason that most of my thoughts come from running, is because at this point in the year, I am a pretty boring guy. What else is there to talk about? I guess I could talk about school. I could talk about what I usually get on my rita wrap, or even about which foreign animal visited our lawn this week. (No seriously, it's a problem. Dogs, cats, foxes, think I saw a mongoose yesterday). Mostly mainstream stuff. I may still try to integrate some diversity at the end of this post. We'll see. Stay tuned.

So where was I? Right, running. 2 meets have come and passed, both bringing interesting results. Despite the snow, I started really hitting my stride during the Christmas break, and this made me confident about my return in January. With a few more weeks of training under my belt after moving back to Antigonish for semester 2, we hit up our first meet of the season - the NS Indoor Open on January 17th. Most of us ran both the 1500m and the 3000m. The 1500 being first, it had garnered an impressive field comprised of most AUS milers. The field was fast from the gun, and the pace ended up working well for me. With one lap to go, I had managed to keep a bit of energy, just enough to win the race by less than one second over my closest competitors in a time of 3:59. It was a huge PB for me. I then went on to finish 3rd in the 3000m with an 8:52 on somewhat tired legs. Overall I was happy with my races.  It was just one of those days where I felt like I could have run forever. Everyone has them once in a while, it just so happened to be my day to feel slightly better than the rest. On another day, I may have had finished 7th or 8th in a field like this one, where all runners are separated by such a slim margin. It is that proximity in our abilities that makes me appreciate a race of the sort even more. These races earned me the StFX athlete of the week, but the real honour was finding out that my 1500m time was actually .01 of a second faster than Allstar Wesselius's PB. Now I am aware that his 1500 time doesn't fully reflect his athletic brilliance, but hey, it's bragging rights. 
Credits to Mr. McNamara for these great quality pictures. 

Was an honor to race against big names such as Matt McNeill. Disappointed that there was no sighting of Lee Wesselius, though. Heard some people requested to get their money back.


Moving on to the next week, we traveled to the McGill Team Challenge in our lovely X tour bus. With a few pee breaks and endless games of scategories, we were soon arrived. The 3000m was run on a Friday night. With help from co-18 Greeninger Cal Dewolfe, a StFX singlet was leading heat 2 up until the very end, where I was just passed at the line. Cal took the pacing duties for the first half, and I moved in front for the second half. I cannot find our official splits, but I remember hearing that my second kilometer was a 2:48. A bear jumped on my back afterwards, but I still managed to run a nice PB of 8:38. Cal was not far behind as he PB'd as well with an 8:40. Had we run another lap, he probably would have had me. El Capitano Scotty D was running in heat one and came home with a solid PB of 8:32. 
First meet at the McGill Fieldhouse and on a banked track

So, yeah. That was the first half of the season. We are back at it tomorrow as we are traveling to Halifax for the St. Mary's open. After that one, it is on to the final showdown of the season, and needless to say, I am excited for it. With the injuries and bad luck that have come my way in the last while, I cannot remember my last championship race. It is undoubtedly motivating to feel as though I finally am a relevant part of the AUS mix. Winning that mentioned race reminded me of a feeling that I had long forgotten since my days as a PEISAA shark along with Neuffer, O'Regan and friends. There is a difference in the mindset of a runner who wants to hit a good time, and another who wants to beat the people standing next to him on the starting line. I don't think one mentality is better than the other, but I do believe that in order to become complete as an athlete, one needs to be able to access both at different times, which is something that I am still learning to master. For now, the focus is on doing the little things that will hopefully lead to the bigger ones. 

Like the girls track team says before smashing their heads on a table to split apples in half - Commit to the process.

Onwards, 
AC

PS - Other things to talk about...ok.

1- The XCountry team actually has a hockey team entered in the StFX rec league this year. Collectively, we are fast and dynamic but couldn't shoot a puck hard enough to bust a birthday balloon. We are currently second in our league, with high hopes come playoff time. I would like to personally thank all 4 fans who never miss a game. I would also want to call out the girls on the XC team who always say that they can't come because they have 'something else to do.' Like what else could you be doing at 11 at night? Maybe you're saving the cheering for playoffs? Yeah ok that's cool I guess. But when you do come make sure you make signs. And I've been telling everyone that we have a cheer squad so it would look stupid if none of you are there. Ok fine at least send the rookies.
2- Last year, a request from Alexa Zarins was made for there to be a section about the weather. I will directly apologize to her as I was inconsistent with this part of my blog. So here it is:

Rain + cold = freezing rain
Freezing rain = ice on sidewalks
Ice on sidewalks + snow = invisible ice on sidewalks
Invisible ice on sidewalks = I hope your stitches heal fast, Rachel Leblanc. :)