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. 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!

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.



  1. Congradulations on your bronze medal. great words of advice that should be followed by all runners :)