Thursday, 3 March 2016

Indoor Track 2016 - From Every Angle

It's about that time again. The bruises are being treated, the spikes have been put away, and some Snyder's Hot Buffalo Wings pretzels are being consumed by Cal and I. (Yo Snyder's, this is a total attempt at snagging a sponsorship!) Another season has passed. My usual mid-semester lethargy has kicked in with an apparent vengeance, so I guess this leaves me more time to dedicate to two critical things: kicking Neuffer's a$$ in NHL 16, and of course, blogging. I noticed my post following the XC season was well-received, so I am choosing to mimic its format to not upset the readers or worse, the Runner Gods. Formalities at the start, and a bit of freestyle at the we go.

The Preparation

In November, I left the cross country course with a broken body. I was fortunate to undergo a steady buildup throughout the summer. This at a time helped me get fit and ready to race. Looking back, the "ready to race" aspect was perhaps overdone, as I came in pretty sharp, and quickly developed an injury. I spend the most of my season trying to hang on, rather than trying to improve. This hanging on took an important toll on my body, and it took me a good month to get back up to light workouts. Once I recovered, things started rolling well. Most of my preparation was aerobically focused, knowing that we usually allocate enough time to race pace specifics once the season gets rolling. 

The Season

In chronological order...

Jan 19th - ANS Warmup meet - 1500m - 4:02 - 1st
Jan 19th - ANS Warmup meet - 3000m - 8:45 - 2nd
Jan 29th - McGill Team Challenge - 3000m - DQ*** (see below)
Jan 30th - McGill Team Challenge - 1500m - 3:58 - 16th
Feb 7th - Tiger Track Classic - 3000m - 8:29:21 (PB) - 1st
Feb 14th - SMU Open - 1500m - 3:55:71 (PB) - 2nd
It's a good thing I was not asked to walk the line on that night

The Mental Game

Fortunately, (or unfortunately) my track season grew to become eerily similar to my XC season. A few good weeks at the start, followed by the looming of a pseudo-injury. This time, it manifested itself as an annoying case of post-tibial tendonitis in my left leg. At its worst, it hurt to walk around. This then lead me to overcompensate and develop a neuroma in my left foot. This double-whammy brought me to a low point in my season. I was essentially facing the same dilemma I had faced in the cross-country season. The difference, however, was in the reaction to the threat. Looking back at my XC championship season, one word came to mind: average. I did not exactly under-perform at AUS and CIS XC, but did not exactly set the course on fire, either. I suspect this subtle decline in performance was a product of my cutting mileage and workouts in the hopes of making it to the championship. With that in mind, I decided to adopt a more breakneck approach this time around. (This is the PG section of this blog. Kids, don't do this at home.) The choice was simple. To call the season quits, or to attack it with full force, as if my ailments didn't exist. No in-betweens. Naturally, I decided to YOLO it. I cut mileage very slightly, but the rest was the same. I did every workout and ran almost every day. At this point, I had 35 days left to suffer.

I must have had someone watching over me, because my tendonitis healed on its own. Call it Cal Dewolfe syndrome. This helped me stop thinking about survival, and made me fall into a much more positive train of thought. We were closing in on AUS, and all of a sudden, I was healthy and in the hunt for medals (this made me a minority on this year's unlucky X squad.) The last few weeks were very motivating, as I was just coming off a few new PBs, and workouts were feeling good. For the first time in a while, I felt like I was nailing my peak. 

The Championship

1500m - Like a good championship 1500m is bound to be, the metric mile was a tactical affair. We crossed our first 500m on 4:12 pace, with none other than Beef Rawling leading the pack. As the pace picked up after this, I thought it would be enough to suck the juice out of my competitors legs, and oh boy was I wrong. With three laps to go, I was mixing it up in the lead pack with Jake Wing and Will Russell, only to see them pull away quickly in the last 200m, with Will taking the coveted W. By stepping away from this race and evaluating it, I realized I did not run the race that permitted me to win. I knew it was a three-horse race. I knew the other two horses had better top-end speed than I did. My chance at winning was by stringing it out in 2015 Matt McNeil style and hope to win on strength rather than speed. Easy to say now, but in the heat of the race, I had been outraced and outsmarted, For that I give props to the boys from Dal on executing their plan. Still able to take some positives and learn from this one.

3000m- This race made me feel better about my weekend. I ran an 8:36, which is not a PB, but a good time for me in the CEPS. Matt took control of the race early on and opened in a 2:45. I followed in a 2:48, and lost a lot of ground between 1 and 1.5km. I reeled him in enough to get The Look from Lee McCarron (**see below), but was never in real contention. Matt finished in an 8:33, so the gap grew and shortened only to remain the same as it was after a kilometer in the race. I was alone chasing, so it made for a mentally difficult endeavour. Gotta give it to Matt though. I don't think he's lost an AUS 3k since the days of The Black Eyed Peas and Connor McGuire. 

The AUS Top 10 

***Disclaimer: This is not a list of the top performances.

10) Year of The Josh Shanks Redemption
One day, I want to go fishing with Josh Shanks. The guy looks like he could steal fish from a polar bear with a pole and a string. Rumour has it he is building a log cabin in the forest near Chance Harbour, and inhabiting it this summer to train like Cassidy off a diet of wild rabbits and deer. Just a rumour, though. The Bass Pro Shops trucker hat is a nice touch.

9) The Lee McCarron stare
When you run against Matt McNeil on the UdeM 167m track, you will usually run into a problem. The turns are tight, and that makes it hard for you to see how far away he has escaped you, as he is never straight up in front of you, but on another edge of the circle. To gage how close I was to Matt, I had to get creative. He had spaced me early on, but I began closing the gap. I first realized I was approaching him with 5 laps to go, when I spotted Lee next to the finish line putting his hands on his hips. With 4 laps to go, he began giving Matt orders. Then, by the next turn, I saw it. Eyebrows frowned, mouth slightly opened, neck following my stride. That is when I knew that I had made my mark on that race and had proven myself a legitimate threat to The General. I did not beat Matt on that day, but I had, nonetheless, accomplished something. I had earned the look. I had transcended into a new dimension of respect in the realm of Atlantic running. On that day, I became a man.

8) Paul MacLellan's 2833m PB
Blame it on the lap counters, the CEPS air, or something else...People were impressed when the 4th prodigal son unleashed his kick with 200m left in the race. There was only one problem: Paul hadn't realized that a 3000m consists of 18 laps, and not 17. Nonetheless, props to Paul the Reaper for rallying and completing the last lap. 

7) Jonathan Peverill is actually not boring
I don't care what the twitter account has lead you to believe, the guy is almost Dos Equis worthy. From quadrupling on AUS weekend, to pacing a friend in the 3k, to showing absolutely zero amounts of chill in the 1500m fast heat, the guy does it all. Reports saying he is the first man to out-kick Jeremie Pellerin since the 2004 Grand-Digue kids fun run (need a source on this.)

6) Michaela Walker - The Orange Blur
Need to send a shoutout to a fellow PEIslander. Wins best matching award between her hair and her spikes. Her stride was so smooth that a certain friend (who will remain unnamed) confessed to me his unorthodox attraction to her flawless running gait. 

5) Shayne Dobson's peanut butter cookies 
If you didn't run into Shayne and snag a peanut butter/chocolate cookie, you missed out. Not sure how he made them, but they seem to have been working for him lately. He gave my sister the recipe, so I am hoping that I, too, will make a national team soon. 

4) Jeremie Pellerin's Power Pants
Ok, I can't simply spot him at a race and not talk about The Pants. The quickest Acadien I know has been wearing them since that 2004 Grand Digue kids fun run, and they haven't lost their glow. Still waiting for him to try on the top part of the Power Rangers suit. If he does, we will all be in more trouble than we already are.

3) Jake Wing and Bridget Brennan
Need to mention something about the MVPs.
Bridget: The only individual on the X team who has my pain face beat. Watching her run that 800 was downright scary. I think she should challenge Tim to a race. 
Jake: You may have beaten me in the 1500, but once Neuffer gets his guitar tuned, Stu learns something other than Itsy Bitsy Spider on the keyboard, and Lee cleans his pots and pans, we challenge you to a battle of the bands. 

2) Angus Rawling serving the lunch
Borrowed the saying from our Laval friends, and we do not use it lightly. When I say Beef served the lunch, I mean he served the MF lunch. His silver medal performance in the 1k made everyone wonder how there even is room for his legs in his shorts. 

1) The team 
Gonna go soft now. The best highlight for me was to reconnect with our big track family here at X and to take on the conference as a whole. From seeing Shawn Costello chuck a weight around, to keeping up with JM&JT's successes in the Hept, to reminding Beth and Allie to kick with 150 to go, the season has been memorable. Track and field is particular in how it unites athletes on polar ends of the athletic spectrum. Despite the difference in the nature of events, there is a mutual understanding for one another, as everyone is on the habitual mission of improving on past marks. The atmosphere that is present among this team on championship weekend is something to behold.

The Future This part, I will keep rather brief. I believe this time of year is the most spontaneous and directionless for a university runner. There is no immediate or obvious reason to hammer workouts. Even less are there expectations placed on us concerning what distance to race or what event for which to peak. In a way, that is what makes it exciting. As of late, we have been concocting a recipe for success here in Antigonish. These next few months will be used to explore the spring racing scene, with Senior Nationals being on the long term radar, before re-entering into the faithful XC buildup. 

The Pics

AUS 3000m

AUS 1500m


AUS 3000m

AUS 3k podium pic
AUS 1500m
4x800m relay
Can't write this without paying an appropriate tribute to my teammate and roommate who has fallen in the tumultuous ring of fire this season. Wishing him a hose-down and fast recovery. #CrispCity2016

The Tunes