Archived posts for Bruce’s tales from the trails:

End of the Season

1 Comment »

Well, I haven’t been quite as good as I’d hoped this semester with my Blog. But I’ll have at least two more posts this season (after AUS and after CIS). Scholastically, this term is a lot of work, but I can see the end of the tunnel. I’ve got all my graduate school applications in, and now I’m just waiting to hear back about acceptances and scholarship offers. Now I’ve just got to stay on top of my schoolwork, and sit two more honours examinations, and I’ll have my BA!

The season has been going really well for the distance squad. At McGill at the end of January, we had four runners under 9 minutes in the 3000m: (first time since 2004 that Dalhousie has had that kind of depth). Adam McGregor, Jake Moore, Matt McNeil, and myself. I ran two personal bests 8:51 in the 3000m, and 4:03 in the 1500m.  But the best performance of the meet had to be Justin Blades in the 600m: Completly boxed in with 50m to go, he managed to somehow find a hole (through some sort of crazy arm-swinging) and accelerate to win, ranking him second in Canada). The trip to McGill (though very long) is great, because it really brings the whole track team together. So often we’re training separately, that you don’t really know the people in the other groups, so it’s nice to learn everybody’s names and a bit about everyone else.

Since then training has been going full speed ahead. Last week, a few runners went down to Boston for the Valentine Invitational. Jake Moore wasn’t supposed to be on the team, but due to an illness and a passport mix-up, he got the call, packed his bags and was off. Despite being in the 3000m group all year, he came out of nowhere to run a stellar 51.4 in the 4x400m relay, helping them auto-qualify for CIS. Other runners on the team were Kahmall McCabe, Andrew Falkenham, and Justin Blades (who also set a Dalhousie record in the open 400m in Boston).

This past weekend, we had our last-chance meet at the Dalplex. There were a lot of great races, but two high-jumpers stole the show. Both Simon Watts and Rob McCulloch cleared 2.07m, ranking them tied for 3rd in the CIS. Personally, I had one of the best races of my life, and ran 8:43.7 for the 3000m. Normally when I finish a race there are always a few things I could have done better, but after that race I can’t think of anything that I could have changed to run a faster time.

Now all that’s left is AUS and CIS (for those athletes who qualified). On Saturday morning we’ll leave Dalplex for Moncton for the AUS championships on Saturday and Sunday, with 41 athletes, our biggest team in a while. Our Men will hopefully win our 12th straight championship, and our Women their 23rd (!!) in a row.

On Distance Running

1 Comment »

This will be a bit more of a philosophical post, than a quick, newsy one. But first I’ll start with some information on how the season is going.

Because of the long cross country season in the fall, none of the distance runners have opened their track seasons yet, but we will  this Saturday, January 21st, at the Canada Games Center, competing in the ANS Open. I’m really looking forward to getting out, getting back in the groove of racing, and hopefully getting a nice PB (personal best) to kick off the season.

Last weekend, the Speed and Power group (Sprints, Jumps, and Throws) traveled to UdeM to compete in the Moncton Open. A few shoutouts for some great performances: Anthony Bernard won the long jump with a leap of 6.75m, which puts him in the Top-10 in the CIS. Simon Watts jumped a PB of 13.90m in the Triple Jump, placing him 4th in the CIS, but was bested by a 14.28 leap from Daniel Yetman, which ranks him 2nd in the country.

Now, onto the philosophic part. I’ve been thinking a lot  over the past week, especially with some of the really tough workouts we’ve been doing, trying to pin down my exact motivations – not from a dwindling desire, but to fulfill the Delphic Oracle’s command: ????? ??????? (know thyself). Distance running is a rather odd pastime to devote yourself to, most people can’t see the thrill of it. The races are long and monotonous. The 100m dash, at the world-class level is over in a little under 10 seconds. If you look away, you miss half the race. Most distance races take a lot longer – even the 1500m takes three and a half minutes to run. I’ll also often hear – especially when I’m trying to recruit some new runners for the High School team I coach – “I can’t run unless I’m chasing a ball”. Distance running also takes a whole different type of mental discipline from that of team sports.

But what really separates distance running from other sports is that to succeed, you have to be willing to hurt. A lot. While an easy  run isn’t particularly uncomfortable if you’re reasonably fit, to race well you’ve got to do a lot of interval running – repeats of anywhere from 200m – 5 or 6 km with a brief recovery period. And to be of any use, these need to be done at a pace that will quickly bring you into severe cardio-respiratory distress. Races themselves, without the rest breaks, are even more painful: from soon after the gun until you finally cross the finish line, you’re suffering an ever-increasing amount of pain. Mark Wetmore, coach of the University of Colorado Cross Country teams summed up ethos of distance running pretty well:

In football, you might get your bell rung, but you go in with the expectation that you might get hurt, and you hope to win and come out unscathed. As a distance runner, you know you’re going to get your bell rung. Distance runners are experts at pain, discomfort, and fear. (From Running with the Buffaloes, by Chris Lear)

And not only do you know going into a race that you’re going to hurt, but you also have to face the stark truth that the better you run, the more it is going to hurt. There is no way to get around it.

Why then devote yourself to something that hurts so much? Once more I turn to those who are much better with the English Language:

He ran not for crypto-religious reasons, but to win races, to cover ground fast. Not only to be better than his fellows, but better than himself. To be faster by a tenth of a second, by an inch, by two feet or two yards than he had been the week or year before. . . Training was a right of purification; from it came speed, strength. Racing was a right of death; from it came knowledge. Such rites demand, if they are to be meaningful at all, a certain amount of time spent precisely on the Red Line, where you can lean over the manicured putting green at the edge of the precipice and see exacly nothing. . . Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as a diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free. (From Once a Runner, by John L. Parker Jr.)

That’s basically all there is to it. Sure, I like the health benefits of running (not to mention being able to eat 3500 calories a day and not gain an ounce), I enjoy the thrill of competition, I like being on the team. But the biggest motivation is none of those, but rather the constant, measurable process of self-improvement. Being able to look back in my log and see that this year I ran 5 seconds per km faster than last year for the same workout is amazing. Sure, distance running hurts, and it takes a whole lot of mental discipline and toughness, being able to get out the door for a morning run when the windchill is -25, or to keep running when every cell in your body is screaming at you to SLOW DOWN, but seeing the constant improvement from one week, one month, one year to the next is one of the most rewarding things in life.

New Year, New Season

No Comments »

Well, it’s been a while since I last updated this! Between athletics, academics, grad school applications, and work I just ran out of hours in the week to update here. I’ll try to be better this semester!

The end of the cross country season was good and bad. At the AUS Championships in O’Dell park, even though we all had our best races of the season, we weren’t able to catch X on the men’s side, but we did come away with the silver medal. The women, lead by a dominant performance by Holly Van Gestel handily out-paced X to win another AUS championship. Two our of men and the women’s team traveled to Laval for Nationals. On a very snowy day on the Plains of Abraham, our women and men battled hard, but had an off day. The women, ranked 7th, finished 9th overall, led once again by Van Gestel, who finished 20th. On the men’s side, Matt McNeil finished 45th and Brent Addison finished 75th.

Since cross country season, our men’s team has sat down, recommitted ourselves to excellence, and have had a great streak of training. Our head coach, Heather Hennigar, is a very busy woman. In addition to coaching the cross country and track and field programs at Dalhousie, she is also a coach of a number of elite athletes, based out of the National Training Centre here in Halifax. This track season, she has delegated the men’s and women’s distance groups (1500m & 3000m) to two very capable young men: Russell Christie (four time All-Canadian for Dalhousie) and Lee McCarron (two time CIS medalist with St FX). All the guys have really bought into the program, and made leaps and bounds in just six short weeks. Personally, I’ve upped my volume to over 130km per week, with longer long runs (two hours every Sunday), and two-a-days 5 days a week. The result? The best, most consistent workouts I have ever had. The AUS track and field championships are in just seven and a half weeks, and I’m VERY excited to see what I can do: I’m in the best shape of my life and I’m fired up: there’s no better feeling in the world.

Hope everyone had a safe and happy Christmas break and New Year, and I look forward to posting more this season!

keep looking »