Thursday, April 28, 2016

Photo: Credit: Inge Johnson/Canada Running Series

It’s a word that has taken on a whole new meaning for me this past month.
“Boom" has resonated with me since reading Mr. Eriksson’s words in Paul Gains’ CBC sports story,Canadian marathoners upset with Athletics Canada’s Rio qualification policy”, which was written shortly after the Around the Bay 30 km race where I failed to prove fitness on a cold and windy day with a 1:47. In the story, while addressing the requirement to prove fitness, Mr. Eriksson says, “Boom, off we go. Now you have got to do it.” And "Boom," yesterday I did it at the Montreal Half Marathon.
While I am glad to check the box in order to fulfill my requirements to be named to the 2016 Olympic team, running a 1:12:30 half marathon in April does not mean I will peak in a marathon in August. It doesn't mean I won't. The plan is to be at my very best, August 14 and I will do everything to make that happen. However for me, running a half marathon at marathon pace 6-8 weeks out, has proven that I am fit, and worked well in my previous builds to peak for my goal marathons. Replicating this pattern was not an option. It was 1:13:00 or try again. And again.
There have been inaccuracies in some of the stories and a lot of opinions with misinformation, and I am not about to address those. Not because I have now proven my fitness, but because I don’t feel it's necessary to engage. In his article, Mr. Gains did an excellent job in showing that making it to the Olympics is more than just achieving a qualifying standard. Shortly after Paul’s article, Reid Coolsaet followed up with a post on his blog, explaining his situation after also just falling short of the required time to prove fitness, at the World Half Marathon Championships where the men’s race ended in heavy rain and winds. I've always looked up to and respected Reid and was again impressed to read his blog with his objective way of showing his frustration with the system. That guy is an experienced marathoner who knows his body, knows his numbers, and knows what it takes to be at his very best.  Reid has run well under the Olympic standard twice in the qualifying period! He settles for nothing less. We're all trusting that the right decision will be made.
So, back to the “Boom!”
I had three weeks to recover from the Bay and prepare to run another race that would hopefully provide decent, not perfect, but decent racing conditions. Coach Rick did an excellent job of researching my options for a certified course, which was not easy. Montreal was the #1 pick. A big part of choosing a race involves the science of determining the best course layout, competition, previous times, weather, and travel logistics. But it can also involve the art of emotion. I know Eric Gillis has often chosen to train and race closer to home for this reason. Also a parent, he knows the benefit of staying local and drawing on the positive energy that comes from balancing family and life as an athlete. Not only did Montreal provide another great opportunity for me to race with the incredible Canada Running Series (CRS), but it allowed me to return to the race where I finished with incredible pain and tremendous emotion after fracturing my femur while defending my national title in 2014.  I know some are fatigued by me writing about my broken leg, old age, Christian faith, and life as a mother of three, but it's who I am. I've always wanted to be real and tell my story to encourage and inspire others, some who are reading it for the first time.
So back to choosing Montreal. The plan was that I would travel there, and decide to race if the weather looked decent. If it wasn't, I would wear my training shoes and run it as a tempo training run while waiting to prove fitness in another race. Fortunately, the forecast didn't change and we had a beautiful day. It was likely about 5C and sunny with a small amount of wind, which is always expected on the Parc Jean-Drapeau course. I felt comfortable and relaxed, trusted my fitness, and just treated it like any other race. I had a great group of men to run with and just started chipping away at 3:26 per km, the target goal pace. Like many races, I was conservative, which worked to my favour; every kilometre felt the same, a good sign of fitness.
There were many thoughts that went through my head during the race: 1. I kept thinking about my son who reminded me that we didn't get all those travel vaccinations for nothing. 2. Today was the day to do it. 3. The last time I ran this race, I hopped on one leg to finish. It would feel good to fly down the last 500 m today on two healthy legs!
I did it. And as I crossed the line, I couldn't help but smile. In my interview, just a few seconds after finishing, I thanked the CRS and the people of Montreal and the team at the Montreal General Hospital for their incredible support in 2014.
So what is next? A bit of well-deserved down time with training, some sweet indulgences, a video (Saucony) and photo shoot (an iRun cover!), and other extra activities. I will officially start my Rio build in May, which will include running the May 29 Calgary half marathon, which is also the Canadian championships. Onward we go.

Rarely does everything come together on race day. But today it did with a group to run with, excellent weather, and great fitness and health. Photo: Canada Running Series/Scotiabank Montreal Half Marathon.
"Here comes the BOOM". At 42 years of age, a high school teacher and former wrestler saves the school music program by earning money by moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter. Like I say about my athletic career, just because it hasn't been done doesn't mean it can't be done. Age, major injury, a hockey background, and parenting doesn't stop me.

Just happened to notice the name of this radio station I was listening to on the way home from Montreal.

Good day for Saucony and Coach Rick Mannen. Krista with Kip Kangogo, winner of the men's race.

My son's baking tasted wonderful upon my return home. Wonderful. 
Excited to see the final product of a day in the life of Krista DuChene. The kids quite enjoyed having Gordon and Vance around. Glad to have scheduled this, a photo shoot, and a few other extra things before Rio training begins.

With the Saucony video shoot and a photo shoot for iRun magazine, it was fun choosing Saucony outfits.

Practising for the photo shoot while trying to stay warm in the van between sets. Not a regular or natural thing for me but honoured to be asked. Yes, there is grey hair there. I'm ok with that.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

We've Still Got This

Prove it!

A few days have passed since I raced the Around the Bay 30 km race in Hamilton so I figured I should write some sort of race report. 
I'll get right to the point in addressing what most people are wondering and asking. Did I "prove" my fitness in order to be named to the Olympic team? No, I did not. Despite my 1:47:47 time in very frigid and windy conditions, I did not run the required 1:46:30 to "prove" I am fit. I ran a solid race, narrowly missing the win (to a Kenyan) by 10 seconds. It was likely one of my best Around the Bay performances and the third time I ran a 1:47. Consistency is key.
Now, it was tough, like any race should be. I've always said the Bay is pretty close to running a marathon because it is so difficult. It was my 8th Bay race and I've completed 11 marathons so I feel credible in making this statement. There doesn't seem to be any point in the 30 km where you just settle into a rhythm. The course has changed in the past few years and my description is likely not completely accurate with km markings but it's close enough: The first 5 km can be fast so you must control yourself. Then you have about 5 km to get up and down the overpasses. After that it was straight into the headwind for 7 or 8 km. Then about 5 km of rolling hills, which is where I lost more time than I thought. It seemed harder this year than others because I didn't have the hilly training I used to get when I pushed my kids in the running stroller! The final 7 km are flat, in which I pushed for a solid finish. The leader and I ran much of the race near each other but in the final third, her lead was just enough ahead of me that I didn't catch her. It reminded me of the 2013 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon where Lanni Marchant kept enough of a lead to earn the fastest Canadian Marathon title. Another second place finish for me, which makes three in the last three races this year. I'm itching to break the tape again.
So how do I feel? Well, I'm not ashamed to have been beaten by Kenyan, Risper Gesabwa. I had no idea who she was or what she was capable of running. Now that I've done some research, this young 27 year old has very similar personal best times to me. She was solid and steady. I will never be a sore loser and disrespect my competition. She deserved the win.
Physically, I've been feeling stronger and faster every week. I can really tell that the 1.5 hr weekday pool running routine and steady mileage and solid workouts are paying off. I'm getting leaner and more fit, which is excellent at the beginning of spring. 
So back to the required proof of fitness. What does it mean now? The Olympic team will not be announced until July so technically I have until close to that time to prove my fitness in a half marathon. The difficulty is that there are not a lot of decent certified half marathons at this time of year, anywhere in the world. I am willing to travel and chase this proof of fitness thing if that's what it takes but the problem is that it sets the athlete up to burn out prior to Rio, or to peak too soon. Kinda defeats the purpose, doesn't it?
But you know me, the glass is half full. As I crossed the finish line, the first person I saw was Coach Rick. Then I was pleasantly surprised to see my husband and 3 kids. My kids asked, "Mom, did you do it? Are you/we still going to Rio?". I told them that I did not run the required time, but said that Coach Rick would come up with a plan. On the way home I had the boys with me and it was a great opportunity to explain that I am completely trusting God's plan, as it's always better than our own. I believe I will be in that race, running my legs and heart out, on August 14. And they will be there, cheering for their mom! Besides, as one of my kids pointed out, our family already got all those required travel needles!
Mentally, I started moving after finishing.  I was prepared to train through April if I had to so that is what will happen. Currently we are looking into running a race in late April/early May. Funny thing is that I know I could "prove it" on the treadmill but that won't count. 
I'm recovering nicely since Sunday, not looking back but only forward. Before the race I kept thinking, "We've got this". So now it's, "We've still got this!".  
I've had incredible support and am grateful for every message and well wish received. I've been reading the Rick and Dick Hoyt book, "One Letter at a Time" and believe "Yes, we can" ... "prove it"!
1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.

Canadian Running Magazine, "Krista DuChene reflects on proof of fitness requirement despite having Olympic standard".
CBC, Canadian Marathoners upset with Athletics Canada's Rio qualification policy Paul Gains.
Reid Coolsaet's, "Competitive Readiness" 

Congratulating the 1st and 3rd women.

Coach Rick!
Credit: Alan Brookes.


Credit: Canadian Running Magazine.