Things started hitting North America quite hard in mid-March. One of the first races to be cancelled was the New York City half marathon, scheduled to take place on March 15. I had planned to be on the start line but withdrew within the week ahead of the race. A calf issue had started in late February and despite being able to accomplish some great workout sessions, and bike on the trainer to give the calf a rest in between these efforts, it was just not calming down enough for me to hop on a plane and know I could give it my best. When the race was cancelled I drew a sigh of relief knowing that I wouldn’t be at home watching from my laptop with palpable envy, and as race after race continued to be cancelled or postponed it was easy for me to rehab knowing I wasn’t missing out.
The focus was now on my rehab. The MRI had shown there was inflammation of the bone where the soleus tendon attaches to the tibia. Tendons aren’t the quickest to repair and that remained true in this instance. Much of March was spent on the bike waiting for the tendon to be ready for more impact. I was spending 11-16 hours on the trainer each week, thinking that I would still have to be ready to run a marathon in August — an important marathon. But then March 24th came and it was announced that the Olympics would be postponed until 2021. This was an immense relief as Team Canada had already withdrawn from the 2020 Games whether they were going forward or not. It was a stressful announcement to think that I could be watching the Olympic marathon at home while other countries lined up for the event. The postponement ensured that wouldn’t be the case.
Practicing patience was easier than usual with no races on the horizon. By April I was peppering in more runs while keeping the biking up. By the end of May my running volume had progressed to 130K and we decided to keep it around that area for the summer. I reduced my biking only slightly (6-8h/week) since my newfound obsession with Zwift kept me hopping on for more badges (if you know, you know).
So although I was back doing workouts, running, and biking a substantial amount each week, I didn’t feel particularly focussed. I participated in a few virtual races, but nothing serious that I was targeting. In a way I don’t think this was a terrible use of my summer training time. Mentally I felt relaxed: I did workouts I wanted to do when I wanted to do them, but the sheer volume of hours spent training kept my strength up and my fitness, though not peaked, wasn’t suffering terribly.
But every season comes to an end. Eventually we knew we had to shift the focus back to some serious training, no more noodling about on the bike or running moderately hard on a whim. As September shifted to October I had to think—what would make me motivated to get out there and work hard? And with that, I also wanted to train for something that I could more easily time trial if it came down to that. So, influenced by the recent endeavours of Lionel Sanders (a Windsor-born Canadian triathlete), I chose to target a new 5K personal best. My current personal best stands at 16:12 from 2011 when I ran the 5K leg at the Chiba Ekiden in Japan. My goal now, almost 10 years later, is to run under the 16 minute mark. It’s an exciting prospect and I know it can only help my marathon. I’ve never focussed intensely on this type of training, and have often shied away from the speed side of things—so it’s all very new to me and with that it’s motivating to see progress each week while I run times I have never seen myself run before.
And that brings us to today, where I am still working towards that 5K personal best. Tentatively, we will do a time trial at the beginning of December (to check the progress) and the ultimate one at the beginning of January. I’ll let you know how they go but whatever the case, I know this fall has forced me to work on my weakness, and provided me with an opportunity to take this “gift” of extra time and use it to my benefit so I can come out the other side of this weird year of 2020 as (hopefully) a faster runner.