This article was originally published on Evan Dunfee's website.
It has been a long time since I blogged, and while I have a brief moment of motivation I figure I should try get an update on how the first quarter of 2015 has gone. In my last post I had said I would report on the 2nd half of last year... Clearly that never happened, so suffice it to say that the rest of 2014 went well. The highlights were a 3rd place finish in the 4 day China tour and a 2+ month stay in Australia, culminating in a slightly disappointing 50km in December (that was still a PB...).
Remember to follow me on twitter @evandunfee as I am much funnier and bearable (and just as informative) in 140 character bursts.
Before we get to 2015 a couple announcements! Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to sign a formal contract with Asics and am now officially a Asics Sponsored athlete! I am incredibly excited about this and look forward to representing them as best I can. Getting to rock up to races in my sponsored kit has given me a huge boost in confidence as I just feel way more professional now and I think that can carry over into better performances on the track and the road!
Additionally Phil Pesek, a coworker of my moms and an avid race walker, and his wife have been incredibly gracious in donating enough money to take care of all of my nutritional needs this year. I got to take Phil out for a workout last year to give him some pointers on improving his times. He's now out there taking on the runners, covering 10km in under 70min. This money is amazing and will go to getting all the gels, powders and other nutritional needs to I need for both training and racing. Thank you so much Phil! This is amazing support.
Last bit of news, Athletics Canada announced their 2014 Award Winners last week and I am fortunate enough to be receiving 2 awards this year, the Fred Begley award as off-track athlete of the year and the Fred Tees award for top Canadian athlete enrolled in a Canadian university. I won the Fred Begley award way back in 2008 and more than anything this has made me realize how long I've been in this sport. It is certainly nice to receive recognition for what I did in 2014. Okay moving on!
Moving forward to 2015 it has been a much different start to the year than last year. For the 2014 season my base training had started in October of 2013 following time off after Francophone Games. So by the time January/ February rolled around I was feeling fitter than ever and crushing workouts. This year it has been a much different story. After the 50km in Australia I took a month completely off, which was the longest break I've taken since I started training seriously. This was done for a number of reasons. 1st off it had been a long season (with base training starting in October) and my knee had still been bothering me all through the 2nd half of the year. Since nothing seemed structurally wrong I hoped that an extended rest and lots of physio would be enough to get that sorted out. Aside from a physical break, I was also in dire need of a mental break, considering how busy/ overwhelming the next 2 years will be leading up to Rio.
The month off seemed to satisfy both those objectives, once I started up walking in mid-January I was 90% pain free and mentally ready to load on some miles. Unfortunately, while those first 2 weeks of training were virtually pain free, they were far from quality. It felt as though I was learning how to race walk again and every step felt mechanical and unfamiliar. A 10km walk felt like a marathon and I couldn't hold my focus for more than a km at a time. 10 days into training (and barely 100km covered) we had our baseline physiology testing done. My VO2max was 69ml/kg/min which is on par with where it has been in the past but my sub-max's were abysmal indicating that my fitness and efficiency wasn't quite up to snuff.
Another week of slogging through workouts and things were starting to brighten up a bit. I got through a couple 20+ Km walks with minimal pain and a decent attitude, the effort was still significantly higher than I'd hoped for but at least I was starting to feel like I knew how to walk again.
February rolled around and it was off to San Diego for 3 weeks with a handful of Canadian athletes at the Olympic Training Centre in Chula Vista. This was a great opportunity to get some warm weather training in as well as a focused environment where the days would centre completely around training. The week started off alright and I got in my first two strength sessions under the guidance of my new strength coach, Devon Goldstein. At the end of the first week I was feeling a little sick but tried to push through my first speed session of the year and it was truly a disaster. The next week the milage was a little better but still felt sick. Luckily for my ego I was able to produce a good interval session of 10x500m near the end of the week and pushed through my first 25km of the year(i.e. nothing special, but I needed this).
The start of the 3rd week was interesting. By this point Inaki and Ben had joined me and we had planned for an easy 12km with Rachel Seaman and Miranda Melville along the Coronado in San Diego (which is a great training location!). However our ego's got the better of us in our first session together this year and after a slow start the pace escalated quickly and our last 4km were covered in 4:12; 4:15; 4:15; and 3:53... and I knew things were heading in the right direction. The next day was 8x1km, another confidence building workout as 1km isn't quite far enough to crash hard in. The goal was to accelerate through the whole workout and that is exactly what I managed to do: 4:00; 3:59; 3:58; 3:58; 3:56; 3:55; 3:53; 3:51. It was a good workout, but slightly overshadowed by having my ass kicked by Inaki and Ben who finished a good 12 seconds ahead of me on the last rep! After another 25km walk and a trip to the Zoo it was off to Montreal for the Canadian Indoor Open. It had been a solid 3 weeks in San Diego although not as good as I had hoped it was a solid start to the season.
After the fun in the sun that was San Diego it was off to Montreal for an indoor 5km. I have never been anywhere colder than Vancouver for winter so this was not pleasant. The 5km walk was being touted as a premier event with Inaki, Ben and myself all targeting (slightly naively) Tim Berrett's 18:47 Canadian Record from 1993. While I knew that pace might be a little bit aggressive for where I was at, I figured there was no harm in going after it and hit the first km in 3:45, and then it was a bit of a slog from their. 3:48; 3:52; 3:58; 4:00. It wasn't great but it wasn't awful either. 19:23 after a bit of a rough start to the season, I'll take it! After the race I was able to get another 7km in on the 200m track to give me a glimpse of what Inaki has been dealing with for the past 3 years training in Calgary... fair to say, I don't envy him! This was my first ever indoor race and I understand now the complaints people have. The air was so dry that it just completely cleared out my respiratory tract, making sleep that night virtually impossible. The next day I was off downtown to take a quick tour of the WADA headquarters... because that is the main thing people do in Montreal right? Problem was it was -32 degrees (about 25 degrees colder than I had ever experienced before) and that combined with having my nasal passages being destroyed from the race, I was the perfect breeding ground for an infection to creep in and for the 2nd time this season I was sick. I foolishly pushed through the next week before realizing that I wasn't getting better and ended up on a round of anti-biotics. Before all this getting sick business the plan had been to open up my 20km season in Chihuahua, Mexico like last year. Unfortunately I had to deal with the fact that it just wasn't going to happen and had to withdraw unfortunately. The 2 weeks since the race I only managed 135km total. Not the way I had envisioned things back when the year started, but I was trying to stay confident that things would turn around.
By the middle of March I was finally starting to feel on track again, and my workouts were agreeing with me. In my first track fartlek of the year (a type of workout that I think really helped me last year) I opted for a low hard:easy ratio of 600 hard; 400 easy for 10km to ensure a good workout. This was also a workout that I didn't really do last year, so I couldn't compare. This was a huge confidence boost as I finished with 40:59 and my 600s felt really strong at 2:15-2:20. The next day I got through my first 30km of the year (this far into the season last year I had already done 3 40+km walks). Things were starting to come together nicely and I decided to test myself a bit in a race type environment and the people at the Canadian Run Series were kind enough to get me into the Modo8km Spring Run Off around the beautiful Stanley Park in Vancouver. It was a fun atmosphere and I had a bunch of runners pushing me hard as the last thing they wanted was to lose to a race walker. I finished with 31:32 which I was very happy with!
A highlight for me so far this year was getting to help teach one of the Kinesiology classes at UBC. This is a class learning the ins and outs of track and field as many of them prepare for future jobs as teachers. This was a great group of guys and girls and despite the rain were the most enthusiastic people I've ever gotten to introduce race walking to. It really was a fun morning.
The next week started off with 24km of 2km easy and 2km hard, followed by 35km the next day that absolutely killed me! Friday was an easy 20km and Saturday morning a 20km acceleration in 96min. Saturday afternoon was a 5km race at UBC. The expectations were low as I was pretty exhausted and my warm up consisted of a few strides. But from the moment the gun went I felt strong and in control. I rolled through the first km in 3:48 followed by a 3:46. At this point I didn't really realize how quick I was going and I focused on just holding on instead of picking it up. the next 2km's were 3:48 and 3:51 and I realized then that I could break 19min and closed in 3:44 for 18:57. I felt stronger than I ever have and I feel that is in large part due to the new strength program I have. I only wish I had pushed harder in the middle of the race to have gone after a new PB. Given how fast people are going this year it is clear that the next step is figuring out how to close the last 5km of a 20km in this speed! I'm confident I can get there eventually.
So it hasn't been the ideal start to the first quarter of 2015 but things have started to turn around. Racing plans have changed and the first 20km of the year will be the Pan-Am Race Walk Cup in Arica, Chile on May 8th. It'll be a good opportunity to test myself against the Pan-Am Games athletes that I'll be competing against later in the summer. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do!