Top Canadian distance runners attempt title defence en route to Olympics
Ottawa (Canada) Nov 29: Luc Bruchet laughs when recalling one of his more memorable moments from the Canadian cross-country championships while running at the 2013 event in Vancouver.
"I had a friend pass me a beer as soon as I [won] the race [at Jericho Park] which is something funny to look back on," Bruchet said in a recent phone interview." Maybe not the best decision in the eyes of the bureaucrats but something I'll always remember."
The 28-year-old is hoping for another strong turnout of friends and family on Saturday when he seeks a third consecutive Canadian title in the senior men's 10 kilometres.
Abbotsford, B.C., is hosting nationals at Clearbrook Park for the next two years after a four-year run in Kingston, Ont.
"Hopefully there will be a big crew out there and I'll be even more motivated," said Bruchet, who lives in nearby Vancouver. "There's something to be said for being able to sleep in your own bed the night before a race.
"I have a lot of friends that follow online or when there's a live [TV] broadcast of a race but for some of them it'll be the first time they've seen me race live. I think I thrive off that stuff. I feel a bit like a showman sometimes and it's fun to put on a show for them."
Eyes on Tokyo Olympics
Last November, Bruchet went out hard in cool and rainy conditions and never looked back, crossing the finish line with a championship belt gesture in 29 minutes 54.9 seconds to beat Mike Tate of Antigonish, N.S., who will be in the field of 98 on Saturday.
Athletes from this year's senior and junior races will be selected to compete for Canada at the 2020 Pan Am Cross-Country Cup in Victoria on Feb. 29.
Masters men (8 km) and women (6 km) - 12:15 p.m. ET
Under-16 girls and boys (4K) - 1 p.m.
U18 girls (6K) - 1:30 p.m.
U18 boys (8K) - 2:15 p.m.
U20 women (6K) - 3 p.m.
U20 men (8K) - 3:45 p.m.
Senior women (10K) - 4:30 p.m.
Senior men (10K) - 5:15 p.m.
Bruchet also has next summer's Tokyo Olympics in his sights and a recent trip to Niigata, Japan, to race in the 5,000 metres at the Denka Athletics Challenge Cup could provide added motivation in his pursuit.
"You walk off the plane and there are Tokyo 2020 logos everywhere," Bruchet said. "The Japanese have such a love for distance running and I think it's going to be one of the most impressive Olympics ever and definitely something I want to be part of. The fire's burning, that's for sure."
Bruchet, who made his Olympic debut in 2016, clocked 13:47.70 on Oct. 19 in the less-than-ideal running conditions of Niigata, where he said it was 20C with 100 per cent humidity.
"I've showed in training that I'm capable of being back [at the Olympics]. It would be tough to get through the summer and not make it with all the work I've put in the last two years," Bruchet said.
'Good groove of training'
The distance runner remains 17 seconds shy of the 13:13.50 Olympic qualifying standard in the 5,000, and more than a minute off the 27:28.00 required in the 10,000. But Bruchet has until June 29 to meet these marks or be among the top 45 or so in the respective world rankings - he's currently 61st in the 5,000 and 140th in the 10,000.
Bruchet extended his track season into October following a late start after missing the world cross-country championships in March with a stress reaction in his left foot. An injured left foot also sidelined Bruchet for six weeks in the summer of 2018.
Injured Bruchet, Esselink to miss upcoming IAAF world cross-country championships
"I missed opportunities earlier in the year to run quick times," he said. "Having injury setbacks the last year and a half, specifically on the track, I missed a fair bit of training so it was worthwhile training through September.
"But I feel [the injuries] are behind me now and I've been in a good groove of training for the last few months.
"You can't take any national championship lightly," continued Bruchet. "I'm unsponsored. I got cut from the [Athletics Canada] funding program this year so races like this are a great opportunity to increase my exposure."
The 1.9 km loop at Clearbrook Park - primarily situated on grass and surrounded by a forest on one side - is more flat and less technical than the Fort Henry course in Kingston but equally as spectator-friendly, with lengthy straightaways, some tight turns, four hay bale obstacles and a short hill measuring about 240 feet in height.
Genevieve Lalonde of Moncton, N.B., will attempt to successfully defend her women's title in the 10K in her debut race at Clearbrook.
The Canadian-record holder and 2019 Pan Am champion in the women's 3,000 steeplechase arrived in B.C. in early November and has spent the past few weeks training in Victoria and visiting her brother, sister and one-month-old nephew Benoit on weekends in Vancouver.
Moncton's Lalonde disappointed with finish in world steeplechase final
Lalonde, 28, took nearly a month off to rest and visit family following a "disappointing" 14th-place performance in the world championship final on Sept. 30 in Doha, Qatar, where she finished more than three seconds off her season-best time.
"I was so tired," said Lalonde, admitting she should have scaled back her race schedule later in the summer. "I had run world cross-country [championships] in March and started my track season in May. In August, I probably could have been more mindful that there was two months to go."
Genevieve Lalonde won the gold medal in the women's 3,000-metre steeplechase, setting a Pan American Games record in the process. 0:29
Lalonde raced cross-country nationals last year for the first time since 2012, took the lead midway through the race and posted a winning time of 33:47.3 to defeat 2015 champion Natasha Wodak of Vancouver (34:06.4).
They were teammates three months later at the NACAC cross-country championships in Trinidad and Tobago, where Lalonde finished one second behind the fourth-place Wodak, the national-record holder in the 10,000 metres. At worlds in Denmark, Lalonde and Wodak were 20th and 43rd overall, respectively, and will meet at the start line on Saturday.
PAN AM ROUNDUPCanadians Lalonde, Arop race to gold medals and Pan Am records in Lima
Lalonde posts best Canadian result at cross-country worlds
"We went for a long run a few weeks ago [along] Burnaby Lake. She has such an understanding for the 10K," Lalonde said of Wodak, 37, this year's Pan Am champion in the 10,000 metres and winner at the Canadian 10,000 championships. "I'm learning from her always and patience is the main thing because the 10K can be so long. Tasha knows her body and when to push [in a race] and when to relax."
Kingston drew a record 1,124 runners last year, about 400 more than what is expected in Abbotsford.
"We were hopeful the entry numbers would be higher than last year so we're disappointed," said meet director Andrew Lenton. "It's hard to [attract] a lot of the Eastern [Canadian] athletes where the largest concentration of the cross-country population lives. I think travel costs were a factor.
"We're hoping the positive experience the athletes have this year and [improved] promotional efforts across the country will result in an upswing for next year."
Under-16 boys and girls races will be held Saturday as a pilot project, with Lenton believing they offer "a competitive opportunity for more youthful runners" wanting to compete at the national level.
Source: CBC News