Calgary, Alberta is host to the Scotia Bank Calgary Marathon, which since 2014 has run in parallel with the Canadian Ultramarathon Championship 50k race. Last Sunday, ultrarunner Jacob Puzey took top honors to win the Canadian 50K Road Championships, for the fourth time.

With home base for Puzey being in the mountains of Canmore, Alberta, he describes the challenges of preparation for the championship race, “I don’t remember a longer, colder winter. As a result, my training was certainly not as race specific as it has been in the past. I tried to simulate race like surfaces and intensities by doing a lot of training on the treadmill or paved bike paths, but there has been a lot of ice and snow since September so access to runnable surfaces outside was inconsistent. The volume was there, but the race specific intensity wasn’t quite what I would have preferred. My lungs felt fine, but my legs felt like they weren’t ready for that much intensity for that long. I had done the requisite long runs and had my nutrition dialed in, I just wasn’t able to do many runs at race pace or faster due to the limitations imposed by winter weather. Given the long winter and associated weather, I actually hadn’t raced since November, so I really didn’t have a good sense of where my fitness was at.”

Commencing with a mass start where the half marathon, marathon, and ultra runners were all intermixed, Puzey described the tactics involved with positioning at the beginning of the race “I tried not to go out right with the lead half marathoners and marathoners, but I also tried not to get stuck in no-man’s-land without anyone to run with. After some of the top half marathoners made a turn, I found myself between the lead marathoners from Kenya and the top Canadian marathoners. The other top 50K contenders weren’t too far behind so I tried to work with some of the top Canadian marathoners to push the pace and pull away from the 50K runners.”

PC: Jim Oswell

“When I hit a long stretch into the wind along the Bow River, I took turns running into and blocking the wind with one of my friends, Blaine Penny, who was shooting for a similar pace in the marathon as I was for 50K. Eventually he pulled away and turned back toward the finish, so I was left to run the rest of the race on my own. I was able to see the next few runners at the turnaround. Second and third weren’t too far back – maybe 2-3 minutes with 20K to go, so I knew that despite the fatigue and pain I was experiencing, I needed to stay on top of my nutrition – I started the day with a bottle of EFS drink mix and Optygen HP. I had some EFS drink mix on course in a few areas which certainly helped. In a race of this duration, I try to get the majority of my calories and electrolytes in liquid form, so I didn’t eat much during the race itself. I pushed to put as much distance between myself and the runners behind before things really fell apart for a stretch. Then once I had the wind to my back, I shed a few layers and started to feel good for a bit, enabling me to pick up the pace again and find a rhythm.”

“The more I pushed the less things hurt so I just tried to suck it up and dig deeper.”

“I eventually saw my wife, Amy, and our youngest children who Amy had pushed in the jogging stroller to cheer for me. I could hear our daughter, Ashima, from hundreds of meters away as she cheered for me. I took a quick detour to hug and kiss Amy and the kids, ditch a beanie I had been wearing and carrying, and bucked down for the final miles toward the finish.”

“For most of the last 10K I felt faint and my legs were buckling, but I knew I was close and had already done so much work that I just needed to put my head down and grind it out.”

With tunnel vision to the finish line, Puzey was able to hold on to win in a time of 3:07:13 to claim the Canadian 50k Championship race. Winning here for the 4th time, Puzey said “It was nice to return to a race with which I am familiar. Even though the course was quite different from years past, it is nice having a sense of belonging at a major, championship race. Some of the new sections of the course are parts of town where I once did a lot of my training so they weren’t as new to me as they may have been to others. I feel like this experience helped me feel more comfortable pushing for the win.”

Calgary Canadian 50k Road Championships, Calgary Marathon
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
May 26, 2019

1 Jacob Puzey 3:07:13
2 Chris Hooper 3:11:02
3 Brandon Miller 3:17:39
4 Rich Forcier 3:31:44
5 Nick Robbins 3:39:51