Road To The Olympic Games

Track and Field

Reid Coolsaet to run Ottawa 10K after injury marred spring

Canadian marathon runner Reid Coolsaet has pronounced himself ready for Saturday’s Ottawa 10K despite not being fully recovered from an impinged nerve in his lower right back that also causes hamstring discomfort.

Canadian marathoner hopeful of competing at Rio Olympics

Canadian marathon runner Reid Coolsaet will compete in the Ottawa 10K on Saturday in Ottawa as he continues his recovery from an impinged nerve on the right side of his lower back that causes discomfort in his hamstring. The 36-year-old, whose time of two hours 10 minutes 28 seconds is the second fastest ever by a Canadian, remains hopeful of running at the Rio Olympics in August. Coolsaet missed the 2008 Beijing Summer Games with a similar injury on the left side of his lower back. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The lure of an Olympic Games has Reid Coolsaet competing instead of resting an injury, pushing his training quicker, at times, than his body will allow, and breaking a few rules along the way.

The Canadian marathon runner has pronounced himself ready for Saturday's Ottawa 10K at 6:30 p.m. ET despite not being fully recovered from an impinged nerve on the right side of his lower back that also causes hamstring discomfort.

"My fitness is good but my specificity for 10K is nowhere near where I'd like it to be," Coolsaet said in a phone interview. "I'll do well enough and it'll be a good [kickstarter] to training for Rio."

The 36-year-old Hamilton native usually would train for a 42.2-kilometre marathon 12 weeks out, or in preparation for the Aug. 21 men's event in Rio, two days after the Ottawa race. But the injury, which flared up during a 17-hour flight back to Toronto from a winter of training in Kenya, forced Coolsaet to cross-train in the pool or gym for much of April.

His rehab has included four one-hour traction and acupuncture appointments per week along with regular hour-plus workouts on the elliptical and stationary bike, plus daily extensions on a Swiss ball to strengthen his back.

Limited to training 100-120 km a week earlier in May and 135 km last week, Coolsaet has been forced to reassess his goals and be realistic about the Ottawa 10K, which attracts one of the world's best fields of elite runners that race down the Rideau Canal and by Dow's Lake before crossing the Pretoria Bridge.

I would normally be going to the [Ottawa] 10K looking for a win. I'm not focused on that this time. I just want to give a decent effort and feel good at the end.- Canadian marathoner Reid Coolsaet, who has been hampered by an impinged nerve in his lower back

He would like to run faster than marathon pace, which is 3:05 minutes per kilometre or 30:50 over the 10K, and would be happy with a time below 30:30, given the less-than-normal volume of training over the last month.

"I would normally be going to the 10K looking for a win," said Coolsaet, who ran 1:04:56 at the world half-marathon championships in March in Cardiff, Wales, where his back seized up the last seven kilometres of the race. "I'm not focused on that this time. I just want to give a decent effort and feel good at the end.

"Typically, I would have had at least six hard workouts [leading into Ottawa] to gauge where my fitness is, and I got three in. I kind of broke the rule. … We'll see what happens."

Coolsaet is confident of qualifying for Rio if he's able to fully train for a marathon by mid-June. Should that happen, he is eyeing the Boilermaker 15K in Utica, N.Y., on July 10, the final event for Coolsaet to demonstrate "competitive readiness," a proof of fitness, to Athletics Canada and head coach Peter Eriksson.

Missed 2008 Olympics

"It could be a combination of time and where I place," Coolsaet, who finished eighth overall in 44:33 at the Boilermaker last summer, said of his Olympic chances.

Coolsaet, who finished 27th among 85 marathoners at the 2012 London Summer Games, missed the 2008 Beijing Olympics with a similar back injury on his lower left side that bothered his calf.

"The mental toll has been tough because … last year went pretty much perfect as far as training. I had only minor setbacks," said Coolsaet, whose 2:10:28 from the 2015 Berlin Marathon is the second fastest time ever recorded by a Canadian.

"I think because I've already been through the Olympics and also have goals to run faster, I'm not going to ruin my body to get to Rio. If it was four years ago I would be much more devastated, like I was in 2008, because it was a lifetime goal."

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