BLOG POST - THE RIGHT DIRECTION (BY SAED GRIFFITH)

BLOG POST - THE RIGHT DIRECTION (BY SAED GRIFFITH)

ELITE RUNNER & UNDEFINEX ATHLETE, SAED GRIFFITH SHARES A PIECE ON HIS MOST RECENT ACHIEVEMENT AND HIS TRAINING THROUGHOUT THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK.

COVID On The Rise

A lot has changed drastically since my last blog post. This deadly corona virus made a tremendous impact on everything leading up to a major global pandemic that is still going on today. It has truly put a major toll on a lot of people’s lives in an unimaginable way. Over millions of people had been killed or infected worldwide. The economies in most countries were shutdown; causing countless of people to either lose their jobs, work from homes, or find other ways to make some form of income. Frontline workers sacrificing their lives each and every day to provide essential needs such as food, healthcare, and others for everyone that are affected by this pandemic. This whole situation overall is like a horror movie or something.

The odds of having an actual outdoor track season started to fade away as the intensity of the pandemic got worst each day. It eventually turned from reality to illusion as most of the races for this year that I planned to compete at got cancelled. My outdoor track season unfortunately came to an unexpected close; not even knowing of what I could have had done if it were still to go on. It was for the best though to keep people’s health and well-being safe to avoid any further complications from Ms. COVID.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

It was very difficult to comprehend the fact that my outdoor track season came to an abrupt end. Things got much worst when the government forced a state of emergency orders; which lead to myself and the rest of my teammates training alone for a good while. Training alone made me missed running alongside with my teammates during practices. Do not get me wrong. It plays a key role in developing that mental toughness. Having people around however not only helps keep the motivation going but also makes the runs more enjoyable and fun. That is just my perspective.

 

What was next for me? I had no damn clue at all because I was second guessing myself a lot. Apart of me told myself to keep training until something miracle happens. The other part of me on the other hand wanted to take some time off and start rebuilding from scratch. I chose option #2 as I was gambling the decisions. It was quite honestly a big sacrifice to say the least. That choice however would eventually led myself to not regretting it at all to this day; which will be explained later on in this blog.

Down Time

I took a couple weeks off of training around early April. It was more than enough for me to regroup and come up with some plan that will get me back on my feet. Everything was going downhill along with my motivation at that time.

Other than having to work and spending some quality times at home with my family, I took an opportunity to do some thorough research on every little things that will enhance my growth with running and get me to that level I want to be without any setbacks or injuries. The goals I wanted to achieved by the end of this base phase were pretty straightforward. The goals were:

  1. To stay healthy and consistent on everything; even the little things (e.g. mental strength, stretches, core and strength training, cross-training, nutrition, recovery, etc.) that makes a big difference.
  2. To increase my weekly mileage gradually and slowly up to 112km (70 miles)/week with a down week every third or fourth week.
  3. To run sub 15 minutes for the 5km on the roads (broke it down into increments to make it easier to achieve the small goals leading up to the main goal; sub 15:20, sub 15:10 and sub 15).
  4. To embrace the process and have fun with it.

There were some adjustments made to my daily training routines. I wanted to put a lot of focus on building and maintaining high mileage; slowly and gradually. So the amount of quality workouts per week was reduced to two; instead of three. The days that I typically do those type of workouts are only Mondays and Thursdays. Long run days were moved to Saturdays (instead of Sunday) because I figured that a proper recovery day would be necessary before a hard session on Mondays. I would usually throw in some tempo pickups during long runs to improve my lactate threshold.

Most of my pre-activation, core and strength routines were followed from a book I bought online. The book is called “Functional Training For Athletes At All Levels” which was written by James Radcliffe, a University of Oregon strength and conditioning coach. It is really an amazing book with a lot of useful contents to apply to any training in general. Highly recommend buying and reading it; even though it may not be for everyone. Worth the $11.99 book.

 

Active isolated stretching (rope stretching or AIS) was implemented before and after every workouts I do. It aids in boosting the effectiveness of stretching without causing some sort of stiffness by isolating an opposing muscle from the other to be extended out with a resistance band or rope. It is definitely worth applying that type of stretch into any training routines.

I honestly do not follow a strict diet at all whatsoever. With a high metabolism, the amount of quality foods really depends on a week load of training along with work too. Multivitamins and fish oils had been part of my diet though for a couple years now. They have the proper nutritions that is required for daily function.

I also include BCAAs (amino acids) supplement as a recovery drink after workouts. I realized recently that they are ideal to be taken before and during training as the three amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine) do not produce in the body. In other words, they come from other sources such as foods and drinks. They also plays a vital role in building muscles, decreasing muscle soreness/fatigue and ensuring that the body is functioning properly during exercises.

My actual post-training recovery secret is whey protein. Those contain all of the amino acids needed to replenish the energy loss during exercises along with nurturing the damaged muscles to repair.

A Fresh Restart

Just like that, the grind was back on around the end of April. Thrilled to get after it with a fresh mindset and body, I knew that the adjusted training plan and the workouts provided from my coach would work out well as one cohesive system.

The first week of training went very smoothly with only easy running and the routines from the functional training book. The mileage for that week was only 33km. I only had to do 50% of the mileage I did the week before the down time; which was 65km.

It is extremely important to start off less and easy for a couple of weeks to get used to training altogether and to avoid any early burnouts or overtraining. The “10% percent rule” is one of the best ways to safely increase mileage consistently each week. This approach can be apply to anyone who really wants to up their mileage game. Everyone is different though based on how they react to any mileage. Whether it is low, moderate or high mileage; there are no right or wrong methods. It all depends on the person and their reaction to those mileages.

Week 1: 33km
Week 2: 49km
Week 3: 65km
Week 4: 58km (Down Week)
Week 5: 64km
Week 6: 70km
Week 7: 77km
Week 8: 69km (Down Week)
Week 9: 76km
Week 10: 84km
Week 11: 92km
Week 12: 83km (Down Week)
Week 13: 91km
Week 14: 101km
Week 15: 112km
The first 15 weeks of training building up to 112km using the 10% rule.

Weights were included into my strength training routine based on the exercises from the book. This was the first time in a long time that I have used weights since my high school days. I used to follow a circuit training routine for years that consists of only calisthenic exercises (bodyweight exercises). Not anymore as I felt that I wanted to try something new to take my strength to the next level. I started off with using the barbell without no weights at all. The reason was to put a lot of emphasis on mastering the techniques of the exercises before gradually increasing the load. Core was still part of my supplemental training routines though as it plays a huge role for improving the running economy.

 

The quality workouts and long runs were added by the time the second week of training had came along. All of my quality workouts were done at a track behind Paul Dwyer Catholic High School. It was accessible to the public when the pandemic was getting much worst. The best part was that it was close to my house. It was about 10 minutes walk from my house to the track. It was pretty convenient to say the least. There were no other tracks to do the workouts as they were closed due to COVID.

My fitness was getting better each week. This one workout that I did in scorching conditions was one of the toughest workouts I done so far. The temperature was beyond 30 degrees Celsius (without humidity). It was 14 x 400m @ 70-72 (2:56-3:00/km pace) with 75 seconds rest. The first few reps were around the exact targeted paces. The rest of the reps were around 68-69 as I was really in the zone and hammering the rest of the workout. That gave me the confidence booster I had been looking for; even though the aftermath of that workout was pretty rough as I past out on the field gasping for air.

The First Go

The fitness was tested in a 5km road time trial at the Brookside loop located in the “Shwa” on June 20. A huge shoutout goes to my guys: Justyn White (cameraman), Matt Lozano or I should say DJ Loz (bike duties and live streaming the time trial with some fire music on the background), Selva Yoga, and Selva’s brother and his wife (tagging along with me). This would not have been possible without them.

The loop was relatively flat with a small gradual uphill on one side and a slight gradual downhill on the other side. The distance was slightly over a mile long; which means that doing 3 loops would totalled up to 5km exact. The GPS signal was quite strong in the area too. Thank goodness.

The shoes I wore for this one was the Nike Zoom Vaporfly Next%. It was my first time ever trying them on the roads as I used them a few times on the track. A big shoutout goes to Nike Toronto for hooking me up with a free pair of the Vaporfly Next% earlier this year and the Air Zoom Alphafly Next% this past July. I truly appreciate the support they give to each and every athletes representing the running community well and inspiring others. Swoosh gang baby!

 

The goal coming into this one was to run a sub 15:20. The temperature was pretty spicy that morning; hitting just a tad bit over 27 degrees Celsius. I was ready though to throw it down with an authority.

I settled into a good rhythm as the start of the time trial went underway. The opening km split was around 2:54. Feeling controlled and relaxed during the first lap, I past the mile mark right at 4:43.

I continued on with that pace heading into the second lap. The humidity began to creep up on me slowly as I was maintaining a good pace. Though, I kept my composure strong and past the 2km mark at 5:55 (3:01 for the second km split).

The heat started to make this time trial a bit more challenging as I was slowing down a bit in the middle of the second lap. I still managed to past the 3km mark at 8:59 (3:04 at the third km split).

I used certain spots from the loop to pick up the momentum as I continued on for the last lap of the loop. My mind told me that I may have a shot of breaking the sub 15 minutes barrier after passing the 4km mark at 12:02 (3:03 for the fourth km split).

 

I shifted gears and threw it down with the pace heading into the homestretch of the loop. The small gradual downhill was used as my guide to kick it home. My face grimaced from the legs turning over quickly as the arms started to swing out of control. I collapsed on the road once I stopped my watch around 15:08 at the 5km mark (3:05 for the last km split).

Close, but no cigar. I was just over 8 seconds shy from breaking that sub 15 minutes barrier. On the other hand, my 5km road PB time of 15:28 was shattered by no more than 20 seconds. It was a big victory for me as most of the goals on my list were checked off. Not only did I crushed the sub 15:20 barrier; but I also dipped under the 15:10 barrier by 2 seconds. The outcomes really brought more fuel to my momentum of wanting to get after it again later on in this base phase to seal the deal.

 

Reunited

My coach announced around late July that we were able to have practices together again. The last time I seen my coach and my teammates was back in early March before everything got shut down from the pandemic. Reuniting with them raised my motivation even more higher than ever. The vibes we always bring to practice; I truly missed that. Getting to experience those vibes at every practices once again got me well excited.

The workouts started to become more faster than I can imagined as weeks went by. The mileage got much higher slowly to the point that I had reached my weekly mileage goal of 112km/week. This was the first time in my life that I had ran a weekly mileage of over 100km. Uncharted territories man. They are something else.

I recalled doing a 28km long run that week. It was an out and back run from my area to Ajax and back. The total distance for that run came to exactly 28km. The average pace was around 3:48/km pace. It was unexpectedly spicy. But hey if the body feels good to get after it, then go for it. Just got to play it smart though. I did just that by getting a solid tempo work in.

I also helped out my teammates with pacing their own time trials during those weeks of training. Safe to say that I earned that glorified rabbit achievement.

The Odd Time Trial

Another time trial was planned at the last minute during the week after a big mileage week. It was not another 5km time trial. It was a 2000m time trial on the track. Shoutout to the boys from my track club for pacing me during the time trial.

Never had I really went all out on an odd distance like the 2000m. So I had little to no knowledge of what to expect to run for that distance. My coach told me likewise to treat the time trial as a workout since a post time trial 400m repeats was on deck after.

 

Chris was the first rabbit to pace me for the opening lap once the time trial began. The opening 200m was around 28 seconds; which was ridiculously fast. The spice was very strong in Chris. We past the 400m mark at 1:04 once we settled into a rhythm with the pace.

Chris stepped off aside and it was Markson’s turn. He kept the flow pretty honest as I hung on beside him. The pace really indicated that I was in for a very fast time as we past the 800m mark at 2:12 (1:08 for the second 400m).

It was Mikhael’s turn for pace duty. My legs started to burn a bit as the pace really picked up from there. He paced me to 3:18 at the 1200m mark (1:06 for the third 400m split); which made me noticed that I was spot on for 5:30 2km pace.

It was Stevie’s turn for pace duty. The lactic acid started to build up once we approached the 1500m mark. That fast opening 400m earlier eventually caught up to my legs. They were burning big time; which led me to hitting a wall a bit during that lap. We were however able to past the mile mark around 4:29 (1:11 for the fourth 400m split).

Oh Chris. It was his turn again to pace me during the last lap. My arms were swinging rapidly as my legs started to feel even more heavier than it was during the previous lap. Sprinting as hard as I can to close it out during the last lap, the watch stopped at 5:42 (1:13 for the last 400m).

I immediately past out on the track once I crossed the finish line. I was laying there for a good 5 minutes. My soul was definitely gone after that. Literally. My legs and lungs were beyond dead by the time I completed the post time trial 400m repeats several minutes later after the time trial.

The PB streak was still alive though as my first ever 2000m time of 5:42 ended up being a PB. The confidence booster continued to grow from there realizing that another go at a 5km road time trial was worth the idea.

The Critical Weeks Leading Up To The Moment

The workouts started to get much faster as weeks went by. I had countless of great workouts to the point that I believed that I was in the best shape of my life. This one workout I did signified that statement about my fitness.

 

The workout was 5 x 500m @ 1:25 with 90 seconds rest + 5 minutes rest + 3 x 500m @ 1:23 with 2 minutes rest + 8 minutes rest + 1km @ all out pace. The paces were spot on for all of the reps of the 500m. What really surprised me the most was the last 1km rep. I ran 2:47 for that last rep after being spot on with the paces for the 500m. That workout definitely gave me one of the biggest confidence boosters I ever gotten in my life.

The nerves started to kick in almost every day that week of the 5km time trial. I had to remind myself that I had done all the work and everything in my ability to prepare for that time trial every time that I got nervous.

I did everything I can to keep myself prepared and ready the day before. An easy 30 minutes shakeout run and strides along with contrast showers (hot and cold shower) really did the trick to loosen up the legs. My mind was well relaxed; not overthinking about the time trial. I can definitely thank NBA 2K21 for keeping my mind off of things. I also ensured to stay hydrated throughout the day along with eating a lot of quality foods to get that proper fuel. Stretching and rolling before bed was also in the mix of my pre-time trial/race routine to avoid any soreness or tightness in my legs the next day.

The Unforgettable Moment

My mind was definitely laser-focused coming into round 2 of this 5km time trial at the Brookside loop. The one goal and the only goal was to break that sub 15 minutes barrier. That was all that mattered to me the most.

The Nike Air Zoom Alphafly Next% was my arsenal for this one. I used them a couple of times prior to this time trial. My goodness…. these shoes are quite special. They are truly made for the roads and longer races from 5km to the marathon as they do not have that much effect on the track as the Vaporfly Next% does.

 

I also repped an Undefine X prototype socks for this one. Shoutout to them for letting me test out their prototype socks. The prototypes were the Racer – Swift run, Elite Running Division. The socks are absolutely comfortable, extremely lightweight and breathable. Those are coming out very soon too. So stay tuned for that. As well, go check out their Instagram page (@undefine.x) and their website. They are definitely on the come up as we speak.

A man on a desperate mission, I wanted to tick that goal of breaking that barrier off my list. With weeks of quality workouts, mileage and a couple of time trials under my belt, I was very optimistic that everything would go well than expected.

The conditions were a lot cooler than the last time as the winds were blowing a bit from the east. However, the winds really did not phased me at all as my mind was really strict on getting after it and leaving it all on that loop.

The start was quite faster than the last time. I came out like a loose cannon; dictating my own pace. At first, the wind was blowing at me a bit. It eventually did not irritate me at all as I quickly adapted into the conditions.

I past the first km mark at 2:48. I was basically flying like a gazelle. I held onto that pace as long as I can. I approached the mile mark and past it at a blazing 4:29. The pace was well maintained as I continued on for the second lap. I went through the 2km mark at 5:37 (2:49 for second km split). Apart of me realized that I just broke my 2km PB of 5:42 by 5 seconds. It really got me anxious from there.

The adrenaline kicked into my mind as I continued to hold on to that pace as long as possible. I did not realize that something very special was going to happen until I past the 3km mark at 8:28 (2:51 for the third km split). My mind experienced a “WTF moment” when I dipped under 8:30 at the 3km mark; which was the first time in my life of running a 3km time under 8:30.

As I approached the last lap of the loop, holding on to that blistering pace started to get a bit difficult for me. Nonetheless, the possibility of running under 15 minutes was beyond high at that point once I past the 4km mark around 11:21 (2:53 for the fourth km split). Giving up this momentum was no longer an option at all. I had to keep that momentum going for the last km.

I dug deeper than I ever had before trying to close out hard at least under 3 minutes for the last km. My legs started to burn quite a bit as I approached the small gradual downhill at the final homestretch. I shifted gears though and started to kick down the stretch; leaving some sweat and tears in the process. The sound of my watch beeped for the 5km split. I stopped my watch and glanced at it. There it was. 14:20. It was a 48 seconds PB from my previous one. Not only my first ever sub 15, but also my first ever sub 14:30.

I literally snapped with a lot of emotions for a good while once I broke that barrier by a huge margin. Lost for words of what just happened, I was literally yelling countless times so loud that the whole neighbourhood heard my screaming. Even Justyn and Selva were in complete shocked as they realized what I just done. It was like I just won a national title or something.

It was crazy to think that 4 years ago, I was only capable of running 17 minutes for a 5km on the roads during the first year of my post-collegiate career. I guess with all of the weeks, months and years of hard work, sacrifices, patience, commitment, heck everything that got me to this point in my running career; paid off in a surreal way. It was also safe to say that this outcome was one of my 2020 visions that I had been envisioning for so long. To be able to achieved that vision meant a lot to me personally.

 

A big shoutout goes to Selva for live streaming the time trial and biking beside me along with Justyn for taking these sick photos from all over the loop. That memorable moment would not have been possible without them along with my coach, teammates, family and friends for pushing me to be the person I am today. I am also thankful that I continue to inspire people each and every day to not give up their dreams and keep fighting for what goals they want to achieve in life; even with the uncertain times that we are all facing right now. Anything is possible if the mind is set to any ambitions that can be accomplished.

There is an actual live stream of the time trial saved as an IGTV video on my Instagram page. Feel free to check it out and witness the whole story. My Instagram is @__sgriffey for those who do not have me.

The Next Step

What is the next step for me? The season is not over yet. For those who know, I am going to be running another time trial at the end of October. Pretty much on Halloween day. It will not be the 5km. Nor the half marathon and marathon. Although, I was supposed to make my half marathon debut this year. Next year for sure.

I am going to be running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Virtual 10km Race on October 31st. It will be my final time trial/race of 2020 as I want to leave it all out there for that distance before taking a few days off; followed by building back up again and preparing for hopefully an Olympic year this upcoming track season next year.

The goal is to break the sub 30 minutes barrier for the 10km on the roads. It will be very challenging to pull off this attempt as the 10km is a whole another beast. My current PB is 32:45. It is a 4 years old PB. Though based on my training and the breakthrough year that I am having right now, it is very possible that I can do the unthinkable; if all goes well with training and preparation leading up to that day. Since after all, sky’s the limit.

I will also be doing the time trial with a couple of my teammates that are trying to get some fast 10km times too. We may very likely do it at the Lakeshore in Toronto as far as location goes in the morning. We may even do it at the Brookside Loop; which will be 6 loops of that; totalling the distance to exactly 10km. Who knows. I will keep that up to date in the coming days. I may also need a few pacers to pace myself and a couple of my teammates for this one. If interested, shoot me dm or message. But yeah just putting the word out that the sub 30 minutes attempt is going to happen on that day.

 

If you guys had reach to this point in the blog post, I truly want to thank you guys for your time to reading this whole thing and sharing it to your family and friends. It took me months to put it all together and make it very interesting for all of you. I will be making more blogs somewhat frequently in the near future. So feel free to message or dm me any running related or life topics you want me to create as a blog post. We can make it happen for sure. I will also be starting up a YouTube Channel very soon; which will be next year very likely. It will mostly be vlogs and all that vibey stuff. So stay tuned for that too.

I hope you guys are staying safe and getting through with everything going on around the world. This year is just been crazy altogether. Just praying and hoping for the best next year. Guess time will only tell of what will happen in the near future though. Anyways, I will see you guys next time. Saed out!