SPORTS

Coolsaet to run Toronto Marathon next fall, and will have eyes on record

05/29/2013 07:07 EDT | Updated 07/29/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Bad weather and an unexpected bathroom break may have cost Reid Coolsaet a shot at Canada's oldest track and field record once before.

The 33-year-old from Hamilton will take aim once again, confirming he'll run at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon this fall with Jerome Drayton's record in his sights.

Coolsaet ran a personal-best two hours 10 minutes 55 seconds at the Toronto race in 2011, narrowly missing Drayton's 38-year-old mark — the oldest on Canadian track record books — of 2:10.09.

"Two things that were a hindrance were wind and having to stop to go to the bathroom," Coolsaet said at a luncheon Wednesday. "Take those two things out and I can find 45 seconds easily."

Coolsaet blamed the unexpected pit stop — one of just two times that's happened to him during a race — on experimenting with beet juice. The drink is believed to boost the oxygen-carrying capability of the blood, he explained.

But that was the first time he'd run a marathon after drinking it.

"You don't often find out (the effects) until you push your body really hard," he said.

"Not only did I stop (to use the facilities), but I had to use a few kilometres at a faster pace to catch up."

The blustery conditions made for slow times that day as well. Coolsaet and fellow Canadian Eric Gillis were two of the few elite athletes who didn't run another marathon in the six months following the Toronto race. But those who did all ran significantly faster times.

"That definitely gave me a lot of confidence that, with the right weather, I can shave some time off," he said.

Coolsaet, who trains in Guelph, Ont., is focusing on running a fast time this season, rather than racing for a top result in a tactical event such as the world championship marathon. That's why he's run the Toronto race, and won't compete at the world track and field championships in August in Moscow.

But fast times in a marathon are easier said than done in an event where so many variables can affect the outcome.

"If the weather's not there, or you get sick or whatever, or it's a championship race, it might be another six months before you can give it another shot," Coolsaet said.

He was battling bronchitis at the Rotterdam marathon last month and dropped out about 30 kilometres into the 42.195-kilometre race.

"Sometimes you just catch a bug in a winter, it's a crapshoot," said Coolsaet, who wears a surgical mask when he flies in an effort to keep flu bugs at bay.

Coolsaet could earn a paycheque of over $50,000 with a good race in Toronto on Oct. 20.

Scotiabank has put up a $38,000 incentive for anyone who breaks the Canadian record — $1,000 for each year the record has stood. His third-place finish two years ago earned him $10,000, plus an additional $5,000 as the top Canadian.

The money would mean a lot after he lost his carding money this year — the monthly stipend Sport Canada pays its top athletes. Coolsaet was 27th at the London Olympics on what was a rough day for country's top marathoner.

He pointed out he's finished in the top 30 at world championships or the Olympics three times now.

"If you're carded for a certain number of years and if you don't finish in the top 16, then you're not eligible for carding anymore," he said. "I can't really complain because under the current rules I did pretty well, they could have cut me off two years prior."

As for the London Olympic race that saw Coolsaet fade badly over the final few kilometres to finish six minutes off his best time, he said the heat that day that soared into the high 20s affected him.

"I have problems absorbing my fluids and carbs when it's hot out," he said. "I had that problem every day it was 25 degrees or warmer, I would often just puke in workouts. Say we were doing three-by-20-minutes, I would stop after 20 minutes, take a couple of sips and I would be lucky if it stayed down. Often it would come back up."

Coolsaet said he stopped drinking fluids after 22 kilometres in London, hoping he had enough to carry him through.

"It didn't work. I got to about 38 K OK. I was 21st then and was catching guys. But I faded over the last 4 K," said Coolsaet, who's working with a naturopath to try to fix the problem.

There's a good chance heat won't be a factor in October in Toronto.

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