By Steve Milton,Hamilton Spectator
LONDON Reid Coolsaet isn’t one to avoid assessing his performance even when he is, to borrow his words, “out of it.”
The 33-year-old Hamilton native has spent the past 10 months educating — through countless media obligations — the Canadian public on the vagaries, history and impossible demands of his chosen torture. So he wasn’t going to bail out Sunday even right after “bonking” for the first time during a competitive marathon.
If you don’t understand “bonking,” try sticking your finger way down the back of your throat, or spinning in circles until you’re nauseous. You’ll catch his drift pretty quickly.
Coolsaet had trouble keeping down his energy-fortifiying drinks during Sunday’s Olympic marathon, but still finished in the top 30 of an elite field that started with 105 runners from 68 different countries. Only 85 of those even finished the race.
He was third among the three friends who formed Canada’s first full Olympic marathon complement in 16 years, finishing 27th overall in two hours and 16.29 seconds, well off his personal best of 2:10.55. But, almost everyone except the winner, proud Ugandan Stephen Kiprotich, was well off his personal best on the hot (for here), muggy day over a 42.195-metre (26 miles and 385 yards) course that was speed-bumped by tight corners and stretches of cobblestone.
Dylan Wykes of Kingston led the Canadian contingent, finishing 20th in 2:15.24 and Coolsaet’s training buddy Eric Gillis of Guelph, by way of Antigonish, N.S., was 22nd in 2:16 flat.
Coolsaet, the graduate of Dalewood, Westdale and the University of Guelph, set a comparatively good pace through the first three-quarters and had moved from 42nd at the halfway mark to the low 20s before the cumulative effects of lack of hydration and nourishment gave him a rude hello.
“I just was having problems taking down all my carbs because my stomach was getting upset,” he said. “I wasn’t taking enough stuff and it caught up to me at about 23 miles. I don’t regret going out as fast as I did.
“I was moving up, till about 23 miles, then I started going backwards. I think I paced myself pretty well. If I could have taken in the drinks I wanted to take in, maybe it would have been better. But it started coming up a bit. I’ve had that problem in some workouts when it’s been really hot, where I’ve been puking. Once it starts coming up, it’s hard to put it down.”
Canadian officials had been hoping that one, or more, of the Canucks would finally break the oldest record in Canadian track: Jerome Drayton’s 2:10.09, established 37 years ago. But that wasn’t going to happen on this track, not on this day.
Kiprotich overtook early leader Wilson Kiprotich (no relation) of Kenya to win his country’s first medal of these Games in 2:08.01, 41 seconds slower than his personal best. He grabbed a Ugandan flag 100 metres from the end and crossed the line on the historic “The Mall” in celebratory fashion.
Abel Kirui of Kenya was second in 2:08.27, more than three minutes off his personal best and Kenyan Kiprotich was third, more than six minutes slower than he’s run before.
But, aside from the jubilant Ugandan, the real winner of the day was the historic course, which was essentially a 3D tourist brochure running through a funnel of a zillion bellowing Brits and along, among other notables, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Thames, Horse Guards Road and The Mall. What, no Stonehenge?
“It was kind of a neat course,” said Coolsaet. “But kind of tough at the same time. It was an amazing experience.”