Mike Patenaude resides in Montreal and he will be returning to Craftsbury for the second time this summer. He's 32 years old and has been a runner since autumn 2007. His breakout year was 2008 when he became more serious and ran 5 half marathons. Mike and his partner Karine Hamel have a brand new son Simon as well as George, their 5 year old Schnauzer. Mike is a police veteran of 12 years and he's been a detective for the last 6. He studied psychology at McGill University and he enjoys pondering the relationship between the mind and the body. Mike recently set a PR in the marathon in Ottawa on May 28 on an extremely hot and humid day: 3:09:51.
How did you get started running?
I've always been active and have played various competitive sports ranging from being goaltender in ice hockey to golf and baseball.
When my work schedule became extremely demanding and stressful from 2007 - 2009, I found I needed something to do which I could do any time, anywhere. I wanted to be healthy both mentally and physically. My cousin, Richard Priest, was already an avid runner and he was constantly raving about the sport so I gave it a shot. I started running after my long work days and found that it gave me time to digest my day, it gave me some time alone and it gave me time to think about different strategies for work. Running also gave me energy at a time when I needed it. At the end of a work day, most of my partners went out for beers while I went out for a run.
I started entering races. I ran my first three half-marathons with Richard and I fell in love with the sport. Participating in the races really opened my eyes to a new world, a world full of healthy people leading active lives. I wanted to be part of that world. So I started setting goals. In a time when I felt that I had little control over most of the aspects of my life, running gave me a sense of control. Without a doubt, running saved my sanity!
Why did you come to Craftsbury?
I love running, runners and talking about running with runners! Seriously, I thought it was a great opportunity to learn more about running and training and the running world. Running has become one of my passions. Spending a week running in marvelous Vermont sounded like heaven!
When did you realize it was heaven?
After about 25 seconds! Richard and I met you and Michael Whitson coming up from your first dock jump into the lake. You both looked so relaxed and seemed so enthusiastic about the week. An hour later we went for a trail run...awesome!
Beyond getting you running, your cousin also introduced you to camp. Were his tales of camp accurate?
Absolutely. He described just about everyone with mind-blowing precision and it always ended with him saying, "You're going to love it!" and he was right. The camp brings together an eclectic group of people in an amazing setting to discuss running with world class teachers.
It is one thing to read about the Seven Continents Club on the Internet, but it doesn't even come close to hearing about it personally from a runner who has actually lived it. And that is true for all the other races that we talked about.
The fact that we can go for a swim in an astonishing lake, then go for a run, then go for a run... all the while talking about running...how great is that?
Besides the great getaway, did you take anything else from your time at camp?
Theoretically speaking I came away with three things that I have implemented in my training:
- I had never trained on a track. I knew the importance of it, but always felt a little intimidated by it. I never really knew how to approach the track or track workouts and utilize them appropriately. Your session on track work demystified this world for me and made that part of my training accessible.
- I have always had problems holding on during the last few miles of the marathon. My pace usually slowed down about 15-20 seconds a km. That caused PR's to slip away right near the end.
After discussing this problem with the coaches, they recommended that I speed up to marathon race pace during my final few miles of a long run. I have implemented this in my training and I feel that it is giving me more confidence during the last miles of the long run.
- Proper form. I enjoyed the video sessions, because it gave me little cues on how to make easy changes that go a long way.
What are your running goals?
My goal was to run a Boston Marathon Qualifier in 2011 - and I just did that in the Ottawa Marathon. I needed a 3:10 to qualify and I did by 9 seconds! My long term goal is to run all five major marathons (Chicago, NY, Boston, London, Berlin) and my lifetime goal is to become a member of the Seven ContinentsClub.
How many miles per week do you run?
50-55 Miles per week
Describe what it feels like when you are on a run and everything is clicking and the miles are melting away.
Exactly like the Flow State described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his ''Flow Theory." I am ''absorbed in the activity, and the focus of awareness is narrowed down to the activity itself.'' This theory describes exactly what I experience while running.
It's like meditation, the movement becomes rhythmic and it feels like I could go on for a very long time. I forget about everything else and all that matters is the few feet in front of me and my speed.
Favorite food and drink after a tough long run?
Blue Gatorade with a hummus and tomato sandwich on toasted Belgian bread sprinkled with chia seeds and a side of salted cashews.
Favorite terrain and why?
I recently started trail running and enjoy it a lot. There's a Provincial Park (Mont St-Bruno) near my residence where there are moderately hilly trails with loops varying between 8k and 10k. I really enjoy running there for training purposes, and on really hot days, the trail are always cool. I also get this awesome hunter/gatherer feel when running with speed in the woods...I guess it has something to do with the origins of running and its link to survival!
So, I without a doubt, my favorite terrain is trail running.
Favorite distance and why?
The marathon. For me, it is the ultimate test; it is finding out what the limits of the body are and then pushing beyond it. It's a cliche but it's true! The fact that it is preceded with weeks of sacrifice and dedication makes the race all the more special and memorable.
The different emotions that I feel when running a marathon are indescribable. I experience the full spectrum of emotions and then when I cross the finish line, the feeling is overwhelming. The feeling of accomplishment, the feeling of overcoming adversity, the feeling that I can handle just about anything.
Favorite workout and why?
Tempo run. I love running fast and the tempo run really gives me the feeling that I am giving an honest effort and that I am working towards improvement.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't want to get out the door?
I have a picture of Ray Zahab (former "pack a day smoker" turned ultrarunner) on my fridge. He's running in winter while dragging a spare tire on a rope. It works every time.
I read somewhere that we often confuse mental fatigue with physical fatigue. Whenever I feel fatigued, I check-in with myself to see which type of fatigue it really is. Nine times out of ten, it is mental fatigue, so I get out and run. I find those runs when I have to convince myself particularly gratifying.
You are a police detective. Any good stories where being a fast runner really helped?
During the five years that I was in a uniform, I had the privilege to participate in about 10 foot pursuits. I have a perfect record. Just winning a race is awesome; imagine the feeling of winning a race and putting a bad guy in prison at the same time - what an adrenaline rush!
Why do you run? What does it give you? What do you like about it?
The physical and health benefits. Those are the reasons!
It is easy to keep running, because during a run I have time to put everything into perspective and rationalize the different things that went on during the day. It gives me a sense of clarity and control.
No matter how bad or unproductive a day I am having, if I go out for a run I feel like I've salvaged the day and done something good. Weird but true! When I get back from a run I feel like nothing can bother my Zen-like state.
Toughest part about running?
Not achieving an objective in a race. The marathon takes a lot of preparation, both physically and mentally. I start visualizing my performance a couple of weeks before the actual race and if I fall short of my goal time, it is disappointing. However, not attaining my objectives has obliged me to do more research on training and has lead, inevitably, to learning more about the sport.
Music when you run or not?
Rarely. Only on Long runs and it usually consists of podcasts, such as 60 Minutes, Phedipadations or other NPR radio shows. When I am feeling really wild, I listen to Spanish lessons!
Favorite memory of running camp?
Listening to your "path" through competitive running, while watching your videos. I was pretty much speechless during the entire speech. Then the climax, I get to see and wear your Olympic medal! What an honor!