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Maybe I couldn’t catch up, no

April 14, 2014

I’ve never felt so relaxed going into a race. It felt foreign not being amped up, feeling pressure and nervous. There were a few reasons why I was laid back; it wasn’t really a qualifying race and there was little media speculation on the record (which was nice!). Most of all, my calmness stemmed from having a disaster of a race in NYC one month prior. After NYC my confidence was so low that I wasn’t excited at the idea of racing a marathon in a month. As I turned things around it was as though I got a second life on this marathon.  I shouldn’t have been in a position to try and run 2:09-2:11 one month after running 64:53, and yet I felt I had a shot. In the end my last few weeks of good training was probably too little too late.

Going into Fukuoka in December 2013 my training had gone so well I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get in that sort of shape again so I put a lot of pressure on myself to capitalize on that fitness (ended up 2:11:24). Whereas going into London this weekend I felt it was a build-up I could easily replicate, and most likely do better.

The thing I had going for me in London was a great group (Scott Overall 2:10:55PB, Ryan Vail 2:11:45PB, Chris Thompson debut but has run under 27:30 twice and 61 for half), a good course and ideal weather. We had a pacer in Fernando Cabada who just ran 62:54 two weeks prior to London. His job was to take us through halfway between 64:45 and 65:00 and hopefully go to 30km.

The crew the evening before the race.

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On the bus to the start line.

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The morning of the race the wind was actually stronger than we expected but the temps were perfect.  The Virgin Money London Marathon is well organized and they put on a great show. Needless to say I was pretty pumped to race on Sunday morning and in a good frame of mind.

When we were standing on the start line with less than a minute to go the crowd started counting down and I was worried someone was going to go on their “one.” How cheeky of the crowd. Luckily no one jumped the gun and 15 seconds later they had the official countdown with a horn to signal the start of the race.

Four hundred metres into the race we had our group in order, Fernando leading the four of us plus one other Brit and one Ethiopian. The more the merrier. We cruised through 5km in 15:09, which might seem fast but there is long downhill in there.

At one point a guy from the crowd ran on the course and ran beside Fernando taking a selfie video. Fernando lunged for the phone and missed, I wish he would have grabbed it. And then Nick (I gathered his name from people cheering for him) ran up to the kid and pushed him aside, we had a body guard! (The Ethiopian had already fallen off our pack).

We went through 11 miles right on pace and then slowed a bit to pass half in 65:05 where Fernando dropped out. We were hoping Fernando would go further but he was knackered and did give an even effort through 20.5 km. Nick took it upon himself to lead the group until mile 14 before pulling up, good on him! After that we were on our own and to tell you the truth I’m kind of surprised with two Brits in our group we only had one pacer.

I took a pull for a few minutes but worried I was pushing the pace so dropped back in the line and tried to get a feel for the pace before I took the lead again. By mile 15 there were just three of us (Overall was fading) and I was getting a little tired. Chris led a 5:06, Ryan led a 5:03. I didn’t feel like leading but I thought if I beat these guys and didn’t do my part I couldn’t live with myself. From mile 17 to 18 I led a 5:06 and it was then that I started to get into trouble.

I settled in behind the other two and quickly lost a bit of ground. My hips and upper quads were getting tired, tight and sore. This was going to be a problem.

For the next couple of miles I kept Chris and Ryan in sight and was going alright. Somewhere around mile 21 it became very hard to keep pace and I was unable to fight the fatigue in my hips and started to slow. Real bad.

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I caught up to Jeilan (World 10km champ) and felt good going past him and tried desperately to keep that momentum going. I kept a good pace long enough to bury him but not much longer. Passing Paulo from Brazil who finished 8th in the 2012 Olympic marathon was also a spirit lifter and also short lived. He actually started walking as I pulled up beside him. I passed one more Ethiopian and didn’t see anyone after that. He too started to walk. It’s a though I have the “pass of death.”

In the final 10 km I was doing a lot of time checks which resulted in a lot of realizations that today was going to be a 2:12 day.. and then a 2:13 day.

In the end 2:13:40 does not make me happy. Finishing 13th and one spot out of the prize money doesn’t make it any better. At the same time I’m not overly disappointed. One month ago I raced 64:53 for a half marathon and I went through halfway about 10 seconds slower and didn’t completely die.

Ryan Vail ended up 10th in 2:10:57 and Chris Thompson was 11th in 2:11:19. 12th place was the 2012 Olympic and 2013 World champion marathon Stephen Kiprotich.

Many thoughts go through my head after a race as I try to make sense of it. Sometimes I think that maybe my best days are behind me, that I can’t hack it anymore. I don’t believe that though. That thought also crossed my mind after Rotterdam last year and I went on to achieve my best fitness ever last fall. I know where I lacked in my training and I know where I can make gains. I’ve come to learn more about what works for me in these marathon build-ups and what I need to focus on more and what doesn’t work.

The timing of a small injury in Kenya, my travel dates and timing of races were not optimal and caused me to miss or adjust key sessions. This is something that I can learn from and do better next time. I also got very tired and had a few weeks where I needed all the recovery I could get and cut out my altitude tent and fasted runs. If I detect the signs of over-training sooner I can keep up with all the things I need to do. Strengthening my hips will also be something that I will look into.

Talking to Scott and Chris after the race they too had specific problems with their hips (we couldn’t figure that one out?). We found out that the other groups were further off their halfway targets than we were showing that we may have fought the wind too hard. Anyone who found themselves running alone felt the wind. Looking over results you can see that many guys were a few minutes slower than expected. Of course Wilson Kipsang made it look easy, running 2:04:29, one minute off his world record. Surprisingly 5th place was only 2:08.

Pos. Name Diff Time
1 Kipsang, Wilson (KEN) - - +00:00 02:04:29
2 Biwott, Stanley (KEN) - - +00:26 02:04:55
3 Kebede, Tsegaye (ETH) - - +02:01 02:06:30
4 Abshero, Ayele (ETH) - - +02:02 02:06:31
5 Mekonnen, Tsegaye (ETH) - - +03:37 02:08:06
6 Mutai, Geoffrey (KEN) - - +03:49 02:08:18
7 Mutai, Emmanuel (KEN) - - +03:50 02:08:19
8 Farah, Mo (GBR) - - +03:52 02:08:21
9 Lilesa, Feyisa (ETH) - - +03:57 02:08:26
10 Vail, Ryan (USA) - - +06:28 02:10:57
11 Thompson, Chris (GBR) - - +06:50 02:11:19
12 Kiprotich, Stephen (UGA) - - +07:08 02:11:37
13 Coolsaet, Reid (CAN) - - +09:11 02:13:40
14 Nimo, Pedro (ESP) - - +09:46 02:14:15
15 Livesey, Ben (GBR) - - +13:15 02:17:44
16 Tsegay, Samuel (ERI) - - +14:41 02:19:10
17 Overall, Scott (GBR) - - +15:26 02:19:55

The overall experience at the London Marathon was awesome and I would jump at another opportunity to race there again and would recommend the race to anyone.  The crowds were amazing and very supportive.

What I need is the weather from Toronto 2010, the pacer from Toronto 2011, fitness from Fukuoka 2013 and the group from London 2014. Too much to ask? haha!

Right now the thought of consistent, hard training gets me excited. But my mind is ahead of my legs because they’ll need a couple weeks of recovery.

Scott Overall’s London Blog.

5km Splits

0-5km:       15:09
5-10km:     15:33
10-15km:   15:27
15-20km:   15:34
20-25km:   15:23
25-30km    15:41
30-35km:   16:19
35-40km:   17:04
last 2.2km: 7:30

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Not in Knightsbridge anymore

April 7, 2014

A little shake-up on the blogroll… Watson now blogs on Canadian Running Magazine (there is a link to the mag). I also added two blogs which I frequently read. Ryan Vail details his, impressive, training. He’s gearing up for London too. In the past I hesitated to put Mike Woods’ blog up because it’s not a running blog. However, it’s one of my favourite blogs and I enjoy delving into the cycling world. Oh ya, I also reinstated teammate Chris Winter after a blogging hiatus.

Now that I’ve taken down my volume I’m feeling better everyday. By ‘better’ I mean those little aches and tightness are disappearing and I feel good in the first couple minutes of my runs, as opposed to taking 10 minutes to feel comfortable.

I’ll get my stuff organized today, packed tomorrow and take-off eh on Wednesday.

Sportsnet One is airing the marathon on TV starting at 8:30am on Sunday. Avoid Twitter Sunday morning if you’re going to go that route. Of course there will be live feeds too and Trackie.ca is usually a good place to start. The Men start at 10am London time (5am EST), 45 minutes after the women.

Here is the updated (April 2) start list for the elite men:

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The way I see it, it’s very possible that there will be 5 to 7 of us running in a second (or third) pack.

 

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It’s not too late to feel a little more alive

March 31, 2014

Less than two weeks to go, I can start to bring down the volume and get my body ready for 42.2km on April 13th.

The past week was a pretty typical week: 200km, 2 specific sessions, one stride session and one long run (30km).

On Thursday we did 5 x mile on a road loop. I went into this workout conservatively because the last time I did a similar session it was awful. That particular poor session was about 10 days before the NYC half marathon down in Auburn. There were a couple reasons why it was a pitiful workout. It was windy, but mainly, I was tired. I already wrote in a previous blog about being tired going into this session but I left out the awful travel experience with VIA rail hoping they would reimburse me once I wrote to them. No such luck.

My trip to Auburn, Alabama started with a trip to Detroit. It was my Dad’s 60th birthday (my parents live outside of Detroit) and I was able to book a Detroit to Atlanta flight and then Atlanta to NYC flight for $5 using Delta points. My flight after NYC was back to Toronto so I decided to book a train down to Windsor for comfortable travel and I wouldn’t need to leave my car stranded.

Friday Feb 28th was a nice sunny day but for some reason VIA rail cancelled the train and put us on a bus (it sucked, but fair enough). The bus departed 2 hours after we were scheduled to leave. The bus stopped at all the train stations so it was a long bus ride. In London they put everyone who was continuing their journey in taxis. The taxi they asked me to ride in was already occupied by three other passengers. Two large people in the back with their coats and carry-on bags left with me a few inches between them for a 2 hour taxi ride. I told the VIA rail employee I didn’t want to cram in there so I decided to wait for the next train. Well the next train wasn’t coming for five hours, I would completely miss my Dad’s birthday if I waited. So I jumped in a taxi and paid $250 figuring VIA might reimburse me since they were paying for taxis anyways, not the case. They replied that cramming into a taxi was or waiting for a train were my options. Had I waited for the train my trip would have taken 11.5 hours, it’s a 3 hour drive!

In the end a 3 hour drive took me 7.5 hours and cost me an extra $325 because by the time I arrived in Windsor I no longer had a ride and hired another taxi. (The first taxi driver didn’t have his passport).

The next morning I took out my frustrations on a 35km run and then flew to Atlanta en route to Alabama. A few days later I had a 75 minute tempo run. Needless to say I was tired a few days later for the track session.

Back to last thursday’s mile session… I purposely started slow (4:37) and then averaged 4:29 for the last four. Perhaps I could have pushed harder but more than anything I wanted to keep progressing faster and knew I shouldn’t take risks.

Today the temperatures finally cracked 10C, and yes, I shaved after the workout.  It felt good running without extra layers and seemed much easier run fast. 25 minutes at 3:04/km and then 15 minutes at 3:00/km and 10 minutes at 3:00/km. I just have to keep this momentum going into London Marathon.

 

A cool little piece on the 1976 Olympic Marathon.

 

A cool pic of us running though Central Park.

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scream and shout ’till we work it out

March 24, 2014

Things have really turned around in the last week, in a good way.

After feeling really flat in the NYC Half marathon a safe plan was to scale back my mileage and recoup. I did NOT take the safe plan. With four weeks to go until the London Marathon I decided it was all or nothing.

The day after the half I had a light 17km run to keep it a recovery day. And then it was ‘on’ for the next seven days. In the past seven days I had four runs over 30km and totalled 227km (140 miles). It was a bit of a gamble and we have yet to see if it will pay off but I don’t think it backfired.

The reason I believe it didn’t backfire is because Thursday’s and today’s sessions went well. I felt the best I have in three weeks.

We decided to run today’s workout at 1pm to take advantage of the warmest time of the day. It was -6C for the workout and the wind made it feel even colder. Welcome to Spring!

After a 6km warm-up Gillis, Mason, Sunseri and I did 45 minutes, 15 minutes and 10 minutes with 4 minutes light jog in between intervals. I pretty much ran the same pace as the NYC half, except the pace today was much more controlled and consistent. In total we got in 33km.

To keep on training hard even though I felt tired I made sure to step-up my recovery activities. Sleep, nutrition, CEP compression tights, MountStream ice leg wraps, massage, physio, foam roller, have all been integral parts of the puzzle, especially sleep! I will also go very light tomorrow to recover from today’s session.

I decided I’m not shaving until I experience double digit Celsius temperatures. At first I figured this would be a week or two. It’s already been over a week and the 14-day forecast in Guelph doesn’t predict anything over 8C. I may be travelling to London John Mason style.

London will likely be warm enough to allow me to shave. Which is good because my beard won’t be big enough to get cheers anyways… In NYC when I was running with Brett Gotcher he was getting a lot of “nice beard!” cheers. Gillis was wearing the NB Canada singlet and getting a lot “Go Canada!” cheers. I wasn’t getting any random cheers. To answer Keldog, no I won’t be wearing the NB Canada singlet in London. Although it would be cool, the higher-ups submitted the black and red 2014 kit to the London Marathon.

Thanks for all the kind words in the comments section over the past week. It’s always good to hear positive feedback.

Three weeks until the London Marathon…

 

I’d like to fly, but my wings have been so denied

March 17, 2014

I’m in a hole right now. These things can happen during marathon training.

Going into New York City Half I had a couple good workouts but one really bad one 9 days out. There were a couple other runs where I felt more tired than normal too. My hope was that two easier training days going into the race would let me perform on the day and I could wipe out any doubts that I was having.

Yesterday at NYC Half I ran 64:53, about a minute and 45 seconds slower than I expected and pretty much a PW (personal worst). If anything it casted more doubts.

It was pretty cold in NYC yesterday morning and after standing on the starting line for a while the race started out slow. I felt really good in the first mile, which was no surprise when I saw 5:10 on the clock. I knew someone would push the pace and Jake Riley took it upon himself to get the race going at an honest pace.  I was ready for the pace to pick-up and ran with the lead group for a couple more miles before it broke apart on an uphill at the North end of Central Park.

I found myself in a group with Gillis, Brett Gotcher, and a handful of Ethiopians and Kenyans. By 12km I was feeling flat and tired. Shortly later I dropped off that pack but still kept an honest pace for a couple km.  Close to the 15km mark I started to slow a lot and was dejected when I saw my 15km split while everyone was running away from me. I knew it wasn’t my day out there and I could have fought harder but didn’t have the motivation. At some point I decided that this was going to be a good marathon workout, not the fast fast set-up race I was looking for. I know this isn’t how I should be thinking in a race, but it is what it is.

By 20km I was over a minute slower than anticipated and that’s where I really threw in the towel. It’s frustrating to know that I can run that pace with a lot less training.

After the race my shoulders, chest and diaphragm were really sore. It’s not something that overly bothered me during the race, but I’ve never felt so uncomfortable up top like that after a race. I seem to have recovered fine, I felt good running today. Too good for after a half. I’d trade fresh legs for a good race in a heartbeat.

The result was a downer but, I believe it is still beneficial that I raced. I’d rather know where I stand and get things right before the London marathon. This is a wake-up call. It’s made me ask a lot more questions than I would ever ask myself after a decent performance.

Although my confidence is low right now I have no doubt that I can turn things around with three weeks of solid training. Plus being at home in my routine, getting the proper rest, recovery and nutrition. I say three weeks because I’ll need to feel solid going into my taper week.  My confidence is low but my outlook is positive. I know things can change quickly. I have been training consistently for two and half months, I know there is better fitness in me somewhere, I just need to be able to bring it to London.

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Lord I’m coming home to you

March 4, 2014

I got back to Guelph on Monday evening and went for a run on Tuesday morning. It was -12C out, sunny and calm and I didn’t mind the conditions at all.  The next morning it was -18C but was windy so it felt as thought it was -27C.  Gillis and I ran out 10 km and then turned around, into the wind on the way back.  The snow was blowing fiercely off the fields right into our faces.

Early Thursday morning I went to the ATM, and although it was cold it was sunny and seemed calm. By the time Mason, Vollmer, Gillis and I started our warm-up around 9am it was like a blizzard. My feet were frozen and the footing was getting crappy. After 1km we turned around and headed to the YMCA for the treadmills.   I looked at the weather forecast and didn’t think it looked conducive for some big sessions and lots of km so I booked a flight to Atlanta to train in Auburn, AL.

Friday morning it was -25C and I went directly for the treadmills at the YMCA.

On Sunday I was running in 20C on trails. Pretty happy about that!

Today I did a 75 minute ‘tempo’ and went to a dirt road I used to run here many years ago. I forgot how hilly it was, which made for a tough workout with erratic pacing. But with temps hovering around 6C I’ll take the hills over -12C.  My average pace was about 10 seconds per kilometre slower than what I would have wanted on a flat route.  Given the terrain I’m happy with how the session went.

10 more days here and then I’m off to New York and racing the NYC Half marathon on March 16th.  That will be one month out from the London Marathon.

NYC Half marathon elite start list:

Last, First, Nat, Twitter, HM PB
Barrios, Juan Luis, MEX, 1:01:48 (Great North Run, 2008)
Burrell, Ian, USA, @juanlbarrios, 1:02:51 (Duluth, 2012)
Chelimo, Kevin, KEN, 1:01:21 (NYC Half, 2012)
Coolsaet, Reid, CAN, @ReidCoolsaet, 1:02:42 (NYC Half, 2011)
Gabius, Arne, GER, Debut (5000m PB 13:12.50)
Eggleston, Jeffrey, USA, @jde66leston, 1:03:41 (Boston, 2013)
Farah, Mo, GBR, @Mo_Farah, 1:00:10 (South Shields, 2013)
Gillis, Eric, CAN, @EricGillis42_2k, 1:03:34 (Virginia Beach, 2011)
Gotcher, Brett, USA, 1:02:09 (Houston, 2009)
Hartmann, Jason, USA, @JasonRHartmann, 1:01:51 (NYC Half, 2013)
Ichida, Takashi , JPN, 1:02:36 (Ageo, 2013)
Keflezighi, Meb, USA, @runmeb, 1:01:00 (San Jose, 2009)
Korir, Wesley, KEN, @weskorir, 1:01:19 (NYC Half, 2012)
Mutai, Geoffrey, KEN, 58:58 (Ras Al Khaimah, 2013)
Puskedra, Luke, USA, @LukePuskedra, 1:01:36 (Houston, 2012)
Riley, Jake, USA, 28:08.26 10,000m (Olympic Trials, 2012)
Sambu, Stephen, KEN, @sksambu, 1:00:41 (Boston, 2013)
Tegenkamp, Matt, USA, @MattTegenkamp, Debut (58:30 20-K, New Haven, 2012)
Yufu, Ikuto, JPN, 1:02:51 (Ageo, 2013)

Per usual I’m staying with my great aunt Lorna, AKA Nornee while I’m down here. It’s not easy to film her anymore because she realizes my phone has a camera, but sometimes I still catch some gold…

 

Kenya 2014 – That’s a wrap

February 25, 2014

My training over the last seven days in Kenya was productive and I had a good track session the day before John and I left for Belgium.

Once again I did a track session with the group of marathoners which I have been doing most of my tough sessions with.  This time the group was so big (roughly 40 guys) that we split into two groups before we even started the first interval.  A dude just walked down the middle of the group of us and split us up into two even groups.  I was happy to see that two of the most consistent guys were in my group.

The pyramid session totalled 12 kilometres:

1200m, 1000m, 800m, 600m, 400m,

400m, 600m, 800m, 1000m, 1200m,

1200m, 1000m, 800m, 600m, 400m

I never asked what the rest between the intervals was going to be. I figured out pretty quickly that it was only one minute, except we rarely took a full minute.

The session started off well. The guys had me lead the first 800m interval and I still felt good. I was secretly praying they would take more rest between ‘sets’ but of course there wouldn’t be. By the time we got back up to the second 1200m repetition the short rest was taking it’s toll and I cut a few of the intervals down to 800m in order to stay on pace with the group. After the last 800m interval the group only took 51 seconds rest, which would be short enough at sea-level, and I suffered right until the end.

All told I did 11 out of the 12 kilometres. It was a tough session and a good way to sign-off on the hard training in Kenya.

Early Wednesday morning I ran 26km and put my feet up for the rest of the day before John and I flew from Eldoret to Nairobi.

At our hotel in Nairobi there was a Pakistani “rock-star” Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (RFAK) who had a massive entourage,  all wearing t-shirts adorning his face. These guys were quite demanding of the waiters and at one point the RFAK started berating the nice young waiter. Another patron calmly told RFAK to treat the waiter with respect. RFAK lost his temper and had to be restrained while the gentleman told Ali Khan to “think about what you’re doing.” Other members in his entourage were also yelling for the guy to mind his own business. When you treat someone like garbage for no good reason in front of someone else you’ve made it their business.  We gave the patron our support, whatever that was worth. After that excitement we went to sleep before a big travel day.

The next morning we were up shortly after 5am to catch a cab to Nairobi Airport. We flew Nairobi to Amsterdam and then on to Brussels. We took a train to Leuven to meet up with my friend Pieter who we were staying with for a couple of days outside of Liege.

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Sunday was a great day for a cross-country race, sunny and 11 Celcius.  Warming up for the race my hip was really tight and so was John’s back.  Mine seemed to get better whereas John’s got worse and he, wisely, decided not to race.

This was a real cross-country course. Six times around a 1500m loop with plenty of turns, mud, small steeple barriers and two very steep little hills.  After 400m I was way back in the field but moving through pretty quickly.  After two laps I got up to 5th place where I stayed until the finish. There were a couple of straightaways of about 120m each where I would make ground on the guys in front of me but then we’d get to the turns and hills and I’d lose it all back.  I’m not great at cross-country to begin with and not having raced xc for a couple of years showed. It was still a lot of fun and good to push myself.

RESULTS

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In these pics you can see the nature of the course. Small steep hills, soft ground and lots of turns.

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About an hour after the race I suddenly got really cold and jumped in a hot shower before making our way to the train station. On the train I started to get very hot and felt horrible. An hour later I didn’t think I was going to be able to fly home the next day if this fever didn’t subside. After many trips to the bathroom (I’ll leave out the details) and drinking plenty of fluids I started to come around and later that night I was feeling ok. I’ve never felt so crappy in such a short period and gotten better that quickly.  It was a peculiar four-hour flu that I’m going to blame on dehydration.

The last seven weeks were a lot of fun, I got in some good training and I missed out on a very cold and snowy Southern Ontario winter. I’m really curious to see how my fitness will translate to sea-level and how I will feel running marathon pace. Running hilly routes at 8000 feet and taking very short rests during track sessions is hard to evaluate but surely must be good for fitness. There is slightly less than seven weeks to go before the London Marathon which will give me ample time to nail down race pace (barring injury and/or sickness).

Someone asked in the comments last week about the pace Kenyans run for recovery. After most sessions Kenyans often run about 6:00/km, sometimes slower. In fact I’ve seen nothing but walking on a few occasions after fartlek sessions. After track sessions I would do my own cool-down. After fartleks when we would end away from our end-point and wouldn’t be changing shoes I’d get stuck running a couple km at 6:15/km. I never minded the slow jog because it was the best time to pick their brains about training and racing.

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