I have mixed emotions about finishing 7th in 2:11:24 at the Rotterdam marathon however, I can say that I am much more satisfied than I am disappointed.
I had to laugh when I crossed the line and saw 2:11:23 (rounded up to 2:11:24). You see, I have already run 2:11:23 (’10) and 2:11:24 (’13) and was surprised the first time I ran near identical times over 42.2km. It was disappointing not to have run a PB feeling as good as I did.
It was a big relief to get a sub 2:11:29 (the 2012 Canadian Olympic standard). And considering one week earlier I couldn’t run a step I am thrilled that my leg held up good enough over the full distance.
The temperature was perfect, the pacers were solid and I had a good group aiming for 64:40 at halfway. After a hectic first 200m and slow first kilometre (3:12) our group finally took form before the 2km mark. Our group included Abdi Nageeye (Somali born Dutch runner), Adrea Lalli (former European XC champ from Italy), Raul Pacheco (Peruvian who finished 21st at 2012 Olympic marathon), Soufiane Bouchikhi (Belgian 13:33 5000m guy making his marathon debut), Asmare Abate (2:09 Ethiopian) and our two pace makers (one Kenyan and one Ethiopian), plus a random dude who didn’t last too long.
(Sea of yellow. Here is the pack about 2km into the race. Two pacers out front, Lalli and Pacheco second row, Myself and Abdi third row, Soufiane fourth row. The 2:14 pack is right behind us. And you can pick out Tristan and Winslow, the two leftmost figures in the picture.)
We clicked along at a solid pace for the majority of the first half (65:04) and the group worked well together. I could tell there was a stiff wind but got decent shelter in the group, even though I was the tall guy amongst this group.
In the pack I thought Andrea Lalli looked the strongest and Raul Pacheco looked as though he was working really hard, even early on. Abdi and Abate also looked really good, Soufiane was always in the back so I never really saw him.
(One pacer often fell behind at drink stations)
At 25km (1:17:07) I knew going under 2:10 was going to take big effort but thought maybe I could make up time in the last 7km if I felt great. Going out alone was not an option with the wind and the group was still on pace for 2:10.
At 30km I saw one of the pacers pull over and thought both were done so I took it upon myself to keep the pace honest. All of a sudden there was a gap behind me. After a while I looked back and realized one of the pacers was still going so I tucked back in.
I felt strong and kept contemplating picking up the pace myself but I didn’t want to risk blowing up as I was confident I could safely run under 2:11:29 if I played it smart.
The second pacer dropped at 35km and the wind was pretty stiff but we still had a group of four working well together. Abdi and Raul were doing most of the work up front and Abate and I were behind. I thought I’d wait until 39km and then pick up the pace if I still felt as strong.
At 36km my right lower leg (recent injury) became a real concern and my legs were getting tired. Maintaining the pace seemed a wise decision and maybe even that would become too challenging.
A little after 37km Raul put in a really fast surge that I swear was like a 34 second 200m burst. It blew the pack apart and I kept my eyes on Raul thinking I could reel him back in. Focusing on Raul I didn’t even realize right away that the other two guys weren’t with me anymore.
When we turned a corner and started into a stiff wind it became really tough and that’s when I would lose more ground to Raul. I was getting really worried that the wind was going to get the best of me but at the same time I was holding my form.
When I rounded another corner with about 600m to go I was no longer fighting the wind and I was able to really pick up the pace. It was definitely the fastest last 500m I’ve ever run in a marathon and it was confirmed with my last 2.2km split of 6:53 (which had some slow running at times).
(Just past 40km. Photo from Henri van der Sluis)
(NB teammate Michel Butter who was also training in Iten)
I just saw a tweet that said I had the third fastest split from 35km to finish (22:51). The quickest was Raul Pacheco (22:27) and the second fastest was the winner, Abera Kuma, (22:50). I think that says more about the the wind than how fast I ran seeing as my 35-40km split was 15:58.
(Wind looked fine until 10am, and then bad after 11am Weather History)
My 5km splits were:
When I reflect back on the race I’m glad I wasn’t more aggressive from 30-36km as the last 6km proved to be hard enough. However, I’m sure I could have started picking it up a few hundred meters earlier and gotten under 2:11:20, or at least under 2:11:23!
There are lots of positives to be taken from this race.
The last 12.2km was my strongest ever in a marathon, especially considering the wind. Aerobically I felt great and I have some training ideas about how to improve my durability/endurance for the last 12.2km. Another good thing to take away is that I was seeded 14th and finished 7th (partly due to the aggression of the first pack).
It was good to see Rob Winslow run 2:19:00 and John Mason run a 2:24:41 (both PB’s). Tristan debuted in 2:27, which means he had a tough one out there, but at the young age of 21 has lots more time. Also, Krista Duchene ran 2:29 for her second fastest time ever, remarkable after fracturing her femur last April.
The IAAF standard for the 2016 Olympics hasn’t been published as of yet even though the qualifying window has been open since January 1. Waiting on IAAF, Athletics Canada’s standard isn’t out yet either. I can only assume it won’t be any faster than 2012 as other T&F standards have not gotten tougher. If 2:11:24 is under the standard I would have to maintain a top 3 time in Canada and prove fitness next spring to ensure my selection to the Olympics.
Since my return from injury in September I’ve had a lot of help along the way from these wonderful people:
DST – I feel as though “coach” doesn’t describe all he’s done, but for simplicity, that’s his title
Speed River training group – Marathoners Eric Gillis, John Mason, Nick Sunseri, Robert Winslow, Mark Vollmer, Scott Arnald and Tristan Woodfine. Plus all the track/XC guys I get to train with.
Iten training groups – Mainly Gilbert Kirwa and Mark Rotich
Trent Stellingwerff – Exercise Physiologist and Nutritionist
Chris Layne (Total Sports) and Chris Moulton – Huge help behind the scenes as managers
Brenda Scott-Thomas – Physiotherapist (Speed River Physiotherapy in Guelph)
Jeroen Deen – Physiotherapist in Iten. Came through big time by squeezing me in when I sustained injury in final 12 days, including last minute tune-up in Rotterdam
Marco Lozej – Chiropractor (HPC UofG)
Brendan Cleary – Acupuncture (Ontario Migraine Clinic)
Lance Dawson, Marcell Meresz, Devon Truscott, Dan Ngetich – Massage therapists
Jim Marano (Peak Performance in Grimsby) – Chiropodist
Applied Biomechanics in Guelph – Heel lifts
Dr. Margo Mountjoy – Doctor
Lisa Veloce – Sports Phychologist
New Balance – Continued support with the best gear
CEP – The ultimate in compression socks
7Systems – Multi vitamins
Ciele – Running hats
Last, but not least!
Family, Friends, Marie – Couldn’t ask for a better support crew
(Jeroen Deen going to work on John at the hotel)
A few side stories:
My roommate at the meet hotel was Abayneh Ayele from Ethiopia, a really nice guy who has lived in Japan for the past three years. He was making his marathon debut and told me he planned on running in the 64:40 group with me. I never saw him in the race. He ended up going out with the leaders and finishing 4th in 2:09:21.
When I first walked into our room the first thing I noticed was that there was only one bed. I went to the meet organizers and asked if they had a double room available instead of a single. Apparently they thought I wanted to move out and have my own room as they didn’t show any concern and told me they were tight for rooms. I went down to the front desk and explained my situation, they understood and moved us into a room with two beds right away. When I went back to the organizers to tell them we had moved rooms they finally understood my predicament and were happy that we could get two beds.
(Upon entering hotel room with one bed)
Two years ago when I dropped out of Rotterdam I walked the last 5km. There was one person I had a conversation with on that walk, Andrea Lalli. He was just there watching a friend and came up jogging behind me. He asked what happened and we both thought we would run a future edition of Rotterdam. Somewhere between 31-34km Andrea’s diaphragm got the best of him and he dropped off our pack and he didn’t finish. I never asked him if he walked the final 5km.
Rotterdam marathon knows that athletes want to go there and run fast. For that reason they have the upper hand and don’t offer the second tier runners much. Even though I finished 7th it wasn’t good enough for any prize money or even to get my flights fully covered. I’m not complaining though, if I wanted to make money there are many opportunities out there, I’m just showing the reality of our sport.
(I got to see more of Rotterdam this year since our hotel was in the city centre this time. Cool city!)
John and I hit up the Stroopwafel stand (on the right) post-marathon