An article came out today about how the Canadian marathoners who achieved Olympic standards in 2015 have to show “competitive readiness” in order to be selected to the Olympic games this summer.
I thought I’d write a little more on the subject and let you know how I feel about all of this.
First of all my goal this Olympics is to finish in the top 15. If by July I don’t feel that I’m on track to finish in the top 20 I would rather forgo the Olympics and run a marathon this fall with proper training. At this point in my career I’m not looking for experience (like I may have in past Olympics) as this is likely my last Olympics.
I completely understand Athletic Canada’s position to make sure that they are sending fit athletes. If I was running a federation I would want to make sure that athletes who hit standard in 2015 are on track for at least that same level of performance come the Olympics.
My “competitive readiness” contract with AC was to run a half marathon in the same range in which I have done before my 5 marathons which fell in the 2:10:28-2:11:24 range. My average time for a half going into those races was 63:36. I felt this was a fair target for me.
Unfortunately I came up with an injury in the final weeks before Cardiff and knew my race would likely be compromised. I felt I was in 62:xx shape and figured my injury would likely slow me down to a 63 mid. My plan was to get the standard out of the way and then have a couple of recovery weeks before ramping up the training again.
For the first 15km of Cardiff I was running on pace for 63-mid, the effort felt relatively easy aerobically. Then the injury started to show itself and the weather really picked up after 15km and I slowed. The article says how Lanni ran close to her PB and I did not. Lanni did run really well, however as weird as it sounds, the weather didn’t get really nasty until our last 3-4km. By then the women were already done as they started before us.
(Video of the end of Cardiff once things got nasty)
While it’s true I did pick my target and the race in which I was to achieve it I think it’s unfair to say I chose the weather. The day prior to race day in Cardiff the weather was near perfect. When it comes to showing “competitive readiness” or “proving fitness” I think weather has to be factored in. This is not about hitting the Olympic standard to be eligible, this is about showing that you’re on your way to perform your best come August.
In March 2011 I ran 62:42 at the NYC half marathon (slight downhill). After that race my workouts got better and I felt I was in better shape going into Montreal half one month later. It ended up being windy in Montreal and I ran 64:55. I was in no worse shape one month later but windy conditions and running alone will net very different results.
I looked at the results from Cardiff knowing that many guys were slower than their PB’s. I took the top 60 finishers and looked at the difference between their times and PB’s. I didn’t take into consideration runners beyond 60 as there was some major blow-ups (one guy 13 minutes off PB) and thought it would be unfair. On average, guys who finished in the top 60 were 1:54 slower than their PB with 9 guys posting PB’s. I was 1:40 off of my legal PB. Relatively I didn’t do so bad in that race, even though, personally, it was a disappointment.
It’s not as if we can race half marathons all the time, and there are two good reasons for that. First of all it’s hard on the body to race many of them. Secondly, there aren’t many available at certain times of the year, just like marathons you really only see halfs held in the Spring and Fall (cooler temperatures).
In 2014 at the World Half Marathon championships under nice conditions 38th place (my place at 2016 World Half) was 1:02:27. Not that that stat carries any weight, but still interesting to note.
Also good to note that my 2:10:28 that I ran in September is 2 minutes and 22 seconds under the Canadian Olympic standard. It’s not as though I just barely got under. The other marathon I ran in the qualifying period (2:11:24) is 1 minute 26 seconds under the standard.
So where does this leave me?
Let me preface my plans with this: The last two weeks were supposed to be recovery weeks, I would normally have been running lower volume and lower intensity. Because this injury is lingering I have been cross-training. That is to say I’m not about to run a fast half anytime soon, not that a half marathon in April was ever in the plan.
Looking at the calendar we have just over 18 weeks until the Olympic marathon and I’ve primarily been on the bike and in the pool since Cardiff (similar timeline as before I ran Fukuoka in 2013 after having fractured my clavicle). Hopefully this injury clears up soon and I can get back on track for Ottawa 10km at the end of May, then Toronto Waterfront 10km in June and Boilermaker 15km in July (that’s my original race plan).
Now AC wants me to run another half marathon to show “competitive readiness.” If there was a good half marathon in North America available 6 weeks before the Olympics (on July 10th) then I would happily run there as that is what I normally do anyways (run a half 5-6 weeks out).
The Utica Boilermaker 15km is July 10th (6 weeks out) and I would be more than happy to run that to show fitness. It would also be a great race for me to peak on August 21st. Hence why I included it in my original plan.
There are a couple of good half marathons in Europe (Hamburg and Olomouc) on June 25th. This would be 8 weeks out from Rio marathon. That is usually when I would run 43-45km with 10-12km at race pace. If I need to prove fitness that week obviously I would need to cut that big run out of my program and have a lower volume week (especially once you factor in travelling overseas). Also, June 25th could come with hot temperatures in Hamburg or Olomouc and if AC isn’t going to factor in weather then I could get screwed again. Not that a slower time in heat would be a reflection of my fitness but a reflection of the conditions.
My current injury got bad from a long flight, so if it seems as though I’m not excited about travelling overseas 8 weeks before Rio… you’re right. At least in Rio when I land (if I go) I’ll have physiotherapy right away to fix any kinks.
First and foremost I need to get healthy and back running. Then get fit and start the real training.
Hopefully I can show competitive readiness at the Boilermaker 15km. If AC insists that I need to run that extra 6.1km to show “competitive readiness” then I guess I will have to hop on a plane and sacrifice my marathon build-up. That’s why I don’t want to call it “competitive readiness” because what they’re asking would actually take away from my “competitive readiness.”
The funny part in all of this is that both myself and AC have the same view: Neither of us wants me to run the Olympic marathon if I’m not ready to go.
[*Note, if anyone knows of a competitive (63:30-ish) half marathon on a legal (can’t be point-to-point or, greater than 21m net downhill) flat course in June in North America which has guaranteed good weather please let me know. Thanks.]