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Am I getting too old?

October 22, 2018

 

I keep asking myself if I’m too old to expect marathon results under 2:12. It’s a fair question at 39 years old. Yes, there are examples of marathoners around my age who have continued to excel, but there are many more examples of marathoners whose performances declined before 39.

As much as I try and think about my body’s ability to train and race I also try and not focus on age and convince myself I can still race at a high level.

2018 Boston marathon was my first serious marathon in 16 months and I thought it was going to tell me a lot about what I could do in a marathon. With treacherous weather the last 15km wasn’t about fitness, it was about survival. I finished that race and had little information about what I could really do in a marathon.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 21st was going to be the race where I really got to test my marathon capabilities. Coming almost 14 months after I resumed training from my 2017 foot injury I felt that was enough time to gain back anything I lost from taking six months off running.

After Boston I focused on 10km training and did 7 races culminating in the Edmonton 10km on July 22nd. I was pleased with how training went and I was ready for the marathon build-up.

August went smoothly and I was building up my weekly volume to 200km. I raced the Mexico City marathon on August 26th. I usually run the marathon distance in my build so I thought why not race a 2:25 or so. I ran 2:27 after fading towards the end. I was perplexed why I slowed down when the pace seemed very comfortable for so long. Not having any appetite for 5 hours and then finally eating some soup broth, which I threw-up 5 minutes later made it clear I picked up a bug.

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The flight back the next day wasn’t comfortable, having to go to the bathroom every hour or so. Another day of messed up stomach followed before I could resume running. When I finally felt alright on the Thursday I twisted my ankle. At first I thought it was really bad but I only missed a couple of runs.

Despite a sore throat and sinus infection September went well and I was making good progress. I did a couple more races (Rochester Half 67:31 and Ajax 15km) and was pleased with the results. And then on October 2nd I got quite sick, missed some running and dealt with GI issues for quite some time.

The first workout back I tried was a ‘progression’ run starting at 3:15/km. I ran 2km around 3:15/km and then turned it into a ‘regression’ run. After km splits of 3:21, 3:25, and 3:28 I called it quits after 5km. I was struggling hard and realized my GI issues were affecting me more than I thought. This was 2 weeks to the day before STWM and there was no way I would have been able to break 2:45 in the marathon that day.

4 days later I had very low expectations for an interval session but it actually went alright. I ran 1200m intervals averaging 3:25 (2:51/km) and felt I was over the worst of the sickness. And all of a sudden it was time to taper.

The final week I felt good enough and was hoping I could run under 2:14 at STWM. There was a pacer going for 2:13:00 and I was the only one in the marathon looking to go with him.

I felt really comfortable for the first 10km (31:48) after going out a little conservative for the first few km. When I hit halfway in 1:07:16 I still felt an even split was in the cards despite the second half of the course being a little tougher with more turns and a couple trips over the highway overpass.

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Feeling pretty good at this point. Maybe around 18km?

 

I hit 30km in 1:36:06, which is right on 2:15 pace. 2:15 was my secondary goal because if you run slower than 2:15 prize money gets deducted by 50%. However, my legs started to fatigue and slow around 30km and I felt things slipping away.

A few times along the course it doubled back and I could see the leaders, then Cam’s (Cam Levins) group and then behind me I could see the rest of the Canadians. I could tell when I doubled back at the ~33km mark that the Canadians were gaining and I was fading from Cam’s group.

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Not feeling good at this point. Around 34km

The pacer, Nicholas Kipkemboi, made it to the 35km mark and at that point I tried to pick up the pace, knowing I was going to need a fantastic last 7km if I were to break 2:15:00. But my legs felt useless and I wasn’t able to maintain a decent pace and fell right back into ~3:20/km. I hit 40km in 2:10:04 and knew that if I ran really poorly that I wouldn’t break 2:18:00 (you lose 75% of your prize money if you don’t break 2:18). So I picked it up a bit for the next 1 km and then knew I was safely going to be under 2:18 and ran the rest of the way taking in the atmosphere.

Right when I crossed the line I asked Alan Brookes (race director) how Cam ran. He ran 2:09:24 to break Jerome Drayton’s national record! It was cool to be in the race where it got broken. Had someone broken it a few years ago when I was really close it would have been a tough pill to swallow. But knowing Cam’s talent and training volume I thought he had a good chance to do it. If not in his debut then probably the next race. And given that I wasn’t even in close to great shape there was nothing I could do about it.

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I’m not sure how I feel about my race. I ran 2:17:37, finished as the second Canadian and 10th overall. It’s not the result I was hoping for but it wasn’t a complete disaster and had the race been 10 days earlier, it would have likely been a complete disaster. I really don’t know how much my health impacted me yesterday. My age, motivation to dig deep, training leading up to the race and my health all had something to do with yesterday’s performance and I don’t know how much each contributed. I need to have a smoother build and be in good health to assess those other factors more accurately.

Some people asked me if I would not race STWM, get some more training in and target another race later this year. I wasn’t interested in doing that for a few reasons. First of all given that I had a few setbacks, even with a few more weeks of training there was a good chance I wasn’t going to have a great race. Sure, maybe better than 2:17 but nothing big. Also, I still don’t quite feel 100% healthy so I think I need to take a break and let my body recover. I want to get healthy and have plenty of time to get ready for 2019. Stretching this build into December wouldn’t put me in as good of a position for a Spring marathon.

Most of all I wanted to race STWM. I haven’t raced it since 2011 and I’ve wanted to race it plenty of times since then. I had a great experience this year and really enjoyed racing a local marathon that is a premiere marathon in the world. The support from my fellow runners and fans along the course is unbelievable. My family was able to watch me and I even gave Louis a high-five at the 20km mark.

One of the most important things in continuing to stay in the game here is to be injury free. And I have felt really good this build-up. I’ve been able to enjoy my runs pain-free (which wasn’t the case before Boston) and I feel as though I’m moving well. That means I’m at least in a position to train hard and see what I can do.

First thing on the agenda is to get healthy. Next month I’ll plan a Spring marathon and hopefully get that confirmed in December or January. I will likely only race one more time this year, the Hamilton Boxing Day 10 miler. The IAAF will release details about 2020 Olympic qualification in November and hopefully Athletics Canada will release their standards by January when performances towards 2020 will start to count.

Some vids from Canadian Running:

 

 

 

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One Comment
  1. October 22, 2018 7:17 pm

    No. (You are not getting too old). Your entire career has been one comeback story after another.

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