Friday, December 12, 2014

NYC follow-up, vacation, and 2015 plans

It's time for a long over-due follow-up to the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. After every marathon I have had the desire to separate myself from running for some time, but the difficulty with internet connections in South Africa exacerbated it this time around.

First, a huge thanks to Mary Wittenberg, David Monti, and the rest of the New York Road Runners for another tremendous experience. They have an extremely challenging jog organizing the elite athletes right in the middle of the world's biggest marathon in one of the world's biggest cities, and the entire process was flawless. I feel that I have more to prove on this course, so I hope to be back many times in the future.

My goals heading into the race were to defend my title as top-American, top-10 overall on a good day, and top-5 on a great day. I accomplished the goal of top-10 but fell short of the others, although it's no shame to be beaten by Meb Keflezighi with the year that he is having. The man does not age. The weather wasn't ideal, but of course, this is something every runner has to deal with, and it can end up being an equalizer for someone like myself in a race full of so much international talent. Wilson Kipsang was about 8 minutes off of his PR while I was less than 5. The wind kept the lead pack together for longer than it would have under ideal conditions. I was still with the leaders at 30km before they made their final strong move to the finish. The entire race up to the 30km mark was run as a Fartlek. Leads would change and someone would push the pace for a few minutes, and then it would slow right back down. I'm proud that I had the confidence to go with these moves as long as I did. This was a step forward for me in my racing tactics. Immediately after the race, I was disappointed that I did not try to continue with the pack for longer, but as I look back now and recall how badly I was suffering the final 2 miles in the park, I know I made the right decision. I would have liked to place higher, but it just wasn't happening on that day. I fought and gave it everything I had over the last 10km. Nick Arciniaga was a huge part of that. We took turns with the lead once the lead group dispersed until the final few miles where it was every man for himself. I was fortunate enough to come out ahead this time around, but I will certainly not make the mistake of underestimating him at the 2016 Olympic Trials in Los Angeles.

After the race I took 2 full weeks off from running, although this down time did include a great deal of hiking in South Africa. I didn't take much time off after the London Marathon or my track season this year, so the break was appreciated. My wife and I met my in-laws in Prague, and then headed for Johannesburg. From Johannesburg we headed straight for the Drakensberg Mountains where my wife and I had planned a 5-night trek. This was the most challenging trek we had attempted to date as there were no trails, high altitude, and little cover. Unfortunately the weather got the best of us and we had to turn around on the 3rd day. The first day included incredibly dense fog which rendered our map and compass useless and put us behind immediately. On the second day we were pounded by rain and wind which found it's way into every crevass and soaked even our water-proof gear, tent, and sleeping bags with temperatures only just above freezing. The rain and wind continued through the night, and we became worried about the possibility of hypothermia and decided to make one hard 12 hour push back to the start. While the weather ended up clearing up, I'm still sure we made the right decision given the situation. The views that we did get were unbelievable and unforgettable.

From Drakensberg we traveled to Durban where my training began again slowly. Next stop was beautiful Cape Town and wine country, where we surprisingly ran in Luke Puskedra and his wife Trudie on their own post-NYC Marathon vacation. After thoroughly enjoying the southwest region, we headed back to Johannesburg and spent our remaining days exploring the wild animals of Kruger National Park. This included an overnight stay at a game lodge where my morning run was alongside gazelle, baboons, and giraffe. Near this same lodge I was given a ride home at the end of my second run as the manager was concerned about the sun going down and the inevitable hippos that would be leaving the water to feed on grass.

South Africa is an extremely diverse country geographically and culturally. I felt like we were only able to explore a sliver of what the nation has to offer, and I hope to return in the future. It is definitely on my radar for a future winter altitude training camp, potentially as soon as 2015/2016 before the Olympic Marathon Trials.

From South Africa, we returned to the Czech Republic where I was stay until just after Christmas (the 27th). As long as the weather holds out, and so far it has, the Czech Republic is a fantastic place to train as I have mentioned before. While Prague is incredibly beautiful and full of excellent running
though it's parks, the villages are a truly unique experience, and one that I was able to share with my old Oklahoma State teammate, Dan Watts and his wife Ceci. Last Saturday we ran a local cross country race which my wife's family helps to put on for it's 15th consecutive year. The small race features only about 100 people, but it is a supportive, encouraging, and fun atmosphere. My prize for 1st place included a bottle of Czech wine, champagne, and a coupon for a free Christmas tree at a nearby lot. While my wife's parents usually prefer to cut-down a tree from their own forest, they are considering the easier route this year. It's refreshing to get back to the basics at a small community race and remember why I love doing what I do.

Next up are the USATF Cross Country National Championships in Boulder, CO on February 7th. I am looking to focus on shorter distances through the spring before returning to the marathon in the early fall in preparation for the Olympic Trials in February of 2016. We are a little over 8 weeks out from the US champs, and I already feel my fitness coming back very quickly. My first two weeks back training consisted of nothing but easy jogging and strides at weeks of 60 miles and 85 miles. My 3rd week is posted below. I realize week 4 is almost over, and I will post it early next week. I'm happy to be back into my normal groove and look forward to posting my weekly training for the rest of 2015. Thanks again for reading and follow me here on Twitter for more updates.

Week 3 AM PM Strength/Drills Mileage
Monday 14.5 travel from South Africa to Prague

Tuesday off 11.5 30 minutes 11.5

Wednesday 11.5 5.5 + drill and strides

Thursday Fartlek (3min, 2, 1) x 3 w/equal recovery 4.5

Friday 11 5.5 30 minutes 16.5

Saturday Local XC race run as a tempo (7.5 km) – 11


Sunday 16




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