By: Dylan Wykes
It’s been sometime since I’ve managed an update. After dropping out of Lake Biwa I was pretty down and out. Leading up to Lake Biwa training had gone so well — including 12 weeks at altitude in Flagstaff, AZ — that I had very high expectations for myself. Not meeting those expectations was brutal and I had a lot of trouble looking beyond my failure. Perhaps one sign that I hadn’t totally packed in it was that I continued to run each day following Japan, though I didn’t really know why. A force of habit maybe? Eventually with some tough love from current and former coach and some less tough love from family I got my head screwed back on. I returned to Flagstaff, AZ to train and intended to try racing another marathon before the Olympic qualifying window closed on April 22.
Next struggle was getting into a race. Some people reading may think that’s weird, that it should be a no brainer for an athlete at my level to get into a marathon. But, a lot of marathons close entry to there elite fields months before the race. In the end my agent was able to secure me a spot on the start line in Rotterdam.
Training in the weeks in between Japan and Rotterdam was okay. I trusted Rich’s experience and knowledge and followed the program as closely as I could. I had a few workouts where I didn’t feel super human (which I did almost every time out prior to Japan). Usually having a few ho-hum workouts would really kill my motivation and confidence. But I knew I just had to get myself on the line in Rotterdam with a healthy body and mind and give it a shot. A shout out to the Speed River crew for there company on runs and social events during those weeks in Flagstaff. It made for some enjoyable training and helped keep me relaxed.
I flew over to Holland a week prior to the race to try to adapt to the time change and the effects of coming down to sea level (or slightly below) from 7,000ft above sea level. I was fortunate to stay with some very great people near Eindhoven for a few days. Once in Rotterdam it was nice to be in the company of several other canadians – Rob Watson, Lanni Marchant, and Krista Duchene. Like training and hanging out with the Speed River crew in Flagstaff having these guys around took my mind off the race.
So, on to the race; I knew in advance that there was going to be a group setup around the Dutch athlete Koen Raymaekers who needed to run 2:10:00 for the Dutch Olympic team (and Canadians think our standards are tough!!!). He was to have 3 pacers with the intention of going through halfway in 65:00, and I knew of at least 2 other guys that were going to run in that group. So, my game plan was simple — just run in the group for as long as possible, staying as relaxed as possible, and then hope it’s a good day over the last 12k.
On the start line we were packed in like sardines. I literally had no room to move and was not comfortable with the situation at all. When the canon went off I probably got no more than 2 steps before I hit the deck and hit it hard. For a split second I thought maybe they’d recall everyone to the start, but then I realized this wasn’t a high school track meet, this was a race with 7,000 people in it so knew that wasn’t going to happen. I got up in a fit of rage and stormed past people. I went flying past Rob cursing and a few seconds later realized I should probably chill out. I tried to settle into the pack at that point which was the second ‘group’ in the race — the first group was out of sight pretty early as they were chasing the world record. But there were a ton of guys in the pack and I couldn’t get comfortable. I’ve never run behind myself (obviously) but people either don’t respect the fact that I’m 6’2″ and have long legs or I do something really odd with my stride because I constantly get clipped. This was happening repeatedly in the first 5-10km of the race. Sometime after 10km things started to spread out a bit and I was able to settle into the back of the group.
I didn’t look at my watch at all and wasn’t aware of our splits during the first half of the race. I was running the way I wanted but I didn’t feel great. My quads were getting heavy and sore as early as 15k. I even thought about letting the pack go at several times between 15-20k. But knowing the worst of the forecasted winds were going it hit us between 20-30k I really didn’t want to be out on my own. I just kept the head down and tried to run in the very back of the group where I thought I could get the most relief from the wind.
One of the most difficult parts of the race for me was the fluids stations every 5km. The Dutch athlete Koen was having his bottle handed to him by a volunteer whereas everyone else was trying to grab their bottles off the table. It was often hard to spot my bottle (even harder for Le Rob) as they were quite close together on the tables. So we had to slow down a bit more than Koen. And his pacers didn’t slow down at all in these areas. I also felt like I was drinking a lot longer than some of the other guys or maybe I jut can’t drink and run at a fast enough pace. Anyways, I lost 10-20metres on the pack at every water station and had to put a real concentrated effort to get back onto the group. That sucked.
I saw the 20k split and wasn’t sure exactly what it equated to, but I knew it was fast. I was actually relieved at that point as it somewhat justified my legs feeling tired as early as they did. We split 64:40 for the half marathon.
From halfway to 30km was a bit of blur for me. A few guys were yoyoing off the back of the group and I had to change position once in a while. I actually started to feel a bit better during this time. As my splits would prove we slowed down quite a bit during this stage. Partly this was because of the wind were running into, and partly because the few hills (one bridge and one incline shouldn’t really be calling a ‘hill’) come between 20-25km and maybe partly because everyone needed a little breather after the fast early pace.
Whereas between 12-20k I felt the kilometers were passing really slowly and I found myself looking up the road for the next km marker — between 25-30km I felt like things were going by more quickly. This section was also through downtown and the spectators were going crazy so that was probably a good distraction.
I knew shit was gonna hit the fan soon after 30km. At that point the wind was going to be either a side or tail wind and I expected some guys might start rolling. 30km is also the point, roughly 90min into the race, when things can start getting pretty rough if your having a bad day. True to form when one of Koen’s two remaining pacers stopped at 30km the other accelerated. I looked at the split and realized this was also because we’d slowed down a bit and Koen was going to be cutting it close to run 2:10:00.
One of Rich’s few instructions before the race was to try to relax between 30-35km so that I might be able to actually finish the last 5km of the race with some energy. I had this in my mind when I covered the faster pace at around 31km. I tried to fight the urge to kill myself to cover little gaps and surges, but it seemed a better option than being stuck on my own. It was becoming really hard to stick with Koen and even when I did get back up with him and his pacer I couldn’t relax again. A Polish athlete was running with us at this point too. And part of Rich’s instructions were to not be afraid to drift off the pace a little around 30km if there was someone to drift off with. Le Rob fell off just a bit too soon. But this Polish guy seemed like he was still strong but also not comfortable with Koen’s pace. I lost about 10m to the 2 of them around 32km, then the polish guy lost 10m on Koen. I caught the Polish guy and we worked together for a bit.
I was under 2:11:29 pace the entire race, but my 30 and 35km split were Nearly identically to what I hit in Toronto in October. So, you can imagine I might not actually be too excited at this point, knowing how badly things can fall apart over the last 7km. But by 35km I had dropped the polish guy and felt like I was running strong with a pretty fluid stride — nothing was cramping up — but I was having some bowel discomfort (not as badly as Japan, but obviously something I’m going to have to look at remedying before London).
I was paying much more attention to my km splits at this point. I wanted to see 3:10s. I saw a few 3:10s from 35-37, but then a 3:16 from 37-38. I went from thinking ‘okay this is still on’ to ‘oh f@$! I’m going to miss it by like 10 seconds’. But I stayed focused and pushed as hard as I could thinking about how pissed I’d be if I didn’t give it everything I had. I saw the clock at 40km — 2:03:55 — and knew I was really on for it. I did the math 7:30 for the last 2.2km is what I needed to get under the standard. Sure I’ve run my last 2.2km slower than that in the past. But I was moving well at this point. I stopped looking at my watch and just hit it as hard as I could while still keeping my bowel discomfort at bay. With 500m to go you turn onto the Coolsingel (the main street in Rotterdam) and there are thousands of fans going crazy. It’s pretty freaking cool. I checked my watch with 400m to go and knew there was no way I wasn’t going to get under the standard. I sprinted hard the next 200m and then the last 200m, well let’s just say I enjoyed that bit — numerous fist pumps. I looked at the finish line clock as I crossed under it — 2:10:46. I thought ‘wow, I didn’t just get under the standard, I killed it!’
Congrats to Rob, Lanni, and Krista who all ran PB’s and truly impressed out there on the streets of Rotterdam on Sunday. Exciting futures in the sport for all of them.
So many people to thank I’m not sure its worth trying on here. I hope to be in touch with as many people as possible over the next little while. But obviously huge thanks to my family for the unwavering support. And to my coach Rich Lee and his family for everything they’ve done for me the past few years.
Here are my splits:
|5 Kilometer||15:19 (15:19)|
|20 Kilometer||1:01:09 (15:22)|
|25 Kilometer||1:16:55 (15:46)|
|30 Kilometer||1:32:34 (15:39)|
|35 Kilometer||1:48:04 (15:30)|
|40 Kilometer||2:03:55 (15:51)|