Never Give Up!
“Never, ever, ever, ever give-up.” [a Winston Churchill paraphrase I believe…as I’m sure many others have mentioned this through out history]. I think about this type of quote often and use it as a mantra as much as possible.
As many of you may already know I just ran a rather horrid positive split, 2:19:52 Marathon at the California International marathon and missed my goal of a sub 2:18:00 time and a ticket to enter the most prestigious US marathon one can enter: The US Olympic Marathon Trials race.
Since qualifying for the trials in 2008 and 2012 I want to keep my “streak” alive and even gave up racing many lucrative ultras to pursue this ever challenging goal. Why?
Well, first of all the Olympic Trials only happen once every 4 years. It is a very special race that is near and dear to my heart. It is also a huge challenge for a “slow” MUT Runner like me. Despite having a 2:16:52 marathon PR from 2011, I’ve struggled to hit the 5:15/mile pace required to run a sub 2:18:00 in the past few years. But ultimately I also think that road marathon training intensity can help one achieve their potential in MUT Running as well…in the long term. Training the lactate threshold, doing speed sessions and optimizing running economy can translate in dividends to races beyond 26.2…even races up and down mountains!
When I look at my 2015 year/season as a calendar year (I don’t like to say “season” because I train and race year-round and there really is no “off-season!”). It was a rather lackluster year as far as MUT Running goes. I mean, I only finished 2 ultras! As a pro-MUT Runner I totally failed. I guess going into the year I was focused on hitting a few big races really hard and so I put all my stock into those select, big-stage ultras: Comrades, UTMB and (tentatively planned TNF50 in San Fran.). But sometimes you fail in your goals and you must change your plans. I totally botched my race at Comrades after an insufficient recovery following the Boston Marathon . Taking an “all or nothing” big risk during the race to “go for the win” rather than pace myself conservatively, also lead to a rather spectacular slow down. I really struggled for the entire last 25 miles of that race…
Then at UTMB (a huge focus of my whole summer) I managed to clumsily fall and take myself out of the event. I re-think over and over “what would have [could have] happened” if I didn’t fall? Would I have done well in my first 100-miler? Who knows…I don’t think anyone was going to be close to beating Xaivier that day though.
I guess I could label my 2015 year of running as a “return to the roads.” In my quest to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials with a sub 2:18 marathon I have also miserably failed 3 times in a row though:
I started the year in February with a dismal 2:20:02 at the LA Marathon where I placed 8th in the USATF National Championships. The course was not lightning fast, and it was on the warmer side, but basically I came out flat and my legs were stuck at 5:20/mile pace the whole time. It was a disappointment, but I was able to re-group and focus again on my next race: The Boston Marathon 5 weeks later.
Boston, honestly was probably the best run marathon race of my entire career. I think it was a better performance than my 2:16:52 PR. Unfortunately a 10-15mph head-wind, along with a cold rain seemed to yield rather slow times. I only ran a 2:19:12, but was able to nab a 16th place finish (a place that usually is around 2:15-2:16 given the quality of the field at Boston). I executed well and trained optimally for that marathon!
The Speedgoat 50km again was a bright side to 2015 for me as I essentially ran the same as my CR time (on the same extended course since it was changed in 2014) and felt really dialed doing high altitude mountain running. In my opinion, a course like Speedgoat is the epitome of US Mountain-Ultra trail running and it felt good to nail that one for the 3rd year in a row!
My knee injury after UTMB set me back again as it took awhile for the pain in my knee to subside.
Originally I was torn between trying to rush in a road marathon (Richmond) before the TNF50 SF, as I really wanted to do to defend my title on the trails. However, I ultimately decided to “be patient” and put all my stock in Cal International (unfortunately the same weekend as TNF50).
In retrospect (oh the benefit of hindsight!) that might have been a mistake as it may have lead to me to overtraining a tiny bit: I raced the Big Sur half marathon as a “tune-up” to focus on my speed and then crushed a few workouts just about 5-10sec/mile faster than I probably should have run them. Instead of logging another 120 mile week and another steady 23-mile Long Run like I probably should have, I tapered for that half marathon and focused more on “leg turn-over” as that had seemingly been my weakness at LA and Boston.
However (and I’ll be looking over my Strava Training log again and again for this), sometimes when you coach yourself you have this horrible bias where you fail to see the big picture. Based on how crappy my legs felt early on at CIM and how I struggled to hold pace for a sub 2:18, I really only have myself to blame. It’s a tough pill to swallow and a hard mistake to admit as a coach…but my training may have been a bit off. It is much better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained (and I’ve learned this the hard way over the years).
“Never Give Up” is also the title of a documentary film that my family is trying to raise funds to produce. It is about the legal battles that my great uncle fought for decades. He stood up for his Civil rights and spent 9 months in solitary confinement because he stayed committed to what he believed in. [For more info on this film project and how to support check out the website here: http://www.minoruyasuifilm.org ]
Sometimes I feel as though I am banging my head against a wall, repeating the same “mistakes” and frustrations over and over…the definition of stupidity. Ultimately there is joy in the struggle though…it’s how I can find flow. If we ran great races all the time and won and everything came easy it would be a pretty boring life. A little adversity builds character here and there and honestly I have nothing in my life to complain about! This process is a privilege to be able to experience…this journey of running on any surface and at any distance. I have the luxury of being able to even attempt and train for these crazy races. This is a dream come-true already.
Next up: I’m going to try to give it one more shot at the Houston Marathon on Jan. 17th 2016. It is the last possible day one can qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon (held only one month later!). No matter what I happens, I want to be able to look back and say to myself: “I gave it my best shot and I never gave up on my goal.”
With that thought, the words of Theodore Roosevelt also seem to echo in my head often:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Have a great holiday season, thanks for the support, and I wish you the best in pursuing your goals heading into 2016 and beyond!
[12/11/15 UPDATE:] Since the IAAF decided to change the Olympic Marathon Standard to 2:19:00, The USATF also chanced the Olympic Trials Standard from 2:18:00 to 2:19:00 for the men. This means that I’ve now only missed the standard by 12 seconds (from Boston)! Heading into my next marathon at Houston though…it gives me an extra minute to qualify!]
Shameless Sponsor Plugs:
Shoes (HOKA ONE ONE cliftons)
GPS/data: Strava (see race data HERE)
Nutrition and well being (Tea, Goji berries etc.): FLORA Health
Socks: Drymax Max Protection….soon to be a “SAGE” design for 2016!
Compression: Compressport USA calf sleeves (R2 elite)
Gels/Fuel: VFuel (4 full taken during race)
Snacks/Recovery: UGO Bars (great for traveling!)
Also for recovery: Trail Butter
Post race celebrations: Avery Brewing Beer
Hydration gear/bottles: Ultimate Direction