Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Breaking down the US Olympic Marathon Trials - Part 1

Hey, hows everyone doing? With indoor track, some winter road races and spring races on the horizon I bet everyone is putting in work and hopefully enjoying the process. As expected I got clearance from my doctor on Monday to resume things as usual with the exception of eating things like steak, apples, nuts..etc, I'll have to wait another 3-4 weeks until things are 100% back to normal. That said, I'm allowed to get out on the roads again which is pretty awesome. 90 minutes after my appointment and xrays I met up with my buddy Jason White who's training for Boston with the hopes of running something in the 2:3X's. He had a 20 miler on the books and that sounded just dandy to me. What a refreshing change to be able to get back outside and run in the clean, fresh Atlantic air. Even though it was super cold and we have lot's of snow it was super enjoyable and I imagine all of my easy days and long run will be out on the roads from now on. Eventually when I get a break in the weather and safe footing I'll get my tempo runs going outside as well. The goal for right now will be to put in 3 weeks of solid training, then 4 weeks down in Florida starting on the 17th of next month. After that it'll be all in for the United Airlines NYC half and take a run at a 66. Other then that I've got the Sun Run (Where Yonge Street changed this year) followed by Ottawa race weekend 10km. That's all that I have planned right now for the spring but I'm also going to try to meet up with Ryan Noel-Hodge and run the 10000m championships as well. Speaking of Hodge, I've convinced him to make the trip down here to run our Tely 10. His coach is on board so that should be fun. I'm going to try to convince my boy Jeff Costen the first chance I get to chat with him as well to make the trip down and stay at my place so we can make a week out of it. Run the Tely and have the boys take in the George Street Festival...you know that would lend itself to a great week and an even better blog recap. (Garrett, your invited too bud if you are free!) Anyway, let's get into this post. I'll recap my training at the end of this entry but first I'm going to break down the major players for the Men's Olympic Trials Marathon, next week we will take a closer look at the women's race.

A look at the real contenders for the 2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials

Meb Kefleizghi

Meb is the safest bet to make the team. He has been the most consistent American marathoner of this generation and has a wealth of experience to draw upon. At 40 years old you'd think father time would have crept up on him but I've seen nothing to say he isn't still the best in the field of assembled athletes over 26.2 miles. He ran very well in Boston and New York this year and has the second fastest PB in the field along with Major wins at Boston and NYC along with an Olympic silver medal from the 2004 games at the distance. If I had to put money on one runner it would be Meb.

Dathan Ritzenhein

The often injured Ritz is the fastest man on paper entering this marathon with a PB of 2:07:47. He had a very strong performance at Boston last April and looked like the Ritz of old pushing the pace when it slowed through the newton hills. Since moving back to his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan he seems to have found the right balance of volume and intensity. From the interviews he has given it seems like he listens to his body more now and tends to do less rather then more to avoid injury. He's run some good races on the roads this last year and has the experience to get it done when the pressure is on. I'm very confident he will make his 4th Olympic team and will duke it out with Meb for 1st.

Luke Puskedra

In my mind, this is the guy to take for the 3rd spot. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if he wins the trials. Luke is on the upswing of his career and is fresh off a blazing 61:28 half in Huston, laying waste to all other Americans. He ran like a seasoned veteran in Chicago this past October, covering moves, staying at the back of the lead pack, keeping contact and not wasting energy. His 2:10 mid there proves he can run with the big boys and in my opinion he will be the next american to break 2:10. His potential is probably around 2:07 or so I'd imagine. Look for Luke to make this team without much problem.

The best of the rest, who could make the team if one of the above falter.

Jared Ward

Jared has made a name for himself on the roads over the last two years. He has had some fantastic performances on the USATF Road Circuit taking numerous national titles, most notably the Marathon championships in LA this past year where he ran a nice negatively split 2:12. I feel like he's a solid runner with potential to be a 2:10 guy but he's just not fast enough to be a real threat at 26.2. If someone in front has an off day and the race is slow he may pick up that 3rd spot but I wouldn't bet on it.

Bobby Curtis

Bobby has some strong PB's across the board and seems to be improving over the Marathon. His last kick at the distance he ran a solid 2:11:20 in Chicago. He is definitly one of the best in the field but I don't think he has the distance figured out. In Chicago he just ran splits and finished as fast as he could while the winner that year, Eliud Kipchoge ran 2:04 low. Contrast that to Luke Puskedra being with the leaders until 2 miles to go....I just don't think Bobby can translate his great 10000m time (27:24) to the full marathon distance.

Abdi Abdirahman

Abdi.....the "Black Cactus", I love this guy, he's a super chill laid back dude who seems to always bring his A game when the Olympics are on the line. in 2008 he missed the Marathon team, went back to the track and blew the doors off a young collegian by the name of Galen Rupp to make his 3rd team. Then in 2012 after not running a good marathon in 3 years he goes and runs 2:09. I mean you'd be foolish to discount Abdi. I don't think he will make a 5th team this year but he is crafty and if anyone up front falters you know old Abdi will be there fighting tooth and nail for a spot!

The unknowns over the distance and the one who could change everything. 

So there are two guys coming into this race who have never run a full but are in their primes and have run super fast halfs. Those two are Sam Chelanga who just became an American citizen and Diego Estrada who's run under 61 minutes for the half. If I was to bet on one of these guy's it would be Chelanga. The reason I say this is because of the group he is training with now. He's coached by the legendary Coach James Li, who has in his stable the likes of Bernie Lagat, Stephen Sambu, Lawi Lalang and Abdi among others. I feel like he will be very prepared and will take to the distance. Sam wouldn't be a bad bet to make it. Look for him to go with the leaders.

Lastly, we have to talk about Galen Rupp. He, like Sam and Diego has never run a full marathon but if he toes the line I think he will 100% make the team and win the race. Some people might think that's an outrageous claim, I mean Keith Hanson of the "Hansons Brooks Distance Project" discounted his chances during an interview with Johnathon Gault of letsrun.com but he's obviously just hoping against all odds he can get Bobby Curtis on the team and maybe even Jake Riley. His argument about Mo Farah only running 2:08 while having his own pace maker and being a better runner then Galen was the most flawed and laughable argument I've ever heard. Firstly, if anyone watched that race they would know Mo's pacer didn't even run with him, he was about 50 meters ahead the whole race and Mo was between groups essentially running a 26.2 mile tempo. The other thing to note is that Mo was coming off a 3:28 1500m and proceeded to run an 8:03 indoor two miles a few months after the marathon. He was obviously not in ideal marathon shape. Galen doesn't have near the speed mo does and excels the longer the distance. I feel like he will take to the marathon well and if he toes the line will win the race without any issues. (Note, I'm not a Rupp fanboy, those are statements I feel to be true lol). So this is somewhat of an X Factor for the trials.

Week that was in training


10 miles easy - AM
7.7 miles easy - PM


Workout - On the books I had 60' of 3' on and 1' off. Obviously I had to do it on the treadmill so I went to the field house and got it done. I was running at 12.5mph on the 3' segments and shuffling at 7.0mph for my 1' rest. I've never sweat so much in my life. It felt pretty good all the same. With the warm up and cool down I got 12 miles in.

12 miles - AM
8 miles easy - PM


10 miles easy - AM
10 miles relatively quick - PM


Workout - I went to the fieldhouse again for this as the treadmills there are nice and quick with strong fans in them. I wanted to do something comparable to last fall to see where I am so I did a 25' tempo at 4:50 pace on a 1% grade. I got through it and it felt pretty good so I figure I'm right around where I was in October when I ran 31:07/68:47. So 31 flat shape give or take. I did 10X150m after accelerating every 50m to work some turnover.

12.5 miles with warm up and cool down - AM
6 miles real easy - PM


11 miles easy on my treadmill at home before work - AM
6 miles easy at Goodlife before beer, wings and hockey - PM


10 miles easy - AM
8.2 miles easy - PM (wanted 10 but it was getting late and I was hungry)


10 miles easy - AM (pushed my long run to Monday after my doctors appointment)

So that was my week, it doesn't look impressive obviously with all the treadmill running but I worked with what I had. I'm super pumped about where my fitness is at right now and that I didn't loose anything over the 3 weeks I had to cross train. I'm going to run a 1500 in February to check the speed and go from there.

Thanks guys for reading, I really do appreciate it. Hopefully now that I'm back on the roads we get some good weather and I can hit some more stuff outside. I promise the blogs will get better the more excited I get for the spring season and many picture to come.

Keep those sticks on the ice,


  1. Hey David!
    Didn't see my comment on the last blog?
    When you say Sun Run, you mean Vancouver, right? I'll be there either racing or supporting my better half.
    Would love to say hi.
    Also very cool: treated myself to a fast trip down to LA for the trials to watch!
    Interesting what you said about Chalenga. Has James Li coached anyone elite in a marathon? I'm not a guru but Lagat, etc haven't done more than 10000m, maybe a half for the heck of it. He's a real talent for sure though.
    I think Diego Estrada is fearless and if he's in shape will scare some of the veterans: let him go, and watch him blow, or let him go, and the oops: he just took your Olympic spot...darn...
    Either way, very excited to watch them and the ladies as well.

    1. Hey pal!

      Sorry I didn't catch that last comment until now! My bad. (I'm self coached right now but talking with Ray Will for guidance in my training).

      Yeah I'm 100% going to be doing the sun run in Vancouver and I'd love to say hey as well, maybe grab a bite or a drink after and talk running! We will keep in touch as it draws near.

      Firstly, I'm so jealous you are going to the trails....that will be such an awesome experience, you have to tell me about it when you get back!

      As for James Li, currently in his post collegiate group he has Sam, Lawi Lalang, Stephen Sambu (26:51 10000m, 60:41 half), Leonard Korrir (60:21 half and making his debut this year). Lagat who ran 1 half for fun in 62:37. And Abdi who has run 2:08:56 in Chicago. I feel like James can get Chelanga ready for the distance, When Sambu and Korir move to the marathon you have to think they will be 2:04-2:05 guys.

      Couldn't agree more about Estrada, his coach Joe Vigil has developed a lot of marathoners, if he catches a good day he could run under 2:10. He has the talent for sure. I was just a little nervous after seeing him run 1:03 high in Huston, but he may have been in heavy training!

      The women's race will be fantastic, I'll break it down next week. I like Shalane, Desi and Amy for the top 3.