September 24, 2020
“My hope is that maybe the reason that I didn’t perform as well as I hoped at the Trials is just that I was too cooked. I was a little overtrained. Because when I look at that training block that I had in December, January and February, that was some of the best workouts I’ve ever put together. So what I’m hoping is that I’m fit enough now to have unlocked lifetime fitness. And if I can unlock lifetime fitness, then I can take advantage of some of those deposits to lifetime fitness that I made in January and February without being so burnt out that I can’t rest up in time for London. Here’s my theory: I’m fit enough to unlock lifetime fitness and that hopefully I’m a little bit more rested and maybe that will compensate for the shortened training cycle.”
2016 U.S. Olympian Jared Ward returns to the podcast! The last time he was on this show was back in Feb. 2019. After that, he went on to run 2:029:25 at the 2019 Boston Marathon and was considered a strong contender to make a second Olympic team. However, tough conditions in Atlanta and how the race played out, it wasn’t his day and he finished 27th.
In this episode, we’ll learn how he managed to put that performance behind him, found an appreciation for training amid the global pandemic (with the help of Des Linden) and how he’s preparing for the London Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 4 – where he’ll be in the same race as Eliud Kipchoge and Kenenisa Bekele (the two fastest marathoners of all-time). He had a shortened buildup to work with so he shares some insight into his training and theory of how he’ll find a way to make it work.
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Was it a quick decision to sign up for the London Marathon
– “I think I was a little hesitant but I texted coach [Ed] Eyestone and his response back to me was: ‘Any port in a storm. Any race in COVID.’ That was kind of like, you know what, I think you’re right. It’s a little too much right now to take any racing opportunity for granted. If there’s a race out there and the race is trying to do their part to make sure we’re not having a negative impact in communities and economies and things like that given the pandemic we’re in, then I want a part of it. I want in.”
Getting over the disappointment of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials
– “It was almost too raw for weeks or months to feel like I could process [the Trials.] Eventually, I was on a phone call with Des Linden and she said, ‘Jared, you just have to get over it.’ And I was kind of like, ‘Alright. I think you’re probably right.’ I processed it and got over it. As part of the processing, that was really the theme of the feelings I was having. In 2016, I didn’t expect to make the team but I thought I had a chance. I ran tough and just put together the best day on the right day and made that team. In 2020, I thought I was supposed to make the team and didn’t make it. It made me a lot more grateful for that experience that I had in 2016. I take that a lot less for granted. That theme continued through COVID even with virtual races. I raced Jake Riley in a virtual 5K on the Fourth of July and that was super fun. I thought that we might not have races but there are still things that I can get excited about. There are still things I can be grateful for. There’s still this community of running that I’m a part of and that we’re all a part of. If you want to be involved, you can be involved and have fun. I’m grateful.”
What went wrong at the Olympic Marathon Trials
– “I knew at Mile 19 that the race was over for me. In fact, I didn’t feel good at Mile 12 or 13 and I was pushing one mile at a time from halfway through the race and up until Mile 18 or 19 until I finally said, ‘You know what. It’s just not going to happen today.’ The race was going to be over at that point for me. I had some foot pain. I don’t think my foot affected my training and I certainly don’t think it affected race day performance. But once I was out of the race, it did start thinking, ‘OK. If I pull the plug now and get my foot better, could I get ready in seven weeks for Boston?’ Recovery is going to be shorter even if my next marathon is in the fall. And then, I played through the reality of what it was going to look like of me walking up behind my family at the finish line. I’m supposed to be coming up to the finish line by way of the race course but instead I’d come up behind them the other way and have to explain to my kids why I decided I was done today. I thought, ‘This is not how it’s supposed to look. I’m supposed to come in past the finish line.’ It was really me feeling like I wanted my kids to see that things weren’t going well for dad that he could still finish a race. It doesn’t mean we have to quit when things aren’t going as well as I wanted them to be going. That’s what got me through the finish line. I had a lot of time to process that result. I had six miles and over 30 minutes to settle into the reality that I wasn’t making this Olympic team but I don’t know if that made the pain and the weeks to come any less tough as I thought back on how I had the best marathon training cycle of my life going into the trials and I felt so fit. Trying to process why at Mile 12 or 13 I felt so much worse than I should have been feeling.”
– “I don’t think I ever looked back on this race and said, ‘Aw man! I should have made that team on Feb. 29th.’ My day was not Feb. 29th.”
Finding the Fun in Training Again
“It took me a little while to find the fun. I found fun and joy in spending time at home with my kids. They were a little more involved with my training. I’m running in the basement and riding on the exercise bike so my kids were down there doing their workouts and it kind of became more of a family-centered exercise time. That was fun. It took awhile to get excited about training. I remember coach saying, ‘Let’s do a little bit of speed. We haven’t done speed in a while.’ We started doing track workouts and we were doing 8×400 and 6×800. (Some of them seemed fast and some of them didn’t. I was running 400s in 61 and 62 seconds, which is not anything to write home about looking back on my college days but for a marathoner, they’re not too bad.) I was looking at coach in the middle of these workouts and I remember saying, ‘Coach, why are we doing this?’ And he was like, ‘Well, I don’t know but we’re going to keep doing it because we don’t have anything else to do.’ Those workouts were tough to get through when there wasn’t any reason that I should be sharp. I’m training VO2, which you have to keep training to hold onto so as soon as I stop training VO2 then I’m going to lose that. And, there’s no race to go spend it on, if you will. That was kind of a tough phase for me.
Then I started talking to Jake Riley and with his club out there with coach Lee Troop. We worked out this 5K virtual race. Then, my 400s were fun. Then, I was excited to step on the track. I really think that was my first spark after the trials. I committed to that race in early June and then we ran the race on the Fourth of July. From March, April and May, I’m kind of dragging myself through workouts and back into mileage. Then in June, I finally had something I was excited about and that was racing Jake Riley.
Maybe a lot of us fall into this trap? I fall into this trap of thinking, ‘Man, why does this have to happen to me or to all of us?’ or ‘Why does this have to happen right now?’ I was ready to race. I wanted to race. I didn’t have the race I wanted at the Trials. I wanted other races. I’m ready to go and then this just sucks. But, when I committed to the race with Jake Riley and started training, that’s when I started thinking, ‘I still have control over some things. If there’s never another race again like we used to know racing – heaven forbid – I can have fun doing match races even virtually with guys like Jake Riley and I’m going to love it. That spark felt like what put the ball back in my court. I can control my own happiness and my own racing scheduled to an extent in what I want to do with running. So I’m going to get out there and control it.”
The Ideal Match Race
“You know who I would really love to match race is Callum Hawkins. I think i’ve looked up to him for a long time. He and I ran together in Rio for a while. He came home from Rio and took off. He’s run some great, great races since then. I’ve always thought that if I can get to my best, I can race Callum Hawkins…I’m taking any application.”
Inside Seven-Week Training Cycle
“I went into this cycle running 70 or 80 miles a week, which is 20 to 40% lower of what I typically like for three or four months going into a marathon. My mileage was extremely low. I had a week at 80 and then I went 95, 105 and 110. It was just up real fast. Long runs went from 15 or 18 miles to 20 to 25 miles. The volume was something that had to happen very quickly if I was going to get any block of volume in before I have to be resting and tapering up for London. That was the biggest aspect.
I think my speed was actually pretty good. I was training for this 5K against Jake Riley and then I was training with the guys in Provo who were getting ready for 10Ks in California in August. I had been doing speed training and my speed was actually pretty good but I hadn’t had a lot of longer tempo and intervals, so we just shifted to that. Typically, a longer training cycle for me is 12 to 16 weeks of all of that integrated together. I barely go more than two weeks or a week without some sort of speed session on the track. We’re not talking like 400s or 200s but more so 800s and mile repeats. It’s VO2 Max-type work. Coach Eyestone likes to visit that at least every 14 days. Oftentimes every seven days we do something VO2 Max on tha track.
However, I had so much of that in the weeks coming into London and had so little of the tempo stuff and have gone straight into tempo/long intervals since committing. I’m doing a set of 800s tomorrow and that’s going to be the first track workout that I’ve done in over a month. That’s atypical for a marathon build but out of necessity for getting the volume and longer tempos in with such a short timeline. We’ve kind of shifted everything toward the long stuff.”
– “If this marathon works, I don’t think I’m ever going to train for a marathon for 16 weeks ever again. It’ll be a seven-week buildup.”
– “My hope is that maybe the reason that I didn’t perform as well as I hoped at the Trials is just that I was too cooked. I was a little overtrained. Because when I look at that training block that I had in December, January and February, that was some of the best workouts I’ve ever put together. So what I’m hoping is that I’m fit enough now to have unlocked lifetime fitness. And if I can unlock lifetime fitness, then I can take advantage of some of those deposits to lifetime fitness that I made in January and February without being so burnt out that I can’t rest up in time for London. Here’s my theory: I’m fit enough to unlock lifetime fitness and that hopefully I’m a little bit more rested and maybe that will compensate for the shortened training cycle.”
London Marathon Preview
– “I think if I don’t get lapped, it’s going to be the best race of my life.”
– “I think I could put #DontGetLapped on my shirt and that could be a good mantra for this race.”
– “Maybe I just try to keep up with them for like 200 meters. ‘Here. I got the pace, guys. Just tuck in behind me. Let me break the wind.’”
– “I want to get out there in London and hear the final take. A lot of times we hear what pacers are going for about weeks or months from a race and sometimes that changes when we get closer to the race. I haven’t committed to anything…They talked about having a pace group for 2:08-2:09 and I think that could be a great spot for me to tuck in and try to be a part of. They talked about having a pace group for 2:01 and 2:03. I’m not going to play it that quite assertive. Cam Levins is a recent add to the race. He and I have similar PRs. There’s a few other guys in that same boat. So I hope to find a group out there. It would be nice to have some pacer or at least some guys who are going for the same 2:07-2:09 that I would love to run if conditions are optimal.”
Support for this episode comes from Bakline Running. We’re excited to partner with this Brooklyn-based company that’s making active lifestyle and streetwear-inspired apparel. I’m racing a mile in their performance singlet soon but their hits are their shirts, graphic tees and designs with inspiring mantras like “Me vs Me”; “Nothing But Miles”; “The Future Is Female Runners” and more.
Check them out at https://www.bakline.nyc/ and use code CITIUS for 15% off at checkout.
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Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.