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Marathon Prep online forum with Olympic Marathoners

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Hosted by 7SYSTEMS on September 12, 2012


Today’s session will be moderated by Jasper Blake, Ironman Champion and head coach at B78 Coaching.

We are incredibly excited to be joined today by two of Canada’s best marathoners Reid Coolsaet and Dylan Wykes. Canada had a banner year in the marathon sending three athletes to the London Olympics. To put that into some perspective Canada has not sent a Canadian male marathoner to the Games since Bruce Deacon in 2000.  This year we sent three. We are incredibly proud to have all three on the 7SYSTEMS Team and today we are joined by two of them. We hope you enjoy the chat.





Let’s start with our first question to Reid:


Reid we understand that you spent roughly two weeks in the athletes village- can you tell us what that experience was like?





I wasn’t actually in the village for two weeks straight, I had a break in there… I spent three days in the athletes village to get acquainted and then Eric and I headed to Germany for a week.  Germany was very quiet and productive with good trails and facilities.

The athletes village was great but it would have been overwhelming for two weeks.  It was good to return to the village four days before we competed.  The village was much quieter than then media makes it out to be.  Since we weren’t running much by the end it was fine to do laps of the village, which took about 10 minutes/lap.  Other than tapering it would have been a boring place to do real training.





One of the things we often hear about is the food in the athletes village- that you can basically get anything anytime- is that true?





Yes, the food was very good in the village. A lot of variety.

Hey Reid, I tried to make an african peanut and squash stew similar to the one we had in the village. Yummy stuff!





Yep, there are lots of options.  In London there were lots of stations, America, England, Asia, Caribbean, India, Africa… and it was good too.  We ate from the Africa station a lot





Thanks Dylan- so by the sounds of that response they have a huge variety. African peanut squash stew sounds like a very specific dish. Did that become a staple pre race meal for you?





wrt food were you not concerned about digestive complications when trying the variety in the village?





That was a particular dish I really enjoyed. BUt, they changed what was on offer daily. So, typically you couldnt get the exact same dish day after day. But, I certainly loaded up on that and similar dishes. Lots of good carbs and nutrients





If anyone tuning in has a question please feel free to post it and we’ll pitch it to the guys





Cool thanks Dylan sounds delicious- Next question-again for Dylan:


Dylan you were the third guy to qualify- was there ever a time leading into last year that you didn’t think it was going to happen or did you know you could do it and just had to step up on the right day?





Ali, I didn’t get too adventurous in what I ate. I made sure to stick to fairly plain foods the night before and day of the race.





I know you guys had spent some time in Arizona and Reid was in Kenya before that … how much did the altitude help in terms of performance gains?





I had a lot of doubt about whether I would be able to qualify. The standard (2:11:29) is very tough. It took a huge jump in fitness, including a long stint of altitude training, before I was confident in getting the standard. And with the marathon so many things have to go right on the day; weather, pacing, competition, etc. So, even being supremely confident in my fitness I was never overly confident about qualifying.





WRT to nutrition while racing…..if have read that protein should be in your sports drinks for races over 2hrs….what is your take on protein in your sports drinks?





I have never used protein in my sports drink.  I’m not sure it would serve it’s purpose in less than 2hrs20min but I could be wrong.





Question for any/all: Do you feel that a negative split is usually the best way to run a marathon, for you as well as amatuer marathoners? This assumes that the terrain is fairly constant.





luxonb thanks for the question- i think it would be a great one for the guys to tackle- in general race day nutrition which is one of our upcoming questions but probably one on most people’s minds- perhaps Reid can have a stab first then Dylan





Ali, I think I got a good boost in fitness from altitude training. I didn’t pay close attention to the changes in my physiological parameters (blood measures, etc). I think one of the biggest advantages of altitude training is learning to suffer more because of the lack of oxygen.





wwestby- going to save your question for later- pacing is on topic too- stay tuned





I had followed the scotia marathaon on TV and then again the Olympic marathon and it seems that the athletes are not taking in that much fluids (at least on Camera anyway) … How much fluid/hr do you guys take in during a typical marathon?





I think altitude helps with general fitness but I didn’t use it specifically for my marathon performance.  I have used it before for 10km races and found that it works well.





Dylan what are your thoughts on during race nutrition? As per luxonb question- do you take something with protein or steer clear of it?





How much time do you spend in the gym doing strength training? Are there specific muscle groups that you target, or specific techniques that you use?





I have never taken protien during a race. Like Reid I’m not sure the pros would out weigh the cons for us in a marathon





At the Olympics there were personal bottle tables every 4.3km although it didn’t seem like there were that many watching it on TV.  STWM were every 5km.





during training when you are doing long runs do you use sports drinks or do you stay with water to help promote energy from fat stores?





Dylan and Reid- during race nutrition is always a hot topic- can you share any insight as to what you take in specifically and amounts?  do you use gels, liquids…any solid foods?





How much fluid depends on the weather, although carbs pretty much stay the same in any given temperature.  Something like 600ml/hour for you average marathon.





On race day I want to maximize my fuel that I’ll need during the race and eat stuff that won’t sit in my stomach or upset my stomach.  I usually eat a bagel and a Powerbar before a morning race.  During the race I try and get 50 grams of carbs per hour of Ironman Perform and Powerbar gels.  Unfortunately when it gets hot (above 25C) my GI system shuts down and I don’t absorb much.  Most of the time that ends up with me puking.





LOL I’m sure many people out there have experienced puking- I know i have





I use Ironman perform in practice because that’s what I’ll use in the race.  I can run 42.2km without any or minimal nutrition but running it fast is a whole other story, you need lots of fuel.





I take a combination of sports drink and gels (w/ caffeine) and alternate those. I don’t take any solid food during the race. I try practice my during race nutrition a lot in training. i set up a few key workouts to practice the exact fueling I want to have during the race. I’ll often try to push teh limit of concentration of CHO and volume of fluid that I consume.





Dylan what is your race day nutrition plan?  Any products you can identify-gels, bars, drinks etc?  Do you guys try and train with what you know will be available on course?





Similar to Reid I max out at about 50-60grams of CHO/hr





Dylan you bring up another hot topic- caffeine- how much roughly do you try and take in before and during?  Or are you just a “grab a cup of coffee” guy





I take ironman perform and powerbar gels (w/caffeine).





If I may ask .. Reid … how prepared are you to take a shot at marathon record this year? and how about Around the Bay?





I have found good benefits from the use of caffeine both before and during the marathon. I have been going with 3mg per kg of body weight about 1hr before the race, then again immediately before the race, and then again during the race between 20-25km usually.





I take caffeine in pill form because I don’t like coffee.  200mg before the race and about 150mg during the race between Powerbar gels and some crushed up pill.





And taht is in the form of tablets. And some from the gels that have caffeine in them already





I know you do high mileage for running .. so how much cross training are you able to squeeze into your schedule if any and what specific cross training you guys do? pilates, yoga, free weights, cycling, swimming?





I thought I was in shape to break the record last year at STWM but the conditions weren’t cooperative.  And my training before the Olympics was much better.  Once again I’d like to take a shot at the Canadian marathon record in April.  It might be hard to fit ATB 30km right before a marathon… we’ll see





Some great questions coming in- thanks everyone.   Let’s move on to two other topics……pacing and strength were both brought up.


Reid perhaps you could address strength training- do you do it, how much


Dylan could you address pacing and negative splitting?





I pool run once a week when I’m running full mileage.





Other than running and pool running I do drills and core/abs.  I’ll do drills twice a week and core 2-3 times a week.  I don’t hit the weights much at all but there will be a few weeks here and there in the year when I do a bit.





Pacing: Generally the pace I want to run in the race is dictated by my training. I do a few key workouts of 20-30km at ‘goal pace’. Those usually dictate the pace I will try to run for much of the race.


As for negative splitting: I’ve never negative split a marathon. And generally I think it is a very hard strategy to execute. I don’t think an ideal race is necessarily an even split or negative split. I think you should account for some sort of fade over the last 7-5km.


I suggested trying to negative split as a strategy for the World Champs marathon in 2009 and Jon Brown (twice 4th at the Olympics) told me that was not a good strategy.





Funny thing about caffeine, it was Jasper who introduced me to it back in 2007.  I tried drinking coffee for a few workouts (too many bathroom breaks and I hated the taste) and then moved to espresso shots in a can, and finally to wake-up pills.





In the Olympics I had a positive split of more than 2 minutes and was still passing a lot of people. I think its a matter of fading less than other people and not necessarily being able to run the second half faster than the first half.





Reid have you ever negative split a marathon?  When you guys both ran your qualifying times how much of a positive split was it?  From my experience with Ironman I can definitely attest to the idea that there always seems to be a fade in pace no matter how much you try and negative split it.





Haha, I remember that conversation about negative splitting with Jon.





Reid I don’t know whether i feel proud of the fact that it was me who introduced you to caffeine or ashamed regardless it seems to be working.





Reid, yes, Jon was very frank in his assessment of my plan





We have about 5 minutes left- if anyone has any last questions they want to throw at the guys please do so.


I have two of my own:

Your profile pictures are intriguing–

Reid yours is a picture where half of you is a runner and the other half a skate boarder- perhaps you could share a bit of your skate boarding ventures like the mile


Dylan I always see some kind of truck or van in yours- what’s the deal with that?





I’ve never run a negative split in a marathon.  When I ran 2:11:23 I went out in 65:04 and came back in 66:19.  When I ran 2:10:55 I went out in 63:58 and ran the second half in 66:57. I think I would have been much quicker for the second half of my 2:10:55 had it not been for the 35km/hr wind over the last 7km.





The truck says ‘Coffee’ on the front. That picture was actually taken by Reid. It is in Berlin, while we were watching the women’s marathon during hte 2009 World Championships. I am a big coffee drinker…good coffee…not Tim Hortons





I used to skateboard a ton.  The mile on a skateboard was a bet to break 4:00, which I did.





Well that’s about all the time we have. I want to thank everyone who joined us and a huge shout out to Dylan and Reid for taking some time to share their experiences and wisdom. Much appreciated everyone!  Best of luck to everyone out there who is doing a marathon this fall.





During your marathon training you guys subscribe to alternating hard/easy days or you have days where you would have two hard days in a row … and what do you do for recovery in between?  How much do you think the supplements help in recovery?





And pacing in the Olympic marathon… My initial plan was to run 64:00 for the first half but after seeing the course I thought 64:30 was more appropriate.  And then once it was a hot day I thought 65:30 would be just fine.  The course ran a little slower than anticipated for a given effort and I ended up being 66:13, which was fine.


Given how I felt through halfway I thought I was going to be able to hold onto that pace, or at least be very close.  But it got hotter and I had problems keeping down my fluids/fuel and I faded after 30km, but still picked many people off until I hit the wall at 38-39km.





We are going to let Dylan and Reid jump out now- but I will stay on for another 15 minutes to answer questions if anyone has them.





Thanks Jasper!





Do you think it’s more important to sustain your weekly mileage rather than including one long run (>32k) in your training?





okay Jasper .. can you answer my question then





I usually go hard twice a week plus a long run and another day I do strides.  I don’t really go hard back to back days but when I’m running about 35km/day it still is hard in some respects.  The supplements really help with recovery and overall health.





What would you say to a weekend warrior who stays injured most of the training period and kicks himself in the rear when he is not able to run the race? what is the best strategy to stay injury free. … I have made quite a few physio and chiro friends but it seems as if I should just give up and pick something else that would keep me in good shape .. I may not be meant to run.





I try and sustain my weekly mileage and get in my long run.





Ali I think Reid managed to get to your question- i can expand on my own experience if you wish.


wwestby- i’ve always been a believer that you need one session in there that gets close to your race both in pacing and nutrition so i am a fan of the long run- BUT i rarely if ever exceed about 2.5hrs when getting ready for an ironman marathon so at pace that is around 37km- i never run the full distance in training because i find it breaks me down too much- the pure marathoners may be different- i’m sure 42km cruising is not a big ask on their body- 42km at race pace probably is i’m guessing





For Marathon training can long run be split in two short runs .. like 20K morning + 16 K evening or is better to go and do it all in one shot





ali- it’s a great question with probably dozens of answers. it could be any number of things keeping you in the injury box. the first thing i always think of with running is either biomechanical/shoe issues or impact tolerance. i learned about impact tolerance from dave scott thomas in guelph- aerobically most people are good for the distance it’s the ability to handle the impact that is the issue- running needs to be approached with caution in the beginning or after a long break or coming back from an injury- Reid mentioned water running- probably as a way to avoid more impact- it’s just plain hard on the body





Thanks Reid.

Jasper I would also like to hear your view on that aspect of training





ali- that’s a great question- i think it can be both but again i’m a fan of the long run simply for the sake of getting close to what you will experience in a race both pacing, impact and nutritionally- you want to know what your body is going to do in that final hour- a 35km run is probably enough to get you close enough.  double run days however are a great strategy to get extra mileage while letting the body recover between





Thank you Japser for organizing this chat with the Olympians .. it was great to read about their experiences and insights …..


have a nice day…






ali- regarding double hard days….i’ll say one thing- you can only get better if you can recover from the work- i know in multisport it’s easier to double up hard days because muscle groups and impact changes but i still think balancing easy days with hard days is a good strategy. people often forget the heart is a muscle and the lungs require muscular activity to work so those need to recover as well. often this can get multisport athletes in trouble.


for running specifically i have always struggled with double hard days because of the impact





Reid and Dylan … if you can still see this …


Best of luck to you both in your future races. Good running.





Thanks everyone- we are going to sign off now.  Really appreciated your questions and thanks again to Dylan and Reid!


Chat with you again soon