Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Who’s running Chicago this weekend?

You’re all in for a big treat. Four years later and the 2010 Chicago Marathon remains one of my favorite races of all time. From the crowd support, to the flat course, to running with 40,000 of your closest friends… it’s definitely an experience.

One day I will return, but for now there are just too many other marathons out there I’m dying to run.

Last night I had the opportunity to chat with Brooks’ athletes Amy Hastings and Bobby Curtis. Both are gearing up for the 2014 Chicago Marathon on October 12th.

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Amy Hastings is an accomplished long distance runner and Olympic athlete who has been with Brooks since 2010. Amy enters the Chicago Marathon after a hot series of road races which include finishing second at the U.S. 20K Championships and winning the U.S. Road 10K this summer. She competed in the 2012 London Olympics in the 10,000-meter run after winning the event at the Olympic Trials.

2014 Peachtree Road Race

Racing for the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project, Bobby competed and studied at Villanova University where he was a 2008 NCAA 5K Champion before turning pro and then joining the team. Chicago will be his third marathon.

2014 Boston Marathon Weekend

Both Amy and Bobby are elite athletes gunning for new PRs on race day (under 2:26 for Amy and 2:10 for Bobby). Why did they choose Chicago? The fast course, the promise of cool weather, and the large American contingent that will help them see how they stack up in prepping for the 2016 Olympic trials. Yes, planning for the 2016 trials had already begun. They both plan to compete in the marathon distance, though depending on training and injuries they may need to step back and recommit training to another distance to ensure their spots on Team USA.

On Sunday, Bobby’s plan is to pair up with an Hansons-Brooks Distance Project teammate who will act as his 2:10 pacer for the first half. He’s relying on the flat course and energy of the course to pull him through. Amy is looking forward to the predicted cool weather. After a not-so-great race at last year’s New York City Marathon, her plan is to a 5:30-5:35 min/mi pace (wowza!) with a goal of hitting negative splits in the second half. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to hold that pace for 26.2 miles (or for even one mile, really).

How about weekly mileage? When I was training for Chicago in 2010 I maxed out at 50 miles a week. These rockstar runners average 110 miles! Twice the weekly miles, half the finish time – is that how it works? Alright, maybe it requires a little more effort than that. They train in 10 day cycles, with a long run every ten days. The runs in between focus on tempos, intervals, miles repeats, etc. Theirs are just a wee bit faster than the average runner. Okay, just a lot faster.

I like Amy’s advice for pushing through when the race gets tough. Basically there will be good miles and bad miles, and you won’t know when they’ll come. If you’re going through a bad miles, you know you’re due for a good one. So ride the bad one out until the come one comes. Advice that can translate to life as well.

Neither Amy nor Bobby believe in the traditional pre-race pasta carbo loading. Amy eats a basic meal of chicken and rice – nothing different than what she would eat before a long training run. She has the similar meal for breakfast on race day – no bagels for her. Bobby eats about the same, adding a homemade carbo smoothie. He’ll have eggs about 3 hours before race time.

During the race they’ll each have their own concoctions of  Gu, water, and caffeine every other mile on the course. Diluting the Gu with water allows it to be easier to digest and easier to go down when holding a quick pace.

With race day just a few days away, they’re both looking forward to their pre-race coach potato fest. They’ll fly in to Chicago on Thursday, speak at a few press conferences on Friday, then spend Saturday locked up in their hotel rooms. Saturday is when they catch up on tv. It’s a great distraction to pass the time – the trashier the better.

Amy and Bobby have put the training in, now it’s time to enjoy the race.

Good luck to everyone running Chicago, including Amy and Bobby! I can’t wait to watch all of you crush your goals on race day!

Thanks you, Brooks Running, for the opportunity to chat with some kick-butt athletes. It’s always fascinating to hear how elite athletes prep and plan for race day!



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