Hey, I ran in the World Championship Marathon yesterday. Wanna hear about it? Okay then, buckle in because I am just gonna start rambling here folks.
Where oh where to start? Ok, first things first. This trip has been brilliant, so friggen happy that I am here. The camps have been great, the competition has been rad and most importantly all the people involved have been absolute beauties. Such good vibes from start to finish! Just wanted to put that out there.
Race recap time!
Heading into this race training had gone quite well. I rocked it pretty good until right around the end of Aug, but then I had about 10days of suck where I was actually quite terrible. I was just feeling tired and run down. So heading overseas I was a bit concerned. Coach told me to just rest up and chill. I did just that and slowly but surely my legs came back over the last few weeks of this cycle.
I got to Kamen Germany for training camp on Aug 2nd whilst I was still kinda sucky. Then on Aug 5th I just woke up and my legs had the ‘pop’ back, man was I relieved! I managed to get in a solid 6mile tempo run the next day, after that I knew I would be fine. I was also taking advantage of the awesome Athletics Canada support squad and getting a lot of physio and massage to help expedite the recovery. Huge thanks to Marilou and Al for keeping me together!
The team arrived in Moscow on Aug 7th, we encountered a bit of a shit show at the Airport as half of team Canada’s luggage failed to arrive, but it was smooth sailing after all that got cleared up. I managed to get to the track and take in a lot of the competitions. It has been brilliant. I have been keeping a daily blog covering my Moscow experience over at the Canadian Running site, check it here.
As the race approached My braintrust (Coach Pete, Dave Scott-Thomas & Trent Stellingwerth) and myself spent a lot of time formulating our plan of attack. Championship style racing is different from the regualar time trial type major marathon that I am used to. This is a race for place, time means nothing. We started off by identifying a specific goal and then we got on planning for the best way to achieve it.
When the start lists came out before the race I was the 48th ranked runner, we figured that with good tactics and solid execution a top 20 finish was not out of the question. That is what we set our sights on and we formulated our plan around it.
The first we determined was that we would have to approach this thing cautiously. I went through results of all the past world championships and recent Olympic races and noted that a lot of dudes whom finished within the 20-25 range were conservative at the start and then ran through the field over the last 10km, picking of stragglers and getting free spots as many overreachers dropped out. Our Canadian boys from last years Olympic race were an excellent examples of this model.
Another factor contributing to the justification of a conservative plan was the fact that the race was being held at 3:30 in the afternoon and thus the heat was gonna play a big roll. The forecasts were calling for a sunny day with highs up to 24degrees. Trent was an invaluable resource here, I let him know what kind of shape I thought I was in if the race were to be run in ideal conditions, he then used his big ole brain to do some calculations based on temperature, humidity and so forth to find a comparable pace that would be reasonable given the conditions come race day.
I was actually hoping for a warm day. In these championship races you know for a fact that the African runners are going to go for it, they want to win and they just get on the pace and hold till they break. Even on a nice day the attrition rate of this fearless racing style is going to produce blow ups, then when you throw in the heat element, the causality rate is going to be even more severe. I basically just wanted to be patient and let people beat themselves.
Heading into the race I was happy with the plan, I just had to execute, be smart. But given my history, this is much easier said than done! I have entered races with plans before and more often than not that plan is thrown out the window within the first few km’s as I get all horny and stupid.
So that takes us to the race itself! Gun goes off and right off the bat I do not feel very good. I really had to pee and my legs were feeling flat. Looking back on it, this was great because it forced me to chill out. As it was happening though I was kinda freaked, kinda started feeling that I was in for a long day!
I hooked onto a little pack that included the 3 Americans and rolled with them for the first 10km, we hit 10km in about 31:50. I was still not feeling very good at all. 3:11km’s should have been a jog, but I was just not feeling it, I had to I back off and just hope my legs would come around.
One thing I did have going for me is that I had the best support crew out there. Trent, Dave and racewalking coach Jerry were on the course manning the aid stations. I had them giving me my place and how far back from 20th I was. This information was awesome to have, But the most important thing they were doing was providing me with bottles. Every 5km I would get 2 bottles, one with my fuel and then another bottle that was simply ice cold water. I would douse myself in this water. This ice bottle was a life saver out there! It was hot out there folks, the temps peaked at 27Degrees during the race, and just being able to get even that slight reprieve from the heat every 16min made a huge difference!
At 10km I was 48th place, and even though I was struggling I managed to make my way up to 38th by 20km. At this point I was over 2min back from 20th but I was finally starting to feel good!
The race was being run on a big 10km loop, 5km up one side of the road, 5km back down. Heading up the one side it was quite windy so I would just chill in a group to help fight the wind. Then on the other side when it was calm I would press and try to catch up to the next group for the next go around. Having this little goal helped to pass the time from 20-35km. I was really starting to hurt at around 27km, but when I passed Dave and he yelled “There is Caranage up there!” That gave me a nice little mental boost and helped to keep me pushing forward. I worked up to 29th place by 30km.
After 30km I was pretty much taking it one km at a time. It was really starting to hurt, but I could see that up the road there were a few folks having a much rougher time than I was. I Just had to keep moving forward. I was 22nd at 38km and at 40km I had passed two dudes to get that 20th place spot. I was super pumped when I got into 20th!
Historically though I have been brutal over the last 2.2km of a marathon, my PB for this section is about 8min, there was still a lot of racing to be done and there was a dude who was closing hard one me! I just wanted to cruise in but I just had to keep pushing, eff that guy! I kept going and as I made my way towards the stadium I caught a glimpse of one last guy whom was clearly struggling just up the road. I thought that maybe, just maybe I could get him. I put my head down and went for it.
As I entered the stadium Chris Winter leaned over the barrier and screamed “You can get that guy Watson!” And with those words I launched into my kick…the most pathetic kick in the history of running. I tried to get on my toes and accelerate, my calf immediately cramped. I then just wildly started pumping my arms, my legs did nothing…I looked ridiculous. Then finally I just tried to will myself past the guy and secretly hoped he would fall over or something. It was ugly man. Managed a 7:20 over that last 2.2 though!
Ugly ass kick aside, I was absolutely thrilled when I crossed the line. 20th place, friggen right! Then I kinda just stumbled around and a bunch of Russians came and dragged me off the track. I was kinda out of it so they took out some smelling salts and used them to bring me back to this planet. I sat around for a few minutes before I got up and just started walking. Another big Russian man came over and grabbed me, he led me down some random hall and then left me to fend for myself.
I was just wandering aimlessly when team Leader Scott McDonald came and found me;
“What are you doing down here Watson?”
“I don’t know man, what’s going on?”
“You were 20th! Great job, follow me!”
Scott then took me up to the recovery room, I had managed to skip the mix zone, score!
I did manage to get in a couple interviews afterwards, check em here; http://www.flotrack.org/coverage/251036-IAAF-World-Championships-Moscow-2013-Interviews-Races/video/719721-Rob-Watson-Intricate-Post-Race-Beer-Plans
Gotta give a shout out to all my teammates whom made it out to the course to cheer me on. That really meant a lot. Also huge thanks to all of you for your constant love and support.
So that was that folks, overall I am very happy. This is the first time I have stuck to the plan, and this also happens to be the most successful marathon of my career. I think I’m learning. I am satisfied with today, but there is still a lot to be done. I gotta get faster and I gotta get better. This is a great step towards bigger and better things. Onwards friends!