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Catching Up With Ryan Vail

Published by
RunnerSpace.com/Pro   on Oct 29 2013, 05:26 PM

With less than a week to go until the ING New York City Marathon, former Oklahoma State All-American and IAAF World Cross Country Championships silver medal team member Ryan Vail is poised to smash his marathon PR of 2:11:45. 

We caught up with Vail this week as he concludes his marathon preparation, discussing his training build-up, his blogging efforts and much, much more.

Scott Bush (SB): The NYC Marathon is here! It's been a long wait, but how are you feeling heading into race weekend? How's training been going?

Ryan Vail (RV): Given that this is only my third marathon, I feel that Dave (my coach) and I are learning a lot each build-up period. This training segment has included higher mileage, higher volume workouts, and higher intensity. All have been increased gradually, and I'm feeling fresh and ready to race. I've been posting my training log on my blog at http://ryanvail.blogspot.com/ for anyone interested in checking it out. 

SB: Speaking of your blog, you’ve been posting your workouts the past bunch of weeks and your thoughts and feelings on your training. Why share this and what have you gotten from putting out such information to the world?

RV: I started posting my training because it's something that I would be interested in reading from other athletes. There is a lot of diversity in how coaches and athletes approach marathon training. Dave and I spent a lot of time reaching out to other people before my first marathon looking for some staples that we could add to our training program. I know I still have a long way to go in my marathon training, so putting it up online was a nice way to start a dialogue.

I've had a lot of positive feedback from other professional and non-professional athletes. I've had many follow up questions and emails about specific workouts or segments of training that I've enjoyed elaborating on and helping people prepare for their own marathons.

I also see it as a way to connect with every day runners by showing them that there is no secret recipe or magic marathon program. We are just out there putting in the miles. There is nothing special about the way Dave and I do things; the special part is having nine years of consistent training under one program.

SB: What are the expectations heading in to NYC and how will you approach the race early on?

RV: The field is loaded, and I expect there to be multiple groups after the first few miles. I don't want to prematurely pin myself to any particular athlete or group because I plan to run my own race. My fitness is the best it's ever been, and the only thing I can do to mess up this race is to run too hard too early. I plan to be aggressively conservative through the first half as it is a faster segment than the second part. When I say aggressively conservative I mean that I plan on coming through the half-marathon faster than I ever have before, but knowing that that still may leave me a little ways back.  

SB: How did your training change this build up compared to the past few seasons?

RV: Every season small tweaks are made and intensity and/or volume are increased depending on how I'm feeling and how much time we have. My average weekly mileage was higher during this build up, ranging from 135 to 150 most weeks. We slightly increased the number of push miles in long runs and extended a few interval workouts by a couple miles.

I also ran faster on my long tempos and long intervals than I ever have before. Running a half-marathon four weeks out in San Jose was a new thing. We tried running a half at what would have been six weeks out of NYC last year, and I think that would have been fine, but we didn't get to test it. San Jose worked out because the travel was light at a time when I was still trying to maintain volume and get in a race environment.

SB: The marathon is such a grueling event. How have you mentally prepared yourself over the past few weeks in your training?

RV: Nothing prepares you better for a marathon than running a marathon. Having two under my belt gives me confidence in my ability to handle the mental aspect of the race. In training I think weeks at 150 miles can help make you numb to the idea of running 20+ miles as I was doing it every day. My long runs either consisted of a four-mile push late in the run a little faster than race pace, or it had a tempo run in the beginning and another in the later stages of the run at about half-marathon pace. Running hard in that 16 to 22 mile range on a consistent basis is a great way to remind yourself what it's going to feel like on November 3rd. 

SB: Ever since college, your progression has seemingly been steady and continued to trend in a positive direction. What do you attribute this to?

RV: I attribute this to sticking with the same program and philosophy for nine years. There are plenty of great coaches out there, but I was improving every year in college, so I saw no reason to change what I was doing when I left. Dave does not normally coach post-collegiate athletes, but fortunately he trusted that I wouldn't be a huge burden on him and is generous enough with his time to keep working with me. I have never knocked a race out of the park and made a huge jump. I would love to do that, but that's not Dave's approach. One step at a time. That approach has allowed me to run a personal best every year that we've worked together. Long-term, consistent training is the key. 

SB: You've been training by yourself for much of your time in Portland, correct What's your current training situation?

RV: Fortunately I now have some guys in the neighborhood that I can run with (Jared Bassett, Mike Kilburg, David Jankowski, and Craig Hopkins), but our workout and racing schedules have not matched up, so I still do every workout on my own. It was still a big mental boost just have guys around for the easy days because before this last spring, I was doing every single mile on my own.

I also jumped down to Oklahoma for a couple weeks this year after the San Jose Rock 'n' Roll and got spend time with Dave and the guys on the time. I get to see Dave several times a year, but most of the coaching happens over the phone and via email. That presents certain challenges, but we know each other well enough to make it work. He knows what I can handle, and I know what his expectations are in terms of effort in workouts. 

Make sure to check out Ryan's thoughts over on his blog and through his Twitter feed.

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1 comment(s)  
Scott Bush
I found it fascinating that he's coached long-distance by Dave Smith (which has been the case since he graduated) and he hit 130-150 for the core block of his training. I can't wait to see what he does in NYC. It wouldn't surprise me if he makes a serious run at sub 2:10.
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