The American said his run-up to London was the best training for a marathon he’s had.
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LONDON — Ryan Vail is a homebody.
Vail, 28, the former Oklahoma State runner who won the Big 12 10,000m title in 2009, doesn’t set up training camps in far-away locations when he prepares for a marathon. Instead, he stays home with his wife, Eva, in Portland, Ore., where the couple has lived since settling there in 2011. That’s just the way he likes it.
“I spent the whole time in Portland,” Vail told Race Results Weekly in London Friday as he discussed his marathon preparations. “I actually don’t mind the feeling (of being home all the time). For me, it’s perfect. I get to train three, four months uninterrupted. That’s exactly what I like to have, absolute control and have absolute confidence in my preparation without having barriers along the way.”
With sponsorship support from Brooks (he’ll wear an off-the-shelf T7 Racer on Sunday), Vail is able to maintain a limited racing schedule which helps him maximize his marathon performances. So far, he’s run three: a surprising 2:12:43 debut at the USA Olympic Marathon Trials in 2012, a credible 2:11:45 personal best in Fukuoka later that year, and a 2:13:23 at the New York City Marathon last November (where he was the top American) despite not getting all of his personal drinks (another athlete mistook Vail’s bottles for his).
Vail, who shares his detailed training log on his blog, put in three 150-mile weeks in his 13-week build up for London, which he said went very well, better than his New York preparations last year. Solid, consistent training is what gives the plain-spoken athlete who went to Centennial High School in Gresham, Ore., confidence.
“Training before New York was great,” Vail explained. “But, each build-up has gotten a little bit better, and I’ve gotten stronger and adjusted to the mileage. My long runs have been faster. My easy runs have been faster.”
Still coached by Dave Smith, Vail said a long tempo run he did at the end of his 10th week has him thinking that a sub-2:10 run is within reason for Sunday.
“This year we did a 16-mile tempo in very tough conditions—very windy, cold, raining—and I was able to do that in about 2:10 pace. So, that was a good indicator for me,” he said.
Moreover, at this year’s London race there is a small group of men who are all targeting 2:10, and they plan to work together behind a dedicated pacemaker. The group includes Britons Chris Thompson and Scott Overall, Canadian Reid Coolsaet, and Vail. American Fernando Cabada, who arrived here yesterday, will be pacing the group.
“I’d like to run a fast time,” said Vail. “They’ve got it set up that way here. We’ve got a group of about six guys going for the same pace; we’re going to be going through in about 64:45. So, I’d like to run under 2:10.”
Vail had tried to run that fast at Fukuoka in 2012, but slowed down in the second half. While there are few certainties in marathon training, Vail thinks that everything is in place here for sustaining that pace.
“It’s always hard to test that in training,” he said of predicting his time. “This is the best marathon build-up I’ve had so far. I’ve gone through before in 65:10 in Fukuoka. So, I think because conditions are going to be so good, I think it will feel pretty easy, the first half.”
Running is a family affair for Vail. Eva, who is originally from Rodinov in the Czech Republic, ran for Oklahoma State, too, under her maiden name of Eva Tomankova (she has a 10:21.17 steeplechase to her credit). Vail’s father-in-law was a top runner in the Czech Republic during the communist era, and has a 2:13 personal best. Vail stayed with his in-laws in Prague for a week to adjust to the eight-hour time difference from Oregon to London. They all understand him there, he said.
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After Sunday’s race, Vail plans to do a fall marathon and then take next spring off from marathons to go back to the track before another fall marathon in advance of the 2016 USA Olympic Marathon Trials. He has some unfinished business on the track, he said.
“I’d still like to get in some shorter stuff in between,” said Vail, who has a 27:44.05 personal best for 10,000m, set last year. His big track goal? “Break 13:20 in the 5K before I call it quits on the track. I think my 5K PR (13:32.10) is the one I’m most embarrassed about.”