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Photo credit: ANDY ALFARO/aalfaro@sacbee.com

© Copyright – 2010 - Christopher Kelsall

2010 California International Marathon Champion Dylan Wykes, from Kingston, Ontario has his eyes set on competing for Canada during the 2012 London, Olympic Games.

Wykes has yet to qualify to run in the Olympic Games marathon with his CIM win and 2:12:39 personal, as he is currently 1 minute and a couple of steps from guaranteeing his position on the Canadian team. He must have one of the top-3 times in Canada during the qualifying period and must prove fitness by acheiving a 10,000m time as set by Athletics Canada. Currently 2:12:39 is 3rd behind Eric Gillis (2:12:08) and Reid Coolsaet (2:11:23). The A+ standard is 2:11:29.

Wykes competed for the NCAA Division 1 Providence College Friars acheiving top-15 nationally in both the 1 mile and 3k indoors during 2004. He qualified for NCAA indoor championships, where he finished 12th in the 3000m. Wykes was coached by Ray Treacy, native of Ireland, long-time coach of the Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Track Programs at Providence College.

Currently he lives and trains in Vancouver, BC. Until this summer, Wykes was a member of Physi-Kult Running and was coached by Steve Boyd from 2005-2010.

Personal Bests

1500m – 3:46.1
1mile (indoors) – 4:01.15
3000m (outdoors) – 8:00.61
3000m(indoors) – 7:58.7
5000m(outdoors) -13:57.8
10000m – 28:58.45
10k (road) – 29:12
Half-marathon – 1:03:53
Marathon – 2:12:39

The interview

Christopher Kelsall: Nice work with the 2:12 and the win at CIM. Was this win and the personal best as good as an experience as your first breakthrough marathon where you ran 2:15 in Rotterdam?

Dylan Wykes: Thanks Chris! I think the experience at CIM was more rewarding, mostly because this breakthrough was a long time coming and had a lot of bumps in the road, whereas Rotterdam was done more on a whim, and maybe at the time I didn't realize how lucky I was to actually hit a good one there. CIM was also more rewarding because I actually won the race. I really can't recall the last time I won a decent race (maybe 2007 National 10k Road Champs). So, simply winning was very very exciting for me. Not to say that I think I am a failure when I don't win every race I run, but winning is definitely accompanied with a rare sense of accomplishment.

CK: In Rotterdam you split the half in 66 minutes, blaming the fast first half to "hormones or something". At Sacramento you split the half in just over 65 - what was the difference in your ability 2.5 years later to carry on through at that pace?

DW: Yeah, certainly in Rotterdam I felt like the 66 first half was a bit outside of what I had prepared for and was ready for, but I was a bit naive and just went with a group in that one. In my buildup to that race I think I maxed out at about 105 mpw, and maybe averaged 95 mpw for the 8 weeks prior. I think since Rotterdam I've just been able to gradually increase my volume and intensity in training, that led me to be able to split 65:20 in Sacramento and feel like I was running within myself. I've had three marathon buildups and races (Toronto 2009, Berlin (WC) 2009, and CIM 2010) since Rotterdam. Toronto and Berlin were slower than Rotterdam, but the training for those were equal to or better than for Rotterdam. But, my last 10 weeks of training for CIM were well above and beyond anything I was able to do prior to Toronto or Berlin. So, we knew going in to CIM that I was ready.

CK: I was suggesting to Simon Bairu before the New York City Marathon, that with Gillis's 2:12, Coolsaet's 2:11 and you and Rob Watson yet to race, even though he (Bairu) possesses the better resume, could theoretically be the odd man out. Do you think Canada will see 5, 2:10s during the spring of 2011?

DW: Yeah, it's pretty cool there are so many guys running so well. It's a really great thing for running in Canada. I remember talking to Art Boileau a little while ago and we were chatting about how well Reid and Eric ran in Toronto. He was saying how back in his day, when a lot of guys were running fast, he used other Canadians good results to motivate him to train harder and race faster. I think we are seeing that happening now, sort of that. If he can do it, why can't I? mentality. And I definitely think there is a good possibility that we'll see 5 guys running very fast over the next few years and see a significant revision of the top-5 all-time list. But, that said, it's the marathon, it's a tricky event and one never knows what is going to happen.

There was one point, maybe a year or year and a half ago when I thought if I (or anyone else) could meet the AC Olympic standard they would definitely make the Olympics. I knew Simon, Reid, Eric, and others were going to start taking a serious go at the marathon. But, I just didn't think everyone would be able to get it right, not because they weren't capable, but just knowing the nature of the event I didn't think it was going to be possible for a bunch of guys to stay healthy and or hit it right. I definitely don't feel that way anymore. Now, I think, to make the Olympic team your not only going to have to meet the standard (obviously) but also have to run significantly faster. It's going to be an exciting few years, that's for sure.

CK: It is Interesting that you ran an effort based on how you felt, as opposed to particular splits. I read where you gave the competition about 2 minutes to decide if they were interested in going hard. Two minutes into the race is pretty early to make that decision. Were you starting to fear that decision after the 20-mile point?

DW: Yeah, it was certainly a terrifying last 5-6 miles. Probably somewhere between 15 -18 miles I started to have my doubts and wished I'd just stayed with the pack from the get-go. But, at the same time I thought I could still hold on and win. CIM was an interested opportunity, in that there were no pacemakers, and the depth and strength of the field was such that I thought I had a shot at winning (even though there were maybe 10 guys on the start list with faster PBs).

A specific time was never really a goal of mine for this race, partly because I was very focused on the goal of winning from the moment I decided to run the race, and partly because the course is not IAAF certified. So, running based on effort was something that I had done the entire build-up. I never went into a long-tempo run telling myself I needed to run specific splits, instead it was just about finding a good rhythm and feeling out marathon pace. In hindsight I think this was very beneficial throughout the buildup and in the race.

And, yeah, 2 minutes was very very early in the race to make a decision to run on my own race. But, I was very confident in my fitness, and in some sense didn't want to waste it, running a really slow pace early on, and risking the possibility of being beat over the last 5-6 miles by someone who really wasn't as strong as me. In hindsight I think I could have won the race running it either way. But, I also think the chase pack would have gone even slower in the first half if I wasn?t way out in front from the gun.

CK: Over the past few years Athletics Canada has maintained tough marathon standards for international competition, especially for the Olympics. They received a fair amount of flack for holding the line, when our athletes were simply not up to those standards. It appears they may have been right all along. What are your thoughts on that subject?

DW: I don't know that with recent results we are necessarily proving them to be right. I still feel there is a time and place for selecting people to teams to gain experience. They did this to some extent with the the World Cup marathon team in 2009. That was an experience that was very valuable to me. And the marathon is such a unique event for so many reasons that I think there should be precedence to go outside the idea or approach of setting standards based on an athlete showing potential to be top-6 or top-12 or whatever.

I understand, to some extent why AC sets the standards the way they do. I did a bit of research after I ran 2:15:16 in 2008 (what was at the time the IAAF and IOC B standard) and found that Canadians weren't the only ones held to higher standards. Many European countries and Australia and New Zealand and others, set tougher standards than the IAAF/IOC as well. As an example there was a guy from Belgium who ran 2:10 in Rotterdam in 2008 and didn't get selected to the Belgium Olympic team.

Over the past year or so I've tried to really not think too much about what AC does and focus more on just trying to improve as a runner and set tangible goals, irrespective of AC. I felt I was wasting too much time and energy worrying about how I was going to do what AC thought I should do (team standards, carding standards, etc) instead of thinking about goals that were meaningful to me. In the end the goals are as high or higher than what AC wants. And I think this is the case with other guys running fast like Reid (Coolsaet), Eric (Gillis), and Simon (Bairu). Sure, they want to meet the AC standard for carding and World Champs and Olympic Games, but I think they also have personal goals which are beyond these standards and are more important and keep them more motivated than anything else.

CK: Canadian 800m record holder and IAAF World Track and Field silver medalist, Gary Reed just retired from the sport as you know. Did you follow his career? What are your thoughts on his surprise retirement announcement?

DW: Yeah, I was very surprised to hear the news about his retirement. I did follow his career. I was always impressed with his ability to perform at the major Championship meets. The 800 is such a tough event and he was very consistent. I got the opportunity to meet Gary when we were both on the world champs team in Berlin last year. I was impressed with how passionate he was about the sport, specifically his event. And his motivation and work ethic were amazing, as far as I could tell he didn't cut any corners. It's really disappointing for track & field in Canada.

CK: Who are your mentors that you model your training after?

DW: I have had the opportunity to train with and hear about the training of many great runners over the years. When I lived in Providence, Rhode Island for 6 years, (4 years of University and 2 years afterwards) I had the opportunity to train with Mark Carroll from time to time. He's arguably one of the best non-African distance runners ever and he definitely taught me a lot about how to train.

There were also a ton of stories that would go around about the old generation of runners that went through Providence College: John Treacy, Geoff Smith, Richard O'Flynn, John Doherty, and many others. The stories of how they trained were a real mixed bag, but the thing that stuck with me the most was that they all trained very very hard. And the more I've learned about other peoples training the more I realize there are several ways to go about things to get to a high level, but one thing that you can't neglect is just working really really hard every day. Seems simple, but sometimes you dig for a deep dark secret training method that is going to catapult you to a new level without actually having to train hard, but that doesn't exist.

Obviously being coached by Steve Boyd for many years, he's someone I've inevitably modeled much of my training after. He's very influenced by Jack Daniel's approach to training.

CK: John Doherty who competed in two Olympic Games 5000m?

DW: Yeah, he was a legend in the Providence College cross-country. It may have been more for his accomplishments after being at PC. But, he was known to be tough as nails!

CK: There were two Treacys at Providence, are they brothers?

DW: Yeah, they were brothers. I should really give mention to Ray Treacy. He is the younger, less successful of the brothers, still think he ran something like 2:16 though! He was my coach at Providence. He taught me a lot about running and showed me I at least had some ability in the sport.

CK: What kind of coach is Steve Boyd?

DW: I've actually moved to Vancouver and am now coached by Richard Lee. I made the transition from being coached by Steve to Richard in the spring/summer of this year, and moved to Vancouver in September. Steve and Rich are good friends and have similar approaches to training, so the transition was pretty smooth. I owe a ton to Steve, and he is still very involved with my running, but more so as a mentor at this point. I (and Rich) definitely still bounce ideas off him regarding training and racing. But, Rich has been able to dedicate much more time to all the little details we felt necessary to pay attention to in the training - things like setting out the loops/courses for training runs, biking with us on long runs so we could practice our fueling and just being at each and every workout to guide me through it.

Leading up to CIM, I found this things took a lot of pressure off of me. I didn't have to do a lot of thinking about the logistics of the training, which I found in previous build-ups to be pretty draining. I was able to just focus on running hard, and doing all the little things to recover and prevent injury. I train with Richard Mosley (2:19:57 at CIM) and Steve Osaduik (2:16:49 Victoria), and a few others. It's a small group, but a great group of guys and gals that have helped me take things to a new level.

Steve Boyd is very influenced by Jack Daniels's approach to training. But, since starting working with Rich, we've had some different focuses. One of things that has been important is staying in touch with the track and with 5k and 10k effort, which is not something I had done in previous marathon build-ups. I think this might come from Rich's years spent training with the Kajaks back in the 80's. They did a lot of quality on the track.

CK: How far out from the marathon are you running the 5 and 10k efforts on the track?

DW: We were still on the track about 2.5 weeks out, but just doing 6-7k in volume at that point. The heavy hitting on the track was done by about 4 weeks out, when we were doing 10-14k worth of repeats.

CK: Any distinct phasing or transitioning from quantity to quality training with Richard?

DW: I'm sure there is, but it's hard for me to say, cause he hasn't been coaching me that long. But, I spent pretty much all of May-July trying to develop as a better track runner. So the focus then was very much on quality, on the track a couple times a week, and running fairly modest weekly volume. It took some convincing for me to run 80-90 miles per week, and start hitting sub-60/400m pace. But, I guess, yes there has been some obvious transitioning because the focus switched after the summer to the marathon training and we gradually built up the quantity all fall and did away with the really fast stuff (3k-1500m effort).

CK: Regarding one of your new training partners in Richard's group Steve Osaduik, have you met his 9 dogs that are named after characters in the movies The Royal Tennenbaums and The Life Acquatic? Has he turned you onto this genre of movie yet?

DW: Haha, yeah he's got 6 of the dogs still. We ran some of our long runs and workouts from his house in Langley (Vancouver area) this fall so I got to meet all of them. Still can't figure out who each of them are, but know Sanchez is the old grumpy one! Oz certainly loves everything Wes Anderson, but he hasn't forced it on the rest of the group, yet.

For the Canadian reader

CK: Being from Kingston, Ontario are you a Don Cherry and Doug Killer Gilmour fan?

DW: I was a Montreal Canadiens fan growing up, so I was never a huge Doug Gilmour fan. But his grandparents actually lived next door to my mom growing up and I got to meet him a couple of times. Even though I wasn't his biggest fan, I was definitely still star-struck. Don Cherry, not so much! There's a nice mural of these two guys on the side of an auto shop near my house. I'm not embarrassed (although I might change my mind after his fine words for some Canadian politicians last week) to acknowledge that Don's a Kingstonian, but don't feel obligated to love him, just for that reason.

CK: Now that you are in the Vancouver area, you must drop allegiance to any eastern team and climb aboard the Vancouver Canuck's bandwagon. Have you taken care of this matter yet?

DW: Haha, no, I haven't hopped on the Canuck's bandwagon yet. Can you get on a bandwagon when a team is mediocre? Still a Habs fan (Montreal Canadiens) at heart, and how can I desert them now, when they're having such a fantastic season? The way Price is playing is reminding me of my childhood when Roy lead them to the Stanley Cup.

Back to running

CK: What are your plans for 2011?

DW: Nothing solidified yet. But, I think, if recovery from CIM goes well I may try to run another marathon in the spring. Hopefully something bigger, with pacemakers, and a group of guys trying to run 2:10-2:11. London and Rotterdam are the first things that come to mind. But, I'd also like to try and revise some of my track PB's, which would be hard to do if I run a spring marathon. But, Rich and I agreed we wouldn't talk about it for at least a week, to let things digest from CIM and see how recovery is going.

CK: Yes, must stay ahead of your Canadian competition.

DW: Yeah, I'm good friends with all the Guelph guys, so it's kind of hard to view them as my competition. And Simon is someone who has always been way ahead of me any time we've raced. But, I guess I've sort of shown I can compete near to their level in the marathon now (although I think I still have to prove to some people out there that CIM wasn't a good result for me simply because I was pushed off the top of a hill at the start and rolled down for 26 miles :) ). It would be cool if we had an Olympic trials, like the USA does. I'm sure, in the end, the best three guys will make the Canadian team, but it'd be better if it was settled at one race, instead of chasing times (and each other) all over the place for the next 17 months.

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Contact Chris: chriskelsall@flocasts.org

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