With two weeks to go before this Philadelphia Marathon, Matt Deters’ training started to pay off in a race.
He set a personal best at the Veterans Day 10k, running 32:06 on a cool, windy day to finish fourth.
“This cycle is so weird, the training is going so well but the racing (was) terrible,” Matt Deters said of his preparations for the Nov. 22 Philadelphia race.
Coming off of a spring racing season where he was on pace to PR at the truncated Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, and did achieve a PR in a performance he felt great about at the Shamrock Half Marathon, Deters has been following a similar training regimen this fall, and had reason to expect similar racing results. But running doesn’t always reward the workhorses. Deters’ season had shown that through October.
At the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon, he turned in a 1:12:10 performance, two-to-four minutes slower than he had reason to hope for. Hampered by a humid day and significant wind, “I let the lead pack go after about three miles, that was a mistake because I was by myself,” he said.
With no defense against the wind, he failed to recreate his Shamrock effort, a 1:09:45 that boosted his confidence. He conceded it wasn’t a great day for anyone, and that the rest of his team was slowed by the conditions as well.
At the Army Ten-Miler, he ended up with a 55:01, marred the last two miles by side stitches he thinks were brought on by the overly sugary Shot Blocks he consumed before the race.
Racing didn’t entirely line up for Deters this fall, but training continued to be a source of encouragement. He’s followed almost exactly the same training cycle as he did before his effort last spring in the Glass City Marathon. In that race he was well on pace to achieving his goal of a sub 2:30 marathon, until a race staffer directed him the wrong way at mile 22. More than a mile later, he realized he was off course and didn’t finish.
As far as training goes this time around, he’s happy to be where he is, and also ready for race day. Earlier in the season, he was eager to start training, but his coached counseled patience. Deters is grateful. “Fourteen weeks is enough,” he said. “Once you hit that 12 week mark, you’re just done.”
Deters’ coach, George Buckheit, designed the program that Deters and his teammates are using. It revolves around progression and pickup runs, with marathon pace efforts during each long run. “I’m a big believer of training at marathon pace every weekend,” Buckheit said.
Deters feels the effects of the training, and has surprised himself by reaching splits in the 5:20 range in many of his long training runs this cycle. It makes him think that he has a shot not just at his sub-2:30 goal, but possible even a 2:25-2:26 on race day.
“The long run really is the most important thing. I prefer the pickup runs, I don’t like running over 16 or 18 miles,” he said. “The reason I get confidence from the long runs is that you get tired and then have to run the last 7 at marathon pace, and when you’re done your legs are pretty shot. When I first started running pickups and I saw my watch beep 5:20 six or seven weeks into the schedule – that really helps.”
Deters has been logging 100-mile weeks, and has had consistently high-quality long training runs. He’s tired and hungry often, which lets him know that his body is being worked to capacity. “You should be tired just about every day when you’re in the meat of your program – there’s a nine week stretch where you should be pretty tired most of the time,” Buckheit said.
Deters’ race day plan is to practice patience. He’s been talking to training partner Greg Mariano, and Deters thinks, as hard as it will be, he’ll be best served by starting out at a 5:40 pace, then pick it up around 10 miles, depending on how he’s feeling. He knows it’s going to be hard to stay back earlier on and believe he’ll be able to go fast at the end, but he thinks this strategy will be his best chance to average a 5:30-5:35 pace overall.
He’s finally found a nutrition solution that works. The natural gel lacks the extra sugar he thinks has contributed to his side stitches, and it will be on the course at Philly. He’s relieved not to have to be figuring out what to eat at this stage of the game. The only thing remaining is the taper. Deters prefers what he calls a “fall of the cliff” taper, an abrupt drop off in mileage in the two weeks leading up to the race. He’ll stop doing doubles, and run about 40 percent of his usual weekly mileage.
“All the hard work is done now, the hay is in the barn,” Deters said. Though he has a positive outlook going into Philly, he has had his ups and downs this season, especially the less that ideal races. “You train and run so hard, and after you’ve had so many bad races it almost callouses you,” Deters said. But, he continued, “you keep at it – and each of those times is a learning opportunity. After a few long runs and training efforts, you think, I could have had a better diet, or something,” Deters said. The bad experiences are what you make of them.
“It’s like, you work really hard and get out in the real world and it keeps putting you down. It’s just patience and believing in yourself,” he said.
Deters is unlikely to face his meteorological nemeses of heat and humidity in Philly. He’ll most likely get the cold day he’s looking for, and hopefully the dry one. With the size of the race, he’s also probably going to be able to follow the course without detours. He’s trusting in his training, and not letting the disappointment of his other races this fall stand in the way of his eyes on the prize attitude towards Philly. Maybe hard work and fortuitous circumstances will line up and cut the hard-working kid from Ohio a break.