Brett Van Dorn, a Chaski athlete coached by founder Tyler Andrews, raced to a new PR of 2:44:48 in the CMC Manchester City Marathon a few weeks ago (bettering his previous PR by more than six minutes!). Brett is a marathon veteran, having run more than ten already, but he attributes his recent success to incorporating Chaski coaching.
In this interview Brett talks through the race, highlights from his training block, and plans for the rest of 2020.
Tell us about the race -- this is one of the few relatively large road races happening during the COVID pandemic; what was it like and how did it work logistically that was different from a normal road race?
Honestly, things went super smoothly. Registration was super quick because they had a capped number of runners, there were small lines for socially spaced bathrooms (with hand sanitizer both inside and outside), and the best part - the staggered start. I'm not a very aggressive person, so I usually get shoved towards the back/middle of a mass start corral. It was nice getting my "spot" and lining up without being squashed in shoulder to shoulder. Plus, you get your name announced when you cross the start line.
My main fear with the staggered start was that it would be less of a "race" and more of a time trial - but being one of the few marathons around, the field was too tough for me to contend in the race aspect regardless. The starts were 10 seconds apart, so I still managed to sync up with a few other runners at points during the race. In fact, I spent a few miles with a guy who was running his first marathon with a goal of 2:45:00 - which blew my mind having run my first in 4+ hours.
This wasn't your first marathon; how was your training leading up to the race? Did you have one particular workout that stuck out as your "I'm ready" moment?
Nope, this was either my eleventh or twelfth marathon. The main difference in my training this time around was pulling in Chaski for coaching. I had never worked with a running coach before and it was great not having to do hours of research trying to come up with my own plan, let alone keep myself accountable.
This cycle was also consistently higher mileage than I've run before, and while it was exhausting, it definitely paid off. The workout that really stood out was a 24 minute-ish 90% effort run that I ran with 2000+ feet of elevation. I felt really good doing that and felt great afterwards as well. I had a few workouts after that which didn't go so great, so it was good to have something to look back on and feel confident about.
Can you give us one specific moment of joy and one moment of struggle and doubt from the race? Having run marathons in the past, I always start to wonder why I'm even bothering around the 18-20 mile mark. That thought came into my head again this race, but instead of wondering why, I was thinking about how it was super cool that I actually felt really good and knew I was going to be able to finish strong. A few miles later we hit a pretty steep (but short) hill and I don't think I attacked it right. That was followed up with a stretch of dirt path that had me doubtful that I could actually finish strong. I did end up recovering, but there were a few miles I wish I could go back to and dig in a little deeper.
How'd you feel after crossing the finish line? What about 24 hours later?
There was a race a few years back where I came in second place missing the top mark by 11 seconds. Ever since that day, I decided that if I was close to passing someone near the end of the race I was going to pass them. While it doesn't mean much in a staggered start, it felt really good to finish with a sprint and pass the guy in front of me with a few yards to go. So of course, I felt pukey crossing the line (but I didn't puke!). The next day (and week) I actually felt really good. Nothing compared to some of the other races I've run where I can barely walk the next day. So maybe, just maybe, I could have run harder.
Have you thought about what's next? Any other plans on the calendar?
I'm on track to hit 3000 miles for the year. In 2019 I was just over 2000 so it's a pretty significant jump, especially for only having one marathon this year. I'll take a week or two off and then look to hit that mark before Jan 1 - I think the math works out to 6-7 miles per day for the rest of the year, so a few longer runs should make up for the recovery time. I also want to explore more of the trails out here in central MA (having just moved) before the snow sets in - not really a goal, but with no spring races scheduled I've got some time to twist an ankle or two and recover for next year.