Thursday, April 22, 2010

mzungo exclusive: Drew Polley on his 2:16:36 in Boston

Hardfacts - PR's please!
College: Washington State University (Pullman, WA), graduated May 2009 in Civil/Environmental Engineering
College PRs: 29:26 10k, 14:18 5k, anything shorter is too embarrassing to post ;)
Post College (training alone while starting graduate school at WSU): 1:06:45 debut half marathon at Rock and Roll Seattle in June, 2009
2:20:59 debut marathon at Rock and Roll San Antonio November 15, 2009
Joined Hansons-Brooks in January 2010 (Dropped grad school)

2:16:36 and Top 20 in Boston is impressive. We liked your pacing. You passed the halfway mark in 1:08:42. Was that the plan? 
Thank you! To be honest the only goal my teammates and I had was to run under 2:19 and get the US Olympic Trials qualifier in the bank. Our coaches drilled into us the strategy of being very conservative early in the race to avoid crashing at the end. They believe that running negative splits is the most effective strategy for Boston and fortunately I decided to listen to them. I was actually out slightlyfaster than we planned for the first half, but felt great late in the race and was able to speed up more than I would have thought. It took a lot of patience to run this way, but made the second half of the race a lot more enjoyable!

What was the key moment in that race for you? When did you think you're on the road into the Top 20?
I got to the top of Heartbreak Hill faster and with less effort than I expected, and realized I was probably going to run a lot faster than I planned. I knew I had plenty left in the tank to start hammering a little harder without blowing up before the end. The lead pack was so far ahead of us from the start that I had no idea how many had stayed in the race or dropped out, but someone yelled that I was in 19th with a few miles left, which surprised me and motivated me to catch a few more guys.

How are you planing to close that 11 minute gap to Cheruiyot next year ;-) ?
I'm thinking I'll lose about 25 pounds and also start looking for some good shortcuts.

Did you had the possibility to train on the course prior to the race?
Thankfully, yes. Our coach brought my two teammates and I out to Boston in February, with the help of Brooks and the BAA, for a few days. Between a workout and a long run, we covered the whole course. It was very helpful to be able to visualize the course during training. During the rest of the segment in Michigan, we'd joke that every hill we came to was "Heartbreak" or "Fire Station" or "The Dip Under The Overpass."  

What did you learn from that race?
I learned the value of even pacing during a marathon. I had my suspicions after I went out too fast and died painfully in my first marathon last fall, but this race really confirmed it. It was an awesome feeling to be able to roll in the later stages.

Is there anything you would change if you run Boston again?
Not much at all. Hopefully I would be in better shape and be able to start a little faster and still finish as strong, but I wouldn't want to risk it too much and become a casualty to the hills. The one thing I would change would be emptying my bladder before going to the starting line ;)

What was the toughest part of the course for you?
Believe it or not, the hardest part was having the patience to sit back and be conservative in the early miles when it still felt easy. It also took a lot of restraint not to stop at Wellesly for some kisses.

With 2:16:36 you are already qualified for the trials - congratulations! Do you have a plan for the trials? What is the goal?
Thanks! I have been so focused on just getting the qualifier that I haven't allowed myself to think past it. It is a nice luxury now. But if you're expecting me to say that I plan to make the 2012 Olympic team, I'm sorry, haha.

Do you see yourself as a runner in the low 2:10s one day?
Two days ago I wasn't convinced I could be a 2:18 marathoner. I felt so comfortable running 2:16:36 at Boston though, that I know it's time to adjust my goals a little. however I am still pretty inexperienced and am willing to take some time to figure out my limits. I don't like to get ahead of myself, but I certainly won't rule out the possibility of running that fast somewhere down the road.

What would you suggest a 2:30 guy who wants to become a sub 2:20 guy?
The key word should be consistency. I don't think the ability to run a solid marathon demands any specific flashy workouts, but rather the motivation and resilience to keep getting up day after day and putting in the miles. One single training day shouldn't compromise any others. There is also a lot of value in practicing your goal race pace.

You were racing in the Brooks Green Silence. What shoes are you training in?
I am probably the second biggest Green Silence fan behind my teammate, Sage Canaday. I do most of my training runs in heavier shoes like the Brooks Defyance or Glycerin, but love to bust out the Green Silence for faster workouts.

What's on heavy rotation on your iPod or car stereo?
I am a bit of an indie rock geek. I'm from western Washington and am a longtime fan of Northwest bands like Modest Mouse, Death Cab For Cutie and the Shins.

What's the plan for the rest of the year?
My coaches and I are in the process of making a plan. I wouldn't mind trying to run a faster marathon in the Fall, but Boston went a little better than we expected, so there's also a good chance we'll think more about long-term development and focus on shorter races instead for a while. For now, I am taking a break to develop my MarioKart skills.

What keeps you focused to train hard day by day?
Before I am done running competitively, I want to to realize my potential in this sport and find out exactly where I stand. I have a compulsive streak and can't sleep well at night unless I know I did as much as I could that day to work toward my goals. 

What's your daily nutrition looking like?
I get hassled for eating my organic veggies, oats and peanut butter a lot, but I also have a weakness for baked goods and have never turned down a barbeque chicken pizza. I do make some awesome granola though.

What's your marathon nutrition?
I can't handle much food before I run, so I dont eat much more than an energy bar and some gel before the race. Watered-down gatorade is all I can take during the race without cramping. It seems to work fine though.

List the five races you want to do before you die.
I can check Boston off my list now. The Olympic marathon trials is definitely one of them. I'd also love to race the New York Marathon and Chicago Marathon.

Congratulations again Drew to a fantastic race execution. We look forward to see you drop that marathon time even further!