Matt O’Connor, a member of the Big River Racing Team ran a 1:04:30 half marathon at the U.S. Half Marathon Championships in Houston in 2015. Matt’s time qualified him to participate in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in the Marathon, to be run on February 13, 2016 in Los Angeles!
We’re less than two weeks away from the big race, so we asked Matt a few questions!
How has the lead up to the race gone for you? Are you healthy?
The lead up to this race has had its ups and downs. Whenever I felt as though my fitness was coming around, I’d have an interruption. One interruption was planned. My coach wanted me to take a down week at the end of October. Another interruption was not planned. This one occurred during the holiday season. Whenever you’re pushing yourself during any training block, you tend to find that you are pushing yourself close to the edge of pushing too far and risking injury. During marathon prep, I often pushed too hard too often. I learned the hard way that it is especially important to take easy days easy. The past couple of weeks have gone really well. I hit the workouts that suggest I’m capable of running a good time. To reap the rewards of all of my training, I just need to stay healthy and keep things under control these last two weeks.
What are your goals for the race?
To feel as though I deserve to be at the trials, I am hoping to run underneath the “B” qualifying standard of 2:18. Although the “B” standard was adjusted recently to 2:19, I’m locked in to running underneath 2:18. Running a 2:18 marathon would have me averaging 5:15 per mile. I would be thrilled to run underneath 2:17:30. I looked up to Adam MacDowell while Adam ran competitively on the Big River Racing Team. He was one of the runners I idolized and wanted to one day run on the same level as. At the Houston 2012 USA Olympic Marathon Trials, Adam ran 2:17:27.
What has your mileage been at? What has been the toughest workout been so far?
My mileage ranged from 100-110 on my high mileage weeks. Increasing the distance of my runs has been hardest on my body though. I have run 100 mile weeks before. I have never run 14 mile medium long runs and 22 mile long runs ever. My legs always felt fatigued. I especially noticed the fatigue on the track. I was running 1-2 seconds slower per 400 compared to previous workouts. One of the most difficult workouts I had this block was 12 x 800 at 2:18-2:20. I have had workouts similar to this one before and have been able to hit 2:16-2:18. This workout I was pressing and hitting 2:20-2:21. It was a mental and physical grind to finish this workout. I was frustrated that I was not running faster while I was physically putting forward a 2:16-2:18 effort. I just had to trust that my body did not know how fast I was running, but that I was just running fast. I have to thank Carter Snow for coming out and pushing me through this workout. It’s easy to step off the track when nobody is around. Having Carter there held me accountable and made sure I locked in on every repeat.
You qualified for the trials with a half marathon time so this will be your first marathon. How did you prepare? How do you feel about running the distance for the first time?
Although this will be my first marathon, my coach, Ryan Bak, and I decided a while ago to gear my training towards running longer distances. We gradually increased my long runs and changed my workouts to be more focused on longer distances. I’m nervous about running the marathon, but I take confidence in knowing I prepared myself the best I could. I hit the workouts I needed to hit.
What are your predictions on who makes the teams?
This year, I feel things are open on the male and female side. While this race has favorites, the third and final spots are very much open to a long list of contenders. This makes it hard to make predictions as I find myself changing my top three almost daily. On the men’s side, my top three are Meb, Puskedra, and Rupp. I would not be surprised to see some of the Northern Arizona Elite Men running confidently up front and taking a spot though. On the female side, my top three are Shalane, Desi, and Kara. Again, I would not be surprised to see Amy Hastings or Kellyn Taylor running confidently up front and taking a spot. If things are not going my way, I might just try to position myself to be close to the finish line at the end of both races.