Thankfully for Canadian running fans that mindset was only temporary.
On April 27th Wykes took second in the Vancouver Sun Run with a time of 29:11. The performance has served notice he is fit and mentally preparing to run a fall marathon. As the second fastest Canadian in history – he recorded 2:10:47 in Rotterdam 2012 to earn his spot on the Olympic team – he has hopes of improving upon that time.
Next up for the Vancouver resident, who celebrates his 31st birthday on June 6th, is the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon on June 22nd, a true test of his current training program.
“Training is going pretty well,” he said on a recent visit to his hometown of Kingston, Ontario. “I ran the 10k last week in Ottawa. It wasn’t as good a performance as I wanted but I bounced back. I have been getting in some good training for sure.”
Wykes finished 9th in the Lowertown Brewery 10km in Ottawa on a warm and muggy night with a time of 29:40. Asked about the difficulty in bouncing back mentally following the Olympics he chooses his words deliberately.
“I think it was tough to reach a big goal like that,” he says quietly. “It’s kind of like ‘oh, what now?” That feeling combined with some injuries shortly after the Olympics, for about a year and half, it’s definitely been up and down emotionally.
“There have been times when I definitely thought about packing it in. But I always gravitated back to wanting to get back to where I had been and to be better. The goal is to just keep improving; that has kept me getting out there training.”
Since the fall of 2010 Wykes has trained under the guidance of Richard Lee, who also heads up the BC Endurance Project. He has eked out an existence thanks to the help of his sponsors Mizuno as well as a part time job at Forerunners a Vancouver store owned and operated by Peter Butler (4th fastest Canadian marathoner of all time at 2:10:56). On occasion, he also does some contract work related to epidemiology, a field in which he has a Master’s degree.
“I am cautiously optimistic that I will stay healthy,” he admits. “It’s probably been three months now that I have been training and healthy. I can definitely get back to the level I was at leading up to the Olympics and during the Olympics. Hopefully I can get more out of myself. There are definitely some big goals and stuff I want to accomplish still.”
Optimism is abundant these days especially since he was a last minute entrant in the Vancouver Sun Run and preparations couldn’t have been more challenging. A week before the race he and his longtime girlfriend, Francine Darroch, were married. The couple is also expecting a child.
“I only decided to race Sun Run two weeks before,” he explains. “I had my wedding the week before that. I had a lot of other things going on and I didn’t feel any pressure to perform.
“The race wasn’t hyping me up as one of the main contenders because I decided to run so late. So I was able to get in there and I didn’t really know where I was at fitness wise. I didn’t put on any pressure on myself and just tried to compete. That was my first race in five months. I was happy with how that went for sure.”
Wykes is looking forward to the Scotiabank Half Marathon, a race he is more than familiar with. He raced it in 2011 finishing 4th in 1:04:35. In his buildup to the Olympics he recorded his personal best of 1:02:38 in Tempe, Arizona.
“I know the (Vancouver) course,” he reveals. “Part of it goes through the neighbourhood where I am living and I know the streets it is run on.”
“When you look at it on paper it looks like it should be a really fast course there’s some significant downhill but there’s also some tough uphill. I just want to try and compete well. Obviously I think it will take 63-64 minutes to be competitive. I think I am ready to do that again. If I can just get in there and be in the mix that will be great.”
The event record is 63:10 set by Kenya’s Patrick Nthiwa in 2007. Although Reid Coolsaet has withdrawn due to an injury the field remains very, very strong. Among those Wykes will face on June 22nd are training partner Rob Watson (1:03:22 best) and four time Vancouver champion, Kip Kangogo, the Kenyan born resident of Lethbridge, Alberta.
Kangogo received his Canadian citizenship on April 4th of this year but has been a force on the Canadian scene for years.
“Kip knows how to get it done, eh?” Wykes says laughing when reminded Kangogo has won the race four times. “Kip is obviously a super competitor and knows how to win on that course. I hope that I am strong enough to keep up with the lead pack. Kip is a tough guy to beat. I think he has had my number more times than I have had his, in the times we have raced, so it will be tough.”
With renewed optimism and his life moving along nicely Wykes admits he is in a good place emotionally.
“I got to a point where I am pretty content with things and things seem to be going in a good direction. Basically there will be lots of new things on the horizon, the baby coming on the horizon,” he says breaking into a laugh. “So I will have to pick (two time Olympian) Eric Gillis’ brain for how to be a good dad and still be able to perform at a high level.”