Sunday, January 22, 2012

Not Too Shabby

            It has been a week since the Olympic Trials Marathon in Houston, and I am still pretty excited about how things turned out. I am not an Olympian and I did not run a personal best, but I am very happy with my result. My two main goals going into the race were to run the fastest race I possibly could, and to get myself into the top 3, booking my ticket to London. I did not accomplish either of those goals, but there is little I could have done last weekend to change the result.

            I was not in 2:09 marathon shape, I ran the first 20 miles of the race perfectly for a 2:09 marathon, but I didn’t have it the last 10k. I didn’t necessarily hit a wall, my legs just started losing energy and I faded to a 5:12 average for the last bit of the race. I was lucky enough to have such a large and fast group of guys in the chase pack to help each other out, take turns leading and keeping the race honest. We all gave ourselves the best shots we could to make the team. The Olympians up front were just on a different level than we were. I truly believe that if any of us in the chase pack had tried going out in 1:03:25 for the first half, none of us would have run as fast as we did.

            Looking through the results excites me, seeing so many Americans running as fast as we did, taking the US marathon to a new level of competitiveness is amazing. I am a huge fan of the sport and I am thrilled to be a part of this resurgence of American distance running. So many former teammates, competitors, and many guys who I had never met ran personal bests, or within a minute of their best. It is great to see so many of these guys running well.

The next four years it is going to be very exciting to see how many of these guys can continue to improve and make it to the next level. Who is going to be an Olympian in 2016? There are hundreds of guys who still have not tried out the marathon, since they are still competitive on the track or still in college. There is no telling what the next 4 years will bring. Maybe next time we will have 15-20 guys under 2:12. Maybe it will take a 2:08 marathon to be an Olympian. Whatever it may be I am looking forward to continuing to improve myself as much as I can. I am still going to pursue the dream of one day being an Olympian.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rounding the Final Turn


            Less than two weeks remain until the Trials and I am finally getting excited for the race. This past week my fitness finally caught up to where I wanted to be going into the Trials. It has been a long, doubtful road since my last marathon in Daegu. A few weeks ago I was worried that I would not be able to even finish the race but each day I have gotten my training in, hoping that one day soon that I would start to feel fast again. That day has finally come and I am pumped about it.

            The past two weeks I have run 120-130 miles and each run I have done has felt better than the last. I started feeling good when I went home last Thursday before Christmas and got some sea level training. I was only home for 5 days, but during that time I ran 92 miles. This sea level training included a 24 mile long run with Danny, where we both completely depleted ourselves.  It was motivating that I felt good, but at the same time I was worried because I felt so beat up afterwards.

            The next few days were dedicated to recovering and getting my legs sharp and woken up again. I did an easy track workout on Monday and then a long tedious track workout on Wednesday. We drove down to Sedona for Wednesday’s workout, which was 10-15 x 1k with 1 minute rest. The goal was to run and feel comfortable at marathon pace. This workout is what brought me back to life. I sat myself right behind Brett on every single rep, making sure that I didn’t lose an inch on him.  This worked for the first 14 reps but on the very last interval he blew me out of the water, running a 2:42 to my 2:55. Despite that it was the best workout I had done in over 5 months. I felt like I was back to my old self again; ready to take on whatever came next.

            Well, what came next was yesterday’s 15 mile tempo run out on Lake Mary Road. I was nervous and excited going into it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could run as well as or better than I ever had before, but I was nervous that Wednesday’s workout may have been a fluke. I went out at a pace that I thought was conservative, but it ended up being a 5:16, followed by 5:13, 5:13 for the next two miles. To put this in perspective two weeks before on this same workout my fastest mile was only a 5:13.

            I was still feeling good, so I did what I could to keep my pace as even as possible, getting mentally prepared to push the last 4 miles. Through 11 miles I hit everything between 5:13 and 5:18 multiple times, the most consistent I had ever been on a tempo as long as this. My last 4 miles I dialed the pace down and ran 5:06, 5:11, 5:04, and 5:05, finishing with a total time of 1:18:20 (5:13 pace). So my average mile was as fast as my single fastest mile two weeks before. I was pumped!

            Now as I write this we have 12 ½ days until race morning. My fitness and my confidence are exactly where I hoped they would be at this point. And if everything keeps increasing like it has the past two weeks, then there is no telling what I will be capable of doing on race day. I know I have a shot of making the team, and of running a personal best. Anything can happen over the course of a marathon, I just need to be ready to put my best performance out there. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Time


I finished off a solid week of training and have another huge week coming up. Christmas has historically been an extremely difficult time for me to train. Most years, I have just been lazy while back at home visiting my parents, only managing to get out on one run a day, but still making sure to hit 110-120 miles for the week. I’m sure this year will be no different, although I will only be home for 4 ½ days, I know it will be a challenge to get myself out and running twice a day.

This past week I hit 116 miles with 5 doubles, which is the most I have done since my injury. We got a lot of snow this past week, so a lot of my running was done out on Lake Mary Road, including Saturday’s 15 mile tempo run. It was a windy day, but we all made the best of it. Brett dominated the rest of us, Steph and Emily looked good, and Danny and I held on strong and fought to the end. Jordan wasn’t so lucky, one of the two casualties of the day but in my experience when training for a marathon you can’t always have great workouts. Just last year I did this same workout with Brett and Martin pre-Houston and I only made it 4 miles. Sometimes that is just the way it goes.

                      Saturday’s Other Casualty: The Lid to Danny’s Fluid Bottle.


Next week, with Christmas being on Sunday, I shouldn’t have too difficult of a time getting all the training in that I want to. I’ll run most of my week in Flagstaff, going 12 and 6 most days, with a 4 x 2 mile workout on Wednesday. Then Thursday afternoon I’ll fly home and get a couple day of sea level training in, which will include a 24-mile long run on Christmas Eve. This will be an exciting run as I’m hoping to get as many of my Southern California friends together for it. So if you are in the Orange County area, give me a call or shoot me an email. Even if you only want to run 4 miles with us, it will be better than nothing.

I hope to hit 120 miles next week. Sunday will be the real test because trying to find time to run on Christmas morning has always been difficult for me. This year I will find a way, and who knows, if I feel good, maybe I’ll even find time to run twice on Christmas! One can only hope.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Response to Scott

My Response to Scott Smith’s Blog;

Dearest Scott,

You have beaten me fair and square in 4 out of 6 races, thus winning the best of 7 series of races that we have competed against each other. It all began when I took a solid lead last year after catching you by surprise at club cross. Yes, I race a hell of a lot better than I work out, let that be a lesson to you. Then we raced again at the US 15k, this time I made the mistake of being unprepared, and you destroyed me and had a phenomenal race. Kudos.

Game 3 was Cardinal: Once again you were annihilating me in workouts, only to get smashed on the track in Palo Alto. That was only my first track race of the season and you had run at least 3 races prior to that. I expected more of a challenge that day. Then came the latest string of race; US 8k, USA 10,000m, Club Cross and you got me each time. Whereas I have no excuse for losing to you, I would say that USAs was a pretty close battle, probably our closest as you only beat me by 3 seconds. So now you lead the lifetime series of races 4-2, in distances ranging from 8k-15k.

I want to now issue a true challenge to you: Scott Smith, do you have the balls to race me over half marathon, 25k or marathon? As we all know, these are my distances, the farther the better I say. I have been giving you the advantage, racing all 6 of our previous races on your home turf. Will you man up and race me on the roads over distances that are not familiar to you? Or are you going to cower away from the challenge?

Think it over.

Nick

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Doubt


Getting back into shape has been a lot tougher than I imagined. November seemed to come and go rather quickly, probably from the excitement of being able to train almost at my full capacity again, as well as, Thanksgiving. In the past 5 weeks I have jumped from running 50 miles to 3 weeks at 99-105 miles. I have only just started doing workouts, and the race in Houston is approaching fast.  With each day that goes by the more nervous I become that I won’t be ready to compete for a top 3 spot.

It has been a frustrating few weeks, even with being able to run more and feeling good on most runs. Then I compare myself to my competitors who are weeks ahead of me in training and much more fit. I also compare myself to my teammates who are beating me significantly on every repeat of every workout that we do together. All this eventually leads to doubt.

Doubt is always creeping into my mind. Was I even good enough when I was healthy to make the team? Will I hurt myself again if I don’t play it safe with my training? If I do play it safe, will I cost myself the race? What am I going to do with my life if I have another bad race on this big of a stage?

Doubt takes over a lot in athletes at any level, there is no denying that. I feel that the toughest part of training for me is to stay positive and focused on the Trials. I know I am gaining tons of fitness each week, and I believe that the training I am doing will get me to the race in Houston ready to run the best that I can on that day. That is until I run my workouts and I realize how much further I have to go to get myself to my best.

My passion is there, I love getting out and running, but my fitness and my fear of reinjuring myself limits my ability to train as recklessly as I used to. I dislike being cautious and limiting how much I run. I’ve always been a guy who has never been satisfied with how much I am running; I never think I am doing enough. This mentality is what got me into trouble with my injury in the first place. So now I am trying to delicately balance my training with my maintenance and rehab of my body.

Hopefully in a week or two I will be able to tell you some more positive details about how I am overcoming my doubt and have had some stellar workout and a great race at Club Cross. But until then, here is my positive self-talk for today: I ran a 12 mile steady state workout this morning, averaging 5:20s per mile, and I kept it steady the entire way. A year and a half ago I did this exact same workout, averaged the exact same pace, and two weeks later I went on to run 2:11:48 in San Diego. So, by using some geometric property (Associative? perhaps) this should mean that I am 2 weeks away from a 2:11 marathon. I just have to let myself gain some momentum over the next 5 weeks and 5 days.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Coming Back


Hi Everyone! I’m back from my little hiatus from blogging. The past few months have not been the most positive for me in terms of running, which led to a lack of enthusiasm when it comes to writing all about it. Well, let’s catch up, huh?

Last I left off I was leaving for Daegu for the World Champs. While I was there my running was on a downhill slide due to a small hip issue I got just before I left.  I assume that the long travel from Flagstaff to Daegu aggravated my hip a lot because once I got there, I wasn’t able to run a step without at least a little bit of discomfort in my hip. I tried to think nothing of it because it didn’t seem to bother me the faster I was running, so I was still looking forward to the race. Unfortunately, I was a lot worse off than I knew, and I struggled and limped through the entire marathon. A bad day thanks to a bum hip.

I found out once I got back to Phoenix and saw our team Chiropractor, John Ball, that my hip joint was displaced due to the muscles and tissues in the hip complex tightening and locking up on me. That’s the best, uneducated explanation I can give on the subject. I had to take 3 whole weeks off of running, which if you know me is pretty much unheard of, since in the past nine years I have probably only taken off 5 weeks total (John says that this was part of the problem).

After taking 3 weeks off I tried running again. I ran 4 miles a couple times and things had not gotten any better, my hip still felt uncomfortable and I had a significant limp. So, in addition to seeing John Ball in Phoenix I started seeing another chiropractor, Kim Wilkens, in Flagstaff and focusing all my massage time on my hip, glutes, adductors, and hamstrings. It was also time for me to start getting into some sort of fitness, so I went to the gym and used the elliptical for the first time in my life, which sucked. I also rode the stationary bike, which was fine.

During week 5 post-marathon I started running 5 days a week on the Alter G treadmill, running 4-7 miles at 70-80% body weight. This was enough that I was able to run without pain and without a limp, so as boring as it was, it was nice to be running again. I continued this process, with a long bike ride over the weekend during the team’s long runs, for 2 weeks.

Finally, after 7 weeks of being a gimp, John, Kim, and Stephanie got me to the point where I could run on land without pain and without a limp. I still took things slow and every other day I alternated running on land and running on the Alter G. Now, I’m 4 days into week 8 and have run 6-10 miles on land pain-free and without a limp each day. I am excited to be running again with the team and cannot wait to start into my marathon training for the trials. Only 10 weeks to go...yay!