Giving Chicago Another Go

Over the past few years, the 4th of July has served as my mid-year alarm clock; a reminder that a fall marathon is on the horizon and it’s time to get refocused.  July 4th hardly seems like the appropriate time to start thinking about October – seriously, summer just started here in the Pacific Northwest! – but marathon runners live by 3-4 month training cycles.

Shortly after crossing the finish line in Boston – honestly, it probably happened before I had even sat down for dinner that evening – I found myself piecing together a fall marathon plan.  My one goal for 2014 was to run a marathon under 2 hours and 13 minutes.  Despite running well in Boston, the disappointment of not accomplishing the goal on the first go-round had a major impact on my fall marathon decision.

I thought about jetting over to Europe to chase a fast time at one of the German marathons – Berlin or Frankfurt – and considered what a plan would look like if I waited until December for either CIM (Sacramento) or Fukuoka (Japan), but ultimately I felt my best chance to run a fast time was to return to the flat, straight roads of Chicago for a third straight year.  Runners like routines, and I know the drill for Chicago – from the training, to the course; the race committee, to the travel and all of the race weekend logistics – I’m comfortable being in a familiar place, surrounded by familiar people.

2013 Chicago Marathon

2013 Chicago Marathon

I’ve been fortunate to find success in Chicago.  In 2012, I ran a then-personal best time of 2:15:38 and last year was able to run my current PB of 2:13:52.  Both times I walked away pleased, but knew I left some time out on the course.  I’m confident that I can continue progressing come October.

With the Olympic Marathon trials just a short 18 months in the future, it’s important to me that I run a time under 2:13.  Even though I’ve strung together some great finishes these last few years, I’m not sure anyone could be considered a serious threat to make the team in 2016 without running a time below 2:13.  Having a PB of 2:11/2:12, or faster, next to my name entering the Trials would be a huge confidence booster on race day.

Today is 12 weeks until the Chicago Marathon.  This might end up being my last shot at running a fast time before the Olympic Trials, so I am totally committing myself to leaving no stone unturned these next 83 days.  It’s hard to say you can do more when you see 150 mile training weeks in the squares of your running log, but you can always do more.  I know that in the past I haven’t committed myself to doing every little thing possible during a marathon block: I’ve missed some post-run striders and skipped out on some strength and core sessions.  Not this time.  Not this fall.  Not this Chicago.

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2014 Boston Marathon: Taking Back Monday

On a fittingly perfect New England day, 36,000 runners, along with the entire city of Boston, reclaimed what was taken from them a year ago: Marathon Monday.  We routinely hear how sport has the power to unite and heal, and Monday’s Boston Marathon was the perfect testimonial as to why there is no equal to sport’s power.  Being able to return to participate in such a meaningful sporting event this year was both an honor and a privilege.

As for my personal performance, I’d give myself a B+.  I ran 10-seconds faster than in 2013 and it’s hard to be too discouraged about finishing 12th at the Boston Marathon, especially given the field was much deeper than last year when I placed 10th.  It also marks my third consecutive top-13 finish at a major marathon (12th @ Boston 2014, 13th @ Chicago 2013, and 10th @ Boston 2013), but my inability to hold it together over the final 50-60 minutes of that race is why I can’t possibly give myself a better grade.

Running the Newton Hills with Abdi.

Running the Newton Hills with Abdi.

I did exactly what I set out to do: be aggressive and put myself in the race.  My 5k time this year was almost :45 seconds faster than in 2013, and for nearly 20k, I ran with the main pack.  My half marathon split of 1:05:21 was :40-seconds quicker than any of my previous marathons.  I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say the pace was a little quicker than what I was hoping for; in fact, I knew I was in trouble just before the hills.  However, the alternative was to run the entire race solo and I considered the faster pace with company a better option.  It’s one of those decisions that can only be made during the race.  Did it cost me a faster finishing time?  Probably.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely.

I learned way more about racing, and myself, by taking that risk.  I finally have a good understanding of where my ‘red line’ is for the marathon and that’ll undoubtedly help me this fall.  But the best part of taking that risk and running with the main pack was that I somehow found myself involved in some of the racing tactics that might have led to Meb building such a big lead.

When Meb and JB made their break, the Kenyan and Ethiopian runners were content to let them go, slowing the pace down to almost 5:20 at times.  This allowed myself and Jason Hartmann, who had fallen off the pace at the time, to re-engage with the main pack.  I can’t speak for Jason, but when we caught up to the group, my thought was to just keep maintaining my pace; I find it much easier to lock into a rhythm and run than to have the pace yo-yo, especially in a marathon, where energy conservation is at a premium.  As Jason and I made our way to the front of the pack, Ryan Hall looked at us and told us to take it easy.  He knew that if any of us [Americans] were to poke the hornet’s nest and infuse some pace at that point in the race, it would allow the top runners an easier opportunity to catch Meb and JB.  So we played along with them and ran the pace they wanted to run.  As a result, Meb was able to extend his lead to over 90-seconds.  By the time the top guys decided to pursue the chase, it was too late.  Even the best runners in the world couldn’t cover that kind of a gap.  There is a more detailed account of what happened on, if you are interested.

All the credit in the world goes to Meb, who went out there and won that race with his own aggressive and fearless running.  It’s been 31 years since there was a US champion in Boston and it was more important than ever to have an American win this year’s race.  And Meb delivered!  Trust me when I say that the last few miles of that race were painful, but when I found out after the finish that Meb won, I could have done a damn cartwheel – and I can’t even do cartwheels!  He’s the consummate professional in our sport.  There’s a reason why, at age 38, he is still around.  Clearly he’s talented, but Meb is also incredibly smart about how he takes care of his body, doing all the little things.  If you have some time, check out the series ElliptiGO did with Meb leading into this year’s race.  Meb Minutes was a weekly series of videos that gives an inside look into Meb’s preparation for Boston.  It covers topics from his mental approach and training philosophy to workouts, cross-training and “the small things” that have made his career long and successful.

But I also left Boston with a ton of respect and admiration for Ryan Hall.  He knew how important it was to have an American win this year.  And he also realized, with how the race was playing out, that we could maybe help give Meb a shot.  His selfless actions speak highly to the kind of person Ryan Hall is.  He’s taken a lot of criticism these last two years, but our sport is much better with Ryan Hall out there racing.

I’m a little more beat up than usual, which is probably a result of over-extending myself so early in the race.  Marathoners often joke about how if they could predict their finish time prior to the race, they would often run differently – as in, it would have been better to run 67 minutes at the half and not 65:21!  As a result of the soreness, I’ll work back into running and workouts a little more cautiously.  The focus for the next few months will then shift to some shorter races, before pacing the Eugene Marathon in July, and then ultimately finding a fall marathon.

I’ll be back in Ohio this week as a guest of the Capital City Half Marathon and I hope to see some familiar faces!

It’s been a great few years of racing for me and I truly appreciate all the support I get from everyone.  I am beyond blessed to have the backing of so many great people and there’s no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the many helping hands along the way.

Boston Marathon mile splits – presented by Garmin

Mile 1 -
Mile 2 – 946
Mile 3 – 454
Mile 4 – 452
Mile 5 – 459
Mile 6 – 455
Mile 7 – 454
Mile 8 – 458
Mile 9 – 459
Mile 10 – 509
Mile 11 – 510
Mile 12 -
Mile 13 -
Mile 14 – 1508
Mile 15 – 509
Mile 16 – 452
Mile 17 – 515
Mile 18 -
Mile 19 -
Mile 20 – 1554
Mile 21 – 530
Mile 22 – 509
Mile 23 – 516
Mile 24 – 512
Mile 25 – 526
Last 1.2 – 653

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