Hard Edges, Firm and Unyielding

There are 80 days remaining until the Olympic Trials Marathon. A little under 12 weeks remaining to get into the best marathon shape of my life. My weekly mileage continues to grow as I finally hit the magical 100 miles per week line two weeks ago, but for the first time in a long time it was 100 miles in 6 days, then a day of rest. I have a lofty goal for this week of 110 miles in 6 days, my only concern being the Thanksgiving Holiday and travel. 18 miles per day is a lot to run when I’m just sitting at home with nothing to do but run, but throw in a few hours in the car and one to two gluttonous meals per day and it makes running that much a whole other kind of challenge. If I’m a little short I can always add a short run on Sunday, but I prefer to rest, it seems to keep the injuries at bay. Training at this point seems to be a tricky balancing act along a tight rope. On one side I fall into under training, running the comfortable and safe amount, cutting back a little here and there, on the other side is the injury zone, one workout too many, a little too much one day, not enough rest the next, and suddenly my plantar flares or my calf locks up 4 miles into a race. So I walk the tightrope the best I can, listening closely to my body as it creaks and moans, trying to learn the lingo of aches and pains. Is that just soreness to run through or something that needs a day to rest? The delicate dance never ends. But its paying off. Workouts are improving. Mile repeats on sloppy terrain last week leave me wondering until Friday of the same week when I run an 8 mile tempo at a faster pace than my 6 mile repeats. 5:07 average, with a 4:47 for the last mile, that’s a nice start, though come late January that needs to be a 5:00 average with a 4:40 at the end over 10 to 12 miles if I really want a shot at this crazy dream of making the Olympic squad. But one day at a time. One week at a time. Get up, drink your coffee, read and pray, then hit the day. Run twice, maybe three times, do some drills, or hit the gym, or workout in the living room, just don’t forget the little things, like ice. Ice the foot, ice the ankle, ice the calf. Foam roll. Don’t skip a massage. The daily routine doesn’t vary much from day to day, but consistency will pay off in the long run as long as I don’t go crazy or blow up first. Jessica keeps me sane, she brings me back to reality each evening, reminds me that there’s a world outside of 18 mile days, running workouts, rehab on the feet and ankles. There’s a world of friends over for dinner, a glass of wine while cooking, watching silly TV shows. A world where stepping out the door doesn’t mean its time for another 10 miler, but maybe dinner somewhere nice, or watching a movie. She brings me back to a softer reality than my training gives me, the reality of training is hard edges, firm and unyielding, demanding daily a sacrifice of time and forward motion, motion that takes me who knows where, but always brings me back to the same place. A twenty mile run, but if I end up right back at my front door physics says my velocity is zero. The cruelty of such formulas, but I know inside that the man who started the run and the man who steps back into the house at the end are not the same. Each step, each mile, each life giving or soul sucking minute that I was out there changed me in some way, brings me one step closer to my goals. These are the things you have to believe if you’re going to get out there as the weather changes, as the temperatures drop and the days get shorter, the sun goes down before your work is done, and you find yourself alone, running in the cold darkness, with your breathe and heartbeat keeping tempo and keeping your from freezing. But champions are made when the world isn’t watching, so you go on, telling yourself it will be worth it in the end. This is training in the winter, months away from sunshine and shirtless runs. We’ve only gotten a taste so far, but frost is starting to appear on windows in the morning, and friends out west are seeing record snow already, so I brace for what may be coming and know rain, snow, or bitter cold I’ll be out there anyway. 80 days left, I have to make them count.

Slow Fall

Hey everybody. It’s been a while since I posted and it’s a slow day in between morning run and afternoon cross training session, so I thought I’d give everyone an update.

First off I owe a big thank you to everyone who donated to my Living Water International Campaign for building a well in Peru last November. I know it seems odd to bring it up now, nearly 10 months after the fact, but it took a while to track down all the funds. An extra special thanks to my sponsor Primal Sport Mud, they gave $400 and total we raise nearly $1000 dollars for Living Water International. That will go towards helping build well in Peru in an area in of safe drinking water. Thanks again to everyone who helped out.

Now onto training. Late summer and fall are a great time to train and get ready for those fall races. Summer was going well. I was slowly building mileage and throwing in a few workouts. In late August I ran 14:45 for a 5k in Canada at the McGregor Mug Run and International Beer Festival. It was an awesome race and we had a great time. About a week after that things took a turn for the worse. I rolled my ankle on a after work run and a few days later did it again. A sharp pain appeared near where the tendon runs over a tiny bone on the outside of the ankle. I must have changed my stride to prevent this pain because a few days after this my plantar fascia flared and in combination with the ankle pain put me on my butt for 2 weeks. I cross trained like mad, but its just not the same, but lucky for me I seem to be out of the worst of it. I was able to run an hour every day this week in addition to some cross training and ran two light workouts to test the foot as well. Today I got in my first 10 mile run in 3 weeks and felt pretty good during a fartlek effort in the middle. All this has changed my race plans a good deal for the fall. I already missed two races I had planned and have decided not to run the USATF 10 Mile Champs in October. I will do some racing later this fall, but nothing on that level until I’m healed up and fit. Hopefully the positive progression will continue and I’ll be back at full training by mid to late October. The Olympic Trials are 21 weeks away and I feel confident that I’ll be back and ready to go for when the real focused training for that begins.

I hope everyone is having a great fall and would appreciate if you would all say a prayer for healing for me as I try to get over this injury. Thanks everyone for the support and I hope to be back with good news soon.

2015 Grandma’s Marathon

This past Saturday, June 20th, I competed in my 5th marathon, Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN. I had raced twice before in Duluth, in 2012 and 2013 at the USATF Half Marathon Championships. In 2012 I had my best showing at a USATF Championship event with a 4th place finish running a time of 1:03:14. The following year I struggled in for a 51st place finish with a time of 1:06:00. Regardless of how I raced I have always loved going to Duluth and enjoying the race weekend experience. Grandma’s Marathon puts on one amazing race and treats their elite athletes wonderfully and so each year I hope that Grandma’s fits into the race schedule and I can go back to enjoy the city of Duluth and the wonderful race.

The decision to run Grandma’s Marathon this year came shortly after my win at the Monumental Marathon in Indianapolis last November. Coach and I knew that I could hit an Olympic Trials B Standard at a half marathon earlier in the spring, but wanted to run a spring marathon in hopes of attaining an A Standard, which is 2:15:00 or faster for the full marathon. Training began in that winter and stretched into the spring, going mostly to plan besides a few icy weeks in February. In April I ran my Olympic Trials B Standard at the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon in Louisville, KY, finishing 4th with a time of 1:04:59.84, talk about calling it close, the B Standard is 1:05:00. A few days after that race I left for Flagstaff, AZ to train for the month of May in preparation for Grandma’s Marathon and my attempt at the A Standard.

Training in Flagstaff was incredible and I believe while there I put together my best month of training since I’d moved back to Kentucky after the 2012 Olympic Trials. It was a month of high volume and solid workouts, with few distractions to keep me from doing all the little things needed to keep the body fueled, rested, and ready to go the next day when running at a high level. I came home from Flagstaff feeling fit and ready and confident that I would run the A Standard at Grandma’s.

The last month of training back home was a rude reintroduction to heat and humidity after a mild month of May in Flagstaff. Workouts started well, but with each week the temperature increased and workouts began to feel worse and I worried we had miscalculated my return from altitude and I was losing the fitness I had gained while there. These thoughts plagued me for the final weeks heading into the race, though I remained confident on the outside and daily told myself that I was fine.

I arrived in Duluth on Thursday and enjoyed a pleasant two days of cool weather that quickly renewed my faith that indeed my fitness was there and that all I had been suffering was due to the heat and humility of my old Kentucky home. The two days leading into the race were peaceful and I do not remember the last time I felt so comfortable before a race. I often have to stay distracted heading into a race, otherwise my restless mind begins to pick apart my training and look for holes, which at this point are too late to fill and thus are pointless to point out. I have talked myself out of a race a few times and know the importance of staying confident and relaxed the days before the race.

But this weekend the usual feeling of fear and concern stayed away and I was left feeling ready and excited to get out there and compete. Friday was a beautiful day and everyone hoped the weather would hang around for the race the next morning. Unfortunately, it did not.

Saturday morning was cool, but as we got off the bus at the starting line the rain began to fall harder and harder until about 20 minutes before the race it was a complete downpour and I felt the confidence of many runners begin to wilt, their hopes of fast times dissolving in the rain. This is not the case with me. In high school and college I loved racing in the rain for this exact reason, so many people let the rain bother them, stop them from competing at top form, while I had some of my best races in the rain and mud. I came to the line charged up, in my element, feeling more ready than ever. The gun went off and the Kenyans took off at a blistering pace. A chase pack formed behind them and I sat near the front of that group, with many other athletes I had been discussing an A Standard attempt with.

A mile in it became apparent that somewhere in the rain the group’s collective will to chase 2:15:00 had disappeared. 5:08 per mile is the pace needed for that kind of time and after a 5:14 first mile, followed by a 5:17 second mile it was clear the group had decided that playing it safe was the plan. I was immediately faced with a tough decision: continue to run with this group and hope that they pick it up, each passing mile made that seem unlikely that they would speed up enough to get the A Standard, or set out on my own and hope to catch a faster group up ahead that could help pull me along to my desired goal.

The rain had slowed to a  drizzle and up ahead I saw two runners running shoulder to shoulder at a good clip, so a few steps past the 2nd mile marker I made my choice, my gamble, and surged knowing that if I didn’t I surely wasn’t going to run the time I had come to run. I knew this could cost me the race, the time I wanted, that this kind of move this early could even destroy my before I got to the later stages of the race, but I hadn’t come to Duluth to run another B standard and so I knew it was my only shot. I took off and began what became a 13 to 14 mile attempt to run the Olympic A Standard almost completely alone.

The group slowly faded back and the two runners up ahead seemed to be getting closer with each mile, yet the gap never completely closed. Up past these two runners I saw Luke Puskedra, a Nike sponsored athlete and teammate at the 2012 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships when we raced in Kavarna, Bulgaria. He had crushed it in Bulgaria, while I had suffered in the heat and ran poorly, but today was a new day and the distance twice as far and somehow even with the risky move I felt great and believed I could catch him.

The race continued on, mile after mile clipped by, always within the range I needed for my time. I went through half way in 1:07:35, and knew then that I had a shot, that maybe if it all held together I could pull off the A Standard. I knew it would be a tall order, that after the slow first two miles to bring myself back into A Standard range by half way had cost me a lot of precious energy, but again my desire to run the time pushed me on, continuing to push even as I felt the fatigue begin to chip away at my legs. Runners from the lead group began to come back to me, one by one runners who had underestimated the early pace came back, some walking, some barely jogging. Each one I caught kept me pressing on and I soon found myself in 13th pace and believing a top 10 finish was possible.

Mile 17 was the first sign that the wheels where beginning to fall off. My pace slowed for the first time for back to back miles to 5:15 or slower. Mile 18 dropped back down around 5:10, but then 19 was back up in the 5:17-5:20 range and each mile began to feel harder, yet was slower. My head and heart continued to push, unwilling to give up even as my legs started to fail me. A runner from the group I left passed me, then another two, finally two or three more, and I was sitting somewhere around 20th place, wanting so badly to hold onto for at least a top 20 finish as previous goals of the A Standard were now beyond my grasp. I dug deep, running for maybe half a mile with two runners from the B.A.A. until I just couldn’t will myself to hold the pace anymore and they slipped by.

I feared that I was going to lose all sense of respectable pace and end of jogging it in, but each mile clipped by and to my pleasant surprise even though each one felt worse than the one before I was still holding onto 5:25 pace and getting closer and closer to the finish, which gave me confidence that I could at least hold this pace to the end. I caught a runner in the final mile and came around the final turn and into the finishing shoot, the crowd going crazy as I kicked home, the clock still under 2:18, the B Standard for the full marathon distance. I dug deep, looking for some sort of final push to get me to the line before the clocked ticked above 2:18:00. My eyes locked on the clock as each step brought me closer to the finish, but also saw another second tick off the clock. This my final strides to the line I saw the clock, 2:17:57,58,…59, and the line, a race volunteer catching me as I staggered to the right, exhausted from my effort. I wasn’t sure if I had gotten the B standard or not, but I was washed and could hardly walk without support so they grabbed a wheelchair and took me into the medical tent.

The pain that I had experienced at Monumental in November had been the worst pain related to running of my life. The pain in my legs after that race lingered for hours and made me want to cry. This time I had run a whole 1:49 faster and yet I didn’t feel that desire to curl up in a ball and die. I was in pain, but I was also amped up, still charged from going for the time and giving it all I had on the course. Sure the plan backfired and I had died the last 5 to 6 miles, but it didn’t feel like failure. It felt like great, it felt like I had raced the best I could with hand I was dealt. The move at mile 2 had made me push harder, longer than I ever had before. It felt right at the time, and in the same spot again I would have done the same, feeling that I’d rather die going for it then settle into a group and just accept that the weather was poor and we have to settle for a slower time. I think if I had done that I would have been angry with myself, even if I had run a faster time and finished higher, if I hadn’t pushed, if I hadn’t tried to go for the A, I would have been left with a feeling that I had not given it all I had, that I had played it safe instead of trying my hardest. The final results had me in 19th place with a time of 2:18:00.

Every race is different, each has its highs and lows, its point when you have to make the choice of a strategy that will either make or break you. This race my choice did both. It made my race, it left me feeling alive and hungry, on top of the world knowing I had gambled and went when the safe choice was to stay in the pack and work together, but the safe choice wasn’t going to get me the A Standard and that was the goal from all the way back in November and so I went for it, I went big, and in the end it broke me too. I slowed in those final miles and got beat by some runners who ran “smarter” than I did, but none of them got the A Standard either, and for me that was the point of this race, not a new PR, not a top 10 finish, though it I had hit the A Standard I would have gotten both, no, the goal had been to put it all out there and go for something crazy, go for a nearly 5 minute personal best in the middle of a rain storm, alone if necessary, because in the end my goals are in my hands, not the other runners, not the weather, not anything but a blessing of health from God, the strength in my legs, and the force of my will to get me to the line in time. I could make a hundred excuses, but in the end I don’t need any, I put myself out there and went for my goal. I came up short, but it was the most satisfying failure of my life, and so it was a win in my book, another chapter in my life that one day I can look back on and say well you’ve raced a lot, you’ve won a few, and lost a few more, but in the end at least you can say you gave it your all when it counted. Any day I can look in the mirror and say that to myself then I’ll take that as a win and be thankful to God that I had the chance to do it that way.

There Always Comes A Calm

The calm before the storm has finally arrived. The last few weeks have flown by as I settled back into life in Louisville. My schedule returned to what it was before. My lovely wife here with me. Life seemed to be settling into a familiar rhythm once again. But in this familiarity there was a lack of urgency, I didn’t have the sense that there was something coming. But now, with the chores finished, the bags packed, and my flight leaving tomorrow morning, now I can begin to feel it, the awareness at the edge of my consciousness that the race is here, that after all the training, all the waiting, it’s finally here. Months of preparation for this moment that has finally arrived. This feeling always comes before a race, but it seems to arrive differently each time. This time it came as the work week wrapped up and I finished cleaning the apartment, it arrived after all this as if to say, “there, everything is finished, you have nothing left to do but this, so now I will make you aware of it.” It settles on the mind, like a cloud, and it slowly brings my mind to focus finally at the task at hand that all this effort has been spent for. It is a calm that settles my nerves, but also makes me sharply aware that there is still one great work to be done, the race itself.

Spring 2015 Update: Olympic Trials Qualifier and Altitude Training in Flagstaff, AZ

Greetings! It’s been a while since I’ve written a post on here. Life’s been busy and I haven’t had a lot of time for reflecting until lately, so I figured I’d take advantage and give everyone an update. Where to begin? Probably the best spot would be where I left off last, which was last November after I won the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and ran a personal best of 2:19:49. The goal had been to run my Olympic B Standard at that race and qualify for the trials, but the weather and digestive system didn’t corporate, but a win and a new PB is nothing to complain about so I won’t.

So failure to hit a standard, made the goal of this spring to lock down the qualifying time. I spent the winter getting in moderate mileage while avoiding any big illness or injuries along the way. I raced a few times, most notably an indoor 5k at IU where I ran 14:22, a half marathon in South Carolina where I won, but still didn’t hit my qualifying time, the USATF 15k champs where I got crushed and awoken to the fact that I had some work to do if I was going to get my qualifier anytime soon, and finally the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini Marathon where I ran solo in 4th place after the top 3 pulled away after mile 3, and just barely squeezed under the qualifying time of 1:05:00 with a time of 1:04:59.84, it was so close. So with that run I earned a spot into the 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon in Los Angeles this coming February, but with it only being a B Standard I am going to have to foot the bill to get there…unless I can run an A Standard before then. That brings us to present.

I’ve spent the past month in Flagstaff, AZ training in the high altitude and on the wonderful trails to prepare for Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN on June 20th. It’s been a long time since I’ve done nothing but train, eat, and sleep for a whole month and I have to say I’ve missed it. I remember in college and high school during the summers become almost a running monk, living in the isolation of my parent’s house, getting up early for practice before the heat, then vegging out on the couch all day before running again in the afternoon or evening. This single minded pursuit would often bring me into season in top form, recharged and focused from the hours of running and relaxing, focusing on the season ahead. I feel the same now after putting together a month of great volume and solid workouts up here in Flagstaff. Plenty of time to run and reflect on the race to come. I’ve settled into a daily routine that has got me into top shape yet not beat me into a wreck physically or mentally which can often be the case back home when trying to balance high training volume plus work and the daily grind. I feel ready and excited knowing that I still have a few more weeks to add to my fitness before the race. The high mileage had been done, now comes some sharpening with some final marathon workouts that test the legs and the mind, making me work through discomfort, much like the middle miles of the marathon.

I return to Louisville this Wednesday, just in time for our one year wedding anniversary and with about three weeks to acclimate to high heat and humidity again while also recharging from a month of altitude, which does its best to beat you up if you’re not careful.

Grandma’s is on June 20th and my goal is a sub 2:15:00, which is the Olympic Trials A Standard and a huge PR for me. I feel Monumental in the fall finally helped me figure out race fueling and the need to compete over simply chase a time. I’m praying for cool weather at Grandma’s, but that is out of my hands so I’m prepping mentally for whatever comes my way. I know I’m ready for a big jump, I’ve done the work and feel stronger than last fall, the workouts have indicated that as well, running a 11 mile tempo at 6900+ feet faster than I did at sea level last fall is always a good sign. Mentally I feel ready as well, using daily reminders and goals I’ve been getting my mind ready for the race and building up confidence that I can handle whatever comes my way.

June 20th will be here before I know it and I’m excited to see what these legs can do. I’ll try to keep things on here up to date as we approach the race, giving everyone some final updates as the race gets closer. Until then God bless and enjoy your summer.

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Indianapolis Monumental Marathon: 1st Place, 2:19:49

It was a very frigid and windy morning in Indianapolis this past Saturday at the Monumental Marathon. Temperatures throughout the race hovered around freezing with wind blowing in from the north around 15 mph. This, in the mind of some people, wrote off any chance of fast times and qualifying marks, which I found to be a very negative attitude heading into a race that many of us have been training for the last 4 to 5 months for. The pacer was set to go out around 2:18:00 marathon pace, or 5:15 per mile, but was considering slowing the early parts of the race to conserve energy as we would be running straight into that wind for the first half of the race. The gun went off at 8am and we took off into the cold morning still unsure of how the pace would pan out. The half marathon lead pack formed up ahead of us and a few brave full marathon runners went out with them. Over the next several miles we would see each one slowly fall off the back of the half marathon pack and drift back to us, our group slowly absorbing them and then spitting them out the back as we continued along at 5:15 pace.

The group held strong through 10k and I began to think that it was crazy that a group this size was all going for the Olympic Qualifying time of 2:18, but as we approached the 7.5 mile mark, the split for the half marathon, a number of the group began to wish us luck and I realized for the first time that the majority of the group were actually half marathon runners just using the pacer and group to block the wind. The group split and suddenly there was the rabbit and 4 of us left chasing the solo Kenyan runner out in front by 80 feet or so. For the first time in the race my confidence began to soar as the number of potential threats to winning had dwindled to 4 and I was still feeling very strong. A little later we caught for the first time the lonely Kenyan runner-up ahead, only to have him surge away once again, but confirming that he was only running fast enough to win, a sign that his early pace with the half marathons may have cost him too much.

At 20k I took my first bottle from the elite bottle table. I was using a new fuel this time around, Generation Ucan, a super starch that slowly absorbs to allow longer dependence on fats for fuel, leaving carbs for the end, when they’ll be most needed. The stuff is thick, and went down chalky, but it didn’t bother my stomach and mentally I felt a little stronger after gulping down the stuff and not feeling it sitting in my gut, a major concern pre-race. We ran through the half way point in 1:09:02, a pleasant surprise due to the fact that we had battled so much wind on the way out. At this point the pacer let us know we had another mile and half until we would turn and get a tail wind that would carry us through the second half of the race. This was good news to me, and I began to get excited about the prospects of an easier second half from an environmental perspective anyway. Unfortunately with this good news came some bad news about a mile later, a strong sensation of needed to go to the bathroom came over me and after several minutes of growing discomfort I realized that something was going to have to be done, because concentrating on the race and holding my bowels was not something I was prepared to do for the next 12 miles.

A series of calculations began to play out in my mind. The Kenyan out front had faded back to us once, odds were he would again. The current runners around me would be staying with the pacer through 30k, so another 6 miles of them running a consistent pace, odds again in favor that some would fall off that. Finally, I knew if I took care of my current problem quickly I would feel so much better that I could pour that extra concentration into running a faster pace and possibly catching a few if not all of them. These thoughts ran through my mind probably less time then it took for you to read about them, but they were enough that when the next port-a-potty came into view a few moments later I took the risk and peeled off from the group and dashed into the bathroom. Later, looking at the splits after the race, this little gamble cost me around 40 seconds.

I sprang out of the port-a-pot as quick as I could and sprinted back onto the course. Up ahead I saw the strung out group of runners I would slowly have to chase down over the next several miles. I had gone from 2nd place to 5th, but if a new lightness in my steps as I bound forward I felt good and knew there was still a chance. A few minutes later I went by my coach. He looked concerned but I shouted to him as I went by that I was ok, I simply had stopped to go to the bathroom. He encouraged me and told me I was a minute back from the leader, but that I looked strong. I was feeling strong too, and over the next mile caught the 4th place runner. He stuck with me for a bit, but I slowly pulled away and continued my long fight back to the front.

At 30k I was still in 4th place, but had closed a large gap down over the last 6 miles and as we rounded a turn after the water station I moved up to 3rd and saw the pacer with one other runner-up ahead. Around mile 19 to 20 the pacer pulled off to the edge and slowly jogged. As I ran by him he yelled some encouragement and told me to keep pressing, the guys up ahead were struggling. This, along with catching the 2nd place runner, gave the another surge of energy, and around 20 I took a GU from my pocket and took down the last of my fuel for the last 6 miles into the finish. Now all that stood between me and winning was the 5 seconds or so between me and the Kenyan, who had managed to gain more of the lead over the others since I had pulled off to use the restroom.

By this point I was running on pure guts and a confidence that came from running down the last 3 runners over the last few miles, I knew I would get him, I just didn’t know when, but I knew I had 6 miles to do it. About half way between mile 22 and 23 I finally caught the last runner and with no change in effort I slowly pulled up next to him and continued on around, not wanting to slow now, but continue to push and try to build a gap in case the last 8 miles of work came back to haunt me. I never looked back, but just continued to push, simply telling myself with each passing mile, 4 more to go, 3 more to go, 2 more to go, hold on and you’ve won! Each mile became harder than the one before, and I struggled to hang onto the pace, but I knew that second place could be close behind and if I let up at all I could loss the lead I had fought so hard to claim.

The last two miles we rejoined the half marathon into the finish, a biker ahead me to make a clear path as hundreds of runners suddenly appeared to my left, after running for so long with no one but the few runners I was chasing. The added support and encouragement from the half marathoner runners urged me on, as I struggled to hold it together for just a little longer. Finally the 25 mile marker went by and I felt I had done it, I knew I could hold it together for another mile as long as nothing terrible happened. Each step hurt a little more but my desire to win pushed me forward despite the pain. The crowds began to grow and we passed the 26 mile mark and rounded the last corner heading into the finish. I looked to the clock and saw my time, I was not going to get my Olympic Trials qualifier today after all, but after overcoming such a big gap I didn’t care, I had willed my way from so certain defeat to the lead and had managed to hang onto it once I took it, this was a so encouraging to me after having my last two marathons finish in heartbreak, my failure to finish at Twin Cities the previous fall and my fueling troubles at Boston in the spring of 2013, had left a fear in my mind that the marathon was beyond me, that I was not going to be able to race the distance well, but as I rounded that turn and headed in for the finish line I felt a pressure let up that I hung over all my training, all my race preparation, the lingering doubt that regardless of how hard I worked I just wasn’t going to run well, this feeling evaporated as I came across the line. I staggered to a stop and Coach Mann was there to catch me. I rejoiced for a few moments at what had just happened, at overcoming what most probably felt was a tactical mistake at mile 14 to stop at use the restroom, a move I couldn’t have been certain of myself until it was all over, but also overcoming that shadow of doubt and fear of past marathon failures, to win my first marathon and run a new personal record of 2:19:49.

Coach Mann walked me slowly indoors where my wife Jessica met me shortly after. At this point my joy was turning to a new sensation, one of extreme discomfort as my legs began to ache with a pain that I have rarely felt in all my years of racing. As she hugged me I buried my head into her shoulder, oh god it hurts I said over and over, to which she replied, what I can do? I was in too much pain to give any answer other than, I don’t know, it just hurts so much. Finally they walked me to a chair and helped me sit down. A momentary relief came, but the ache quickly returned and was joined by uncontrollable shaking as the cold finally settled in as my body had began to cool. The next two hours I spent aching and shivering under a pile of warm blankets, that is when I wasn’t shuffling to the bathroom now that my stomach and bowels had joined the revolt as well. At one point I looked at Coach Mann and said I didn’t remember it hurting this much last time, to which he replied, well, you didn’t run this fast last time. Good point.

Do where does this leave me? My 2014 race season is most likely at an end, I don’t foresee any serious racing until the new year comes around. While I did get a new PR and win my first marathon I am still not qualified for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. I have time though. The spring will come and there are plenty of half and full marathons to run then to qualify. I feel we got closer to fueling properly this time around than ever before, if just a little work to be done over the last 5 miles. I think the bathroom fiasco of mile 14 was a fluke, usually my body does a pretty good job of taking care of that race morning, for some reason this time it did not, I’ll be looking at my diet the day before and seeing what I did differently, which should clear that up. Finally, there is the fundraising for Living Water International to build a well in Peru that I must now collect on. For those who don’t know I’ve been using this marathon training cycle to raise money to donate to Living Water International to help build a well in Peru. I challenged people to choose an amount and then give that amount if I ran my qualifying time of 2:18, to half the amount if I didn’t run it, and double it if I ran 2:15, which is the “A” standard. 2:19:49 clearly is not the time I was hoping for, so those who wish to hold to the agreed upon wager should cut their amount in half, but please still donate! If you are feeling charitable then please give more than half, or give the original amount you planned, but in honor of the win instead of a qualifying time. Or give more because you’re feeling blessed and want to bless others. Whatever the amount you can go to http://www.water.cc/michael-eaton and donate there! I’ve got 28 more days to collect as many donations as I can, so please help me raise some money for a good cause and help some people a lot less fortunate than us. Also, help me spread the word, repost my blog to friends and family or at work, get the word out about my race and the cause I believe in. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

2014’s racing has come to a close, but it finished on an upswing and leaves me excited for winter training and spring racing. I look forward to competing again in the coming months and sharing my experiences here with you. As always I thank God for the opportunities he has given me to run and compete and for the friends that I have made along the way. I also thank all of you who read my blog or support or cheer me on in your own way. God bless and may everyone have a wonderful holiday season as winter quickly approaches.

Monumental Marathon Training Update: 16 Days To Go

A little over two weeks from now I’ll be lacing up for my 4th marathon, the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. My goals for this race are: 1. To win and 2. To run an Olympic Trial qualifying time. I’ve posted a few updates along the way as the fall has progressed and training has ramped up. Since my last post I’ve run two races. First, on September 20th I won the Hudy 14k in Cincinnati, OH. It was a tough course, lots of hills and a tough runner who I battled with for most of the race. I ran a time of 43:31, which is around 4:56 per mile for the 8.8 mile race. It was a pleasant surprise to run that kind of effort at the event. Two weeks later I went up to Bedford, IN to run the Bedford Half Marathon. This race became a hard tempo run through the hills and turns of Bedford. I won in a time of 1:10:34. Tough course but fun and within a few years I imagine this will become a pretty competitive race. Along with these two races I’ve done some great workouts over the past month. 14x1000m, 4x2mile in 10:25, 10:17, 10:25, 10:00, 12 mile tempo @ 5:26 pace, 16 mile @ 5:48 pace, and 3x3mile in 15:25, 15:28, 15:35. I’m excited to see how the last couple of weeks of training begin to add up. On top of all this solid training my new sponsor Janji Apparel has hooked me up with some great gear for my upcoming race. Here’s a few pics of some of their great gear that gives back with every purchase.

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Also, as many of you know who follow my blog, I’m using this race to raise money for Living Water International to help build a well to provide clean drinking water in Peru. Here’s the link to my fund raising page: http://www.water.cc/michael-eaton. Also check out my older post about my challenge to give based on my race performance at Monumental: https://runningwithmichael.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/would-you-bet-on-me/. I hope to raise enough money to build a well. Check it out and help if you can. The race is almost here and I look forward to testing my limits in November. Things are looking good and I feel big things on the horizon.