Friday, November 7, 2014

Hometown High and Headphone Guy: Des Moines Marathon Race Report (10/19/14)

I was certainly in uncharted waters going into the DSM Marathon. I had never run a second marathon only 4 weeks after the first. But I had laid out an aggressive plan to run 2 fall marathons as warmups for my goal race, the California International Marathon in early December, and I wanted to stick to that plan. Unfortunately, I had been sick with flu symptoms in those 4 weeks between races and was still battling congestion during race week. My mileage had suffered too. While I normally run 80-120 miles per week I had only logged 67, 75, 81, and 55 (week of DSM including race).

Despite all that, I've had a pretty solid year of running and felt good the days leading up to the race. This was my hometown race, after all, and I wasn't going to miss it. When I was growing up in Des Moines in the 80's and 90's this race simply didn't exist (2014 is the 14th year), so I was excited to see how the city would support the race. 

The day before the race I drove 3 hours over from Lincoln, NE (where we have lived for just over a year) with my wife and two boys. My wife and 10 year old son had plans to run the 5k which I didn't see because it started 45 minutes after the full marathon. But my son Gavin had a great race and ran a 5k PR of 19:58! 

Race kit laid out night before the race.

We stayed in town with family the night before. I laid out my race day gear as usual. Things looked a bit different. This would be my first race wearing my new Smarty Pants Vitamins jersey and I was surprised at the way so many fans called out "Go Smarty Pants!" out on the course. It was definitely a pleasant surprise. 

I thought I should write a quick note in response to a few folks who have asked about my new race jersey. 
So here's the scoop: I will be wearing my Smarty Pants gear for some races and my Lincoln Running Company gear for others. Basically, I will wear my club gear (LRC) in any race where they are supporting me financially (by paying entries, travel expenses, etc.) and I will wear my Smarty gear (or whatever I feel like wearing) for other races. Team Smarty Pants isn't a real club team like LRC, it's just a loose group of people around the country who like the product and agree to be an "ambassador" and receive free products and gear in exchange for "getting social" about the products on Twitter. 

All that being said, this is a great product that my kids had been taking for about a year before I got involved with Smarty Pants. It's the only way my kids will take Omega-3 vitamins at all. Use this code for 15% off your order: #RunSmarty14 

Now back to the race report....

I did my usual routine of waking up and eating a light breakfast 2 hours before race time. One banana and a cup of dry cheerios, then a V8 brand energy drink with caffeine about 45 minutes before the race starts. Caffeine is my drug of choice on race day. Research indicates that caffeine reduces perceived exertion while running (you feel like you are running slower than you're actually running), and I'm a big believer that this is true.
Wish I had known this in high school in the mid-90's...

I was lucky enough to have time to set 6 of my own bottles out along the course the night before. I used the same mix that seemed to work at Omaha. 
The bottles had my mix of half water/half gatorade and 2 Saltstick Caps dissolved in each bottle. Each bottle held 12 ounces and I ended up carrying them for maybe half a mile and drinking about half of each one (6 oz) before tossing it. (Feel free to email or tweet at me if you want any marathon nutrition tips! I think I almost have it figured out.)

We arrived about an hour before race time and parked on the north end of downtown DSM. The weather was crisp but really just about perfect for a marathon. 40's and fairly light breezes. 
I jogged for about a mile and then went over to the starting area. I wore gloves and arm sleeves to stay comfortable early in the race until I warmed up. I ended up ditching the sleeves at mile 6 and the gloves around mile 21 after I spilled a cup of water all over them. 

I liked the start area being on a bridge over the river. It gives you a view while you wait to start and a "big race" feeling. The deep field of Kenyan runners vying for the new $10,000 winning prize also gives you a big race feeling. (I met one athlete at packet pickup who had just got off a plane directly from Kenya. He had come to Des Moines for a chance at the money.)
Of course, I knew I wouldn't be in that mix (the winner ran 2:12) but it's always fun to watch 20 Kenyans start a race and watch most of them drop out along the way because the prize money only goes down to 5th place. Once they realize it's not their day they stop running and save it for next weekend where they will be racing in Dayton or St. Louis or wherever there is prize money. I will do a separate post soon about how the Elite Runner fields are handled at Des Moines Marathon and other races. And I should probably note that I did receive a free "elite" entry at this race because I met the time standard of 2:35.

I got out very relaxed the first mile and fought the urge to go hard too early. At DSM, as in most marathons, the full and half-marathon competitors start at the same time. There were some fast half-marathoners in the race, which can make it hard to tell who your competition is early on.
I ran 5:59 for mile one. I was chatting with several Nebraska and Iowa runners during this mile including Shannon Suing, David Bohlken and others. This was just the pace I had planned. A good start.

A mix of Full (blue bibs) and Half Marathoners (orange bibs) at Mile 1.

My wife Bridie and 10 year old son Gavin spectating at Mile 1 (before their own 5k!)
The full and half marathon runners split around 2.5 miles into the race. The half marathoners turn south for their pancake-flat jaunt through Waterworks Park and Gray's Lake. Full marathon runners head west up the Grand Avenue hill which is over 1 mile long (although there is a flattish stretch halfway up). 

It was apparent as soon as we started climbing Grand Avenue that this would be a lonely marathon for me. The Kenyans had shot out and left just a handful of us strung out minutes behind them. I chatted with a runner from Carroll, Iowa on the way up the Grand Avenue hill. His name was Scott Cale and he was wearing a baggy orange t-shirt which made me wonder if he was for real. (He turned out to be a solid runner who finished the race in 2:40.)

I ran with Scott up and down the South of Grand hills for a couple miles and then pulled ahead around mile 5. We agreed to see each other at the finish and catch up. I felt I couldn't wait any longer to start moving up. I could see two runners up ahead and one was clearly struggling. 
He was a blonde guy wearing royal blue gear. I was feeling comfortable up Foster Drive as I chased the royal blue runner and a runner in all black, who turned out to be Dan Sevcik (a Runablaze Iowa team runner). 
I peeled off and tossed my arm sleeves at mile 6 and then passed the royal blue runner about mile 7 (as you come back onto Grand Ave and head west toward Polk Blvd).

Thanks to Super Fan and Super Race Director Julie Feist of Beatrice, NE for this pic at about mile 7.5.
I was feeling good and couldn't help smiling as I ran past my alma mater Roosevelt High (mile 9) and then ran by my first house on Kingman Blvd (mile 10). My goofy smile was apparently contagious as the scattered crowds along the way were screaming for me. "Keep smiling!" and "Go Smarty Pants!" were common cheers. I was amazed how much fun people had calling me Smarty Pants out there!

I was running solo from mile 7 to 10 but was slowly reeling in the runner in black (Sevcik). He was laying down solid splits and I was happy to have someone to chase. I quickly passed an African woman about mile 10 who had apparently fallen off the lead pack and was struggling. (3 international women ended up beating me that day and all the international women had gone out aggressively.)

It was definitely a breezy day but I didn't realize how breezy until I entered the wind tunnel of Drake Stadium. Cool to run a lap there, but it was a windy lap. I was still about 10 or 15 yards behind Sevcik.
The turnaround at Drake allowed me to see who was in front of me and approximately how far ahead they were. I could see the women's lead pack had at least 3 minutes on me and they were working together. 

I exited Drake Stadium, climbed back up to Kingman Blvd, and near mile 13 I passed Sevcik without him putting up a fight. (After the race we met and he told me he was having ankle problems. I don't believe he had finished the race.)

I was through the half in 1:18:16 and was disappointed when I saw it on the big clock. I had hoped to be in the mid-1:17 range. But I had no real basis for that goal time, having never run this course before. I reminded myself that the hills on this course were behind me. 

Right after passing Sevcik I caught an African woman who had fallen off the lead pack. She was trying to latch on and use me to break the wind. I decided to push for a few minutes to drop her. I got carried away and turned a 5:14 mile for mile 15 as I passed Roosevelt High School again. I had succeeded in leaving her behind but I suffered for it the rest of the race. When I passed Ashworth Pool and entered the bike trail that leads to Waterworks Park, I was hurting. This was the most desolate mile of the race. The only people I recall seeing were at a small waterstop. I only ran a 6:25 for mile 18. 

Luckily, I had a water bottle and an energy gel stashed near mile 18 and that seemed to energize me again. I spotted my friend James Clevenger at mile 18 cheering on the side of the road. He was screaming, jumping up and down, and generally going crazy. "This is YOUR day, Chad Sellers!" He shouted. This gave me a big lift! 

I was now in Waterworks Park where the full and half marathon courses come together again. At first it was nice to have some slow runners to pass, but this would get challenging as I made my way through the next couple miles and the packs of runners got larger. The half marathon runners tended to take up most of the road. 
I was lucky to spot a woman in a pink shirt working as a bike marshal around mile 20. I asked her to ride near me and ring her bell to warn the half marathoners I was coming by. 
Kathy quickly started to help. She also offered some moral support. At one point she said "My husband does REALLY LONG bike rides, so I know what you're going through." 

Kathy was a tremendous help in cutting a path for me with her bike and her little bell. Although, I still had to yell "on your left" all the way around Gray's Lake to make sure people got over. This probably took about the same amount of energy as weaving around everyone, but it felt like a safer strategy. 

Around mile 24 (a man who will forever live in infamy as) "Headphone Guy" was running on the left side of the trail with 2 people to his right. They made a wall across the trail. I yelled and Kathy rang her bell but Headphone Guy couldn't be bothered to pay attention. 
I finally had to lower my shoulder and bump him out of the way. And I would do it again. Although I shouldn't have to.

Please don't run more than 2 people wide on the trail!!!!

At mile 24, I would pass one more runner in a red Simpson College Alumni singlet. And I hated to do it. Des Moines runner Jake Sutton was leaning to the side and his head was bobbing around. I yelled to him to keep it going but I wasn't sure he would make the finish line. 

I had a nice run in and felt good the last couple miles. My older son Gavin and my wife spotted me around mile 25 and cheered me in. The Johnston Cross Country girls also went crazy for me at mile 25 which was a great surprise. I finished in 2:38:13 and was happy to be done.

Jake Sutton eventually did cross the finish line about 2 minutes behind me and promptly collapsed. But it wasn't too serious. It looked like he was just depleted of electrolytes and possibly dehydrated. The medical tent had no salt or electrolytes on hand (really?!). I fed him some of my own Salt Stick Caps (electrolytes!) in the medical tent and he felt better within minutes.  
Shout out to Jake for finishing the race despite his body failing him. 

Also, shout out to some friendly faces I spotted along the way or talked with post-race: Julie Feist, Ivan Marsh, Theresa/Jim/Peyton McClure, Johnston Girls Cross Country, James and Robyn Clevenger, Ryan Kramer, Doron Clark, Ryan Kollman. Several of my LRC teammates and more that I've forgotten to mention.

The medal was pretty average in terms of size, but a nice design. And I like that Des Moines isn't engaging in the "my medal is bigger than yours" arms race that some marathons are engaging in.
The shirt is a light half-zip long sleeve design. Nice design and color choice.

There were many bands out along the course playing music. The crowd support was very good for a smaller/mid-sized marathon, especially downtown and during the middle miles along Polk and Kingman Blvd. The early miles (3-7) through the ritzy South of Grand neighborhoods were a bit sleepy but there were a few front yard bbq's (with Samosas and Bloody Mary's) going on there which was great to see. 

After I crossed the finish line at the Des Moines Marathon, there was plenty of food available including pizza, deli sandwiches, peanut butter, you name it. 
The traffic control, aid stations and general organization was all top notch. I was proud to be a Des Moines native on race day. And proud to drop the shoulder on Headphone Guy. It had to be done.

Thanks to Julie Feist for this finish line shot.

Approx 36-40oz---Half Gatorade/Half Water

4 Energy gels---Various brands (with caffeine)

6 Saltstick Caps 

SHOES: Scott AF Trainer 

SPLITS (non-GPS watch)

6:17 (18:16 3 mile) (Grand Ave Hill)
6:07 (Grand Ave Hill)
5:54 (36:15 6 mile)
5:56 (59:48 10 mile)
6:11 (1:18:16 half marathon)
5:14 (Polk Blvd south to Roosevelt High--This one killed me!)
6:09 (1:59:17 20 mile)
18:59 (miles 22,23,24--Dodging half marathoners at Gray's Lake)
7:36 (last 1.2 miles)

2:38:13 Final Time. 10th Place (2nd American-born runner)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Be Aggressive, B-E Agressive: Omaha Marathon Race Report (9/21/14)

I decided to jump into the Omaha Marathon about a week before the race. I knew I wasn't super fit yet, having just started back training seriously in early August, but my half-marathon on 9/7/14 had gone better than expected and a low-key marathon just felt right. Especially when I was offered a highly discounted entry from the Race Director.

Besides, since moving to Nebraska about a year ago, I've taken it upon myself to be involved in as many different races here as my time allows. I'm at the age now where I don't have to be in top form for every race. I'm not too proud to use some races as workouts along the way to bigger goals. 

And the Omaha Marathon has a bad reputation as a brutally hilly and poorly managed race. I was excited to see for myself. Spoiler alert: neither of these things is actually true. 
I don't know who managed the OLD Omaha Marathon, but HITS Endurance (based in New York) took over the race 2 years ago, and this was the 2nd year of a new and relatively flat course. Overall, they did a nice job despite apparently marking the 10k course very long.

Omaha is a Sunday race so I went up for packet pickup on Saturday afternoon. Since it's only an hour drive from my house in Lincoln, this was worthwhile for me to know I had my race number before race morning and then go home to my own bed. I also stayed for the pasta dinner because it was free with my entry. It was a great way to soak up the pre-race atmosphere. The pasta dinner was right across the street from the packet pickup (which was at the TD Ameritrade Baseball Park) which made it convenient. I felt some good energy here from both the runners and the race staff and volunteers. I got my bland plate of pasta and chatted with a few "50 Staters" and other half and full marathon folks. 

A couple shots of the small (and outdoor) packet pickup and expo. Luckily the weather was great.

Having had major issues with nutrition/electrolytes in my first few marathons, I decided to place my own bottles out on the Omaha Marathon course on Saturday night. This was easy because the course runs through a few parks where there are picnic tables or fenceposts where I could set the bottles for an easy run-and-grab.
I placed 6 bottles out along the course containing my mix of half water/half gatorade and 2 Saltstick Caps dissolved in each bottle. Each bottle held 12 ounces and I ended up carrying them for maybe half a mile and drinking about half of each one (6 oz) before tossing it. 
This mix worked well for me and I think I finally figured out how much salt I need during a marathon. About 6 Saltstick Caps seems to do the trick and prevent me from losing my vision/seeing spots late in the race.

Race day kit laid out Saturday night.

I drove up from Lincoln, leaving just before 5am on race day. The weather on race morning was good. About 50 degrees with a cool breeze and clouds at the start. The sun would come out a few miles into the race, but I never felt the heat or sun affected my performance. 

I got to the start line and had no idea who I would be racing, which is part of the fun. I had several LRC Racing teammates running the half marathon so I wasn't surprised to see them. Although the picture in the Omaha World-Herald the next day makes it look our team captain Logan Watley and I have just discovered each other. That's me on the right in the orange hat.

In any case, the race started and I got out in a very relaxed 6 minute mile pace. It became clear by mile 2 that it would be a 2-man race between myself and Stephen VanGampleare. We chatted for several miles and it turns out Stephen went to Creighton a couple years back and now lives in Colorado Springs. 
We rolled through the first 10k taking turns leading the way and ticking off 5:40 something miles. I didn't feel like we were intentionally pushing the pace, and we definitely benefited from some downhill stretches in that first 10k. 

We were also fortunate to have Will Lindgren on the bike with us making sure any cars along the course could see us coming. He's also full of stories and jokes (and generally full of crap) as many of you Nebraska readers know.

The out-and-back course starts downtown then runs for a few miles through a sketchy neighborhood north of downtown. At mile 5 it then transitions into a nice park and onto Minne Lusa Boulevard which has some nice historic homes and seems to be a nice area. Miles 7 through 11 lead you onto the bike trail along the river which is scenic if you only look at the river and ignore the industrial area on your right.

The two of us continued to roll along at a comfortable pace on what is a slight downhill toward Carter Lake. At mile 11 you emerge from the bike trail onto the road at Carter Lake and run for 2 miles to the half marathon point where you turn around. 
We got there in 1:15:59, which was over a minute faster than I had planned. But I didn't go into panic mode. I still felt strong and had been getting my fluids down. 

The turnaround was a bit goofy as it was set up on the side of the road in some tall grass. Why would I come off the road into some grass to turn around? 
I was looking for a timing mat on the ground (to run across and prove that I had been there) but the timing system HITS uses has something like speakers suspended above you on a steel arch rather than a timing mat. Once the appropriate number of people yelled at me to cross under the arch, I did it correctly. 

We continued to run together through about 17 miles. Between miles 14 and 16 you start to see the slower marathoners coming at you on the trail, still in their first half of the race. The slow and steady climb from Carter Lake back up to the River started to slow me down slightly and my competitor was able to start to pull away. It happened in slow motion and wasn't a decisive move as I was hanging on just 10 yards behind him, then 20 or 30........and then the large hill at Energy Park and the Minne Lusa/Redick hill at mile 20 really sapped what little pop I had left in my legs. 

I knew at this point I had been way too aggressive early on, especially considering that you hit the bigger hills in the second half of this race. I went into survival mode and my struggle the last 5 miles was just to keep my legs moving and finish the race. I was certainly not in top condition. And it only took me about 18 miles of feeling great to figure this out! 

Thank you marathon for another cruel lesson.
After my last few miles of merely surviving, I was happy to enter the stadium and do a lap around the warning track before finishing. Although the gravel on the warning track was a bit slick, a stadium finish is a nice touch.
Congrats to Stephen VanGampleare on a great race and a PR! 

The post-race food was good. BBQ sandwiches, fruit, milk, etc. The nice thing about these smaller races is that you aren't herded around pre and post-race and you don't have to really wait in line for food. I enjoyed the sunny weather and hung out with a few friends for awhile to get my award. It turned out to be a plaque and a running armband/headphones. Which wasn't too bad of a prize. If only I had an i-phone it might work! 

The finishers medals were substantial and have an LED light that flashes, which is definitely unique.
Overall, I think this is now a well-run marathon. There was good traffic control, enough water stops, enough porta-potties, a relatively flat and visually varied course (downtown, residential, parks/bike trails, Carter Lake). 
Now all we need is more people to come out and run and more people to spectate!

I had terrible mile splits towards the end but I still ran a decent time. And I feel like for me there is no better workout for the marathon than running the marathon.
The great thing is that my legs didn't feel trashed when I finished. I felt better than I had after any other long race. I was worn out but not injured. I took two days off to recover and started training again. 

Now for the Des Moines Marathon on October 19th and the goal race this fall will be the Cal International Marathon (CIM) on December 7th.


Approx 36 oz---Half Gatorade/Half Water

3 Energy gels---Various brands (with caffeine)

6 Saltstick Caps 


5:58 (17:42 3 mile)
5:43 (29:08 5 mile)
11:17 (miles 8 and 9)
5:49 (58:00 10 mile)
5:52 (1:15:59 Half Marathon)
12:13 (miles 15 and 16)
12:13 (miles 18 and 19)
6:09 (1:58:30 20 mile)
13:24 (miles 23 and 24)
8:34 (last 1.2 miles)

2:40:19 Final Time---2nd Place

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How I Just Missed Making Olympic Trials (Okay, it was 10 minutes): Freedom Run Half Race Report

Last Sunday I made my way up to Valley, Nebraska (just west of Omaha) for the Freedom Run Half Marathon. There's also a 10k, 5k, and Family mile offered but the main event is definitely the Half.

When I arrived there were volunteers out directing parking and everything looked ready to go. I got to meet Race Director Judy Argintean and she was gracious and well-organized. I was able to grab my bib number quickly, use the locker room inside the Valley YMCA, and warmup on a quiet dead-end street adjacent to the YMCA. The weather was great with temps in the 50's and light winds.

The Start/Finish Area Pre-Race. 
My expectations for myself were modest going into this race. I had just started training seriously again about 5 weeks before race day and this would be my first race of the fall. I felt like I was probably in 1:14 or 1:15 half shape so I just wanted to run that pace, avoid a meltdown, and build some confidence going into my fall marathon season. 

There was a brief ceremony pre-race that looked to my non-military eyes something like a military funeral. Men in uniform, rifles, flags, etc. It was a touch that reminded us what the Freedom Run is about.........honoring service members and those we lost on September 11th in particular. 

In any case, we got to the start line and a rifle served as the starting gun. The course leaves the YMCA parking lot and heads probably 400 meters out to the highway where most of the race is run. I immediately fell into 4th place and could tell this would be a lonely run right from the start. But what better way to work on mental toughness than run a half marathon pretty much by yourself?

I trusted my body to set the pace and I settled in at 5:33/mile pace for the first 4 miles or so. The course is basically an out and back on a very flat highway. There is a lollipop through a new construction neighborhood that occupies from the 2 mile mark to about the 3.5 mile mark. Otherwise the course is out and back. Somehow I didn't find it boring, but I had never been to this town before so it was all new to me. The great thing about a course like this is the lack of turns. The bad thing is that if there is any wind, there's no escaping it. We did have a slight headwind on the way back from the turnaround point but I can't blame my slow fall from 5:33 to 5:49 pace on the wind. (Splits below)

I had done very little in the way of quality workouts coming in but was feeling surprisingly good and in control as the miles went by. And while I may have had more in the tank, I'm not sure how much. It was hard to push myself to the max without any other runners near me. Maybe next year we can get a deeper field to run the Freedom Run. 

With Nebraska's own "Run Guru" Will Lindgren (his daily blog at is mandatory reading for serious Nebraska runners) in charge of this USATF Certified race course and elite athlete recruiting, I'm sure it will happen. 

Lindgren promised the flattest and fastest course that Nebraska has ever seen. And he definitely delivered. The course was well-marked and had plenty of cones along the way. The highway and the shoulder is also pretty flat so you aren't fighting a side-hill the whole way. I've also run the Grand Island (State Fair) Half and I would say that while there aren't any real hills on that course, this Freedom Run course is even flatter. Or at least the Freedom course has far fewer turns to slow you down.

Lindgren also delivered by bringing in a few national-class runners to compete. How he did this with a modest $600 prize purse, I have no idea. 
Most notably, Zach Hine of Boulder,CO, who was able to run a 1:04 half marathon and qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials in the marathon. This appears to be the fastest half marathon on Nebraska soil in over 20 years. Even more impressive is that Zach Hine ran alone without the aid of any pacers (besides one woman on a lead bike) for the first 9 miles or so. At that point Colin Morrisey (Team Nebraska) was brought in to pace Hine from approximately miles 9 through 12. 

There was quite a gap behind Hine as Team Nebraska runner Luka Thor took second place in 1:09 and Aaron Davidson of Kansas City took third place in 1:10. I ended up running 1:14 for 4th place.

Swag Consisted of a Cotton Shirt and Basic Medals.
The Swag was pretty average including a cotton shirt and some basic medals. But I have enough Dri-Fit shirts anyway. The mini-expo inside the YMCA was a nice touch. I was able to get my legs worked on by a sports chiropractor and grab some snacks at the same time. 

Kudos to Will Lindgren and Judy Argintean on a great event. I know that an Olympic Trials Qualifying performance in small-town Nebraska turned some heads in the running world. I hope that translates into people coming out to run the Freedom Run next year. 
It would make a great tune-up race before your fall marathon. 2 weeks before Omaha, 4 weeks before Twin Cities, 5 weeks before Chicago and Market to Market, 6 weeks before Des Moines.......


5:33.0  (16:41.2 at 3 mile) (17:17 at 5k)
11:19.7 (miles 4 and 5 together) (28:00 at 5 miles)
5:35.2 (34:44 at 10k)
11:27.7 (miles 7 and 8 together)
5:49.3 (56:42.7 at 10 miles)
5:49.2 (1:08:24 at 12 miles)
(1:10:47 at 20k)
6:16 for last 1.1 miles
1:14:40 at Half Marathon finish.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

No More Sunscreen

So I went in for my annual physical in mid-August. Had some blood work done, which is not my favorite thing. But I somehow survived the needle without passing out.

According to the doctor my "lipids are amazing." Apparently, that has to do with cholesterol.

The bad news is that I have a Vitamin D "insufficiency." It's pretty low but not quite low enough to be called a "deficiency" according to their scale.

Anyway, I will be taking Vitamin D supplements going forward and hopefully this gets me back on track. I have also slowed down on using sunscreen so my body can absorb the sunlight and give me some Vitamin D that way. You apparently need to have a certain amount in your body and then the sun somehow activates it or makes it do what it should.
That's my highly medical explanation.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Grand Canyon Recap

I've been down (but not out) for a couple months here. I had a good run at Grandma's in late June and then caught some sort of virus that ruined most of my July including my planned Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim run on July 11th.

I will give you a quick recap on that experience. (Better late than never, right?)
I flew down to Phoenix solo and then drove up to the south rim of the canyon (about a 6 hour drive if I recall) on a Thursday in mid-July. I arrived at my friend Brian Wandzilak's campsite around dinner time.
But I was sick. Upset stomach, generally felt like crap, etc. Not sure why I even showed up at the Grand Canyon. I was given some antibiotics about a day before I boarded my flight, so my thought was they would cure me overnight. It didn't happen.

The plan was to nap Thursday night until about midnight and then get up and start our run down into the canyon. This way we would be done by noon the next day and avoid the worst of the heat. When Brian woke me up around midnight, I felt like crap, and told him as much. But I also decided to get geared up and start the run anyway, still hoping for some sort of race-day magic. The campsite was 2 miles from the Bright Angel trailhead leading down into the canyon, so we put on our headlamps and hydration packs and started running that direction.
It was a cool, windy, pleasant night. Great conditions to start a 50 mile journey, except that I was in no condition to make the journey.

When we started descending into the canyon on what was originally a donkey trail, it was clear to me that I wasn't going to be able to complete the journey. I may have been able to shuffle through 50 miles on flat ground even in my feeling-crappy state, but with all the switchbacks and what are basically railroad ties built into the trail about every 10 feet, I wasn't able to find a rhythm. And I could feel that I was shredding my quads (wearing them out and making them sore very quickly, for you non-runners) within a few miles.

I decided to pulled the plug about 3.5 miles down into the Grand Canyon. This was a relief mentally when I told my running partner Brian that I just couldn't go on. The bad thing was that we still had to turn around and run/hike back up. So we ended up going about 11 miles total that night and getting home to camp around 3am.
I slept a couple hours and in the morning I decided to go explore the Grand Canyon by myself. Mostly from my rental car rather than my own feet. I drove to several overlooks along the south rim and just took it all in. It was only 7 or 8am so most of the tourists weren't out yet and I actually had some quiet to take in the views.

Woke up to this guy Friday morning.

A few random canyon views.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Guzzlin' Drinks, Droppin' Pills and Fast Women: My Grandma's Marathon Race Report


I drove over solo from Lincoln to Des Moines on Thursday night (3 hours). Then Friday morning I hopped in one of 3 minivans full of Des Moines runners heading north. The vans included some of my Des Moines running friends such as Ryan Kramer, Greg Bell, Martin Popp, Tony Cendana, Paxton Bennett, and Ben Jaskowiak.
The drive up to Duluth was another 6 hours or so. And it went very smoothly.

The weather at Grandma's is always unpredictable (and the forecast had been changing daily) so we were excited when we approached Duluth and the temperature dropped from the 70's to down around 45 or 50 very quickly! It was about 2:30pm Friday when we arrived at the Expo/Packet Pickup at the convention center in downtown Duluth. The place was busy but it was very well-organized and we were able to get in and out pretty easily.

Packet Pickup in Duluth.

We then headed about 10 minutes away to the dorms at University of Wisconsin-Superior where we would be staying. The dorms are nothing fancy but they are very affordable and there is shuttle service to the starting line for both the half and full marathon from right outside the dorms. The dorms also provided sheets, pillows, towels, and soap which was great. The less details to think about on race weekend, the better.

About 4pm I did a 3 mile shakeout run with Ben Jaskowiak, Ryan Kramer, Martin Popp. It was cool and windy. Great running weather! I felt a bit sluggish, but I usually do when I only run 3 or 4 miles per day those last couple days before a long race. (I had cut down to 80 miles the week before the race and ended up logging only about 30 miles between Monday and Friday on race week).

Then around 6pm we headed to dinner at a local restaurant called Clyde's. This was a really cool atmosphere compared to hitting the pasta dinner that was basically set up in the middle of the Marathon Expo. Clyde's is also apparently a good music venue, so it's on my list to go back next time I'm in Duluth.

Then it was back to the dorms and to bed around 9:30 or 10.


My alarm was set for 5am because the shuttles came at 5:45 for a 7:45 race time. My roommate Ryan Kramer didn't snore and I actually slept well on the dorm bed. When we woke up to foggy, misty, cool conditions, I was excited. With temps in the 40's and very little chance of the sun coming out, I was no longer worried about heavy rain or heat slowing me down.

I ate my normal breakfast of one banana, a cup of dry cheerios, and an energy drink. The shuttle ride up to the start line was about 45 minutes and went smoothly. I got off the bus and walked immediately to the Porta-Potties. Unfortunately, there were already rather long lines. I had time to burn so I waited 5 or 10 minutes to use one. But more bathrooms is my number one recommendation to the Grandma's race directors because the lines grew to ridiculous lengths as it came closer to race time. I simply had to go in the woods for my last pit stop just a few minutes before the race started.

I warmed up with Des Moines runner Ben Jaskowiak. We did an easy 10 minute jog (around the parking lot of the car dealership next to the starting line) and then a few stride-outs and drills. We then walked our drop bags over to the dropbag area and made our way to the start line. Although I wasn't entered as an elite athlete this year, allowing elites to drop their bags right at the start line would be a nice touch. I know it would have saved us all some time and some fighting through the crowds.

I got to the starting area and found my Lincoln Running Company teammate Jason Zakaras. We both were shooting to run 2:35 and we planned to run together. We lined up probably 25 yards from the front of the pack because you don't want to get pulled out too fast by the truly elite runners who get out in 5 minute mile pace.

I just went with my normal race singlet, shorts, hat and PRO Compression socks. My only modification for the cool weather was a light pair of gloves. I had 3 Clif Shot Gels stuffed inside my gloves. I like the Double Espresso flavor with 100mg of caffeine for a nice boost. I also had about 8 Salt Stick brand salt pills in my little zippered back pocket of my running shorts.

The old "use your gloves to carry fuel" trick. 2:24 marathoner Eric Noel gave me this tip. 

The weather felt great as we started. Upper 40's, heavy fog, light winds which blew from the east--right off the lake. (Grandma's Marathon runs north to south on a 2-lane highway that skirts the western edge of Lake Superior). With all the fog I didn't see much lake on Saturday, but I hear it's pretty. It was misting off and on so the humidity had to be near 100%. The road was wet but there really were not many puddles so the damp weather didn't seem to slow you down or cause any slippage at all.

Zakaras and I got off the start line comfortably and slowly worked our way past some packs of elite women and others in the first mile. We hit mile 1 in 6:01. It was comfortable and while we had wanted to be more like 6:05 or 6:10, it was a good start. We were ready to dial in on our 5:50 to 5:55 race pace goal.

I like to chat my way through the race so I was asking folks where they are from, how fast they plan to run, etc. Somewhere around that mile 1 mark, Zakaras and I met the two elite women that we would run with for the next 20 miles or so. Brianne Nelson and Lauren Jimison, pro runners for Adidas and Asics, respectively.

Brianne spoke up and said she was planning to run the Olympic Trials "A" Standard of sub 2:37.
Without even thinking about it I told her to just run with myself and Zakaras and we would take her there. Sometimes (ok, most times) I'm really full of crap---but I'm so glad that I opened my big mouth and offered to help these ladies stay on pace.

It was a win-win situation. Sure, I was leading the pack most of the race and taking the brunt of the light wind that was hitting us from the front-left.  But I would have set my own pace anyway. My long legs don't make it easy to tuck in behind shorter runners.
Mentally my race became much easier when I switched from thinking about running for myself to helping these women qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon. I was instantly accountable in a way I couldn't have been otherwise.

So we settled in and hit 5:49, 5:45, 5:51, 5:48 and then 5:52 for mile 6. We were right on pace. Even a bit ahead of pace. I was calling out the mile splits for everyone and trying to cut the best tangents I could in the fog on this curvy highway. Our little pack of 4 runners would swell to 7 or 8 briefly as we passed runners who had gotten out too hard, but it never lasted long. It always ended up coming back to just the 4 of us working together. Fans were few and far between out on the course, but probably every mile or so there would be a group at the end of someone's driveway.

Around mile 7 I took my first gel and then unzipped my back pocket to grab a salt pill. I imagined my thumb and index finger neatly plucking one pill out of my pocket. But I had visualized it wrong. When I pulled my hand out, I turned the pocket inside out. I turned around to see all my salt pills hit the pavement. And I started to curse my luck out loud.

Zakaras quickly told me to stop freaking out. This was a big help.
I mourned my mistake for about half a mile and then made a new plan to drink Powerade at each water stop and skip the plain water entirely because Powerade does have some salt content. I was even able to grab two cups of Powerade at some aid stations and I guzzled it down.
It turned out that I still felt low on salt between miles 13 and 18, but I never fully lost my vision/saw spots everywhere as I had in my previous marathon.

We continued to grind out miles in that 5:50 zone as we moved through the fog on the gently rolling hills of the highway (all splits listed below). We hit the half marathon in 1:17:07, which was right where we wanted to be.

Around this time we spotted 2 African men pacing 2 African women probably 100 yards ahead of us in the fog. We knew that we had to reel them in and then blow by them quickly so they didn't try to latch onto our group. Brianne and I discussed this out loud. It took us about 2 more miles to catch them and we passed them around mile 15. They didn't put up much of a fight.

We hit mile 20 in 1:57:49 and this was where it became every man (and woman) for himself. Zakaras started to pull away first. He wasn't speeding up much but he was holding that 5:50's pace where I had started to fade to between 6 minutes and 6:05 per mile. The two women also ended up pulling away from me the last few miles.

Brianne Nelson had a very gutsy finish to end up as the 2nd place woman. Brianne and Zakaras ran 2:34 and Lauren Jimison and myself ran 2:35. I gutted out the last 6 miles and passed several men who were hitting the wall. I was slowing slightly, but I wasn't dead. The last 6 miles is when you enter the city of Duluth. I passed many more runners than passed me during that last 6 miles. And I ended up knowing most of the runners who did pass me late. Iowa runners Jake Stanton and Martin Popp and Illinois runner Daniel Kittaka were among them.

The crowd support is very good once you get to town and that really helped to carry me through. You do wind around in town quite a bit and I started to wonder where the finish line actually was.
I finally found it and finished in 2:35:31. That's a huge PR for me!

Post-race I was impressed with how organized the drop bags were. With about 6200 runners in the full marathon and 7300 in the half marathon, that is no small task. And there were plenty of snacks to be had. I heard there was a long wait for post-race massage, so I just skipped that area.

Here's a few pics from finish line area:

I have to say that I was happy with my choice of shoes this time around. I went with the Scott Eride AF Trainer. It's a light trainer with great tread and I had no blisters or any sort of issues at all. I didn't think about the shoes at all during the run, which is exactly how it should be.

A huge congratulations to Brianne Nelson and Lauren Jimison who both made the U.S. Olympic Trials "A" Standard, which means they will have a chance to compete in Los Angeles in early 2016 and hopefully make the Olympic Team!

Thanks to all who made Grandma's Marathon 2014 such a special weekend. And we will see you further down the road!


3 Clif Shot Gels--Double Espresso

Powerade--Approx 30 oz?


See my complete results here.

See my finish line video here.

See my pics here. (4199 is my Bib #)

MY SPLITS (I don't race with GPS and I missed hitting my watch a few times)
Mile 1 -- 6:01
Mile 2 -- 5:49
Mile 3 -- 5:45
Mile 4 -- 5:51
Mile 5 -- 5:48
Mile 6 -- 5:52
10k -- 36:19
Mile 7 and 8 -- 11:49 (5:54.5 avg)
Mile 9 -- 5:58
Mile 10 -- 5:41
Mile 11 and 12 -- 11:52 (5:56 avg)
Mile 13 -- 6:00
Half Marathon -- 1:17:07
Mile 14 -- 5:41
Mile 15 -- 5:52
Mile 16 -- 5:51
Mile 17 -- 5:58
Mile 18 -- 5:56
Miles 19 and 20 -- 11:58 (5:59 avg)
20 Mile Split -- 1:57:49
Mile 21 -- 6:03
Miles 22,23,24,25 -- 24:13 (6:03 avg)
Mile 26.2 -- 7:25
Total Time 2:35:31

Thursday, June 19, 2014

All-Comers Track Meet at Lincoln Northstar on 6/18/14

I went out to a local all-comers track meet last night. It was put on by my friend Brian Wandzilak at the Northstar High School Track.
I didn't run since I have Grandma's Marathon in just a couple days, but my son Gavin wanted to use the meet as a workout. So Gavin ran the 400, 800, and Mile. Gavin had a great time running against the grown-ups and high schoolers.
The weather was very windy and temps in the upper 90's. Not a good day to run fast, but still a good day for a workout.
Great to see some friends and LRC Racing teammates out there last night!
I had two hungry boys to feed so we didn't stay for the final event----the Donut 2k. I'm sure it was great fun in the heat.

Below are some pics from the meet. See them all here.
Download or use them if you like but please credit this website.

The 800 with Hayley Sutter, Gavin Sellers and company.

Gavin takes it all in. 

Dan Haden wins the 200.

Starting line (shaky chalk line drawn by Wandzilak) of the true mile.

True Mile start with Jacob Kaemmer, Andrew Jacob, Logan Watley, Jeralyn Poe and others.

This is Market to Market Relay mastermind Ben Cohoon on his way to a sub-6 True Mile.

Derek Sekora in the True Mile.

Gavin's USATF State Meet

Over the weekend my son 9-year-old Gavin competed in the 800 and 1500 meter events at the USATF Nebraska State Meet. Omaha Burke was the host for the meet and it was in the 80's and very windy both Saturday and Sunday.

Omaha Burke on Saturday morning. 
Gavin got a bad draw and ended up in lane one for a waterfall start in his 800 meter race on Saturday. This meant he had to get off the line very fast to avoid getting stuck in a crowd. So Gavin got out and led the race (in the wind) and then faltered in the last 300 meters and finished in 2nd place. He still ran a 2:39 to match his PR (personal record).

Gavin leads the 800 meters about 150 meters into the race.

He was disappointed after his performance Saturday and said his plan was to come back and win the 1500 Sunday to claim his first NEBRASKA State Championship (he has won a few in Iowa). I knew Gavin was much stronger in the 1500 than the 800, he just needed to run a solid race and not let the nerves get to him.
Luckily, Gavin got out Sunday in the 1500 and ran a very smart, very even-paced race. He was in 2nd place for the first 400 meters and then took over and ran solo the rest of the race. He ran a 5:19 which also matched his PR. See full results here. Gavin is in the 9-10 year age group.

I am very proud of Gavin's efforts from the weekend. Congrats on another State Championship!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Race Report: Havelock Charity Run 10k on 6/7/14

Wet And Wild Havelock 10k 

When I woke up Saturday morning there was HEAVY rain. Flood-the-roads type of rain. So things didn't look promising.
I got out of bed and got myself (and my 9 year old Gavin) up to the Havelock area of town anyway, about a 25 minute drive. My son and I warmed up for about 10 minutes and got completely soaked. Luckily, the rain let up from heavy to what I would call moderate or steady by the time the 7:30 race time came around. No lightning and just a steady rain meant no delays or cancellations---i.e. the race would start as planned.

Before the race it was fun to meet Lincoln native/local running hero Mike Morgan (who runs professionally for the Brooks Hanson's group in Michigan) but was back in town for the weekend. I lined up right behind Morgan at the starting line figuring he would get away quick and I could follow his line the first few blocks.

Starting line as the wheelchair athlete starts just a few minutes before the 10k start.
That's me on the right in the orange hat lined up behind Morgan.

I went into this race just looking for a nice workout/tune-up two weeks out from Grandma's Marathon. I was hoping to get out smart and see if I could run the second half of the race faster than the first (negative split). I was also excited to see how our LRC Racing team would do in the 10k team competition, and see if I could help the cause. This turned out to be a non-issue as there weren't many Team Nebraska jerseys (our chief rival) at the start line. I'm not even sure if they fielded a full team. The 10k field of individual runners, however, was very strong.

The Lincoln Track Club race staff did a nice job of getting the race started very close to on time considering the wet conditions that really slowed down their setup.
When the gun went off I quickly settled in at about 9th or 10th place and found a few other runners to pass those first couple miles with. I found out later that a couple of them were runners at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln). 

I hit the mile in 5:27 and was feeling pretty good that I was able to find a line on Havelock Ave that didn't have too many puddles, despite the raging river on the south side of the road as we approached 84th street. A nasty surprise when we turned south onto 84th street about 1.5 miles into the race was about 4 to 6 inches of standing water that filled that intersection. No way to avoid it.

I felt like the Scott Eride AF Trainers I was wearing did a nice job of draining the water, though. I've been wearing these light trainers for speedier workouts the last few weeks and I really like them. I'm likely to wear them at Grandma's Marathon in two weeks. They are more substantial and offer more cushion than the Skechers GoMeb Speed 2 shoes that I wore for the Lincoln Marathon in early May. I came out of that marathon feeling more beat up than I would have liked and I'm sure that wearing too light of shoes was a big part of that.

Back to the race......When we went south on 84th they had the right lane of traffic closed for runners. Unfortunately, that lane was about 3/4 filled with water so there wasn't much room to run. But we pressed on and hit the second mile in 5:33. 

Mile 3 is mostly uphill. I ran a 5:40 without using too much energy. I hit the 5k mark in 17:15 and started to use a downhill portion of the course to pass a runner or two. I got back down to about 5:20 for mile 4, but forgot to grab the split on my watch. 

Mile 5 was a turnaround loop in Mahoney park which included a few rolling hills. I was losing focus and started to struggle a bit. I was passed by a teammate just before the turnaround but was able to catch back up to him at mile marker 5 and he ran with me and encouraged me through the last mile. I was able to pass a runner wearing a Nebraska Wesleyan singlet in the last mile and also hold off a Team Nebraska runner who was closing very strong in the last 400 meters. 

This is me about 100 meters from the finish line.

I finished in 34:19 and was 10th place. I had reached my goal of going faster in the second half than I had in the first. I went 17:04 in the second 5k to 17:15 in my first 5k. I can't remember negative-splitting a 10k in a very long time so that was encouraging. 

Here are a few other pics my wife took of the top finishers Saturday:

Mike Morgan was first in 31:42. 

Trevor Vidlak was 2nd in 32:04.

Mike Rathje was 4th in 33:12.

This is my son Gavin (2393) at the 3k start. 

Congrats to my son Gavin! He was 28th overall and 2nd in his age group in the 3k race. This was more of a tempo run for him as he prepares for track meets later this summer. 

With nearly 800 finishers between the two races, this was a good-sized race. Kudos to Nebraskans for coming out to run in the wet conditions.
And Kudos once again to the Lincoln Track Club on a well-run event. They had ample donuts, Pepsi and other snacks available at the finish. The rain ended shortly after the race did, so it was a great time to catch up with teammates and rivals. 
And it was a great day to be under an orange hat. Hey, it keeps the rain out of your eyes.

Also a great day to be wearing blue and gold! Congrats to my LRC Race team on winning the 10k and 3k team titles on the men's side. And congrats to our women for winning the 10k team title in impressive fashion. 

Now on to the cooler climate of Duluth, Minnesota for Grandma's Marathon in just two weeks! 
Thanks for reading.


See the LRC Racing team report here.

See the full Havelock Charity Run race results here.

See all the pictures my wife took Saturday here. Please give photo credits to my website if you want to use any of the pics. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

19 Days to Grandma's Marathon

I've been busy chasing kids (since school is out!) and putting in my peak training weeks here before Grandma's Marathon on June 21st.
I've been getting out at 5am every day the past couple weeks so I can get home to the boys and let the wife get to work. That means I also need a little afternoon nap some days, which the kids will usually comply with after a few empty threats.

It's watermelon time, suckers!

Training is going well. I'm feeling healthy and recovering well. I should be on track for my goal of 2:35 (5:55 minutes per mile pace) at Grandma's, despite only having about 6 weeks of training between the Lincoln Marathon and Grandma's.
My weekly mileage since the Lincoln Marathon on May 3rd has been solid. I took 5 days off and only ran 11 miles during my recovery week right after Lincoln. Then I went 98, 114 and 120 miles. I wrapped the 120 mile week yesterday (June 1).
I've been healthy enough lately to get in 2 faster workouts per week. Usually one on the track and one tempo run. I did a nice 11 mile tempo run last Friday, for example. I like to do my quality workouts alone so I can listen to my body and focus on my own pace.

My last 2 weeks of training. 114 and 120 mile weeks.
I went with too light of a racing flat for Lincoln Marathon and my legs really tightened up on me.
So I'm trying to decide which shoes to wear for Grandma's Marathon and I'm also looking ahead to my run across the Grand Canyon (and back!) on July 11th.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

13 Questions with Colorado Marathoner Tom Nichols

13 Questions with Colorado Marathoner Tom Nichols

Name: Tom Nichols
Age: 31
Born and Raised: Auburn, Nebraska & Clarinda, Iowa
Currently Lives: Parker, Colorado
Day Job: Internal Auditor at TW Telecom
Fave Training Shoes: Brooks Defyance
PR's: 2:25 at Chicago Marathon 2012, 1:08:14 at Lincoln Half Marathon 2014
Marathons Completed: 10

Tom Nichols at the Lincoln (Nebraska) Half Marathon in early May where he finished 2nd. (Photo courtesy of The Lincoln Marathon and Gary Dougherty Photography)

Respect The Run: How and when did you get into running? Was running always your "first love" or would 8th grade Tom have chosen basketball or football? 

Tom Nichols:
I got into running in 5th grade after my family moved to Clarinda, Iowa.  We had to run a mile in PE and I had never done anything close to that before.  I was the 2nd fastest in my class and from there always wanted to get faster.  My first love is football.  Growing up in Nebraska, my dream was always playing for the Huskers.  Looking back, choosing cross country over football was the right choice. (Note: Tom lived in Clarinda, Iowa from 5th-12th grade and graduated high school there.)

RTR: How was your college career? Why do you think you have stayed with running as a post-collegiate when so many college runners just call it quits after graduation? 

I would call my college career "above average".  I ran at Graceland University in Lamoni, IA which was an NAIA school.  I qualified for Indoor Nationals in the 3k and 5k, but the standards weren't very strong.  I would say I under-achieved in college and wanted to prove to myself that I could run faster, which is why I kept going.  My running style (high-mileage/lower intensity) differed from the Ideas of my coach, so I was injured a lot trying to add more mileage during college and learned how to train the way I like now.

RTR: Congrats on a PR (1:08:14) and a 2nd place finish at the Lincoln (Nebraska) Half Marathon on May 4th, 2014. How did you feel out there and how does that race fit into the bigger picture of your 2014 racing?

Thank you!  Very much appreciated.  I felt good out there.  I wanted to keep the leaders in sight, but Sammy (Rotich) got out so quick I was kind of on my own, til I picked up some Marathoners at mile 4 and they kind of latched on to me until mile 10 or 11.  My plan was to go easy the first 5k then build off that.  I really wanted to see if I could break 1:08, and I'm now second guessing the race to think where I could have dropped 15 seconds.  The wind caught me off guard the last 5k, which was when I really started wearing down.  Other than that I felt really good and am happy with the race.
That race is the 2nd of my 3 big races this spring.  The first was the Shamrock Shuffle 8k in Chicago, where I set an 8k PR (25:00).  The other race is Grandmas Marathon, and the Lincoln Half is big for my confidence and seeing that my training is paying off.  Going into Grandmas with 2 PR's will be very helpful.
RTR: Is your ultimate goal an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier of 2:18? Does Meb's run at Boston (just days before he turned 39)  give you some confidence that you may just be coming into your prime marathon years? 

The Trials are the ultimate goal.  The time keeps getting lowered, which makes it tougher.  I still have a chunk of time to knock off, but I'm hoping Grandmas will get me closer. 
Yes, Meb's run at Boston is huge for knowing there are still more good years to come.  I'm nowhere near his level, but seeing guys in their mid-to-upper 30's setting PR's lets me know I have a shot to do that too if I keep working hard.

RTR: What's a typical week of training like for you during a marathon build-up? 

My typical marathon training is anywhere in the 90-110 mile range.  I usually build up for 3 weeks then take a down week.  I don't run a lot of workouts, as mentioned earlier.  The big one is usually incorporated into my weekly long run of 20-24 miles.  That usually involves some sort of tempo or goal pace work at the end of the long run.  The other workout usually comes in the middle of the week and varies by the week.  One week it could be a longer tempo, the next it could be some sort of fartlek faster than goal pace.

RTR: Has your training changed at all compared to when you were 24 or 25? Are you smarter now about training, racing, and recovery?

Adding to the question above, I think I'm being smarter about training and racing now.  I've had a few injuries that set me back (Hip in 2008 and Plantar Fasciitis in 2012).  I'm taking on a "less is more" approach when it comes to speed training and racing.  I learned over the years I recover very slowly and want to make sure I'm not sacrificing recovery to get in quality.  I love racing but have to pick and choose the big ones and sit out the smaller ones or use them as workouts now rather than racing as often as I did when I was younger.  I'm also running less intense workouts at this point, which seems to be working out well.

RTR: I understand you just moved out to Denver from Nebraska within the last 12 months. Do you feel like you are getting a benefit from living at altitude? 

I moved out here to Denver about a year ago, and yes, I am noticing a benefit.  Its hard to describe, but running faster and hills are much harder out here.  I do find when I run at sea level I can work harder for a longer period of time.  As long as it isn't humid!!!

RTR: Are you finding some fast guys in Denver to run with? How important are training partners for you? 

Slowly...  I'm not the most outgoing person, so meeting new people to run with is hard for me.  I live in Parker which is away from the areas that the large pockets of runners call home (Boulder, CO Springs).  I am finding a few guys and getting in good shape pushing my niece and nephew in the double stroller when I run with my twin brother and his friends. 
I would have to say the worst thing about moving from Lincoln is leaving all the great training partners I had behind.  I think the year before I left I had about 10 runs total by myself.  That was great.  Now I run at least half of my runs on my own.  It's nice when Ryan Regnier (Lincoln-based marathoner) comes out to Denver for work.  

Tom Nichols at mile 11 of the Lincoln Half Marathon.  (Photo courtesy of The Lincoln Marathon and Gary Dougherty Photography)

RTR: What's your key pre-marathon workout that lets you know you're ready to roll? How far out from race day do you run that workout?

Usually it's the long runs that signal I'm ready to race well.  A lot of days I don't wear a watch, but I normally do on long runs and just get into a good rhythm and without knowing it, I'll be running 6:00 miles.  I've never been one to need a lot of speed work to feel fit, it's the strength runs that get me there.

RTR: Do you have a mantra/words that you repeat or a song that you sing in your head when a marathon gets tough? Maybe Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger," the Chariots of Fire song, or Katy Perry's "Dark Horse"? :-)

Sometimes I'll get a song stuck in my head, but that varies every run.  I normally think to myself just get to the next mile and go from there.

RTR: What's your personal theory on the marathon taper? Cut mileage but maintain intensity? Cut back on both? Or don't taper much at all?

I definitely back off, but not a ton.  I cut both mileage and intensity.  I usually start gradually lowering it starting 3 weeks out.  The 3rd week out I'll run about 70-80 miles with a day off, 16-18 mile long run and a shorter workout. Two weeks out is closer to 60-70 with a day off, 14-16 long run and short workout. The last week is just some shorter runs and strides to loosen up.  At that point the work is done, so I just want to get to the start line feeling as fresh as possible.

RTR: What's your take on the growing popularity of MUT (Mountain/Ultra/Trail) Running? You're in Colorado now, which is where UROC, Wasatch, Leadville and many other ultra races take place. Will we see you out there running a 50-miler in the mountains anytime soon? 

I think it's great.  Anything that brings attention and more people to the sport is a good thing.  It's not my thing, because of weak ankles.  I love seeing people getting into it.  My twin brother is doing some longer trail runs this summer so I'll probably go with him and watch his kids while he races.  I wouldn't count on me joining him anytime soon.  Maybe after I give up my competitiveness on the roads.

RTR: Who is your running idol and why? 

I've never had a huge running idol.  I liked following guys growing up, but I'd say I follow the guys I know more than certain professionals.  With that, I'd say Mike Morgan would be the top of the list.  Seeing a good friend of mine go as far as he can with the talent he has is fun to watch.  He is one of the toughest guys I know.

RTR: Tom, thanks for your time and best of luck at Grandma's Marathon in June!