13 Questions with Colorado Marathoner Tom Nichols
Name: Tom Nichols
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: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?
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, 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? 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 runningmiles. 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!