Saturday, March 27, 2010

mzungo exclusive: Nate Pennington post L.A.

Recently, Nate Pennington gave our readers great insight about his training and preparation for last week's L.A. Marathon. We caught up with him after the race.

Nate, you had a rough day in LA. What happened?

That is a great question. My teammate (SSG Troy Harrison who took 18th in 2:26:50) and I were aiming to earn the 2:19:00 2012 Trials qualifying time. I thought Troy running that fast after what we went throug was monumental. There really was no doubt we had done the work but our day certainly did not start off well.

We were not put into the elite field despite having a 2:19:35 PR and Troy having run a very strong 2:22:56 at the 2009 Cal International Marathon. There were 3 men coming in with 2:19's and one with a 2:21:34 PR yet our times were not sufficient for the LA race staff. We will certainly not be going back to Los Angeles.
Due to this we left our hotel 2 hours before the race was to start, got on a shuttle that was extremely late due to traffic and a wreck on the interstate, than sat in traffic for over nearly missing the start of the marathon. The race was fortunately delayed due to so many runners still stuck in traffic. We actually asked the bus driver to let us off in hopes of getting to the finish in time but were not allowed.

It was an extremely uncomfortable time as we didnt know what was the best route to take, not run at all or run the race and spend the first 10 miles bobbing and weaving through thousands of people. We arrived to the start line with 3 minutes before the gun fired. We had no warm up, no time to stretch. Just enough time to sprint off the line.

It was an aweful way to start a race. I don't like to make excuses. You either accomplish the mission or you don't but as high level runners this was certainly a problem. Our coach termed what we went through prior to the start 'like running a marathon before you even started the race', that our cortizol levels were probably shot as well. It was a dissapointing day as I do not train this hard to perform as badly as I did. Troy and I did not have the option as a few of the other elites did to not finish the race. WCAP funded us to get to Los Angeles and we had to finish the race no matter what. A DNF was out of the question.

We're suprised you still finished. What was going through your head during your jog/walk and why did you decide to finish?

I was most frustrated with how the day started and with the support level we recieved going into the race. I had done the best workouts of my life leading into the marathon. Far better than I had ever done prior to running 2:19:35.
I have felt for months now that I am only one step away from running a world class marathon time.

Of course, that being said, there are so many things that go into running a great marathon time. I have been running for 18 years, since I was 15 years old. I was walking and jogging the last 8 miles of the race. To hobble to the finish in 2:55:34 put me at a total loss for words. I have an enormous opportunity competing for the Army, something that I take very seriously. To not be able to perform and give back was hard to swallow. They were totally supportive and understood what happened in LA but I still wanted to get the time there.

I did not regret how I prepared but my past couple marathons have been the same problem, falling apart around mile 18. I ran the 2009 Cal International Marathon last December in 2:36:33 after having gone out in 1:08:33 at the half and like LA, was walking/jogging the last 7-8 miles of the race. Coach and I do agree that being away from the sport for 18 months due to my officer training had something to do with that but these are things the public do not know of.

Is this due to overtraining? Psychological? Hard to say but I do believe it was a combination of both which is making me feel so flat in marathon races.

It's certainly tough for you to stay motivated right now but we hope you give it another shot soon and don't waste your fitness. Any plans already?

I will certainly not be hanging my shoes up anytime soon. I was offered to run the Eindhoven Marathon in the Netherlands next month from the Dutch but after talking with my wife and Lisa (my coach) it would not have been the best thing to do. I thought that since I really only ran about 16 miles of the LA Marathon that I could jump in another marathon and get the 2:19:00 time.

I am taking a break and will begin training for the Grandmas Marathon 1 April. The race staff at Grandmas are terrific. They have been extremely supportive of American runners for years and I cannot say enough about them. Coach and I have agreed that working with a sport psychologist may aid me in bringing out the best in my ability. I know other elites use them so I have no issues in adding this to my training.

I will be lowering my mileage slightly maxing out at about 100-110 miles per week. I was suffering from overtraining symptoms for weeks prior to LA. I could only manage about 4-5 hours a night of sleep per night. When I ran 1:07:06 and 2:19 after going through the half at 1:07:09 (only 3 seconds off my Half PR) I was not thinking about being 'conservative' or 'I have to hit this mile in this time'. I didnt consider that I was only a 1:07 half-marathoner and 2:40:02 marathoner going into that race. I had done the work and went for it, mind and body were working as one.
I was running with a large group of Kenyans including Laban Kipkemboi who ran 2:14+ to win the 2007 CIM to my 2:19+). Kipkemboi took 4th in LA in 2:10+.

I will not be wearing a watch at Grandmas this year and am going to get back that frame of mind I had. I was still on 2:16:15 marathon pace through 20 miles (1:44:05). I was on new territory but I certainly can say that I would not have run 2:19 had I been worried that I was running under 5 minute miles for many of the first 20 miles of the 2007 Cal International Marathon. I think with a small break, a renewed training approach and keeping in mind of what Im capable of I will run a special race, one that I have been working so hard for. I will run the Colfax Half-Marathon in Denver 16 May as a tune up.

Many thanks Nate for taking time to answer our question despite a disappointing race. Best of luck at Grandma's!

Follow Nate on his new blog here.