General Running

My OTQ Journey (Part 5): Pike’s Peek 10K and the Aftermath

In this ongoing series, elite marathoner Nick Klastava takes us on his journey towards a 2019 Olympic Trials Qualifier (OTQ) goal. Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 on his beginning. Nick is sponsored by rabbit running apparel and Megaton Coffee. Nick trains in the HOKA Arahi 3, provided courtesy of Running Warehouse, featuring 90-day no-question returns and free 2-day shipping.


One reason I love race week is that my coach David sends a “Race Day Celebration” email that contains nuggets of care, compassion, and inspiring thoughts to remind me why I do this in the first place. No paces or times are mentioned, just a reminder to smile every mile.

It was something I took to heart as I approached Sunday, April 28—race day for the Pike’s Peek 10k.

I was excited to put my fitness to the test and chase a PR that had eluded me for a while. As I have for the last few months of training, I felt more than ready for this race both physically and mentally.

I took the 1-hour drive down to Rockville, Md., Sunday morning and received my bib and met some friends for a nice warmup. Ironically enough, because I arrived late I didn’t have time to dwell on the race, so I was very relaxed all morning. I also have gotten better about managing my nerves and was just ready for whatever my body could handle.

As we walked over to the starting line for the 7:50 a.m. start, the weather turned to light rain. Reverse shout-out to the Dark Skies app which told me there was a 0% chance of precipitation for race day. No big deal, this wasn’t my first rain rodeo.

The race was about to start, only it didn’t. Police activity prompted an 18-minute race delay; all warmup and strides were now useless.

Nevertheless, the gun went off, and after a small hill, I went to the front knowing I had a chance to compete today.

The Race

As we rolled through the first mile, I noticed we had an unusually large pack with us.

I knew this race was very competitive over the years—I just thought it was going to be a fast day, but I felt crowded for 1200 meters into a 10k. I figured the first mile might be hot with many people jumping to the front to push the pace, but it turned out to be the opposite. When my watch finally beeped, it read 5:30, about 20-25 seconds slower than I wanted to average for the whole race.

It started to thin after that, as the leader took off and basically ran the next 5 miles around 4:50 (spoiler: he won), while I dropped back into second and ran with another guy.

I was still not really focusing on splits, and the course clocks were way off, showing 9:40 at the 2-mile mark. After 2 miles I dropped back to third and ended up in no man’s land for the next couple miles, moving quickly and feeling comfortable I was alone.

At mile 4.5 a trio of runners caught me. In previous races I’d let them go; this time, I just hopped on their back and let them pull me along. By mile 5 (a 5:09 mile), it was down to two of us fighting for third place.

Just before mile 6, another runner caught us and the two of them took off at a pace I wasn’t capable of mustering. I kept them in striking distance, but they were moving away quickly. As we turned the last corner into a straight downhill, I sprinted but couldn’t catch them.

Even so, I crossed the finish line 5th overall in 32:30—a 42 second PR over my previous best 17 years ago in college!

Post-Race Struggles

Overall, I was very happy to walk away with 5th place, some cash, and a new PR. A great start to phase 1 and a good opportunity to showcase my fitness at the end of April as I build towards December.

Post-race, I was scheduled to take only two days off. That quickly changed.

I had been dealing with some abdominal tightness over the past month that I thought may have been related to my psoas in my hip flexor. I’d feel general tightness/soreness after hard intervals and sometimes during easy runs, but I did what I could. Massage, ice/heat, foam roll, etc. I thought it was manageable.

The pain intensified post-race so I assumed worst-case scenario after consulting Dr. Google—I must have had a hernia. But after consulting my PCP I was given a more favorable diagnosis of an abdominal strain and told to schedule some PT over the next couple of weeks. If that didn’t work, we’d move on to an MRI.

I was/am a mess worrying about how long I could be out if it turns into something worse. For now, it’ll be at least a week longer of easy running. Hopefully, it can start to heal itself as I strengthen the areas around it.

The second thing I did post-race was got my blood work done through Inside Tracker. I wanted to get an overall look at my health and some insight into areas I might need to improve on. I also share this information with my PCP so we can make informed decisions on my overall health. As a runner, my levels are different to support my intense racing versus a non-active person.

For serious athletes (or even casual), I think it is very important to start a new training cycle with some confirmation that your body is functioning on all levels. Better to know in the beginning that you’re iron deficient than to find out 6 weeks in.

Next on the Calendar

So, what’s next?

Grandma’s Half Marathon is in June, but for now, it will be taking care of this strain and hoping to move past it with some hard work and dedication. Then I’ll use my blood work results to make any necessary changes to my diet and do some easy runs to get back into running after 5 days off.

Once again, I am completely blessed by all of you sharing and reading my journey. I love to be able to tell my story, and I love that parts of it are resonating with you. The running community continues to be the most supportive family of people and I am so overwhelmed.

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Nick Klastava is a father, husband, and runner living in Baltimore. He is sponsored by rabbit running apparel and runs on the rabbitElite team. He is currently training for a 2019 OTQ goal.

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