In this ongoing series, elite marathoner Nick Klastava takes us on his journey towards a 2019 Olympic Trials Qualifier (OTQ) goal. Read Part 1 on his beginning. Nick is sponsored by rabbit running apparel and Megaton Coffee.
Breaking Down a Dream
They say the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.
With big, scary goals, you have to set it, and then come up with a plan of action to get you there. My marathon OTQ goal of two hours and nineteen minutes—11 minutes off my current PR— may seem hefty, but breaking it into smaller chunks will help me get there in an efficient and enjoyable way.
For 2019, my coach and I laid out a plan to only run one marathon— the California International Marathon in December. Along the way, I will “peak” for the Pike’s Peak 10k here in Maryland, and I will race a couple half marathons, starting first with Grandma’s in Minnesota on June 22. This breaks my journey up into three phases, allowing me to fully focus on each phase. Three bites, with a lot of smaller bites in each of those.
Part of breaking my training down further is focusing on the phase I’m in, not on that 2:19:00 number. If I make my entire goal about that number, I will have doubts. Will I stay motivated? Will I be able to pull this off? It’s happened before, and if I’m not careful, it will happen again. So instead of asking those questions, I’m starting small by shifting the focus to the positive things I can do every day, in order to enjoy this journey while still smashing my goal.
I’ve used the phrase “all-in” before to describe my training and mindset, but in tackling that phrase, I’ve failed to give it my true respect. This time, I will be consistent day in and day out, and give it my full, undivided attention.
Does it mean I will try to push more than my body can handle in mileage or push my workouts faster than they should to speed up progress? Absolutely not. Workouts are about gaining fitness, not proving fitness, and I don’t need to be in OTQ shape until December 8, 2019. Every day, I will simply do the consistent things to move closer, knowing progress is never linear.
With that plan in place, the journey began after some downtime in December. Throughout January I started building up my fitness and putting in solid weeks of training. However, I ultimately still felt flat from my previous marathon in December.
The end of January brought the birth of my second daughter Amelia. With this beautiful baby, I remembered all the “wonderful” things about having a newborn I had forgotten having a 2-year-old now. The first week was a whirlwind, and instead of pushing my training, I focused on my amazing new family. As someone who tries to be the best husband and father I can, a week-long break from running was needed.
I was delighted to find that when I returned the following week, I had a new pep in my step. My efforts in workouts were rolling at a much faster pace, my long runs felt amazing, and it felt like the addition of Amelia (and the forced running rest days she gave me upon her arrival) was just the spark I needed.
As February rolled in, I was only averaging about 5 hours of sleep a night (as anyone with a newborn can relate to). Nevertheless, my fitness was roaring and I was reaching levels I never had before.
Even so, my coach and I approached this cautiously, because life stress matters. My mileage was still on the low side, and while running was still a priority, my family had also grown by one and I wanted to spend time with them. And yes, part of spending time with them was waking up in the middle of the night to change a diaper. I know from my first child that eventually things calm down and sleep will come in longer stretches. All I need to do is get through the first few months with whatever effort I can devote to running. Things will get better.
Throughout January and February, I was averaging about two hard workouts a week and a total of 65-70 miles. Stroller runs, lunch runs, doubles early morning with friends, even runs starting and finishing from daycare— it was (and still is) a juggling act. However, I know if I really want something bad enough, I will somehow find the time.
It is now mid-March and I’m feeling fit and happy with the progress I have made. I will be heading down to Virginia Beach to run the Shamrock Half Marathon on March 17 with the intention of celebrating and gauging my current fitness levels. To be honest, I didn’t expect this type of fitness this early in the year, so I’ve got a little icing on the cake at the moment.
I’m just excited to meet a bunch of friends and share some post-race St. Patrick’s Day beers. After that, it’ll be back on the grind until the end of April, at which point phase 1 of my OTQ journey will come to an end.
Every day I am blessed that I am healthy, have an amazing support system of family and friends, and am able to take on this journey. Like I have said from the beginning, there will be highs and lows, but no matter what, this will be some of the best 12 months of my life.
Lastly, if you haven’t already listened, I was blessed to be on the Rambling Runner Podcast with Matt Chittim last week, and we talked a lot about my mindset and how I approach running. You should definitely check it out and leave some feedback on what you thought of it.