2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials

Photo Credit: Tim Meigs

from Tyler Pennel Running

Not knowing where to start, I guess I’ll just get right to the middle of the race around mile 15, and the point of the race everyone probably wants me to talk about. Up until that point, the pace had been very conservative due to the heat, and I found myself in the front of the pack. At this point in the course, we had just passed the start and finish lines and were headed down Figueroa towards the USC campus. The course is slightly downhill and I just began to relax and run what felt comfortable. Once I entered the USC campus, I realized I had a bit of a gap on the field, and got excited. I let that emotion take me and I pressed my advantage, hoping that maybe I could get a jump on the field. Shortly after, Meb and Rupp caught me and for the next few miles we began to run together.

We exited Exposition Park and around mile 19, I began to feel my hamstrings twinge as I was trying to maintain contact with them. Slowly I began to fad and just after mile 20 Jared caught me. From there I knew it was going to be a long final six miles, especially as I saw the last Olympic spot quickly running away from me. From there I just wanted place as high as possible. For what seemed like the longest time, I was not getting passed. Eventually Luke passed and gradually gained ground on me. Around mile 24 I began to realize that the top five all get processed for the Olympic Team, and to loose 5th was to loose all hope that I could earn a spot on the team in the marathon. Along with hearing some cheers for Matt Llano and Shady Biwott behind hind me, was motivation enough to put my head down and drive for the finish.

– – –


Coming into Saturday, I really had no set race plan but to stick with the leaders and not respond to any move before mile 16. I knew that any move after that would have to be covered as it would most likely be for the team. I had no intention of leading so early, or pushing the pace. As I said above, I let the downhill section of the course carry me and I made a quick decision to keep pressing. In hindsight, it was the wrong move. Running so fast so early definitely lead to my tough last few miles. Had I held back for a few more miles, I would have been much better off later in the race. A top three finish would have been much more likely.

One of the reasons I ran a fall road racing season rather than a fall marathon, was to get some racing experience headed into the trials. Learn when to listen to my instincts and when not too. This is not something I am going to learn in a few months, but it is going to be a process that spans my entire career. Unfortunately, this weekend I took the hard and bittersweet road in learning when not to listen to my gut, but it will be a lesson I will never forget. With that said, I was talking with a good friend later that night and made the point that I would not have gotten where I am without having made risky moves in the past. For some reason, risk taking in races is just ingrained in me. Knowing that it can lead to great performances, but also knowing that there is a chance it will bite me. Just as I have in past races, I learned a lesson and am more prepared for the future races.

After a couple of days of reflection, it is clear that I did not quite respect the marathon this time around. As a rookie, I was more willing to listen to Pete. I held back until the last 10km before making my move, and it paid off. This time I was much more anxious, especially when I realized I had a small gap on the field. I was relaxed and cruising that 16th mile (4:56), and rather than staying relaxed, I decided to push and open up the gap. Then when Meb and Rupp caught me, I did not tuck in behind them and relax, but kept pushing. This was a mistake that many people have pointed out to me after the race.

Probably the biggest factor in the race was the weather. According to Weather Underground, the temperaturebefore the race was 66º and over 75º at the finish. This played a big factor in the race, especially shown in how slow the race went out. Everyone was concerned about the heat and how it would affect the final miles of the race. While I never felt too hot during the race, I know that it did affect my race. Running that fast 4 miles from 16-20 miles is what put me in the hole, and I was unable to climb out of it much due to the heat. As stated above, I would have been much better off waiting for a few more miles before making a move like that, or running much more even. I have to tip my hat to Jared for running a much smarter race. While I was out there pushing the pace, he was biding his time running even, which he was able to maintain all the way until the end. That ended up being the difference between making the team and hanging on for fifth. Maybe it has something to do with his master’s thesis on ideal marathon pacing.

But I was not the only one that had to deal with the heat. I had a pretty rough last 10km, running around 34 minutes, but I was not getting passed. In fact only Jared and Luke passed me. Since it was hot out, people struggled the last 6 miles, and it was the ones that ran the smartest did the best. I heard that only 7 people negative split the race. That is 7 out of 256 finishers negative split. They were the top three men, top two women, and two other women. So clearly running smart was the way to run well this last weekend in the heat.

Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Even with the scorching heat, the top 10 on the guy’s side was full of talent. There were four previous US Marathon Champions, two silver medalists, and five guys with PRs under 2:13. The biggest surprise from that in the top six, five are under 30. Meb ran a great race and deservedly earned a spot on the team, but from my perspective the future of American marathoning looks bright. There are many more years ahead for us to improve and build off of this weekend. And hopefully we all can push each other to the next level.

– – –

I am fortunate that over the last three and a half years, I have been able to live in a way that I can chase my dreams. I was listening to Alan Watts the morning of the race, as I often do, and I just happened to be listening to this clip. In it he says:

“The essential principle of business, of occupation in the world, is this: Figure out someway to get paid for playing.”

That is exactly what I have been able to do. I get to go out everyday and play! This is something that I can never lose sight of, and it does not happen just from my own force of will. There is a whole supporting cast behind me.

Last week I was talking with my mom and she said something that stuck out, “You are doing things that I never though you would do. I figured that you would just get a job being an engineer or teacher or work for a corporation. What you are doing is amazing.” She was pointing out this point that I have taken a different route to success. I have the capabilities to be an engineer or a teacher or pretty much any job I would want to do, but I was fortunate to have a talent and joy for running. I have been able to turn that into a successful career. Both of my parents have been supportive and let me pursue this “running thing”, probably against their better judgment. I am true grateful that they have been nothing but encouraging. Also behind me is the rest of my family. My grandfather is probably my biggest fan. Just like my parents they have been supportive and encouraging Thank you all.

After I graduated from Western, I had no idea what I was going to do, but wanted to run. So I began to look at groups to join and after a few emails back and forth with Pete, I knew I wanted to take a visit to ZAP. On my visit, I decided that it was the place I wanted to be, and when I was offered a spot, I jumped at the chance. I had been a fairly successful college runner, earning many All American Awards, winning a national title, and running a quick 10000m, but my resume was not anything stellar. I felt like I had potential, and fortunately so did Pete. I remember with in the first few weeks of being there, Pete and I were doing some outdoor work and he turned to me and said, “I want to ask you a serious question. Do you think you can run with the best in the US? Be in the top 3?” Without much hesitation I responded yes, but I was thinking more about the track. I had just had a good debut 10000m that spring and thought it was going to be my event. I knew that I did not have quite the speed that some of the top guys have, but I would make up for it by out running them (pretty typical of me looking at what I did this weekend). Little did I figure three and a half years later, I would be running against the best in the US at the marathon. With out the support of Pete, Zika, and ZAP, I would not have had that opportunity. They have given so much of their time and encouragement trying to make ZAP and myself successes. I wanted to give back as much as I could and be the first ZAP athlete to make the Olympics, but I proud to be the highest placing ZAP athlete at an Olympic Trials.

Before the race.

Before the race.

Along with Pete and Zika, all my teammates, and our assistant coach, Ryan, at ZAP have been there. While some of the guys at ZAP did not run the marathon trials, I still put hundreds of miles with them over the last few years. Their friendship has been something that made this journey much more enjoyable.

ZAP is more than just us elites who take all the limelight. There are so many more that fall into the “ZAP Family.” There were more than a dozen campers and donors who flew out to LA to watch the trials and support all of us from ZAP, and there were many times more watching at home. Without people willing to come to camp, ZAP would not function as it does. On the behalf of all us ZAP athletes, we appreciate your support and hope to see all of you this summer at camp!

There are also my sponsors I have to thank. Reebok, Soleus Watches, Generation UCAN, and Flynn Sports all make this journey of mine much easier. Whether it is giving me awesome training gear to timing me to fueling me to getting me into races, they have made it much easier for me to just enjoy my time running.

Another group of people that have been so supportive, and it was seen after the race, when I looked at my phone and had so many messages of friendship. It was encouraging that while I did not reach my goal, I had so many friends that were proud of my accomplishments.

As I am writing this list of thanks keeps growing and growing. There is no way for me to include everyone, but I am truly grateful. I know that I do not just represent myself every time I run, but everyone that had had an impact in my life. Thank you.

– – –

My final section, which I will try to keep short as this is turning into a colossal post, I just want to point out some great performances from the weekend. First goes out to the top three, Galen, Meb, and Jared. They all ran great races and I know that they will represent the USA well in Rio this summer.

ZAP had three others who were running this weekend. Unfortunately, Griff had a tough race after dealing with an injury the last few weeks forcing him to drop out. But knowing Griff, this will only fuel his fire to get back. Both Johnny and Joanna debuted, and in the tough conditions had solid debuts. They recently joined ZAP and both have a bright future, and I am looking forward to having Johnny move to Blowing Rock to add another great athlete to Blackberry Valley!

Another close friend that had a great performance was Esther Atkins. Our friendship began when I first came to ZAP and we were tasked to clean the kitchen together. From there we have become good friends, and I have been a third wheel on many dinners with her and her husband, Cole. She ran a smart race, nearly negative splitting and moving up over the second half of the race. During my last loop, I was passing many of the women and I saw that Esther was in front of me. As I approached her, she turned around and put out her hand to give me a high five. I was moving much slower than she anticipated and she held her hand out there for what seemed like forever. Once I caught up to her, she grabbed my hand, and for a few seconds we ran together. I was able to get a lift and refocused for the final few miles. Once again, she had a much more poetic rendering of this event.

I'm proud of her :)

I’m proud of her 🙂

Besides representing ZAP on Saturday, I was also representing Western. A few weeks ago I finished a post lauding the impact of Coach Vandenbusche has had on my career. He was the one took a chance on a 9:50 two miler. It has been the entire program that has helped shaped my career. One of the biggest was the never give up attitude. This was seen on Saturday. There were three other Western alums running, Gabe Proctor, Sean Brown, and Josh Eberly, and not one of them gave up either. They all suffered through the heat and finished the race. For me all Western alums should be proud of these three just as much as me.

Lastly I would like to say how proud of Nicole I am. She only qualified six weeks before the Trials in her debut half. Even in the hot conditions, she toughed it out and now she can call herself a marathoner. It may not have been indicative of what type of shape she was in, but in those conditions very few had good debuts. I am so proud of her.

– – –

After crossing the finish, I was immediately thinking of what was coming next. Had I been in the top three, that question would have had a simple answer, Rio. Now there are another 6 spots open in the 5000m and 10000m. While I thought that my best chance to make the Olympics was in the marathon, I know that I have much more improvement to come on the track, especially the 10. I had a good track season last summer, but I think after another good marathon build up I will hit the track even stronger. Also coming so close this weekend will fuel the fire. Before I get back to work, I get a little time off and a trip to Belize with my parents and Nicole. I will going to take a well needed break, but will come back ready for another good block of training before Trials part deux.

Mile 1 – 5:05                           Mile 14 – 5:09
Mile 2 – 5:07                           Mile 15 – 5:06
Mile 3 – 5:02                           Mile 16 – 4:56
Mile 4 – 5:09                           Mile 17 – 4:50
Mile 5 – 5:07                           Mile 18 – 4:52
Mile 6 – 5:08                           Mile 19 – 4:55
Mile 7 – 5:12                            Mile 20 – 5:08
Mile 8 – 4:56                           Mile 21 – 5:20
Mile 9 – 5:00                           Mile 22 – 5:20
Mile 10 – 5:00                         Mile 23 – 5:28
Mile 11 – 5:04                         Mile 24 – 5:40
Mile 12 –                                  Mile 25 – 5:30
Mile 13 – 10:18                       Mile 26 – 5:30
Half – 1:06:31                         Total – 2:14:57

Race Results
Flotrack Post Race Interview
Letsrun Post Race Interview
USATF Race Recap
USATF Quotes
Flotrack Race Recap
Flotrack Top 3 Discuss The Decisive Move Made by Tyler Pennel
Letsrun Race Recap
LA Times Race Recap
Race Results Weekly Race Recap
Runners World Race Recap
Blowing Rock News Race Recap
Blowing Rock News Pre Race
Greensboro Pre Race Interview
GenUCAN Conference
RRCA Road Scholars Shine at US Olympic Trials
Letsrun Photos

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