Wow, what an experience! It is truly hard for me to describe the feelings of the last few days. Everything has been such a whirlwind, that I do not think the immensity of what happened has set in yet. And it may still take a while. So with that I will start off with my race recap, since that is going to be the easiest for me to do.
I do not want to bore you with every step of every mile. That would be mind numbing and tedious; something neither you nor I would enjoy. So I will just cover some of the important events.
My race plan coming in was to get to 20 miles as relaxed as possible, and then make a surge up the hills on the back half of the course. When Cole and I came and did our preview of the course last month, it made me realize how much of an impact those hills can have. If I only took one thing away from that trip, it was that the race could be made or broken up those hills. I could look at the course map all day, but actually getting out there and running up those hills was extremely beneficial. But first I needed to get to 20 miles relaxed and ready to run fast the last 10km. I knew that this was going to be the challenge. I tend to be a pretty aggressive racer, but with a marathon being such a long race, I had to curtail that impulse, and harness it for the last 6 miles.
The gun went off and I got a position near the front and around 2.5 miles I was at the front. I was fine being there as long as I stayed relaxed, which was quite easy as the first miles were quite slow. As the race progressed, Ian Burrell and I were rotating leads. We went through 10 miles in 51:55 and half in 67:48. These were very conservative splits, so I was very relaxed.
Around 14 miles, Sergio Reyes put in a big surge, and we ran our first sub 5 mile of the day. But soon after everyone settled and nothing happened until just before the 20 mile mark. There Scott Smith made a big move and I was the only one to cover it. With some the steeper section of the hills looming in the distance, I was getting ready to make my own push for the finish. (One of the interesting things that I have seen in the last few days is an article talking about how track runners come to the marathon, and race it like a track race. They will cover every move, but with out realizing that can eventually bite them in the long run. Thinking back at my race, I ran it very much like a track racer, so that will be one thing I need to be aware of for future marathons.)
Around 21 miles I passed Scott and made that drive for the finish line. Over the next two miles, I extended my lead, but I did not know by how much. The hills “crest” at mile 23, but there is still 2.5 miles of rolling hills until the big downhill finish. At this point, pretty much everything on the lower half of my body was aching and burning from the build up of lactic acid. On top of the physical anguish, I was running scared. I did not know how much time I had on second or if he was cutting down the lead I had worked so hard to build. All I was telling myself the last three miles was, “Push, push.” I could tell that I had tapped out and was not going to go faster, but I did not think that I was slowing down. Those last three miles were probably the hardest miles I have every run.
I did not have any relief until I began to descend the final hill and saw the motorcycles pull in front of me to escort me with a half mile to go. By that point I pretty much knew I had won. Even then it did not really hit me what had just happened. After crossing the line I was asked to jog (if I could) back out among the crowd.
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I do not really know where to start with my thoughts about the race. The feeling of immense joy is very hard to describe. There are only a handful of instances during my running career that I have felt so ecstatic. On paper it is the highest accomplishment that I have achieved so far. I know that if I continue with this trajectory, I can reach the highest echelons of the sport.
I remember one of the first conversations that I had with Pete. We were doing outdoor work on the trail, and he turned to me and asked, “Do you think you can run with the top guys in the US?” Basically asking me if I thought I could make an Olympic. Without any hesitation I answered, “Yes.” At the time, I was thinking that I could learn to kick with the best on the track. I had just ran my first 10,000m and missed out making the Olympic Trials by only 3 seconds. My heart was set on the track, and I knew that I had room to improve.
During my two years at ZAP, my mind set has changed. Now, after my first marathon, I look at it as an event that I can be outstanding at. That dream of making an Olympic Team seems so much more tangible. This has made me feel that I took a big step towards the Olympic Trials in 2016. My foray into the marathon could have very easily ended in disappointment, as it has for many good runners. Had been the case I would have had to rethink my options. But since it went so well, I hope that I turned some heads. I have room to improve, and even as the depth of American distance running gets better and better, I can continue to improve and become one of top guys. Maybe now, my name has been thrown into the pot of hark horse picks to make the Olympic Team.
Now, I also get the chance to run another marathon at the World Championships in August of 2015! I will get to put on the USA jersey at least one more time before the Trials. If anything, this will give me more experience in at the marathon distance and a greater chance of making the Olympics.
Now I get a good two week break, which I hope to go explore some more of the East Coast. After that I will disappear into the mountains, first in North Carolina, then in Colorado. I will build up my mileage again and get ready to run the World Cross Country Trials on February 8th in Boulder. As of right now my first race back will be Club Cross Country Nationals in December, where we will bring the title back to Blowing Rock after losing by one point last year.
After such a great race, I feel that I will be focused more than before. I see end limitless possibilities and outcomes of the next year and a half. But the key will be to continue doing what has brought me my success so far, but with a keen eye on the future.
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Before I go, there are so many thanks that I need to dole out. First I will start with the People at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and Twin Cities In Motion. They did an absolutely fantastic job putting on the race. They put so much time an effort into giving a great experience for all who ran. I would also be amiss if I did not also thanks the people who volunteered who helped as well. They gave up their time to bring the race to not only me, but also all who participated.
One thing that made this race so great was the crowd support. Just watch the replay below. There were so many people lining the course helping propel everyone to the finish. Minneapolis and St. Paul are truly great running towns.
Another organization that makes it possible for me to be a professional runner is USATF. Without them, there would be no National Championships, no professionalism, and no outreach for our sport. Their promotion and support of our sport is often understated.
Another thanks goes out to everyone at Western State. I got so much support from them the six years I was there. Without that help, I would not have moved on to the professional racks so successfully. I also got so many messages from current athletes and alumni. Whenever I race, I will always be representing Western, and winning this National Title would not have happened if Coach Vandenbusche would not have taken a risk on me 8 years ago. I will always cherish my time there, and will always bleed crimson and slate. Good luck the rest of the season and go and beat Adams!
I also have to thank all of the companies that sponsor myself and ZAP Fitness. Without their support, it would be much harder for ZAP to fund athletes like myself. They have shown that they believe we at ZAP can become great athletes. Over the last two years, and specifically through out my build up, I have gone through so many pairs of Reebok shoes, eaten copious amounts of PowerBar gels and bars, and timed many workouts with my Soleus Watch. I know that I can speak for the entire ZAP team when I express my gratitude towards them. Their support is unequivocally a big reason that ZAP is able to exist and we are able to chase our dreams.
Another thanks I need to give is to everyone associated with ZAP Fitness. I get so much support from donors, campers and Pete, Zika, and Ryan. Without it, my journey would be much more difficult. Beyond just the monetary support, this weekend I truly realized how much emotional support everyone gives. I had countless campers and donors send messages and posts of congratulations. And from what I can tell, many of you were watching live. Your support is hard to express other than, “Thank you, you guys are the best!”
Over the last two years, Pete, Zika, and Ryan have had nothing but belief in what I can accomplish and me. Their encouragement and guidance has been the cornerstone in my success. The best way that I can repay them is to continue to run my best and fulfill ZAP’s main goal and become the team’s first Olympian.
Along with everyone at ZAP who has supported me are my teammates. We are able to help each other reach our full potential. During the build up, Cole, who ran nearly every mile with me, was the best training partner I could have had. Unfortunately, he had a tough race straining his calf. I know that had that not happened, he would have a great race. While they can be quirky, I would not trade them for the world.
This list just seems to be getting longer and longer, and I would have been pushed off the stage a long time ago if this was the Academy Awards, but it is not. So, my last thanks goes out to my friends and family. I have had so much encouragement from them. I know that my grandparents are very excited about this weekend and are extremely proud of me. My parents were able to come up to Minnesota to see me win my first National Title. They were actually able to ride in the trolley leading the race, so they saw me for the entire race! They have been there for my entire journey, since I ran my first race over 11 years ago. I was so happy to have them there for such a great day.
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Also a big congrats to my former teammate and friend Esther Erb. She won the women’s title on Sunday. I am so excited for her and know that she is going to turn some heads over the next few years.
USATF – “Erb, Pennel claim first US titles at USATF Marathon Championships”
Runner’s World Recap
Pioneer Press – “Twin Cities Marathon: Tyler Pennel wins his first-ever marathon”
Star Tribune – “First Timer Tyler Pennel wins Twin Cities Marathon”
Down the Backstretch – “Pennel Wins His Debut”
Chron – “First-timer from NC wins Twin Cities Marathon”
Bring Me the News – “First-time marathoner wins Twin Cities Marathon”
USATF – “National Marathon Champion wins USATF Athlete of the Week”
Other Marathon News