Sunday, October 06, 2013

Arciniaga Battles to Finish First

Nick Arciniaga(Yellow) and Josphat Boit kick down Cathedral Hill.
Photo by Gene Niemi
When Nick Arciniaga was asked at the pre-race press conference for Sunday's Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon what his goal was for the US Championship race he replied that he would be "dissatisfied if I finish outside the top three," not wanting to give his competitors a quote that they could use for motivation.After the race he said of his victory: "I  wanted to win this more than anything...It(the win) means the world (to me)."

That desire kept the 30-year-old veteran of 13 marathons going through the rough patches.  When his hamstring felt like it was about to "seize up" on him around mile 11 he wasn't in physical trouble as much as experiencing a mental agony.  "Why does this have to happen now," he asked himself, but that soon shifted to slowing his pace and thinking; "let's just get to the next mile."

"I thought I was going to tear my hamstring," he said.  But the spasms never happened, the leg loosened up and Arciniaga worked his way back to the leaders.  He hadn't gone as fast in training as he was in the race, he said afterward. Running at altitude in Flagstaff, AZ, where he trains, means the 5:10 pace he was training at is equivalent to a 4:55 effort at sea level cardiovascularly, but perhaps not mechanically.  Thus running faster during the race, he surmised, might have caused the twinges and distress signals from his hamstring in the heat of battle.

He was careful to get his fluids, monitor the hamstring, and just try and stay in contact with the lead group that gradually whittled down from a high of 15 early in the race to a handful as the pack dealt with the hills on the long climb from the River Roads to the State Capitol.   By mile 25, instead of responding to other's surges, Arciniaga felt confident enough to throw in one of his own.  Only eventual runner up, Josephat Boit was able to stay close as Arciniaga got a small gap while the lead pack splintered behind him.

Boit caught up to Arciniaga by mile 26 as the pair crested Cathedral Hill overlooking the finish line. From there it was a shoulder to shoulder fight to the finish before Arciniaga finally pulled away for good, winning by three seconds over Boit in 2:13.11.  "Everybody was tired," said Boit.  "The last six miles is all mental.  You just put your head down and just run. That last stretch, it was downhill, but it felt like I was going uphill."

Shadrack Biwott, who finished third in 2:13:26, said: "My calves got too tight.  The muscles just wouldn't fire.  I didn't feel that bad, but my legs just wouldn't cooperate...But I am happy.  it could have been worse. I had a big PR(in his only other marathon, he'd run 2:20:28). I can't complain because then I'm not appreciating what my body did for me today."

Biwott and Boit were each running their second marathon and were thankful for their times, which were personal bests.  They may have lost, they both said, but they got valuable experience.  Arciniaga's advantage was his experience, said Biwott.  The experience that allowed Arciniaca to ride the roller coaster of physical ups and downs or crises.

Both he and Boit will learn from their mistakes, Biwott said.  "I don't know how to say it, but (in Kenya) we have the proverb of the donkey."  If you feed the donkey, but then stand behind it, what does the donkey do? Biwott asked.  He kicks you.  You still feed the donkey, but you have learned not to stand behind it. You start off doing something good, but you make a mistake that transforms that good experience into something else. Still do the good, but eliminate what you did wrong and things will be better next time.

Phil Coppess, the Clinton , Iowa native who is still the TCM course record holder, watched the race from the press trolley that drove in front of the men's contest, and had a simpler evaluation of the contest.  "Man, that was a great race."

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