Friday, December 30, 2011

Road to Houston: 5 Questions with Olympic Trials competitor, Tyler McCandless

Tyler McCandless, Mizuno Runner
Today, we were lucky enough to have 5 Questions with one of the youngest marathoners in the trials, on his "Road to Houston." We'll have a few more of these features as we lead up to the big day on January 14, 2012.

Tyler McCandless has come right out of college and into the Marathon full force. The 2010 graduate, and All-American in the 10,000, has moved from the track and didn't waste any time after graduation, debuting at the marathon at the 2010 California International Marathon. At CIM, he attained the qualifying standard in his first try and then went on to win (and set the course record) at the 2011 Kauai Marathon. He currently lives and trains in Boulder, CO. Follow him on Twitter here and check out his excellent website here.

5 Questions with Tyler McCandless

1. Writing About Running: You ran 29:15 in the 10,000 as a senior at Penn State, but the longer distances seem to suit you better. Was jumping to the marathon right out of college always the goal?

Tyler McCandless: My goal was always long term focused and believed I always was better as the distance became longer.  I also really enjoyed the long runs and tempos, so I wanted to try the marathon soon after college.  Coach Sullivan at Penn State was an incredibly positive influence and believed in me.  When I chatted with her after the NCAA Championships and said I believed I could place top 10-20 at the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2012 and become an Olympian in 2016/2020 - she 100% agreed and made me believe even more.  We both felt that if I focused on the track I would be fairly limited.

2. Writing About Running: You first qualified for the trials running a 2:17:22 at the California International Marathon in 2010. What was your biggest takeaway from your debut at the distance?

Tyler McCandless: Nutrition is vital in the marathon.  I felt that if I would have not missed two of my bottles, that would have been a big difference. It was also a huge confidence boost, because I only decided to run in the event 6 weeks before the race, after a lackluster half-marathon, where I felt I was very strong, so why not take a chance at CIM.  Looking back on the race since then, I have a more important takeaway from the race. I was in so much better shape at Grandma's Marathon this spring, yet I only ran a 13 second personal best.  I was tired going into Grandma's and pushed the last few weeks a little too much, trying to nail the training perfectly.  However, when I got to the line, I wasn't fully recovered and still a bit fatigued from training.  At CIM, I was definitely undertrained, but when you are fresh on the day, you can compete very well.  You can be the fittest person in the world, but if your legs are tired, you're not going to be able to run well.

McCandless wins and sets the course record in Kauai
3. Writing About Running: The Kauai Marathon was a big win and payday for you. How big was that for you at that particular point of your career?

Tyler McCandless: Wow.  How big was Kauai for me?  It was really a game-changer.  Financially, it was important because I was able to use that money for a down-payment on a house.  Now, with roommates, I'm more financially secure than depending on prize money to pay my roommates mortgage.  But honestly, the biggest thing I took away from the race was the Aloha spirit Kauai had to offer.  I cannot thank Jeff Sacchini (race founder) and Bob Craver (race director) enough for their hospitality.  They are two of the nicest people I've ever met.  I'll go back to that race every year because that race changed my outlook.  Honestly, I put everything into preparing for running a 2:29:59 in the heat, humidity, and hills.  I trained all summer in full sweats, which my high school athletes loved to make fun of me for.  In the race I ended up winning and breaking the course record by 7 minutes, yet it never felt hard!  I was 100% in the moment and focused like never before.  Nothing was going to stop me that day.  I really believe that it is a race every runner should do that is struggling with expensive races like the Las Vegas Half-Marathon/Marathon that several people became ill.  I have nothing against Rock 'n' Roll events, but they took away prize money from many of the races and are focused on making money.  The Kauai Marathon is about competing well and tackling a challenging marathon in tough conditions, with the Aloha spirit pushing you all the way.  When you learn to relax, enjoy the moment, you'll find yourself 'centered' and in the zone. You do not need to seek out the fastest, flattest course, with the best weather to have your best race, you need to be internally focused and determined.  Mahalo Kauai Marathon!!

Coaching Centaurus High to a state championship
4. Writing About Running: Along with running 100+ mile weeks, you find time to coach high schoolers (and others through Hudson Training Systems). What led you to coaching and what have your learned from coaching others?

Tyler McCandless: What led me to coaching?  Simple: Coach Beth-Alford Sullivan at Penn State and my high school coach Megan Duerring.  They made running fun and running became less about end results, but enjoying the journey.  When I put in the hard work and it paid off with some better-than-expected results, it was the best feeling to share it with Coach Sullivan/Duerring. Coaching at Centaurus High School has been a dream-come-true.  After taking out the cost of gas to drive to-from practice, I probably didn't make more than a few dollars from coaching, but the experience was something I'll never forget.  This year, the boy's team won the State Championships, in a huge upset.  Their commitment, dedication, fun attitude, and tenacity was inspiring. Jumping up and down and hugging them after the results were announced is the reason I coach.  Another great example is, for my birthday, I received a gift in the mail from one of the athletes I coach, Seth Hasty in Maine.  He sent me his half-marathon bib number with a signature, his time, and a thank you for the big PR.  Helping people achieve their goals is maybe the best feeling in the world.  How can you not want to coach?

5. Writing About Running: What is your goal for the trials?

Tyler McCandless: Everyone is talking about making the team and how top three is it.  I have improved in this sport by consistency and patience.  Right now, I know my fitness, and it's better than ever before.  Much better than before Grandma's Marathon and Chicago Marathon (where I was sick and DNF'd). I want to execute a negative split and run 2:14.  That should be top ten, to at worst, top 15.  If I can run a 2:14:00 this year, I can focus on taking off one minute per year for the next four years.  That would make me a 2:10:00 marathoner in 2016.  Did you know a 2:11 at the Olympic Trials has always qualified to make the team?  I'm 25 now and will be 29 at the 2016 Trials and 33 at the 2020 Trials. For those races, I am definitely looking to place in the top 3!  The book, "Power of One" by Bryce Courtenay, is the best book I've ever read.  In it, the main character says "First with the head, then with the heart, that's how you stay ahead from the start."  I've always taken that approach to training and racing - the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials will not be different.

Stay tuned for more articles this week and continued coverage leading up to the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, TX on January 14, 2012.

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1 comments:

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