For those of you who have been receiving this the last six years I did make my goal of
my annual marathon. For those of you who are receiving this for the first time, I’m going to give
a quick background. A little over a decade ago I became a distance runner and about six years
ago I ran my first marathon. At that time, I wrote a brief summary of that experience for the sake
of preserving the memory. I ended up sharing that story with some family and friends and they
passed it along. I got such a good response that I’ve now made this an annual tradition. As the
years have progressed, the stories have become gradually longer and have taken on the style of
an annual autobiography.
As I begin to write this, it is New Year’s Eve. I’ve had a very busy year and barely made
my goal but more on that later. The last few weeks have been very busy, as I haven’t even run in
the last three weeks. I’m currently writing my first grant and that has taken up most of my free
time. It is now near the end of February and I'm still working on this. One thing that may people
have teased me about is the aging process and being able to keep up my motivation. Well I did
get the marathon in but finding time to write this has been difficult. Please let me know if you
enjoy reading this and would like next year’s installment, until then please enjoy and have a
great New Year.
It is now actually into March and I’m finally putting the final touches on this story. Life
has definitely changed with fatherhood and a new job. I’m finally running again (started last
week) but it will still be a couple months before I can do workouts again. With running I’ve been
more motivated in all aspects of my life. Please enjoy…
The True Finish to ‘05
As most of you now know there was something else going on last year at the end of my
marathon. About 2 months earlier, we found out that Sandra was pregnant. Always one for a
show, I wanted to tell my mom at the finish line of the marathon. I think that may have explained
why I completely forgot to hydrate. I was more excited about the pending birth and this truly was
my first experience in parenthood. However, it was worth it and it was a great end to my '05
running season. I even survived becoming a father and moving across the country to run another
A Busy Year
2006 was a busy year (it seems like each year is a little fuller than the last), and one that I
thought running was going to take a back seat. For the most part it did. I began the year working
on trying to wrap things up in graduate school. I was writing my dissertation, preparing for
becoming a father and trying to decide where we were going to live. After a good month of only
writing, the dissertation was complete and not a moment too soon. A couple weeks after my
thesis defense (on May 7th) Sandra woke me up telling me her water had broken. About 6 hours
later, I was holding Kaitlyn Stella Wende in my arms. I could write a whole story just on this
experience. As all parents will likely tell you, the birth of a child is the most life changing
experience you will ever have. To complicate matters further just 6 weeks following her birth we
were going to be moving to Salt Lake City, Utah.
For those of you who don’t know what life in science is all about, here’s a quick
rundown. You go to college for 4 years, then graduate school for another 6 years. After
becoming a doctor, the trip is not over yet. Before you can become a principle investigator, it is
typical to do a post-doc that typically takes another 3-5 years. For my post-doctoral training, I
chose to go to the lab of Dale Abel. I had heard him speak a couple of times and really enjoyed
my interview with him. After many nights of debate, Sandra and I finally decided to go to Utah.
Now during all this time running had taken a back seat. During the dissertation writing,
my running had decreased to about 30% normal, then the weeks following Kaitlyn’s birth there
was no running at all. The only thing I wanted to do is be with her and Sandra. Finally, on
Mother’s Day Sandra made me go out for a run. This single run started a surprising turn of
events in my life. For one it made me realize I could still run and not neglect other things
important in my life. It was a slow process getting back into it but in two months, a lot can
A New Start
When I arrived in Utah, there were many things to get used to. First, Sandra and I were
still adjusting to parenthood (as if we are there yet?). Second, there were the cultural differences,
at first we really thought we had moved to a different country. Third, we were now living at 4500
feet. To my surprise however, I ran my second fastest 10K race ever (34:40; 5:35 pace) as my
first race in Utah on only about 6 weeks of training since Mother's Day, mostly because it was on
an all-downhill course. This gave me a newfound drive for my annual marathon goal.
As a motivating force to get acclimated to a new place and to start with something
familiar after the move, I registered for a marathon while still in St. Louis. I had signed up for
my first Utah marathon (Top of Utah in Logan). It was scheduled for Sept 23rd. Following the
10K race and what will follow I felt that despite the slow start to the year with running that if I
could put in a solid 3 months of training this could be my fastest marathon yet.
The acclimation to the elevation took a while but I was surprised how quickly my body
adapted. At first I could run my track workouts at about normal speed. The difficulty was
maintaining any speed. I was unable to run at a decent pace for more than 5 miles in the thin air.
This didn’t last too long, and after plodding around for about 5 weeks this changed and I was
back to last year’s physical fitness level. The surprise to me is what that actually meant?
The nice thing about distance runners is that they always seem to have a way of finding
each other. During my first few weeks in Salt Lake, I met two different groups of runners, The
Black Sheep and the Wasatch Athletics. Both are good groups of people however, the WA had a
much more competitive edge. A 2:16 marathon runner (Demetrio) trained them. But, I didn’t
know what I was getting myself into…
Both groups helped me get acclimated to Utah. Chad the fastest of the Black Sheep took
me on a few long runs with this group and that helped me learn the area and something about the
local running seen. On August 5th, Chad introduced me to “real” altitude when we went to Park
City with a small group for a 20-miler. It was a great run and one that helped me decide that I
needed to try something extreme this year if I wanted to have a breakthrough in the marathon.
The same week as the 20-miler with Chad, I had my first training run with the Wasatch
Athletics, all I was told was to show up at the track at 6pm on Tuesday. I got there and just got in
line. We started with a hearty warm-up and then changed into our track shoes. Demetrio took one
look at me and asked if I thought I could run 10x800 meter repeats, I said I could probably run
eight but we’d wait and see. He told me to just see how long I could hang with this guy named
Lion (college ~31:00 10K runner) and a high school runner who had won state the previous year
in cross-country (Jordan). To my surprise, I finished the workout completing each of the 10
repeats in 2 min 35 sec, give or take one second. I also found a good friend and training partner
I continued with this Tuesday night tradition doing workouts I never thought I was
capable of. The next one came about a week later when Demetrio told us we were going to run
25X400. For those of you not familiar with track workouts this consists of running one lap
around the track at about 90% of your mile pace (for me ~75 sec or 5 min per mile). Then you
recover by jogging a lap and repeat. So in total you run 6.25 miles at a very fast pace plus 6.25
miles at a very slow pace. The total workout with warm-up, the recoveries, and cool-down is 18
miles. In high school, my hardest workout was 12X400 and in college, I never ran quarters. In
other words, this workout was more than twice as hard as anything I had completed in the past. I
didn’t think I would make it but decided to give it a try. The workout was the same set-up as
before with Lion, Jordan, and me. Jordan was supposed to drop off after 12 quarters as he was
only training for a 5K and Lion and I were training for the marathon. We decided to trade off the
lead and take turns “breaking the wind”. We hit all of the first 12 quarters in 75±1 second. Then
Jordan dropped off and Lion and I were on our own. We made it through 15 and then I started
really feeling it, but we kept hitting all the repeats in 74-76 seconds so I kept going. By the time
we hit 20, I was floating on cloud nine. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. However, it was short
lived, after about another two I really hit the wall. I couldn’t lead my turn anymore and Lion lead
the last three. I ran my last in my slowest 78 sec; Lion ran his last fastest in 62!!! This day taught
me many things: I had drastically underestimated my abilities and I was going to tear it up in
My running routine was more or less recover from Tuesday workouts try to increase my
mileage and repeat. First, for you non-runners this is a huge no-no and something I should have
known better. You never want to increase volume and intensity at the same time. Despite my
inner voice telling me you should know better, I kept pushing and surprisingly kept doing better.
Many of my teammates in the past felt that I was holding back and not really testing my limits
and I wanted to finally see if they were right and what my limits are.
The only time I feel that I’ve truly tested my limits was while wrestling in high school.
However, with running I never felt as if I redlined it a whole event. So I told myself lets go for it
you only know if you try and my weekly mileage climbed from the 50s to 75 to 80. At this point
I was continuing to hit great track workouts. That same week I got a surprise call. One of the
guys from WA, Bill was putting together a relay team for a race the following day and said Lion
wanted me to be his partner, if I was up for it. Bill was also running the full marathon as well as
Top of Utah. In all Bill ran seven marathons in 2006 and when I say ran he competed in them all
not just completed. He is truly an amazing athlete. Well I had already registered for a half
marathon "tune-up" race the following weekend but I felt why not it’s fun to be a part of a team
again. EARLY Saturday morning we drove up to 6500 feet (Park City) for the race.
This race was a marathon relay. It was two runners each running half the distance (13.1
miles). Fortunately for me, a portion of the race was on the same course that I had run with Chad
and the Black Sheep a few weeks earlier. I was to run the first half and Lion to run the second.
We knew the second half was harder so Lion (being the better runner) took it. However, that
meant that I had the "race" part of the event. We knew there were two other teams that had the
potential of beating us. I knew that one of these team's second runner has faster personal bests
than Lion, so I had to get to the exchange in the lead. My plan was to take it out in about 6
minute pace. However, the other two guys knew each other and wanted to test the new guy. They
pushed the first mile in 5:40. I went with them and could really feel the thinner air. I was hanging
on for dare life but wouldn't let them go. They slowed to the upper 5:50s, and I felt I could give
that a try. Then something surprising happened. At mile 8, I noticed that I was the one
controlling the pace and wanted to see if they would go with me if I put in a surge. I put in a
5:32, they fell back and I never saw them again. I ended up giving Lion about a minute lead at
the exchange and we ended up winning by almost three minutes. I later found out that when I put
in the surge one of the two guys tore one of his muscles and dropped out of the race. I finished
my half in 1 hr and 17 min, which was my fastest official half marathon. This also happened to
come out to exactly the 6 minute pace I was shooting for. I was very happy with the performance
considering it was on a relatively flat course at 6500 feet. After handing off to Lion, I went and
cheered on Bill and met Lion at the 24-mile mark. Even after the rest, I could not run Lion in. He
was cooking. We won the relay overall with over a 5 minute lead in 2 hrs 32 min.
I had a short "rest" and soon was getting ready to race the following weekend. This time
around, I was going solo. Demetrio told me to take it easy, wear my training shoes (not racing
shoes) and control myself on the downhill. I didn't know anyone at the race but was told there
should be 2-3 guys that would be able to beat me. This course was a technical course and being
new to mountain running, I was not prepared. I decided that the following weekend I averaged 6
minutes so I would try the same on this course being a good 1000 ft lower and having nine of the
13.1 miles downhill. So I went with the two fastest looking guys at the start and we hit the first
mile in 6:31. I decided this was silly and I would go it alone. However, the first 4 miles were all
up hill (actually mountain). I took the lead but actually slowed to 7 minutes. I surged a little and
brought it down to the mid-6:30s. I felt this would have to do I'm in the lead and running up hill
lets see what the downhill holds in store for me.
I crested the peak and picked it up (5:25) where did that come from! They weren't
kidding about downhill advantage. However, I heard someone coming up. One of the fast
looking guys had thrown in a sub-5 minute mile to catch up with me after the summit. I was
scared. Anyone who could do that could definitely out kick me. But I had the taste of victory in
my mouth and felt that if I was going to make a move I had to do it early while he was
recovering from his effort to catch me. I pushed the pace to 5:22. Not blazing for him but after
his effort he didn't want to start this so early. So he dropped back a little. However, I kept it up
and put in a 5:24. At this point I started thinking about why I run and why I race. I knew the goal
was the marathon but I really wanted to win this race and see what I was capable of. With all the
mileage and intensity I was putting in, instead of wearing me out, it was making me feel
invincible. Also, I kept telling myself I’m just running at qualifying pace (the US marathon trials
qualifying time is a 2:22 marathon or about 5 min and 25 sec per mile) which almost half of my
friends from St. Louis are capable of running. So I said why not lets test my limits.
The next mile was 5:36 a little slower but I was still feeling great. Also, about this time I
ran past Dale’s house. Even though there were no spectators lining the mountain road there were
plenty of bikers and they were very helpful cheering me on. I really got a runner’s high and kept
going, my next mile was 5:30. I couldn’t believe it, I was starting to recognize were I was and
knew the finish was only about 4 miles away I wanted to hold this effort until 10 miles and then
really redline it to the finish, that mile was a little slower in 5:36. Now was the time to let it go. I
was almost out of the canyon and there were a few people around cheering I just started running
as hard as I could. Mile 11 was in 5 minutes and 16 seconds, I had to take a second look but it
was right. I couldn’t believe it. That was my 5K pace and I just ran it for mile 11 of a half
marathon. I got so excited and kept pushing, mile 12 was in 5:15. I couldn’t believe it, all my
training had paid off and I was going crazy. One more mile and I couldn’t hear any sign of the
guy behind me. I kept pushing and hit the last mile in 5:16! Those last three miles tied the pace
of my fastest 5K!!! I won the race in 1 hr and 15 min. The next day I “recovered” with a 20 mile
easy run. That gave me my fastest race and I broke 90 miles for the week. The best part is that I
wasn’t even sore. I don’t know what my mind was thinking but my body was putting up with
everything I gave it.
Two days later I did the 25X400 track workout with Lion and we averaged 74.6 seconds
per quarter just under pace. I was heading to my sisters wedding that weekend and decided to
just focus on mileage, as this was the last week of training before my taper for the marathon. I
kept plodding along and putting in the mileage. It was a great weekend home and seeing family.
Sarah’s wedding went off without a hitch and the weather even held off for the outdoor
ceremony. It was a great wedding and I had a lot of fun. That Sunday the day after the wedding I
was to do a long run. I went to the trials by Sandra’s dads and went for a 16 mile out-and-back.
Around mile 9 something didn’t feel right in my right buttocks. It seems that the craziness of the
previous three weeks had finally caught up with me. However, instead of stopping and walking
the 7 miles back to the car I continued to run. I had had cramps before and didn’t think much of
it. Also, each mile closer to 15 brought me that much closer to 100 miles for the week. That
would be my highest mileage ever and put me in an exclusive club that all my friends from St.
Louis had been members of for years. I guess you never out grow peer pressure, even if it is over
1000 miles away. Well I kept going and the pain subsided a little but my mile 14 I was really
sore. I pushed it through the last 2 miles and briefly celebrated my 101 miles. It was short lived
and I headed straight to Walgreens for Ibuprofen and Epsom salt. I should have gotten ice
instead. I took a warm bath, big mistake number one. The next day I couldn’t walk…
It was two weeks until the marathon and I was completely depressed I went from the
highest point in my running career to the lowest in less then one day. The bad part was I knew it
was mostly self-inflicted; I only had myself to blame. I felt it couldn’t be that bad, it was just a
muscle cramp. It was also my taper so as far as my training went I was all done I just had to rest
and show up at the start line. I decided to take the week off and get a massage. The massage
helped a little but I still couldn’t run. I went back for a second massage and was still not able to
run. I couldn’t even run 1 mile without limping and nearly falling over. How could I have gone
from 101 miles to 1 mile? I decided I wouldn’t be able to run my marathon. I ran it the weekend
before at the half and pushing to 101. I did decide to go to the race and cheer on Lion though.
We drove up the day before the race. It was a good time. We drove the course a beautiful
downhill course. The first 14 miles are down a canyon road that is tree-lined with a stream
running along most of it. Also, at the race expo there was the women’s 5K world record holder
The hardest part of the weekend was dropping Lion off at the shuttle to the start of the
race. I was able to walk without limping but if I tried to run at all my butt would hurt. It was a
good race and Lion had an amazing first marathon. He ran 2 hr 33 min 53 sec finishing 6th
At this point I really didn’t think I would run again. I thought I was stupid and was going
to have to pay for it. I went to see an orthopedist and he ruled out any major tears or breaks. He
diagnosed me with piriformis syndrome. This is an overuse injury of the tiniest muscle in your
butt, which causes it to pull across your sciatic nerve. In other words, it is a real pain in the ass.
The doctor gave me a few stretches and put me on some steroids. I also went for a third massage.
In all I took four weeks off. I am not one to give up easily and I did not want to succumb to the
depression of losing my goal. I scoured the racing calendars and found that the Las Vegas
marathon was Dec 10th. If I could get in shape to finish that marathon I could still meet my goal
of an annual marathon.
October and November were going to teach me the lesson I didn’t learn the rest of the
year. One of my problems in Aug and Sept was I started doing better and I stopped thinking, I
just pushed too hard. Not that trying is bad, but you should look before you leap. All of October I
ran only 2-4 miles every other day, if I could get to the end of the month without pain I would
use November to ramp my mileage and complete the race the race in Dec. So much for a fastest
marathon ever but at least I could still make one of my goals.
I survived Oct. Not the best base mileage I've ever had going into a marathon program
but at least I wasn't in pain anymore. By the second week of Nov I was up to an 8 mile run and
by Nov 14th I completed a 10 mile run with little to no pain. With that run I knew I could run the
marathon so I officially registered. I kept things calm and didn't do any workouts just light
mileage. By one week out, I put in one 15 mile run and then started my 1-week taper. At this
time is also when the grant writing was hitting high gear and prep for the holidays. The one thing
that I have always noticed though is that my time management, productivity, and work quality
always increase when I'm training full-time. This has been true since high school. Whenever I've
been off season my work suffers. I've always found this confusing. You would think with less
time because of the time spent training that you would get less done. However, when you are
training hard you rest better, have more energy, and focus.
Now one of the hardest things for a runner to do is not race. There is something in our
blood that makes us competitive. We will be your best friend at the start line or after the finish,
but during the event all we are thinking is, "I'm going to pass you." However, I had a problem.
My problem was that I had just barely nursed myself back to health the month before the race.
To set myself up for the least race like scenario I took an interesting approach to this race. The
week before I was very busy with lab and my grant writing. I took no additional sleep. On top of
it I did not change my diet at all. Finally, was my prerace day. The week I registered for the race
I contacted an old high school friend, Jill. I had only seen her once during the last decade but I
knew she was in Vegas and I asked if she would host me. She graciously agreed. So the day
before the race I drove down to Vegas after going in to work for a couple hours. It was about a 6-
hour drive. When I got there we went to the packet pickup. We got there during the last hour, just
in time. Because I wasn’t “racing” this marathon I hadn’t signed up for seeded status. However
the temptation was there and I asked if they would put me in last minute. Luckily they declined.
After getting my race number two of three of the numbers were 7, almost a Jackpot, we walked a
few of the casinos. Not being a huge gambler and the fact that all the slot machines don’t take
real change anymore we then went to dinner. I actually had little to no appetite but did enjoy a
glass of red wine. After dinner we hit one casino on the way home were I lost a whopping 15¢. I
finally got to sleep. Early AM Jill was gracious enough to wake up and bring me to the start.
This helps a lot so I don’t have to worry about finding parking or a place to put my stuff.
At the start it is a little cool and a little windy. I’m in the general corral and start talking
with a few people. After a little of this I duck under the corral separator and move up to the
seeded corral anyway. However, I make sure to stay towards the back. In true Vegas style The
Blue Man Group performs the Star Spangled Banner and then there are fireworks for the elite
women’s start. A few minutes later the gun goes off and we are on our way.
The race starts very near the welcome to Vegas sign and heads down the strip for the first
5-6 miles. I purposely keep telling myself to stay calm and have fun with it. I decide to make a
pit stop at mile 2 to solidify this plan. Then I’m on my way again. There are some people and a
little entertainment. There is a very good Ozzie impersonator. I miss the first few mile marks so I
don’t know what pace I’m going but I feel comfortable so I just keep with it. I start up a few
conversations with people around me and try and keep relaxed and in a mood of enjoyment not
competition. As many of you know I typically tell the story of the actual race as a mile-by-mile
account, the same as the half marathon above. However, I and those around me quickly realized
that almost none of the mile markers were even close to accurately placed. You would think that
for a race of a few thousand people who each paid close to $110 to enter the even they could
have gotten that right. The company (Devine) that put on this race has been going downhill and
should be avoided at all costs. This mistake started to cause a significant amount of anger in the
people racing around me but as this was just a “fun run” I did not let it bother me. To further
confirm this I stopped for a second pit stop. The bad part of not having accurate mile markers
was that I still had no idea what pace I was actually running. Fortunately enough people now
have personal GPS systems so I ran with a few people to get some accurate mile splits. I was
nearing the half-way mark and when I saw that my time was a 1:34 I got very excited. I had no
idea I was running that quickly. Considering I had already stopped twice I couldn’t believe it. If I
kept up this pace I would easily break 3:10 which is Boston qualifying.
Now that I had this added goal in mind my demeanor changed a little. I knew I still
couldn’t go crazy with the pace as to not hurt myself but I felt I could give it a little more. I
decided that I would take it about this same pace until the 20 mile mark and then see how I was
feeling. The great part was that I was just running on feel and I was feeling great. Around mile
10 we had turned and had a very long straight away, about 10 miles into the wind. I felt this was
a good thing to keep me under control. I also picked a new strategy and would pick a person up
ahead. I would then tell myself that I shouldn’t catch them until the next mile marker, inaccurate
as they were. If I happened to catch the person first I had to run with them until that mile marker.
This was a good strategy and helped me keep control of my pace. I kept this up until the 20 mile
marker and then let loose. From the markers it appeared that I was now close to 3 hour pace and
I really wanted to see if I could break it. I kept pushing and was feeling great. I hit what was the
23 mile mark and could start feeling the fatigue in my legs but really had no pain and didn’t feel
Then there was a spell that felt like forever. There was finally a clock and the people
started yelling “way to go, 24 miles done.” I looked at the clock and it completely knocked the
wind out of me. The time was about 2:52 or so. If I still had 2.2 miles to go there was no way I
was going to break three hours. However, I looked up ahead and I could see the casino where the
finish is. So I pushed with what I had left. I then made a turn and to my surprise could see the
finish and the clock clicking 2:59 and change. I charged. I crossed the finish line and found Jill. I
had done it. I finished my 2006 marathon. My final time was 3:00.22 putting me in 56th place. I
was bummed about the 22 seconds but I couldn’t believe it. I had run my first negative split
marathon and nearly broke three hours after having been injured for a month! Jill and I didn’t
stick around but headed to get some ice for my legs and then went to a great all you can eat sushi
place. All and all it was a great experience and gave me a much needed boost of confidence after
the injury. I said my good byes and hit the road.
About 2 hours into the drive I hit a horrible snow storm that went on and off for the rest
of the way home. There were many portions of the trip when I was driving less than 30 miles per
hour on the expressway. Not the best way to have your legs recover but I was listening to The
Hobbit and some Spanish lesson tapes so the nearly 9 hour return trip wasn’t all that bad. I
finally pulled in around 11PM that night.
The experience was good. Overall the year building up to the race was my best ever. The
half marathon that I won a few months earlier was my best race ever. I learned that I have the
potential of being a great runner I just need some patience to get there.
After the race, I took a good two months off, mostly due to injuries. I used that time to
recover, spend some extra time with family, and really get some stuff started at work again. The
funny part is that during this time of not running all of those things actually suffered a little. I’m
finally running again and each week I add a little mileage I actually get more efficient with my
time management and more motivated at work. I always find it amazing when people say they
don’t have time to exercise. I don’t have time not to.
Thank you for going through this experience with me once again. I hope to keep a level
head in my training the rest of this year and be able to tell you about a PR performance for my
2007 marathon at Top of Utah…
-Adam R. Wende