Someone once told me that you can't get ready for a marathon in under 12 weeks. The same person even went so far as to say I couldn't recover from one marathon and get ready for another in only 10 weeks (Pan-Ams to trials).

That's great, but I'm the kind of jerk who loves to prove people wrong when they say I CAN'T do something. I ran the marathon at the Pan-American Games anyway. It was my first time making a US national team. How could I pass up the opportunity? I may never get another chance to don the USA singlet in international competition. I was going to seize the moment and deal with trials once Pan-Am was over.

Stars aligning as they did, I got strep throat and a respiratory infection the week before Pan-Ams. Altitude and humidity (conditions in Guadalajara) would not end up being my friends despite spending the whole summer of 2011 training in long sleeves and acclimating to hot temperatures. I was on antibiotics all the way through race morning and I finished a disappointing 8th place.

Despite the let-down, I had an excellent experience on Team USA in Mexico and would not have traded the experience for the world. After the race, I got a massage, chiropractic alignment, and took a week off of running. That week, I felt just fine. I could have run another marathon, I thought. Still I took my time off before starting a “risky” 10 week buildup (9 now after taking a week off!) to the Olympic trials in January.

By this time, I had begun working with my current coach and training group, Brad Hudson and his Hudson Training Systems group. We jumped right into the workouts after the week break from training. I already had a solid aerobic foundation from the Pan-Am buildup. I wouldn't be fragile under the strain of mileage or intensity coming right into it.

Going into the Pan-Ams marathon, I did a 16 week buildup. It was one of my longest ever, rivaling only my first marathon ever (2006 Chicago). Every workout went better than expected for 16 weeks. But by the time I toed the line in Guadalajara, I learned an important lesson, I can't do a 16 week buildup. It broke my body down too much for too long. The duration of that cumulative fatigue was likely the reason I couldn't kick the strep sooner or avoid it altogether.

So began my trials buildup. It would be 10 weeks of just intense work. There would be no build in, no base phase. This was crunch training for a marathon. I've never done a buildup so short before (with the exception of Boston 2008 after getting hit by a car, read back old blog posts) and I knew the risk involved. It could be a disaster!

The 10 weeks blew right by. Before I knew it, I was toeing the line in Houston against some of America's finest marathoners. Unlike previous marathons though, I was EXCITED! I couldn't wait to get to that 20 mile mark and really grind people over the final lap. I had never been like this at the start line...and I liked it!

That mental sharpness was the element I had been missing when I toed the line of previous marathons. Normally, I'd enter a marathon knowing I was strong, but questioning if I'd be able to move when the going got tough late in the race. As any marathoner knows, the real race begins at 20 miles. Now here I was toeing the line with more pressure than I've had before and yet feeling more confident and capable than I have ever felt on a start line!

Now I have taken my time to assess what I did well and what I can improve from my Olympic trials experience and am ready to train for Chicago in October. Lesson #1 that I am applying is the short buildup. I am training only 9 weeks marathon-specific right now. I just took 4 days off (enough to sharpen mentally without losing fitness) and started training again on Friday of last week. My training will be VERY similar to the training I did leading to Houston, but with some variation on the loops, terrain, and intensity.

Like every marathon, this one will be an adventure. It will have goods and bads. I am murdering my Endurox recovering from workouts and I am giving my annual experiment to find the best race-day fuel (if you have any input, share it in the comments section) that will go down smoothly and be absorbed amply on race day. The first 5 weeks are experimentation like that; the last 4 are race specific practice with every element in place every workout. Same bottles will be used, same fluid in the bottle, same shoes, same sunglasses, same anti-chafing lube, everything! The process of weeding out anything imperfect is a MUST. With 8 weeks now to Chicago, I'm pumped to get there and shine on once again. Sweet home, Chicago, here I come!