By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
HONOLULU, HI, USA (07-Dec) -- Nick Arciniaga is aiming to complete one of the toughest doubles in distance running at Sunday's Honolulu Marathon. A week after finishing second at the arduous XTERRA Trail Running World Championship Half-Marathon in Kualoa Ranch, the 33-year-old has traveled across Oahu ready for the 26.2-mile race from Ala Moana to Kapiolani Park.
PHOTO: Nick Arciniaga on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu with Diamond Head in the background (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)
For Arciniaga, the seven-day stretch with two grueling races covering nearly 40 miles represent more than just a challenge: they're a stepping stone in the veteran marathoner's career, a chance to push the boundaries and expand his racing resume.
"I've been wanting to do Honolulu for a couple years now, and a couple weeks ago I decided to jump in the trail half as a workout to see how the trail excursion type of race would be for me. It fit in real well," Arciniaga told Race Results Weekly, speaking along a stretch of Waikiki Beach.
A veteran of 21 marathons, Arciniaga has made a name for himself on the racing scene. He's run 2:11:30, finished as the top American at the Boston Marathon in 2008, and represented Team USA at the 2011 IAAF World Championships. But more and more recently he's been wanting to run trail and ultra races.
The first opportunity came last week at the XTERRA Trail Championships. Just five weeks ago, Arciniaga decided that he'd throw his hat in the ring and try the daunting double, racing the XTERRA Half and then the Honolulu Marathon a week later. Few runners of Arciniaga's caliber have done the double before, for each race has its unique challenges: XTERRA is known for muscle-killing climbs and slick terrain; Honolulu for its hot and humid conditions and long, gradual climbs around Diamond Head Volcano.
"I knew that the race would beat my legs up quite a bit. It was a very muddy course, very hilly, something I'm not used to racing on but I've done a lot of training on," Arciniaga said of the half-marathon, where he ran 1:23:15 for runner-up honors behind world mountain running champion, Joseph Gray. Within the uphill first mile, Arciniaga knew it'd be a long, tough day. "Coming off the race I don't feel too, too beat up, but it's going to take me a few days to recover and get ready for the marathon this weekend."
To prepare for racing on Hawaii, Arciniaga said he did extensive heat training back home in Flagstaff, Ariz., wearing extra layers of clothes on days where the temperatures hit 60 or 70 degrees. That, combined with weeks of 130 miles, got Arciniaga fit for battle. Since running 2:18:18 in Berlin in September, Arciniaga has trained consistently with the double in mind.
"The money is in the bank, just ready to recover and go into the next race," he said of his mindset. "It wasn't anything I planned too much with my training leading into it. But I've always had races pretty close back to back, so I know my recovery should be there and I should be ready."
On Sunday, Arciniaga will face a field that includes Olympic marathon silver medalist Feyisa Lilesa, 2014 winner Wilson Chebet, and 2:05:58 man Deribe Robi. No American has won the race since David Gordon in 1982, but that won't deter Arciniaga.
"It's a great field. I'm really excited to come out here and compete for a prize money spot and finish somewhere in the top five, hopefully be in contention to win it," he said. "Usually it's a slower race because of the heat and humidity, so I've been heat training quite a bit... I've just been getting my body conditioned for the weather so I don't feel it too hot."
Arciniaga hopes to use experience as a weapon on Sunday. Knowing the race tends to go out between 67 and 70 minutes through halfway, he plans to sit back and relax amidst the pack; time will be inconsequential. He's run well in heat and humidity before, including sixth and tenth place finishes at the Grandma's Marathon and Olympic Trials Marathons earlier this year.
"I've had a lot of hot races this year. Grandma's, the Trials, and Berlin was pretty humid as well even though the temperatures weren't as high. Just going out there and relying on myself getting through the 26.2 knowing that if I go out too hard I'm going to pay the price. Got to be patient and rely on my expertise of finishing the race."
For the past week, Arciniaga has been spending time running around the island with close friend Thomas Rivers Puzey, a graduate of BYU-Hawaii who is also attempting the double. Taking a step back and thinking about the week, Arciniaga chuckled.
"It will be fun. I was doing the math in my head, 39 miles in a week. Quite a bit of racing, but nothing compared to what I'm hoping to do with 50Ks and 50 milers in the future," he said. "It's something that I've been preparing myself for, putting in high mileage weeks for 15 years now. My body is calloused and ready for it."