Nick Arciniaga is one of those athletes who looks like he could bust open a big one.
He has paid his dues, with good races and bad races. The writer John Parker called that the "Trials of Miles and Miles of Trials."
Nick wants to perform well in New York tomorrow. His goal, his dream is a top five performance. His support from Under Armour has allowed Nick to focus on Los Angeles. Arciniaga is an athlete who should be in the thick of the battle for a top ten performance, or , with some luck, even better.
But the real goal is fifteen weeks from now, in Los Angeles, California, when he will line up with 150 or so of his closest competitors, fighting for a top three performance in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials.
Here is a wonderful piece on Nick at the cross roads, by Cathal Dennehy.
Having already cracked the top 10 on two occasions, Nick Arciniaga has a loftier target on his mind for this Sunday's TCS New York City Marathon.
"I want to finish top five," he says. "The field is a little thinner this year. If I can run a smart race or be close to a PR, I can crack that top five."
Arciniaga's personal best is currently 2:11:30, which he ran at the Houston Marathon in 2011, but since then the 32-year-old has produced many performances which indicate he can run much quicker.
Last year, he finished seventh at the Boston Marathon in 2:11:47, but so far in 2015 things haven't gone according to plan. After going with the leaders over the first half of the Boston Marathon back in April, Arciniaga paid heavily for his exertions over the closing miles and came home 14th in 2:18:02, which subsequently saw him miss out on a place at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing.
"I was pretty bummed with 14th," says Arciniaga. "It was my hope to make a world championship team and to get a US jersey, but once I knew I wasn't going to hear from [the selection committee], New York felt like a really good option."
As it turned out, Arciniaga would most likely have been unable to take up his spot even if he had made it to Beijing as he picked up a hamstring strain in August. Since then, though, it has been plain sailing all the way to New York, the self-coached athlete logging between 100 and 130 miles most weeks in the thin air of Flagstaff, Arizona.
"This has been more like a half marathon preparation," he says. "The mileage has been a little lower, focusing on the workouts and getting the intensity high. My long run is my biggest workout, running sub-six minute pace for 24 to 26 miles at 7000ft altitude. I do a lot of fartleks to change pace and get my legs used to 4:40 a mile. I'm trying to adapt myself to handle different paces."
In training, Arciniaga has often gone as far as 28 miles for his long run, something he feels is necessary when preparing for the demands of the hilly course in New York.
"You have to train like it's a longer race and be a lot stronger," he says. "It's so brutal throughout, so you train like it's a 28-mile race. I always come in being more ready for, not so much a faster pace, as a grind."
Though Arciniaga is hoping for a strong showing on Sunday, he knows that the bigger, more important target is looming four months down the line - the US Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles on February 13.
He believes it will take a 2:09 run to make the team and while Arciniaga believes he has that in him, he's also aware just how many others will be going there with the same intention.
"I'll need to run an equivalent PR, but there could be five guys ready to run 2:09 that day," he says. "There's about 20 or 23 guys with the potential to run that, so I won't write anybody off."
With that race just 15 weeks away, the American contingent is understandably sparse at this weekend's race in New York, but Arciniaga believes he will have ample time to prepare for the trials, regardless of his result this weekend.
"Leading into this race, I'm glad I've been doing lower mileage so I can take a few weeks off then have 13 weeks to train for trials," he says. "My legs won't be too beat up so I won't need too much time off. I ran my PR was 16 weeks after running the Chicago Marathon, so as long as my legs recover and I can get the training in, I should be good to go."