In August, Dathan Ritzenhein was competing in his third Olympic Games, this time at the 10,000-meter distance.
On Oct. 7, Ritzenhein will return to his favorite distance -- the marathon -- at the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
"I love the marathon. There are so many factors that are involved," Ritzenhein told me on Oct. 6. "There are a lot of things that can go wrong, and so I like the challenge of trying to get all the parts right. There's so many more things to think about."
Some of those things include nutrition, clothing and equipment, Ritzenhein said. In addition, Ritzenhein has often had to worry about injuries in the past, he said.
Ritzenhein at the Olympic Games
This year has been a bit different for the 29-year-old Michigan native, though. After narrowly missing out on the 2012 Olympic marathon team when he finished fourth at the marathon Olympic trials, Ritzenhein quickly switched gears in order to qualify for the 10,000-meters on the track.
The transition was a bit difficult at first, Ritzenhein said, but once he got his speed back, everything came naturally.
In June, Ritzenhein finished third in the Olympic track trials and secured a spot on his third Olympic team. At the 2008 Olympic Games, Ritzenhein ran the marathon and finished ninth, and at the 2004 Olympic Games he ran the 10,000 meters and did not finish.
"After the disappointment of missing out on the marathon team by such a small margin, it was a real battle to try to get back in shape after having three years off from the track," Ritzenhein told me on Oct. 6. "So it was a huge stress reliever when I finally made the team in June. I wish I would have raced a little bit better, but having been off the track for three years and having (the Olympics) be my first major championship back -- I was a little rusty. So I was happy to be there but I wish I would have had a little bit better tactics."
Ritzenhein came away from the race healthy, though, which was a big plus for the distance runner. With a solid year of training behind him, Ritzenhein has turned toward the Chicago Marathon with optimism.
Training and Transition From the Marathon to the Track and Back
One of his reasons for being optimistic relates to the work he's done with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, he said. Because of work with the institute and Asker Jeukendrup, who is the global senior director of the institute, Ritzenhein has learned how to better manage his transitions from the road to the track and back, he said.
"I was able to figure out some of the problems I'd had in previous marathons and know what to use especially for this marathon coming off of the track, kind of knowing what might be different from a specific marathon build-up," Ritzenhein told me on Oct. 6.
Ritzenhein learned that he has a larger concentration of sodium in his sweat and a higher sweat rate, he said, and knowing that about himself has helped him better hydration choices during his marathon races. During training and races, he prefers the Gatorade G Series Pro Line, Ritzenhein said.
Training for the Chicago Marathon
Because he's comfortable with his hydration choices on the course, Ritzenhein has one less thing to worry about when it comes to the Chicago Marathon, he said, which allows him to focus on some of the other challenges that come with running a marathon.
That, combined with his healthy and injury-free preparation, has made the lead-up to Chicago much easier, he said.
"For me to be healthy and put in a full year of training has been really awesome," Ritzenhein told me. "I didn't have to do some of the crazy hard workouts that I had done before because my training was just good all year long. So that was one of the biggest differences I think between my previous marathons."
The 2012 Chicago Marathon is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. CST on Oct. 7 in Grant Park.
Sandra Johnson completed her first marathon in 2011. In addition, Johnson is a longtime fan of Olympic sports. While working for the United States Olympic Committee and living in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46