AFTER FINISHING the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials marathon, Dathan Ritzenhein walked off the course in Houston in shock and tears. He had crossed the line in fourth place, eight seconds short of qualifying for what would have been his third Olympics. He couldn't watch as Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall and Abdi Abdirahman celebrated making the U.S. team ahead of him. "I was completely deflated," Ritzenhein says. "I have some vivid memories from the later stages of really struggling but slowly gaining on Abdi. I never gave up until the end."
Ritzenhein rebounded five months later at the Olympic track and field trials, running the 10,000 and making the team. He placed 13th in London. Two months after that he ran a 2:07:47 personal best in the Chicago Marathon. Then the setbacks began: a hernia, several ankle injuries, a gluteal tear. "I've had a lot of things," Ritzenhein says, laughing. "I don't consider things injuries if I can still run."
He's finally healthy, and last April he finished as the top American at the Boston Marathon, in 2:11:20. Ritz, who grew up in Grand Rapids, moved back to Michigan to be closer to family two years ago and is now bracing for his second winter of training on his own after parting ways with coach Alberto Salazar. The weather can be difficult, but he usually makes a few trips to participate in warm-weather races and has access to the indoor facilities at Grand Valley State, where he coaches. A new Ritzenhein, who turns 33 next month, will show up to the Olympic trials in Los Angeles in February. "This lead-up is completely different," he says. "I've run quite a bit less, but the quality is very fast."
Speed is all he needs, because after his heartbreak in Houston, he has plenty of motivation.
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Cold weather training tips from Dathan Ritzenhein
Lay it on
"A lot of people say, Wear one layer less than you need when you start. It's the opposite for me. I like to be warm when I start."
Don't sweat the pace
"Knowing that you have five pounds of clothes on, you don't have to hit the same times as in a workout on the perfect day."
"You also have to know the terrain is going to be different and slower. Running a little slower doesn't mean you're any less fit or that you're getting less from a workout."
For more athlete training profiles and tips, go to SI.com/edge
STEVEN SENNE/AP; ICONS BY MARTIN LAKSMAN
GOOSE BUMPS Ritzenhein was the top American in Boston last April.