ST. AUGUSTINE - Keystone Heights High Olympic marathon hopeful Enoch Nadler took a little test for himself to see if his legs were still firing up like he expects with a scintillating near-record win at the always-fast Matanzas 5K road race on Saturday in St. Augustine.
"We're six weeks out from the Trials marathon in Atlanta," said Nadler, now the coach of the Florida Track Club elite racing team based in Gainesville, where Nadler was a record-setting trackster for the University of Florida after his Keystone Heights High days. "All the focus is on that. I had this race on my calender, but was not fully in until about a week ago."
Nadler, 34, who has about a month to focus in on his bid to join the U.S. Olympic marathon team in Tokyo, ran a 14 minute, seven second race; just a second off the course record, with a blistering first mile, then a strength attack on a handful of professional runners behind him chasing gallantly.
"I won this race seven years ago as the start point to my return to road racing after a break to do some other things," said Nadler, now married to wife Angela, herself a budding three hour marathoner from New Jersey and the University of South Florida. "I have a big bunch of my team going to the Houston Marathon and that could have been an option, but this race is special to me and I have some team here to support. I ran this race in high school, won it as part of my return and to come out today with my team is fun."
From the Matanzas race, Nadler has a complex set of objectives up to leaving for Atlanta on the Thursday before the Trials Marathon, according to Angela Nadler, that will keep him focused on the best possible outcome.
"From the time he wakes up each morning, his day is focused around getting the best possible benefits of his workout for the day," said Angela Nadler, married six years. "He has his routine of hydration, stretching, a little apple cider vinegar, a peanut butter banana and some foam rolling and stretching. He's very disciplined."
Angela Nadler, who ran a 3:24 in her marathon debut, also gets herself ready for the day's run alongside of Enoch.
"He knows what he has to do be ready on race day," said Angela Nadler. "We focus more on the process; the training, rather that the actual race in front of us. Living in that day is the goal."
At Matanzas, Nadler smoothly took the front pack through a 4:35 first mile, assessed his competition, then cruised in to win by about five seconds over 24-year-old Zachary Panning, an NCAA Division II national champion in the 5K and 10K races for Grand Valley State University with a mile best of 4:07.90 plus a second place finisher in the NCAA Division II cross county national championship, with Abdisamed Abdi, 25, an Oklahoma State University standout, with a third place in third at 14:18. Abdi will also run the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta with his recent 1:03.23 second runnerup finish at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon in November a key indicator of his speed. Abdi has posted a 2:12.38 marathon for his Trials invitation. The Olympic standard is 2:19.04.
"At the 1.2 mile mark, I noticed the guys with me were starting to breathe a little heavy," said Nadler. "They were not looking to push the pace into the wind; about 4:33 for the first mile, but I could tell they were suffering. I just laid on the pedal and hammered the rest of the two miles by myself."
Nadler, with a 2:13.04 marathon best in Toronto in November, noted his marathon pace around a 5:04 mile pace.
"Today was a 4:30 pace, but just a 5K," said Nadler. "This was relaxed, get the win, maybe the record and support my team."
Nadler now shifts his focus to Atlanta on February 29 with a goal of being absolutely tuned in and ready to compete his way.
"The race is a noon start in Atlanta and will probably be very warm, even hot," said Angela Nadler. "He trains in Florida, of course, and will have maybe 100-125 people following him up there to support him."
Nadler likened the Florida weather, the fan base following him and his lone training as an immense advantage.
"My mindset is total preparation and I consider this a home field advantage for my running," said Nadler, who traveled to run the final 10 miles of the race which is a two-loop course of eight miles and a third loop of 10.2 miles to the finish. "The key is to not get there worn out. A lot of guys try to push in too many miles close to the race."
Nadler's Olympic aspirations did not start on fire with his immense track successes, but had been a backburner thought until recently.
"Everyone that competes thinks about the Olympics, but I didn't know if I could make a run at it or not," said Nadler, who is listed as 10th fastest in 3K steeplechase for the University of Florida with an 8:54.34 in 2007. "I took a break from running after college, traveled, came back to qualify for the 2016 Trial Marathon, but chose to travel and missed that. I am now 34, ran this race 20 seconds faster than the same race seven years ago and I'm in a better mindset to go after the marathon."
Angela became Mrs. Nadler after a chance meeting at a tailgating party at a Gators vs. Vanderbilt football game.
"I already had a job lined up in Wisconsin," said Angela Nadler, who was in manufacturing engineering at University of South Florida. "We chatted on Facebook after the game. First date was in Paines Prairie checking out alligators, of course."
From there, the relationship was a series of running and non-running efforts; including a Wisconsin race of no success, then a race that gave Enoch the fire to return.
"The first race I saw him run, in Wisconsin, I thought he must be fast to run at Florida," said Angela Nadler. "It looked painful with all these guys kicking his butt. Fast forward, we move to Las Vegas with a solar job for me and Enoch eventually playing in the World Series of Poker. There was a 911 Rememberance Race that he got second in with little training. Then moved to Dallas where his brother lived, we joined a run club; Run On, to be social, put him in a group with good runners and Enoch caught the fire."
The Nadlers moved back to Gainesville where Enoch proposed the Elite team concept, found his own coach, Matt Hensley, and started his Olympic journey.
"We had a conversation and he said his mindset is to be 'All In' if he was going to do the Olympic thing," said Angela Nadler. "It has been a total commit on both of us."
One indication Angela Nadler knows about her husband's readiness for racing is his habit of clapping and up tempo chatting.
"He does this thing where he claps his hands and give a 'Let's go' when he is ready," said Angela Nadler, who is training for her own bid at the Boston Marathon. "He also starts to move in quicker spurts, talks a little faster and has this glaze in his eyes. We've been together for 10 years and it is still fun to see."
At Matanzas, womens winner was Cleo Boyd, 26, with a 15:56 effort over Anne-Marie Blaney, 26, who clocked in at 16:11 with Olivia Pratt, 25, third at 16:15.
One age group winner, Keystone Heights High junior Camryn Williams, a state meet competitor in the Class 2A cross country championships, took the title in the 14-19 age group with Nadler escorting (and cheerfully encouraging her) in a quick 19:22. Williams is part of Nadler's FTC Elite team.
Second in the 45-49 womens division was a quickly-improving Amy Bonnette, 47, of Orange Park, with a 23:49 effort.