On the Front Range, Cabada returned to the grind he knew so well, and life began to click again. With a stopwatch on hand, Cabada’s coach and mentor, Brad Hudson, was ready to whip him back into shape. Despite his understanding of Cabada’s move to North Dakota, Hudson was relieved for his pupil to return.
“I was very happy [that he returned], one of the things I want people to see is how good he really is,” Hudson said. “The unique relationship between Cabada and Hudson could almost be considered a collaboration. “I understand he needs to make his own decisions,” Hudson said. With such a talent, Hudson’s guidance and mentoring is more effective than your typical coach-athlete setup, and it’s working.
“Brad is one the best people I have in my life,” Cabada said. Similar to the Pre-Olympic Trials mindset, the hungry Cabada had to return to training and racing as though his life depended on it, chasing paychecks on the roads. “Brad knows I have to race, and knows my mentality.”
Armed with one of the best coaches in the country, Cabada also earned a contract with locally owned and Boulder-born Newton Running, “I wanted to do things a bit different this time, and couldn’t do things on my own anymore,” he said. The support he needed was fitting into place.
Cabada’s fresh start came with a new outlook.
“Before, I would get fueled by the people who doubted me, for years I did this,” he said. “I paid attention to the wrong crowd then, I focused too much on the negative, and it blinded me from all the positive.”
Despite his former perspectives, Cabada’s talents couldn’t be denied, although his passion for the sport would force him to alter his approach to one that would keep his hunger and his intensity in line with each other on stable grounds.
“I run for many reasons now, not just myself,” Cabada said. “I run for the poor kid, the one without confidence, for the kid raised by a single parent, or the kid who gets picked on. I run for all the people who struggled in life at some point, and who were born into a life already down.”
His new approach has already taken him to new heights. In December, Cabada raced the Costa Rica International Marathon. It was yet another training run in preparation for the Houston Marathon, but he entered with the intention of setting a course record. That would entail running under 2:27 — not a meager goal, but for the talented Cabada, easily within the realm of possibility.
Racing in his all-black Team Alchemy gear provided by Newton, Cabada crossed the line unfazed, in 2:19:27, crushing the 17-year old record. Similar to those 4-mile runs at 7:30 pace nearly half a year ago in the hills of North Dakota, the joy of feeling the air brush across his cheeks while he ran brought a giant smile to his face as he crossed the finish line. The return of Fernando Cabada was well under way.
The passion and the zeal of the new Cabada buzzed from workout to workout as he began stringing together new goals, always pushing the pace and eliminating the ghosts of his past. The focus that came attached to his attitude even kept him indoors and sober on a night that nearly all of his friends would be kicking back and downing a few tequila shots. Cabada, ever the socialite, ironically spent New Years Eve quietly in his home, preparing for a workout the next morning.
“There is a time for just about everything in life,” Cabada said. “Time to drink, time to work hard, and time to sleep. I’ve come to learn to have a pretty good feel on when to do things.” And with Houston just 13 days later, Cabada knew it was time for sleep.
Just as it seemed the stitching was coming together and the new Cabada would complete his official comeback on the marathon scene, disaster would strike with a hint of irony. Less than two weeks before he would toe the starting line in his return to Houston, the city where he ran his PR over a year ago, he caught the flu. “It made me stay in bed for a couple of days, and I couldn’t move,” he said. In the final week of his preparations, when his body would yearn for time to absorb the hard workouts like a sponge and prep for the battle ahead, it was forced to continue pumping hard, fighting the infection. Still, the new Cabada continued to be optimistic.
“I was still hopeful I could pull off a decent marathon performance, I never gave up hope,” he said. As it would go, the stars wouldn’t align, not just yet for the eager Cabada, as his body would be weary from fighting all week. “The night before the race, I couldn’t sleep a wink, I felt like something was stopping me from running this race, it just wasn’t meant to be.”
The willful Cabada would make a go for it anyway, toeing the line and ready to give it everything he had. “The race was a nightmare, like when you dream you’re trying to run fast and you just can’t,” he said. Sixteen miles into the race, Cabada would finally realize this was not his day.
“My heart wanted to run fast, but my legs and body couldn’t respond,” he said. Cabada DNF’d his first marathon ever, and for the second time in his life.