The Steel City

Point State Park. The sight of both Fort Duquesne and fort Pitt.

Point State Park. The sight of both Fort Duquesne and fort Pitt.

On Friday I headed for my first visit to the Steel City. Having never been to Pittsburgh before I did not know what to expect. The vision I did have was of a typical former industrial town. One that has lost much of its former glory as the industries that were the driving forces of the economy had moved away. What I did find was a vibrant city with a bustling city center. After my plane ride and arrival to the hotel, I took a stroll through the business district and ended up at Point State Park. Point State Park is situated at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers to form the Ohio River. For nearly three centuries, this area has been strategically important. It started during the French and Indian War (1756-63) when the British attacked Fort Duquesne (Current sight of Point State Park). After the Revolutionary War, Pittsburgh became one of the most important producers of metals, like iron, brass, tin, and eventually steel. It still is an important hub of transportation and production for the United States and the Ohio Valley specifically.

Also walking around I could see how hilly the area was. Directly behind our hotel there was a cliff, which would have a fantastic view of the city. I said would have because I was not able to go up and whiteness it. But within the city, the streets rolled up and down. This made me excited to run on those streets, as I tend to run well on hilly courses.

On Saturday morning, I typically try to run the course, but with no tour guide and the warning that the course would have many stoplights and few sidewalks I ended up running with the local running club. Just like ZAP camps, it is always nice to talk to other runners, especially who do it more as a “hobby.” I only say “hobby” for lack of a better word, because they are just as passionate, if not more so, about the sport, but work a fulltime job. Talking with people who love to run helps instill in me an enjoyment of the sport.


Breaking the tape!

Breaking the tape!

As I mentioned above, the course is very hilly. While the hills are not long or steep, they are unrelenting. Before 7 miles, there is hardly a flat section to the course. Coming in, I had a very similar strategy to Twin Cities; let the other athletes run their legs off in the hills. The only difference is that Pete gave me permission to risks earlier in the race. He said if the pace had dragged the first 6 miles, I could go from there. Basically Pete was giving me more freedom to use my racing instincts.

With the first 7 miles being the hardest section of the course, the pace was moderate. The first four miles were around 4:45 min/per mile (19:03). A few people had made surges, but nothing that was not quickly reeled in, but that all changed in the fifth mile. Geoffrey Kenisi, from Kenya, threw in a massive surge on a downhill portion. Kenyans love to throw in big surges and then settle back to pace (here is a great example of that). Often run away from everyone while doing that, getting just far enough ahead that they cannot be caught. Knowing that sometimes the person who makes that move does not come back to the main field, I made the choice to go with him. We ended up running around a 4:20 mile from four to five, crossing 5 in 23:24. That was 20 seconds quicker than Twin Cites!

Knowing that Geoffrey’s surge could not last, I only had to wait it out. Eventually he slowed down, and I stayed tucked in behind him, much to his chagrin. I think he was hoping that I would continue with his surge so we could pull farther away from the rest of the field. He continued to surge over the next few miles, especially when we could hear another runner’s footsteps behind us. Every time he would try to pull away, I would match it and eventually I started to get anxious and began to pull even with him on occasion.

Around the 8 mile mark there are several turns in the course. Over a short half mile stretch, we made six turns, and I noticed that Geoffrey was struggling around the turns and I took advantage of two quick turns, surging out of them. From there it was a mile and a half to the finish along Liberty Ave. There was also a stiff head wind, so I just put my head down and drove to the finish. With a half mile to go, Liberty Ave. made a slight turn, and the finish came into view. But with that slight direction change, the headwind became much stiffer. From there I put my head down even more and pushed to the finish. With a quarter mile to go, Mourad Marafit appeared just over my shoulder, and that sudden appearance gave me a bit of a surprise and I was able to put one more surge to pull away.


Another bent over picture. Those last two miles into the wind were tough.

Another bent over picture. Those last two miles into the wind were tough.

Coming into the race I knew that I had a chance to win. The EQT Pittsburgh had assembled a fantastic field, including international athletes, but I had a great race at the TC 10 Mile and was just as fit, if not fitter. With that in mind, I ran with confidence at the front.

One thing that was much different about this race compared to the Twin Cites 10 Mile is that there was an international field in the race. This significantly changed how the race was run. At Twin Cities, the pace was honest from the gun, gradually increasing as the race progressed. I feel like this is a very “American” way of running. It is the simplest way to run fast. But running is not always about running fast. I feel that most of the international athletes, especially the Kenyans, understand this. This leads to them throwing in surges early and often, which is what happened in Pittsburgh. After the first mile, there was a constant barrage of surges from different athletes, and it was the fifth mile in around 4:20 that really broke open the race. Even after that fast mile, Geoffrey was still throwing in surges trying to drop me. This is a completely different type of racing that I have really experienced this fall and I had a feeling coming into the race that it might be run this way. With one of my goals for the fall to become a better instinctive racer, this was a good test, to which I feel I passed.

For this race, Pete gave me more freedom to use my race instincts than my three previous races. While I was running for the win, there was less pressure on winning as it was not a US Championship. I feel that I have grown as a racer over the last few years. Every race, and some more than others, has taught me something about how my best way to compete in races. My biggest lesson this year came at USA’s when I led for nearly ten laps, when I would have been much better suited to hang back and let the pace drag. The (disappointing) result has been the driving force of my tactics this fall. I have begun to see I have many tools that others lack. I have good foot speed as seen in breaking 4 minutes in the mile and a strong aerobic engine that allowed me to run 2:13 for the marathon. Now I just need to put them together to figure out the best way to be competitive and win races.

Before signing off, I have to give a big thanks out to the EQT Pittsburgh 10 Mile staff. They did a fantastic job organizing the event. The elite field was very good, the staff knew what they were doing, and the event went off without a foreseeable hitch. Unfortunately things do happen, and I would like to send my condolences to the family of Michael Kovacic. He passed away after collapsing at the finish line. Donations to his memorial fun can be made here.

Results (Click on “Placings”)
Trib Live Recap
Pittsburgh Post Gazette Recap
EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler Recap
Photo Gallery

Training Log 10/11-17

Week of Training October 11 – 17

  Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 19   Long Run, Surges
Monday 8 6 Drills
Tuesday 12 6 Drills and Strides, Core
Wednesday 13   Workout, Core
Thursday 13 6 Drills, Core
Friday 12   Hill Sprints
Saturday 10    
  Week Total 105  

This week was the first of three solid weeks of training leading up the 12km Championships on November 15. The weather started to get cooler this week, which is my favorite part of training in the fall. For example, I started early with Cole on Thursday, and it was below 40!

Doing 200s last week at Trout Lake.

Doing 200s last week at Trout Lake.

To start the week, I had a superb long run out at Watauga River Road. I cruised the last 10 miles in 52:45, even with surges! Clearly I felt fantastic! Most of the surges were around marathon pace, 5 minutes per mile, and I then would drop back to a comfortable 5:30 pace. This is a good sign headed into marathon training, and having runs like this makes me excited for another marathon build up.

Wednesday, Pete had a simple, yet substantial workout planned, 4 x 1500m. He wanted these to be quick and aggressive. Just as it has been the last week or so, the weather was near perfect. It was only a stiff breeze from 400m to 1000m that cracked the fall perfection. With the weather not ideal, I did not want to get sucked into the idea that I had to hit the initial split that Pete wanted, around 4:30. So instead, I just ran the first rep based on feel. I came through in 4:24 and was pleasantly surprised. Rather than slow down, I decided to continue with my current rhythm. I ended up having a fantastic workout. For some perspective, in the spring of 2013 (I think) I ran a 4 x 1500m, 4 x 400m at the lake and ran around 4:20. Even with the wind, I was able to run just as fast for my LAST four reps! How far I have come in my time at ZAP!

7 x 1500m (sets of 4/3), 2 min/4 min rest;
forward the last 1200m of last 4
4:24, 4:20, 4:21, 4:18; 4:16, 4:17, 4:14

Since I had a good workout on Wednesday, I did not want to just keep on rolling with my training. I took the next few days relaxed to let the session set in. This is something that I have been much better at doing the last few years. In college, if I was training well, I would just keep rolling, more or less running how I felt everyday. And since was feeling great everyday, I would end up running faster than I should. Eventually, the excessive training load would wear on my and I would either get over trained or hurt. While I cannot say there is causation, I think there is correlation.

On Friday, I finished my run with some simple 30, 20, 10 seconds hill sprints. I find that these help with explosively and power, which are essential for the final sprint. I know that these along with 200’s I did last week, will be what help me close my races better. This is something that I feel like I have always lacked. I have often found myself on the wrong end of someone else’s kick, twice in the last six months alone (they were both 27:0X guys to be fair).

This coming weekend I head to the Steel City to run the EQT Pittsburgh 10 Mile. They have put together a strong field of both foreign athletes and Americans. With my fall training going well, I am looking for a good showing in Pittsburgh. I have heard that the course has rolling hills and goes over multiple bridges, both of which play to my strengths as a runner. But with any result, I will be gaining experience leading to the Trials! This week I will be updating Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram about the race. Follow me for updates on the race, like where to follow the race, if there will be a live stream, and results post race.

Training Log 10/4-10

Week of Training October 4 – 10

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 15 Race
Monday 8 Travel to NC
Tuesday 6 6 Drills, Core
Wednesday 12 Drills and Strides
Thursday 11 6 Drills and Strides, Core
Friday 13 20 x 200m
Saturday 10
Week Total 87

This week was all about recovering from the TC 10 Mile/USATF 10 Mile Champs on Sunday. I had a fantastic race, and did not want to over do it in the next week out of excitement. There is still five more weeks until my final race in Alexandria, Virginia on November 15. All of these weeks will be critical training weeks, as after this week, Pete has a three week training block scheduled, with lots of miles, tough workouts, and general tiredness in store.

Even with a recovery week, I had a light workout on Friday. To finish my run, I did 2 x 10 x 200m. Rather than do them on the track, like I did four weeks ago, Ryan measured out 200m on a paved path. I started out conservative, running 31 seconds and working my way down to 29 seconds. Even though I was not on the track, I ended up averaging 31.0 and 30.0 for the two sets. Comfortably running the same times I was four weeks ago! Clearly I am starting to feel good in training, and that makes me excited for my next two races and headed into the Trials in general.

Pgh 10 Miler LogoLast week, I had mentioned that I was going to run a race between now and the 12k. Pete and I decided to stick with the roads and run the EQT Pittsburg 10 Miler on Oct 25! Pittsburg has a fantastic running community and lately they have been putting on fantastic races. Everyone who runs one of their races has nothing but good things to say. They have also been putting money into their American Development Program, which is an initiative to help increase exposure and racing opportunities for American distance runners. This is the type of program that is so crucial to the success of emerging runners in the U.S. Beyond having American only prize money, they help with travel, lodging, and stipends to athletes. I am excited to head to the Steel City for the first time to race with such a fantastic race.

TC 10 Mile

This weekend I headed to Minneapolis/St. Paul to race the USATF 10 Mile Championships. A year ago I made the same trip and walked (very slowly) away with my first national title. Coming into this time, I had thoughts of a similar result in my mind. My previous two races had not been what I wanted, but training had been much better the last two weeks, and the tiredness I had been feeling was dissipating. With those positive signs, I was feeling confident of a good race. Now I just needed to get to the Twin Cities and on the starting line!

The Race

The race played out similar to the 20km from four weeks prior, and almost exactly as I thought it would. Through out the race the pace was honest, but not outrageous, so there was a big pack up front that would slowly dwindle as the constant rhythm began to wear on people. Having planned for a race like this, I was mentally ready. I stuck to my race plan of hanging in the pack, smooth, relaxed, and strong. Only once I drifted to the front, but quickly returned to the pack.

Right after I took the lead around Mile 9! Headed to the finish.

Right after I took the lead around Mile 9! Headed to the finish.

We reached 5 miles in 23:45 with a dozen still in the front pack. From there, the pace increased as we crested the hills on Summit Ave at mile 7, then the racing began. Ritz was the first to make the move around mile 8, and the pack followed. I knew that the final 800m is extremely fast and I would be more comfortable with some separation before then. There was a slight hill headed into the final mile, which I took full advantage of and surged up it. I continued to press as we crested and it was downhill from there, increasing my pace every minute or so. All those surges on the long runs were paying off! Running from the front is a frightening experience. You do not know where the rest of the pack is. For a while I could hear footsteps behind me, and eventually they were lost in the noise of the crowd, but I just kept pushing.

As we reached the Cathedral of St. Paul, I fully let go and let gravity take me down the steep hill. It was here a year ago that I truly realized I was going to win. Unfortunately, this race was still undecided. As the road leveled, I continued to push, but could see the shadow of Sam off my shoulder. I think he fell back for a few seconds, but with 150m to go he began to pull aside me, and I put one last effort to hold him off, but it was to no avail. After a few more strides, he was clear and I was tying up.


My first thought after crossing the line, was disappointment. No surprise there. I wanted to win the race and came up agonizingly short. I will often repeat the idiom, “Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” While that idiom still holds true, as it will go down in the books that Sam Chelanga is the 2015 USATF 10 Mile Champ, I feel much better about this second place than others.

Minutes after the race, I the disappointment began fade, especially after being doubled over gasping for air. I realized that I ran as hard as I could. I left everything the streets of St. Paul. Sam was just better on that day. At this level, everyone is talented, everyone works hard, and everyone wants to win. Often the race goes to who felt best on the day. Four weeks ago at the 20km, Jared Ward felt the best and blew everyone’s doors off in the last 800m. He did not have his best day on Sunday, finishing 8th, and he was looking for better. With the quality of fields that have running the USA Road Circuit this fall, minuscule differences can change results. The only truly way to be satisfied is to run as hard as you can, knowing that you gave your best effort that day.

This is my favorite picture from the weekend. For me it shows how hard I ran. I left everything on the streets of St. Paul in an attempt to win.  Photo credit: Matt Sonnenfelt/Flynn Sports

This is my favorite picture from the weekend. For me it shows how hard I ran. I left everything on the streets of St. Paul in an attempt to win.
Photo credit: Matt Sonnenfelt/Flynn Sports

The biggest positive I was able to find in this race, was that I executed my race plan to near perfection. I am a good hill runner, and I have used this to my advantage in the past, including the last two Peachtree Road Races. While I was able to break most of the field in those two, I still ended up second, having run my own legs out from under me for the final kilometer. For this race, Pete and I settled on the idea that yes, I am a great hill runner, so that means I should be able to feel better once we get to the crest of the hills. I should have a couple of extra percent in the tank compared to everyone else, to use in the last mile.

The basic plan Pete and I devised was to hang around the pack until mile 8, then see how the race plays out. Once I made my move, it was for the finish. Only one time did I find myself at the front pushing, but I quickly realized what I was doing and settled back into the pack. I did not want to make a move so early in the race, even though that was the section of the marathon course I pulled away. I wanted to save every bit for the final mile.

One thing everyone at ZAP always chides me about how analytical and reason based I am, often coming across as stoic and even cold. But there is a bit of an idealistic and even romantic side to me, especially in my philosophy on running. In training I am methodical and rarely anything other than reason drive my training. While that sounds very monotonous and boring, it does not mean that I do not love training! I love going out for my second runs out at Moses Cone Park and enjoying the sense freedom of the trails. But it is all within the well thought out and reasoned training plan.

Steve Prefontaine - Art

Not to get too corny, but this quote sums up one of the aspects of racing that I enjoy so much. Just as people go to football games to be entertained, people come to races for that same reason. I want to put on a show through my racing. I want people to be on the edge of their seats. I want people to get as much joy from watching me run, as I am doing it.

It is then for me that races are the opposite. They are the time that I get to let the idealistic and romantic side come out. I race because I love racing, just as much as training, but for different reasons. I love to test myself against both my previous self and others. This had led to me frequently taking the lead in races when I should not. The races this fall have been about finding the best way for me to compete for the win in races, which often makes me use my rational side while racing. This weekend I was able to find a balance of these two opposing forces. I used the rational, calculating part to keep myself in check for the first eight miles, and then let my personality and heart take over. I will never know if I would have won had I waited a little bit longer before I made my move, but once made my move for the win, I ran just as ferociously as in the past.

This race was a continuation of my overarching goals for the fall, to gain more race experience, especially against the guys I will be racing in February. My first two races were a bit a disappointment as I was able to hang with the leaders until 800m to go, only to be quickly dropped. I was a bit frustrated by that fact, as Pete had been gearing my training with the idea that I would be finishing my races well in an attempt to win. Since I was able to do that this race, I gained a good amount of confidence headed into my final two races, and the trials in general. Pete and I are using this fall to perfect racing and training strategies that will come in handy for the Trails. So far, this fall has been a learning experience, both about disappointment and success. Regardless how my final two races of the fall turn out, I will be a better runner, and more prepared to run for the privilege to dawn the USA singlet in Rio.

I would also give a big congrats to both Molly Huddle and Sam Chelanga. Molly ran an impressive race. While I was not able to watch it unfold, I was amazed by her performance. The TC 10 Mile course is not easy. There are plenty of hills to slow you down, but none of that mattered. She ran an American best in an all women’s race, but unfortunately it cannot be ratified as the course is point to point. Nonetheless, it is still a fantastic performance. Sam too ran a great race, biding his time, letting others set the pace. He also won his first USATF national title, as he recently became a U.S. citizen. You only need to watch his interview to see how proud and ecstatic he is about doing so.

From here I am going to be running the 12km champs in Alexandria, Virginia. I will have one race between now and then to keep my racing legs fresh, but that is TBD. This weekend I was asked more than once, if the Trials were on my mind. I responded, “Not too much. I am focusing on this season first.” But that is nowhere near the truth, as the Trials are coming up quick! I am constantly thinking about the Trials and what it is going to take to make the team, who will be in the hunt for the team (Let’s Run did a good pre-preview here, about half way down), what this marathon cycle will be like? It is rarely far from my mind, as my biggest race so far in my career will start at 10am on February 13 in the City of Angels.

Don't miss out on these specially edition Reebok trainers! They are going fast!

Don’t miss out on these specially edition Reebok trainers! They are going fast!

Before I sign off, I have to mention the new special edition ZAP Fitness Reebok 3.0 shoes! They look fantastic. The ZAP Fitness logo is stitched into the tongue, the geographic coordinates of ZAP are stamped on the side, and a topographic map of the Blue Ridge area is embossed on the insoles. If you are interested in purchasing a pair, head to the ZAP Fitness website!

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