.US 12km Champs

On Sunday I headed to Alexandria, Virginia for the .US 12km National Championships. This was my culminating race of my fall season. At this same race two years ago, I had a break through performance placing 3rd. This year I came in with high hopes of improving on that place.

The Race

The morning of the race was near perfect conditions, high 30’s and sunny with no wind. I knew that it would be ideal conditions to run fast, but that was not the goal for the day. I was there to race, so I stuck with my plan to hang in the pack for the first 5 miles.

The close finish!

The close finish!

The gun went off, and I found myself at the front in the first few hundred meters. The pace was slow and it seemed that no one wanted to lead. Eventually I tucked back into the pack, where I would stay until a mile to go. We went through the first mile in 4:52, well slower than what I would have liked, but I knew that my training this fall had prepared me for any type of race. I could handle a hard even pace, or a slow kicker style race.

After the mile, the pace began to quicken as Jon Grey went to the front and pushed. Over the next few miles the pack began to shrink as the pace steadily increased. We went through 5km in 14:52 and 8km in 23:28 (17:50 at half way). Over these few miles, it seemed that someone would take the lead and surge for a minute or two then slow down after it was clear that no one else would help them. Eventually defending champ, Brian Shrader, made a big move that began to get the ball rolling. Another few people fell off the pack between 8 and 10km (29:12), and from there the racing for the finish began.

I had focused staying as relaxed as possible for the first 10km, even when my legs began to feel the pace increase (I clocked a 4:30ish in there somewhere, 5 to 6 miles I think), I kept repeating my mantra, “Relaxed, Strong, Fast.” Around the 10km mark, Jared Ward, the overall winner of the circuit, made his first appearance at the front. He is a skilled downhill runner, and made his move on the first of two declines. I stayed tucked in, until almost exactly a mile to go Sam Chelanga made a surge up a hill. I saw him start to pull away from everyone and not wanting him to get away, I chased up after him. The hill ended up being short and I carried my momentum up and over the crest. I led the charge down the second hill and in to the final turn, which was around ¾ of a mile to go.

The final straight away passed by much too fast but seemingly took forever. It was nearly a straight shot to the finish and only a slight bend in the last couple hundred meters disguised the finish. I settled from the momentum that the hill provided, but there were still four on my heels. We began to pack up and I found myself sharing the lead with Sam and Jared. With 600m to go Sam put a surge, and I went with him, and after only a few seconds I was even with him and continued to push. The field was strung behind me, with Sam directly following. I knew that my push for the finish had started. Even so, I was still trying to save one more gear for the final sprint. Sam passed me with 200m to go and got a few precious steps on me. Even though I thought I was saving an extra gear, it was not there immediately. Eventually, I ever so slowly began to gain ground. With the hope that Sam would run out of gas in the last few meters, I continued to push, but I ran out of real estate before the finish line. Once again, Sam had finished just in front of me in a sprint finish, but it was much closer this time. Only 3/10 of a second separated us!

Thoughts

The finish line photo. So close!

The finish line photo. So close!

I came into this race with one main goal: To improve on my finish from two years ago (3rd), but with my eye on winning. I was able to achieve that goal, and was less than 3/10 of a second from winning. Overall it was a great performance. I ran a smart race, putting myself in the best position to win, and just as importantly, I left everything I had in the race. Other than that, I feel there is not much more to say than, “Watch the race! It’s exciting!”

Being my final race of the season, I feel like it an apt time to look back at the season. Especially what I was accomplished. I entered the fall season with some very high goals. At ZAP, each of us has a goal board in the dinning hall with our goals for the season. On mine is written:

  1. Win 2 National Titles
  2. Top 3 at all races this fall
  3. Make the Olympic Team

All three are measureable and straightforward, but the first two were the relevant ones for this fall. While I was not able to fully accomplish them, I do not view the fall as a failure. On the contrary, it was a rounding success. During this whole year, I have been building positive momentum, and it cumulated in the last three races. I started the year off with a nagging Achilles, which forced me to take a month off and not race for a few months. When I did race, they were unexceptional performances at best. After a few rust busters, I moved from the roads to the track for my most intensive track season at ZAP (a whole six races!). I was able to build through out track season and finished with personal bests at the mile, 5000m, and 100000m. I then capped off the season with a great performance at the Peachtree Road Race. The fall season started out well, but as the season moved forward, I was running better and better. I finished the last three races of the year with two runner-ups and one victory. Now I need to keep this positive momentum flowing in to the winter season and into the Marathon Trials.

My last goal on my board is clearly one that I could not accomplish this fall, but it was there as a constant reminder of main goal. A reminder that this fall was to be used as a foundation that I could build from towards the Olympic Trials.

Over my last few blogs, I have talked about how Pete has wanted me to develop different running systems. This means that he wanted me to be able to be competitive at many different distances. Hence the reason I was running 5km all the way to 20km. But the system that Pete wanted me to develop the most was my ability to finish my races. This spring was a big step in the development of my “speed”. I had a breakthrough in both the mile and 5000m, setting big PRs. Now I just needed to be able to transfer that “track speed” to the roads. In my early season races, I struggled the last half mile, but I was still in the mix near the front. Once I rounded into shape, I was able to find extra gears and was within a combined two seconds of winning two national titles.

From here, I can use this fall as a springboard into marathon training (after a break of course). This fall, and the last year in general, both Pete and myself have figured out what works for me. Knowing what works well for me has helped make me consistent, both in training and racing. It is consistency that brings success in distance running. After my break I will get back to the monotonous life style that defines a professional athlete, but one that thrives on consistency. As long as I my training stays consistent, I know that even with the numerous guys in the mix to make the team, I can achieve that final goal.

Here is a good blog by Liz Costello (8th this weekend) about the “Robotic Lifestyle” of a professional athlete.

Thanks

One thing I noticed, and maybe because I was tuned in only to my own name, was that I felt I had a ton of support during the race. I heard my name numerous times in the first half-mile, even over the white noise of the crowd. First, Pete was there with his inarticulate whoops and hollers. Over the last three years, both Pete and myself have learned much about me as an athlete. Three years ago, I choose to accept ZAP’s invitation to join the team, with the confidence that Pete’s training would be the correct fit for me. Looking back, I made a good choice. Coming from Colorado, I could have easily stayed there and joined one of the countless teams there. Instead I headed east, against the advice of Horace Greeley, and it has paid dividends.

Pete is only part of ZAP, albeit an important one. We had several campers there, who live in DC and some who flew in to run the race and support ZAP. Their support is fundamental to my and ZAP’s success. People coming to camp and giving donations are the two main ways that we fund ZAP. Without our campers and donors, ZAP would not survive.

Also watching was Patrick Joyce, the Senior Manager of Global Sports Marketing at Reebok. He flew down from Boston just to watch and support us. ZAP’s near 11 year partnership with Reebok has helped all of us continue to train and beyond the awesome gear that they furnish us with, they help with much of our travel to races.

The whole gang! I am extremely appreciative of their support!

The whole gang! I am extremely appreciative of their support!

For the first time since my marathon victory in 2014, my parents were able to see me run. I was hoping their presence would help me win another national title, but it was not to happen this time. Along with my parents were some family friends in attendance. It means so much to me that they were there and were able to see me race. Seeing how happy they were about my race is one of the reasons I love to run.

Beyond just the personal support, this race would not have happened with out USATF and the race sponsor Neustar. Three years ago, USATF decided that they were going to finish the USA Running Circuit off with a high level race, where one has to qualify to be in the invited field. Since most USA Running Circuit Championships are part of already existing races, they created the .US 12km out of thin air. I feel that they have done a fantastic in promoting and expanding the race. The open race has expanded every year, and more elites are running. With the three year contract between Neustar and USATF at an end, I hope that something can be figured out to continue this race. It has potential to become one of the premier road races in the USA, like Peachtree or Bolder Boulder.

I would be remised if I did not mention my teammates. Both George and Griff ran this weekend. We all came into the 12km at different points in our seasons. I was running my finale. Griff is in the middle of a short racing season while transitioning between two marathons cycles. George is at the beginning of his winter season. While I think that we all had higher hopes for the race, each one of us still ran well.

Postscript:
Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as there are photos from the race that I will be posting as I get them.

Race Results
Race Replay
Pre Race – Press Conference Videos
Pre Race – Press Conference Quotes
Post Race Interview
Letsrun Post Race Interview
USATF Race Recap
Letsrun/Race Results Weekly Race Recap
USATF Post Race Quotes
Awards
Race Photos
Flynn Sports Photos

Training Log 11/1-7

Week of Training November 1 – 7

  Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 19   Long Run, Surges
Monday 8 6  
Tuesday 11 6 8 x 20 sec, Drills
Wednesday 12   Workout
Thursday 13   Drills
Friday 11   Climb
Saturday 10    
  Week Total 96  
I think Joe and I made enough chili!

I think Joe and I made enough chili!

This week was a pretty standard fall week at ZAP. There was a long run on Sunday and had one bigger workout on Wednesday followed by a moderate effort on Friday. Also there have not been any groups at ZAP for a few weeks, so there is not much cleaning to do around the facility. But at the end of October, our chef Michael, left, so we started cooking for each other four nights a week. This entails two of us preparing a meal for the rest. While we are not the level of expertise that Michael is, we can make a decent meal. My meal for the week was made with Joe for our house warming party and dedication of the newly minted “Palmer House”, named in honor of ZAP founder Andy Palmer. We decided that it would be easiest to make chili. It is a delicious and easy meal that can be made in copious amounts (which we did). The party ended up being a success and we were even able to have Jane Palmer, sister of Andy, in attendance.

My workout for the week was my final big “fitness boosting” workout of the sequence. From what Pete says, it takes around ten days for the benefits of a workout to be seen. At a certain point there is nothing you can do to be anymore fit. You can only maintain and sharpen. In a way, training can be analogous to blacksmithing a blade. All the training is like hammering the blade in to shape, but hammer too long or too short and the edge will not hold.

My workout was supposed to be a simple “bookend k’s” workout. I did the first 7 reps (2km and 6 x 1km) and after the last 1km, Pete gave me the choice to do something different than a final 2km, so I opted for a simple 3 x 400m. Overall it was a good workout, especially with ten days until the .US 12km Championships.

Workout:
2km, 3 min rest; 6 x 1km, 1:45 min rest;
3 x 400m, 1:30-45 min rest
Splits:
5:54 (3:02, 2:52), 2:48, 2:49, 2:50, 2:48, 2:49, 2:46, 62, 61, 61

On Friday, I had a moderate climb within a run. After 35 minutes or so, I began from Black Bottom and went up to the Moses Cone Grave. It is just under 5 miles for the climb and I ran just under 26 minutes. While we run ample hills at ZAP, it is always nice to go back to the basics and do a climb. At the top I did 10 x 100m strides, focusing on maintaining form while running fast. This will be important in the final stretches of races.

Climb:
Black Bottom to Grave (~25 min), 10 x 100m (15-16 sec)
Here is a short video on the EQT Pittsburgh 10 Mile! It was such a fantastic event. Hopefully I can return to the Steel City in the future!

 

My last race of the season is this Sunday. For the second time, I head to Alexandria, Virginia for the .US 12km Championships. This race was dreamt up by USATF as a way to finish off the USA Road Circuit. Even over my three years running professionally, the road circuit has become much more competitive and interesting. This fall is a great example of it. Of the four races I ran this fall, three were US championships. All included fantastic fields, where getting in the top ten was a challenge. The 12km looks to be no different. Since there are qualifying standards, the field size is smaller than other races, the quality and depth is there. I am excited to line up one more time against guys that I have been racing all fall, and will have to race again on February 13th. This might be the last time we get a chance to see what everyone is made of before the Trials.

Regardless of how this race pans out, I know that I have had a successful fall season. I have placed well in all the races I have run, including a runner up and a win. This fall was about development towards the Trials, and that has been accomplished. But do not think that because I have thrown in the towel. I want to add one more win to the season. It’s been six weeks since I was outkicked at the Twin Cities 10 Mile, and a win in Pittsburgh was some consolation, I have had some of my best training while at ZAP and am rounding into shape just in time. You can tune in at 7:45 EST to USATF.tv to catch the race live. It is going to be a good one!

Past Two Weeks of Training

Training Weeks of October 18 – 24 and 25 – 31

Blowing Rock in the Fall. So many fantastic views! Photo Credit: Laurie Haughey

Blowing Rock in the Fall. So many fantastic views!
Photo Credit: Laurie Haughey

With a race, I did not put out my week of training, so I get to post two weeks this week!

The week before the EQT Pittsburgh 10 Mile, I did a pretty standard ZAP workout. I started with a fast opening piece then followed that with the bulk of the workout. This one happened to be a 2000m piece followed by a 6-1 Fartlek through the Manor-Maze. After one of my best workouts at ZAP the previous week and a race coming up, Pete did not want me to run too hard or fast, which was one of the reasons he gave me a Fartlek. I ended up having a good workout and did not run too hard or fast. I covered the 2000m in 5:35 (4:14 through 1500m) then ran a controlled 14:20 to the Manor. It was a good way to come into the 10 Miler.

Workout:
2000m, 4 min rest; 6-1 Fartlek with in Manor-Maze
Splits:
5:35; 14:20 to the Manor

The week following the 10 Miler, I did not have a workout until Friday. It ended up being something different from what I have done before at ZAP. There were elements that were similar to me, like hill cycles, but done in a completely different way. Pete had prescribed 3 sets of 4 hill cycles with the last cycle finishing 200m up the hill. I then did 4 x 200m, along that measured 200m, with only a min rest. After that I jogged back to the start of the hill cycles. It was an interesting mix of tempo effort with some faster reps on short rest. This type of workout will be beneficial for the upcoming .US 12km Championships as I will both to run well. Beyond the physical benefits of this workout, it was one that I needed to stay focused for the entirety. Nearly every minute of this workout is run at a different pace. Within the hill cycles you have a tempo part, the hill part that has surges, and then the float to the bottom. The mind is also something that needs to be trained. You need to be able to stay focused to maintain good form, observe your surroundings and react to surges. This is just as critical as being physically able to run the race.

Workout:
3 x 4 Hill Cycles, on the 4th cycle continue up an extra 200m,
4 x 200m, 1 min rest; 2:30 rest between sets

10/18-24

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 19 Long Run, Surges
Monday 8 6 Core
Tuesday 12 6
Wednesday 13 Workout
Thursday 12 6
Friday 11
Saturday 8 Pre Race, 4 x 30 sec
Week Total 101

10/25-31

Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 15 Race
Monday 6 6
Tuesday 12
Wednesday 12 6
Thursday 14
Friday 14 Workout
Saturday 10
Week Total 95