2016 US Olympic Marathon Trials

2016 OMT - Tim Megis 5

Photo Credit: Tim Meigs

Not knowing where to start, I guess I’ll just get right to the middle of the race around mile 15, and the point of the race everyone probably wants me to talk about. Up until that point, the pace had been very conservative due to the heat, and I found myself in the front of the pack. At this point in the course, we had just passed the start and finish lines and were headed down Figueroa towards the USC campus. The course is slightly downhill and I just began to relax and run what felt comfortable. Once I entered the USC campus, I realized I had a bit of a gap on the field, and got excited. I let that emotion take me and I pressed my advantage, hoping that maybe I could get a jump on the field. Shortly after, Meb and Rupp caught me and for the next few miles we began to run together.

We exited Exposition Park and around mile 19, I began to feel my hamstrings twinge as I was trying to maintain contact with them. Slowly I began to fad and just after mile 20 Jared caught me. From there I knew it was going to be a long final six miles, especially as I saw the last Olympic spot quickly running away from me. From there I just wanted place as high as possible. For what seemed like the longest time, I was not getting passed. Eventually Luke passed and gradually gained ground on me. Around mile 24 I began to realize that the top five all get processed for the Olympic Team, and to loose 5th was to loose all hope that I could earn a spot on the team in the marathon. Along with hearing some cheers for Matt Llano and Shady Biwott behind hind me, was motivation enough to put my head down and drive for the finish.

– – –

Thoughts

Coming into Saturday, I really had no set race plan but to stick with the leaders and not respond to any move before mile 16. I knew that any move after that would have to be covered as it would most likely be for the team. I had no intention of leading so early, or pushing the pace. As I said above, I let the downhill section of the course carry me and I made a quick decision to keep pressing. In hindsight, it was the wrong move. Running so fast so early definitely lead to my tough last few miles. Had I held back for a few more miles, I would have been much better off later in the race. A top three finish would have been much more likely.

2016 OMT 3 - The BreakOne of the reasons I ran a fall road racing season rather than a fall marathon, was to get some racing experience headed into the trials. Learn when to listen to my instincts and when not too. This is not something I am going to learn in a few months, but it is going to be a process that spans my entire career. Unfortunately, this weekend I took the hard and bittersweet road in learning when not to listen to my gut, but it will be a lesson I will never forget. With that said, I was talking with a good friend later that night and made the point that I would not have gotten where I am without having made risky moves in the past. For some reason, risk taking in races is just ingrained in me. Knowing that it can lead to great performances, but also knowing that there is a chance it will bite me. Just as I have in past races, I learned a lesson and am more prepared for the future races.

After a couple of days of reflection, it is clear that I did not quite respect the marathon this time around. As a rookie, I was more willing to listen to Pete. I held back until the last 10km before making my move, and it paid off. This time I was much more anxious, especially when I realized I had a small gap on the field. I was relaxed and cruising that 16th mile (4:56), and rather than staying relaxed, I decided to push and open up the gap. Then when Meb and Rupp caught me, I did not tuck in behind them and relax, but kept pushing. This was a mistake that many people have pointed out to me after the race.

Probably the biggest factor in the race was the weather. According to Weather Underground, the temperature before the race was 66º and over 75º at the finish. This played a big factor in the race, especially shown in how slow the race went out. Everyone was concerned about the heat and how it would affect the final miles of the race. While I never felt too hot during the race, I know that it did affect my race. Running that fast 4 miles from 16-20 miles is what put me in the hole, and I was unable to climb out of it much due to the heat. As stated above, I would have been much better off waiting for a few more miles before making a move like that, or running much more even. I have to tip my hat to Jared for running a much smarter race. While I was out there pushing the pace, he was biding his time running even, which he was able to maintain all the way until the end. That ended up being the difference between making the team and hanging on for fifth. Maybe it has something to do with his master’s thesis on ideal marathon pacing.

But I was not the only one that had to deal with the heat. I had a pretty rough last 10km, running around 34 minutes, but I was not getting passed. In fact only Jared and Luke passed me. Since it was hot out, people struggled the last 6 miles, and it was the ones that ran the smartest did the best. I heard that only 7 people negative split the race. That is 7 out of 256 finishers negative split. They were the top three men, top two women, and two other women. So clearly running smart was the way to run well this last weekend in the heat.

Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Photo Credit: Michael Scott

Even with the scorching heat, the top 10 on the guy’s side was full of talent. There were four previous US Marathon Champions, two silver medalists, and five guys with PRs under 2:13. The biggest surprise from that in the top six, five are under 30. Meb ran a great race and deservedly earned a spot on the team, but from my perspective the future of American marathoning looks bright. There are many more years ahead for us to improve and build off of this weekend. And hopefully we all can push each other to the next level.

– – –

I am fortunate that over the last three and a half years, I have been able to live in a way that I can chase my dreams. I was listening to Alan Watts the morning of the race, as I often do, and I just happened to be listening to this clip. In it he says:

“The essential principle of business, of occupation in the world, is this: Figure out someway to get paid for playing.”

That is exactly what I have been able to do. I get to go out everyday and play! This is something that I can never lose sight of, and it does not happen just from my own force of will. There is a whole supporting cast behind me.

Last week I was talking with my mom and she said something that stuck out, “You are doing things that I never though you would do. I figured that you would just get a job being an engineer or teacher or work for a corporation. What you are doing is amazing.” She was pointing out this point that I have taken a different route to success. I have the capabilities to be an engineer or a teacher or pretty much any job I would want to do, but I was fortunate to have a talent and joy for running. I have been able to turn that into a successful career. Both of my parents have been supportive and let me pursue this “running thing”, probably against their better judgment. I am true grateful that they have been nothing but encouraging. Also behind me is the rest of my family. My grandfather is probably my biggest fan. Just like my parents they have been supportive and encouraging Thank you all.

After I graduated from Western, I had no idea what I was going to do, but wanted to run. So I began to look at groups to join and after a few emails back and forth with Pete, I knew I wanted to take a visit to ZAP. On my visit, I decided that it was the place I wanted to be, and when I was offered a spot, I jumped at the chance. I had been a fairly successful college runner, earning many All American Awards, winning a national title, and running a quick 10000m, but my resume was not anything stellar. I felt like I had potential, and fortunately so did Pete. I remember with in the first few weeks of being there, Pete and I were doing some outdoor work and he turned to me and said, “I want to ask you a serious question. Do you think you can run with the best in the US? Be in the top 3?” Without much hesitation I responded yes, but I was thinking more about the track. I had just had a good debut 10000m that spring and thought it was going to be my event. I knew that I did not have quite the speed that some of the top guys have, but I would make up for it by out running them (pretty typical of me looking at what I did this weekend). Little did I figure three and a half years later, I would be running against the best in the US at the marathon. With out the support of Pete, Zika, and ZAP, I would not have had that opportunity. They have given so much of their time and encouragement trying to make ZAP and myself successes. I wanted to give back as much as I could and be the first ZAP athlete to make the Olympics, but I proud to be the highest placing ZAP athlete at an Olympic Trials.

Before the race.

Before the race.

Along with Pete and Zika, all my teammates, and our assistant coach, Ryan, at ZAP have been there. While some of the guys at ZAP did not run the marathon trials, I still put hundreds of miles with them over the last few years. Their friendship has been something that made this journey much more enjoyable.

ZAP is more than just us elites who take all the limelight. There are so many more that fall into the “ZAP Family.” There were more than a dozen campers and donors who flew out to LA to watch the trials and support all of us from ZAP, and there were many times more watching at home. Without people willing to come to camp, ZAP would not function as it does. On the behalf of all us ZAP athletes, we appreciate your support and hope to see all of you this summer at camp!

There are also my sponsors I have to thank. Reebok, Soleus Watches, Generation UCAN, and Flynn Sports all make this journey of mine much easier. Whether it is giving me awesome training gear to timing me to fueling me to getting me into races, they have made it much easier for me to just enjoy my time running.

Another group of people that have been so supportive, and it was seen after the race, when I looked at my phone and had so many messages of friendship. It was encouraging that while I did not reach my goal, I had so many friends that were proud of my accomplishments.

As I am writing this list of thanks keeps growing and growing. There is no way for me to include everyone, but I am truly grateful. I know that I do not just represent myself every time I run, but everyone that had had an impact in my life. Thank you.

– – –

My final section, which I will try to keep short as this is turning into a colossal post, I just want to point out some great performances from the weekend. First goes out to the top three, Galen, Meb, and Jared. They all ran great races and I know that they will represent the USA well in Rio this summer.

ZAP had three others who were running this weekend. Unfortunately, Griff had a tough race after dealing with an injury the last few weeks forcing him to drop out. But knowing Griff, this will only fuel his fire to get back. Both Johnny and Joanna debuted, and in the tough conditions had solid debuts. They recently joined ZAP and both have a bright future, and I am looking forward to having Johnny move to Blowing Rock to add another great athlete to Blackberry Valley!

Another close friend that had a great performance was Esther Atkins. Our friendship began when I first came to ZAP and we were tasked to clean the kitchen together. From there we have become good friends, and I have been a third wheel on many dinners with her and her husband, Cole. She ran a smart race, nearly negative splitting and moving up over the second half of the race. During my last loop, I was passing many of the women and I saw that Esther was in front of me. As I approached her, she turned around and put out her hand to give me a high five. I was moving much slower than she anticipated and she held her hand out there for what seemed like forever. Once I caught up to her, she grabbed my hand, and for a few seconds we ran together. I was able to get a lift and refocused for the final few miles. Once again, she had a much more poetic rendering of this event.

I'm proud of her :)

I’m proud of her 🙂

Besides representing ZAP on Saturday, I was also representing Western. A few weeks ago I finished a post lauding the impact of Coach Vandenbusche has had on my career. He was the one took a chance on a 9:50 two miler. It has been the entire program that has helped shaped my career. One of the biggest was the never give up attitude. This was seen on Saturday. There were three other Western alums running, Gabe Proctor, Sean Brown, and Josh Eberly, and not one of them gave up either. They all suffered through the heat and finished the race. For me all Western alums should be proud of these three just as much as me.

Lastly I would like to say how proud of Nicole I am. She only qualified six weeks before the Trials in her debut half. Even in the hot conditions, she toughed it out and now she can call herself a marathoner. It may not have been indicative of what type of shape she was in, but in those conditions very few had good debuts. I am so proud of her.

– – –

After crossing the finish, I was immediately thinking of what was coming next. Had I been in the top three, that question would have had a simple answer, Rio. Now there are another 6 spots open in the 5000m and 10000m. While I thought that my best chance to make the Olympics was in the marathon, I know that I have much more improvement to come on the track, especially the 10. I had a good track season last summer, but I think after another good marathon build up I will hit the track even stronger. Also coming so close this weekend will fuel the fire. Before I get back to work, I get a little time off and a trip to Belize with my parents and Nicole. I will going to take a well needed break, but will come back ready for another good block of training before Trials part deux.

Splits:
Mile 1 – 5:05                           Mile 14 – 5:09
Mile 2 – 5:07                           Mile 15 – 5:06
Mile 3 – 5:02                           Mile 16 – 4:56
Mile 4 – 5:09                           Mile 17 – 4:50
Mile 5 – 5:07                           Mile 18 – 4:52
Mile 6 – 5:08                           Mile 19 – 4:55
Mile 7 – 5:12                            Mile 20 – 5:08
Mile 8 – 4:56                           Mile 21 – 5:20
Mile 9 – 5:00                           Mile 22 – 5:20
Mile 10 – 5:00                         Mile 23 – 5:28
Mile 11 – 5:04                         Mile 24 – 5:40
Mile 12 –                                  Mile 25 – 5:30
Mile 13 – 10:18                       Mile 26 – 5:30
Half – 1:06:31                         Total – 2:14:57

Race Results
Flotrack Post Race Interview
Letsrun Post Race Interview
USATF Race Recap
USATF Quotes
Flotrack Race Recap
Flotrack Top 3 Discuss The Decisive Move Made by Tyler Pennel
Letsrun Race Recap
LA Times Race Recap
Race Results Weekly Race Recap
Runners World Race Recap
Blowing Rock News Race Recap
Blowing Rock News Pre Race
Greensboro Pre Race Interview
GenUCAN Conference
RRCA Road Scholars Shine at US Olympic Trials
Letsrun Photos

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2016 Olympic Trials Marathon Project

6 weeks until the Trials!

This weekend I headed to Jacksonville, Florida for a marathon simulation race/workout. I did the same exact workout in my build up to the 2014 Twin Cities Marathon. The goal of the workout is to run marathon pace for 10 miles, then “snowball” the last three, hopefully finishing around half marathon pace. There were many similarities between the two races. In both races I ended up running marathon pace, but not picking it was very much, if at all really. This weekend I only marginally picked it up the last few miles. My pacing was just average. I would “yo-yo” between 4:50 and 5 minutes a mile. This is not ideal, but overall it was not terrible, but races are rarely run at exactly the same pace. At Twin Cities, the pace varied from 5:14-5:02 before the racing began late in the race.

Another similarity is that I thought after both races, I could have gone another six miles, to around 30km. With six weeks to go until the Trials, this is a great place to be. Running on tired legs now should help me peak well when it matters.

It was awesome to pace these guys to a Trials Qualifier! Such a great experience!

It was awesome to pace these guys to a Trials Qualifier! Such a great experience!

The one difference that stands out in my mind was the weather. At Virginia Beach, it was around 80 degrees and humid. This weekend in Jacksonville it was around 50 degrees and rainy. Both affected my effort, and even though this weekend had the “better” weather, I ended up getting cold the last few miles. I think had I not been so cold, I would have been much more willing to pick it up the last few miles.

Overall, I was very happy with the workout. The similarities between the two efforts show that I am in a good spot leading into the Trials in nearly six weeks. Running 64:31 in the tail end of 115 miles in seven days is a good effort. I am getting more used to training on tired legs, which will make running on fresh legs at the Trials that much easier!

Splits from the race:
14:51 (about 5:08, 4:54, 4:50), 4:51, 4:59 (24:42 5 miles)
4:54, 5:03, 4:54, 4:54, 4:50 (49:20 10 miles), 4:51, 4:56, 4:52

12/27-1/2

  Morning Afternoon Notes
Sunday 12   Travel to ATL
Monday 14   10 x 30 sec, Travel to Tallahassee
Tuesday 12 8  
Wednesday 15   Workout
Thursday 10 6  
Friday 13 5 8 x 200m, Drills
Saturday 10   4 x 30 sec, Drills
  Week Total 105  
Workout:
2 x 1km, 1:30 rest, 3:30 set rest; 
40 min alternating 80% and 90% effort every 5 min; 6 x 200m

2016 Olympic Trials Marathon Project

Front page of the sports section on Monday! Even over football!

Front page of the sports section on Monday! Even over football!

The big story for the weekend was The 2016 Olympic Trials Marathon Project, and this was the highlight of my weekend. This was organized by Richard Fannin, the (in)famous elite coordinator of the Gate River Run. Richard cares so much about improving American distance running and it shows in Gate River and now what he did at the Jax Bank Half. Every year he brings in a stellar field to Gate River, even though it is in the early spring, which is not the prime time of the year for road racing. He pours his soul into making the race the best, and of the three years I have run it, I have not been disappointed. Well maybe with a few of my performances, but I cannot blame him for that.

The hype for the Jax Bank Half started this fall when Richard began to tout this race as a great place to qualify for the Olympic Trials. For those who do not know, you can qualify for the Trials with a half marathon (It is the only race where you do not have to actually run the distance to qualify). He was saying that course was flat, the weather is (usually) great, and there were going to be pacers running at the standard pace (65 and 75 minutes for guys and girls respectively). Just as with Twin Cities, I was looking for a race to run where I could do a Marathon specific workout and Jax fit perfectly into my schedule. When I contacted Richard about running the race, he was thrilled with what I was doing and asked me to be the pacer. This was a unique opportunity that I did not want to pass up. It ended up being way more than expected.

Richard ended up having over 60 guys who had either qualified or were looking to qualify for the Trials at the race. Some who were looking at qualifying had missed by only a few seconds in their previous attempts, and this was a last chance to qualify. Of the 40 or so that had not qualified, who had traveled there on their own dime, all came with a mission. There was a sense of camaraderie among the group, something that does not happen often in sports.

I have sat here for a while not knowing where to start. It is one of those situations where it is hard to put my thoughts on to paper. There were many moments during and after the race that expressed the feeling of camaraderie. On the first major turn of the course, I heard guys behind me saying out the direction of the turn so that the guys behind would be prepared. Same thing if there was a bump or big puddle in the road. Another time, when I let the pace slip (I ran a 5:03 7th mile) someone went to the front and began to help me. I was able to regain my focus and then get back to pace. Around 10 miles, Pat Regan who I ran against in college, pulled up next to me and said, “I feel good!” I responded, “Well, let’s go!” At 11 miles I looked back and told the group that we were 15 seconds under pace, and there was a almost a sigh of relief. Everyone in the group seemed to relax and many of them began to pick it up. Most that went by me gave me thanks, and as they started to race I went with them.

Then at the finish line, the true spirit of the day was shown. There ended up being eight guys directly in front of me and twelve behind me that all hit the standard. All of them had big smiles on their faces and many of them gave me a hug. For me it was beyond what I was expecting to be there, helping these guys get their qualifier. While I had known some of the guys in the race before hand, most I did not. Seeing how happy they were made my experience of the race that much better. It made crossing the line with them so much more meaningful.

Even beyond just the elite side, people watching and in the race knew that there was something different about the race. The atmosphere of the race was much more about working together then competing against each other. When walking to the car Andrew, Griff, and I began talking with a lady who asked if we were part of the “big group that went flying by.” She mentioned that it was great to see so many guys working together to run fast.

Proud of this girl! :)

Proud of this girl! 🙂

Here is a little plug to Richard, which is kind of a thanks for everything. From a numbers standpoint, the race ended up being a resounding success. Fourteen women (Seven new qualifiers) and 27 men! (18 new qualifiers) ran under the standard for the Trials. To put this in perspective, at the US Half Marathon Championships in 2015 had 48 qualifiers and the 2014 Championship had 32 qualifiers on the men’s side. In a race where there was no travel support (only a hotel room shared with three other people) and $500 for the win, Richard put together a field that had near USA Championship level depth. That alone goes to show his commitment to the sport. Thanks Richard for putting together a once in a lifetime event!

I could not finish with out mentioning that Nicole ran a fantastic race and ran under the standard! Unfortunately I was not able to see her finish, as I had a short workout to do after my race, but I was so proud of her. And now she is coming to visit me in Tallahassee for a few days!

Before I sign off, I will have to plug Esther Atkins (formerly Erb) blog about the race. Esther is a former ZAP athlete and a good friend and she does a much better job of explaining how this race morphed into such an awesome event. I feel she also gives a much better explanation of the atmosphere of the race. I recommend taking a few minutes to read it.

Male Results:

Female Results:

.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
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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.

Thoughts

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!

Race Results
My Race Results
USATF Recap
Letsrun Recap
Race Replay
Post Race Interview
Competitor Photos

New Haven 20km

On Saturday, Griff, George, and I were up before the crack of dawn so we could get our runs in before we flew north to the Constitution State (and the home of Pete). After a relatively easy travel, which hardly ever happens when flying, we landed in Hartford and drove to the Elm City. I spent the afternoon relaxing and took a walk around the Green and Yale University. The next day, we picked up the racecourse at the 7 mile mark and ran the second half of the course to familiarize ourselves with it. The rest of the day was spent lounging around and to loosen up my legs, I once again took a walk around the Green, which is a great for people watching, as it is a happening place. Overall the couple of days before this race, nothing out of the ordinary really happened. Which is a good thing, as us runners live and die on our routines.

Race

Coming down the final stretch!  Photo by: Peter Hvizdak - New Haven Register

Coming down the final stretch!
Photo by: Peter Hvizdak – New Haven Register

To be honest, I do not remember much of the first few miles of the race, except there were many small surges thrown in. I do not know why people were surging and then backing off so early in the race, but I just focused on relaxing and not getting pulled into their games. As per my race plan, I was just trying to conserve as much energy as possible until the last few miles, so I zoned out knowing that as long as the pace did not become extremely fast, I could comfortably run with the leaders. As we neared the seven mile mark, which is where the course loops back next to “The Green” I started bring my mind back into focus. This is the point of the course that Griff, George, and I had run the day before, so I was familiar with my surroundings. I was still feeling very good and especially since the pace had slowed ever so slightly.

As we neared the long hill in the ninth mile, Dathan Ritzenhein (Ritz) went to the front and began to really ratchet the pace up. We began our accent of the hill, and I began running up onto Ritz’s heels. I am a great hill runner, so going up the hill I wanted to go around and continue with the current rhythm, but I checked myself and concentrated on relaxing; getting to the top using as little energy as possible. Eventually the hill crested right at the ten mile mark where there was a steep downhill where Ritz and Jared Ward began to pull away from me. Not wanting them to get too far away, I had to gradually reel them back to me. I was not the only one with that idea, as both Luke Puskedra and Sam Chelanga, who had fallen farther back than me, joined our group. We turned onto Whitney Avenue, a straight shot to the finish, and I found myself in the lead for the first time of the day! I had held off on leading for nearly 11 miles of the race, which is atypical for me.

From there I was kind of at a loss what to do. Coming in, I had a plan of going at Denny, the Triceratops statue (Yes I named the dinosaur), which was just over a half mile out from the finish. Now I was in the lead a mile earlier than that! Eventually I settled on sticking with the original plan of making my bid for the win at Denny. I just need to get there relaxed as I could, with 5% left in the tank, as Pete would say. Regardless, the pace was increasing as the final couple of miles are slightly downhill. Eventually Denny came into view, and before I knew it, Ritz took off! Immediately I tried to respond, but I much as I wanted, I could not find another gear. Over the final 800m I watched as the other four in the lead group incrementally pulled away.

Thoughts

While I did not accomplish my goal of winning the race, I was very pleased with my performance. Often my first race of a season is disappointing. Looking back to my first year at ZAP in 2012, my first race in a ZAP uniform was at the Blue Ridge Open in Boone. I ran awful, getting beat by numerous college guys. Then a month later I went and ran over two minutes faster at the Richmond 8km and had a great Manchester Road Race. The next fall, it was pretty much the same story, as I ran a mediocre cross country race at the Mayor’s Cup in Boston, then three weeks later placed third at both the inaugural .US Championships and the Manchester Road Race. I feel like this year I came into the 20km closer to race shape than other years. I had less time between my last race of the previous season and first race of the new season. On Monday, I was only nine weeks removed from my last race, while in previous years it had been over three months. While my last four weeks of training tired my legs and sapped my kick, I was still in “racing mode.”

They really know how to get my good side! It was warm out there and we were splashing water every chance we got. Photo by: Peter Hvizdak - New Haven Register

They really know how to get my good side! It was warm out there and we were splashing water every chance we got.
Photo by: Peter Hvizdak – New Haven Register

Another big positive I am able to take away from this race is the fact that I came in with a specific race plan and intently followed it. My main goal for these fall races is to compete and to race and place high. For me, these are about getting race experience heading into 2016. That means I need to thoroughly think through each race and form a race plan. While I do think I have good race instincts, my best races have come when there is a race plan in place. Even if it is as simple as stick with the leaders for as long as possible. But I do not like that plan as it inherently assumes someone is going to beat me. I want my plans to assume that I am going to be winning races. That means I look at what my strengths and weaknesses are as a runner, and play to those strengths. If the 20km shows anything, it is that my aerobic system is very strong, but that my finish is still lacking. That is encouraging as I know my kick will come with both more training and racing, which I have plenty of each in the next few weeks!

Lastly, running this race made me remember how much I love road racing, especially when I am running well. While I was proud and enjoyed my track season this summer, there is something different about racing on the roads. I do not know what exactly it is, but that it is different. Maybe it is the camaraderie of everyone on the roads that is not quite the same on the track. You always see familiar faces, but also meet new people, like my roommate Parker Stinson. Or it might be the festival atmosphere that large road races emanate. Maybe it is the cold hard cash that you can get for running well. Whatever the reasons, fall is my favorite season.

I would also be amiss if did not mention my teammates. Both George and Griff ran superb races, with George cracking the top 10 in 1:01:10 for his first race over 10km, and Griff placing 12th in the middle of marathon training, running 1:01:48. Overall it was a good day for ZAP.

From here I am spending a week and a half in Colorado visiting family and running the Blue Shoe Run for Prostate Cancer. If you are in the Denver area, come to City Park on Saturday morning and run a race that supports a great cause. It will be a great event and should have a party like atmosphere. After my short trip to Colorado, I head back to New England to Providence, Rhode Island for the CVS Downtown 5km. Two weeks later I head to Minneapolis and St. Paul for the Medtronic TC 10 Mile. Having talked with many people this weekend, both fields should be loaded with many of the guys I raced this weekend. Both Sam and Ritz will be at the 5km in two weeks, and the top six from New Haven will all be at the 10 mile. I am excited to race many of these guys again, with the optimism that the results will be different.

Race Results
USATF Race Recap
New Haven Register Recap
Race Highlights
Post Race Interview
Race Photos

Peachtree Round 3

For the third time in as many years, I headed to the “Big Peach” for my 4th of July celebration of running the Peachtree Road Race. My first two Peachtrees were excellent (14th overall/7th American in 2013 and 2nd in 2014), so I came in hoping for another great showing. Especially after I had a subpar race at USA Outdoors the previous weekend. There is nothing like an unsatisfactory race to light a fire inside.

The ZAP crew! It was raining all weekend, including our prerace run!

The ZAP crew! It was raining all weekend, including our prerace run!

On Thursday, Griff and I jumped in Veronica (his ’98 Saturn) and headed south. On the way we picked up Sinéad (our newest ZAP Athlete), who was making her debut in a ZAP/Reebok uniform. After a long drive (there seemed to be an accident every twenty miles on the highway), we arrived in Atlanta. I had a hotel room booked at the Ritz-Carlton (Swanky, I know. The Atlanta Track Clubs lives it up!). The next morning I met Griff, Sinéad, and Pete for our prerace run. After the run I headed with my other Team USA members to the race expo for an autograph signing. It was really fun to hang out at the expo and chat with people. There were kids who were running their first Peachtree, to others who were well into their twentieth. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and getting prepped for the next day.

Race

Just like the previous year, the weather was unseasonably cool, but was threatening to rain. Eventually Zeus opened the skies, and the ensuing downpour delayed the later waves. Fortunately for my race and the first waves, the weather held off. With a new team format, my race started 10 minutes before the main race. This made for an interesting race, as there were 24 people and only 12 men in my race. As the announcer introduced the teams, I lined up along side my fellow Americans and the gun went off.

2015 Peach Tree Road Race Atlanta, Georgia  July 4, 2015 Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun Victah1111@aol.com 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET

The Start!
Photo Credit:
www.photorun.NET

After the initial scrambling for position ended I found myself at the front next to Bobby Curtis and Daniel Salel, but with a head wind, I quickly tucked into the pack. I stayed there until we got to the lowest point of the course. Basically the first three miles of the course are downhill, the next two are up Cardiac hill, and then the last mile is back down. After a slow first mile, in 4:52, the pace picked up for the next two (4:40 and 4:25ish, 14:28 through 5km). At that point we began our accent of Cardiac hill (named because of the Shepherd Medical Center, not because it gives you a heart attack). I found myself moving well up the hill, and into the lead. This was the same exact way I ran the race last year.

Daniel and I battling the last mile! Photo Credit: www.photorun.NET

Daniel and I battling the last mile!
Photo Credit:
www.photorun.NET

Going up the hill, I stayed relaxed and really did not want to push too hard, knowing that there was one more hill between 4 and 5 miles. Right before the next hill Christo pulled up along side me and said we should push the pace, as the field was starting to string out. This was an ideal time to press the pace, because the team score was based on total time rather than place. If Christo and I could pull away from a majority of the field, it could significantly help Team USA’s chances of winning. I tucked in behind him for a minute or so, until we started up the second hill. From there I started to push the pace for the last two miles. Eventually only Daniel was with me and over the last mile we traded surges trying to break away. (4:40, 4:29, 4:20ish for the last three miles).

From the perspective of being in the race, the final kilometer was so enjoyable, and I would assume that it was captivating for the fans. This final kilometer is the reason I that I love racing. Both Daniel and I put everything we could into winning the race. There were four lead changes in the final stretch, as Daniel and I made our bids for glory. My final surge came around 500m to go. I thought he was going to pull away, but hearing the crowd chant “USA” gave me a boost of adrenaline and I surged past him. Unfortunately that little bit extra I had was used a too early and he flew by me in the final 200m.

Thoughts

After having a disappointing race at USA Outdoors, mostly due to my tactics, I was eager to finish the season with an excellent race. I knew that there were some excellent runners in the race, including my USA teammates. Both Christo and Bobby had run under 28 minutes for the 10,000m this year. The All Star teams from Asia, Africa, and Europe were just as good. Coming into the race Daniel Salel was the prerace favorite. He has been on fire this spring, winning the BAA 10km in 28:09 and has a 27:09 10,000m PB. I am satisfied that I was able to go toe to toe with him and push him all the way to the line. Over the last three years, I have steadily been getting faster and stronger. Two years ago I would have been hesitant to consider the idea that I could win this race. Since then, I have had some great races and disappointing ones, but it only takes a great performance like this one to give me confidence that I am on the right track.

Team USA at the finish! Photo Credit: www.photorun.NET

Team USA at the finish!
Photo Credit:
www.photorun.NET

One thing that played well into my race was the course. I really like the layout of this course as it plays to my strengths as a runner. At ZAP we do frequent climbs as tempo workouts, so I have learned to run hills well, especially when I am tired. So with the downhill early in the course, I can relax then charge up the hills on the second half. That is the strategy that I did the last two years. Unfortunately I have been outkicked both years in the final stretch, but this year’s second place is easier to swallow. When Christo made that big more around the 4th mile, I knew that he had the team race in mind. Both of us had seen that the pack was beginning to break up, so pressing then would really help our chances of winning. Had there not been a team component, I would have not pushed, but taken a lesson from USAs and used my track speed rather than my aerobic marathon strength. I would have not sapped the speed from my legs charging up the hills. But even so, a win would not have been guaranteed. Overall, I am proud of the effort I put in the last kilometer, as both Daniel and I were spent at the line.

Before signing off, it would be remissive of me to not comment on the new format of the Peachtree Cup. I think that it is a great idea to have a team competition centered around Team USA, especially on the 4th of July. While the weather discouraged many people from going out and cheering along the course, there were still many USA cheers. People love cheering for something that they can relate too, and most people do not know much about elite distance running, but they can relate to someone wearing the “USA” on their chest. That is what makes events like the Olympics so great. Sadly the Olympics are only once every four years, so races like the Peachtree Cup are a great way for our sport to reach the public between the Games. While Team USA did not win (if you score it like a cross country meet we would have!), I cannot wait to make another run for the Cup next year!

Along with the new format, I would like to thank the Atlanta Track Club and Rich Kanah for everything they did to put on the race. They worked extremely hard to get the race broadcasted not only on the local stations, but also nationally. The race was highlighted twice on NBC, once on Saturday night and again on Monday night. You can watch the broadcast here. Beyond the media, the Atlanta Track Club put on a fantastic event. They had a great hospitality for us elites and ran a smooth of a race given the terrible weather.

Also I would like to thank USATF for working with the Atlanta Track Club to let us on the USA Team to wear the national team kit. It is always a special occasion when you get to wear the USA singlet, and I know that it helped elevate my performance.

Often I mention ZAP and Reebok, but I rarely actually give them credit for how much support they give us athletes. With out ZAP and Reebok, my road to being a premier distance runner in the US would have been much harder. Their support has been unwavering over the last three years. They have placed their confidence in me, and in doing so it makes me strive to be the best I can. I have some big races coming up in the next year and have set some high goals.

On a related note, I will be headed to Alexandria, Virginia at the end of the week to attend the annual RunPro Conference. Every year, the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) puts on a conference for up and coming distance runners, especially ones focused on road racing. Most have just graduated from college and attending the conference will help them learn the ins and outs of professional running. Along with the RunPro conference, the RRCA also has their Road Scholar program, which I was a recipient in 2013. The Road Scholar Grant is to assist up and coming American distance runners who show great promise to develop into national and world-class distance running athletes. I am excited to go back again (I was there two years ago) to represent ZAP and the RRCA, and impart my knowledge and experience of the last three years.

– – –

Now I am taking a break and hitting the reset button for the next two weeks. I have had consistent and healthy training since January, so taking a break now is a good idea. It will allow me to have some time to build up and get ready for the fall road racing season, which I plan to run many of the USA Championships. I will start with the 20km Champs on Labor Day, then two weeks later the 5km Champs, and another two weeks will be the 10 mile Champs. I will finish my season with the 12km Champs on November 15. I am excited for the upcoming sequence as I can use it as a springboard towards the Marathon Trials in February of next year.

For you astute observers, you would have noticed that I am not running the World Championships in Beijing, China in August. By winning Twin Cities/USA Marathon Champs last fall, I was qualified to represent Team USA at the World Championships. After thinking about what was best for my running career I made the frustrating decision to turn down the spot. While there are many reasons for this decision, the most prevalent was that I felt the pollution of Beijing could possibly do damage to my body, and even being knocked back half a percent could mean the difference between making the Olympic Team and sitting at home. With so much on the line in the next year I felt like the obvious choice was to pass on such a great opportunity. As I stated above, it is always a special occasion to represent the USA in international competitions, but not when the stakes are so high.

Competitor Preview
Results
Runner’s World Recap
AJC Recap
ATLTC Recap
Replay
Competitor Photos

Watch the finish of the main race. Scott Overall (British Olympian) nips Ben Payne at the line. It also was an exciting finish.

USA Outdoors 2015

Last Thursday night I lined up for my third USATF National Championship on the track. Coming in I was really excited to make a big jump from my previous races at USAs, especially with this being my first time racing at historic Hayward Field. I was aiming at a top 5 finish and hopefully a PB. While I did not get either of those, it was not for a lack of trying.

Just two Colorado boys leading the 10km!

Just two Colorado boys leading the 10km!

Before the race, another athlete came up to me and said that a few of the other marathoners were thinking of not letting the pace dawdle. With the temperatures hovering around ninety, we knew that most likely the race would be a slow 6 to 7 km then the racing would begin. They wanted to counter that by making the race more of a grind, which would be more beneficial to us marathoners. Knowing that often the person who leads becomes the sacrificial lamb, I did not want to commit to helping out.

Race

The gun went off and even with a fast pace, I found myself in good position, right around 5th. With Bobby Curtis (2:11 marathoner) leading, we went through 800m in 2:12 (faster than I went in my 5000m in Portland!) and that continued through the mile in 4:26. After that Aaron Braun (2:12 marathoner), kept the pace fast pulling the field through 2 miles in 8:58. At this point in the race I was torn between surging to the front to continue pressing. I had been looking at the Jumbotron and could see that there were no more marathoners near the front to help me after I led for a few laps. Then the pace slowed significantly and impulsively I went to the front. From there I started to click of 67 second laps for a mile before the hot breezy conditions began to affect me.

Leading with a "half smile!"

Leading with a “half smile!”

After a few more laps of gradual slowing, someone went around me and I began to drift back in the pack. From there I was able to regroup both mentally and physically. By the time I was refocused, there was only 2000m left and the real racing began. A few surges were made, but the field remained the same, and we became tightly bunched. Just after three laps to go, I was running in the outside of lane 1 when Galen Rupp moved out and cut me off. I ended up giving him a big shove, got a stare from him, and he took off for the move that opened up the race. I tried to go with, but I felt like my momentum had been broken and the sudden surge was too much for me to handle. I struggled home the last 800m as I only was able to run 5 minute pace.

Thoughts

My initial reaction after the race was irritation with the other marathoners in the field for not helping out like we had briefly talked about. But after that initial reaction, I realized I knew before going to the front I was going to be a sacrificial lamb. Even though pushing the pace early ended up biting me, there were athletes who struggled even more. When I talked to Pete after my race he said, “Your last 800 was tough, but there was carnage behind you.” With the first 5000m at a fast pace given the conditions, there were a lot of people that struggled from a lot farther out. Another positive is there. I came in with the 17th best PB and finished 11th. I was able to beat seven people who have a faster PB than me (one guy who has a slower PB beat me). That alone is something I can be proud of.

Later that night, when I was unable to fall asleep, I watched the replay. There were two things that Tim Hutchings (the British announcer) said that hit home with me. Around 17 minutes into the race he said, “I don’t think he is particularly experienced at this level in track racing, so there is a big learning curve.” I heard him say this and could not help but agree. I ran my first 10,000m only three years ago, so I do not have much experience in a high level 10,000m. When looking back at my tactics, I tried to run the race as if it was a road race. In road racing you can push the pace from far out and have good results. That rarely happens on the track, unless you are the best in the field. The best example of this from my career is from Peachtree last year. At three miles, I felt good and knew that I could run the hills, so I went for it. I ended up dropping the entire field besides Christo, and afterward he told me, I almost broke him. Looking back, I should have stayed with my pre race tactics of sitting back and letting the race unfold then tried moving the last few kilometers. Had I done that, I think I would have finished much higher.

Late in the race, as the racing begins! Thanks to Gary Towne (Chico State Cross Country Coach) for the photos!

Late in the race, as the racing begins!
Thanks to Gary Towne (Chico State Cross Country Coach) for the photos!

Hutchings second statement that made me pause and think was, “He looks really, really calm. There’s almost a half smile on his face. He’s enjoying this.” This happened right after I took the lead, and actually hearing it from someone else really made me stop and realize that I truly did enjoy competing, even though the race was not what I wanted. I am very lucky that I have the opportunity to be a professional runner. I get to live in one of the best areas of the country and train on some of the best trails. I get to travel all over the world and compete against other athletes. I even get to be impulsive and take the lead only to be disappointed with the outcome. But I love it.

Now I head down to Atlanta for my third time racing the Peachtree Road Race. This year the format of the race will be different as there are 4 teams, from the USA, Europe, Africa, and Asia, competing for the Peachtree Cup. The USA has a great team assembled, so we should be very competitive. I do not know if the race will be streamed live, but follow me on Twitter and Instagram for more information, as the race gets nearer. Also #PeachtreeCup and #ACJPRR will be the hashtags I will use for the race.

Results
Lap Splits
Race Replay
Last Mile
USATF Recap
LetsRun Recap
Oregon Live Recap
Michael Scott Photos