Big Risks, Big Rewards!
Bold, aggressive, and fearless would be three words I would use to describe my racing style. Often I will be at the starting line with the idea that I am going to run a certain pace regardless of who is in the race. If that means that I take the lead, then so be it. While this is a more likely an idolized view of myself, I think that having this view is necessary for my improvement as a runner. This imagine of myself tends to make me take more risks during a race and I feel that with out a risk you cannot improve. At some point you have to go out faster than you have previously or go to the lead in an attempt to surge away with the hopes of winning. But taking a risk can lead to collapse. Risk is a double edge sword where can just as easily cut away your opponents or yourself.
Sunday night I lined up against a stellar field that included reigning Olympic and World Champion, Mo Farah. His achievements place him in the midst with some of the best distance runners to ever live. Along with Mo, there were a slew of guys who were looking to run the USA “A” standard of 13:32. With this also being my goal for the race, I thought that I would have a good opportunity to take a step forward and hit that mark. We were set to go out run 65 second laps, 13:32.5 pace, then race the last bit home to run under the standard. For me, that meant that I had to go out faster than I ever had before, but I felt that I was up to the challenge, even with training not going quite as well as I would have liked. But training was on the upswing, so I anticipated that racing would as well.
I lined up next to a good friend and fellow Western Alum, Scott Dahlberg, said our good lucks and BANG the race was on. I took off quick knowing that I tend to not have the best starts. It paid off well as I was in a good position on the rail after the first 200m, but soon I was boxed in, being passed, and near the back of the field. I was not too worried as I was hoping that the pace would be good and I could ride the train, but the rabbit was not running the 65 seconds a lap he was prescribed, this frustrated one athlete and he took off after only two laps. Knowing that I needed to get near the front to run the time I wanted, I made a surge to maneuver around the pack. After the race, Pete asked me what was one thing I think I could have done better, and being in better position at this point in the race was it.
Leading the Race!!
I made it around the pack and by that point a gap had formed between the lead group and the peloton lead by myself, so I kept on pushing. Once with the top group of 6, I relaxed for a few laps. I went through the mile in 4:22, a tad slower than the 4:20 that would have been perfect pacing, but nothing to worry about yet. Eventually a gap started to form again so I surged to make up the ground that was lost. At this point I had passed two miles in 8:41, even closer to where I wanted and I found myself off on the shoulder of the leader, Mo Farah! Without hesitation I went to the front to maintain pace. I knew that we needed to continue to click off 65 second laps in order to hit the qualifying mark.
Mo Farah Sandwich between ZAP athletes!
I lead for a couple of laps until the real racing began with two laps to go. A few runners, including my teammate Joe, quickly passed me. I tried to go with them, but my legs were not responding. I made it another 200m before I began to slow down. The last 600m I was in the “Hurt Box” and just trying to get to the finish line. I lost a few spots in the last bit to finish 7th.
Looking back, besides being in better position at the beginning, I would not have changed how I raced at all. I went in with a goal of running under 13:32 and I ran that pace until I no longer could. I took a risk going out faster than I ever had before, as I was 8:08 at 3000m. I took a risk by going to the front even against one of the best runners in the world and knowing that his ferocious kick would come with a lap to go (he ran 52 seconds his last lap, about 16 seconds faster than mine).
This last year had been about attempting to carve out my next step up my totem pole. For me the best way create that story is to run like you belong there, which usually means taking risks. Risks where you have to go out well above what you think is possible in order to make it seem so. Sunday night was just an extension of the many risks I have taken. This fall, rather than hang back and bide my time I chose to run with the top groups in races. This lead to some big breakthroughs like my third and fourth places at the USATF 12km and Half Marathon Champs, respectively. I went for a big breakthrough and found a slight PR. While I did not get my goal of 13:32, there is a silver lining to Sunday’s race. You can never be upset with a PR, no matter how small. Also, I know that by racing aggressive and taking risks, that next story on my totem pole will be written. Until then I will get two more shots before my season comes to an end. First I head out to take another stab at a 5000m at USATF Nationals in Sacramento. A week later I head down to the Peach State to run the largest road race in the US, The Peachtree Road Race.
This is one of my favorite quotes, from one of the best running books written, Once A Runner. The book itself gives, in my opinion, the best description of life and training as an elite runner. I feel that this excerpt sums up how I feel about why I run:
IT IS SIMPLY THAT WE CAN ALL BE GOOD BOYS AND WEAR OUR LETTER SWEATERS AROUNDAND GET OUR LITTLE DEGREES AND FIND SOME NICE GIRL TO SETTLE, YOU KNOW, DOWN WITH…OR WE CAN BLAZE! BECOME LEGENDS IN OUR OWN TIME, STRIKE FEAR IN THE HEART OF MEDIOCRE TALENT EVERYWHERE! WE CAN SCALD DOGS, PUT RECORDS OUT OF REACH! MAKE THE STANDS GASP AS WE BLOW INTO AN UNEARTHLY KICK FROM THREE HUNDRED YARDS OUT! WE CAN BECOME GOD’S OWN MESSENGERS DELIVERING THE DREADED SCROLLS! WE CAN RACE BLACK SATAN HIMSELF TILL HE WHEEZES FIERY CINDERS DOWN THE BACK STRAIGHTAWAY….THEY’LL SPEAK OUR NAMES IN HUSHED TONES, ‘THOSE GUYS ARE ANIMALS’ THEY’LL SAY! WE CAN LAY IT ON THE LINE, BUST A GUT, SHOW THEM A CLEAN PAIR OF HEELS. WE CAN SPRINT THE TURN ON A SPRING BREEZE AND FEEL THE WINTER LEAVE OUR FEET! WE CAN, BY GOD, LET OUR DEMONS LOOSE AND JUST WAIL ON!
– QUENTIN CASSIDY IN ONCE A RUNNER, BY JOHN L. PARKER
My week of training before can be found here.