Last weekend Coach Heins took a small group of five from the distance team out to Palo Alto, CA to run some fast times and enjoy the good weather. However, whether either of those was actually accomplished is debatable. We were welcomed to California with rainy skies that wouldn’t let up but for maybe three times: when we got on the track to do our strides on Friday, about 10 minutes prior and 30 minutes after our race on Saturday morning, and during the faster heats on Saturday night. Otherwise, it was raining.
My trusty sidekick Tim Freriks and I raced, as I just mentioned, on Saturday morning in the slowest heat of the 5k. Like most distance runners, Timmy is a pretty consistent guy — he has thought through most things and rarely flip flops. So when we heard that we were in the slower morning section, just like our 3k last month at Husky Invitational, Tim was a little upset that we wouldn’t be racing in the evening with the more intense atmosphere. Since I haven’t really raced outdoor track since 2008 (2 races in 2009 as a redshirt), I could care less. (Sorry to throw you under the bus, Tim)
The race had a fairly large field, with two alleys and 27 total athletes. The first mile or so was pretty bumpy, but I was more than comfortable holding my own in the pack. In these “slower” heats, there tends to be a lot of freshmen and sophomores who are not as experienced. They probably haven’t done battle in the middle of the main pack at NCAA Cross before. (where you learn to fight or die)
The pace started off quick enough, running 69s for the first 800. The pace lagged a bit from there, and Tim took it over. Once he started pushing the pace, the race strung out a lot. I felt fairly comfortable through about halfway, but began to slow considerably the last mile. My last few laps had some 72s in there, which really killed my time. I ended up closing in just a 68 and running 14:37.66 for 13th place. After the race, Coach Heins told me I looked really tired the last mile, which is probably the result of three consecutive 100-mile weeks and a 20 miler six days before the race. All that considered, I’m content with a 13 second PR to start off the season.
Next up is a STEEPLECHASE in Albuquerque this Saturday. This will be my first steeple since 2009. The goal is just to get one in for experience points, but of course I’m always looking to run a PR (9:09 in 2008).
Watch more video of 2011 Stanford Invitational on flotrack.org
Welcome to February. Most of the country is being bombarded with subzero temps and, in a few places, massive snow storms. Luckily for Flagstaff, we only have the former. In fact, while the last two days have been painfully cold, this is hands down the best winter that Flagstaff has had since I have been here. Of course, this is coming from a distance runner who thinks there is no such thing as a bad day if you get to run on dirt trails under blue skies. I have a feeling the ski/snowboard enthusiasts in town don’t agree.
This mild winter couldn’t come at a better time for us. NAU’s Skydome, where our 300m indoor track is located, is being renovated. We’ve been promised it is going to be real nice when it is all done, but in the meantime we are stuck doing workouts at 7pm. Certainly not ideal, so we try to do most workouts outside, weather permitting. But it could be worse. And besides, the cold weather makes us tough, right? It will better prepare us for those tough, cold races… oh wait, it isn’t cross country season anymore! Track is a different sport. There is no “leveling the playing field” in track — there is just a lot of left turns on a flat battlefield with nothing to hide behind. “I’ll start rolling down that hill at halfway” doesn’t exist here. This is where lactic acid thrives and speed trumps all.
Success on the track has been tough to come by for me. As a freshman I ran 3:59 for 1500 and 9:15 in the steeplechase. The next year I ran my first 5k in 14:50 and just missed qualifying for Regionals with a 9:09 in the steeple. Sadly, 3:59/14:50/9:09 are still my PRs three years later. Since then I have ran at nationals in cross country three times, placing 194th, 95th and 87th and scoring for two top-10 teams. Amongst the team there is a bit of a joke about the “studs” little-old-14:50-me has beaten on the cross country course (I get extra points for the sub-4:00 milers I have outkicked). There is no doubt I’m a better runner now then when I ran those times, but I have nothing to show for it on the track. I have some great excuses — red shirting 2009 and knee surgery in 2010 — but I don’t want to be one of those guys people talk about and say “he was a pretty good runner, but he never put it together on the track.” I have finished up my cross country eligibility satisfied with what I accomplished, but track is a different sport, and 2011 will be my final opportunity to put it all together.
Now I was a little banged up over winter break, but I would be foolish to think my last collegiate season would come without some adversity. Every time I go out on the track PRs aren’t going to happen just because I’m convinced I’m a better runner now than I was a few years ago. The work needs to be put in and I need to be ready for battle every race. If I do that I know I will be competing at Hayward Field at the end of May, satisfied.
Here’s to making the next four months count.