USA 15k Championships: Gate River Run

This past weekend I traveled to Jacksonville, Florida for the Gate River Run, which was the USA 15k Championships for 2011.  My fitness was very high going into the race and I thought I was ready to pr (sub 45:24), and possibly run sub 45 depending on the difficulty of the course and the weather conditions compared to my pr course (Double Bridge Run).  Looking over past years results, sub 45 is usually fighting for a top ten finish.

Start of the race.

The race went out relatively slow compared to what I expected for the first mile.  I was right with the lead group in 4:42-4:43.  At that moment Mo dropped the hammer and strung out the field.  I knew I wanted to run an intelligent race and making a hard move at mile two would not have been an intelligent decision for me.  However, I also didn’t want to lose contact of the chase groups so that I’d still have the ability to finish top ten. I ended up letting about 20-25 guys pass me the next mile and still split 4:41.  The next mile was around 4:46 and my 5k split was 14:41.  Putting 14:41 into perspective – last year at the end of March in my first outdoor 10k at Stanford I went through the 5k in 14:45!

After the first 5k, I slowly tried to move up through the field and was able to do so with a minimal amount of success.  Nobody passed me after about mile two, but I only reeled in a handful of people.  I ended up splitting 29:56 for 10k and running 45:19 for 15k to finish 24th American (25 overall). Although it was rewarding to record a personal best time, it’s relatively embarrassing to have 23 American men run faster than me.  I have been putting in the mileage, the workouts, and doing all the little things to become the best I can be.  I know that the preparation for this race is going to significantly help me as I now begin my build-up to Grandma’s Marathon in mid-June.  My training thought/suggestion/idea of the day is this: to be good at the 15k you need to be really sharp at 5k and 10k.  To be really good at the half-marathon you need to be in perfect 10k shape.  Why?  In these US Championship races the pace is hot early.  If you’re not comfortable running faster than your finish race pace (i.e. I averaged 4:51s but ran low 4:40s early).  Another comment is training at altitude makes it difficult to run hard 800s, 1ks or mile repeats.  It’s a different kind of pain and feelings than doing the same repeat efforts at sea level.  I’ve only been in Boulder since August after living  in Pennsylvania, I’m still trying to figure out how I personally need to tweek workouts in the final weeks leading up to races.  It’s a fun learning process though and I’m staying positive that I’ll make the next steps in my training and racing soon!

Pre-race Mizuno athlete team dinner. Fun times with good friends!

The event was a true US Championship in the sense that almost all of the best US distance runners were there this weekend, with the exception of injured athletes and those racing the NYC Half-Marathon this upcoming weekend.  Elite athlete coordinator Richard Fannin works really hard to assemble a great field and definitely succeeded this weekend!  He really puts the time and effort into making the race as deep and talented as possible – great job Richard!  The rest of the staff and USATF committee did a remarkable job of organizing the event. Everything from taking a water taxi to the start, the elite athlete hospitality suite, the rules meeting, banquet speaker Dick Beardsley, post-race gathering, etc were all organized and fun.  Thank you to all the volunteers and officials who made the event top notch!

In early December at my marathon debut at the California International Marathon, my coach Jay Johnson and I only decided about 6 weeks from the marathon to do it.  He was nice enough and able to adapt my training enough to have a really good race in my first marathon.  I decided to do the race after the BAA Half-Marathon where I felt I was so aerobically fit I could run a very good marathon.  Now, Brad Hudson is writing my training plan leading into Grandma’s and I’ll have a more “traditional” 10-12 week marathon build-up.  I’m excited to work with Coach Hudson and specifically target Grandma’s Marathon!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog/recap of the Gate River Run.  I’m lucky to have so many great friends that wish me good luck or congratulate me after the race.  I’m also very fortunate to now have social media – like twitter and facebook – where I can get in touch with family and friends regardless of where each of us are living!  It’s nice to feel like I still have the support I did when I was in high school and college even though I’m 1800 miles from where I grew up!  A simple tweet or facebook post makes a big impact on me.  It’s much easier getting out the door running 120 miles a week when I know I have great friends rooting for me to do well, thank you!  Thanks again to everyone at the Gate River Run who made it a competitive and fun event!

Great racing with and spending time with good friends (and PSU assistant coaches) Luke Watson and Artie Gilks!
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