9/1/2014 – 9/7/2014: USA 20km Championships

150 150 Christo

The 20k USA Championships kick-started this week. Quick shout out to elite athlete coordinator John Tolbert who’s done an absolutely first class job every year I’ve been to New Haven. However, while there was a quality field assembled for the US Championships, it was the weather that defined the day, low 70 ‘s at 8:30 in the morning with very high humidity and clear blue skies provided a glaring sun. It was going to be a battle of survival.

We started the first three miles, 4:52, 4:58 & 4:52 (15:16), with no one willingly taking the lead. Under normal conditions I would chalk this up to a slow start and expected the pace to pick up shortly. Today though, under the sun and humidity, it proved to be exactly the opposite, the fastest 5k of the day. Throughout the next 5k the lead shifted back and forth with Matt Llano (20) and Ahmed Osman (14) doing most of the leading while I stayed at the back of the front group of eight trying to stay relaxed. Just after we hit the 10k mark in 30:38 (4:58, 4:50, 5:04), we had an unexpected visitor for a block or so (see above photo).

At this point everyone had been taking in water and dousing themselves at most water stops, but the cumulative heat was beginning to take a toll. Mile splits that are more often seen in pace runs on the track 4:54, 5:14, 4:52, were becoming harder to hit with the strain evident in the whole pack as moves were covered at increasingly slower rates. Shortly before we entered East Rock (9th mile), Girma Mecheso made a move going around a corner (corners and turnarounds are always places to pay attention as they are easy places to create separation, especially later in races) that fractured the pack permanently for the first time.

The split up the hill was 5:12, but it felt as if it was the fastest of the day. Cresting the apex Girma accelerated again down the windy hill stringing out the remaining pack. At this point I was hurting and beginning to lose the battle of keeping my right side cramp under control, but I was still determined to not allow myself to be gapped by the leaders. We hit the eleventh mile in 4:53 on Whitney Ave. A side note here, the last two and a half miles are a straight shot on Whitney Ave, the longest finishing stretch on the USARC! By the start of the last mile we were whittled down to three, Girma, Luke and I, in that order. I was bouncing on and off the back of the pack, deviating between giving into my cramp and deciding that “this is not going to be point where I give up and drop off.” Right around twelve miles (4:48) I lost my mental battle and slipped off the back of the front two and saw my chance at a fourth national championship running away from me. Then, with around 400-600 meters left, the road splits and you can see the finish line for the first time. At this point, after seeing Luke looking back frequently, I finally found a little competitive spirit and started to kick. Like a snowball going downhill it was a slow thing in forming, but by the time I caught up to Luke I shot right by him and almost got Girma too, unfortunately, he had a little extra left in the tank to hold me off until I ran out of ground and he reached the finish.

Looking back I am pleased that I was able to resurrect myself and close well enough pick up one spot and almost grab the win. On the other hand, I am disappointed that mentally I made all the right decisions, even on the last stretch where I continually caught back up to the top two many times, until right after twelfth mile and it cost me the win. It’ll take a good race at Chicago to get this one off my mind. Afterwards I won the drug testing lottery which eliminated the chance of a cool down but was a really good way to make sure to get re-hydrated.

Starting my first 150 mile week with a 15 mile day? Sure, why not! I’ll just hit 120 miles in the next 5 days. Not the way I would have planned it, but what can you do with a race on Monday followed by a cross country flight? A mostly successful week as it contained a solid race effort on Monday, a strong workout on Thursday, and a painfully fatigued long run on Saturday.

Week 15MorningAfternoonOtherTotal
Monday20km Champs (61:27 2nd)Fly Back to Seattle95
Thursday2 x 7 mile 8 min rest on track 5:02 & 4:54 avg45150
Week900 (150mi)



All stories by: Christo

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