Thursday, February 16, 2012

"I don't think I'll be ready by then"

Last time I blogged, I wrote about how I was injured for the greater part of 2011 (but had some very good races when healthy) and how 2012 held a lot of promise for me...if I could stay healthy.

I had a few injuries late last summer/early fall, and wasn't able to fully resume my training until early November; I didn't start workouts until early December.  One day in December, I was working at TC Running Co. when our Team USA Minnesota President Pat Goodwin called to speak with the shop owner.  Adam was not there, so we made small talk about training and such.  She had me entered in the Houston Half Marathon, and I was at no point in my training ready for a half marathon.  She asked about the US Cross Country Championships, which would be a month later, and I responded with "I don't think I'll be ready by then."

Boy, did I underestimate myself.

A month later I was racing a 3k at the University of Minnesota as a tune-up for US Cross.  I had done several workouts that indicated that I would be able to run a decently fast "rust-buster."  The race was set up well as University of Minnesota star Hassan Mead and the D-III NCAA Cross Country Champion, Ben Sathre of St. Thomas, were also racing.  Our pace-setter went through the mile in 4:20, and we were able to close the second half of the race at a quicker pace.  Hassan 8:03, Me 8:06, Ben 8:07.  While this race was nowhere close to personal bests for Hassan and myself, we were both very pleased with our performances given the training we had each been doing.

Photo courtesy of Becky Miller (Gopher Track Shots)
After the Jack Johnson 3k, I felt pretty confident about where I was in my fitness.  The body can forget what it feels like to go so hard for so long when one hasn't raced in seven and a half months.  However, most of my training going into that race was geared toward a long race, such as a 12k (or 7.5 miles).

This last weekend I competed at the US Cross Country Championships in St. Louis, Missouri.  I was going to race against a competitive field, and was looking to earn the opportunity to represent the US at the North America - Central America - Caribbean (NACAC) Championships.  This 12k would be the second-longest race of my life, but I was ready for the challenge.  Selection to represent the USA at the NACAC Championships is based on a top-five individual finish.  

As I warmed up, my legs felt tired.  I've had this feeling before - typically, when I feel tired on the warm-up, I have a good race.  However, mentally, it's not the easiest thing to deal with leading up to a race.  My legs felt like rubber.  "If I feel sluggish on my warm-up, how do I expect myself to race fast for this 12k?" 

As I toed the line and the gun went off, the feeling of sluggish-ness went away.  I got out well, but was pinched off at the first turn.  Weather conditions were at an all-time worst, as temperatures were in the low-20s and a very strong wind was blowing.  I had heard that, with the wind chill, temps dipped into the single digits.  It was my goal to get out with the lead pack and simply settle in and go for a ride - also to get out of the wind.  As many know, things don't always go according to plan.  I found myself about twenty meters off the lead pack and the rest of the field had already strung out.  I would have to do all the work myself to close on the lead pack.  Through 3 kilometers, I still found myself in about 15th place, but within striking distance of the front of the race.  At that point, several guys who got out too fast for their capabilities started to come back - I continued to move forward.  5k, 15:00.  Each 2k loop I was able to pick off a few guys, and found myself in 6th place at 8k.  At 9k I had moved up to 4th.  I glanced back and saw I had a decent gap on fifth and a very sizable lead on sixth.  At that point, I knew I was finishing top five - I felt good, and knew nobody was passing me.  I kept my eye on thrid place, but was never able to close the gap on him.  
Photos courtesy of Michael Scott
With a fourth place finish, I earned the opportunity to compete in the USA uniform in Trinidad at the NACAC Cross Country Championships.  While I earned money for my performance at the US Cross Country Championships and will earn a stipend from USATF for competing at NACAC, I am more excited that I will be representing the United States of America!


  1. Good luck representing the good ol' USA. Very proud and I"m a big fan.

  2. Congrats Chris! Good luck at NACAC and representing the US.

  3. Congrats old friend! It's amazing to see how far you've come! Best of luck in Trinidad!

  4. Noticed you ran like a pussy in Trinidad.

  5. Remember running to work at the wolf river diner....just saw a commercial for a new running shoe and thought...wonder how chris' s running career has gone....impressive