Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sean Graham's Final Two Weeks in Europe
The last two weeks of the trip have been a bit lower key. Having been in Leuven for two weeks already I felt I have seen most of what is to be seen. Since the 3k in Ghent was on a Sunday and the next race was a Saturday I only had 5 days before lacing up to race again. Read more

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Anonymous said...

Monday we went for a long run, now only 75 minutes, which can’t be called much of a long run anymore but it gets the job done. The plan for the rest of the week was a recovery run Tuesday, pre-race workout Wednesday then two more days of recovery runs with strides before the 1500 in Brasschatt on Saturday. The weather that week was pretty crumby so we didn’t venture too far for most of the week. Days now consisted of sleeping in usually until 9 or 10ish, checking email, checking a few online newspapers and espn.com, trying to avoid going to Letsrun.com and failing, then working on msnbc.com’s daily online crossword puzzle, which I can now finish about 98% of the time. After that I would find everyone else and we would head out for the day’s workout or run. Usually returning to the dorm at around 2 or 3 we either head downtown to for Broodjes (Baguette sandwiches that I have been living on for lunch almost everyday) from a place called Panos, or leftovers from dinner the night before. From 4 until 7 was usually pretty slow, I started reading a bit more and was able to polish off two books, one of which was “Life of Pi” which was good, I’m pretty sure Ed will tell you it’s his favorite book and that you have to read it. I don’t know, it was good, “favorite” would be a bit strong, but hell if you need something to read, it’s a good one. Anyway, off to dinner usually around 8ish. This meant either cooking in the Kitchen with our group or biking downtown to eat at one of our now favorite places, one of which now brings us free shots of Amoretto after dinner we have been there so much, so the decision was usually pretty easy. Then off to Billy’s for ice-cream and hangout in the main town square where we would meet up with most of the other US athletes. Repeat.

Leading up to Brasschatt
My legs felt pretty good coming off of the 3k in Ghent. My Achilles has been bothering me on and off since US indoor National Championships in February, but as of late it has been acting up rather strongly. Having raced so much the last few weeks it was less than happy with me but calmed down after A LOT of icing early in the week. The workout on Wednesday went well; it consisted of some 800’s a little faster than 5k pace and a good set of quick 200’s at the end to keep the speed up. Then the two days of recovery runs right before the race had my legs feeling nice and poppy just in time to compete.

Brasschatt -1500
The Brasschatt meet was pretty similar to Ghent, very low key but quality races. There were a lot of Americans there racing including a large group in the 5k which at first I was a bit disappointed I wasn’t doing but in the end was very happy I decided not to, more on that later. Again we all met down at the Leuven track and took a bus to the meet together, then waited, and waited and waited until it was our turn to compete. Thankfully the 1500 was one of the earlier races so it wasn’t too bad for me. I was pretty nervous for the race for some reason. Coming off a solid 3k the weekend before I was confident but I think the disaster that was the 1500 the weekend prior to that worried me a bit. The warm up went well and strides felt great so I was excited by the time we got on the line. If you were able to watch the race on Flotrack you can see how it went but Ill give you a quick description of how I saw it. I got off the line pretty well, which, like I have said before has been trouble for me earlier in the year, and moved into a decent position around the first curve. After that I was slowly shuffled to the back of the pack because the guy ahead of me was going no where and there was a steady line of guys coming around, I was boxed in more or less. I told myself I didn’t want to see any splits just try to win the race so I can’t say what we were through any of the laps in, other than it felt we were moving pretty well. By a lap and a half or so to go I was able to get myself out and moving towards the front, coming into 400 to go I was moving up strong and slid in right behind Ian Dobson who was just starting to move around some people as well. He and I got to 300 to go together in the lead, and for some stupid reason I thought it would be a good idea to try to hammer around him there, bad idea. Anyway I threw down on the back stretch and fought Ian to the rail at 200 to go, paid the price for that around 120 to go where the legs got pretty tied up and 3 people passed me coming into the finish. It was a disappointing finish but overall a decently strong race. I was really shooting to get under 3:40 but with my hammering the backstretch and rigging down the homestretch ended up at 3:40.3, still a PR but not exactly what I was looking for. Also, no prize money for this one, apparently the sponsor that was going to provide the prize money pulled out last minute. Great. As I’m sure you have seen by now it was later that evening that Alan Webb set the new American record in the mile. It was an impressive race to watch to say the least, that guy is in unbelievable shape right now.

The final week

I was hoping to convince some people to head out for a day trip on Sunday either to Amsterdam or Brugge but it didn’t happen. Sunday started off incredibly boring. All I wanted to do was get to the end of the week and race the 5k. I have been looking to this race for a while now and it was officially less than a week away, albeit a very long week. I did find that there was a semi-pro beach volleyball tournament going on down at the train station that day though, so we biked down and watched that for a couple hours, it was a lot of fun, and exactly what I needed to get my mind off racing for a bit. The rest of the week was incredibly similar to the week before, however we did find that both our dorm as well as the other dorm where the rest of the US athletes were staying had ping-pong tables so needless to say there was A LOT of ping pong going on early that week. Other than that, it was basically the same as the week before, wake up, kill time on the computer, go run, ping pong, reading, or watching Tour de France, downtown or kitchen for dinner then ice cream at Billy’s. The plan for this week was just to prepare for the race. Again, my Achilles was pretty sore the day after the race but eased in the following days with a lot of icing. Gags and I have decided not to do the Falmouth road race after getting home to let it heal, so the 5k is the last race, no more training really just preparing to compete now. This consisted of an even shorter 70 min long run Sunday, recovery Monday with 12 by 100 afterwards again to keep the speed up, Tuesday was just a recovery day, Wednesday pre race workout of 400’s then easy days Thursday and Friday leading up the big race Saturday. Everything went well, my legs felt a little sluggish on Wednesday for the 400’s but good enough for me to be really excited to race.
Heusden – 5000

Finally Saturday had arrived. The B section of the 5k was scheduled to go off at 9:50 that evening and after speaking with some of the ZAP fitness guys who were also in the race, none of us wanted to wait around all day at the meet like the last meets since the bus was leaving at 3pm. We decided to rent a car and drive ourselves later in the day. Surprisingly the day went by pretty quickly and before I knew it Stephen Haas (5k guy from Indiana also in my dorm) and I were walking down to meet up with the other guys at the car. The venue was awesome; it looked exactly like it did the year before, lots of people, beer, music and thus excitement. The fields for nearly every race were stacked and expected to go fast. We arrived at the meet around 7:30ish found a spot to camp out for a bit, saw a few unbelievable races, including the men’s Steeple and 800 then before I could blink I was off warming up. The 20 minutes of “easy running” warm up felt like 45 minutes, I was pretty nervous for the race and just wanted to get on the line. Finally got back to the track, stretched out, got in a good set of strides and was called into the staging tent for final check ins. A few minutes later they let us out on the track for a few more strides before the race I had been waiting for for weeks started. Again, you can watch how the race unfolds on Flotrack.com, but here is how I saw it.
Ryan Hall was to pace Ian Dobson through 3k in 8 minutes (64 seconds per lap, adding up to a 13:20 if consistent the whole race). I was confident enough that I could run that pace and committed to doing so weeks before. Again I got off the line well and after a lap a tad over 64 I was in a great position right in the front pack. Now all I had to do was stay there. The pace felt very comfortable and there wasn’t too much jockeying for position or moving around, we were about a second slow at a mile but I didn’t care, I just wanted to stay focused on racing and not time. Ryan dropped at 3k and we came through I believe a shade over 8 min, maybe 802 or 3, I didn’t see it. Ian took off a bit at that point with a Canadian runner Reid Coolsaet who had to hit 13:19 in order to compete at Worlds, after that there was a group of about 4 of us in the chase pack making our way around maybe 5 or 10 meters off of them. Now with only 5 laps to go my legs started to get a bit heavy but still were able to keep pace. I think I took the lead of our pack with about 800 to go and Jonathon Riley came around me at 600 to go and took off. I was able to close pretty well, I believe my last lap was in 60, coming into the homestretch I threw down all I had left and crossed the finish line in 13:23. It was a great race, about 2 seconds off of a FANTASTIC race (13:21 is the Olympic A standard which I would have liked to have gotten this summer) but overall I was very happy with the performance. It was a 6 second PR and a big confidence booster for me heading into the next Olympic year. Granted I still have a lot of time to take off, but this was a good step and has me excited to run faster next year.

So that was it, as Craig Carey used to day, “Done and Done”. I walked off the track, was asked to sign a few autographs for kids running around the athlete area, and unlaced the spikes for the year. Good thing too, because within about 10 minutes of finishing my Achilles flared up so bad it was difficult to walk. Needless to say I cut the cool down short and called it a season. Time to heal, rest up, and get ready to start all over again for an even harder training session for the next year.