Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Get Comfortable- Racing Update Of Like, The Whole Season So Far...

A little over a month ago I wrote an optimistic update on the status of my injury, and preparations for my first race of the 2013 outdoor racing season. It seems like I’ve been racing through life (both literally and figuratively) since then.

Lucky for those of you who might like to read what I have to say, I have a rare break from the madness and feel it’s a good time to catch you up on the state of my running/existence.

Ok, so first was the BAA Road Mile, held in Boston on Sunday morning, April 14th. As all openers go, I wasn’t really sure what to expect in terms of my fitness level, not to mention the fact that the race course was basically 3 loops around one square block in the streets of Boston, circling around the big finish line archway for the Boston Marathon (to take place the following day). It was a bit of a cold and windy morning, just sprinkling a little bit when the gun went off. I think due to the conditions and the course, the race didn’t go out particularly fast. I positioned myself mid-pack, reminding myself to stay as relaxed as possible until the race really takes off. This strategy had worked really well for me in straight road miles last year, but I found myself caught in an unfortunate position, making tight 90 degree turns and trying to catch people with 200m to go, rather than matching strides with the leader. I made my best effort to chase, finishing 3rd behind Brenda Martinez and Gabriele Anderson (both are world-class 1500m runners), so while I wasn’t happy with my place, it was a good basis to start from, and I was still quite thankful just to be healthy and racing once again!!)

>>>Link to finish line race video: http://www.flotrack.org/coverage/250131-2013-Boston-Marathon-BAA-5kInvitational-Road-Mile/video/705141-Brenda-Martinez-is-WICKED-fast

>>Link to post-race interview: http://www.flotrack.org/video/705161-Heather-Kampf-with-early-season-mile-focus-and-3rd-in-Boston

Little did I know how thankful I should have been that day. After the race, I caught an early evening flight home to Minneapolis, before the tragedy at the Boston Marathon occurred the following day.

I feel like whenever catastrophic events such as this happen, you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing at the moment you learned that the world isn’t as safe as you once thought it was.

I was packing up a snack in my kitchen before driving down to Apple Valley High School to coach. I got a text from my husband saying he just heard there were explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and I should turn on the news. My initial thought was simply, ‘Holy crap, I was just there!’ Before I got a chance to tune in to any coverage, my internal optimist made some assumptions, all of which, unfortunately, were wrong.

I figured these explosions were newsworthy simply due to the coincidence of them happening during the Boston Marathon, but there was surely no way that someone had intentionally detonated explosives at the Boston Marathon. I also assumed that these explosions couldn’t have possibly been very large, or damaging to people or property.

It was with that mentality that I hopped into my car and turned on the news radio station for my drive down to practice. I was completely stunned at what I heard. The radio anchors were on the phone with someone in Boston, describing the exact location of where the explosions occurred. It was surreal to hear them talking about places I could easily picture in my mind, having been there just 24 hours earlier. I had literally run circles around the block where these explosions occurred, and I even stayed at the Lennox Hotel, near the site of the second explosion, on more than one occasion for races in Boston.

Words like ‘carnage’, and phrases like ‘death count’, and ‘possible terrorist attack’ were already being used. People still weren’t sure about the possibility of further explosions, or what might detonate them. And then, they played the recording.

Somehow not seeing, but just hearing the joyful cheers of the crowd, abruptly interrupted by the booms that shook my car stereo speakers, then screams, and the obvious confusion and chaos that ensued is still the most impacting memory of this event to me. Even after I saw the video that night, where runners were tossed into the air like rag dolls on the street, it is still that sound recording that first welled tears in my eyes.

After the fact, I experienced a wide range of emotions, as I’m sure everyone did. First, I was just in shock that someone would choose a marathon as the setting for this attack. I was angry, and couldn’t help but feel as if this were a personal attack on a community that I so integrally identify with. I was worried about my next big running events and possible copycats. Felt stupid for being paranoid, but upset over some people taking away the simple joy and innocence that I associate with running.

But then through it all, the lasting emotion I have is one of pride. The running community did not disappoint in our efforts to unite, and help those who were affected by this incident. I am so thankful and proud to be associated with such a positive, committed, and kind group of individuals. Thank you for continually reminding me how incredible you all are.


Next on the schedule was a “week’s vacation down South”, as I was jokingly referring to a racing double in Des Moines- the US Championships Road Mile on Tuesday April 23rd, and a 1500m on the track at the Drake Relays on Friday the 26th. Turned out that the phrase ‘down South’ was a big joke indeed. On race day for the Road Mile, it was dreary- hovering around 40 degrees and windy. When the gun finally went off (it misfired a couple times and extended the time we had to stand freezing in our little race uniforms), I found myself shooting straight to the front. I wasn’t necessarily planning on leading, but I ended up staying in front and sharing the lead for much of the race. When it came down to about 500m to go, the race picked up and I went with it. As we neared the finish-line, I was battling back and forth with my Asics teammate, Sara Hall. I thought she had it, then I had it, then she had it, then a streak on my left! Kate Grace took the win at the bitter end, Sara second, and I third. (4:43.02, 4:43.61, 4:43.69 were our super close times, respectively!) I was disappointed not to defend the US Road Mile Championship title, but I was also pretty pumped to have taken 3rd in a field that was much better than last year’s.

>>>Here’s the link to race video, just fast forward to 1:55 in if you don’t feel like listening to the pre-race commentary: http://usa-1mile.runnerspace.com/eprofile.php?event_id=2513&do=videos&video_id=86281

The Drake Relays are a special event for a lot of reasons, but for an Asics athlete, it’s our one big sponsored event of the year where we’re all encouraged to come out and race. So long as I was spending a couple extra days in Des Moines between the Road Mile and the Relays’ 1500m, I got to get involved with an Asics photo shoot on Wednesday, and then did a product video shoot on Thursday (I’ll be sure to share it once it comes up on the website!) It was a lot of fun to feel like a valued member of the team, though in hindsight I think maybe I went a little too gung-ho on the media stuff on my two recovery days before I hit the track on Friday.

From the very beginning, I felt a little out of control, and flat. It was pretty unfortunate I had a rough day out there because it was an incredible field of athletes to race and a great opportunity. I really can’t pinpoint what went wrong for sure because I thought I was primed and ready to run a big PR, but as I’ve been told, sometimes it’s best to just let a bad day be what it is, forget about it and move on to the next thing.


The next thing was Re:Run San Diego, on May 5th. This was a pretty cool new event that focuses on making track more accessible to fans, and supporting athletes who choose to run big races in the US. It took place at Balboa Stadium, a stadium with a rich history in track and field. I ran the mile on the track that day, something I haven’t done on the outdoor track in a long time (if ever?!), and ran a decent race, but certainly not a great one. I felt I just didn’t have the gusto to really fight and race out there on the second half for some reason, but still was feeling very confident in the workouts I had been doing at home, and excited for the direction my season was to be headed. I placed 7th in a pretty stacked field of milers, running 4:34.88, which is a 2+ second PR from the indoor mile.

>>Link to race video: http://www.flotrack.org/coverage/250669-RERUN-San-Diego-2013/video/708533-W-Mile-F01-Kuijken-Felnalge-old-ACC-duo

>>Link to post-race interview: http://www.flotrack.org/video/708683-Heather-Kampf-7th-in-mile-and-ready-for-fast-800-this-year-at-2013-ReRUN-San-Diego


And onward the season continued! Just four days later (May 9th), I was back at home in Minneapolis, prepared to run the TC-1 Mile.

Besides running a race in San Deigo so near to the date of the TC 1-mile, the more memorable and exciting piece of news that week was that I became an auntie the day before the race!! My sister delivered her healthy baby boy, Liam, on the morning of May 8th! Here’s a couple adorable pictures:

Coming into this race as the local returning champ, I was working hard to mentally interpret the pressure as ‘positive expectations’, rather than a target on my back. I was also working on processing the fact that it was cold, windy, and dreary on the evening of the race (something I was far too familiar with this “spring” in Minnesota!).

Funny (only now that it’s over and everything turned out all right) story from this race:

Given the cold temperatures, I decided to overdo it and wear a pair of super-warm running tights just so I didn’t have to think about being cold until I took them off just before the race. Well, what I hadn’t planned for was how TIGHT my tights were around the ankles! When the starter gave the command to take off our warmups, I leisurely took off my jacket, and began to strip off my tights when I realized they were getting stuck trying to fit over my racing flats. In a state of trying-not-to-freak-out-but-slightly-panicking, I tugged and tugged, trying to simply rip through the tight elastic bands on the ankles, but they wouldn’t budge. Finally, the starter being counting down from a minute until the start of the race and I decided the only way out was to take off my shoes.

I sat down on the ground about 20 feet back from the starting line, ripped off my flats with the laces still tied, FINALLY pulled off my tights, and tried to stomp back into my shoes. Of course, luck would have it that I laced my flats up so tight that I couldn’t fit my feet back in my shoes without untying them, so I did that (with the help of my teammate Jamie Cheever, who untied the other shoe for me!), and was literally retying and tucking a wayward lace into the side of my shoe on the starting line as they got down to 5 seconds before race time.

I’m sure you’re thinking, why didn’t they just wait for you? Well, I’m sure they would have liked to, but the race starts are specifically chosen to fit in with the light rail tracks that intersect the course about a quarter mile into the race, so they had to start at the ‘official’ start time despite my co-competitors yelling, “HEATHER KAMPF IS NOT ON THE LINE!” (Thanks for trying though, guys!) So, needless to say I burned a fair amount of adrenaline simply getting to the line, but I’m proud of myself for keeping a cool head and doing what I needed to do in order to start the race on time.

This race ended up having a lot of similarities to my race in Des Moines for the US Championships in the road mile earlier in the year. First, as the horn sounded for the start, I got out pretty quickly to the front lines. Then, as the end was nearing, I was battling neck and neck with one athlete (this time Nicole Sifuentes). Then, another athlete came barreling in with a strong kick (Sarah Brown) for the win in 4:33.3, Nicole took 2nd in 4:33.3, and I rounded out that less than one second of time in third at 4:34.1. Last parallel I can make to the US Champs Road Mile, I was upset, but encouraged to place 3rd in a field that was much better than the people I had beat a year prior, and I ran quite a bit faster than what it took to win the whole thing a year ago.

Though it all, I absolutely LOVE being a local at this race, and can’t thank everyone enough who was out there cheering, because I was getting support every step of the race down that street.

>>Link to finish line footage: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLEJjudCWVg

Next up on the racing schedule was the Occidental High Performance meet, back in California (LA), on May 17th. This was to be my first 800m race of the year, and actually my first since the 800m final of the Olympic Trials last year!

The nice thing about going to Oxy (as we call it), is you can pretty much guarantee the weather will be perfect, and you’ll have good competition. It’s a pretty low-key atmosphere, with no prize money on the line- people just want to run fast and get qualifiers taken care of.

I went into this race ready to tack on to the pack and just see what I can do, pretty confident in my fitness, but feeling like I could hardly remember what the ‘hurt’ of an 800m feels like! The race got out fast (as it should when it’s only 800m long instead of mile, I realized), and I was toward the back of the pack 250m in. On the home stretch I felt I made a smart move on the outside to get into better position at the bell. I moved with the group on the top of the curve, but lost a little bit of contact with the leaders on the back stretch (probably where a little bit of fear or doubt crept into my head about whether I was going to be able to finish well if I kept pushing it). The good news is, I finally felt like I had a kick for the first time this season in that race, and finished pretty 6th in a time of 2:01.14.

That time is my fastest opener in the 800m ever, it is faster than any time I ran all last year in the 800m, and it felt pretty awesome. What I took out of Oxy: confidence and excitement for more 800 races!! :)

>>>Race Video: http://www.flotrack.org/coverage/250716-USATF-Oxy-High-Performance-Meet-2013/video/710219-W-800-H01-Oxy-2013-Simpson-has-the-wheels


We’re coming up on nearly current events now!!

Last week, I flew out to St Louis to run the Speed Factory Athletics Women’s 800m at the Festival of Miles on Thursday night, the 30th of May. I came in feeling confident after having run such a good time at Oxy, and excited to return to a meet that I had won last year. The fans are always great at this meet, as it starts out as a high school meet, and then culminates with the professional women’s 800m, a crazy fast heat of the boys high school mile, and then the professional men’s mile.

This race had an interesting start, the rabbits got out super fast through the 200m, so the field of actual racers stayed off a little bit and did our own thing. We ended up coming through the 400m slower than I would have liked, right about a 60, so the race was still quite tight at this point. I battled it out with two athletes that second lap, and it all came down to needing to pass them both with 100m to go for the win. I put it all out there, and I got it! :) My winning time of 2:01.96, surpassed the meet record I ran there a year earlier, and it won the “Battle of the Sexes Bonus” between the women’s 800m and the men’s mile, which is an extra fun thing to come home with! Though I was hoping to run closer to 2:00 or below, I was still excited about the come from behind win, and finishing close to my time at Oxy in a field where I wasn’t just carried along by a talented pack of athletes.

>>Race video link: http://www.flotrack.org/coverage/250760-Big-River-Festival-of-Miles-2013/video/712512-2013-Speed-Factory-Athletics-Womens-800m

Last but not least, I hopped on a plane from St Louis straight to Nashville Tennessee, where I raced in the Music City Distance Carnival’s 800m, and paced the 1500m.

In the 800m, rabbits fell through, so I was out there running solo for 75% of the race, but was content with a win in 2:02.51. About an hour and a half later, I jumped in to pace the women’s 1500m, and probably should have just stayed in the race because I paced them all the way up to 350m to go! The winner, Nicole Bush, ended up running 4:13, which is just a second slower than my personal best, and I’d like to think, given how I felt (pretty great actually!), that I may have PR-ed if I didn’t stupidly step to the side and start cheering on the race instead of finishing what I started. (Still kicking myself over that one, if you can’t tell!) I think I was in a mindset of helping others so much, and felt like I was running so smoothly, that I didn’t even consider that this might actually turn out to be a great race for me. It certainly is encouraging to have felt so good though, and that’s the primary take-away message I’m keeping at least!

>>Video of the 800m race: http://www.flotrack.org/video/713031-Women-800-Meter-Run-Invitational-Heather-Kampf

>>Post Race interview: http://www.flotrack.org/coverage/250769-2013-Music-City-Distance-Carnival/video/713031-Women-800-Meter-Run-Invitational-Heather-Kampf

>>Video of the 1500m pacing: http://www.flotrack.org/coverage/250769-2013-Music-City-Distance-Carnival/video/712948-Women-1500m-Run-Invitational

So, there you have it! My season so far in an unreasonably long blog-shaped nutshell!

I PROMISE PROMISE PROMISE to update sooner on coming events, which at this point, will be USA Outdoor Championships, back down in Des Moines Iowa, June 19th-23rd.

Until then, thanks for sticking with me, I’m out!

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