2019 Race Report

by

Bryan Clay 5000m

This race was the first race on a track since the end of February when my indoor season ended in the disappointment of failing to reach the NCAA indoor championships. After 6 weeks of consistent training it was time to bounce back. The plan was simple— compete like I know I am capable of competing. In indoors things just didn’t go according to plan, I was unable to execute and finish how I wanted to in races. For this outdoor season opening 5000m the field was going to be fast, I was going to have the opportunity to run a fast time and compete with some top collegians, I couldn’t ask for more!
I wanted to be aggressive and put myself in a position to compete from the gun, so when the gun fired I put myself right up front. The only bodies in front of me were the bodies of the pacers. We came through the first couple laps fast, about 65s for both, the next goal was to relax and find some sort of rhythm until it was time to race. The hardest part of the race was getting into a rhythm and staying relaxed until the real racing begins. The rabbits stepped off at 2k and at that point I felt fine but then Joe Klecker of Colorado took the lead and told me and McMillan that he wanted to work together on the pace. When Klecker recommended this I thought it was a great idea, although Klecker wanted to run 64s, that just didn’t feel comfortable to me and I couldn’t go with. As Klecker Gapped McMillan and I, a pack of runners went around us and we went from leading to somewhere just around the top 8-10, it was hard to regroup as the swarm of athletes flew by, but I managed to latch on.

This group that went by was full of the guys I expected to see. I had successfully latched on and survived the second mile of the race. As we approached the last mile I was faced with my final task to complete the race I wanted: finish strong. I was in the middle of a strong line of runners and the pace began to increase again after a slower second mile, I was hurting and was counting down the laps, as each lap went on I grew with confidence. It was an amazing feeling to be so strong in the latter stages of the race, with 800m to go I felt like I could open up and respond to every move. As the bell lap began I could see the clock, I knew if I closed well I would come away with a new personal best something that I definitely needed. I got ready on the curve to move on the back stretch. We were lapping some athletes in the large field of 30+ athletes and some of the athletes in the pack were falling apart as well. I almost had to come to a complete stop to get around two athletes, but as I did I had about 275m to go. Finally, I got a full head of steam and built momentum closing on the string of athletes that had gotten a touch ahead. I passed one before the curve and had two more coming back to me, as I came off the final curve I had another gear and flew

around 2-3 more athletes and was closing on the top group that was clumped together so tight you could throw a blanket over them.
13:36: a one second personal best. Generally small victories like this get brushed off and don’t really feel all that powerful, this was different. I was thrilled to feel strong, run fast, and get my season started on a high note. Senior year and there aren’t many moments left to rep the Y. I’m making the most of each and every one. Next stop Payton Jordan for hopefully an even bigger PB!

 

AARHUS WORLD XC 2019

Coming into this weekend I felt like a somewhat of a veteran, this would be my third time competing at the world cross country championships. I felt confident that my experience would allow for little surprise, then I saw the course in Aarhus. Social media had led me to believe that Aarhus was going to be a pure cross country course, one that tested a runners grittiness. It certainly was a test of grit, but social media was incapable of capturing the gravity of this course; pun intended. It was something you had to see with your own eyes in order to believe. When I saw the course I had mixed feelings, I thought that it was either going to be a great equalizer for athletes like myself against those with superior track speed, or that I may be seeking medical attention at 5k. 

The circumstances of travel and timing were less than ideal, I arrived Thursday around lunch only 48 hours before my race on Saturday, this meant my travel to and from the race would nearly equal the time spent in Denmark prior to the race. Anyone who’s traveled across the world whether it be to compete or not can understand that it’s exhausting. I’ve felt incredible in training leading up to this race and regardless of the course I wanted to be able to test that fitness. I also was very excited to absorb all that you get out of being at any world championship event. The chance to represent my country, and to take home an experience of a lifetime, is one I refuse to take for granted. There were so many beautiful and exciting things I saw, luckily I got plenty of pictures and videos to savor these memories.

As I woke on competition day my nerves were calm, I knew that I was in Aarhus to enjoy the atmosphere and compete to the best of my ability against an unfamiliar field and on an unfamiliar type of course. The course was vibrant on race day, flags were flying and the excitement in the air was palpable. As the team and I set off to warm up in the designated team area we saw many nearly all of our competitors, it was quite the show to just witness as other teams did their own pre-race things, the Eritreans doing synchronized drills that look like a Zumba class, the Japanese lapping us as they warmed up at what appeared to be tempo effort, and even seeing many of the different countries just trotting along like us. It wasn’t until I entered the call room before the race and after the warm-up that I began to feel nerves. Seeing 2-time defending champion Geoffrey Kamworor, Ethiopian star and 12:43 5k runner Solomon Berega, as well as the world champion silver-medalist for 10k Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda made me feel like a boy amongst men. Amongst these faces were the faces of fellow NCAA competitors like Luke Traynor, Jack Bruce, Levisse, and Baxter, the list could go on. About 150 of the worlds best were toeing the line, I was just ready for the gun to fire and the war to begin.

The start of the race was fast and I attempted to settle into a rhythm on the unforgiving course that climbs steadily for the first 800m and drops dramatically just to climb a man-made mountain at the conclusion of each loop. The first loop felt good, I liked the group I was in and tried to move up at every opportunity. The first time coming up the museum hill I could look ahead and still see the leaders on the hill in front of me, I thought to myself “I’m right where I should be, now lets compete”. As we ran the second loop I was noticing where I could relax and where I could move up on the course. I was really good at attacking the down hills as well as trekking through the mud and sand. On the third and fourth loop I really began to find my groove on the course. I was around 90-100th place through the first loop and as we entered the halfway point I was about 80th and was catching some elite competitors like Leonard Korir, Ross Millington, and Mason Ferlic (I only knew my placing after each lap once I checked splits after, I thought I was placing much higher during). 

As we entered the final lap I was in the best position of the race, I passed Korir, I could see Ferlic straight ahead and a pack of about 10 athletes were within my grasp. At the time I felt strong in my legs and lungs, I thought I had much to give. However, a stomach/side cramp had other plans. As I climbed the long grinding hill on the final lap my hunched posture began to cause my abdomen to spasm. At this point I wasn’t able to get a full breathe of air, the ups and downs of the course that activate your core like nothing I’d ever experienced made it impossible to relax. As I went down the steep descending portion I felt like my body was clinching to protect the area in pain, this lasted for maybe 3 minutes. When the course flattened and I was able to stand up tall I got my breathe back and had one last climb and descent of the museum to make up ground I had lost. I tried to find all the speed and power remaining in the tank, I drove my knees up the hill and bombed down. I was able to catch a few guys in the final 400m but was unable to get about 5 guys that finished just in front of me. 

Although in the grand scheme of things 82nd and 77th place don’t seem like a substantial difference, but I was racing the guys near me and felt like I had “lost” my race in the final kilometer. I was elated to be finished, the course and competition had sucked the life out of me. This is what racing is all about, you give it everything you can, you focus on what you can control, and you fight until you have nothing left to give. My body or more so my stabilizing abdomen had nothing left to give. There’s a lot to take away from this race and it’s uniqueness. It exposed any weakness your mind or body had. I will needless to say, be hitting the core more.

In summary, the race was fun. I have a lot of work to do in order to get where I see myself going. I want to be world-class and not just in western competition but in global competition. I’ve got so much time, but cannot waste it, everyday is an opportunity to improve and learn. Next up is the Bryan Clay 5000m, hopefully a big PB awaits me!

MPSF 3000m 

A week after racing a cross country in the Caribbean I was back on the track for a fast 3000m. In order to combat traveling and racing I was focused on recovery the week of this race, I probably slept 10 hours per night. Due to the fact I was ranked 16th in the 5k heading into the weekend, I knew I’d need to run fast to in the 3k to be heading to Birmingham for the indoor national championships.

     The night before my race Luis Grijalva of NAU ran a 14:11, it converted to a time of 13:40.xx, bumping me to 17th. This with the addition of learning McDonald of Wisconsin was chasing the time the next day made the fear of being bumped a reality. In less than ideal turnaround I needed to ball out, I was actually confident I could hit the mark, training has gone well and my teammates had already ran similar times this season and we work out together so I took confidence in their performance.

As the gun fired I found myself mid-pack. I could immediately sense the pace was fast as my teammate Matt Owens helped with the pacing duties and was out blazing fast. Matt was getting away from the pack early, I came through 400m mid pack and clocked a 61. The pace relaxed a bit more as we attached to the rabbit and I moved up in the field (800m split was 2:05). I could tell that the speed of the race was going to make for a grinding final kilometer, as we came through 1600m it was the pacers followed by Mantz and I, 4:10-4:11 was our split, well ahead of pace schedule to hit a national qualifier. I’d never been in a fast 3k, you are constantly riding the redline.

     As we approached the lap counter and had only 1200m to go I could feel the pace beginning to tighten its grip on me, I was trying to stay attached to Mantz and fight to the finish. The next couple laps were a grind but I knew I had to stay with it to keep the indoor season alive. As each lap passed I grew more fatigued and could tell I wasn’t feeling any pop left in my legs, even with 400m to go I had a chance but my legs were gone and I couldn’t find another gear, I was sputtering. As I crossed the line I was deeply dissatisfied. The clock read 7:56, I knew this meant my senior indoor season would be over barring odd drops in the 5000m.

I know that the big picture is still in tact, this still stings in the moment. I pride myself on consistency and mental toughness. I am not satisfied with this season, I feel like circumstance and losing mindfulness cost me a great opportunity to be an all-American once again. The positive to take away is more time to build for outdoors, more fuel to the burning desire in my heart to be great. I won’t race on a track again until mid-April. That gives me a lot of time to build and soak up a lot of quality training. I’m excited to get after it, I will be the best version of myself come June. That is the goal, all I can do now is get better everyday and trust that it’ll come— working on my mind and body. Minor setback for a major comeback!

NACAC XC Champs – Trinidad

This was quite the change in scenery and events. I took a 12 week hiatus from the grass and have been focusing on the shorter events in indoors thus far. Only eight days after a 5k on the track in the ice box of Iowa State, I found myself heading to the southern end of the Caribbean. In the middle of the NCAA season— it’s less than ideal to miss more class, change 3 time zones, and travel for nearly a day to arrive in foreign land and race in the heat and on the grass. 

     Plenty of NCAA athletes may find the packed race schedule and circumstances of the competition to be a hinderance to training and “bigger” things to come. I found this to be a nice escape from the snowy mountains and icy roads of Utah. Two seasons ago I did the same thing and it didn’t seem to hinder my outdoor season and the opportunity to compete for my country is one that I really value. I find that as long as I keep the volume high and don’t get too psyched for each race I can compete more and get away with it!

In the hot and unfamiliar conditions the plan was to run conservative and not go to the well. I got out and sat right behind the American squad. The course consisted of five 2km (the course was probably closer to 2.1km per loop) loops, each loop consisted of one extremely steep/short downhill and one equally steep uphill. The first 1k was super conservative and it was clear that nobody wanted to lead. as we came up the first hill the American pack decided the pedestrian pace was a little too soft and surged pretty hard, I hung back but kept them within about 10-20m for the next 2k.

     Around 3k, two Americans fell off the pack and I caught them and tucked in. There were still 4 Americans and my teammate Mike Tate about 25-35m ahead at this point. I liked the position I was in, there was plenty of race to go, I found a rhythm, and waited for something else to develop. Not too long after the midway point Tate started to fall off the pack of four Americans. I didn’t want him to run 5k in no-mans land, I surged alongside David Elliot when we got to Tate he responded to our pace well. The three of us were sitting 5-6-7 going into the bell lap. The course had water every Kilometer and it was crucial to stay feeling cool that you get some each opportunity. The second to last water at 8k I was on the outside shoulder of Elliot and hollered to get a water thrown towards me cause I couldn’t get to the inside; one of the volunteers tossed the water up and Elliot attempted to be a good sport and catch it for me, he accidentally swatted it down. 

     This was probably the climactic point of the chase packs race, Tate called out— “we’re all friends here!” Elliot doused himself in water and handed me his bottle after apologizing for the mishaps.

The incident with water sparked my adrenaline a bit and I took off going into the hills for the last time, Tate fell off and Elliot and I were still side by side. The course had a long straight slightly downhill final 800-1000m before you take a hairpin into the finish. For the first time in the race I got competitive, Kirwa of the USA was fading and fading fast, I felt really good and took off after him hoping to make up 30 seconds in the last kilometer. I got within 5 seconds and was able to separate from Elliot with the push, I crossed the line with a solid 5th place finish.

     NACAC is by no means a deep field. It consists of Americans, Canadians, some Carribean and Mexican athletes sprinkled in. Two years ago I couldn’t even see an American athlete as I finished. Although it’s their “B squad” it felt good to compete with the Stars and Stripes and hope I can continue to close that gap, undoubtedly a tall task. Next up, MPSF 3000m… Bama or Bust.

Iowa State Classic 5K

The indoor season in the NCAA is a short, cut throat one. I love it! Top 16 times throughout the season advance to the finals. All over the country, every weekend, athletes chase fast times in hopes of achieving personal bests and all-American finishes in March. 

The Iowa State Classic has served as my ticket to NCAAs the last 2 years. It’s a fast track and the meet organizers give the 5k an honest chance of posting fast times. 

      A year ago this race was a pretty substantial breakthrough on the track. I ran an 8 second PB for 5k and a mark that sent me to nationals with the 5th best time in the NCAA. This year I looked to do the same, and I ran 1 second slower than the year prior, this year that has me 16th in the NCAA, the last spot in as of now. 

     The time was 1 second off of last year but the race felt very different. The last kilometer was an absolute grind. I was holding on for the fate of my indoor season. Last year I closed my last 600 in 1:28, this year that last 600 was 1:36. Had I finished like I did last year, I would’ve won the race and had a huge personal best. 

Not every race can be your best. I’m in great shape, I had some setbacks a week before the race that may have been lingering in my body as I approached that final 600m. I wasn’t happy with this performance as I crossed the line. I’ve since found some positives to look at in this performance. 

    I felt like horrible in the latter stages of the race but I fought for my 3rd fastest 5k of all-time and most likely did enough to make the National meet in a month. I took my body to one of the darkest places I have in a race before, I finished the race and spent the next hour hunched over a garbage can and lying down before I could even cool-down. 

Racing is hard, running can be unpredictable. Can’t beat yourself up for not putting together A+ performances every time you run. Find positives to take away, find places to improve, and get back to work. 

     I’m heading to Trinidad with team Canada this week for an XC race and then I’ll run a 3k @ MPSF the following week. It’ll be a lot of racing, it’s a good thing I love to race.

UW Invitational – Mile

 Heading into this race my preparations had me feeling confident and ready to race fast and dip under the illustrious 4 minute mile barrier. I was hoping to get into the fastest section with guys that were going to run well under the mark so I could be pulled through my first sub-4. I was placed in the second fastest heat, this heat was good still, and although I knew it wouldn’t be as ideal, I knew it’d be possible and I stayed optimistic.

     As race day came, I watched my training partners and teammates (Marcus, Patrick, and Talem) run great, they all ran 4:02-4:03. This added more assurance to my confidence. As the race came closer, my nerve level began to rise above normal pre-race feeling, I wanted this more than usual, I took a deep breath and set out on my warm-up.

     As the gun fired I took off hoping to assert myself in about 3rd place, I figured that would be best tactically for once the rabbit stepped off the track. I was right where I wanted to be through the first quarter, it felt fast but I was locked in as we came through in 59.xx. The next quarter was a crucial one, the athlete between me and first place was beginning to allow a gap to form, as the next straightaway came I knew I needed to bridge that gap in order to stay on pace (2:00.xx half mile split). 

     As the last half of the race was underway, I eyed the back of the Arizona State athlete sitting on the rabbit that had about a 5-10 meter gap. During this third quarter I was able to close that gap completely, I was sitting right on the heels of the leader as we approached the bell (3:01.xx). It was going to take a 58 second close, I felt strong— but no lie, it was hurting. I kept pumping my arms and driving my legs as I have done many times, I’ve never had a hard time digging and finding more; the mile is a race where you’re red-lining the entire time. My RPM’s topped off with about 150m to go, and I began to sputter. I was in second place and came off the final curve and watched the clock roll over 4 minutes (4:02.41).

     This stung, I felt like being so close meant that I am capable but made some error. The cool-down and rest of the night I treated myself as a punching bag… I wouldn’t advise doing this, my coach, my teammates, my family were amped— they thought watching me come so close was exciting and promising. I looked at my race through a negative lens— this attitude does not serve me. Since then I’ve reflected on the performance a bit more, I will take it as a steppingstone toward bigger things in the coming weeks. I am scary fit, and I’m going to act as if I am a sub-4 miler, and believe that I’m more than capable of that and much more. I still don’t know what the next race will be, but I know I’m headed to Iowa state to knock out a NCAA qualifier.

2019 BYU Indoor

The first race of 2019, a mile in the Smithfield house- a 5 lap to the mile track with nearly 100m straight aways and tight turns. This was probably my last race in the Smithfield house, and I can’t say that disappoints me. All jokes aside, It was nice to have a home crowd and I appreciate everyone who came and supported my teammates and I.

 

For those that don’t know, me racing shorter events will be a common theme of 2019 as far as the indoor and outdoor season are concerned. In the first month of post cross fitness building as I gear up for a long winter, spring, and hopefully summer of racing on ovals I have gone with an approach slightly out of my norm for the past 4 years. Traditionally I would hammer out some December miles, a few tempos and Fartlek style workouts and show up to school in January ready for some rust-busting track work. Call it unorthodox, or whatever you want.. but I’ve decided to mix in some light speed, to go with those tempos and aerobic based workouts in order to gear up for some middle distance racing in January and February.

I’ve always had an infatuation with 400m repeats, and really anything where I could spin my legs a little quicker, and in workouts that emphasize the speed side of our sport I’ve flourished in comparison to my aerobic heavy and “slow twitch” teammates (I know that training for the 3000m and the Mile isn’t fast-twitch). 

Anyways— this mile was a tired legs, early training cycle, high-altitude dress rehearsal for the real deal in 2 weeks. I went out hard and aggressive, I wanted to test the boundaries of my fitness and red-line this a little. Through 409m I was 61.xx, I followed that lap by coming through 809m in 2:02.xx, at this point in the race I actually felt decent, I decided to keep my foot on the gas and push the third 400m. 

I was alone at this point and thought my pace was remaining steady, as I came through the subsequent split coach yelled “3:05”! I was a little surprised to have ran a 63 on the previous lap but I still felt okay and tried again to dig and push myself even though I was alone. I closed that final lap in a similar pace running 4:08 and taking home the win leading the entire last 800m.

I was shooting for a couple seconds faster, but in reflection I’ll consider this “rust buster” a solid performance and I look forward to competing with some top level talent in another mile @ the Dempsey on January 26th. This will probably be my one and only legitimate shot of breaking 4 in my collegiate career, the thought of that excites me and I feel confident I’ll be ready.

Some of you reading this may question the decision to drop in distance, I’ve trained for the same events, and same races for my entire collegiate career. The thought of trying something new makes me excited and I feel like I’ve been stuck in a similar position for the last 18 months. Seems only logical to make some changes in order to improve.