When someone asks you how you did at last weekends Stanford invitational, you tell them your time. Placing is unimportant.
When someone asks you how you did at last weekends National championship, you tell them your place. Time is unimportant.
Two different kinds of racing.
I was going to write a blog post about the wild tactics at play at nationals last weekend, but then came across a lenghty discussion about it on the Trackie.com message boards. So to sum it up, here’s both sides of the argument, and my short opinion on the matter. (Incase you missed it, context: The 1500m was won in 4:06 after crawling through the first 800m in 2:28. The winner, Thomas Riva, ran his last 400m in 52.0. I finished in 4th less than 1 second behind.)
Side 1: “Getting hung up on the time is like watching a chess match and getting worked up about how many moves it took to achieve checkmate”- ahutch.
I respect anything written by ahutch (Alex Hutchinson), appreciate whenever he takes the time to contribute to the forums, and completely agree with the analogy used here. When a championship title is on the line, the time is completely irrelevant. The difference in running 3:46, 3:56, or 4:06 is largely unimportant.
Side 2: “Seriously, what good does it do any of our guys trying to run a fast last lap off that slow of a pace? What race are you trying to prepare for with an effort like that?”- mattnormington
Matt, I appreciate and understand where you’re coming from with this mentality. Running fast times and improving on personal bests is, in essence, any track athletes main ambition. However, setting personal records, and championship racing are often mutually exclusive events, especially when you’re competing at a high level. In a championship race, my sole concern is running a tactically sound race to achieve the highest placing possible. Based on how I’m trained, what my strengths are, and the quality of the competition, I decided there was no benefit to me leading on that day.
What makes the 1500m so interesting is that, in general, the runner with the fastest PB will win the race, regardless of the finishing time. While there’s no way to prove this, I’d be willing to bet that with a few exceptions, the finishing order would have been extremely similar had the race been a fast one. While you might think that a race that tactical in nature might favor those with the fastest flat out 200m or 400m speeds, the results were essentially very similar to if you had just listed the competitors by season’s best time. Below are the athletes listed by season’s best, followed by how many spots different they were in the championship final.
1. Brannen 3:37.6 +4
2. Chuck 3:38.3 0
3. Levins(i) 3:38 +3
4. Riva 3:39.4 -3
5. Rae 3:39.9 -1
6. Kent 3:41.0 +1
7. Gorman 3:41.95 -4
8. Darlington 3:42.53 -2
9. Falk 3:42.62 0
10. Wilkie 3:44.28 +1
11. Morin 3:45.40 -2
12. Lapointe 3:46.50 0
To me, this shows that the extreme tactical nature of the race might have only had an effect on 4/12 athletes in the field. Brannen and Levins suffered from the slow pace, while Riva and Gorman used it to their advantage. However, the greatest deviation was still only 4 spots, which to me doesn’t signify a huge anomaly in the results based on the slow overall time. In my opinion, positioning going into the bell lap has the greatest influence on outcome, regardless of low long it took the athletes to get to that point (Riva and Gorman were in an excellent position with 400m to go, Brannen was not. That leaves Levins as the only athlete who, in my opinion, was truly influenced by the slow start).
Anyways, I’m not too upset with the outcome. My goal was to sneak into the top 3, and I knew that to do so would require me beating someone very good in the likes of Brannen, CPT, or Levins (honestly, I hadn’t even considered Riva as a threat until we were still jogging at the 800m mark. At that point, I knew that someone who’s just as fast as me over 1500m, even faster over 800m, and in a better position with 400m to go, was going to have an advantage). Therefore, the end result (4th) was what I would call a “good but not great finish” on my part.
I’m still hungry and excited about what lies ahead this season. While in past years I would get to June and July exhausted after a lengthy NCAA season, I feel like I’m getting sharper and faster every week. I’m writing this while I’m on the train from Amsterdam to Leuven, Belgium, where i’ll be based for the next 4 weeks as I chase fast times.
My rough schedule for the next 4 weeks is as follows:
Kortrich 1500m July 11th
Liege 800m (maybe) July 15th
Heusden 1500m July 18th
Morton 3000m/mile July 24th
Ninove 1500m August 1st