Luke Traynor took 63 seconds off his 10000 PB at the Stanford Invitational Meeting in California. Great job as they say in the USA.
Well done to Luke from everyone at the club !
While we await more news from Neil Gourley,our other American connection, we are posting this Report from the start of his Indoor Season with his sub4 minute mile success [ possibly only the Junior Endurance athletes have seen it]
“Thought an update to my indoor season was overdue. I wrote this just over a week ago but a busy class/exam schedule meant I’ve only just gotten around to posting. Apologies! I’ll also try to share some of my experience of the Scottish National Cross Country Championships tomorrow. Cheers for now!
This year started with a bit of fun in the form of the 4x1km international mixed cross country relay race that was staged at the beginning of January in Holyrood. Despite being a bit of a ‘fun’ event it did serve as a pretty good opportunity to rub shoulders with a few of the best middle distance athletes in Europe. Pieter Jan Hannes and Charlie Grice are two guys which I was able to race against that have 3:35 1500m credentials. Any time you race athletes far more experienced than you it’s an opportunity to learn. However neither of these two exactly taught me a lesson. Instead, on my leg, I was thoroughly schooled by a guy who I had an unbeaten record against in 2015. Cameron Boyek, to his credit, justified his selection for the Scotland A team by being decisive in a race that definitely favoured those who don’t hesitate. He took the initiative on a testing course and stole a march on the entire field in a somewhat technical section of the muddy course. While Boyek made his timely move I was left in the back of the field having been naïve enough to relinquish the inside line to an English athlete that was far more assertive than I. We both had the same right to that line but I was pathetically soft and let him go. These sorts of mistakes while not as ‘high stakes’ in a cross country relay in January are the sorts of mistakes that leave athletes out of 1500m finals routinely and it’s something I’m determined to put right this year. Being ruthless in holding a prime position is so important in high level 1500m running that it was added to firmly to my New Year’s resolutions. While I had a good 2015 it could have been a great 2015 if I’d just been in striking distance of the leader in a few of the important races I had. As for the result in this particular leg of the race, without closing the last 200m at any different rate than Boyek, I would end up 5th and Boyek 1st. Go figure Neil.
The very next day after this race is was back to the USA and back to work with the NCAA indoor season looming large. Training was feeling smooth and 2 weeks later I was ready to open up my season in the form of a 1k race on our home track. However, Frosty the Snowman had other ideas and after an entire foot of the white stuff lay on the ground the meet was cancelled for travel concerns. So, race number one wasn’t to be but we weren’t exactly defeated by this. Our coach organised some time trials instead and I’d still run a 1k with some teammates. We were paced through 1k in 1:26 and I then took on the duties at the front and felt good enough to close in 54 seconds turning out a pretty surprising 2:21.5 clocking. Considering the NCAA record is 2:18 and I’d just time trialed an only semi-serious 1k to within 3 seconds of that I was feeling pretty optimistic about the shape I was in. I’d also managed to pull round my teammates, Grant and Michael, to 2:22 clockings. Which coincidentally for them would have qualified them for the Team USA world indoor trials in the 800m. Because it wasn’t a legitimate meet, however, they would not actually qualify and I wouldn’t officially lower the school record that still stands at 2:21.9.
Next weekend I would have a brilliant opportunity in the form of a meet in North Carolina that had attracted none other than 2x world medalist in the 1500m, Matt Centrowitz. I’d be lining up with him and a select few other professionals in a field of milers which I genuinely felt I was able to challenge for the win in. I wasn’t scared of these guys at all because of the shape I knew I was in. However, unfortunate circumstances meant that I wouldn’t get this great opportunity to be pulled round to a big mile PB.
I was supposed to race at 4pm and at about noon my teammate/assistant coach, Grant, came in to my hotel room and told a few of us that we’d been told by my coach’s superior, Chris Helms, that we wouldn’t be racing today because of an incident in Blacksburg.
The very next weekend was a weekend that I wasn’t supposed to be racing, but because we’d abandoned our racing plans the week before, we decided to set up a fast mile paced by Grant.
I went in to the race with a lot of determination to give our team something to cheer for. Given that I was running a mile and was yet to break that famous barrier, only a sub 4 would suffice. Some of the excitement got to Grant, my pacer, and we got out a little fast (57 through the first 400) which felt okay at the time but I definitely paid for it in the last 200 which felt closer to 30 years than 30 seconds. I was engulfed in pain and on my own on in the last straight and struggling to maintain my form. The supporters and teammates banging on the track and willing me on kept me upright though. I remember crossing the line and expecting to see too many zeros. But after a few long seconds of waiting to see the clock on the big screen I saw 3:59.58. I could hardly celebrate because of how painful that last lap was. I was just relieved I’d done it and not let people down that had come out to support me and the rest of the team. I want to say that after that I had a special moment of celebration with my coach or my team but unfortunately that wasn’t quite the case. I was heaving up my lunch for the next half hour! I’d really had to work for that one.
That was last weekend. This weekend saw our team in Ames, Iowa for the Iowa State Classic where not one but two of GNAAC’s finest exports would be shooting for fast times. Luke ran a high quality 3k PB of 8:14, but I’m sure he’d agree that he was hoping for more given his form over the cross country scene this winter. Luke finished in the top 40 in the NCAA cross country championships in November which many people say is the deepest distance race in the world. Finishing in the top 40 means you garner ‘All-American’ status which may not mean a lot at home but it is a pretty huge deal on this side of the pond. Being able to say you’re an all-American carries plenty of weight and bragging rights. To give some perspective to that I had a solid cross country season and finished about 160th!
This weekend in Iowa, I was also left wanting more after running 3:59.66. Another sub 4 clocking, but just not quite what I was looking for. I probably needed to have run 3:57 or 3:58 to qualify for the NCAA championships. Only the top 16 times in the country will advance to NCAAs and I thought I was more than capable of doing that this weekend. I executed my race pretty well on the whole but didn’t kick as hard as I should have in the last 300 and came up second in the race and with a time that won’t be good enough by the end of the season for NCAA qualification. This is, though, a testament to the incredible depth that you can now see in the NCAA. People running 3:58 in the mile may not even qualify for the national championships!
Next up will be my conference championships in a couple of weeks’ time in Boston. My conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, is extremely competitive and we have a shot at winning the title as a track and field team so that’s the focus for now. I’ll be running on the mile leg of the DMR (a relay with legs consisting of 1200, 400, 800 and 1600m) and in the 800m.
Update: I had a busy week last week and didn’t get around to editing this post. Sorry about that! As a further update, one week later my team ran a DMR at a small meet in North Carolina to try to make it to the NCAA Championships. We managed to run a time that right now is ranked 11th in the nation which may or may not be good enough to make it to the championships in March. The top 12 teams in the country qualify automatically, but there is one weekend left for teams to better that time. I split 1:48.8 on the 800m leg on what was a 200m flat track and if you use the NCAA’s conversion chart, that is worth about 1:47.3 on a regular banked track. I’m pretty confident with where my speed is right now but I wasn’t even expecting to have a split quite that fast. It bodes well for an important summer coming up!