The Setting: USA 10,000m on the track, Sacramento, CA. Extreme heat moved the race back one hour to try and let conditions be a little less dangerous. The women’s race was before the men and I grabbed little glimpses of the race as I waited in the call room. The women’s race was out fast and stayed that way. It had a lot of carnage on the track, and in the end, I watched Steph snag a respectable 8th place! Honestly, the way her race went meant less emotional energy before I had to run. Since her race had gone out hard she was off the leaders by 5k. Steph is a dreamer and I, a bit more of a realist so I knew she wasn’t going to make the World Team. I still yelled at her to go hard and fight for every position, but in the end I knew she was fighting for the less meaningful spots. Looking back I kind of wished she was in a fight for a top spot, not only for her but maybe to jolt a little extra adrenaline into me. It wasn’t more than a few months earlier that I watched her run a big PR of 31:59 moments before I stepped on the track to run my own 10,000m PR of 28:09.

Anyways, the men’s 10,000m is on the track and my coach, Ben Rosario, told me not to lead. This was apparently something every other coach had said to their athletes. As a result the early laps were very… let’s say… tactical. We came through the mile at around 5:10 (32min+ 10k pace), about four minutes slower than the qualifying time it took to make it to USAs. It was a slow start that eventually turned into a very exciting race, from what I was told (as I spent the race hanging on). After the pace remained painfully slow for five of the twenty five laps, the surges began! It was a wild ride of back and forth attacks from different competitors and after all was said and done, I staggered home in 15th place. I immediately headed for the recovery tent and poured as much cold water on me as I could. I remember feeling so disappointed which was followed by feeling so dang hot! It’s interesting in those situations, the people who have run well seem immune to the elements, while the runners who have struggled grasp for whatever will make them feel better. I have been on both sides many times, example, finishing second at the 2010 USA Steeple Final in Des Moines, IA in even worse heat. The fact that I had a good day and finished second in the country felt awesome, so while many guys in the race buried their face in an ice cooler and tried to drink as much as they could, I smiled, did interviews, celebrated with the winner and eventually realized I was thirsty once the excitement died down. This was not the case this year in Sacramento. I walked through the media mix zone with zero request for interview, walked around the back of the grandstands, eventually to the warm-up area, all solo. I regrouped with my wife Steph, fellow NAZ Elite teammate Futsum and we all jogged a mile in about ten minutes feeling sorry for ourselves. Afterwards, Steph and I headed for some food, but with the race being so late at night, not much was open. So we headed back to the Air-BNB and sat in the kitchen for a little while, ate what we could find and headed to sleep. It was the type of sleep that never comes easy to me after a night race. For me the worse part of a bad race leading into a planned break from running is you end on a low note. You don’t get the race a week later, the workout to remind yourself you’re fit, or simply the easy ten miler the next day to let the thoughts go.

Heather McWhirter

So what did I do? I told myself it was all a part of the process, that the plan for the coming Fall was to put together a great marathon. With the marathon you only get one chance after months of training. So I had to let this track season go, take a break, mentally and physically, and then get ready for a solid block of training. For the first time in a long time I didn’t run a step in a week. Usually even if coach gives me a complete break, I get out and jog fifteen to twenty minutes a couple of times to give my body some movement. But this time I didn’t. I had some fun, did a little yard work, ate poorly and took a little trip with the family. Then it was one week of easy running four to six miles every other day. Nothing fancy, nothing exciting. I didn’t feel great during the week, but didn’t think much of it. Returning to running from a week completely off, plus an emotional let down after a big race, does not always come easily.

My stomach was uncomfortable right at the belt line. Little pains happen to me all the time after a break, nothing to worry about, it will work itself out once I get in a few more runs… (to be continued)