This track season has flown by in a hurry. After running 8:29 in mid-May I was left in an unfortunate situation of being just 1 second shy of the World Championship Standard, forcing me to continue to chase the standard in hopes of hitting it prior to the Canadian Championships on July 3rd. As a result, I ended up racing 3 times in 2 weeks, each race a bit more desperate than the last.
My first attempt in my chase for the standard was at the The Speed River Inferno in Guelph, Ontario. This shaped up to be a great race, with a number of entries having season’s bests better than my own and a couple of other guys in the race who were also looking for the standard. Unfortunately the weather failed to cooperate. Rainy and windy, the pack didn’t seem interested in running fast. I didn’t want to waste an opportunity so I took over the race after 800m and ran out front alone for much of the race. With a lap to go I was finally caught by the pack and a couple of guys went past me. I managed to regroup and pull together a solid last 150 to move up and take 2nd place for an 8:36.
My next attempt was at the Harry Jerome Track Classic a week later in my home town of Vancouver. My coach and I felt this would be another good opportunity, as I wouldn’t need to travel and we could control many of the variables. The weather, albeit hot for Vancouver, we great and my teammate Jacob Smith flew out from Guelph to help with pacing duties. (Thanks Jacob!) Jacob had us close to standard pace through 4 laps when pulled off leaving me to take on the pace myself. I still felt really good at thsis point and continued to push. With about 600 to go I began fading and Taylor Milne and an american went past me. I tried to fight for it but it wasn’t enough and I crossed the line in 8:32. So close!
On June 14th still without the standard and with my options limited I headed down to Portland for the Portland Track Festival. I knew going in that the competition would likely be weak. Many of the Americans had already got their standard for worlds and the NCAA championships were being held that same weekend down the road in Eugene. I felt that I had no choice. If I wanted to go to Beijing in August, I had to try. Ryan Brockerville having just run the 1500m only 45 minutes earlier stepped up big time and offered to pace me. Ryan did a great job (Thanks man!) bringing me through a mile right on pace. When I took over I still felt strong. I maintained the pace and could feel the standard within my reach. With 700 meters to go I began to fade, but hoped that I had enough time in the bag. With 400 to go I realized it would take something special to hit the time and I knew my legs didn’t have it in them. I continued to push the next 300m but when I entered the homestretch for the final time I could see the clock, time was not on my side. I shut it down the last 100m and crossed the line in 8:40. Total bummer.
I was tired and demoralized. Chasing standards will do that to you. And, while the window for hitting standard remained open through Nationals, Nationals was to take place in Edmonton, at 2,100ft above sea level and, without anyone else in the race also chasing standard I knew the likelihood of running under 8:28 at nationals to be highly improbable. I had to face the reality that I was likely not heading to Beijing this summer. This crushed me. My goal this year was not just to make it to Beijing, but to make the finals.
I will say that despite being left off the team this summer for Beijing, the team we are sending has got to be one of our best ever. It’s a testament to how strong of an event the steeplechase has become in Canada with 4 of the top 10 Canadians of all time being active right now and one of them (Matt Hughes) is our national record holder. This depth is great to see and it pushes us all to be even better!
With a 4th place finish at nationals I am now looking forward to heading over to Europe to get into a couple of faster races with hopes of knocking off the Olympic standard for next summer. The goal… sub 8:28! My first race will likely be in Heusden on July 18th. I will try and keep you all posted!