With the bar being set high by the guys in London, the pressure was on for the second day of the masters outdoor nationals in Lisle, IL. With Mo and Galen still having additional Olympic events to run, I didn’t want them to have all the pressure in the world to score more hardware for Team HydroWorx – I was bound and determined to try to do my part to add to Saturday’s silver medal. Going into Sunday, I was left with the 1500m and the 4x800m relay. While the field for the 1500m again included 800m winner Scott Weeks, I gave myself a better chance in the longer distance. As for the relay, I knew it was going to be tough but sometimes crazy things happen when you get the baton in your hand…
I felt pretty good in the morning, and after getting out to the track and declaring my intention to run I got in a warmup with Lance Elliott, Francis Burnett, Scott Weeks, and Kevin Forde. I could tell I didn’t have the fresh ‘edge’ that you have coming in to a meet fresh, but sometimes that can work in your favor. Yada, yada, yada, they eventually called us to the line where I was placed on the inside as the top seed (meaning I had made up a seed time faster than all the other entrants – what was I thinking?!?).
My plan was to run something close to 66 second laps in a last-ditch effort to either duplicate my time from last years race (4:04), or if I found some untapped source of superhuman finishing strength I might just be in a position to challenge the ever-elusive 4:00 mark. I led from the gun, and took everyone through the first 400m right at 66 secs. I was laboring at that point though, so when I pulled up just a little bit I was able to pass the lead to Weeks. I latched on to him as he went by and tried to regroup – fortunately for me (but not for my hopes of a good time), he opted to slow the pace down just a little bit. Think we went through the 800m mark in 2:15, and the 1200m split in 2:23. I was able to settle down at the new pace though, and got comfortable right behind him. I was patient over the last 300m, trying to tell myself to wait a little longer than usual before making my move, but at the same time I was ready to go if Lance (who was a close 3rd) tried to jump both of us. I definitely felt like I had some gas still left in the tank, so when I went with about 75 meters to go I tried to make as definitive of a move as I could. I never really got a challenging response from Scott, and was able to break the tape in 4:09.5. Not a time for the ages, but a semi-unexpected gold medal in a year where I have not taken any of them for granted.
We all cooled down together, then started transforming our bond from friendly rivals to teammates with a collective goal. Charlie Kern eventually joined us as we prepared for the 4×800. We established the order as Kern, Berra, Elliot, and Weeks – six of one, half-dozen of the other – it’s not like we were going to have any competition, so there wasn’t a whole lot of strategy involved in the decision. Everyone was going to have to run a PR-level time in a time-trial setting for our goal to be met, so it was just a matter of going out there and giving it our all.
We were put on the line with about 6 other teams, some with members over 70 years old. Charlie took the first leg out, and actually lapped one of the competitors at the 650m mark – not the type competition you would traditionally line up for a record run, but there wasn’t much we could do about it. Charlie split around 2:01.5 – probably a little slower than he was hoping for, but after yesterday’s brutally hot 10,000m effort I’m sure he (like the rest of us) was feeling some residual effects. I tried to take it out a little harder than I did in yesterday’s race, and saw 2:58/2:59 on the scoreboard clock as I crossed the start/finish line – pretty aggressive considering what I had been running all season, especially coming off the earlier races and since I was running alone. I tried to relax on the backstretch without backing it off too much, then just grinded the last 100m before desperately getting the baton out of my hands to Lance. Think I saw him off and running before the clock struck 4:00, so I thought maybe we were back on track. Lance was also beat after his two earlier races, and both he (2:03) and Scott (2:00) weren’t quite able to muster splits they surely could have done if fresh. I think I ended up with around 1:57.8, which was a nice consolation prize to take away from the event. We ended up with a very respectable (on any other day) 8:03.17, beating the second-place team by a mere 2:46.20….
To top the busy day off, I ended up jumping in the Greater Philadelphia 4x400m relay about 45 minutes later. The team only had 4 members on hand to run the relay, and when one of them got hurt they were left high and dry. I volunteered to help them field a full team, but told them not to expect much. They got what I promised them – probably something just north of 60 seconds, but at least I provided them with an able body (debatable) in order to run and I think we actually won a bronze….
All in all a pretty good day. Winning another national gold medal was an unexpected surprise, and although the relay didn’t work out in our favor I think we all had fun getting up for it and I was happy with my leg. Counting the relays, 2 golds, 1 silver, and a bronze. To the fellows across the pond – I can only do so much, it’s time to quit resting on your laurels and get back out there and win another one for the ‘team’.