Borscht – Food of Champions

Going all Eastern-Bloc for this one...

Going all Eastern-Bloc for this one…

Not to get ahead of myself, but after arriving in Hungary this evening I settled in for a bowl of borscht to begin the acclimation process.  I know a bit about Mihály Iglói, old school Hungarian distance coach, and while most people think he was one of the founders of interval training, it is a lesser known fact that he also invented borscht.  No joke.  So I figured if it worked for Mihály there’s no reason to believe it won’t work for me.  Not only does it make you faster, but it tasted pretty damn good too…

Mini-recap of Trackation ’14 Part I – Boston.  Indoor nationals last weekend, was entered for the 4/mile/8 triple.  Was favored in the 800 and mile, but was the 5th seed in the 400m.  I was fine with that, and was actually more excited for that race than the others – I hadn’t run what I would consider a complete quarter yet, and was savoring my underdog role.  My previous two efforts (Bucknell, Millrose) were both way to comfortable, and I really thought I had some time to drop if I ran a full, hard 400.  With a stacked heat (5th seed with 53.17) I knew I would be chasing guys from the gun, which was my plan – stay close, then hope to finish hard as they were tying up.  Who knows, maybe I could pull an upset…

Well, I got the “chasing from the gun” part right at least.  Turns out there’s a big difference between sprinters and milers – more than just them using blocks and me just standing on the line.  I was right were I wanted to be (according to my plan) at the 200m and 300m marks, I had just underestimated the amount of effort it took me to be there.  I was almost all-out from the start just to keep up with them, and when they started petering out off the last turn I was cooked as well.  We all survived to the line, I passed one and got passed by one, but could never close on leader Andrew Junas, who won in a strong 51.97.  I finished 3rd in 52.37 – not a bad time, but in hindsight I think my plan took me away from what I do best, and played right into the hands of the rest of the field.  I don’t know if I could have gone faster, or placed any higher, but I would have loved to have a mulligan and tried it a different way.  I would have run my kind of race – instead of blindly chasing them regardless of the pace, I would have pushed the first 200m just a little more than in Bucknell/NYC, remaining in control, then hopefully have been in a position to close at the end instead of just holding my ground along with the rest of the field.  Maybe if I had smelled blood in the water (and not mine) I could have found another gear.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda.  Another day I suppose…

Saturday’s race was the 1500m, and while I was worried that I would be feeling the effects of the previous day’s sprint I actually didn’t feel too bad warming up.  I had no intentions of trying to run any sort of spectacular time, but was aware of a couple of quality guys that would capable of taking advantage of any slip up I might make.  I took the lead from the beginning but didn’t fool around – about 2:16 through 800m, which opened up about a 10m lead.  Stuck with that pace, and although Landon Summay and Kristian Blaich closed a bit dueling for second I held on for the victory in 4:34.03.  I was happy to get one in the win column and to live to fight another day…

Sunday was the 800m, and again I knew that I would be the favorite.  I still felt pretty good despite the two previous races, so there were no excuses.  Plan was about the same as in the 1500m – set a decent pace to avoid anything crazy happening, then hopefully be able to answer any challenges that would come from anyone who could handle the pace.  First 3 laps right at about 30+ seconds, felt very comfortable.  I could sense someone was still hanging on (Summay), so I aired it out a little bit on the last lap, finishing strong in 1:59.26 and winning another gold.  Two golds out of three, can’t complain at all…

Track meet aside, another great visit to Boston with the whoooooole family.  My mother couldn’t handle not being listed as a “supporter” after my record-breaking run, so she had her “support” in high gear the whole weekend to show me a thing or two – great work mom, can still hear you down on the “field” just like the old days.  Parents, wife, kids – the whole Berra clan made the trip and had a fun time together.  Always great to have them accompany me, even if the highlight of my youngest’s weekend was inventing new texting abbreviations – KIB (Kate is bored), KIH (Kate is hungry), WITMEGTBO (when is this meet ever going to be over)….

Weights and a pool run on Monday, and another lift and 5 easy on the roads on Tuesday.  Don’t know if it was a delayed-onset soreness from the meet, or the legs not appreciating the weight-work after all the racing, but got a little sore as the week progressed.  Took Wednesday off completely, then easy on Thursday and Friday.  Jumped on the FedEx flight out of Harrisburg Friday night, flew Harrisburg-Memphis-London overnight and into the next day to start Trackation ’14 Part II – Budapest.  Upon arriving in the UK I took English masters ace Bernadine Pritchett up on her January (Hartshorne) offer to put me up for the night at her place in Chingford, so I had a nice visit with her Saturday evening, then a cool run through “the forest” with her before she got me on the Tube to head down to Heathrow this morning for the last leg of my Hungarian journey.  London-Budapest this afternoon, got here without any issues.  Checked in to the hotel, grabbed some borscht, and now to bed to try to catch up to the time zone changes before the quarterfinal heats of the 800m Tuesday evening.  Will hopefully check out the venue tomorrow and get a feel for what this week will hold in store – five races in six days, I will probably be one of the favorites again so I’ll have to figure out how the trials will work and how to get the most “bang” for my energy “buck”.  Looking forward to racing a whole new crew of guys though, and who knows, if all the stars line up in my favor maybe I can redeem myself from my last international race.  Waiter – more borscht please!!!


About Nick Berra

I am a 45 year old masters runner from Central Pennsylvania. I have been participating primarily in track events since turning 40 in 2009. This season has produced marks that I have not run in several years, I believe primarily due to starting a strength and flexibility program here at Elite Athletic Performance - I've felt stronger and faster than I have in a long time. That, coupled with lots of underwater running, has kept me healthy and fit - at this age those are things I no longer take for granted... I run USATF events with a team out of Philadelphia, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club. They are a great group who have played a big part in making the sport enjoyable for me again. I also run local races for HydroWorx Track Club, supported by HydroWorx here in Harrisburg PA. Their underwater treadmills and training center has proved to be a crucial part of my training, rehabilitation, and recovery programs. I set personal records in the 800m (1:56.06) in 2010 and in the 1500m (4:02:63) and mile (4:23.48) in 2011. Despite the fact that I am not getting any younger, I nearly PR'ed recently and set the M45 indoor world record in the 800 meters at the New Balance Armory in New York City. I ran 1:56.10, besting the 9 year old record by less than a second. I feel like there are still more big things to come... I am married and have two daughters. I am an assistant XC coach at my alma mater, Cumberland Valley High School here in Mechanicsburg PA. I am also a 1991 graduate of the US Naval Academy, currently working as a pilot for FedEx after serving 10 years on active duty flying in the Navy. Beat Army! Beat Army!
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