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“To be perfectly honest, I forget about it every year…The kids on the team are usually the ones that are like ‘Hey! It was on this date.’ I’m like, ‘Really? Oh okay.’ I almost always forget about it. I told my wife that it would be kind of cool to go run a hard 10K. She was like, ‘You want to race? There are no races right now.’ No. Just go run a hard 10K on that day. It would be kind of cool. Beyond that, I don’t know if this is going to sound sad or not – I’ve kind of moved on.
One of the first statements I ever made was ‘I don’t want to be remembered for this race.’ Right after the race, I was like ‘I’m going to do enough beyond this race that I’m not going to be remembered for this. But, low and behold, I’m remembered for that race.
For me, my passion is still within running. It’s now all on, and I mean this wholeheartedly, getting the kids that I work with to experience excitement levels like that night, going under 13, winning the NCAA title or competing for a U.S. title or Olympic team. Those are the types of things that really motivate me now. It’s seeing that excitement level in the kids that I work with now. If I talk about that 10K that night or that day, it’s more anecdotal. It’s more of what I learned and what I went through. I’m trying to teach them and help them understand the nerve level I had that night – those kinds of things are normal if you’re competing for an SEC title, a national title or trying to run under 27 minutes or trying to run under 30 minutes. It’s the same. Nothing separates it other than just how fast you’re running.
Chris Solinsky joins the show as we approach the 10-year anniversary of his 10,000-meter American record run at the 2010 Payton Jordan Invitational, where he became the first non-African to break 27 minutes for the distance. It was his debut at the distance and he managed to break Meb Keflezighi’s previous record by 14 seconds. It’s one of the best races to re-watch.
In this episode, we’ll go through that race in detail but start in his hometown of Junction City, Wisconsin. Even as a high schooler in Stevens Point, he was building an engine within and started garnering that reputation as one of the hardest-working grinders in the sport.
We’ll also touch on:
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We’ve transcribed some of the best details that Chris shares from his re-telling of the 2010 Payton Jordan 10,000 meters:
How you felt before the race:
“Everything was easy. I always did a 35-minute run, five strides and two 200s at pace. That was my pre-meet the day before. I would always try to run pace on those two 200s. I thought I was running 33 seconds and I was running 28.X and 29s and just feeling like I was jogging. For whatever reason, I was like ‘Why is this so easy?’ and it scared me. Even the day before the shakeout, I’d always feel rickety and sore. It felt like I was floating. Any time I ever felt like that, it’s almost like I let my guard down with my mental preparation. Then the race would never go very well because I’m like, ‘I’m feeling good. This is going to be a great one.’ If I ever felt pain when I thought it was supposed to be great, I’d be like, ‘What the heck? This isn’t supposed to be happening.’ I don’t know if I did a better job that day or it finally clicked where it felt good and went well. It was one of those where everything was just clicking on all cylinders that day and that weekend.”
The race was billed as Galen Rupp’s American record attempt so what was his gameplay with coach Jerry Schumacher ahead of the race
“Jerry and I, early into us working together, we realized – that for me at least– it was important to not be caught up on times. Because any time I pursued a time, I’d fall short. Thinking about whatever race we run, it was about trying to figure out a way to win. Sometimes you’re going to win and sometimes you’re not. At least go into it with a gameplan of how do we go about trying to win. So regardless of what the pace was, it was just that same mentality. Especially having some familiarity with Galen and racing him a bunch before that – recognizing some of the other names like Alistair Cragg, Brent Vaughn…There was familiarity and even though the pace was hot, we were thinking, ‘If these guys can do it, we can do it too.'”
So you ever saw yourself as a party crasher
“I just looked at it as most of the time that people are going to go after a record, they’re going to fall short anyway. I remember I sent an email. I had an email chain keeping people in touch when I’d travel out to Europe and stuff. I sent a message out the day before saying something like ‘Hey! They’re talking about an American record. It’s probably not going to happen. If you want to watch here, I’m fit. I’m ready to go. Who knows, maybe I’ll get an American record.’ That was it….My mission is to come here and get a W.”
The famous pre-race meal. You said that you ate pasta at a restaurant and then treated yourself to a Coldstone Creamery “Gotta Have It”. And then, finished off the night with pizza (about six or seven slices) on a walk to the hotel room.
“I never worried about what I ate the night before – especially at Stanford because the races are so late. Whatever I ate that night would be through me by tomorrow. As a coach, I wouldn’t say that now. I’m sure Jerry would be mortified to find out what I actually had eaten. Never once did I think I was ruining my chance at a good race.”
What were your nerves like before the race
“It’s going to sound really vain but every time I raced, I just didn’t want to embarrass myself. I was the kind of person that when I raced, I kind of threw caution to the wind. I always put myself with the front pack. I you ever saw me fall off then that meant I was done. I was cooked. For me, the nerves were I just hope I don’t go in and embarrass myself. I hope I can do what I think I can do. That’s always been the source of my nerves. I hope I can perform. I hope I can excuse and represent where I’m at.”
‘With a mile to go, I knew I had it in me to beat him’ How sure were you?
I remember I was literally licking my lips. I had a cramp from about 5K to around that time – whether it was four, five or six laps to go. When the cramp went away, I actually had adrenaline. At that point, I was like ‘Yep. I feel really good. I’m not bogged down by a cramp.’ Obviously Galen is a good athlete and I knew that he was going to put up a fight. I remember feeling pretty spunky.
The cues of getting up on Galen’s shoulder and the messaging with Jerry
“Usually what we always used to do was we talked race plan the night before. The day of, we’d be like ‘Are we good on race plan? Are we still good with it after a night’s sleep.’ That’s when I was like I still feel good. You’ll know if I’m feeling good. Usually, I’d follow his race plan but we always had the understanding that the gun goes off and I’d be in the race and I was the one making the calls. It’s kind of like a quarterback being able to see certain coverages a little bit better than the coach on the sideline. I had that freedom to make adjustments and make calls. I wasn’t even convinced that’s how good I was going to be feeling but when we got there and I didn’t feel as tired as Simon (Bairu) said I was going to feel, I was pretty fired up.”
The move to pass Galen and kicking from far out
“That was something that I developed as my MO from about midway through college on, where that was because of a lack of confidence I had a great kick. I was always somebody that if I left it too late then I’d get outkicked. I developed being willing to make a long drive out. So that was just me being in what I had confidence in-type of move. In the footage, I remember being more surprised hearing ’60’ for my second-to-last lap and thinking, ‘There’s no way that was a 60.’ At that point, I was just trying to see how fast I could go for the last lap. Basically, I was trying to see how fast I could run (for the last lap) because I knew I had speed but we were in the midst of training. I didn’t know where it was and what it translated to.”
The high from that race. How long did it last?
To be honest, not very long. It was maybe the next day or the day after. We went for a run the next day. I didn’t workout until mid-next week. My focus was very firmly on 5Ks. I got in that fitness trying to get ready for 5Ks. For me, that the priority. Now I get to do the event that I love. If you asked me, before, after and during, I would never claim to be a 10K runner. It was always the 5K. That was my passion project. At the end of my career, after surgery and all that stuff, if I could do it all over again, it would be staying true to what I loved and that was on the track doing 5Ks. If I could do it all over again, I would stick with not trying to go back and forth between the track and marathon. It would be sticking to the track and focusing on the 5K.
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