Monday, December 17, 2012

Heather Kampf Talks About 2012, Plans for 2013-2016

Photo courtesy of ASICS
Heather Kampf's 2012 running season was "bookended" by US Championships.  In May she won the USATF Road Mile title in Minneapolis and in December she was part of the Team USA Minnesota team that won the USATF Club Championship title in Lexington, KY.  Here she talks about  her road mile success, the Olympic Trials, the Club Champs, and her goals for 2013 and 2016.

Down the Backstretch: You were the Road Mile “Queen” this year.  Was that something that just evolved as you continued to win or was the plan going into the year to focus on those events?

Heather Kampf:  Oh gosh, that term is certainly not one I made up for myself, but I guess it's nice to be called the "Queen" of anything! It's funny, my coach even was answering my calls this fall by saying, "Your Highness..." 

But to answer your question, no, this wasn't necessarily the plan going into the year. The primary focus was obviously the Olympic Trials, and when I didn't make the team, I initially thought I'd try to go out for another European racing tour, but with the Games taking place mid-summer, there didn't seem to be enough races to get in either prior or immediately after the Olympics. Instead, I just started expressing interest in every road mile I could find in the US. 

Obviously I felt I had something to prove/defend after winning the US Road Mile Champs this spring, but really I think that each success built more momentum and confidence for me for the next. It was a fun way to spend the late summer fall, and was really excited to end it all with a new personal best road mile time of 4:27 in New York.

DtB:  You jumped into a cross country race—the Club Champs.  That’s a departure from your post collegiate routine.  Did something change that resulted in racing cross country, one it just a “one-off” for the team, or will it be part of your yearly cycle in the future?

HK: Honestly, I think I was just hosting some teammates at my house for dinner awhile back, and they mentioned they wanted to run Club Cross, but needed one more for a team. Of course I said I would do it! In the fall, most of our training is more like cross country training anyway, so it fits right into the basic plan to race a 6K at this time of year. I would be happy to make this part of my annual schedule, though I have to say, in hindsight, it was tougher than I remember it feeling!! 

DtB:  You achieved a lot of recognition for your fall and recovery during the indoor season when you were a Gopher.  Now you had another fall that ended with a team title.  Seems like a hard road to success. What happened that led to the fall at the USATF Club Champs?  Where in the race was it?  What caused the fall?  What went through your mind when it happened?  How did your teammates react? Or didn’t they see you until the end of the race with a mud coating?

HK: Well, I think I probably got out a little bit too fast in this race, so even before the first mile (in 5:14), I was battling some side-aches on both sides. The fall itself took place just before the 2-mile mark, about halfway through the race. 

As far as I can remember, I hit something on the ground while I was taking a muddy corner, and just slid rather than catching myself. I'm sure I was hunched over due to the side-aches so my center of gravity was probably off a little bit. Honestly, I kind of just thought, 'oh great...', got up pretty quick, and kept running. I already felt as if I were way behind where I wanted to be in the race, so it was just one more thing. 

The mud was pretty soft, so it wasn't a painful fall by any means, but to add insult to injury, I caught a bug in the eye immediately after the fall, but had too much mud caked on my hands to do anything about it.  Not long after I fell, I heard someone yell to me, "Your team has four in the top ten! Keep it up!" I was really worried I was ruining our chances for the team title, but obviously knew I needed to keep running in order for us to have any chance of scoring as a team of 5. 

My teammates were well ahead, but they all responded kindly to my less than stellar race. I kept apologizing, but they kept telling me it was fine, and that they wouldn't have had a team at all if I didn't come. They're some pretty awesome teammates!

DtB:  Did the team think the team championship was a realistic goal going into the event?  Was there a pre-race strategy/plan?

HK: Yes, we went in with that goal in mind. We thought it was realistic, and were aware of who our biggest competition was. There wasn't a specific plan, but since the course was slick, we were told just get out well because people weren't changing positions in the race much after the first mile. I was the exception to that rule, unfortunately!

DtB:  When did you find out the team won the championship? How did everyone react?

HK: We looked at the individual results during our cool-down and as far as we could calculate, we believed we had pulled it off. We didn't want to say it for sure until we saw it on paper though! When results came through we were all by the team van changing after our cool downs, I think I exuberantly called out: "YES! I didn't suck enough to ruin it for everyone!" 

It was quite the relief. I know that my race wasn't absolutely horrible, but it certainly wasn't up to what I was hoping to do, nor was it near the caliber of my teammates that deserve this win. I kind of feel as though I was just lucky enough to associate myself with these women. Everybody hugged and were happy, and I think we were especially pumped for the girls who will be competing in Scotland in January---Meghan, Ladia, and Jamie.

DtB:  What are the plans for track season?  Will you run indoors, if so any specific plans for races or goals?

HK: So far, I'm planning to start my 2013 track season with, drum roll please, a road mile! There's one in Bermuda on the 18th that would be great to try. I want to try to do at least one good competitive indoor track mile, hopefully at the New Balance Indoor Games which always brings a good field of women. My goal is get more experience in this event so I will be better equipped/aware of what I should do in the outdoor season.

DtB:  You broke through to being a contender for the Olympic team at the Trials this year.  Was the result what you expected?  Disappointing or encouraging?

HK: It certainly was a great experience to race in an Olympic Trials Final, and think that I really had a shot for the team. It wasn't necessarily what I expected, but it felt like it was exactly what I needed. I found it necessary for me to make a final in order to justify what I am doing as a professional runner. 

It was both encouraging to be moving forward and higher in the US Ranks, and disappointing that I couldn't put together a stronger/faster race for that final. The next necessity it to break 2:00, I feel like I am just knocking at the door for that one.

DtB:  Are you thinking of moving up to 1,500, doubling, or experimenting over the next four years to see if you should stay focused on 800 or expand your horizon’s beyond the 800?

HK: I think we will continue to experiment more with the 1,500, but the nice thing is that these two events compliment each other so well, so competing in both over the next four years is not a matter of being uncertain about what I should do, but rather keeping all my tools sharp. By the Trials for Rio, it would be nice to be focusing on one event, but I can't tell you which event that may be right now!

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