March 19, 2013
LetsRun.com believes that cross country racing is the soul of of distance running. As a result, we are trekking to Poland this week for the 2013 World Cross Country Championships which take place on Sunday – the first time in two years that the event has been held.
To help build some excitement, we reached out to the top American male – Chris Derrick – and female – Kim Conley – that is going to Worlds for a quick interview prior to departure. We’ll catch up with them again when we get to Poland.
For the most part, we’ve historically tried to stay away from emailed interviews at LetsRun.com for although they are about five times less time intensive on our end, they are easy to script answers to. However, we’re not opposed to them and these interviews were done via email. LRC is officially old for when Chris Derrick wrote back to us he started his email: “Mr. Johnson.”
The interview was done by Robert Johnson.
Conley’s interview can be viewed here: Kim Conley Talks Prior To The 2013 World Cross Country Championships
LetsRun.com: With a US cross country win and a 13:12 ‘A’ qualifier in the 5000 in your two races so far this year, I imagine you are pretty pleased with the way things have been going so far in 2012. Do you feel like you are at a new level this year? If so, what’s the difference? Is it being in a new training group where you have a slew of world-class training partners? Or is it not having school to deal with, etc? Or do you simply view the early results in 2012 as just being a steady continuation/progression of what you’ve previously accomplished?
Chris Derrick: There are certainly things specific to being in the group (training partners, no school, etc) that have helped me run faster, but I think about it more as being a steady improvement from where I was last year. Every year that I have been able to train more or less uninterrupted I have been able to show steady improvement, so our early results this year are really in line with how I expected to improve coming out of college given that I put in a good block of training. The last time that I really had a huge jump where I was on a totally different level was the transition from high school to college, but being only 17 I had a lot of room for easy gains in training/physical maturity (aside: I tell a lot high school kids when they want to know about the jump to the NCAA level that I had to run 10 seconds faster per 5k than my Terre Haute 5k pr from the year prior to be even close to the same level as in high school- so you literally have to be more than twice as good from one year to the next if you want to compete at the top of the NCAA).
A couple of things that you didn’t mention that I think play a part in my improvement are altitude training and raising my expectations. We had a five week altitude camp in Colorado Springs right before US cross and that was my first time putting in the full block of time that you need to get a significant boost in red blood cells. The tests that we did with Randy Wilbur (the head physiologist at the training center) showed that I was a pretty strong responder. I’m also a big believer that when you’re in a situation that raises your view of what’s successful, its almost like free fitness. Training with a group of guys that have been to Olympics and World Championships and set American records, etc, has really changed my definition of what it means to be good. Jerry (Schumacher)‘s definitely played a part in that too. He’s been around the top level of the sport for a while so when he looks at my Olympic Trials race for instance, he doesn’t think, “Hey you did pretty good for it being a little banged up at the end of long season.” He thinks, “You closed faster than anyone in the field, you totally blew a chance at the Olympic team by letting that gap open up.” Racing is always hard and I think in the toughest moments you need to have high expectations so you can’t let yourself off the hook.
In terms of actual workouts, are things much different than last year? What’s the biggest difference? What’s similar?
The structure and principles of our training are very similar to how I trained in college (and even high school, really). I’ve was fortunate enough to have some really excellent coaches at Stanford and Neuqua Valley. The biggest changes are probably the length of some of the workouts and the amount of rest that our schedule affords us. In the fall especially we were doing some very long sessions. Because we don’t have to race every two weeks like in college and the season is not nearly as compressed, there’s not as much pressure to squeeze all of the different stuff we want to do into a short period of time. We can take much longer view of the whole cycle. Beyond that, being a full time runner makes it easier to recover from day-to-day. One consequence is that even though my mileage is pretty similar to last year, I have more long (>60′) runs in my training. I do a lot more 70’/35′ doubles where in college that might be 50’/50′ which I think is easier for recovery but doesn’t give you quite the stimulus you get when you go over an hour or so in one run.
Talk a little bit about how different it is to not have the structure of school for the first time in your life? What do you do with your free time? Do you find it liberating or a bit hard to deal with all the time? What’s your living situation life? How do you get meals? Do you have an altitude tent?
At this point I would say it tends to be pretty liberating. We’ll see how I feel in a few years, but right now I enjoy being able to nap instead of going to class (not that that didn’t happen occasionally in college, but now I don’t have to feel guilty about it (kidding Mom, I went to every class)). I live with Evan (Jager), German (Fernandez), and Elliott (Heath) so that certainly helps keep me entertained. We got really into the show Entourage for a while and in Colorado Springs a few of us played A LOT of Settlers of Catan (it’s pretty much Chris Solinsky‘s favorite thing in the whole world). I try to make sure I’m keeping up with my reading, especially on current events, so my brain doesn’t turn to mush. We have a pretty good cooking system in the house so we eat pretty well, which is a must for me. Jerry has everyone use altitude tents after coming down from altitude because the research shows that using it can help you slow the loss of the red blood cell you gain at altitude.
Looking ahead to world cross country, what is your main goal? Is it a specific place, a specific type of race plan (mix it up with the world’s best, finish hard, etc)? I know you talked in New York about finishing better than you did as a junior (15th), but is there any dream of an individual or team medal?
Right now I don’t really know what expect (except suffering of course). I think top 15 is a decent goal. I’m hoping to do what Simon (Bairu) did in 2010 and just get up to the top pack early and stay there as long as I can.
(Editor’s note: Simon Bairu who is also coached by Jerry Schumacher, finished 12th for Canada at the 2010 World Cross Country championships).
Your 10,000 time from the Olympic Trials of 27:40.23 is just .23 off the ‘A’ standard of 27:40.00. Are you aware that the the IAAF has said a top 15 showing at world’s will net you ‘A’ qualification? Will this cause you to play it a bit safe and go for that?
I’ve been told that they are going to count Payton Jordan from last year for qualifying purposes (it was only 2 hours outside the original window) so hopefully I don’t have to worry about that. I also wouldn’t say that a top 15 goal is playing it safe, guys like Mo Farah and Feyisa Lelisa finished outside of the top 15 in the last couple years.
(Editor’s note: After emailing Chris initially, we realized that the IAAF window actually dates to last January for the 10,000 so we think he already has the ‘A’ qualifier from the 27:31.38 he ran on Apirl 29th last year. We tried to write back and tell him to ignore the question but liked his response as it shows he knows a lot about the recent history of the event so we included it)
After world xc, do you have things planned out? What will be your first race? You already have the ‘A’ for the 5000 but is it safe to assume the 10,000 will be the focus?
At the moment the 10k at US champs will be the focus. But you never know, I might wake up tomorrow and be destroying Lopez in speed sessions and then the 5k might be more in play. But beyond some Rookie of the Year style transformation, it’ll probably be the 10k. Leading up to USA’s we’ve talked about running some combination of Payton Jordan, Oxy, and Prefontaine but nothing concrete yet.