Can you talk a little bit about how the race unfolded?
The first lap was really the only one that went off pace. The pacer and the top two sort of went out and I was sitting back in the pack more. There was kind of uneven pacing in my last 5K (London) and my coach was like, ‘Just try and finish as hard as you can.' When we went through 3K, I realized that there was a pretty good cushion for the time I was aiming for so I was like, ‘I'll just stay with the pack and race people.' That's what worked out the best.
Was your time goal going into the race to break the American record of 14:44.80?
It was, but it wasn't to the point where I would take the lead or anything like that if it slowed down. I wanted more to go with the flow of the race because I think that's just how I race better. Negative splitting, as well, is how I race better. It was a goal but I wasn't putting huge pressure or expectation on myself. I was already so satisfied with the season. The time was kind of just in the back of my mind.
You've dropped almost 32 seconds off your personal best in the 5000m this season. How amazing has that been?
It's crazy. If someone would have told me that I would be running that kind of time at the beginning of the season I would have laughed. It's not like anything was drastically different this year. I just got consistent work in, my workouts were going a little better and I didn't have to take any breaks. But I didn't think there were the makings of any huge PRs. I kind of fed off each one confidence wise and that's maybe the big difference. At Mt. SAC in April, I ran close to 15 minutes and I was like, ‘Ok, that was a huge accomplishment, but maybe I can dip under.' After my 14:51 in Paris, my coach and my teammates were like, ‘You should look at the American record. You're only seven seconds away.' It made me more confident and a little less afraid of the races.
Where was your confidence coming out of the London meet where you ran 14:57?
That was a funny race pace wise. I sort of went along with the pace for a while and my legs weren't feeling great. My legs were a little tired there and I wondered if my fitness was waning because it was the end of the season. I was really happy to break 15 again because I didn't feel great and the race was strangely paced. It was a good effort but I didn't know what to think about it. I didn't know if I was kind of fizzling out or if it was just the circumstances of that race.
How did you feel physically going into this race in Brussels?
I felt good. That pace didn't feel bad to me. Usually, I feel like I'm all out and about to barf in any minute. But I felt more in control. I was kind of all over the place, going around people because I thought we were going too slow, but when I actually looked at the pace I realized that we were fine for what I wanted to run. I kind of just got back into the pack, which is usually a sign that I'm feeling good.
When you hit the bell, did you look at the clock and see what you needed to do to get the record?
I did. I think I needed just under 70 seconds, give or take a few fractions, so I knew I needed to kick as hard as I could on the last lap. It was really close. I let up before the line a little bit. Subconsciously, I was like, ‘I hope that didn't just cost me a tenth.'
Has it sunk in that you are now the American record holder?
No it hasn't. I'm still like, ‘Did I just do that?' Especially because Shalane is the one that had the record before me and I always thought...and still think that she is invincible, just untouchable and on another level. In college I wasn't that far behind her but I've watched her do all of these great things since. That's a huge part of the disbelief. I didn't think I could ever be on her playing field. It's surreal.
Why all of the self doubt?
I think because there were a lot of things I wanted to do that I hadn't done. I wanted to and never won an NCAA title. I've had a few up and down years so the doubt kind of creeps in there. This year was really good for confidence building. Once it sinks in, I think I will have learned a lot from it.
With this type of performance as proof backing that confidence, how does this lead you into the 2011 world championship year?
I don't even know what event I will be doing between the 5000m and 10,000m. It gives me a little more confidence. I used to be terrified, and am still a little afraid, of trying out for the U.S. team because the field is so deep and you have to have that time and be in the top three. I think now I will have more confidence going into that (Trials) race, and once I get to Worlds it will be great having raced these women a couple times internationally. You become less intimidated by the Africans and European runners like Jessica Augusto.
Does this performance open the door of possibility that you will run more 5000s next year?
Definitely. The original plan for me this summer was to do some of the longer road races in the U.S. and see how I did with that in terms of making a transition to the longer stuff on the roads. But I would love to stay on the track if I could and I think this year proves that I can.