(All photos by Kane Baker)
Hi everyone! My name is Patrick Perrier and I am currently a junior at O’Fallon Township High School in O’Fallon, Illinois. Although the cross country season is starting to wrap up with only Nike Cross Nationals and Foot Locker Nationals as the remaining races, Milesplit has given me the honor to blog about my recent experience at the 2012 Foot Locker Midwest Regional. I placed 4th at this year’s meet with a new personal best 5k time of 15:03. As a result, I will be at this year’s Foot Locker National Meet in San Diego, California.
In order to fully understand my performance at the regional meet, you have to look at the previous three weeks of my training and racing leading up to the Foot Locker race. A couple of weeks ago I took 10th place at the Nike Cross Midwest Regional and I would have to say that I was a little disappointed with my finish. I had a solid state meet the week before by finishing 3rd, so the 10th place finish was a little bit deflating in terms of my confidence. I had two goals all season long. I wanted to be in the top three at the state meet and I wanted to qualify for the Foot Locker National Finals. NXN had always been a secondary thought. I had trained a little harder than I did before state leading into the Nike meet. As a result, I had some quad soreness going into the race. In addition, I had developed a pretty nasty cough that ended up developing into a cold the following week. I got out into the hard winds at Nike and found myself running on empty for the hard last 400 meters into the wind. I had lost about 3-4 steps on the pack and was left without a draft. This led me to my 10th place finish. I was very happy for myself and definitely my teammate Alex (the race champion), but I left that meet with a sour taste in my mouth and a doubt about my ability to qualify for the Foot Locker National Finals.
The week after Nike was a crucial training week because Foot Locker wasn’t for another two weeks. I went out and pushed my workouts hard while increasing my mileage back up to in-season amounts. The only struggle was that cold I developed. My coughing fits were leaving me without the ability to breathe and I actually threw-up during my first workout of that week. Anybody who knows me understands that I do not do that unless I am ill. Eventually, the sickness went away and I was ready to take it easy again the week of the race. I hung out with some old alumni and my girlfriend for the week and they kept me calm leading into the meet. I flew out on with my dad on Friday morning and I ran the course early so that my legs would stay fresh. The temperatures in Kenosha, Wisconsin were ridiculously cold. After reminding myself of the course from the year before, I formulated my race strategy. My dad and I decided that around the 2 ¼ mile mark was the mental game changer of the course. At that point, it is uphill for the next 800m and then after that, you are leading right into your finishing kick. The key would be to not relax at all once I passed that 2 ¼ mark.
When I woke up on race day, I told my dad that I had a dream about the race. He said, “What? You won the thing?” My response was “No, It was weird. I dreamt that I finished in fourth place while almost catching third. I wasn’t far off the leaders either.” (After the race, my dad would ask me if I had dreamt about any Powerball numbers). I warmed up normally, and I ate my normal pre-race Subway Club. The only difference was that I had my music plugged into my ears all the way until about ten minutes before the start. I could feel the spring in my legs, and I was ready to go. The cannon went off and everybody charged to the front. I kept relaxed and looked for heavy contenders such as Grant Nykaza and Jake Leingang. I kept to my strategy and tucked in around 20th place through the mile in about 4:55. I moved up as the mile went on and I was around 13th after the 2 mile which came through in a blazing 9:34. I knew that this last mile was going to be big. We hit the last downhill right before the 2 ¼, and I just took off. I flung myself into 7th place. I am not going to lie and say I was feeling good. I felt awful, but all I told myself was that you need to push and I kept asking myself how bad I wanted to make it to San Diego. I caught right up to the 6th place man, who was breathing kind of heavy, I put a hard surge in and he dropped. I then focused on the next man. I got him on the last hard uphill of the course when there is about 600m left. Jake and Sam Wharton were still in sight. I kept pushing and pushing. I eventually passed the 4th place man as we came out of the woods right before the final 300 meters. I just turned that corner before the final stretch and hauled towards the line with the fear that a giant wave of people were behind me to ruin my race. Eventually, with about 50 meters to go it finally hit me that I was going to qualify and that I could possibly get third. I crossed the line in 4th place only one second behind 3rd and only six behind the winners. It was literally was a dream come true. The clock read 15:03 and I just couldn’t contain my happiness. I had worked hard all season for that point and it finally came. My dad had some tears of joy inside the meeting tent after the race, and all I could do was just smile and give him a hug. That race I had learned that even when you think you can’t go any farther there is always another step in you.
Now, as for San Diego, I am going into the meet open-minded. I really was just focused on qualifying. I am hoping to finish in the upper half so that I can garner one of those coveted all-American honors. I think it is possible, but the field is very deep. Overall, I am just excited to be heading to California and run a race on a historic course with the 40 best runners in the entire country. Once again, thank you to Milesplit for letting me blog about my experience, and thank you to all of those who read my article. I hope you enjoyed my story.