Pro distance runners know – racing is very unpredictable. Varying factors can put a damper on one’s original plans, especially over the marathon distance. For Canada’s Simon Bairu, racing 10,000m at the Payton Jordan Invitational this weekend was not originally in the cards. Simon wanted to book his ticket to London via the marathon. However, after Olympic bids in New York and Houston went awry , Simon had to readjust his Olympic strategy. Runners Feed caught up with Simon Bairu in advance of this weekend’s Payton Jordan Invitational.
Runners Feed: Familiarity can often lead to good performances. Following your Canadian record performance at the Payton Jordan in 2010, does that give you any added confidence going in?
Simon Bairu: Not really, that was 2yrs ago. As exciting as that was, I know if I go into the race thinking 27:45 is gonna be easy because I’ve already run 27:23, I’m gonna be in trouble Sunday night. I get my confidence from my workouts I’ve been doing over the past couple of months.
RF: What is your overall game plan for this weekend’s 10,000m? Is there anyone you might look to work with throughout the race with regards to pacing?
SB: My plan for this weekend is simple, just go out and compete and put myself in a position where I can contend for the win in the last mile or so. If I can do that I’ll hit the standard. In 2009 I focused too much on trying to break the Canadian record and I failed miserably. The following year I decided to just run hard with the leaders and not pay attention to the clock and it worked out pretty well. I’m going into this race with the same mind set.
RF: Having some time to reflect on Houston, what do you think was the biggest factor to not reaching the standard?
SB: The marathon is hard and I think I made it even harder on myself expecting to hit a certain time on only my second attempt. I’m a competitor but my marathon in Houston became a time trial. It’s not the best way for me to learn the event. I need to go out there and just race people. My next attempt at the marathon will be a little bit more low key, maybe a 2:10 winning time type of race. That’s what I need right now, just to slowly chip away and gain confidence with every new PR. The marathon is all about patience, I mean Dick Beardsley didn’t break 2:20 till I think his 4th marathon and he ended up being a sub 2:10 guy. I’m 28yrs old I have time on my side and I know Jerry and I will eventually get this right.
RF: Obviously your goal was to make the Olympic team in the marathon, was it a shock to the body to switch from marathon training to focusing on 10,000meter track speed?
SB: I was really surprised at how easy I was able to transition from the marathon to the track. When we started the track season after Houston we had definitely scaled back our goal for the Payton Jordan meet. I’ve been doing a lot of pace work at 27:30’s effort. After a 2yr absence to all of a sudden expect to be running close to my best on the track with only 2 months of training wasn’t very realistic. I just need to get the job done and get the Olympic A standard, after that I know by the time July rolls around I’ll be in sub 27:20 shape.
RF: What are some strategies you use to rebound from a race that didn’t go as planned?
SB: I’ve been doing this for a long time now and to be honest dealing with disappointment never gets easier. Give yourself a couple of days to feel sorry for yourself. Then get back at it. Setbacks are gonna happen what’s important is to stay focused on the bigger picture. As bad as my 2:19 in Houston was, it was still an improvement (although a very minor improvement) from a DNF and ending up in the hospital. I always use the stock market analogy when talking about dealing with set backs. You’re gonna have some extreme highs and lows but at the end of the day what’s important is that you’re going in the right direction.
RF: Following your 5k at the Stanford Invitational you spoke about trying to iron out some kinks going into the 10k with regards to just keeping it simple, staying in lane 1 and remaining focused. Has your training since then prepared you for that?
SB: Yeah definitely. We have a very talented group of guys I train with here in Portland, so workouts almost become mini races. You learn the most efficient way to finish the workout is to run in lane one and to stay patient. Sometimes, the guys would yell at me if I veered out to lane two or started pressing.
RF: Do you expect to achieve the standard this weekend? What will be the plan going forward assuming you qualify for London?
SB: To be honest I’d be more surprised if I didn’t hit the standard then if I did. But that’s the beauty of sport, you gotta do it on that specific day with all the pressures that come with it. Right now our plan for the season ends at Payton Jordan. On Monday Jerry and I will decide what the next step will be depending on how the race goes.