Dan Vassallo is in pretty good shape. Pat Rich, who is pretty quick himself, came into the shop the other day talking about a recent 5 mile race where Dan bested him by over a minute. That race was the Backshore 5 Miler back on May 9th in Gloucester, MA. Vassallo won that won handily with a 24:52 solo effort (Rich ran a 25:56 also by himself for second place). Because of performances like that, people were listing him as their pre-race favorite. Here’s our Q&A with the 2014 USATF-NE outdoor track 10,000m champion.
Did you focus your training with a fast 10,000m in mind, or is this a byproduct of training for another peak race?
I have not really been training for a 10,000, as I’ve just been trying to maintain a good base for a fall marathon and peppering in a few workouts to stay sharp for whenever I feel like hopping into a race. I PRed in the 10 mile in Virginia in April, and after that, I scoped out the Twilight Meets. I was happy to see that the meet with the 10,000 didn’t conflict with weddings, bachelor parties, or a 5K road race in June that is pretty important to me, and thrilled to discover that it fell in the two weeks in between the spring MBA and summer MBA semesters – so I could sleep more than 5-6 hours a night. I guess I’d been focused on the race since I found out it would work with my schedule. I did a few 10K-specific workouts, but nothing that would take away from my base training. I felt I had an outside shot at running sub-30:00, but a more realistic expectation of running around 30:15.
This was a pretty big PR for you. When was your last attempt?
My last honest attempt at a 10,000m PR was in April 2011, and I was unable to run what I wanted to. Since then, as you know, I pretty much spent two years being injured and accumulating ping pong balls. My 10k PR was at Lone Gull in 2009, when I ran a 30:39. In fact, most of my PRs were in 2009. Jess Minty, who also flirted with a 10K PR Saturday, has a pretty similar story, and I think we are both equally thrilled to finally be back to where we were five years ago.
How long were you with eventual winner Byrne?
I warmed up with Jake, and I knew that if the rabbits were going to do 71s, it might be disastrous to stay with the rabbits for an extended period of time. Also foolish, though, would be trying to run 72s by myself. So I stayed at the back of the single-file lead pack for maybe seven laps until I couldn’t hold on anymore. There were a couple of other guys who fell off the pace later, and they fell off harder than I did. I’m really happy to see Jake run under thirty, as I think that’s his first time under that mark.
What did you think of racing in the dark?
Running in the dark was cool – much cooler than running in the dark all winter. I guess it gave me the opportunity to feel the way my college teammates felt during the 4×800 Blackout Relay. It probably didn’t have an impact on how fast I ran one way or another.
What does it mean to you to be NE champ?
I’m a little bashful to admit that I didn’t even know this was a championship race – just knew it was an opportunity to run a fast 10,000. But it’s really just another reminder for me about how nice it is to be healthy and running close to my potential every once in a while. This is probably already my best year since 2009, as I’ve been able to get almost 2,000 miles in so far, PRed three times (10 mi, 5 mi, 10K), and have only run one bad race. What really matters, though, is whether I can keep this going until November 23rd in Philadelphia.
Next is the Cabot Trail Relay in Nova Scotia with sixteen of my closest friends from Maine. Depending on how much abuse Smokey Mountain puts on my legs, there may be a few more races in June. At least one.
Lastly, what were your splits?
No idea what my splits were. I don’t think I ran any laps slower than 74, and I know my first mile was 4:44. My five-mile split may have been 24:09? I just remember calculating how slow I could go while still catching my old PR.
You know you’re in good shape when you’re figuring out how slow you can run and still get a PR. Dan’s time for this race was a 30:16.3.