On a sunny day at Golden Gate Park last weekend, Brooks Beast Garrett Heath proved his strength and dominance over a variety of distances when the primarily track-focused athlete won the USATF Club Cross Country Championships men’s 10K.
Heath beat out hundreds of other athletes from a variety of teams to win the national title. He clocked a time of 29:06, 4 seconds in front of runner-up Jonathan Grey. The Brooks Beasts men placed sixth overall as a team. Fellow Beast and team rookie Jess Tonn finished in 10th for the women and Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project athlete Cally Macumber finished in fourth.
Read below for more from Garrett on his race plan and thoughts as he took the lead, eventually bringing gold home for the Beasts.
What was your mindset and plan going into the race?
I had been a little sick earlier in the week, so a lot of my mindset and energy was initially just focused on doing all the small things right between sleep and nutrition that would help me get to the start line healthy and ready to go. Once we got to San Francisco for the race and checked out the course, my race plan was to get out with the first pack but to be pretty conservative in the first half of the race. I knew that there were a few bottlenecks on the course so didn’t want to take a chance of getting caught too far back with so many guys in the race, but I was also a little gun shy to really push hard in a 10K from the get-go, especially given my lack of experience with them recently. It can be a long way to suffer if you bury yourself in that first half.
Did you think you were going to win?
It’s always tough to gauge where you’re at going into that first race of the year, but I came in with my goal being to at least be in position to take a shot at the win in the last few kilometers. It’s probably been my best fall of training, and my teammates and I have been able to do some longer sustained 10-mile tempo efforts that gave me confidence that I was ready for a longer race. That being said, I also knew there were at least a handful of the Northern Arizona Elite guys from Flagstaff, some of the Boulder Running crew, and a few others who were ripping fit and ready to make a push for the win as well.
What were your feelings about being primarily mid-distance and track focused going into a 10K cross country race?
Growing up in Minnesota where cross country was always my favorite discipline, I relish any chance I get to be back racing on the grass, even if it means having to do a 10K. There’s that extra element of racing and strategy that comes with running on a muddy and hilly cross country course that makes racing XC that much more unpredictable and exciting. Being a mid-distance guy though, I’d obviously prefer if it was a 4K XC race like the one they’ve had in Edinburgh the past few years, and would love to see them bring that distance back as a race at the World Cross Country Championships!
What did it feel like to win a national championship?
It was exhilarating to win, especially back in the Bay Area where I’ve spent so much time and with a lot of friends in the crowd out there cheering. National championships are also extra special because you know the competition and pressure around them are that much higher. Plus, you never know how many more opportunities you’ll have to win another one, so you always want to savor that moment on top as long as possible.
What were your thoughts on having the team out on the course with you? Between Nick, Drew and Cas, you had a few guys jump up several thousand meters in race distance.
It was a blast having the whole team out there for the race, especially those 800-meter boys! It felt like college cross country again. We’ve been looking forward to it all fall and have had some fun giving the 800 guys a hard time about not getting out too hard and blowing up out there, as we needed at least one of them to come through for us as our fifth team scorer. It’s been fun having them get after some of the distance stuff with us this fall though, and I think they’ve even surprised themselves with some of their endurance capabilities. Hopefully this is the first of many XC races for them!
It was also great to race together with Riley, Dorian, and Travis after working out together all fall with this race on the schedule as our main focus before gearing up for 2016. Something about racing together with the same guys that you’ve been working out with all year takes a lot of pressure off and helped give me some confidence going in.
Were you surprised when you took the lead and won?
Yeah, I was really hurting that last few kilometers. My hat goes off to Jon Grey, who was out front almost the entire race and just kept the hammer down. I kept thinking that he would get tired and slow down, but he never did. I tried to make up ground on him a few times but eventually just hoped that I could keep it close enough that I might have a shot to catch him at the end. I got a big adrenaline rush coming onto the track the last time from the crowd, but even then, it wasn’t until the last 400 meters or so that I knew I could catch him. It was one of the harder races I can remember running.
How are you celebrating?
Lots of desserts! I made sure to hit up the Ghirardelli factory for a monster sundae while I was in San Francisco and took down some chocolate cake that my roommates had got me to celebrate after getting back to Seattle.
How does this make you feeling going into 2016?
Looking towards probably focusing on the 5,000-meter run at the Olympic Trials this coming year, this was a good confidence booster for where my aerobic base is at for this time of the year and for my ability to be ready to close hard, even at the end of a longer, drawn out race.
Will you run another cross country race anytime soon?
I’m planning to go back to Edinburgh for the 8K race in early January (I’ve done the 4K the last two years), but I think that will probably be my last XC race before transitioning back onto the track. I want to start working on some of the speed a little bit sooner this year and be ready to take a shot at making the indoor world team in March.