July 3, 2013
When Aggie alumna and current volunteer assistant coach Kim Conley earned a dramatic berth in the 5,000-meter run to the London Olympics in 2012, she catapulted onto the international racing stage and has become one of the country's elite distance runners. Since then, she's competed in the 2013 World Cross Country Championships in Poland and last month earned a berth on the U.S. team to the IAAF World Track and Field Championships next month in Moscow, Russia. Conley, who represents SRA Elite and New Balance and is coached by current Aggie head coach Drew Wartenburg, is currently in Europe preparing for the championships and is chronicling her experience for www.ucdavisaggies.com.
By Kim Conley
As a Santa Rosa, Calif., native and proud alum of Montgomery High School and UC Davis, one of my favorite summer traditions has always been the Kenwood Footrace. Like many from the surrounding communities who have run one or more of the Kenwood races, I looked forward to July 4th and my ritual of American-flag face painting on race day, and until my post-collegiate career began and found me elsewhere on the 4th, I amassed a total of nine years in a row on the Kenwood starting line. Around the time of my last Kenwood race, as a budding professional runner, I began to raise my sights and dreamed of one day putting on the uniform of Team USA and representing my country, California and UC Davis on an international stage.
After the dramatic Trials finish and whirlwind experience of qualifying for the Olympic Games last year, I was fully committed to a plan of making another Team USA for the 2013 World Championships. Over the winter I laid a solid foundation for the spring season. I ran more than I ever had - including eclipsing the 100-mile per week barrier, and farther than 20 miles in a long run - and reached other new benchmarks in my training. I increased the amount of physical therapy and recovery tools I was using to ensure that I stayed healthy and avoided gaps in my training, and I refined my nutrition so that I was fueled to get the most out of my body everyday.
As the spring track season got underway I set PR's in 1500- and 5000-meter distances, with times of 4:07 and 15:09, respectively; the latter of which saw me enter the USA Championships in June with the second-fastest time in the country this year. On top of that, I spent my final weeks of training leading up to the championships in Bloomington, Ind., so that I could acclimate to the hot and humid conditions like those expected in Des Moines, Iowa. The depth of the field left no doubt that it was going to be a very competitive race and I wanted to be as prepared as possible. I have always relied on my work ethic to help me excel and over the years I have learned to draw confidence from proper preparation as I consider it the most fundamental component of success.
Despite all of my advance preparation, I still only made the World Championship team by less than a second, for the second year in a row. It's a humbling experience to have a dream hinge on such a small margin and I take pause when reflecting on all the details involved in preparation that help to make almost immeasurable differences. At times the choices I make are not easy because a professional running career means I live a disciplined lifestyle each and every day. Still, considering both the process and the (sometimes razor-thin) rewards, I don't regret a single one of those choices.
Although the manner by which I made this summer's team did not follow the exact script I had envisioned for weeks and months, my summer is still unfolding according to plan. From Des Moines, I left US soil and traveled to Switzerland. Thanks in part to a grant from the Sacramento Running Association, I am currently based in St. Moritz for three weeks of altitude training in the Alps. This period will serve as an important block of training in my preparation for the World Championships in August.
Upon leaving St Moritz I plan to do one or two races in Europe before heading to Austria for Team USA's training camp. From Austria our delegation will travel to Moscow for the World Championships. I am just over a week into my time at altitude and so far the training is going very well. St. Moritz is one of the prime altitude locations for athletes training in Europe and the training center here serves as a base for the Swiss Olympic team. There is good access to all necessary facilities, an abundance of trails for great running, and I'm surrounded by athletes from all over the world in the midst of beautiful scenery.
My race in Des Moines wasn't all I had hoped it to be, but at this point I am looking ahead and remain extremely grateful that I have the opportunity to represent our country again. When my season is over I will certainly spend some time reflecting on how I can improve future efforts on the national stage, but for now I must focus on this next window of preparation in order to better my performance from the 2012 London Games.
When the Olympics were over last summer it felt like Rio 2016 was very far away. In reality, there are only two championship cycles in between (2013 and 2015) where I can test myself in an international championship context, and that first opportunity is mere weeks away!