Tal Braude was the weekend surprise, recovering from illness to take Mt. SAC by storm! (Photo courtesy of FloTrack)
MileSplit - How is your fitness now that you are in the championship portion of the 2013 season. What excites you the most about the rest of the season and what you want to accomplish?
Tal - My fitness is good. I believe that I can get stronger though but I was very pleased with the result today and it was definitely a confidence booster. I'm excited most about state and nationals. I know that some very difficult races are in my future and I'm very excited about that. I'm looking forward to some big things in the future.
MileSplit - What was your season like before Mt. SAC as you didn’t really race ‘fast’ prior to today?
Tal - My season before Mt. SAC wasn't too great. I won the Bronco invite but that was only a 2 mile course. Then at the other big invites like Mt. Carmel and Stanford, I was sick. I had the flu or a cold and those races didn't go as I had hoped. I tried my best but my body just didn't have enough in it to push as hard as I wanted. This was the first race that I really felt myself again and I had my goal to beat Blake (Haney) and things just went my way today.
MileSplit - What was it like out there on the Mt. SAC course today with the weather and the competition?
Tal - The course today was very nice actually. I remember the past years that I was here when the race was very dry and hot and our throats were completely dry after the race. Those were bad conditions. The conditions today were very nice and the weather was good. It was a little dry at the valley loop but that went away. The competition was fantastic. So many great runners were out there today and hopefully it was a great race for everyone. O'Rourke tells everyone to enjoy the experience of getting to race at a merry so highly ranked, such as this one. It's really cool to know that we get to race on a course that past Olympians have run on. The competition was fantastic and clearly, it pushed me and I'm sure many others to pr's. I really enjoyed the race today and I hope everyone else did just as much regardless of the result.
MileSplit - Did you see yourself running one of the fastest times ever on the Mt. SAC course? How does that feel?
Tal - I can honestly say that I didn't even know what the fastest times were on that course. I couldn't see myself being ranked among people like Amar Moussa and Ryan Hall. The feeling is so surreal and I'm so happy to have achieved the result I achieved. Obviously I do feel like I could have run a14:24 though. If I had another chance, I'm so confident that the record would be mine. It was bitter sweet knowing that I was only 2 or 3 seconds away from a time I know I could have gotten.
MileSplit - When & how did you get started in cross country?
Tal - I got started in cross country going into my freshman year of high school. I went to JR lifeguards, a camp that me and both my brothers went through and turns out my instructors assistant was Alli Billmeyer. I was bragging to her about my 5:07 minute mile in PE class and she recommended going to the cross country camp they go to every year but I wasn't sure. I wanted to play soccer and do track like my brothers had done but I tried it out and it was so much fun and I made so many friends so I decided to do it. My very first race I won and then rushed to Temecula for a soccer game where I pulled my calf and couldn't even play (haha) so my coaches told me I had to quit soccer to avoid injury and focus on track and cc. It was tough but definitely the right decision and I'm very happy with my choice to do so.
MileSplit - Person/people most influential to your success in cross country and why?
Tal - The people most influential to my success in cross country are probably Alli (Billmeyer) for getting me into cross country and my coaches for helping me with whatever I needed. They are the ones with experience and good advice and they are some of my very best friends. My parents have always supported me and they have helped me so much with anything I have ever needed. I can now thank my brothers for chasing me around the house with a cricket bat because I guess it did, in some way, tell me that I was meant to run haha. And my girlfriend Emilie has helped keep me focused on what's important and what I should be doing. She is a ballerina so she is very good at helping me take the time to stretch and she had gotten me to eat healthier and sleep more. She has really helped me the past year. I'm really thankful to have her.
MileSplit - Who has influenced you the most so far in your life and what they mean to you and your success?
Tal - If you want me to try and pick just one person, I can get back to you but to be honest, my family has influenced me the most in my life. We have come through so much with the emigration to America due to the horrible crime and robberies in South Africa, the 9/11 attacks that really made it difficult for us in America, and just trying to fit in with American culture. My family has helped develop me into who I am today and I couldn't just pick one person to thank for that. My family means the world to me. Everything I do is to make them proud of me and represent the Braude name well. They all encourage me even when it's difficult. My brother in college called me today to thank me and my other brother who is living In India makes it a point to try and get a line of communication to talk to me. Even my family in South Africa and Israel will call and congratulate me. I'm so blessed to have such a caring and close family and I would give it all up for them.
MileSplit - What are the keys to your successful cross country training program and what work did you put in to start off so well this year?
Tal - I have put in a lot of work this season. Because of the sickness, during Mt. Carmel and Stanford, my mileage dropped back to around 50 miles a week. During the summer I worked up to a mac of 56 but due to traveling or sickness, we lowered it down so I'm between 48 (min) and 56(max) , usually every week. I found that the keys to my success are consistency and not having any excuses. I always go to practice. Even if I'm sick. If my coach tells me to go home, that's one thing but I'm always at practice. I cross train to avoid injury and I try to stay focused and keep my team focus on the goals. Other than that, you don't need much else. Consistency, hard work, and dedication. Excuses just set us back. We need to move forward.
MileSplit - What are the keys to your team's unity and how you train to reach your goals?
Tal - My team is very close. If you didn't notice, we have traditions such as bleaching our hair before the Stanford Invite or having team dinners. We have team goals and we do most of our runs together. Stuff like tempos or intervals, we start of together and then we focus on our own paces or times. But we are a very close team and we occasionally have team showers after mud runs. And on those mud runs, we make sure every one has a muddy buddy (that doesnt really mean much). We run as a team and we can talk to each other about anything and it's just a very tight knit team. Even with our coaches and the girls team. Every now and then we'll throw the ice chests all over the girls but it's all in good fun and the team bonds over it.
MileSplit - Your favorite past performance in a cross country race and why?
Tal - My favorite past performance in a cross country race was probably my first race. The reason it was my favorite was because no one expected anything from me. My coaches told me to just try my best and see what I could do. My friends told me that there's definitely someone faster than me so I should just see what I could do. And my parents were just interested to see how all this cross country stuff works and were rushed because I had my soccer game in Temecula later. It was really cool because I ended up winning the race. I got lost at one point on top of the hill at Kit Carson Park and I didn't know where to go from there so I kinda waited for the other guys to catch up and then I let them lead the race until I knew where I had to kick. So I kicked and won. My mom thought that I just stopped and she was shocked to find out that I had actually won (haha) so that was definitely the most memorable race.
MileSplit - Who are the cross country competitors you most enjoy competing against and why?
Tal - My favorite competitors are Steven Fahy and now, Blake Haney. Steven and I have been battling it out since freshman year. When I beat him at that very first race, we were pretty much rivals like Darren Fahy and Matt Carpowich were throughout high school. We weren't mean to each other or anything but we both just always wanted to beat each other so we have a great competitive relationship. Blake Haney is more of my goal. I'm sure he doesn't know me well (maybe after today he does) but my goal is to beat him so any race I can get with him as a competitor would definitely help.
MileSplit - What is your greatest non-running experience in cross country so far and why?
Tal - My greatest non-running experience in cross country would have to be just hanging out with the team. Whether we're at a team dinner, or meeting up at the football games, or going to the beach. I think the best part about cross country is that you're with a group of people that have the same interests as you and are all just nice and fun people to hang out with. My team is so friendly and we have so many inside jokes, just like most cc teams, and it's just always a fun time when we meet up. It's always stress free.
MileSplit - Do you have any long-term goals in running?
Tal - My long term goals include running at a 4 year university and after that, I hope to go to the Olympics. It has always been a dream of mine to go to the Olympics and I want to make that dream into a goal and accomplish that goal some day.
MileSplit - What was your favorite performance from the 2013 World Champs?
Tal - During the 2013 World Champs, I didn't get to watch really anything because I was in Israel for the Maccabi Games. I was traveling around with my team and seeing all of Israel and then I got to compete against Jewish athletes, like myself, from around the world. I only wanted to know how (Blake) Haney did and I found that out very quickly. I didn't get to see many of the races unfortunately.
The Fun Run
What music do you rock while working out…
Tal - I don't usually listen to music while I workout. I'm usually with the team but if I'm doing an ab workout by myself, I'll put on some random playlist I find on youtube. It's usually interesting and stuff I havent heard before.
Do you like to run in the mud or the grass…
Tal - The grass is better for me to run on but mud is so fun to run in and I love mud runs, so I'd probably say mud.
Do you hang out on Facebook or Twitter...
Tal - I hang out on facebook more than twitter. Every now and then I check twitter but facebook is my site of choice.
Do you like going out or chilling at home...
Tal - I like to keep it fresh. I like to go out with my friends and go do fun stuff but other times I like to lay on the couch, usually with my girlfriend, and watch a good movie. Lazy days are just nice. I probably would take chillin' at home over most things.
What gear is your favorite while running...
Tal - My attire of choice would be my Nike trainers, the shortest shorts I own, shirtless or a tank, and occasionally a head band. I would wear the head band more often if I didn't lose it so much.