MileSplit will report live on site this weekend as the top professional, collegiate and prep harriers compete at the USA XC Championship in Boulder on Saturday, February 7. The top six athletes in the Open Men's 12k, Open Women's 8k, Junior Men's 8k and Junior Women's 8k will don Team USA jerseys at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships on March 28 in the province of Guiyang, China.
This year's race will mark the last in Colorado for the foreseeable future, as USATF announced this week that Bend, Ore. will host the 2016 and 2017 events. More than a few local Coloradans make the annual jaunt to Flatirons Golf Course in Boulder. One of those is Katie Rainsberger, born and raised at 7,500 feet in Colorado Springs, just 20 minutes from the Olympic Training Center.
The Air Academy junior capped an undefeated cross country campaign, including her first Colorado Class 4A State XC Championship, with a sixth-place finish at Nike Cross Nationals - a placement that mirrored her place in 2013.
She was hoping for a little bit more.
The 5-foot-8 blonde's only result since then was a 2:16.89 800m win at the Martin Luther King Hi-Mile Classic. But the 'W' only tells a small part of the story.
After her half win, she contributed a 60-second split to the 4x400m relay then stepped outside for a 15-minute tempo run.
“I've upped my mileage and the amount of intervals I've been doing from cross country to now, just because of the difference from 5k to 6k," she said, referring to the Junior Women's USA XC race distance. “After the speed workout, I did a tempo, I went for time - it was a 15 minute tempo afterward just to have a little more mileage for the workout, more intensity, because the 800m and 400m were the speed part and the tempo afterward was a little added to help with the extra 1k at the end."
Though her favorite events to race are the 800m and mile, Rainsberger has steeled her focus on the longer 6k distance for USA XC for the past couple months.
“I think I knew I could have done better [at NXN]," she said. “I didn't leave everything out there. It's been really motivating, I know I don't want to feel that way after a race again. I've been putting more into my workouts, more into my training. I'd like to make the World Team but more importantly, I'd like my effort to be the best that I can."
Rainsberger has consistently logged about 40 to 45 miles per week since the conclusion of the prep cross country season, a career-high.
“I've noticed that I can sustain a faster pace longer in my tempo runs and my rest has gotten shorter in my intervals," she said.
Katie Rainsberger's Training Log: 1/26 - 1/31
Monday: 12 x 400m with 1 minute rest, 20 minute warmup/20 minute cool down
Tuesday: 6 miles easy
Wednesday: 6 miles easy - “not anything slower than 7:30 pace, just recovery"
Thursday: 3 x 1 Mile at 5:30/5:25/5:15 drop down starting at race pace with 2 minutes rest
Friday: 6 miles recovery
Saturday: 10 mile run - “usually the first 6 are comfortable, then I drop it down, I did my last 10 miles in 65 minutes"
Katie Rainsberger talks to MileSplit after winning the NXN SW Regional race in 17:11.10 over in-state rival Lauren Gregory of Fort Collins.
She says there's “no way" she could have completed workouts like this last year, or even during the cross country season.
“I am at a point in my training right now that I don't even think I was at in my cross country season," she said. “It's really motivating and reassuring."
As a high school sophomore, Rainsberger finished fifth in the USA XC Junior Women's race with a 22:22 mark for her first-ever 6k. The competition includes all under-19 competitors and the top half of the field is usually filled out by college freshmen and high school seniors. Fellow Colorado runner and mentor Elise Cranny, now a Stanford freshman, was the individual winner in 21:14.
“Last year, it was kind of last minute, like, 'hey, this would be fun! Elise is doing it, we'll put a team together and have some fun,'" Rainsberger said. “I wasn't very prepared because it was a very spur-of-the-moment type of thing. [This year], I came into it with a more focused mindset because there is a world team."
She's also racing on her home turf.
“It's really rewarding because last year, everyone from Colorado goes out and watches and you want to make Colorado proud," she said.
'Everyone' includes Rainsberger's parents - and her mom, Lisa, in particular. Before she was Lisa Rainsberger, she was Lisa Larsen Weidenbach - the last American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 1985. She was also a two-time champion in the Chicago Marathon and recorded two fourth-place finishes in the Marathon Olympic Trials and 1984 and 1988.
Though Lisa's legacy lives strong in Katie, the Kadet's fire has always been her own.
“I think my eighth grade track season, I ran 5:08 and 2:21 for 1,600m and 800m and in Colorado, I'm at 7,500 feet," she said. “My mom, she looked at me and she said, 'Katie, I didn't even run those times in high school!' And I was like, 'wow, this could be something that I could do and really enjoy it.'"
Lisa currently guides Katie's training along with Scott Simmons of the American Distance Project. On Saturday, Rainsberger will toe the line in a Kokopelli Racing Team singlet with her winter training group.
“I know that I'm gonna be racing against older girls that are either seniors or freshmen in college," she said. “I think [I need] to just go in with the mindset that I've been working hard and my training will pay off."
Much to the delight of MileSplit, Katie Rainsberger is also a budding journalist as the Senior Sports Editor for The Jetstream Journal, the Air Academy student newspaper. Check out her work here.