Catching up with Kim Conley prior to USA Cross Country

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A graduate of UC Davis, Kim Conley embarked on her post-collegiate running career in 2010 with great success.  She set PR’s of 15:51.57 in the 5000 meters and 33:22.28 for 10,000 meters while also finishing sixth at the USA 10k Road Championships and representing the United States at the Chiba International Ekiden.  Conley recently spent a month training at altitude in Mexico in preparation for her 2011 season.  We had a chance to catch up with Kim prior to the USA Cross Country Championships on Saturday.

Kim, you just returned from an extended training stint at altitude in Mexico.  Tell us who you were training with and how the general logistics of the trip were set up.  Also, why the choice of Mexico instead of a locale in the U.S.?

KC: After winter cross last year I started thinking about how I’d like to try doing an altitude stint in preparation for winter cross 2011. We knew that coach John Cook’s group had been going to Mexico and staying at an athletic facility that hosts international athletes (La Loma Centro Deportivo, in San Luis Potosí), so [coach Drew Wartenburg] started some doing some research and it took off from there. Mexico seemed like a good choice for altitude training in January because the weather would be really nice and most of the places to train at altitude in the US are covered in snow at this time of year. We got together a small group that consisted of Addie Bracy, who ran in the US Half Marathon Championships this weekend, Brie Felnagle, who is preparing for the indoor national championships, Pat Parsel, who was a teammate of mine at UC Davis, and myself.

Overall, how would you evaluate the success of the training?  What elements of your running have benefited in particular?

KC: So far it seems the training has been very successful; I adapted well to running at altitude and I feel great now that I have come down. It was my first time going to altitude to train so it was a little bit of an experiment and I guess we won’t really know how successful it was until I race next Saturday. Altitude aside, spending a month away from the rest of life to devote myself to training with two other like-minded women was certainly beneficial. We couldn’t have asked for a better overall environment and support from the people on site at La Loma and I look forward to returning there in the future for training.

Your first race of the year will be the USA Cross Country Championships in San Diego.  What are your expectations coming in?  Is a berth to the team for World Cross Country a goal?

KC: I can’t wait to race! I only raced twice in the fall (at the U.S. 10k road championships and the Chiba Ekiden), and really all the training during the last five or six months has been pointed at running well on February 5th. A berth for World Cross Country is the goal, but I’m also just very excited to mix it up in a great field this weekend. My training has been going very well, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out in a race setting against some great athletes.

The course at Mission Bay Park in San Diego is mostly on grass and relatively flat.  Do you feel these conditions favor your strengths?

KC: In college I always enjoyed looped races on golf courses and we’ve done a lot of race specific work on grass in preparation for this, so I feel ready. I would say I’m strongest on rolling courses, but I’ll never complain about a running on a flat, fast course either.

You set pretty substantial PR’s last season on the track with 15:51.57 in the 5k and 33:22.28 in the 10k.  Do you have plans to get in fast rabbited races to breaks these marks?  What other goals do you have for the outdoor season?

KC: I’m waiting until after this weekend to set goals and lay out a plan for the spring, but for now I can say that I will continue to focus on bringing all my PR’s down from 1500-10k. We’ll have to wait and see what event emerges as the one to focus on at USA’s in June, and we have also tabled the idea of heading to Europe mid-summer.

You had the opportunity to run for team USA at the Chiba International Ekiden in November.  How was the experience in competing in a foreign country in such a uniquely formatted race?

KC: Running in the Chiba Ekiden was a great experience. There are a lot of extra factors to consider when competing abroad – long travel, overcoming jet lag, and change in diet to name a few. The experience provided a good opportunity to learn to adapt to a different environment while still preparing to race. The race itself also provided a unique challenge. I ran the 4th leg, so the race was very spread out by the time I set off. It felt more like a time trial than a head to head race. Luckily the Russian team only had 15 seconds on us at the start of my leg so I could see a woman ahead of me and spent my leg running her down.

As an assistant coach at UC Davis, how has the experience been mentoring younger runners at your alma mater?  What have you been able to get out of it to benefit your own running?

KC: I love helping athletes get ready to run their best. Along with the process of helping them prepare to be better athletes, I become a better athlete myself. I am constantly learning more about myself in all areas from general mindset, daily approach to training and approach to competition. Plus, I have to practice what I preach, so if I’m going to ask them to live and train a certain way I make sure to be on top of my game as well.

We thank Kim for taking time out of her busy schedule to speak with us.  We wish her luck on Saturday at USA’s and with all future endeavors.

For more on the USA Cross Country Championships, visit our coverage index page here.

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