Rochelle Kanuho represents Hoka One One NAZ Elite and trains in Flagstaff, AZ. In early December Rochelle clocked a 2min+ PR and an Olympic A standard in the 10km. Belle Lap explores her two week race preparation and discovers how she gets to the start line ready to rock.
Belle Lap: How does it feel to have pocketed an Olympic A? Were you expecting it going in?
RK: Snagging the Olympic A standard is super exciting. Definitely a great feeling knowing all the hard work I’ve put in is paying off. It’s nice having it now, so i don’t have to stress about it the rest of the season. I can just focus on getting fit and not worry about chasing a standard.
Ben (my coach) had been telling me he thought I could run sub 32:15 based off my workouts. I wouldn’t say I, myself, was expecting the standard going into the race, I knew I was fit and knew my body was capable of running that time. But it’s about what happens on the day, and the days leading up to the race. I don’t like to expect anything from myself – I don’t like having that pressure. I know I’ve done all the work. I just have to put in the effort when it counts and whenever happens happens.
Belle Lap: Which shoes did you wear in the race?
RK: I wore the Hoka One One Long Distance Spikes
Belle Lap: When did you leave your flagstaff training base and head to Cali?
RK: I left Flagstaff to train in the Bay Area on November 25. The day before Thanksgiving to run the Silicon Valley turkey trot. It didn’t end up being a great race, I’m still learning a lot about myself and what my body responds to best and what it doesn’t respond well to. It’s really hard for me to travel the day before (I need to stop doing that). To answer your question, I’m staying with a really good friend of mine – We ran at NAU together. I like to think of them as my my family. I’m not especially close with my own family and they’ve welcomed me into their home and treat me like one of their own- I really enjoy being here during the holidays.
Belle Lap: Which was a key workout prior to the race that really stands out?
RK: I’d say a workout that really pops out that gave me an indication of how great of shape I was in is: 10 x 1km with 1 min rest. This workout was actually run in Camp Verde (3,100ft). Camp verde is about a 45 min drive from flagstaff. I ran this workout solo, averaging 3:16 pace. I don’t usually know 1k paces, but Ben seemed
pretty excited about the workout. After I was finished he said, “Dude, there are less then 10 women in the country that can do that workout right now.” That got me excited about my fitness, although I was never thinking about the ‘A’ Standard. I didn’t know I was running pacific pursuit (the 10k race) until a week before I left to train at sea level. Before the race I was never too fond of the 10,000m & Ben was well aware. I think he was a little nervous asking if that’s something I wanted to do. When he asked he mentioned that I could have a shot at snagging the ‘A’ Standard and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. 10k or not, you’d have to be crazy to pass up an opportunity at an Olympic standard when your coach knows you’re fit enough to run the time.
Belle Lap: What is your usual mileage and how did it change before your Olympic qualifier attempt?
RK: The weeks leading up to the the race I was averaging 80 miles a week. The highest I’ve ever run! Race week I ended with 60. I don’t usually like to drop my mileage that much but I was feeling really sluggish the days leading up to the race, so Ben dropped my mileage. I’d had a big workout the week of the race and it didn’t go well. 6 X cut down miles. The first rep was supposed to be 5:16 (pretty comfortable for the shape i was in- at sea level) and it felt SOO hard. I just needed few more days at sea level to get my body acclimated. I was feeling like my normal self two days before the race
Belle Lap: 10 km is a long way on the track, how do you stay focused mid race?
RK: Well I haven’t run a 10k on the track in over two years and that was my first track meet since June so I forgot about the lap counter. I focused on my stride, my pace, and the people around me. I think the pack started to dwindle about half way or just before. I had a brief moment where I thought “oh man this is getting hard, I don’t know if I can keep this pace” – And then I thought “don’t think like that” and started to think about all the hard work and struggle I’ve been through and just kept going. I stayed focused by listening to my coach calling out splits and trying to feel out the pace. It actually went by pretty quick for me. I’d hear Ben call out “77!” Then he’d call out “78” and I’d be like “oh, got a little too comfortable.” Then he’d call out “75” and be like “oh crap” then he’d call out another 78. It was really nerve racking but kind of fun at the same time. I think it’s best for me to take it one lap at a time, I like hearing my splits every 400- it keeps my mind occupied.
Sunday night was just about getting the A Standard, I’d say I raced the last 800. Wasn’t much of a race though, Chelsea really put the hammer down. I did my best to not let her gap me but I just couldn’t hang- hopefully I can improve on that next time.
Belle Lap: What is your pre race meal/ how long before?
RK: I keep it pretty simple on race day. I stick with oatmeal for breakfast- I’ll add in some cinnamon, peanut butter, honey and a banana. Sometimes I’ll eat a “normal” breakfast if its a night race. I’ll usually go for a turkey sandwich for lunch. Although two years ago I had a hamburger for lunch at outdoor USAs in 2014. I thought it was a great idea, hamburgers are a great source of protein and iron, right?? I think my race was at like 8pm (the 5000). I ate a super light breakfast and had lunch around 1-2pm. I gave myself 6 hours since it was a bit heavier than what I was used to. I felt the burger during my warm up and the first lap of the race and then i forgot about it. But I ran 15:25, my current PR. It’s amazing what adrenalin can do. Not sure I’ll ever do that again – I was really worried I could still feel my food. That race was also at Hornet Stadium. I’ve set two PRs there now!
Belle Lap: Can you share a ‘taper’ workout you did the week of your race?
RK: I didn’t necessarily have a taper workout. Ben had me do 6x cut down miles with 2 minutes rest on the track on Tuesday, the race was on Sunday. My mileage for that week was only 60- dropped by 20. My splits were supped to be 5:16-5:12-5:08-5:04-5:00-4:56. At this point I had been in the Bay Area for 7 days and my body wasn’t quite acclimated. My splits were 5:18-5:11-5:06-5:06-5:09-5:14
Belle Lap: Do you have any pre-race rituals to let your mind and body know things are about to hot up on the track?
RK: I mean, I shower and shave my legs before I leave for the course but that’s it. Not sure if that’s considered a “pre-race ritual”. I don’t normally shower before I run, just on race day. But don’t worry, I shower after too. I don’t like to shave my legs the week or two leading up to the race, so I have something to shave on the big day.
Writing this I realize how weird I am…
Belle Lap: Did you execute your race plan as discussed by you and your coach Ben Rosario or did you have to adapt to something you wearn’t expecting?
RK: The plan was to go out and run 77s and that’s what I tried to do. I’d though we were supposed to have a pacer go through half way at 16:05-16:10 pace. I must have misunderstood because we didn’t end up having a pacer for our group. I ended up having to do most of the work but it all worked out- It helped that I had coach Ben calling out splits.
Belle Lap: How much sleep do you generally get a night/ day?
RK: I try to get 8-9 hours of sleep. My body can’t really go much longer lying in bed unless I’m really tired. I usually get a sold hour or two napping during the day. Some days I can nap some days I can’t.
Belle Lap: Do you usually sleep well before a race? how do you calm your nerves if you have any?
RK: I usually tend to sleep well before a race. I don’t get nervous until I start heading over to the course. I’ve gotten better at calming myself when I do get nervous telling myself that all the hard work is done. I like to think about the good workouts I’ve had to remind myself the fitness is there, my body it fit, Its up to my mind to execute and make those important decisions during the race. It’s all mental.
Belle Lap: Can you give any specific race advice to collegiate athletes who are learning how to ace the 10km?
RK: I’m still learning how the race the 10000 as well- I haven’t had much experience as a professional athlete. I’d say be patient, if your splits are too slow the first couple laps don’t panic, it’s a long race. You want to feel in control the first half. The first 5k of my 10k at Pacific Pursuit felt really comfortable. I really wanted to pick up the pace but I didn’t because I knew I still had another 5k left to go. It started to get tough around mile four.