The Internet Home of Track & Field

Beach Reading | an insider lends insight

Curtis Beach
of Albuquerque Academy, New Mexico, has been one of the most exciting track and field athletes in the nation this year. After setting the #2 all-time mark in the indoor pentathlon at NSIC, Beach has torn through an outdoor season that includes a national decathlon record with high school implements at Arcadia, five individual victories at the New Mexico state championships to lead his team to the 5A state title, and a tour de force performance at the Great Southwest Classic, where he contested two decathlons simultaneously, set a national record with international implements, split 1:50 on his state's winning 4x800, and ran a 46.45 on the victorious USA All-Stars 4x400 relay. The latest: A third-place finish in the NON 800.

Not "just a decathlete"
The amazing journey continues: The NON 800

by Curtis Beach, Albuquerque Academy NM senior
Photo by Vic Sailer, photorun.net
Hey, everyone!  For this second article, I’m writing about the drama of the NON 800.  This race was something special for me for a few reasons: One, I was running with the fastest 800 guys in the country and I wondered how well I would stack up against them; two, I could go for a fast time while fresh—I cannot remember when I’ve done just one event at a meet; and three, a good performance in this race would change how people would see me as an athlete—I wouldn’t just be a decathlete that is semi-elite in several events.  Even though the winning time wasn’t as fast as what many hoped it would be, the tactics, strategy, and ballsy moves turned this race turn into a thriller.  Check out the DyeStat Video Vault and you’ll see just how exciting this race was—the second lap was intense.

I was lucky to have a qualifying time for this event.  The only good open 800 I had run prior to this was at the NSIC (the day after I competed in the Indoor Pentathlon), where I surprised myself with a 1:52.72 PR.  Other 800s I had run included a 2:07 at my school’s home invite (I was pretty overheated), a 1:52.3 medley relay split the day after, and a 1:50.9 4x8 split at the Great Southwest.  After that windy 4x8, the day after a decathlon, Coach Kedge told me that he would very much like to see me run an open 800 while fresh… so it didn’t take long to decide on Nike Outdoor. 

Moved up with the big boys

Unfortunately, I could not use a split time to get into the fast heat of the 800.  Even though I knew I was more than capable of running with the fastest guys, rules were rules and I had to use my indoor time as an entry mark – which was good enough to make the 3rd of 4 sections.  But you know, running with guys like Andrews, Callahan, and Fleet isn’t everything.  As long as I had a lane in a competitive 800, I was completely satisfied.  From the days leading up to the 800 all the way through my warm up, I was prepared to make a wild run for an out-of-fast-section win.  But then, right as we were getting our hip numbers, an official told us that there had been a change to the heat sheets and that we shouldn’t be surprised if we were placed in a different heat… I knew exactly what that meant.

I lined up in lane three, just to the outside of Cas Loxsom.  As the intros were being announced, I remember feeling confident, relaxed, and just really happy that I was in this fast heat.  The gun fired, and after I gave Cas a slight opportunity to lead in front of me, I took the inside of the lane.  We reached the cut-in point, and I made my way to the rail right in the middle of the pack—exactly where I wanted to be.  I saw the clock turn to 26 as we hit the 200 mark and I felt that everything was perfect. 

We came around the second curve, and I saw the legendary Mac Fleet run up beside me—in the middle of the race I was thinking how cool it was to run with these guys.  Down the homestretch I was slightly apprehensive about getting boxed in, so when the opportunity came, I made a move to get in the front of the pack, slightly bumping someone on the inside.  I was in perfect position at the 400… I felt as if we hit a 54; I was relaxed and ready to rock the last 300. 

No victory or record, but a big thrill

We made our way down the backstretch and there was a nervous energy that grew as we all waited for someone to make the move.  I saw a slight opening on the inside and I jolted out hard, hoping to create a sudden gap between me and the rest of the field.  I knew everyone was going to go hard when I did this, and it only made me go at it faster. 

Coming around the final turn was exhilarating, I felt the win in my hands—I gave more of an effort as we shot down the straightaway.  Right then, Robby came up on my shoulder and we were stride-for-stride for a few seconds.  I thought we had an amazing finish awaiting us, but he began to pull away.  He was just running faster.  I still gave it all I had and finished with a lean, really believing I had run a 1:48 – but to just about everyone’s dismay, we saw 1:50s come up on the jumbotron.  At that point I felt slightly disappointed because I would have liked to break 1:50 and get my school record (set by Cody Harper at 1:50.3), but I knew that there was nothing I could have done to run faster, so I was completely satisfied. 

I later found out that I probably misjudged the 26 at the 200 and that the 54 I thought we ran on the first lap was really a 56 high, which explains the relatively slow overall time.  After we finished, I gave the deserving winner a big hug and congratulated the guys who came in after me.  Even though our time wasn’t as fast as I had hoped, the thrill of that race remained with me.

What makes it worthwhile

Looking back on it, I found very few areas I felt I could have improved.  I felt that I executed the tactical part perfectly—I was able to remain on the inside lane, but was still able to make the right moves so I didn’t get boxed in.  I began my kick at exactly the right time and gave the indoor national record holder a run for his money.  The one flaw I found in my race was trying too hard on the sprint to the finish.  I did not keep great sprint mechanics and I failed to remain loose and relaxed.  Even though I was very happy with my race overall, the thought of what might have happened had I sprinted well down the stretch killed me.  I visualized the perfect finish many times over and I had to make an effort to just prevent myself from agonizing over it. 

But then I realized something very important.  I discovered that the burning desire to fix whatever flaws I have is the reason why I was there in the first place... and that discovery alone made the whole trip worthwhile. 

It’s crazy how people travel so far, spend so much money, and take up so much time for one race that is not even 2 minutes long—or in some cases not even 11 seconds long.  But as I think back on the competition, the national championship atmosphere, and the electrifying race, it is all worth everything we put into it for those few moments.  Even if a particular race goes poorly, there is always an opportunity to learn and get better.  And in the big picture, it is just one small part of an amazing journey.

Crazy 800 Workout

Preparation for this competition varied only slightly from my normal regimen. The decathlon at the Junior Nationals was still the main focus and preparation for that took priority over everything.  Still, Coach Kedge tweaked my workouts so I would be ready for the Nike 800.  Below is one of the great workouts I’ve had and I feel that it is one that many mid-distance guys can use.

Coach Kedge modified the Billot’s 200s for my type of 800 training.  So instead of the traditional 30-second 200s on the minute (30 second 200s with the 30 remaining seconds serving as rest), Coach had me run 27-28 200s with 33-32 seconds rest; so the time I had to rest included slowing down and walking back.  The goal was to hit between 8-12 during what was an overcast and drizzly morning. 

The first 4 or so took some effort to hit the right times, but they still remained relatively comfortable.  After I embarked on number 6, however, it suddenly became super hard.  I felt as if I needed to sprint all-out in order to just hit sub 30.  By the time I finished 8 (in 7:28.9), I fell down onto all fours and hoped Coach would just let me be done… But right then he firmly said, “You can do one more.” 

Feeling absolutely terrible—I mean really, really awful—I said some inappropriate language to myself and took off as fast as I could possibly go.  Oh my god, it was so dang hard through the whole thing.  I thought I was going to break down with 50 meters to go until Coach came up and sprinted with me.  I pushed myself harder and got slightly ahead of him, but he just boosted even faster and retook the lead.  Then I had to push myself to yet another level to finish ahead of him.  For all that work on the 9th 200, I hit a 29—and this time I didn’t fall on all fours; I plummeted to the ground and just laid there hyperventilating… I thought I heard Coach laugh when he saw me there. 

After I cooled down and stretched, I felt happy I made it through and happy that I have a coach like Coach Kedge.  He can push his athletes to places they never think they can go, but he still never seems to overdo anything.