Peaking for that most important of competitions is probably the hardest of all the phases of race preparation.
As my coach always will say, the best prep is no guarantee of success on race day.
So many things have to go right. Obviously, doing your homework before race day is critical. Being well trained, being hydrated, being nutritionally balanced, being rested. Then much of the remainder comes down to luck.
I am a huge believer in biorhythm, your body's natural cycle of ups and downs. Being in the down cycle can certainly hurt performance. Other performance busters include mental lapses, a temporary loss of confidence and unfavorable weather. Still another factor when there are heats and finals involved is how well you can run back-to-back races.
Failure to execute happens to the pros, just like it can happen to us mere mortals.
Some experiences at this weekend's USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Indianapolis:
c After fighting illness this spring, America"s most dominating 400-meter female — Sanya Richards — was back on her game this month with top clockings at the Nike Prefontaine Classic and a big-time meet in Oslo. She expected to clock a sub-50-second time at nationals to qualify for worlds.
She handily won her first and second rounds but yesterday ended up fourth in the final in 50.68 seconds, far off her 48.70 U.S. record from last year. No win, no worlds in the 400.
c In the women's 1500, Shayne Culpepper was among the favored with a recent 4:05.98 minute personal best, but she failed miserably in the finals, ending in 4:22.35 for 11th place. Brianna Felnagle, the North Carolina standout who ran 4:09 in the recent NCAA Division I Championships, was just ahead in 4:22.10. Miesha Marzell, with a recent 4:12 time, failed to advance to the finals with a 4:25.98 in the heats while Mary Jayne Harrelson, also a long-time top mile competitor who recently ran 4:11, ended far back in the finals in 4:26.74.
c Me'Lisa Barber was by far for the fastest runner in the 100-meter first round in 10.95, but failed to advance out of the second round with an 11.42. The winning time in the finals was 11.02. Meanwhile, Allyson Felix ran 11.13 in the first round, a time that would have placed her second in the final. Instead, she ran 11.25 in the final for fourth place.
More from Indy — Rod Koborsi, a 2006 Georgetown University graduate, finished 12th in the 5,000 meters. His time of 13:52.33 was shy of his 13:26.65 best last July in Belgium. ... Newly minted masters runner Jim Sorensen had no competition in the exhibition masters mile and thus no sub-four minute mile. He clocked 4:13.21, 10 seconds ahead of the field.
Clearing all barriers — University of Virginia freshman Stephanie Garcia was in a league of her own at the Junior Track & Field Championships, running concurrently with the USA Outdoor Championships.
The rookie steeplechaser from South Riding, Va., who last year ran for Broad Run High in the Ashburn area of eastern Loudoun County, won the 7½-lap steeple race in 10:26.41. Her margin of victory was 24 seconds.
"This is my first year doing [the steeplechase]," Garcia said. "It's so much fun. I really didn't know how the competition was going to be. I just listened to my coach and listened to my body. I felt great and the weather was perfect. I am so happy just to be here and to win. It's better than anything I could have hoped for."
Garcia ran 10:22.16 in the first round of the NCAA Division I Championships two weeks ago (second-fastest freshman) and 10:15.83 at the Eastern Regionals two weeks before that. With continued improvement in the event, she could be looking at Briana Shook's U.S. 3,000-meter steeplechase record of 9:29.32, set by Shook in 2004 at the age of 23.