Katelyn Steen, Rocket Pure Ambassador and Olympic hopeful, gives us an inside look at what it’s like to attempt to qualify for the Olympic trials.
Hi. I’m Katelyn, and I’m a Steeplechase runner.
I spent last season attempting to qualify for the 2016 Olympic trials with the help of my coach Peter Oviatt. He’s the perfect coach for me because he has so much love for his athletes and an amazing eye for training opportunities.
What Is Steeplechase?
Steeplechase is a 3k track event with four barriers per lap and one water pit with a barrier in front of it. Runners hurdle the three barriers and leap into the water pit to jump over the barrier … and usually get one foot wet.
Fun facts: The Steeplechase has only been an Olympic event for women for eight years or so and the event has since become very competitive. Also, the event is the same for horses as it is for people!
How Does Qualifying Work?
The qualifying window for the Olympic trials opens just over a year before the trials take place. You can qualify at any track meet if it is a sanctioned meet. Last season I raced in Eugene, Portland, San Francisco, L.A., and Vancouver.
When trying to qualify, you tend to race the same people all season who are also trying to qualify for the trials. For the most part, everyone is working together to hit a qualifying standard and to attempt to beat one another. Three seconds is considered a close race.
Race In L.A.
One of my best races was in L.A., where I ran in a high-performance meet at Occidental College. I wasn’t looking to win; I wanted to knock some time off my PR and get closer to the standard.
I had had a long work week and an awful week of training, but the L.A. temperature was perfect- in the low 70s. The stands were filled with spectators and athletes.
Many high caliber athletes were running, and I was star struck by some of them. I had posters of these people on my walls growing up, so waiting in line next to them to use the bathroom or get food was a crazy experience!
At the beginning of the race, I looked around to see that I was one of the youngest and middle of the pack, height-wise. While it is an advantage to have longer legs, success in Steeplechase comes down to speed, power, and technique.
Usually, there are falls every race, but this one there were not any significant falls but quite a few girls stumbled over the first few water pits.
I took the lead with a lap to go but ran into some barrier issues and water problems, so I lost momentum. The girl who won and qualified whizzed past me. She was strong!
I was three seconds from qualifying for the Olympic trials. I was stoked to be within arm’s length of the time needed to get me to the trials. It gave me a lot of life momentum to continue training.
After the L.A. meet, I headed back to Bellingham for a solid month of training with just a few races here and there.
One race was in Portland, Oregon where my body was clearly not happy with me. My legs felt like they were filled with cement. It was agonizing to think my training had stalled just five days before the final qualifying event in Vancouver, Canada.
Unfortunately, by the time the Vancouver event came around five days later, my body still wasn’t feeling any better, and I finished out of contention with a 9th place finish.
Initially, I was bummed that the goal I had been working towards for almost a year was no longer in reach, but then I realized there is always next year and the year after, and the year after
I will make another push in four years for the Olympic trials and see how far Peter can get me in that time.
Products I use the most while training:
- Rocket Pure Eucalyptus Foot and Shoe Powder- I love the soft eucalyptus fragrance. Without it, my steeple spikes and running shoes smell like a wet dog who just ate a load of garbage
- Rocket Pure Friction Therapy Natural Anti-chafe Balm. Mountain biking puts me in a world of hurt if I don’t use it, I have been going through that stuff like crazy since I got back on my bike after racing!