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HOUSTON (17-Jan) -- A year ago, Reed Fischer paid his own way to the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon here (less a $100 travel stipend he got from the race organizers) and hoped for a good performance. Without a sponsor, the former Drake Bulldog didn't have a racing uniform to wear. So, he stopped by the race expo at the cavernous George R. Brown Convention Center to do some shopping.
"I bought just a plain, black Nike singlet," Fischer told Race Results Weekly in an interview here today. "I was, and still am, unsponsored. So for me, I just wanted to have a very understated, mixed-brand look." He continued: "I just wanted people to know where I stood from a sponsorship standpoint."
Holding the pace that his coach Tom Schwartz said he was capable of, Fischer ran the four 5-kilometer segments within the race in 14:51, 14:38, 14:41 and 14:49, respectively. He pushed through the final 1097 meters in a brisk 3:07, and crossed the finish line in 1:02:06, s 51-second personal best. Along the way, he set road PB's for 10-K (29:29), 15-K (44:10) and 20-K (58:59). He was also the first American, beating better-known athletes like Parker Stinson and Noah Droddy, and his time made him the sixth-fastest American at the half-marathon distance for 2019.
Was he surprised at his performance?
"Yes," Fischer admitted. "Maybe a bit more than I expected, to be completely honest. Coach Schwartz and I knew I was in around 62-minute shape, so from a time standpoint I ran 62:06, basically right where we hoped that I could run. But, I did not expect to crack the top-10 or be the top American."
Fischer, who trains with the Tinman Elite group in Boulder, Colo., comes to this year's race with a different mindset. He was supposed to make his marathon debut in Chicago last October, but had to withdraw when he suffered a "mild stress reaction" in his left foot, according to his Instagram page. It was a devastating setback for the young runner who had put together a very solid block of training.
"Working through my first injury as an athlete has been undoubtedly difficult, but I've found a new appreciation for running as a result," Fischer posted on Instagram at the time. "I'm incredibly grateful for my support team, they've helped keep me optimistic and get me back to running as quickly as possible."
Revising his plans, Fischer will now make his marathon debut at the USA Olympic Trials Marathon on Saturday, February 29. His race here on Sunday comes off of heavy marathon training and will provide a valuable test for his fitness. He is trying for a nuanced approach.
"There two ways you can approach it," Fischer explained. "One, is you go and have a nice conservative day and feel good about where things are at, and maybe don't run 100% of what you could. Or, the other one's, maybe, you say I'm just going to try and see if I can make something happen on some tired legs, go 100% effort and see if it pans out, or if you crash and burn. I'm trying to toe the line between the two. I'm trying to run really aggressively and rip the band-aid off." He continued: "I'm definitely fitter than last year."
Fischer has been in Boulder two and a half years training with Tinman Elite, and he loves the camaraderie of the group. The other athletes-- Drew Hunter, Jeff Thies, Aaron Templeton, Joseph Berriatua, Connor Winter, Kyle Medina, Jordan Gusman, Sam Parsons, and Patrick Joseph-- are middle-distance/5000m athletes, so Fischer is their long distance man (marathoner Brogan Austin is also part of Tinman, but he trains in Iowa). It would seem his training would be out of synch with his teammates, but that's not the case.
"The way that we train, I basically have two big days a week," said Fischer. Tuesdays, I'm able to do a 10-K-ish session with our guys and work on some faster stuff. Saturdays are my big kind of marathon days, and every other day I'm able to run easy with the rest of the team. More or less, five or six days a week I'm able to run with my teammates."
Fischer refers to Austin as his "virtual training partner" because they do many of the same workouts, only apart. "It's fun to be able to check-in with each other," he said.
With the Trials just about six weeks away, Fischer has spent plenty of time envisioning the race. He said he'll be ready for anything, but predicts that nobody will want to take up the pace, and that's fine.
"It think it's going to be incredibly slow for the first 5-K, especially now that it's a Gold Label race," Fischer said referring to the special World Athletics designation given to the Trials which allows a top-5 finish in any time to be an Olympic Games qualifier. "We're just competing for place and for spots." He continued: "I want to walk away feeling that I had a good race, whatever that means on that day. If I'm proud of my effort, then I'm OK with it."