Leon senior Sukhi Khosla recaps the days leading up to the NXN Southeast Regional and his thoughts following his runner-up finish.
Flying to a race feels very different than driving. To me it feels more official, more serious, and I get a taste of the professional lifestyle. Our flight took off at 7a.m. from Tallahassee Regional Airport. We got to Charlotte at 10 and drove straight to the WakeMed Soccer Complex. I had never run this course before, so I was really excited to see it and understand the challenges. After finishing the course in around 21 minutes with my team, I had mixed feelings about the course. It felt challenging, but with a high potential to be fast and a large downhill proceeding the second mile is a perfect place to recover while still maintaining the pace. After two strides and a light 30 second sprint we went to our hotel. My legs felt ready. I felt ready.
Since the race was at 11:10, we didn't have to wake up at 5 a.m. like for most races. I felt more comfortable being able to have a larger breakfast and more time from my alarm till the race. Skipping the boring warmup and check-in, we were at the line. One last word to my boys and the gun goes off. The amount of people in this race was staggering. I tried to go out relatively fast, but got boxed fast. Elbows, knees, spikes. This race was uncomfortable and aggressive. Everyone wanted one thing: to earn a berth to NXN. I spent the entirety of the first 2km trying to see the front and weaving in and out of hundreds of runners. The amount of energy I wasted trying to get to the front ended up being much more than if I would have just blazed the first mile. Getting to the second mile marker, I was finally in the front group, but I didn't have the spark to control the race or react to any moves. 9:45 at two miles, I was way too tired for the pace I was running. In about sixth place, I was getting anxious that I wasn't gonna make the top five. For my final possible move, I moved up to second place with around 1200 left. First place runner Adam Barnard had close to 150 meters on us and at that point I knew I wasn't going to win it because I didn't have another gear left for the hill. Although I was closing the gap towards the end, I just ran out of space to run and ended up second in 14:56. My last mile was about 4:40 so I was pleased with that. I haven't had the experience of running in a huge race with a large pack so I wasted a lot of energy weaving and trying to get to the front. Next week my strategies will surely change.
Finally, as it turned and waited for all 7 of my team members to finish, I knew we didn't qualify. I think we had the talent and the work was put in, but we didn't have the experience. We ran as well as we could have for the race and I'm proud of our season as a whole even though it didn't go quite the way we wanted. Also, I didn't really want to go to Portland without them, but I do believe that NXN will have close to as good a race individually as footlocker this year. There are some extremely talented guys going to Oregon and I'm excited to get in a race like this.
Also congrats to Franco Martins for a great race and a huge PR. I'll see you in Portland!