Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Olympic Hopeful Abbabiya Simbassa

Photo credit Sioux City Journal 
Less than three weeks before the US Olympic Trials, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Abbabiya Simbassa, an Olympic hopeful in the 5,000m run. On June 12, Simbassa ran a personal best time of 13:29 at the Portland Track Festival. 

He'll be joining fellow Team USA Minnesota member Heather Kampf at the Olympic trials in less than three weeks, and will be competing in the 5,000m preliminaries on July 4th. As we sipped our coffee, I asked him about his goals for the race. He told me, "It's all about making the team. Making the finals is key."

Dennis Barker, Head Coach of Team USA Minnesota, has watched Simbassa make some big improvements this season. Via e-mail, Barker wrote:

Biya is unique in that he has been running at a competitive level the least amount of time of any guy we have had on the team. Last fall and over the winter we stuck to improving his base and stayed away from work that was too intense. He ran some longer races tired and without any sharpening work, but by sticking to the plan he became able to do more intense work and recover better when we got to the racing season. That has allowed him to improve his 5,000 meter time from 14:02 to 13:29 so far this year."

Simbassa plans to draw on the experience of Heather Kampf, a trials veteran. "Heather's a hard worker and a positive person to be around," he said. "The kind of workouts she does--motivate me... the kind of work she puts in, having her around--it makes me want to do more. Every time she races, you can tell she wants it."

Teammate Parker Stinson, currently training in Oregon, is injured and will not be competing in the trials. At the Payton Jordan Invitational in May 2015, Stinson ran a trials qualifying time of 27:54 in the 10,000m. "Parker, he's a good runner," said Simbassa. "I haven't done any workouts with him--he's in Eugene now. It'll be good having him around again."

Simbassa promised me a follow up conversation on a run--I'm usually a better listener when I can't breathe. "How fast are your recovery runs?" I asked. 

"Oh, about 6:15 per mile," he said.

I wasn't sure I’d heard right. "Six fifty, as in six, five, zero?"

"No, six fifteen."

"Would you be willing to slow down for an old guy? Maybe run some 6:50s with me?"

"For a recovery day?" he said. "Sure. I like running with anybody."

I'm looking forward to trying to keep up with Simbassa.

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