Workout Wednesday with Dan O'Brien
Few athletes ever get the chance to make it to Foot Locker Nationals, in fact in its 40 year history VA has only sent 63 guys to Nationals. On top of that he is VA's 16th guy to make it to two Foot Lockers and just the second private school athlete to achieve that. His accolades go much further than that though.
Dan enters Foot Locker Nationals as one of the most decorated individuals in the field. He has won three state XC titles in a row, finished second his freshman year, and has won 12 state titles overall. He has pulled off the 800,1600,3200 triple at states, and he has led his VES team to back-to-back state team titles.
This dominance not only comes from his ability but his strength. That is the focus of his training and heading into his second Foot Locker Nationals it was evident that that training was working well for him.
"The philosophy behind our training has been to really emphasize strength instead of raw speed. As the Brooks Hanson's Coach said in a recent article "I have plenty of guys that can run fast, I have to get them strong enough to run fast longer". We do a lot workouts like the one you saw: long intervals on varied terrain and very little on the track. From late August thru mid-October nearly all of our work are tempos and long intervals (1K to 2 mile repeats) at lactate threshold pace with short recovery. Only by late October do we start to crank it down to what people would consider real speedwork (faster than 5K race pace). This is also to shift his peak to past States, and more timed with FL Regionals and Nationals. So the workout he did is a hybrid late season, high intensity session. The strides and Hill Repeats are gravy--for technique (and extra hills for Balboa!)" - Virginia Episcopal Coach Peter O'Brien
This workout that he is referencing is the one above that we shot for our Workout Wednesday feature. This was his last hard workout before San Diego and was a 6x1200 with 8x200 hill repeats to follow.
His strength has been evident all season long. Not only has his strength been evident but his metered nature has been too. In his only two races that he really let loose, MileStat XC and VISAA States, we saw the potential that he has coming into Foot Locker Nationals this weekend.
Both of those races registered as his fastest speed ratings of the season and the latter ranks him 20th in the nation. Out of the 19 individuals ahead of him just five are competing at Foot Lockers so if you went solely based on speed ratings he would be ranked 6th. 13 of the 19 performances ahead of him were also recorded at NXN.
It was on that same course, Pole Green (VISAA States), that he took down a long standing course record with his 15:11 clocking. That course, Pole Green Park's lower course, is very similar to Balboa Park in time.
Statistically speaking Balboa Park is historically 19 seconds slower than Pole Green Park but when you equate in the timing of the race (usually early in the season at Pole Green) and the fact that Foot Locker actually has elite competition you can surmise that the difference is roughly 10 seconds.
Dan was 12th a year ago and his goal this year is to be in the single digits. His improvements and that conversion of time means it is very possible. He just needs to have the right race. He ran 15:45 last year and based on our rudimentary math, he could run anywhere between 15:18-15:24 this go around.
That time frame puts him well within the top ten based on the last two year's times and means he could truly have one of the best finishes VA has ever had at Nationals.