2013 - Nick Christie - Looking Ahead Interview
Nick, most people probably had no idea who you were until you showed up at the Olympic Trials for the 20km in Eugene. Where were you before that?
I was attending Cuyamaca College for two years.
Did you go there intending to be a race walker?
I started as a Cross Country runner. I thought I was a decathlete. I spent a lot of time vaulting in high school, I jumped 13’1” so I thought I was ok. I just really enjoyed it until I broke my collar bone.
What was it like going to a community college and the coach turns out to be a highly decorated 2-time Olympic race walker? Was that something you knew before you went there?
I had no idea. One of my teammates had trained with him and eluded to that Tim had accomplished a lot, but it really didn’t register until I got there. Then I realized he must know what he’s doing when I heard about the other athletes he was working with. It was a great wakeup call to know I was in such good hands. I don’t think my high school coaches were as knowledgeable.
So you started running Cross Country for him, how were you doing as a runner?
I came into the season a little hurt. I had tweaked my knee and couldn’t run that well. The first meet was pretty miserable. After that Coach Tim had me work out carefully and included a few longer interval workouts (these were actually fartleks) and I was able to recover quickly. I hit my high school 5K PR in the middle of a 4 mile race. I was really happy with how I was doing, I was hitting around 18 minutes for the 5K Split. That was really good for me.
I assume at this point you are running track more for fun and worrying about getting an education?
I kinda went to the community college because it was cheaper and I knew I could still run track there. Also, my pole vault coach was a coach at the school, so I ended up going there to see what I could do over two years and focus on school while seeing where track could go.
Were there any thoughts of making an Olympic Team at this point?
Just wild dreams.
So when did the idea of becoming a race walker enter the picture?
At the end of the first season Coach Tim asked all of the athletes if they wanted to try the race walk. I was able to get the technique down quickly and was able to walk a 40 something 200m, which Coach Tim said was pretty good. However, Coach Tim didn’t want to mess up my track season so I didn’t really start race walking until the end of track season that May (2011).
So the season ended and you started training then?
I wasn’t quite into it yet. I still thought I was a runner. I walked in a couple of 5K’s over the summer and trained twice a week walking about 6K at a time. I had a summer job that ran all day so I didn’t get a lot of training in the summer. I started to train or cross country, but didn’t do so well in the first race back so Coach Tim convinced me to focus on race walking. I did, but at that point I still wanted to run a little more.
So when did you actually take race walking seriously?
After the first 20km. I did a 1:39:05, I think and I was like that’s pretty close to the standard and I was starting to train with Lauren (Forgues) and Miranda (Melville) on the strand (an area near Chula Vista) now and then and kinda realized I needed to race walk harder if I wanted to make the Olympic Trials as a race walker.
What month was the 20K?
It was late in October. It was quite an experience being the first snow I had seen in like forever.
So in October 2011 you walk a sub 1:40 and 1:36 was the qualifier. So what happened next?
Coach Tim said the first day of cross country that I can get you to the trials if you take this seriously. So that’s kind of why I wanted to give it a try. I got a little side tracked in between.
What was the reaction to friends and family that you decided to take up the sport of race walking?
You know most of my friends thought it was pretty cool. There were no real negative thoughts, just wishes for good luck.
When did you qualify for the 20km trials?
I did a race in Jan or Feb and I was supposed to walk with Rachel (Seaman) and help her get the A standard. She was feeling a little sick and we fell off the pace, but I still walked a 1:35 something.
So that was fast enough to qualify you. Was that a wakeup call that not only does Coach Tim know what he is doing, but that you have a lot of natural talent?
I have a lot of confidence from what Coach Tim did for my running times. I was actually really happy with my first race, I just was upset I didn’t get the qualifying standard the first time.
What went through your mind after you got the trials standard in terms of what you thought you could accomplish at the Olympic Trials given that you were walking less than a year.
I knew I needed an A or B standard to move on. So the Olympic Trials really weren’t my focus. It was making the World Cup team. When Coach Tim told me that I could get a trip to Russia if I could walk around a 1:32, that became the big goal. I really started focusing on that one once I hear about it.
You didn’t have much time to prepare given the trials were April 1st. How did it go?
It went really well. It was a tough race because of the cold and rain, but that made it a little more fun and a challenge. I ended up getting 4th and was really happy, but not all of the members of my team qualified so it was a little bittersweet.
You had to be a splash in a pan that no one knew, coming out of nowhere, beating people who walked for years, what was the reaction of people to you?
There really wasn’t much of a reaction other than I was associated with Coach Tim and people knew his reputation. It’s probably a good notion that if you have good coaching you can do really well really fast.
So what was it like in Russia?
It was overwhelming. It was my first trip across the Atlantic. So I was really excited. It was amazing seeing the facilities there, the reactions of the people, to see how they had a training facility dedicated to race walking. I mean I thought it was the same size as the Olympic Training facility in Chula Vista, but it was just for race walkers. You can see what they did in the race! When I saw those athletes in the races I realized this is where you want to be, to be like these guys. The best part was being a part of what the fastest people were doing.
After Russia, you go to the Olympic Trials and finished pretty well, what was going through your mind as the race unfolded?
Initially I hoped to get top 5. Coach Tim told me to beat the people who were around my level and to try to get under 1:30. When we heard about Patrick Stroupe’s unfortunate accident then it sort of became a possibility to get a top three in the trials as a goal. A lot of the race strategy focused on that.
As Tim slowed down and Trevor pulled away, was there ever a moment in your mind when you thought you would go after Tim?
I did think that. I thought it a little too hard from 9K to 16K. I figured what the heck, after John Nunn dropped out I was pretty sure I would still get 3rd even if I crashed and figured I would try for a faster time and see what I could do. But, it didn’t happen.
Are you going to take Coach Tim down this year?
I don’t know, we’ll see. I guess it depends on what he’s doing.
So you have to be thinking ahead to 2016. Right?
So I assume that means you are targeting an A standard before the trials.
I am a little reluctant to speak anything so I don’t jinx it. I am not really superstitious, but the Olympics are a big deal. I would be surprised with the talent of Coach Tim's group now if there weren't at least four A's come 2016.
I understand you already have a wager on making the Olympics (I promised Nick a steak dinner in Rio if he makes the team).
I do, there is good Brazilian beef to be had in Brazil.
You’ve changed colleges, you are now at Missouri Baptist University with other walkers, what’s it like?
I think it’ similar to before because I started out training with a group walking with Lauren and Miranda, then stepped up to walking with Rachel and every now and then with Coach Tim, so I think it’s fantastic to have a group to train with.
Are you like the parent of the group?
I would say everyone keeps everyone in line. I did train with Coach Tim personally a bit longer so I can share some more of his ideas. I think everyone makes sure everyone gets stuff done.
So what advice do you have for a runner not making his/her goals with regards to race walking?
First, I would say that you have to have the mindset that you want to excel at something and not set any boundaries on it. You can’t have any negative emotions going in, you have to go all in if you are going to go all in. I think I messed up a little bit when I first started not going all in and wasted some of the opportunity.