By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
EUGENE, OR (30-Jun) -- There are certain buzz words that come along with the Olympic Trials each quadrennial: pinnacle, breakthrough, emergence, heartbreak. For Hoka One One Northern Arizona Elite member Scott Fauble, it's 'aggregation of marginal gains.'
PHOTO: Scott Fauble does his final preparations for the 2016 USA Olympic Trials 10,000m in Eugene, Ore. (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)
On paper, 2016 has been a breakthrough year for the 24-year-old native of Colorado. He hopes a strong run here Friday evening in the 10,000m leaves him not only with a personal best, but also a ticket to Rio de Janeiro.
But the Trials represent something more than a tryout for the Olympic team. They are a year's worth of redemption.
"It's just been the aggregation of marginal gains," Fauble told Race Results Weekly, speaking before running with teammates Ben Bruce and Scott Smith at the track at South Eugene High School. "I feel like I've really spent the whole year getting a little bit better at everything, focusing on making little improvements. When you do that it adds up, so I think that's sort of how I see it. Hopefully Rio will be the culmination of it all."
The past twelve months have been a journey for Fauble, a 2015 graduate of the University of Portland. At the NCAA Western Regional last year, Fauble discovered he had a stress fracture in his foot. Despite the pain, he'd finish second in the 10,000m to Edward Cheserek and qualify for the NCAA Championships here at Hayward Field. Due to the stress fracture, he DNF'd the NCAA Championships 10,000m, a disappointment that served to light a fire in Fauble's heart.
Signing with Hoka One One and joining the contingent coached by Ben Rosario in Flagstaff, Ariz., Fauble has made steady progress. To the outside eye, the past six months have been the best of his career: Fauble finished third behind double Olympic champion Mo Farah and American Garrett Heath at the Great Edinburgh Cross Country meet in Scotland last January; notched a solid 28:00.43 PB (just off of the Olympic Games standard of 28-flat) to finish third at the Stanford Invitational 10,000m last May; and ran a lifetime best of 63:06 at the USA Half-Marathon Championships to place second (much better than his 31st place showing a year before).
"Part of me is really just excited about the progress that I've made over the last year. The other part of me, the bigger part of me, is like, 'It's not done yet. It doesn't matter how far I've come, I've got a bigger goal,'" he said, his tone confident and mature. "It's like a fire. I'm trying to balance those two things and also soak in the excitement of the Trials."
All along, Fauble knew he was capable of such strong performances. He wasn't surprised by the recent results, and knew that the hard training at altitude was paying off.
"In a lot of ways it has been, on paper, it has been [a breakthrough]. But before 2016, in 2015 and the year before that, I always felt like I was good enough to do all this. I knew I was a good runner and able to run fast and be competitive in almost any field," he said. "It's not like it's a surprise really to me, but I can understand that it could be a surprise to people who haven't seen me train and don't know me very well. But to me it's less of a breakthrough and more of an actualization of something I've always felt I was good enough to do."
Training between 100 and 115 miles a week at altitude along with Northern Arizona Elite has only further supported Fauble's transition from All-American collegian to Olympic-hopeful professional. One of the supreme lessons he's learned is that running is not a two-hour-a-day profession out on the roads or track. It's about the little things done the rest of the day that help further your performances.
"It's not like you can show up to a workout unprepared, or if you're not having a good day you can muscle your way through it. You really have to focus and be on it every single day and be on a high level just to be with the guys in the group, let alone that transferring to a national stage or a world stage," he said, looking out over the track where Bruce and Smith completed easy laps. "It's been a great help to have that really high bar set for us by the guys who were here before us and then hopefully myself and Craig and Ryan have helped to raise the bar even higher. Ben's a great coach and deserves a lot of credit for the performances that I've had and the performances that we as a group have had."
Fauble said he's excited for the Trials 10,000m. He faces a special challenge for making the team: he must finish in the top three AND break 28:00 so he can have the Olympic Games standard required to definitely secure a team spot. Yet Fauble wishes the race could be held elsewhere in the state of Oregon. Of course, Portland's primary rival is the University of Oregon Ducks. Eugene is enemy territory.
"Coming up as a Pilot, we weren't big fans of the Ducks and Eugene," he said with a laugh. "I don't have the same reverence for Eugene as many people do probably. I always thought of it as the place that we had to go occasionally to face the rivals and tune-up... I don't want to get on anyone's toes, I'm sure it's a great city, but I wish it was in Portland."
All kidding aside, Fauble is concentrating on one thing: 25 laps of the track. If you ask each and every athlete that toes the line Friday what their goal is, it's to finish top three and board the plane to Rio later this summer. While the same holds true for Fauble, he goes one step further.
"I'll be happy with top three. I'll be happy if I get to the end and feel like that was everything I had. If I get out there and get fourth or fifth or sixth and know that there was not another thing I could have done, then that'll have been fine. I'm not OK with it, but I understand that there's a lot of good runners in this race and whoever's going to make the team will have to have something special in the last mile or so," he began, speaking passionately about the race ahead. "If I put myself in that position, give myself a realistic shot and don't have something quite as special as three other people but know that I could not have squeezed another second out of myself, it'll be bittersweet. Just to go out and compete tomorrow will be everything I could hope for. Not just compete, I want to go and make the team. I'm not going to sit here and tell you I just want to do OK. I want to make the team. At the end of the day, if you do everything you possibly can and it's just not good enough, you just weren't good enough on that day. That's my look at it."