Olympic Dreams: Heather (Dorniden) Kampf

Go Gophers! Kampf earned All-America honors each of her four years at Minnesota, including a national title.
Go Gophers!
Kampf earned All-America honors each of her four years at Minnesota, including a national title.
Go Gophers!

June 18, 2012

As the U.S. Olympic Team Trials approach (June 21-25, June 28-July 1), a handful of former Minnesota track & field athletes are training for the chance to compete in London. GopherSports.com recently caught up with some of these former Golden Gophers.

Heather (Dorniden) Kampf ended her Gopher track career as one of the most decorated athletes in program history. The school’s only national champion, she won the indoor 800 meters in 2006 and earned All-America honors each of the next three years. Kampf also holds four Big Ten titles. She is currently training for the Olympic Trials, and has posted qualifying times in both the 800m and 1,500m. GopherSports.com caught up with Kampf to talk about her recent races, her training plan, and more.

GopherSports.com: How did it feel to win the U.S. Road Mile Championship in front of a hometown crowd on Nicollet Mall? (Kampf won the race on May 17 with a time of 4:36.90.)
Heather Kampf: Winning the road mile in front of my home crowd was incredible. I was aware of the fact that no Minnesotan has ever won the road mile national title right here in Minneapolis, so that certainly was an extra motivator going in. Prior to the race, I was sitting in the grass near the start line, and was just amazed by how many people I knew from the local running community came up to wish me luck and chat. The entire race felt like that. Every step of the way I felt the support and heard the cheering. There is no better feeling than winning one for the hometown crowd that has helped me every step of the way, not only in that race, but my entire running career. It is especially fun to have my family, husband, and even the high school kids I coach there at the finish line. I rarely compete at home so that is a wonderful gift.

GS: You are probably more used to running 1,500s on the track—what are some fun things about running a road race?
HK: I am probably more familiar with the track races, but if it were possible to just be a professional road-miler, I would be all over that. I absolutely love racing on the roads. First reason being, there is scenery flying by. Instead of running in circles on the track, you are getting somewhere, and you don't have to be painfully aware of exactly how far you've gone on the roads. The race tactics I use in a road mile are also quite different. On a track, the pack of racers is usually only two people wide, and you have to work to pass on the straights. On the roads, the pack is spread wide across the street, and generally the entire course is straight ahead. Therefore, you can feel relaxed like you are right where you need to be in the pack, and eventually just break away when it is time for your finishing kick.

GS:   What is the key to balancing both the 800 and the 1,500 in training and competition?
HK: Balancing two events is actually a lot easier than it may appear. To become a good 800 or 1,500m runner, you need balance. You have to do workouts that train both your longer-distance systems, and your short-sprint systems. Therefore, the 1,500m work and races make me stronger for the 800m races, and the 800m work and races make me faster in the 1,500m. They complement each other well. I have always found that when I am racing fast in one event, that means a big personal best is just around the corner in the other.

GS: What does your training schedule look like the rest of the way leading up to Trials?
HK: At this point (last Thursday), I am about a week out from my first race at the Trials. Therefore, my training isn't all that intense. Today I had a short workout on the track. I will probably do a longer run over the weekend, another track workout early next week, and then just run easy on the other days. At this point we say, "The hay is in the barn," meaning we are as fit as we are going to get. Now I will just focus on recovery, feeling fresh and sharp, and ready to race my best.

GS: Tell us a little about your trip to Brazil.
HK: My trip to Brazil was a great experience. It is always fun to go to other countries where people are really interested in track and field. The fans in the stadium were great, they all had noise-making inflatables as if they were at the World Cup or something, and followed all the athletes around after the race asking for autographs and souvenirs. I even had kids ask me to give them the shirt off my back so they "have something to remember me" by. Beyond the competitive experience, having the opportunity to see more of the world is always fun. I learned a lot.

GS: You had a great career as a Gopher—are there any particular experiences or lessons from that time that have especially helped you as a professional/Olympic hopeful?
HK: Our coaches at the U of M were incredibly good at coaching us for life, not just for running. Beyond the physical skills, race tactics, and training, there wasn't one practice where I wouldn't leave with more wisdom than I bargained for. The details of sleep, nutrition, listening to your body for signs of injury and illness, and valuing my education were big things that help me maintain my ability to train at a high level now. I also will never forget the lessons I learned about being my own advocate, and not feeling selfish about doing what is best for me. In pro running, it is really easy to get pushed around if you aren't careful. Running in college furthered my passion for the sport through my awesome teammates and coaches, and will always be remembered as the best running years of my life, regardless of wherever this takes me in the future.

GS: How cool is it to see other former Gophers like Gabriele and Jamie and Liz also working toward making the Olympic team?
HK: It is so awesome to have former teammates be potential future teammates on the US Olympic Team. I believe in each of those women. I have seen how hard they train, and how much they want this. It will be a fun reunion at the trials, and would be a dream come true to go to London with any or all of them. Gophers represent!

GS: What do you like to do when you aren’t busy training?
HK: When I am not training, I stay pretty busy. I love coaching my high school athletes, playing with my dog, cooking, doing house projects with my husband, going to the beach, watching movies, etc. I'm pretty average in my interests beyond trying to make the Olympic Team.

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