If Gov. Thomas Johnson High School junior cross country runner Ben Freed appears to be shockingly fresh following an event this fall, it has nothing to do with how hard he works on the course, it's just that the 3.1-mile races are just one-third of what he normally does in training each summer.
Sidelined by a stress fracture during his freshman track & field season, Freed, the Patriots' No. 1 runner, decided to take up bicycling as a low-impact way to rehabilitate from his injury and stay in competitive shape. That decision eventually led Freed to compete in a sprint triathlon, something he has done more than 10 times since in recent summer breaks.
A sprint triathlon normally consists of a 750-meter swim, a 20-kilometer bike ride and a five-kilometer run, which is about half the distance of an Olympic triathlon and less than a quarter of that of an Ironman triathlon.
“I started doing [the cycling] and then I started running a little bit and I already swam so I thought I might as well try to do it,” Freed said. “It feels like a full race. You are truly tired when you're done. It's really good cross-training; all three of those are cardio vascular.
“Running puts a lot of strain on your body, your muscles and tendons. This way you can do more exercise with less damage to your body. Swimming and biking give me a really good cardio vascular base.”
That extra conditioning has more than paid off this season as Freed has become one of Frederick County's top runners, including taking third place at the county meet in a time of 15:39.86 to lead Thomas Johnson to the team title and then fourth at the 3A West Regional in a time of 15:52.5 to help the Patriots take second place to Albert Einstein.
“He's definitely an asset for our team,” Patriots runner Jon Karczmarek said. “He's just hard working. He comes out every day and puts in his miles. He does the hard work in the workouts and he's smart about the things he does. He takes care of himself, proper nutrition and getting his rest and it has a lot to do with his triathlon work. There are a lot of benefits with his swimming and biking. It allows him to work harder on his running.”
Freed also grabbed second place at the Monocacy Valley Athletic League's Piedmont Conference meet; he finished roughly eight seconds behind Linganore's Patrick DuBoyce in a time of 16:51.4. Earlier in the season, Freed grabbed third place at the Brunswick Invitational (16:13.8) and at the Interstate Invitational (16:17.7).
“He's an incredible athlete and our clear No. 1,” first-year Patriots coach Michael Hexter said. “This is my first year seeing him but what I've heard is he's been pretty consistent throughout his entire career. He has a plan of attack before hand and he does a good job executing it. He is very, very dedicated to say the least.”
His final game plan of the 2012 season is to lead Thomas Johnson to one of the top spots in Saturday's 4A state championship meet.
“I think we're definitely looking good,” Freed said. “Taking on Hereford as a team is going to be a challenge but taking on Einstein, I think we have a realistic goal [of beating the Titans]. I want to place second at least.
“I think I'm more ready than I have been the whole rest of the season. We've put in all the training at this point; it's just about getting well rested and healthy for states.”