What do you get when you have a blow-up mattress, bowls of oatmeal and an untied shoelace?
A national record.
Terrace’s Tyler Dozzi ran the Under 20 Indoor 5K race in Boston, MA on Dec. 1 and set a new Canadian record by 0.05 seconds at 14:18:92. The previous top record was held at 14:18:97 since 2016.
“I didn’t think I had it, I started to feel like I was going to throw up and I was running so hard like a madman, I really had to finish on empty, and then some,” says Dozzi. “I knew I was close but for a moment, I didn’t think I made it.”
After stumbling onto the ground as he passed the finish line, Dozzi says he was feeling anxious and upset with himself as he watched the scoreboard bring up the results.
“But then the time popped up, I jumped up and switched feelings. I hugged a few people, I called my parents and I was just lost in the moment — it took a while for it to sink in.”
The month leading up to his national record win was more than just a casual warm-up. Dozzi competed in two cross country championships, both set in Kingston, Ont. His first was a devastating loss, coming in 57th in the U Sports 10k race.
With cold winds up to 70 km per hour, Dozzi says it was a really off day for him. It took a lot to recover from it, mentally and physically but he was determined to not let it get him down.
“I had to regain my headspace after that and put it into perspective that it wasn’t because I hadn’t put in enough work or that I wasn’t fast enough, it was simply because I didn’t have a great day.”
Dozzi returned to Kingston two weeks later for the U20 Nationals 8k on Nov. 24. His previous bad run left his name out of the predictions and Dozzi says that it “stoked the fire in him” to prove everyone wrong.
“I knew what I was capable of and I wasn’t going to let their predictions get in my way of how I was planning for the race to go,” says Dozzi.
For him, he says he’s always felt like an underdog at competitions coming from Terrace where often, no one would’ve heard of him — but he wanted to make sure they would after.
And doing just that, he placed first and won back the attention. Runner’s Magazine even featuring him as the “ultimate sportsman”. As word got around of his upcoming national record attempt, dozens of supportive messages from his newly acquired followers started pouring in.
That week, Dozzi set out solo on his trip to Boston in hopeful pursuit of holding the next national record at the indoor 200m loop track. He slept on a blow-up mattress at his friend’s dorm in Havard University. His run was postponed until evening, so he stuck to an entire day of oatmeal and coconut water while he waited.
“It turns out in Boston, they don’t say on your marks and I find that out the hard way,” says Dozzi. When he was finally standing at the start line, stretching, the gun went off and the other runners sprinted off without him.
He caught up but 600m in, his shoelace became untied. He says he was “freaking out” because he was worried he’d lose his shoe.
“If the shoe fell off, then either the skin of my foot would get torn off from running this rubber track or I’d have to drop out from this race… There was no scenario that I’d still hit the record, running on a track with one shoe on.”
With burning legs and blistering feet, Dozzi saw he had the chance to beat the record and sprinted his last 400m. Pulling a classic sprinter’s trick, he leaned forward towards the line to scrape off any fractions of a second that might make a difference.
It did, by 0.05 seconds.
“If I hadn’t done the sprinter thing, I might have not hit that record. It’s crazy to think that every time I gave a little bit more, it all added up to that tiny bit at the end.”
As his racing season comes to an end, Dozzi says he isn’t planning to beat any records for the time being and will go back to studying for his exams this month at UBC.
He’ll continue running with his university team, with two races set at the end of February. One of which will take place at the University of Washington in Seattle that he’s running “just for the fun of it.” And if his shoelaces stay tied, Dozzi also hopes to join a few U23 national teams and qualify for the International University Games in Italy next summer.