Your coach will hate me for this debatably terrible advice I am about to give, but if he heard me out fully, then maybe he’d only respectfully disagree: I think you should get hurt.
Now don’t go do it on purpose right now [or ever], though eventually at some point in your running career I’d really suggest you try it. It’s not something to be sought out, and in the midst of it you’ll see no value whatsoever to the experience. However, somewhere down the line, probably long after you’re fully healed and the fitness has been regained and then surpassed, you will look back and realize that it wasn’t the worst thing to ever happen to you. And after the fact, it may actually make you a better runner for it.
I am currently on the backside of an injury that took me out for a few weeks. After a 3-week long off-season my body felt like an Oldsmobile in desperate need of some oil. Less than 40 miles later my achilles flared up on me, and I was sidelined for a few weeks. I am happy to report that today I am now running pain free and back into my buildup, [hence why I can write this blog in good conscience]. During my time spent in the pool, swimming countless laps and contemplating the purchase of underwater headphones, there were hours of reflection upon my career.
As I thought back to some of my other extended interruptions from action, I realized a trend that has developed. It would seem that my biggest breakouts in racing occurred shortly thereafter the longest periods away. How could this be? But Kyle, you always talk about consistency! Well this is what I came up with…
Training is very simple. We sometimes make it complicated, and coaches will talk in percentages, numbers and target zones. All well and good, but the aim in the multitude of approaches is always the same: Stress the body, and then recover. We do this every week in micro-cycles of hard-easy days. And then we do it again from a slightly more macro-approach, taking down weeks each month, and an off week between seasons. You have to let the body recover so the muscles you broke down, and the systems you exhausted can then rebuild to come back stronger.
Now let’s take one step further back and think about all the years of training and miles that have been compiled. Is one week off, combined with a week of easy running necessarily enough to allow the body to fully heal? That’s where an unfortunate, and timely injury can become a blessing in disguise. It is a way of forcing your body to recover and absorb those huge blocks of training. Instead of lightly tapping it, you are fully pressing the restart button and holding it down, and when you return your body is fresh—and so is your mind!
My motivation goes through ebbs and flows while stuck cross training. In the beginning it’s easy, because you convince yourself that it’ll only be a couple days and so the fitness needs to be kept. Then, you get pissed off because this thing is lingering too long. That’s when you sit in the park and watch an elderly lady with a metal hip trot by and think, ‘How can she possibly be running right now, and I can’t?’ And finally, you see the light at the end of the tunnel and you’re starving for miles. That energy goes towards doing more core, heavier weights, and deeper stretching. When you can eventually make it back to the trail, you’re well behind where you thought you’d be and so there is no room for error now—you have to do everything perfect.
Perhaps the greatest assist an injury can make to your career is the simple reminder of how great it is to be running. The pursuit can be tiresome, the pressure can be daunting and the losses can be deflating. Yet not having the opportunity to crunch leaves beneath your feet on a crisp fall morning is enough to recirculate that pure love for the sport you haven’t felt for a while. And that yearning sticks with you beyond a few weeks of pain.
Again, I don’t suggest going doing anything stupid and trying to get hurt. I am sure it will ultimately happen to you anyways. But when it does come, realize that there may be some positives that come out of the terrible and unlucky moments. And maybe the physiological benefits that I made up without doing any real research are nothing more than pseudo-science and a rationalization I created to make myself feel better. The important thing is that it hopefully makes you optimistic about your situation, and when you can finally run again you’ll be confident and excited to be back! Or maybe you can never run again—either way, we are all going to die soon anyways.
The following is an article I recently contributed to Zocalo Public Square, which is a fantastic medium filled with incredible writing. Check it out! Zocalo Public Square Article
Three years ago, on a rain-soaked track in rural Pennsylvania, I ran the fastest 1,500-meter race by an American college student in history. My time was 3:35.59. Add an extra 109 meters to that pace, and it’s a 3:52 mile. I didn’t realize just how quick it was until someone put it in that perspective for me.
I hadn’t expected to run anywhere near that. My best 1,500 time going into the race was 3:42—still a very respectable time by collegiate standards, but far from record- breaking. As one of the athletes who had to beg his way for a spot on the starting line—it was a late-season race, held specifically for some of the country’s top runners to lock down good times—I was just there to play follow the leader, and hopefully get carried along to a personal best, maybe even a qualifying time for that year’s Olympic trials. Instead, I won.
I can recall key parts of the race, but much of it is a blur. The last of the evening’s raindrops splashed against the track as the athletes peeled off their warm-ups. A surprising number of fans lined the track’s perimeter. After the starter fired his pistol, I fell into position toward the back of the 15-person field and focused only on the damp jerseys in front of me. I knew fatigue was due to set in soon, but once we passed the halfway point, instead of losing ground, I began to move through the field. Soon the leaders were in sight. There was life still in my legs around the final turn (how did we get here so soon)? With my eyes forward and my head up, I made my bid for the front.
Engulfed by the moment, I crossed the finish line oblivious to what I had just achieved. My legs were numb. I turned around to see who came in behind me. Then one runner a few strides back yelled to me in disbelief. He must’ve seen the clock. My coaches sprinted toward me with their hands in the air shouting just how fast I had gone.
Euphoria always follows a great race—a validation of all the work and sacrifices leading up to that moment. But this performance was different. It was difficult to understand what had happened. On paper, I was seven seconds faster than I had been when I woke up that morning, a difference that takes most competitive runners years of chipping away to achieve. Suddenly, I was part of an entirely different tier of athlete. Now I had to convince myself I belonged.
Three weeks after setting the record, I had the most devastating race of my career. At the NCAA National Championships, I bombed out of the preliminary rounds of the 1,500 meters, not even making the final. With the echo of the stadium’s crowd still audible through a tunnel and my breath still heavy, I had to compose myself before facing the media. What had happened? I was supposed to be among the best now—people wanted great things. How does the American collegiate record holder run so slow?
I’d had one goal going into those championships: to win. But entering a race with a win-or-lose attitude is a dangerous approach. With new personal records come new expectations, and after I failed to live up to mine, I quickly became haunted by doubts and disillusionment. Would that lightning ever strike twice?
The ecstasy of just a few weeks earlier began to feel like a dream.
It took me three years to run as fast as 3:35 again. After graduating from college, injuries, missed chances, and bad luck plagued each season. Eventually, I had to go back to the basics. Keep it simple. Stop the overthinking. Staying healthy became my first priority; putting one foot in front of the other the second. There was no curse to be lifted, I told myself. That quiet track in the backwoods of Pennsylvania was the same distance around as every other. I just needed the right opportunity.
It finally came last May, when I found myself just off the leader’s shoulder in the final stretch of a 1,500 in South Carolina. The race’s pacers had been hasty, and the field was competitive. Now was my time. The impulse to win overrode the pain of each step, and once again, I felt those chills shooting through my spine, masking the temptation to let up. The numbers on the big clock by the finish were lower than I had ever seen. I leaned my head forward to cut a few hundredths of a second as I crossed the line. Occasions like this are rare, and I wanted it all.
In track, as in all other sports, failure is determined by the level of success you achieve—where you set the bar for yourself, based on past accomplishments. If I hadn’t run that one extraordinary time in college, I’d have been thrilled just to be at nationals that year. But once I proved what I was capable of, I had to try to live up to it.
In this way, paradoxically, a runner’s victories are forbidding as well as euphoric. Success means new goals to obsess over and fall short of.
Last May, with the ghost of my college-self behind me, it didn’t take me long to forget my recent years of frustration. Finally, I’m able to look ahead—specifically, to next year’s Olympics. But I’m already starting to sense once again the creeping demons of my own ambitions. How do I suppress them? So far, the only trick I’ve found is to embrace the disappointment—to recall the crushing moments, and to use them as fuel to never feel that way again.
Then: keep it simple. Take the next step.
As a 24 year old, I have had the same conversations with my friends again and again. What do we want to do when we grow up? To hold this sort of millennial discussion, we ignore the fact that we are all adults with real life responsibilities that are here and present. But there are stages of growing up, and so we wonder, what do we do next?
Right now, I am a professional runner. It’s what I have always wanted to do. This has been my dream since I was the only kid wearing bright pink spikes during the 6th grade gym class mile. It took me sometime to realize there was going to be a life beyond my own running—I never thought that far in advance, until friends of mine started asking. My answer isn’t exact yet, but it’s developing. But I already know my mission statement: To help the sport of Track and Field.
This is my passion, and it’s the one thing that excites me to set my alarm for the morning. The relationships, experiences, and lessons this sport has provided me is something that I want to share. During the final day of the US Championships this year, I was in the stands at Hayward Field on top of my seat yelling in exuberance and the thought popped into my head, ‘How could any sports fan be here right now and not enjoy this?’ We just need to show them how great it is.
While working at Sayville Running Company during the summers of college, I spent many hours discussing running with the owner, Brendan Barrett. We followed the sport at every level, from high school up to the pros. And we’d brainstorm of things we could do to one day help connect them here on Long Island. Every kid who plays football watches the NFL, has a favorite team, and knows all the players. Unfortunately that isn’t so in track. But we aimed to help reconcile that.
During my first year running professionally, I realized there was a gap in the domestic racing season. Despite great fitness, it was tough finding a race in the weeks leading into 5th Avenue [without flying back to Europe]. This was an opportunity. Athletes were flying into New York anyway, so why not get everyone onto the track one last time for a fast mile? Brendan was on board immediately, but if we were going to push forward, we would need a sponsor. Well, I had one… Fast forward a couple months, and before we could even finish presenting our business plan they were in, and the Hoka One One Long Island Mile was going to happen.
The goal is to run fast, but also to create an easily accessible meet that could inspire young runners before they began their cross-country season. The only track that made sense for this was at St Anthony’s HS in Huntington. The private school situated in my hometown lies in the direct center of Long Island and hosts a beautiful mondo track with lights overhead. With that in place, I had to put together a field. The first phone calls were to Riley Masters and Ford Palmer and they were in. And after many hours on the phone, sending emails, asking favors and begging, these are our incredible fields:
On Wednesday night, beginning at 7pm there will be a series of all-comers races (to sign up head to LongIslandMile.com). But at 8:30pm we will bring the crowd down onto the track and the pros will get a chance to whip around the turns with fans screaming down their necks.
That next stage in my life hasn’t yet come where I am forced to figure out what I want to do after my running career. But that mission to promote the sport has officially begun. If you live in the area, I ask that you come down to watch. We have an incredible local running community here on Long Island, and this is a tremendous chance to showcase that. Help us spread the word—especially to any young runners or athletes that you may know! The chance to see a sub-4 minute mile in person, to get an autograph, take a picture or run a cool down lap with some of the best runners in the world could make an incredible impression on young fans.
The grassroots miles that keep popping up are incredibly positive for our sport. And if we can continue to connect the sport with one city at a time, then maybe it won’t be long until our high school cross-country teams are following the pros. Running is too much fun not to be shared! Please help!
The meet is being streamed live for free on RunnerSpace.com. Tickets can be purchased at the gate for just $5. Registration to run is $20 on LongIslandMile.com
I have trained by myself before, and I can do it–but I don’t like it. You will learn a lot of lessons when you step out on the track by yourself, with the watch as your only means of being kept honest. Having a coach there to scream out splits, and provide encouragement is a boost of motivation in itself. Though having a few good training partners is even better. There’s no greater impetus than pride, and the fear of embarrassment from being dropped sometimes is the best way to get the most out of yourself.
There are a few benefits to being able to complete a session solo. Mainly is the process of developing some mental fortitude that will [hopefully] carry over onto race day. Additionally, you are in complete control of the workout and can determine just how much effort should be put forth based off how you are feeling. For the most part the gains of having company day in and day out offset the potential downsides. That is assuming you have teammates who are worth having around.
To shed some lights on some of the “Do Nots” while training with others I have assembled a list of the characteristics that make great teammates below:
Positivity– There will naturally be ups and down in training and racing through the years. Sometimes things may suck for a long period of time, and this is when you need teammates more than ever. They’re there to talk you through it, and to be your therapist. I have spilled my guts out to teammates on 10-mile runs, and have then reciprocated by cleaning up their messy guts when they eventually need it. A good teammate will put things in perspective, offer up some ideas, and find a reason to look forward. You need someone who will not only listen, but also hold your hair back and tell you that everything is OK. Now that is a teammate that you want to hold on to.
Pacing- We have watches on, and the track is marked out every 100m. Don’t try and tell me that you ran 8 seconds too fast by accident. YOU KNEW WHAT YOU WERE DOING! It’s ok to go a bit quicker than pace if it is progressing naturally each rep and everyone is feeling good. But don’t go to the front of the line and start hammering the second rep when we still have eight to go. You’ll get called out passive-aggressively at first, but it won’t be so subtle the second time around. And if you do go out too fast, and want to go back out on pace, don’t go from a sprint to hitting the breaks–just get on pace.
Communication– Inevitably someone will feel great one day, and others may be feeling fatigued. Say it! You’re allowed to go ahead, but don’t get up on someone’s shoulder to one step when they’re already hitting a fair pace. Especially on easy days, everyone needs to do what his or her individual body needs. Sometimes that means speaking up and saying, ‘Go ahead, I am going to slow it down.’ And other times that means taking the last rep and verbalizing that you may run X seconds faster than prescribed. Getting upset at someone for doing what they think is best for their needs is unreasonable, as long as it does not negatively impact your workout.
Consistency- When you’re in a training group, you have people that are counting on you to show up [especially if you’re on a XC team]. That means you can’t stand them up for runs because they need to know that you’ll be there. And showing up extends beyond just having a physical presence, but to also be taking care of your body so you can game when it’s game time. If you are dropping out of workouts weekly, then you’re not much of a training partner. The best training partners are the healthy ones who always give you a back to stare at when it’s your turn to block the wind.
Fun- Finally, this is a sport! Even if it’s my job now, the essence of it comes down to doing it for the enjoyment of it all. I don’t want each run to be a chore. There is a lot of work to do, but if it’s a drag doing it then it’ll actually feel like work. I’d rather joke on a warm up, tell stories mid-long run, and share a post-run meal with my friends. Chasing smaller numbers is a long process, why make it tedious too?
Confidence- More likely than not, your training partner probably has the same coach. If you ever question our coach’s plan in our conversations, then we will no longer be talking about running together ever again. There are a million ways to train, and perhaps the biggest factor is finding a reason to believe in what you are doing. If you have an issue with the workload then take it up privately with the coach. Not with me on a recovery day, and not at practice when we are stepping on the line to workout. Things that are encouraged: Crossing the finish line at the end of practice and high-fiving your teammates and saying things like, ‘We are awesome!’…‘You look so skinny!’…’This year state is ours!’ That kind of stuff builds confidence.
That’s my list. Everyone has their own values that they look for in others, but if we are to run hours a week together, than you better do all this and more. I am lucky enough to have some amazing training partners with the New Jersey*New York Track Club. And I have to give a shout out to one of the best training partners I have, Donn Cabral, who is representing the United States at the World Championships (starting Saturday)!
Next up for me is the Hoka One One Long Island Mile on Wednesday, September 9th. I’ll continue to hype this event until it comes, but if you want to hear more about it check out this interview I did with NY Milesplit (http://ny.milesplit.com/articles/160100-kyle-merbers-hoka-one-one-long-island-mile-looks-to-bring-sub-4-back-to-long-island). And if you are interested in running yourself, you can sign up at LongIslandMile.com!
Confidence used to come and go in waves. When present, it was overwhelmingly powerful. But in its absence, I was equally powerless. This year I have been working to halt the sin curve-like fluctuations, and instead transform that line into a gradual up-slope, which instead builds on itself week after week. The dependence on what happened last in practice was both exhausting and unreliable. A shakeout and strides the day prior is no less telling of race day results than the number of pushups one can do. But that’s the thing about fitness—it’s not just one thing, it’s everything combined. So why allow any individual session to ever dictate the confidence you should have in your fitness? Exactly, you shouldn’t. The week before heading down to Furman [where I would go on to run a PR of 3:34] I posted the best 400 workout of my career [8 x 400 @ 57-58-57-57-56-56-54-52 w/ 2.5/3.5 mins rest]. I walked away with a ton of confidence. I hit race pace, and it felt fantastic. Then I ran faster than race pace, and it still felt fantastic! This was the workout that told me I was ready to set a personal best. My confidence had been building on itself for months, and this was a big step forward. But a few days later, just before the race, I ran another workout that was supposed to be easier, yet was significantly harder. I struggled to get through 12 x 400 @ 67 w/ 1 min rest. My body was exhausted. Lining up for the race, I had to push back the feeling of tired legs and heavy breathing that I had experienced just a few days before. Instead, I thought about the many months of uninterrupted training, and the feeling of gliding along at the pace that mattered, and then closing in 52. It is OK to have a bad workout. It happens all the time, but it is what you do when your body is worn down that is important. Many athletes try to push through it as they are worried about losing fitness, or they blame a lack of such on a poor workout performance. However, the right move is more often than not to back off and recover. Your body is telling you to slow down for a reason. Rarely will fighting through heavy legs result in lighter legs.
A week after Furman, I would be challenged again with maintaining self-assurance despite less than ideal conditions. A small spider bite-like mark appeared on my right calf and I originally thought nothing of it. However, a couple days later the mark had grown quite sizably and had become painful. I initially went to the hospital, was given some antibiotics to treat it as if it were a bite, and thought I would be on my merry way. Unfortunately I woke up the next day and the mark had grown. By that evening, walking had become excruciating, and my calf was throbbing. I sent a picture of the mark to my doctor, and it was back to the hospital I went. The initial confusion was cleared and I was diagnosed with MRSA. After a few days in a hospital bed, in which I could not sleep a wink and where I obviously did not do any running, I was sent home with some antibiotics and well wishes. I now had about two weeks until USAs, but as Gags reminded me, ‘wherever you finish, it won’t be noted with an asterisk because things didn’t go perfectly leading in. ‘
Training had suddenly gone flat following the admittance. Whether it was from the antibiotics, lack of sleep or just the broken rhythm, it is unclear. Nine days out from my prelim in Oregon, I was due for some work at race pace—which resulted in a post-workout trash can visit [but I did hit my times!]. A few days later I had to stop some long intervals half way through because my legs felt as if they were carrying an extra 50 lbs. My body was not responding, but I wasn’t overly worried because I was willing to listen. I had finished off the antibiotics, and I was committed to sleeping long hours each night, but most importantly, I took my runs easy. My legs were coming back to life. The Thursday prelim was a small, but stacked field with a number of us who probably “deserved” to be in the final, but there is a reason we race. Although I felt strong aerobically, my legs were not turning over the last 100m like I needed them to, but I held on to get the final time qualifier. That was the rust buster I needed. My legs opened up a bit, and I got my ass kicked, but I felt normal after that and a resurgence of spring returned to my steps.
Saturday came and I was calm and relaxed leading in. I have learned that I do my best racing when there is a balance between nerves and normalcy. In the past, I would focus on the first portion of the race; how do I get out that first lap? But this year, I have been focusing on the final 150m instead during my pre-race visualization. That is where the race really starts. After cruising along at a reasonable, but not swift first 900 meters, the race took off and I was close enough to the front that I was able to respond and connect to the group. It was a game of follow the leader meets hold on for dear life and I came in 6th. I crossed the finish line wiped out and knowing that I had done everything in my power to give myself the best chance on the day, and that’s all you can ask for. I wanted a top 3 finish and the opportunity to represent the USA in Beijing, but this whole year has been a tremendous leap forward in my fitness and more importantly my racing. It is better to walk away from a race being happy and finding positives in the performance—it keeps you sane. If I continue to close the gap on the front of the field then I will be there when it counts most with 150m to go next year. The next level comes with consistency, mileage, a better lifestyle and more hope, but most importantly confidence that I belong there.
My Summer Schedule: 7/7-Cork, Ireland (1 Mile) 7/11-Madrid, Spain (3k) 7/18-Heusden, Belgium (1500) 7/23-Toronto, Canada (1500/Pan Ams) This season has been incredible, and I am excited for what the summer has ahead. Big thank you to Hoka One One the New Jersey*New York Track Club and Flynn Sports for the continued support!
It is ok to hate your personal bests. Actually, I’d encourage it. I hate most of mine. When you get a new one, it’s so exciting! You see your name printed next to a fancy new number that you’ve never seen before, and it validates everything you’ve been working towards. But then the next day you wake up, watch the race video and think, ‘I could have gone faster had I just done this, this and this.’ Maybe the next few weeks you’ll still beam with pride when congratulated on the number, but time passes and it grows old. Then you’re sick of it. And then it’s 3 years of self-loathing and conversations about the existence of short tracks. But when I crossed the finish line in South Carolina and saw the clock was way lower than ever before, I flipped out!
In 2012, while a senior at Columbia, I was able to use a few connections to gain a late entry into a small Monday night 1500 at Swarthmore College. Training had been going really well, and racing was on a sharp upswing. I stepped on the line calm and ready, knowing that the 3:39 Olympic Trials qualifying time was well within reach of my fitness. The plan was just to follow the leader, and slowly move up in the field. We strung out immediately, and with the help of Nick Willis pacing for 1300 meters, I ran splits of 59-58-57-41 for the American Collegiate Record* of 3:35.59.
A couple years later I had a conversation with Nick about why that race was so fast, and I think he summed it up perfectly: Most rabbits go out fast, slow down and step off after their slowest 100. Now the athletes behind have lost their momentum, and have to shift gears again to head into the kick. In that race, we were wound up and released.
If your goal is to break 5 minutes in the mile, you can most likely find a race that would set you up for a chance to do it. It’s nice in HS and most of college, to have so many prospective races setup to get the times you are chasing. Unfortunately, at the professional level, you have to earn [deservedly so] the right to be in those races unless you get lucky being in the right place at the right time (i.e-Swarthmore, Furman). Once you reach the Diamond League level, you have world-class rabbits and competition that produce sub 3:35 races with regularity. At a certain level you run into this problem again since 3:26-3:29 races are extremely rare, and getting rabbits that are capable of coming through in 2:45 is a tall order.
From Swarthmore until Furman, the fastest race I had been in was a 3:38.5 race last summer in the ‘C’ heat at Heusden-Zoleder [and I won]. Saturday night at Furman, I was lucky enough to be in a fast race that ran from the gun. We had a fresh and capable rabbit, as well as a couple brave runners who were fearless about attacking the pace and chasing the standard. But as noted, these opportunities are special, and it’s of utmost importance to capitalize on them when they do come. And hopefully then, you run fast enough to climb the ladder and get into the next tier of professional meets. It’s a tough, but fair process.
During our cool down the conversation was overwhelmingly positive about the success of the meet, and we couldn’t help but wonder why there aren’t more races like this in the United States throughout the summer. The atmosphere was intimate, the field was competitive, and the pace was honest. After last summer, having attended the Michigan Track Classic and the Falmouth Mile, I was inspired to create my own race, The Hoka One One Long Island Mile this September 9th. It’s an easy formula to replicate, and if enough individual race organizers through out the country decided to put one of their own on, we could have a competitive domestic circuit in our own backyard during the summer months that could rival Europe’s. The US distance scene is plenty deep, and it’d be a great boost to the local running community and for athletes who cannot afford to spend multiple weeks overseas.
Just food for thought.
A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders for the next two US Championships by achieving the World/Olympic ‘A’ Standard. I am stepping away with a lot of confidence having closed in 54-mid off an honest pace. Now the focus shifts to the US Championships and a top 3 finish. Back to work!
My next race on the schedule is an 800 this Thursday at the Adrian Martinez Classic in Concord, MA.
(By the way, I think it’s an awesome experience and fully support HS runners getting a chance to compete at professional races. I apologize for the inability of sarcasm to be translated via the Internet.)
Last week I did a Reddit AMA (ask me anything) with /r/advancedrunning. It had a good turn out and I received some great questions from the community. I wanted to post a few of the exchanges here and link to the full “interview” below.
Q: The fuck is up with Hoka One One? Are they fake or are they real?
A: The realest. I was skeptical before ever trying them on. I made the jokes everyone makes. And then I put them on…game changer. I haven’t had an unplanned day off from running since getting my first pair of Cliftons. (knock on wood) If you’ve followed my running career at all, then you’ll know how big of a deal that is for me. I overpronate on just one side and so I was always confused about what shoes to wear. I played with orthotics, and stability shoes but to no avail. Got in Hokas and the meta rocker technology is very real.
Q: What do you do in your time off from running?
A: I worked in a shoe store last year in NJ called the Sneaker Factory, but now I am a full-time runner. All that really means is that I am doing the same thing, but can dedicate a little bit more time to Netflix/recovery. I read a lot of books, which is probably my favorite thing to do over a cup of coffee. We hang out at our town’s coffee shop for hours a day with books, computers, each other. I also enjoy writing and photography, which I show off a bit in my blog.
Q: Can you describe your training and workouts leading up to the 3:35 1500 when you were in college? It seems like that race was a huge breakthrough for you. Could you sense a big pr coming on in the weeks leading up to it?
A: I had been up and down for a lot of that winter, but once spring came around I was just consistently running 65-70 miles a week. Honestly. there was nothing crazy leading up to that which would really indicate such a big personal best, except that I was feeling amazing for everything in practice. I walked away everyday with a lot left in the tank, and then I was sleeping 9-10 hours a night like clockwork. There was just a rhythm to training that spring.
When I was younger, I used to think I was the type that didn’t need to race a lot and just come out from a block and crush it. Eventually I realized I was the opposite, and at the end of that spring I had raced myself into fantastic shape and had found a lot of speed. A couple weeks before I did a 7 mile tempo in the morning and 6 x 200 in the afternoon. I went all out on the last one vs an 800 guy and went 22.9. Last summer I saw the same thing; the more racing the better.
edit: 4x2x400 w/1/3 min rest 64-62-60-58 w/ mark and Behnke.
This was the workout I did a few days beforehand. In my log I noted how easy this felt and talked with a big game of confidence.
Q: You’re hosting the Long Island mile with support from your sponsor later this year. Do you have any expectations in terms of time/performance? Or is it more of a get your feet wet with putting on a larger race?
A: The Hoka One One Long Island Mile will not be for me. I really just want to help put on a show for the fans in my own backyard. I will make sure that’s a fast race, no matter what place I come in. I know that I want to stay in T&F after my running career, but I am not sure yet what that means and in what capacity. I think this will give me some insight into the next step and if I’d enjoy being a meet director/agent. Even though I am just 24, I didn’t want to wait any longer to start giving back to the sport either. Really can’t express enough how important that meet is to me and I just want to create something special.
Q: Any words of wisdom for me to pass on to the guys that run for me?
A: I am a big believer in the mental component of the sport, and having to buy into every aspect of the process. From understanding the training and why we do it, to visualizing yourself being successful. It’s kind of like the day before a meet, I like spiking up and getting out on the track and just feeling the track and being light on my feet. I can imagine what it’ll be like the next day gliding around the final bend into the homestretch, and what I will feel like at that crucial point in the race. You need to extrapolate that mindset into your entire career. You may have run 4:03 in the mile, but are you thinking like a 3:59 guy yet? Because a 3:59 guy comes through 800 in 1:59 and says ‘perfect.’ Or are you going to come through in 1:59 and say, ‘too fast.’ First you need to think that you can do it, and then you can do it.
Additionally, in a different thread I was asked for a race report from this past weekend at the Hoka One One Middle Distance Classic. Here was my response:
I like getting out a bit slow in the 1500. I came through in 44 high and felt good, but started slowly working my way up as some guys let a gap open up between them and the rabbits. I followed Leo around, and it felt like I was flying that second lap. Turns out I went 56.4 from 200 to 600. Once bridged, I felt settled again and back in control, but when the rabbits stepped off the front hit the breaks and all those guys who didn’t drop a 56 to catch up made up the ground easily and swooped up from behind. (what a waste)
At 1200 I saw we were like 256 and I felt fantastic and thought if we moved immediately I could still get under the standard, but no one moved for a while and I was hugging the rail and trapped. The turns on the Oxy track are incredibly wide and long, and so being in lane 2 for a turn adds a lot of distance [smarty pants, Chris Derrick, has pointed out to me that this isn’t true], so I was sort of planning on riding the rail for the majority of the race anyways, but it ended up getting way too congested. I would have assumed beforehand that it was going to be a 335 race, and that there’d be room, but with 200 to go, we still weren’t moving that fast and I was getting swept by on the outside. Luckily with 75 to go I found a few holes and shot back and forth a few times and passed 6 or 7 guys for 3rd.
Walking away, I am happy because I felt fantastic and beat some really good guys. At the same time, I was just upset that the race didn’t accomplish the main goal of hitting the standard. Even more so, I felt like I never even gave myself a chance to try and win. However, stepping back I think it shows incredible growth for two reasons:
1) I am upset that I didn’t win, which is quite the mental jump for me. A year ago I would have certainly been pumped to finish 3rd in that field, but I seemed to have turned a corner recently.
2) In the past I have had a hard time piecing together multiple good races in a row. In the back of my head I was a bit concerned about racing a big one immediately after the World Relays. The few days after WR I slept terribly, and was just completely drained. We were originally going to race at the Oxy Invite 800, but Gags pulled it because I just wasn’t in the position to race yet. But I bounced back really well, so I am proud of myself for that.
Last year in Ireland I ran 3 x Mile races in a week. I pr’d by 2 seconds the first one, then another 2 the second one, and then ran a 4:06 in the third. I walked away from that thinking about the OT and how I will have to race 3 times back to back to back and be dealing with a lot more emotion and excitement.