Furman Recap

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!

(Photo Credit: Foon Fu)
(Photo Credit: Foon Fu)

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.

Photo Credit: Foon Fu
(Photo Credit: Foon Fu)

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.)

(Here is Kyle in HS competing at professional races. At BIG he received a backpack and many other free things.)
(Here is Kyle in HS competing at a professional race. At BIG he received a backpack and many other free things.)
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Reddit AMA with /r/advancedrunning

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.

New Hoka One One Speed Trainers (Release Date: 4.1.2016)
New Hoka One One Speed Trainers (Release Date: 4.1.2016)

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.
(62.8–62.0–60.8–61.0–58.7–58.6–57.3–55.5)
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.

Full AMA: http://www.reddit.com/r/AdvancedRunning/comments/35rmd6/reddit_whats_up_i_am_kyle_merber_of_hoka_one_one/

Working out at Occidental College 5 days prior to the Hoka MDC. 2 x 600 + 4 x 400 (127--125--58--57--55--54)
Working out at Occidental College 5 days prior to the Hoka MDC: 2 x 600 + 4 x 400 (127–125–58–57–55–54) PC: Ford Palmer

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.

World Relays

‘You are patriots! Trying to serve your country in a way that a lot of people won’t understand until they finally see the U-S-A on your chest! Then…they will get it.’  

World Relays4

It was one of the first days of practice in October, and we were huddled inside the shed at Rutgers University during a downpour at the track trying to get warm before our workout. This was the type of day when we needed a speech—something to get us excited and serve as a reminder as to why we are doing this. Nohilly has been known to provide some timely bone-chilling words on occasion. His voice vibrates with sincerity, and the motivation is seeping into us. My goal is simple: represent this country whenever I can, as best as I can. And that is earned on practices like today.

Since the indoor season I have been healthy and clicking off the usual 3.5 workouts a week and following it up with consistently long long-runs. I opened up at the Larry Ellis Invitational at Princeton two weeks ago with a personal best 800 of 1:47.2 and Gags was fired up about it. For where I was at in training, this was an exciting sign for the future. And when Coach Lananna called up the next day and asked what I thought of running a 1200, I spoke confidently about my abilities. But I think Gags had already convinced him.

Before I knew it, there was a suitcase filled with USA gear in my living room and I was celebrating like Christmas morning in April. And just a few days later I was flying to the Bahamas for a chance to compete on the biggest stage of my career. At this point, it is no secret that I am a pretty big track fan. My eyes light up in awe when Sanya Richards-Ross walks into the room. I have flashbacks to my 13-year old self, freaking out in front of the TV as Jeremy Wariner sprints home to gold in Athens. Now we are wearing the same uniform, except they are the ones getting stopped in the hotel to take pictures with fans.

We arrive on Wednesday for the Sunday race. In my head, this meant I had two and a half days to sit on the beach, and get a nice TV tan. Instead, it was nothing but rain and clouds, so we were forced to play the waiting game from underneath the hotel’s bed sheets. Ben, my roommate and our 1600 leg more or less slept for 3 days straight. It was fascinating seeing another athlete’s routine and peeking into his mindset approaching the race. The days leading in, Ben just talked about how he hoped he would at least break 4. So I had to remind him that he had just run 3:35 for 1500m indoors, and how we’d probably need something closer to that if we were going to win. The day before on the track we did a 200 because Ben wanted to find the pace. When we crossed the line in 30.5 and he said, ‘Perfect!’ I started to get a bit nervous. What do you mean perfect? That’s 4:04 pace!

A lot of the athletes who weren’t competing until Sunday opted to stay back and have a quiet night at the hotel. But on Saturday night, I went over to cheer on the squad and to get acquainted with the stadium’s atmosphere. By watching the action live it gives me the opportunity to visualize myself on the track better, and to get comfortable. So when the doors open and we first run out on the track, the crowd’s deafening roars aren’t a shock to the system. I sat in the stands alone, watching quietly. But when the men’s 4 x 800 won in dominating fashion, my heart was jumping. If I needed any extra inspiration, those guys provided plenty of it!

World Relays 3

By Sunday we had been there so long that the anticipation had reached all-time highs, and we were ready to race. We finally knew who our 400 would be and I was excited to have Brycen with us because he had just split 45.xx the night before. The 400 leg is easily the most underappreciated leg in the DMR. If run well, all the other 800 legs have to go out chasing. All it takes is an 800 runner going out 1 second too fast to blow up and change the dynamic of the race.

Vin wanted to meet with me to talk strategy, and I could tell he was a bit nervous. Putting the DMR together required a few more coaching decisions than the 4 x 800. He told me to just keep it close. Run conservatively and just make sure I finished hard the last 50 so Brycen could get moving and do work. Nothing fancy, just stay patient and be there. I could do that.

They were moving us into the call room early, so we warmed up almost 90 minutes prior to the race. That’s a bit more than I was used to, but the one thing I have learned in racing internationally the last couple years is that you have to be willing to adjust your routine. The more open to change the better.

We came out of the tunnel shadowboxing, and I felt good. This was exciting. My head was right where I wanted it. I was wearing my country’s colors and I had confidence in my teammates to get the job done after I got it started. This was the fun part. We train to race.

The race went out, and I couldn’t get over how nice the track was. It just felt fast. Every step generated so much power, and I felt smooth. When I saw us come through 200 in 29, I was shocked. With Kenya in the race, I expected the normally tactical 1200 leg to be more of a time trial. When we came through 600 in 1:30 I was sitting just off the lead on the outside of lane one, and I thought: if we want the record, I’d have to go now. I was fully aware of how fast we needed to run to get the American and World Records. I told Ben the days before that if he sees it’s going to be close that he better dive across the line. And just as I was considering taking the lead, something I don’t ever do, I remembered Vin’s instructions, so I just waited. After 800 in 2:00 the pace dropped a little bit, but nothing drastic. It wasn’t until 200 to go that Gregson of Australia, made a huge move and shot out of a cannon and opened things up. I reacted a split second too late, and got caught in 3rd, but closed well the last 100 to give it just a few steps back for a 2:53 in 2nd.

Brycen took off, and did what he does best—sprint. And after a phenomenal hand off with Brandon we had the lead. Brandon is a former 400 hurdler, and he’s got some wheels. He went out hard, but after 100 meters, Rotich of Kenya absolutely blew by him at a suicidal pace. But Brandon kept his composure like a professional, and despite Rotich’s 47-second first 400, he hung in there and ran smart. He closed hard for a 1:44 split and Ben would get the lead even with Kenya.

In perhaps the most clever and race savvy move I have ever seen, he jumped into lane 2 and hand motioned for Cheruiyot to take the lead. At which point he exploded forward in what would be a 51-second lap. Ben stayed poised, and hung back. He’d have to do this the hard way. I took a quick glance at the clock, and even with the quick first lap, I deemed the record-chase over. But less than 2 minutes later, that all changed. Ben was closing the gap, and doing it quickly. With just over 200 meters to go, he made a strong bid to the lead. After the race we joked that everyone watching was thinking that same thing; he went too early. With 100 to go, Kenya was on his tail and coming back. But in heroic fashion, Ben put his head down and stormed forward and pulled away. He ran through as the fireworks launched at the finish and crossed the line in 9:15.50—The World Record!

WorldRelays2

I didn’t know what to do. I jumped. I yelled. I cried. I hugged. We did it. I have never had an influx of emotion in such a dramatic fashion. We huddled together. An unlikely team of four guys, strangers a week before, embraced and tried to make sense of what we had just accomplished. We were draped in flags and sent on a victory lap. If only the track had been a bit longer around so I could have held onto that feeling for another couple minutes.

We climbed onto the podium, and had gold medals placed around our necks as we turned to the right and watched our flag slowly rise as the National Anthem played in the background. I put my head back, with tear-filled eyes and a smile from cheek to cheek. The ups and downs. The workouts in the rain. The time in the weight room. Miles on empty trails. It was all worth it. And while up there, I paused for a moment to remind myself to never forget this feeling–This is why we do it.

(Photo 1&3-Getty Sport, Photo 2-Kirby Lee of Image of Sport via Letsrun)

HOKA ONE ONE Long Island Mile 

Hoka:LI Logo

Premier Track and Field is returning to Long Island! Thanks to the partnership of Sayville and Smithtown Running Company with HOKA ONE ONE, we are proud to announce the birth of a new event: the HOKA ONE ONE Long Island Mile.

On the evening of Wednesday, September 9th 2015, the world of professional running will head to St Anthony’s High School in Huntington, NY for an event that combines both the community and elite athlete’s love for running and racing.

The meet is the brainchild of Kyle Merber, the professional miler for HOKA ONE ONE and Long Island native, as well as Brendan Barrett, co-founder of the Sayville and Smithtown Running Company. The co-meet directors have big hopes for the event, which they hope will help connect the local high school runners with some of the top 4-lappers in the world.

“Long Island high schools are filled with top-talent, amazing coaches, and competitive meets week in and week out. There are great college teams here, and the island is home to well over a dozen major running clubs. And we want to continue to help build the sport here from a grassroots level in a way that would benefit everyone. There is unbelievable participation on the roads each weekend, and now we want to bring it to the track” said the enthusiastic Merber.

The last major mile race on Long Island was during the 1998 Goodwill Games at Mitchell Field in Uniondale, NY. That race saw Noureddine Morceli of Algeria clock a 3:53.39 for the full mile, and no race since has been run in under the magical 4-minute barrier.

Brendan Barrett is a native of Sayville, where he was a member of their state championship cross-country team in 2000 before heading on to run at Notre Dame collegiately. He hosts the “Sayville Summer Series,” which is now entering its 8th year that now sees over 4000 runners participate in the five races.

Brendan shared his vision, “This is an opportunity for the local die-hard track fans to not only watch a world-class field compete in their own backyard, but to race on the same track. It’s going to be a fun, festival-like atmosphere aimed to celebrate Long Island running, and the sport at large.”

The meet will only be 2-3 hours long, but with races for runners of all ages and abilities, from a Kids 400m run to a Masters Mile. Whether the goal is to break 10-minutes or 4, there will be heats to make it possible. The meet will then culminate with local-elites, and finally then men and women’s professional mile. Admission for spectators is only $5, and an early purchase comes with a $5 gift card to Sayville and Smithtown Running Company. The event will also be streamed live on RunnerSpace.com for free so fans from across the country can follow the action.

Merber has promised a full field of some of the country’s best runners, with the goal of chasing Morceli’s Long Island record. His personal best currently stands at 3:54.76, but he hopes there will be a string of guys fighting for it on the final homestretch with packed stands cheering.

“We have spent countless hours talking about what we can do to help the sport grow. And rather than just talking, we decided it was time to do something about it. Thanks to HOKA ONE ONE—It’s time to help!”

“HOKA ONE ONE is excited to support the Long Island Mile and Kyle Merber. We truly believe this offers additional opportunity to elite runners and for the community to come together to support the sport of running. We know Kyle will do a phenomenal job on this first-year event and hope it grows into a long-standing tradition,” said Jim Van Dine, President of HOKA ONE ONE.

Sign Up: https://runsignup.com/Race/NY/HuntingtonStation/HokaOneOneLongIslandMile

Twitter: @HokaLIMile

Facebook: Facebook.com/HokaOneOneLongIslandMile

Contact/Email:

For Registration/Sponsorship: Brendan@sayvillerunning.com

For Elite Athletes: Kyle.M.Merber@gmail.com

Sayville Running Company: 631-589-5700

Tickets: https://sayvillerunning.com/item/210807/

Buy now and get a $5 Gift Card to Sayville Running Company

Coverage: www.RunnerSpace.com

About the HOKA ONE ONE® brand

HOKA ONE ONE® is the fastest growing, premium running shoe brand in the world. Two life-long runners launched HOKA in 2009, after years spent handcrafting and shaping lightweight shoes with extra-thick midsoles. Initially embraced by ultrarunners because of their enhanced cushioning and inherent stability, HOKA now offers shoes for all types of athletes who enjoy the unique ride the shoes provide. For more information visit www.hokaoneone.com or follow @hokaoneone #hokaoneone.

About Deckers Brands

Deckers Brands is a global leader in designing, marketing and distributing innovative footwear, apparel and accessories developed for both everyday casual lifestyle use and high performance activities. The Company’s portfolio of brands includes UGG®, Teva®, Sanuk®, Ahnu®, and HOKA ONE ONE®. Deckers Brands products are sold in more than 50 countries and territories through select department and specialty stores, 138 Company-owned and operated retail stores, and select online stores, including Company-owned websites. Deckers Brands has a 40-year history of building niche footwear brands into lifestyle market leaders attracting millions of loyal consumers globally. For more information, please visit www.deckers.com.

Read more: Hoka One One Long Island Mile – News – Track Returns To Long Island With HOKA ONE ONE Long Island Mile