What makes a meet great from an athlete’s perspective via CitiusMag

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Article via CitiusMag

Everyone is so concerned with putting on good track meets to entertain the fans, but what do the athletes want? Maybe we have needs too! There are details big and small that the participants take note of when attending a race that could determine whether or not they come back in the future.  And perhaps with more implication, what spreads to the fellow athlete friends!

Ever since I started directing a meet of my own (this article is just a shameless plug for the HOKA One One Long Island Mile) my perspective has shifted a bit when tending to the needs of others. I take notice of things that I previously overlooked and also theorize the cost-benefit analysis of each expense. Bells and whistles are nice but we can’t lose sight of the most important thing that athletes want, to feel like a bunch of princesses. And if we run fast and make some money as well, then that’s also great.

In no order of importance, here are some things that make a track meet great to attend as a competitor:

Expenses

Most contracted athletes have a budget allotting them a chunk of money to pay for travel expenses. We buy flights and a hotel room and then we submit an invoice to be reimbursed by our shoe sponsor. However, these aren’t limitless and I would say most athletes consciously do their best to save and negotiate expenses, otherwise you’ll be paying for it later. Obviously the most ideal situation is a meet that takes care of everything so you don’t have to tap into the travel budget at all. And any help is appreciated and goes a long way. If you don’t have a big contract, this becomes everything in choosing races.

Some meets with a smaller budget will use host families. I have stayed with some amazing people (s/o to the Derbyshire family down at Sir Walter!) and I’ve returned to the meet in large part because I love staying at their respective homes so much. Last year at Falmouth, the NJ*NY boys were hosted by former famed Boston Bruin bruiser, Jay Miller, who dropped us off at the road race with his boat and he conveniently owned a bar where the after party was held. He wasn’t originally going to come to the race and then we told him we would go 1-2-3-4 if he did. By some miracle, we nailed the quadfecta box.

Travel and Logistics

This goes hand in hand with the expenses, but where the meet is being held is a huge part of convenience. If I live in New York and can drive to your meet within a few hours, then that saves me time and money. Is your meet on the other side of the country in some remote Oregon “city” during the peak of allergy season? I regret not buying a timeshare there in 2010.

Going somewhere new and unique is a huge intrigue. I ran the Great Edinburgh XC race this year and it was an honor to wear the Team USA uniform again but part of me also wanted to go to Scotland and explore a new country. It ended up being a great time and something I’d like to do annually. If I can combine life experience with my job, then I will do my best to take advantage of this bizarre work situation.

Having someone pick you up at the airport, especially in a country where you don’t speak the language will make life easier. Being stranded in an airport for a couple hours with no address because the meet director never sent you any information…not great! Sad!

Fans and Exposure

Professional athletes, even in track and field, can have some pretty big egos and want to be made to feel special. This is where fan engagement comes in. It makes my head so inflated to cross the finish line and spend 30 minutes signing autographs and taking pictures. The race becomes more exciting and can really get the adrenaline pumping when fans are screaming for you to kiss their babies. What makes a better Instagram pic than running through a tunnel of high school kids SnapChatting? A totally different scene than Roger Bannister’s tunnel of fans.

Athletes want to be seen. Both for their self-esteem and for their sponsors who are paying them to be seen in their gear. Having media at the meet is a big part of this since it creates a platform to display the company logo. The visibility also adds to the prestige of the meet and therefore your being there means something.

A meet being on TV is the best-case scenario for achieving these goals. Next would be a free stream online (thank you RunnerSpace), and then last, but better than nothing, a paid stream. Parents want to watch their little babies run, and making the race accessible is a nice bonus.

Money

Hate to think like this, but at the end of the day, I am going to meets to pay the bills (and to max out my Roth IRA). Getting an appearance fee is the greatest thing in the world. No matter what, I get paid? Imagine that! It’s amazing what free money can do to make you have positive connotations with a specific meet. Per diem and free meals also means more money in my pocket.

The cash prize is then something that every pro will glance at before the race starts, but try not to think about. It can also greatly influence how a race plays out. If the whole purse is only going to a couple people, then you’ll see a safer strategy employed by most in the field. Whereas, if a race pays eight deep, like at the Long Island Mile, then people are more willing to take chances because they will likely still get some paper if it doesn’t work out. And finally, something that many fans are unaware of is how lucrative time bonuses in contracts can be. That means fast races can pay very well, even if the fans don’t realize it. Therefore, a capable rabbit that the athletes know and trust can be a worthy expenditure.

How fast we get that money is also a factor. Waiting for drug test results to come back is an understandable delay on payment. Eight months and three invoices later is not. A meet that settles the bill at the after party is a dream come true.

After Party

This depends on the time of year. But singing karaoke at Coogan’s and then The Dead Poet makes for a great night.

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Nobody remembers anything: Five under-appreciated, legendary runners for Millennials via CitiusMag

Article via CitiusMag

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If you are anything like me, then you are normally hiding in the stall about 20 minutes out from the gun. You can hear the echoes from the call room as the officials continually warn the field that it’s now actually their last chance to assemble. Meanwhile you’re in a quarter-life existential crisis wondering if three consecutive years of maxing out your Roth IRA is enough to retire on. But then you remember that fun fact your high school coach told you one time when you were nervous before the county meet back in 2006: There are 1.3 billion people in China who don’t give a shit about how you do in this race. Now I’ll do you one better! Even if you’re one of America’s brightest stars performing on the biggest of stages, track fans still won’t care!

Maybe some will care today. But a few years from now? They will have moved on. And a few years beyond that? No one will remember your name or any of your accomplishments. Apparently our sport does a very poor job of passing the lore down from one generation to the next (unless you came up with a few catchy quotes about poor racing strategies.) In running, it’s all about what have you done for me lately and we seemingly have a stronger obsession with the potential of an athlete’s greatness than celebrating the accomplishments once they are actualized.

In my opinion, the bar to qualify oneself as a track nerd is too low. Just because you know who Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers are isn’t impressive. That’s like thinking you’re a hockey historian because you know how to properly pronounce Patrick Roy’s name. I have been having some fun as of late with my teammate, Ford Palmer, because he has no knowledge of anything that happened in track and field prior to 2014. We have been watching some classic race videos together and it’s been enjoyable to blow his mind. Maybe I can blow yours too?

Here are 5 incredible runners and performances that have gone unknown to most millennial track fans:

Joe Falcon wins the 1990 Oslo Dream Mile in 3:49.31

Falcon was one of these incredible athletes who unfortunately, due to some injuries and bad luck (like falling in the ’92 trials), never made an Olympic team. But he is the 5th fastest American miler on the all-time list thanks to an incredible performance in Norway. Peter Elliot of Great Britain had run 1:42 that season, Abdi Bile of Somalia was a world champion and had run 3:30/3:49 and it had been a while since an American was beating the premier milers in the world.

For some perspective, gold medalist, Matt Centrowitz Jr. has not eclipsed this mark yet. And I am also pretty sure he could not match Falcon’s supposed bench press of 290 lbs.

Watch this race! The coverage is extremely well done and leaves something to be longed for on modern broadcasts. Shout-out to Al Michaels on the call.

Rick Wohlhuter’s Whole Career

I wasn’t entirely sure how to pronounce Rick’s last name because people talk about him so little that I’ve never actually heard it said out loud. Rick looked a lot like Prefontaine, but was much less vocal and that’s why we aren’t saying Pre looked like Wohlhuter.

Rick qualified for the ’72 games in Munich, but really excelled in Montreal where he ran six races in seven days to grab bronze in the 800m and then took 6th in the 1500m. He set the world record for the 880y run in 1:44.1 and the 1000m in 2:13.9. That 1000m record is still the American record and is the longest standing current U.S. outdoor record according to a non-fact checked Wikipedia page. I guess Rick didn’t stay in the sport after retiring, and maybe that’s why he’s so rarely spoken of today.

Watch the ’76 Olympic 800m and be completely baffled by the two-turn stagger which I couldn’t find a video documenting that ever happening in any other games.

Jack Fultz takes the 1976 Boston Marathon

How does a 2:20 marathon make this list? Well, Jack Fultz won the Boston Marathon that day despite temperatures north of 100 degrees. Since 1976, it has taken at least a 2:14 to win Boston, but that year over 40% of the field didn’t finish. Ask someone to name the Americans who have won the oldest annual marathon in the world and you’ll get Meb, Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar and the more knowledgeable will remember Amby Burfoot’s victory. But it was Jack Fultz who was the toughest guy in the race that would go down as being known as “The Run for the Hoses.”

Without knowing this for sure, I’d imagine he’s among last winners, if not the last winner,  to cross the finish line in his college singlet, as he was 27 years old and finishing his degree at Georgetown following a stint in the US Coast Guard. Today he is a sports psychologist and coach of the Ivy League team that heads to the Izumo Ekiden each October to compete against Japan’s finest collegiate athletes. He was surprisingly not that mad at me for averaging 5:02 pace for 6K in 2013, but he sent me a lot of emails about returning the uniform – which I eventually did.

Julie Ann Brown’s Range

Ask your friends to name a female athlete who has run two-flat for 800m and also posted a 2:26 marathon. I bet they can’t and I don’t blame them because I wouldn’t have been able to either until I did some research after realizing this article would be potential Tumblr rant-material if I didn’t include at least one woman. (Lisa Rainsberger winning Boston and Chicago twice was also on my list, but figured one Boston victory was enough.)

Julie Ann Brown competed for UCLA and then Cal State University, Northridge and she had collegiate national titles in the 800, 1500, 3k and XC. She would go on to be the first American woman to win the IAAF World XC championships in 1975. And some young guns may not realize this, but the Olympic Marathon wasn’t contested on the female side of things until 1984. Brown was the 2nd place finisher at the U.S. trials behind eventual Olympic champ, Joan Benoit Samuelson. If you’re really new to the sport, then it may shock you to know the women didn’t have an Olympic steeplechase until 2008.

Horace Ashenfelter Takes Olympic Gold

Unfortunately it’s really tough for us to keep track of the Olympic heroes that came pre-Internet and live television because libraries are big and the Dewey Decimal System is confusing. But before the Kenyan domination of the steeplechase, we had a gold medalist in the event out of Pennsylvania. Horace set the “world record” in 8:45 for the event in Helsinki. And I know what you USSR fans are going to say, “blah blah blah, Vladimir Kazantsev would have won if he didn’t injure a tendon in the water pit with 700m to go!” But guess what? Part of the steeplechase is landing without getting hurt.

Horace is apparently still kicking it in New Jersey at 94 years old and according to NJ*NY TC assistant coach, Tommy Nohilly, his cousin recently got a beer with the ’52 Olympic Champion not too long ago. My dream is now to one-day meet an unassuming old man at a bar and shrug off his claim to be an Olympic gold medalist because I think I know a lot about track only to eventually Google his name and realize I am ignorant, just like all of you.

Oh, and when he won that medal, he was also an active FBI agent.

Q&A via CitiusMag

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Link to CitiusMag Article by Paul Snyder

I hopped on the phone with my friend and former teammate, Kyle Merber, to chat about his upcoming appearance in the Wanamaker Mile. I figured I’d write up a tidy little page-long narrative about how good he feels, and how he hopes to win.

What instead transpired was a sprawling half-hour conversation about training philosophy, the future and what makes someone a New Yorker (that last part was cut short because Kyle had to go eat sushi.) Here are some key excerpts from the transcript.

Paul Snyder: You grew up on Long Island. You went to Columbia. You now live in Hastings on Hudson, after a few years in Clinton, NJ. Besides your nine-month stint in Austin, TX, during your fifth year at UT, you’ve spent your entire life within about a 60-minute drive of the Armory. Is anyone in the field this year for the Wannamaker Mile that is as New York as you?

Kyle Merber: Johnny [Gregorek] would be the only person in the field who could rival me in terms of New Yorkness. His grandparents are from Brooklyn and his dad’s from Long Island, but he roots for the Pats and Sox, so he’s disqualified. What ultimately makes me the most New York is the fact that I’ve traveled a ton and still think the rest of the world is worse than New York. Plus I have immigrant grandparents and some Jewish in me. It’s very important to have at least a little in you. I know latkes, ya know?

A Day at the Races: Your guide to a perfect Uptown Saturday Night

PS: Oh. I know. So with that in mind, how important is Millrose to you? You won the high school mile in 2008 and I’m pretty sure nobody’s won both the high school and pro miles there.

KM: Everyone comes to the Armory and says this “feels like home.” But like I said, this is actually my home, like, I did grow up racing here. The first couple of times I was in Wanamaker, I put a lot of pressure on myself; I thought about the fact that I won in high school and how cool it would be to do that again as a pro. But my history at Millrose is absolutely terrible. I think I’ve run 4:02, 4:05, and DNF’d as a rabbit. That’s my history. Especially indoors, in a race where there are so many good athletes, you can get stuck jostling, and I struggled with that as well as with the pressure I put on myself.

PS: I take it your approach this year will be different?

KM: Exactly. My plan is to come in with much lower expectations; just aiming to feel really good for the first 1200 meters and then close hard. I mean, eh, I’m just gonna treat it like a normal race and try to run decently.

PS: Let’s talk about the race a little more. The field lacks a clear favorite, but it’s really deep.

KM: Right. This is a real race, anyone can take, which I think is really good for the spectators. It’s not going to be Centrowitz just running away from everyone and the only intrigue being how fast he runs. And as much as we as pros all talk a big game and say “Yeah, I could beat this-or-that person,” when Nick Willis runs 3:51 the week before, it’s one thing to say it, and another to believe it. Instead this year, lots of guys in the field have run 7:45-7:49 at various 3,000 meter races and nobody’s shown their hand in the mile. Everyone seems to be in good shape but nobody seems unbeatable.

PS: So your training’s been going well? You and your NJ-NY teammates have shirked altitude in favor of training in Tallahassee, FL, this winter.

KM: Yeah it’s been great. I’m running about 90 miles per week in singles. I feel my legs are fresher when I have 24 hours to recover between runs. I’d rather do 85 minutes than 50 and 35. That always gets a big shock factor because the elite lifestyle is so conducive to doubling. I obviously have the time to do it.

PS: Do you feel like a lot of pros rely so heavily on doubles, almost out of boredom, or to create the illusion of having a busy day?

KM: Maybe, to an extent. You feel like you’re working harder with doubles. You’re always getting ready for a run, running, or showering or stretching after a run. Personally, I like being able to have a normal day after my run, and try to keep busy with non-training things so I don’t drive myself crazy. It’s a lot of work to put on the race on Long Island (the HOKA One One Long Island Mile) and I help out with marketing for a startup called ShoeKicker.com. Anyway. The real biggest difference with running in all singles for me, is that it’s a different stimulus — I did lots of doubles in college so this is a big change that my body has adapted to really well. At some point I’m sure that will change and I’ll have to revert back to doubles to keep my body on edge, even if I don’t feel better doing it. Constantly changing stimulus and playing with variables is key.

PS: Do you think a lot of runners don’t change up their training enough? It’s so easy to stick with what’s worked, because you have anecdotal proof that it’s the right option for you.

KM: Well something that happens a lot is — Dathan [Ritzenhein] is a good example; he was training with Brad Hudson for years. Then switched to Salazar and suddenly set the world on fire. It wasn’t the change in coach, it was the sudden small change in stimulus that allowed the years of work to manifest and to sink in. It’s easy to abandon ship for a new coach if you’re feeling stagnant but sometimes all it takes is just mixing things up within your current system.

Wake up to the 1982 Millrose High School Boys Mile

PS: So how do you know when a change is necessary?

KM: I couldn’t write a textbook on it. You just need to feel it out. People are shocked at how slow we’ll [Kyle and his  NJ-NY teammates] run our average runs. We rarely average under 7-minute miles on recovery days, and sometimes we are even north of eight minutes, because we work out pretty hard every other day. This is the fourth year I’ve been in this system. It took a year or two to adjust to it. Now I’m benefitting. But in a year or two more, maybe I’ll need to make another change, fewer workouts, more hammering on “easy” days. I work with Coach Gag[liano] to figure it all out and I’ll be coached by him as long as he’s willing to coach me, though!

PS: Touching on that, something maybe one or two readers will find interesting is your take on muscular tension and how big a role it places in racing well.

KM: Muscular tension is huge and I learned about it from Steve Magness. Basically you see guys ripping tons of all-out strides the day before a race. Well sometimes I’ll go out and do one stride, then I’ll realize I feel perfect here and there before cutting it short. Or if you feel too springy, you can do a longer slower stride, then if you’re not springy, you might need some hard hills, or squats, to get that tension back. It’s about zoning in, listening to your body and finding the right amount of pop to be efficient and feel good.

PS: Speaking of listening to your body, you’ve been healthy for a bit now. What do you attribute it to?

KM: You have to obviously listen to your body with aches and pains, but often times you can just run it through it. You have to learn to guess accurately what needs rest and what doesn’t. 95% of the time I’m good at guessing. That 5% that I’m wrong is when injuries occur. The difference between those with longevity and those who lack it, is this. If you’re always throwing yourself against the wall you’ll break. Guys like Nick Willis take a day off each week and he’s still racing fast into his 30s. That’s what I want for myself. My goal is to run really fast but it’s also to run really fast for a really long time.

PS: Okay, potentially departing here: are you taking indoor more seriously this year than in years past?

KM: I take indoors as seriously as I am healthy and I’m healthy this year. Plus I had a good fall and winter block, so I’m trying to race more regularly. The more I do it, the better I deal with nerves. I don’t wanna pretend that I’m a tough guy who doesn’t get nervous; I used to vomit before every race due to nerves but it’s gotten better recently.

PS: What are the plans after Millrose? Does the outcome there inform that decision?

KM: Regardless of how Wanamaker goes, I want to race one or two more times this season before taking a couple of weeks down — but not entirely off. Then I’ll start gearing up for outdoor. I don’t like taking time completely off so I just do some jogging instead. My legs remained hardened and seasoned… training legs, ya know? I feel way less awful starting up again.

PS: Speaking of, what do you foresee on the docket for outdoors this year?

KM: I wanna run a 5,000 at Stanford. I think I can go in the 13:20 range. Plus, opening the season going up in distance should help direct my training toward strength in the early phases. Running the 800m early on always makes me wanna rush into speed work. Instead, at the end of outdoors when I usually always end up running six straight miles and 1,500 meter races. This year I wanna do an 800 when I’m sharp and not bogged down with mileage, instead of as an opening race when I’m slow. I really think if I time it right, I’ll have a 1:45 in me if I’ve been turning over and I’m not at max volume.

Amanda Eccleston spins Trials heartbreak into a positive

PS: Is your 5,000m PR still from your Columbia days?

KM: Exactly. It’s that 14:02 I ran as a sophomore. Honestly despite not racing the 5,000 at all right now, I think of myself as a 1,500/5,000 guy, and I could see myself doing the 5K at USAs in a couple of years.

PS: Last question, that requires us to double back a decent bit: Why Tallahassee? Why not go to altitude?

KM: I’ve tried altitude because it’s been so hyped up .When I went, I felt absolutely terrible for the five weeks I was there. I slept poorly and I have a notoriously weak bladder, which was a terrible combo, constantly waking up and being unable to fall back asleep. Recovery was tough. Additionally I thrive on feeling good. Mentally and confidence wise — if I know something is supposed to be fast and hard, I want to hit the paces, but slowing down at altitude… that messed with me.

Plus I prefer warm weather in the winter to snow. Warm weather versus altitude? I choose warm weather. It’s easier to stay healthy. You’re more loose. You can get to trails and you wanna do stretching and drills outside instead of going home and feeling like you need a three-hour shower. I understand why some people like Flagstaff but I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone, and to pretend that that’s the only way to train is, I think, short-sighted. Plus Diablo Burger is very overrated.

BU Last Chance Race Report-3:52 Mile PR

Ran a personal best of 3:52.22 on February 26, 2017 behind Ed Cheserek as he set the collegiate record. Figured I’d give some insight into the race and some training leading in.

Race Splits: 30.3y–27.8 (58.1y)–28.7–29.5 (58.3/156.3y)–29.6–29.5 (58.9/255.2y)–29.4–26.9 (56.3)

(‘y’ indicating from the finish line)

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Photo: Chris Morfesi

Wasn’t originally going to even race this, but heard it was basically going to be a time trial and I have been itching the last few years because being outside the top 3 Americans makes it’s tough to get into the top meets. Plan was to get out and ride the train and did exactly that, but as you can see with the splits, the 2nd 200 was rolling. I was sitting on my teammate, Johnny Gregorek, and we both let Cheserek and our teammate, Ford Palmer, go a bit. Felt completely comfortable doing this because I knew we were on pace the first lap and this was a surge that couldn’t be sustained. As it slowed down going into 800 we reattached and things actually felt pretty pedestrian for the next quarter mile.

With 400 to go I saw the clock and knew I was going to PR (previous best was 3:54.5), but now it was a question as to how much. I considered going around Johnny and Ford to get on Ed’s shoulder, but for whatever reason hesitated and didn’t. This would be my biggest regret of the race because with 200 to go Ed took off and I didn’t see the move and had a delayed response. With just over 100m to go I swung wide and was in full chase. After moving too early at Wanamaker I was nervous to go early and die, but instead I made the opposite mistake and left too much in the tank. I ran the final turn in lane two but was eating up ground and thought it would be enough. I saw the clock and couldn’t believe what I saw. I came on Ed, but when he felt me, he had one more gear. There’s a reason he’s the king (fun fact learned on our run together the following day: King is actually his middle name). Upon finishing, it took me a while to digest what happened. With my teammates going 3:53 and 3:54 behind me, our coach was yipping, crying and cursing. Was an awesome day, and really validates what I thought all winter long–I am in the best shape of my life.

Next week is nationals. The altitude should make things interesting, but hoping my fitness will triumph for a solid race and give me a chance with 100 to go.


Last spring I suffered a sacral stress reaction, but since have been very healthy and I’d attribute the good indoor season to exactly that. Below is a peek into training.

17 Week Mileage Average: 80.5 (High – 93.5 / Low – 70.0)

I am a big advocate for singles. This year I am way more open to taking down weeks, which has been working miracles in terms of keeping the legs fresh. I know everyone always says that they’re not doing speed work indoors like that’s some sort of badge of honor. My log has my fastest 400 at 53.0 in this buildup, and a 200 in 24.3.

I don’t think this makes the race more impressive or anything, but goes to show just how valuable strength training is. The pace on my average tempo run this year has dropped 8+ seconds and we have upped the distance too. Our strength intervals are all averaging a couple seconds faster/lap and we again, have upped the distance. We don’t go crazy pace wise on long runs because we generally workout 3x a week, but as in past years, 2 hours has become a pretty standard length.

Here are some key workouts that got me excited, not just because of the pace, but the way that they felt:

12/6: 10 miles @ 5:06

1/11: 6 miles @ 446

1/13: 4 x 600 @ 127 + 800 @ 155 + 2 x 400 @ 56

1/15: 20 miles in 2:08

1/17: 12 x 1k @ 248

1/20: 3 x 1200 @ 311,308,305 + 600 @ 132 + 2 x 400 @ 55

2/1: AM- 3 miles @ 452 + 2 miles @ 446 – PM: 6 x 200 @ 26 (closed in 24.3)

2/14: 5 x 1k @ 245 + 2 x 200 @ 27 + 400 @ 54

Race Video

Post-Race Interview