The only way to tell the story of SOS is through the people pushing themselves everyday to be the best can they be. Whether its winning the Indy500 or running the Boston Marathon, THE SOURCE is home to all the amazing stories across Our Rehydrated World.
Andrew Wheating is from “back east”, yet has spent over a decade holding some sort of Oregon-team membership card.
In college he ran at the University of Oregon, which was then by followed Oregon Track Club. Throughout that time he has been to two Olympic Games, and his 3:30.90 for 1500m ranks 4th all-time in the U.S.
At the beginning of the year it was announced that Wheating would leaving Oregon TC, following the likes of Sting and Beyonce by launching his solo career. However, rather than heading for the bright lights of a big city, Wheating is keeping his Oregon license plates and staying in Eugene – which is where our very own Jemma Simpson (a former member of Oregon TC herself) sat down for an update on all things Andrew.
Interview with Andrew Wheating
Stay tuned to see the video Andrew made…
Like all public figures, Wheating prefers to be followed on Instagram rather than in person.
There has always been evolution within sport. Athletes continually jump higher, run faster, or hit harder than they have before. The rules almost always stay the same; the basketball hoop is still 10 feet high, the goal posts are 8 yards apart, the track is always 400 metres around. Yet in the oldest international sporting event on the planet, the rules are almost never the same.
At the 35th edition of the America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2017, Ben Ainslie will compete to bring the Auld Mug back to Britain where it was first contested in 1851. In doing so, Team Land Rover BAR would be the first British outfit to ever win the event.
The modern America’s Cup is barely recognisable to what it once was. For next years event, Land Rover BAR will have a boat that is designed entirely around the output that its sailors can provide.
This creates a unique situation whereby the design and fitness crew must collaborate closely. The sailors are the engine, which means Ainslie’s crew must be as fit and athletic as possible.
We sat down with SOS athlete Ben Ainslie to find out what him and his crew are doing to be as powerful of an engine as possible.
It’s been said that as the nature of the America’s Cup has changed, sailors have gone from being power/sprint athletes to more similar to endurance athletes like 10km runners or cyclists, given the need to produce constant power. How does this change the focus in training?
The focus has now changed from a requirement for short busts of intense power to much more of a constant power output over 20 – 30 minutes. This is needed to create the hydraulic power necessary to control the boat. Our sailors now train with much more of an aerobic endurance focus. Also, due to the introduction of an overall weight-limit of the crew, weight maintenance is now a critical factor.
You’d need to have an incredible aerobic base with which to then build specific endurance on for different roles on the boat. Given that you officially launched the Great South Run last year, can we assume that running is your go-to?
I do love running but sadly a long-term back injury currently prevents me from any serious running. My main tools for aerobic training are the ‘Watt bike’ and a trusty paddleboard.
“It won’t be easy, and it definitely won’t be fun… but it’s achievable.”
Improvements in training are entirely dependent on recovery, yet training for the boat is incredibly time consuming. How do you prioritise this time to rest with such a demanding schedule?
Our head trainer, Ben Williams, does a great job of factoring in the time spent on the water and amending our onshore training accordingly. The time on the water is incredibly stressful for the sailors both physically and mentally, so balance is crucial in order to avoid burnout.
“The boat needs a lot of power, and it hasn’t got an engine. We need to maximise what the boys can produce in a 20-40 minute window – not too dissimilar to a cycling time trial”.
Scott Dixon has said he can lose up to 7lbs from sweat during an IndyCar race, while you are essentially navigating a race car on the water – how important is keeping fluids down for you and the boys on the boat?
Hydration is going to be a critical factor in this next Americas Cup. The conditions for racing in Bermuda in June are going to be incredibly hot and very humid. Given the physical stress the sailors are under they’re going to need to work hard to retain fluids and need the best performance drink available.
Britain is currently in the midst of a distance-running renaissance not seen for decades. Although there were numerous standout results at the Rio Olympics from British athletes, the true indicator of depth has been the quality of performances at home.
At the British Trials for the European XC Championships this winter, the Top 4 automatic spots were taken by athletes that had either broken 13:10 for the 5,000m, 61 minutes in the half marathon, or 28 minutes over 10,000m.
One of the driving forces behind this progress has been the investment of resources into smart coaching and infrastructure to facilitate a model of group training. With the support of New Balance, Steve Vernon has been able to implement this successfully with his New Balance Manchester squad based in Stockport.
We spoke to Steve about the driving forces behind his team, how he manages the inevitable differences between athletes and what sets NB Manchester apart.
Your team seems to follow a similar model to your transatlantic cousins in Boston?
Professional running teams in the USA have been a proven success ground for world-class distance running over the last 5-10 years. Performance athletes are central to New Balance as a brand so supporting athletes in a team environment is something that New Balance were keen to do as part of their global strategy. The professional Team in Manchester is one of the first of its kind in Europe and we are creating an environment that supports athletes to be the best they can possibly be.
Good communication is absolutely essential and I make sure that I am clear with how training is set out each week. I have a training philosophy that I explain to every athlete that joins the team so they know what to expect from the start. I do however appreciate that not every athlete will respond and adapt in the same way to a particular stimulus so although the majority of the training is group focused the schedules are all individual. We meet every day for training and I give the options for athletes to do second runs alone or with training partners that run at a similar speed on recovery runs.
Putting together a full-time training group is a delicate balance; some athletes inevitably find themselves pushing when they shouldn’t be, and everyone has their own routines. What steps do you take to create a balance that everyone can benefit from, despite having individual strengths and weaknesses?
Distance running is an individual sport but I have a culture where everyone supports each other as a team. When the gun goes they inevitably want to beat each other but I ensure that competitiveness is managed in training and they save it for race day!
The increasing number of professional training groups throughout the world has pushed the level of performance up considerably. What makes New Balance Manchester different from other set-ups?
As I mentioned earlier this group in Manchester is quite unique in Europe as there are very few, but we are starting to see more and more groups emerge in the UK especially. We have an athlete house where 4 of the guys live and then everyone else lives within 6 miles of the NB house and training venues.
The athletes are predominantly supported by New Balance, but also receive some support from British Athletics/Welsh Athletics with regards to altitude training camps. The environment we run in is quite spectacular as we are 10 miles from Manchester on the edge of the Peak District National Park with miles of trails, canals, and parkland to run on. We have the option to run on the flat or up and down hills, which I feel is essential to distance running success. There is a strong club structure in the UK and we are lucky to have the support of the local club Stockport Harriers to use the track and its facilities.
Stockport obviously has a lot to offer, yet few would argue that it could be easier get out the door in warmer conditions. You recently had a training camp in Spain – is this something you will do on a regular basis? What benefits did you see in your athletes?
The weather in the North West of England has a bad reputation but it’s wet and mild all year round so despite the summers never being amazing it is often a nice (15 – 20 degrees centigrade) temperature to train in. We hardly ever get snow in the winter so it rare we have to change plans because of really bad weather. As long as you don’t mind getting a bit wet and muddy occasionally it’s pretty good. Oregon has similar weather and they don’t do too badly over there!
Despite my positivity of the Manchester weather we do like to get away in the dark winter months and Spain in January was simply a chance to get in some quality training, Vitamin D and a change of stimulus for the guys, which I believe can help during the winter grind. I use altitude training and like to get at least 2 camps in for 4 weeks in each year.
Scott Dixon has won 4 IndyCar Championships, the Indy500, and has the most career wins of any current IndyCar driver. He is also a runner.
The physical demands experienced by IndyCar drivers are unlike almost no other. Travelling at speeds that cover the distance of a football field in under a second, drivers have to be incredibly strong to endure upwards of 5 G’s of cornering force for up to 3.5 hours in a race.
Given that that breathing is impossible over certain G-forces, it’s not surprising that the oxygen consumption of Indy drivers is comparable to elite swimmers and distance runners. The fitter and stronger a driver is, the less prone they are to fatigue-induced errors that can be fatal.
It’s for this reason that the athletes inside must be as finely tuned as the cars themselves, and have led many to become some of the unlikeliest of runners.
We sat down to discuss how running has helped 4-time IndyCar Champion Scott Dixon of New Zealand, who is married to former British 800m Champion Emma Dixon (nee Davies).
The myth of the unfit race car driver is close to dead. There are widespread stories of guys from Formula 1, NASCAR etc. keeping themselves in top shape in order to get every possible advantage. How have you found that running has affected you in the drivers seat on race day?
Running for me is a good supplement to the other training we do…. Plus it helps to love running. Running is great because it can be tailored for very specific situations, such as very high intensity intervals that help simulate qualifying laps. Long runs help with out right endurance for the races, which can last up to 3.5 hours. It’s imperative to have a clear mind while racing at this level to make split second decisions. This nowadays separates the good from the great!
Dehydration from heat and the corresponding rising heart-rate are two of the variables you obviously have to cope with in the drivers seat – while the fitter you are, the better the body is at regulating those processes. Have you noticed any difference in heart rate or the time it takes you to recover from a race since you began running more?
I sure have. Being fit and able to have your heart rate steady and being able to recover quicker is an advantage. For me this is where high intensity intervals have really helped with heart rate recovery. It’s like fitting a turbo to a normally aspirated engine.
Do you have a specific running programme?
I have worked with PITFIT training for over 15 years. There we have very specific sessions that help us reach new heights, and running is a big part of this. We are on the road constantly and running is a great way to keep up your fitness and very easy to apply great sessions.
You’ve driven 500 laps at a time at the Indy500, have you ever run a lap there?
I have run a lap there. Lets just say I was much slower on foot!
Has running given you an appreciation of the men and women who are crazy enough to do it professionally?
I love running and have since I was a kid. It also helps that my wife is an amazing runner and represented Great Britain on the world stage. All I can say about professional runners is they don’t get paid nearly enough for the work they put in. Amazing athletes.
Who do you think would use more SOS – a marathoner or a race car driver? How much do you go through in a race?
That’s a tough one. I think everyone finds his or her sweet spot. I know our summer months in the Midwest are brutal. 3 hour races over 100 degrees and stuck in a hot car with a fireproof onesie on isn’t the most comfortable; you can lose up to 5lbs during the race. I just know it has helped me tremendously. Wouldn’t race with out it.
Mark Coogan represented the United States at the 1995 world championships (at 5000 meters) and the 1996 Olympics (in the marathon). At Dartmouth, notably, he successfully guided the career of Abbey D’Agostino, 7x NCAA champion. He is currently the New Balance Boston Elite Coach. Daniel Wallis caught up with Mark for this insightful chat on college vs professional attitude, developing coaching knowledge, and training in Boston with his outstanding group of athletes.
SOS Locker Room Talk with Mark Coogan
As a college coach, there are so many variables in the life of a student-athlete that are out of a coaches control. However, as a professional, the idea is that you’re more mature, experienced, and live the required lifestyle. With that in mind, what are a couple of key distinctions in your approach to an athletes’ training between college and as a professional?
One key distinction that I have noticed is that in a lot of college athletes you really have to find ways to make them train harder. There are a lot of distractions on campus. It also seems that at some colleges now it is about the student-athlete experience rather than doing well. At Dartmouth we tried really hard to make sure the student-athletes had a good experience but also set a tone that you are going train hard and win.
With the professionals that I have coached the last few years, I learned that holding the pros back some days is a key to their success. The professional runners want to succeed so badly that they will over do it if they don’t have a good coach watching and communicating with them. Communication is the key between the coach and professional runner.
College athletes have all the logistical things handed to them, especially if they are from big time schools and conferences. I used to tell the athletes that I coached in college that they could do 2 things well. They can run fast and do well academically but it is really hard to do 3 things well. With the collegiate athlete I would try to make practice the best 2 hours of the day with the hope it would become a top priority. The team would become their family away from home.
The professional runners have to be more responsible than the college runner. They have to do a lot of the logistics on their own. They have to make their own appointments with physical therapy, massage, pay rent, cook their own food, drive to practice etc. Real life stuff! On a college team you have all this at your fingertips and it is done for you.
You were self-coached and trained in Boulder with some of the greatest athletes in the history of distance running who all had a wealth of knowledge. As a coach, how do you continue to learn and develop your coaching knowledge?
I always ask a lot of questions. In Boulder, I was kind of the ring- leader trying to get people to train together every day. On runs with Steve Jones, Arturo Barrios and Mark Plaatjes you just absorb what they say and do.
I have never been afraid to ask other runners or coaches what they are doing for sessions. Daniel Coyle is the author of a book called the “The Little Book of Talent” and one of his tips is steal without apology. Improving is about absorbing and applying new information and that is what I try to do. I was lucky enough to be around a lot of the best coaches in America over the past 30 years, a list that includes Charles Torpey, Bob Sevene, Ray Tracey, John Gregorek, Jerry Schumacher, Chris Fox and a few others.
I had the opportunity to train with Providence group from the late 80’s and Boulder crowed in the 90’s. There have been so many great runners and coaches who have influenced my coaching philosophy that I feel I have a very good background, while now at New Balance I have a ton of resources that I can utilise.
Your group is based in Boston, a city often hit pretty hard in the winter. Given it’s that time of year, how does your group adapt it’s training when being outside crosses the line from tough to stupid?
I don’t think Boston is as tough a place to train through the winter as people think it is. On a few days you need to be flexible with your training but other than that you can get your work in. An example of that happened last week. I wanted to have some athletes do a 25-minute tempo run but it was snowy and windy. It was impossible to do it. So we improvised and did cruise intervals on the indoor track. At the end of the day I think we accomplished the same thing. I can tell you it is a lot easier to train in Boston than the other places I have lived – like Dartmouth or Madison, Wisconsin in the winter. When you run in bad weather you really do make yourself a little bit more mentally tough. You can look at the cold weather as a stressor and you will adapt. Then when you see terrible weather in a race you know you can handle it. It is the same reason the Patriots practice outside in Foxborough year round no matter the weather.
SOS athlete Clayton Murphy races with the poise and experience that you’d expect from someone with far more experience. At the US Olympic trials he showed the country that he was more than ‘just’ a great college athlete, then he showed the world he was the real deal as he crossed the line in 3rd place in the 800m in Rio.
We caught up with Clayton to see what makes his wheels turn, and how he has transitioned seamlessly from college to life as a professional athlete.
For the past decade the 800m has come to be dominated by ‘specialists’, runners like Yuriy Borzakovskiy and David Rudisha who are pure half milers. You however, are reminiscent of the likes of Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett, guys who could mix it up in both the 800m and the mile. Do you see yourself racing more regularly over the mile and above in the future?
I think the future of my race selection is interesting. I really enjoy both races, each with their own challenges and styles. So as far as a favourite I do not have one right now, and training for me for the 800/mile is similar. So I think right now I am really just enjoying both and keeping my options open for the future!
Many American athletes in particular struggle with the transition from college to professional running, especially given the lack of a ‘team’ atmosphere that is easy to become comfortable in. Are there any specific ways you have managed this transition so well?
I think the biggest transition I noticed was that you lose your everyday schedule and support group you had as a collegiate athlete. You lose your teammates, medical staff, academic staff, equipment people, etc. That group is no longer is there, so not only are you making the transition from running a collegiate season, you are transitioning and creating an entirely new support group.
Lucky for me I am able to help coach and train with my collegiate teammates, work everyday with Coach LaBadie still, and use the same massage therapist/sports chiro I used while I was a student-athlete. Being able to keep the core pieces of my “team” with me has been huge in making a smooth transition to life as a professional.
It’s easy to go mad as a professional runner, how do give yourself a break from training and routine day-in, day-out?
I think making sure that I have fun with running is the first priority. Everyday for me training has to be fun. If you are not having fun it doesn’t matter what you do outside of running because you’re going to go insane.
Outside of running I am finishing my schooling to receive a bachelors degree in Finance from the University of Akron, so that takes up time after workouts. I also play a lot of video games including PS4, Xbox One, and PC gaming. My roommates and I are very competitive in FIFA and the Call of Duty games
Some half-milers and milers are now making incorporating blocks at altitude in their training. Is this something you have ever considered?
At this point in my career I have not considered altitude training block yet. But I am not against it, I have not researched the idea enough to act on it yet.
Many find it difficult to adjust to life in the village at the Olympic Game’s given they are thrown completely out of their routines. How did you go about each day in Rio to make sure you still did all the little things and remain in a positive mindset?
In Rio for me, and other big meets I really try to just adapt and make do with what I have. I have learned over my three years in college that not every hotel, restaurant, city, practice facility, etc. is going to have the same thing you want every time.
With Rio we had to make a pretty big adaption. Our practice track was 1 to 1.5-hour bus ride away, so we had many runs that had to be done in the village. This was tough running concrete circles but if I wanted to compete well I had to get it done.
Tomorrow Josh Harris (@_JoshHarris) will take on the world’s best at the Flotrack Beer Mile World Championships. Having recently run a solo 4:56 personal best as part of a time-trial, Harris enters the competition with a ranking of 8th.
Along with defending World Champ Corey Gallagher (@CoreyGallagher4) and superstar Lewis Kent (@lewiskentmiler), Harris is part of a Trio of SOS athletes who will toe the line in Austin with expectations of the podium.
We caught up with Josh before he headed out from his short stint in Colorado Springs to Texas for the Big Dance.
Walk us through the race this weekend…
This has been my goal race since I resumed training after the Berlin Marathon (Ran a 10km PB, 29:42 the day before I flew out). I’m spending a few days with some friends at altitude in Colorado Springs before heading into Austin two days before the race. Once the race is finished I’m headed to New York for the first time with Canadian Beer Miler Lewis Kent.
What are the goals that you’re setting for yourself?
I think I’m 6th fastest of the guys running the race on Saturday, as i’ve now slipped down to about #8 all time over the past year. I have a list of 5 goals that I would like to achieve in the race, and I would like to tick off as many of these as I can.
- Top 3 finish
- Sub 4:50
- Top 5 finish
- PB/AR: 4:56.25 Don’t spew
The Beer Mile is becoming a pretty popular event, what are some tips that the everyday beer miler can incorporate into their training to knock off some time?
There are a few key strategies some of us use to be successful in the Beer Mile. Apart from some obvious race day tips that are around on the internet I’ll give 3 specific training methods that I have been using to try and maximise my performance:
- I have been incorporating beer strides to get some training in after the occasional run. (3 x 60m, beer, 60m, walk back)
- Try and build your capacity! I’m smaller than most of the other elite guys, so I do this by drinking some beers, while eating as much as I can. I occasionally fill a beer bottle with water and chug as many of those as I can in a row.
- Do a race simulation before race day. There’s nothing more specific than actually going out and doing one. It doesn’t have to be a full Beer Mile but try and do at least 3 beers, with race pace running. My weakness is not being able to run anywhere near mile pace on lap 2 & 3, which is why I need several practice workouts to get up to speed.
With all the beers available, what do you use on race-day?
To be official the beers need to be at least 355ml (12 oz) and 5% alcohol content, which limits the choices considerably. The easiest beer i’ve had that fits both criteria it the Budweiser Light Platinum. The beer is 6%, but it’s the volume that is the issue in the race, rather than the alcohol content.
You can’t always mix business and pleasure, what is your go-to beer on the off days?
When I’m drinking casually I love to drink Van Dieman products. They are a local beer from back home in Tasmania and have been a really great supporter. They are a brand doing good things in the Tasmanian community. I really enjoy their Pale Ale, and I would say that it would definitely be my current beer of choice.
Given that not all Beer Miles are on the track, what footwear will you go for?
It depends what surface the race is being held on. The Beer Mile is still a somewhat underground event, so they can be held on the track, grass or road. I would wear the same shoe I would race a standard mile in. If the race is on the track I would use the Brooks Wire 4, but if it is road like the Flotrack World Championships I will use the Brooks Hyperion for a fast, lightweight feel.
Many sports are currently mired in drug scandals, with track & field currently one of the leading offenders.
Although large-scale reforms are required to address the cascade of problems associated with state-sponsored doping, there is plenty of work that can be done to address the culture of the sport at the grass-roots level.
It is arguably more important than ever that clean athletes demand transparency and trust from the products and supplements they are using. The risk versus reward equation does not exist in this scenario; there is nothing to be gained from products that are not independently tested by approved organisations.
As a company committed to consistent independent testing of our products, SOS spoke to the newly formed Clean Sport Collective about their plans for improving the culture of clean sport.
The Australian Anti-doping authority recently released data showing that 1 in 5 commonly available supplements contained one or more supplements banned in sport. At the same time, WADA states that athletes are strictly liable for any prohibited substances. Many companies have taken the step themselves to be Informed Sport & Informed Choice certified in order to protect athletes. How will a CSC certification compare to this type of regulation?
Cross contamination is an issue both athletes and sports nutrition brands have a responsibility to manage. Athletes are liable for what they put in their bodies. They need to both educate themselves on the substances that are banned and not consume supplements, sports nutrition products that have not been verified as clean. Brands, like SOS has demonstrated, are a solution through getting their products third party testing to ensure the athletes the will not be inadvertently consuming a banned substance through cross contamination. The Clean Sport Certification program we are building for brands will include a category for nutrition, sports nutrition brands. Achieving and maintaining a 3rd party verification from Informed-Choice will be part of the requirements for certification.
Does CSC intend on assuming a watchdog role by testing products independently, or rather only test products when approached by companies seeking certification?
The CSC will not administer the testing of any products. We encourage all sports nutrition brands to have their products 3rd party tested. There are multiple organizations that offer the service and as SOS we recommend Informed-Choice.
What is a CSC Technical Advisor?
The Technical Advisor will be the individual handling the Clean Sport Certification process with brands, events and athletes. This person will be the main point of contact throughout the process. This program is in the early stages of being built and currently we are offering the inquiry form to allow organizations and athletes to express their interest.
What steps are being taken by CSC to ensure that products they certify do not cause an athlete to record a positive test?
Related to sports nutrition brands the Clean Sports Certification program will work alongside Informed-Choice to approve this part of the certification. These type of brands will be required to achieve and maintain this 3rd party verification. Informed-Choice products are tested at LGC, a world renowned sports doping control and research laboratory, with over 50 years of expertise in anti-doping in sport. LGC has been testing for prohibited substances in sport since 2002 and has tested tens of thousands of product/ingredient samples during that time. LGC is currently testing over 5,000 samples per year for over 180 nutrition companies worldwide.
CSC has stated that it wants companies to refuse to work with known dopers. How does this fit with the organisations restorative mission?
To become a brand member of the CSC brands do have to commit they they will not be sponsoring athletes that have previously tested positive. We dot not believe athletes that have previously tested positive should be able to compete alongside athletes that have not. However, we do believe in redemption and believe athletes that have not chosen to compete fairly in sport have the ability to create positive change for the clean sport movement. Many of these athletes are truly apologetic for their actions that negatively affected sport and deserve to be forgiven. Through the Restoration portion we will work alongside 3rd parties to help these athletes move their lives forward and be part of the education on why athletes should not chose to use illegal performance enhancing drugs.
It appears for obvious reasons that many founding members and brands are either clients of ModCraft or associated with the company. As more competing companies register to be certified, what steps will CSC take to remain impartial in regards to endorsing the products it has certified?
Everyone involved with the Clean Sport Collective is very passionate about being part of the solution and accelerating the conversations for and building the clean sport movement. All of the founding members know each other personally and we encourage others who would like to be involved to please reach out. We’ve already had multiple individuals and organizations express their interest and some are already working with us. Similar to the pioneers in the natural foods movement we feel this is the beginning of creating a powerful collective voice that will achieve meaningful, enduring positive change for clean sport. The more individuals, brands and events involved the more powerful we will become together.
In regards to the Clean Sport Certification program the individual responsible for the evaluation, the Technical Advisor, will be an outside party brought in with this specific experience. There will be full disclosure of what will be evaluated and this information will be public. At this point no brands, events or athletes have been or are in the process of being certified. This program is in the early stages of being built and currently we are offering the inquiry form to allow organizations and athletes to express their interest.
What steps will CSC take in regards to industry advocacy, and what are the key outcomes the organisation is seeking to achieve in this regard?
Industry advocacy is a very critical piece of the clean sport movement. We will work with industry through awareness, education and evaluation. We seek for all sports related brands to publicly commit to clean sport by pledging they will not sponsor athletes that have tested positive. And, a primary outcome is for all of the brands in this space to have communication surrounding clean sport as part of their annual marketing initiatives. Through the Clean Sport Certification program our goal is to build an evaluation platform for those brands and events looking to have their clean sport efforts externally measured while continually improving their positive impact for clean sport.
Who are the partners that CSC donations go to?
The partners are third parties and programs that will be funded for specific projects related to our 4 Lanes of Positive Change, Awareness, Drug Testing, Industry Advocacy and Restoration. For example, we will be offering drug testing scholarships to events. We would pay a third party drug testing facility to facilitate it or give the event the funds to pay them. And, partners are not brands. We will be working with member brands to raise donations in order to fund the partners.
Currently based in Boulder, Colorado, Neely Spence-Gracey was 1st American in her debut marathon at Boston earlier this year. She has since capped off 2016 with a PR (2:34:55) and an 8th place finish at the New York City Marathon where she was also 2nd American.
Having trained at both sea level and altitude, do you have a preference?
I have personally responded really well to training at altitude. I certainly like racing at sea level though! I honestly could train at either place, but for me, the environment is what is most important. Living in Boulder, I am surrounded by people who value an active lifestyle. The culture is what makes such a difference and increases the joy I have while training.
What are some of the key differences you have found between training at altitude as opposed to sea level?
As an elite athlete, I have the ability to adjust my training so I am on a 9-day schedule instead of trying to cram 2 workouts and a long run in every week, I instead of 2 easy days between every hard effort. This allows me to recover between hard sessions, keep my volume higher, and not get over trained. I also have learned to adjust for effort vs having to hit exact paces for every workout. I trust that I know how hard I should push and it has carried over very well to sea level races where I run consistently 15-20sec faster per mile than what I do training at altitude.
We are what we eat… what are your pre and post run favourites?
I certainly go through phases – before a workout or race, I always have coffee! I only have decaf, or a sports drink on non-workout and race days, so I really look forward to the caffeine to give me a little extra pep in my step! As for post run, my go-to is an egg sandwich.
Your switch from Hanson’s to Steve Magness has seen you run two pretty amazing marathons. What are 3 things that have changed in your training that you believe have made a positive difference?
While running for the Hanson’s, I had no intention of doing a marathon for several years. I had never even run a 10k until I started training under them. So the focus was more on the 5k-10k range, and XC where I was 13th in the world in 2013. I had a lot of success, but after I had knee surgery and my lyme disease flare up, I was really frustrated not to be hitting PRs in these shorter races. I decided I needed a mental rest from chasing times and wanted to pursue something new that I couldn’t compare myself to in the past. At the same time, my husband got a job offer in Colorado that was too good to pass up, so we made the move and I signed up for the Gasparilla Half Marathon. I raced, and finished second to Jen Rhines. I felt amazing running the distance, and qualified for the Olympic Trials with a 1:12.
- It was just the thing I needed to regain my love of the sport and I started to believe in myself again. After that moment, I started to consider the marathon. I actually continued to train with the 9 day schedule the Hanson’s use, as I felt that I really benefitted from those 2 easy days between hard sessions. It also allows the long run to be more of a workout that is ideal in prepping for longer races. The change is that my workouts are more varied. I am a historian by nature; I have every workout I have done since 8th grade written down in a training log. So repeating workouts can be a huge positive if I have made progress, or very negative if I am comparing too closely. The variety really helps me focus on the present and the task at hand.
- I am in control of my training. My husband and Steve Magness work together to develop my training plan, but Steve lives in Houston and Dillon is at work during the week, so I am in control of my workouts and of executing them according to plan. They trust me to adjust as needed for conditions, footing, how I am feeling, etc. Sometimes I run a little faster than prescribed, and other times I go off the effort I need to hit despite not meeting the time goals initially laid out.
- As I mentioned earlier, the culture of Boulder inspires me daily. I grew up spending summers in Boulder when my dad was training as an elite marathoner, so it feels like home to me and living in a place that you’re happy is such an important part of being successful.
You mentioned on social media after NYC that many lessons were learned. What will be doing different heading into /during your next marathon?
Unfortunately, I experienced the “wall” in the final miles of the NYC marathon. I felt great until mile 21, and then the wheels started coming off. I realized, too late, that I didn’t get in the fuel I needed at mile 18. I plan to work on this for the future and develop a stronger stomach to handle the gels needed for the distance. I am proud of the race I ran, and I know that I have some details to iron out that will allow me to really improve for the future.
It’s starting to get cold, and snow should soon be on the ground in Colorado. How does your training change during the winter? Are you flexible with days and workouts or will you get out the door and get it done no matter what?
Having lived in Michigan for a few years, I am not at all perplexed with the Colorado winters. The sun comes out, and even a few hours of sunshine will make a huge difference with the road conditions. If it is a light snow, I will just wait until 9 or 10am to go run. If it’s a heavier snow, I will utilize the treadmill. I actually prefer workouts on the treadmill to just an easy run because I am more focused and the task of a workout allows the time to pass more quickly.
It is always important to be flexible and adjust as needed for weather conditions. Last spring, while training for Boston, we got hit with a 2-foot snowstorm the weekend of my longest scheduled long run. It also happened to be Easter, and since my husband has an extra day off work, we did a spontaneous trip to Flagstaff in Arizona to get in my long run outside. By the time we got back the roads were clear and I was good to go for the final 2 weeks of training.
Watch out for Neely in 2017 and she continues her progress as one of America’s leading female distance runners. You can follow her on Twitter & Instagram @neelysgracey and on her website neelyruns.com