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RRW: Working With New Coach, Flanagan Ready to Defend USA 10,000m Title
By David Monti
(c) 2009 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
June 23, 2009

Shalane Flanagan came to last summer's USA Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., as the favorite to win the 5000m, but ended up winning a race twice as long, setting the stage for her dramatic 10,000m bronze medal performance in Beijing.  Nearly a year later, she still professes her love for the 5-K, where she holds both the indoor and outdoor American records, but is squarely focused this week on defending her national 10,000m title in Eugene on Thursday when the USA Outdoor Championships begin.

Speaking on her mobile phone last night from Los Angeles where she was between flights, Flanagan said of the 5000m: "I love the event.  I feel I have untapped potential in it.  I think it is a great race."

But her focus now is clearly on the 25-lap race instead, a race new coach Jerry Schumacher has prepared her for by doing steady mileage for the last five weeks at high altitude in Flagstaff, Ariz.  For the championships she's entered in both the 10,000m and the 5000m, but she's doubtful Schumacher would green-light her for the second race.

"Jerry's really prepared me well for the 10-K," Flanagan explained.  "I would love to run the 5-K, but I don't think Jerry is too keen on me doubling back the next night.  If I had my way I'd run the 5-K."

Flanagan doubled last year, extending her battle with marathoner Kara Goucher to two events.  Flanagan won the 10,000m in a Hayward Field record of 31:34.81, just three seconds ahead of Goucher.  A week later, Goucher ran the final mile of the 5000m in 4:36, to beat Flanagan into third place.  The two are unlikely to face each other in Eugene this year, with Goucher using the 5000m as part of her World Championships Marathon preparations.  Both athletes are based in Portland, 125 miles north of Eugene, but are part of separate training groups (Goucher is coached by Alberto Salazar).

Since winning her medal in Beijing, Flanagan has made some significant career changes.  Last December she fired her management firm to allow husband Steve Edwards to take over arranging her sponsorships and competitions.  She then split with coach Cook last January and embarked on a search for a new coach.

"It was a tough decision," Flanagan told Race Results Weekly last February, adding that she "didn't see eye-to-eye with Coach Cook on several levels."  She then began looking for a new coach, finally selecting Schumacher who was making the transition from coaching at the University of Wisconsin to becoming Nike's coach-in-residence in Portland.  Schumacher has been widely praised for coaching Matt Tegenkamp and Chris Solinsky to world class form.

"I'm really impressed, really happy," Flanagan said of switching to Schumacher.  "Steve and I were both saying that this is the best balance we've felt in terms of running and lifestyle.  The group of guys he coaches are great guys and great people.  We feel really fortunate to be part of this system."

Flanagan said that under Schumacher's program she does more running and fewer drills than under coach Cook.  She's running 80 to 90 miles and doing three track sessions per week.  She's the only woman Schumacher coaches, so he spreads his athletes out on the track so they can all train under his supervision at the same time.

"Most of it, we're all there together," Flanagan said.  "Jerry may spread us out a few minutes apart so he can see everyone."

Last February before joining Schumacher, Flanagan broke Marla Runyan's USA indoor 5000m record, clocking 14:47.62 at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games.  But the former University of North Carolina star has had an uneven season since then.  She made a middling 10-K debut on the road last March, running 32:25 at the World's Best 10-K in San Juan, and was beaten by Anna Willard at a tactical road mile in Boston last April.  She's only made two appearances on the track outdoors: a 15:10.86 for 5000m at the adidas Track Classic (4th place) and 4:06.91 1500m at the Prefontaine Classic (11th).

"I've had so many great races in a row, so I was bound to have a mediocre race," said Flanagan.  "I've been training really hard; I just kind of trained through it.  It's hard to swallow your pride and train through some things."

But Flanagan has clearly placed her faith in Schumacher, and is giving the new relationship adequate time to bear fruit.  Berlin in August will be the true test, she said.

"I think Jerry's instilled in me a lot of confidence," she concluded.  "I may not see overnight results but I'm willing to make some sacrifices now to get results.  He says we've got a lot of work to do to before I become a true distance runner."

  

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