By Jonathan Gault
October 22, 2017
BOSTON — It had been so long that it was almost hard to believe. Yes, that was Molly Seidel and Abbey D’Agostino on the start line at the 2017 B.A.A. Mayor’s Cup Cross Country at Franklin Park. And the two young pros celebrated their return to racing by going 1-2 on a gorgeous fall morning in Boston.
Seidel’s performance was the headliner, as after hitting the mile with a pack of women at 5:13, she pulled away on the second of three loops to win comfortably in a time of 16:18 on the 5k course. D’Agostino wound up second in 16:48, but she had to fight for it, holding off Tennessee alum Chelsea Blaase (16:49, now running for Hansons-Brooks) and fellow 2016 Olympians Violah Lagat (16:51) and Desi Linden (16:53).
“I was really, really happy with how it went,” said Seidel, who was making her professional debut for Saucony’s Freedom Track Club. “Going in, it was my first real race in a LONG time. So knowing the caliber of the competition that was going to be out here, I just really wanted to go in, stick my nose in it and run conservatively for that first half of the race and then just see what I could do second half.”
In a way, Seidel and D’Agostino are kindred spirits. Both were decorated collegians, Seidel earning four NCAA titles at Notre Dame (including the 2015 NCAA XC title) and D’Agostino earning seven at Dartmouth (including the 2013 NCAA XC title). Both were coming off lengthy layoffs — Seidel last raced at the Stanford Invitational in March, while D’Agostino had not competed since her famous fall at the Olympics in Rio last August. And both now train in Boston after Seidel moved to the area in August.
But Seidel, 23, and D’Agostino, 25, share two things above all else: talent and fragility. When healthy, the two are capable of incredible things. Seidel was one of the most dominant women in recent NCAA history, most recently claiming a 3k/5k sweep (8:57/15:15) at the 2016 NCAA indoor meet. D’Agostino, meanwhile, had an even more impressive NCAA career and has made every U.S. team she’s tried out for as a pro, qualifying for the 2015 World Outdoor champs, the 2016 World Indoor champs, and the 2016 Olympics.
The key words for Seidel and D’Agostino in the paragraph above are “when healthy.” Both women recognize that, and, now that they’re finally up and running again, they’re taking two different paths to ensure they remain that way in 2018 and beyond.
Molly Seidel hoping a change in form leads to sustainable health
Seidel decided to return for her fifth year at Notre Dame last year, but felt that she put herself in a hole by overtraining in the fall. She returned to action indoors, running 4:44 for the mile at the Notre Dame Invitational in January, but she injured her ankle the day before she was scheduled to compete at the Millrose Games, scuppering her indoor season. She tried to make a go of it outdoors, racing the 10,000 at Stanford, but developed a stress fracture in her pelvis and had not raced since.
Stress fractures in that area have been a problem for Seidel in the past — she was forced to miss the 2016 outdoor season with one in her sacrum — and she said she believes those issues stem from her unbalanced running form.
“The way that I run, kicking in my left hip, it puts a lot of strain on my sacrum, on my pelvis,” Seidel said. “So that’s some of the repeat injuries there.”
As a result, Seidel and her new coach, Tim Broe, have made an effort to really focus on improving Seidel’s form, strengthening her core and ensuring that her hips remain in alignment. She has also taken advantage of Saucony’s Human Performance and Innovation Lab at their headquarters just outside of Boston to analyze her form and said that that was one of the reasons she chose to sign with the brand this summer.
“They were gonna help me focus and improving on getting healthy rather than just throwing me into the fray right away,” Seidel said.
Seidel said teaching herself a new way of running has been “a little bit difficult,” but for the most part, it’s been a fairly smooth transition.
“I think my body knows that that’s more of the correct way to run and I get more power out of the stride when I do that,” Seidel said. “So it’s tough and I have to focus on it a lot, but ultimately, it feels better to run that way.”
Abbey D’Agostino trying to stay healthy by taking a day off each week and cross training more
Though D’Agostino has been running since July, she’s only been running workouts for about a month and that was clear by the grimace on her face in the final mile as she fought to hold on to second place. But for D’Agostino, that hurt was a welcome sign after going so long without any races at all.
“I’m just thankful to have that anaerobic feeling be familiar again, holding that for eight minutes [at the end of the race],” D’Agostino said. “I was lactic for sure. But that’s when you’re racing. And that’s what I was thinking about. It was just like, Okay, this is what I’ve been training for, this is what I’ve been doing workouts in the pool for for months: this feeling, and fighting through this feeling. So yeah, I hope that that feeling isn’t sustained as long as I get back into racing and that will naturally happen, I know.”
Still, D’Agostino’s 16:48 today was the same time she ran in her professional debut at this meet three years ago, and she went on to run a PR of 15:03 and make the World Championship team on the track the following year.
“I know that if I put together a consistent block of training, I’m gonna be able to realize a potential that I know has been there,” D’Agostino said.
Despite making three U.S. teams, D’Agostino has yet to put together a year of uninterrupted training since graduating from Dartmouth in 2014. Her most recent injury layoff began when she tore her right ACL and meniscus and suffered a strained MCL during her fall in Rio. D’Agostino spent the fall of 2016 rehabbing and began training again last winter, only to develop a hamstring injury in the spring. D’Agostino’s longtime coach, Mark Coogan, said that she could have raced this summer but knew that she would not have had a shot at making the World Championship team and as a result they decided to totally reset, with a long-term focus on the 2018 indoor season.
This time around, D’Agostino is intentionally holding herself back from tackling her previous workload. She’s logging around 60 miles a week of running, always with at least one day off per week, and most afternoons, she’ll supplement that with cross training, either on the ElliptiGO or in the pool.
“I know that I can get my heart rate up now cross training and just give my legs a break and get a really quality run in the morning,” D’Agostino said. “And all my workouts are on the ground. Still doing a long run, 15-16 miles, and taking a day off. And I feel good, I feel strong. I’m just kind of shifting and my perspective’s different now.”
Normally this sort of program represents is a transitional period in an athlete’s buildup to full health, but after struggling to stay healthy for her entire professional career, this is the new normal for D’Agostino. As long as she continues to feel strong and race well, she’ll keep taking that day off per week and keep cross training a lot with the hope that that will allow her to string together years, not months, of consistent training.
“If I’m not feeling like myself, yeah, we’ll have to readjust, but that is the tentative plan, definitely,” D’Agostino said.
Next up for D’Agostino (and Seidel) is the Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5K in New York on November 4, which doubles as the USATF 5K Road Championships. Seidel’s plans beyond that are uncertain, but D’Agostino has her eyes on another appearance at World Indoors, where she finished 5th in the 3,000 in 2016. Her plan is to knock out the IAAF standard of 8:50 at Boston University in December before decamping for Flagstaff in the buildup to USA Indoors in Albuquerque.
All of that is in the future. For now, Seidel and D’Agostino just want to stay healthy and give the running world a chance to see what it was missing out on in 2017. So far, so good.
Top 10 women’s results courtesy Cool Running (full results here)
Place Div/Tot Div Time Pace Name Age Sex Race# Team ===== ======== ===== ======= ===== ====================== === === ===== ======================================== 1 1/56 F0139 16:18 5:14 Molly Seidel 23 F 348 2 2/56 F0139 16:48 5:24 Abbey D'Agostino 25 F 233 TEAM NEW BALANCE 3 3/56 F0139 16:49 5:24 Chelsea Blaase 23 F 142 HANSONS-BROOKS DISTANCE PROJ 4 4/56 F0139 16:51 5:25 Violah Lagat 28 F 11 ADIDAS 5 5/56 F0139 16:53 5:25 Desiree Linden 34 F 144 HANSONS-BROOKS DISTANCE PROJ 6 6/56 F0139 16:56 5:26 Olivia Pratt 23 F 146 HANSONS-BROOKS DISTANCE PROJ 7 7/56 F0139 16:59 5:27 Rosa Moriello 25 F 311 8 8/56 F0139 17:00 5:28 Emily Durgan 23 F 234 TEAM NEW BALANCE 9 9/56 F0139 17:02 5:28 Holly Rees 24 F 58 BATTLE ROAD TRACK CLUB 10 10/56 F0139 17:06 5:29 Obsie Birru 28 F 171 NE DISTANCE
Top 10 men’s results courtesy Cool Running (full results here)
Place Div/Tot Div Time Pace Name Age Sex Race# Team ===== ======== ===== ======= ===== ====================== === === ===== ======================================== 1 1/91 M0139 23:37 4:47 Ryan Mahalsky 24 M 353 HANSONS-BROOKS DISTANCE PROJ 2 2/91 M0139 23:50 4:50 Tommy Curtin 24 M 207 SAUCONY FREEDOM TRACK CLUB 3 3/91 M0139 23:57 4:51 Julian Oakley 24 M 188 OCEAN STATE AC/NEW BALANCE 4 4/91 M0139 24:10 4:54 Ian Lemere 23 M 351 HANSONS-BROOKS DISTANCE PROJ 5 5/91 M0139 24:22 4:56 Louis Serafini 26 M 249 TRACKSMITH HARE AC 6 6/91 M0139 24:25 4:57 Scott Carpenter 21 M 266 7 7/91 M0139 24:29 4:58 Jordan Mann 24 M 187 OCEAN STATE AC/NEW BALANCE 8 8/91 M0139 24:33 4:58 Guillaume Adam 27 M 12 B.A.A. RUNNING CLUB 9 9/91 M0139 24:42 5:00 Shane Quinn 25 M 189 OCEAN STATE AC/NEW BALANCE 10 10/91 M0139 24:45 5:01 Ricardo Estremera 31 M 359 ARE
Post-race interview with Molly Seidel
Post-race interview with Abbey D’Agostino
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