Where Your Dreams Become Reality
Conference Call with Mary Wittenberg
and Athletes: Peter Gilmore, Josh Rohatinsky, Ryan Shay
On being referred to as dark horses and training for the Trials:
Ryan: Since winning the USA Marathon title in 2003, my training has had a long period of ups and downs, some changes in coaching and changes in training environment. I moved from Mammoth Lakes, California and training with Team Running USA to Flagstaff, Arizona, where Iím part of the Center for High Altitude Training. During that time, there was a short stint of a transition of coaching from Joe Vigil to Terrence Mahon. I took on Terrence as a coach for six or seven months and it didnít work out, and ended up going back to Joe Vigil. Iíve been working with him since that period, which was a little over a year ago. Basically, Iíve just been doing the same things I had been doing, which led to winning the U.S. Championship in 2003. Iíve just been trying to do things a little better and a little smarter.
Josh: I Iíve been so lucky to have Ed (Eyestone) and Alberto (Salazar) throughout the last little bit. Every piece of advice they can give me is good advice. That alone gives me all the confidence that I need, not only with my preparation physically and mentally but with what Iím planning on doing on race day when we get to New York City. Itís a big help not only to have both of them but to have them talk on the phone together and try to come up with workouts with situations that would help me out. Thatís helped me out tremendously. As far as the course goes, I think it was invaluable for me to go out and get to know the course. I ended up doing 18 on it, and it went really well. I knew it was going to be hilly, and just going there and just being able to feel what it would be like lap after lap, I think, was the most important thing. Itís definitely not a rhythm course. I think thereís a stretch of a thousand meters thatís flat, and everything else, youíre either going up or down, and I think that plays to my advantage.
On how the big stage of New York City will distract or affect confidence:
Peter: The first couple of times I went to New York and raced, I was definitely a little bit out of sorts, not myself. I think part of it was confidence issues and another part was that I was just overwhelmed by the surroundings. Itís an exciting place to be and those were the first times Iíd ever been there. And now itís still exciting, but I feel like Iíve seen a few things and done a few things. It feels a lot more like a home away from home, especially racing wise. Right now, going into the Trials, I really couldnít be more confident. My trainingís been going great. Iíve done this a few times now. Itís nice to know when youíre ready and when you might not be ready, and I can definitely say Iím ready for this one.
The experience side of this race is getting overly discounted by the people making predictions. When you get in a race thatís tactical on a course thatís challenging, having a lot of experience in the latter stages in a marathon is definitely going to be an asset. Most of it is instinctive, because youíre out there and as the miles go on, your brain just doesnít work as well as it did in the early stages of the race. Having been through that a few times and knowing what visions lead to success and what donít, I think thatís going to be really important.
On the importance of group training:
Ryan: I havenít done much of it. A lot of times Iím training on my own. Iíve trained a little bit with Peter when heís come up to Flagstaff. Other people have made it up to Flagstaff from time to time. Abdi Abdirahmanís been probably my most consistent training partner, although heíll go back and forth between Tucson and Flagstaff. And even when I am training with someone, itís just one or two people, not really a group type thing. Itís also difficult with the people I train with. We have different coaches, so we might not be ding the same thing on the same day. In Mammoth, it was completely different. It was a group setting, and thatís something I really want to get back to, actually. There is something to be said about group training. It depends on each individualís preference, but I thrive on that kind of setting - as long as youíre training with a group of athletes that have chemistry that will work with your own. It has to do with everybody wanting their teammates to succeed, and no egos bumping heads.
Peter: I used to be on the Farm Team, which was a huge group to train with. That worked well for me in some regards; in others, it didnít work as well. I got a chance to train in Kenya six years ago for six weeks, and Iíd go out and run with 60 guys in group runs every day. Iíve seen the best it can possibly be, and Iíve also had some situations where it was tough. Ryan had a good point that the egos in the group have to be aligned. Everybody has to be a little bit subservient to the best interests of the group, and if that doesnít happen and there isnít a control, it can get out of hand. Thereís more to it than just having a group of guys get together. It has to be well thought out and well-controlled.
Josh: Same situation as Ryan, a lot of what I do is alone. Working with a team makes it a lot less boring, but getting ready for a marathon, there is something to be said for doing it alone. Training by yourself can help in the last miles of a marathon when you are alone.
On nerves and confidence heading into the Trials:
Josh: Iíve gotten really good at not getting all that nervous. Back in high school, and, early in college, I was a wreck before every single race, no matter how big or little it was. Especially in a race like this, it makes me think back in NCAAs this last season, when I won the cross (country) title. Iíd had a good season, but Iíd gotten sick the week before and stuff wasnít going well. Iíve talked to both Alberto and Ed about this, and I think the reason I did so well in that race is that I wasnít worrying about expectations. And thatís something that Iíve really taken to heart, that Iíve really learned from that experience. I want to go out there and do my best obviously, and Iíve prepared and done everything I can to do that. But Iíve learned that you canít allow expectations to get to you. And itís nice in a situation like this because a lot of people have said that I, among other people, are among the dark horses in the race. Nobody is putting all that expectation on us like theyíre putting on Meb and Khannouchi and Hall and those guys. So I love being in this situation. I can just go out there, know that Iím ready, be confident, race my best, and see what happens.
On how Josh feels about not having run a full marathon yet:
Josh: The one thing Iím wondering about is that place where I havenít gone yet. I went over to New York and did 18 miles on that course, and I did it at pace and I felt good. But obviously, the last eight miles is going to be a lot tougher than the first eight miles. Iím confident. With as good as I felt when I went out there and after having a little bit of a taper and really tuning up and getting myself ready, I think Iím going to be able to handle it. We ended up averaging 5:02 (per mile for the 18 miles), and it was on a Saturday morning. The course goes in the opposite direction of the normal traffic on a weekend, and there were literally hundreds, maybe thousands of people out there walking and jogging and what not, so the whole 18 miles, we were just dodging in and out of people. We were lucky to get out alive!
On running 2:11:
Peter: Iím really confident that I can run 2:11. Not to sound overly boastful, but I think Iím much better than when I ran 2:12, and that was a year and a half ago. Last fall at New York, I ran 2:13:13, which for that course is a PR, and this spring in Boston I didnít get a chance to show what I was capable of because of the weather. But right now, Iíve been to altitude for the first time before a marathon; Iíve done it several times. My workouts are what I believe indicates that fitness level. To answer the question, I thought about it years ago and I figured out a way to get there (2:11) and Iíve done the work, so now I feel ready that I can go out there and accomplish it. Iím not looking at Meb and Abdi and Ryan Hall and Khannouchi as guys who are out of my league. In my mind, theyíre my equals, and Iím their equal. I think if you go into the race thinking any other way, the Olympics arenít in the cards.
On how a second trip to the Trials might present advantages:
Ryan: There is such a difference from the Trials in 2004, to what I anticipate is going to be this time around. The 2004 setting in Birmingham and the organization of the event felt really low key, compared to the big setting in New York. And of course with all the media attention, youíve got the media capital of the world there, itís just a totally different feel. I donít know if being at the Trials in 2004 is going to play to an advantage because it is a total different atmosphere, so no I donít think there is any advantage there.
Peter: I think one thing I can take from the last Trials is how haywire the race was, and how it didnít go necessarily to form. I guess you could say it did in that the three guys that made the team were the three favorites, but after that things, went a little crazy. In the final results, there werenít a lot of people picking Trent Briney and Clint Verrans that high. The tactics are a little more up in the air with this yearís type of Trials race. I think we saw what Sell did last time, and I think we could see that kind of thing this time. You never know, maybe we wonít, maybe it will be slow and everyone stays together for a long time. I think on the pressure cooker side, I learned a lot in the last one because it was pretty intense. Even not being a favorite last time, it was still an intense environment, and I think it will be even more so this time. Those are the things you learn and deal with over time.
On media exposure for the sport:
Ryan: The exposure is good for the sport. I want all the exposure possible for the sport, and myself, the more exposure the better. I donít think about the media going into the race. You canít think about failing. I have run it twice, you just feed off the energy. You canít think about what if I fail because it will cause negative thoughts, so instead you have to turn the energy around and feed off that energy. All these people are cheering for you. They donít know you, they just want you to do well.
Josh: Having a lot of spectators is fantastic. It is great for the sport and for the athletes. It is fantastic that it is in New York City. New York Road Runners does a fantastic job, and having the crowd will be such a bonus. I love the ING New York City Marathon and the Boston Marathon, because the biggest part is the crowd support. If we could have that at the Trials it would be amazing.
Peter: I love running in New York City. It has phenomenal crowds, it draws attention, and hopefully people will find out this is a great sport. The contrast to 2004 is there were many parts where there werenít any spectators cheering, which makes a huge difference especially at the end. Without a crowd, it makes it very long, especially as you get to mile 20. I think the atmosphere will make for some really great performances.