Where Your Dreams Become Reality
Shalane Flanagan: American Record Has Made Her Re-evaulate Her Career
Shalane Flanagan entered the Reebok Boston Games, hoping "to get a race in, kind of get the jitters out, (and) shake off some rust" in preparation for the emphasis of her winter season, the US Cross Country Champs next weekend in Boulder, Colorado. Instead, Flanagan stunned American track and field fans and surprised herself with a career-changing performance. She battled Olympic 5000m champ Meseret Defar to the line, and smashed the American indoor 3k record by running 8:33.25.
The race left Flanagan on cloud nine, but wanting more. "I think I'm still kind of on a high from this past weekend. I literally couldn't sleep the night after my race. It was a very magical night. I'm just happy I was able to put together a great performance," said Flanagan via phone from Scottsdale, Arizona as part of a USATF teleconference.
Flanagan said the record run in Boston was "pretty flawless," but she was not completely satisfied after having time to digest it, because she wondered if she made a slight tactical mistake that possibly cost her the victory. Yes, ladies and gentleman, an American distance runner talking about beating Meseret Defar on the track. "With about 500m to go I kind of challenged Defar. I was feeling really good. My coach was yelling at me not to get too greedy and to just stay back and stay patient. But I think within that one second when I kind of hesitated I kind of lost all my momentum to challenge her. I think in hindsight we both agree that I should trust my own judgment when I'm out there," said Flanagan.
Instead Flanagan let Defar use her superior footspeed to outkick her over the final lap. "With the Ethiopians, you can't necessarily play their game (letting it come down to a kick)...I think it would have been advantageous if I had really gone with 500 to go. Really, looking back, she was kind of panicked that I was there. I think she thought she was just going to flog through this race and it was going to be easier for her. I think having me on her shoulder really made her nervous. Not that she's not fit. I think she's fitter than me. Just mentally I think she wasn't expecting anyone with her..."
Nonetheless, Flanagan says she was overall, "really, really, really happy" with her performance in Boston and who could blame her? Her run on Sunday is the type of performance that can change careers and Flanagan is aware of that.
Boston Performance Career-Changing
Flanagan's run was even more remarkable because it was her first track race since the World Championships in 2005, where she ran the 5k. She missed the entire track season last year after she had surgery in April performed by Dr. Amol Saxena in Palo Alto, California to correct an extra bone in her foot that prevented her from pushing off her big toe and was causing pain with her post-tibial tendon (the injury is similar to an accessory navicular but different according to Flanagan, but she does not know the name for it). The injury had hampered her even in 2004 when she made the US Olympic team at 5k.
She gave a lot of credit to Saxena (who also performed surgery on American studs Tim Broe and Rich Kenah), "I feel like if I had not found the right doctor I would not still be running," she said.
In addition to coming back from injury, Flanagan had relocated and switched coaches during her time off. She had moved to Portland, Oregon to have access to the resources of some of the Nike training groups which first got started under Alberto Salazar, although her new coach is former George Mason coach John Cook.
Training at a New Level
Flanagan says in college at North Carolina she would peak out around 70 miles a week , but now does 3 week cycles of 60, 70, and then close to 80 miles a week. In addition she touches on her speed nearly every day with strides after almost every run, plus a lot of core strength work and drills. She says it all has had its effect, "I feel like I'm just overall a better athlete. We do a lot of core strength, a lot of drills, focusing on being really efficient... I literally used to just go run. Now I'm doing all the little things that are starting to make a big difference for me. It's just a new stimulus for my body."
Ready to Take on Deena at US Cross, Which Was Her Emphasis This Winter
Kastor has dominated US distance running and US cross country (7 US titles, and 2 world championship silvers in cross country) for nearly a decade, but has not run the US championships since 2003. However, with the US and World Championships returning to one race this year, Kastor is back. Kastor, Flanagan, Elva Dyer, Sara Slattery, Kara Goucher and others will square off in Boulder for the world championship spots in Kenya and that excited Flanagan, "I'm really excited about the single race. I think it gives us a great opportunity to have all the great competitors together and really test ourselves in one great race."
Despite her record run, Flanagan still sees Deena as the favorite, "Deena has really set the bar for what the rest of us need to be achieving. I would definitely say Deena has to be considered the favorite. I'd like to see how close I can get to Deena. If I can hang in tough with her I'll be really pumped."
One advantage for Deena is that the race will be held at altitude. Deena often trains at altitude in Mammoth Lakes, California and has won the Bolder Boulder road race 3 times. Flanagan has only trained at altitude for one four week stretch in her life, but says she adapts well to altitude (she actually was born in Boulder, so perhaps that helps her), but will be "conservative" at the start of the race to see how the altitude affects her.
Flanagan is planning on making the US team for Worlds and then seeing where she truly stacks up against the world in the single-race World Championship in Mombasa, Kenya in March. "I think I'm really fit and would like to test myself against the rest of the world to see where we're at. Hopefully we can gather a nice team (for Worlds). I would like to encourage a lot of people (who qualify) to go."
Would Love to Take Drug Cheat Regina Jacobs' 5000m American Record
In the 5k, nothing would please Flanagan more than taking down drug cheat Regina Jacobs' American record, 14:45.35 (anyone remember this classic letsrun.com interview with Regina? that is what thankfully comes up #1 in google when you type her name in). "I think there a bunch of women who can take a shot at it. I think we're all really motivated to break that record. I think that is one a lot of people are shooting for. I think whoever it happens to first, we would all be excited to see that one fall," said Flanagan on the 5k record.
And while many of Regina's contemporary competitors on the circuit did not like her because of her suspected drug use and cold attitude, apparently, the animosity has passed down to the next generation of American stars, as Shalane would not even mention the drug cheat by name, "I don't want to say her name or anything... There is an undertone. I've talked to multiple 5000m women in the US, and like I said, whoever breaks it we're all going to be extremely happy for. I think its great to take down those kind of (drug enhanced) records, and do it with athletes who are doing it the right way."