Where Your Dreams Become Reality
The Week That Was October 5 - Oct. 11, 2009
This week, we decided to recap the last week in running a little bit differently. LetsRun.com co-founder Robert Johnson and Employee #1 recapped the week that was from Chicago to the World Half in a gchat conversation. Along the way, they pondered who is better? Ritz or Hall? And is this the beginning of the end for Deena Kastor? Plus they talked about Alan Webb, Jason Hartmann and Sammy Wanjiru.
The Week That Was. Employee #1, I need your help to recap The Week That
Was as I missed seeing most of the great weekend action as I was
attending the Browns - Bills thriller in Orchard Park.
Emory: The Bills are my favorite team; can you see why I don't like watching football anymore? Ritz made getting up at 4:30 seem like a great decision, that's how well he ran.
Robert: I always wondered why you didn't seem to care about the NFL. Now I know. But thanks to that foreign beer company - Budweiser - I enjoyed the game a great deal.
Emory: Ritz's half was even more inspiring than his 5,000m because he was really battling from the get go with the big boys.
Robert: I agree 100%. The LetsRun.com visitors are more impressed by his 12:56 AR in the 5k, but to me, this is more impressive.
Emory: He literally made the race interesting to watch all by himself. (Click here for a replay of Ritz's run) The camera was going from Tadese back to Ritz and back and forth because it was like "who is this white boy crashing the party?" It was like the 5,000m in that it was surreal. Like you almost couldn't believe what you were watching.
Robert: The World Half Marathon may not get all of big names, but it is a world championship and Ritz was competitive, up front from the beginning. In his 12:56, he started in last and picked off people. His bronze medal performance let one dream that an Ameican-born athlete could maybe someday, somehow compete for a gold or at least battle up front for a medal versus steal one at the end as Tegenkamp almost did a few years back.
Emory: Right; it was Craig Mottram- or Bob Kennedy-esque. It was like, "He's one of them." Just look at how much better Ritz was than any other American. I don't know if you noticed, but he almost beat the 2nd American by 3 minutes and beat some of them by almost 30 seconds a mile. Then again, Bauhs almost got beat by Mary Keitany, the woman's winner. Not a great weekend for Mahon's group.
Robert: Correct, and it's not like the Americans were running awful. The thing that seemingly was forgotten was that the USA just missed a team medal on the men's side by 8 seconds. Did you even realize that? They do it by cumulative time correct? Results are here: http://www.iaaf.org/whm09/results/eventCode=4142/sex=M/discCode=HMAR/combCode=hash/roundCode=f/team.html#det.
Emory: Yeah, I realized that, I was all over it like the astute employee should be. Cumulative time is correct. Cumulative time for the top 3. No US men's team had ever done better than 6th. So going into the event, Kenya had 56 medals to America's 0. Now it's 59-1, I think. Take that, Kenya.
Robert: Of course, it does need to be noted that a lot of the countries' A guys aren't at the meet, but Ritz did beat some studs like that Ethiopian who embarrassed everyone at Falmouth - Tilahun Regassa. And losing to women at World Half isn't a joking matter. Employee #1, you are too young to remember it, but LetsRun.co co-founder Weldon Johnson lost to a bunch of women I believe when he ran it, as he had food poisoinng. Wejo ran 1:14:58 in 1998. He wasn't DFL, though. He did beat two men.
Emory: Ritz almost beat the entire Kenyan team which was a nasty squad. He batted .800 against them.
Emory: I'll have to remind Wejo of that sometime. Then he'll ask me how many national teams I've made.
Robert: Instead of talking about the struggles of the Mahon group, let's talk some more about Ritz and his new coach Alberto Salazar. I very much enjoyed Dick Patrick's pre- and post- world half columns.
Emory: I did too. I am getting this strange sort of loving feeling for Salazar. Like anyone who joins his group will turn to gold and make getting up at 4:30 in the morning worth it.
Robert: Where does Ritz go from here? I found the following post-worlds comment by Salazar in USA Today to be interesting:
"He's got the ability in terms of strength," Salazar said. "It's a matter of teaching him to relax physically and mentally so he's running easier.
"He's fighting too hard from the beginning with his upper body. He's got an unbelievable engine, but he's never learned how to relax. Dathan is never just flowing. Dathan is always pressing, pressing, pressing. That's pretty easy to fix."
Dating to his HS days, I've been a big fanboy of Ritz but always thought maybe he was running a bit too hard and wondered how much he'd improve as after races, he'd be totally spent, collapsed on the track. I'm not sure if teaching him to relax is going to be as easy as AlSal thinks.
Emory: As someone who is training really hard right now I completely agree with Salazar about relaxing. I actually think he can teach Ritz to relax. The coach-athlete relationship is a powerful thing and Salazar seems to have that ability to be sort of a father figure to his athletes.
Robert: Kind of ironic, though, that a guy who was famous for running himself almost to death at Falmouth and a coach who had his protégé set an American record in practice (this race certainly left them off the hook for that and vindicated that workout) is saying that relaxation is the key.
Emory: As JK always says, "Who better to know the error of their ways than a hyprocrite?" Do you use mistakes you made in your training to help with your coaching?
Robert: Unfortunately, I don't really train anymore. But to me as a fellow coach, relaxation is the key to running and gives me hope that Al Sal and crew will be able to repeat this performance down the road. To me, the #1 thing that most people don't analyze in coaches is, "Is their training repeatable?" Speaking of non-repeatable training, it's clear that Alan Webb's training under former coach Scott Razcko wasn't repeatable. Good year, bad year, good year, bad year.
Emory: That part was repeatable. It was repeatedly unrepeatable.
Robert: But in that pre-worlds article on Ritz, Salazar said that after having reviewed Webb's training log, he thinks Webb can be better than ever. Did you have the same reaction I did when I read that of, "My god, how poorly designed were the workouts for Alberto to feel that confident already?"
Emory: Not really. To me, hiring Salazar to coach Webb is like bringing in a consultant to a company. The consultant doesn't really say anything you didn't know before, they just provide a confident outside influence and a breath of fresh air.
Robert: A good point. And when that breath of fresh air is Alberto Salazar versus Scott Razcko or Brad Hudson, one is much more likely to listen and be inspired by it. Everyone has speed goggles. Even same-sexed speed goggles. Is it simply getting two of the all-time talents in US prep history re-motivated and excited about running? And in Webb's case, getting him to lose about 10 extra pounds of needless upper body strength.
Emory: Agreed. Just to go in the media and say what he did in a national newspaper is smart. Webb and Ritz are emotional and having a very confident and assertive person who believes they can be great makes a huge difference. I was telling somebody the other day. I went to basketball camp when I was about 11 years old and came home with a new shot. I showed my Dad how they taught me to shoot and he said, "I've been telling you to shoot that way for years!"
Robert: Having hung out a bit with Webb when Chris Lear was writing Sub-4, I have to agree. Even athletes that great have fragile confidence at times.
Emory: If you could send another athlete to Salazar who would it be? Oooh, I got my answer. Maybe not right now but in a couple years.
Robert: German (Fernandez)?
Emory: Yep. Actually, German has a really good head on his shoulders, so I think he'd be fine with most good coaches.
Robert: So then we end up with the self-fulfilling prophesy of all the best athletes and greatest talents in US history go to Nike/Al Sal and they get all of the credit.
Emory: Hooray! Okay, I have 2 Chicago Marathon questions.
Robert: Salazar probably has learned a good deal from the early days of the Nike Project but he's also learned what I've learned at Cornell - you aren't going to be a world beater without some major league talent. No dispespect to the to the Mike Donnellys and Dan Brownes of the world, but big talent rules the world. Before we go to Chicago. Let's look ahead for Ritz. Are you thinking the same thing I am as to what the future holds for him in 2010? I think it's awesome that he's going to train now for World Cross. The way I see it is he does that, a small base phase and then maybe a 10k or two. Maybe one 10k here and one in Euopre or maybe a 5k and a 10k. He and Rupp battle it out to be the first white guy under 27:00 (remember I'm on the record from years ago saying Ritz would do it). But they call it a track season in late June/early July since there is no World Champs next year in track. He can call it a season very early and start training for his 2nd marathon debut and 2nd ridiculous pay check in New York City. This time Ritz will actually deserve the $200,000 plus.
Emory: That's a great plan. It's almost exactly what Zersenay Tadese did this year. World Cross medal. World 10k medal. World Half medal. Ritz is officially a monster. It's not too big of a stretch to say by the end of next year, he'll be the fastest all-around white person of all time from 5k-marathon.
Robert: Let's hope Ritz doesn't pick up an overpriced DNF in a major marathon as Tadese did as well. That leads me to a final question about Ritz. Do we have to officially consider him better than Ryan Hall right now? I mean Ritz could theoretically have US record at 5k, 10k and the half.
Emory: The marathon is crazy, as people running their first ones just go out in 62:00 for the first half. We overreact to what is happening "right now." Right now, I'm high on Ritz but Hall was the rage for a while. I look at it this way. Could Hall do what Ritz has done (12:56 and 3rd in that half)? No.
Robert: I like your reasoned response. I was such a big Ritz fan for a long while, but I threw my allegiances to Hall and I don't quite want to give them up yet. But it's great to see. And remember, Webb beat Ritz at 10k. So sick. I can't wait for 2010.
Emory: Could Ritz do what Hall has done? 59:43 and 2:06:17? Yes, I'm pretty confident he can.
Robert: I don't think we can give Ritz the 2:06 just yet.
Emory: No, but I'm a lot more confident Ritz could do that than I am that Hall could beat Ritz in cross or in any track event.
Robert: By everyone's admissions, Ritz was in good shape prior to London last year but he didn't do it. And that to me is why Hall still may need to be considered to be the US #1. Only because at 10k, the US has very little chance of medalling if all of the big names show up. At least in marathons, there are tons of majors, so you can contend for titles if you are one of the top 10-15 in the world as Hall has done several times now. But let's move on to Chicago.
Emory: Hall is like Wanjiru. Wanjiru can't finish in the top 5 in a decent half anymore but he's unbeatable in the marathon. Hall's like a 1-trick pony whose 1 trick is really freaking awesome. Okay, so here is my question about Chicago. I was really confused because all the pre-race talk from Wanjiru said "I can run 2:04 or 2:05" and stuff like that. No talk about records. Then about 24 hours before the race, everyone is talking about 61:40 opening half and world records. For me that really spoiled the race atmosphere. What do you think?
Robert: I think that's an inherent problem with the sport. Everyone knows Wanjiru is the best on the planet and thus people are going to talk to him about a world record. I think we at LetsRun.com deserve props for not talking about it, as it just leads people to be disappointed. I think it's natural for the race director and for Wanjiru's agent to mention it, but I don't think it helped things. Since we didn't send you out there to cover the press conference, I have no idea of knowing if Wanjiru was being modest or if he was just trying to downplay the chances.
Emory: He was saying that from back in Kenya.
Robert: I thought a world record was possible but not likely, as the weather was a bit too cold and the rabbits probably aren't quite good enough. To get under 2:03:59, you need everything to be perfect. But let's be positive. The guy put on a show and got the North American record of 2:05:41.
Emory: Oh my, that's for sure. I love watching Sammy and he is incredible. That weather is nasty and they're clicking off 4:40s from the gun.
Robert: He's only 22. He's the Olympic champ, he's the London champ. Now he's the Chicago champ. Never before have we seen a guy made for the roads hit the roads at such an early age have we? I guess Al Sal did it but didn't last very long. But to me, Wanjiru could do it at the half - he just correctly realizes the training has to be different.
Emory: Yes. He ran three half marathons this year all over 61 minutes. And then the opening half in Chicago was 62:00. He isn't just winning these marathons but also setting the course or Olympic record at these storied courses. How long do you think he is going to last? Some of these elite women are 36 and 37. Can Wanjiru's body and mind last another 10 years for example?
Robert: Kudos to the friends over at the science of sport. They predicted a 61:57 opening half and a 2:05:55 total time. That was pretty close.
Emory: Those guys are geniuses.
Robert: How long will he last? Well, Geb is older than my father, isn't he? It's all up in his mind. But it was great to see him on US soil and to see him at Chicago running fast. And I think Chicago deserves some props for having a quality field once again. They had started to slip a bit of late but the men's field was pretty interesting - even if nowhere as deep as a London. I mean, Wanjiru had to work for his win.
Emory: Yes, credit is due to Chicago. They did have an interesting field and designed the rabbit structure as well as they could.
Robert: Three guys at 2:06:08 or better is pretty good.
Emory: In that weather, that is great. I don't think the weather topped 40 degrees all day. I think race organizers should back off the pace and have them go through in 63 so more contenders can stay in longer and the late parts of the race are more exciting. But I guess the sponsors pay a ton of money and want publicity from world records rather than a race that pleases Employee #1.
Robert: I agree with you. I think rabbitted affairs are boring. It was a good men's race nonetheless. I must say I was pretty pleased with my pre-race analsyis. (https://www.letsrun.com/2009/chicagomenpre1008.php)
Any idea how Schoolmeester and Pilkington did? Never mind; I looked it up. Schoolmeester ran 2:19:16 after a 1:07:25 first half. Pilkington was out hard - 1:06:12 at the half but totally blew up and didn't make it 30k.
Emory: So the women's race was interesting in that the big favorite Mikitenko clearly wasn't her same fighting self. I saw it as a passing of the torch as the older veteran women were at the whim of the younger and faster Shobukhova and even Erkesso, though she faded late.
Robert: I didn't even realize they had a women's race. Okay, that was a poor joke but you are right.
Emory: Yeah, remember you paced Paula there one time, right? You were pacing the girls, remember? At our best, we're decent pacers for females. That's why we're doing LetsRun.
Robert: Yes, but the quality of the women's fields just aren't very good in most places these days. If you get 5 true elites, you are doing pretty well for yourself.
Emory: So that was my question for you. Where is the next crop of women's marathoners coming from? All the big names are old and wrinkly!
Robert: But at Chicago, the older stars in Mikitenko and Kastor certainly didn't shine, but 5 of the top 6 finishers were all over 30. Certainly not spring chickens like the men's race, where 3 of the top 4 were 23 or younger.
Emory: I'm just amazed the Kenyan and Ethiopian women haven't begun to dominate the women's marathon. Is it because their societies are so male dominated? I mean, no medals for Africa in the women's marathon in Berlin?
Robert: Simple answer. Yes.
Robert: From looking at the splits, the Chicago women's race certainly was a good one in the end, as you had 4 women within 1 second of each other at 40k. Did they show that on the broadcast? That's very unusual for a women's marathon.
Emory: Yes, it was a good tactical affair and the coverage online was good. There were no commercials and no sappy human interest stories in the crucial parts of the race.
Emory: Okay. Next question. Why are your fellow college coaches not smart enough to put Oregon higher than 7th in the polls?
Robert: Okay, I'll try to answer your questions. Because with everyone holding out guys at meets, it's impossible to know how good people really are without spending hours on it - researching which guys are on the bench not having run yet. To me, the polls are so poorly done. Having Oregon #1 in the pre-season was a joke just as having them at #7 is now. But are you voting based on what they've done or based on what they will do? I heard Larry Rawson was on the broadcst. How painful was that?
Emory: It was so painful that I literally spent 6 hours today writing about it. I'll send it to you. But he was so bad it was funny. If you're going to be bad, be funny bad I guess. He pronounced Mikitenko as Mickey Cake O in the introduction.
Robert: Seriously, even though I'm a college cross-country coach, I haven't once looked at the national polls all year. I'm not going to look until next year when the Big Red of Cornell show up in them finally. Oh wait, I thought I was supposed to have learned a lesson about talking big on the Internet. (https://www.letsrun.com/2003/rojocornellinterview.php)
Emory: Just make up a really fast workout and tell USA Today about it. That seemed to work for Salazar and Ritz. "Cornell team runs 10k time trial in 28:40 with pack of 9 guys." We had a guy write to us about how the polls were useless. I said to a coach the polls are useless. But to the fans they are perfect fodder. Imagine college football without the polls which everyone laments. Nobody would know which games to care about.
Robert: So I just looked at last week's national rankings. (http://www.ustfccca.org/assets/rankings/div1/2009-xc/09-d1-mxc-national-week2.pdf) No way Stanford wins it - yet they are #1. In my mind, Oklahoma State should be an overwhelming favorite, but who knows? NAU does have a few studs. I'll analyze it for you for real after pre-nats or something. So what else happened last week that we need to talk about? I know two weeks ago, Jason Hartmann ran 2:12 in the marathon and I wanted to congratulate him on that. In 2000, that would have made one a lock for the US Olympic team. We've gome a long way in 9 years. Bart from the Netherlands deserves props for writing me to let me know how I dropped the ball on Hartman last week. I didn't realize Hartman had worldwide fans.
Emory: Absolutely. He led the race and had the race of his life. I think I remember he was at Gate River this year and ran decently but not great, so to run 2:12 takes a lot of "stick-to-it-iveness." Yeah, Hartmann has fans in the Netherlands I guess.
Robert: I also remember last week enjoying seeing Ritz getting a small nod in the IAAF preview as a potential dark horse. "Ritzenhein, the dark horse? Off the radar at the moment in terms." Meanwhile at the same time, more than half of LetsRun.com was predicting insane things for him. He certainly wasn't a dark horse at LetsRun.com.
Emory: How about the top 2 in the Wisconsin Marathon championships in Milwaukee getting DQed.
Emory: We saw some serious twin power this week. You might not have heard this yet, but New Jersey's Joe Rosa broke Solomon Haile's VCP 2.5 mile course record and his twin brother Jim was only 5 seconds behind. 12:03 and 12:08 I think.
Robert: That Wisconsin story actually took place two weeks ago but maybe unfolded last week? It really was interesting to say the least. I think it was kind of interesting. One got DQed because she got a water bottle handed to her (did anyone watch the Japanese coach run up to the Japanese runner in the world half ?- nothing was done) and the other for wearing an ipod.
Emory: Of course the other twin news was the Shackleton Bros. running not just under 2:20 but under 2:18 in Chicago at the age of 23.
Robert: Yeah. That's (the VCP mark) technically not going to count as the record as the course is slightly different due to the construction but it was amazing.
Emory: I found that ironic since Haile was probably about 22 when he set that record.
Robert: And it came a week after Mr. Rosa broke the Holmdel course record in New Jersey (but which I failed to mention last week).
Emory: Oh well, I guess we better get the LetsRun Rosa hype machine going.
Robert: The record was 15:15 at Holmdel and Joe ran 15:04. His "slower" brother ran 15:16. (http://www.trentonian.com/articles/2009/10/04/sports/doc4ac81a5ed6aa5997202167.txt)
Emory: Thanks. Wow, that is a big chunk of time off the record.
Robert: Maybe we shouldn't talk about high schoolers. Some college coach will claim I'm violating an NCAA rule or something. I thought that it was interesting to see that Sally Kipyego is now part of the Oreogn Track Club. Good to see them reaching out to a non-American. (http://www.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/web/sports/21235998-41/story.csp)
Robert: All of the college XC talk got us distracted from finishing up our talk about the Chicago women's race. To me, there are two stories, one positive and one negative. Let's start with the positive.
Emory: Well, the positive story of the day is a new major force in women's marathon running in Liliya Shobukhova. She's a 14:23 5k runner.
Robert: Yes indeed. And did you see that email we got today from Lorenzo Nesi of the Swedish Athletic Association (www.friidrott.se)?
Emory: Yes, I did. He correctly pointed out what has to be the stat of the week. Shobukhova ran her last 2.2k (from 40k to the finish) in 6:36. That's 3:00/km, or 4:48 per 1,600. That's faster than any of the men closed, including Wanjiru and Goumri. At the time, there wasn't much talk about it on the broadcast. Rawson was babbling on about something and literally didn't say anything about the finish.
Robert: Yeah, Wanjiru ran 6:45 I believe, which is what? 4:54 pace or something? That's unreal. She clearly was just waiting until the end to crush it.
Emory: In London in April, Mikitenko ran a hard pace the entire way. In Chicago, the pace was very slow and the only person that ever really pushed was Teyba Erkesso, who won Houston back in January. So in London, Mikitenko beat Shobukhova. But in Chicago, Mikitenko didn't have much fight even though she still was good enough to get 2nd.
*I should say she didn't have the same fight as she did in London and her previous wins around 2:20.
Robert: You seemingly want to write Mikitenko off. I'm not willing to do that yet. She was 2nd. At 37, I think it's fair to ask is this beginning of a decline for her? Or was her non-win a result of her grief of her father's passing? Time will tell, but Shobukhova certainly is a force - 3rd in London in her debut. 1st in Chicago. She is definitely one woman worth watching in the years to come. So that's the good news.
Emory: I'll quickly just add that many people are saying World Half champion Mary Keitany is another one to watch. 66:36 won by over a minute in Birmingham.
Robert: Good point. She killed everyone there.
Emory: Not literally. That would be scary. So on to America's record-holder Deena Kastor. I was reading an article today with quotes from Kastor saying she's walking away with positive thoughts and her head held high.
Robert: Yes, that's the bad news we have to talk about. If she can remain positive, thats impressive. Remember, there was talk this summer of her breaking her 2:19 AR in Chicago and she runs 2:28:50.
Emory: The women were running 5:55s at the beginning and just the switch to 5:30s dropped Kastor. She had a rough day.
Robert: And she was dropped off of a slow pace by halfway. Not good. I know she broke her foot in Beijing, but her half in New York in August was awful (73:48) and this wasn't a whole lot better. More troubling to me is the fact that this is her 5th marathon since she ran her AR of 2:19:36 in 2006 in London. Can you guess what her fastest marathon is of those 5?
Emory: Olympic Trials?
Robert: No, that was a 2:35. She ran 2:27:54 in New York in the Fall of 2007. Admittely, we are only talking 4 finished marathons but the trend hasn't been good of late. I think she's got a good one in her somewhere, but that article where it said she mentally can't handle the same long marathon buildup caught my eye. She may need a change of pace. Train for World Cross or something and skip the spring marathons or run Boston or something.
Emory: To me, it's hard to criticize Deena because she seems to have such a healthy perspective. She doesn't judge herself based on her performances. She runs great and she's humble. She runs terribly and she tries to smile and says all the right things. You know she was so focused for all these years. It seems like she just can't get as emotionally charged any more for big time training efforts. So to me, I just learned from this race not to expect any big time performances from Deena any more. I think you're right, World Cross might be great. I don't know. To me it seems like she's cooked physically and mentally and anything great from here on out is a bonus. She's a great example of a true professional.
Robert: She is indeed.
Recommended Reads/Watches From Last Week
Kyle And Drew Shackleton Run For "Team Fox," Their Grandfather And Themselves At Chicago On Sunday We found this press release very inspirational and it will make us a lot more interested in seeing who gets under 2:20. The twin brothers are going for sub-2:20 and if they get it are going to donate all the winnings to help fight Parkinson's.
LRC MBoards: Deena has ZERO chance of winning Chicago
Sad News Again: Two Deaths Occurred At San Jose Rock n Roll Half A 34-year-old and a 35-year-old both died in what was described as ideal running weather.
Remembering The Last Week With The Quotes Of The Day - Day By Day:
Saturday: "I want to know Obama, please ... I want to be like him."
"I don't know," the coach said. "I think for
right now we're going to stick with the 1,500 and mile. I don't want to
turn tail and give up (on the mile). Let's get him better than he's
ever been at the mile and then say, 'What do we think?'"