Rehab Behind Her, Simpson Ready to Race

By David Monti.
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved.

NEW YORK (21-Jan) -- Still dressed in her black New Balance kit after today's workout at the Armory in advance of tomorrow's New Balance Games, USA steeplechase record holder Jenny Simpson looked relaxed and confident.  Perched on a tufted leather sofa in the dark lobby of one of New York's trendy hotels, she talked about how rehabilitating from a stress reaction she suffered at the head of her right femur last summer was, in some ways, more work than actually training.

"It was just really hard, for any athlete to face an injury," said Simpson, the former Jenny Barringer who married fiancÚ Jason Simpson last October.  "But, it was even harder because I knew that multiple things were going on."

Simpson, 24, the former University of Colorado Buffalo who set five NCAA records and competed in both the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 IAAF World Championships, was signed by New Balance one year ago, then switched coaches from Colorado's Mark Wetmore to the Air Force Academy's Juli Benson.  She enjoyed a brief season last year where she competed just four times, before the pain in her hip became unmanageable.  After finishing third at the USA Outdoor Championships at 5000m in Des Moines last June, Simpson realized that she needed a real break in order to heal.

"The first thing I did was I took a lot of time off," she explained.  "I left Des Moines and pretty much went straight back to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where I met with the doctors there.  We did a really thorough analysis of what was going on and how we could proceed as far as rehab goes."

Simpson had to stop running.  Completely.

"It was a long kind of month, really diving in to what was the root of the problem and what was going to expedite the healing process," Simpson continued.  "It's tough, because the answer is that it's always (to) stop running."

Shunning even pool running and anti-gravity treadmills, Simpson didn't run a step for weeks, she said.  She gradually went into pool running, and low-impact rehabilitation exercises.  She also planned her wedding and moved from Boulder to the Olympic Training Center and eventually into the house she now shares with Jason in Monument, about 5 km from the Air Force Academy.  She wasn't running, but the rehabilitation process was keeping her very busy.

"What is often overlooked is that when you're hurt and you're doing rehab it really is, physically, more hours in the day than when you're healthy and just going out on a run," Simpson said.  "There's no such thing as a 40-minute recovery day when you're doing rehab."

Simpson tried to keep her mind off of the accomplishments of other athletes as the European track season went on without her.  As the summer ended, she focused even more on her wedding and honeymoon in St. Lucia, a place she called "really fun but a terrible place for running."

Her training began in earnest last November, and Simpson said that she has come into good form, quickly, training with three men at the Air Force Academy.

"November and December have been really solid, week after week of logging the miles and putting in the workouts.  I've been doing a lot of really good foundation work, and I mean by that a lot of aerobic runs, a lot of building up the mileage."

In tomorrow's meet, where Simpson will run the invitational mile, she will be competing in her first race in nearly seven months.  While not worried --she's been pleased with her recent training-- she knows she'll be rusty, especially getting back the rhythm of race-day preparation.

"I believe the ritual of racing is so precious, so individual to any athlete," she said wistfully.  "And, when you get away from just the routine, the ritual of getting to the starting line for a really long time, it's really intimidating to throw yourself right back into it."  She added: "I'm so anxious to race."

While Simpson is the class of the field with a career best 3:59.90 for 1500m and an indoor mile best of 4:25.91, she'll still have to race well to get the win.  Her key competitors will be Canadian Olympians Carmen Douma-Hussar (4:02.29/4:26.76) and Megan Wright (4:10.28/4:31.91), and Irish junior record holder Ciara Mageean (4:09.51).  Rusty or not, Simpson is in the race to win, despite the lack of speed work in her recent training.

"The few workouts I have done I'm really excited about," she observed.  "I can say with confidence that I have never been in this kind of shape in January before."

But will she win?

"I don't like to lose," she said with a laugh.  "I definitely don't like to lose."

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The 16th New Balance Games will be held tomorrow at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory at 168th Street and Fort Washington Avenue in Manhattan (closest subway stop is the "A" train 168th Street Station).  The meet, which is predominantly for high school athletes, begins at 9:00 a.m., but the invitational events begin at 1:30 p.m.  Full meet coverage is available at http://ny.milesplit.us, including live video coverage.

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