The Week That Was In Running - January 24-30, 2011
January 31, 2011
There is absolutely no way we can recap the US Half Marathon champs, the Houston Marathon, the Millrose Games and much, much more in a single column. Instead, we'll make a few comments about the events and The Week That Was and give you the analysis about the elite world of distance running that can only be found on the pages of LetsRun.com.
Money Can't Buy
Happiness Health / Stat Of The Week
We now present to you our Stat of the Week.
Six is the number of races that Dathan Ritzenhein has competed since changing his coaching to Alberto Salazar some 19 months ago at the end of June, 2009.
That number isn't likely to change in the foreseeable future, as Ritzenhein announced that due to injury he won't be able to compete at this year's Virgin London Marathon.
Often when a runner is injured, a coach gets blamed when in reality maybe the runner is just injury prone. Ritzenhein has been injured at altitude with Mark Wetmore in college, injured at sea level with Brad Hudson as a pro and now injured in an altitude tent with Alberto Salazar.
Dathan Ritzenhein - Healthy Here As A Teen
The unfortunate news about Ritzenhein generated a humorous thread on the message board entitled Picture of Track That Ruined Ritz. So many times in life, particularly in America, everyone wants there to be a reason for everything - a cause and effect - for every unfortunate thing that occurs. Well, in reality, it's not that simple. Rather than focusing on the track, where Ritz supposedly injured himself, or his coach (or his last three coaches for that matter), we thought one message board poster, "weekend updater," nailed it on the head when he or she wrote:
You got a picture of the trail that ruined him last year?
How about the bike path that ruined him the year before?
And what about the road that cut short his season three years back?
Don't forget the paved hill that gave him a stress fracture ...
Let's throw in the Colorado altitude that made post-run recovery more difficult.
Why not throw in a picture of his parents for not making him a well-rounded athlete as a child so that he'd have a better bio-mechanical build?!
Definitely our Message Board Post of the Week. If anyone is to "blame," we and weekend updater think Ritz's parents or God are to blame.
Quote Of The Week #1 (That Wasn't Quote Of The Day)
"What am I going to be doing,
just watching the Millrose Games on television and think I just
missed something special?"
- President of the Boards, Bernard Lagat, talking in a Reuters article about why he changed his mind and decided to run the famed Wanamaker mile this year - a year after breaking Eamonn Coghlan's record of seven Wanamaker titles.
Quote Of The Week #2 (That Wasn't Quote Of The Day)
"My wife gets mad at me for being on (LetsRun) too much."
- World Championships 1,500m semifinalist and former Nebraska Cornhusker Peter van der Westhuizen after finishing dead last in the Millrose Games.
We'd probably rip Peter for an embarrassing last-place performance at Millrose, as a 4:15 mile would sometimes lose the high school boys at Millrose, but, hey - were biased. If you like us, we like you.
Speaking of biased, let us now praise another LetsRun.com fan.
Weekly Free Training Advice (It's Better To Undertain Than Overtrain - And Don't Try To Force A PR Out Of Your Races)
Last week, prior to the Chevron Houston Marathon, we were thinking to ourselves, "The odds that Brett Gotcher sets a personal best are probably close to zero."
Now don't take that wrong way. We are huge fans of Gotcher (we featured him on our Training Talk last year) and think his 2:10:36 stunner was one of the best stories in US distance running last year.
Why were we so negative? Well, in our minds, we weren't being negative; we were just being honest with ourselves. We just thought, "It's real hard to nail the marathon perfectly every time you do it and a 2:10:36 is basically an A+ race for someone who went into the race with a 28:27 10,000 PR (since lowered to 28:09)."
We knew that the expectations for Brett in 2011 would be way, way higher than in 2010, and year after year, we see runners struggle mightily the year after a major breakthrough.
Sure enough, Gotcher blew up and ran 2:19.
Meanwhile, his teammate Nick Arciniaga, who was entered in the race mainly to set the pace for Gotcher, set a PR in 2:11:30.
Nick ran faster because, if anything, he was undertrained instead of overtrained (Gotcher's probably thinking each day in training, "I've got to break 2:10" whereas Nick is just getting ready the best he can). Additionally, he didn't try to force the race. Arciniaga backed off in the middle of the race, whereas Gotcher threw himself at a suicidal pace.
This year, Gotcher went through halfway in 64:18 - 15 seconds faster than last year - but if a Houston Chronicle article is to be believed, the pace then got near suicidal with a 4:29 mile (and overall 4 of the 5 miles between 13 and 18 in 4:38 or better, with Gotcher dropped after mile 15). Now, realize that Gotcher struggled at the end of the marathon last year. Well, this year, he went out 15 seconds faster and then picked it up. Nick Arciniaga actually let Gotcher go ahead of him, realizing the pace was too much. Smart move. A huge, huge blowup for Gotcher and a gutsy pr for Arciniaga who was pacing with the thought of finishing.
Runners often forget that in breakthrough years, nearly everything went right. They are sky high and often assume the good times will keep rolling. In reality, it's just as likely that they'll run slower the next year rather than faster.
Quick Comments On The Houston Course
Speaking of Houston (we've got links to recaps of the races at the end of this article), a quick note on the Houston trials half marathon course, which was supposed to be a preview of next year's Olympic Trials course. This year's course had three 180 degree U-turns. We're not sure why (we had heard because the London Olympic course will have a lot of turns and Houston wanted to simulate that. Is the Olympic course really going to have U-turns? Can someone email us? It is a rare thing to include in a course and we are really curious as to why they are there).
(Editor's Addition: We received the following email from a LRC visitor from Boulder:
In "the week that was" you asked about the olympic course. Here is a BBC article on the marathon course. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-11471541
This is the newest of course ideas and the one that has people upset as it will not finish in the olympic stadium. It does have 1 180deg turn per lap (3laps) and a large number of shaper than 90deg turns per lap. So the Houston course may be a little excessive, but that london course does look tough.
aka Jogger to be)
Runner's World's Amby Burfoot took a crack at trying to figure out how much slower this year's Houston course is than the old half marathon course. The course is not flat and has a lot of mild elevation changes with a few onramps/exit ramps (not the rolling hills of Central Park, but probably not as easy as most of you think when you think of Texas). Amby's article is here. A commenter noted that the U-turns make a big difference and really slow the runners down (the 3 miles with U-turns were the only 3 miles in the men's race with over 4:50 miles).
(Editor's Addition: A US Olympic Trials qualifier who ran the half this weekend has written in with his own personal take on the course:
I was reading this week's "week in review" this morning and can confirm that prior to the USA Half Marathon Championships, the course that was laid out for our race this past weekend was going to be the exact same for the Olympic Trials - they even showed us the course map for next year in our meeting the day before the race. The plan for next year is to run the same loop 3 times. I should also say, that I have heard rumors that it might change.
running the course, I wasn't too concerned about the U-turns, as I
thought we would be able to take more wide, sweeping turns. However,
the turns were very tight and it was pretty close to stop-and-go. Although I never felt it during the race, my left foot was bleeding
(white sock was red and bled through my shoe) pretty badly from the hard
planting and turning; I wasn't the only person who had this problem, as
several other athletes were talking about the same thing as we were
changing our shoes to cool down. As someone who already has my OT
qualifier, I felt bad for the runners who were trying to hit the sub-65
mark and expecting that Houston was the place to do it. Maybe on the
old course, because this course was challenge. I'm all for a
challenging course, so you won't hear much complaining from me, just
passing along this bit of information to you.)
*Article: How Much Slower Is Houston Course?
*Message Board Thread: Houston Trials course looks crazy stupid
Chris Solinsky Fans, Is It time to Get Nervous?
The above section about Gotcher got us to thinking the following thought: "Chris Solinsky fans, it's officially time to get (a little) nervous. In our minds, Chris is much more likely to run over 27:00 and 13:00 in 2011 than under."
Don't believe us? Let history scare you.
Check out what the following Americans ran after they all broke significant time barriers for the first time:
Bob Kennedy broke 13:00 in 1996 by running 12:58. The next year he ran 13:03.
Alan Webb broke 3:50 in the mile in 2005 by running 3:48. The next year he ran 4:00 (and only 3:46 for 1,500).
Matt Tegenkamp broke 13:00 in 2009 by running 12:58. The next year he ran 13:25.
Dathan Ritzenhein broke 13:00 in 2009 by running 12:56.27. The next year he didn't complete a track race.
Chris Solinsky broke 13:00 and 27:00 in 2010 by running 26:59 and 12:55. The next year he ran ...???
Recommended Reads / The Return Of Employee #1
Employee #1, Emory Mort, hadn't written for LetsRun.com in a very long time. It was good to have him back in the fold this week, as his Millrose pre- and post-race articles were all-time classics. If you read two things all year, please read his two articles from last week. We present some of the highlights.
Pre-Race Aritcle: Emory talking about the few fans who actually pay to attend track meets who don't actually know someone competing:
Above the freaks in the stands, like at most track meets in the US not held in Eugene, are the competitors' friends, coaches, family, schoolmates, agents, track writers and of course a smattering of former college runners, plus a few dozen "normal" people who actually will still spend their time and money going to track meets where they are not blood relatives with any of the competitors. As one emailer wrote to us this week: "These people are somewhat like the Amish of sports fans - somewhat inexplicable, quirky and interesting potential subjects for psychological studies."
Post-Race Article: Emory talking about cage fighting in the middle of his post-Millrose Games recap:
More Recommended Reads
Millrose: LRC Preview: Millrose At MSG: When The Circus Comes To Town
LRC Analysis: Millrose Behind The Scenes: Lagat Goes Down, Millrose Entertains
*WSJ: Millrose Is Racing After Its Past Glory
*Edwin Moses Receives World Fairplay Award In Recognition Of His Efforts Promoting Drug Free Sport The Act of Fair Play Award was also given to three other athletes: Amin Zadeh, an Iranian soccer player who kicked the ball out of play rather than score on an open goal when the goalie was injured, Darius Draudvila, a Lithuanian decathlete who cost himself a chance for a medal at Euros when he leant his pole to the eventual bronze medallist who broke his and couldn't find another, and Chinese wrestler Gao Feng, who carried an injured opponent from the arena to receive treatment even though the rival had been sanctioned for biting him during the contest.
Most Overlooked Performance Of The Weekend - Cory Leslie's 3:57.97 At Penn State
There was so much action going on over the weekend (Millrose, US Half Champs, Houston Marathon) that the college ranks got overlooked a bit. New NCAA phenom Andy Bayer ran 3:57 in the mile to back up his 7:48 3k from last week. Impressive, yes, and although Bayer may largely be unknown, he did run 3:58 for the mile last year. The breakthrough of the week was by Ohio State's Cory Leslie. Leslie ran 3:57.97 to win the mile at Penn State. Until Saturday, Leslie was an under-the-radar
guy (4:03 mile last year)
with some talent (also 2:22 1,000m last year). Now coach Robert Gary appears to have another mid-d stud. Leslie's 3:57 race below:
Other Happenings Of Note
Houston: Bekana Daba Nearly Goes Sub-2:07, Strong Day For Americans Daba, a 12:58 5ker on the track last year, had the credentials, but his first marathon wasn't great (2:14 in Amsterdam). He put that behind him,
running a stunning 1:02:47 on the second half of the course to finish in
2:07:04 despite a bathroom break near the finish. American marathoning
is definitely on the upswing;
at the fast halfway
split, there were 2 Americans in the
pack (Nick Arciniaga
and Brett Gotcher). Arciniaga would grab second and a 2:11:30 PR. Last year's surprise Gotcher blew up. On the distaff side, Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia prevailed in a duel with Ashu Kasim, as American Stephanie Rothstein surprised with a huge 10-minute PR and sub-2:30 clocking.
*Nice Recap From Houston Chronicle No wonder Gotcher blew up; the lead pack did a 4:29 mile for mile 14 (which is Gotcher's 10k PR pace and way faster than Nick Arciniaga's 10k pace) and then 3 sub-4:40 miles from 16-18.
*RRW: Americans Nick Arciniaga, Stephanie Rothstein Impress Nick was only slated to pace Gotcher through 25k, but he was open to the idea of finishing.
Men: LRC Mo Trafeh Outkicks Ryan Hall Ryan Hall, Mo Trafeh and Patrick Smyth battled together on the streets
Houston for 11 miles. In the twelfth mile, Hall tried to push ahead. Smyth was the first to crack, but Trafeh stayed on Hall's
heels. With 200m to go, Trafeh gave it one final surge and passed Hall to get the win.
*Video Of Men's Finish *Men's Post-Race Interviews
Women: LRC Jen Rhines' Return Trumps Burla's After a 4-year absence, Jen Rhines made a return to the longer distances with a win and a PR. However, her comeback was the least impressive of the day, as that award definitely goes to Serena Burla. Burla was second just as she was last year. However, in the last year, she had been diagnosed and beaten cancer. Pretty amazing. Mother of three, Nan Kennard, who trains with Colleen De Reuck, was a surprise third.
*Video Of Women's Finish *Women's Post-Race Press Conference
Pre's 60th Birthday Would Have Been Tuesday, January 25th
If Pre Were Still Alive, Where Would He Be And What Would He Have Done? What would he look like? Where would he live? Would we have gone to the 1980 Olympics? We'll never know for sure, but some people have ideas.
*Prefontaine: Why Does He Matter? Why Do We Still Talk About Him Today?
*Linda Prefontaine Speaks About Her Brother
*Legacy.com Looks At Pre's Life & Legacy
Veronica Campbell-Brown Returns To Action At Millrose 60 VCB had the top 100 and 200 in 2011 but didn't race that often.
Looking Ahead (Time To Start Getting Excited For ...)
This Week: Saturday: 2/5: USA XC Championships In San Diego
2/5 At 5:00 pm EST: New Balance Indoor Grand Prix In Boston Tape delay on ESPN on 2/6 at 2 PM EST.
Quotes Of The Day From Last Week
Monday: "Keep talkin' shit. Lots of pros don't like it, but I find it fuels my fire."
- "Unnoticed" 3:34 1,500m runner David Torrence after his 3rd place finish at Millrose. Torrence is right on when he says, "it sucks being a 3:34 guy being somewhat unnoticed, but it says a lot about U.S. distance running these days." Remember when Gabe Jennings and Michael Stember were the future? Torrence is faster than both.
While we're on subject of quotes from pros at Millrose on LetsRun.com, how about this one from South African Peter van der Westhuizen:
"My wife gets mad at me for being on the site too much."
Sunday: "Today, I was testing the nuts and bolts in me to find out which ones I need to tighten. This year, I want to take away what El Guerrouj has held for more than 13 years. Yes, I will go for both his world records this season, starting with the indoor meets at Dusseldorf or Stuttgart."
coach and I believe this is the right time. I will go to Manchester
next weekend to test myself on the indoor circuit since I have never run
there. Once I get that, I believe I'm in the right shape to go for the
record. If that happens, I shall return to strategise with my coach on
how to break the outdoor record. I fear no one or any challenge and it
can happen. The World title is in my plans too but my burning
desire is to break the records."
- Kenya's newest 1,500-meter sensation, Silas Kiplagat, talking after winning a 12km XC race in Kenya (who needs the short course?) about his plans for 2011.
"With two laps left I know in my heart I could win and I went with
confidence. I knew that I just had to hang in at that
- 2010 world indoor champion Deresse Mekonnen after snapping Bernard Lagat's six-year winning streak in a fantastic Wanamaker mile that saw Lagat twice try to pull clear on Mekonnen in the last lap.
Friday: "Every pro track meet is essentially a circus minus the animals, but the Millrose Games might be the best freak show around."
- LetsRun.com Employee #1 Emory Mort, starting off his column about the grand-daddy of all US track meets, the Millrose Games, in his first column after a long sabbatical. Mort's piece is pure genius and must be read. In it, he manages to tell you why high school races are his favorite at Millrose while weaving in talk of the NBA, MLB, Galen Rupp, Doug Logan and even Carol Lewis. Along the way, he finds time to compare people who actually pay to go to track meets to the Amish. If it doesn't make you laugh, then at least it will offend you. Seriously, please read it as we think it's brilliant.
Thursday: "I love running, and I am competitive. I'm hoping to be one
of those people you read about who are 88 and still competing."
- 43-year-old Stacie Alboucrek, who has qualified for 2 Olympic Marathon Trials (yet never competed at the Trials) and is hoping to make it 3 this weekend at the ING Miami Marathon.
Wednesday: "Andy (Bayer) is a one-of-a-kind talent."
- Indiana junior Andrew Poore talking about his redshirt sophomore teammate who sped to the fourth-fastest indoor 3,000 by an American collegiate in history over the weekend. Read about Bayer's great performances and many more from last week in our Week That Was (which will come out Wednesday).
Tuesday: Husband: "I think you should try to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the marathon."
- Bob Jazwinski and his wife Katie (2002 Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year according to the article) talking one night after putting their kids to sleep. Katie eventually agreed to the idea and, thanks to her 2:44 marathon, has qualified for next year's Trials.