Jerry Schumacher Is Confident About Shalane: “I think she’s fit and going to be in the game.”

“I think she’s fit and going to be in the game. … She’s definitely fit to run hard. She’s fit to close down fast if it’s going to be a little slower. I think she’s ready for any type of effort that she needs to put in on the course.”

“I’m very confident and she’s very confident that she’s prepared to do whatever anybody else can do in the race.”

by Robert Johnson
April 20, 2014

At the elite press conference on Friday for Monday’s Boston Marathon, there was one notable person absent, American Shalane Flanagan. Flanagan, who was born and raised in Massachusetts and recently had her Boston buildup featured on 60 Minutes, wasn’t there. A day later, several people asked us why she wasn’t there so I put in a request with the John Hancock people to talk to Flanagan or her coach Jerry Schumacher as some people were starting to speculate something might be wrong.

This afternoon, I got a call from Schumacher, who has a reputation for being a bit press shy, and from the moment I started talking to him, it was clear nothing was wrong with Flanagan as Schumacher was clearly very excited to see what Flanagan can do tomorrow.

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Below are the highlights of my conversation wtih him.

LetsRun: It seems like everyone I bumped into yesterday was asking me about Shalane. A lot of people were asking if something was wrong. I told them I certainly didn’t think anything had gone wrong, she just wasn’t at the press conference. I guess I’ll start with – Shalane ran great (a US record of 47:00) at the 15k (on March 15th). How have the 5 weeks since the 15k been? 

Jerry Schumacher: Her 15k was still early in that phase of our training. She was coming off a good block of mileage and strength stuff so it was kind of a – I don’t want to say surprise – but anytime you see an athlete run that fast it catches you a little bit off guard. You don’t go into a race expecting someone to run 5 minute pace for 9.3 miles (laughs).

So it did catch me a little by surprise but I also knew she was as strong as she’s ever been and had a great – just a good solid block of strength work leading into that so I would say we came off of it with a lot of confidence. I think we both walked away saying, ‘You know what that last block of work that we did really sets you up perfectly for this next block which hopefully will set you up for perfectly for the end game – the Boston Marathon.'”

Everything has been good – been great.

She’s been healthy and continued to work hard. She came off of Jacksonville (the 15k) fine. You know we are always a little bit cautious coming off of a long effort but like I said she’s done some great efforts in practice along the way, and obviously the race effort (in Jacksonville) was fantastic so yeah, it’s been a good training block for her for sure.

That’s good to hear. So what are your expectations and goals for her with tomorrow’s race?

Expectations – that’s a dangerous word (said Schumacher before laughing), But you know what – I believe the marathon can do a lot of funny things to you – but barring any of the things that can happen to an athlete in a marathon – the cramping, stomach issues, hydration issues, fluids, whatever it might be – barring any of the unusual issues that kind of go beyond your control, if none of those things kind of happen, I think she’s fit and is going to be in the game.

Now I don’t know exactly what that means – I don’t know what type of race it’s going to be.

She’s definitely fit to run hard. She’s fit to close down fast if it’s going to be a little slower. I think she’s ready for any type of effort that she needs to put in on the course, barring any of the unusual things that can happen to marathoners along the way.

You’ve coached Shalane for all of her other marathons (this is Flanagan’s 5th marathon). Is this most confident you’ve been prior to Shalane going into a marathon? Is this the best shape she’s ever been in going into a marathon?

I think she’s gotten better and better with each one. Not all of them go as perfectly as (you’d like). Obviously that’s part of racing and part of being really on on the day.

But I think with her preparation that she’s learning with each one, and it’s she’s getting better with each one, not only in racing them but in preparing for them. It’s like anything (in life in that) it’s unfortunate that you are at your wisest when you are at your oldest (said Schumacher before laughing). And then you can’t go back (to your youth) and use it. She’s definitely getting better and better. Does that mean she’s going to run her best marathon? I don’t know (for sure) but I’m very confident and she’s very confident that she’s prepared to do whatever anybody else can do in the race – she’s prepared to be ready to handle it and do it as well.

Why wasn’t Shalane her for media day on Friday? Were you guys at altitude or did she just want to avoid the media onslaught as the hometown girl?

She did a lot of her media stuff beforehand but she was supposed to get in, but she and (her husband) Steve had a little travel glitch coming out of Flagstaff but it wasn’t that big of a deal. I don’t really care one way or the other. She could get here tonight and I’d be fine with it.

Jerry Schumacher at last year's .US Road Championships

Jerry Schumacher at last year’s .US Road Championships

Has she been more motivated than normal because it’s Boston and what happened last year (with the attacks) and her not winning in Boston last year where she’s from?

You know what, if you are going to call it like it is, Shalane doesn’t go to a race she doesn’t want to win. She’s super competitive. Anytime she toes the line she wants to win and she’s always motivated to do the necessary work and the training.

But does this one have special meaning? Sure it does. This is Boston – this where she fell in love in running. This is her earliest memories. So it definitely has special meaning to her.

Does she want to really win badly? Yes. But putting that aside, she want to win any race she’s in. I don’t know that she’s any more motivated or driven to win, but there is no doubt that this one has a special place for her. There is no way around it.

Yesterday, Kevin Hanson said that unlike at a normal marathon, for Boston they don’t train for the distance, they train for the course. Do you agree with that assessment and do you do a lot of things differently for Boston because of the downhills in the first half – well I guess there are downhills all over the place?

I think yeah there are a lot of downhills that kind of beat up your quads a little bit and then you gotta go back uphill which you think is going to feel better than going downhill and then you gotta go back downhill again.

So you definitely have to prepare for the course a little bit but it’s still 26.2 miles. It’s still hard running. You kind of have to be ready for – I think you have to be ready to race the field and the competition. You just have to be prepared to handle anything the race gives you.

Some years the weather is going to help dictate the race. This year, I don’t see the weather being a factor so it really will come down to the field and the competition. (Regardless) everyone is on the same course with the same weather.

But I don’t put too much into we gotta be extremely different because this is Boston. She’s trained appropriately for the marathon. I think she’s ready to handle it. She’s been on the course numerous times. She’s seen it. I think she’s very comfortable with it.

Shalane’s marathon pb is only 2:25. I know Boston rarely is run for time, but how fast do you think she’s capable of running if she was on a flat course? Do you have any idea.

You know Shalane’s proven to be one of the best women’s distance runners we’ve ever had in America and I think her marks (personal bests at various distances) probably should line up (with each other).

If she ever decides to run that type of race (flat, time trial), I think her marks would line up right with her other marks and I thinks she’d be capable of (something equivalent). I don’t know exactly what that would be but I think her marks would line up with her other performances and the (times) put up by the other handful of great American women runners, who have done similar things.

I think those time performances would definitely line up if that type of race would ever unfold. She hasn’t ever been in a super fast race yet.

Have you talked about having a specific strategy for tomorrow’s race?

With Boston I think you are just racing the field.

You have to make decisions as you go based on what the field is doing. And I think as everyone has told us many many times, the great men and women distance runners who have run the course before, the race really doesn’t start until the Newton Hills.

Am I missing anything? Or did I cover everything?

I think it’s going to be a fun day. I really do Robert.

Hypothetically, let’s say there are 15 (plus) women that are fit and ready to go. Of those 15, five might some issue out there (that derails them), there is going to be (close to) 10 that can’t sustain the effort on that day and I think there will be five that can do it.

And it will end being a dual between those 5 or 3 women or whatever (the actual number) is – those small handful of women that have prepared very well, are feeling ready and feeling good (on race day). I don’t know who those women are – I’m hoping Shalane is one of them obviously – but there is going to be that small handful that is going to make it very, very interesting tomorrow. It certainly should make for a fun race.

(Schumacher went on to explain the unforeseen things that might derail runners – a twisted ankle from stepping on a water bottle, stomach issues, etc.)

In the end, it’s a small number that it gets whittled down to and those are the women that are truly going to contend and you just have to be really confident, you have to be tough, and you are going to have to have a little bit of luck.

Jerry Schumacher (l) hiding from the press at World XC last year. Dave Smith is trying to get him to show his face. *<a href="http://www.letsrun.com/photos/2013/world-xc-men/">World XC Photos</a>

Jerry Schumacher (l) hiding from the press at World XC last year. Dave Smith is trying to get him to show his face. *World XC Photos

If she’s one of those in the small pack contending at the end like you hope, is she’s going to be content to let it come down to a sprint at the end? Would you want it to be a sprint finish at the end like it was for Desi a few years or ago or would she want to break them earlier? Have you talked about what the game plan should be?

Yeah. She’s awfully good at finishing. She’s got great track credentials. You know that 15k gives her a lot of confidence that she can run 10 miles at 5 minute pace basically.

If you were going to extrapolate that out to a half marathon, I don’t know what it comes out to exactly but I bet it’s (equivalent) to 67 low – maybe 66 high? I don’t know exactly.

(Regardless), I think that gives her a lot of confidence that she can certainly run the second half hard, or the last 10k hard, or the last 5k hard if she needs to.

But a big part of it is just weathering the storm early I think.

(We then spent about 5 minutes talking about John Kellogg’s (JK) conversion chart and what he has Shalane’s 47:00 15k to equivalent to (14:34 5k, 30:32 10k, 1:07:39 half marathon, 2:24:26 marathon). Jerry thought the 5k and 10k were right on the money but thought the longer ones were slow and pointed out Deena Kastor’s 13.1 pb was 67:30 (67:34) but she ran 2:19 (2:19:36) in the marathon).

I don’t have a conversion formula. I kind of look at what the best athletes have done, those who frequent the roads. Deena ran certain performances and I kind of compare them to those. Ok, Deena ran 47:15 when she ran the 15k and then a month later she ran 2:21 – probably on a faster course than Boston, but she ran 2:21 so that should point to a good sign for Shalane.

(We then spent 5 minutes talking about how it’s really hard for a coach/family member to watch a marathon as I asked Kevin Hanson last night where was he when he Desi Linen nearly won in 2011. As Desi was kicking for home, Kevin resorted to calling a guy he coached on the team who was watching the race on the Internet in Michigan.

“I feel so bad for those guys. That was a great race that day and if they had to go through that it’s painful,” said Schumacher.)

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Flanagan and Goucher Last Year at the Boston Finish

Flanagan and Goucher Last Year at the Boston Finish

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