Shannon Rowbury Eyes Wanamaker Mile Win, American Record at NYRR Millrose Games

By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (12-Feb) — Some have called it this year’s race heard ’round the track and field world. Competing on a flat, 200 meter track in North Carolina, Nike Oregon Project’s Shannon Rowbury timed 4:22.66 for the mile on January 31, a personal best, world leading mark, and the #5 indoor performance of all time. While the performance caught the eyes of numerous fans and members of the media, it wasn’t at all surprising to the very fit Rowbury, who will toe the line in the NYRR Wanamaker Mile for Women at the NYRR Millrose Games here on Saturday.

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“I’ve been told that the conversion from the flat track to the banked track would be quicker [than the American Record], that is what it is,” Rowbury, 30, told a room full of press today. “At the end of the day I have to run the American record or faster if I want to get the American record. But I definitely feel it’s within my capability.”

Entering Saturday’s race, Rowbury’s focus is to gain the iconic Wanamaker title while taking a stab at Doina Melinte’s meet record of 4:21.45 and even Mary Slaney’s national indoor mile record of 4:20.5. Judging from her fitness thus far in 2015, Rowbury firmly believes she’s right where she was last outdoor season — when she raced to personal bests of 3:59.49 for 1500m, 8:29.93 for 3000m, and 14:48.68 for 5000m. Her outdoor best for the mile is 4:20.34.

When asked if anything has changed this year as opposed to previous seasons, Rowbury rattles off a handful of reasons why she’s on the precipice of setting national marks. Yet they all are connected to one main focal point: her training with the Nike Oregon Project under coach Alberto Salazar.

Breaking the year down into two, 20-week training phases, Rowbury feels she is now able to build fitness season after season, rather than lose her momentum when taking breaks at the end of an indoor or outdoor campaign.

Shannon Rowbury on Thursday Shannon Rowbury on Thursday

“With coach [John] Cook, we usually just did one long buildup to the outdoor season,” Rowbury explained. “The biggest change is that my body is being stimulated more frequently. I have my two week break at the end of outdoors, which I had in whatever it was, September or something. But then we get right back into training and build up to [the indoor season].”

At first, Rowbury’s transition from training alone to the Nike Oregon Project was a bit rocky. She wasn’t quite accustomed to Salazar’s workout programs. In Salazar’s training plan, Rowbury does roughly two hard, high-volume workouts and a long run each week at high intensity. With Cook, Rowbury tended to do five medium/hard workouts a week at low volume, rarely exceeding five kilometers of hard running in any one session.

“Last year, really, it was too much for me to handle and I got kind of injured during the indoor season. During outdoors I was able to tolerate it better and now I’m able to do it and sometimes exceed the workout goals. It’s just been about building step by step,” she said.

Over the Christmas holiday, Rowbury trained with fiancée Pablo Solares at altitude in his native Mexico. It was then that Rowbury could tell she was ready to uncork some fast times: at her season opener in Seattle on January 17, Rowbury ran a “race-workout scenario” where she claimed the 1000m in 2:40.25 and mile in 4:27.86. At the time, both were world leading marks. Then she ran her 4:22.66 mile two weeks later, drawing the world’s attention.

“I was aiming for 4:24 [in North Carolina] and was pretty pleased that I could run quicker than that,” she said.

Rowbury is quick to point out that she hasn’t achieved her fast marks alone. Training with teammates Treniere Moser, Mary Cain, and Jordan Hasay, Rowbury has found a support system that is incredibly deep.

“Having teammates to push me in workouts, it’s positive. I feel each of us brings different strengths to the table. We’re able to challenge each other but in a way that it’s benefiting the group as a whole,” Rowbury told Race Results Weekly. Moser, Cain, and Hasay will be alongside Rowbury on the start line of the NYRR Wanamaker Women’s Mile come Saturday evening. “All four of us are on board with going with the pacer and seeing how fast we can run. I think a lot people can come out of this race with personal bests, if not better, on Saturday.”

In 2012 Rowbury finished second to Jenny Simpson over 1500m at the NYRR Millrose Games. This year, she’s motivated more than ever to break the tape first at the friendly, fast confines of The Armory.

“I know that The Armory is a quick track, so it’s exciting to be in an atmosphere where the actual facility itself is encouraging you to go faster, both the surface you’re running on and the crowd that’s cheering. I think it could be a special night,” Rowbury said.

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