Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Road to Houston: 5 Questions with Olympic Trials competitor, Danny Mercado

Danny Mercado traded Oregon green for Adidas green
Today, we were lucky enough to have 5 Questions with one of the fledgling male stars on the road circuit on his "Road to Houston." We'll have a few more of these features over the holidays as we lead up to the big day on January 14, 2012.

Danny Mercado has been a standout ever since high school. From duels with his brother and AJ Acosta at Mt. Sac, to winning the 2007 Cross Country Team Championship with Oregon, Mercado has been running well for almost a decade. Recently, he moved from Eugene to Flagstaff, to train with McMillan Elite, and his first points of order were to qualifying for the Olympic Trials and winning a USATF Club Cross Country Team Championship. Follow him on Twitter here.

5 Questions with Danny Mercado

1. Writing About Running: How'd you hook up with McMillan Elite?

Danny Mercado: In it's simplest explanation (because the story is kind of long), I didn't really know what I wanted to do after college, although I definitely still wanted to run.  I knew it was a long shot, but I contacted Nick Arciniaga and Jordan Horn to see if Greg was willing to add another member to the team.  Initially, Greg didn't want to add any more people; he was good with what he had.  But after tireless nagging from the guys, Greg decided to give me a shot.  From there, everything just clicked.

Diego and Danny Mercado at Oregon
2. Writing About Running: Coming from a strong program like Oregon, how's the transition been to your "new team?" and what's it like being away from your brother, Diego, for the first time?

Danny Mercado: The transition has been really good.  I didn't know how my body was going to react to 7000 ft. altitude, but so far it's been just fine.  I would say this team's different from my Oregon team in that people are just a bit more relaxed, which is actually expected when all of them have graduated and the running is what they're focusing on.  I feel that here, there isn't as much pressure to perform under a time constraint, which helps me a lot.  Being away from Diego, as well as the rest of my former Oregon teammates, was a bit tough the first couple weeks; I was definitely feeling really lonely.  But it went away over time when the training started to feel really exciting for me.  I'll talk to Diego from time to time on the phone and tell him what's going on, or to get some advice.  He really helped me those first two to three weeks.

3. Writing About Running: How do you like training in Flagstaff?

Danny Mercado: Training in Flagstaff is amazing.  You really could have everything you want out there, from the nice weather to the altitude.  There are seemingly endless amounts of trails by where I live, and the whole atmosphere of it just seems incredibly relaxed.  There isn't much to do, but that's alright with me.  I didn't come out here to see the nightlife.  That's really helped me with my running.  I'm too easily distracted, so I knew this was the place for me.  If I was going to make running my focus, I needed it to be a place where I would run and not do much else.  Flagstaff fits the bill perfectly.

Hitting the qualifier
4. Writing About Running: When you ran 1:04:02 at the Woodrow Wilson Half to qualify (for the trials), was the goal to make the trials your Marathon debut?

Danny Mercado: With that half marathon, I think we had that idea in the back of our minds (Greg and I), but we weren't too sure whether I'd be able to do it.  After around 3 weeks of training, period, it started to creep a little more in there.  The week before we left for Virginia, it was definitely a goal, although it was more about the $1300 bonus for me.  Once the race started, I felt surprisingly comfortable, like I had been doing half marathon races for years.  Once I hit ten miles, I knew I had it, so from that point on, I was really enjoying myself.  It was really satisfying to come across the finish line and see the time you were looking for.

5. Writing About Running: What is your goal for the trials?

Danny Mercado: Right now, my goal for the Trials is to have a solid race and see who I can beat.  The more I thought about training for this, the more it made sense.  I don't know how many Olympic Marathon Trials I have in my body, so I might as well take advantage of one I could sneak in early.  My training is going well, but right now I don't have any idea of what I could do at the distance, which is a bit alarming, but also really exciting.

Stay tuned for more articles this week and continued coverage leading up to the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, TX on January 14, 2012.

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