Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bookworm: "Running For The Hansons" by Sage Canaday

Where Chris Lear's "Running with the Buffaloes" did an excellent job of painting the picture of what it's like to train with a top notch collegiate program, Sage Canaday's "Running For The Hansons" does the same for the post-collegiate elite level. The subtitle of the book is "An Insider's Account of The Brooks-Sponsored Marathon Training Group Made Famous By Olympian Brian Sell," and that is exactly what Canaday delivers in his debut. While giving an excellent account of what it is like to train at 140 miles per week, week in and week out, Canaday also delivers some excellent prose on the joys and shortcomings of a professional running career and some hilarious commentary about the different kinds of customers that come into the Hansons Running Shops. The book also includes 100+ pages of extras that include Drew Polley's entire 15-week training log leading up to his 2:16 at the 2010 Boston Marathon and references to many of Sage's popular Flotrack videos. Lots of great stuff here for any competitive runner.

When I heard that Sage was putting this book out, I couldn't wait to get a hold of it as it finally pulls back the curtain a bit on how the decade plus long and very successful Brooks Hansons Distance Project operates. Many of the rumors that can be found on the LetsRun's "World Famous" Message Boards are true, including instant expulsion for dating a teammate of the opposite sex and a six figure guarantee for running a sub-28:00 10k or sub-2:11 marathon (a feat only achieved by Olympian Brian Sell and Desi Davila for the womens equivalent). It also talks about the 26.2k "Marathon Simulator" run that the Hansons do about a month out from a major marathon. You can tell how serious about the sport Kevin and Keith are in regards to their attention to detail for these simulator runs. They map out a course very similar to whatever marathon that the particular group is training for and even include homemade props that included Wellesley College and the Citgo Sign for their Boston simulator.

But despite all of the excellent inside information that "Running For The Hansons" provides, the book really finds it's heart in Canaday's tale of trying to hack it as a pro filled with older, more accomplished training partners and searching for balance as a young man in his early 20's, trying to figure out post-college life with an Ivy League degree, student loans and not quite the coed options that he left a year earlier on the Cornell campus. Canaday's self-deprecating sense of humor is rather refreshing and almost as good as his tale of he and Chad Johnson taking on (and beating) pair of Olympic Triathletes (Jarrod Shoemaker and Hunter Kemper) in the 2010 Walt Disney Half Marathon.

"They were arguably the best runners on the Olympic Distance Triathlon team. Despite that, there was no way in hell I was going to let myself lose to someone wearing a full-body suit!"

Awesome! Lines like this are what make this book great. Canaday is also not afraid to share his disappointment after having a rough day at the 2010 Boston Marathon and then regrouping, getting better and eventually qualifying for his second Olympic Trials at the 2011 Rock 'n' Roll Mardi Gras Half. He also has some excellent tales about hanging out in Vegas with Fernando Cabada, what Brian Sell does to save money on toilet paper and a day in the life at the "Bloomer House" (one of the Hansons Team's residence). All in all, an excellent read for anyone who wants to know what it takes to keep the dream going and for anyone that has wanted to see what's behind the Hansons magic!

You can order the book directly from Sage at his Vo2max Productions site or from here from Amazon.com

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Diamond Dash: KD comes back in Rome

Photo courtesy TrackAndFieldPhoto.net
The mens 800 meter final at the 2008 Olympic Trials was probably the most exciting race I have seen in my life. Nick Symmonds of the Oregon Track Club (and D3 Willamette) stormed home in the last 150 for the win and Andrew Wheating, in the Oregon Duck uniform, finished very strong for second in front of the home crowd. The third and final Olympic spot was a duel between 8-time USA Champion Khadevis "KD" Robinson and former NCAA Indoor Mile Champ and Oregon Track Club athlete Christian Smith. At first glance it looked like KD had held off the diving Smith for the win, but when the Hayward Field Jumbotron showed the slow motion replay, the Oregon crowd went wild to realize that there was an Oregon-based sweep in the event.

KD went on to give a very classy interview with FloTrack and then went on to win the 2009 USA Indoor 800 and was runner up that year in outdoor before 2010 happened. 2010 seemed to be the beginning of the end for KD's long and fruitful career. He wasn't racing against Rudisha during his world record setting season, he was rabbiting him. This continued all season and it looked like KD would be relegated to this for the last year or two of his career. Nothing to be somber about, but still a somewhat sad decline to a great career.

On January 19, 2011 things changed. This was the day KD was hired to coach UNLV's middle, long distance and cross country team. With a steady paycheck and adequate facilities to train on, 2011 looks to be a renaissance for the 34 year old multiple time US Champ. His season started in Jamaica with a 1:46.25 win, followed by a 1:46.01 win of his heat at USATF High Performance meet at Occidental College. But none would compare to his win at the well attended (47,000+) Samsung Diamond League Golden Gala in Rome yesterday.

KD took a page out of Symmonds book and raced the first 500 meters in dead last before absolutely blowing away the field in the final 300 and flat out leaving everyone in their tracks in the last 100 to cross the line in first. It was great to see the legend rip an excellent field that included Olympic 1500 gold medalist Asbel Kiprop and 2007 World Champ Alfred Yego. Hopefully it is just a sign of what is to come from KD for the rest of this year. Well done Mr. Robinson.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

My 2 Spikes Worth: What's not to like about the NCAA Track Championship process?

photo TrackAndFieldPhoto
Let me start off by saying this, Vin Lanana is a very smart man. He has done an excellent job with the US Olympic Trials ('08 and '12), he's done a great job coaching the Oregon Ducks and alumni like Andrew Wheating and more importantly, he's an overall excellent ambassador of the sport of Track & Field. When I heard he was in the running for the CEO of USATF, of course I thought he or Mary Wittenberg (of NYRR) would be excellent choices, but that both would probably pass as they both already have excellent, well-paying jobs, with no "problematic" boards to answer to. All this being said, I think Vin is wrong in disliking the new-ish NCAA Track Championship qualifying rounds.

The way I see it, the old system rewarded those that ran excellent times with almost a pass through to the NCAA semi-final (and sometimes final). The new system rewards those that are in the top 48 (in many cases) in their region and lets them battle it out like the NCAA Basketball Tournament does; the same tourney that puts the nation into a frenzy in March every year. The new system gives the little guys a chance, albeit a small one, and rewards those that peak at the right time, under pressure. Check out the brackets!

Case in point: Jordan Neil from East Carolina University ran a 3:43.43 for the 1500 meters at the Florida Relays this year; an excellent time and likely close to a school record. In the past, after conference, Neil's season could have come to an end. Now he is the underdog (a la Butler Bulldogs), but he does have a chance to compete for it. Another point here is that teams like ECU don't always get into the great meets like Stanford, so they have to chase times at meets with often lackluster competition. Teams like Oregon, Stanford, UCLA or even my alma mater of North Carolina don't have to worry about this. Not to beat a dead horse, but they don't even have a track at ECU. They started building it maybe last January or so and it's not done yet, so they've been training on the local high school track a few miles from campus.

Maybe I am a fan of underdogs, but the cream should rise to the top, right? And at minimum, this will get our best collegians ready for the pressure of rounds at USA's, Worlds or even the Olympics! I guess we'll find out soon enough as the NCAA Regionals get fired up today!

Here's a few links for coverage:
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    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    Diamond Dash: Americans take to Rome plus Usain Bolt returns

    Photo TrackAndFieldPhoto
    Many Americans will head to Rome, Italy tomorrow for the third Diamond League event of the season; the Samsung DL Golden Gala. This also marks the return of Usain Bolt to battle Asafa Powell and a strong field that includes the first white male under 10 seconds, Christophe Lemaitre, but doesn't include Tyson Gay.

    On the distance side, Sara Hall will make her Diamond League debut in the steeple (with 2010 NCAA champ Bridget Franek) as she continues to make a strong push towards the new event that could lead to her best shot at an Olympic berth for London 2012. The always tough Christin Wurth-Thomas will take aim at an A-standard in the 1500 as well. On the mens side, Khadevis Robinson and Duane Solomon will take on a strong field (minus the injured David Rudisha and Abubaker Kaki) in the 800. Noticeably absent are any American men in the 5000 as many got the A-standard earlier in Melbourne, Australia.

    The event will be live on Universal Sports at 2pm eastern time Thursday night (May 26) and also will be replayed Friday and many times this weekend. Universal Sports also has an awesome web package where you can get live and repeat views of all 14 Diamond League meets for $24.99.

    Here are the Americans in the field:
    • Monzavous Edwards (100)
    • J-Mee Samuels (100)
    • Shawn Crawford (200)
    • David Neville (400)
    • Greg Nixon (400)
    • Jamaal Torrance (400)
    • Khadevis Robinson (800)
    • Duane Solomon (800)
    • Kerron Clement (400h)
    • Johnny Dutch (400h)
    • Justin Gaymon (400h)
    • Angelo Taylor (400h)
    • Derek Miles (Pole Vault)
    • Christian Cantwell (Shot)
    • Reese Hoffa (Shot)
    • Cory Martin (Shot)
    • Adam Nelson (Shot)
    • Ryan Whiting (Shot)
    • Allyson Felix (200)
    • Bianca Knight (200)
    • LaShauntea Moore (200)
    • Consuella Moore (200)
    • Sanya Richards-Ross (200)
    • ChaRonda Williams (200)
    • Debbie Dunn (400)
    • Allyson Felix (400)
    • Francena McCorory (400)
    • Sanya Richards-Ross (400)
    • Christin Wurth-Thomas (1500)
    • Bridget Franek  (Steeple)
    • Sara Hall  (Steeple)
    • Danielle Carruthers (100h)
    • Ginnie Crawford (100h)
    • Dawn Harper (100h)
    • LoLo Jones (100h)
    • Kellie Wells (100h)
    • Funmi Jimoh (Long Jump)
    • Brittney Reese (Long Jump)
    • Becky Breisch (Discus)
    • Aretha Thurmond (Discus)
    • Kara Patterson (Javelin)
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    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Swiss Hammer Thrower Martin Bingisser tweets a mouthful about the current USATF CEO situation

    Swiss Hammer Thrower and International Tax Attorney Martin Bingisser brought some light to the odd USATF CEO situation this morning with a short tweet:

    "Stephanie Hightower, on behalf of the board, pledged transparency with their blog last fall. Now 0 updates in 7 months."

    For those of you not sure of what he is talking about, he is referring to Stephanie Hightower's last blog post on September 28, 2010. After the debacle that was the firing of former USATF CEO, Doug Logan, Hightower (and the rest of the USATF Board) promised to "pledge transparency, focus and open-mindedness as we all, together, pursue a better future. It's a future where unity, not divisiveness, pushes us ahead."

    Now with word from Olympic writer Philip Hersh saying that it's ``very possible'' that Hightower could move from board chair to CEO of U.S. track," things seem anything but transparent. Not sure what is yet to come, but things should be a lot more concrete with the World Championships ahead this year and the London Olympics next.

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    Monday, May 23, 2011

    Things I Like: The Track & Field Superfan Blog

    In my opinion, the best blog about the sport of Track & Field out there right now is Jesse Squire's "Track & Field Superfan" blog. I first heard some of Jesse's takes on the House of Run podcast and quickly added him on the Twitter machine and soon after traveled over to his blog to read many of his great posts. One you will want to read every week is his "Monday Morning Decathlete" offering where he recaps the weeks events and any hot buttons topics, like the Doug Logan situation, Stephanie Hightower's possible desire to be CEO and Dick Ebersol's departure from NBC so very close to the Olympics. His Track on TV and the Web section is an excellent place to find when the Diamond League meets are or the latest showing of Endurance. So if you're interested in the latest T&F news, stop on over the the newly branded http://tracksuperfan.com You won't regret it!

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    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Battle Royale: USATF High Performance Meet - Occidental 1500m

    USATF will once again be hosting the High Performance Meet at Occidental College this weekend with many competitors sights set on Olympic standards. With incredible fields lined up from the 800 to the Steeple, this meet should be nothing short of spectacular. 

    Many stars will be there including showdowns with:

    • Maggie Vessey, Jenny (Barringer) Simpson and Alice Schmidt in the Womens 800
    • David Torrence, Tyler Mulder, Duane Solomon and Russell Brown in the Mens 800
    • Shannon Rowbury vs. a strong field in the Womens 1500 that includes Phoebe Wright, Katie Follett and former Tar Heel Brie Felnagle

    But the main attraction will definitely be the Mens 1500 which has the new star and Olympian over 800 meters, Andrew Wheating, who ripped a 3:30.9 last year, taking on Olympians Lopez Lomong (1500), Nick Symmonds (800), Matt Tegenkamp (5000) and Leo Manzano (1500) as well as two of Canada's finest in Nate Brannen and Taylor Milne, as well as the always fast Mr. Mustache himself,  Will Leer, and the Beijing 1500 Silver Medalist Nick Willis doing the pacing. Sure to be a scorcher! 

    Flotrack will be covering the meet and Flash Results West will have live results here

    Here's the start list for the Championship heat of the Mens 1500:
    • Will Leer
    • Lopez Lomong
    • Tommy Schmitz
    • Matt Tegenkamp
    • Leo Manzano
    • Nick Symmonds
    • Nathan Brannen
    • Taylor Milne
    • Andrew Wheating
    • Kyle Miller
    • Andrew Bumbalough
    • Evan Jager
    • Nick Willis (Pacing)
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    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    A reason to join LinkedIn

    The human centipede world record was broken this past weekend at the 100th annual Bay to Breakers 12k in San Francisco, CA. Before you pass judgement on something that seems silly, you have to realize Team LinkedIn (click the link for more photos), put together put by LinkedIn staffer Armen Vartanian, ran 37:00, which works out to 4:56 mile pace or 15:25 5k pace. No matter how fast the guys on the team are indiviually, this is an amazing feat. They "roped in" a lot of pros in the last few miles as well. One well oiled machine if you ask me!

    For those asking what a centipede is, here are the key rules:

    1. A centipede consists of 13 connected individuals & a max of 2 unconnected alternates (floaters).
    2. The first person in each centipede to cross the finish line determines the finishing time for all 13 individuals in the centipede and the official finishing time for that centipede.
    3. There must be 13 CONNECTED FINISHERS in a centipede to win or place.
    4. The centipede must be no more than 60 feet long, allowing at least four feet between leg segments. 
    So good luck to those trying to take that down next year. What an accomplishment! And if you need to pad your LinkedIn stats, here's the link to add me (full disclosure: the fastest 5k I've run in the past year is 17:29, so I probably can't help your team next year)

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    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Battle Royale: Prefontaine Classic 2-Mile

    Look for an epic showdown on Saturday, June 4th at Hayward Field as Tom Jordan has assembled an incredible field for what looks to be the marquee event of the Prefontaine Classic; the Mens 2-Mile. Look for the field to take a run at Craig Mottram's meet record of 8:03.50 (and possibly Daniel Komen's world record of 7:58 if the pacing's hot). Also, Matt Tegenkamp's US record of 8:07.07 will be up for grabs as well as Lagat, Teg, Rupp and Solinsky will all be gunning for it. Look for Lukas Verzbicas to make a serious run at German Fernandez's high school record of 8:34.40 as well. The event will be broadcast on NBC, hopefully in it's entirety, without commercial. Here's a link to a blast from the past, the 2006 Prefontaine Classic 2-mile where Adam Goucher and Daniel Lincoln put a serious effort in against the Kenyans. 2011 should be even better!

    Here's the official field:
    • Bernard Lagat, USA.  
    • Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya
    • Tariku Bekele, Ethiopia
    • Alamirew Yenew, Ethiopia
    • Edwin Soi, Kenya
    • Matt Tegenkamp, USA
    • David Bett, Kenya.
    • Chris Solinsky, USA.
    • Galen Rupp, USA
    • Mo Farah, Great Britain
    • Mark Kiptoo, Kenya
    • Collis Birmingham, Australia
    • Isaiah Kiplangat Koech, Kenya
    • Chris Thompson, Great Britain
    • Lukas Verzbicas, USA
    And check out the pick'em that Runnerspace is hosting on Facebook as well to place your bet on who will triumph!

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    Monday, May 16, 2011

    Things I Like: The House of Run Podcast

    There are a few podcasts that I enjoy listening to every week. My favorite being the comedy podcast, "Sklarbro Country," which is the Sklar Brothers' (Randy and Jason) hourly show that drops every Friday. On the Track & Field front, the newest entry into my podcast rotation has been the House of Run podcast. Being a certified track dork, I'm not really interested in running podcasts that will tell me how to conquer the 5k or how to ace hill running. My interests in mind, hosts Jason and Kevin do a great job of mixing in the latest news of the running world with a fair share of self deprecating runner humor that only the true has-been distance runner that still enjoys the oval will appreciate. Shows range from recaps of the latest marathon major to thoughts on a recent Diamond League meet to a fun segment call "Answers to rhetorical questions athletes ask on Twitter."

    So head on over to their website and check it out or just go ahead and subscribe for free to the podcast on iTunes. It's a great 45 minutes to get you to and from work at minimum!

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    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    RIP Sammy Wanjiru, 2008 Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist

    Sad news out of Kenya this evening. David Monti is reporting the tragic death of 2008 Beijing Olympic Marathon champ Sammy Wanjiru. Hard to believe that this is true considering how young Sammy was. The way he took out the Olympic Marathon in Beijing was legendary. The way he held the pace and surged to the gold medal will be talked about for years. The way he dropped Kebede going up the last hill at the Chicago Marathon on 10-10-10 was unreal. Hard to believe we won't get to see that again. May you rest in peace, Mr. Wanjiru.

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    See you at Pre!

    When one door closes, another one opens... That's kind of how it has felt in the past 6 months with my running. Since Boston last year, my right hamstring just hasn't been the same. I've tried just about everything to fix it, but nothing is seeming to take. While I have been waiting on that to get right, I have started writing a lot more. Mostly here, but also in other avenues. Now while my running times have gotten a little worse, my writing has gotten a lot better. That in mind, I have just been given my biggest opportunity to date....

    I have been asked to be a part of the official press at the Prefontaine Classic this June (3-4) in Eugene, Oregon. I never would have thought reviewing a few books, films and an opinion piece on a cheating marathoner for my blog would put me in a position like this, but luckily, and likely due to the visibility of my review of Ryan Hall's book, "Running with Joy," it has.

    I plan to take full advantage of the opportunity! There will be a lot going on and I'll be armed with my iPhone, MacBook, Coolpix and my running gear, with the hopes I can get over to "Pre's Trail" for an "easy 10" sometime during the weekend.

    I couldn't be more excited about:
    • Flying into Portland on Friday, June 3 and driving down to Eugene for the press conference that afternoon
    • "Distance Night in Eugene" on Friday night and the chance to see former Tar Heel Shalane Flanagan go against the best runners in the world with the chance of taking back her 5k American Record
    • High schooler Lukas Verzbicas taking aim at the high school 2-mile record Saturday
    • The Bowerman Mile
    • Experiencing Hayward Field
    All this in mind, I plan on bumping up the frequency of the posts and hope to deliver even more quality topics. So stay tuned and thanks for reading. And if you know anything about Eugene or will be at Pre, please email me!

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    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Moving on up...

    With increased traffic, I've dropped the http://pwprunning.blogspot.com address and am now now at http://writingaboutrunning.com Please update your Google Reader and other feeds so you can read my reviews (although I think they will automatically update) and hear me complain about my consistently in the shop running legs!

    Work has had me pretty busy lately, but as the Diamond League season gets underway, I'll have plenty to write about. I'll also be reviewing Sage Canaday's new book, "Running for the Hansons" some time in the coming weeks. Stay tuned... Pat

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    Bookworm: "Haile Gebrselassie: The Greatest Runner of All Time" by Klaus Weidt

    There's really no hiding it... "Haile Gebrselassie: The Greatest Runner of All Time" is German sportswriter Klaus Weidt's love letter to Ethiopia, Ethiopian distance running and his favorite runner and arguably the greatest distance runner of all time, Mr. Haile Gebrselassie. The book begins with Weidt and his German running travel group's searching for Mr. Gebrselassie in Ethiopia and then goes on to talk about Haile's upbringing and rise through the ranks of competitive distance running in Ethiopia (similar to the tale of his first marathon in the Disney film "Endurance"). Weidt then goes on to tell of Haile's big win in the 10,000 meters at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics; his repeat in Sydney in 2000 and his 2008 World Record setting marathon over the streets of Berlin in a stunning 2:03:59.

    Weidt also speaks about Haile's business acumen and his desire to make Ethiopia a travel destination. As you read on, you realize how much of a treasure he is to the German (and Ethiopian) population. Weidt's earliest trek to Ethiopia began the German's first hand fascination with Ethiopian distance running and this particular group helped fund and build a school in Haile's village (aptly called "Marathon"). There's no telling how much more the Germans have helped fund Haile's empire over the years, including his hotel, Haile Resort, from his winnings, appearance fees and world record bonuses collected in the Fatherland.

    While this book isn't necessarily written for an American audience, it does bring a great American running book to mind. "Haile Gebrselassie: The Greatest Runner of All Time" is loaded with great color pictures of Haile and of Ethiopia, very reminiscent of Tom Jordan's "Pre." The photos alone are worth the purchase of this 174 page quick read. There are plenty of great footnotes included as well that go beyond Haile's excellent IAAF profile of accomplishments.

    With all this in mind, it's tough not to forget Haile's tearful retirement after his allergy-plagued exit from the New York City Marathon this fall and his recent re-emergence in April at the Vienna City Half Marathon in Austria, where he won in a speedy 60:18. One has to think that Haile is targeting the 2012 London Marathon as his biggest goal and I for one hope he competes for the gold as he has been such a role model for distance runners across the world over the past 20 years.

    You can order a copy of "Haile Gebrselassie: The Greatest Runner of All Time" on Amazon.com here

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