Wednesday, July 11, 2012

5 Questions with Ciaran O'Lionaird

Ciaran "Mad Len" O'Lionaird rode his
mullet all the way to the 2011 World
Championship final in Daegu
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
Today we have another Olympian for our 2012 London Olympics 5 Questions with series. Although, this time it's not an American that I traded emails with. It's one of Ireland's brightest young stars that attended college, and currently trains, in the United States.

Ciaran O'Lionaird had a big 2011. After leading the Florida State Seminoles to a surprise runner-up finish at the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championship, he had a strong, but disappointing finish to his collegiate track season. That's when things got exciting. He had an excellent string of races that netted him a 3:34.46 PR in the 1500 and landed him in the 2012 World Championship Final. He's fought through injury this year, but is coming around in time to compete in his first Olympic Games for his native Ireland. Check out his webpage and follow him on Twitter @GoCiaran

5 Questions with Ciaran O'Lionaird

1. Writing About Running: First off, congratulations on being selected for the Irish Olympic team. Ireland has a long tradition of great milers. What does it mean to you to be able to carry on that legacy at the Olympic level?

Ciaran O'Lionaird: Thank you very much. I'm really excited to represent my country naturally, but the fact I'm competing in an event that presents such a rich heritage for Ireland makes it that much better. Though I managed a breakthrough last year in the 1500, I still feel like I'm really new to the event, given my injury history. To be able to draw on the experience of Eamonn Coghlan and Mark Carroll has been a big positive factor, especially dealing with negative scenarios, such as this achilles injury. I'm hoping I can do Irish middle distance running justice there and I know we have a lot of talented young runners coming through to help continue that process.

2. Writing About Running: Your excellent 2011 that landed you in the World Championship Final had to open your eyes to what is possible. How much did that run of excellent racing change your long term goals in the sport?

Ciaran O'Lionaird: It definitely caused me to re-adjust my goals long-term and start looking at consistent high-placing in finals, which is a good thing, but it also perhaps filled me with a little too much excitement, as I felt I pushed too hard coming back off Daegu in the autumn as I wanted to make another jump for London. My body still isn't able to handle the training that most 3:34 runners do, and because of that, I need to take a step back and allow myself to develop as a runner and almost grow into the role I've cast for myself through my run at World's last year, as opposed to pushing the envelope constantly.

Leading Florida State to a surprise second place finish
at the 2010 NCAA Cross Country Championship
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
3. Writing About Running: You recently switched training camps and have been training with Mark Rowland and Oregon Track Club Elite. How has the change gone and who are you working out with in Eugene?

Ciaran O'Lionaird: The change has gone very smoothly. I'm extremely thankful of course to Coach Rowland, all of the OTC and Tracktown USA family, but also to Nike Running, the Oregon Project and Alberto (Salazar) for being understanding and facilitating the change. It was a really difficult decision for me to make and the timing was tough too, but I felt for my long-term development it was the right move. No doubt, Alberto's guys are putting out phenomenal performances and I'm really happy for them. For me though, my running goes well when my life outside running is balanced and not vice-versa. I felt like OTC gave me a better opportunity to achieve that, and so far it's been great. Coach Rowland is an incredible motivator and has really brought me back from what looked like a season-ending injury. I can't express my gratitude enough for that.

4. Writing About Running: You were all over Eugene for the US Olympic Trials and have ties to the American collegiate system as a standout at Florida State. What were a few of your favorite moments at the trials, on and off the track?

Legendary Coach Bob Braman with O'Lionaird
(photo: Athletics Ireland)
Ciaran O'Lionaird: There were definitely some moments that will stick with me, however I also tried to keep my distance from the trials, as I don't like to be immersed too much in the running scene. I actually drove out of town for all of my runs so I could be with myself in the woods and just chilled out. But I definitely cheered on all of my Total Sports US family, as well as my OTC teammates. Seeing Nick (Symmonds) retain his 800m title was special. Off the track I got to hang out with Coach Braman, my coach at FSU, who is one of my closest friends and mentors. I also got to kick it with my agent, Chris Layne, and Stephen HAAS, who works under him. Total Sports took a chance on me when nobody else would last year, so I'm really close with Chris. I call him "Mad Layne" and plan to wear cargo shorts consistently through the Olympics in his honor.

5. Writing About Running: Injuries have plagued you this year, but it sounds like you are starting to round into shape. What kind of racing do you have planned before and after the Olympics in August?

Ciaran O'Lionaird: I'm going to do some tune-up races mid-July before the Games. I'll be racing the mile in Cork, Ireland on July 17th, and from there we'll see. I'm still training hard, so I won't let up until right before the Games. I'm not looking beyond the Olympics right now. Should my body cooperate and opportunities present themselves, I always love to compete. But I'm taking it one race at a time. I've only been on the track less than a month training, but in the past ten days have had some of my best workouts ever. I don't quite know how it's come together, but it has. Credit to Coach Rowland and my support team at OTC as well as AAI HP and the Institute of Sport. Their work in handling my injury is starting to pay dividends!

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