The 800 meters has always been considered more of a sprint than a distance race and this year it certainly looked like a sprint in most of the women's races. One small mistake could be the difference between finishing first or seventh. It was a great training lab for someone like Laura Januszewski, who was making the transition from college to the professional circuit. She had some nice wins and a few disappointments, but in all it was a year of learning that she hopes will pay off in 2012 in the run up to the London Olympics.
DtB contributor Jim Ferstle talked to the Burnsville High School alumnus recently.
Down the Backstretch: This has been the year of close races where in the 800 it seems like a crowd of people is finishing within seconds of one another. You said in a FloTrack interview after the USATF 800 that you thought you were in good position and had a shot at winning, but it didn’t work out that way. What’s it like to be involved in an event where it often comes down to fractions of a second?
Laura Januszewski: You know, in some regards it’s exciting because one right move just might put you into the right spot. In most cases, I have been pretty lucky not getting boxed in and having that cost me the race. At USAs, it just came down to me getting a little too excited at the 500 mark and using too much energy to try and get position too early in the race. It ended up costing me a better result, but I’d rather learn these things now than in two years at the trials.
DtB: This is your first year on the “pro circuit,” how has that been? What sort of adjustments have you had to make?
LJ: Instead of trying to balance school and training, I have been trying to juggle my schedule between working full-time, training, and being a wife. My husband finished Physical Therapy school this spring, but we spent the fall semester in Grand Forks. I commuted every day to Fargo to work and train. My days were pretty long – If I had a morning run, I’d wake up at 6:45 so I could be on the road by eight and wouldn’t get home until 8:30 at night. Luckily, I had dinner waiting on the table for me every night!
In the spring, Jake (my husband) finished his clinical rotations in the Twin Cities, and I moved to Fargo. It was a much better situation for training, but living by myself was tough again. I am fortunate that I have a job that allows me to travel whenever I need to, but it still an adjustment to have to make sure that the checking account has money in it. At NDSU, we would get our schedule, jump on the bus or the plane and have all of our travel plans laid out for us. This year, I was scheduling my own flights, renting a car, and booking hotel rooms. Little bit of a role change, but Ryun (my coach) has been a great coach and friend in helping me make travel arrangements.
Other than lifestyle changes, training went pretty well. I decided to stay with Ryun Godfrey, my college coach. Things went really well while I was at NDSU, and Ryun was willing to continue to coach me, so to me, it was a no-brainer decision. I will never complain about my situation, I fully believe you are given what you can handle. I still managed to have a great season, where I consistently ran 2:01 at the end of the season and had great results - time and place wise.
DtB: How do you choose when and where you’re going to race? How hard is it to get into meets here in the US, in Europe? Especially with the event so full of talented runners, it’s almost like the sprinters who have to fight to get a lane at major meets, I would assume.
LJ: A few races, luckily, fell into my lap this year. I was able to get out to Occidental College (Pasadena, CA) and NYC for a couple of great meets. Oxy was a small meet, just 800s and 1500s, but a great chance to get a fast race in. The race in NYC was part of the Adidas Grand Prix and just a great atmosphere and tune-up race for USAs.
I also traveled with the NDSU team to Arizona State and Mt. SAC for some time to train and race … felt like I was back at home with my team.
Europe … Europe is a different world that we (Ryun and I) are still learning. I had a short tour last year (nine days/three races) between USAs and getting married, but this year I was there for three weeks and learned a lot. We plan to base out of the Netherlands next year and get into the fast races in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. It’s trial and error, and Ryun was able to make some great contacts this year, so hopefully, next year will only get better. One thing is for sure, the less we fly, the better.
DtB: You’ve stated that one of the goals is the two-minute barrier in the 800. You’re getting close, but aren’t there yet. You’ve won at NY and in Europe. How important is the time goal as opposed to placing well, establishing yourself as one of the top 800 runners?
LJ: They obviously are both very important, in two years at the trials it will be about placing in the top three to make the Olympic team. The experience and confidence I can gain from racing and placing well in loaded fields now will only help my chances in the future. However, we all know that track is a sport of racing well on the day it matters most. The time you ran yesterday doesn’t guarantee you a win today.
Right now for me, I am chasing that Olympic “A” standard. Chasing pretty hard. This year, I let that 2:00 mark loom over my head a little too much. I went into races worrying too much about time rather than just getting out and racing. Getting into the right races is key and when you get in the mix with good competition, the times usually follow. I just need to remember that.
DtB: You’ve also noted that your coach likes to mix it up a bit in workouts, try new things. Is this just something he believes is necessary? Is it to fit your personality? What do you learn from doing it this way as opposed to the more traditional approach of following a fairly uniform formula and modifying it when it doesn’t appear to be working?
LJ: We tried this fall to incorporate doing striders during some of my easy runs. Just something to change up the run a little bit. We don’t have ANY hills in Fargo or Grand Forks, so it was a nice way to get the body working differently throughout the run.
But, for the most part, my training doesn’t drastically change from year to year. Volume continues to increase. I plan to continue to increase my mileage this fall and hit some 70-mile weeks. For the most part though, I put full faith in Ryun. I’m sure he sits at home thinking of ways to change my training (and put me through more pain, just kidding). He takes care of on-the-track things, I do my part off-the-track. Eat right, sleep enough, rest enough.
DtB: What are your plans for the rest of this year and next year?
LJ: I have hung it up for this year. I left Europe feeling like I still had a fast race left in me, but the opportunities just weren't there. I left Europe July 19, but finished racing on the 15th. I was on the waiting list to race in Lignano, Italy, but didn't make the final cut. It was pretty frustrating after I saw that I had a faster PB and faster 2010 mark than other runners, but I learned this year that track is just as political as the next sport. Sometimes it’s who you know. We didn’t know the right people this time.
2011 will be very exciting. I will be training in Fargo again with Ryun and I hope to continue to build my base this fall and get ready for 2011. Ryun and I were already talking on the plane home from Europe about getting into some more 1500s earlier in the season. My PB is 4:15 right now, and just doesn’t reflect what I am capable of, so I’d like to get some more chances to bring that time down.
DtB: Was racing in Europe to try and find good conditions for a sub-two time, get experience on the international arena, a bit of both?
LJ: I went to Europe last year for nine days after USAs and before Jake and I got married in July. It was a quick trip, but something that definitely helped calm the nerves a little bit for this year.
This year, my tour lasted a little bit longer – I was there for about three weeks. I left the Monday after USAs and raced on Wednesday; not the ideal situation and needless to say, I was a bit jet-lagged and tired. I raced five times during those three weeks. Better schedule than last year, but still not ideal.
Going over to Europe, for me, is a chance to get into fast races and let the times drop. It offers great racing atmospheres and pacers that help keep the paces honest and fast. Ryun and I just keep learning where the best races truly are. We’re still newbies.
Photo of Januszewski at USA Outdoor Championships by Gene Niemi.