Friday, May 17, 2013

Gabriele Anderson Talks About Doha

Gabriele Anderson.  Photo by David Monti
Gabriele Anderson finished tenth in the IAAF Diamond League Meet in Doha on May 10 in 4:05.41, an A standard qualifying mark for the IAAF World Championships.  Below she talks about the experience and her plans for the 2013 outdoor track season.

Down the Backstretch:  You achieved the primary goal to get the World Championships A standard.  How did having that as the number one priority influence how you ran the race?

Gabriele Anderson: I really did go to Doha to have a good chance to run the A standard, and therefore I did run with a high awareness of the clock. When I heard before the race that the pace being asked for was 2:07 through 800 (I think they might have even gone  2:06 in the race), I knew I couldn't expect to find myself at the front of the race. 

Dennis (Barker) didn't necessarily give me a 'green light' to go through 800 in much faster than 2:10, so that is what I tried to do. I thought I would be more in the middle of the pack rather than the back running the A standard pace, so I was a little surprised to be just hanging on the back running that pace! 

DtB:  How did you get an invitation to the Doha race?  Why pick this one to go for the qualifying time?

GA: I chose to try to race at Doha for a few different reasons. First of all, I am working with a new agent this year, Paul Doyle, and he suggested I try to get into Doha for the experience and for a chance to get the A standard out of the way. Two of his athletes, Molly Beckwith (800) and Russell Brown (1500), raced there last year with the intention of getting the standard and were successful, so I knew other people in a similar situation had gone there and got the job done.

I also knew that Doha would have a high-quality field with good pacemaking, which is important when you're trying to get an A standard this early in the year. And ultimately, I just thought it would be a good experience for me to get out of my comfort zone earlier this season. I don't want to race the exact same races every year.  I feel that the new stimulus is necessary to keep learning and keep things fresh. 

Getting to travel to Qatar and race with the world's best is an amazing experience that no athlete can take for granted, so I wanted to take this opportunity to see a new part of the world and learn more about racing on the international scene.

DtB:   How did you cope with the travel and radically different climate than what you had at home?

GA: I think I did OK with the travel, but there is always some trepidation going into situations like this. It's hard to sit on a plane for 13+ hours, skip a few time zones, and arrive feeling ready to perform at your very best. Sleeping is the tough part on these trips, but I did my best to manage the jet lag. I arrived in Doha just after dark and went for a run along the Corniche Promenade, which was full of people walking and jogging. 

After that, I just tried to keep a similar schedule and adjust to the local time as best as I could -- even if that meant being a little groggy on race day! I was glad the heat didn't feel as oppressive as I was expecting.  I think there may have been a little cold front going through Doha while I was there (thankfully).

DtB:  To run 4:05 off of what has been less than ideal training conditions this winter has to be satisfying.  Were you confident going into the race that if all went to plan you could get the time or was this just an experiment with hope for the best result?

GA: Yes, it was definitely a tough winter/spring for all of us in Minnesota! I got a late start to my base training this year due to a minor foot injury in the fall. I was able to get rolling in January, but I expected to be playing catch-up fitness-wise well into spring. In March I was surprised that my training was progressing faster than expected, and that's when I started to think I might be in better shape in May than I originally thought. 

Not having too many outdoor track workouts under my belt going into Drake and Doha made me a little worried, but my workouts indicated I was ready to run something close to the A standard. I also know we can 'chase' the standard this year post-USAs. So even though the A was the goal, I knew there would be more chances this year if it didn't happen.

DtB:  Athletes competing at big meets in exotic locations, such as Doha, know that you really don’t get much chance to absorb much as you go from airports to hotel and back with the rest of the time pretty much getting ready to and running the race.  Are there any things that stand out about Doha.  Memories that you have or things you’d like to do when you get the chance to go back?

GA: It is unfortunate to travel all the way to such a cool place and not get a chance to explore! All of the locals I met said it was such a shame I couldn't stay a day or two to go on a 'desert safari' outside of Doha or go fishing in the Persian Gulf. 

If I went back, I would absolutely try to get out and go on one of those adventures! I've also read about the Aspire athletics complex and some of the stadiums they've built to host World Championships, which I would have loved to visit. It is clear that the people of Qatar are advocates of global sport, and I am happy I was able to experience their hospitality and be a part of such a special event.

DtB:   You said on your Twitter posting that you had coffee with sprinter Kim Collins prior to your races.  Kim won the 2002 Commonwealth Games 100 as a young man, yet he’s still going at the top level.  Were you trying to pick up sprinting tips?

GA:  Ha ha, yes, I had pre-race coffee with Kim Collins! I was feeling a little sleepy before I needed to get on the bus to my race, so I stopped in the hotel lobby area to get an espresso. Kim Collins walked in behind me and asked if he could join me!

I, of course, knew who he was and was excited to meet such a big star of track and field. That is one of the coolest parts of competing in the Diamond League -- you are hanging out with the biggest and brightest stars all weekend! Kim is a world-class veteran with tons of experience, so I was happy to hear some of his stories and try to get some advice on how to be successful in this sport.

It was fun to hear about his six kids and that his wife is his coach. It's pretty cool to see that he is still out here competing at such a high-level -- that kind of longevity in a track career seems so rare. And yes, I did also get some sprinting tips, but I'm not sure how well they will transfer into 1500 training!

DtB:  You told David Monti in an interview prior to Doha that you learned a lot from your Olympic Trials experience in 2012.  What did you learn from the Doha race?  What sort of adjustments, changes will you be making from that experience.

GA: Lots of learning going on for me -- always! Last year I had a tough time hitting that Olympic A standard, which might have changed how I approached the Trials, and I how I viewed my chances of making the team. So I learned that I have to get more comfortable committing to the pace earlier in races and rely on my fitness to finish the race, rather than just hanging back and waiting to kick every time. 

Doha was a place for me to practice that again. Even though I was on the back of the pack, I was still getting out faster through 800 than I ever have. That's important for me to do, even if it isn't necessary in every single race. 

It was incredibly humbling to be nine seconds off of the winner in Doha, so I was reminded that I have a lot of work to do to truly compete with the best in the world. But standing on that starting line and competing with those women is part of how I will get there eventually. I don't expect things to fall into place overnight, so I'm just working every day to try to be the best in the USA and then hopefully one of the best in the world.

DtB:  Has having the A standard altered your racing plans, training plans for the lead up to the US Championships?  What are your racing plans from now until then?

GA:  Having the A standard is nice but it hasn't changed what I was planning to do too much. Going to Doha meant that I was going to skip Oxy this year and really focus my training on being ready to go at the USA Championships. 

I am hoping to race in the Adidas Grand Prix 1500 in New York on May 25 and then the National 800 at the Prefontaine Classic on May 31. Beyond those two races, I'm not sure if/what I'll race prior to the US Champs. But I'm really looking forward to getting back to Drake Stadium for the US Championships -- I do consider it somewhat of a 'home track'!

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