Friday, February 28, 2014

Big Ten and NSIC Day One Results

Gopher men fourth, women fifth after first day of Big Ten Championships, results are HERE.
Gopher men's summary is HERE, women's HERE.
MSU Mankato  leads men's, UMD leads women's after day one of the NSIC Championships, results are HERE.
Day one photos are HERE.
MSU Mankato summaries are HERE(men), and HERE(women).
UMD summaries are HERE(women), and HERE(men).
St. Cloud State summary is HERE.
Bemidji State preview is HERE.
Southwest Minnesota State summary is HERE.
Concordia St. Paul summary is HERE.

Big Ten and NSIC Conference Championship Previews

Gopher Big Ten preview material for women HERE, men HERE and  HERE
Team by team breakdown is HERE.
Minnesota Daily Big Ten preview is HERE.

NSIC  info and links are HERE.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Time to Act

By Dennis Barker
The story and focus to come out of any track & field competition should be on the performances of the athletes.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the US indoor championships last weekend.  There were so many great performances that have received little to no attention due to the highly publicized controversies that occurred, and are still ongoing.  This isn’t good for the athletes, the governing body, or the sport itself.  

The controversy that involved the women’s 3K was just one of several incidents that created an uncomfortable meet environment, but became a catalyst for athletes, coaches, and fans to question the credibility and independence of USATF.  Those questions still need to be addressed and answered by our governing board. 
This should be done now so that all doubts about USATF’s desire and ability to provide fair, unbiased, and competent competition for the athletes is restored in advance of the outdoor championships.  Transparency applies to the process as well as the conclusions.  Max Siegel should announce what issues will be addressed, how they will be addressed, and who will be involved.  Stepping up proactively and transparently would be a good first step in attempting to overcome the disillusionment and disappointment athletes and fans are currently feeling with USATF. 

The Track & Field Athletes Association has asked to be involved in this process.  USATF should readily accept this offer.  USATF is, after all, ostensibly there for the athletes.  TFAA takes its role as athlete’s advocate seriously and would provide credibility to the process.  

The ball is in USATF’s court.  I, and I’m sure many track & field athletes, coaches and fans, hope that our governing board understands the importance of this and acts.  And it should be sooner rather than later.  No one who loves the sport wants to be talking about anything but great performances after the next championship meet. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Minnesotans Among the 28 Receiving USATF Elite Athlete Development Grants: US team for World Indoors

Jamie Cheever, Amanda Smock, and Heather Kampf are among the 28 athletes receiving Elite Athlete Development grants from the USATF Foundation. Each will get $3000.  Full press release is HERE.

The US team for the IAAF Indoor World Championships is HERE(those competing and alternates whose names are in parentheses after the team member selected).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

News Bits

WSJ on the US Champs women's 3K is HERE.

Flotrack interview with Gabe Grunewald is HERE.

House of Run radio program on "the weekend of their discontent" is HERE.

Story on the "other" DQ at the US Champs is HERE.

NDSU press release on Amanda Smock is HERE.

Tostrud Classic men's results HERE.

U of M Parents Day Open results HERE.

Results form the CSB-SJU meet are HERE.

NSIC weekly review, athletes of week are HERE.

University of Minnesota Morris summary from UMAC Championships is HERE.

St. Scholastica summary from the UMAC Championships is HERE(men) and HERE(women).

USTFCCCA NCAA DI indoor track rankings are HERE, DII HERE, DIII HERE.

MIAC Athletes of the week are HERE(women) and HERE(men)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Gabe Grunewald Reinstated as Women's 3K Champion

Jordan Hasay withdrew her protest and Gabe Grunewald was reinstated as US champion in the 3K.  Full USATF statement is HERE.  Jordan Hasay's statement is HERE. Gabe Grunewald's statement is HERE.

Shawn Francis Takes Second in the Pole Vault at the US Champs

Shawn Francis. NDSU Photo
Former Hastings and NDSU grad Shawn Francis set personal best in taking second at US Championships this weekend.   Qualifying mark for entry to the World Championships in 5.75m,  Francis vaulted 5.55m, as did each of the top three at US Nationals with the places decided by fewer misses at that height. Story is HERE.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Woman's 3K Protest and Disqualification of Gabe Grunewald-Updated with info on protest, TFAA statement calling for transparency

TFAA statement calling for transparency from USATF on the appeals process is HERE. published this chronology of the process thus far HERE

Chicago area North Country Day School high school coach coach Patrick McHugh blog post on the DQ is HERE

USATF Update:  The following statement was issued by USATF on Sunday: 

During the women’s 3,000-meter final contested Saturday evening, a meet official raised a yellow flag, indicating a possible field-of-play infraction by a runner. A review of the official’s report by the Women’s Running Head Referee and subsequently by the Jury of Appeal led to a ruling of no infraction. The Jury of Appeal then reviewed additional video evidence and reversed their initial ruling, disqualifying Gabriele Grunewald for a field-of-play infraction impeding Jordan Hasay. Protests and appeals were filed by representatives of athletes during the process. In accordance with USATF Competition Rules 111 and 119, the Jury of Appeal is a three-person panel appointed by the USATF Games Committee.  Protests and appeals are governed by USATF Competition Rule 146. The decisions of the Jury of Appeal are final.

Interview with Gabe Grunewald HERE. (first 24 minutes of broadcast)

TFAA statement on the women's 3K is HERE.

Morning Update:  It's now official that Gabe Grunewald has been disqualified in the women's 3K.  The Track & Field Athletes Association, the track and field equivalant of a union says in a tweet: "We are looking into the DQ in the women’s 3K at . All athletes should be treated fairly & equally." Still no answer to DtB qustions about the process from USATF.  Grunewald's agent, Paul Doyle, in one of the links below said yesterday that if the DQ stood, he would appeal.

At nearly 11 PM Friday night we know the following regarding the women's 3K at the US Championships.  Team USA Minnesota's Gabe Grunewald was first across the finish line in the race.  After the race, according to the USATF PR release summarizing the action at the US Championships said of the race: "Several protests were filed in relation to the women's 3000m final. After two reviews, including enhanced video evidence, Gabe Grunewald was disqualified by the Jury of Appeals for clipping and impeding the stride of Jordan Hasay. Olympian Shannon Rowbury (Portland, Ore.) won in 9:25.49, with Sara Vaughn (Boulder, Colo.) taking second in 9:26.46."

Team USA Minnesota's Dennis Barker tweeted about the USATF summary that: "This is a farce and untrue."  Jordan Hasay's coach,  Alberto Salazar, answered an inquiry from DtB about the situation:  ""Would be best for you to talk to USATF or whomever.  I was not in at the decision meeting."  An e-mail was sent earlier in the evening to Jill Geer, USATF's chief Public Affairs Officer, inquiring about the facts of the protest.  As yet, we have not received a response.

Barker says in prior tweets that: "Nike group protested Gabe's win and was denied, appealed to jury and denied again, now pushing jury to change upheld verdict."  He further stated:  "Jury's decision is final unless new info comes to light in the rule book. None has but appears Nike group will prevail anyway." Later he tweeted: "A moral line was crossed champs tonight. It's time for athletes and coaches with integrity to demand accountability."

Gabe Grunewald wrote in her Twitter account: "Sincere thank you to everyone for the support today -- I'm not sure what the outcome will be but I hope we can spark some changes." has this quote from Shannon Rowbury: "In regards to her own contact with Grunewald in the last lap, Rowbury blew it off and saying, 'Gabe has a tendancy to be … she just has a big arm swing. So there were a few times I had to try to protect myself and defend myself, but nothing that I felt was throwing me off my game that much. And in the early stages there were so many people so closely packed you know there’s going to be arms and legs allover.'”

Other observer's views of what happened at the US Championships are HERE  HERE,  HERE, and HERE.

The video of the race is HERE.  On Saturday night the results of the women's 3K race have a note attached: "Result will be officially posted on Sunday."

Hassan Mead Thirteenth in World's Best 10K

Gopher grad Hassan Mead finished 13th in the World Best 10K in Puerto Rico on Sunday in 30:05.  Conditions were summer-like with temps in the 80s and humidity.  Full results are HERE.

Leer and Heath Second and Third in Men's 1500, Kampf Third in Women's 1500, Ewen Tenth in Shot

Will Leer and Garrett Heath finished second and third in the men's 1500 with Team USA Minnesota's Travis Burkstrand in 11th in 3:50.20.  Leo Manzano took the early pace with Leer, and the rest of the front pack lurking behind.  Race winner Lopez Lomong broke first and held his lead to the finish with a winning time of 3:43.09, Leer finished in 3:43.21 and Heath 3:43.97. Lomong and Leer qualified for the US Worlds team.

Team USA Minnesota's Heather Kampf finished third in the 1500 at the US Championships in 4:13.04. Kampf lead the race early insuring an honest pace rather than the wait and kick of most championship races.  She dropped back as Mary Cain and Treniere Moser took off toward a one-two finish, but rallied to take third. TCTC's Melissa Agnew finished 13th in 4:27.32.

St. Francis grad Maggie Ewen finished tenth in the women's shot with a throw of 54'4.5"/16.57m.  She had her best throw on her third throw of the competition, but the distance was not enough to qualify for three more throws in the finals.

Results for all events are HERE.  Will Leer interview is HERE. women's 1500 video is HERE, men's HERE.

Amanda Smock Wins US Championship in Triple Jump

Amanda Smock defended her title in the US Indoor Championships on Sunday.  Smock jumped 45' 3.75"/13.81m on her second jump to win the competition. The jump was an indoor PR for Smock, who has jumped 46' 6.25"/14.18m outdoors.

Video of Amanda Smock's final jump(13.73m) is HERE.

Pursuit of Perfection

In the wake of all the scandals and controversies in modern sport, it's interesting to read this story about 1960 Olympic 1500 meter champion Herb Elliott, who talks about how he approached his sport and life. Story is HERE.

Another Australian athlete worth getting to know  is Ron Clarke, who is interviewed HERE. Clarke was arguably the best distance runner of his time, but never won an Olympic gold medal, until Emil Zatopek gave him one of his.  In an earlier interview Clarke was asked about why he shared information with his opponents, tried to help them be their best because, he said, if you want to race someone, you want to race them at their best.  To achieve your best you had to race against the best at their best.

I've had the good fortune to meet both of these men, each true champions.

In the Circle Update

The highest ranked throwers Minnesota has to offer were in action this weekend at the Snowshoe Open at the University of Minnesota Fieldhouse.  Senior captain Jon Lehman (Coon Rapids, MN) made the most of senior day by resetting his own school record in the weight throw and moving up to 3rd in NCAA Division 1 with a mark of 75-5.  Justin Barber finished third with a mark of 66-7 behind Chris Reed of Minnesota State Mankato with perhaps the most violent one turn you may see in the weight throw and a new personal best and school record throw of 67-7 (4th in NCAA D2).  Redshirt freshmen Gian Lorenzo Ferretti finished 4th with an impressive PR of 65-6.  St. Cloud State sophomore Ryan Johnson finished 5th, proving his provisional qualifying mark (currently 6th in NCAA D2) and breaking the school record, previously held by All-American Adam Kershaw.


In the men's shot put #1 ranked Chris Reed from Minnesota State Mankato threw 63-8. Reed's mark, although 3 feet under his personal best, would still be the best mark in D2 this season by over a foot.

On the women's side Gopher Becci Osterdyk set a new personal best in the shot put with a mark of 48-7.5 and St. Cloud State freshmen Cassandra Cardinal provisionally qualified for NCAA D2 44-10.5.   Next weekend is Indoor championships, the Gophers are at Ohio State next weekend for the Big 10's, the NSIC will be held at Bemidji State, and the MIAC will be held at Macalester College.

St. Francis graduate and current redshirting freshmen Maggie Ewen will be competing in her first USA Track and Field championships today in Albuquerque, NM at 3:20 PM CST. HERE

Best of luck to Maggie today and to all of those competing next weekend at the indoor championships.

Update: Ewen finished 10th with a personal best of 54-4.  Great mark for a junior competing in the senior division.  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

St. Scholastica Sweeps Men's and Women's Titles at UMAC Indoor Championships

St. Scholastica won their fifth consecutive men's and women's UMAC Championships at St. Scholastica on Saturday.  University of Minnesota-Morris(UMM) was runner up in both men's and women's team competition.  Linda Keller(5:14.92) of UMM and  St. Scholastica's Chelsea Johnson(4:15.36) went one, two in the mile.  Keller doubled back in third in the 800(2:27.74) and Johnson won the 5K(18:16.57). Full results are HERE.

Gabe Grunewald Wins Women's 3K; Ben Blankenship Fifth in Men's 3K. Protest filed in women's 3K.

Team USA Minnesota's Gabe Grunewald streaked past runner-up Shannon Rowbury to win the 3K at the US Indoor Championships in a time of 9:23.15.  The win qualified Grunewald for the IAAF World Indoor Championships in March in Sopot, Poland.  Jamie Cheever finished twelveth in 9:53.04.  Fellow Gopher grad Ben Blankenship finished fifth in the men's 3K in 8:04.70.The win was Grunewald's first national championship.

A protest has been filed in the women's 3K.  Team USA Minnesota coach Dennis Barker tweets that Grunewald has been disqualified.  USATF has been contacted, no response as yet or official word on that decision. Only response as yet, comes from fourth place finisher Jordan Hasay's coach Alberto Salazar, who responded: "Would be best for you to talk to USATF or whomever.  I was not in at the decision meeting."

Post race interview with Gabe Grunewald HERE. Women's race video is HERE. Men's HERE.

Gopher grad Harun Abda failed to qualify for the 800 final running 1:50.25 to finish fifth in his heat and 14th overall.

Larry Russ Remembrance

St. Thomas remembrance of former coach Larry Russ is HERE.

Snowshoe Open Results

Minnesota Daily article on the final weekend before Big Tens is HERE.

Snowshoe Open Gopher men's summary is HERE. Results are HERE.
Concordia University St. Paul summary for Snowshoe and Tolstad is HERE

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Science of Shoes: What Will the Future Bring?

The final installment of the Trail Shoe series deals with the science involved in shoe design and materials.  Since the majority of people purchasing running shoes don't run--they either want to look like an athlete or be able to walk in a comfortable shoe--it's easy to see why marketing concerns on design, color, etc. play a big role in running shoes.  Without the science, however, they wouldn't be as comfortable nor as functional for runners.40 years ago, the only real running shoes were track spikes.  Today the variety in the running shoe market is staggering.

Arguably, no category of running shoes puts a premium on science more than the trail shoes.  While many African athletes have run barefoot and the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico seem to do fine in the most rugged of wilderness conditions with mere sandals, the rest of the world seems to want footwear with the most modern technology and design backed by science to help them go faster, avoid injury, and keep their feet comfortable.

To design and build trail shoes, the creatorss wanted three things: durability, traction, and water and mud resistance.   They had models to follow, said Rob Lyden, a Minnesota coach and inventor who now lives in Oregon.  The tire industry did extensive research to develop types of rubber that could grip the road or trail in all sorts of conditions whether these tires were for bicycles, or race cars, or all terrain vehicles.  The army did research to develop the Panama sole for army boots that gripped in the soft, muddy jungle terrain, but repelled the mud, didn't allow it to stick to the sole.

Clothing manuafacturers came up with Gore Tex and later ion masking agents that basically repelled water from the surface of the fabric.  In developing cleated soccer shoes, Lyden developed a non sticking outsole that was flexible enough, but repelled mud the same way the ion mask treated fabrics repelled water.  For trail shoes, says Martyn Shorten, head of Biomechanica LLC, you want a tread pattern that grips the ground, but doesn't allow mud to stick to the bottom of the shoes.

So, a combination of  well placed "lugs"(think differently designed cleats placed at different ankles on the sole of the shoe), the researchers found when placed in a cantalevered fashion, as on the Panama sole did the trick.  Spacing and angling of the cleats have very elaborate criteria, said Ned Frederick of Exeter Research, to allow them to perform the desired function of grip and mud repulsion.  Shoe designers call it the "dog shit" factor, says Frederick, noting that the pooch excrement is even tougher to keep off a sole than mud as it seems to have a natural adhesion that pastes it to non repelling surfaces.

Dupont and 3M have developed treated fabrics that deal with the water issue.  Mesh fabrics with tiny pores are used to keep water out.  Using such fabrics with high top shoes, if one is comfortable in that type of footwear, can minimize the water that gets in or is retained by the shoe.  If you're on a course that has you wading through streams, there are shoes designed much like track spikes for steeplechasers that has discharge valves in the arch area of the foot, so each footstrike acts as a pump to spew the water from the shoe.

Socks, says, Shorten are important in water management, maybe even more important than the other measures, as a pair of cotton socks will hold that moisture from both sweat and stream creating a "lead weight" on your feet.  A "wicking fabric" is just as important inside the shoe, in the socks, as it is for the base layer of clothing that keeps you dry and warm during winter runs.  Another key area of water management has been the use of injected, molded midsoles that have a closed pore construction.

If you had blown foam midsoles in the past you'll rmember how light they felt when you put them on out of the box, but the first time you ran with them on a rainy day or through puddles their weight increased.  Not unlike cotton where the fibers soak up moisture and trap it, open pored mid soles would retain some of the moisture they absorbed creating the increased weight.

Looking toward the future in shoe design Shorten says that the new innovations will probably come in new materials that are either lighter, more durable, use a tighter mesh, are water proof or a combination of pieces that do many or all of these things.  Lyden has patented designs for a modular shoe--a shoe that could be customized according to individual conditions, sort of like race car or bike tires that have specific materials and or design to perform maximally at certain temperatures, under wet conditions, or on a soft or hard surface and can be changed during the course of a race to allow the car to perform maximally under the new environmental conditions.

40 years ago these were the "hot"training flats for
runners.  What will tomorrow bring?
While many of us can remember the day when the shoe's we trained and ran in were more like basketball or tennis shoes than designed specifically for running.  The future could well mirror the specially designed and fitted shoes top elite athletes make available to their top runners.  Some day mass market shoes that individuals can order that are created to meet their specific needs may make what we have today look like relics.  If we can have shoes for trail, roads, and track, why not for an individual?  And if the barefoot model for locomotion is one day proved to be the best, then shoes may become like a "second skin," wrapping the foot in a coating that has protection where needed as well as allowing full articulation of the human foot.

In as short a span as 40 years athletic footwear has become a major industry producing a huge variety of products.  Who knows what the future will bring?

USATF Minnesota Awards Celebration

USATF Minnesota's presentation of their 2013 awards is scheduled for Saturday in Edina.  Details HERE.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Liz Podominick Awarded USATF John James Endowment Grant

Discus thrower Liz Podominick was one of fourteen throwers awarded a $6,000 USATF John W James Endowmant Grant.   Full list of recipients is HERE.

Lynn Jennings' Medical Adventure: How Running May Have Saved Her Life

Lynn Jennings has done it all on the running scene, three time World XC Champ, Olympic brone medallist at 10K, the list goes on, but her latest adventure was a bit more serious.  She ended up in the hospital with pulmonary emboli, blood clots, in her lungs.  Her experience hits home, because I was in a similar situation several years ago.  Both of us believe that our fitness probably saved our lives.

Like Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray, Lynn's tale is a cautionary one for runners.  Don't ignore the symptoms and have your doctor check for blood clots.  Just because you are fit, or super fit as in the case of Dave and Lynn, doesn't mean that a serious condition may not be hidden somewhere in your body.

Lynn's story is HERE.

USA Indoor Champs Viewing Party at Brits

Brits Pub in Minneapolis will play host to the USA Indoor Championships viewing party on Sunday.  For more info go to the TCTC web site HERE.  To RSVP go HERE.

Track & Field Community Mourns the Loss of Glenn Amundsen

The track and field community of Minnesota lost one of it's greats this past Saturday.  Glenn was not only the long time throws coach at Stewardville High School, but he coached numerous athletes across southeastern Minnesota.  His love of the sport is recanted by the numerous athletes and lives he touched.  Many of the athletes Glenn coached went into coaching because of the inspiration and guidance he provided.  Online condolences are welcome via the link below.

On behalf of the staff at DtB, we send our condolences to his family and all of those who had a chance to work with Glenn, he will be missed.

Visitation and Mass will be held on Wednesday, February 26th at St. Francis Catholic Church.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Science of Trail Shoes: How to Pick a Trail Shoe

Martyn Shorten
As noted in the first part of this series, trail shoes are as individual as the runners using them and the conditions trail racers face.  Part II of the series deals to some tips on how to pick a trail shoe based on the  research of Martyn Shorten, PhD, a shoe scientist and head of Biomechanica LLC, a Portland, Oregon company that helps design and test athletic shoes.

"I'd divide them into three classes," says Shorten of the trail shoes.  The first is the "urban trail shoe," which is for mostly runners "running on groomed trails,"  and/or want a trail shoe to run through the snow in the winter.  "A regular shoe will do most of the job, most of the time," says Shorten.  A shoe similar to the one they would normally wear for running on the roads or wet grass.  Many of the shoe companies make trail versions of their road shoes.  The difference being that the trail versions will have a more rugged outsole, a little more traction, water proofing, toe bumper, and a sturdy upper.

These shoes use treatment, material, and/or construction strategies to manage moisture.  For example, a GoreTex upper or treatment with ion masking to keep water out, perhaps gussets to drain water.  "Water always goes in," Shorten notes, and the trail adapted shoe has a way to let it get out.  Though, he notes, water is going to get in, so the best strategy of water management is often a good pair of socks that doesn't retain that water and, in cold conditions keeps your feet relatively dry and warm.

The second category of trail shoes are what Shorten calls "Off Road trail shoes."  These are designed for ungroomed terrain that is uneven, often has sections with rocks and/or forest debris, tree roots, etc.  These are "real trail shoes," rather than adapted road shoes.  More rugged, more luggy(more studs on the bottom to help with traction on soft, muddy, and or loose surfaces).  They have more abrasion resistant mesh on the upper.  They have a "full sole," not one with an arch cut out, for a more stable base so that side to side motion is minimized.

Pronation control is not the major issue for trail runners, Shortyn adds, it's helping to minimize the risk of "rolling," spraining your ankle.  "Total ground contact , a bigger base of support" helps achieve this.  These trail shoes will also have a "plate" in the sole to protect your feet from rocks or other hard, sharp hazards from bruising the bottom of the feet.  And a lacing system with big eyelets, often molded to allow for a smoother movement of the laces as your foot copes with the uneven surfaces, even when the shoe gets wet and/or muddy.

Finally, there is the "Hard Core Mountain Shoe" for extreme terrain.  As these are primarily worn for racing on the mountain running circuit, the shoes should be a "lightweight, flexible, low to the ground package," says Shorten.  Tighter weave in mesh uppers, a rock plate made of lightweight thermoplastic, more rubber on the toe area and possibly around side of shoe as well.  These shoes can weigh as light as from 12 to 8 ounces, yet provide all the toughness necessary for navigating the often sharp, rocky trails.

They have a more abrasion-resistant mesh and a tough rubber outsole.  Some of these specialty shoes may also have "posts" in the midsole to control pronation, the cushioning(usually molded rubber) is firmer, and there is a "substantial structure" around the foot, helping keep the foot stable along with the flat base of the sole.

The flexibility of the shoe is largely a matter of preference, Shorten says.  Usually the top racers want a more flexible shoe as flexibility is more of an issue for speed.  The faster you run, the more flexibility is preferred, but Shorten notes, the great majority of trail runners are not moving at high speed, they may average nine or ten minute mile pace, so flexibility is not a big issue. "Having super flexibility isn't an issue," he says.

"If it feels comfortable," says Shorten, that is more important than flexibility.  Part of that comfort is a non chafing upper.  "So many of the shoes have seamless construction," says Shorten.  Peal Izumi created the first seam-free uppers and now most of the companies produce seam free constructed uppers where the only sewing may be for the tongue of the shoe.  This freedom from ridges and seams helps minimize friction and the potential for blisters.

Running biomechanics is pretty much the same for trail and road running, says Shorten, so the decision on what shoe to wear comes down to the variables of course location, course condition, racing speed, and personal preference.  There is no magic formula or "one size fits all" for trail shoes.  Like running training it can be more "trial and error," figuring out what works for you.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

News Bits

USTFCCCA NCAA DI Indoor track team rankings are HERE, DII HERE, DIII is HERE.

USTFCCCA NCAA DIII Scholar Athlete XC teams of the Year for 2013 are HERE. St. Olaf is men's team selection. St. Scholastica's Chelsea Johnson awarded individual XC Scholar Athlete for 2013 HERE.

MIAC men's athletes of the week HERE, women HERE.

MIAC feature on Bethel's Andrew Rock and Missy Buttry Rock is HERE.

NSIC weekly summary is HERE.

UMAC Athletes of the Week are HERE.

More on Will Leer's Wanamaker Mile win is HERE.

Running Times article on rest and recovery is HERE.

Gearing Up for Grandma's

The annual Gearing Up for Grandma's pre-race seminar is Saturday, March 1. This free event runs from  9 AM. to 11 AM at Essentia Health’s First Street Building in Duluth and features Carrie Tollefson.  
Other presenters are: Ben Nelson, MD – Grandma’s Marathon Medical Director and Essentia Health Orthopedic/Sports Medicine Physician; Heather Pitschka, RD, CDE – Essentia Health Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator; and Jim and Mary Stukel – Owners of Tortoise and Hare Footwear

Following the individual presentationsis a question and answer session.  A prize drawing will conclude the event. For more information, call (218) 727-0947.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Amanda Smock Ready to Defend Her US Title

Amanda Smock smoothing out the sand to ensure a soft landing :-)
Amanda Smock has been preparing to defend her US indoor triple jump title this weekend in Albuquerque, NM at the USATF Indoor Championships.  Smock and the other participants will be hoping to garb a spot on the US team that will compete in the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland.  Below she talks about her approach to the sport.  What she tries to accomplish every year, and some memories that linger from her career.

Down the Backstretch:  You seem to take things year by year, what brought you back for another year?

Amanda Smock: Taking things year by year has definitely been my “MO” these past couple years. My coach has my training planned through 2016, but I have yet to really make that commitment. Mentally, I find it easier to stay present and focused on my day to day training sessions when I have only one season to be prepared for. What brought me back another year is the joy I find in training and competing in the triple jump. Additionally, I’m in my second year working with a new coach and I really wanted to give his training time to take hold and see what develops from the new plan. 

My coach is Jeremy Fischer. He coaches at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. I switched coaches after London in quest to switch up my training plan. I had seen Jeremy's plan create successful results with other US jumpers and was really aligned with his training philosophy. My previous coach and old training plan had taken me through five years, but after London I felt as though I needed to make some changes to keep things exciting and different moving forward. 

DtB:  A seemingly recurring theme for you is making World or Olympic qualifying distance.  You’re the defending champ at the US Indoors, you finished in the top three outdoors.  You find yourself competing against a qualifying standard more than other athletes it seems.  That’s a much tougher standard than merely competing in a national championship.  The weather, amount of competitive opportunities, etc. have more of an impact on a triple jumpers ability to make World or Olympic teams if the standard is close to what you are capable of jumping.  How do you deal with the issue in planning your season, setting your goals, and your training?

AS: My event is so unique in that sense - that my biggest competition is the qualifying mark. This year, is a little different than most. Since there is an Indoor World Championships, but no major outdoor championship, I am putting a lot more focus on the indoor season to try to reach the Indoor World standard. 

For me, that means I’ve increased the intensity of my training sessions earlier than I normally would, and I am jumping from a full approach at competitions more often that I would in a typical indoor season. For example last indoor season, I jumped in Glasgow and the US Indoor Championships. This year, I will have jumped in four meets before the US Indoor Championships. My indoor meets after competing at NDSU were Naperville, IL 13.61m; Seattle, WA 13.48m; Albuquerque, NM 13.64m.  I really needed to amp up the intensity earlier to dial in on the rhythm and technique I need to jump the 14.25m (Worlds Qualifying Standard).

DtB:  What have you been working on this year to get ready for the season ahead?

AS: Overall I have been working on increasing my applied strength and technical movements coming off of the take off board. I’ve seen a lot of progress from short run approaches and am hoping the transfer to full approaches takes hold soon! 

DtB:  This year the only national team is indoor Worlds. Is that the primary goal for 2014 or is it to be able to consistently jump at a higher level, so that you take the qualifying mark out of the equation?

AS: A definite short-term goal is to make the indoor World team, but as I transition into outdoors I would really like to nail down those technical movements I referred to earlier. If I am successful with that, I should be consistently jumping at a higher level. The longer I am in this event/sport, the more I have realized I am most successful when I focus on the process rather than marks or distances. 

DtB:  You’ve made both the World and Olympic teams.  You’ve been close to the American record.  What sort of competitive goals keep you going?  Things you’d like to achieve before you hang up the spikes?

AS: I enjoy so many aspects of this sport. The combination between the technical and physiological science and art of training for the triple jump is one of the most exciting parts. The idea that there is greater performance potential in me is really what keeps me going. Aside from that, my criteria to continue on this journey are: if I am healthy, if I am continuing to improve my performances, and if it is still fun. If these three things are in place, I’ll stick with it through the Rio trials. 

DtB:  What memories, if any, stick out among those you’ve experienced during your career?

AS: The entire 2012 summer is at the top of my list of memorable experiences, beginning with the lead up to the trials, the trials themselves, sharing that with my friends and family and then of course the Olympic Games was the thrill of a lifetime. I've also really appreciated the travels, adventures and various people that have been brought into my life through the sport.  

I have a vast array of vivid memories. Two favorites, in addition to my 2012 summer are: 1) the past two years I have taken long winter training trips to San Diego and Greg has joined me, last year he stayed for two weeks, this year for five days. I would train from 10:30 to 4 and each evening we would take beach cruiser bikes to the beach and stroll through Coronado. I felt like I was literally living in a dream world, it's such a beautiful city on the beach, and I was so happy to be spending time there at the same time I was getting in really quality training sessions. 

The track in Lahpinlahti, Finland.  Photo by Amanda Smock
The second vivid memory is from last summer competing in a meet in Lahpinlahti, Finland. There was great competition in the triple jump, so jumping was a lot of fun, but what sticks out to me was the environment. This great track was plopped in the middle of these huge pine trees outside a little town in the middle of nowhere.  In Finland, the latitude is further north that Anchorage, Alaska. The air was so crisp and fresh, the stands were packed, and there was a lot of energy. But for moments while I was competing I was having flash backs to my childhood and camping trips to northern Minnesota. I really loved competing there. 

NSIC Multievents Championship Results

UMD women go one-two in women's pentathlon. Results and summary HERE.

MSU Mankato's Nathan Hancock wins men's heptathlon, summary HERE, full results HERE.
Day one results and summary for men's heptathlon are HERE.


MSU Open results are HERE.
MSU Mankato summary is HERE(men) and HERE(women).
UMD summary is HERE(men) and HERE(women)
Southwest Minnesota State summary is HERE.
St. Scholastica summaries are HERE(men) and HERE(women)

Carleton Meet of Hearts results are HERE.
Carleton summaries are HERE(men) and HERE(women)
Hamline summaries are HERE(men) and HERE(women).
Gustavus summary is HERE.
Augsburg summaries are HERE(men) and HERE(women)

Macalester Men, St. John's Men and Alumni Tri results are HERE.
Macalester summary is HERE.
St. John's Summary is HERE.

CSB(St. Ben's, Macalester Women, St. Kate's) Tri results are HERE.
Macalester women's summary is HERE.
St. Ben's summary is HERE
St. Kate's summary is HERE.

Border Battle/Yellowjacket Open results are HERE.
St. Mary's summary is HERE(for both St. Thomas Showcase and Border Battle)
St. Scholastica summaries are HERE(men) and HERE(women)

Darren Young Indoor Classic results are HERE.
Bethel summaries are HERE(men) and HERE(women)

NDSU Bison Open results are HERE.
Concordia Moorhead summaries are HERE(men) and HERE(women)
University of Minnesota Morris summary is HERE.
U-Mary summary is HERE

MileSplit "alumni results" Feb. 2-8 are HERE

Sunday, February 16, 2014

USATF All Comers Results

Results from the third USATF Minnesota All Comers Meet are HERE.

Iowa State and Husky Classic Results; Additional Gopher, MN HS grads, and Team USA Minnesota Results

Gopher men's summary and results from Day One of Iowa State Classic HERE. Women's Gopher summary and Day One results HERE. Day two summaries are HERE(women) and HERE(men)

Minnesota Daily feature on Jon Lehman is HERE.

In other results from Iowa State: former Team USA Minnesota, now Brooks Beast team member, Jamie Cheever finished fifth in the women's mile in 4:37.23. U-Mary grad and TCTC track club member Melissa Agnew finished sixth in 4:38.05, a PR and US champs qualifying time.  Team USA Minnesota's Ben Sathre was 18th in the men's 5K in 14:11.18.

Results for Day one and two are HERE.

Gopher miler John Simons ran 3:59.38 to place fifth in the mile at the Husky Classic in Washington, recap HERE. Gopher grad and Team USA Minnesota's Travis Burkstrand was second in 4:02.30 in the first heat of the men's mile.

Elk River grad Emma Bates was 10th in 9:19.08, and Shakopee grad Maria Hauger was 17th in 9:29.20 in their heat of the women's 3K. Mounds Park Academy grad Mason Ferlic, who runs for Michigan, was 16th in the 5K in 14:05.35.

Husky Classic full results are HERE.

Minnesota Daily story on the weekend results for Gopher men and women is HERE.

USA Cross Country Championship Results

Team USA Minnesota's Meghan Peyton finished seventh in the US XC Championships yesterday in Boulder in 28:27 for 8K.  In the men's race, former Team USA Minnesota team member Patrick Smyth was also seventh in 37:13 for 12K.  Former TCTC runner Joe Moore was tenth in 37:36 with Team USA Minnesota's Jon Grey placing eleventh in 37:40.

In the Junior competition, Edina grad Will Burke, a freshman at Michigan,  finished eighth for 8K in 26:05.

Full results are HERE.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Will Leer Wins Wanamaker Mile; Gabe Grunewald Fifth in Millrose 3K

Photo by Andy Kiss/Cloud 259 Photo
Will Leer wins Millrose Wanamaker Mile in  PR 3:52.47. Mile results HERE. That may settle which race he's running at USA Indoor Nationals--(See DtB interview HERE). Race video is HERE. Post race interview with Leer is HERE.

Team USA Minnesota's Gabe Grunewald finished fifth in the Millrose Games women's 3K in 8:53.87.  3K results are HERE. Full results are HERE. Post race interview HERE. Millrose Games photos are HERE.
Competitors on the track, friends off it. Will Leer and
Nick Willis at Millrose. Photo by Jane Monti

More Recruiting News

St. Cloud State recruits listed HERE.

Four UMD recruits for women's teams are HERE.

U-Mary's Jennifer Agnew is USTFCCCA Scholar Athlete of Year for 2013

U-Mary's NCAA DII XC individual women's champion Jennifer Agnew was awarded the 2013 USTFCCCA female scholar athlete of the year for XC award.  Details HERE.

St Thomas Showcase Results

Results from Friday's St. Thomas Showcase are HERE.
St Thomas summary is HERE.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hassan Mead's Journey

Hassan Mead
For the past year and a half  Hassan Mead has been getting his post graduate education.  He moved out to Eugene, Oregon in September of 2012 to train with retired UK steeplechase 1988 Olypic bronze medallist now coach Mark Rowland in the Oregon Track Club Elite program.  Rowland's training philosophy is not much different than Mead's college coach, Steve Plasencia, Mead said.  The emphasis being on training, getting prepared, and racing infrequently.

Mead and Rowland took their time getting to know one another.  Monitoring how Mead's body adjusted to various training and racing situations.  Bringing Mead along slowly, pursuing short term goals that gradually expand into the larger picture of target times, international racing, championship racing, and/or going for a fast time.  Doing altitude training.  Putting down a base of strength work, coming down to sea level and racing too see where you're at and getting a break from the daily training grind.

In 2013 the pattern was altitiude training, down to sea level, run a 1500 to see where your race fitness was at, then on to the 5K to run a fast time.  The plan worked as Mead ran 3:41 PR in the 1500 in April, followed by a PR by 12.5 seconds in the 5K of 13:15.50 at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford.

The racing 'roller coaster" then took a dip down after that as, overtained a bit going into the Pre Classic in his attempt to get a World Championship qualifier in the 5K, Mead didn't cope so well with his first big international competition race.  "I almost felt like a freshman," said Mead.  "Like you're in a race and you think it's going to go this way and it doesn't.  It was a lack of experience."  Lesson learned, the next step was getting ready for USATF outdoor nationals, the qualifying meet for the IAAF World championships.

The result there was equally unsatisfying as Mead finished ninth in the hot, humid conditions, and glacially slow tactical race.  "It was not pretty," Mead said.  "I'd put in the work.  I knew I wasn't unfit."  Again, he didn't adjust to the competition on the day well enough. Another post-graduate lesson to be improved upon next time.

With the World Championships off his calander,  it was off to Europe for his first summer season on "the continent."  Based in Belgium, like many other US runners, Mead began navigating the European summer track circuit, racing in several countries, setting PRs in 3K and another in 5K.

Staying in Belgium is an ideal training base, said Mead, who was directed by his agent, Chris Lane, to the locale.  "You can be in the center of the city, and go out for a run and in ten minutes you are in the middle of a huge forest," said Mead.  The central location of Belgium in Europe also helps transportation as you're near to trains and planes  that can get you nearly everywhere in a short hop.

Then there are the Belgian waffles, and meets galore.  The summer season means a smorgasboard of elite level competition with enthusiastic crowds and packed fields.  "The atmosphere at the smallest meet is like an American championship (meet)," said Mead.  There are several meets a week.  The atmosphere is loose and relaxed, not tension filled and a combination of travel, hotel rooms, and angst, like it is in the US, Mead added.

On July 13, 2013 Mead  ran 13:11.80 in Huesden in a race in which he felt he could have run faster.  "I was happy with 13:11," said Mead.  "I just knew I could run faster."  Four days later in Dublin, Mead ran a PR at 3K of 7:46.18.  From his training and racing, Mead believed he was ready to run around 13:05 for 5K. The goal in 2014 is to run closer to that time or better, possibly under 13:00, in 2014.  Since there are no major outdoor championships this year, most races will be set up to run fast times, Mead says.

Mead took a month off at the end of 2013 and he and Rowland plotted out the preliminary strategy for 2014.  Because it didn't fit in with the long-term training plan, Mead won't run the US Indoor Championships to attempt to qualify for Indoor Worlds.  He'll continue to train at atltitude, coming down occassionally to race, as he did last weekend in Boston.

Going into that race with primarily strength work and no sharpening on the track, Mead knew he had to feel his way through the 3K.  The pace was set up for the Ethiopians right around 60 seconds per quarter and when Mead came through the half in 2:02, "my legs were already a little shaky," he said.  He knew he couldn't sustain the pace, so he backed off, and while the lead pack came through the mile around 4:02, Mead was back in 4:08, his body recovered and ready to get moving for the last portion of the race.

"I got the legs going the last 800," Mead said.  He started passing people and finished in 7:44, an indoor and outdoor PR. "I wasn't ready for the quick turnover(early in the race)," Mead said.  "I knew I had good strength, and I was able to finish strong."  Next step is a trip to Puerto Rico for a test of that strength as he'll run the Wolrd's Best 10K road race there on February 23, hoping to capitalize on that strength and get a further indicator of where his training has taken his fitness at this stage of the season.

Then it's back up to altitude training, down in the Spring to run another 1500, then on to Stanford again for a 5K.  The training, adjusting, and education continue.  "We don't plan too far ahead," says Mead.  He'll take it one race at a time and hope that all the various unpredictable variables that allow for good performances come together at the right time.  Education is a lifelong process, and Mead is a willing student.

Trail Shoes Part II update

One expert we've been trying to contact is not available until Tuesday Feb. 18, so part II of the Trail Shoe article will appear next week.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Larry Russ-Updated with obit

Larry Russ photo from the Hall of Fame Induction
Ceremony in 2011. Photo by Charlie Mahler
Larry Russ, longtime St. Thomas coach, inductee to the Minnesota Track & Field Hall of Fame, passed away this morning.  No details as yet on services, will post them when they are available.  Brief history of his accomplishments at St. Thomas is HERE.

Strib obit listing HERE. St. Paul Pioneer Press obit is HERE.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Trail Shoes – Who Needs Them?

This is the first of a two-part look at Trail Running shoes.  The second part will deal with the science that goes into developing these products.
By Alex Kurt
Trail running is growing. Races as famous as the Leadville 100 and as local as the Superior 25K filled in record time this year. Why? Part of the reason is the growth in popularity of ultra-distance races, many of which are run on trails. Though often synonymous, ultrarunning and trail running are not one in the same! 

Ultra runs are often just longer road races, trail running takes participants on journeys over seldom run terrain.  The category of trail shoes has grown along with the sport. Like spikes or racing flats, trail shoes are designed and made to help the trail racer go faster on rugged terrain--rocks, tree roots, mud, and streams. 

What they do
First, no two trail shoes are alike, as no two trails are exactly the same (nor are any two athletes). Shoes like the Salomon Speedcross ( are aggressively lugged for rugged, technical, and/or slippery terrain; they work very well but in a more limited number of scenarios. Meanwhile the Brooks Cascadia (,default,pd.html#start=4) has a more subtle outsole that allows a broader range of use – from fairly rugged to very runnable terrain, and even pavement – but won’t perform as well at either extreme.

Some trail shoes come from brands familiar to road runners (New Balance, Mizuno, Nike, Brooks) and will feel similar to road shoes; products from other brands (Salomon, Pearl Izumi) reflect little to no preexisting bias for how a “running shoe” should look or feel, often with great, innovative results.

Like road shoes, some are more highly structured while some reflect minimalist principles; some are more stable and some are more neutral; some are more protective and some are lighter. Some are waterproof. The point is that, as with road shoes, there is no “best” trail shoe, only different shoes that work to different degrees for different athletes on different terrain.

That said, there are three primary features in most trail shoes:
1      Increased outsole traction. In other words, cleats. They provide more traction on soft ground, especially climbing and descending. Outsole lugs range from being very aggressive for technical and soft terrain to being more subdued for those runners who don’t live at the trailhead and have to cover a mile or three on pavement to even get to the trail.

2      Increased underfoot protection. This can be a fiberglass rock plate under the ball of the foot, more built-up rubber on the outsole, and/or a hard bumper to protect the toes; whatever form it takes, it is meant to prevent sharp rocks from coming through the bottom of your shoe and rocks of all forms from making direct contact with your foot. The Born to Run crowd might disagree here, but I consider direct foot-to-rock contact a real bummer on any run.

3      Lower profile/decreased stack height. This is not a universal feature 
), but many trail shoes allow your feet to sit lower to the ground – regardless of their heel-to-toe differential – so you can better dance over the myriad rocks and roots you’ll encounter off-road. Running on higher platforms offers less lateral control, which can be problematic on the trails, where there’s simply more stuff to avoid.

Who needs them?
Does anyone who ever runs off-road need trail shoes? No. The truth is that most of the trails in the Twin Cities are quite runnable. (The very technical Superior Hiking Trail, near and north of Duluth, is the one trail I can think of in Minnesota that comes close to requiring trail shoes under any circumstances.) If you have only one pair of running shoes at a time and run on a combination of trails and roads each week, the downsides of using a road shoe on dirt will probably be more bearable than the pains of wearing a trail shoe on the roads.

That said, provided you have the down payment for a second (or third or fourth) pair of shoes, having a few different shoes in your quiver can be very beneficial – and not just because both pairs will last a bit longer. Having a pair of shoes designated and designed specifically for your days off-road will simply help you run better on trails; it can also make the experience more enjoyable.

Some other considerations for whether a trail shoe is worth the investment include:
-Are you training for a race that is on trails? If racing well is your priority, consider which shoes will be best for your goal race and train in those. If your aim is to run the Superior 50k and run it fast, you’ll want to grow accustomed to a fairly protective trail shoe by training in them.

-Do you run on the roads in the winter? I work at TC Running Company, and most of the trail shoes we sell between November and March are for road runners who want more traction on snowy and icy sidewalks. Even running around the lakes and along the river in Minneapolis, I’ve found my less-aggressive trail shoes a great fit for the layer of snow that’s become well-packed down by the plows.

-Do you run more than half of your runs on trails? Even if you only have one pair of shoes, the downsides of a road shoe on trails might outweigh the cons of a trail shoe on roads if more than half your miles are on trails.

Ultimately, the shoes you wear are a matter of personal preference. Take Rob Krar, a North Face-sponsored runner who last year took the ultra world by storm, winning two of the year’s most competitive races and placing second at the Western States 100; he was recently named the 2013 Male Ultrarunner of the Year by Ultrarunning Magazine. And he ran every mile, from the fire roads of northern California to mountain passes in Colorado, in Nike road racing flats. Could anyone cover the UROC 100k course in Nike Lunar Racers comfortably? No. But he could, so he did.

Happy trails.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

News Bits

MIAC track Athletes of the Week are HERE.

NSIC Athletes of Week and Weekly Summary is HERE.

UMAC Athletes of the Week are HERE

USTFCCCA NCAA DI Indoor track rankings are HERE, DII are HERE, DIII are HERE.

Busy weekend for Team USA Minnesota athletes at several different locations, both coasts and in between  HERE.

Minnesota Daily story on Gopher women at Ted Nelson Classic  is HERE.

Story on Alan Page, Minnesota Supreme Court judge, runner, and Hall of Famer in that other sport is HERE.

Research concludes that branched chain amino acid supplements don't improve recovery from a marathon HERE.

Will Leer: More Than Just a 'Stache'

Will Leer at the 2013 USATF Outdoor
Track Championships
Photo by Gene Niemi
Will Leer had a season to remember in 2013.  Below he talks about last year, his plans for 2014, his "brand," and his perspective on the sport, major championships, and racing.  

Down the Backstretch:  2013 was something of a breakthrough year, two national championships, nine  PRs, and Asbel Kiprop asking you to have a picture taken with him because you look like Jesus.  What factors played a role in it all coming together last  year?

Will Leer: The running wasn't really all that tough. Now, getting to the point looks-wise where someone like Mr. Kiprop asks to take a photo with me (even though it is now common knowledge that I only resemble the anglicized image of Jesus) was a real challenge. It took a lot of patience, persistence, dedication, and sacrifice. But then again the same could be said for the running! 

In all seriousness, I was quite surprised with how well my racing progressed last year. Moving to Los Angeles and training alone raised a bunch of red flags. There has been so much written lately about the benefits of training in group atmospheres. But in training alone (and constantly in the sunny, warm Southern California weather) I became better at pushing my body in workouts and,  at the same time, listening carefully when I needed to back off. This allowed for an entire year of uninterrupted and well structured training, thanks to my coach, the legendary Ron Burgundy, I mean Ron Warhurst. 

The 2013 indoor season went really well and reaffirmed all of the hard work I put in through the fall. The positive race results led to more and more confidence in my fitness level. Being healthy, strong and happy allowed me to race well from February through the end of September. The smattering of personal bests (1,500m, mile, road mile, 3,000m, indoor 3,000m, indoor 2-mile, 5,000m, road 5,000m) you mentioned didn't hurt the motivation to get out there and lace up the spikes either.

DtB:  It was a long season last year, going from indoor track to the European circuit.  Was that by design or part of the plan?
WL: The length of my season was most definitely NOT by design. It was more of an evolving race schedule. So long as I was racing well (there were a few hiccups along the way) the perspective from Coach Warhurst and my agent, Chris Layne at Total Sports US, was "Let's keep racing!" It was certainly wearing towards the end of the season but when you continue to run well and set personal beats, you might as well ride the train. After all, I train hard to race hard! 

DtB:  Aside from probably some increased confidence, what did you learn from last year?  What have you incorporated into this year’s plans from those lessons?

WL: One of the most important things I learned, possibly relearned/refined, was the importance of desire and mental strength when it comes to training and racing. The epiphany arose after the mile at the US Indoor Champs when I came from pretty far back, closing well over the final 400 meters. I was feeling pretty tired, having raced the 3,000 the night before (altitude greatly effects recovery) and was shocked at how hard the early pace felt. The race never really felt comfortable, but I knew I wouldn't be happy with a sub-par effort. It really took grinding it out through the middle laps to bring myself back in to contention and think I had a shot at winning.

I believe that each year of consistent training adds to an athletes foundation and overall strength. Ron and I took from last year, as we took from the year before, that I can handle a larger workload. So we increased my mileage a bit (I top out around 110 right now), increased some of the volume in my workouts (if I was doing 8-10 1K reps, now it's 10-12), but still think it is very important to keep and eye out for signs of over training/excessive fatigue and restructure accordingly. One of Ron's favorite slogans with coaching our group of professional athletes is "Flexibility within the Structure."

DtB:  You had a lot of variety.  Indoor track.  Road Miles. 5K on road and track.  Again was this by design or did these races just happen as things developed throughout the year?

WL:  I like racing. It's the reason I am still in this sport. Last year a lot of the races just happened. I was trying new things--primarily referring to the longer distances and roads--to see if I liked it. I did!  At the end of the day, as much as I love running, this is also my livelihood, and there is a lot of money to be won on the roads. 

DtB:  2014 is an open year in terms of major championships with the IAAF Indoor Champs being the only “major,” so the US indoors is likely to be the focus for a lot of athletes who want that international championship experience.  Your thoughts on defending your title or titles, the impact it being at altitude again on pre-race planning and how and what you run?

WL: I think you hit the nail on the head: Indoor World Champs is the only major competition of the year, and I hope to be there! My former training partner, and good friend, Lee Emmanuel, already blazed the trail to Sopot by winning the UK Champs last weekend. That gives me a lot of motivation. 

With the US Champs being in Albuquerque again, I have been preparing for the altitude by training in Flagstaff, AZ, (7,000ft elevations vs. 5,000ft in ABQ) since January 1. I am currently entered in both the 1,500m and 3,000m but will make the final decision next week as to whether or not I double or focus on a single event. 

DtB:  Do you plot out a season beforehand or just have some general goals and take the rest as it develops?

WL: I have tried before to strictly plan out a race season and it never goes to plan. There are certainly races I would like to run and others I would rather avoid. This outdoor season, more than some of the previous, I am hoping to race in some new places (Asia, the Caribbean).

DtB:  Aside from staying healthy and avoiding injury, do you have a set of things you’d like to accomplish this year?

WL:  This year I would really like to run a fast 5,000m. I'd also like to continue to drop my 1,500m PR as I think there is quite a bit more room for improvement there. Other than pure time oriented goals I am looking to race as much as possible and really enjoy this year! 

DtB:  The stache has become something of a brand of its own.  Still having fun with it or will there come a time to move on and branch out to other sartorial/fashion statements/symbols.

WL:  I am currently sporting a beard that has taken the better part of three months to grow. But to be honest, the mustache will make a comeback. You're right, it has become my calling card. And I'm fine with that. Strong mustaches run in my family, no pun intended, and I fully accept the responsibility of carrying on that tradition and wearing my 'stache' with pride.

DtB:  The sport puts a premium on being ready at the “right time,”  i.e. peaking or performing well in qualifying for events such as the Olympics and being ready once you get to World Championships or Olympic competition.  Your approach has been more of a one race at a time thing.  Go out and race and the times will come.  That can cause issues if you don’t get into fast races to get qualifying times for major championship events.  What are your thoughts on “peaking,”  making the big events the symbols of success?

WL:  Having missed out on two Olympic and three World Championships teams is definitely something that haunts my running career. However, if you omit the 2012 Trials, I have missed four teams by a combined total of 2.25 seconds. So as far as peaking for the US Championships goes, I think my coaches and I have done a very good job. We place the highest significance on the major Championship, with the plan always being to make the team. 

That being said, I think there is a lot more to the sport of professional track and field than simply racing at the "big events." I have had the honor of representing Team USA at one major championship - Indoor World Champs in 2010. But I have also had the pleasure of representing our country on a number of different occasions (Penn Relays, Chiba Ekiden, DecaNations) throughout the world.

Yes, the major championship is the primary goal of each season, but there are also many other factors by which an athlete's season can be judged.