Friday, October 04, 2013

The Pacers New Balance Team is Growing in Bounds and Leaps

Due to great word-of-mouth, the Pacers-New Balance team has expanded their roster greatly over the summer with a great number of talented runners with the potential to make PNB the best elite running team in the greater D.C. area. 

We're pleased to announce new additions Sue Jin Ahn (Duke University), James Kostelnik (Duke University), Matt Kroetch (Oakton/Virginia Tech), Eddie Judge (Virginia Tech), Kieran Lee (Virginia Tech), Chris Wailzer (Virginia Tech), Daniel Day (La Salle), Rich Harris (UMass), Jarrett Van Tine, and John Schroeder (Dartmouth). Due to the summer rush, we (the nickname bestowing committee) haven't had time to come up with any nicknames but stay tuned because we're coming up with some doozies to premiere on this site. 

With the team's added depth, Pacers New Balance is thrilled to have two teams competing in the Army 10-Miler October 20th in Arlington. Both teams will be coed and they will be divided into an A and B team. the team will also have an extra bout of confidence as PNB boasts defending champion Kerri Gallagher won the women's race last year in a time of 56:09.. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Coach Sweeney's Corner: Drug Testing

Tyson Gay's B sample has not yet released so I can't say with absolute certainty if he cheated. His official stance is that he put his trust in someone, but here's the thing: As a grown adult, how many times have you ever been handed a pill or got cream massaged into you that you have no idea what that is. I'm going to guess if you are a star on the stage of Tyson Gay or Asafa Powell, that the chances are less than zero that you're in that situation.

Aside from the 1980's when a lot of big names were caught cheating, a lot of people are viewing this as the darkest day in the sport and a negative thing. I see a flip side: The argument against track and field's integrity is that the dopers always win and that doesn't make sense anymore if these people are being caught. Gay and Powell are arguably two of the most successful and high-profile sprinters of all time and the sport isn't afraid to let them go at the expense of keeping the sport clean.

So with the testing the sport getting better with the biological passport, I think it's just a matter of time before the sport will be clean. Athletes like Lance Armstrong were able to get away with doping because they didn't test out of season, but now an athlete has to submit to a drug test any time of the year wherever they are.

To keep having  improvement in keeping the sport clean, there needs to be a steady stream of funding behind that cause. Part of the reason the dopers have often been one step ahead of the testers is that the funding hasn't always been there for USADA and WADA.

As for the next stage of performance enhancement, I think it might be gene manipulation because doping has traditionally followed scientific progress. The reason any of these performance enhancement drugs exist in the first place is because they were initially developed in the medical community. Similarly, the scientific community is looking at ways to manipulate genes. Now when athletes tap into that, that could be a losing battle. How do you test within someone's DNA?

In the meantime, the sport is in a good place as long as it keeps striving to ensure that all its athletes are clean. The price of a few fallen heroes is a small price to pay for the integrity of everyone who crosses the finish line.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kerri Gallagher Press Page

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Pacer's very own Kerri Gallagher recently finished 5th at the US National Championships in the 1500 meter run and she's in the press everywhere.

The Fordham graduate got some coverage from her alma mater:

She also got covered in Run Washington:

The New York Daily News caught onto the Kerri Gallagher craze a full year ago. Here is there wonderful article:

An exclusive unpublished article on Matt Centrowicz Sr. and Jr.

Blog co-manager Orrin Konheim wrote this article on the Centrowicz family a couple years ago when Matt Centrowicz Jr. broke out on the world stage with a bronze medal at the 2011 World Championships for a publication that has now folded. With exclusive permission from the original publisher, the article is reprinted here. The Pacers Running Team is proud to call Matt Centrowicz Sr. its coach and Matt Centrowicz Jr. is a good friend of the team. Since this article was published Matt Jr. has made two more U.S. teams and placed fourth in the 2012 Olympics:

After capping off one of the best years a college junior has ever had in the world of distance running, Arlington resident Matt Centrowitz Jr. shrugs off the expectations as he returns for his senior season with the University of Oregon’s cross-country and track program.

"I just wanted to take it one race at a time," said Centrowitz Jr.

After winning the NCAA championship in the 1500, Matt Centrowitz Jr. upset Olympic medalist and racing icon Bernard Lagat to win the national title in the event and qualify for the world championships in Daegu, South Korea where he became the first American-born miler to medal since 1987.

"When he qualified for the final, I originally thought we'd be very happy if he finished in the top 3 [at the national championships]," said father Matt Centrowitz Sr. "But that's the thing about when you're a young runner. You can explode literally overnight."

His father, Matt Centrowitz Sr., knows a little bit about competing in the Olympics as well. In the 1970’s, he was a two-time Olympian and former American record holder at the event. For one of those American records, he bested storied running legend Steve Prefontaine (the subject of two Hollywood movies) to reset the mark in the 5K.

Matt Sr. is currently devoted to coaching in his 17th year as coach of American University. In addition, he is in his 5th year as coach of the Pacer's Running Team in Clarendon where his presence has helped turn Pacers into a prime destination for post-collegiate athletes looking to take their running to a professional level.

More importantly, Matt Sr. is a cheerleader and supporter for his two kids as son and daughter Lauren (an All-American runner at Stanford University) have grown in their running careers. He flew out and watched his kids at the NCAA championships and the national championships although he was unable to make it to South Korea to see his son compete.

"Once his son got to Korea, he wasn't sleeping at night," recalls American University Assistant Coach Bridget Bower.

Although he concedes nervousness during the race, Matt Sr. added that he didn't have too much time to process the results because for the first couple of weeks, he was busy giving interviews on his son's victory.

"It was only when he got back and we had time to talk," said Matt Sr.

While Matt Jr. credits the elder Matt for being a big inspiration, both father and son concede that Matt Jr. gets his coaching from his collegiate coach.

"I guide him as a father. Things off the track," said Matt Sr. "He already has a coach so I don’t interfere with that. There can only be one chef."

Ironically, the dad didn’t push his son into running at all.

"He did a lot of reverse psychology," said Matt Jr. "He told me running was too tough and that kept me hungry."

Matt Jr.’s success is not just a victory for the Centrowitz clan but for American runners in general. When Matt Sr. competed in 1976 in the metric mile (1500 meters), only two of the top ten milers in the world were from Africa. Since then, the rest of the world has been playing catch-up in the distance events to runners from Africa and the Middle East.

When describing his son’s race, he remarked that it was nice to not watch the American fade out at the finish line for once.

"I think as Americans we can all be happy with that," he said.

"There are a lot of messages of people saying how proud they are of me representing them," said Matt Jr. "[It’s] overwhelming a little bit, but I wouldn’t want it any other way."

In addition to being the home of Matt Centrowitz’s Pacers Running Team, Pacer’s Walking and Running Store caters to runners of all levels with generous coaching advice, biweekly fun runs, and race sponsorships.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Running Roundtable I: Mid-Race Fatigue

In this new installment to our blog, we ask a number of Pacers runners independently answer a crucial question about running. This week's question:
What do you do when you're in the middle of a long race and you're tiring?

Mike Crozier: I think the most important thing about mid-race fatigue is to stay relaxed and break it up into smaller pieces.  Like if you're in a 10K race and you go out in 9-flat for the first two miles when your pace was supposed to be 9:10, you can't fix that in the next mile, so you have to take a relaxed approach and slowly get back into pace while maintaining a good cadence and a good breathing rhythm.

Dustin Sweeney: If you're not getting tired in the middle of a long race then you're not running right. It's just a matter of focusing and keeping rhythm. Race awareness is also important; knowing where you are and how to attack the remainder of the race.  The neuromuscular system is one of the first parts of your body to fatigue, this will cause your form to break down.  This is often the first cue of fatigue, knowing this and keeping your form together will help override fatigue.

Steve Hallinan: I think of all the training I put in and give positive self-talk to reinforce it. The idea in a race is that you're tired so just kind of work through that. I'm also kind of reliving workouts in my mind and that gives me a little confidence.

Samia Akbar: Try to stay relaxed and not tighten up. I think the tendency is to say I feel terrible and mentally you fall apart. You can play little games to try to stay on pace. You can look at your watch a little more and break things down by goals. Do whatever you can to take the focus off how tired you might be or how tight you might feel. Make it more about the race and being competitive as opposed to how you're feeling in the moment.

Tripp Southerland: If it's a 5K, I'm not going to pay attention to fatigue. I'm going to run as fast as I can no matter what. If it's a marathon, I'm gonna slow down to preserve energy for the entire distance. Mentally, I just try to make it to the next mile marker. I trick myself into thinking that the finish line is the next marker whether that mile marker is 21 or 22. So basically, my mental strategy is to make it one more mile regardless of whether the finish is there.

Frank DeVar: I pretty much force myself to relax and I say make it to the next mile mark.
The big thing is not to panic and slow down a lot. When you slow down a lot and adjust your pace too much, it's difficult to get that turnover back. Typically a feeling of mid-race fatigue so bad that you just want quit the race only happens if you take it out too quickly, and then you get into oxygen debt. So when that happens, there's not a lot you can do. The trick is you gotta have a good understanding of your body and knowing what it can handle early on.

Coach Sweeney's Corner on Breaking Out Post-Collegially

Nick Symmonds and Will Leer turned in great performances yet again in the USATF championships this past weekend and Matthew Elliott, a non-professional runner, finished fourth in the 1500. In the wake of these results, Pacers' coach Dustin Sweeney had some thoughts on how to break out post-collegiately when you're not of a high pedigree:

"Once you get a sponsor, you're put on the map and the Catch-22 is that you have to have early success to get on that track. You have to run well in high school to get the attention of a good college program which makes it easier to get the attention of a sponsor.

The thing is that as soon as you graduate college, your stock drops. Its either really high or very low. That's a problem because you have to run extraordinarily well to get a sponsor after college. And the tragedy is that a lot of kids in the middle will stop running.

But what it boils down to as that people develop at different ages. Nick Symmonds, Will Leer, and some of our runners show that you can achieve great success later in life without that pedigree. Look at the guy who finished fourth, Matthew Elliott. He's just a school teacher who had a 4:42 mile in high school.

The thing is that running is the oldest sport in the world and in some cases the simplest. The athletes  with the best sponsorships are pampered with fancy equipment like underwater treadmills, and great athletes give up running because they think they need that level of support to succeed at the professional level, but  you don't necessarily need that to be a great runner."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Women's USATF 1500m Championship

Race Recap from Kerri Gallagher

The whole USATF Championships was an unbelievable experience.  I was considerably more nervous for the first round than the second round, interestingly enough.  Coming into the USA Championships, I knew if I could make the final I would be very happy with myself and satisfied with the progress I made this year.  I think I was more nervous for the first round than the final! 

Characteristically, my heat went out slow.  We were pretty packed through the 800 mark. After that, the race really started moving.  I stayed in the back until about 600 meters to go.  I knew if I wasn't in position to move at the bell, it wasn't likely I was going make it to the final.  Through 1200 meters I was able to move up and I found myself in 5th coming into the last straightaway.  I thought my time alone could earn me a qualifying spot in the final, but I wasn't about to take any chances.  I put my head down, dug deep and picked off two women in the last 100m to grab the last automatic qualifying spot in my heat!

The final was a completely different race. Knowing that absolutely anything could happen, my plan was to just stay as relaxed as possible through the last 600 meters. It wasn't too hard to stay relaxed as the race went out in 84 seconds for the first lap and came through 800 meters in 2:40.  It honestly felt like we were jogging.  I knew it was going to be a heck of a last lap.  With 600 meters to go people started shuffling and I ended up in the back on the inside (not a good spot) and I heard Coach Centrowitz yelling at me to get to the outside NOW.  I knew he meant it.  

Just before the bell lap, I dropped back and swung VERY wide.  At that point, the real race started and I went with them.  It was all or nothing!  I passed a number of women on the back straight away and came into the final stretch in 5th.  It was incredible!  (Editor’s Note: Kerri closed her last lap 59 seconds)

I am so thankful to Pacers and New Balance for this opportunity and proud to be a Pacer!!  Looking forward to the next one!

Photos Courtesy of - Michael Scott Running Photos

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Coach Profile - Dustin Sweeney

Meet Dustin Sweeney

Name:  Dustin S Sweeney
Place of birth:  Winchester, VA; Reared in Berryville, VA
Year of birth:  1983
HS:  Clarke County HS
College:  Shenandoah U

Coaching Credentials:  USATF Level II
Coaching Mentors:  Lydiard, Vigil
Coaching Background:  Clarke County HS, James Madison University, George Washington University, Pacers NB

Dustin's Story / Coaching Background:

Berryville, Virginia is a sleepy town nestled in the northern neck of the Shenandoah Valley.  It was once known for it's vast acres of apple orchards.  It was then, for a short period of time, known for running.  The apple orchards were uprooted to make room for corn and soy beans.  Much the same, running, has been pushed aside.

I dressed in the locker room by myself; tights, long sleeve, hat, gloves.  Laced up the Asics 2040 and I was out the door.  I was fourteen and indoor track wasn't in my vocabulary.  It didn't exist in Berryville.  The only thing that existed were miles of gravel roads, back roads that meander around cattle and horse farms, the Shenandoah River and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I ran solo almost every day.  

I was preparing myself for the upcoming baseball season.

Spring came and I made the JV baseball team.  My coach came up to me two weeks into practice, took me aside and told me something that I never forgot, and something that has been a theme throughout my life.  He said "when I was in high school I played in four sports, I was very good at all of them, but I wasn't great in any of them.  You have a chance to do something and be great at it..."  Maybe he was just telling me I was a lousy baseball player.  Once you start a season in a sport, you're not eligible to switch sports -- they made an exception in my case.  I finished the year all-state in the 3200.  

I was then possessed.  I grabbed "How to Train" by Hal Higdon, I flipped through and found a chapter written by John Davies.  Davies was coached by Arthur Lydiard.  My life changed that summer.  I ran my first 100 mile week, and it was easy.  As the youngest of three, you always struggle to define yourself.  I was a runner, and this is what I will do for the rest of my life.  

Four years later, I was back coaching at Clarke County.  I was eighteen years old when they hired me.  I would be coaching some athletes that were older than me.  I would be coaching athletes that had more facial hair than me.  I would be coaching athletes that didn't like me.  To have a winning team, you first must develop the correct culture, this is impossible to do without pissing people off.  It's a tough row to hoe, and it can take years to develop.  

It took me two.  

My girls and boys finished third at the Virginia State Meet in 2003.  Parents, friends, other coaches were all elated for me, the athletes and our program.  I was happy, but strangely not satisfied.  I understood that the culture had changed when I looked around and noticed my athletes were not satisfied either.  They weren't breaking bats over their knees, but they were hungry.

Again, everything changed that winter.

The following Monday we were still running.  Of course, some athletes had down time, but I was still there, and people ran.  Where six years ago I was the lone runner, I now had a crew of boys and girls ready and willing to see just how fast they can push their bodies.  CCHS agreed to start an indoor track and I was having the best time of my life.

We went on to win the following three Boys and Girls State Cross Country Championships, equaling Pat Henner's record at Blacksburg HS.  In 2004 we also had both individual state champions and team champions, equaling Ron Helmer's record at Virginia HS.  I was in esteemed company, and I was 21 years old.  Our teams would win eight of ten cross country titles, as well as several outdoor track titles.  Berryville was now a running town.  

I left Clarke Country to pursue the NCAA. This is my dream job.  I quickly learned that the NCAA is not designed to promote athletic excellence.  I can post about that later.  

I learned much from Dave Rinker and Bill Walton while I was at James Madison University.  Coach Rinker allowed me to take the reins of the middle distance program after less than a month on board.  This was my chance!  There was a steep learning curve and I was still developing as a coach.  My girls went to place fourth at the ECAC 4x800, running the second fastest time ever at JMU.  

I moved on to George Washington University and eventually landed with Pacers.  I'm forever grateful for the experiences I had in the NCAA, but in my endless pursuit of excellence, I understand where my talent lies and that's with developing post collegiate athletes.

I started coaching my self and my good friend, Charles, when I was 15; I'm now 30  I've been coaching an incredible 15 years.  I was insatiably driven in my younger years; getting up at 4:30 am, working off caffeine and dreams.  

I have found a great niche and incredible opportunity in the DC area.  DC was once an (elite) running town, and it soon will be again.  

Coaching post collegiate athletes is what I was meant to do and that inspires me every day when I get up.  Meaning in life is incredibly hard for some to find.  I found it when I was fourteen, logging miles in the apple orchards.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Runner Profile - Paul Thistle

Meet Paul Thistle

Born: Abington, PA July 2, 1987

High School: Wissahickon High School, Ambler PA

College: Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove PA


1500m - 3:53
Mile - 4:13
3000m - 8:30
5000m - 14:25
3000m Steeplechase- 9:02

Favorite Local Trails: Rock Creek

Paul's Story

Growing up I played many sports and didn't consider running until I got to  junior high school. I started with track and field and eventually got involved with cross country once I attended high school.  I experienced success and positive reinforcement so I decided to pursue both sports throughout my college years. I attended a small liberal arts institution in central PA and started to improve my times and developed a stronger desire to get faster. 

After graduation I moved to Pittsburgh but continued to train under my college coach Marty Owens. After my first year out of college  I got married and moved to Tanzania with my wife where I had a year of just easy running and no race or competition expectations.  Upon returning from Tanzania I reconnected with Marty and started training with the intention to improve times but long-term goals set on qualifying for USATF Championships in the 3,000 meter steeplechase. 

I relocated to D.C. in April and found an opportunity to work for Pacers and train with a team. I decided to join and Marty was very supportive and encouraged me to pursue the chance to work with American University coach Matt Centrowitz. 

I am excited about  the chance to work with coach Centrowitz and improve my times on the track and venture into some road races here in D.C. as a member of the NB Pacers racing team.

Friday, May 03, 2013

All Gold Everything

Penn Relays 5000m - A Race Recap From Frank DeVar

"I want what every man wants, more."

Going into racing season this year, it would be honest to say that Penn Relays was the main race I was looking forward too. The past two years I was injured well before I could even give the race a chance, so it became somewhat of a desperate mission to make it to the starting line. For all intents and purposes, my body is obsolete. Injuries plague me constantly. Every week I tell myself and my coach, “if I make it through today, I’ll make it.”

We left for the race at 4pm on a Thursday. Tripp drove, with Dustin in the backseat. It was our first road trip together. Tripp followed his instincts, and we made it the stadium around 8:00pm.

On the way up, coach Sweeney wanted to talk strategy and said if the pace was slow to take over. He went on to say that I might be passed in the last few laps but I could still kick and win. There was something about this progression that seemed ill advised, foolish, but he rarely leads me astray so I politely listened and said it was an option. For music, Tripp put on 80’s pop and Trinidad James. He knows how to ease the nerves.

"Gold all in my chain
Gold all in my ring
Gold all in my watch
Don’t believe jus’ watch"
-Trinidad James

At the starting line, I stood next to my teammate Chris Kwiatkowski, and Ryan Witters from Georgetown Running Company. The number one seed had flown in from Flagstaff so I figured he must be in good shape.  Some daffy kid led the first few laps and kept asking for help. I wanted to talk to him afterwards and tell him that it is not a team sport, and no one will ever help him.

After five laps or so, Dustin starts yelling at me with true contempt. He says it’s too slow, and I need to do something about it. Never have I had a coach sound like this, nor have I ever followed directions from a coach in a race. This time was different, I scooted around the pack and dropped the pace down a few tics.  This went on for the next 5 or so laps. Leading is not great, the pace soon slowed down again. With around a K to go, Chris K ran along side me and then passes me. The flagstaff runner follows suit. With a lap to go, Dustin yells at me that I would win the race. He was right.

My last lap was in 58 seconds. I’ve never closed that fast. An official brought me over to present the Penn Relays watch and take pictures. My father was in the crowd. I talked to him. It was a wonderful experience. 

A few days later, this achievement has worn off, and I oddly feel little satisfaction.


15Frank DevarPacers New Balance14:03.36
21Adam VessRun Flagstaff14:04.85
32Chris KwiatkowskiPacers New Balance14:13.57
414Brent JohnsonTrooper's Track Club14:34.94
517Scotty AlbaughMichigan14:34.94