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."