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Ryan Shay pre-Trials interview


Ryan Lamppa
Media Correspondent
USA Track & Field
(805) 696-6232

Editor's Note: Team USA California's Ryan Shay has packed a lot into his short post-collegiate running career. The 2002 Notre Dame graduate won USA titles in the marathon and half-marathon last year, grabbed the 2003 USA Running Circuit Grand Prix crown and earned on a spot on the USA's marathon squad at the World Championships in Paris last summer. Things haven't only gone smoothly for Shay as he endured some flat performances on the track last spring and DNF-ed in Paris. Nonetheless, 24-year-old Central Lake, Michigan native returns to Birmingham and the course where he won last year's national title brimming with confidence for next Saturday's U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.

Running USA's Charlie Mahler chatted with Shay recently to see how the rising star was looking at things prior to his first Olympic Trials.

Running USA wire's Charlie Mahler: So, the big day is about a week away, do you feel excited and ready?

Ryan Shay: I am definitely ready to go. I've put a lot into my training and did everything the best I know how in preparation for this race. I just hope it comes together on race day, and stays together for 26.2 miles.

MAHLER: So training has gone according to plan? No illnesses, injuries or other setbacks?

SHAY: Training has gone accordingly. No injuries to speak of. I'm still learning how to train properly for marathons and this has been my best marathon training phase yet. Training a lot on my own has also allowed me to settle down a bit on the tempo runs and intervals so I do not fatigue myself out.

MAHLER: Where have you been training for this event?

SHAY: For the months of October and November I was doing altitude training in Mammoth Lakes, California. Since December 1st, I've been training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista near San Diego.

MAHLER: You've shown a willingness to change things up - different training venues, training partners, high elevation and low elevation - how did you decide on how and where to train for the Trials?

SHAY: That's the easiest part of my training. I just ask Coach Vigil. I just ask him how I should train and where I should train. I have full confidence in his suggestions. Last summer he thought that Alamosa, Colorado would be the best place for me to train, and that Peter De La Cerda would be a good person for me to train with, so I went there to train. He was right too. I got in great shape going into the World Champs. Things just didn't go right during the race, but I was very fit.

MAHLER: How is Coach Vigil doing since his heart attack? What's his role with you now?

SHAY: Coach Vigil is going great since his heart attack. He took some much needed time off during the summer and fully recovered. He has more energy and gets the group more fired up than ever. Coach Vigil plays a crucial role in my training. He is the master fabricator of my training protocol and oversees all workouts while providing such words of motivation that only he can. Vigil helps me acknowledge the importance of balance, not only in my training, but also in life in general, in order for me to maximize my potential.

MAHLER: Which Team USA California folks have you been training with?

SHAY: While in Mammoth I was training with Deena Kastor, Matt Downin, Ibrahim Aden (not officially a Team USA CA runner), Abdi Abdirahman and Luke Watson (no longer a Team USA CA runner). While at the OTC I have done most training on my own while doing distance runs with Meb Keflezighi once or twice a week. Recently the group has grown to include Meb, Deena, Matt, Ibrahim and Eddy Hellebuyck.

MAHLER: Looking back on 2003, where you were the USA marathon and half-marathon champ and the USARC Grand Prix winner, do you think you had a great year or did some of the glitches along the way - on the track in the spring, the tough race at Worlds - color your year in your mind?

SHAY: I had a successful year in 2003. Many other runners would love to have accomplished what I have right out of college. I try not to dwell on the downfalls of the past. They happened, I learned from them, I moved on. I do know that I will not make the same mistakes twice.

MAHLER: So the Paris experience is something you can use at the Trials or, ultimately, at the Olympic Games?

SHAY: My experience in Paris is something I can use all my life, in everything I do. I learned a few very important lessons during that time. One is never assume you did everything right, always check and re-check the things you do. I'm not saying to second guess yourself, just make sure you are doing things the right way. Another thing I learned is that no matter how fit you are, no matter what type of training you've done, it all comes down to that one day and how good you feel throughout it.

MAHLER: You also have the experience of running the Birmingham course, how do you think that might help you?

SHAY: In having a good experience on the course, I will be able to have positive imagery while visualizing the race. The more positive feeling you have about a situation, the better off you are. I also know how I felt during different parts of the course. This will help me in knowing when to push the pace and when to relax.

MAHLER: Do you have a sense of how the Trials race is likely to unfold and how you plan to respond?

SHAY: I have no idea how the race will unfold. I just try to prepare for as many different scenarios as possible. I just plan on leaving no regrets on the roads.

MAHLER: Is your goal simply to make the team or is winning the Trials important to you?

SHAY: The way I look at it, on a decent day I should make the team. On a good day I'll win.

MAHLER: You're obviously confident about where your fitness is right now, is that based on workouts and your recent P.F. Chang's Rock & Roll Arizona Half-Marathon victory? Do you have some workouts that you do each build-up that tell you where you're at physically?

SHAY: I'm the most confident in my fitness as I have ever been. My workouts have been going great, some of the best I've ever had, and I've really put in some quality miles. I do have workouts that give me a good idea of where I'm at with my fitness. They include mile repeats, 5K repeats and 10-12 mile tempo runs. When I'm running those well, I know I'm fit.

MAHLER: Does tapering drive you a little nuts like it does for many runners? Are you doing anything special to keep your mind occupied these days? I know you're a reader, are you reading anything interesting?

SHAY: Tapering is a bit frustrating. During this time I try to get more sleep and just totally allow the batteries to recharge. I have just finished a pretty good book; well, entertaining at least; Bill O'Reilly's "Who's Looking Out For You?" With it being an election year, I thought I'd read something political...and logical.

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