Shalane Flanagan, Dathan Ritzenhein teleconference excerpts
USA Track & Field on Wednesday hosted a teleconference with two of America's finest cross country runners, 2004 U.S. women's 4 km cross country champion Shalane Flanagan and 2003 NCAA men's cross country champion Dathan Ritzenhein. Both will compete at the 2005 USA Cross Country Championships & World Cross Country Championships Team Trials, February 12-13 in Vancouver, Wash. Flanagan will compete in the women's 4 km race, while Ritzenhein will compete in the men's 12 km championship. An audio replay is also available.
Q: How has your training been going of late?
A: My training has been going well this past month. Prior to that I had some up and down weeks of training with a little bit of cross training, but I was still able to run some mileage. I'm feeling fairly fit. I've been working hard and I'm just going to put myself in position to regain my title and be competitive and just make the team.
Q: Have you been able to train in this last month as you have in previous seasons?
A: I haven't been able to train quite as hard. I've not trained as hard this month because I still want to be able to race fairly well at our trials. I've been taking it easier and hoping that my strength from these past eight years of running with no interruption from injury can carry me through to hopefully still do well at the actual meet. After this race I'll probably step up my training a little bit and get into the harder stuff that I'm accustomed to before the actual World Championships.
Q: Could you talk about any recent injuries that have hampered your training?
A: This fall I ran into some tendonitis in my foot. I do have kind of weaker feet, so I'm trying to strengthen them, but at the same time let it heal enough. I did see multiple doctors this fall to try to resolve this problem as quickly as possible, but it is lingering a little bit and it still gives me some problems on certain days, especially when I workout pretty hard for at least over 2 1/2 miles. It's not completely gone so I really have to be careful and make sure I take care of it after the race. My training has still been good and my mileage has still been where it's at, it's just the intensity of the intervals that is just not there. We'll see how it goes and hopefully it won't give me too many problems this weekend. I hope it goes away and I can start training as I normally do.
Q: What are you looking to accomplish this year?
A: Starting with cross, obviously I want to make the team again and I hope to better my 14th place last year (at World Cross Country Championships) and be in the top ten, which would be great. But given some of my minor setbacks I don't know what I'll be able to do until after this race this coming weekend, then I'll be able to measure more where I'm at. Towards the outdoor season, I really haven't sat down and picked out specific meets quite yet. I do know I will run Pre and a couple U.S. races, probably a couple 1500s to get some speed in. I'll run the 5K at U.S. Championships and hopefully qualify for the World Championships as well, and then get some more experience on the international scene and go over to Europe for a while.
Q: Do you feel it's important for you to get under the 15-minute barrier in the 5,000 meters in the near future?
A: Oh definitely. I know that 15:05 won't really get you that far. It might be good for the U.S., but I need to improve on my PR and get below 15 to really make any kind of impact, or even be competitive in some of those races. So my training will be geared towards getting some faster turnover and focusing on getting that time down to be competitive in international races.
Q: How ready are you to win this weekend in Vancouver?
A: I'm going in as ready as I can go. I'm running on a different level now than what I have before in the past. I'm doing some things differently since I got back from Europe after a great couple weeks over there. After I got back here I put in four weeks of good training. Going into this I'm ready for anything.
Q: Since returning from Europe have you been training in Colorado?
A: I've been in Boulder since I've been back and it's been abnormally nice here. We had about two weeks of 60s and 70s (temperatures) with hardly any snow, so it's been like I've been in Arizona the last couple weeks. It's been perfect.
Q: What have you been doing differently in your training that has paid off for you?
A: I've done some supplemental things that I wasn't doing before. I've been doing a lot of short sprints, some drills and some general strengthening things that are specific to running. I've been running a lot of hill sprints and a lot of drills. The direction of my workouts has been a little different. They've been a little bit faster and I've been doing longer workouts. There are days when I'm on the track for eight miles, but none of it has been under 10K race pace.
Q: Are you doing any specific hill workouts?
A: The difference from my workouts in the past is that I would just do normal, steady runs on hilly terrain. Now I'm trying to stay flat in that aspect, but I've been doing more hill repeats, which I hadn't done since high school. So I have been doing that but it's not specific to just cross country, it's a general strengthening thing for track as well.
Q: What are your goals for the year?
A: Right now I'm really looking forward to the cross country championships, both U.S. and Worlds, because I think I can go into the World Championships and be right in the hunt with the rest of those guys. I'm planning to go in there and just fight it out. The first step is obviously making the team, and I'm gearing my cross country season towards that. After that I'll take a couple weeks of training up to the Stanford 10K and the Prefontaine Classic, and hopefully I'll hammer out a good season in Europe and maybe run four or five races and be ready to go for the World Championships in August.
Q: Your win in Belfast earlier this year surprised a lot of people. Did you expect to win that race?
A: The meet director there asked me afterwards if I expected to do that and I said 'yeah.' My training was at a different level than it was before when I left, and surprisingly things came back so quick from my injuries. I had left here knowing that I was really fit and in Belfast I wanted to use my strength. I was surprised that I just walked away with it, because in the end, in the last 1,000 meters or so, I just shut it down because I had such a big lead. I wasn't surprised at the win. I was surprised at the easiness of the win.