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NEW YORK ROAD RUNNERS MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 19, 2011
DREA BRAXMEIER: We have Kara, Alberto and Mary Wittenberg here, so we'll go ahead and, Kara, if you want to open up, or Mary if you want to open up with a statement.
MARY WITTENBERG: Thanks, hello, Kara, Alberto, and thanks everybody for joining us. This is one of those press calls we very much look forward to. In New York City we love comeback stories. We especially love when the comeback is a return to racing after being away for such a really wonderful reason.
So we get to celebrate Kara's return, and get to congratulate her in person on the streets of New York on the birth of her and Adam's son, Colt.
We've been a platform for some great comebacks, and some super runs by new moms along the way, so we -- especially most notably, Kara's friend and competitor, Paula Radcliffe.
So, Kara, we're really excited to welcome you back, and we appreciate the chance to be part of your build-up to Boston and look forward to welcoming the whole family to New York.
DREA BRAXMEIER: We have Kara, Alberto and Mary. So we'll go down the list. If we can get a comment from Kara.
KARA GOUCHER: I'm really excited to come to New York in March. I've missed racing, and I've missed -- I'm definitely not ready to come run the Melrose Games (No Audio), so this is a great opportunity to come back to the place I love to race in. It really is the perfect race to finally do my final preparations for Boston, and I just couldn't be more excited to be coming back to New York.
DREA BRAXMEIER: Thanks, Kara. We have Mary, Alberto, and Kara all available for questions.
Q. Kara, could you talk about your recent race in Arizona, and how you're feeling about it?
KARA GOUCHER: Yeah, the race a couple days ago, you know, I wasn't really ready to run super fast. To be quite honest, I had probably the most stressful week of my life leading up to it. So I wasn't sure if I was going to make it there to be honest.
I did get there, and my son is fine, and everyone's doing great. But I was very, very fatigued going in. So it really just became just a dress rehearsal of things to come and sort of run through all my preparations and to practice getting back into racing since it's been so long.
This is really what it was, and it was good. I got a lot out of it. I didn't feel good necessarily in the race. I didn't feel horrible either. I just felt like I had what I had that day, but I got a lot from the race. I think it's going to carry my fitness along, but more importantly it really helped me prepare and remember what it's like to race, and how do travel with Colt and all those sorts of things.
Q. How much was he on your mind while you were racing?
KARA GOUCHER: He was on my mind. I remember at about the sixth mile mark all of the adrenaline -- I had just been going on adrenaline for the whole week. It was like Colt's getting a CT-scan, Colt's having surgery, Colt's in the hospital.
It was just like constant adrenaline. Then I was at the expo, then I was at the starting line. Then about six miles into the race the adrenaline was like gone from my body. It just felt like oh, my gosh, I'm so exhausted and I still have seven miles to run in this race.
At that point, I kind of thought about him and I thought, you know, it took me 2 hours and 25 minutes to push Colt out, I can certainly manage this for half that time. Just thinking about him and he was healthy. I just thought take advantage of this opportunity and get through it.
But really when I'm racing and really focused on racing, or running, I'm really able to focus on running and racing, but I think he entered my mind a few times obviously; and I race with a little necklace that has his thumbprint, so he's always close to me.
But really, when I'm focused on running, I can focus on running.
Q. As of now, what are your goals for Boston?
KARA GOUCHER: What are my goals for Boston?
KARA GOUCHER: I'm confident. I know that a 74-minute half marathon doesn't necessarily scream future Boston Marathon champion, but the strength is there, and now it's about fine tuning and doing the speed. There have been a lot of other factors. Until a week and a half ago I was still nursing, so there have been a lot of other things going on as well.
My goal is to get to the Boston Marathon and be ready to compete for the win, and that hasn't wavered at all. I still feel I'll be ready on April 18th.
MARY WITTENBERG: I think you need to write a book after this, because a 16-week return already, and now going that strong into Boston, I hope you guys are taking good notes along the way. Just an editorial comment.
ALBERTO SALAZAR: I hope none of my other athletes are about to have kids in the next year. You never know.
Q. What went into choosing Boston as your return marathon? It's not the easiest course in the world, even though it's one you've run before. But how did it fit into the schedule you had going forward?
KARA GOUCHER: Well, really, I need to be totally honest, it was an easy decision for me. Because of the placement of the trials, the marathon trials, I'm not able to do a fall marathon. So it was really do a spring marathon or not really do one. Then for spring marathon it's Boston or London, and I love my experience at Boston so much, it was just the greatest rung experience, so I just had to get back there. It really wasn't a very difficult decision.
Q. You talked about this a little bit, but can you just talk a little more about why you decided to run in the New York City half this year and how you think that's going to set you for Boston?
KARA GOUCHER: Yeah, well, I knew that the New York City -- I knew about it, that the half was run around the same time last year, I believe. It just seemed like a great run up for a spring marathon. I was just looking over half marathons, and it just really stood out.
I knew that New York would get a lot of really great competition. So there were maybe a couple of other half marathons here and there, but New York would bring in a fantastic field, and that's what I needed a month out. I needed to really be pushed and run against the best women in the world.
I love racing in New York, period. I love it. New York is where I discovered I love the marathon and fell in love with the marathon, so it was really a no-brainer between the competition and going back to New York. It was just the perfect choice.
Q. I wonder what you think is the, long-term, when you're completely fit, does having taken the time off and going through child birth, does that affect you in any way as far as running faster or is it any hindrance when you run a year from now, let's say, in the Olympics or whatever, does having gone through that layoff and child birth have any effect on your ability?
KARA GOUCHER: Honestly, I think it will be a benefit. I think it's hard for me to step away from racing. I really missed it. But it sort of recharged my batteries. And even though I trained that whole time, it wasn't as intense anymore. But I really feel like it kind of recharged me and refreshed me.
On a personal note, I was sort of able to reconnect with why I started running in the first place, because I did travel around to a lot of races and stuff. I think that time off, even though I was pregnant and I ran through it, it gave me sort of a rest; and I think in a year from now I'll be, by far, in the greatest shape I've been in my life. I think having taken that time is going to end up being a great benefit.
Q. I think there was a quote you had where you were thinking in the Arizona race going out at five 40s and then trying to speed up and that part didn't happen. Is it possible to attribute all of that to the fatigue or does Alberto have a sense that maybe there was another element missing that needs to be addressed?
KARA GOUCHER: I'll answer first, and then Alberto can. I really feel I don't like to make excuses. But that week was so stressful. I barely slept. It was just things were changing all the time. I wasn't ready to go run 71 minutes, I wasn't ready to do that.
But I think to say that maybe you I could have picked up more time over the second half of the course, I think maybe -- I feel pretty confident that would have happened had I not had the week I had.
Alberto, you can answer that.
ALBERTO SALAZAR: Absolutely. Kara, about two or three weeks before she did a ten-mile tempo run and handled it very comfortably. And averaged just under 5:40 per mile, and ran her last mile, I believe in the high 5:20s. And looked really good and felt really easy. At least that's what she told me.
She looked very good, and that was three weeks before. And all the other speed work she had done by then led me to believe that she'd be able to easily handle a half marathon at that pace and pick it up.
But then with what happened during the week, I told her just two or three days before that I just wanted her to go out conservative. I told her she'd be exhausted by race day.
The adrenaline and all the excitement of Colt being sick and in the hospital, that was all keeping her going. The euphoria of him being okay.
I told her by the time you line up for that race and all that excitement is going to have worn down and you are just going to be wiped out, and that's exactly what happened, sort of mental stress.
So I predicted 74 minutes for her. She was at 74:02 or 74:04. I said, if you run faster, great, but this is what a good estimate is, and I think you can handle it. But it's going to be harder than before because of last week. So she ran exactly where I thought she would. So I was pleased with that.
Q. And you're convinced that this is the timetable for getting her ready for Boston doesn't need to be changed very much at all?
ALBERTO SALAZAR: No, Kara's about six weeks into high mileage. She's averaged close to a hundred miles a week for the last six weeks. In this last week she only cut down to 85 for this race, and she wasn't even going to cut down that much. But just because she was in the hospital all the time. She just couldn't get all her mileage in.
But basically any time you take a break, even a month or so on, and you start back on a hard training program, it usually takes four to five, six weeks before you kind of get over the hump of starting to train hard again.
So for Kara to have done six weeks at 100 already, it's a great base that she's laying down there. By the time Boston comes, she'll have had I think I calculated 18 weeks at over a hundred miles a week. She's never even had six or seven weeks over 100 prior to a marathon.
So I really feel her base is well on its way to being established better than it ever has. Now it's just a matter of her getting over the hump, which she's going to start doing now in terms of her body adapting to the training program. Her getting over, to be frank, her hormonal status and going back to normal now. And all the female hormones that are happening in nursing just disrupts everything. Now that she's stopped nursing, she's going to get back to normal there.
The third thing is the speed work is going to continue to pick up. And the speed work, and the things that she'd done. She'd only done repeat miles and other shorter intervals at 5:20 pace. And if that's all she's doing those at, there is no way she's going to run 5:a20 pace for a full half marathon, everything back-to-back. So the speed work always dictates how fast you can run to some extent.
I couldn't increase her mileage to 100 miles a week and bring her speed work up from nothing all in that same short period. So the first six weeks is based on getting the mileage under her belt, and we've done that. Now we can start attacking the speed work and being more aggressive there while maintaining the mileage.
Q. Last week was obviously a week that you wouldn't want to repeat, although things ended well, and it sounds like Colt's healthy. Have there been any other milestones along the way in your return from day one? When did you start running again and how did it feel? Has there been any other sort of hurdles to get over during that period?
KARA GOUCHER: Yeah, I started running exactly a week after he was born. My mom was visiting, and I said I was going to go out for a walk, but I put on my running clothes because I knew in the back of my head I was going to try to go run. So that's when I first started running.
But the first couple of weeks I was just so tired. Colt didn't know what day or night was at that point. I didn't know anything about babies at that point, so I was just totally overwhelmed.
So the first couple of weeks that I was running were just surviving, kind of. I don't even remember anymore. I'd have to look in my log book, but maybe when he was five weeks old or so I started to get into a routine of training in the morning and getting back and lifting weights. A couple weeks after that maybe I started implementing afternoon runs.
But I'd really have to say around December is when I started hitting my stride and I got more on a routine of pass Colt off to someone, run, lift, come home, and then run again in the afternoon. It took at least 10 or 11 weeks before I was able to handle all of that. I don't know if that helps.
Q. Biomechanically, did you have an adjustment?
KARA GOUCHER: Honestly, I feel really lucky in that sense that the comeback, that part of it has been fine that first week when I was running I felt really low to the ground and I was barely picking my legs up. But I didn't have any hip issues. I didn't have any soreness.
I know a lot of women feel really weird after they've had a baby, and I just feel really lucky in that sense because I didn't. I felt totally normal pretty much from the beginning. It was just really about handling all the fatigue.
Q. Can you talk a little about what you're looking to gauge when you do come to New York, run the half, and is there anything particular that there would be a telltale sign that you're on for Boston?
KARA GOUCHER: Yeah, I think when I go to New York, it's all about competing against the women there. If I'm up to the front and I'm challenging everybody are there, I know a month from then I'll be ready to go.
So for me, New York is about not a time in particular, not a certain time that I have to run, but that I'm in there and competing. All the way to the end I'm competing. As long as that happens, then I'm ready.
Q. Alberto, what was the most encouraging thing you saw in Kara's performance this past weekend?
ALBERTO SALAZAR: I would say she went out and did what she had to do despite feeling really crummy. She basically ran the time I thought she could run, yet was a lot worse off of how she felt that day because of the week before. It was encouraging to me that psychologically she's still very strong and able to push herself. She realizes that not going to be easy. She's got to fight for every minute. It's going to come quickly, but it's going to be hard.
I'm glad she didn't just say, oh, well. What's it matter? I'm not going to win this race. I might as well just jog or run 65 or 66. I was proud and happy that she pushed herself and maintained. I'm not sure, she might have been picking it up. But basically was able to maintain the whole way.
Sometimes that's hard when you know you're two minutes behind someone. There is not really any glory there. It would have been easy to slack off and say it doesn't matter at this point, I'll just coast in. But she didn't. That shows me she's very serious. She knows she has to psychologically get everything she can out of herself in every race as she gets ready for Boston.
Q. A follow-up on the New York City Half Marathon. Alberto, you said you had predicted and planned 74 for Phoenix. I was wondering if you had any idea where Kara might be for New York. Also whether it's going to be sort of a run through on the way to Boston or if there will be a major taper or if this is just part of the build-up for Boston? I know it's politically difficult to answer one way or the other on this conference call, but is it going to be a big goal race with a big taper or sort of going through towards Boston?
ALBERTO SALAZAR: Well, it's both. It's always a fine line. I need her to run well there to confirm that the training is going well and so forth. So you can't completely taper for it, if you're keeping the bigger goal in mind.
But you, at the same time, you can't just train through it completely and then say, well, 72 minutes, but she ran 110 miles this week. That's okay. I don't believe in doing that. It's like you're grasping at straws here. It's trying to have a relationship of figuring out where she is. The goal will be for her to run faster there.
Let's say Kara's run, you look at her race in Newcastle a few years ago where she ran 66 something. But if you convert it, it was about a 67 minute half marathon, and she ran 68 minutes in Chicago by herself. Let's say 67:30, to 68 is where she's at if she's 100% and tapered and ready. I would say even training through that she'd probably be within a minute of that.
So I would look for her to be somewhere in the 69:30 range. No slower than 70 minutes in New York because that would be five weeks before Boston. Then you would figure then when you start to taper, if she was to run a half marathon instead of the Boston Marathon, she probably would be down to that 67 to 68 minute range.
No, we're not going to just -- it it's a very important race. I don't believe in going to races for athletes just to go and get a paycheck and run slow, because I think you end up not getting anything out of it in terms of really knowing where you're at and getting confidence.
Q. On a different topic, I know you were talking with Paula Radcliffe a lot during and comparing your pregnancy during your pregnancy. Paula's had one round of recovering from, or I don't know if that's the right word, but coming back from child birth. Have you been comparing notes and talking with her much since Colt was born?
KARA GOUCHER: Yeah, we have actually talked quite a bit. She actually traveled to Albuquerque on Sunday. So now we're finally in the same time zone, and we're actually talking this afternoon. So I'm sure we'll talk a lot more now that it's easier to chat. But we've definitely kept in touch throughout this whole thing.
Q. Has she given you any tips or ideas on what you could or should be doing?
KARA GOUCHER: Yeah, she's taking a little different approach. She's taking it a little bit shorter. She claim she's only run 13 miles once. So she can't believe I went out and attempted to race it. I don't know, I think she might be just being a little bit nice.
But it's been nice to talk to her. It's someone that understands what I'm going through more than anyone else that I know. She understands the feeling of wanting to be back, but caring about your family more than running. She's just been a great resource, and a person that's really encouraged me to push those limits and not to be afraid and not worry that what I had before is gone. To know that what I had is going to come back and to keep at it.
Q. The story that came out of Arizona, Kara, kind of emphasized your disappointment that you weren't as competitive as you wanted to be. But it also showed that you were right on plan according to your coach. So a few days after you've had to let everything sink in, do you feel a lot more confident now that you achieved what you needed to and coach has a great plan? He's going to get you to Boston like he did through New York as a smashing success?
KARA GOUCHER: Yeah, I'm confident in what I'm doing. I have all the confidence in Alberto in the world. That's why our relationship works. I haven't wavered on our plan. I have complete confidence. I'm just a really competitive person. I did what I needed to do, and I got exactly what I needed out of it, and it's going to help me a lot. But I lost by 2 minutes. I don't like it.
That doesn't change. I believe in what I'm doing. You I know I'm doing all the right stuff, but I hate to lose.
Q. Are you in Albuquerque now, and are you going to be there for a while?
KARA GOUCHER: No, I'm in Portland right now. Alberto and I haven't decided. I might go to Albuquerque in March, but we haven't decided yet.
Q. Do you and Alberto have a fall back plan for 2012 that might involve the track if for some reason you don't make the Olympic team in the marathon? Would you consider running on the track later?
KARA GOUCHER: Yeah, I mean, my heart is in the marathon. I feel like that's my best shot to make an impact. But if for some reason things went wrong in January, there is absolutely plenty of time to turn around for the track. But right now I'm not even thinking about that, because my heart is really just all in the marathon.
Q. You talked about being ready to dive into some speed work with Kara. Can you go into detail, practices, on what sort of plan you have in mind?
ALBERTO SALAZAR: My theory in training athletes is that obviously you go and do certain benchmark workouts that show you that the athlete is in the condition that you want them to be in before a race. So those workouts can range anywhere from 200 meter repeats up to 20-mile tempo runs.
For Kara, for instance, I would like her -- she has done 7 to 8 times a mile before in the low 4:50s. Right now she could probably run that in maybe 5:10.
So the goal will be gradually, over the next 13 weeks, to get those mile repeats down to the low 4:50s. 800 meter repeats she might do a bunch of them in the 2:30 right now. The goal would be to get them down to the low 2:20s where she normally would be.
Her 200 meter repeats right now, she's at 34 seconds, but normally those are at 31. So it's a gradual. It's kind of like million she can do 200s in 31, she won't be able to do 800s in 2:20, which is doing four consecutive 200s at 35.
Until she can do those 800s at 2:20, she won't be able to come through the half mile or the mile repeat at 2:25 and continue going for another half mile.
So it's kind of like you have all these different ingredients in the mix. You've got to constantly be working because each one affects the ability to do the others. So gradually the idea is to bring the athlete down in time.
So by the time she gets to Boston, we're looking back and saying you know what, Kara, you've run 18 weeks at 110 miles a week, the most you've ever done. Your mile repeats are the fastest you've ever done. You did eight of them in 4:49.
Your 200s, which aren't as important other than helping you to do the mile repeats, those got down to 30 or 31, whatever. Those I really won't look at too much in terms of necessarily running as fast.
But 800s, her mile repeats are faster. Maybe her tempo runs have gone really well. Long runs we're doing more long runs than we ever have before. Wanted to look back. I think she's done four or five 18 to 20-mile runs, which is the most she ever did in an eight-week period before the marathon. She's already done that, and we're still 13 or 14 weeks out.
So I want to look back and say you've got 10, 20-mile runs in this period. And her long, tempo runs. We've got four 15 to 18-mile tempo runs at 5:25 pace. So basically want to look at everything and see you know, she's done better on all your intervals. You're as fast as you've ever been, maybe a little faster, but the most important part is you're doing it on much higher mileage than you ever have.
To me that is the key. In the past I've dropped the ball of Kara because I'm always so scared of injuring athletes because I don't want to get caught up in the miles. It's always been run to workouts. But now I've realized over the last year that we need to get the mileage in and the workouts.
So with Kara, we're getting her mileage up. She's doing a lot of extra stuff. We're using a HydroWorx underwater treadmill, so she's going to get in an extra 20 miles a week running on that.
So if she's running 100, 110 outside, and doing another 20 on the HydroWorx, it's going to be the equivalent of 130 miles a week, which will be significantly higher than anything she's ever done. But theoretically she'll be healthy because there is no pounding on the underwater run.
So that is the basic plan. Nothing fancy. Just a lot of hard work and convincing yourself by matching things that you've done before that you're as fast as you've ever been, and you're stronger than you've ever been because you're doing more work, more volume. Most importantly, you're healthy.
Q. Kara, do you have any comment on that plan?
KARA GOUCHER: It's just hard work. That is the plan that we've had the whole time is to really push the volume this time around and to really focus on running 110 miles a week consistently and not only doing that, but adding the underwater treadmill running, and really becoming that athlete that has all that volume.
In the past, for New York, I think I had maybe four or five weeks at 100. Then for Boston we had eight. So it's like really just becoming tougher.
The bottom line is it's just more work. There is nothing glamorous about it or fun about it. It's just putting in the work. We've discussed this, Alberto and I have discussed it and I've agreed to it, and that's the plan.
Q. I was sent a bunch of photos from Arizona that showed you glowingly and patiently signing autographs before the race, and then participating in a Q & A with Ian Brooks and all of that. And I realize that had to come a very short amount of time after you had this ordeal with your son. But it just showed you obviously play this public role as a running celebrity well, and then go there to running the race itself. There is an obvious mental strength that is evidenced by all of that. Can you talk about the source of that, and if that is something that came sort of naturally to you as soon as you were sort of thrust into this role?
KARA GOUCHER: Yeah, I mean, I really enjoy connecting with the everyday runner. Normally I wouldn't do it the day before the race. Normally the day before the race I'd have my feet up and be in bed and napping and watching TV and just chilling out. But because of the way the week went, that ended up being Saturday that I did all of that sort of stuff.
It's strange for me still that someone wants my autograph and wants to hear me talk about my life. It's strange, but it's very -- like everyone's so friendly and so nice. So they make it easy on me. I do these Q & A's and meet all these people, and everyone is just so nice and encouraging. It makes it very relaxed and easy.
But I do have that voice in my head sometimes that's like, I don't know why people want my autograph or want to listen to me talk about whatever it is I'm talking about; but everyone is always so gracious, it makes it easier.
Q. Alberto, can you talk about Galen's Melrose plans and why that race fits well into the overall scheme for him?
ALBERTO SALAZAR: Briefly, since we are talking about Kara. I think it's a great ambience, the Melrose Games. He realizes it isn't a real super fast track. But I've told him stories about the Melrose Games from 30 years ago, and people smoking cigars back then and being filled with smoke and running on this tiny little track. He's run on it a couple times.
Yeah, he's excited to go in there and compete on that track and that environment, and that's it. He'll run a couple weeks later in Europe in a 5K. A couple of 5Ks. It's a good warm-up race for him.
Q. Maybe putting the cart before the horse, Kara, but you must have an overall plan for getting to the trials and on to the Olympics. Do you have any plans to run on the track and particularly to try to make the World Championship team in a track event this summer?
KARA GOUCHER: Yeah, absolutely. I love racing. I love racing track. As much as I love the marathon, I still really enjoy racing on the track. I absolutely hope to be on the 10K team this summer.
It's a pretty quick turn around from Boston to the U.S. Championship. So for me it's more about just making that team. We have such a great distance run in the U.S. right now with the 5K and 10Ks. So making the team will be a big challenge.
But that's where I see myself going for it in the 10K and try to sort of get back and run some good track races this summer.
Q. Can you tell me what was the issue in the hospital with Colt last week?
KARA GOUCHER: Yeah, he had started to have a large mass on his face. We had taken him to a specialist the Friday before who told us it looked to him like some sort of a tumor. So we had a CT-scan scheduled, and went to the hospital Tuesday morning for the CT-scan and they came out and told us he had to be operated on immediately.
Fortunately, in the long run, it was better. It ended up being a staph infection in his lymph node which was awful and scary, but they were able to drain it. Then he had to stay two nights in the hospital because he had to be given antibiotics through an IV for a couple of days, and they didn't want him exposed to anything else for a while.
But in the end, it ended up being the best of the worst, because had he had a tumor, we'd still be dealing with this that. Instead he's perfectly healthy and doing great. So it ended up being a random staph infection in his lymph node. No idea how it happened, but he's doing amazing, and he's totally recovered.
MARY WITTENBERG: Kara, it's an intense schedule, you're doing so much and you're doing so great. We welcome you to New York. For everybody on the phone, the New York City Half began five years ago, and our aspiration was to have a 50,000 person race; and it's clearly -- we are on track with 35,000 people applied to run this year. The sad thing is, our course as it is right now, which is limited to just under 10,000 runners.
So we'll run this course again this year, but we are working actively with the City of New York to be able to capitalize on the tremendous demand to run this race and continue to have very high expectations of it this year and going forward.
With the likes of Kara running, it always elevates the interest in the event. So we're looking forward to this year, and already planning on 2012. We'll start announcing other athletes soon, so stay tuned. Thanks, Alberto, and Kara and the media for joining us.
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