Saturday, February 22, 2014

I've been busy gosh

 I Eamonn Coghlan talks Deadspin into covering track.  This is what I do in my other life....

How I Broke The Indoor Mile Record: An Interview With A "Freak"

How I Broke The Indoor Mile Record: An Interview With A "Freak"
Eamonn Coghlan is not too sensitive about the fact that today's twentysomethings were infants when he ran a mile in 3 minutes 49 seconds and 78 hundredths on a 10-lap track—which is to say, a world record—and he doesn't mind that they don't know who he is or what he's done. That's OK. He's pretty diplomatic, now—a work-related hazard of his gig as an Irish senator.
Coghlan, 61 and trim, was one of a string of Irish middle-distance rockets who came out of Villanova (1976). Post-collegiately, he hit the then-vigorous circuit of U.S. track races, tearing around skate park-like banked affairs that, in the 1970s and '80s, were built of plywood.
Here's something you should know about tracks: The smaller the track, the slower the times, because turns slow a runner's pace. A 10-lap-to-a-mile track will cost an elite runner six or seven seconds over an eight-lap oval, the standard indoor size now. Four-lap-to-a-mile outdoor tracks are faster still, so outdoor records are nearly always faster than those set on an indoor track.
Here's something you should know about Coghlan: He's a freak. His indoor times, some run on a dizzying 11-lap bathtub, are faster than his outdoor times. He owned the indoor wood in the glory days of that element, ergo his lifetime appointment as "Chairman of the Boards."
Cut to the present, in which runnerkind Galen Rupp is toppling track records left and right. Trained by the Nike Oregon Project's Alberto Salazar, Rupp set the American indoor record at 5K (13:01.26) and two miles (8:07.41) within a span of nine days earlier this year. Which is pretty good. But what has track fans' underpants in a wad is that, not only did he reportedly train through these races, but minutes after the record-setting efforts, Rupp skipped over to a practice track and laid down a workout of five times a mile in 4:21, 4:20, 4:20, 4:16, and the last, a you're-not-in-Kansas-anymore 4:01. This, at a time when the other competitors were sitting on the toilet with quivering legs. And now the Rupp-Salazar duo is making noise about breaking the indoor mile world record of 3:48.45, currently owned by Hicham El Guerrouj.
How I Broke The Indoor Mile Record: An Interview With A "Freak"
So I emailed Coghlan to see what his training was like prior to his record-setting mile in 1983, and whether it included a post-race workout a la Rupp. His email response was: "I'd never consider doing something stupid like 5 x mile, last one in 4:01, after a race unless I had some extra octane up my.... you know what!"
Later, I spoke with the Chairman of the Boards via phone.
It's unusual that your indoor times are faster than your outdoor times. Why is that?
I had consistent success indoors, so I pursued times, and records. Outdoors, my focus was on winning rather than time.
And why do you think you had such success on indoor tracks? Wait, how tall are you?
I used to be 5-foot-10.
I'd heard that smaller runners had an easier time getting around the turns indoors.
I don't know about that but from the very first day as a freshman at Villanova when we assembled the 11-lap track, there was something about it I loved—the smell of it, the echo, the bounce. I loved that feeling I got back from the wood. I would lean very low around the turn and let my momentum catapult me into the straight.
Who was your coach?
Gerry Farnan. He was my coach from the time I was 12 years old in Ireland, then after Villanova he commenced coaching me again.
Tell me about the build-up to your world-record performance, February 27, 1983.
I was out the whole of 1982 with injury, to the point that Gerry thought perhaps my career was over. If I ran over 100 miles a week, I was inviting injury. After eight months, I got radiation therapy and it got rid of the Achilles problem, so I started back up at no more than 80 miles per week. When I'd had 20 weeks of consistent training with no injury, I had the confidence to go for the indoor mile world record. Ran a few road races—5Ks, 10Ks—in November and December to build stamina. I did a long run on Sunday of 15 to 20 miles. In December and January, I trained five to six miles every morning. Tuesday afternoon was six times 1,200 meters in 3:03 with five-minute rest. Thursday was 20 times 400 meters in 59 seconds each with one-minute rest. Eventually that was reduced 10 times 400 in 55 seconds with 2 minutes rest.
Was this training common? Were other runners doing this?
Oh yeah, everybody was doing it. Each runner tailored it to his personal preference but at the end of the day, it wasn't much different.
Hmmm, I wonder why your result was different?
I was a bit of a freak I guess.
I'm starting the rumor you were juiced.
Yeah, juiced on Budweiser [laughing].
OK, continue.
So I started the indoor season [January 1983] and was very fit, running very well. I set the world record, 3:52.6, in San Diego, then lowered it to 3:50.6 and was disappointed because I hadn't broken 3:50—that was a big barrier. Anyway, I call up my dad and invite him to come to the U.S. to watch me run in New York in February, which he did. Two days later, my dad passed away [from a heart attack], and I flew back to Ireland with his body. Within the past year, the three people who inspired me the most—Gerry Farnan, my coach at Villanova, Jumbo Elliott, and my father—had all passed away. I became driven to break 3:50 in the mile, I was going to do it to honor them.
I went back to New York, ran a mile in Madison Square Garden on Friday night, 3:57, and won it. The U.S. Olympic Invitational was scheduled for Sunday afternoon at Meadowlands. That was a 10-lap track—I helped design it.
So you raced Friday night and again Sunday afternoon?
Oh yeah, it was common to run Friday night in San Diego and Saturday night in another city. Not 15 minutes or an hour apart, but 24 hours apart—yeah, it was common enough. So Friday night after the race at Madison Square Garden, I locked myself away in a hotel, away from my family. I wanted to focus. I wrote the splits I wanted to hit and put them in my shoe.
You put a piece of paper in your shoe?
No, no, I wrote them on the insole of the shoe. I know, sounds stupid but that's the kind of superstition I had. Another thing I did: I look at myself in the mirror and say, "You sucker, you better not come back here not having broken that record. Go do it." And I'd leave the room.
Ross Donohue, a teammate of mine at NYAC, was the rabbit. I got right in behind him and just kept repeating my mantra: relax, relax, relax. I went through the half in 1:56 and thought, If these suckers are going to beat me, they're going to have to work for it. I didn't hear the ¾ split, I just kicked my ass off. I knew there was someone on my tail because the crowd was going crazy. I was not taking anything for granted, ran as fast as I bloody well could. I knew in my heart and soul I got the record, even though the announcer was yelling, "It's unofficial." It was the first sub-3:50 mile in history, in the last race of the season. I was so excited and delighted, as they say in Ireland, that the cool down didn't happen.
It was 14 years before Hicham El Guerrouj broke your record—why do you think it took so long?
El Guerrouj ran 3:48 on an eight-lap track, Mondo surface. Eight laps to a mile is an awful lot faster than 10. I was probably just a freak—I loved the tight turns of the 10-lap track, like a Ferrari racing car. If I had run on an 8-lap track, who knows what I could have done.
What do you mean by, you wouldn't try Galen Rupp's post-race workout regimen "without some extra octane up your …"?
Jesus, I don't even know Galen Rupp—I'm removed from the inner sanctum of track now—but I don't think for one minute he's doing something illegal. But why in god's name would you do five times a mile after a race? How would anyone have the strength to do that? I just question the sanity of it. The race is the race, the warm down is the warm down. After a race, I was getting ready for next hard workout. Sometimes that would be the next day, but certainly not minutes or an hour afterward. The thinking back then was to save your best for the race: When you complete your mission, you save yourself for the next hard workout.
Would you have gotten injured doing such an intense workout right after a race?
I would. Jeez, you've just put your body through, what, 13:01 for 5,000 meters—why put it through any more? I'd be afraid of breaking down.
But athletes are more pampered now, and by that I mean they have incredible facilities with underwater treadmills and AlterG's, the food they eat, ice baths, massages. Everything for training and recovery is available to them, and they're thinking about it 24 hours a day, maximizing their support mechanism in everything they do. Our post-race meal was beer. Back then, we had a blasé approach to what you did in between workouts and races. Of course, I never ran 13:01 for 5K. The thinking is different now. Athletes and coaches see the race as part A and the post-race workout as part B, and that their support facilities will help them recover.
Galen Rupp is talking about breaking the indoor mile world record—what are your thoughts on that?
I think the indoor mile record should fall. It's soft. It was set in 1997. In the context of times people are running now, it's a golden opportunity for the likes of Galen Rupp or someone else. I mean, El Guerrouj holds both the indoor and outdoor mile [3:43] records. If El G could do it ... of course, they're testing more now. You can read between the lines on that.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

the off-duty model hat

And I'm back.  Miss me?  Paying work got in the way but that's all over, and now I'm writing shit that no sane person would pay to read again -- yay!
This woman got up in the morning and,  knowingly or unknowingly,  put on every street style blogger magnet ever invented such that the pull reached all the way over to the smelly depths of my St. Paul burrow, grabbed me by the waffle knit old man long underwear and compelled me with all due haste to NE Minneapolis. 
Or else it was GH2's Why The Hell Did You Pay Full Price Two Months Ago Sucker 90% Off Sale.
At any rate, let's review:
  • droopy snood-like (where were you in 72?) hat that you could also put a big box of CheezIts in
  • Clark Kent glasses
  • and their handmaiden that gives them super powers, a young and beautiful face without excess skin that flops when you turn your head
  • cell membrane earrings
  • scarf she got when she did the semester in Spain. Or the mall.
  • and under the scarf, if you squint your eyeballs real hard, a big chain (of lakes, ha) that is allowing us some nifty irony of scale
  • her boyfriend's lace skirt
  • her mom's Sorels
Add that up, and you got a tractor beam power of 147, well above the 23 that is necessary to make my arm jerk with camera on the end of it and my mouth to form many sentences with no brain connection whatsoever.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

here's a guy in a grey wool sweater

Tail out! Brilliant! But before you go being a great big copycat, know that you're going to have to drive deep into outback Wisconsin to get that sweater. 

Hhhhhukay, I'm all done here.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

pelts aplenty

I did not get the memo about fur at this shindig but was saved from a great big faux pas, once again, by my squirrel-inspired mullet.  So I got by, but these two -- positively killing it in the savage department.  I came up behind Emma Berg, right, who is actually sort of left-leaning, Twin Cities Designer Extraordinaire and person of interest, and let her sniff my hand before I petted.  That's genuine Mongolian goat (not to be confused with Mongolian lamb in the previous post) that she wrestled and constructed single-handedly with a regular old sewing machine. Instead of the bone needle and cat gut thread she's accustomed to. She reported the coat is hella warm but that she's had some strange cravings for cans and other high-fiber foods lately.  I didn't ask so let's go ahead and assume she also made the hat (genuine Schnauzer) and boots (real expensive).  I'll tell you what I did ask Emma in a moment, but first...

The woman on the left, who is not leaning at all, did not stalk and kill a snow leopard, nor field dress the carcass and drag it back to camp, nor stretch the hide on wooden pegs for six months, nor pin it together during construction with porcupine quills. So I paid her no mind.

Emma's usually involved in some venture that transcends mere global peace and understanding, and now is no exception.
Working with ten young women who are members of the Twin Cities' Boys & Girls Clubs, Emma is designing prom dresses.  The associates will model their gowns in a runway show and thereafter, at their prom and wherever they feel like it.  Because they will own a bit o couture, like Daphne Guinness.  That's Emma's mission here -- to involve women who would not normally experience the haute-y world of couture.  So these young women might think,  Damn, I can literally make my dreams come true.  Also,  Who is Daphne Guinness?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Siberia -- ok if you're not a walrus

Watching things like trees and Hondas spontaneously shatter has grown tiresome, so we popped out to the Weisman Art Museum's reindeer games marking the opening of their Siberian photo exhibit. Big score for experiential art.  Right off, we ran into Uchhrskuk and Bob wearing white after Labor Day.  Oh man, embarrassing, right?  Wrong, it's Mongolian lamb with a dope Cheap Trick-inspired blowout.  A virtual petting zoo of pelts, snacks that did not include beaver pate or fermented reindeer milk, and wonderfully atmospheric photos contributed to an evening in which I could combine the words fun, gulag and no parts of the walrus were wasted in the same sentence. And mean it.  Really appreciated the mirror juxtaposition of photos of everyday life in Siberia and northerly reaches of the United States -- same light-hearted fun (field dressing dead animals), same soothing empty horizons and charmingly rustic homesteads, each standing alone in its own time zone.  As a Scrabble player though, I was angered by the plethora of words using K in this exhibit that were ineligible for play because they were proper nouns. 
Uchhrskuk, aka the Weisman's brilliant director, picked up the marvelous headgear on one of her many trips to Kamchatka.  I think it's worn ceremonially during the moose mating season, and at other times to signify the wearer is married but would consider sharing reindeer snout with the right applicant.
There is no animal fur on these boots so they are totally useless. Thus, from Turkey.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Waiting for the bus. And spring. Now is the time for all Big Boots to be deployed.