As of 2014 our family will be officially going through some big changes as Alan makes the transition from runner to triathlete. News broke earlier this week on Alan’s “retirement”. It’s a different retirement than most professional runners go through since he’s actually going to be training more and likely will be continuing to run in races regularly.
Not by choice he is no longer with Nike and realistically will no longer be looking to make any World Championships or Olympics on the track. Since 2007, it has been a bumpy road with so many twists, turns and setbacks that has left Alan unable to recover to his full strength he once had. Witnessing someone continue to exert the same drive and discipline in his training day in, and day out without success has been tough. One disappointment after another and failure to fulfill his potential with his talent has not been for lack of effort. It is unsustainable to continue fighting especially from a psychological standpoint. At this point it makes no sense to keep driving the nail into the ground to leave him bitter. Its been a great run and Alan is very grateful for the success he has had.
Since summer, my coach Jon Marcus, has taken over the role as coach for Alan as well. Jon knew what Alan did when he was training under Alberto, he knew what he did with Vigilante and he knows what Alan did with Jerry. Not only that, but being a best friend to Alan, he knows the guy. And he was the first and only person to shoot down the idea of triathlon when Alan mentioned it this summer. Jon knows the lack of consistency to stick with one training plan has been a big reason for the lack of results and the last thing he wanted to see was Alan jumping ship again first sign of failure.
What makes some guys the best is they find what works for them and stick to that plan. Bernard Lagat may be 39 years old, but he has got the “what works for Bernard Lagat plan down”. Even with Scott Raczko, Alan had his best years, but there was still a lack of consistency in their training plans which resulted in rollercoaster results. Jon was not initially supportive in this change to triathlon because he has seen the amount of changes Alan has gone through the past 5 years. He did not want this to be another cop out of trying something (Jerry) for less than a year; giving up because it failed to work right away. With another year past followed by a 13:37 5000m on the track, 7th place at the Turkey Trot in sub 14 and a dismal 32nd place at Clubs after chasing after the win; it’s confirmation that its time to pursue his next dream.
With all these changes, we can’t go back. Were there mistakes made? Yes. Stupid decisions. Definitely. What’s done is done and the only thing we have is now and the future. Could Alan possibly keep plugging along getting the formula right to train and maybe run 3:53 in the mile or 13:15 for 5K? Possibly. Would anyone really care? Likely not since it would be a shadow of what he once did when he ran 3:46 and was part of America’s hope for distance running. Could he make another world team and be in contention for a medal? Doubtful. He’s not delusional and knows the level of competition has stepped up big time since he first turned professional in the early 2000s. Would Alan really have the mentality and belief in himself after all that has happened to make the sacrifices knowing the chances for a full comeback are so slim? Probably not. The heavy burden of constantly falling short of your goals takes a big toll and carries over. Winning is a habit and so consequently, losing becomes a habit. Once you lose your momentum, it is very hard to bring it back when your confidence is down.
So.. no more lamenting the past, the start of a new career is just around the corner. In March he will step on the line to compete in his first olympic distance triathlon. The US could use more talent. In the 2012 Olympics, with 3 open spots, only 2 men represented the US including 37 year old veteran Hunter Kemper in his 4th Olympic appearance. The US men have never won a medal after its first appearance in the Olympic games in Sydney (2000).
Currently one of the of the best female triathletes Gwen Jorgensen was once a standout runner which has brought her weapon of speed on the road to become a threat to the world scene. High school sub-4 minute miler Lukas Verzbicas, decided to make the switch to triathlon after only a season of collegiate running. He didn’t get to show his full potential yet after suffering in a bike accident which threatened his ability to even walk in 2011.
Lukas is healthy now, and it was funny that 2 of the 5 people to ever break 4 in high school are now on the same path. This past October, on a trip to watch a San Diego triathlon, Alan was in a pool workout with the kid he had once handed over the Gatorade recipient award to less than 5 years ago. Jesse Thomas, “Mr. Lauren Fleshman”, a former standout steepler at Stanford has made his second career triathlon but also had to overcome recent injury of a broken neck from a bike crash.
Sean Jefferson, another successful runner turned triathlete made history when he and his brother John became the first set of twins to ever break 4:00 in the mile in the same race. Soon all these boys will meet again.
There’s big competition but big hope. The 2012 Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee from Great Britain raced in the 10,000m at Stanford to run 28:32 this past spring. Not discounting the strength of these guys in the water and bike. It is just exciting to know Alan has a chance. The thought of racing this sport brings him excitement.
As a successful swimmer, he could have been pretty good if he would not have started running. He was definitely built for middle distance running over swimming, because my wingspan dominates his by maybe 3 inches and we are only an inch apart in height. During his freshman year in high school and last competitive season in the pool (while also competing in cross country and track), he came fairly close to qualifying for U.S. Junior Nationals in multiple events. See times below.
Swim times from his last big competition – 1998 Potomac Valley Champs meet– (qualifying times in red) *many are PRs
100 Breast – 1:00.79 (59.49)
200 Breast – 2:12.09 (2:09.79)
200 IM – 2:00.1 (1:56.29)
400 IM – 4:11.99 (4:08.09)
500 Free – 4:47.00 (4:39.59)
1650 Free – 16:44.4 (16:13.69)
All in 3 days, he had no problem doing 9 races (including prelims and finals).
Since the summer, Alan has began to make swimming a vital part of his weekly routine and has seen big jumps in improvement from these last 6 months. The bike – another question. In high school he worked in a bike shop and started riding occasionally. This past fall he finally replaced his 13 year old bike (Thanks to Athlete’s Lounge in Portland). The first few weeks, he got a flat tire almost every single ride. No joke, I got the phone call to pick him up just about every time he was out there. After hearing about all these triathletes getting in bike accidents, I’m excited that he minimized some of his chance with the decision to get rollers. This just means another quality memory for Joanie of Alan wearing his altitude mask while he sweats intensely for hours with the windows open throughout the winter.
Throughout his entire career the question has popped up “What if Alan did triathlon”. I always wished there were 2 of him, because I know he can be awesome combining the 3 sports. Alan is only doing this because I fully support him. He knows the toll it takes on the family to train endless hours each day and felt guilt after things have not been going as well as he had planned. There’s no way I’d dissuade him to stop pursuing his Olympic dreams. I can’t wait to see what he can do.