Monday, October 7, 2019

My Intersection with Alberto Salazar

As most of you know I spent 12 years working at Road Runner Sports. During that time I was afforded the opportunity to build good relationships with many in the running and running shoe world. One of those relationships was with a running hero of mine, Alberto Salazar. The first time I met him he came to RRS for a Nike event with our very large sales staff. I was asked to give him a tour of our facility which was one of my favorite things to do. He was a regular customer of ours and it was fun to show him where his packages were put together. He bought some training/recovery things from us that Nike didn’t make or that he couldn’t buy in Portland.

Not long after that we took a trip to Portland to visit the Nike Campus. It was his time to give us a tour. We spent the day with Nike product team and either before or after dinner we drove out to the Altitude house. By this time Alberto was starting to have some success coaching runners. Through was is today the NOP (Nike Oregon Project) he bought a house. He had each bedroom in the house set a different altitudes. He prescribed for his athletes which altitude they should be sleeping in. The idea was the well known method of sleep high, train low. An athlete slept anywhere from 5,000 feet elevation to 10,000 feet elevation. These were not altitude tents these were completely sealed rooms.

As we walked into the kitchen we saw a runner running on a treadmill that was submerged in the pool in the back yard. Alberto walked us out and introduced us to Galen Rupp who was I believe a Junior in High School at the time. Galen was dealing with an injury and was just coming back to running. The treadmill in the pool took the pounding away. Galen was running 12 miles that night. After his run we spent a good while talking to Galen in the kitchen.

These three stories tell us quite a bit of what we are hearing today. The purchases from RRS were for his athletes to help them recover from the training. The altitude house was created because the competition was living in Eldoret, Kenya situated at 5,000 feet above sea level. The treadmill in the pool was the precursor to the treadmills today that suspend you so that maybe you are running with only 50% of your body weight at foot impact. Alberto from day 1 was constantly looking for that edge that let his runners recover better so they could push harder during training. It’s fairly simple to understand.

There is a story from today where one of the doping agencies is quoted saying “no coach in our history has ever called us so much to make sure he was doing things legally”. That very fine edge of just being on the right side of the doping line. At some point during all of this according to the recent ban, Albert crossed the line and went from the right side to the wrong side. It’s a really sad tale for the sport of running. It’s a story we’ve seen too much. Some success breeds the need for more success. The IAAF (Track and Field) and the UCI (Cycling)  are full of these stories.

This is not over. The fall out of this one event this past week will go on for years. Mo Farah and Galen Rupp went 1-2 in the Olympic 10,000 in London. They were training partners working with Alberto. This week at the World Championships Sifan Hassan set the track on fire. On day one she won the 10,000 covering the last 1500 meters in under 4 minutes. To put that into perspective only 9 women this year had run the 1500 in under 4 minutes. Then this past Saturday after two qualifying rounds of the 1500 Hassan pulled 8 runners under 4 minutes. She won the 1500 in an astonishing 3:51.95. The 10,000/1500 double is unthinkable. The two races are completely different disciplines and then there are the qualifying rounds of the 1500 to deal with. That’s 4 races in less than a week. On the surface we should celebrate the greatness but Hassan is part of the NOP. There is a forever could over her double this week.

This is just another reason to respect performance but not worship. I met my running hero only to be disappointed. I once road bikes and had dinner with Lance. At the time he was a brash, gifted athlete on his first continental cycling team. He was just a guy. Many in the world hero worshiped him and look how that ended.

Big Weekend
I wrote my wife’s training program on a single sheet of paper. She signed up for the Marine Corps 50K which takes place at the end of October as part of the Marine Corps Marathon. In August she burned her foot really badly while she was off volunteering in Lebanon. She had to take a great deal of time off running. Her only request was to have at least one run that was 4 hours. She wanted the confidence. I built her plan to load up running on the weekends. Last weekend she had a 1 hour run on Friday, a 1 1/2 hour run on Saturday and 4 Hours on Sunday. She killed it. She ran 22 miles on Sunday in that 4 hours. She’s still nervous about making the cut off. Oh the coach-athlete relationship.

It’s a good life.....

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