© - Copyright - 2009 - Christopher Kelsall
Athletes who train by the Arthur Lydiard method most often perform well over a vast range of distances and enjoy long, prosperous running careers. The method has proven effective when applied properly, so much so that now Lydiard athletes come to expect the promise of versatility and longevity.
Twenty-two year old Lindsay Allen is in the early days of her post-collegiate career. She joined the elite world when she ran the 10th fastest steeple time in US history during her first full Lydiard cycle. She did this under the tutelage of Greg McMillan who operates McMillanElite in Flagstaff, Arizona. Observing the official Flotrack video of her racing a 5000m event at Stanford University, attaining a new personal best of 15:48, you’ll see why she ran that steeple in 9:40’83 - she has a good aerobic base evident by her fine form at that new performance level.
Lindsay wants to race well on the roads and track at various distances, just like the past Lydiard-trained legends like Rod Dixon and Lorraine Moller, both of whom she has met since joining McMillanElite - listening to the war stories and gaining a good understanding about training and balancing life while exhibiting the single-mindedness that is required while in the pursuit of becoming a world-class athlete. What better environment for an endurance athlete than in Flagstaff, perched at 6905 feet above sea level in northern Arizona?
In her blog Lindsay wrote:
"Man imposes his own limitations, don't set any"
“I've always lacked a certain confidence when I toe the line of a race. But it wasn’t until this year that I fully understand how this negative thinking hurt my performance.
While in college, I failed to live up to my own expectations, which propelled me to pursue post-collegiate running. I knew my body was capable of much more. While I'm often found to be my own worst enemy, those insecurities stemmed from many factors-doubts about my training, incompatible coaching styles, and the craziness of college life, just to name a few. And until now, I never had anyone telling me I could be great”.
McMillan: “Lindsay is exactly the athlete for whom our program was created. She was a stud in high school, but during college she simply lost her mojo. Over the last year, she got it back. She's back to being the confident athlete that she was when she was setting records in high school. With someone like her who is so incredibly talented, the goal is just to build her fitness across each year, provide her with ever increasing competitive opportunities, build her confidence, capitalize on her world-class work ethic and then get out of the way. I'm extremely honored to work with Lindsay and believe that if she just keeps putting in the training, week-after-week, year-after-year, she's going to be one of our next great US distance runners.”
Personal best times:
800m - 2:11.63
1500m - 4:21.91
Mile - 4:48
3000m - 9:14.42
3000m Steeplechase - 9:40.83
5000m - 15:48.97
5000m (road) - 16:24
8000m (road) - 29:21
Lindsay looks to improve her times at all distances. Below we talk about McMillanElite, Flagstaff and her future goals.
CK: Lindsay, I notice looking at your steeple and 3000m times, they dropped significantly in ’09. Knowing that running Lydiard method training (with Greg McMillan) is quite different than racing and trying to be peaked in college three times-per-year, did you have doubts about running higher mileage at first?
LA: I was fortunate enough to have met with Greg multiple times before I moved to Flagstaff, as well as see the success his athletes were already having. My former Stanford teammate Brett Gotcher graduated a year before me and I was able to witness some of his great track performances at Stanford and Cardinal Invite and see all the post-collegiate success he was having, which really gave me a lot of confidence in Greg’s Lydiard approach.
I was excited to, ‘get really, really fit’ knowing I could just click off the miles without having to worry about conference meets and or qualifying for NCAAs. I knew I could handle the miles and that my big weakness was strength and stamina, so Greg and I went full force into the fall, running 90 miles-a-week. I’ve never felt as fit as I did during that training period. I think all that base in the fall and winter is what made my outdoor track season such a success. I’m looking forward to bumping up to 100 miles-per-week this coming fall. With that training behind me, I’ll be able to enter the track season with confidence.
CK: What might a 90 or now 100 mile week look like?
LA: For my next training cycle, a typical week is leg speed on Monday, something like 10 laps of 100m on/100m off or some 1 minute fartleks. Tuesday is a recovery day of about 60-80 minutes of running. Wednesday is the primary workout of the week involving a 4-8 mile steady state run or 5 mile repeats. Then Thursday and Friday are recovery runs with a long run on Saturday of 14-16 miles. Sundays we run easy on our own and I run a second run 4-6 days-per-week to get in the extra miles.
CK: 1 minute on and 1 minute off sort of thing?
LA: Yeah, either 1 or 2 minutes off after a 1 minute interval.
CK’s note: When talking to Greg, he confirmed the fartlek and added that the minutes "on" are typically done at V02 max.”
CK: What pace are you running your recovery runs at? How about the pace of the Saturday long run?
LA: I take my recovery runs pretty seriously, I probably run anywhere between 7:45-8:15 pace, especially at altitude. It takes a lot for me to feel recovered in between workouts. As for long runs, I’m still at the point where the focus is time on my feet and not on the pace of the run. Greg usually reminds me to take them easy, it’s hard enough for me to run 2 hours right now, so I really don’t worry about pace. I’m sure as I move up in race distance the long runs will become more of a focus and I’ll begin to do fast finishes, as some of the second year athletes are doing.
CK: The other day, did you run the 28 miler with Paige Higgins up at 7500ft of elevation; or where you in for just part of it? And who said: “my body loves this s&%t, you or Paige?”
LA: [laughing]…I honestly wish I could say I accompanied Paige on her 28 miler! However, I only joined her for the last 75 minutes. I thought she’d be getting tired and would want some company for the last 10-11 miles, other than Greg’s wonderful encouragement and commenting on how easy it is to bike at that pace, I was also banking on her being tired…not the case! I met her at 7:30am and was hurting within the first minute. She had been averaging 7-minute miles and kept on trucking once I joined in. I only completed the 75 min at that pace out of sheer pride. It’s always a treat to run with her and Greg, especially when she’s feeling good. It was Paige who declared, ‘My body loves this s&%t!’ and that was about 20 miles deep. She is fit and so READY for World’s!!! I can’t wait to see her race.
CK: Your profile at the McMillanElite site indicates that you want to make sizeable improvements on your times from distances 800m to 5000m. Which of these distances do you feel you are best suited for with international competition?
LA: I’d definitely say the steeplechase. That’s where I’ve proven to be competitive within the US, so I’m hoping with a bit more improvement I can be competitive on the world scene. I also think you can’t be good at just one distance. I want to prove I can be competitive in both the 1500 and 5k as well. I’m hoping next season to drop my times again and race a few more 5ks.
CK: It seems that Lydiard type athletes have great versatility and longevity. For example, Lorraine Moller had a 28-year career and medalled internationally in the 1500m, cross-country and at the Barcelona Olympic Marathon. Rod Dixon, same thing, long career, medaled at 1500m, world cross and won the NYC Marathon in 1983 with his time of 2:08:59.
Perhaps this versatility comes from building a large base of steady mileage year-over-year.
LA: Yeah, that’s another thing that gives me so much confidence in our training program. When you get onto the team here, Greg not only talks about the upcoming season, but the 2012 Olympics and beyond. He’s in it for the long haul and understands the value of steady progression.
There are so many success stories amongst Lydiard athletes. A few of us on McMillanElite were lucky enough to have dinner with Rod Dixon and his wife last fall before a road race. It was great to hear about his days competing with some of the best people in the world! He had great tips on how to stay quick while running lots of miles and talked about all the drills and strides he did daily. That got our group really fired up to stay quick and reinforce our speed daily. He was also just a really cool guy and had some wild stories, which I’ll spare you the details on! I always love to hear about top tier athletes balancing running with fun and living life to its fullest. I think he had such a great career because he was so devoted to the sport, yet still enjoyed other aspects of life, which can prevent burn out and just make it a lot more fun.
CK: I also had the good fortune of meeting him and listening to his stories. He can light up a room. You know which quote he is famous for coining?
LA: I know he’s said, “All I want to do is drink beer and train like an animal.” That seems like a pretty accurate representation of him, from the stories he told. He did train like an animal and always made sure he was enjoying it.
CK: I think his legend grows every year. Not too long ago there was a story around about how Rod’s brother (and coach) drove along to meet him at 20 miles to bring him back, but locked the doors and drove away. That story was topped slightly about someone witnessing Rod (while on a long run) emerging from the forest chasing a wild boar with a rifle. He probably ran the pig into the ground!
Martin Fagan talks about the nightlife being soft in Flagstaff, but there is a ladies night, Wednesday I think he said. Do you get out much and who shows up, just a whole lot of gaunt people, who are good for two wobbly pops and a stagger home?
LA: Yeah, I’ve never been too big on the bar scene, so I don’t mind the lack of night life here, but Ladies 80’s is an exception and usually a lot of fun.
You just can’t put people into any one category at that place! It’s often pure chaos - a packed house with 25 cent drinks, lots of people dressed in 80’s clothes, and 80’s music. It’s awesome when a bunch of the team goes out together. We’re smart about resting when it counts, but we all like to have a good time and understand the value of a mental break!
CK: Did you grow up playing much in the way of sports? When did running come into the picture.
LA: I dabbled in gymnastics a bit and played soccer for 8 years, but by my 8th year, I was still afraid of the ball and only played center midfielder because I could get to the ball first. However, I quickly learned that getting to the ball first is useless if you don’t know what to do with it. The combination of scoring only 3 goals my last 4 years of playing soccer, my dad encouraging running, and all my friends doing track led me to this sport. As many people do, I began running socially, as a sprinter in 5th grade and really started taking it seriously in 8th grade when I wanted to beat my sister’s middle school times, she broke 6 min in the mile and I had to top that (yes, there was a ‘little’ rivalry, but we’re best friends now.) And as we all know, once you have success in something it sort of becomes an addiction.
CK: A social sprinter? What sort of conversation takes place over 100m?
LA: Well we mostly chatted between intervals or while our relay teammates were running their legs around the track. It was pretty much a formalized social gathering. I think enjoying running in that way, from the get go, is what keeps me loving running to this day.
CK: Are you a student of athletics or endurance training?
LA: I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘student’ per say, but I’ve had the privilege of being around really knowledgeable coaches and students of the sport, who have taught me everything I know about running. Greg is constantly talking about training philosophy and new findings in our sport and just living with elite runners has expanded my knowledge.
CK: Speaking about your father earlier, suggesting you to consider becoming a runner, is he a runner himself? How about your mother?
LA: My dad used to run, when my sister and I would tag along, but in the last few years his body has got the best of him. I think he’s still beat up from his football days and general wear and tear. Since he hasn’t been able to run, he’s supported my running in other ways and is now a sports photographer and comes to all the big meets. It’s great to have him out there when I’m racing! My mom never really ran, but she swam in high school, and I definitely didn’t get any of those swimmer genes!
CK: Favourite music.
LA: I’m a huge country fan, so Taylor Swift, Dixie Chicks, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks, Eric Church, you name it, I probably like it.
CK: Dixie Chick’s ‘Earl’- were you one of the 10 billion people singing “Earl” every time it came on the radio?
LA: Guilty, as is my entire family. My sister has the vocals and she led the charge. I love their music and recommend their movie, “Shut up and Sing,” to any fans out there.
CK: Play any musical instruments?
LA: Not at the moment but a life goal of mine is to master either the guitar or piano, something I can sing along to.
CK: So you can sing?
LA: With proper accompaniment. I don’t like to sing alone because reality hits, I’m pretty awful. As my roommate and former ‘band mate’ tells me, I sing off-key and often forget the words, but I love it too much to stop just for other people’s sanity.
CK: Running hero?
LA: My original running hero was busted for steroids several years ago. Since then I’ve had the privilege of meeting and running with Lisa Nye, who was really successful at the steeplechase as women were first getting into that event. Right now I absolutely love to watch any race Anna Willard runs.
CK: Anna Willard told the New York Road Runners’ Brooke Edwards, that although she was an 800m runner when she came across the steeple event by chance, she doesn’t feel she has the ability to compete in the 800m like she can in the steeple (her current pb is 1:58) in the 800m.
What are your thoughts on that, after her steeples final in Beijing, seeing that the 800m bronze was run in 1:56’73 yet she finished 10th in the steeple.
LA: I’d say she can compete with anyone in the world in the 800, 1500, and steeple! It’s hard to say with the 800m, had she made the Olympic final, her current PR would have put her top 7, but still out of the medals. That being said, I feel like she’s a different runner now.
I think she’s realizing her potential in the shorter races and will most likely keep sticking her head in those events, but I know she’s not done steepling yet. There are more records to be broken.
CK: You are not the only one - From Joe Battagglia at Universal Sports with Jenny Barringer:
Joe Battagglia: Were you surprised at all when Anna Willard dropped out of the steeple in favor of the 1500m?
Jenny Barringer: No, I think she could be competitive in either race, but I’m not surprised she decided to focus on just one.
CK: Let’s talk about your goals. Olympic Steeple 2012 must be you’re ‘A’ goal (of course) saying that do you have any specific goals for time or just generally qualifying for whatever is next?
LA: Of course the Olympics is always in the back of my mind and Greg has even discussed my progression between now and then. I know where I want to be, running-wise, by 2010. I also have quite a few specific time goals. For peace of mind I need to break 4:20 in the 1500 as soon as possible. For the 2010 track season I want to break 15:30 in the 5k and 9:30 in the steeple.
I also want to focus on road racing, which will give me a lot of strength for track. This fall I’ll be doing some US Championship road races, which I’m really excited to try.