Sunday, December 23, 2012

Interview with Derek Rubis

My first face in the hole by Derek.
I recently sat down (over the internet) for an interview with fellow Wisconsinite Derek Rubis, who in the past couple years has singlehandedly changed the landscape of running superfandom.  You may know him as @djsjeffer on Twitter or from his blog entitled The Hub Of Distance Running, or from meeting him at the many track meets he makes it to.  I wanted to find out what drives his love for running and what he thinks needs to be done to improve involvement in and attention to running from Americans.

Derek, in the past few years you've become a top fan of collegiate and professional US distance running. It's clear you have a true love for the sport. Who or what got you so interested in running, and when did you begin running yourself?

I got started running for the 6th grade run but I was never a fan of distance running until I was a Freshman in High School. Nobody got me interested in Distance Running but myself and I thought it was sport that I could do that not a lot people could do.

Getting face in the holed has become a prestigious honor in the collegiate circuit. Last year, amongst the running goals I had listed on a sheet of paper above my bed, getting face in the holed was one of the top entries. What are your criteria for bestowing that honor upon a runner?

The only criteria is that if the photo was good enough for my pic to fit in the Face In The Hole

You tweet often. Actually, by my calculations, your current rate of tweeting will bring you to two million tweets by the year 2050 with room to spare. Do you think social media (Facebook, twitter, instagram, etc) is a good thing for the sport of running in terms of following the action, or is there need for a more organized, larger form of coverage?

I think so but as of right now we are still low on the ladder of sports and that is what I am trying to change to make our sport climb that ladder faster and be cared about like Football & Basketball in College & Pro

I think I speak for a lot of runners out there when I say that your support for us really is appreciated. You have found a way to connect with your favorite sport's athletes in a personal way, something that can't be done in many other sports. Do you have any words about what can be done to bring running's fan base closer to it's athletes? Or perhaps an idea for how to make the sport more interesting for a larger American audience?

More media attention, college ADs doing more for our sport & getting more money to our sport so that College & Pro Athlete can promote the sport more to get more people to our sport. An idea I have is that if Title IX wants to put sport in cause of they need a women's sport to compliant the men's sports & cut a sport to do it then why cut Men's XC/Track when they don't have Women's Football. Just cut Men's Football and put that money into the other sport that need that money and I don't mean Basketball, I mean sports like XC/Track, Soccer, Volleyball Swimming & others

Where is your favorite place (or favorite city) to run in?

I loved running in Eugene, Oregon when I was out there for The Olympic Trials

What do you hope to see out of both collegiate and professional US running in 2013? Any NCAA , US or World championship predictions?

In 2013, I would like to see that the CEO of Track & Field get Distance Events in the media and sho the whole events, ie Steeplechase 3K 5K & 10K without ads, going to another event in the middle of a distance event

What are some of your favorite running related moments, both on and off the track?

Moments off the track: Nick Symmonds wanting a pic with me at Olympic Track Trials, being made a third Heath & Jefferson brother, Meeting my running idols A.J. Acosta, Jordan McNamara, Nick Symmonds & John Jefferson & running with my steeplechase coach Billy Nelson aka Coach Yelawolf

Moments On The Track: Getting to run an All Comers Meet on Hayward Field Track, getting my prs in the 3K, 5K & 10K this year & getting to run a shakeout 3K with Nick Symmonds in Milwaukee, WI

What are your personal running goals for 2013?

My running goals in the 3K-11:00 or under, 5K-19:00 or under, 10K-under 40 mins on the track, Steeplechase-12:30 or under. Also, another running goal off the track is to grow a sweet beard like A.J. Acosta & John Jefferson

Sunday, December 16, 2012


My brother Dave and I acting(?) depressed that we have to go
running on Christmas day, 2010
In my experience, December has always been the wackiest month for training.  Most collegiate runners are just coming off rest periods following the cross country season, and with the school semester ending and exams, most student athletes aren't following their normal training routines in the weeks leading into the holidays.  Everyone goes home where there are plenty of distractions - from family and friends to cold temperatures (if you're from where I'm from) to the strong desire to sleep in after eating Christmas feasts.

But December can also be a gold mine of training opportunity.  The same lack of structure at home can be turned into what I like to call freedom of training: the ability to run when you want, spend as much time doing strides, stretching, lifting, and recovering as your heart desires.  It just takes a little responsibility and self-coaching.  For me that means doing things like getting to bed on time, continuing to eat right, and making sure I get those doubles in before it gets too dark (today the sun set at 4:17 in Milwaukee).  That said, for as short as the break from school is, I've never been at home without suffering from a bout or two lack of motivation.  In those times, it's important to remember how soon the January races are.  For anyone suffering from the winter training blues, I'd say this: watch an inspiring race video or listen to some Blink 182 and you'll hop right out the door.  That might not work for everyone but the point is that winter breeds lethargy and lethargy is cured by energy.

Today ends a "down" week in training intensity for me following a 5k I ran last Friday in Bloomington, Indiana.  I ran as I felt all week and turns out I felt pretty good, finishing up with 94 miles at an average pace of 6:19/mile.  Just not doing workouts made me want to run farther and faster by the middle of the week - I could feel my body saying "wait, wasn't I supposed to get beat up today" and when it didn't, I naturally responded by running faster than usual on normal runs.  Today's long run was pure bliss - a little over 18 miles averaging 5:50 per mile, feeling great the whole way.  It's been great to just run for a week and enjoy the extra energy.

This coming week I'll resume workouts, and with my brother Dave coming home soon from school at La Crosse, WI, I'll have a training partner to run with.  I'm looking forward to taking advantage of all the time I have to prepare for track season in the coming weeks... after all, when I'm not doing anything else, I like to think I'm (almost) living the life of a professional runner.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

First Race

BOOM: Everything indoor track hits me at once: the air, smell, light, and sound of people. With it comes an instinctual rush of adrenaline as we enter Indiana University's Indoor Track facility.  As I step in from the rain, having not set foot on one of these banked ovals in eight months, I think, wow, it's suddenly indoor season and it's time to race.

Ryan Dohner and I are entered in the small but stacked invitational section of the 5000 at the Hoosier Invitational, ready to open our indoor seasons for Texas a little earlier than usual.  We came here with the goal of running 13:45 or faster, a performance that should qualify us for the national meet in March.  The plan is to run a slightly cautious 66.5 per 400 for the first 3000 meters, then increase the pace to break 13:45 over the final 10 laps.  Leading the way would be two very capable rabbits in former Indiana runners Andrew Poore and Ben Hubers, and with Olympic trials 5th place finisher Ryan Hill of NC State and four freshly honored cross country All Americans in the field, the race was sure to produce some fast times.

Tonight is a bit of a cross roads for me: I haven't raced since my last time in a Princeton singlet on June 16th in a 1500 up in Indianapolis. I'm toeing the line knowing only what my workouts have been saying about my fitness.  I know that it was going to take some serious guts over the last 2k to muscle out a sub 13:50 clocking.  The outcome of this race will be plugged into the increasingly complex algorithm that determines the plan for me at Big Twelves and Nationals, and thus the way I'll train in the coming months.  Tonight is also my first time running as a Longhorn and that adds a bit of excitement to it all.

The smell of burnt sulfur still hangs in the air from the gun as we pass the start, one lap already complete, falling into a single file line behind Hubers and Poore.  Chasing after the two unattached rabbits are my teammate, myself, Lane Werley of UCLA, Zach Mayhew of Indiana, and Hill and Andrew Colley of NC State taking up the rear.  Passing the mile in 4:27, we maintain that order for 3k, running consistent 66.5 - 67 second laps.  I see 8:18 at 3k and do a self check as Hubers steps off, his task complete.  I'm feeling about normal for this point in the race.  But as Poore takes over and the pace increases slightly, I know it's time to focus as fatigue begins setting in.  Around 3600 the line of runners begins to string out.  200m later Hill passes me, followed shortly by Mayhew.  I'm beginning to tire, and with 1000 to go I've switched to survival mode - just get to the finish!  I run some unimpressive laps in no man's land and cross the line in 13:59.23 for fourth.  As is often the case towards the end of a race, I can't say much about the final 5 laps - I just don't remember them.  Maybe too much lactic acid in my brain?

In terms of the time goal, the result was a bit of a disappointment.  I wasn't able to race competitively with the field when the going got tough.  However, lots of positive things come from the effort.  Being in sub fourteen shape in December is pretty good in my book, especially for not having raced in a while.  It puts me within striking distance of my goals for the indoor season.  Getting the race in my legs is of course a workout too.  In that sense, I'm happy that I went for it.  Now I know exactly what kind of shape I'm in - my training will be more informed and I'll have a firm idea of what areas need work.

That's what running is - lots of work, chances to race, success, and failure.  Getting used to the entire process takes a long time, but I think that seeing the positives in every situation helps you get to where you want to be.

Race Video Here

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Getting Ready for a 5k

We are now in Thanksgiving week!  In high school that meant trying not to eat too much on Thursday before Footlocker Regionals on Saturday, and in college it means a nice break week for everyone after the NCAA national meet.  This year, my Thanksgiving week is a little different.  I won't be eating half a pumpkin pie or lying on the couch watching football all day this weekend, and I won't be jogging around like I have the past several years.  Instead, I'm in the middle an intense training block, preparing for a hot 5k in Bloomington on December 7th.

After Diego Estrada famously got his indoor 5000 auto qualifying time last year (13:39.54) at the Hoosier Invite in Indiana, I think a few others have caught on to the great idea he had: extend your cross country fitness a few extra weeks (in this case, 20 days) and use it to get your 5k qualifying race out of the way.  I've heard rumors that top runners from Oklahoma State, Indiana, NC State and others will toe the line on December 7th to go for a time.  Unlike them, I didn't run cross country this season, but I'm planning on hitching a ride with the goal of running 13:45.  There isn't an auto time anymore; starting this year the NCAA will simply take the top 16 athletes in each event, but we figure the time required will wind up being about the same anyway, especially for the 5k, a slightly less popular event indoors.

If the race goes as planned, I'll have a more diverse set of options when it comes time to declare for the national meet.  My favorite indoor event is the 3000, but if things at other meets don't go as planned, I'll potentially have that 5000 time in my pocket.  It's a nice bit of insurance.
Doing some threshold work at camp Mabry in Austin, TX

Training hard for a meet in early December involves a delicate balance between getting prepared to race and making sure I save my legs for the spring and summer.  My ultimate goal of reaching peak fitness in July and August means my fall training has been strength based, but lately I've been doing some mixed workouts that additionally develop the anaerobic and speed systems.  A 7 mile tempo followed shortly by a 2k at 5k pace, or three sets of 3 x 800 with 1 minute rest at 5k pace w/ three minutes between sets are tough workouts that simulate the final minutes of a 5000.  Most runners don't do these kinds of workouts in the fall, but I'm not worried about overworking myself: I'm doing things my body has done before.

Most of all, I'm excited to finally pull on the Texas uniform, spike up, psych up, and roll around the track with a great field of athletes.  After all these years of being a runner, I've realized that it's really all about enjoying training and competing.  No need to be absolutely amazing every day: since that isn't sustainable.  It's about being good every day to become great.  I call this the "happiness theorem", and I could write a book about it, but I'll start with just a future blog...

By the way, I finally have a bio on the Texas athletics site, pretty excited about that.  Check it out here!

Friday, November 16, 2012


Right now I'm sitting in the living room of our house here in Austin.  It's a lot quieter than usual, giving me time to reflect on some things.  Of the seven Longhorn runners living here, four have left for the NCAA cross country meet in Louisville this weekend, meaning we make up most of the #5 ranked Texas team that we'll field on Saturday.  Our crew in the house consists of four grad students and three younger guys.  Between us graduate students and sophomore transfer Blake Williams from UNC, our house alone diversifies the team in terms of home states, age, and running experience.  I bring some of the midwest to the table in my cooking and Milwaukee accent.   Kyle Merber's savvy driving reflects his New York City street habits.  Blake uses every chance he can to barbecue any meat in sight, North Carolina style.  Trevor Van Ackeran's friendship and good cooking makes our house as comfortable as the one he grew up in in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  Austin Bussing ("The Bus") is freshly graduated from Kansas U. and brings a quirky, well, indescribable flair to the house.  Then there's the star of Texas running past and present Craig Lutz, who brings a lot of talent to the team (and improves our batting average with girls).  Last but not least is Ryan Dohner, the skinny stallion and 10k All American, the one responsible for organizing this ship and its crew in the first place.

We're a rambunctious bunch, but we've got one collective goal in mind: running fast and putting ourselves and Texas on the map.  While our place shares a lot of the qualities commonly seen in any college track house (read: old shoes, socks, various rehab equipment, ice packs, sex doll named Patty), we try to do things a little differently.  Several nights a week are family dinners sometimes planned in advance but often whipped up last minute.   We hang out on our roof, watching the nearby freeway and listening to the occasional rumbling freight train while the Bus serenades us with his lovely voice and guitar skills - he does a lot of Blink 182 which I like (I was [and still am] in a Blink cover band at Princeton).  Aside from bickering about cleaning the dishes and paying the bills, we all get along surprisingly well.  I sense a bit of underlying competition between us all once in a while, but I know that's what's brought us all to this point in the first place.
The Roof.

I could think of nothing better than living with six other people who understand my running lifestyle and who share many of the goals I have.  A year ago I had no idea I was going to be in graduate school, let along Texas.  Right now I'm living life as it comes and loving it.  I'm super excited for the race this weekend.  I wish I could be there, but I'm busy getting ready for my lone indoor season.  Thats our thing: every guy in this house, doing what he needs to do to make the team the best, together.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hello World

I'd like to begin blogging for a couple of reasons.  For one, as I've gotten older (jeez, I'm almost 23!) I've become more and more reflective and thoughtful.  I need a diary-like outlet in which to spill my convoluted thoughts with the hope of organizing them.  As a bonus, I hope that somebody somewhere will glean some wisdom from what I write about running, school, life, girls, ways to prevent nipple chafe, or what have you.  Lastly, as I squeeze the last drops of NCAA track eligibility from my collegiate career, I figure it's time to start putting myself out there with the goal of entering the professional running circuit in 2013.

A bit about me:

I'm from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and am currently training and going to graduate school at the University of Texas in Austin.  I ran for Princeton and used all but one indoor season of eligibility there.  Due to Ivy league regulations I could not run my final season in a 5th year, so I had to go elsewhere.  My situation is somewhat unusual: most transfers or graduate students have at least an outdoor or cross country season left, whereas I have only indoor track, the neglected little brother of the other two when it comes to distance events.  I plan to continue training here in Austin following that season and if all goes well, pursue a professional running career.

Most of the topics I think I'll write about in this blog will pertain to how running interacts with other aspects of life: work: family, relationships, a social life.  I believe that the ideal approach to training does not necessarily equal a day focused only on running but a balanced one that exercises the mind, body, and emotions.  I attribute my success as a collegiate runner to the additional challenges simultaneously posed by school, relationships, and social interactions.  In short, a runner toughened by more than the stresses of training over a long period of time is more focused, better equipped to react to unexpected situations, and can enjoy the entire process of living as a runner to a fuller extent.

My hope is that runners everywhere and of all ability levels might gain some wisdom from the sharing of my experiences.  The running community has given a lot to me in the past eight years, and I think it's time to begin giving back.