Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Unplugged with...KARA GOUCHER

Kara Goucher, fresh off her victory in the BUPA Great North Run on Sunday in Newcastle, England where she ran 66:57 to beat Paula Radcliffe in the Brit’s return to competition after the birth of her first child, spoke to members of the national running media Wednesday morning from her home in Portland, Oregon.

The 2007 World Outdoor 10,000m bronze medalist, Goucher made her half marathon debut a memorable one in setting a new American best time of 66 minutes 57 seconds in the nationally-televised race. Her time bettered the previous U.S. record of 67:34 by Deena Kastor set last year in Berlin, but due to the downhill nature of the course, it will not qualify as the American record.

Goucher posted splits of 47:36 (15 km), 50:59 (10 miles), and 63:33 (20 km), which are quicker than any U.S. competitor has run before.

Goucher's time was the eighth fastest half-marathon in history and 10 seconds faster than Radcliffe's time of 2000.

Goucher forged ahead after six miles and continued to apply the pressure on Radcliffe with two sub-five-minute miles.

The American established a 10-meter gap in the seventh mile, which she completed in 4:57, but the gap increased as Goucher clocked 4:49 in the eighth.

Goucher then discarded her running mitts and the gap grew as she retained her pace around the five-minute mark with Radcliffe unable to respond.

After a whirlwind season, she and her husband Adam (who was eleventh in the men’s 5000 on the final night of the world championships in Osaka) are taking some time off to visit their families before starting the base training that hopefully puts them on the plane to Beijing for next summer’s Olympics.

Shortly after the conclusion of this morning’s teleconference, Goucher was named USA Track & Field’s Athlete of the Week for her performance at the Great North Run.

Q: Tell us about your weekend?

Kara Goucher: (the Great North Run) was something that was proposed to me after Osaka. My coach (Alberto Salazar) and I talked about it, and he said that I should do it—you’re really strong right now, and you have no expectations, and I said, ‘okay!’.

I actually came back to Portland for seven days after running in Berlin (a personal best of 14:55.02 for 5000m on September 16th). I did a long run (15 miles), then a 9-mile tempo run. Going into the race, I felt like I could handle 5:10 (per mile) pace.

Q: What was the longest distance you’ve raced, and how did you find the change in distance?

KG: 10k. I felt comfortable and really relaxed, like my body was handling it really well, until we hit two miles to go, then my lack of preparation for a half marathon started to kick in. The last kilometer was really, really hard.

Q: How much road racing have you done?

KG: This was only my third road race, (Providence 5k in Rhode Island in 2005, and a 10 k last year), and by far this was the most exciting. It was loud and people were cheering, although people kept calling me Paula, and not Kara! It was really awesome-I’d never been a part of a scene like that before!

Q: It’s been a unbelievable year for you. What sticks out for you, or is it all a blur?

KG: It’s hard to pick a favorite moment. Running in Boulder (where she finished third in the USA Cross Country Championships, running 28:01 for 8k) was so awesome, especially seeing so many people there. I wished I’d won there. At the USA Nationals in Indianapolis, I ran a conservative race, but I made my first world championship team, and I was extremely emotional there. Osaka was so amazing, and this past weekend was great. It’s hard to pick the best moment. A lot of it hasn’t sunk in, as I’ve just been going, going, going. It’s been overwhelming, but in a good way.

Q: As you lined up that night in Osaka, what were your thoughts on getting a medal?

KG: I had thought about it, and my husband and I had talked about it. (Adam) said that “your workouts have been amazing--I’ve never seen you work so hard in all the time I’ve known you”. It was in the back of my mind, but I didn’t want to go there and have an unbelievable race and be tenth and be disappointed with that. On the bus ride to the meet, my coach said “you are in the best shape of your life. On paper, you are ninth, and I know you can run faster than 31:17.72 (set last year), so you are probably fifth or sixth. If you put yourself in a good position, you could get a medal”.

That night, I was really focused. I was focused on not letting the lead pack get away from me. I wanted a medal, but I wasn’t consciously thinking about it until the last lap.

Q: With all the running videos of you on the Internet, is this the kind of achievement that instantly changes your running life?

KG: To be honest, nothing’s changed. Adam and I did this video for Nike, and the first thing I said on the video was that people would be shocked at how big my goals are. I always wanted to do something memorable. I’ve always wanted to make a World or Olympic team. I still can’t believe it happened, and it still surprises me.

This past weekend, I still can’t believe I’m running with Paula Radcliffe. Anyway, nothing’s changed in my normal life.

Q: What was going through your head during the last few kilometers of the half-marathon?

KG: I had no idea that Paula and I had a big gap between us. I was thinking that I might beat Paula-this is crazy! With two miles to go, it started to set in how tired I was. It was really loud down the homestretch—it was about a 1600m straightaway. I honestly thought she was going to be flying by me at anytime. I kept telling myself that this is the last race of the year and try to stay relaxed. My arms tend to creep up and my neck goes back when I’m tired, so I could hear Alberto in my head telling me to drop my arms and put my neck down, and readjust my body’s urge to stop.

Adam and I were on the bus after the race, and we were driving on the course (Adam finished sixth in 63:17). He pointed out something and asked me if I remembered it. I don’t remember a thing. I stared at Paula for the first five miles, then I moved alongside her. After that, I stared at the lead car the rest of the way.

Q: Did you and Paula speak at all either before or after the race?

KG: I had never met Paula before the race, and the night before the race, she and her husband, her parents and her baby sat down at the table where we were. I was dying--I was so geeked out that she was sitting there! I was so excited that I was dead quiet, and getting shy! She was so nice to us.

After the race, she didn’t talk too much about the race, but she did say ‘good job’ to me. It was so awesome to meet her. She’s so amazing, and she shows that anything is possible through hard work and dedication

It was weird (beating Radcliffe). My coach thought I could beat her, and Adam’s always like that. In my mind, I had no idea what to expect. She’s Paula Radcliffe—it was crazy to beat her, but at the same time it wasn’t awkward, because she didn’t make it that way.

Q: Does this effort make you more or less inclined to try the marathon?

KG: I have to say that the half-marathon was really hard, so the thought of going twice as far is like, no thanks right now.

The past month and a half since Osaka, I’ve been basically tapering. I did one hard week of training after Osaka, then I was tapering since I wanted to PR at 3k & 5k. There’s a part of me that’s intrigued if I had the time and if I had the mileage put in,

I think I could run faster in a half-marathon. If I had a better base put in over the last few weeks, I think I could have handled those last two miles better. That makes me excited over what I could do in the marathon, but I’m still not ready to do it.

Q: Why was this year a breakthrough year for you?

KG: Actually, last year was a breakthrough year for me. It was the first time I had been healthy for more than four months. I’ve been healthy now for about a year and a half, and this is the longest I’ve been healthy, dating back to the seventh grade.

I think it’s been a combination of being healthy, being able to do the work because I’m healthy, and because I’ve been able to do the work, I have confidence, and because I have confidence, I can think the way I need to think.

Q: What was it like to battle the consistent flow of injuries that you went through before last year?

KG: It was awful. If it wasn’t for Adam and my family, I would have quit. I’ve had big goals, and I love running. There were times where it would make me sad that my body won’t let me do it. It was really frustrating, but I had a really great support system.

I could never express how much Alberto has helped me. Alberto didn’t give up on me. He said you have to get healthy, and your body is a miraculous thing, and it has to heal. I never had to earn his approval. He believed in me and coached me. He didn’t baby me. He asked a lot out of me. He just made me work hard and believe. He’s so positive, and he opened my eyes to what’s possible. I can never thank him enough, and that’s the heart of the turnaround for me.

I don’t think I’ve reached the end of my potential. There’s so much more that I want to do. If I never run any faster, this has been an awesome experience. I feel that I can run faster; I feel like I can run smarter races; I feel like I can do more.

1 comment:

Database Diva said...

This was such a great interview. I'm so happy for Kara. I loved the part about her "geeking out" when Paula and her family sat at their table.

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