NEW YORK -- After a season hampered by injury, Shannon Rowbury is healthy and again and focused on making a successful defense of her 1500m title at the U.S. Olympic Trials this summer. Part of her preparation includes an abbreviated indoor season, which will culminate with the 2009 Worlds bronze medalists facing 2011 world champion Jenny Simpson in the first Wanamaker Women's Mile at the Millrose Games Saturday night at The Armory. We caught up with her to get an update on her training and fitness ahead of the big race.
Coming off of last season, where you battled back from two Achilles injuries just to make the Worlds team, how did you approach the offseason training and did you have to make any changes to insure that you stay healthy in 2012?
After the Fifth Avenue Mile, I had three weeks off. I went on a vacation to the beach, just relaxed. The biggest thing for me this year was easing myself back into it. Last year, I think part of why I got injured is we went a little too much too quickly and it was just too much for my body to handle. This year I made sure to slowly build up the mileage, slowly increase the stimulus and the stress. I don't feel like I had to protect myself from anything. I think I was just smarter.
Last year forced me to be smarter about what I did, to think more thoroughly through how I was going to take the fall base-training. When I made the decision to go to altitude two months earlier than I normally go it was because I know I respond well to altitude, I know I like training in Mexico. I knew from last year that I had missed a lot of base work so I decided to go there early to give myself some time to work into altitude and make up for some of last year. It was a really gradual process and being cautious as I introduced new things. Fortunately, my body responded well to all of them. Now, if I see a workout from my coach, I don't have to think twice about it. I know that my body is at the point where it can handle whatever.
Where would you grade your fitness level right now?
I would say as fit as I have ever been. I don't know that I would say fitter quite yet. The great thing about having four and a half years of professional running under my belt is knowing how to pace myself. During the fall, I felt like I was making up for lost time. It felt like, ‘Oh man, it's so hard to get back to the shape I had been in.' Having the month of January at altitude, things with my body sort of clicked. I feel like I am back to doing workouts at the same level I had been two years ago, only a couple of months ahead. I feel like I'm back to the Shannon that I know. I think I have set myself up well to keep progressing and to hopefully be in better fitness than I ever have been in.
Why have you come down from altitude to run this mini indoor season?
I think it is important to see where you are at, fitness wise. You do the training and are like, ‘Ok, I think this is pretty good.' But I think it is important to go in a race and see what you can and cannot do because that is the true test. I'm hoping to learn from the combination of Millrose and Boston what I am good at and what I need to work on, and to use that to inform my training for the next couple of months.
What did you take away from your 3000m race at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston?
I was really frustrated that the race got strung out so quickly because I learned that I am very strong right now. My goal had been to kind of work the middle of the race. I went out conservatively and had a good finish but the middle was an internal struggle with myself wanting to go and wanting move when I kept seeing the gap go from five to 25 to 50 to 60 meters but I wasn't quite prepared to take that on with 2-K to go, so I waited until the last K to move. Had I had some people to race with I could have run quicker but I was in no-man's land. I wish the race had some more bodies in between because if I could have had people to pick off I think I could have had a really good performance.
So what is your goal for the Millrose Games?
There is a rabbit and the field is strong, for sure, but I don't know if there will be someone looking to go out and run something like 4:04. I see the race being sub-4:10. I'm not sure how far under 4:10. I've got a race under my belt so that makes me feel a little more confident in my legs and what I can do. I'm hoping that it's a good race and that I can compete for the win and see how fast I can run in a 1500m off of pretty much no 1500-meter training. We do speed each week but it's short and quick. Most of my workouts have been tempos or long intervals so it'll be interesting to see how well I can run off of it.
Did you ever run the Millrose Games on the boards in Madison Square Garden?
I did an 800m my freshman year of college. I haven't run there since.
And have you run at the Armory before?
I have run there a lot. We used to run there at least once, if not twice, a year in college. I haven't been back since probably my fifth year of college.
So are you are excited to be running this mile on the Armory's track and not the boards?
I am. I went to the Armory yesterday to do a workout and it was like, ‘Ah, memories.' It was cool to see the place empty because it always seemed so small and almost claustrophobic, in a fun way. For me, I am excited that Millrose is at the Armory because as much as I think the Garden was really cool, I was always hesitant to go there because I knew the time wouldn't be quick and I knew it would be hard on my body. I like that I have an opportunity now to do these two races, back to back, on great surfaces at great facilities.
Now will you go back to altitude after this?
Yeah. I'm going back to Mexico for a few more weeks, then I'll head back down to sea level for a little bit.
Will you run the U.S. Indoor Championships?
I'm probably not going to do it. Coach Cook and I did talk about it and it would make more sense this year than others because I've been at altitude so long. But as of right now the plan is to go back to sea level and do some work there, maybe do some smaller meets that don't require travel.