Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Brief Chat With Lindsay Allen

By Peter Gambaccini Photos by 1) Josh Biggs courtesy of McMillan Elite; 2)

Lindsay Allen, who turns 24 – hey, Happy Birthday today, Lindsay! – was third in the 3000-meter steeplechase at last weekend's USATF Championships in Des Moines behind Lisa Aguilera and Nicole Bush in 9:59.19. Earlier this season, she won the steeple at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Stanford in 10:02. 66. Allen, a member of the Flagstaff-based McMillan Elite, set her personal best of 9:40.83 in 2009. While a student majoring in human biology at Stanford, she was second in the steeplechase at the Pac-10 Championships twice and was fourth in the 2008 NCAA Championships. She was a USA Junior Champion while a college freshman in 2005 and was third in those Championships in 2004 while still in high school. Allen represented the USA at the 2009 Chiba Ekiden in Japan; the Americans placed fifth. She has run 15:48.97 for 5000 meters. She was tenth in the 2009 USA 5km Road Championships.

In the USATF steeplechase final, did you feel like first place was still up for grabs at the last water jump?
Lindsay Allen: Yeah, honestly, I thought I had a good chance at it. Obviously, I didn't know I would have that kind of physical shutdown in the last 100 meters or so. But I was just really excited to find myself in that position so late in the race, to be in contention.

Did the "shutdown" come after the last water jump?
LA: That was probably the beginning of it. I had a fair amount of trouble over that last water jump, and then it kind of set in after that.

We heard of the humid conditions in Des Moines. Was it draining to be doing a steeplechase on a day like that?
LA: Yeah. I think I'd prepared for the first. I'd run in Des Moines at NCAAs in 2008, so I kind of knew the hot and humid. Honestly, I just tried not to think about it too much. I didn't want to get it in my head.

Were you surprised to see Bridget Franek (the NCAA champion who went from first to fifth) melt down in front of you?
LA: I really didn't know. I remember with 300 to go or something, we passed her. And I didn't know if she went way off the back. I still thought it was a group of four of us. I didn't know until right after the race.

All told, running in the 9:50s this early in the season and finishing in the top three in the nationals, you must come away from the meet feeling pretty good, right?
LA: Yeah. My top goal was to win, but I just wanted top three, a medal, and so I was very happy with top three.

In the spring, you won in 10:02 at the Payton Jordan meet. Was that just as fast as you needed to run to win?
LA: Yeah, because this season we were really trying to delay things (until later in the year) but I did want to get a steeple in before USAs. So going there (Payton Jordan) was more about racing the competition than trying to get a fast time. It was pretty much a sit-and-kick kind of race.

You're leaving for Europe on Wednesday (ie, today). What are the first meets you'll be doing over there?
LA: On July 3, I'm going to do a 1500 in Belgium. And then I'm trying to get in a steeple on July 9. We actually come back on the 12th, so ideally, I would do a 5k on the 11th in Brasschatt (Belgium). I definitely won't be going back to Europe for anything after that. This is my first year ever racing past NCAAs or USA. I'll do those few races and hopefully get a feel for Europe for the future. And than I'm going to do the USA 7 Mile on the roads at the end of July (in Davenport, Iowa on July 24).

Is seven miles a pretty long race for you? What are the longest races you've done up to this point?
LA: Oh, that's definitely the longest. I've done two road 10ks.

What's the thinking on doing that race?
LA: Well, for the (European) trip, we got the grant from the USATF. Jordan Horn) and myself from our team were selected (along with seven other runners). The trip flies you back on the 12th. We kind of decided "okay, that's a natural ending for the track season." But I just feel like my fitness is improving now, so that (the USA 7) is just good opportunity to race and earn some money and help set me up for the fall.

And in the fall, what would you be trying to do.
LA: A lot of roadracing. Last year, we did the USA 5km and the 10km, and hopefully we'll have a (McMillan Elite) team at the 10k and a team at Club Cross Country again (The USA 5km is September 19 in Providence, the USA Women's 10km is October 11, USATF National Club Cross Country is December 11 in Charlotte).

Last year, your first year out of college, you dropped your best steeplechase time by 20 seconds. Besides not having collegiate obligations, what would be some of the reasons for that huge improvement?
LA: Greg's training works very well and I don't think I really meshed well with the program in college. I guess it just wasn't ideal for me. And being at altitude is huge. Everything you do, you're just building so much more strength and aerobic capacity. I'm increasing mileage. I think it was just pretty much everything, and making running the priority.

Were there a couple of things about Greg's program that were new to you?
LA: A big thing, which is still my weakness and something I'm really trying to work on, is tempo or what you call steady state runs. In college, we never did over three miles at a steady state pace. I'm trying to get it to six and eight and ideally a ten-mile hard effort. The other things is probably running twice a day pretty much every day and building strength.

You were already a USA Junior medalist when you were in high school. Obviously, you discovered early on that the steeplechase was your event.
LA: Yes, definitely. In my freshman year in high school, we went to a running camp up in Humboldt County (in northern California). Kevin Searles was in charge of that and he ran a steeplechase clinic. At the time, it was just really fun because we all got to jump over things and land in water and everybody just got a big kick out of it. I really liked it. I think it came a little bit more naturally. I decided to try it at (USA) Juniors and I became a steeplechaser then.

The steeplechase for women is still a fairly new event. Lisa Aguilera is a bit older (she's 30), but some of the other top people – Nicole Bush, Bridget Franek, and Jenny Barringer, when she wants to do the event – these are the same people you were running against in college, right? You could be going at this together for a lot of years.
LA: I think we've already seen, with the American record dropping consistently, that it's an emerging event, so the athletes are emerging athletes in a sense. It's going to be really good for the event, to make it more competitive, as the years go on, as we get older, especially on the world sense.

Yeah, when you ran 10:01 in 2007, that was still considered a really good steeplechase time.
LA: Yeah. The depth every year just gets a lot better.

In the steeplechase you'll do in Barcelona, we'd assume everyone's interested in a fast time, so it won't be a sit and kick race.
LA: Oh yeah. I think Europe is all just about fast times and getting in fast races and not about where you finish in the race, at least not this year.

What time do you think you can hope to get over there?
LA: I think I could break 9:30 if put in the right race. My goal pace this year was 9:25, so we've been training quite a bit at that pace with barriers. I don't think that's too far out of the realm of possibility.

Do you have suspicions that Jenny Barringer is probably going to come back to the steeplechase as her main event?
LA: I do. Seeing how the race went this weekend (Barringer was third in the 5000 at the USATF Championships), I wonder if maybe the steeple is a little more comfortable. She can run any event, really, but I think there might be some more draw to go back to it (the steeplechase)

Besides being a runner, do you have a job or are you studying?
LA: I have two part-time job's. I work at a print shop in town (Flagstaff) and then I'm also Tracy McMillan's, Greg's wife's, personal assistant. Between that and running is usually a pretty full day.