By David Monti
(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Yesterday's Video Interview with Shannon Rowbury in Boston
BOSTON (03-Feb) - When Shannon Rowbury broke the tape to win the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City in September, 2009, she capped the best year of her career. The 2008 Olympian and former Duke University star had ascended to become America's #1 female miler, winning national titles at 1500m and the mile on the road, clocking a swift 4:00.81 for 1500m, and taking the bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships in Berlin.
But during 2011, Rowbury, 27, didn't win a single race. Moreover, while she struggled to regain her form after dealing with Achilles injuries in both her left and right ankles, she watched compatriots Morgan Uceny and Jenny Simpson pile on the accolades, including Uceny's #1-ranking in the 1500m by Track & Field News and Simpson's world 1500m title, the first by an American woman in 28 years.
"Last year? I felt like nothing could go right for me last year," Rowbury said in an interview with Race Results Weekly. "I hurt my right Achilles in the fall, and just as that was getting better around this time last year, my left Achilles started bothering me. I lost my grandmother, who was like a second mother to me. It was just like, man, I can't catch a break."
Rowbury, who lives in San Francisco and trains under John Cook's Austin Track Club, is here in Boston to make a fresh start at tomorrow night's New Balance Indoor Grand Prix. She's been in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, where Cook's group does their winter altitude training, focusing on building her strength and endurance for the long Olympic year. She'll run the 3000m here as a rust-buster against a strong field, which includes Simpson.
"Last year forced me to reevaluate everything," Rowbury continued. "There were some really tough moments where I questioned why I did this as a sport, why I put myself through this, you know, trying to put myself in the shape I had been in and not quite being able to get there. But, it made me realize how fit I had been and appreciate that."
Rowbury said she enjoys the relaxed vibe that training in Mexico offers, a calm prelude to the pressures of elite international competition. Her boyfriend, miler Pablo Solares, is also Mexican and the pair train together, along with Leo Manzano, Treniere Moser, and Lea Wallace amongst others.
"It's been good," she said of her latest stretch of training. "I've been in Mexico since the beginning of December... and I've really enjoyed the simplicity of life in Mexico: good weather, easy access to facilities, and having extra time at altitude to build that base I missed out on last year, to get that extra strength."
By starting out her season with a 3-K, Rowbury won't have to call on the kind of speed she has shown in the mile, where she is a fierce kicker. But, she said, under Cook's program, there is always an element of speed development in their training, even during an endurance phase.
"I think my speed is good," said. "It's certainly not where it will be in June, but throughout the year coach Cook does a good job of making sure we are not too far from speed. We're always doing, at least once a week, a speed development day. We've been doing power lifting and stuff like that in the weight room to get that explosiveness."
Tomorrow's race --her first since last September-- will give her objective feedback on her current level of fitness, she said, especially since she's been running exclusively at high altitude which means running at a slower pace.
"I'm excited go get out there again against a top-notch field of women and just kind of push myself and see where my strengths and weaknesses are and moving forward from there."
From Boston, Rowbury will go down to New York City for next Saturday's Millrose Games where she will run the NYRR Wanamaker Metric Mile, a 1500m race, again against Simpson. After that, she said she might do the USA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, but she and coach Cook had been leaning against it. However, because Albuquerque is at high altitude, Rowbury could enjoy a relative advantage because she has been "training high."
"Coach Cook did mention that," Rowbury said of the high altitude. "That's why I'm saying it's not fully out of the question because he did throw that out last week when were were at training. But, as of now, I haven't made any plans for it."
PHOTO: Shannon Rowbury winning the 2009 Fifth Avenue Mile (photo courtesy of New York Road Runners)