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Megan Metcalfe Wright is a Canadian Olympian who currently specializes in the 5000m distance. Metcalfe Wright made the final at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and ran to her current personal best time of 15:11.23 in the opening heat. She has also competed in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships four times, IAAF World Indoor Games and IAAF World Cup of Athletics once each.
Metcalfe Wright grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, where she was very active in a range of sports. She later competed in the NCAA Division 1 forWest Virginia University and went on to achieve NCAA All-American status nine times. She is also four-time Canadian Champion and owns the Canadian indoor 5000m record of 15:25.15.
Metcalfe Wright is now preparing for spring competition with plans on qualifying for the 2012 London Olympic Games. She needs to run the Canadian A+ Standard, which is 14:56.94 or the A plus the B standard, which are 15:20 and 15:30 respectively. Her window of opportunity closes on June 30th.
Christopher Kelsall: I understand you have really settled into West Virginia. You got married and bought a house, yes?
Megan Metcalfe Wright: Yes, I came here as a freshman in 2000 and although I loved it I never imagined I would have stayed. I met my husband, Jonathan, on the team and life just sort of sorted itself out. We bought a house in the fall of 2008. I had been looking a lot, and would run through the streets and see a cute house then go home and look it up. Jonathan would not let me consider buying a house until after Beijing, so once back in town and on a break from training I went on a mission!
CK: While growing up in Edmonton, what sports were you into ?
MW: Everything! My main sport wasRingette and swam summer swim club. My family is a big on the outdoors and are athletic. We did a lot of skiing, downhill and cross-country in the winters and did a lot of backpacking in the summer.
CK: Did you ski at Marmot Basin and Sunshine Village much?
MW: Yes! We have skied everywhere. A lot at Fernie, Kicking Horse and Lake Louise. My brother Stan is a guide, so we enjoy back-country skiing as well. Most of our Christmas and spring break vacations growing up were in the mountains with an assortment of family friends and cousins.
CK: In West Virginia do you get up to Canaan Valley or Snowshoe Mountain much?
MW: Yes. It’s beautiful there. the WVU team has their cross-country camp up at Canaan. I have not skied there, I think I am a bit spoiled being from Alberta.
CK: Did you get a chance to enjoy all the Canadian ski-cross and freestyle performances during the Vancouver Olympics?
MW: No. My green card was being processed so I was not able to go at all. I was glued to the TV and watched religiously. I love watching the moguls, curling, speed skating and figure skating.
CK: That is a broad range of sports. Are you an Oilers and Eskimos fan?
MW: Both! We always had tickets growing up and my parents are big sports fans.
CK: Apparently your five siblings (including a twin) are all good athletes. Are any of the others endurance athletes?
MW: Yes. Growing up, not really. My twin brother Mike ran at the University of Alberta and was All-Canadian. We would run together a lot and it was fun because I enjoyed working out with his friends and him when I was home. I ran a fun half-marathon with my sister in Arizona last year and my oldest brother and his wife who were big time swimmers have taken up running in full swing.
CK: At what age did you discover that running was your best sport and that you were going to focus on it?
MW: I started running a bit in elementary school, but I was not very good. I actually did not make the team the first time I tried out. In junior high, I began to love fitness stuff and joined a track team to cross train for Ringette. I was good, but there were a lot of people that were better. It was not that I was really good, it was more that every year I loved the sport a bit more and slowly started to dedicate more of my life to it. As it turned out, the more I put into it, the better I got. By grade 11 I had dropped most other sports for track.
CK: So a very active childhood lends itself well to becoming a quality athlete as an adult!
MW: I think so. I think there are many paths you can take to becoming an athlete. I do not believe in burn out. I know great runners that were stars from elementary school and on, and others that did not find the sport until they were adults. I think the biggest thing was that I was taught a sense of commitment from a young age. It was never an option to skip practice or a game. This lead me to growing up without even considering skipping training. If family was going on vacation, I would run early in the morning so that I wouldn’t have to miss out on anything. It was never an option of if I was going to do it, it was more figuring out the logistics of how.
CK: During international competition, having heats in a race as long as 5000m, do you get really beat up? Do you just hope and pray for tactical heats leading to the final?
MW: In Beijing, I was struggling with an injury before and I don’t think it was the pace that bothered me. I would have been hurting really bad after any serious effort. I do not hope for a tactical race because in the 5000m that could mean anything! I have gone out in a championship final race at 6:00 min pace (per mile)! Its racing, and the uncertainty of how it is going to play out makes it exciting and fun (and scary).
CK: That is a over a minute off pace! Beijing you ran a personal best of 15:11. How did that race play out?
MW: I honestly do not remember. I tend to zone out sometimes and do not know my splits from Beijing. I have not been able to find video of it either! I do remember that we were all in a pack at the beginning, at some point I sort of fell off the group and was starting to slow. Then a Russian girl a few feet ahead of me collapsed and it sort of woke me up. I was able to sprint as hard as I could knowing I could make the final.
CK: So are you suggesting you are not interested in having to kick?
MW: I love to kick. That race I was referring to was actually the NCAA final when we went out super slow. Not certain the exact pace, but it was slow and fans booed! I ended up winning that one with a kick so it was fun. Kicking races are not fun when you place poorly or can’t respond to the kick at the end. Those days you run slow and place poorly.
CK: Do you need to increase your volume or intensity when training for the Olympics to deal with the increased number of times you compete over the distance?
MW: No. I’ve always been a high mileage person, and this year I’m actually doing less mileage and focusing on staying healthy and recovery from all my sessions. In London, the heats are on the 7th and the final on the 10th, so we practice hard efforts the same distance apart so that it is not a shock to the body, when we compete.
CK: What sort of mileage volume are you at then? What were you doing earlier in your career?
MW: I’ve been all over and right now, am not really adding it up until after the weeks done and just letting it be what it is. So now there is a lot more variance from 80 to 105 miles-per-week depending on the week. I have had long stretches at 110 miles-per-week and have liked it.
CK: At these lower mileages are you now focusing a greater percentage of your time at your anaerobic threshold?
MW: No, it isn’t a drastic difference, just focusing more on quality and listening to my body. I supplement easy runs with a swim or cross training and am more confident now to back off when I need to recover.
CK: Can you describe your peaking workouts?
MW: We just get a lot more specific with training as a whole and as the intensity winds up, volume tends to trend down. Early in the season we do a lot of hills and tempos and closer to race time we are hitting specific paces. The week of a race I will usually do a shorter workout, but that tends to be one longer interval followed by some 400m or 200m repeats.
CK: Your personal best is over 13 seconds off of the A+ standard of 14:56.94. Where will you be racing to try to achieve this time or the A plus a B (15:20 and 15:30)?
MW: My race plans are to run Mt. Sac, for at least the B and then go Europe end of May and run hopefully either Hengelo or Rome. I have New York as a back up, but I am hoping to not need it. I think this plan works well with peaking and being able to space out my races.