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Andrew Middleton who trains with McMillanElite of Flagstaff, Arizona, is a 2007 graduate from the University of Texas, where he attained a BA in Government. He accomplished all-American status in 2004 and helped the Longhorns place 12th & 7th in the NCAA Div 1 National Cross Country Championships.
Middleton has had a strong return to racing. He ended 2009 with a win and personal best at the Tucson Half marathon in 64:48.
5000m – 14:10.28
10000m – 28:54.87
15k – 47:04
Half-marathon – 1:04:48
Andrew now has his sights set on the March 21, 2010 Honda LA Marathon, with its newly re-designed, point-to-point stadium-to-sea route, which happens to be billed by race organizers as flat and fast.
The LA Marathon has undergone a complete face-lift, with new, stable ownership in LA Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, quality management and the new route.
Christopher Kelsall: Congrats on your recent performances at the 3M Austin Half Marathon with your 64:48 personal best. I assume, based on this result, you must be going after a 2:13-high to 2:14-low result at the LA Marathon?
Andrew Middleton: The 3M Half-Marathon in Austin ended up as a great event in my pre-LA preparations. I went in knowing exactly what I needed to do and thankfully the body followed suit. Going back to Austin and running this event has been on my calendar ever since I graduated from the University of Texas. I felt very confident pre-race having lived for four years in the neighborhood that contains the second half of the course. Overall, Austin was a great step in the right direction and I am confident in the training Greg (McMillan) has laid out for the coming weeks. In terms of time for LA, my immediate goal is to run under the Olympic Trials and IAAF “A” Standards.
CK: Regarding the new stadium-to-sea route in the Honda LA Marathon, have you had a preview? Apparently it will be very fast.
AM: Other than looking it over online I have not had a preview of the course. I was excited to see the layout of the route. The way it has been advertised is that there is a landmark every mile. While I know there will be no sightseeing this time around, I fully expect good crowds to line the streets and for the course to run very fast.
CK: Are the LA organizers giving you any sense that they are lining up much of a field likely to run in the 2:14 – 2:15 range?
AM: I haven’t had any indication of who else will be running in LA. I certainly hope for a few guys who would like to run the same type of race.
CK: In your McMillanElite blog posts, you talk about the success of your fellow teammates even back when you were not quite where you wanted to be. Is it important for you to be a part of a team; to feel connected with others in a group-like setting?
AM: Being part of a team like McMillanElite has been a major factor in my return post-injury. The success my teammates had in 2009 spurred me on to get healthy and ‘do my part,’ so to speak. The quality of people on this team is amazing. Never for a moment did I feel unconnected from the group throughout that whole period. I remember several times in the past year when I was beyond excited to hear of my teammates success. Even though I was not yet able to train, knowing they were performing well kept my motivation high.
CK: What was the nature of your injury?
AM: In the end, it was a very simple fix, just scar tissue build-up between my abductor and hamstring near the ischium on both legs. But the way it presented itself was very strange, I had MRI’s, nerve conduction tests and a gamut of other treatments that really had no effect on the area at all. I was out a total of 6 months, and it wasn’t until my birthday this time last year that it was finally treated. My teammates Alvina Begay and Bri Torres had visited Dr. John Ball, a chiropractor down in Tempe and mentioned I should give him a try. Within 10 minutes he had diagnosed the problem, treated it and I was able to run pain free for the first time in half a year. I’ve seen him many times since for related issues that caused the scar tissue build-up, but a year later I feel stronger now than ever. I think just about everyone on the team has seen him since they saw how well he treated my injury. I am very grateful for the time he has spent not just making my pain go away, but also for educating me to take better care of my body through improved rehab techniques.
CK: Austin apparently provides a great running and endurance environment (so I have heard) did you grow up idolizing any successful runners from the area?
AM: Thinking back I cannot remember any runners I greatly admired from Austin. I grew up in a smaller town just east of Austin called College Station and had several older runners who I trained with on occasion that had finished their collegiate eligibility. Those were the guys who I chased on runs. They showed me the trails no one else knew about and taught me the importance of dedication in training. The relatively short, but invaluable time they devoted to picking me up and driving me out to runs was very instrumental in my realization of the potential I held in running.
CK: How about now, anyone you like to emulate?
AM: I see a lot of attributes in many runners that I find appealing especially among my teammates. Martin (Fagan) and Ian (Burrell) and their toughness in training, Brett (Gotcher) and his consistency and patience, Paige (Higgins) in her ability to run high mileage weeks on end without burning out. There is no perfect formula that works for runners across the board and running is really about experimenting to find out what works best for the individual. I think what makes the great runners great is their willingness to experiment, find what works for them and then fine tune. I am talking more about the mental side of the sport though. It is part of the learning process each runner must go through – making running your own is the first, finding a coach who not only pushes you physically but strengthens you mentally as well, and then the dedication to the goal.
CK: Are you being pushed and strengthened mentally now? How does that manifest itself in day-to-day training?
AM: Being around runners of this caliber really gives you only two options, either become defeated mentally or be strengthened. Many of us came from college programs where we were the best on the team and led every workout and long run. Our group has a very healthy attitude when it comes to pushing each other in workouts. We all want to run faster, but we don’t need to hammer every day in order to reach that goal. I, personally, get excited when I see someone have a great workout, even on days when I feel less than my best.
CK: Can you describe specifically what it was the Longhorn’s coach, Vigilante did that helped you improve so much in your first cross-country season?
AM: My first cross-country season was not at all what I hoped for. But from day one he reminded me that adjusting to new training is a process. I went from finishing 26th at regionals to 30th in the nation the following year – a complete turn-around. Before the summer of my junior year, I sat down with Vig and I told him of my goals and he told me what I needed to do to reach them, namely what I mentioned earlier (making running my own). I woke up early every day that summer, put in the miles, logged the long runs each week and stayed focused. One ideal he really pushed hard was to never work so hard one day that you would not be able to come back and complete the same workout the next. It was all about consistency.
CK: I assume you are running over 100 miles per-week now. With your interruption due to injury how has the transition gone from University to McMillanElite?
AM: The transition has not been too difficult in terms of training mileage, the biggest hurdle I faced was working out at 7000 feet. It was difficult at first to detach my mind from the times I felt I could run at sea level and the actual times I run at altitude. But with almost three years of Flagstaff in my system, I feel my body is really becoming comfortable with the challenges of training at altitude.
CK: Can you describe your first runs at altitude.
AM: I always enjoy watching runners that are new to altitude, but always in the context that I, too, have been through the same experience. One of my first runs in Flag after joining the team was with Abdi, Ryan Shay and Mike Smith. I already looked up to those guys because of their intensity in training, and I experienced that intensity firsthand that morning. I definitely put myself into more oxygen debt than I should have, but that is part of the learning process.
CK: In one interview you spoke of enjoying cooler weather as you seem to run better when the temperatures are mild. This was when you were in Texas. How about the Northern Arizona winters? Ever train in the snow before arriving in Flagstaff?
AM: I am a Texan, through and through. And not a north Texan who sees occasional snow every winter, but a central Texan who remembers the cold stuff once when I was ten. This was another big adjustment I had to make when moving to Flagstaff. I feel I am calloused enough to it now that I don’t really consider it an issue anymore. Mild is a relative term though, I don’t want to experience the kinds of winters Andrew Carlson describes back in Minnesota and North Dakota. My idea of mild is 40-50 degrees.
CK: Your 5000m record being 14:10, it looks like you are going to have to take your 4th consecutive Polish Pickle title and break the course record of 14:15.
AM: I hoped you wouldn’t mention the Polish Pickle, but now that the word is out I suppose I have to admit that I’ve been keeping this race a secret for a long time. Even though I am not from the tiny town of Bremond, Texas, I truly consider this my “hometown race.” It is one that I absolutely hate to miss. The weather is usually pretty tough for a 5k, humid and hot on a June morning, but I have fun nonetheless. I see the same people every year, hear the same music at the start line and post-race party, eat the same post-race refreshments (Polish sausage, pickles and fruit) and talk to one of my favorite runners, Bart Braden (Hanging here), who is famous, or infamous, for being able to suspend himself horizontally on street poles at the young age of 76. The people there are absolutely fantastic, it is a Polish-immigrant town, less than a thousand people, mostly farmers and ranchers. The biggest draw for me is not the cash prize for the win, but the sizable jar of homemade Polish Pickles. I spent fifteen minutes packing it with bubble wrap and duct-tape before carefully placing it in my bag on the return trip home this year.
CK: So the pickles are good?
AM: The best. A complete incomparable experience to the ones in the store. They keep me coming back each year for more.
CK: Have you tried sauerkraut with them? How about Dijon mustard?
AM: I am actually a huge sauerkraut fan. But really, I will eat anything (and everything according to my wife).
CK: Regarding suspending oneself from poles horizontally, is that where with one arm he holds onto the pole below his body and the other perpendicular and he looks like he is hanging onto the pole in a windstorm – so he appears to be a filled windsock? That is pretty solid for a 76 year old.
AM: Yes, he’s quite the acrobat for his age. That is only one of the things that makes him so special. If the Lord so chooses to bless me, I’d love to have the same fitness and excitement for the life that Bart has at his age. I really enjoy seeing the results of the guys in their 90s still running the 100m dash, that sort of thing really motivates me. I’d love to run for a long, long time. The journey has been fun so far. Who knows, maybe I could hit 100,000 miles in my lifetime (only 66, 000 more to go).
Photo credit: Melissa Dunstan Photography