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Interview: David Krummenacker

By Peter Gambaccini

David Krummenacker competes in an 800m semi-final at the 2003 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships. He went on to win the next day's final. Photo: Alison Wade/New York Road Runners

After becoming, in 2002, the first man to rank #1 in the U.S. in both the 800 and the 1,500 since Rick Wohlhuter in 1976, David Krummenacker is about to wind up a 2003 indoor track campaign in which he placed third in the 1,500 at the adidas Boston Indoor Games behind Kenyans Bernard Lagat and Laban Rotich and then won 800s at the Verizon Millrose games in New York (1:50.20), the Tyson Foods Invitational in Fayetteville (1:47.20), and the USA Indoor Championships in Boston (1:50.59). He will run the 800 at the World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England March 14 to 16. Outdoors in 2002, the 6'2" Krummenacker lowered his personal bests to 1:43.92 in the 800 and 3:31.91 in the 1,500. He was third in the 800 at the World Cup after winning Grand Prix 800s in Paris and Rome and ranked third in the world at that distance. He also set an American indoor 1,000-meter record of 2:17.85 in 2002. Now 27, Krummenacker attended high school in Las Cruces, New Mexico and was the 1997 and 1998 NCAA Indoor 800 champ while at Georgia Tech. He now lives in Tucson, Arizona and is coached by Luiz de Oliviera. You had a couple of adventures along the way in the 800 at the USATF Indoors, didn't you -- a stumble in the beginning, and then barely sneaking by Khadevis Robinson at the end?

David Krummenacker: Khadevis made a strong move to put himself in position to take the lead for the race. That was fine with me. I don't mind running races watching someone else's pace. Right before the 200 mark, he hit the brakes pretty hard. It caused everybody else to run into the back on him. It caused a bit of a jumble. A few of us almost fell down. It was alright. Luckily, everybody stayed up. A couple of times it felt like the pace was a little slow, so I put a surge on to pass Khadevis. He wanted to maintain the pole position. At that point I realized it wasn't going to be a fast race, so I just settled in and passed him at the end. I felt good about the race. I was fortunate to win (by one-tenth of a second). He has a great kick. I was happy to come away with the victory.

MR: This is not the most important part of your year, but how do you assess your American indoor campaign?
I think it's really good. My training this indoor season and even in the fall is a lot better than last year. Coach (de Oliviera) has given me a lot. I've done completely different training this year than I've done in my previous preseason preparation. I feel a lot stronger than I had in the past, and I feel my speed is a lot better, so I'm really looking forward to outdoors.

MR: What have been some of the differences in training?
In the previous years, I was used to having the same routine year in and year out. If I looked at previous training schedules, if it was a particular week in November, I was doing almost the same workouts (every November). It wasn't that the workouts were entirely different now, but the order of events was entirely different.

MR: The mix was different.

MR: And you came off a good year last year, and racing is a way of keeping yourself fit, so if you can come off of that without getting hurt, you're building upon an excellent base.
Right, exactly. A lot of people say staying healthy is 99 percent of the equation, and I really believe that. I have a great coach, and if my training goes well and I do stay healthy, good things are going to follow

MR: When is the last time you had what you'd consider a serious injury?
(Pauses) I've been fortunate. Not since my sophomore year of college, when I had a really bad strain of my Achilles, and I redshirted indoor and outdoor. But if you have a hamstring strain, little things like that, although they don't seem like major injuries, depending on the time of season that they happen, if you have to miss two or three weeks of training and (do) rehab, then it might as well be a serious injury because the rest of the season can do spiraling down pretty quickly.

MR: So what does your offseason weekly mileage amount to?
We don't really have mileage in the sense of "go out and run ten miles." He always tells us "30 minutes, 40 minutes." I'd probably be guessing, but I'd say 50 miles or so.

MR: You mentioned that you think you have good speed now, but a month ago, you said you hadn't even started working on the speed for the indoor season. Is that something you've changed in the last few weeks?
I decided that since indoors has been going so well and I was running the races feeling pretty smooth and pretty strong without much speed training that I'd go ahead and run World Indoors and prepare for that. In order to get ready for those guys overseas, you've got to do a little speed. I just feel like I've been a much more comfortable than in the past when I do speed sessions. It's been sprinkled in the last two weeks or so - 200s, and we do some little starts just to get the turnover going.

MR: So you only recently made the decision to go to World Indoors?
At the beginning of the season, I wasn't so concerned about World Indoors. I just wanted to run a couple of races and see how it went, kind of get a basis for how training was going. After the first couple of 800s, I ran, I felt really good and I felt really easy and I said if I make the team, then I'll go.

MR: Have you paid attention to the 800 races overseas, to who's hot right now?
There's quite a few guys who've run 1:44 this year. It'll be good to see the guys that I raced against last summer, whom I haven't raced against this winter- (Wilson) Kipketer, (Yuriy) Borzakovskiy, (Wilfred) Bungei, all those guys have run 1:44.

MR: In the US, there aren't as many opportunities to run fast. Does it bother you that you go into the World Indoors without having run a really fast time this winter?
DK: No, it doesn't bother me at all. I know those races (in Europe) are run under entirely circumstances. They have rabbits. It's just different when you have rabbits in the race. The races here are set up in championship form. Everybody just goes into the race and whoever decidesto take it, goes.

MR: Did you give any thought to going over to Europe to race the winter?
I'd thought about it. There was a 1,000-meter race in France. They'd billed it as a shot at the world record, and I thought that would be a fun race to be in. But it was the Sunday right before the US Championships and I thought that was a little too much travel.

MR: Are you happy with the state of American indoor track? Do you think it's pretty healthy, based on the reception at various US meets?
I think the meet directors have done really great jobs with the meets here - the Arkansas meet, the Boston meet, the New York meet. They didn't have Arkansas (as part of the Golden Spike Tour) last year, they had it a couple of years ago, but I felt Millrose and Boston were even better than they were last year. The crowds were really into it. I felt like they were a lot of fun. I talked to Larry Rawson, the announcer for ESPN, and he told me ratings were doing really well. So I think [the meet directors] are kind of making a surge to come back.

MR: How did you hook up with Luiz de Oliviera, and why does his coaching work for you?
I'd been friends for Patrick (Nduwimana, of Burundi) for quite some time. We raced against each other in college. He went to Arizona. He had asked me a couple of times over the years, "You should come out to Arizona and train with me, I have a great coach, we'd have a lot of fun." He was looking for a trainer partner. I was in Atlanta and I had a good coach there, but I was training by myself. It makes it more of a grind if every day you're going for long runs by yourself and those kinds of things. It gets a little monotonous after awhile. In 2001 at the World Championships, I met with Luiz and we talked for awhile about the possibility of him coaching me. And he talked to Patrick. We just all decided we'd try to get something going. I came [to Tucson] in November of 2001.

MR: Is it easy to crystallize what's different about what Luiz gives you?
The approach is just a little more specific to me as an individual runner. What I was doing before was great, it helped me to run 1:44, but I think Luiz's training fits me a little bit better. Whether it's drills or the emphasis on speed or any other aspect, it seems to be a better overall fit or me.

MR: And in the summer, you have a base in Tubingen, Germany.
Yeah. Patrick and Bernard Lagat have the same manager. Lagat had gone there before. It was supposed to be Lagat, Seneca (Lassiter), Bernard, Patrick and I all going there and sharing an apartment (last summer). Since Patrick was hurt, those other guys were still kind enough to invite me to come. It's a great situation. We had a great track, great trails to run on. It's kind of centrally located. You can fly to all the meets in two hours or so. It's 20 minutes from Stuttgart.

MR: Bernard Lagat's in Tucson, but with a different coach. How much do you see of him?
Sometimes we get together for long runs, but we don't [do] any track workouts together.

MR: What you learn from being around him? He's a great runner, but also an impressive guy.
He's a very nice character. He has a very calm sense about himself. He's very confident in what he does. That's something that's important about running. And he treats running with a lot of professionalism. You have to treat it like the serious job that it is. You can't spend much time joking around, playing around, when it comes to the actual running. Sure you can have fun off the track, you can laugh and joke around, but when it comes time for training and taking care of injuries, you have to be 100 percent about business.

MR: We know you have goals beyond just US track, but what's it been like wearing the mantle of being the #1 guy in US in 800 and 1500?
I guess I don't feel much of a weight on my shoulders, because if you train hard and take care of business as you need to, whether it's treatment or icing or any of that type of activities, if you take care of the small things, everything else is going to fall into place. As far as people saying "This guy's #1 in the 800 or the 1,500," that's fine. To me, I have goals that are much further beyond those. I'd like to be #1 in the world. If I get to that point and people are saying "We've got to shoot for this guy," at that point I'll feel like maybe there's a little bit of a weight.

MR: What have you learned about making tactical adjustments in the middle of 800s?
Luiz expressed to me at the start of last season the importance of staying close to the front, that races aren't won running from the back, with the exception of people like Borzakovskiy. You have to maintain close contact and when you make a move, you have to make that move and go, you have to be decisive about it

MR: So the 800's a "one move" race.
It's the race that doesn't allow for many mistakes. You're maybe allowed one mistake and if you have two, you're very lucky. Any more than two, it's a crap shoot.

MR: What other interests do you have outside of running?
I like surfing, playing chess, music, reading. An author that I'm really into now is Terry Goodkind. He writes what are called "Sword of Truth" novels. They're kind of similar to "Lord of the Rings" and what Tolkien wrote long ago. On airplanes or before track meets, I've been reading these books, and they're pretty compelling. He has a series of seven, and I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm on six now. I have to find another author soon.

MR: We heard that your mother, who's in the Bahá’í faith, has a worldwide circle of people praying for you before races.
Actually, I'm a Bahá’í also. It's a worldwide religion. It began in 1844 or so. It teaches about the oneness of mankind. There's an idea of progressive revelation in the Bahá’í faith. We believe in all of the manifestations of God, whether it's Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, Jesus Christ. We believe they were all messengers from God sent to help out mankind during that period. The most recent prophet was Baha'ullah, which means "The glory of God." The Bahá’í faith is the second widest religion in the world, not in terms of population but in terms of geographic spread. It started in Persia (Iran).
My mom has a bunch of Bahá’í friends she talks to on the internet. They send around various prayer requests. Sometimes when I have races, she sends out requests for people to pray for me. It's a Bahá’í women's network. People always write back, "How'd your son do?" It's fun for her to communicate with people from all over the world -- all corners, Africa, Australia, Europe.

MR: When the World Indoor Championships are over, what will you do?
I'll take a break for a week or so. Not a complete break, just easy running. A break mentally, more than anything else, to kind of wind down and start thinking about the outdoor season.

MR: Have you picked a first outdoor race?
It'll probably be sometime in May.

MR: Maybe the Prefontaine Classic or Adidas Portland?
Probably one of those two.

MR: Last year was a real breakthrough year for you, but you have to keep on keeping on. Is the next goal perhaps a medal outdoors?
Exactly. Even next week at World Indoors, that's the goal for now. But certainly outdoors, yeah.

Peter Gambaccini is a New York-based freelance writer. He is a frequent contributor to New York Runner and Runner's World.

(Interview posted March 10, 2003)

©Copyright 2003, Mwns Racing

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