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Catching Up With Andrew Bumbalough

Published by
Scott Bush   Sep 13th 2012, 3:07pm

One of the fastest, most consistent distance runners in the U.S. over the past few years, Andrew Bumbalough is finishing up his 2012 racing campaign this coming weekend in Providence, Rhode Island, where he'll take on a stacked field in the U.S. 5k Championships. Catching up with Bumbalough this week, he talked with us about his season, bouncing back from his fourth place effort at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, what it's like to be part of such an amazing training group and much more. 


Scott Bush (SB): You've had a long track season, what are your expectations heading into the U.S. 5k Championships?

Andrew Bumbalough (AB): It has been a long season full of ups and downs. This year was broken up into three parts: An indoor season, the Olympic Trials, and a late summer European season. My first race was all the way back in January and my last race will be the 5k Road Champs coming up this week in September. That is almost nine months of racing! Each “season” was broken up by an altitude stint: the first in March in Mammoth Lakes, CA and the second in Flagstaff while the Olympics were going on.

While it has been a very long year, I’m extremely excited to get on the roads for one last race. The roads provide competitive running without the preciseness required for track racing. I am looking forward to competing for a US title and having the opportunity to do so in a city I haven’t had the opportunity to spend much time in.

SB: You ran a collection of very solid races over in Europe.  How do you feel about your 2012 track season overall?

AB: The season was full of good moments and positive moves forward, but also held its disappointments. I ran, what I felt, was a very good 3k back in February indoors in 7:44. I felt I made great leaps in my fitness and carried that momentum into training camp in Mammoth. Three weeks after coming down from Mammoth I ran a PB in the 5k - 13:16.25 after not touching the track at all in the High Sierras.

After that, I struggled through two 1,500m races that were supposed to serve as tune-ups going into the Trials. I felt “off” for a few weeks leading into the Trials, which was kind of scary, I’ll admit. However, all of that went away when I arrived at Hayward Field. I found new confidence and really felt that I was ready and in position to make the team. I put myself right there with a lap to go and came up a little short.

Europe didn’t really pan out the way I had hoped. I think sometimes people have this assumption that in Europe magical times are the norm. Sometimes that is true, but for several reasons my season didn’t end up that way. In my travel from Portland to Europe I came down with a nasty head cold that really put a damper on my 3k in Stockholm. According to one of my coaches, I sounded terrible and I didn’t feel much better. I managed another 7:44 but definitely felt I was in better shape.

I then ran a horrid 1500m in Belgium still a little under the weather. Recovered from the cold, I headed to Italy and ran a solid 5k in Rovereto after some pretty poor pacing the first 2k. 13:28 was nothing to get excited about but I was pleased with the way I competed, finishing 2nd, even though a PB wasn’t really in the cards. My last race in Rieti, I raced aggressively and burned myself up, by 2k I was moving backwards. I think, in some respects, I was pretty tired from the year.

SB: Just missing the Olympic team had to be hard. How were you able to regroup and focus forward on the rest of your season?

AB: Not making the Olympic team was hard. Since joining the group in Portland two years ago, that was certainly my main focus. Making it to Daegu last year was a solid step forward and I felt that experience would help me if I were to make the Olympics. I was certainly disappointed with the outcome of the Trials.

It was a pretty emotional experience to come that close. At the same time, I wasn’t completely devastated because I felt I had prepared myself for that outcome should it go that way. Instead, I was fired up and ready to go to Flagstaff and get in killer shape for Europe. I felt that I could still get a lot out of this season and wanted to put in a good five weeks of training before I went over to Europe.

SB: From top to bottom, the group you're part of is so strong. How has joining Jerry Schumacher and the rest of the group helped you evolve as a runner since graduating Georgetown?

AB: I think joining OTC Portland has been the best possible decision I could have made for my running career. We have so many good athletes that it is a necessity to show up to every workout with your A Game. Having elite runners from 1500m-Marathon gives us the opportunity to always have someone to train with whether that be a 20 miler with Simon or fast 300s on the track with Lopez. Additionally, we receive good support from Nike and our group physio keeps us in tip-top shape.

SB: In Europe you have a home base, then travel around to different cities competing in the circuit. Where is your group's home base and what are some of the challenges of living/training/competing over in Europe for much of the summer?

AB: The group’s European base is in Hulst, Netherlands - a small Dutch town that is a mere five kilometers from the Belgium border. It is only 45 minutes from Brussels airport and two hours from Amsterdam. It is very easy to travel to and from the town despite being really small.

For a small town, it has great training. There is a track that is a five-minute jog from our flat as well as some trails that are just a short drive away. Perhaps the most interesting run is just out the back door - a 3k loop on top of the old city center wall that was used to protect the city from hostile neighbors years ago.

The hardest thing about Europe is the boredom that can occur after several days of sitting and waiting for the next race. We try to keep ourselves busy catching up on some reading, Dutch soap operas, or cards, but there definitely comes a time when you wish you could walk to your neighborhood coffee shop or visit with friends back in the States. You know you’ve gotten to that point when a daily trip to the grocery store is a highlight of your day.

SB: With the growing size of your training group, how do all of you and everyone's different personalities mesh?

AB: The group is getting bigger and bigger, but I think everyone views that as a positive. It just means we have more people to train with and get better. I am excited that German Fernandez and Elliott Heath will be joining the group this fall and that I had the opportunity to train and race with them in Europe. Both of them will greatly benefit from being amongst some of the country’s best guys and the older guys will enjoy having some younger guys to make them feel younger, haha.

SB: German Fernandez recently joined your group and you two have been training and racing each other pretty much since his joining. How's that been?

AB: German is a great guy and has already shown that he is a major talent. I think as he continues to mature as a runner he will get better and better. I think you are just seeing the tip of the iceberg with that 3:34 in Berlin. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him and look forward to helping each other improve as runners in the years to come.

SB: With the off-season right around the corner for you, can you describe what the off-season is like for you? Training, lack of training, base building, etc.

AB: My wife and I will be taking a weeklong trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, Route 101. We plan on doing a fair amount of camping and soaking up the beauty of the California and Oregon Coast. I’m very much looking forward to our week there and then a few nights in Sonoma’s wine country before heading back to Portland.

All in all, I’ll probably take that week completely off from running and then start jogging whenever I feel like it for the next 2-3 weeks. It will probably be at least three weeks before I get back to serious training.

I like to think of it as just being a runner, not an elite athlete during that time. If I feel like running an hour I’ll do it. If I feel like an hour at the beach, I’ll do that. I think it’s good to allow your body, and more importantly your mind, to decompress, especially after a long year with a lot of ups and downs. 

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