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Catching Up With Jason Hartmann

Published by
Scott Bush   on Mar 16 2013, 05:26 PM

It's been a long road for marathon standout Jason Hartmann. The University of Oregon graduate has had quite the career, including winning a U.S. marathon title, being ranked as one of the best American marathoners for much of the past decade and a fourth place finish at the Boston Marathon in 2012. Through his ups and downs, Hartmann has learned much about himself and the sport, and as he continues to push him limits, he's eyeing even faster times. 

Hartmann competes at the NYC Half this weekend, then shifts his full focus to the Boston Marathon in April. We caught up with Hartmann this week, as the Boulder resident gave us some great insight into his career, his current training situation and much, much more.

Scott Bush (SB): You're running the NYC Half this coming weekend. With such a strong field assembled, what type of approach are you taking to the race?

Jason Hartmann (JH): The NYC Half marathon is a chance to measure my fitness. I have been training at a very high mileage with some intense workouts as well, and this race is a good opportunity to drop my overall mileage, absorb the mileage and workouts I have been doing at altitude, and put them to the test at sea level. As I train myself, my ability to translate my training to racing this weekend will give me information about what I need to do these next four weeks to be most prepared when I toe the line at Boston Marathon on April 15th. How I perform at NYC Half will give me the information I need regarding what types of adjustments (if any) I make in the next four weeks in preparation for Boston.

SB: How has your current training been going? How does it compare to some of your more successful build-ups?

JH: In this marathon build up, I have added more running mileage in to my weekly aerobic easy mileage as well as some cross training on the alter-Gravity treadmill and EFX. I am a different athlete than I was in 2004 and in 2008 when I got injured before the US Trials.

I am better able to read my body, and know when to back off. I am a more mature athlete (in terms of ability to read my own fitness, needs, and response to training) and can handle more mileage than I could when I was younger. I pushed my mileage without crossing the red line. I felt that that risk was worth it for me, to push myself in terms of overall mileage in preparation for this race, because I had to know (personally) that I gave it everything I could and that I was in the top level of fitness that I could be in given the years of training I already had in my legs. I try to make slight adjustments so that I am always challenging myself, and to prevent from getting stale. Slight adjustments in training help me stay more responsive to training.

SB: After finishing fourth at the Boston Marathon in 2012, what were your expectations heading into the NYC Marathon? What did you feel you were capable of?

JH: I felt more confident of performing to my full capabilities going into the NYC marathon than I did going into Boston 2012. Pre-Boston 2012, I had a nagging injury early in my marathon build up. It prevented me from having the ideal 12 week build up that I would have liked. Luckily, with the help of Boulder's best physical therapists (Bob Cranny, PT, and Kristin Carpenter, PT), I was able to recover.  After that injury, I was able to log some heavy training for ten weeks. It was actually my shortest build up ever going into a marathon, but it ended up being a blessing in disguise.  In contrast, for the NYC marathon, I didn't feel like I was "chasing fitness", trying to cram what I normally would have done as a 12-13 week build up at altitude into 10 weeks. Early on, I didn't think I would be ready for Boston, but for NYC Marathon, I felt like I could be ready by race day because I took confidence away from pacing my high school teammate, Dathan Ritzenhein, through the 12 mile point of the Chicago Marathon about a month out from Boston at 2:07 marathon pace. When I ran that day, I felt on. That gave me confidence that my fitness was building at the rate that I wanted it to.

SB: While you obviously weren't able to run in New York, how come you decided to forgo a marathon in the fall?

JH: I explored the chance to compete in other places but in the end, I felt it was best to shut it down. I had prepared mentally and physically for NYC, not for a marathon at a later date. I did do a couple of workouts after NYC marathon to see if I could hold my fitness out for another week or two, but mentally (versus physically) it was hard to rebound from the upset. I had been really excited for NYC because I had come in first American at Chicago and at Boston, and I had wanted to test myself to see if I could come in as the top American in the best three marathons on US soil. I love opportunities to challenge myself, and I was crushed to lose that opportunity. With that said, I want to offer my deepest sympathy to the east coast families and individuals whose lives were thrown upside down because of the hurricane, and to those individuals who lost loved ones. We (the professional athletes) had already flown into NYC (they cancelled it after we arrived), and to see the devastation was heart breaking. Hurricane Sandy was so unexpected. Between seeing so much sorrow, and between the erratic decision making of whether the race was "on" or "off", "on" or "off", I was emotionally drained by the end of the weekend. (I can only imagine how to victims of Hurricane Sandy felt). Emotionally, it was a stronger decision to try to rally for a marathon a few months out, versus a few days or weeks out.

SB: With Boston approaching, what type of work have you been putting in to put yourself in the best situation to challenge for a very high finish once again?

JH: Like I said, I have added more running mileage to this marathon build up and some cross training (EFX, Anti-Gravity Treadmill, etc.).  The core to my training has been the same, but I've added some things to both my run workouts, core/strength routines, and aerobic fitness component to keep freshness as well as motivation strong.  Being sharp is really important to my success, so I make adjustments in order to feel sharp on race day.

SB: You've been training with the Hudson group a bit. Are you officially a member of their training group? What's your current training situation?

JH: Brad Hudson is a former coach of mine, and someone who, through time, also became a very close friend. Brad even through a surprise birthday party for me once! Even though he is not my coach currently, I respect Brad very much as a coach, and often bounce my training ideas off of him. I will talk to him about the structure of my training program, and respect his feedback as a very experienced coach and personal friend.

I have some other friends, including the Torres twins and Dathan Ritzenhein, whose feedback on my workouts, training mileage, and structure I often seek out because I respect their expertise in the sport as well. It always helps to have someone outside of yourself give you constructive criticism, or give you input because they can see what you can't.  If Brad's guys are doing something similiar to what I had planned on doing on a given day (such as a tempo run or mile repeats), I will try and jump in with them so we can help each other out. Plus, it is nice to be around people that are not afraid to work hard and chase their individual goals while being structured into a group environment.

While I thrive off of mornings when I'm the only one diligent enough to be running up a canyon or a mountain as the sun is rising (or so I tell myself to build confidence), it's also nice to have a group keeping you company on the inclement weather days. Sometimes having someone running behind you can push you and motivate you just as much as having someone in front, pulling the pace. Especially on really cold, snowy, or rainy days!

After the 2012 US Olympic Marathon trials, I made the decision to coach myself and go at it alone. I really do not know how many more months or years I have left in the sport of running. I pursue my running now as if I have nothing to lose.  I do not train for development anymore. I train for a day. For a specific race and moment. One day is what I train for and it has allowed me to focus on what is important and the things I want most out of my running and out of life.

Brad Hudson (Hudson Training Systems) has a great group of people that are supportive of one another. I really respect their camaraderie and the positive training environment that Brad creates. I also really appreciate that they invite me to team dinners and barbeques. Those are fun. Even though I am only "associated" with them versus being on the team, I really appreciate how each and every member of their group makes me feel like a full-time team member when I am there. Everyone is very encouraging of one another.

SB: You've been competing at a very high level for such a long time now. As a new quadrennial begins, what are your goals and aspirations as you enter this stage in your career?

JH: I just focus on trying to be the best I can be. I prepare and I have complete faith in what I am doing. I would not have this if I did not have the positive impact of some of the people I have been around and worked with. Whether that be with my high school coach (Brad Prins), who taught me a lot about work ethic, or my collegiate coach, (Martin Smith), who taught me the power of discipline, I have learned an invaluable amount of knowledge about this sport from the mentors I have been privileged to work with.

In high school, I can remember the training we use to do and how insane it was.  But we would still have 60 plus people running ski hills in Rockford, Michigan in the dead of summer. We would run five hard workouts a week: mile repeat Mondays, tempo Tuesdays, hill repeats Wednesdays, strides Thursdays, easy run Fridays, and races on Saturdays! My high school program taught me to fight even if I was tired from the day before, and to grind out the hard work day after day.

Martin Smith, taught me a great deal about running, discipline, and focus. If we were off on the times we were supposed to be hitting for a repeat interval, he would stop us and make us start again. We would do planks and core in a room and he would turn the temperature all the way up, so that we focused only on the task at hand and learned to accept pain and work through it. Lessons and skills that I did not see being absorbed at the time, but that I look back at now and am extremely grateful for. With age comes experience. Martin taught me that I did not have to run as fast as I could everyday, and taught me how to structure a training program, and finally, how to focus on what matters most (championship meets), and how to tune out distractions.

Brad Hudson taught me how to train as a professional. When you’re in college, you have the structure of being on a team, designated practice times and strength training times twice a day, and convenient athletic trainers at a facility nearby that you can access for free. The discipline is built into the program. But when you are a professional athlete, no one is demanding that you wake up at a required time, and accessing a massage therapist that does Graston technique is no longer so convenient. No one makes you do push ups because you "go through the motions" doing your core work, and they just won't have that. As a professional athlete, you become responsible for yourself. Only you know if you quit. Only you know if you stayed out late, or didn't go the extra mile to eat like a professional athlete and buy the proper foods that would fuel your body for a workout. Brad taught me how to train at a high level, and do all the little things that make you a professional of the sport.

Steve Jones, or "Jonesy" as many of us call him, is someone who I have the utmost respect for. I learned a great deal from him, but most importantly, he helped me find the purity and simplicity of the sport again. When you start depending on your performances to put food on the table, sometimes it can take the enjoyment out of training because you put so much pressure on your workouts and your times in a different way than you did in college even if you were a full-scholarship athlete. Jonesy helped me find an inner peace in my running that I didn't even realize was missing until I found it again. He is very calm as a person, and doesn't complicate things. It could be 2 degrees out or 95, and he doesn't even acknowledge it...he simply instructs, "go run, warmup, and then we'll run fast."

I remember we were training down in Arizona once, and Jonesey and I went to a movie (Book of Eli). I remember sitting there thinking, "I am sitting next to a marathon world record holder, and no one in this theater knows who he is. Wow."  I respect that he gives his time and energy and does not make it about him. He is very selfless. He does not call attention to himself or bask in his glory days. He always makes the training environment, the dinner conversation, the interview he's responding to, etc. about the athletes he coaches. Often times as athletes we are looking for a secret workout to get better, a secret nutrition supplement, a secret shoe that will make us the best. Jonesey brought me back from this ideal to a place that made training simple again: Jonesey's training group was about hard work, and nothing else.

Under Lee Troop's coaching, I was given the opportunity to race in some of the most beautiful places in the world. I can't thank Freya Troop enough for the countless dinners, sewing help, and her friendship etc! Lee Troop (a 3-time marathon Olympian for Australia) let me live with him in Australia for weeks upon end in order to race various races there including a charity 5k he put on himself! Without running, I never would have seen some of the most beautiful places in the world that I've been fortunate enough to travel to because of this sport.

All these coaches, as well as the teammates I have trained with, and the competitors who have pushed me through walls in races, have allowed me to formulate and structure a program that is beneficial to my running.  I do not have much time left in the sport (based upon frequency of injuries, motivation levels on what I want from this sport, etc). When that day ends, I will know I gave everything to this sport and will look back and have no regrets. I will look back on my performances and say, "I gave it everything I could."

SB: As a professional now for 10 years, how have you grown as an athlete? What's the most important thing you've learned over the years?

JH: I have become better focus now. I was always focused as an athlete in terms of, I was always disciplined. I was never a crazy party boy, and always put my running first. But now I am better at tuning out distractions, and recognizing what or who is a negative impact on my goals. Now, I don't bother with anything that takes away from my goals.

SB: What is your current sponsorship situation?

JH: I have been fortunate to have the sponsorship of the number one running shoe specialty store in the nation: Boulder, Colorado's Boulder Running Company, as well as the best health and fitness club in Boulder: Rally Sport. Rally Sport provides me a free membership, and their sponsorship was critical in allowing me to cross train on an EFX as well as treadmill run on days where Colorado was covered in black ice, to ensure I am prepared for NYC marathon and Boston 2013. I do all of my strength training at Rally Sport as well.

Boulder Running Company co-owners Mark Plaatjes and Johnny Halberstadt have been very supportive of my running and racing over the years, always a friendly smile when I came in the store. Mark, a former marathon world champion, even runs with me sometimes! When I had no particular shoe sponsor going into the 2012 Boston Marathon, BRC sponsorship director (and Broomfield High School Cross Country and Track Head Coach) Greg Weich offered me in-kind support through the store. They have been so generous to me, providing me shoe product as well as community networking opportunities. They have invited me to their weekly Wednesday night fun runs to run with community runners of all ages and abilities, to raffle off prizes, and to enjoy free Naked pizza and beer from Avery Brewing Company! Some nights, over 200 runners show up to the Wednesday night fun runs to run between 3 and 8 miles. I have even had the chance to raffle off a run with me as a prize! What’s been the result of being given these networking and fun exposure opportunities? I have a bigger community fan base than I ever had before, and I have Boulder Running Company to thank for it.

Before, only parents of the (Niwot) high school cross country athletes I coached for three years knew who I was if I was walking through a supermarket. Now, hundreds of people high-five me on a running trail and give me "thumbs up" about Boston 2012. When I run on the roads, I hear cars honking and runners yelling, "Good luck in Boston!" at least twice a day. Before, I was just some tall guy running around Boulder, originally from Michigan, who went to school in Oregon.

Boulder is a city saturated with fit athletes, especially elite runners, so it’s not uncommon for runners to get honks. But usually, the names the Boulderites know are the Boulder Bolder 10k champions, or the University of Colorado Buffalo cross country and track program alumni. This is who they cheer for and follow loyally throughout their careers. It means a lot to me to feel so embraced by the Boulder community, and to have their support going into my focus races.

Every time I go to Rally Sport, or even when I go to the post office, a few times a day, I'm motivated by a friendly face of recognition when I walk by, a pat on the back by a runner on a trail, a thumbs up from a high school coach, or a kind whisper of support from an athlete running by. While the community of Boulder isn't a formal sponsorship situation", it feels like I'm being sponsored by the Boulder runners, the parents, the athletes, the fans of our sport, and this means the world to me.

Fast Three

SB: Favorite road race?

JH: The major marathons

SB: Favorite food?

JH: Mexican. My friends joke I'm 1/8th Mexican because I eat it so often.

SB: Best movie?

JH: Anything with Al Pacino. Any movie that has a motivational scene/moment that I draw from in the moments before I go out the door for an easy run or head to the track/trail/hill/road for
a workout. Some runner up movies:  Any Given Sunday, The Godfather, Scent of a Woman, Rudy, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Goodfellas, 8MileRoad, etc.

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