Dathan Ritzenhein and Ryan Hall should be two of the highlights of this weekend’s XC extravaganza. Your favorite blogger is writing this in the Lufthansa lounge in Dusseldorf, Germany, on way to Birmingham, England, to see the Norwich International.
INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 13, 2008) – USA Track & Field served as the host to a media teleconference Wednesday afternoon featuring Team USA men’s squad members for the 2008 Olympic Marathon in Beijing, China, Ryan Hall and Dathan Ritzenhein.
Hall and Ritzenhein discussed their preparations for the 2008 USA Cross Country Championships in San Diego on Saturday, where both open and junior men and women will look to earn a spot on the Team USA squad for the 2008 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland, on March 30.
The championships in San Diego will feature six races that will determine national champions for masters men and women; junior men and women; and open men and women. The event will be televised in association with the AT&T USA Indoor Track & Field Championships February 24, from 5-7 p.m. on ESPN 2.
Excerpts from Wednesday’s teleconference with Ryan Hall and Dathan Ritzenhein follow:
Q: Ryan could you discuss how your preparations have been going for Saturday’s race?
A: I’m feeling really good. I’ve been training hard at altitude and this race is coming right at the perfect time. I’m probably a little ahead of where I need to be at this point, so it’s a good opportunity for me to rest up for a week and then gear back up for training after the race.
Q: Dathan, you’ve competed in cross country already this year. How has that prepared you for the race on Saturday?
A: I was able to come over in mid-January and take a look at the course, which is going to be the same course for World Cross Country in Edinburgh, and I actually came off of that a little banged up the last couple weeks. It’s a very difficult course. It’s very technical and extreme. I came away a little sore with my IT-band afterwards, so I spent a couple weeks training on the anti-gravity treadmill that we have. I’m still not 100% yet, but I’m feeling that I’m getting used to getting my feet back on the ground and putting an effort out there.
Q: Dathan, did you get hurt in Edinburgh or here in San Diego?
A: After the marathon trials in November I kind of took it easy for a while and visited my parents back in Michigan for a long time, almost a month. I just kind of went over there, not in incredible shape over to Edinburgh in mid-January and probably wasn’t ready to run on that difficult of a course and got a little banged up while I was at it and then I was able to come back home here and get on our ultra-G treadmill that we have and I trained really hard on it and trained really well. My fitness is really good, I just haven’t been able to quite do the normal things I would do coming up to this race.
Q: Dathan, how confident are you that you can finish in the top nine this weekend and qualify for the U.S. team for worlds?
A: I really think, actually, that my fitness is really good. I’ve had a lot of success in the past coming off the treadmill and running well. I think it’s actually has some extra benefit to it sometimes. It’s just kind of a little different feeling at the same time. I still feel that my leg is not 100%. I’m not really worried about my fitness at all, because I know that’s really good. I know that if I can just get into the race and have everything be feeling good, then I’ll be really confident.
Q: Dathan, what makes the course in Edinburgh so difficult?
A: The thing that really makes it difficult is there’s a very, very steep uphill and a very steep downhill that’s probably 100 meters long, at least, uphill, and maybe 150 meters downhill, and it’s on very uneven terrain and it’s very steep, and you have to go over a ditch a couple times. There’s also some abrupt changes in the surface, so you hit them going really fast and it can jar you pretty good.
Q: Ryan, did your attitude about yourself as a runner change after the Olympic Trials when you made the team?
A: No, not really. I’m just trying to continue to do what I’ve been doing in working hard day in and day out, and really looking to the next level and aspiring to winning a medal in Beijing. My perception hasn’t changed too much.
Q: How about you Dathan?
A: I think, more than anything, I feel a lot more relaxed right now. Usually at this time of year things start getting going and knowing that making the team is already there helps relieve a lot of the pressure. Usually I really don’t enjoy working on the treadmill and things like that, but I’ve really been able to enjoy that stuff because I’m not really sweating it now because that part is locked in and I can just look forward to doing the best I can there (Beijing Olympics) and that’s the ultimate goal for the year.
Q: What are your plans leading up to the Olympic Games?
A: (Hall) My plans are to run in the London Marathon coming up April 13th. Then I’m not really sure what I’ll end up doing after that.
A: (Ritzenhein) Hopefully I’ll run World Cross and then take a little bit of a break and kind of recharge before the big training begins for the marathon.
Q: What are your concerns about the pollution issues in Beijing? If the conditions are really bad, could you see yourselves pulling out of the race?
A: (Ritzenhein) Definitely not. I don’t think anybody who makes the team will consider not running because of the pollution. This is an opportunity that comes around every four years and you really don’t know how many times you’ll have that opportunity. No matter what the consequences are, and I’ve said it before, if it was in Antarctica we’d still be ready to roll because it’s the Olympics. It (the pollution) is one more obstacle, but it can really level the playing field to a lot of us as well.
A: (Hall) I don’t really think about it at all except when reporters ask us about it because everyone has to run in it. It’s going to affect us all, we’re all going to be out there going through the same thing and it’s really outside of our control, so I don’t find any point in worrying about it.
For complete bios on Ryan Hall and Dathan Ritzenhein, and more information on the 2008 USA Cross Country Championships in San Diego, visit: www.usatf.org.