Last weekend, in DOHA DL, I was fortunate to see Tori Bowie battle Dafne Schippers, and win 10.80 to 10.83.
This week, I have been in Herzogenaurach, Germany, observing the athletes at the Adi Dassler Stadium, as they train for the adidas BOOST Meeting this weekend, on May 13-14.
The group of athletes managed and trained by Coach Lance Braumann numbers around sixteen athletes. The group that arrived on Monday from Doha included Keston Bledman, Trinidad, Alonzo Edwards, Panama, Marvin Bracy, US, David Verburg, US, Tony McQuay, US, Nickel Ashmeade, Jamaica, Tori Blake, US, and joining the group a day later was Octavious Freeman. Verburg are training with the group right now, not as members.
A fine athlete himself, Lance Braumann has built a reputation building sprinters and jumpers. He has coached some of the finest sprinters and jumpers in the world over the past two decades. You might of heard of some past athletes: Veronica Campbell-Brown, Tyson Gay. You have heard of some of his newer athletes, Keston Bledman has run 9.86, Alonzo Edward has run sub 20 second 200 meters, David Verburg, Tony McQuay, 400 meters, Marvin Bracy, World Indoor medalist, 100 meters, Nickel Ashmeade, 100 and 200 meters. Tori Blake and Octavious Freeman are both 100m and 200m runners.
With the hard races on Friday night, Coach worked them out pretty easy on Tuesday, with the crew choosing a morning workout. Well, there were some very tired athletes that morning. This is where the tha art of coaching comes in. ” It was not a big day, but it had its challenges.” Athletes who were still tired, an athlete who wanted to come back later in the day. Somehow, Coach B juggled one athlete with a 500m and 300m workout, another doing 300 meter repeats in thirty-five seconds, several doing 120-150 meter sprints, it was all there.
Watching Lance Braunmann walk from one end of the track to the other, checking on warm ups, juggling time breaks within workouts, I remembered coaching young athletes a decade ago. Lance handles days of some complication, and athletes with the same level of complication.
Cajoling athletes to run, even fine athletes, reminds one that we are all human and that we all have brutal days.
After a long warm up, and each athlete seems to be working on their individual imperfections, the workout begins. Coach speaks little and the athletes get the work done.
While there are times of frivolity, teasing of a fellow athlete by the others, a bit, followed by laughter, the workout gets done, fast, and per Coach Braumann’s instructions.
After I asked him about juggling various athletes, Coach Braumann, a bit of chew in his mouth, noted that I had not seen a complicated workout, that is, apparently, a whole different story.
I wanted to see Tori Bowie run. Her workout was three times a 120, and her first went poorly. Coach went over the speak to her, appearing to suggest that she would be fine, and they should just get the workout done. Bowie did. Her second 120 was much better, coming off the turn straight up, just like Coach asks. Her third 120 was just about where Coach wanted it: the staccato sound of Bowie’s adidas spikes against the track surface was the main sound I heard as she shot around the curve and cleared the straighway.
Each day, Tori would tell me that she felt a bit better from her race. One is not surprised, but has to realize that running faster than 99.9 percent of the people in the world takes talent and hard work, takes a toll on ones body.
The workout on Wednesday was focused on starts, but, for Nickel Ashmeade, who has been sick all week, it was about checking his return to health. He did not feel good on Tuesday, but Wednesday looked great. Nickel is a huge athlete, World Champ medalist, and is one of the finest 200 meter runners in the world. Watching Nickel run is like watching an athlete who gets it: you can not win, as the Steve Forbert song notes, if you do not play.
A schedule of workout, rest, visit adidas facilities, doing some shipping, rest, eat, and race. That is what this week is about.
Most days, I say hello to the athletes, who are quite warm, but focused on their jobs. I do not speak to them or Coach during workouts, as that is disprectful to their craft.
In a time when much of the world forgets that people coming across a large sea on little more than a fishing boat are quite human, athletics brings me some solace. In a time when doping stories are on the news on a daily basis, watching athletes workout, and chase their limits is something that I need to see.
This weekend, on Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14, Lance Braumann’s athletes will run the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters. Distances where technique, speed, and form all play such an important part of their success and or failure. Coach Braumann’s job is to pass on knowledge of training, technique, form and focus. Coaching is to Braumann what breathing is to normal human beings. He sees it as his mission to find athletes and help get the best out of them.
Braumann saw promise in Tori Bowie, who was a collegiate long jumper, with very little work ethic. Going from a relaxed college program to an organized and structured program run by Lance Braumann requires some time to adjust, on both athlete and coach.
Bowie likes to ask questions. Many questions. Many questions. She makes no bones about it. When I asked her about how Coach responds on the questions, she smiled. I asked Coach the same question, and he asked what Bowie said. Suffice it to say, Tori Bowie and her Coach, Lance Braumann have differences of opinion. Bowie is coming to the realization that Coach has a reason for all he does.
Last weekend she ran 10.80 in lovely warm conditions. As I finish this, early on Friday morning, May 13, it is raining hard in Herzogenaurach. I remember a conversation with Tori Bowie, where she asked me, several times, if she could run fast in the cold. I told her yes.
I thought to myself: Tori Bowie, you can run as fast as you want.