SabrinaYohannes wrote this piece about Daniel Winn. Daniel is a member of the BAA Track Club, training with Chris O’Hare, bronze medalist in Euro Indoors and Outdoors, and a former Duck.
Sabrina interviewed Daniel on his experience as a rabbit in some high end races. Enjoy the interview.
On Pacing Robby Andrews, The Rewards Of Rabbiting, & Chris O’Hare;
Interview With BAA Miler Daniel Winn
By Sabrina Yohannes
When U.S. 1500m champion Robby Andrews needed to hit the London world championships entry standard of 3:36.00, ideally stateside, he prepared to race at the TrackTown Summer Series meet in New York on July 6, and delved into the discussion of pacing, for which miler Daniel Winn had been recruited along with Joe McAsey.
“We had a long discussion beforehand about how I felt the pacing should go and both he and Joe were very receptive to it,” Andrews told RunBlogRun on Saturday. “I really wanted to kind of wind the race up, so kind of go out a little conservatively and make sure we have our fastest lap the last lap, and both Joe and Daniel were right on board with that and completely understood it.”
McAsey was to lead the first 800m, Winn to 1200m. The job was executed – with Winn having to make a slight alteration to the end of his task — and the goal was met, as the top four finishers all ran under 3:36, with Andrews clocking 3:35.25 behind Johnny Gregorek’s 3:35.00 new personal record. Fourth-placed Craig Engels also ran a PR of 3:35.95, while Ben Blankenship in third (3:35.29), Colby Alexander (3:36.10) and Kyle Merber ran season bests.
“They were spot on!” Andrews, whose last lap was run in 54.62 (with Gregorek’s in 54.79), said of the pacers. “I was very, very fortunate to have such perfect pacing.”
The also London-bound Gregorek and Winn and one or two others cooled down together in the warm-up area adjacent to Icahn Stadium after the race, following which and in a subsequent late July interview, Winn, who also paced the 2017 NYRR Millrose Games Wanamaker Mile, spoke to RunBlogRun about pacing Andrews, the rewards of rabbiting, his own running goals, and the London prospects of his Boston training partner Chris O’Hare, the British national champion.
A member of the BAA High Performance Team, the reigning NACAC 1500m silver medalist Winn, whose personal best is 3:37.56, is a Portland, Oregon native and 2015 graduate of the University of Oregon.
Pacing Robby Andrews
RunBlogRun: How do you feel about having paced Robby Andrews to a world championships standard?
Daniel Winn: It’s a big relief because basically pacing is more stressful than racing, but it’s an easier task physically, so that kind of balances it out.
RBR: In what way is it more stressful than racing?
DW: When I’m racing, I know my parents are watching and whoever else, but mostly that’s just for me. But when other people are counting on you beforehand, especially in this case with Robby trying to get the Worlds standard, that’s much more significant than me running a PR or something. But at the same time, I’m only trying to run a 1200, something that’s within my fitness level.
RBR: What time were you supposed to run?
DW: At the beginning of the day, we were supposed to run it a little faster, but then it was, ‘No, no, just make sure you get through on world standard pace and we’ll take it out. We’re not trying to run 3:33, we’re just trying to run sub-3:36.’ So it changed in a way where the times were less specific but we kind of had a runners’ understanding of coming through in 1:56 or better [for 800m]. I always have 2:25 [for 1000m] in my head as this number that if you run 2:25, you can run 3:36 or better.
RBR: What were you aiming to go to 1200m in? [The official split for 1100m was 2:40.07.]
DW: Theoretically, I would hit 1200 in maybe 2:54, 2:53, but with a guy coming up on you in the last lap in the race when they’re starting to kick, it’s pointless to, like, hold off an athlete when he’d rather be on the rail, so I stepped off. I did check in with Johnny after that, to make sure he thought I did the right thing instead of going the last 50m.
I stepped off around the curve somewhere because Johnny was coming up, ready to kick and I didn’t want to get in his way. Sometimes rabbits, to do their job, they start tying up and like, really running up against the line and they end up, like, slowing down the pack.
… One of the keys to doing a good rabbiting job is not just hitting the time when you step off at the right time, but you’re actually winding it up through that time, so it’s very important for them to build up momentum once you step off, so that’s what I tried to do. I kind of think of it like kicking a little bit because I have to be picking it up.
RBR: Did you feel you’d done a good job?
DW: People have been very complimentary. Of course, they ran great races, and when they start running great races, they’re going to feel good about the rabbit, so it’s going to reflect well on me. I definitely did a competent job. I didn’t screw it up.
RBR: Whom did you hear from?
DW: The whole field, pretty much.
RBR: And from Robby? What did he say?
DW: Oh, yeah! I said, ‘I’m so relieved I didn’t screw it up,’ and we just hugged. I mean, he was being swarmed by people, but he was pumped and he high-fived me, and his dad shook my hand.
RBR: How does that make you feel?
DW: Oh, it makes me feel, like, a little bit important. You know, this is how he made the Worlds team so contributing to that, it’s a cool feeling, to be kind of part of that process of getting him on Team USA ready for the world championships, and I hope he does a great job at Worlds.
The Rewards of Rabbiting
RBR: People like Matt Scherer in the U.S. and Bram Som from the Netherlands have made a career out of pacing and others have done it as a side gig. Is this something you think you’d like to do from time to time?
DW: It’s definitely a nice extra thing to have. It’s not the thing you dream about in high school or anything; rabbiting is not the most romantic aspect of track and field, but it’s a fun one and it’s a rewarding one in a lot of ways. It is really fun to cool down with a whole field worth of guys who just PR’d or ran season bests that are all happy with you for having minutely helped their ability to do so. So I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for future rabbiting opportunities.
RBR: How does the pay for pacing compare to finishing in a prize-winning position in a race?
DW: It really varies. I actually just got an offer to rabbit a race which only pays if the finishers run fast enough, which I was not interested in because if I did a perfect rabbiting job and they didn’t finish it off, I didn’t want to be punished for that.
Different races do it different ways but the rabbit is usually getting somewhere better than maybe the last prize money, but sort of in the latter half, the bottom quarter. If six guys get prize money and there’s 12 in the race, the rabbit’s doing better than at least six, if not more.
RBR: But there wouldn’t be appearance fees like there might have been for a competitor.
DW: Yeah, definitely no appearance fees.
RBR: What are your own running goals at the moment?
DW: Right now, I’ve got some low key races this summer. I’m doing the High Street Mile just north of Boston and a race called the Brooklyn Mile in Brooklyn. That’s just to finish out the season … If I can get some race wins, that’ll be really valuable going into the next year.
RBR: What are your goals for next year?
DW: I’ve definitely got to PR in the 1500. That would just be the number one important goal. … And placing highly in U.S. championships is crucial. … I had, in 2015 and ’16, been top eight in 1500, which I considered successful for where I was in my career, and this year, not making the final was really frustrating. So a return to top eight finishes and then, of course, better than top eight would definitely be at the top of my goal list.
RBR: You took silver at the NACAC [North American, Central American and Caribbean Athletics Association regional] championships.
DW: That was a great experience. That was my first real race out of college, just about my first time leaving the country except for a trip to Canada when I was about 10. And then we got to run around the stadium with the American flag on our shoulders for making the podium. … It was a really informative experience of what the professional level looks like.
Training Partner Chris O’Hare
RBR: You’re originally from Portland … and you’re in Boston on the BAA High Performance Team. So [former European medalist and 2016 Olympian] Chris O’Hare is one of your training partners?
DW: Yeah, that was one of the big draws.
RBR: He’s doing pretty well.
DW: It’s been really exciting to see. It’s not too surprising for the people that have been around him. I’ve been around him for about two years now and getting to work out with him and see him every day, his discipline and his workout ferocity and tenacity. It doesn’t feel maybe as much like a breakthrough to us. … I don’t think we’ve seen his best races yet either.
RBR: How do you expect he can do in London?
DW: I think he can do really well. Winning the Diamond League and then mixing it up in Monaco for a big [3:33.61] PR and Scottish record – I think those are races he wasn’t getting to race that way before. That’s brand new to him, and I think come a championship race, he’ll be better suited for the three rounds of Worlds than either of those races, which he still was obviously highly competitive in. So I think he’ll do great. I’m excited to watch.
RBR: You have quite a few people to cheer on in that race: people you’ve paced and fellow Americans, and Chris.
DW: I have too many friends in the Worlds 1500 for them all to get medals, but I’m definitely looking forward to cheering on a lot of milers.