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Posted: July 14, 2005

Athletics: Runner's Web 20 Questions with Mike Woods

On June 29, Mike Woods set a new North American record of 7:58:04 for the Junior 3000M. Last weekend he won gold medals in the 5000M and 1500M at the Canadian Junior Track and Field Championships in Montreal.

Photo - Ottawa Citizen

Runner's Web Athlete's Profile

 Full Name: Mike Woods
 Sport: Athletics
 Born (City): Toronto, Ontario
 Current Hometown: Ottawa/ Ann Arbor, Michigan
 Age: 18
 Coach: Ron Warhurst
 Club(s): Ottawa Lions
 University: University of Michigan
 Major: History
 PB Times:
 800M: 1:52
 1500M: 3:42
 Mile: 4:01
 3000M: 7:58
 5000M: 14:15
 Favourite book: The Things They Carried, by Tim O'brien 
 Favourite movie: there are too many
 Favourite Food: Spagetti/Shwarma

Runner's Web(RW): First of all, congratulations on setting a new Canadian Junior record of 7:58.04 for the 3000M last week. You ran the last 1000 metres in the lead which must have been tough. Tell us a bit about the race.

Mike Woods(MW): For the first 1200m Patrick Marion did a phenomenal job in pacing us; taking us through in 3:09. For the first part of the race I just sat behind Patty, and tried to stay relaxed. After Patty dropped out, Josh McDougal took the lead, but only led for about 200m before Kurt Benninger threw down a hard surge and took the lead. Kurt went through the mile in around 4:10, while I stayed behind Josh and we went through in 4:12. The pace then slowed and I took over the lead, passing through 2km in 5:16. I simply maintained 64's for the rest of the race, trying to save up for my final lap. However, when I hit the bell lap, I was unable to pick up the pace, so I maintained running a 64 for the last lap. It was pretty tough leading for the last 1000m, but with all my friends and family cheering me on, it was not that hard.

1. (RW): When and where did you start competing and in what sports? At what age do you consider you became a "serious" athlete and in what sport?

(MW): Ever since I could walk and talk I have been involved in sports, my first word was "hockey". My parents got me involved in almost every sport you could imagine, but I always thought I would be a hockey player, as I played hockey for 11 years. I first really became involved in athletics when I joined my school's track and field team in grade 9. I think I became a serious athlete in track when I was 16, when I qualified for the World Youth championships.

2. RW: You are attending university in the US on an athletics scholarship. How is this experience in the context of balancing your athletic and academic requirements?

MW: It has definitely been an interesting experience balancing strenuous training with the academic requirements of the University of Michigan. I did not really realized how good of a school Michigan was, until I first started attending class. I have had some ups and downs in marks; however I feel I have managed to balance the two fairly well. I think it has definitely allowed me to become a better person.

3. RW: I know that universities other then Michigan were interested in you - Villanova, for example. What went into your decision to choose Michigan? Tell us a bit about the athletics environment there.

MW: I chose Michigan for a myriad of reasons; its athletic environment is pretty incredible. It also has a strong tradition with Canadian distance runners. When I was looking at schools, I also saw that Michigan had a couple of very good post collegiate athletes as well. Ron (my coach) really wants you to excel not just on the collegiate level but post collegiate, and I believe Kevin Sullivan is a prime example of that. I think the main reason I chose Michigan was Ron Warhurst. Ronnie is something else, he makes going to practice really fun. There isnít a day where I am not excited about going down to the track to hang out with the guys, and hear some classic Ron stories.

4. RW: Who has had the greatest influence on your athletic career to date?

MW: That is a tough question, as so many people have played such a large role in my athletic career. I feel that my two most recent coaches have played a huge role; Ian Clark (my club coach) and Ron Warhurst. I also think that Nate Brannen and Nick Willis have also played an essential role in my attitude towards training and racing. I have learned so much from these guys in such a short period of time. Of course my parents have also played a huge role; they have always supported me in all of my athletic endeavors.

5. RW: Could you discuss your training in terms of an average week's workouts prior to racing season? Also could you review, at a high level, your macro program for a year? Do you do most of your training alone or as part of a group?

MW: No matter what season or phase of training I am in, there is almost always a focus on strength. Prior to this outdoor track season, I would say an average week would look something like this:

Mon AM 4miles
PM Hard workout, normally 6-8 hills or 3-4mile tempo followed by some fast intervals ranging from 300m-1km.

Tue 8-10miles

Wed AM 4miles
PM 8-10miles, after the run I will do between 4-6 150m strides, accelerating every 50m of each stride.

Thu OFF Day- mile jog and easy strides

Fri Hard Workout, normally a Michigan (mile, 400m, 800m, 1200m, between each interval on the track you run a hard 2km road loop), this is my favorite type of workout.

Sat 10miles, 4-6 strides

Sun 14-16miles

Most of my runs would range anywhere between 5:45ís to 6:30ís per mile and throughout the year I tried to hold between 70 and 80miles a week. My goal is to bring my weekly mileage up ten miles a year, until I average 100miles per week my senior year of university. In terms of training partners, during cross country season I did all of my workouts and runs with my team. During indoor season and outdoor season my training group got much smaller, and I would normally train with my roommate Victor Gras and teammate Nate Brannen.

6. RW: What are your short-term (rest of the year) and longer-term goals?

MW: My goals for this season are to take a stab at breaking 4 minutes for the mile and possibly the Canadian Junior mile record. I would also like to represent my country at Pan Am Juniors in the 1500m.
My long term goals, are to win an NCAA individual title, represent Canada internationally on the senior level and to make the Olympics.

7. RW: What do you consider your best race to-date and why? What do you consider your greatest achievement in the sport?

MW: I would have to say my two best races were at the World Junior Championships last summer in Italy. In the heats I ran 3:42.49 and in the final I placed 7th despite getting tripped up in the last 250m. In terms of achievement I feel getting the Canadian Junior 3km record and the NCAA 4xmile record are definitely up there.

8. RW: What do you consider your strongest attribute for racing?

MW: I think my strength and my patience. This was not always the case, however Nick Willis, Nate Brannen and Ron have taught me to stay calm and relaxed throughout a race.

9. RW: Do you have any interest in coaching or other involvement in sport after you stop competing?

MW: I have always loved coaching track and field and cross country. I actually coached and started the cross country team at my high school, and coached the distance events for the track team. I currently coach most events from shot put to hurdles at the Ottawa Lions track and field summer camps and have done so for the last three years. I think after competing I would love to become more involved in coaching.

10. RW: Have you been tested in a lab for max VO2, body fat, etc? If so what were the results? If not, do you plan on getting tested?

MW: No I have never had a VO2 or body fat test. I think one day if the situation arose I would be interest, but I do not plan to do so in the near future.

11. RW: What is your favourite track meet (indoors or out) and why? Do you run cross-country? Have you seriously raced any road races?

MW: I would have to say my favorite track meet is any world competition. There is nothing like representing your country and competing against the rest of the world. The friendships you make and the experiences you gain are phenomenal. I do run cross-country, but I am definitely far better at track and field. I have ran some road races, but I have never competed in any road race seriously.

12. RW: Could you comment on the support - or lack thereof - for Canada's Olympic athletes in the context of financial, facilities and coaching?

MW: In terms of track and field and cross-county, I feel it is embarrassing that we canít afford to pay for our best athletes to compete in international competition, like the World Cross-Country Championships or any junior international competition. Ultimately our program simply needs far more money than it receives. It is hardly a matter of fiscal responsibility but a matter of basic funding (there is almost none). This lack of funding is mainly due to the Ben Johnson drug scandal and the detrimental legacy he has left in Canada and our sport.

13. RW: How have you been able to balance the need to run for Michigan during the school year and Canada the rest of the year? How do you manage the coordination between your coaches with the Lions and at Michigan?

MW: Both Ron and I discuss and go over all of my training. When I am in Ottawa, Ian Clark will often make contributions to my training. Ultimately I have the most say in what I do, and therefore I have little problem with coordination. Currently I feel as though my loyalties lie with Michigan, as they are paying for my education and all my athletic expenses, but I will always continue to race in Canada and represent Canada.

14. RW: To what do you attribute the overall drop in distance running performances in North America over the past 20 - 30 years? Do you think that we are entering an era of improvement in running in North America versus the world?

MW: I have really only been involved in athletics for 4 years, so I am probably not the best person to ask, that being said, I think funding and a lack of interest have played a large role in the drop. However I do feel we are entering an era of improvement, the depth in the North America is formidable. In terms of middle distance I feel that the depth of Canadian females is exceptional.

15. RW: What are your feelings about the "benefits" of cross-training and do you do any?

MW: I do not really do any cross-training, I need as much recovery as I can get, and I feel cross-training only takes away from that recovery.

16. RW: Do you currently do any sports seriously, other than running?

MW: I used to be a competitive hockey player, however I no longer play other sports.

17. RW: What activities do you do away from sport to relax?

MW: I am a fairly social person and always like hanging out with my friends. I really enjoy listening to, and playing music. I also like playing video games and watching movies.

18. RW: Several Canadian runners who have gone on athletics scholarships to the U.S. have stayed there after graduation. Do you see yourself coming back to Canada after you complete school?

MW: If I continue to run well, I would like to run professionally and train in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I think to excel as a runner, you must have a good training group and environment, and I feel that Michigan is a great place to train. I do intend to come back to Canada once I finish competing. I love Ottawa, and I see myself raising a family and living here in the distant future.

19. RW: Who would you consider the best middle distance runner in the world right now?

MW: Hicham El Guerrouj

20. RW: How long do you intend to compete at an international level and what are your goals?

MW: I hope to be competing internationally for many years to come. I am still only 18 years old, so the thought of ending my track career is still a very distant one.

RW: Thanks for doing this and continued success. We'll be following your career. Any additional comments you would like to make?

MW: Thank you

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