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TF360: An American in Norway - Annie Bersagel

Published by
DyeStatPRO.com   Mar 28th 2014, 3:30pm

Ready to Compete at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships

By Scott Bush - Click Here for all TF360 Archives

If you followed the USA Marathon Championships this past fall, you may have wondered who the women's winner was. Annie Bersagel shocked and delighted the crowd, pulling away from a strong field on her way to her first U.S. national title. The former Wake Forest All-American was named the NCAA Woman of the Year in 2006, while earning a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship. Her Fulbright work led to becoming an attorney and a move to Norway, where she trains and lives. 

Bersagel's victory catapulted her into the American marathoning elite. While she may not have the resume of Shalane Flanagan, Desi Linden or Kara Goucher just yet, she's making a name for herself, with her hopes and dreams in the sport squarely set on making the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team.

This weekend, Bersagel leads Team USA into the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Denmark, a Scandanavian country she's very familiar with. Catching up with Bersagel, we discussed her win last fall, her training leading up to this weekend's race, what it's like living and training in Norway and a whole lot more.

Follow Annie: Twitter


Scott Bush (SB): The World Half Marathon Championships are coming up...next weekend! How are you feeling heading into the event and what are your expectations heading in?
Annie Bersagel (AB): This race has been on my radar for at least a year now. Although anything can happen on the day, based on my training, I should be ready to aim for a PR. 
SB: You are representing Team USA. What a thrill! How excited are you to represent Team USA?
AB: To have the chance to represent Team USA in Scandinavia makes this all the more meaningful. I've raced in Denmark four times since September 2012 and I always love to come back here. Since it's so close to home, my husband and coach are able to come too. I also have a teammate from IK Tjalve who will be running for Team Norway, Asbjørn Ellefsen Persen. The race is broadcast live on Norwegian state TV, so my in-laws will be watching from Sogn og Fjordane, Norway too.
SB: When you won the USA Marathon Championships this past year, much was made that you live and train overseas. We've heard you've been back in the U.S. training. Where have you been and who've you been training with?
AB: I traveled alone to the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for just over a month from mid-February to mid-March. I wanted a chance to train at altitude and was ready for some Colorado sunshine therapy after another dark Norwegian winter. I trained alone, aside from an easy run with now-Colorado Springs-based Chelsea Reilly. For the hard sessions, I used the treadmill to control the intensity and practice drinking.
SB: Since winning the marathon title, how have you changed as an athlete? Do you feel you have a mental edge now that maybe you didn't have before?
AB: I wouldn't say that I have changed much, although I feel more comfortable admitting that I'm training towards Rio 2016. But certainly, having a positive experience at the marathon distance helps when I'm visualizing for the next time around. I have a healthy respect for the distance, but I know that I've been there before and can do it again.
SB: This spring racing season, what's your training look like?
AB: My mileage has hovered around 110 for the past couple months, with a high of 130 when I was in Colorado. I am taking a sizable taper this week for the World Half though. In contrast to my Twin Cities preparation, there haven't been any low key races close to home that I can use as training, so I've been doing all quality work through workouts.
SB: Will you be tackling another marathon this spring or is it completely about the World Half Champs?
AB: I will be running the Dusseldorf Marathon in April, which was attractive in part because the timing fits well with the World Half Champs (4 weeks later). I wanted to run on a flat, fast course relatively close to home. My husband, Øyvind, will be coming with me, so I'm depending on him to brush up on his high school German.
SB: Living in Norway, what does your training setup look like?
AB: I run with the Norwegian club, IK Tjalve. My coach is Knut Kvalheim, a former Oregon runner and Olympian for Norway. We have practice Monday and Thursday evenings, and I have a great group of guys to run intervals and threshold runs with on the oversize track underneath Bislett Stadium. I've done all of my quality workouts inside. I've done many of my easy runs as part of my commute: running to and from work with a running backpack. On Saturdays, Øyvind and I typically head to the Norwegian Olympic Training Center, near where I live, for a long, hard workout on the treadmill, followed by easy running in the evening. Other than that, we're pretty much just slugs the rest of the day.
The challenge in Norway in the winter isn't so much the cold as the ice. With a temperature right around 32F, the roads can be too slick for hard running. That said, I don't think training indoors is a disadvantage. For example, Ingrid Kristiansen used treadmill running regularly in her marathon preparation. If I were a better Nordic skier, I would do like my teammates and occasionally switch out my long run with skiing, but I just can't keep up. Kids in Norway learn to ski before they learn to walk.
SB: 2014 should be a fun year for most professional distance runners. What are your goals for the year?
AB: I hope to run PRs at both the half marathon and the marathon. This summer, I may do a couple track races in Scandinavia and maybe the UK, but that will not be a main focus. I plan to run a second marathon in the fall, perhaps back in the US. Other than that, I will definitely run the Holmenkollstaffetten, an annual relay in May that my club organizes. If I get another chance to run the 1500 at the Bislett Games, I would absolutely do that as well.
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