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Katie Mackey's Charge to the Top

Published by
DyeStatPRO.com   May 22nd 2014, 2:15pm

A Brooks Beast in the Bahamas

By Scott Bush

At the Payton Jordan Invitational earlier this month, Brooks Beasts' Katie Mackey ran to a third place finish in the women's 5,000m with an incredible 15:04.74 mark. Mackey, who is much more of a 1,500m specialist, set a big PR and currently ranks US#1 and number four in the world. Two weeks before, Mackey finished a narrow second place at the USA 1 Mile Road Championships, quickly following that up with a 4:08.78 seventh place finish over 1,500m at the Drake Relays. Two weeks after Payton Jordan, Mackey ran to a fourth place, 4:07.19 finish at the USATF High Performance Distance Classic. All of that and it's not even June yet!

The busy beginning of her outdoor campaign have set Mackey up to compete as part of Team USA this coming weekend in the Bahamas at the IAAF World Relays, where she'll join teammates and challenge for the gold in the 4x1,500m. We caught up with Mackey in the Bahamas, discussing her season to do date, what it's like to be part of the Brooks Beasts, what her goals for 2014 are and much more.

Follow Katie: Twitter | Website

Scott Bush (SB): You've thrown down some very good performances already this season, including a huge 5k PR of15:04 at Payton Jordan and then a 4:07 effort at Oxy. You must be feeling pretty darn good about the start to your 2014 outdoor campaign, right?

Katie Mackey (KM): The first races of the season can be especially rewarding because you see how much of a difference the previous months at altitude grinding out long runs and workouts really made! I think the aerobic strength I gained from spending several months in Albuquerque with my teammates really paid off in the 5k at Payton (and also made me a much better Settlers of Catan player, which is really important for your self esteem as a Beast).

Payton was a great opportunity because it was such a smooth and evenly paced race that set us up to run a fast time. Before a race, I always set an “A goal” (what I think I can run if I feel awesome and it’s a well set up race) a “B goal” (what I think I can run if I feel pretty good) or a “C goal” (if I feel average or the race isn’t ideal for running fast). Races where you are able to hit an “A goal” at this level don’t happen very often, so it was a big confidence booster for me! Especially now, looking forward to the rest of the season, where I hope to hit my “A goal” at some point in the 1500m too (which is to get close to 4 flat).

SB: Lets look forward to this weekend a bit. How pumped are you heading into the IAAF World Relays and a chance to represent Team USA?

KM: This is my first time traveling anywhere with a Team USA kit in my bag, and I feel so much excitement and pride! When I opened the box that was mailed to us with all the gear, I may or may not have gotten tears in my eyes (I definitely did).

In high school and college, the most fun events to run hands down were the relays. One of my favorite memories from my time at University of Washington was competing at the Penn Relays in the 4x1500, there is no feeling like lining up with your team. (Pictured below with Mel Lawrence, Christine Babcock and Kailey Campbell. We actually were able to break the world record that day, and finished 3rd behind Tennessee who I think still has it currently!)

SB: Looking back at Payton Jordan,15:04 is legit and ranks you right up there among the very best in the country (US#1 currently). Does your performance at Stanford signal a shift in focus for you moving forward or was it more of a fitness test at this point in the season?

KM: My heart is in the 1500, I love that race! My goal this season coming in was to get close to 4 flat, and I’d like to stick to the plan and try. It’s all about feeling good on the right day in the right race, when the opportunity presents itself much like it did for me at Payton in the 5k. Honestly, Payton has been an exciting mental shift for me. Previously, I haven’t thought of myself primarily as a “5ker” because it’s a distance that is a little out of my comfort zone and I didn’t have a ton of confidence. I am looking forward to growing into the 5k a bit and seeing if I could break 15!

SB: The 1,500m is such a strong event globally right now. Being right on the edge of top three in the United States, what are you working on most this non-championship year to take you to the next level?

KM: The 1500 is a very tactical race, and that’s an area that I constantly feel I can improve in. Watching race footage and getting insight from Danny has been really helpful. It’s tricky to get the right balance of racing patiently and racing aggressively- both are important! I’m also focusing on getting stronger in the weight room. Watching Phoebe Wright and Erica Moore lift is inspiring!

SB: At this point in the season, what does a typical week of training look like for you?

KM: During this time of the year, we typically have 2 hard workouts a week and a long run. We are on the track 1-2 days doing hard event specific work and speed or off the track doing tempo runs. The track workouts are usually combined with agility ladder exercises and hurdle drills or plyometric circuits of some sort. After our hard workouts we head to the weight room and complete a combination of Olympic lifts, stability exercises and core. Our long runs are anywhere from an hour thirty an hour forty five, and mileage varies a bit but is usually in the 50s or 60s. 

SB: You're part of the Brooks Beasts, a group that always seems to be having fun while competing at the highest level. What's your favorite part of being on the team?

KM: It’s inspiring. You see what others are achieving around you and think, “I can do that too!” On days when I’m lacking motivation or don’t feel great, the others girls are there for moral support and we work together to get the training done. On days when I’m feeling good, I can return the favor. It’s more than training benefits though; we impact each others lives and grow together. To me that’s the best part of running as a sport: how it brings different people together working towards a common goal, and a team is just a more intimate version of that.

SB: I have to ask, what's it like being coached by your husband?

KM: I think the hardest part is having balance. There’s definitely been a learning curve for how to not work at home all the time. It seems silly maybe, but since running is such a big part of my life and what I think about, it’s easy to start talking about it during times when Danny doesn’t want to be “coach” anymore. Having the Beasts in Seattle and a set practice everyday helps a lot as well, because I can just show up, blend in and be one of the athletes for a couple hours and that feels a lot more like what I’m used to. Working so closely with Danny is mostly just fun, and something I’m grateful for every day. Accomplishing my goals as a team-effort with the most important person in my life is an incredible feeling!

SB: With it being a non-championship year, what does your season look like moving forward after the IAAF World Relays?

KM: This is a fun year to change it up a bit, travel and race a bit more than I usually would before USA’s. I was able to spend a week in Des Moines running the U.S. Mile Championships and Drake Relays, which I’ve never done before, and of course, this trip traveling to the Bahamas for World Relays!

My next race will probably be Portland Track Festival to sharpen up for USA’s. After USA’s, I’ll head to Europe with the Beasts for the month of July (our home base will be just outside of London) and hopefully compete at some of the Diamond League races over there. Confirmation of what meets exactly can be a little last minute, but I am running the 1500 in London and hope to get into another fast 5k!

This part of the season is so fun, because we usually end up racing a couple times a week and Europeans know how to throw a good track meet. Last year we saw it all: fireworks, live bands and open bars! After Europe, I plan to finish up the season with some domestic races like Ann Arbor and 5thAve Mile. This is my first year as a professional with no World Champs, so I’m not sure what to expect and if it will be much different than a Worlds year.

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