Thursday, December 30, 2010

One on One with Bobby Curtis -- Marathon in 2011?

Bobby Curtis - Waking Up to a Bright Running Future
Runner's Tribe (Australia)
December 28, 2010, 8:17pm

By Cindy King

26-year old American Robert "Bobby" Curtis had an outstanding year in 2010, running 13:18 for 5000m and 27:33 for 10,000 meters. Managed by Nic Bideau, the former Villanova University runner competed in World Cross Country in 2009 (finishing 37th) and 2010 (finishing 48th). He recently trained at Falls Creek in Victoria and ran 28:08.78 to place third at the Zatopek 10000m on December 9th, 2010.

RT: How was your final preparation for Zatopek, and what did you think of the race

BC: My training leading up to Zatopek was very good. I was doing more miles than I've ever done before, around 115 miles [184km] per week, and seemed to handle the new training very well. The race was pretty good. I didn't do any track work while in Australia and felt pretty comfortable out there just off the strength running from Falls Creek. I think if I can keep the miles up and freshen up with some speed work I'll run very well in the next few months.

RT: What keeps bringing you back to train here in Australia?

BC: I originally came to Australia in 2008 because that's when I started working with Nic Bideau. He recommended I come to Falls Creek to learn how to train properly and get away from the cold weather in Philadelphia. That first year it was just me, Collis Birmingham and Garry Henry looking after us on the bike. I really enjoyed my time in Australia in 2008 and that's why I've returned the last two years.

RT: Where is your favourite place to train in Australia, and why?

BC: Falls Creek is my favorite place to train. I think the terrain is great as the uneven surfaces make you strong and tend to help your tempo and rhythm once you get on the track or road. It's also pretty isolated this time of year so you have nothing better to do than get fit while you're up here.

RT: Where is your favourite place to train in the USA, and why?

BC: Mt Laguna California is my favorite spot in the US. It is very similar to Falls Creek; the terrain is a little rougher and the altitude is a bit higher. Ryan Gregson, Ben St Lawrence, Collis Birmingham and Mitch Kealey have all trained there and have all had great results shortly after.

RT: What are your short term and long term goals in running?

BC: Short term, I want to stay healthy and make both the World Cross Country and World Track & Field teams. Also, I'd like to build my strength with some higher mileage and maybe try a marathon in fall of 2011 or beginning of 2012 . Long term, I want to keep running enjoyable and that means keeping healthy and constantly improving. I'm back in America now. I left the morning after the 10k. I'll be doing a 4 mile road race on New Year's Eve in New York City then running the Cross International de Italica in Spain on January 16th. After that I plan on doing the US XC trials and then hopefully world XC.

RT: Are you working or studying back home?

BC: I have great support from Reebok that allows me to train full time. I graduated from Villanova University in 2008 and thus far haven't pursued any post-graduate studies.

RT: Your pbs of 13.18 for 5000 and 27.33 for 10,000 meters are outstanding. How much faster can you run in these events?

BC: I'd say my 27:33 was unexpected and very close to my best at the time, while my 13:18 was a little bit of a disappointment because of weather and pacing. In 2011 I'd really like to run under 27:20 and under 13:10.

RT: We have heard on the grapevine that you have suffered from insomnia. Is this true, and if so, how has it affected your running?

BC: I could write a novel about this so I'll try to keep it short, but I'll be detailed in case anyone with sleeping trouble is reading. I have definitely had some serious problems with getting adequate sleep. This started in college in the fall of 2004. It's improved greatly in the last year and I think that's one reason I've had success in 2010.

Sleep, especially from an emotional or behavioral perspective, is something medical professionals have just begun to study in earnest. When I first started exploring how I could help myself with my sleeping problem, which was difficultly falling asleep and staying asleep for days, weeks and months at a time, it was very difficult to sort out what was good long term advice and what was quacky, phony or maybe not viable in the long term. I experimented with a lot of different drugs and other less traditional treatments like light therapy, restricted sleep scheduling, yoga, and meditation. None of these things really helped me in the long term in any remarkable way.

To make a long story short, I think eventually I just realized that the active pursuit of trying to cure myself was probably perpetuating all the fear and anxiety I had concerning sleep and negative aspects of not sleeping (depression, fatigue, anxiety). In the end (a little over a year ago), I gave away the 20 or so books I had acquired on various topics related to sleep and vowed to not alter my life in anyway no matter how badly I had been sleeping in the preceding days. This was really the end of serious sleeping trouble for me. If I didn't sleep at all the night before I still ran twice that day. There were probably a few weeks where I ran 100 or more miles sleeping no more than 4 hours a night. But because I had agreed with myself that I wouldn't change my life on account of my sleep, I wasn't thinking destructive thoughts like:

- "okay if I get less than 4 hours tonight I'll only run 5 miles tomorrow", or

- "if I continue to sleep less than 4 hours a night this week I won't race on the weekend?", or

- "okay I slept very little last night, what did I eat, what did I drink, did I do anything wrong, was my room cold enough, did I accidentally have caffeine?"

So as I started to just get through the days no matter how I had been sleeping, I gradually thought less and less about sleep. Over a period of a few months my sleep amazingly returned to near normal. I was drinking 2 or 3 cups of coffee a day, having alcohol at night and doing other things that in the past I would have unreasonably feared doing because I thought they would harm my chances of sleeping well. On the flip side, I was no longer continuing with my routine of slightly quacky pre-sleep rituals (think deep breathing, stretching, warm milk, etc.) I didn't enjoy, but had adopted, only because I thought they would increase my chances of sleeping well.

I do still occasionally go the odd night or two without sleep much, but it doesn't change anything. I just go about my day and my obligations knowing I don't have to do anything extraordinary.

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