Tuesday, April 24, 2007

ED WHETHAM

This weekend’s Get in Gear 10k may claim to be the “Annual Rite of Spring” but that’s not stopping Ed Whetham, of Minneapolis, from already making his mark on the Minnesota roads in 2007. The 30-year old turned in a 25:16 13th place performance at the Human Race 8K in March and “jogged” a 1:30 25K in April. If he just maintains his fitness, he should be able to set new PRs across the board. Open Division runners, take notice; Ed is dedicated, fit and enjoying running more than ever. (Photo courtesy of Wayne Kruduba)

I think it’s safe to assume that your father, Rob, was somewhat responsible for your involvement in running. Is that true? Can you provide a little background on his running career?
It is true that I turned to running because of my dad. Both of my parents wanted us to not “sit” around after school, so we were always signed up for activities and sports. I think my dad would have liked to see my brother and I become hockey players, but it turns out that I am not a strong skater. My brother turned out to be a good hockey player, and I turned out to be a better runner. It was through the process of elimination that I turned to running. I chose to sign up for cross-country and track and field in 7th grade after discovering that I was only average at football, baseball and basketball.

His running career happened in two parts. He was a good high school runner at North St. Paul in the late 1960’s, but decided to start a family and play hockey during most of the 1970’s. After the first marathon boom he started to run and train more around the age of 30. I believe that he started to meet up with Bruce Mortensen’s group in the mid-80’s and that is when he really started to improve and flourish. I know that most of his PR’s were set in his late 30’s to early 40’s.

Is there added pressure with trying to live up to his reputation and trying to run similar times?
I don’t feel pressure trying to live up to his times and performances. They are nice benchmarks to judge myself by, but I am not running and racing to try and beat my dad’s times. Most people that know both my dad and me ask me if I am going to beat my dad’s times, and that is flattering that his friends would even remotely consider me anywhere close to his ability. The two performances that I would like to duplicate in the future are his two races after he turned 40. He ran the Easy Does It 5 mile in 25:19, and came back a week later and ran 2:26 at Grandma’s. I cannot run those times now, and I am ten years younger. Those are the two times that I want to run when I am 40.

Having the type of reputation he has would be great. It would be nice to have the same kind of mental toughness that he has, or the great sense of pace he has in the longer races. I want to be able to finish a marathon with the same kind of strength that he finished one. I will always admire his work ethic towards running and everything non-running.

After graduating from Stillwater in 1995, you went to college at South Dakota State. How was your college career?
Actually college was not that direct a route for me. I started out at Minnesota-Duluth for my first year. Let’s just say that I was not mature enough to handle college at that point. After working for a few years and getting a junior college degree I enrolled at the University of South Dakota. I graduated from USD, and enrolled at South Dakota State for graduate school.

My college running career was not spectacular; actually it was disappointing. I learned at USD that not every coaching style or training system is good for each person. Scott Munsen (the USD distance coach during that time) was a great coach, but his training ideas did not match what I needed. I did not improve my performances during my time at USD, but I did earn a college degree while developing some good friendships. That is what is important and that is why you go to college. When you consider my college running career there were a lot more negatives than positives. My times did not improve during my two and a half years there, but I learned that more than two hard efforts per week and two runs a day do not benefit me.

SDSU is where I feel like I should have been. From the first day I showed up on campus for grad school and assistant coaching the XC team in the fall of 2003, I felt like I belonged. Paul Danger (the XC coach at SDSU then) had a lot to do with that. He is a very positive person who helps bring out the positive side in people, which was a refreshing change from the negativity of the previous few years. By the time I left USD the new coaches and myself did not see eye-to-eye. They’ve actually stopped sending me the XC/track and field alumni newsletter, so I think the feeling between us is mutual. Now I consider myself a SDSU guy.

What are your PRs?
This season is a work in progress on my PR’s, but here they are so far. The only PR left from college is the 10k, which I hope to better at the Get in Gear 10k this weekend.

3k: 8:48
5k: 15:31
8k: 25:16
10k: 32:46
10 mile: 54:21
½ marathon: 1:14:51
Marathon: 2:51:39

You’re now 30 and the year has started off with a bang. How would you describe your 25:16 at Human Race 8K?
Well without going into a play-by-play recap of the race, I would say it was a good effort. The race hurt, so I know I was giving a good effort. The Human Race validated my training to that point. I started to improve my performances during the XC circuit last season, but I had some doubt if those performances were just because I am a better XC runner than a road or track runner. To be able to run that much of a PR during the first road race of the season gave me the confidence to continue my training in the same method that I had up to that point. The thing I have taken away from the Human Race is a reassurance that I can run at a level that is higher than I have in the past. The strangest thing about the Human Race was at the one-mile mark I was a step or two away from being in the lead. In the past at races of that caliber I would be 100 meters or so behind. I didn’t know what to do at that point. It was a new experience. It turned out to be a big confidence boost.

Last year you were running times that were equivalent to a minute slower than your Human Race performance. What do you attribute the drastic improvement to? Have you been training harder or smarter? What’s your training philosophy?
The main reason why my performances have improved is that I dropped my weight by more than 40 pounds after I moved back to the Twin Cities from South Dakota in December 2005. I did not put much of an effort into my running during my coaching years. The weight loss has a lot to do with running some faster times, but I have also been slowly increasing my training along with changing my diet and adding some supplemental training. When you add it all together it seems to be working.

I know that I am not training harder. I am definitely training smarter. I remember from college that everyone would try to out-train the other person, and then credit their improvement to training harder. That does not work for me. I cannot blindly follow a program anymore and try to run more miles than the program calls for, or run faster intervals than the program calls for. I figure a training schedule is developed for a reason, and workout times are developed for a reason. So why run faster or more than your schedule calls for? I have also taken a few coaching courses and spent down time reading exercise physiology books and training theory books, so I have learned what type of training benefits certain characteristics and body systems.

My philosophy is not anything special. I try to do as few two-a-day runs as possible. Unless I run above 90 miles a week I do not see the need to run double days. I have only been able to run one quality workout per week to this point, but I do try to get some strides in as often as possible. After Grandma’s Marathon last year I started to add some additional things to my training such as, sit-ups and push-ups and a series of core strength exercises, and I follow up each run with a specific stretching and exercise routine. I do not lift weights. I can get enough strength in through the other exercises. So my philosophy can be summed up as doing a series of training and activities that I know work for me.

You’ve recently been reviewing some of your dad’s old training logs. Did you find any “secrets”? Anything you’ve applied to your training?
I did not find any secrets. The one thing that I took away from his old training logs is that there is no substitute for putting in the consistent weekly mileage and long runs. His Saturday morning group would run 20 miles consistently, and they would run them hard. I don’t know if I could do that, but seeing those long runs in his training logs reinforced the benefit of the long run for me. So I am slowly building up my long run (which needs work).

I haven’t applied any of my dad’s training into my training, except for the increased long run, and consistent mileage. I was reading the logs because I am curious about what other people do for training. I am now confident enough with my training that I do not jump on board with a new training trend, or feel the need to copy another person’s training. The more I read about other people’s training the more respect and admiration I have for them, especially when you start talking about more than 110 miles per week.

What else do you have planned for the year? What are your goals for 2007?
I have two goals races for 2007; the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in June and a fall marathon (either Chicago or Twin Cities) in October. Besides those, I want to run well in the races in between, but I think you need to focus your training on something, and those races seem like a good place to start. My upcoming races before the Bjorklund Half Marathon will be the Get in Gear 10k this weekend, the Green Bay Half Marathon, and most likely the Brian Kraft 5k. After Bjorklund, my racing schedule is still undecided. I will most likely try to run a lot of team races for Run n Fun, and I will run the Stillwater [Lumberjack Days] 10 mile.

My goals for this season are to improve my PRs. I feel I can realistically do that with each new race. So far this year I am two for three. The Meet of the Miles was a very poor performance, but I was coming off of my one setback so far. I hope to be competitive in all the team races this year, and it would be nice to have a chance to run for the win in Stillwater, but I would have to convince all the guys in front of me to not run. The main goal for the year is to run a good marathon in the fall. It would be nice to run a 20-minute PR in the marathon.

What was your training like over the winter? Do you focus mainly on base building or do you tend to touch on speed throughout the year?
My training over the winter was good, but not great. I thought that winter would be a good time to run a lot of miles, and get in some good fartlek work, or long tempo runs. None of that happened. From December through the end of February I had one week of 90 miles or more. I ran one up-tempo workout from January 1 through February 28. I found out that running fartleks or anything fast on ice or in the cold is close to impossible, and I despise treadmill running. So the winter was full of long, slow distance.

During the year I will keep working on improving my long run, but I also like to include an interval or tempo session each week to compliment the base work. Having two goal races allows me to adapt my training towards that specific event. Both the half marathon and the marathon require quite a bit of tempo work, but for my half marathon segment I will attempt to include some more interval work. During the marathon segment I will tend to run more in the way of tempo pace, but it is always good to throw in each of the training zones during any segment. My repetition work comes in the form of strides, and possibly some fast 200’s before track workouts.

I have adapted a lot of my training through what I have learned from Scott Christensen [Stillwater High School coach] and Rod DeHaven [SDSU coach]. Through Scott I learned the science of running, specifically how each workout benefits the body from a physiological standpoint. He has been invaluable in my learning of how to improve as a runner and coach. Scott has shown me more support and encouragement than any other person I have encountered outside of my family. His influence on me is immeasurable.

Rod allowed me to tag along with him for a few years. After listening and learning from him during that time, I learned that the extra work (diet, strength work, etc.) can make the difference between being average and being great. Before I met Rod I thought that all of the elite runners were extremely talented and did not have to work as hard as the average runners to be good. What I learned from him is that elite runners are talented, but they are smart and dedicated to the sport. I figure I may not have the talent he has, but I can try to match the dedication and work ethic that he shows.

Do you have a benchmark workout that you like to do leading up to a key race?
There is not a benchmark workout that I do before any big race. If I had to choose a workout to do leading up to a longer race it would be either 8 times 1 mile with 1 minute recovery or 4 times 2 mile with 2 minute recovery. I try to run the two miles at tempo pace and the one miles at a slightly faster than tempo pace. If I can hold pace for all eight repeats then I know that I am ready to run a good race. Before shorter races, I like to run 3 miles of 30 seconds hard and 30 seconds easy. The first two miles of the workout are simple, but that last mile will make you hurt.

Do you have a favorite local/national race? Why?
My favorite local race is the Lumberjack Days 10 Mile. The race course and the weather are not that appealing but it is my hometown race, and I do enjoy finishing the race along the St. Croix River. The most appealing things about the Lumberjack Days Race are the festivities after the race. My parents have a post-race gathering, and then everyone heads downtown again to take in the crowds and the free music. My favorite free band at Lumberjack Days was Lynyrd Skynryd. Anytime you can get 50,000 people singing along to “Free Bird” it is not a bad thing.

Who do you enjoy training with the most?
There are two groups that meet up during the week that allow me to join them. The Run n Fun group meets on Tuesdays and Sundays, and that’s always a good time. I have been extremely fortunate to join a group on Saturday mornings. I believe most people know them as Bruce Mortensen’s group. I have run with them off-and-on for almost ten years. The best thing about the Saturday morning group is that they are more excited about places they have trained than they are about races and performances. Anytime you ask them about a race, the standard response usually includes time, place and a few details about the race. I have learned how to be humble through that group.

The group I enjoy training with the most is the Hudson group. That would be Mike Reneau, Jason Finch and Ryan Meissen. Mike invited me to run at Willow River once last July, and it was amazing. I have never met a group that was as motivated and as driven to be successful runners. I have never actually run with all three at one time, but have trained with them in different tandems from time to time. The first few times I showed up for a run I felt like a fraud. Here are these three guys talking about Olympic Trials and running sub 2:20 in a marathon, and I have never run faster than 2:50. After a few runs with those guys I decided to readjust my goals, and decided to give running more of a complete effort. Mike was the first guy, since I moved back to Minnesota, that expressed belief in my ability and encouragement towards my training and racing. For me, that is all that it took to start believing in myself. And I credit training with this group, as a big reason why my performances have improved over the past six months.

If you could run with any Minnesotan, past or present, who would it be?
I have enjoyed running with almost everyone I have ever run with. You take away things from every experience. To answer the question, I would have to say two separate groups. I would love to run with “The Bruce Mortensen” group during their prime (late ‘80s, early ‘90s). I would like to see how I could hold up guys like Bruce, Doug Suker, Tom Pletcher, Jack Ankrum and my dad on those killer Saturday 20 milers. The other group I would like to run with again is a reunited Hudson group. I know they are not technically Minnesotan, but it is fun and entertaining to see how three different personalities make for one great training group. Plus I owe so much of where I am at in my running currently to the encouragement of this group.

Finally, what do you know now that you wish you’d know when you first started running?
Have fun. I lost my love of running during my final year of college and it took a few years to regain that desire to train. I have more fun training now than I ever have before. I enjoy running with groups, with new people, but mostly I love those long runs by myself where I can let my mind wander.

5 comments:

brent said...

good interview. his enthusiasm shows through in the writing.

Reneau said...

Good to see Ed reaping the rewards of all his hard work. Seeing someone succeed who has worked hard at it reaffirms what I love most about this sport...you get what you put in.

Keep it up Ed! And, go get em' at Get-in-Gear Run N Fun!

Luke W. said...

This is a great interview. It is awesome to see such a humble and hardworking guy achieve his goals.

Anonymous said...

Ed Whetham is one heck of a guy and a hard working guy. I wish he would get a college coaching job, so we could see how he could develop some talent. I have only positive things to say about ED. For instance, his love for the Danzig (SP?) song "Mother." GO EDDIE!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ed (aka John) is a Run 'n Fun junkie. He's all that everyone can't or will not be!