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Is Webb ready for Rio in 2016?

For the first time since he found the running ability that helped him become one of the top milers of all time, Alan Webb is shifting his focus from running to a new challenge.

Following one final track race at the Millrose Games in February in New York City, Webb will turn his attention full-time to pursuing an elite triathlon career. A professional runner most of his adult life, Webb will be a rookie all over again.

His competitive fire will certainly transition with him and the impeccable endurance he built over the thousands of miles logged in training will be always present. However, he is now faced with mastering two additional sports disciplines in swimming and cycling.

Webb, a 2004 Olympian on the track, is in the beginning stages of determining if his triathlon career is bound for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

While much needs to happen for Webb to qualify for another Olympic Games, the necessary steps are already in place.

He is currently spending time in Scottsdale, Ariz., at USA Triathlon’s Multisport Training Center under the supervision of USA Triathlon’s High Performance Advisor Jonathan Hall.

“With the Collegiate Recruitment Program (one of USA Triathlon’s high performance talent identification groups) now based in Scottsdale and key coaching assets here, Alan decided to come down for the week to continue the testing/trial process in a coach-driven environment,” Hall said. “And so far everything points toward Alan having potential the to be very competitive at some stage in the near future.”

It was in October of 2013 that Webb took his first step toward making this a reality with USA Triathlon. He attended the Fearless Pro Super Sprint Triathlon in San Diego, which was the finale of the inaugural USA Triathlon Super Sprint Series.

His first step was simple education on the specifics of the sport and the fast-paced, draft-legal racing he could expect with this transition.

“We saw evidence that Alan would be able to use his renowned running prowess in triathlon and since this time we have continued to educate and advise Alan,” Hall said.

It was in San Diego that Webb connected with Lukas Verzbicas, who, like Webb, is a former distance runner turning his attention to triathlon and another to accomplish the rare milestone to run under four-minutes for the mile in high school. The two were able to train in a swim session.

The path is in place to assist Webb in determining if there is a fit for him in the sport of triathlon.

A new challenge, but it comes for an athlete that has proven he can become the nation’s best when faced with a test. 

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Alan Webb, an Olympian in track and field and the fastest American miler ever, has shifted his focus to triathlon.
photo: Cheryl Treworgy

Q&A with Alan Webb

Webb plans to make his triathlon race debut in early 2014

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Alan Webb – Q&A
Following a career in track and field that has seen him set the American high school record in the mile and eventual overall American mile record, Alan Webb is making a transition in his athletic career to triathlon. He has been spending time in Scottsdale, Ariz., in USA Triathlon’s
Multisport Training Center in preparation to make his debut in the sport this season. Does the 2004 Olympian have aspirations of a return to the Games in 2016? Learn more in USA Triathlon's Q&A with Webb.

USA Triathlon: When did you start thinking about doing this and what was it that made you decide now is the time to make the change from track and field to triathlon?
Alan Webb
: It was something I wanted to do since I was a kid. I was an age-group swimmer and early on in my running career I knew I was a pretty good runner. Recently, my running career hasn’t gone the way I wanted. It didn’t get to the point where I totally wanted to quit running, but it slowly became more than that. I thought, ‘there’s always triathlon,’ but I still had these goals. It’s not like going to run a 10[kilometer race on the track] or a longer event and then you can always come back to doing whatever event you want. When you really commit to doing triathlon, you are really sacrificing your running. It’s not something you will just try; you really have to commit to it. It took to the point where this last year I had another poor performance running-wise. It wasn’t happening and with more injuries I decided I didn’t want to pursue my running career anymore so here we are.

alan webbUSAT: What intrigues you most about this sport?
AW:
It’s just another avenue for me to be competitive. It’s a bit of an unknown with riding the bike and swimming. It’s a different thing for me and it’s something new. I would say everything; the whole package [is the most intriguing part]. It’s a little bit of everything. Doing it all at once without stopping is going to be different. To be able to switch is going to be a skill that I’m going to have to develop. With how that all comes together, I’m excited about getting into it and seeing how it all works. 

USAT: As you begin this transition of sports, where will we be able to see you compete in triathlons?
AW:
That’s a good question and I do not know the answer to it. I just don’t know because I do have a couple more track races. I will make that decision the week after Millrose (Games).

USAT: What kind of support have you received from USA Triathlon as you have started this process?
AW:
I have received a lot of support from USA Triathlon. I have been in contact with (USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Coordinator) Barb Lindquist and (USA Triathlon Performance Advisor) Jonathan (Jono) Hall. Barb has been sending me workouts since the fall and I have been getting advice from Jono since the fall. He has been an incredible help in figuring out if this is something I want to do. He has been able to ease my mind on a number of different topics, just with what I need to do and with how much I need to do. He and I hit it off and he has just been a pleasure to work with. I had some contact with (USA Triathlon High Performance General Manager) Andy Schmitz. Andy had actually tried to get me to switch to triathlon a few years ago and it didn’t happen. I was running very, very well at the time. It wasn’t out of the question, but to compete at the highest level there was no way I could do both. That’s just another note on how far back this goes. That was five years ago.

USAT: How about support from any friends or family inside the triathlon community?
AW:
My family has been very supportive. My parents, my siblings and my wife have been very supportive. They have seen me struggle with my own expectations with running. My dad knew that triathlon was something I had my eye on and had a desire to do for a long time.

alan webbUSAT: Everyone knows you hold both the American record and the high school American record in the mile. You share the rare high school milestone of breaking four-minutes in the mile with another distance-runner-turned-triathlete, Lukas Verzbicas. Have you had any contact with Lukas since you made this decision and has he had any advice for you moving forward?
AW:
I had contact with Lukas prior to the more official public announcement. I did a workout with Lukas. I didn’t make an announcement, but he pretty much knew I was going to do it. We had some fun doing a workout. I met Lukas when he was in high school. He didn’t give me any major advice, but I’m excited to be in this world and the next time I see him I will have to pick his brain about things.

USAT: You have stated you still hope to compete in the Millrose Games in February. How are you handling preparing for one final indoor race and preparation for an upcoming triathlon?
AW:
That is the most difficult part of what I’m doing right now. It’s one of the reasons I realized a while ago that I really can’t do both at a high level. But this is just how I wanted to do it. It’s not easy from a training standpoint. It’s just two different types of races. At the same time, I had a good fall doing longer stuff. I did a few cross country races and longer road races. I feel pretty confident I have a decent base of running. It fit in well with triathlon training because you can’t always do the same thing over and over. In some way it fit well, but in another way I’m pointing out that it’s challenging. 

USAT: What do you feel will be the most difficult part of this transition?
AW: The biggest thing is to learn how to race. It has been sort of nerve-wracking because I wish I could have done a triathlon a while ago in December or something like that. I made this decision back in the fall when there was no opportunity to just do it. I made that choice at the end of the triathlon and track season.

USAT: We understand you have a swimming background dating back to your youth and your résumé on the track speaks for itself. What is your comfort level on the bike?
AW:
It’s medium. I have never done a lot of training, but one of my oldest best friends that got me into swimming. He is still very involved in the triathlon community. I would go for group rides with him in the summer. Actually, my first real job was at a bike shop. I have done one competitive race that was a cyclo-cross race. I had a little bit of experience, but I would still consider myself a beginner because I haven’t done anything with it. I’m still learning the steps, but it’s not like I’m starting at zero.

USAT: What are your expectations for yourself your first time out?
AW:
I don’t even know. I’ve seen some runners go to it and do well and some other runners not do so well. I’m going into it with optimistic respect. I feel like I’m going to do well, but I still have respect for the event.

USAT:
Talk about your approach to this new sport. Will the Rio 2016 Olympic Games be on your radar anytime soon?

AW:
I would be lying if I said it wasn’t. But it’s on everybody’s list. My goal, as it was as a runner, is to do things at the highest level. I’m going to do ITU stuff so that’s the route I’m trying to go in. So it’s already on my radar.

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