Q + A WITH ANDREW BUMBALOUGH
interview by Patrick Gildea 03.31.09
Andrew Bumbalough is barely old enough to buy a beer, but he has run a mile in under 4 minutes, represented the U.S in two World Junior Chamionships, competed in the Olympic Trials, has visited 40 of America's 50 states, scaled a 13,000-feet peak in Switzerland, and knows the lyrics to almost every song by Phish - a band that peaked in popularity well before the talented runner hit puberty. Experienced beyond his years, to suggest that Bumbalough has packed a lot into his life so far is like saying he is fast - it is an understatement of the mightiest order. Since graduating Brentwood Academy in 2005 as the fastest ever Tennessee high schooler at both the mile and 2 miles distances (and, of course, their bastard metric conversions), Bumbalough's running career has blossomed at Georgetown University. He has garnered NCAA all-American status 5 times and has lowered his PRs to 3:40.22 for 1500m, 3:58.46 for the mile, 7:53.63 for 3000m, and 13:41.47 for 5000m.
TR's Patrick Gildea, who, like his subject, is a rabid Phish fan caught up with Bumbalough before he kicked off his 2009 outdoor season.
TR: After such a great end to the cross-country season last fall, you must have been somewhat disappointed with how the indoor season panned out. I understand an Achilles injury derailed you for a while. What exactly happened?
AB: After cross-country I took a few days off from running. However, the plan from the beginning was only to take a few days and then get back into training fairly quickly. Coach Henner and I were hoping that I could put together a big winter and increase my mileage to around 80 miles a week consistently. Essentially, we didn’t want there to be a large break following XC. So the Monday after Thanksgiving I was back at it on the track doing our normal strides and drills. We actually got after it a little bit more than usual as we did 3x (100, 200, 300). I was a bit sore after that but nothing too bad. The next day the plan was to do an 8-mile tempo on the towpath. It wasn’t supposed to be too hard but when I finished it I knew something was wrong. I went to class that night and on my walk home I knew something was really messed up with my Achilles. The next day I got up to run and could barely walk to the door. Essentially, that injury put me out for at least 3-4 weeks of no running and another 2-3 weeks of ‘off and on’ running/cross training. To be honest I thought my indoor season might be over…fortunately it eventually healed and I salvaged all-American honors out of it in the DMR.
To follow that up, acting as devil's advocate...had you consider that "maybe you had too much too fast" a la, Shakedown Street?? Could that be the possibility?
AB: Haha, I try to stay away from too much shakedown during the year but I’ll have to admit I did catch Panic for NYE this year.
TR: You clocked a 7:58 3000 at the Notre Dame last chance meet, but that didn't get you into NCAAs individually. Were you disappointed, or - seeing the bigger picture - were you just happy to be making progress at that point?
AB: I was definitely a little disappointed that I didn’t make NCAAs in the 3000m at least initially. Although, after I sat back and analyzed it, I realized it was a pretty good double considering I had run 3:58.3 late the night before on the DMR 1600m carry and the 3000m was early the next day. I just wasn’t in good enough shape at that point to run hard the night before and come back with fresh enough legs to run 7:56 or faster. I definitely think I could have run fast enough to get into NCAAs…Notre Dame just didn’t pan out well for me. That being said, I was proud of my effort and definitely felt like it was a step in the right direction.
TR: You have yet to redshirt outdoor track, right? Is the plan to redshirt this season?
AB: I am definitely going to redshirt outdoor track. I really want to have outdoors next year as a 5th year and my preparation this winter obviously had some hiccups so it is working out pretty well to do things this way.
TR: Bumbi, tell everyone the real reason why wearing the red-shirt is a possibility...Phish is back out on the road, and the tour stretches from Hampton, Virginia through the Colorado Rockies and ends up out in the state of Washington...training and racing just can't fit in when you're on tour with a bunch of heads...
AB: Seeing that Phish is back it is the perfect time to redshirt. Wookies are cookin’ up grill cheeses on lot, Trey is healthy, and they are starting to put things back together. When we were at Notre dame ‘last chance’ I had my phone out and was looking at setlists updates like ever 2 minutes from Hampton.
TR: Almost as important; what is The Dead going to open up with April 12 in Greensboro,NC? Take a shot at it...Yours truly will be there. My guess is Jam, The Music Never Stopped, The Wheel, and The Eleven
AB: Jam, Shakedown Street, then Fire on the Mountain
TR: When will you open your outdoor season?
AB: I am planning on opening up the outdoor season with the Penn Relays mile followed by a 5k at Stanford.
TR: A few injuries aside, you seemed to have really thrived at Georgetown under Pat Henner. What has been the biggest difference between Henner's coaching style and that of Coach Harper and Coach Smith who guided you at Brentwood Academy?
AB: Fortunately for me Coach Henner and Coach Harper/Smith’s training philosophy has been pretty similar. Moderate in volume, heavy on the aerobic threshold work, tempo runs, all while keeping in touch with the neuromuscular system all year round. The biggest difference might not be their philosophy but their personalities.
TR: I often find myself, no matter the environment I'm in...whether it be social, athletic, playful or dangerous; finding a lyric from the Grateful Dead or Phish that suits the situation I'm in...is it just me?
AB: “Long Distance runner what you standing there for? Get up, get out, get out of the door!” - Grateful Dead
TR: Do you run with an iPod/Mp3 on some easy/solo runs? Without skipping around, turn on the iPod/Mp3 - what's the first song that's played?
AB: I am kind of a snob/purist when it comes to running. I never run with an iPod. I kind of like dealing with my mind and thoughts during my runs. This is all true with one exception – the treadmill or elliptical. Music is the only way to get me through training indoors. First song on shuffle: “Pinball Wizard” by The Who
TR: Describe a typical training week at this time of year?
AB: Right now I am only running about 60-65 miles a week with the hopes of slowly increasing that over the next few weeks. Typically, Monday is a double with strides/drills in the afternoon. Tuesday is an AT workout. Wednesday is a medium long run. Thursday is a double with strides/drills in the evening. Friday is a hard 1500m pace or 3k-5k pace workout. Sat is a recovery run. And Sunday is our long run.
TR: How often do you cross-train, lift, or do core strengthening work?
AB: Right now I am cross training twice a week for 30-45 min on the elliptical to supplement my training. In addition we lift 3 times per week, which includes a heavy emphasis on core as well as upper body strength. I don’t do typical lifting with my legs but have a series of Physical therapy type exercises I do to stay injury free.
TR: What were your thoughts on German Fernandez skipping the NCAA Indoor meet to prepare for the World Cross-Country Championships in Jordan?
AB: I think German is one of the most talented young runners that the US has seen in a long time. There is obviously tons of potential there. However, there are also a lot of variables like staying healthy and finding yourself in the right situation at the right time. If there is one thing I’ve learned about running in the NCAA is that you gotta strike while the iron is hot. As far as German goes I think that racing internationally is an incredible experience and it makes total sense to me why he and his coach opted out of NCAAs for that.
TR: Put together a "super-group"...You need a drummer, keyboards, bassist, lead and rhythm guitars...where's their first gig, what do they open the set with, and who are you taking with you?
AB: Drummer: Carter Beauford – DMB. Bassist: Victor Wooten – Flecktones. Keyboardist: George Winston. Lead Guitar – Trey Anastasio – Phish. Rythym Guitar: Dave Matthews – DMB.
TR: What would you say is your greatest strength as a runner? Your weakness?
AB: My greatest strength is my mental game. I think that I approach racing and competing better than a lot of other people do. My greatest weakness is probably being too aggressive in tactical races such as the 1500m. I am definitely learning how to become a more efficient and effective racer at the distance.
TR: You seem like a pretty determined guy, whether it's trying to be the best runner you can be or snatching up as many tickets as you can for Phish this summer...have you thought about what you're going to do, running career wise, after your time is up at G'town?
AB: I would really like to keep running as a professional athlete. I am not sure what direction I will go with that but hopefully the rest of this year and next year will help me continue to open doors with that goal in mind.
TR Contributor PATRICK GILDEA is a former University of Tennessee distance stand-out with a 10,000m PR of 28:38 and a half-marathon PR of 1:03:30. He represented the United States at the 2006 World Cross-Country Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, where he first met and befriended Bumbalough who was on the junior team. Gildea still lives and runs in Knoxville, where he is a personal trainer for Optimal Performance, Inc.
TR would like to point out that, despite the tangential Grateful Dead and Phish references, no mind-altering substances were ingested, inhaled, or otherwise consumed, while conducting this interview.