Q&A: Sam Prakel Ran and Won A Lot of Miles in 2018, He’s Down for More
Tomorrow afternoon, Sam Prakel will be among the professional men in the NYRR Wanamaker Mile title at the NYRR Millrose Games. Prakel is in his first full season as a professional runner for Adidas and we caught up with him briefly to chat about his training and race plans.
CITIUS MAG: First things first, what have been the biggest changes, obviously location, going from college to professional training?
Sam Prakel: It’s been a different build-up so far leading up to the indoor season. In college for five years or even high school, I was used to a cross country season and getting a full season of racing in the fall. But this time around, after the summer I kind of raced pretty late. I raced 5th Avenue Mile in September so I had a couple weeks off after that and then really didn’t start working out until late October, which is a lot later than I’m used to so I was kind of curious how that was maybe going to affect things down the road for the indoor season. But so far it’s been good, and if anything, I’ve liked it better having fresher legs going into indoor. Cross country took a lot out of me. I’m more of a middle-distance guy so 8K and 10K was maybe a stretch. I’ve enjoyed that part of the transition not having cross country even though I enjoyed the team and that aspect of it. The racing took a toll on me so that’s one difference in the transition.
At the same time, I guess it has been nice still being around cross country as a sport. I’m a volunteer assistant coach at UW, so I’ve been able to train with those guys and I’ve followed them across the country. The team’s excitement has kept me motivated in the fall as I wasn’t really racing too often. I still ddi a low-key turkey trot on Thanksgiving to switch up the training and take a break from the workouts but other than that it was a really low-key fall just kind of building mileage and really getting in the most mileage I’ve had out of any fall I think really due to not having to taper for races and rest up for mid-season races and stuff like that. I’ve been able to crank out some big weeks and hopefully that pays off here coming up in the next few days with Millrose and two weeks later with USAs. I’m excited to see how that different fall kind of works out.
CM: Thinking a little deeper about the situation you have at UW, are you training with any other professionals in a group? What does that look like on a daily basis for you?
SP: In the fall, I mixed it up between people on the team because I fit in with their workouts more. As we moved into the track season, I’ve been doing a lot of workouts with my roommate, Amos Bartelsmyer. He was just on the CITIUS MAG Podcast. We started living together in September and have pretty much been training partners by doing all the same workouts for the indoor season. It has been nice having him to help out and push me in those, but I still go down to practice and run with the guys on training runs and long runs. It’s a really nice set up. I kind of still get that high-quality training with another post-collegiate runner but it feels like a group being at UW and having the resources at UW is huge.
We get access to a full weight room and having the Dempsey on days where it’s too cold or too windy to hit the times outside – we can hop in there. Having a bunch of energy is something I liked in college and has stayed a part of my daily routine while having college guys around. Obviously, staying with the same coach (Andy Powell) was huge too so that made the transition a little easier because the training really hasn’t changed so I’ve just kept on building from what I did at Oregon.
CM: I know you raced at The Armory a few times in college and you mentioned 5th Ave, so you’ve raced in New York before. Does Millrose feel any different to you going into this race from your other races from this season or anything you’ve done in the past?
SP: Yeah, I have a little more excitement after hearing that I got into the Wanamaker Mile. I was super stoked when my agent texted me and said I got in. After that moment, I’ve tried to treat it like all those other races and I think drawing back on the other experiences of running in the Olympic Trials and other fast time-trial races, because this will have a pacer and it’s being paced pretty fast.
I’m not trying to put too much hype on it so I’m just treating it like any other race. I think that’s where I’ve had success. When I go into a big race, whether it’s a championship race or a place I’m trying to run fast, I just trust my training. Running in Boston two weeks ago was a great practice run for Millrose. Some of the same guys are going to be in the race and it was also a fast mile, so I think if I can approach it the same way I did in Boston, I think that’s where my best result’s gonna come.
Deep down there’s that feeling of excitement and running in something historic. Millrose was something I grew up watching and watched Bernard Lagat win so many times in a row. In college, I watched Matt Centrowitz battle Nick Willis. Meeting those guys along the way has been super cool and now I get to race where they’ve made names for themselves. I’m excited to step on that stage and see what I can do.
CM: Have you approached this season differently than you would have in college? I know you mentioned USA’s but other than that I imagine it’s pretty abbreviated compared to what you’re used to. Is the focus more on Outdoors for this year?
Sam: We tried to hit indoor pretty hard, and if anything this has been an earlier indoor season for me than in college just because USAs is so early – February 24th. Normally in college, I didn’t race until the end of January but this year I opened up January 12th at the UW Preview and just ran a 1K before pacing the mile. We did that knowing it was going to be a super short indoor season and I think not having cross country allowed me to prepare for an earlier track race so I was doing more track stuff in November and December to get ready for an early January race. In that aspect it was different than college, building up for an earlier and quicker indoor season, but I definitely want to have a good indoor season even though outdoor is going to be pushed back a month or so for USAs. Getting a couple PRs and placing high in some of these fields will give me good experience and maybe the exposure I need to have the success I want to have outdoors. In college with NCAAs not being until March, this has been kind of different all-around.
CM: Do you have an idea of what your outdoor season may look like yet?
Sam: I’m not sure yet. I haven’t really talked about the details with Coach Powell, yet. We have some ideas, obviously taking a little break after indoor, I’m not sure if I want to go to altitude or not leading up to the summer season, but some big races on the calendar that I’d like to run – Pre in late June and maybe some other familiar races too to get me ready for the summer.
I’ve run Bryan Clay the last couple years, so going back there maybe to open up would be something I would like to do, and any other local races early on to get me ready for that summer season. I’ve run the two miles in Ireland the past couple years – Cork and Morton, so I’ve always got to think about those because they’re really fun.
I just haven’t looked at the dates yet so I’ll have to see when these races are and what schedule I want to piece together. I’m gonna see what meets I can get into. Obviously, the focus for me is the U.S. Outdoor Championships in late July in Iowa, so that’s kind of what my training block is focused on. Whatever distances or events I think I need to race in the months leading up to that to best prepare me for running that 1500 meter in Des Moines. The goal is for the full training base to sustain me through the summer late into August and September, so we’ll see.
CM: Just looking at results and stuff online I can see, other than cross-country, really only a handful of times in college when you ran anything other than a 1500 or mile. That’s clearly your event. However, do you see yourself kind of experimenting a bit more with other events?
SP: I don’t really know what I consider myself, because I think I have the strength to run a good 3K, but I ran 1:46 in the 800 last summer so I definitely want to try out some more 800s. Before that, my PR was 1:49 and I skipped all the way down to 1:46. If I give it a couple more shots, I’m curious what I could do. I’ll definitely run more 800s. I like the event too. I think it’s fun. It’s short and sweet compared to a mile or a 1500.
I think I’m best suited for the 1500 but I think I’ll enjoy having that freedom of maybe not having to run a mile or 1500 every meet. Then again, in college having that team focus almost forced me to run the 800 because I double. I ran the 800 at PAC-12s in May and up until that point I hadn’t run too many 800s at least in college. That meet kind of got me a little more excited about the 800 and it motivated me to try one over the summer. That’s when I ran that 800 in Belgium and ended up hitting pretty good time.
Maybe putting a little more focus on some 800s and trying to get into a fast race here or there would be fun. It would possibly be a good tool to use to tune up for championship racing. Then again, I haven’t really talked about that too much with my coach.
I know right now I’m really strong so getting in a 3K would be fun but I don’t really see where that could happen with how short the indoor season is. I counted how many races I ran last year. I probably ran 30 or 40 races and almost all of them were miles or 1500s. That’s good experience but I think it would be fun to try something new here or there.
CM: What’s the biggest difference living and running in Seattle as opposed to Eugene?
SP: To me when it comes down to it, it’s not really too much that’s different. Between doing workouts not the track or weights in the weight room or focusing on recovery a little more than in college, I would be having to rush off to class or to a lab but now I have little more time to do the little things and get recovered.
Seattle’s a lot bigger and there’s a lot more going on. There are definitely a lot more places to run which I’ve enjoyed. We drive more to runs. In Eugene, we ran from campus everyday on Pre’s Trail or the Rexius Trail or somewhere we could run from campus. That was super nice because with my busy schedule in college I didn’t have to worry about driving somewhere. In Seattle, we drive to a lot of flat, gravel trails that go on forever, which is awesome. It’s easier to run more miles because there are more options and running doesn’t get old as quickly like it did doing loops around Pre’s trail in Eugene. I’ve enjoyed that aspect of exploring new trails and having more options while also having the time to drive to the trails because some are nice, but it can be a 30 or 40 minute drive to get out to a really cool spot. That’s a part of the professional running lifestyle that I’ve enjoyed and didn’t get to experience in college.
Right now, in the middle of indoor season it’s the same. I stick to a few routes from campus which is also nice. There are a couple places here like Green Lake and The Arb that you can run to from campus. We stick to those when I’m not doing that much mileage so we can get into a nice routine when I’m racing. I keep Seattle pretty small for now, I had time to explore in the fall and I did some touristy things and got to experience Seattle, but now I’m pretty focused and keeping things on a smaller scale. I think that helps with my training and limiting distractions the best I can. That’s just the type of person I am and it’s been a fun transition. I wanted to stay on the west coast when I was looking at pro groups and where to move and what to do. I like the weather here and in the Pacific Northwest during the winter. I don’t mind the rain too much, I got used to that in Eugene so stuff like that has been the same. I took a short five-hour drive north and I was in Seattle just trying to adapt my routine and find a new group and I think it has been good so far.
Michael: With that potential extra free time that you get from not being in class and stuff during the rest of your day, have you you picked up any other hobbies or interests other than running?
Sam: It’s amazing how much running can take up your day, especially with longer workouts and I’m doing longer lifts now too so that takes a lot out of me, along with trying to recover. I have picked up a few things. I plan to take the MCAT at some point—I was going to take it this winter but I decided to put a little more focus on preparing for indoor so I’m studying here and there for that. I’m doing lots of reading and enjoying not having to physically be in a classroom like I did in five years in college.
I’m still learning on my own but not having the responsibilities of having to be in school so it has been a nice break and I think at some point I’ll pick some more things up here or there, but I want to see how this first season goes. I’m still learning a lot about what my schedule looks like and what works for me and my body, learning what type of recovery I need and how much I need to recover with what the training load looks like. I’m definitely being really observant in this first season and seeing what works for me. It’s been fun so far.