There is no shortage of talent in the mile at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix this weekend, but only one woman in the field has won four NCAA titles. A product of the University of Colorado by way of Indiana, Dani Jones is now entering her third year as a pro since graduating as an all-time great Buff. On Saturday she opened up her season at Boston University with an indoor 800m best of 2:01.68 to confirm what she already suspected – the fitness is there! I caught up with her while she’s back training in Boulder to hear more about how the year has started.
THE LAP COUNT: Congrats on a strong race this weekend – that’s an indoor 800m best, right? How’d it feel out there?
DANI JONES: Yeah, it is! It’s been seven months since my last race and we definitely haven’t been doing 800-specific work so far. I would have liked to beat a few more people but it was a great start.
THE LAP COUNT: How tough is it to open up the season with an 800? I’m guessing you’re deep into mileage and training right now.
DANI JONES: I kind of did it on purpose. I wanted to do something fast leading up to Grand Prix. Last year the mile there kind of wound up as it went, and I didn’t necessarily think I was ready for it at the time. So I thought it would be good for me as more of a training stimulus than anything. But it was a lot of fun and now I want to do another one.
THE LAP COUNT: And I saw you came back to rabbit after! I’m assuming that felt good as well?
DANI JONES: Cory [McGee] brought them through the first 1k then I went to 2k. I probably consumed more espresso than I should ever drink in one day between the morning race and evening pacing.
THE LAP COUNT: You are in year three now as a professional – that’s basically veteran status! What have you learned in that time?
DANI JONES: It seems weird to think about that. Last year I had a rough end to the season because I was hurt, tired, and beat up. And so I wasn’t putting a ton of pressure on indoors this year. The goal was to have a solid chunk of training coming in, and then I ended up having the best fall I’ve ever had – so that was a nice surprise! And now I have bigger goals indoors, but it’s mostly about still enjoying myself and competing well.
THE LAP COUNT: What exactly did you have plaguing you at the end of last year?
DANI JONES: I had an injury in my foot. We never got a scan or anything since it hurt bad enough that I wasn’t able to run so we figured it was bone related. It was sad to cut things short – starting in June, I took like 20 days off or something. That’s the longest break I’d had in a long time, but it ended up being the right decision because now I feel good!
THE LAP COUNT: Joe [Bosshard] is obviously very thoughtful and methodical in his training. After a season ends that way, what are the conversations like when beginning a new year?
DANI JONES: Joe’s definitely good at giving you perspective. I tend to be more disappointed as time goes on after a race, and he gets more excited about it – even last weekend! He reminds me that we’re doing good work and things are going to start clicking. But to do that I have to have the right attitude and remain positive.
He’s an adaptable coach. Workouts are changing all the time, and we aren’t afraid to try new things. I am still a relatively new athlete in his eyes, and I trust him to make the right decisions. Now in year three there is so much good aerobic work that’s been done that it’s going to start paying off.
THE LAP COUNT: When you say you had your best fall ever, what specifically does that look like to make you believe that?
DANI JONES: I think as a middle distance runner I am always good at running 64-second quarters or fast 200s. But my weaknesses have always been running anywhere between five to six minute pace – the long tempos and the long runs coupled with surviving high mileage. There have been big improvements in those areas. Joe’s philosophy is that you always have to be strong, even for a mile, because that’s what it takes to run 64s and then close hard.
THE LAP COUNT: Now you say you’re a middle distance runner, but I vaguely recall you winning an NCAA cross country title and the 5000m outdoors. Is there any thought of returning to the event?
DANI JONES: That’s definitely a popular opinion here! But I have to be reminded of that cross country race. I do think I’m capable of running a good 5000m, but I feel like I have a lot of potential in the 1500, which is my favorite event. It feels like I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface there, so that’s where my heart’s at. But you never know later in your career what you’re going to do!
THE LAP COUNT: Is it as much fun to be a Boss Babe as it appears? It seems like there’s such a good energy and a really supportive situation. Does it feel like you’re almost still in college with that atmosphere?
DANI JONES: I mean, I almost feel like it is better than college. It’s certainly not just a front. Everyone is really supportive and fun. I love doing pre-meet because it just feels like we’re laughing as we do strides and raising each other up while everyone else is being serious. It is a testament to what Joe and Emma [Coburn] have created – what you see is true. We all have the same big goals, and we’re all good friends. I know it’s unique and I know how fortunate I am to be a part of it.
THE LAP COUNT: Have you been to the TRACK yet or will this be your first time there?
DANI JONES: I was in Boston in December and I was lucky enough to get in and see all the new facilities – I was so blown away by it. I’m biased, but I have plenty of love for New Balance as a company and how they treat their athletes.
THE LAP COUNT: If you get in an elevator the day before with someone who is a runner but has never been to a professional track meet in person, what’s your pitch about why they should go watch this weekend?
DANI JONES: I’d say it’s not the same watching track athletes on TV as it is seeing them in person. You get a totally different perspective of how good they are and how pretty it is to watch when you’re actually there.
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