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Kwik-E Interview

Brandon Bethke KWIK-E
March 14, 2009

Wisconsin Badger Brandon Bethke has had a remarkable indoor season so far and looks for success at the NCAA Divison I Indoor Track and Field Championships this weekend.

You finished 98th at cross country this year, and then you come to the indoor season and run a 3:59 mile and a 7:51 3000-meter run, would you say it's been a breakout indoor season for you?

I don't know about "breakout". Everything has kind of come together. In the past, I'd been running well over the years. But this year, everything has kind of clicked. I'm still trying to get used to the cross country arena and the longer distances. And growing up in California, running all your races on roads...then you come out to the Midwest and all your races are 8,000-10,000 meters on soft grass. It's just taken a little bit of time. I do think this year has definitely been going well so far.

Would you say the longer distances suit you or is that something that's experimental?

Yeah, it's still experimental. You kind of run to find out where your talents lay. There are runners of all different sources and stuff. I'm still exploring that and learning how to do the longer stuff? It might take me a little bit longer to get, but I would say I'm a lot different runner these past few months, even compared to how I was in November. So, who knows what I would run for 8,000 meters, if I ran one right now.

Are you still training for the steeplechase or has this indoor season opened your eyes at the mile and the mid-distances?

Well, I've always loved running the mile. Ever since fifth or sixth grade, running the mile for PE. I'm truly blessed to be in a position where I have a lot of areas I could go into, as far as the steeple, the 15, or the five. We haven't even entertained those thoughts, our focus has been on the NCAA Championships. And we can worry about outdoors when it comes.

What are your goals for the NCAA Championships?

I don't know. This entire year has been going great. I just want to go out there and have fun. Sometimes you go through phases and running becomes more of a chore than something that's fun to do. I think that I'm a good space right now. I feel like God has been helping me work through my life in cool ways. It's cool to see that flow over into my running. I'm looking forward to going down, having a good time, and competing while giving my best. And whatever that is...I don't know.

You mentioned hard times. Have you been through hard times?

It's not really hard times. But being here with so many good runners, and me being from Southern California, where it's a completely different atmosphere, it's kind of hard to try to get adjusted. Midwest kind of things. It's been a different kind of process and I think I've finally found my niche and how things work best for me. You kind of come in and you've got a whole bunch of guys like Chris Solinsky, Matt Tegenkamp, Stuart Eagon, Matt Withrow, Simon Bairu, Tim Nelson and all those guys, and you come in and you want to be like that, at that level. Sometimes for me, I look at them and say, "OK, so what is he doing?...That's what I'm going to do!" And I'd go out and do that. And it works and I got better, but I don't really think I found out what works for me. It's a process of really trying to figure out what works best for you, when you've got a whole bunch of different guys. I think I've finally figured out how to do that and find out where I lie within the program. With all the talent you have at your school, what do you think the future holds for the program? We have a great squad out here. It's fun to be on a team where you come into the locker room everyday knowing that you're training with some of the best guys in the nation. I think we've definitely got the talent and we've got the hard work ethic. Sometimes in the past things haven't been going so well for us, we've had our bumps and bruises. Who knows really?

Can you talk about the transition between going from California weather to the weather in the Midwest?

It definitely was different. All year round, there was at least one day a week where I could run without my shirt on. No problem. It would be like 50 degrees or 60 degrees...and the coldest it would ever get would be 40 degrees and that was at 6 a.m., and then it would warm up to about 60, even in the coldest parts of the winter. So, coming out here was a cool experience. Getting out and running when it's...negative whatever, I don't even know. It's kind of fun, I don't mind being outside and experiencing a new thing. Just like anything new, you've just got to get used to it. I don't think it's any harder or any easier. The weather we do have helps us concentrate on the fact that we're not in too good of shape too. The track season is a really long season. So, during indoors, where we've had ice on the ground for the last week and half, two weeks, you can't go out and run five-minute pace for training runs when it's like that. You have to slow down, take your time, and get through things. It slows down the guys who like to go out and hammer their runs and stuff. It keeps everyone patient, I guess.

You mentioned Tegenkamp, Solinsky, Bairu and all the other great distance runners. What do you attribute their success to at Wisconsin?

I think Jerry Schumaker has a lot to do with that. Jerry took the time and got in there and started recruiting those guys, and over time he got Tegenkamp, Bairu, and then Solinsky. Good recruits have come in. It's a very blue collar. There's no secret. We're doing work every day. It's not like there's some secret, magical workout that we do every day. If you want to run as well as you want, you're going to have to put in the work, and that's Jerry's mentality. He's got a unique way of related to each of his athletes. He treats Matt Tegenkamp a lot different than he treats Chris Solinsky. Same with all the other guys. He's been working with Tegenkamp for seven, maybe eight years throughout his college career, and he kind of learns what he needs for methods to training and speed and things like that. Since day one, when you arrive at the University of Wisconsin, he's studying you and finding out what each athlete needs to progress through college and maybe post-collegiately. As that goes, he learns how you do workouts, how you race, and how things work. He kind of caters that to help you achieve your best. It's not something that you can necessarily teach, it's just the way he does it. He figures out how to do it and it's a cool way that he does stuff.

Changing gears, what kind of mileage guy are you? How you found your sweet spot?

Throughout high school, I was never above the high 40s, low 50s. Since arriving at Wisconsin, I've gently bumped up my mileage maybe 10 miles a year on a average basis. As far as my base period though, I'll be putting in about 90 miles a week. Then obviously with racing you can't be running that much, because you can't run like 12 miles the day before a race. Your mileage takes a bit of a hit on race weeks. I'm probably consistently in the 70s or so. Then, yeah, when we're doing base period stuff...I like to get out and put in some miles. I don't know if that qualifies me as a high mileage guy or what. It's taken me a while to build myself up because I've had some injuries in high school and took it slow and have gotten to the level where I can steadily increase my miles while being here.

What is the hardest workout you've ever done?

One that definitely shocked me was when I first got to Wisconsin, we'd do an 10-mile "rhythm" run, where we'd start off at six-minute pace and work our way down over 10 miles and end up running pretty fast. Getting used to that long grind, where you're cutting down miles, every mile dropping down however many seconds and you're moving by the end, it's a lot different than high school. In high school the longest workout I'd ever do was like three miles, or a fou-mile tempo, and that wasn't very fast. Jumping into that was kind of like, "oh, my gosh! I've got to slow down and relax, I've got ten miles to go!" That was something that was pretty hard to get used to.

Can you give me a crazy story from your running history?

OK. When you're living in Madison, where it gets pretty darn cold in the winter, you hardly see anybody outside when it's negative 20 degrees, with negative 35 mile-per hour wind chills. It's stuff like that I look forward to sometimes. Getting out and being like, "Yeah, I ran when it there was negative 35 mile per hour wind chill going on!" But not for crazy amounts of time. But last year I did an hour and half long run in negative 30 degree weather.

Was that just you or did you have the teammates with you?

We had a huge crew and that was the only reason it was actually doable. You know, because everyone is suffering. You come back from the run and your beard or your face feels like it's frozen with frost all over it and stuff. I think there were about eight of us, kind of huddled, trying to trade spots and be in the middle where it wasn't windy. (Laughs)