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An Interview with Carrie Messner-Vickers
Carrie Messner-Vickers, the #1-ranked steeplechaser in the U.S. in 2006, will be competing against the best of the best this weekend at the 2007 USA Cross-Country Championships in snowy and high-altitude Boulder, Colorado. I caught up with her earlier this week as she was preparing for the trip.
Interview by Ann Gaffigan
Conducted on February 5, 2007
Posted on February 7, 2007


Photo courtesy of New York Road Runners/Alison Wade
How's married life, Carrie? [Editor's Note: Carrie Messner married her husband Matt Vickers on October 7, 2006. She has legally taken the last name "Vickers" but will hyphenate ("Messner-Vickers") for racing.]
Married Life is wonderful!! Things are only getting better! I have an incredible husband and we have a pretty great life.
It seems like everyone who's anyone is running in the US XC Champs this year, and that is not always the case. Why did you decide to run the USA XC Championships? How does it fit in with your training for your main event: the Steeplechase?
I think the fact that there is only one cross-country event [the 8K, as opposed to there being an 8K and a 4K race, as was the case until this year] has been a big deciding factor for many. It should be a very exciting and fun race...although a bit snowy! As far as my decision, I think XC is nothing but a benefit for the steeplechase. It somewhat mimics our event and builds on our strengths...uneven footing, ups and downs, broken stride length etc. I also think it is a fun event. It is not often we get to act like children, running through the fields, through the snow, up and down hills. Sometimes we forget how fun it can be! It is also a perfect ending to my base training phase, and the 8k distance only adds to that. It is a great strength run! Not to mention it is only a couple hours drive from my house and in my old college town!

You ended up being ranked #1 in 2006 in the U.S. for the women's steeplechase by Track & Field News, even though you were 6th at the 2006 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. This was not exactly a surprise, as you had some great performances in 2006. Can you describe your ups and downs last season and how you handled them?
I was so thrilled to get the number one ranking. That was pretty cool! Last year definitely had some ups and downs, but in the end it was a good year for it. Last year was a big growing year for me both mentally and physically. I started out last year not racing well in the winter, and found out I was anemic (which is tough for us mountain folk to swallow!). I had never dealt with it before and it was tough on my body! After fighting back from that I had some great training and my coach and I tried some new things, which worked out pretty well. My racing however, ended up being very inconsistent and frustrating. Early season was great, and I had a blast in Brazil! [Editor's Note: Messner-Vickers ran 9:41.55 to win the Belem, Brazil Grand Prix on May 21, 2006.] Building into Nationals went great, but as we all know, sometimes nerves and stress can get the best of us, especially at the top level we compete at. I really struggled at nationals with stress and nerves, and unfortunately burned up the necessary racing energy before the race. That topped with the heat was enough to knock me pretty good! After a bout with sickness leaving me with a sub-par race in Athens [where Messner-Vickers ran 9:50.52 for 9th], things were getting a little better. I got to hang out with Lisa [Galaviz] and Ann [Gaffigan] [for some races in Belgium and Greece] and have some fun! I ended up basing in Belgium for my European racing season and had a lot of fun. The racing was all right, but not what I had hoped for. One of my best races, in Heusden, Belgium, I was on pace for a huge PR, only to clip my toe on a hurdle with 300m to go, do a lovely somersault, and finish in a 9:51, leaving my pr, and skin, on the track! The rest of the season went pretty similar, some ups, some downs, with [the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, where Messner-Vickers placed 10th in 10:04.72] sort of capping that off. I was tired, getting burnt-out, and feeling very stressed; I had been planning my wedding (which was 4 weeks after the WAF) from Europe; not exactly the easiest thing to do! My race [at the WAF] was not good, and I had just come off another bout of illness which started the night before my race in Rieti, Italy [on August 27]. YUCK!! Overall, I actually take it as a great season. I learned more last year about racing, myself and my sport than I have in a long time. It inspired me to take things to the next level; kick it up a notch all across the board. If I want to race with the best, I need to train with the best! It's amazing what you can learn from a tough year!
Do you have any training partners or do you do all your training by yourself? Who is your coach? How have you been training specifically for the USA XC Champs?
I train primarily by myself. My husband Matt runs with me on easy days and long runs, and lifts with me. My dog Basha the "supermutt" also does all my easy runs and long days with me! My hard workout days are all me though! I am coached by a wonderful man named Bobby McGee. He is an incredible coach and a great friend. As far as training for the cross-country championships, I have primarily been doing base training with a slight emphasis on cross-country for the last four weeks. As it is not my main focus, we wanted to continue building a good base. I have been doing a lot of hill training, combined with fartlek runs, long tempo sessions, and mile/400/hill repeats combined with uneven snow covered terrain to prepare for boulder. Most of this has been at about 8K pace to keep the intensity down, but the work load is high! Everything I am doing right now is still geared more towards my outdoor season than anything.
Do you have a job besides running? What do you do?
I had been working part-time as a veterinarian assistant, but as I wanted to take things up a notch this year, I had to quit. I am working 10-15 hours a week at a pilates studio, and I am in the process of certifying as an instructor.
Do you have a real track with real steeple barriers to practice on? Or did you have to build your own? If so, what is it made out of? :)
I do have a REAL track, with the most incredible view of any track around...it looks out on Mt. Sopris, which is a 12,500-foot mountain that overlooks my town. I do not have a water pit or a REAL steeple, but Matt built me my very own personal steeple out of wood! I use regular hurdles for most of my training, and practice water jumps into the sand and grass, which has less impact on the body. I do one or two training sessions with my coach in Boulder on the water pit for practice, but other than that I get what I need from the water in racing.
When and why did you decide to try the steeplechase?
I was primarily a 1500m runner in and out of college. There was no women's steeple when I was in school, so I never had the opportunity to try it. Once I started running post-collegiately, I continued with the 1500, and didn't think much of the steeple as I had been injured almost every year since my sophomore year, and didn't think it would be a good choice for me. Once I started running with Bobby [McKee, her coach], I became stronger and did not have the same problem with injuries. He thought with my build and speed that the steeple would be a natural fit, and I was totally burnt on the 1500. So in 2004 I ran my first steeple and loved it--it was a blast! [Editor's Note: I remember watching this race. It was at the Mt. SAC Relays and Messner-Vickers destroyed the loaded field. She ran 9:50 with no one challenging her. I wonder if it's the fastest debut by a women, certainly by an American woman.]
Where is the best/coolest place you've raced the steeplechase?
I think there are two. One is the 2005 World Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Finland, mostly because of the history of the stadium and the Finns' love of running, but also because it was the first time the woman's steeple was held at worlds. It was pretty cool to be a part of that. The second is Heusden, Belgium. This has to be one of the most fun meets around (as many of you know!). There are tons of people, good energy, drums beating, belgium waffles, and music everywhere! Its a great meet!
Well, Carrie, we wish you good luck in Boulder this weekend. Thanks for your time!
Messner-Vickers Stat Sheet:
Born:June 7, 1977 (Denver, CO)
Coach:Bobby McGee
Agent:Chris Layne (Total Sports Management)
Sponsor:Asics
High School:Mullen High School (CO), Class of 1995
College:University of Colorado, Class of 2000
3000m Steeple PR:9:39.68 (2005)
1500m PR:4:13.70
5000m PR:15:46
Accolades:Ranked #1 in the U.S. in 2006 for the Steeple by Track & Field News
2005 U.S. World Championships Team Member
3rd at 2005 U.S. Championships
3rd at 2004 U.S. Championships


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