Stepping It Up: Exclusive Interview With Anna Pierce

Middle-distance ace Anna Pierce is aiming for a spot on the podium at next summer's IAAF World Championships. Photo: PhotoRun.net

The 2008 Olympian is now known for more than just her wild hairstyles.

Interview by: Megan Whitney Kinney

Olympian Anna Pierce is perhaps best known for her fast times and funky hair colors. The talented middle distance runner lives and trains at altitude in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., under coach Terrence Mahon. Pierce is a multidimensional athlete whose had great success at 800 meters, 1,500 meters and the steeplechase. This past summer Pierce took first place in the 1,500 at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, and at age 26 she’s accomplished feats most other elite middle-distance runners can only dream of accomplishing over the course of an entire career. She’s broken 4 minutes in the 1,500 meters, run under 2 minutes in the 800 and took first place in the steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2008.

Competitor.com recently caught up with Anna “Fierce” Pierce to talk about her most recent track season, what it’s like training with Terrence Mahon and The Mammoth Track Club, as well as what her goals are heading into this winter and the upcoming indoor and outdoor track seasons.

Competitor.com: Where are you are in your training right now?

Anna Pierce: Right now I’m just building up to peak mileage. This past week I was at about 70 miles, so it’s just kind of getting back in the groove of things. I just started doing workouts maybe two or three weeks ago. So, just kind of getting in shape basically.

Did you take a break after the outdoor season?

Yeah, I took about two weeks off. I usually take three weeks off, but for some reason I just felt a little more anxious to get going this year than I have previous years. And then we went on vacation to Hawaii, and then we came back here.

Looking back at your 2010 outdoor track season, how did it go? What were the accomplishments and were there any disappointments?

It was definitely up and down. In terms of accomplishments, I was really excited to win the 1,500 meters at USA’s. That was my first 1,500 outdoor title that I’ve had, so that was exciting for me. That was definitely the highlight of the season. After that, it was a lot of up and down. Through Europe, I was focusing on the 800 and the 1,500 and I felt a little disjointed with that. It never really gave me too much of an opportunity to do a big training block. The schedule messed with me a little bit, and I never really found my groove. So, I was a little disappointed. But I still feel like 2010 wasn’t a big focus for us, so I probably wasn’t as geared up for it mentally as I should have been. I will be for next year because it’s a world championships year.

Were there specific lessons or takeaways that will impact your training?

A lot of it is just being able to let go of disappointments. I tend to beat myself up a little too much over things I might not have accomplished, goals I didn’t reach. Not PR’ing in 2010 was kind of a weird year for me, because I’ve PR’d pretty much every year since college. So, I think just not getting too caught up on disappointments from 2010, and looking at what I did accomplish, even just in practice. I know I was in very good shape. A lot of it is just trying to be a little more low-key about 2010 –it wasn’t really that big of a deal.

So for 2011, do you already have specific goals in mind?

Terrence and I had a meeting as soon as I got back to Mammoth and outlined the main points of 2011, which of course is [the] world championships podium, and then moving back from that, would be making the team at USA’s. So those are the two major goals. Then everything else, American records, stuff like that, doesn’t motivate me quite as much. So, I’m just trying to look at that podium finish as the primary goal.

So what’s next for you on the horizon in terms of racing? And what events do you plan to focus on?

I think for 2011, the 1,500 meters is going to be my primary focus. I’ll also run some 800’s and I’ve even been tossing around the idea of an early steeplechase. The 1,500 is definitely going to be my focus. In terms of the next competition that we’re going to be doing, I think Morgan Uceny, my training partner, and I are probably going to go over to Europe –which I’ve never done before for indoor track season, but to try to nail down traveling a little bit better, because I’m kind of a terrible traveler. I think it would be good for us to just do like a short trip over there, bang out a couple races, and then come back. Just kind of shake off 2010 a little bit, and gear up a little more for outdoor track in 2011.

What’s it like working with Terrence? In what ways have you developed under his guidance?

He’s pretty intense. He’s like a really competitive guy. So we understand each other pretty well because I can be extremely competitive as well. He knows how to make me kick, and it’s kind of funny. It’s like the third year, and I was just saying to one of my teammates the other day – I feel almost like a veteran. It’s kind of silly, at 26, to be a veteran, but I feel like we’ve got a good groove. We communicate really well. I feel like we just don’t have to go over all the little things we had to the first two years. If I have a problem with something I just bring it up, and he says, ‘I don’t know – I’ll think about it.’ And he comes back and fixes it, or explains to me why he’s not going to change it. So, I like the relationship that we have. It’s pretty good.

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