Smooth Transition: Exclusive Interview With Lukas Verzbicas

Competitor.com: When you arrived in New York for the adidas Jim Ryun Dream Mile did you think you had a sub-four minute mile in you?

Lukas Verzbicas: Coming off the two mile (at the Prefontaine Classic), I thought: “this shouldn’t be that hard”, but it was a lot harder than I thought. There were many other people that could have gone sub four that day but the weather conditions weren’t favorable. It was cold and misting, which isn’t great running weather. I had always had that goal of running sub four and at the halfway mark I didn’t think I could do it but somehow there was something in me that caused me to run 1:56 for the last that 800.

What were you thinking as you took that last turn around the track?

[InlineVideoPlayer float="right" videoid="908333414001" caption="Lukas Verzbicas after his second place finish at the BAA Invitational Mile in April. "]“I have got push it.” I was focusing on winning and with 50 meters to go I looked at the clock and realized I could actually do it and was lucky enough to get under four.

I’m not sure it was just luck.

I have to focus on staying humble. I am very fortunate and grateful.

You must put a lot of time and energy into your training to get to where you are. What would you say are one or two things that are keys to your success in training and racing?

Most of all it’s the support I have—my parents and everyone I have around me and supporting me. I could never have achieved all that I have achieved without my parents’ support.

You’re doing your share of support, too, by racing for your friend. Tell me about your decision to come back to triathlon for one more year.

Kevin’s diagnosis happened very unexpectedly and it took everyone by storm. I thought I was done and ready to move on from triathlon and go on to Oregon when this happened. It was very emotional time and my parents and I decided I would come back for one more year. Oregon is very supportive of my decision. It’s not just something I’m doing for myself but for someone else so it makes it far more meaningful. The goal is to win him a gold medal because I’m confident he would have won.

How has your training changed besides adding swimming and biking since you began training for the world championships?

It is a lot more volume. I am at a training camp and today I had three hours of biking and swimming and an hour of interval running. It is a lot more training than running alone, although the intensity isn’t as high as track training.

Verzbicas will make a temporary return to triathlon at the world championships before resuming his running career at the University of Oregon. Photo: USAtriathlon.org

What kind of training camp is it?

My team and I come out here to train for a week or sometimes more during the summer to get away from things. There is no TV, no Internet, but I have an iPhone so I have 3G and can go on Facebook. I don’t know what I’d do without my phone here.  It is nothing but farms and dirt roads so it’s good for training. There is just a bunch of corn. But it’s fun and Kevin is here with us, training as much as he can. Sometimes he hangs on for a bike ride or training session. You wouldn’t even believe that he has cancer besides his bald head. It makes him feel better and it makes us feel better having him around. It’s so unfair.

What does Kevin think about you going for the win for him?

He really appreciates it and it seems like he is really happy I’m doing it. I feel like I need to this for him. He has his last chemo treatment in August and he should be healthy by the middle of the fall. The cancer has only made him stronger. He is the future of U.S. triathlon and maybe even world triathlon.

Sounds like you guys are pretty good friends.

Yeah, we’ve been teammates, but friends, more importantly, for five years. The best way to support him I felt was to do this and bring him home a medal. It’s special to win but even more to win for someone else who really deserves it.

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