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Mick Byrne is the director of cross country and track and field at the University of Wisconsin. He has over 25 years coaching experience and has earned over 30 coach of the year honors from the various conferences in which he has coached during his tenure. He is going into his sixth year of coaching with the Badgers. The Badgers have won 12 team regional championships and made 19 NCAA appearances, including eight podium finishes. This article is a transcription of an interview Byrne did with FloTrack in 2012.
High Mileage vs. Quality Mileage
Would you consider your self a high-mileage coach?
"No. No. I think there are certain kids that can handle high mileage, and then I'd say there are a lot of kids that cannot. Mahamad Ahmed doesn't do high mileage right now . . . he's right up around a ton, and they might be Badger miles so it maybe brings him somewhere up around 110 and 115. But he's a fourth-year kid. Mahmad couldn't handle more than 75-80 miles for two years. Reed Connor is not a high-mileage guy. Elliot Krause is. I like to look at the kid's experience, what he ran . . . in high school, his body type. To generalize to say that all of our entire team runs over 100 miles a week is not true. That's just not what I believe in. I think what's much more important is that you're turning your legs over and you're staying in touch with your speed . . . because we're running sub five minutes in races. If you're doing a lot of your training at six-minute pace or above six-minute pace you're going to find it very difficult. So we're much more a quality type program.
"During the summer when a lot of teams are just in miles we're doing some quality stuff. We're big into progressions. . . . We progress slowly. We've been on the track since July doing stuff, but we're not a big mileage program."
Finding Individualized Traning
When kids are coming into the program or they hear of someone like Cam Levins who has that huge training block under there, is it over-hyped sometimes? How do you get your kids to invest and trust in what they're doing?
"I'm a product of the 70's and in high school, I was running 80-90 miles a week. . . .Time kinda fell off the radar there for a long time . . . high school kids are really starting to pull off some great times now. I think part of that is we just weren't training on the high school level. Now we are, I think it's the same on the college level.
"You've got to be very careful though when you equate it all to just pure distance. Cam has found what works for him and there are many guys out there that do high mileage. It works for some but it doesn't work for others. There are guys who are very successful on low mileage and much more quality and I'd say, Lawi and some of those guys. Some of the Kenyans have a lot more experience working with the shorter mileage but high-quality workouts. So you have to find as a coach what works for each individual kid, and I'd say our program is much more individualistic program than whats good for the goose is good for the gander, and everybody is just running 100 miles."