Original Article: The New York Times – By JERÉ LONGMANAUG
LONDON — A mobile lab drove up to the hotel and Galen Rupp prepared for what amounted to the world’s coldest shower. He climbed into a chamber wearing his socks and underwear. His head and hands poked out the top of the cylinder.
For three minutes Tuesday Rupp let nitrogen vapor blow across his body, lowering his skin temperature to about 32 degrees. The treatment, known as a cryosauna, or cryotherapy, is designed to inhibit inflammation and enhance blood flow and oxygenation of the muscles.
On Saturday night, Rupp had won a silver medal in the 10,000 meters, the first Olympic medal in the event for an American since 1964 and only the third ever. His training partner, Mo Farah of Britain, had won gold. On Wednesday, both were set to run their first heats of the 5,000 meters. In theory, cryotherapy would hasten their recovery from the first race and help increase their energy entering the second.
“It feels like an ice bath on steroids,” Rupp, 26, of Portland, Ore., said with a laugh.
Rupp and Farah advanced to Saturday’s final in the 5,000, a distance of 3.1 miles, though they admitted to being tired. Farah is the 2011 world champion. Rupp broke the 13-minute barrier (12:58.90) at the Prefontaine Classic in June, then won the Olympic trials over Bernard Lagat in July with a blistering last lap of 52.54 seconds. No American has won Olympic medals in both the 5,000 and 10,000, much less in the same Games.
In the Olympic 10,000, Farah ran the final of 25 laps in 53.48 seconds, and Rupp slightly faster, to break an East African stranglehold on the event. Their coach, Alberto Salazar, believes that the Kenyans and Ethiopians, chastened, might try to nullify the searing kicks in the 5,000 by going out fast or by making a fierce charge with about three laps remaining in the 12 ½-lap race. Still, Salazar will likely offer familiar advice: fast pace or slow, sit and wait and outkick everyone at the end.
“Either Galen or Mo, I’m not going to advise them to push it,” Salazar said. “You just believe when it gets to the end, whether it’s a fast race or a slow race, you’re going to outkick them. If you develop yourself to that point, the race becomes very simple. You don’t really even have to look at the clock.”
For 12 years, since Rupp was a freshman at Central Catholic High School in Portland, a soccer player not yet committed to running, and Salazar was the school’s cross-country coach, the two have worked together.
Rupp remembers his mother’s forcing him to introduce himself at a barbecue to Salazar, a three-time winner of the New York City Marathon and a victor at the classic 1982 Boston Marathon. Salazar remembers Rupp’s devoting only a month fully to running that autumn long ago and still finishing second in his age group at the national junior cross-country championships.
“You wanted me to run every day and I thought you were joking,” Rupp told his coach as they sat in Salazar’s hotel room in central London. “You said, ‘Just go for 20 minutes.’ I was like, no. I couldn’t believe it.”
Twelve years later, Rupp is an Olympic silver medalist. “I can’t believe we’re here and it actually happened,” he told Salazar on Saturday.
When Salazar brought Farah into their training group at the Nike Oregon Project in the winter of 2011, Rupp did not initially embrace the idea. Trust me, Salazar said. Farah would be a good friend and a necessarily challenging partner. They would make each other better runners. Rupp came to see that Salazar was right.
“I’m training with the best distance runner in the world right now,” Rupp said. “We do 99.9 percent of our training together. I’m right there with him in all that. So there’s no reason I can’t beat everybody.”
In the middle of the Olympic 10,000, a race with an erratic pace and much jostling, Rupp started to get anxious when a gap of 10 yards or so opened between himself and the leaders. He started to move up when he felt a tap from Farah, who told him: “Relax, they’re going to come back to us. We need to save our energy and be smart.”
When a final burst became necessary, Farah and Rupp both had plenty in reserve. Salazar has driven home two points with them: trust your training and realize that your body is tuned to run fast even if it does not feel good. And your kicks are better than their kicks.
A week and a half before the Olympic 10,000 final, Rupp and Farah honed their finishing speed with workouts at 6,000 feet in the Pyrenees that included 400-meter runs in 52 seconds.
“You aren’t feeling great at that point; that’s when you need to learn to sprint,” Rupp said. “It’s more important to be running fast at that point than doing 49 or 50 seconds at the beginning of a workout.” He added, “You’re never going to feel fresh” at the end of a race.
On Wednesday, Rupp took an early lead in his 5,000 heat, then stepped off the gas, running the sixth-fastest overall qualifying time in 13:17.56. Whatever strategy the Kenyans and the Ethiopians plan for Saturday, he said: “We’ve gone through every scenario in our heads. We’ll be ready for it.”