Interview: Andrew "The Wolfman" Huston - 2010 Rock & Roll Half Top Louisiana Finisher


Andrew is no stranger to the State of Louisiana, having trained under Coach Dupe at Episcopal High School (1997-2001), he helped pace his team to the coveted XC “15” at the prized state meet in Nachitoches, Louisiana. He then went on to run for Louisiana State University finding success in the 1500 finishing 6th at the SEC Championships his final year while earning a podium spot. When he isn’t running, schooling, or living life you can find him on message board under the handle “lasseviren”... Giving his trademark’ed blunt and to point words of wisdom...
Over the Last Year Andrew “The Wolfman” Huston has dropped his Half Marathon PR from 73:05 to 69:24, continuing to inch towards a possible OT berth.... What inspired you to fly down from Portland, Oregon to run the 2010 Mardi Gras Rock and Roll Half?
Andrew: My cousin got married on Feb 27th, so I knew I was going to be home for that. Then one day my ex-girlfriend's mom emailed me asking for advice because she wanted to run the MG1/2M. I asked what the date was and when I found out I would be home anyway, decided I would start training for it, this was at the end of Sept/beginning of Oct. So you can thank my cousin for scheduling her wedding the day before the half! How did the race pan out for you? Was it a memorable experience coming back to N.O.?
Andrew: The race was awesome for me, everything worked out perfectly. I felt great and being back home really helped provide a little extra motivation to push. I would've run well that day no matter where I was, but being in New Orleans (my second favorite city after Portland) really helped out a lot. The wedding hotel was right on St. Charles, around 5.5 miles, and just about everyone from the night before was out there cheering me on when I ran by. That was a huge boost and a lot of fun to run by and high five them. It helped keep things loose and relaxed. Overall, this is one race that I will remember for a long, long time. The half marathon world record holder and 2008 Olympic Marathon gold medalist was there (Wanjiru), a multiple time London, NYC, Chicago champ (Lel) lined up, plus a slew of other elites. I don't want to sound cocky, but for me to finish outside the top 10 in a road race in Louisiana, with an all-out effort means the race has got to be pretty high quality. I think the Crescent City Classic is the only other race in LA that I would finish that far back. (The only time I ran CCC I was coming off injury and ran it for the experience and after party!) My second thought after crossing the line was, "If I can do that again, I'll be on the line in Houston." Meaning, another 69:24 half would put me under the 2:19:00 OT standard.
My trip home was awesome, I squeezed in a lot of stuff between landing Thursday and taking off Sunday. I had the opportunity to talk to the kids at EHS, which was a blast, I ate 5-7 lbs of boiled crawfish, went to the Aquarium with my niece (4 yrs) and nephew (2 yrs), my niece kept calling it the "fish tank", saw my whole family at the wedding and reception, caught up with a couple old friends at the wedding reception, ran a huge half PR, went to the French Market, and ran into a former athlete's parents in the French Quarter. I'd say I got my money's worth! You had a pretty successful high school and college career running at Episcopal (BR) and LSU.. what are some of your most memorable moments while doing so?
Andrew: High school was fun because we had such a great team and ran very well. Winning the state indoor 4x800 my senior year, winning the 4x800 at Mobile MOC and breaking 8:00 was also a great memory. 15-pts at the state cross country meet is something that will stick out with me for a while as well. But honestly, my best HS memories were practices. Gregg Fell and Garrett Smith were great training partners and we would just hammer and hammer and hammer at each other. I had more fun during some workouts than during some meets, we all ran so hard in practice because we didn't want to look too bad in front of our coach!
In college, my best memory is placing 6th at SECs my 4th year. Even though I was just off the regional qualifying time, it was a great meet for me. I PRed in the prelims to make the final on time, after cooling down I was sitting with my parents and aunt and uncle and watching an award presentation. After they announced the names I told my family, "Tomorrow I'm going to be on that podium." The next day I just sat back, around 8/9th, ran even and kicked like hell. I was shocked that I placed so high, I really didn't know what position I was in coming down the home stretch, but I remember being a little bummed out about missing regionals by 1.25s. I think my splits were something like 61-62-60-46. Because of that race I'm still competing now, so I can look at this as a definite turning point in my running career.
Louisiana Did you have troubles adjusting to your new home away from home in Portland? Although you mentioned you now consider Portland to be your home, do you still have thoughts of Baton Rouge/Louisiana, and do you miss it at all?
Oh man, leaving Baton Rouge was not easy. I grew up there, in the same room of the same house on the same street, so there was definitely an attachment to the place. But I also hated driving across Texas to get to mountains, so I vowed to live somewhere I didn't have to drive across that infernal state to get to mountains. The girl I was dating at the time (we'll call her LSG to protect the innocent) also wanted to get out of LA and was thinking of moving to Austin, TX for grad school. Well, in February 2008 Jason Laine called me up and said that in July when his lease in St. Louis was up he was moving to Portland, OR. I told LSG that she should check out UO's grad school before deciding on Austin and we went up in May. I ran a meet and got a job, she loved the school so she was on board to come up, which helped make things easier. I knew you were planning to come up and you had just as much holding you here as I did, so we made plans. We rented a 17' Penske truck and towed my little black car all the way from Baton Rouge, LA to Portland, OR. It was "Papa Wolf", Pat (Gavin), and me, in a two seater moving truck. Keep in mind this was the summer that gas prices got all the way up to $4.29/gal out west. The first night we made it to the middle of Texas and slept on top of the truck off the highway somewhere. The next night we stayed at a KOA in Laramie, WY and tried to sleep on top of the truck again. It was too windy and kind of cold, so we moved back into the truck. The next day we encountered snow in Western WY which was fun to drive through, though I really don't have a desire to drive a 17' truck through that again. Then we stayed in a hotel in Boise, ID for the 3rd night out. I remember the RV park we first pulled in to wouldn't let us stay because we didn't have a bathroom. My dad was like, "Hell, I can pee in a water bottle. There's your bathroom!" Finally on the fourth day we made into Portland only to find out that the apartment we had applied for rejected us, but never bothered to contact us to say so. So for the first 3 days in Portland we stayed in a Motel 6, then a (day old) friend's house, before finally getting accepted by an apartment. Our first week we were couch-surfing, with all this junk we brought up from home! Once we finally got settled things were fine.
The hardest part about moving up here was just getting to know where things were and trying to figure out what people meant when they called roads, landmarks, etc by their "local" names (ie: The Banfield is Portland-speak for I-84) instead of what was written on a map. When I started school I was also delivering pizzas, so driving around so much really helped get to know the area a lot better. When I was home I had trouble remembering where stuff in Baton Rouge was and thought roads went off different places, so to me just the fact that I can drive somewhere without looking up directions or stopping to look at a map means I feel more at home. I still miss Baton Rouge from time to time and occasionally thoughts of moving back creep in. But then I have a day like yesterday (3/6) where it was just beautiful and the hardest decision I had to make was whether I should go play in the snow on Mt. Hood, play at the coast and watch the sunset, or just wander around the arboretum or zoo in town. You just don't get those options many places. I ended up at the coast with some running buddies, cooking quesadillas over an open fire, watching the sunset in the Pacific Ocean. This involved all of 3 hours, round trip, in a car. You can't get that in Louisiana and is a big part of why I left. You can run anywhere and run well anywhere. But eventually, you're not going to be running at a high level and then you've got to enjoy where you live. I love it here, but I've been slowly but surely teaching them some of our customs. We threw a pretty solid Mardi Gras party on the 16th where I made gumbo, fried oysters, and fried shrimp and a friend of a friend who's from Opelousas made jambalaya, king cake, and bread pudding. They will also understand college football fanaticism once the fall rolls around, for now they'll just have to settle for college baseball. What is difference from Portland vs. Baton Rouge from a running and life aspect?
Andrew: The biggest difference between Portland and Baton Rouge is that PDX is a bigger city (about 1.5 mil) and BR is a college town. They are both a lot of fun, but there's just a little bit more here in Portland. Actually, in terms of a "city attitude" New Orleans and Portland have a lot in common. Both are laid back, both have a good mix of white collar and blue collar folks, lots of very cool night spots, great museums and cultural attractions, etc. One huge difference is the attitude toward runners here. I can wander around just about anywhere in Portland in running shorts, flip flops, and a t-shirt and no one looks twice. But when I was home Mama Wolf called and asked if could stop and get some cold beverages that go well with boiled crawfish on my way home from running. So I stop in this Wal-Mart, wearing just my shorts, flip flops, and Eugene Marathon t-shirt and everyone I passed just stops and stares. And I'm thinking, "Haven't you ever seen a runner buy beer?" So I kind of forgot how running is still a little more of a "fringe" sport down home than in Portland. What is a typical week of training like for you?
A typical week for me is 75-85 miles, in singles, with 3 workouts. I'm in school full time (pre-reqs for chiro school still. Then I will start chiro school in the fall.) and work about 25-30 hrs each week, so there isn't a lot of time for doubles. My long runs are 16-20 miles right now, with 4-6 miles at marathon pace. I don't know exactly what my marathon pace is, but I've been running these hard segments at 5:30s without too much trouble. Tuesdays have been on the track and are longer intervals, like 1000s-mile repeats, and pretty quick, around 4:45 pace or a little faster. Thursdays are threshold days which have been on the track lately as well. We'll do stuff like 2x3 mile + 5x800 or 4x2 mi/1mi, with very short recoveries. It's kind of funny that I'll do mile repeats in 4:45 and take 4 min recovery, then 2 mile repeats in 10:20ish and take 90s recovery. Lately my mileage has dropped to 70-75 with some faster stuff thrown in because I'm going for 15:15 in a road 5k in a week, then a fast 10k on the track at the beginning of April. My next big half is going to be in Eugene, then I'm going to start training for a big effort in a fall marathon. Where do you typically train in Portland?
Andrew: I do most of my easy runs on Leif Erikson drive (or just "Leif") or on the waterfront by the Willamette River (kinda like the levee). Workouts are generally at Nike. Not a lot of variation in my running locations, but the season is changing so it's kind of like running in a new place. With Forest Park having something like 90 miles (or more) of trails, it's pretty fun to run up there. But I try to avoid the narrower trails on weekends, when they can be crowded. What do you do in Portland outside of Running?
Andrew: Outside of running I'm in school and work. When I'm not doing those I generally try to play outside as much as I can. It's an hour to the mountain, an hour to the coast, and less than an hour to some great trails in the Columbia River gorge, so I'm really in heaven. If I find myself with actual free time I like to sit on my balcony, read, and watch the sunset. Just kind of decompress. Plus, Portland has more microbreweries, per capita, than nearly anywhere else in the world. Since I'm interested in home brewing, I have a good time trying the new beers that come out every season. But I always keep it in moderation, after all I either have to wake up for class or a run or a hike the next day! How is it running on the Bowerman Athletic Club? What is it like training and having access to Nike Headquarters? Any good stories there? Running celebrity sightings to date.... ??
Running with the BAC is awesome. I would have to describe it as an "olympic development" club. Right now I'm the slowest out of the 4 that train together regularly, which is a little different than I'm used to. But we're all gearing toward trying to hit a sub-2:19 and lining up in Houston for the OT marathon in 2012. I'm going to work really hard to get there because a lot of my family could make it to the race, Houston isn't that far from Baton Rouge. The group dynamic is great and everyone makes an effort to at least workout together, but we generally find time for easy runs too. If you're wearing Nike Air anything, one of the guys I run with designed the air bags in those shoes. Another guy I run with used to help pace Kara through workouts. We do a lot of our workouts on the track at Nike and it's fun to see some of the elites out there. I've seen Shalane, Tim Nelson, Josh Rohatinsky, and Simon Bairu running a workout. Solinsky was out there working on his hurdle form for the steeple one day. Teg and Jaeger have been hanging around with Jerry Schumacher. I've seen Kara Goucher and Amy Begley running on Leif Erikson. I saw Alan Webb in the locker room at the Lance Armstrong building (which is the gym at Nike). I did see Adam Goucher once running on the berm loop, the two mile wood chip path around campus. I haven't seen Ritz or Rupp running. I hear Ritz has a slight foot injury though, so he's probably on the Alter-G treadmill a lot and I'm starting to think Rupp is just a robot Phil Knight keeps in his closet and turns on for races ;). Thanks Andrew!

Watch Andrew and the 2010 Rock and Roll Marathon Half Marathon here