Inside Travis Mahoney's 2018 season
Travis Mahoney puts the New Jersey in the New Jersey New York Track Club. This New Jersey native, NJNYTC veteran and steeplechase specialist just wrapped up a stellar season. We grabbed Travis for an interview to get the inside scoop on his season's highlights, how the NJNYTC has evolved since he joined the team in 2013, his coaching career and what he's excited for next year.
In 2018 you set personal bests at both the 1500 and mile. You dipped under 8:30 in the steeplechase twice and took 2nd at the NACAC Championships. With your season just ending after your victory at the Brooklyn Mile, how would you rate it?
I would rate it a solid B. I am very happy with how consistently I competed nearly every time I toed the line this year. PRs are not easy to come by, but I feel like I left a bit on the table.
Although you are primarily a steeplechaser, you have run between 3:58 and 4:01 on 10+ occasions. To what do you attribute that consistency and do you feel like you’re ready to “pop” one soon?
My strength for the mile has always been there, but my raw speed has slacked. A goal I set for myself this year was to really work on my raw speed. Let me be clear, I am still not running a 200 with Ce'Aira anytime soon. But over the course of the year, my natural speed really started to show and my ability to recover from speed work improved drastically. I think that has led to me being able to run 3:59 (A LOT.. UGHH). That big race is in the legs, but that will have to wait until next year which is fine. Fuel for the fire!
Your social media handle is @UrbanSteepler — What does that mean?
Forged on the streets of Philadelphia baby! In college, we did a fair amount of runs from campus hence the Urban part. We also did not have any barriers or a water pit at Temple University, so we would run around the city and I pretty much would jump/hurdle anything (police barriers, signs on the sidewalk, benches, kids). "Reckless" as Donn would describe.
You joined NJNYTC in January 2013. How have you seen the team change and progress over that time?
When I joined in 2013, the club was primarily an 800 group with 1500m guys mixed in. The strength work we did then to now has changed a fair amount and become much more intense. We also all had jobs and it was sometimes a bit of a struggle to find facilities for practices. Gags was diving 2 hours to workouts, it was a GRIND! The set up now with HOKA One One, the Master’s School and the Armory is amazing, It really unloads some of the mental stress.
When the club relocated to Westchester following the 2016 Olympic Trials, you decided to remain in New Jersey. Why didn’t you cross the Hudson and how have you made that distance work?
In 2015, I coached XC at a local high school in NJ (St. Joseph) and loved it. I had an idea I wanted to get into coaching and that confirmed it for me. After that season, my high school coach was retiring and asked if I wanted to step in and take over the program at Old Bridge. I was unsure what would happen with running after 2016. But I talked to Gags and Tommy and they thought it would be good for me. Turns out it has been working great.
The drive is anywhere from 75 mins - 2 hours. I have my coffee and breakfast in the car, pop on a podcast and have learned to tolerate the drive. Driving home can be tough. Going straight to coaching sometimes leads to a long day, but for whatever reason it has really worked for me.
Has coaching other athletes changed the way you consider your own career and training?
Absolutely. Coaching is something else for me to be passionate about outside my own running. This is something that I find vital to my own success. For whatever reason, when I am solely focused on just running I tend to overdue it and underperform.
Coaching Old Bridge High School has reminded me of what’s so great about the sport. At this level, you see the sport in its purest form. There is no prize money, no contracts, no scholarships. Just desire, passion and resilience to get better, it is contagious in a way. I have learned a lot from them and is the reason my passion for my own running has never been better.
Your 5k PR of 13:48 is from back in 2012 while still in college. Has moving up in distance ever been considered?
Yeah, I would like to make a go at a solid 5k this year. I took one shot at a 5k under Gags a while back, but I was getting after it a bit too much leading into the race and a little too ambitious with how I went out. My 3k time has dropped a ton since that 5k PB, now it’s just about convincing Gags I’m not Merber so I can actually run a 5k.
This summer you collaborated with Monmouth University’s XC Camp to put on #Sub4AtTheShore which was a huge success as an event and for the club. How much work was that and why do you feel races like that are so important to the sport?
It was not too bad, but for sure stressful. I have developed a fair amount of relationships in the NJ running community and they took on much of the work. Rob Defilippis organized things with Shore Running Experience and the Monmouth University Coach, Joe Compagni. Craig Segal at Runner’s High did a great job putting out promo videos and pushing content with NJ MileSplit.
I think races like this are so important for the sport. It opens the eyes of younger athletes and lets them see what is possible. We had great feedback from the event and hopefully instilled some big dreams in the high school athletes.
When you look back on this season of training and racing, what do you need to continue to do? And what do you need to improve on?
I need to continue to be consistent and a big breakthrough will eventually come. I’ve adopted a new warm up and approach to races with Coach Nohilly and I feel like I am locked in now. I think I need to build on my strength. I am a low mileage guy and right now I would say my biggest weakness is the ability to double back in steeplechase rounds. Gags is an amazing coach and always learning and adjusting things year to year with me. I look forward to raising the intensity of strength work this fall with him and the guys.