Thursday, February 16, 2012

"I don't think I'll be ready by then"

Last time I blogged, I wrote about how I was injured for the greater part of 2011 (but had some very good races when healthy) and how 2012 held a lot of promise for me...if I could stay healthy.

I had a few injuries late last summer/early fall, and wasn't able to fully resume my training until early November; I didn't start workouts until early December.  One day in December, I was working at TC Running Co. when our Team USA Minnesota President Pat Goodwin called to speak with the shop owner.  Adam was not there, so we made small talk about training and such.  She had me entered in the Houston Half Marathon, and I was at no point in my training ready for a half marathon.  She asked about the US Cross Country Championships, which would be a month later, and I responded with "I don't think I'll be ready by then."

Boy, did I underestimate myself.

A month later I was racing a 3k at the University of Minnesota as a tune-up for US Cross.  I had done several workouts that indicated that I would be able to run a decently fast "rust-buster."  The race was set up well as University of Minnesota star Hassan Mead and the D-III NCAA Cross Country Champion, Ben Sathre of St. Thomas, were also racing.  Our pace-setter went through the mile in 4:20, and we were able to close the second half of the race at a quicker pace.  Hassan 8:03, Me 8:06, Ben 8:07.  While this race was nowhere close to personal bests for Hassan and myself, we were both very pleased with our performances given the training we had each been doing.

Photo courtesy of Becky Miller (Gopher Track Shots)
After the Jack Johnson 3k, I felt pretty confident about where I was in my fitness.  The body can forget what it feels like to go so hard for so long when one hasn't raced in seven and a half months.  However, most of my training going into that race was geared toward a long race, such as a 12k (or 7.5 miles).

This last weekend I competed at the US Cross Country Championships in St. Louis, Missouri.  I was going to race against a competitive field, and was looking to earn the opportunity to represent the US at the North America - Central America - Caribbean (NACAC) Championships.  This 12k would be the second-longest race of my life, but I was ready for the challenge.  Selection to represent the USA at the NACAC Championships is based on a top-five individual finish.  

As I warmed up, my legs felt tired.  I've had this feeling before - typically, when I feel tired on the warm-up, I have a good race.  However, mentally, it's not the easiest thing to deal with leading up to a race.  My legs felt like rubber.  "If I feel sluggish on my warm-up, how do I expect myself to race fast for this 12k?" 

As I toed the line and the gun went off, the feeling of sluggish-ness went away.  I got out well, but was pinched off at the first turn.  Weather conditions were at an all-time worst, as temperatures were in the low-20s and a very strong wind was blowing.  I had heard that, with the wind chill, temps dipped into the single digits.  It was my goal to get out with the lead pack and simply settle in and go for a ride - also to get out of the wind.  As many know, things don't always go according to plan.  I found myself about twenty meters off the lead pack and the rest of the field had already strung out.  I would have to do all the work myself to close on the lead pack.  Through 3 kilometers, I still found myself in about 15th place, but within striking distance of the front of the race.  At that point, several guys who got out too fast for their capabilities started to come back - I continued to move forward.  5k, 15:00.  Each 2k loop I was able to pick off a few guys, and found myself in 6th place at 8k.  At 9k I had moved up to 4th.  I glanced back and saw I had a decent gap on fifth and a very sizable lead on sixth.  At that point, I knew I was finishing top five - I felt good, and knew nobody was passing me.  I kept my eye on thrid place, but was never able to close the gap on him.  
Photos courtesy of Michael Scott
With a fourth place finish, I earned the opportunity to compete in the USA uniform in Trinidad at the NACAC Cross Country Championships.  While I earned money for my performance at the US Cross Country Championships and will earn a stipend from USATF for competing at NACAC, I am more excited that I will be representing the United States of America!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Is Filled With Hope

2011 was a year filled with injury.  I struggled with an Achilles injury that started in late October, 2010 and lasted into the middle of February.   Once healthy, I had a solid month and a half of healthy training to lead into my racing, and I began my racing schedule on April 2.

April 2: Hamline Invitational – A week of training with a barn-burning 5x400m workout (all out quarters) on Monday and a solid 5x 1,000m workout on Thursday concluded with a tune-up 1500m on Saturday.  Going into this race, I was not looking to PR, just get out there and compete on the track for the first time since June, 2010.  The race went out fairly slow, and we went through 700m in 1:50.  I finished in 3:50, running my last 800 in 2:00.  I had no kick, but that was expected going into the race.  I was happy.

April 15: Mt. SAC Relays – This was my first real test.  The 5k. Racing against some of the NCAA’s best.  Throughout the race, I moved up, putting myself in a spot to be competitive and run a fast time.  I made a move with 700m to go and separated myself from the group to chase down the two leaders.  I caught one with 300 to go, but the leader was out too far.  I finished second, only to the 2011 NCAA Cross Country Champion, Lawi Lalang of Arizona.  I PR’ed by six seconds off only about two months of healthy and consistent training.  I was confident for what was to come.

May 1: Cardinal Invitational – The 10,000 meters: the world’s most grueling track race.  I had run three 10k’s prior to this particular 10k, but all were contested at Big Ten Outdoor Conference Championships.  Of those three, two were races that went out slow through at least 5,000 meters, and the third was a race where we simply clipped off 70 second quarters for all 25 laps.  This race went out much quicker.  First 5k, 14:20 – I felt good, ready to run my second half faster.  This did not happen.  I struggled mentally and contemplated dropping out several times.  I did not give in.  I fought to the finish to a “disappointing” 28:46; however, it was a 24 second PR.

May 12: US 1-Mile Championship – What an amazing race!  The US 1-Mile Championship is held in conjunction with the Twin Cities 1 Mile events, so this race was special being in my own backyard.  This race had an amazing field, loaded with talent at many different distances.  It included US Marathon star Ryan Hall.  The race went out hard through the first, slightly uphill, 400 meters.  The pack stuck together through 1200 meters, and started to separate on the downhill.  Guys may have moved too quickly as some came back in the final 200, which had a slight rise.  I finished seventh in 4:04.4.  A new PR and a nice finish in a very talented field.

June 1: Festival of Miles – This race was supposed to be a tune-up, another mile race.  The fellas at Big River Running Company in St. Louis put on a great event; a money mile for the elite men, and an elite women’s 800.  Never have I seen a summer track meet, which is not a National Championship, have so many spectators.  I came into this race knicked up with a flare up in the peroneal tendon in my right ankle.  I had been cross-training for ten consecutive days coming into this race, maybe running a total of 6 miles.  I still raced.  I still competed.  I still PR’ed.  4:02.11.

After the Festival of Miles, I struggled with several different injuries until the middle of October.  Training has been going well since then.  My mileage is up, my workouts are going great.

***Knock on wood***

2011 was filled with injury, but a successful two moths of racing.  I am confident that with consistent and healthy training, I will be successful.

2012 is filled with hope.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Prepare Yourself for Success

In a sport like distance running, to be successful, one must go the extra mile (pun somewhat intended) to be successful.  Success at the professional level does not come from talent alone: discipline and commitment come with the territory.  Success is something you must work for.

As a coach with the University of Minnesota Men's Cross Country and Track & Field team, I often find myself trying to preach the importance of certain things that it takes to be competing at the top level.  Whether it comes to talking about nutrition, training, recovery, and overall lifestyle choices with these fine college athletes, am I also teaching myself?

It comes very easy to point out others' flaws.  I remember a situation last year, coming back from our annual Spring Break Training trip at Arizona State, when two of our athletes bought Cinnabon for dinner.  One of their teammates asked them, "How much did those cost?"  After a response, I quickly shot back "and five seconds." It is easy to call someone out for making poor choices, but is it as easy to call out yourself?

"I'll run it off."

"I ran hard today; I deserve this."

"I haven't had any junk food in a while. It'll be ok."

As a professional distance runner, everyone I compete against is just as good, if not better, than me.  To get an edge (rather, a LEGAL edge), it takes personal discipline in nutrition choices, how much time is spent in all aspects of running (stretching, icing, cross-training, total mileage, lifting, etc.), hours of sleep per night, etc.  I often find myself making good choices, but is there more to be desired?

If I want to be a better runner, there are always better choices I can make.  There are always better choices you can make.

Prepare yourself for success.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Strugglin' Summer, Fantastic Fall

Well followers, it has been a very long time since my last post, and there have been some up and downs in the last two and a half months.  Luckily, and knock on wood, the downs seem to be in the past and the ups seem to just keep coming.

Starting May 20, I was having trouble with the paroneal tendon on my right leg; it is a small tendon that runs on the outside of the leg from the ankle up toward the knee.  This injury lingered for about five weeks.  Once I was able to resume running, I went about two weeks with no problems with the right leg.  THEN...

That damn left achilles.  The first running injury I have ever had was some really bad tendonitis in the left achilles at the end of my senior track season at the University of Minnesota.  The achilles hadn't given me problems in about 14 months, but it decided to haunt me again once I was ready to progress further in my training.  My left calf was much weaker than my right calf, so I was putting more stress on the achilles than need be. With a lot of rehab, I focused on strengthening my calves; as this has happened, the stress on the achilles became less and less, and I was able to return to running pain-free after several weeks.

This summer I physically struggled with my running due to injuries, and therefore, mentally struggled.  Then came the Fall...

I had been training well and continuing to build up.  In late-September came my first workout: 3x 5 minutes with one minute rest between.  I decided I would run this workout on the track so I could keep track of my pace.  #1: Felt good, maybe a little fast. #2: Ok, probably about what I was hoping for. #3: HORRIBLE!  I thought it may be a good idea to see how far I was able to run during each of the five minutes, but after the workout I was mentally out of it.  "Next time, I am not doing it on the track."

Two weeks ago came the next workout, and this time I did 4x 5 minutes -- and this time on the road.  The importance of these workouts is not about how far I go, how fast I run -- it's about the heart rate.  This workout was much better, both mentally and physically.  Come three days later, a different workout just to get the legs turning over quicker.  Again, this workout came with equal success.

This week, another workout on Monday: 5x 5 minutes.  Again, success!  I feel like I am finally coming around, but I've still got a lot of work to do.  I am currently training at about 65 miles per week, and I've got a good training block planned for the rest of the Fall and early Winter.  Come January, I hope to be training at a high level and once again racing.

This post is just a summary of the last two and a half months.  Obviously more has happened, but that would be a really long entry.

Until next time...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

What a Week!

What a week it has been!

Saucony and FloTrack have paired together for a shoe design contest. I had to upload a blank template for the Kinvara 2 shoe, and I went with a Stars and Stripes theme. The winner of the contest will have his shoe made as a Limited Edition. My design was selected in the Top Ten, and the winner will be decided by which design gets the most Facebook "Likes." I am currently in third, but I feel that my design is exactly what America needs. Should I not win, I've got a feeling there may be some demand for Saucony to produce my shoe anyway!
Since May 20, I have had some trouble with my peroneal tendon. It's a tendon that runs from the side of the knee down to the ankle; because the area just above the ankle gets little blood flow, the healing process generally is a little longer.  A few weeks ago, I was running every other day, only 15 minutes at a time -- mind you, it still felt tight and sore during and after running. It has been progressing nicely, as I have gradually increased up to 40 minutes and it has been sore neither during nor after activity.  Two days ago, I started a two-days-on/one-day-off routine.  Even though it's not much, it is very exciting to be where I am!

Yesterday I helped some very dear friends move.  Ben and Heather Kampf closed on their very first house, so I helped them move from their apartment to their new home just 0.71 miles away. It was a blast helping them major issues, a very quick process, and the weather cooperated as temperatures seemed pretty mild.

More to come next time -- a new favorite song that could be a personal theme or testimony for any distance runner, and anything else that may come about this next week!

Stay posted!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Hello fans!
I am new to this whole blogging thing, but it is something I must do to keep all of you informed of what I am doing.  I usually don't do too great of a job keeping family in the loop of upcoming races, or just in general how life is going, so if I don't contact you directly, this may be the next place to look!  
Well, I've just finished Year One as a professional runner with Team USA Minnesota, as well as Year One as the Volunteer Assistant Coach with the University of Minnesota Men's Cross Country and Track & Field program.  As a coach, we had a very nice year, once again qualifying for Nationals in cross country, and the track team defended its last two Big Ten Indoor titles with another win, but lost a very close heartbreaker to host Iowa at the Outdoor Championships.  As an athlete, I had a very nice year, especially given that I was hampered with injuries from June, 2010 until mid-February, 2011.  I ran personal bests in four out of my five races, so I am confident that with health and great training, I can be one of America's best!
Now for the real meaning of this post: I am truly blessed!  Since the time I first starting running as a chunky little freshman in high school, I have been provided great support from my family, coaches, and my teammates.  I received that same support when I went off to college to run at the University of Minnesota.  In a sport that I truly love, I cannot ask for more support than I currently have.  I still receive great support from my family and my girlfriend, Melissa, as they all believe the sky is the limit for me; Team USA Minnesota and our sponsors (PTOSI Physical Therapy, LynLake Chiropractic, Lifetime Fitness, and Twin Cities in Motion to name a few) have allowed me to pursue my dream of becoming one of America's top distance runners.  I have a great coach in Dennis Barker who has done a tremendous job with all his athletes, and I look forward to running at the same level as Katie McGregor and Antonio Vega someday.  I have great teammates who are all supportive of each other, and I always look forward to seeing them at workouts.
I am truly blessed to have a great support system around me to allow me to follow my dreams!