Don’t Let Me Be Too Late

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Edit: I wrote this a few nights ago as a private note to myself, but felt it needed to be said out loud.  I didn’t want to answer the phone call from a close friend this morning afraid of what I would hear, but sticking your head in the ground doesn’t make it go away.  So thank you for updating me.  And to everyone who has had the pleasure of knowing Stump, be sure to count your blessings as she sure as hell was and still is one of them.  

Please don’t let me be too late. Of all the crazy things going on in our lives, we tend to forget that exactly that is happening: life. And all too often in an instant, we lose what we cherish most. Similar words were spoken when everyone heard the news back in 2010, and it takes a bit of processing to understand. The life in which we live is simply part of the bigger picture, of which, we as a community can only comprehend a small fraction. And it seems that when we do make that realization, time appears to be an all too fickle commodity. A commodity that is not in the slightest renewable or even able to be put on hold.

I’ve been in close contact for the past few weeks with people I’ve all but fallen out of touch. People who certainly played an important role in who I’ve become today and even more so have become outstanding individuals in their own right. I’m disappointed in myself for not keeping in better touch, but as it’s well known, there’s certainly a lot to keep up with these days. But I feel blessed to have those same friends reach out to me and update me on the latest news that all of us have been dreading. Certainly it takes a community to lend support to one another, and I appreciate and love every one in the small community in which we belong.

I’ve gone on to make myself a promise, and even more so, a close friend a promise, that I will do a better job of recognizing the blessings in my life. For as easy it is to be blind sided by bad news, we must realize that there is still plenty of beauty that surrounds us. The fact that we can experience any of it is a miracle in and of itself. The individual lives that each of us has the ability to touch and leave lasting impressions far exceeds what any one individual can accomplish in a single lifetime. In a way, you have taught me this.

Just as those around you have molded you over time, we have come to admire your determination, heart, and gentle yet firm demeanor that you have towards your life’s ambitions, goals, and willingness to stick to you guns. Even if it does come off as a bit stubborn. Deep down, we’re all a bit stubborn. You just exemplify it a bit more than others, and even more so, in all the appropriate ways that portrays the correct way of getting things done. And in my own stubbornness, I have been hesitant on heeding your advice from time to time, but you have always been right. No nonsense. It distracts you from what’s important. Your thoughts: my words.

In fact, many of your words were never spoken. You simply did. You led Your life in a way that exemplified what it meant to be a star athlete, a scholar, a loving friend, a fighter, a tougher than nails woman that let nothing stand in your way. And for that, we admire your character and spirit. We need more like you. For now, we’re simply lucky and blessed to have had you.

Your spirit will certainly carry on in all of us. Those of us who have had the opportunity to share in your triumphs, victories, upsets, let downs, and all else in between will carry you in our hearts forever. In the meantime, don’t let the clock run out just yet, without me coming over to see you. So again, I ask you: Please, don’t let me be too late.

Irish Breakfast

A swift stream of excitement comes over me upon my arrival into Dublin. I was a bit weary looking ahead to this trip. As I’m currently flying solo, there’s a lot to keep track of, while also allowing me to move at my own pace.

Pack all the essentials, purchase a few Euro to have on hand, double check your luggage to make sure you have shoes, socks, undies, spikes, toothbrush/paste, passport; the list goes on and on. Get to the airport and arrive at your layover with 45 min to your next gate and realize you forgot a power adapter. Purchase a third power adapter. Even though you have two at home, they do you no good in the comfort of your own home with your native electrical sockets. Make your flight, get situated and wait for the in-flight meal as you were unable to grab a to-go snack, as you power walked your way to the gate in time to utilize the upgraded SKY zone on your boarding pass that you paid extra for. Top off your meal with some wine to help put you down for a few hours as you cross international waters, hoping to arrive as fresh as a daisy. Or at least as fresh as a daisy that’s running on little sleep, travelled 7,000 miles in the last few days, and adjusting ever so slightly to a completely skewed circadian rhythm. Which brings me to the present.

Excitement flows over me as I again realize what an amazing opportunity and experience this will be. I’ll be getting into some solid races as well as getting a bit more culturally diverse in my knowledge of the world. But first, breakfast. It could be the idea of Ireland and what it may hold for me that’s got me feeling surprisingly upbeat as I go through customs. Or it could simply be the realization that I made it in time for breakfast. And not just any breakfast: Irish Breakfast. Yum! It was nothing particularly fancy seeing as I was on the receiving end of a heat lamp and what appeared to be some sort of gelatinous egg substitute. But fear not, they were still “eggs” and they were served right along side with some pretty mean sausage links and bacon. I even opted to try out the pudding. Because honestly, how can you have any meat, if you don’t eat your pudding? Doing my best to ignore the fact that Tabasco hasn’t seem to have made its debut here, I finish my breakfast with a grin on my face and the mixed feeling of calm excitement. So long as my body is well nourished and well rested, I have the utmost confidence that I’ll compete at my best. But for now, I have one more 3-½ hour leg of travel, via bus, to get into Cork, Ireland. Luckily Ireland has plenty of plush greenery to enjoy on the way.

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New Legs

These are new legs. No, not the botox infused, silicone sculpted garbage that’s utilized solely for the sake of vanity. They are not the shiny pristine legs that may seem enviable to most. They are dirty, gritty, salt-stained, mud-caked legs that have seen their fair share of ups and downs. Gone through enough obstacles throughout the process to make any tough mudder look like a joke.

These legs are workhorses. They come from a long slow grind, that only become apparent after long hours of keeping your head down at the office; chipping away at was once a block of marble, slowly molding into Michelangelo’s David. Only looking up and realizing all the benefits of your efforts culminate. One by one, each success leading to another: each failure leading to a different approach. Never resting on your Laurels and always hungry for more. The innovation and success of these legs being built upon previous legs, yet different.

These legs are not the same as last year’s. Sure those were nice too, but they weren’t these specific legs. They had a decent amount of miles on them, but these have more. These are tired, relentless legs that have seen the amount of work that legs prior to have not seen. They have sculpted themselves from hard work, being unsuspectingly powerful. Function decides form, and these legs will fulfill the function in which they are intended. Not being one to skip leg day, bro, they are not built for vanity’s sake. Continually improving the functionality of yesterday’s legs, these are new legs.

Day in and day out these legs have focused on the end goal above all to ensure the process as a whole is taken in stride. Each shift clocked in and out to a specific formula so as to put enough money in the bank to be withdrawn at a later date for all the right reasons. No sick days, fewer vacation days, with a lunch break here and there to ensure positive worker morale and health. Sure the task is monotonous, and the rewards appear few and far between. But these legs won’t be new for long. Like any piece of equipment, they will wear down. They won’t be as efficient. Time and effort will take its toll. But any investment sold short of its value creates too much buyer’s remorse. And as the majority stockholder in this investment, I plan on seeing a positive return. During which, I’ll continue to grow my capital investment to ensure the proper and sustainable growth that I know is possible. Just as these aren’t the same legs as years prior, these won’t be the same as what’s to come.

 

We All Need Resolutions

This is a first. I’m sitting down to write a New Year’s resolution (I know, it’s a bit late). Not because it’s the hip thing to do, but more so because it seems appropriate. I don’t tend to do these because improvement comes by constant change and I don’t find it appropriate to wait for a new year to make those changes. But, a new year does provide a decent jumping off point and allows for a surprisingly fresh pair of eyes on what I want to see myself accomplish in the days, and hopefully years, to come. So in no particular order, here’s what I’d like to improve. And I’d like to share them with you so as to have written intent to do so, along with inviting you to engage in your own resolutions.

 

Humility

This one I believe we can all work on. But as an athlete, I tend to spend a lot of time on me. I must be aware of every small aspect that’s going on within and around me to gain the maximum benefits of training. This can easily lead to an inflated ego. But running is not about the ego; it’s about becoming better simply for the sake of seeing what is possible. There have been plenty of athletes before me who have experienced the “impossible” and there will be plenty more after me. I want to see what impossible limits I can reach for the sake of showing others it’s possible.

It’s not about me, it’s about those who support each other through the thick and thin and have faith in you every single day. It doesn’t have to be running, it doesn’t have to be athletic. If you’re fighting the good fight for the all the right reasons, I commend you. And even more so if you’re supporting someone who’s chasing what they believe in or are fighting for more, you’re the unsung hero. You’re just the support they need when they need it most. So please, keep supporting those you believe in.  I’ve seen a lot of amazing things happen in my lifetime based on just a little faith.

 

Sub 4:00

I’ve been working on this one for a while. Since my days in high school, I’ve dreamt of a sub 4:00 mile. I’ve been dancing with the damn thing for almost 5 years now. 4:00.01 I believe is my closest converted 1500, while I’ve run a 4:00.53 in an official mile. Or something like that, doesn’t matter, it’s not under that 4-minute barrier. I’d like to say it’s due to the fact that I don’t focus on it, but excuses be damned, I need to break that mark.

 

Community

Again, another one we can all work on. I’d like to think that I influence others through the sport I love. I try to engage myself within the running community wherever I can. But again, I want more. I’ve fallen off a bit in assisting at the senior citizen home I was volunteering at, but want to engage in similar community involvement. I’d like to see myself engage in my community’s youth, where I believe I may be able to positively influence those who may need it most.

There are a lot of cracks in this system we call society and the fact that any of our youth are overlooked is disheartening. I want to engage in as many meaningful ways as possible. From using athletics as an extension of ourselves in which we hope to make small improvements to create a better sense of self and discovery, to providing hope for those who have none. I’ve been blessed with a lot, and my family and health are key components of everything thereafter.

Here’s where you come in. If you’re aware of any youth sports programs, or youth engagement of any kind (children’s hospitals, Big Brother/Sister programs) within the Twin Cities, please let me know. I can’t engage in every single one, but I’d like to at least be aware of them if an opportunity to provide assistance does come up.

 

Family

Every family has their set of quirks. But I’m pretty damn lucky to be in the one that chose me. There have been plenty of times that have forced me to realize the full impact a family has. Having a third grandparent recently diagnosed with cancer has highlighted the fact that we’re only given a short amount of time here. I’m not one for dramatics and I certainly don’t want to make any of this negative in any sense, but I want to spend my time doing what I want to do with my fullest intent. And that includes spending more time engaged with my family.

My sister is having her first baby if you haven’t seen all of her FB posts or Pinterests pins. I look forward to being around for my niece and being that strange uncle…not that one, the other one. The goofy one that is received with warm welcomes every time I come to visit, along with being able to impart whatever wisdom I may have about the world to such a fresh pair of eyes. It takes a village, and I look forward to being a part of that village. That strange, strange village.

 

So I invite you to join me in my resolutions and welcome you to post your own. Feel free to limit yourself to the 140 character limit of Twitter by tweeting me @jonpeterson89, or add it to my FB page. You can also send me direct messages if you’re shy (I won’t share anything without your permission). Accountability is key in any commitment, and I will help hold you accountable if you’re willing to hold me accountable.

#SpeedHands

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SpeedHands

Sprinters can’t do without them. Distance runners can go for miles before ever showing them off. And anyone who’s been living under a rock and doesn’t realize running is a competitive sport, has no clue what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Speed Hands. That oh so familiar extension of the hands, straightening the fingers and flattening the palm to create a single plane from wrist to finger tips. In becoming more fluid and aerodynamic, a runner increases the drive of the hands, which in turn increases turnover of the legs, picking up speed. With this intentional drive, there’s both a physical and mental change that says, “It’s go time.”

We’ll start with the obvious: What are Speed Hands, you ask?  Think jazz hands, but faster.  Put simply, they signify the transition from the long slow grind of the race behind you, into the much quicker, all out sprint that is between you and the finish, in the final moments of a race. Whether it’s 400 out or a mile out, we all begin our kicks on our own terms. But one thing is certain, there’s a change in form. Rhythm picks up, stride extends further, becoming more efficient, and the drive of your arms become much more intentional. It is within this pick up, that you may see a more rigid, out flexed pair of hands on any number of individuals. Your hands turn into blades, cutting through the air, becoming more fluid through the jet stream. Other characteristics include 90˚ elbows and light, yet powerful, tippy-toe strides. All gears working in unison, to obtain as much efficiency and power as possible.

Secondly, it’s a mentality. With the physical attributes displayed for everyone to see your intentions, you have committed to a faster gear that cannot be downshifted before you reach the tape (or your legs give out). Overall, it says, “I’m making a move and I’ve committed to whatever else may be thrown my way.” Anything that ensues may become an all out brawl for who reaches the tape first. In terms of a gauntlet, it may be thrust upon thy challenger with swift precision for ultimate effectiveness* (*results may vary). As a teammate of mine, Heather Kampf, so eloquently put:

I think Speed Hands is a state of mind, like putting on your ‘fast feet’, you’re preparing to go into a race, and be FAST. A lot of people think of Speed Hands being associated with sprinting, but no matter what event you do and how long it is, you still have to finish with a sprint. Everyone can use a pair of Speed Hands.

And like any other aspect of training, it must be practiced with precision and practiced often. Go ahead; try them out next time you’re doing 150’s on the track. Maybe dabble a bit on your fartlek if you’re not entirely certain that you’ll be comfortable with the immediate change. But certainly have them ready come next race. Because chances are, your competitors already utilize them, giving them the upper hand.

Twenty Years Ago Today

To most, the preceding title may seem a bit obscure. To my family, and one person in particular, that title carries a lot of weight. As twenty years ago today, my grandfather passed away.

I realize this blog pertains mostly to my training. However, life requires its own acknowledgement in observing whom the athlete has become, as it’s responsible for the majority of my own development as an athlete, just as much as my sport allows me to reflect on who I’ve become as a person.

The following is a revised piece that I did for a college class. I enjoy writing new material and entertaining my musings from my training to grow as an athlete and individual. But I also believe there is much that can be learned from previous works, as hindsight seems to provide a bit more clarity. It allows us to view previous works from different perspectives. I’ll admit, this may be tough for some of my family to get through, as it was a bit difficult to sit down and write the first time, let alone revise it to my own liking, without the confines of a class rubric or word count. But I wanted to get this as near perfect as possible to properly illustrate my point and give it the respect it deserves.

 

Narrative

“Grandpa Fuller’s gone,” my mother somberly utters as she hangs up the phone. These ambiguous words leave me, then only 5 years old, in a bit of a haze. Our family circled around the living room as the news hit us. My mother’s attempt to hold back tears are met by my father and sister’s condolences followed by tears of their own. As my grandfather was my mother’s only remaining parent after losing her mother to cancer a few years earlier, this loss was especially hard on her. The emotional tidal wave that hit my family was unapparent to me at the time of my youthful ignorance. My grandfather was gone, and in my naïve state of mind, I didn’t understand where he went. All I knew was that he had always been gone in a sense, since he lived in the Midwest, and we had only visited him once from what I recall. But where had he gone? Was he coming back? Only upon these two questions muttered by myself, was the idea in the back of my mind reinforced. My grandfather passed away.

Several years later we visited my grandparents’ graves in Chesterton, Indiana. In observance of Memorial Day, American flags had been placed on the gravestones of those who had served their country, including my grandfather’s. During my visit I came upon a staggering realization. Recalling that my grandfather had fought in a war, like so many other men of his era, I realized how much I didn’t know either of these two individuals. They both played such a huge role in my life, along with my siblings’, without me ever knowing.

The memory I have of my grandfather is negligible at best. What little I do recall is that of a stern yet gentle man. The only physical memory of him includes a family visit to Indiana, where it’s near impossible to escape the rural landscape that encompasses the state. The smell of humidity in the air, that’s characteristically familiar of the Midwest, still creates a bit of nostalgia to this day. The only insight I have of the man, I’m reminded by in that house, in that town of that state. It exuded the aromas and sights typical of the generation that saw this country through its second World War. The kind of house that had black and white photos on permanent display, with the smell of something always cooking on the stove, and creaky floorboards that wouldn’t allow a mouse to pass undetected, yet always felt like home; always familiar. Like the house, he appeared steadfast and traditional, appearing indifferent to opposing views, maintaining composure, but never loosening his grip on his own beliefs. Stoicism at its finest. A man I like to believe is reflected ever so slightly in who I’ve become.

With age being the benefactor of my wisdom, I fully understand the loss that my family endured. Family bonds are lasting and resolute. Each member fills their part, experiencing much of the world together, through similar, yet independently different eyes, providing unconditional love and support through various trials. The roles of the parents being the most important provide the critical structure needed to properly raise children and maintain cohesion. My grandparents raised their children through the oh-so familiar dysfunctions that amass in each family’s own unique way. My mother in particular, the youngest of four, took what her parents provided her and forged her own mold. As an eagerly strong-willed individual, she has done more for her family, than words can even begin to express the appropriate amount of gratitude. After a strenuous recovery from my grandfather’s death, she has gone beyond her duty in providing the physical and emotional support necessary to raise a family. Portraying that same steadfast demeanor in adversity.

She’s tested her physical and mental strength through numerous trials, including several marathons, always aspiring to earn a Boston Qualifier. Finally, in 2005, she attained that dream. She fulfilled her dream through perseverance, and even qualified a second time for the 2006 Boston Marathon with her time of 3:47:00. Her commitment to hard work, echoed by my father’s morals, and together, their cohesion, has provided this family the visceral foundation of strength and faith that can only be acquired through such dedication and confidence.

Along with fulfilling her dreams, she’s played a much more crucial role. She’s accomplished this with necessary tools, provided by her parents, to play a more crucial role in life: a mother. Along with her many accomplishments and successfully raising three children each with their own hopes and dreams, she has served as inspiration to many in a multitude of ways. As I continue my career as a competitive runner, my first and foremost inspiration came from her. She encouraged the pursuit of every dream I’ve had since my first day of cross-country practice in fourth-grade. Now training and competing professionally, after sixteen plus years of running, I have her and the rest of my family to thank for their love and support. More important than any award or honor I may attain in my running, it has shaped me into what I consider the individual I was meant to be. One of my proudest accomplishments includes that of my mother’s remarks about my grandfather’s presumed gratification in my accomplishments and who I am today. While he never had the opportunity to physically observe the pursuit of my dreams, I know he is still present within my family and me. As I thank my own parents for their love and support, my mother has both of her parents to thank for the necessary tools and strength they have given her to follow her most passionate dreams.

A man’s dream doesn’t necessarily die with his physical self. The friends and families that he affects through his actions and loving support grow to much more than anything he could imagine. The daughter that my grandparents raised has grown into a loving, educated, strong-willed mother and wife. As she has been shown to properly love those who matter most, she has in return taught a small portion of a new generation how to love, pursue their dreams, stand up for their beliefs and much more. Even more importantly, she has helped sculpt her three, once young children into mature, loving adults. And while time is not all that is needed to heal our wounds, the help of those closest to us keep us going strong, pushing forward together. What miniscule footprint we leave on this world once we pass is magnified thousands of times through those that are closest to us.

 

Can’t Tag What You Don’t Bag

There are few things that can beat a Minnesota fall. A new season filled with fresh colors and 80º days in late September. Ok, that last one seems to be a bit of a phenomena. But regardless, fall in Minnesota is spectacular. And with a quick trip up north for some down time, the trip provided plenty of relaxation. It also provided new experiences, as I was able to fit in some hunting, before heading into the workweek, and jumping into a new job position tomorrow.

Being an inexperienced hunter, I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusion. 3 hours of hunting, one close encounter with a skunk and about two-dozen shells later, I decided to call it a day. Total ducks sighted in range: roughly 23. Total ducks shot at: approximately 18. Total ducks successfully shot: one whole goose egg (or zero, numerically speaking). While it’s hard to quantify success based on those numbers, there was no other real way of jumping in and trying my hand at it. Yet each missed shot provided the same simple objective each time: improve my shot. Simple as it may be, it doesn’t happen over night. That’s the feeling I have going into this new job. I want to be successful in this new venture, but I’m certain there’ll be plenty of trial and error. But that won’t deter me from putting as much of myself into it as possible.

As I Recently left my position at a local running store to fill a sales position, I’m excited to be jumping into this new position with this company. The running store provided a market I’m completely familiar with and comfortable selling. The new position, while dealing with sales in a similar sense, is a much different market, but a sellable market nonetheless. I feel similar to this weekend’s hunting excursion in approaching this job. I see the targets, I have the proper tools to harvest the game, and all that is required now is the appropriate approach. But more so, it’ll take a bit of fine-tuning on my marksmanship to catch my game. The best duck calls and most expensive shotgun on the market won’t make any difference if I can’t hit my target. Same with any sales pitch I come up. If I can’t execute, all the fancy staplers and other office supplies won’t do me any good. Like everything else I’ve ever stood behind, I believe in the product and service I’m providing, it’s simply up to me to portray that to whomever I’m selling to in a way that will make them believe in the product and myself. A key aspect I’ve learned as an athlete, is no matter the line of work you’re in, the only product you need to sell, is yourself. And I encourage the inevitable growth that’ll come with learning the ins and outs of this new position.

So with time, I will be fine-tuning my shot, holding steady, and most importantly, pulling the trigger. I’ll still miss a few, and in the end, I’ll have expended too much energy on ducks that escape my grasp, but that doesn’t discourage me. The great thing about hunting is there’s always something in season. All you have to do is know the seasons and know the right places to look. Oh, and have relatively decent aim. So in the meantime, I’ll keep learning and growing. But more importantly, head back up in a few weeks for a few ducks that got away and maybe a turkey.

Doubling Back

Coming out the other side of this weekend has allowed me to fully grasp the effort I put in, as my morning ritual requires much more effort as I limp down the stairs to grab my morning coffee. Strange to think of the amount of satisfaction I gain from everything hurting the way it does.

By the number of strange looks and responses like “why are you running the 5k then?” by numerous professional athletes, I had all but confirmed my own thought process of, “this is too much.” Luckily, I had shared a 5-hour train ride from Long Island, NY to Providence, RI with my teammate, Meghan Peyton. Along with sharing the ride together, we had both shared in the comfort of having exhausted ourselves for the day by competing in a 10k, followed by the added stress of traveling. Thanks to her, I was able to maintain a level of positive self-talk that allowed me to approach the 5k with as much poise as possible. And with Eric Finan joining our already uncanny shenanigans in Providence, the trifecta of our doltish conversation alleviated any additional stress of racing back to back.

Yet the physical toll the body takes when racing at a high capacity back to back, can be grueling punishment in its simplest form. With the goal being to get in a solid effort on Saturday at the Great Cow Harbor 10k and turning around to see what I could do a day later at the U.S.A. 5k Championships, each race had to be taken in stride. I couldn’t go into Cow Harbor thinking about Sunday’s race. My week’s preparation simply focused on the Saturday 10k. Once I crossed that finish line, I could begin my attack plan for Sunday’s 5k. Simply put, one race at a time. Save nothing for tomorrow.

Surprisingly, my legs felt relatively fresh for recovering from a 10k the morning before, but anyone who’s ever doubled in any event can tell you that doesn’t last long once the gun goes off. With an early morning shakeout confirming the previous day’s efforts, I felt confident in my fitness to walk away from this race weekend with some decent results. Warming up, I felt a calm that’s quite contradictory from my usual perspective heading into a race of this caliber. There was no need to play the race through my mind, because the plan was simple: race. It had the potential to end badly, but the plan was the same, just race. No need to think about splits or where to move, simply use yesterday’s work to test how well I could race on tired legs.

The 5k start was aided by an early downhill, so getting into an appropriate rhythm wasn’t terribly difficult. Knowing how most 5k’s of this caliber tend to run, coming through the mile in 4:33 gave two contradicting thoughts: 1) I’m surprised how good it feels to run this quick and 2) This pace seems a bit slow for a 5k. Next was to simply see what could happen in mile 2. There were numerous times that I felt myself fading, but kept realizing the fact that I was still in the pack and still in the hunt. So a quick return to form and slight adjustment to pace kept me in the race until longer that what I had expected. Mile two gave the same split as before, coming through in 9:06. Still a bit surprised at the overall ease, given yesterday’s effort. Some point between mile 2 and 3, the field spread out and I was hanging off just outside of top 10. The last push came at the bottom of the hill just before the finish, the same hill that aided my early efforts only to be there to mock those same efforts as I put in what little I had to round out a 12th place finish. While my time/place is not particularly impressive, I’m satisfied with a relatively even ~4:35 effort to cap off the weekend. And even more so, looking down the road, I will be able to capitalize on my efforts this weekend, when I plan to peak in bigger races this fall.

On the Road Again

Feel free to call me Curly, because with as many miles behind me, I’m feeling a bit like a globetrotter. Somewhere around 10,000 miles traveled overseas only left me with a 4 day travel hiatus before heading out on a 5,000 mile round trip road trip. The last few weeks has seen about as many time zones as fingers on both hands (more if you don’t count thumbs as fingers) and enough coffee consumption to be of concern to most medical professionals. But alas, I’m back in my home state and enjoying a bit of RNR along the coast before amping things back up for the season, and more importantly gaining the courage to drive across the country to get back home. All in all, everything up to this point has been a major blessing.

Not fully aware of what capabilities I had, I felt the wheels finally starting to turn at the USA Championship 5k in late June. Followed by a relatively successful European tour, the Bix 7 was simply icing on the cake. Anything that brought me across the finish line would’ve been ok in my book. But I feel that I got much more than what I anticipated. With it being my first appearance at the Bix 7, along with the added dread of the hill heavy course, I wasn’t aware of what to expect.

Given that the warm-up went well and my body was still feeling pretty solid given the amount of travel, I figured I may have something to offer at this. Lining up for the start, we had an added 10-15 minutes of unexpected announcements and procedures before the race got underway. However, I don’t think I could have been more relaxed if I had been enjoying a nice brunch. And there’s not much more relaxed I can get than at brunch. Lining up next to Meb, I thought of all the talent in the field and was excited to show off what I may be able to do.

With the sound of the gun came the first uphill. Knowing that we went through the first mile in 5:12, I understand why the dreaded hill felt relaxed. Yet, the pace quickly picked up after that, coming through the 2 mile in 9:41. I was surprised to be up in the front and feeling so good, even taking over the lead at a few spots, surprised by the overall ease of the pace. With a few more rolling hills, I elected to fall off the pack to conserve for later in the race. Around half way I counted out to 10th place or so and figured if I didn’t start moving up the ladder soon, the race was going to get away from me. So I found guys falling off and moved up to them, while others caught me and helped me move up as well.

Mile 4, and I was top 10, but not happy with an 8th place finish so I kept fighting. I knew there wasn’t much room left in the race, and made for the next group of guys in front of me. Final uphill through 5 ½ felt surprisingly good, considering I almost took myself out of it earlier in the race.

Final few strides to the peak and a top five finish was in my reach. Reaching the downhill I simply let gravity do its work and let ‘em rip. Meb stepped aside halfway down the hill as I passed him, which surprised me, but I was feeling great and going for a new downhill speed record, showcasing the speed hands. I was in the fifth place spot and gaining on fourth when I turned the final corner onto the home stretch. Had the race been a tich longer, fourth could’ve been mine. But the race only called for 7 and I was pretty happy and a bit surprised by my placing along with the overall ease of the second half of the race.

I don’t regret the controlled effort I put forth on the day. Could I have done better? Possibly. But it was the overall feeling of the race that I was most happy with and even more so, gave me some affirmation as to the fact that I belong in such races. And while I forced myself into a short break from running, I look forward to gearing up for the roads again this fall, starting September 1st at the 20k Championships, which is another entirely new distance for me. In the meantime, I’ll be doing much the same as my car and simply putting in more mileage than most would care to fathom.

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My trusty copilot navigating out to Cali from the backseat.

Second Breakfast

As I settle into my frugal man’s first class seat (exit row), I figured I’d summarize my trip to Europe, as best as possible, punching out this entry on my tablet hoping to not mistakenly hit the “n” key from time to timenasit’snnestlednclosely to the space bar. But alas, I have a Bluetooth keyboard waiting for me at home so as not to look like a Neanderthal next time, trying to chicken peck my way through my adventure, so appropriately named #EuroTour14.

We’ll start on breakfast. From what I have seen Europe, you have some work to do. Serving up deli meat and bread at your all you can eat “breakfasts” only makes me assume that I’ve missed half the day and must adjust my schedule to a noon o’clock wake up. You’d be amazed at the simplicity and versatility of an egg or two paired with all your delicious cheeses. Maybe some Tabasco, if you want to give your taste buds an adventure. Give it a try, you’ll love it. I was fortunate enough to have my teammate, Heather, allow me to crash her breakfast during my second leg in Leuven, so I’m not having as many withdrawals.

On the topic of food, I regret not having more time to sample more of the local delicacies, as I did my best to maintain a diet conducive to my training. However, from time to time, we were able to do as the Belgians do, or Irish, or Dutch (Eric and I paid separately each time), depending on which leg of the trip we were on. Pretty much every corner in Belgium has a waffle and gelato stand. Amsterdam provided great “coffee” shops and companionship. I’m not much into those endeavors, let alone having to spend money on either, so I partook in other activities, such as city tours and getting in touch with my Dutch roots. Ireland provided a surprising amount of appreciation for country music (oh, Franky) and a tour of the Guinness factory complete with a free pint. Unfortunately, I’m certain I did not come close to enjoying all that was offered everywhere we went.

Luckily I had time to enjoy some frites (fries) & moules (mussels) in Brussels, along with some escargot. As to whether or not the snails were antibiotic free or sustainably raised in a cage free environment, I cannot attest, but enough garlic butter can make anything delicious.

If eating snails concerns you, that may be the least of your worries, while traveling abroad. As I’m generally comfortable in just about any situation, I quickly realized that beyond the language barrier, there are pretty much no rules when it comes to driving and much of what happens around you makes no sense. For one, cars and buses will plow through crowds of people in town squares, which appear to be pedestrian traffic only. Nope. And to add another concern, many of these countries allow motorcycles and scooters to scoot along bike paths throughout the cities. Seeing as we had to share the already narrow bike lanes/sidewalks with pedestrian and bike traffic during our runs, we immediately jumped to threat level purple, if that even is a tangible threat level. Ireland proved to be an adjustment in terms of traffic flow with their left side of the road driving and love for roundabouts. Even our cab driver complained about the infrastructure of the roads, along with voicing his hatred of the “stupid leprechauns” on bikes (his words, not mine). But nonetheless, we were able to navigate each run without getting lost, and traversed through 3 different countries with limited casualties.

Moving from place to place can make competing abroad a bit more difficult as you make numerous mental checks each time you relocate. Passport:check. Spikes/uniform: check. Wallet: check. Clean underwear: dammit. But we made it to each destination on time and ready for the next race. The only casualty that I’m aware of was my travel pillow being left in the back of a taxi. Luckily this is only a concern on days that I have to travel anywhere from 4-16+ hours. So, today. But a $12 pillow from Target is not cause for much concern, especially since I can probably find a cheaper one on Amazon.

By no means do I consider myself a world traveler based on this one trip, but it gave me plenty of experience for future seasons and possibly more leisure oriented trips. I’ll be happy to touch back down in the US and even more excited to be back home. While this trip has offered an extraordinary experience from racing to adventures, I’m left feeling quite exhausted at the moment and content with what I was able to get done in Europe, much like an appropriate second breakfast. Take notes, Europe. And as much as I’m looking forward to an amazing American breakfast at Keys tomorrow, I’m happy to close this track season with much more hunger than anticipated. If you happen to prepare it the right way, I’m looking at you Europe, a good breakfast can go a long way.

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