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.



3k Takeaway

The past few days haven’t exactly been smooth sailing, with a general lack of sleep, adjusting to a 7 hour difference in time zones and coming very close to losing a limb on a train. But a simple thought has been constant during my trip thus far: I’m here. That is, I’m here and I’m making the most of my experience. I’ve been given this opportunity, and it is my obligation and privilege to show everyone and more importantly myself, what I’ve got. There’s certainly no Olympic medals to be won, or teams to make. It’s simply finding out what I’m capable of. I want to know. I need to know. Every performer outside of myself is simply a benchmark for what’s possible. And if I’ve gotten this far, how much further down the road can I go?

While I’ve had residual jet lag, my body seems to be adjusting just fine as I feel like my legs have plenty of pop. I’ve had easy runs since I’ve been here, but I certainly feel a spring in my step. With my recent 3k PR, I feel as though I’ve just scraped the top of something bigger to come. Both my 5k at USA’s and Léon Buyle 3k have felt relaxed and under complete control. And with the help of teammate, Eric Finan, we’ve been able to play out our races much like our training, pulling each other through when either needs a push. I’m lining up to races thinking one thing, “relax.” Relax and the rest will fall into place. Relax and take inventory of everything a lap or two past the gun. Relax and take your mind off the race entirely and simply respond when the time comes. Let the body do the work, don’t flood the mind with useless banter of what ifs. Put the play together before the stage is set and then throw everything out just before, so as to be prepared for anything. 4 laps, 7.5, or 12.5, it’s all the same, just different gears. I’ve focused on my overall efficiency as much as possible and now it’s paying off. I simply just have to keep riding this train to get to where I want to go.

The time for thinking and planning has long passed. It’s time to put it all to good use. There are two forms of energy: potential and kinetic. Inaction and action. Only difference between the two, is that one requires too much thinking. Simply do. Once that gun goes off, it’s all action.


As Belgian as Apple Pie

Or is it called strudel here? Regardless, we made it across the Atlantic, through customs and to stop number one in one piece.

Planning to take public transit, we opted to break a few bills in the off chance that the buses here are like every other bus in the world and only take exact change. We stop in a small convenience shop, where I choose to break my €5 by purchasing a €2,10 drink. Simple enough, right? When I check out, the clerk asks me something in French. “I’m sorry?” with what I assume is a look of helplessness on my face. So she asks in English if I have exact change. The sheer disappointment in her face when I tell her that €5 is my lowest bill makes me feel like I just asked her to liquidate an ingot of gold. Looks like we’re off to a great start. Luckily she was able to break it and I went on my merry way.

Leaving the airport, I hoped to avoid conversation about our recent US Men’s soccer loss against Belgium. The giant “USA” and US flag embroidered on my suitcase made that a bit difficult. Luckily we made it to point B without any heckling by the Belgians or use of flopping on my part. Especially knowing the fact that had scores been reversed, I’d somehow find a way to ride up and down the streets like Teddy Roosevelt, conquering all in my sights. But a national sport’s team loss can be humbling in that sense.

Our next adventure came in the form of a shopping trip. As we walked into the Home Depot-esque loading dock, which served as the entrance to the grocery store, we quickly stuck out like sore thumbs, as we pieced together the puzzle of either choosing a full shopping cart or any of the variously sized recycled boxes to utilize as baskets. We only chose to grab the boxes over bare fisting it after we went into the store, which cued an electronic buzzard as we backtracked outside, thus further drawing unneeded attention to ourselves. After a decent amount of meandering, we were able to check out successfully with what I presume to be an appropriate annunciation of “merci,” followed by an abrupt halt by the checkout clerk as I toted away the cart that she had placed my groceries in. Not a clue as to what she said other than what I assumed translated into “leave the cart or die”. What I wanted to say; “Oh, my sincerest apologies, ma’am.” But the best response I came up with in my head was complete gibberish in any language, so i stuck with the crooked smile and awkward nod/wave.

Finally, all set for our run. When traveling to a different country, I’ve come to err on the side of modesty and keep my shirt on, as you’re never fully aware as to whether it was a man or woman who gave you that cat call. With about a two mile run through the city to get to our park, we’re now fluent in both French curse words, which prompted us to further our knowledge of the French language by adding some basics: “sorry” (désolé), “excuse me” (excusez-moi), “on your left/right” (*no idea+direction*), “you need to put pressure on the wound” (*again no idea*). Like I said, the basics. Beyond realizing that cross walks are mere suggestions for cars yielding to pedestrians, it was great to take in as much of the city that an 8 mile jaunt would allow.

Outside of being a bit more of a tourist than I care to admit, I’m looking forward to getting in some solid races out here and couldn’t have asked for better conditions, seeing as our host, Caroline, has been more than accommodating. And given the long travel day yesterday, I’m feeling great and ready to roll. For now I shall do my best to not stick out so much and take in all that Europe has to offer. And in the morning, I’m making waffles!

Two Seconds and 4,193 Miles Ahead


This weekend came and went much quicker than I anticipated. With a slew of races under my belt in hopes of getting the A standard into U.S.A.’s, I was able to get in based on the descending order list by the graces of USATF deciding to fill the field.

After a strenuously long winter condemned by back to back injuries, my main focus for the season became something many athletes struggle with: patience. I’ve had plenty of quality workouts that left me winded, hands resting on my knees, but I wanted to make what was left of the season more about efficiency, because efficiency leads to success. I eased off on a lot of workouts to feel out the appropriate rhythm, rather than pushing myself to exhaustion. I discovered that fine line every athlete must dance with and had crossed it early in the year, but now understood how to stay out of the stands and keep on pace with my goals for the season.

As with many championship races, going into this weekend, I anticipated a slower pace than my previous races leading up to this. But as I stood watching Molly Huddle and Shannon Rowbury duke it out in their 5k, I realized that I had to adjust my tactics going into the race if it turned into less waiting and more honest effort. I knew I had to adjust to whatever rhythm the race took.

With the help of Tyler Pennel, the race was honest from the gun, yet I had to maintain the same mindset: wait. Looking back at lap 3 or 4, I had the realization that I was in dead last, something that shook my mother’s nerves beyond comfort. But as I sat there, everything was clear to me. I had complete contact with the pack, as it had not yet strung out. I began meticulously moving up in the ranks. With each move forward, I found a nice pocket to hug the inside lane to get comfortable until the time came to move again. Everything was smooth, as I didn’t even bother looking at time, laps, etc. I had one simple objective, and that was to move with the pack with as much ease as possible. Other than the few stutter steps caused by jostling within the race, I felt as efficient as ever. This race was about to go and I knew I was going to go along with it. With 3 laps to go I was waiting, feeling ready to roll, yet I knew all I required was a kick on the last lap. At 800 to go, I elected to wait just a bit longer to utilize my speed, when I would need it most. Finally the bell rang and I knew it was go time. Anyone and everyone in front of me needed to come back to me. I reeled in as many as I could with what little space I had left. As I finished, I felt a feeling that I’ve longed for, for over 3 years as I glanced at the scoreboard and realized I had unintentionally dropped my PR by just over 2 seconds. Certainly 2 seconds is not much to be elated about, and I was far from the win, but for me it’s finally a small step in the right direction on the right track I’ve been working towards. It also gave me a tremendous amount of hope, as I had just placed 8th in a national championship race. It validated what I’ve been doing for these past two years and gives me even more to aim for come next year during a World qualifier year. And beyond the 2016 Olympic year, I hope to impress my “home” crowd at Sac in 2017.

And with that I shift my focus across the pond, as I head to Europe. A trip that took a total of 4 ½ short days to put together as time was against us in getting a flight for “cheap.” I almost lost focus on this weekend as I put so much effort into making plans for races in Belgium and Ireland. But as I carry over my first success from USA’s, I look to gain momentum from my fitness and hope to surprise myself and come back with 3 new PR’s (1 Mile, 3k, and 5k). Stay posted as I make my first European track tour.

Track & Field Is Not For Everyone

Given this past weekend’s events, I wanted to assess my own commitment to this sport and what it means to me.  For without meaning, it serves no purpose.  Certainly there’s the aspect of being the best, but there’s something deeper that makes me, and arguably every athlete out there competing, strive for more day in and day out. In this assessment, I wanted to point out for whom track and field is meant, and conversely, for whom it is not.

Let’s start with the list of those not meant for track and field.  I’d like to keep this list short, as I believe this sport is generally all-inclusive.  Anytime you see a tall, lanky athlete compete in the same vicinity as a 250lb plus athlete, you can be certain you’ll see plenty of diversity across the field.  Nonetheless, there are some characteristics that simply have no place in T&F.

We’ll start with the faint of heart.  Anyone who has ever competed in, or spectated at a track and field meet, realizes the amount of excitement in the air and overall thrill that comes with competing. The field often consists of topnotch athletes, while overly anxious parents cheer on their athlete.  As one mother from my college days would scream, “Make your mama proud!”, it’s easy to see the flood of emotions that can occur at any moment.  It takes a strong heart to support a T&F athlete, and an even stronger heart to lay it all out there for everyone to see.

Next is the obvious: cheats of any form.  This is a sport built on integrity-both on and off the field of play.  There are plenty of athletes who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.  Unfortunately, some will go to illegal means to reach those goals.  Aiding to your abilities beyond the simple process of pure hearted training is a disgrace to the sport and everyone you compete with.  Such cheats are not always caught, yet they taint the integrity of the sport all the same. Other forms of cheating occur outside the field of play, such as rule-bending politics, corrupting the sport at an even deeper level.

This weekend, the word “passion” was used a bit overzealously.  I can appreciate being passionate and wanting to achieve a goal or help someone else achieve that goal, but when it’s at the expense of breaking regulations to achieve it, then it falls too quickly into political corruption.  This sport should be the purest of all sports.  Let’s be honest, we simply run, jump and throw arbitrary distances to see who’s better on the day.  So why burden it with the fuss of political nonsense that can go on behind closed curtains?  It’s already beautiful in its simplicity.  There are governing bodies that are meant to uphold such rules and regulations, but when shady activity occurs on their watch, it leads to a whole lot of mistrust and fear.  Neither of which can be allowed in track and field.

On the plus side, I must mention for whom track and field belongs, as I find strength in my own reasoning for participating in this sport. I’m sure all athletes can attest to why they became involved, or what drives them to succeed in this sport.  But I feel it’s necessary to point out a few characteristics that every T&F athlete must posses to compete in and truly appreciate the sport of track and field.

The first one is simple: those with a desire to discover their best.  We don’t all compete in the same event.  That’s why we find the event(s) in which we perform best.  From there, lies the challenge of discovering the best we can do within it.  As a friend of mine discussed with me once, “I want to discover what exactly the best is of what I do best.”  To me, there’s not a simpler explanation to describe the motivation behind just about every T&F athlete.

Those who wish to see the absolute awe-inspiring strength of the human spirit within themselves and others.  At times you will be down; you will be out.  But something within yourself will make you challenge everything you know about your physical limits, and will help you rise above it.  I’m not certain that any athlete could fully describe the feeling they encounter when they reach new heights, but each of us can pinpoint the exact emotional response when we see other athletes have a breakout performance.  I have a signed poster of Kim Conley’s reaction to making the Olympic Team in 2012 to motivate me towards my own goals.  I believe the entire nation of T&F athletes felt, to some extent, the same level of excitement she had in her eyes when she reached what most of us dream of.

Those who view a loss as potential for growth.  Whether it’s a setback such as injury, or not performing to your standard, you’ll have a few losses.  Don’t focus on the loss at hand, but rather on the areas where the greatest potential for improvement lies.  The ultimate goal for us all, in a general context, is to be better than what we were yesterday, which requires constant growth.

Those who seek to improve ethics in the sport.  Just as athletes seek constant growth, we must ask the same growth to occur within the ethics of our sport, from each athlete and even more so from the governing body responsible for upholding regulations put forth for everyone competing.  An athlete must perform to the standards set forth by such organizations as USATF, and we must in turn ask for continual improvements of ethics within the organization itself across all events.

For the survivors.  This one can be two-fold.  Any number of workouts can put you through the wringer and spit you out the other end.  However, you come out of it stronger and more willing to take on anything, come next practice.  The other aspect involves life itself.  Just as we push ourselves in practice, we’re tossed curve balls every now and then that can push us to a breaking point beyond exhaustion, yet somehow we come out of it knowing and believing, “I will fight, I can survive this.” Each athlete has his/her own unique backgrounds.  The more we realize what each of us has overcome, the greater our cause becomes, within ourselves and within our community.

For the humbled.  Failures come more often than successes, but it’s a matter of how many times you’re willing to get back up and keep fighting the internal battle of bettering yourself as an athlete.  Certainly there are egos to deal with, but each time I’ve accomplished a large goal, I’ve been more humbled in the moment as I reflect on all the small, and not so small, things that have led me to my success.  Take a look at any athlete as they reach their desired mark and watch who they look up to in the stands as soon as they cross that threshold.  I guarantee their gaze bolts towards their biggest fans, whether it’s their parents, siblings, spouses, etc., we know who to thank for reaching such heights.

The list for whom T&F belongs, is too vast to expand on in a single blog.  But if you consider yourself to fit within the category of a track and field enthusiast, then I invite you to partake in this sport with me, as we continue to grow and learn from it, while striving to attain something greater than any one athlete can accomplish on his/her own.  For none of us own the right to compete at this level, whatever that may be for you, we worked hard for the opportunity to showcase it.  And just as we have had support along the way to get here, it is our responsibility to ensure that this sport maintains its integrity, and continue to lend it our support so that we continue to grow as a community.

0˚ is Tropical


If you’ve never spent a winter in the northern Midwest, consider yourself lucky: for the most part. With such phenomena as polar vortex, arctic blast and hell freezing over, I can appreciate anyone’s desire to live in a more tropical climate.

As you may have witnessed on the national weather report, it gets, how can I say this appropriately?  Cold.  More so: bitterly cold.  Cold enough that any exposed skin with the slightest amount of moisture instantly freezes, including instant freezing of eye lashes and nostril hairs.  Yes, frozen boogers.  And frostbite?  That becomes a reality in a matter of minutes…MINUTES!!  And while this is all too often a reality, it gives you time to reflect.  Not necessarily on those days that you thank the car gods that your engine was able to turn over so you can venture out to work, but instead, the milder days such as a positive 20-30˚F mercury reading.  In fact, spend one day dealing with a wind chill of 30-50˚ below and anything on the other side of zero is enough to consider laying out by the, albeit frozen, lake to work on your tan.

I recently enjoyed an evening walk around the lake, amidst a light snowfall in a mild 20˚.  And it was amazing.  What was even more enjoyable was the cool crisp air that allowed me to clear my head of anything that may have been weighing on my shoulders.  Normally, I would prefer a quicker pace, say 6:30/mile to start, for a much longer distance of total solitude to fully appreciate the serenity that surrounded me.  However, a relaxing walk with a friend of the four-legged kind is a close second.

In my evening jaunt, I took in all the new snowfall that blanketed my surroundings in fresh powder.  Everything appeared so pristine and new, as the glare of the street lamps danced on the ground.  It released any pent up anxieties I had, knowing that there’s always something new, something beautiful ahead.  All I have to do is look around, be ready for it.  It also reminded me of the constant change that we inevitably face.  A 60˚ swing in temperature from one day to the next will make you more apt in accepting the changes we face in our lives.  I’ve always had a relatively steady routine from my day to day life, but overall I’ve made significant changes that I’m both proud of and have readily accepted, to allow myself to become who I want to be and where I want to go.

My training was at the forefront of my mind along with the obstacles I’ve been facing recently.  Such obstacles require an appropriate amount of attention to recovery.  An area I don’t always excel in.  And though difficult for any athlete to appreciate, it does give me some time to reflect on certain weaknesses that led me here in the first place, allowing me to adjust myself in a way that will strengthen such shortfalls.  It also allows me to practice a bit of patience, something I tend to lack when it comes to training and racing.  Greater patience will give me more faith in my own training along with seeing my training all the way through, with as few hiccups as possible.  Each obstacle that obstructs your path gives you an opportunity to grow.  I couldn’t imagine tackling the obstacles I’ve come to so far, without accepting the appropriate change that has allowed me to assess each situation from new angles, with new solutions.

And as I concluded this thought to myself, my furry little friend finishes making his 18th or so puppy snow-angel, as he rolls around in every bit of powder he can find.  As he has lost himself in the careless play only a puppy could fully embrace, I find myself returning from my own carelessness, not finding any immediate solutions to my questions, but rather a means to go about better understanding those questions and ultimately approaching them from a new angle.  For when those beautiful answers present themselves, I’ll be ready for them.

Coffee Warms the Soul

Whelp, it appears we are at the inevitable impasse that hangs on the edge of fall as it slips into winter.  That time of year where just about everything pumpkin emerges from the shadows and covers itself in the autumn red and yellow of fall as it cozies up with a pair of Uggs and a turtle neck sweater, paired with a fashionable scarf.  And while I’ve spent the last 24 years or so avoiding this barrage of pumpkin, with the exception of a slice or two of pie, I fully accepted the fact that fall is in full swing, and indulged in a pumpkin spice latte the other day.  Which to my amazement was pretty damn good.  So as I remove this rock I’ve been sheltering myself under for some time, it seems like an appropriate time to look ahead in anticipation as winter looms around the corner.

With my freshmen experience out of the way, it seems to me that the season may have snuck up on us a bit this year.  With temps bouncing back and forth from almost freezing to 70’s, it seems I may have given myself the false hope that winter wouldn’t show up this year.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the snow as much as anyone else, but knowing the duration of last winter, I was hoping not to tempt the fates.  As a few snow flurries came through our workout yesterday, I can no longer cover my eyes, ears and mouth, as the rest of my body is blanketed in the brisk air that precedes the sub-zero temps of winter.  However, much like my pumpkin spice latte experience, I have the sneaking suspicion of surprising myself with what may come as I put my head down and look to get in some heavy workloads in potentially miserable conditions.  And while my teammates and I are simply dancing with the early morning crisp air, cursing its name just prior to the warm-up, we will be facing much more frigid weather in the months to come, more often than not accompanied with a smile on our faces as the miles we run warm our souls with excitement and anticipation.  Unfortunately, the unavoidable indoor workout will occur more than I care to fathom.

Soon enough we will be becoming close friends with the treadmills at Lifetime Fitness as we spend hours, yes, hours (as in more than one) sweating our way through some sub threshold runs and 15-10-10-5’s.  Once that happens, I invite all to come to what I shall deem as treadmill parties.  Everyone can keep up with treadmill pace, so excuses simply won’t be allowed.  Nothing beats hard work and pools of sweat, so be sure to bring plenty of fluids to replenish your losses.  In the meantime you can still find us out on any number of trails in the Twin Cities, particularly on our Wacky Wild Wilderness Warrior Wednesday runs as we recoup from our early week workouts and prep ourselves for the second half of our week.

Winter will certainly be here shortly.  At the moment, I’m simply enjoying the early morning runs accompanied by good company and the brilliant glow of the full moon that peaks over the horizon of the city.  An astounding view, that is worth all the teeth chattering, as you head out the door before the sun.  Followed by the warm, inviting aroma of a pumpkin spice latte as I conform my palette to the fall flavors of corporate America.

Moonlight Run

Going into this weekend, I took the time to look over some old journal entries, most of which pertain to running in some form or fashion.  The following in particular is a favorite of mine.  It reminds me of the continuous ambiguity that lies ahead of us.  This uncertainty always seems much more daunting and unattainable when it’s dangling in front of us, while seeming rather meager once it’s behind us, jesting at the notion of fearing it in the first place.  Our ability to overcome such obstacles rarely lay in the tasks themselves, but rather our willingness to put words or thoughts into action.  A simple action vs. reaction, as we assess the charge and react accordingly.  We shift what potential energy we have into kinetic energy, building strength and speed as we push forward.  All it takes is a simple nudge to get the ball rolling, or more so, the gears turning.  As I approach this weekend, I gaze unknowingly into the potential that lies ahead and anticipate what may come of it. 

*Note: This journal entry comes from a 10-mile steady state on the track.  It takes place under complete darkness, lit solely by an incandescent full moon.  Since its inauguration, there have been other variations, such as shortening it to an 8k, depending on where the team is in their training in relation to the full moon.  Specific details aside, it provides for a great benchmark for overall fitness and an opportunity to bring the team together for race simulation, in a relatively controlled and relaxed effort.

Moonlight Run 9/4/09

Guided only by the fluorescent glow of the moon, we venture out onto the glorious elongated oval to put in some serious work.  As we gaze ahead to the unknown towards the planned workout, I am both excited and uncertain how the night may unfold.

Right away we get into an even rhythm around 5:25, quickly realizing how smooth the pace is.  As we continue on this journey of a 10-mile steady state run around the track, a few souls manage to make their way out to the ominous battleground to cheer on and support those of us who are brave enough to go into battle simulation.  Quickly a chant grows-getting louder as we approach the start/finish and fading into the night as we continue around the bend and over the backstretch.  A constant drumming begins, reminding me of the heart, constantly beating so effortlessly in order to maintain life.

The pack gets a bit agitated around mile 3 as people start to shift around with a few unknowns throwing in some jittery moves.  The pace quickly falls back into a steady motion around 5:20: easy for a few miles, but puts in a lot of wear as you approach 10 miles.  After mile 4, the ache in my side finally subsides and I can now put all of my attention on the smooth consistent movement of my legs, being sure to keep my arms loose allowing my core to synchronize between the rhythm of my torso and the opposite yet equal cadence of my legs.  If the body wants to accomplish something, it must operate in complete harmony amongst each of its individual parts in order to reach its optimal potential and my body knows no other way of performing.

As I tuck in, my mind deceives itself in thinking that it’s allowing my body to recover.  This is just the edge my mind and body need in order to get through such a trial.  Though my body grows tired, my mind knows nothing better to do than to tell my body to push harder.  My body responds by keeping the planned pace and pushing through miles 6, 7 and 8.

Two miles left and all I’m focusing on is maintaining a relaxed and even stride.  The last thing I need to do is to push it too soon only to regret it a day later.  Final mile and a flick of the wrist displays our previous mile time with an enviously green glow designed for those who are lonely enough to look to a piece of technology fit around the wrist to discover if one is running the desired pace.  But I was not alone, 6 other men were beside me, completing a solid pack of 7.

One lap to go.  The hardest part is no longer completing the task given to us less than an hour before, but is now the concern of trying not to put in a world record in the last 400 as the taste of success is fresh and oh so near to all of our tongues.  Final turn and the pack unfolds 7 abroad.  100 to go and the pack is strong, no one contending to “win” the battle, but instead realizing the work put in the last hour is where the win was at.  Crossing the finish line, I stop time itself on the aforementioned piece of technology that has accompanied on more runs than any other being or companion.  As we take our first steps out of stride, the funny feeling of turning left for 40 laps (80 left turns) makes itself present with a stiffening of my left quad and the aching of my right calf.  As we end the night, anyone who may have questioned themselves as to whether they belonged with this group has found the answer within that pack of 7.  We came together under the moonlight to accomplish a task and we did just that.  Each of the 7 men who finished together stepped off that track with a feeling of pride and confidence.  The night is not so lonely with a full moon to guide the way and 6 others beside you ready to battle, stride for stride.

365 in the Bank

I’ve decided to revive my creativity muscles, which are less employed than the hypothetical kayak I’ve been pondering about purchasing, and write a blog.  Most of which will be about my training as an elite athlete.  Along with my training, random thoughts and occurrences will inevitably make an appearance as well.  For now, I’m simply reflecting on a year of transitions, added wisdom, a few steps forward and a number of shortfalls that I have evaluated and adjusted in order to become a better runner.

I’ve recently surpassed my one-year anniversary of living in the state of 10,000 lakes.  As I began this journey with nothing more than a u-haul full of stuff and a 2,500 mile, four day adventure with my dad, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I had decided to leave behind a life of familiarity, friends and family, in an effort to chase a dream; A dream that has led me down a path of self-discovery and self-improvement for longer than I can remember.  With a year under my belt, I must say it’s much different than what I expected.  As I moved to the Twin Cities, I quickly became immersed in a new group of friends, teammates, coworkers, and a new life.  With these new crowds, I developed somewhat of a new identity, including some new nicknames: one being affiliated with a nonprofit organization aimed at giving our food voting rights (Peta) and another based on my apparent inability to maintain a slower pace during recovery runs (Surge).  I’ll let you guess as to which I like better.  This new identity has done more than anything else to make me feel right at home as I have been quickly accepted and immersed into different social circles.  I feel an overall sense of belonging here, much similar to my days at Davis, which can be largely attributed to the large network of support I’ve received since day one.  From my on the spot employment at Run N Fun, to the few “man dates” I’ve been on with my chiropractor, I can’t imagine a better place for me at this moment in time.  And as I watch my puppy, Remi, act like the little goofball he is, chase his tail only to discover that it’s once again evaded his grasp by switching from his left side to his right side; I realize what an uncanny yet pleasant experience this has been for me so far, as I too sometimes struggle to grasp the strangely simple reality of this new experience.  I feel blessed to be able to share this part of my life with these new friends and family and look forward to see where this road may take me as I continue my training. Along with reflecting upon this transition in scenery I must reflect upon my training.  My training must grow as well, in order for me to improve.  In fact, my first year as a post-collegiate saw numerous opportunities to grow.

I had high hopes for my first post-collegiate season.  However, overall I didn’t feel as strong as I would have liked and certainly did not race the way I would have been happy with.  This ultimately came down to a few small training aspects that I had overlooked in my attempt to pursue my goals as a professional athlete.  As I re-chalk my training for the coming season, I’m becoming more confident in the level of commitment that I set out to have in order to achieve my goals.  This is a very long and winding road, but that won’t keep me from pushing myself to the limits in order to reach the finish line.  Because even when I do reach that finish line, there’ll certainly be another in the distance that I must push myself towards.

As I build up my mileage for the fall, and begin to put in some workouts, I’m anxious to move forward with my training.  With a solid group to train with, I’m quickly building an appetite for the upcoming competitive season and look forward to imparting whatever words of wisdom that I may stumble upon on all of you.

For more updates on my training and random thought bubbles, be sure to grab a current issue of Running Surfaces Monthly™ at your local running store or simply follow me on twitter @jonpeterson89.