To be honest, I’m disappointed in myself for failing to write anything here for some time. Despite the number of requests I’ve received for shout outs or updates in these recent months, I couldn’t get myself to sit down and put any updates on paper. At first, this was because my running was going poorly: you’ll notice my last post came just before my trip to club nationals, which, while it was an important learning experience, was an immensely frustrating experience and the source of an incredibly poor result. Frankly, it’s a whole lot easier to sit down and write these things when you’re not in the dumps about your running, and for a couple months after that race, I just didn’t feel like it. Fortunately, after a few months of figuring things out, a few more months of good training, some inspiration in writing from Ben Sutherland, whose powerful story of fighting depression as a distance runner has, since my completion of this piece, been published here, and some really important updates for our club, I’m ready to get back in the blogosphere and promise a much more regular stream of updates. This post will be a brief (well, relative to what it could be. It’s not actually that brief) timeline of updates, shout-outs, and stories from the last six months to get you up to speed. Here we go.
Club nationals. This trip brought me a level of stress I hadn’t experienced since fighting with my ex-girlfriend (almost immediately after a 14:40-something at Raleigh Relays) gave me hives. Basically, I booked my itinerary to Tallahassee a day early. Which wouldn’t have been a big deal, but I had a final presentation the night before. The airlines were unwavering on my flight, but my professor was even worse. After fighting with both of them and getting nowhere, I ended up dropping another $200 on a flight to Jacksonville (which necessitated a 2+ hour drive to Tallahassee afterwards) that left out of Boston at 6 AM— so obviously I didn’t get much sleep that night— and some other ridiculous sum of money on a rental car for said drive that had advertised at like $70 for the whole trip when I reserved it. I then proceeded to get out in 9:20 for two miles and get absolutely manhandled the second half fo the race, at some point in the middle of which I resigned myself to a bad race and told myself to just pack it in until I saw the finish cos once it was going bad, I had no team or real reason to put myself out there. Like seriously, for what purpose. It was a bummer because I’d finally begun to feel like the athlete I’d been in the 2016 track season in my last workout before the race, but the race was complete crap. And, because I’d booked my flight to visit my grandpa a day early as well, I even missed the by-all-accounts legendary Club Nationals afterparty. FML, right?
Shouts out: Leah Miller (ex Brown Assistant Coach) for spontaneously deciding to come to Florida after I saw her on the entry list and messaged her the night before. The trip would have been unbearable without her, not to mention substantially more expensive because of splitting aforementioned exorbitant car rental costs. There was this awkward moment when someone on Battle Road called my preference to live with another black person or POC a “bucket list” item, but it wasn’t Leah and I can mostly (but clearly not totally, because my compulsion to write that is basically the whole reason this shoutout is long) overlook that because she was awesome; my Grandpa. I visited him after the race and it was a great time. Love you, old man.
Key Insight: If I’m going to be a successful postcollegiate athlete, I need to plan the crap out of my races. Preferably far in advance. And fly Southwest if possible so you can change your flight without ridiculous fees.
Getting ready to drop like a rock
Wasn’t really having fun with running, to be honest. Was in a bit of a funk after club cross through the entire month of January. The cold weather didn’t exactly help. Started to get a little sick one day, but had a long 600 workout and a friend’s birthday that evening. I did the 600s because I didn’t think I was that sick. And besides, if I was too sick to work out, how could I justify going out? I was pretty happy with the workout in the end–best 600s I’d done to that point. Ray made me take a few days off for sickness after (I’d tried to hide it from him, but my voice had taken on a totally un-sexy gravellyness that made this a failing endeavor). I’d make a smarter choice in the future, but it was a fun night out, and it wasn’t like I was drinking or anything. Call it a late night.
Shouts out: Brendan Sullivan for timing me and taking a picture of the workout; Rubis for making it my first face-in-hole; Chace for having an awesome birthday.
Key Insight: Don’t do hard workout when mildly sick.
I view this as the turning point in my year. I’d had a few really good runs with friends— some, rivals; some, teammates— at home in St. Louis, and I’d finally started to string together a few workouts in which I felt pretty good and ran fast, including some awesome Katy (prounounced Katie, not like Halpin’s girlfriend) Trail fartleks. I’d connected with some of the Tulsa boys, and it turned out I had 3-mile repeats on the same day they had something like 8xmile. As it happened, this was the same day as a local 10 mile road race, so what the hell! Why not? We all decided to do it as a long tempo, just for fun. We planned to start out around 5:30 pace for a while and drop it once we got later on in the race. In the end, we weren’t so conservative, and we didn’t slow down because of confusion between Garmins and course markings. Splits for myself and Adam Roderique, who went 1-2, are as follows : 5:22, 5:20, 5:25, 5:12, 5:22, 5:17, 5:09, 5:26, 4:57, 5:11. Log notes read: Total, 52:45 for a long 10 (was probably sub 52 for exact). Also, after taking the train to see my dad that afternoon I cranked out a 4 mile double. I’d like to say it’s because said double was originally on my schedule before doing a 14 mile workout, but it’s really because I knew I could get like 103 that week if I put in the extra miles. So it goes. While these decision may not have been the best I’ve ever made (and while I may catch some flak from Ray if he reads this far), this run was a huge part of my coming to enjoy training again, which definitely helped me find success this spring.
Shouts out: The Tulsa Boys! Adam Roderique, Austin “Del” Del Rosso, and Rhodes Scholar Kirk “I’m gonna try and date Madison” “I was high school track captains with Ezekiel Elliott” nee (does this work with nicknames) “Noodles” Smith for the awesome runs and a great time in the 10-miler; Mark Spewak, for awesome runs at home as well and for supporting my running financially through More Miles More Smiles; Chris Floyd, for running the 3k at the 10-miler and coming to IHOP after!
Key Insights: Have fun with running! (duh)
We found a (dead) fish!
Fun at 5:20 pace!
Things turned for the better in February. Now that I’d worked through my existential crisis from the fall and put a few more good workouts in the log, I was having fun training and feeling fit again. Not to mention, I have a great deal more confidence in my ability to produce solid results on the track and found myself absolutely itching to get on the oval again. Fortunately, the universe rewarded my anticipation with some solid running: in my first race, I ran 7:58— one second off my PR— and closed in a 61. In my previous two sub-8 races, I’d been blowing up near the finish line. A few weeks after that race, Shane and I also flew to Ireland for the Armagh Road Race, which was an absolutely amazing trip. After a semester of postcollegiate struggles, I felt like a real semi-pro runner, getting a paid-for trip to Ireland to run. The Irish customs officer even marked the purpose of my trip as business!
After returning from Ireland, I also made a trip to DC to visit a few friends, including my high school teammate Amos (Awesomely, I got to see Noda visiting his girlfriend in Boston just before that!). This trip was awseome as well.
Shouts out: Brandon Doughty and Ben Connor in Ireland… something about a spoon and a butthole and a fight? If you’ve read this far and don’t know the story, don’t hesitate to ask; Scottish high-end escorts; Amos and Noda, obviously. Caleb Hoover and Scott Carpenter, for reasons below.
Key Insights: So when I went to Ireland, I was in the midst of some parallel universe streak where I had four dates with different girls in two or three weeks. I say this to emphasize that this is not typically my life, and that I’m not trying to brag here— me having dates like this is highly abnormal. However, I was pretty tired. I’d watched Hoover and Carpenter, a couple people I consider rivals, run 7:52 and 7:51, respectively, and I was pissed. When I visited Georgetown, I asked Scott jokingly about his love life, and he said he was too busy going to bed at 9:30 for girls. I learned from this, turned the girls down, and had a month of recovering from fatigue and going to bed around 8-8:30. It was necessarily. TL;DR, no time for ladies.
USA With the W
Shane and I trained really hard. I can’t give too many details here, but suffice to say we shredded some tempo workouts and completed some really challenging track work. I also pulled $817 for a 14:39 on the roads while Shane won $1000 the same weekend! That was about it for March, though. I knew I was fit.
Shouts out: Shane, for carrying me through some workouts
I had one bad workout and a small existential crisis because of it. I really hate bad workouts. We had worked really hard in the last month, though, so it made sense to be a bit tired.
My first race of the outdoor season was the steeplechase at the Ocean State Invitational. I had some rough water jump practices going into it, so I was unsure what to expect, though I did want to match my previous year’s mark of 8:52. In the end, I failed miserably at that and ran 9:05. But you know, I hadn’t raced in two months, woke up the next day with a massive sore throat that had me out of running for three days, and honestly, I can’t say I was super motivated the day-of. So it goes. No need to stress.
Also in this time, Shane and I officially started the Ocean State AC with New Balance and ended up getting shoes and gear from them!
Shouts out: Ray, for making sure I don’t existential crisis after a 9:05; Keith Kelly, Kevin Quadrozzi, and New Balance, for giving us a bunch of free stuff.
And so the month of May was upon us. Shane and I had finally found a sponsor, and we were ready to hit the track for some fast times. My May races would include the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford on May 5 and the USATF Distance Classic at Oxy (Occidental College) in Los Angeles on May 18— my lovely sister’s birthday. I intended to run the steeplechase at both to chase the US Standard, and hopefully a PR.
Stanford was a fun trip. I stayed in an AirBnB in San Jose with a pretty nice host before the meet, and got to see a few friends in the days leading up to the competition. Honestly, the race was pretty meh. I ran 8:51, which was a great deal better than 9:05, but still a lot slower than I would have liked. I felt a bit of passivity in the race as well, though for me, that’s not entirely surprising considering I hadn’t been in a real competition in nearly three months. Still, my hurdling was much improved from Ocean State, and I figured the race would bring me along physically for the next effort, so I kept my head up.
The few days after Stanford were fun, but a struggle for running. After the race, I went on the cooldown from hell with the boys from Zap Fitness, Brandon Doughty and Aaron Nelson. It involved a 5 mile cooldown with 20-second strides that basically turned into sprints. The next few days, I ran with some awesome guys from Strava Track Club, but each group featured someone itching to run fast, an urge that, after my race and said cooldown, wholly eluded me.
After a road-trip to LA with my friend Will, I stayed at my old training partner Drew Padgett’s parents’ house for a couple weeks. During that stay, the Yohos put me in contact with their high school coach Jacques Sallberg, who, while he’s now 40, was once an 8:28 steeplechaser and 4th at USAs. And he’s still in good shape. That’s goals, right there. Anyway, I went to practice with Jacques over the course of the week and got to meet a number of the athletes he coaches while soaking up some of his wisdom. Getting to learn from an old elite athlete while getting to mentor and connect with the young brothers from John Muir High helped make the trip not only productive, but also especially memorable, and I look forward to competing at Oxy in future years.
Oh, and I ran 8:37. That part was pretty cool too. Apparently one of the barriers fell down (don’t know how, and I definitely didn’t notice it) for the last couple laps, so Hillary Bor and Ole Hesselbjerg are getting kind of screwed with the IAAF, but shoot, it’s good for USAs, and I’ll take it as a PR for sure.
Shouts out: Drew, Sandy, and Chris Padgett, for letting me stay in their awesome home; Shashwat, for housing me for two days and all the awesome bro time; Will Furuyama, for easily one of the top 3 5-hour car rides of my life; Brandon and Aaron, for winning and running fast in our heat of the steeplechase at Payton, respectively, but not for our cooldown; Victoria O’Neill, for being the only person I could hear at Payton; The Yohos, for connecting me with Jacques; Jacques, for all the help; Sidney, Ronnie, and Perry, for the support during the week; Madison, for being my sister and having her birthday, obviously.
Key Insight: Making connections through running is fun. Making use of my youth to run is also worthwhile.
Now I’m back out east preparing for Adrian Martinez, where I’ll run the flat 3k on June 1, and USAs on the 23-25 of June. This time around, I’ll actually keep you posted. Probably.