Sunday, March 17, 2013


Still 500 meters from the finish and running near personal best mile pace, I surged around Arizona's Lawi Lalang, putting myself in the leader's position.  A half lap more and he re-passed me, annoyed at my nerve, erasing the move's effect and marking the energy it required as wasted and gone.  30 seconds  later as the bell rang the field slid past one by one, like a train I couldn't quite catch.  I struggled through the final lap, the wheels falling off, finishing seventh of eight in 4:02.  I missed the final by a spot.

Mile prelim heat one at NCAA indoor nationals was my final collegiate race.  I'll remember that maneuver for a long time, a reckless, unnecessary attempt to drop the field of seven other sub four milers at a pace already hot enough to be considered nowhere near tactical.  Make a move more than 300 meters from any finish line and you better have a second, albeit smaller one up your sleeve for later.  I didn't.  That's the taste in my mouth as I begin the transition into post collegiate running: a bitter knowledge that I went against instinct and everything I've learned the past five years.  A bad move.  Had I not made it and stayed behind Lawi, I believe I could have made the final.
Running behind Arizona's Lawi Lalang in mile preliminary
heat one at NCAA indoor nationals.
Photo courtesy John Simons

I didn't get the perfect, lollipop strewn outcome  I'd imagined for the end of indoor season.  Instead, things happened.  I never ran the 3000 I needed to and our DMR failed the test of Alex Wilson.  Now a new challenge awaits me: getting over that sense of dissatisfaction as I enter a totally new forum: the post collegiate running world.  There is no team.  No uniform.  No shoes or flights to meets, no hotels.  The convenience of collegiate competition with its abundance of top level events and athletes is gone.

The time has come to support my running through running.  There aren't millions of dollars to be had in the sport.   Doing this entails scraping out a living, working hard to make it until you do, and then working harder to keep it that way.  I have college loans to pay off, rent to pay, travel expenses.  There are a hundred other guys in the US trying to do the exact same thing, competing for the same attention from sponsors and fans.  Succeeding in that atmosphere requires a total buy in.  With engineering degrees expected from two very good schools and knowing I'd be economically better off working, the hardest part will be delaying that life for later.

I've always had a non-running career in mind throughout my time in school, knowing that eventually I'd be defined by something other than athletics.  Over the past year and a half as I've improved my track times, my plans for post school life have changed.  First I decided to use up my indoor eligibility, a move that greatly influenced my decision to pursue a Masters degree at Texas in the first place.  And now as I look from the bubble into the world of professional running, that option seems more and more tantalizing.  What I do after school was once pretty clear in my mind; now, like I've been telling many people, "it all depends on running." I don't expect to make running my life career, but who knows?  Another major breakthrough and it could be a possibility.

The most powerful weapon I carry is the knowledge that I absolutely want to know how good I can be.  How fast I can get.  I'm 23 - I have lots of time to develop my body and I couldn't imagine choosing this path if I didn't love to do it.  That conviction will drive me harder than any race purse or salary can.

For now I'll continue training in Austin under coach John Hayes.  Day to day, not a lot will change in the immediate future.   I'll focus on the 5000 this spring with the goal of making the finals at the US Championships at Drake in June.  I'll sprinkle a few 1500s throughout to stay race sharp.  I can't say exactly where I'll be or what I'll be doing this summer -  the plan unfolds as time goes on, but I'm hoping it involves some European racing.

The bottom line is simple.  Run fast, win races and opportunities will present themselves.  The memory of the mistake I made in that mile prelim will soon be one I amusedly recall.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Judgement Day

The day has finally come for the Alex Wilson Invitational to judge the quick and the dead.  No, Alex Wilson is not  the Lord Almighty and college distance medley teams are not (necessarily) souls capable of sin, but this chaotic last chance meet will almost singlehandedly decide the makeup of the DMR field lining up next Friday at Nationals in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Tonight's DMR field will be split into 3 heats and judged.
The top twelve teams ranked by their season's best time will qualify.  Last year the 12th time was Oregon's 9:31.91, in 2011 it was Villanova's 9:33.50, and in 2010 it was Duke's 9:34.29.  There's a nice pattern going on there that parallels every other distance running event in the NCAA... it's getting more fastah.

The Texas distance medley relay has survived more than a month atop the NCAA performance list with our 9:31.82.  A time that would make the national meet every year since trilobites were around.  Week after week on Sunday I've hurriedly checked through results, breathing a sigh of relief when I know our time is once again safe.  But tonight I will be super nervous because we've chosen to experience Alex Wilson on our butts at home in front of the TV, pass the chips, please.  Yeah, we're taking a risk not going to improve our time.  But if it sticks - if less than twelve teams run 9:31.82 or better  tonight, we'll be some of the freshest fish in the field, not having raced and traveled the previous two weekends.

A team's decision to leave the DMR effort to last chance weekend is totally up to them, but I'm surprised more teams haven't gotten together and gone for it throughout the regular season.  It's not easy to get a relay team firing on all cylinders early, but the caliber of the mile is once again super high this year, meaning the legs are out there.  It all comes down to priorities.  Guys want their individual qualifying performances, so the DMR gets put on the back burner until this weekend.  Making for a crazy Notre Dame meet.  And it will be obnoxious.  Just look at the heat sheets... teams that certainly are ready to fast: Penn State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oklahoma, Princeton, Arkansas, Stanford, Wisconsin, Villanova, Indiana, Georgetown, and Kansas.  At this point, all us here at Texas can do is sit and watch the action unfold - and hope we come out alive.

A great breakdown of tonight's DMR by Flotrack