War and Peace

9 07 2012


Back from a drawn out, and at no point deserved, hiatus from blogging. Why so long? Why now? you may ask. Well for one, I’m back to searching for ways to kill time. Spilling my life’s events onto the web is always a good way to busy myself. But I think this time, the motivation arose out of the past couple weeks of preparing for and subsequently competing at the U.S. Trials, not because they were a big success, but more so because I was reminded that this whole running thing hinges on the support of numerous individuals, you know—family, friends, teammates, coaches, etc—a group let’s simply refer to as the “Usuals.” So I guess this blog post is essentially my way of giving them some sort of a ShoutOut. It may be a little long to make the Badger Herald and certainly not nearly crude enough. And it’s not entirely a direct thanks to that support group. Just my weird way of showing appreciation by briefly summarizing a year’s worth of running that was dependent on love from the Usuals. One last thing: I have a tendency to judge those people on Facebook who are always putting up unnecessarily emotional status updates, you know those people, we all scorn them. So I admit to my hypocrisy with the posting of this all too sentimental blog. My only consolation is that instead of being immediately barraged by my heartfelt narrative on the newsfeed, the reader is at least required to make the effort of clicking on the link before diving headlong into this excessive purge of feelings.

(Disclaimer: this blog really gets hung out to dry, seems to have transformed into more of a short story, so if you’re smart, you’ll break it up with a few friends to each read a section and regroup to exchange notes. Otherwise it’ll be like trying to get through War and Peace in one sitting.)

OK, I swear I can encapsulate the year into a paragraph, two at the most. Someone double-dog dared me to keep it shorter than the essay for my Wisco college application (not possible, didn’t write one…gotta love DI athletics). So after training in Mt.Laguna last Spring 2011, I jumped out to Europe for a few races to try and bust a time before returning to the states in mid-June to compete at last summer’s USA Championships. Let’s just say I struggled in Europe and the downward spiral had commenced. We could even take it back a bit further when I was injured during that preceding winter and the seed had been planted for a difficult track season. It wasn’t until Spring/Summer 2011 that the seed had grown into a plant and that plant was about to be… use your imagination. Needless to say, I was embarrassed at USAs and, with my tail tucked between my legs, returned to Europe for another series of races. Instead of being able to approach post-USAs racing as a chance for redemption, I seemed to sink further into the quicksand of burnout. So much of running for me, and racing for that matter, is dependent on momentum. Well I had plenty of mass and no velocity (sorry, that analogy might be a bit too academic) to keep things rolling with any sort of consistency through the end of the season. I think this failure, or maybe inability to achieve any of the expectations I had set forth, is the main reason why I decided to stop blogging. Shame is a very paralyzing emotion and it was shame that kept me from feeling like I should be sharing any of these happenings with the Usuals, despite their unrelenting support. So there it is—2011 in a nutshell, complete with all my deepest emotions. Definitely a learning experience of sorts as I tried, and continue to experiment with, different training techniques, environments, etc.

So that takes us to Fall 2011, which, as far as we’re concerned, is considered a new year. Best way to cope with a broken heart was to get my ass back toMadisonand go to work with the future NCAA XC champs. It seemed like a fool-proof plan: put 2011 behind me and train with the best, building that cross country strength that once resulted in a top 100, yeah that’s right, a double digit, finish at the NCAA cross championships. Unfortunately, I am a fool and the plan had some problems: 1. Don’t think for a second that just because you get paid to run you can keep up with the Wisconsin XC team. 2. It won’t happen. 3. You’ll inevitably get hurt trying. Now I know that some of you studs out there could probably manage it, seven of you in fact did. But by the time I jumped into training with the team mid-September, these kids were already stroking mile repeats at the XC course with ease on their way to an indisputable national championship. After a couple weeks trying to keep up, my body decided it was not about to support the cram-study method of building fitness. So there it was, another injury was born to add to the numerous prior. Not sure what I expected exactly. I think I had finally come to the realization that I’m a weak human being, that my injuries of past, present, and even future, are not just bad luck and stupid training, but they are reoccurring because I’ve never really taken the time to work on the simple things that can keep one healthy: core strength, balance, stabilization, etc. If you’ve ever seen me run or just move around in general, you’ve witnessed a slightly less extreme version of Forrest Gump before the leg braces came off. These unfortunate biomechanics have often been at the roots of any injury. Well this time around, and with additional goading from my sister, I started up with regular physical therapy. In time, these visits helped cure me of my present tribulation, but more importantly, they helped pave the way to injury-free training that has lasted seven months now. It’s difficult to admit that I need special treatment if I’m going to continue to pursue the running any further. I guess it’s like openly admitting you’re a Cubs fan or you still like Fastball. But there it is, I said it: I’m high maintenance. Either way, the Usuals expanded by one more individual, a PT.

In the interest of condensing, we’ll cut through Spring 2012 quickly. Started the season off with a bang, kind of, wherein I was waxed by a high schooler at the New Balance Games in NYC at the end of January, clocking a blazing 4:03 mile. Buried that one with the other dead bodies in the backyard ofAdams St(the race or the high schooler? you’re wondering) and kept putting in the miles. I have a nearly ideal setup in Madison. I live equidistant, about 10 minutes walk, from the two most important locations in Madison, the Stadium where all the facilities save for the outdoor track reside, and Trader Joe’s. And seeing as how all I do is eat, sleep, and run, I also spend equal time at each establishment. I could just as easily describe to you the happenings in the basement of Camp Randall as I could each aisle at the TJs on Monroe St. Anyway, progressed with the training, stayed healthy, and eventually ran my first 1500m PB in 3 years at Stanford in May, and then again in Indianapolis (3:36.3) just over a week before the Trials. A couple races that helped affirm that I was still improving, even if it took 36 months to see the results. Which brings us to the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Four years ago, I competed at the Trials. It was a cherry on the top of a season I was more than content with. This time, however, the Trials was the ultimate test of everything I had done for the past seven months. The Trials was my season, and just as difficult as the actual competition, is trying to see that there’s more to a season or a career than one or two races. It’s just a little unfortunate that sometimes those couple races may only arrive once every 4 years. In trying not to beat it to death, and because I think most of you followed the event, I won’t delve into much detail. Simply put, it didn’t go the way I was hoping, and I’ll leave it at that. But the Trials is also why I’m writing this right now. I’ve already admitted that I’m needy. In addition to the physical requirements of that acknowledgment, it also brings with it the need for that group, the Usuals, some more vocal than others, some closer than others, but ultimately, the Trials seemed to sucker all those people into rallying for my cause. And as cliché as it sounds, it became clear that the Usuals are genuinely just good people that were pumped for me no matter the outcome. The shame of defeat was more present than ever after my semi-finals collapse. But the support, whether vocal or just as important, nonvocal, helped dissolve that shame so that I could continue to attack the rest of the season and even blog about it. So thanks Usuals, I hope you know who you are. The best I can awkwardly offer is this post and an effort to return the love in the future.

I assure you this is as sentimental as any post will get. Hope it’s sufficiently overwhelming. It also acts as a way to openly describe the life events I deem interesting. So now I’m off the hook when asked any variation of “what up?” because I’ll be directing you straight to this blog for answers. For now, I’m in Teddington (the Fitchburg of London, but teeming with people who lack some serious dental hygiene) for the next 3 weeks. I live with some other runners, mostly Aussies, and we jump off from here to various races around Europe. Next time I’ll breakdown the setup here and update results of any races.

(The answer to your question is yes, the title of this post is both metaphorical, as it relates to the nature of running, as well as literal, as the blog itself is too damn long, much like Tolstoy’s novel.)