Running has always been something that has brought me a lot of joy. Even in the toughest times in my life, I have been able to escape into my own world and be set free on a run. But there are times you can’t escape the darkness. No matter how hard I ran, it would chase me and consume me. Soon the entity that use to be a paradise, would become a nightmare as well.
People who know me, don’t know I struggle daily with depression and anxiety. Something that stemmed from my childhood days. I was usually the odd one in the group and would be jeered at for it. I would take these slights personally, trying to fight back but would never really talk about it to anybody. When I went to college, the depression hit an absolute high and I attempted to take my life a few times. During this time, my running was suffering. No matter what I did, I could not practice or race up to my potential. I felt the failure consuming me, and that no matter how hard I tried that I could not win.
Fortunately, Winthrop University has the best health services department, and with the encouragement from my collegiate coach, friends, and my church family I sat down with Dr. Sankofa. After many sessions, I felt empowered. I was able to get this swagger about me. I remember him telling me there are always two identities in you, and the one you want to be has the be stronger than the one who brings you down. We focused on empowering my strengths and overcoming my adversities. Within the next year, I had garnered All-Conference honors in Cross Country and Indoor track. By my senior year, I had put my depression on the back burner of my life and running, school, and social life were flourishing.
Needless to say, depression doesn’t work on your schedule. It attacks you hard, even when you think you are ready. The times you start to struggle and it hits, makes those struggles even worse. I was able to manage it mostly through the early stages of my post-collegiate running career, but 2015 was the beginning of a rollercoaster of rough days. It all started with a posterior tibialis injury, then immediately getting the flu, followed by a 5 month layoff from hard training with mono. All in all, I thought my career was done.
Luckily I found a new coach, somebody who had faith in my goals. This was a glimmer of light in the darkness that consumed me. And together we found my way back to running. During this time I worked multiple jobs, till I found myself full-time at the running store here in Spartanburg. I would put on a mask going to work so people would not see me hurting. For me, I did not want people to see me as weak. I have this lone wolf mentality, where I don’t want help. But then when I hit that breaking point, I sometimes wonder if I waited to late. I would find myself back in another doctor’s office to beat the battles of feeling weak. Session after session resulted in a similar result as college, me feeling confident and able to be the workhorse I know I can be.
What was this result? A 26th place at USATF Club Cross Country Championships in 2016. With around 15-20 of the finishers ahead of me being full-time athletes. But yet again I have sunken back to old ways of running poorly, relationships suffering, and just feeling overwhelmed with life. Month after month in 2017 was full of some glimmers of hope, but mostly disappointment in my mind.
Things came to flourishion this past Friday at Raleigh Relays. After a rough week, probably one of the toughest mental battles of a week I have dealt with dealing with work, personal, and running all hitting at once…..I could not overcome my anxiety or depression on race day. All day I could barely stomach food, was shaking, and even threw up three times during the warmup. At 2k into the 5k, I stepped off the track completely defeated. With my girlfriend, Sammy George, and her mother at my side, I broke down as I was sitting there. Opening up about my depression to them on how hard it has been hitting me. I walked away aware of one thing: this isn’t going away, and because of that, I am going to fight like hell.
With every setback, I have found a way to climb back to my pinnacle. I will not allow this to pull me off the course of my dreams anymore. Sometimes you need reminders that you need help, that you need to work harder. Here is mine. I will be back, and you will want to be there to see it.
This fall has to be one for the memory books. I have fallen in love with Coach Blackwelder’s training and it has made me feel very confident in each of my races I have entered this fall. From my opener in October at the USC XC Invitational, Vulcan 10k, Charlotte Turkey Trot 8k, and just recently USATF Club Nationals, I don’t think I have been this competitive in years.
The journey to Club Nationals started earlier this fall. I found out they were going to be in Tallahassee this year and realized that trip would be fun and a chance to mix it up with some of the best guys in the nation over 10k on the grass. With the focus to remain strong through December, we started workouts on the grass in late September. We focused on strength over speed. Longer intervals and tempo runs to build up the aerobic capacity of the body to handle longer race later in the year.
Races started rough and each one seemed to help fine tune the engine. I was really grateful for the opportunity to race in Birmingham at the Vulcan 10k. My good friend and fellow professional runner Lauren Scott, graciously hosted me and showed me around after the race. Look for her to turn some heads this spring on the track. That 10k showed me what I needed to work on and provided insight to what I needed to do for Clubs. Also allowed me to experience a long car ride on the legs and racing the next day. Which is what I knew would happen for Clubs.
The lead up to Clubs went pretty smooth. I had a few bumps and bruises, but nothing that Brad McKay and Tiffany Schride at Performance Therapy couldn’t work out. I also have partnered with Frigid Cryotherapy. Cryotherapy has definitely rejuvenated my legs more than any ice bath I have ever taken. They also have Normatec Recovery boots there to help flush out the legs after hard sessions.
The weekend of Clubs started Thursday evening at 7PM. I locked up Gotta Run Simpsonville, picked up my friend Clay, and headed down the road on the first part of the journey to Tallahassee. We stopped in Atlanta for the night and crashed at Clay’s family’s house for the evening. Morning came too soon, and we went to a local bike path to get in an easy shakeout and strides before shuffling down the rest of the way to Florida.
The drive went pretty smooth. Only hitting traffic when we rolled into downtown Tallahassee. Immediately I went to pick up my race packet at the host hotel before heading to the course to preview it and get in a few fast strides before dinner. The course looked manageable. Rolling terrain on grass and crushed sea shells made up a loop that we would have to traverse 4 times (two 3k loops and two 2k loops). There were tons on runners looking over the course. There were a lot of pro groups there (ZAP Fitness, NAZ Elite, Hudson Elite, Adidas BAA, ETC.) and it began to set in tomorrow was going to be a battle.
After settling into the hotel and grabbing dinner, I rolled out and stretched before heading to bed early. Set my alarm to go off at 6AM so I could get breakfast in and loosen up before heading to Apalachee Park. I shoveled down a bowl of oatmeal and a couple cups of coffee (pre-race staples, actually coffee is just a staple…..without it I am unpleasant to be around for workouts). I returned to the room, lightly rolled out over the foam roller and started dynamic stretches to prime the legs for war.
I got to the course around 9:30AM. It was cold and crisp morning, with a slight breeze. I stayed hunkered down in my car and relaxed before hiking my way down to the staging area near the finish line. I ran into a couple of my friends who came down to spectate and they were nice enough to keep me company on part of my warm-up. Right as I finished jogging, there was announcement for the men’s field to make its way to the start to check in. I grabbed my bag and shuffled up to the start. I waited in line where they checked our bibs and chips on our spikes before we were assigned boxes and sent out toward the line. I finished my drills and quickly changed into my spikes and singlet with 10min till start.
In what seemed as though seconds had passed, USATF officials began screaming to get on the line. Silence overtook the herd of runners surrounding me as we all turned our heads to the starter and waited to be released onto the course.
The pace shot out very fast. I was following my coach’s instructions to get out faster than normal (2:15 at 800m based on what a friend told me) and I felt overwhelmed with everybody going out so hard so early. I was able to calm myself. A good friend of mine, Seth Proctor (FSU XC Alum), gave me some words of advice for the course and I was sticking to them in the early parts. I was in about 60-70 position through the mile. And soon I started to slowly move up mile by mile. I came through 2mi by the finish in 9:20, and had moved up to about 50th. Already people were falling off and I began to feel more comfortable and started to test the boundaries.The second loop around the course I moved up to mid30s and as I started up the hill into the 3rd loop, I started to press the pace. In my mind a top 25 finish seems to become more of a possibility. A lot of great runners were falling behind and I started to get that swagger back that I knew I belonged here. Next thing I knew I was running beside Craig Lutz and Parker Stinson (both multiple time All-Americans in college) and realized, this is my shot. I covered surges and pushed through rough patches. With a lap to go I was in 28th, but started to feel the wheels come off. I barely remember much between 9k and the last 200m of the race. I think my body naturally kept itself running. But the last 200m I found myself kicking harder than I have in a few years. I passed numerous people (at 9k I faded a bit) and just missed passing Parker Stinson at the line. As I flung myself across the line, I had to force myself to keep moving through the shoot. I still had no idea where I had placed or my time exactly. People were collapsing on the ground. I kept myself composed until I was able to get to the end and then proceed to puke my brains out.
I grabbed my bag and changed shoes. Ben Sessions who came down to spectate, graciously warmed down with me. 8-9min miles never felt so fast. After jogging a couple miles, it started to sink in how well I competed. Ever since Cow Harbor 10k (where I had a breakout performance in 2014), I haven’t been able to put myself in the mix and feel like I belong there. This weekend helped me find that again.
I got back to the hotel and ice bathed in the pool, and rolled out after my shower. Went out with some friends that evening and woke up early to drive back to Spartanburg. Next year Clubs will be in Louisville……and you already know I’ll be there and be shooting for a higher finished and hopefully a berth on a USA team (top15 get processed but they only take 6 that declare).As for now, I’m trying to quickly recover to run the CRIT this weekend in Columbia. I made a promise that I would some time ago. Hoping the legs have one more race in them. But I will keep running till I collapse!
I would like to take a moment to thank my family for supporting my dream, my coach Carson Blackwelder for believing in me and giving me the best training I have ever had, Brad McKay and Tiffany Schride for their expertise in keeping my legs moving and constantly assessing my gait to keep me healthy, Frigid Cryotherapy for revolutionizing my recovery, and everybody who has supported me this far. I truly thank you!
It’s been too long since I have posted, and I have a lot to catch you guys up on. First and foremost, I am back into full training. Since starting to run on the first of year to now, I have raced 4 times and now am starting my build up to the fall after a couple easy weeks. This fall is filled with some of the usual races I would do, and a couple new ones that I am building excitement and anticipation for, as they will provide a new challenge for me and gear me up for a successful spring campaign.
It has been a steady climb back to fitness. I don’t think I am where I was in the Fall of 2014 where I had a lot of breakthroughs, but well on my way to finding and perfecting my running everyday. A lot of credit goes to the people who have had faith in me through a lot of trials. I would really like to thank Carson for keeping me on the right track and working with me to create a great training plan and focus toward my upcoming races. Brad McKay and Tiffany Schride at Performance Therapy in Greenville, who has worked on my diligently for a number of years and really kept me moving forward as I continue to regain my fitness. Also most importantly, my family and friends. I know at times I was a pain in the butt to be around with the illness and injuries and the doubts of returning to this journey. Thank you for your prayers, encouraging words, and patience through it all.
I made my return to competition in March at UNCC’s 49er Classic. The main goal of going up there was rabbiting the first heat to a mid-14min 5k. Carson and I talked right before the start and he told me to worry about getting to the two mile mark, then make a conscious decision whether to race it or step off and get ready for the next section to pace. The gun cracked and it took me a solid 350m to assume the position of the domestique and start clipping 69-70sec laps. Right around the 3k mark I started to feel that race fatigue I had missed. It was great to feel this comfortable at this pace, especially leading. It felt like a tempo and I really wanted to see what I could do over the last kilometer if I tucked in. So I swung wide on the straight away on the backstretch and let the college guys surge by me. I unclipped my watch from my wrist, tossed it at my coach and said “Let’s race baby!” The pace slowed to 72-73s and thought of a time went out the window. With 400m to go I moved around the competition on the turn and with 300m to go I laid it down and broke away. Ended up finishing in 14:34 (62sec last quarter).
It felt amazing.The burning of the legs and lungs…..and the blisters. Soon I started jogging my warmdown/up for the next section. I hurried back and the 30min break in between passed to quickly. I slipped on my flats and did a couple turnover strides and jumped on the far end of the waterfall line. The officials asked what I was doing, and I politely said “I am going to rabbit some guys to some PRs!” They released us again and gosh was it harder to get to the lead this time. I don’t know if it was the race before, my lack of speed at the time, or my age but these college kids were flying. I made my way to the lead and started cruising 72-73sec a lap and making sure the pack stayed with it. I would turn and yell at the USC Upstate guys to latch on (in section one, Theo had a huge PR running sub15 for the first time) and they responded. I had instructions to step off at 2k, but my legs felt good and Newport 10k looms on the horizon so I thought I better make tonight count and get volume in. So I continued to 3k and as I was striding down the home stretch to step off, I starting surging beside the pack and told them to “GET AFTER IT!” It was awesome to see a lot of the guys run PRs. Definitely reenergized me to fall back in love with the sport.
I ran a 5k in Ohio the week before my sister’s wedding and it wasn’t pretty to say the least. Not that I wasn’t prepared, but 25mph winds with 40mph gusts, rain, and 30 degree temps don’t add up to anybody running fast. So I ended up doing a fartlek immediately after the race on the college’s indoor track.
Next up was Newport. My first longer race in a year. I was feeling confident, but nervous as hell! I know workouts had been going well, but it was a 10k with a stellar field and some of these guys were coming off the marathon trials or just qualified for the trails in July. So I felt like a fish out of water coming off 20 weeks of healthy running. But Carson’s training had me feeling confident. The day before the race was cool and rainy. Running around Newport with Mark and Dylan of GTC-Elite was fun to have some company on the pre-race routine, especially after a long day of travel nightmares the day before which had me missing connections, missing a train into the city, and not getting to the hotel until well after 10PM (was suppose to be in New Jersey at 6PM). But I have learned: you control what you can control. Luckily I wasn’t the only person to get in late and had a late dinner across the road with a couple NAZ-Elite runners and the director Will Fodor. The morning of the race was suppose to be cool and breezy……it was quite the opposite. As I walked outside in my full warmups, I quickly realized I made a wardrobe mistake. The temp was rising and rising quick. I started stripping on the warm-up and trying to keep my body temp down before the start of the race. Soon we were all on the starting line and it was a matter of moments before we would sent on your 6mi journey through the streets of Jersey City.
And just like that we shot out. I latched onto the field and soon made the conscious decision that if I am going to die, I might as well last with the leaders as long as I could to get as far ahead from the other runners in the pack. I was happy with my 5th place finish that day. But I know I am capable of faster. It was a good reminder how brutal a 10k is, but makes me anxious to get ready for Cow Harbor this fall.
My last race was a few weeks ago in Lexington, SC. The Jailbreak 5k was a major disappoint for me last year. Going out stupid fast with the Kenyans and barely hanging on for a sub15. This year I was fortunate enough to have Carson there and a few guys I could gage off when the Kenyans decided to lay it down the first mile. So off we went. I thought I was being controlled and running the first mile comfortable…..WRONG! 4:28?! Adam what the hell are you doing!!!??? You idiot, didn’t you learn from last year??? Yep that is exactly my thought process, but I was invested and there were a couple gus around me and I said alright let’s work with them and try to stay in the money. When we got to the halfway point, I looked up and saw one of the Kenyans look like he hit a wall.
That’s $300 bucks right there! You can get him. Suck it up and go! I threw in a surge and started to work on the gap that lay ahead of me. Ricky Flynn (old teammate and friend) responded and came with me. I know Ricky is strong as an ox and can just crush a pace, so I had to be ready to throw down a last minute surge at the end. Slowly we were closing on this guy. I was trying to calculate when I should lay it down to catch him. Didn’t was to go to early and crash and burn, but not too late and lose real estate to catch him. Carson had mentioned something on the warm-up, “Start kicking at the dead possum.” I had no idea what he was referring to, until I smelt it. Then like second nature I started kicking. I rounded the final turn. My feet were turning over and I was nipping away at the Kenyan’s lead on me. He crossed the line a second ahead of me (he had at least 15sec on me at 2mi), and I was disappointed at the moment. Wasn’t until I looked at my watch and saw 14:35….
I am excited for the future of my running, and I haven’t felt this happy and motivated with it in some time. Here is to a healthy and strong summer!
Ever since I was cleared to run back in October, I’ve been plagued with a nagging knee issue. A couple weeks or so of therapy and strength would show signs of progress, but every step running was absolutely miserable.
I tried even going back to what I learned at GTC Elite and doing walk jogs. They started off promised, but after my week in Cincinnati, I was in a great deal of pain. I tend to hold my emotions inside when I’m injured. As I don’t want people to know I’m struggling. A lot of people say it’s better to be positive during these times. While it is, I’m gonna be blunt here…..it’s a shitty situation when you see your friends qualifying for the trials and you’re on the couch getting out of shape.
It got to the point of taking a week off and getting therapy, massages, and ungodly amounts of icing. Then I hit the gym. I was tired of the bike, elliptical, pool, etc. I got to the point of F@$# IT! If it’s gonna hurt I’m going to train through it and get an MRI and go from there.
I scheduled an MRI (earliest I could get was two weeks away) and then I started jogging. Averaging 7:45pace. No pain. I lifted and decided I’m going to be stronger than ever. So a regiment of basic core everyday and lifting upper and lower body on separate days twice a week with jogging has commenced. I’ve also decided to do a cleanse this month. There will be no drinking and eating only fish, vegetables, and complex carbs.
Once I went through my MRI….I laid there thinking what could this be that’s been affecting my knee for so long? Doubts and fears clouded me as I lay there in silence. Soon tears swelled my eyes and it was an emotional release of frustration during my silent meditation in the machine.
A week has passed since the MRI. A week of fun NYE memories, miles run, lifts crushed, and working hard. Keeping my mind clear and focused on my goal of racing in May up in NJ.
And this morning after my run, I received a call the doctor. My heart started to race….as she said “We have your results, and the MRI shows NO fractures or tears.” I literally screamed for joy (still in the locker room at the gym with multiple eyes looking at me as though I was crazy).
What now? Still moving forward smart and patiently. Do rehab work on the areas, get massages, and focus on recovery. The miles will come. The races will be crushed again. Now it’s time to rebuild. Now it’s time to take this small victory and build on the breakdown.
I want to thank Performance Therapy, SE Chiropractic, Dr. Anthony Sanchez, my friends, and most importantly my family for believing in me when I didn’t at times.
2016….it’s time to get it!
Injury after injury in my running career has resulted in multitudes of comebacks to my top form. But over the time of this past illness I started to realize, do I really want to comeback? You never really learn when fall back into old habits. No, I want a rebirth! A fresh awakening to the sport. Start a fire that will burn heavy into my heart and spark my dreams becoming a reality.
Since the time of getting over mononucleosis, I have started training again. Dealing with typical soreness that comes from working out muscles, and just fighting through it. Until one day the pain was too much to bear. My IT band was pulling on the lateral side of my knee. Each stride and contraction stabbed deeper with pain. I realized I had fallen into the habit of overdoing my progression into running more miles too quick. Why do I have to make it a comeback? Why do I get impatient and force it? Series of questions ponder my thoughts as to why I can not just jump back to my old self and pound away at the pavement again.
Then as I contacted Carson, my chiropractor, and Brad McKay at Performance Therapy; I realized I need a new approach.
Welcome the rebirth to a new runner, and person. I have devoted a lot of my time to prayer, going back to church, focusing on my weakness physically, and building on my strengths. I am cross training everyday and doing some form of therapy with my chiropractor or Brad a few times a week. This new me is gonna be proactive and headstrong to overcome setbacks and doubt. With worry and doubt comes defeat. I will not be defeated. I will rise up to the challenge to be better. To be not only stronger, but smarter.
I will see you on the line in 2016.
A great deal has happened to me since my last update. As I was gearing up for The Great Cow Harbor 10k, I thought I was in phenomenal fitness after cruising a 5k on the roads in 14:33. But reality would soon set in that my health problems of the summer had been lingering. As I toed the line for a 5miler in Columbia, I felt horrible. Breathing was a struggle and I felt as though my body had been in a boxing match. Each mile got slower and more labored. To the point I could barely drive home after the race. Had to pull off on the highway a few times to rest up and gather myself.
Frustration over why I felt so sick this whole summer overwhelmed me and I finally confronted my doctor. I demanded blood work to be taken and to figure out why I have been constantly sick. After a few test samples of blood were taken I await my results with anticipation that maybe in was an infection and that Cow Harbor would be an amazing return to form. But dreams have not come true as of late. The doctor gave me heart wrenching news that I had mononucleosis. With how my symptoms have been all summer, he confirmed that I have most likely been struggling with the disease for some time.
I barely made it to the car before breaking down. It felt as though a lot had been stripped from me. “What am I suppose to do?” A kaleidoscope of emotions filled my heart and mind. I am grateful my parents were there to comfort me and tell me that I can rebound from this. My family has always been the center of my support group for my running. Through multiple coaches, schools, professional contracts, and everything else these years of competitive running have taken me through, they never waiver as my foundation of love and support.
With a heavy heart I contacted the the race director for Cow Harbor and my host family to break the news. Both were supportive and graciously told me they looked forward to seeing me in 2016. Soon anger and frustration turned to motivation. I quickly emailed a guy to consider coaching me, and mapped out a 5 week plan to eat healthy, rest as much as possible, and slowly start jogging again.
I do not recall the last time I have endured such a long period of no physical activity. Even with some of my potential career ending injuries, I was able to cross train. With mono, no such option. A ruptured spleen did not sound appealing to me. Luckily the weeks ticked by. I work part time at a running store in town (Gotta Run Spartanburg, so if you are ever in the area please come by and say hello!) and at the YMCA as the site director for the After School Program, so that consumed my time and got my mind off my personal training and racing. Also grateful for my friends Matt Elliott, Kim Ruck, Seth Proctor, Rob DelViscio, and a few other people who always positive forces to keep my mind on the end goal: that I would be back to the grind.
I have been meeting with my coach the past few weeks and this is my second week of running. Granted it is not much, but I am blessed that I am able to shuffle along again and get into a core routine. The road is going to be bump and full of struggles, doubts, and set backs. But I can tell you one thing, those are the struggles I look forward to. I definitely believe God puts us through struggles to see how strong we are. He never gives us more than we can take and also does these to let us look at the whole picture and seek him to help heal not only our body’s but our souls. I have a new mindset going back to competitive running after this: have fun, enjoy the process, and if you can take it, you can make it! I will no longer take this sport for granted.
I would like to take a moment to thank my family and friends for being there for me in this difficult time and always supporting me. And I have a long overdue thank you. This is to Maggie MacKenzie. Without her love and support, this blog would not be here. She helped me work on it tirelessly and she did a great job helping me get it up and running. Thank you Maggie.
Till next time, #findyourstrong.
This year has been quite a rough ride for me. It started off great with a 3k PR but turned sour with injuries and illnesses. I was able to come back to run a decent 10k up in Newport, NJ. Things seemed to be going well, but lack of strength caught up with me and my fitness suffered greatly. Then, I contracted an upper respiratory infection that plagued me for 3 weeks. I tried to run a 4mi race down in Columbia, but my health wasn’t up to the task.
With other personal life issues playing a part in my overall motivation, I found myself in a state of doubt. Could I really do this? Was 2014 the best I could run? A swirling of emotions clouded my head. But I keep finding myself striving to qualify for the trials. Though 2016 may be a stretch, 2020 will happen!
I’ve committed to running longer workouts to build strength and slowly boosting my mileage. This fall will be a return to my 2014 fitness level and propel me to PRs this Spring (not saying that a PR this fall won’t happen).
My first real race to start this fall/winter campaign will be a 5miler on Labor Day down in Columbia. This will be a great fitness test before I fly up to my favorite race up on Long Island, The Great Cow Harbor 10k. Last year still has me stunned on my performance, but also intrigued to see how far I can push myself past that.
Till next time, be sure to Find Your Strong!
The key to our sport is consistency, and the only thing that was consistent during most of February and March was the fact that I was unable to run. After the 3k I hopped in with my good friend Matthew Elliott at ETSU, I ended up developing an issue with my posterior tib. Luckily Dr. Jack and my masseuse Casey at Southeast Sports helped me get back on track to have a solid March, but that was short lived.
About halfway through March, I developed a soreness in my throat. And a severe cough. I ended up going to urgent care twice. First time they said it was the common cold and another few days of struggling through running I returned to find out I had bronchitis. After getting on medication I thought I was clear, and I was quiet wrong. Just a few days later I ended up “sleeping” most of the evening on the bathroom floor with a fever. Needless to say I lost 6lbs in the course of the night and the flu was upon me. I rode out four glorious days in my bed. Between trying to get my calorie intake back up and the countless number of Netflixing I did, my mind could not get off the fact that I couldn’t run and I was missing training. It sucked to dropout of the 15k in Columbia, then scratch Reedy River, and have to call the race director at Cooper to tell her I could not make it. Frustration was clouding my mind.
Why couldn’t I catch a break? I just wanted to get out there and compete and show my fitness. The string of success I had during the winter really amped me up for a spring that I was hoping would smash my record book. Instead I had to battle health issues and self doubt to get this train back on the track.
Week after week I looked toward my comeback race at the Riker Danzig Newport 10000. I was lucky enough to hop in a 3k at my alma mater the week before Newport. Coach Ben Paxton (who am I very grateful to have been coached by and who helped develop me into the running I am today) let me into the race. The day before I did a long interval workout and used the 3k to simulate how I would feel at the end of the 10k. Well I can tell you, I felt bad. Never knew a seven and a half lap race could feel longer than a 10k. But each stride was rough. I was spent when I finished. I kept reminding myself….I had the flu. It will take time to get back.
I never like going backwards. That is exactly what I felt like was happening. Nothing felt as smooth as before. But that race at Winthrop was exactly what I needed. My next few workouts exceed my expectations. My tempo was back down to normal pacing and so was the speed segments. I found a renewed confidence in my running again. And it helped to have my friend Kimberly Ruck to keep me positive.
Finally my trip to Newport had arrived. I flew up to Newark on Thursday after a light prerace workout. The plane rides were as comfortable as a plane ride can be for a guy that is 6’2″. My adventure started off with navigating the train system to the subways to take me to Newport. Only thing is I feel asleep on my subway and wound up in the heart of Manhattan by the Freedom Tower. I acted like I knew what I was doing, but quickly ducked back down into the subway and hitched the next ride back across the river. I finally got to the hotel and posted up for the night. Grabbing dinner and some snacks I quickly passed out from the days events.
The next day was beautiful. Woke up and made some coffee as I studied the course on my computer and watched the morning news. I tried my best to memorize the course, but after looking over it for an hour I decided that I would just do my best to figure it out. As I stepped out of the hotel It became apparent that I was under dressed. It was a crisp morning as I navigated the course. The scenery was beautiful. especially the neighborhoods the course traverse through. I was getting excited and anxious to race. Also came back to a package at the hotel from Saucony with my race kit in it. Gotta love a sponsor who personally delivers to you on the fly!
My best friend Maggie came in from Fairfield to come watch my race. We got a late lunch together and walked around the mall. We we ended up hanging out until I headed to dinner with the other athletes. They race director Will Fodor treated us to an amazing pasta dinner. I got to meet some of the race coordinators at the dinner and it was a lot of fun to talk about the New Jersey area and share where I was from. Soon the dinner was over and I ventured back to the hotel to prep for the morning.
Morning came and I threw on my warmups, grabbed my bag and Generation UCAN and headed out the door. I started my warmup with Kimberly. Easy 20min along the last few miles of the course and proceeded to jam out and do drills as I put on my kit and flats. As I started to stride over to the start my nerves were on end. Then there I was on the line. That moment of complete calm before utter chaos. Every body slightly lowering into their starting positions. Seconds pass like hours. Then….GO!.
We started off quick, well for my current fitness it felt quick but I committed myself to holding on to the leaders as long as I could. That was the game plan and when the monkey jumped on my back I would sort that out as it came. Quickly the nationalized Kenyan was laying on serious surges in the first mile. I just laid back and maintained contact. We circled back to toward the start and we had developed into a solid pack. A moment of panic occurred as we did a 180 turn and some loose gravel sent people sliding and me well off course onto the sidewalk. I accidentally bumped into Donn Cabral as I corrected my course and surged back. The next two miles started taking its toll on my and I fell off the pace.
Former teammate Ricky Flynn passed me and I tried to rally to go with but he just motored by. I kept trying to hold form and push. And when I got to five miles I found a new gear and started to clip away. I steadily moved up from 8th to 6th and finished in 30:20. I was disappointed I could not crack into the top 5 but I was happy with a solid comeback to racing after about a month off from issues.
The rest of my visit to NJ was short. I had only a few hours to get cleaned up and grab lunch with Maggie. We explored the waterfront and some local eateries before she was sweet enough to drive me to Newark Airport. Apparently my train skills did not impress her and she felt the need to personally make sure that I did not end up in another town. It was a great way to end a fun trip to the Northeast. I will be back Newport and watch out Cow Harbor because I am hungry to get after it there!
I am taking the next week to just put some mileage on my legs and heal up from the race. I don’t wanna rush back into intense training and have another set back. I am really blessed to have amazing sponsors, family, and friends to help me through the trials we face in life. They are in my corner and I am ready to get after my goals. Till next time everybody!
A lot has happened since I posted last. My job has me working 40-45hrs a week and running has been going well (minus a little ankle issue that I am now over). Its been a tough transition to having a constant group of workout partners to waking up every morning and heading to the track alone. The only person keeping me accountable……..is me and my watch. Occasionally the high school coach for my alma mater will be out there and give me some words of encouragement as I am repping away intervals on the old stomping grounds. Also my Sunday long runs with Kimberly Ruck are always a pleasure.
A few weeks ago we were chatting the last few minutes of the run (and for our normal 5min walk cool down) about how training was going for one another. The subject about how workouts were going and I admitted that the solidarity of the workouts were less than appealing. She reminded me of a book that we read that my previous coach Mike Caldwell gave us to read. “Elite Minds” pointed out that you are not in this alone. No matter when you feel like you are, there are always people there to help you and be there for you.
This is most evident in what happened in the coming weeks after ETSU. On the Monday after the race I went and saw my chiropractor Dr. Tyler Jack at Southeast Sports & Rehab. As I came in the office manager and I had talked about us partnering together. Dr. Riddle and Dr. Jack graciously decided to sponsor me and support my dreams of chasing the Olympic Trials Qualifier for 2016. I am quite blessed to have these two keeping me healthy and encouraging me on my dream. The practice focuses not only on rehab, but strengthening and correcting problem areas. I know in the past I have been one to get right back to running after an injury, but I doubt I ever corrected my issue. Dr. Jack has spent many a session with me show me proper lifting form and making sure that I am not developing improper habits. With his expertise, I know that I can overcome any physical ailment and keep my training up.
Another great opportunity happened yesterday. I was on break at work and I had forgotten to check my personal email before I headed into work that morning. I came across an email from Saucony about the Hurricane Program I had applied for in December. As I scrolled the email, I began to realize that I had be selected to be a member of it. Excitement filled me and I jumped out of my chair in the break room. This was a great opportunity and another blessing from a great company. I am looking forward to working with this year.
Just remember, in all things you are never alone. To achieve your dreams you need to believe not only in yourself, but the others who put themselves in your life to help you.
Till next time, keep running hard and chasing your dreams!
This past week has been an experience for me. I am full swing into working my job at a tax support company on top of training. Working 40hrs a week and finding time to get workouts in and solid gym sessions have brought me back to college days and relearning time management all over again. It has been a tough adjustment, but with most changes you just have to accept them and work toward the goal.
As I was settling into my routine this week and really working towards building strength in my training to carry me through the spring and into the summer, I received a text from Matt Elliott asking me to race a 3000m with him at ETSU in Johnson City, TN. My first thought on the matter was that I was pretty tired from the mileage I had been running and I haven’t really focused on any speed outside of strides or a couple TAG 200s at the end of workouts. I told him I needed a moment to sit and digest the matter and see if this would fit into my schedule and be beneficial for me.
Good ole Matt knows how to motivate me though, reminding me that I ran well at the CRIT and that my first mile was pretty quick there. (Disclaimer: I did not wear a watch at the CRIT and had no clue I went out in 4:23 for the mile). Also I have not raced an indoor track meet, let alone anything under 5000m, in 3 years. It just became clear to me that I needed to do this. So when I got home after work that day, I sat down and entered the race.
I didn’t really change my Tuesday session at all. I had 400s on tap with very short rest at 10k effort. I tried to keep my volume high this week, but didn’t want to sacrifice running well so I didn’t do a long Thursday morning run. I treated Thursday just as a typical pre-race workout of some decreasing 300s, with Friday being an easy run with fast 150s to get the legs moving. I also needed to do something on Thursday to put my feet back in spikes so it wouldn’t be a shock to my system on Saturday afternoon.
Throughout the week, I experienced a mixture of excitement and nerves concerning the race. The 3000m, up until my last year of college, was a mystery to me as I struggled with the concept of how to properly race it. Do I run it like a 5000m and attack late or do I go out like a mile and let Jesus take the wheel for the last kilometer? I knew Matt wanted to run a fast and even race, and I was going to try my best to help him out. So I guess I reverted to the go out, and hold on tactic in my mind.
Saturday came and it was nice to sleep in. I got up and rolled out a bit. Made a huge bowl of oatmeal with flaxseed, cinnamon, craisins, and peanut butter with a big cup of coffee. As I packed my bag for the race, the nerves seemed to sink in more and more.
My dad offered to drive me up to Johnson City, and I really appreciated the company. Dad has always been a huge supporter of my running. He was always there to cheer for my when he could and we would share multiple pre-race meals together and talk about my training and goals for the next day. Over the years It was hard for us to keep our traditions with me going away to school and racing far outside the state. But him and mom would travel to as many races as they could and it meant more to me than I could ever express.
When we got to the Mini Dome at ETSU, after the 2.5hr car ride, dad and I picked up my packet and got our passes to get into the meet. I ran into an old teammate from Winthrop, Drew Harris, who is the distance coach at Wofford College and we caught up as I wait for Matt. Soon it was a reunion and we were having a good time waiting for the time to warm up. Matt went over the race strategy and I agreed to switching off laps for as long as I possibly could until he went for it.
I did my typical warmup and soon I was spiked up and doing strides and lining up to the start the race. Three years and it was second nature as the gun cracked and let us fly. I shot to the lead and carried Matt and myself through 400m, where he took over and we switched up until a mile. I tried to take over to get us to 2k, but I was redlining. Usually in this part of the race I would start going backwards. With how I have structured my training, I have focused on strength and holding form when fatigued. And that was exactly what I did. The last kilometer last for an eternity, but I held on and pumped to the finish. Each step of that last lap I was focusing on getting to the finish strong. As I crossed the line I tried to get a glimpse of the clock. I knew I ran close to my PR. But I didn’t know what.
I saw Matt on the ground resting after winning the race. I went up and we both agreed that was tough. I asked if he saw what I ran and he told me around 8:20….and so I waited as the times were listed on the clock board. There it was 8:19! I took this PR as a step in the right direction. Sure it was only 4sec, but I haven’t done any tuning speed workouts. Pure strength work and mileage. I got really hyped up and knew that this year is gonna be full of some big steps in the right direction.
I had the privilege of cooling down with a runner from Milligan College, Christian Brewer who ran the 3k and PRed. Really great guy with a great 2015 track season ahead of him.
I don’t know whats next on the radar, so back to working out hard and logging miles.
Remember to keep chasing your dreams and stay hyped!