The UC Davis cross country and track & field program has evolved a great deal since my collegiate career ended in 2009. I take great satisfaction from helping motivate current Aggies to match and surpass training markers and race efforts from my early years in the program, and the depth of talent and strong commitment sometimes make me wonder what it would have been like to train in and amongst such a talented group 5-6 years ago. Part of the buy-in that our coaching staff strives to create is the willingness of each runner to give 100% on any given day while also going all-in in the pursuit of personal goals. Sometimes that means athletes are faced with difficult choices because there are so many opportunities available to students in college, and they can’t do everything and run to the best of their ability. When athletes are willing to simplify their lives in the pursuit of maximizing their academic and athletic potential, we call it “choosing excellence”.
Over the course of the fall I began to feel frustrated with the choices I was or wasn’t making to be excellent, as both an athlete and coach. There were days when I was engrossed in coaching duties and wasn’t making the right choices for training and recovery, and it frustrated me to think that my competitors were spending their days in ways that would give them an advantage over me. Then on days when I did make selfish decisions that would allow me to invest more time into my own training and recovery, I felt like I wasn’t being the best coach I could be. I constantly felt torn between wanting to do both jobs well, and never quite feeling like I was doing either well enough.
In the past Drew and I had talked in an abstract way about one day going back to being a volunteer so that I could fully focus on my own running, but it was more in the sense of “one day when I’m sponsored” or “when I begin my first marathon build up”, both of which were in the future but without a specific timetable in place to get there. Over the summer, however, the Sacramento Running Association put the wheels in motion to begin sponsoring a group of elite local runners. I applied, and ultimately was offered a generous grant that changed the timeline for how and when I could step back from coaching. After some more discussion with Drew, we decided that I would transition from my paid postition in January, after the cross country season was over but well in time for the beginning of the track season and my preparation for the Olympic Trials.
The decision certainly wasn’t an easy one: I love coaching, I am very invested in our team, and I don’t want to walk away from the relationships I have with our athletes.
As a volunteer coach, I will continue to be at practices and meets that fit with my own training and competition schedule so that I can continue to play a role with the team. At the same time, I’m now free to make all the right choices to train and recover the way I need to on a daily basis, as well as travel during the year for training camps when I want. With this structure I feel like I will be more effective at becoming the best athlete I can be, and some part of that makes me feel that I am making a better coaching decision as well. It’s one thing to talk about going “all-in” or “choosing excellence,” but it’s not always easy to live out the very expectations we put out there for others. I hope that my decision allows our athletes to gain a better understanding of those concepts and inspires them to also make the difficult choices that will make them better runners.