Evolving Dreams

Although almost a month has passed since my storybook 5000m race at the US Olympic Trials in Eugene, in some ways the time, ensuing travel and Olympic preparation phase has helped provide me with a fuller perspective on the events of the Trials as well as the road that took me to the night at Hayward Field.

In the press conference following the race I told reporters that the experience was “more than a dream come true.” My intention was not to convey that I didn’t believe I could make the team, since I doubt anyone makes an Olympic Team by accident. Approaching the 5000m final I had my head wrapped around doing what I needed to do to put myself in a positon to qualifty. By “the dream” I was referring to the entire journey I’ve been on in the last four years.

In 2008 I set a goal of running at the Olympic Trials; not the Olympic Games, the US Trials. Flash forward to the morning of June 28th, 2012. I went out on my morning shakeout run feeling as happy as I had ever felt. Normally there’s a sense of apprehension on race morning, but this day was different. I remember smiling throughout my run and at one point thinking to myself “I’m here. This is what I dreamed of four years ago, and now not only am I here, but I’m going to go seriously contend for a spot”. In that moment I was happy to know that not only had I achieved that initial dream, but that in the process I’d surpassed what I’d initially set out to do and allowed the dream to evolve.

For those that have followed my blog, you can probably appreciate this. In my first blog post last July I talked about the reservations I had about pursuing post-collegiate running and how I had decided that even if I never “made it” as a professional runner, I could still dedicate a few years of my life to doing something that I love while seeing world in the process. Six months later I wrote about my decision to step back from coaching and fully commit to being a professional runner. Even at that point I didn’t feel comfortable saying, even to myself, “I’m training to make the Olympic team.” I was simply trying to be the best I could be, and in the spirit of the Olympic year it seemed appropriate to step back from other obligations and fully focus on training. A grant from the Sacramento Running Association was going to allow me to give up my coaching income, and so I figured I’d spend six months being the best athlete I could be every day and toe the line at the Olympic Trials with no regrets about how I had prepared for that day.

As I moved into the spring season and started to have some good results on the track, I realized that making the team wasn’t out of the question. Not probable, but also not impossible. That mentality took me clear into the finals of the Olympic Trials on June 28th. On paper I was still a long shot. I didn’t have the Olympic A standard of 15:20 (my time from Mt. SAC was 15:24), and I still had to beat several women who had run faster than I in order to finish in the top three. But beating them was possible, and shaving five seconds off my PR was also possible, I just had to put myself in the best postion to accomplish both objectives in one race. Given the shape of the field in the final, my race strategy was to go to the lead from the beginning to set an honest pace. A championships race almost always starts conservatively and finishes very fast, which is the style of racing I had rehearsed and trained for, so I didn’t necessarily want the the pace too fast from the get go, but I also needed the A standard to remain attainable.

From the gun I went to the lead to keep it faster than tempo pace, but I also tried to stay as relaxed as if I were sitting back in the pack. It was a balancing act, and I didn’t handle it perfectly. By the time we were 3000m into the race we were several seconds slower than I had envisioned in the worst case scenario. At that point, I thought the A standard was out of reach, and for a moment I thought my Olympic hopes were dashed. I fell out of contention for a while but soon regrouped. Olympic team or not, it would have been shameful not to leave my heart out the track at that point. If not for myself then at least for my coach, my family and all the people that have supported me over the last three years. And so for the last 500m I was driven not by the quest to make the team, but simply to give the race everything I had to justify the years of work I had put into getting to that moment, as well as to honor the people in my life that had pushed me and loved me and helped me get there.

In a way it’s fitting, because the journey was never just about making an Olympic team, it was about becoming the best runner I could be, and in those last moments of the race all I wanted was to run the greatest race I had in me and not give up. It was almost as if the entire three year journey culminated in the final 150m and created an extraoridnary will to chase that third spot. My path to the podium hasn’t been a direct or easy one, and I never would have made it there without my support network pushing me and believing in me. I owed them more than settling into a 5th place position.

After spending week back home in California my schedule took me to Europe for a pair of races to help tune-up. A week ago I arrived in Birmingham England, where Team USA Track & Field is holding camp, and as more athletes, staff and coaches arrive to comprise our group here, I continue to gain an appreciation for what it means to be a part of such a special group of athletes. The stories exchanged over meals and on the bus about people’s paths to this point are diverse and remarkable, and as I watch my new teammates training at the Alexander Park Track or run with fellow women’s distance runners, I am convinced now more than ever that anything is possible if your belief and your effort are strong and true enough. In July 2011, coming off a decent, but by no means impressive US Championship race in the 5000m, I wrote about how as a competitive runner I’m never willing to settle for the status quo and that goals must always evolve. At that point competing on the Olympic stage represented the ceiling of what I could reasonably dream about, but now that I am here I hope the experience will continue to expand my horizons and allow me to develop a new framework for what is possible in the four years to come.


Final Pieces

I’ve been in Tahoe for the last two weeks for another short altitude stint before the Olympic Trials. The nice thing about Tahoe is that it is very easy to descend to lower elevations to get in track workouts so that I can continue race specific work. Last week I went to Reno to do a workout at the University of Nevada Reno (~4000ft) and on Saturday I went to Auburn to do a workout at Placer High School (~1500ft). Both workouts were great and overall my training cycle here has gone really well. I’ve been staying at a condo in Northstar and most days traveling to Burton Creek State Park on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. It has a lot of gently rolling, very runnable trails and is definitely the best discovery of this trip. North Tahoe High School with their all-weather track sits on the edge of it which works out perfectly for strides or anything “extra” after a run.
On Wednesday I’m heading from here to Oregon where I will remain through the Olympic Trials at the end of June. The first stop is Portland for the Portland Track Festival where I will pace four miles of the 10k on Friday night and then come back and race the 1500 on Saturday night. This is my third year running at the Portland Track Festival and it has always served as a great tune up for USA’s and seems to attract more athletes every year. From there I’ll go to Corvallis for the final two weeks leading up to the trials.
I am greatly looking forward to toeing the line this weekend and racing once more before the big show in Eugene. The sense of excitement I have for the Olympic Trials is building every day and I can’t wait to get to Oregon and into the home stretch for this spring season!

Condo at Northstar

Back porch at condo

Martis Meadow at Northstar

Lake Tahoe

Altitude Camp at La Loma

Often times when I tell people that I am going to Mexico to train for a month I get reactions that are a mix of surprise and concern. After all, there are plenty of places within the US to train at altitude. On the surface, a training camp in Mexico seems complicated. You’re talking about international travel, a different currency, a language barrier. Is it safe? Can you eat the food? I’m fortunate enough to have many people in my life that care about me, and as such I’ve had to field and deflect these questions a number of times.
The reality is that where we come to live and train, at La Loma Centro Deportivo in San Luis Potosi, is anything but complicated. The set up here packages together state of the art training facilities, healthy meals prepared for us, and apartments attached to the training center. It allows for a very simple routine where all we have to do is run, eat, and sleep (and we mostly sleep!). On top of that, the park where we do our daily runs, Parque Tangamanga is an easy five minute drive away and the weather is pleasant and predicable. Everyday has had a high between 80 and 84 degrees. It makes the lifestyle here easy and allows us to make the most of the one thing we came here to do: run.
So far my training has been going really well and I am continuing to make progress. I’ve been doing a mix of on and off track work. At La Loma there is a mondo track with a one mile dirt loop around the complex that is marked every 100m and allows for blending on and off track work in one session. There is also another, softer track a few minutes away, and Parque Tangamanga has several different loops that are marked every 1000m for longer pace work. I’ve taken full advantage of all of these and appreciate that there is easy access to a variety of options for workouts. There is also a physical therapist on site who I’ve been seeing weekly to help ensure that I continue to be able to make the most of all the training options!
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going here. Of course, I am eager to return home and have the track season begin, but for now since I have to be patient and keep training I am happy to be doing it in a beautiful climate in the company of friends and other elite athletes from around the world.

A glimpse of the mile loop at La Loma

The track at La Loma

The weight room at La Loma

Treadmills and cross training options

Softer track

Emerald City Opener

It has been one week since I returned to the track for my first race since the Pan Am Games. After a long base period I chose to lace up the spikes in the 3000m at UW’s Husky Classic, and I’m very satisfied with the way it went for a season opener. After some debate with Drew about how to approach the winter racing season, we ended up agreeing that despite the fact that I love to race, the best course was to keep my sights focused primarily on training with a view on the big picture of the outdoor season and Olympic Trials. With that in mind, we decided to come up for air only one time and race an indoor 3k at Dempsey, mostly to get a measure of fitness and to break up the training.

Over the course of the winter, even though virtually all my workouts have been strength-related and off the track, I have spent a lot of time thinking about aspects that I need to work on in order to become a more effective track racer. Historically I am terrible about exercising patience, sitting tight on the rail in a pack, and I tend to spend a lot of time in lanes 2 and 3 during packed races. Drew and I had agreed that I would make a point of finding my way to lane 1 and staying there for at least a mile at Dempsey. As far as strategy was concerned, I definitely wanted to run to win, either by sitting and kicking or by biding my time and then moving with three laps to go. The entire field came through 1k much slower than I had hoped, and I got antsy when faced with the decision of what to do next. I ended up opting to move a lot earlier than I was supposed to, but I felt like it was a calculated risk rather than one made simply on impulse. From that point on I tried to balance squeezing the pace down while staying within myself since I was doing work a bit before I had planned. I wanted to have something in the tank to cover a move if someone tried to pass me or made a surge late in the race. When all was said and done, I was able to meet my goal and sneak under 9:00 for the first time in my life. Going into the race I had estimated my fitness to be somewhere in the 8:55-9:00 range, so I was happy to have that affirmed in my only track race of the winter.

Saturday evening I enjoyed dinner in Seattle and some time with coaching and running friends. I went for a beautiful Sunday run in Seattle, from the arboretum to Green Lake, via Ravenna Park. This week, following the race, I have begun a hill phase as I transition from base work and prepare for an upcoming altitude stint. Thus far I have had a very hilly long run at home in Santa Rosa on Wednesday and two great hill workouts this week. Racing last weekend was a little bit of a tease. It got me very excited for the track season, but now I have to put my head back down and keep laying down work for several weeks before racing again in April. Luckily, my trip to Mexico to train at altitude will provide a change of scenery and some great training partners for the month of March. Be sure to check back for updates on that trip in a couple of weeks.

Pieces of the Puzzle

This week marks the third week that I have enjoyed the freedom to focus more on my own running without the pressure to spend too many hours in the office working behind the scenes as a coach. I still enjoy going to practice and picking my office hours more selectively, but I have also been able to dedicate more time to the aspects of being an athlete that extend beyond merely training.

In my last blog I mentioned the Sacramento Running Association and the great financial support they are giving me as part of their new elite team. In addition to funding a handful of athletes, SRA is also partnering with companies in the Sacramento area to help provide elite runners with necssary tools for success. So far, the most important component for me has been the relationship with Dr. Justin Lau at Elite Spinal and Sports Care. I have been working with Dr. Lau every other week for four months now, and we have developed a routine for general body maintence to keep me healthy and training at a high level. Based on the anecdotal evidence so far, this strategy it is paying off. My training has been completely uninterrupted since starting back after a break in November, and the quality of everything I do, from normal daily runs, to workouts, to long runs far surpasses the type of training I was doing six months ago, let alone last year at this time. The sessions with Dr Lau aren’t always enjoyable; in fact they can be very painful, and sometimes that’s hard to wrap my head around when I’m not even injured. But, as Dr. Lau likes to say, it’s important to “troubleshoot” for any tightness or weakness that may lead to a problem down the road so that we can avoid setbacks and continue to build consistency.

In addition to Dr. Lau, SRA just announced our latest partnership,  U.S. Cryotherapy. U.S. Cryotherapy is a facility in Roseville, CA that offers cold therapy treatment for the purpose of recovery and injury treatment. They offer cold chambers for total body recovery and localized treatments for specific injuries. Next week the SRA team is going to meet with the manager to tour the facility and learn more about the amenities offered there. I’m looking forward to finding ways to incorporate this new aspect of recovery into my training.

The SRA elite team is in it’s early stages but I am very excited about the support they are offering to athletes in the area and look forward to helping the team grow. I’ll be proud to put on our uniform for the first time on February 11th when I race the 3k at the Husky Classic in Seattle. As all athletes know, but sometimes forget to mention, it truly takes a team of support to get an athlete to the line, fully prepared when the gun goes off. Over the past two and a half years, since leaving the college setting, I have grown more acutely aware of the need to adopt a active approach with regard to all forms of recovery and rejuvenation in order to run my best every day and on race day. I consider myself fortunate to have superb resources and support in my path as a professional runner and look forward to representing Sacramento Running Association as I reap the rewards of the hard work that so many have invested on my behalf.

Choosing Excellence

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.

Back in Business!

Somehow I didn’t get back on the blogging bandwagon once my time off from running concluded and I resumed training seven weeks ago. I suppose that the arrival of the new year is as good a time as any to re-initiate the blog and update everyone on the latest news from base training and preparation for the upcoming Olympic year.

After Pan Ams I took a short break from running. It had been over a year since I’d had more than a few days off during brief in-season breaks, so I knew it was time to give my body a chance to recuperate. In the weeks since then I have steadily built training and I am feeling fit and fully back in the swing of things. I have also used these weeks to be a little more relaxed in my routines and have some fun between training.

Highlights from the past month include a trip to Seattle for a weekend in December to visit friends, the USTFCCCA national coaches convention in San Antonio, and more recently a week spent at home in Santa Rosa over Christmas. The weekend in Seattle coincided with the USATF Club Championships, and I enjoyed being able to catch up with friends from across the country who had come to race. While I admit it was a little hard to watch the race and not be a part of it, it was fun to watch Brie Felnagle win on home turf, as she was one of the primary people I had come to Seattle to spend time with. She was also a good sport about getting up the morning after the race to accompany me on the first half of a sixteen-mile run on the Cedar River Trail. I loved exploring the trails and putting in some great running efforts in that area of Washington and connecting with other runners for a few days.

The day after returning from the Pacific Northwest, the entire UC Davis XC/Track & Field staff had an early morning departure for San Antonio, where the national coaches convention was held at the JW Marriott Hill Country. Although one of my favorite aspects of the resort is the chance to run on the rolling golf courses there, it was also great to take in the coaching symposiums, see the Bowerman Award presented, and hang out with college coaches. I may be biased, but I thought that Scott Abbott, from Sac State, stole the show with his presentation on middle-distance running on the first day. On our first night there Lea Wallace drove over from Austin and it was great to catch up with her for the first time since her move to Texas. I returned from San Antonio well-fed and with my head full of training ideas and excited about coaching and training.

Christmas in Santa Rosa provided some time to unplug and relax. I mostly spent time with family, but was also able to connect with several friends from my high school cross country days. We try to make a point to get together every Christmas, but it seems harder every year to get everyone in town on the same day. I was able to meet my HS coach, Val Sell, at the start of training runs in Annadel State Park, and she is currently hard at work prepping for the Carlsbad 5k in April.

Now I am back in Sacramento and looking forward to the New Year. My plans are to go to bed early on New Year’s eve before knocking out a solid long run on Sunday morning. It’s a fitting plan to ring in 2012, as it is an Olympic year, and the next six months will be entirely dedicated to becoming the most-prepared athlete I can when I toe the line at the Trials in Eugene. The plan for this winter is to race 3000m indoors, and my coach and I are currently in the process of planning an altitude camp for the month of March before opening the outdoor season.

Patience may not be my strongest suit, but I am excited to race indoors, return to San Luis Potosí, and then prepare to race fast over 5000 and 10,000m in the spring.

Flying through the month of October

The month of October was a busy one for me. It started with the US 10k road championships in Boston. Last year was my first year running that race, and I absolutely loved the experience. Boston is a beautiful city, and the entire race environment has amazing energy. The night before the race there is a dinner where the elite athletes get to meet race sponsors and organizers, as well as a distinguished group of women who have run the race every year since its inception in 1977. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing their stories and gaining an appreciation of their commitment to the event. I finished third this year, and while I went in with slightly higher hopes for myself, I realize that it is progress from last year (when I finished 6th) and another step forward for me as I seek to progress in the sport.

After the weekend in Boston, I returned to Sacramento, but quickly turned around again to head to Indiana for the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute. That was a good weekend, and our women’s team finished 6th overall, representing our highest finish ever in that meet. Coming off that race, they knew they would be the team to beat at conference.

The following weekend the time to prepare and head to the Pan Am Games arrived. On the Saturday I flew from Sacramento to Houston for team processing, which consisted of a brief meeting, picking up a bunch of USOC apparel for the games, having pictures taken, a great dinner and an early bedtime before heading to Guadalajara the following day. On Sunday we flew as a group of about one hundred team members, a large portion of which consisted of Track and Field athletes, but also included U.S. team members from Judo, Fencing, Weight-lifting, and Diving.

After we arrived at the athlete village we had another brief meeting with the US Olympic Committee staff, a meeting with the US Track and Field staff, and then settled into our apartments. From that point until race day the daily plan consisted of a pretty simple routine involving breakfast, training, lunch, massage/Normatec/ice bath or some other kind of therapy, laying low in the afternoon, dinner, hanging out in the athlete lounge, watching events that had gone on throughout the day on TV, and then bed. The days became predicable and somewhat uneventful, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Even though we hadn’t competed on the same team since my freshman year in HS, it was also good to catch up with fellow Montgomery alum Sara Hall, who ended up winning the 3000m steeplechase race at Pan Ams.

The 5000m race itself was tough, and I struggled mightily in last mile. Despite the fact that I entered the meet without the advantage of altitude acclimation, it still was not the way I had envisioned the end of my season. Overall, my time in Guadalajara was a great learning experience. The support from both the USOC and USA Track and Field was outstanding and extremely well organized. Putting on the US singlet is a huge honor and I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to compete in that arena.

Pan Am's Women's 5000m race

The morning after the Pan Ams race I flew straight from Guadalajara to Riverside, CA to coach at the Big West Conference Championships. The meet capped off a great week as the UC Davis women brought home their first conference title. “Conference Champions” is a distinction we have been seeking for a number of years now, and I can’t describe how good it felt to finally watch them hold up the championship trophy.

Although I’ve promised myself that I will never complain about the amount of travel I get to do, I have to admit I felt relieved when I got home after conference knowing that it would be several weeks before I was on a plane again. I took ten days off from running, but I am very eager to get back to work. As always, I am excited about what lies ahead, for both the training and racing that will take place, but also the places that training and racing will take me over the course of the months to come.

Reflecting on the 5k Championships and looking forward

On the heels of my race at Falmouth this past August, Kevin Selby from Flotrack came to Davis to talk with me about the progress I have made in my running career over the past couple of years. At some point during the interview he asked me point blank if I hesitate in races rather than thrusting myself into certain competitive situations. My immediate response was that I don’t. I think of myself as someone that takes risks and likes to lay it on the line. But as the days passed after he left and I spent some time reflecting on the interview, his question started nagging at me. I couldn’t figure out why he would even ask that question without some underlying reasoning. I may think I lay it out there every time, but perhaps he has seen something that I don’t? I realize that sometimes athletes perceive themselves in a certain light, and a coach may have to challenge them to expand their horizons to make them better athletes. So, back in August, weeks before there was any indication of who would or would not be running at the US 5k road championships, I decided that I had to run to win, simply to prove to myself that I don’t hesitate in races or think “maybe I shouldn’t be up there,” as Kevin put it.

Two weeks have elapsed since the 5k championships and I’m still not sure I can fully answer Kevin’s question. Did I run to win like I intended? In the moment, I thought so. The race strung out very early, with Julie Culley (the eventual winner) running up front, me giving chase, and a pack hot on my heels. From as early as a half mile into the race we were all already in our finish order. I made a push half way through the race to close the gap, but I was never able to catch Julie. In the aftermath, I wondered if perhaps I did hesitate early on and I should have closed the gap immediately or gone with Julie. On the whole though, I feel good about the effort I gave. I’m happy with runner-up finish, but also find that it has left me hungry to achieve more.

Luckily, “more” is right around the corner in the form of the US 10k Road Championships (Tufts Heath Plan 10k for Women) in Boston on October 10th. I am very excited about returning to Boston and running this race again. Tufts puts on a great event in a city that I have come to like a great deal in trips there. Last year I finished 6th overall and was fortunate to be selected to represent the US at the Chiba Ekiden relay in Japan. It was very exciting time for me; I felt like I was finally doing what I had dreamed of when I graduated college and chose to pursue a career in running. I associate Boston and the Tufts 10k with that big step forward and I’m hoping that my experience this year can represent continued growth.

I love to train hard and compete all out, but perhaps the answer to Kevin’s question is one that will always remain somewhat elusive, since I also continually seek a higher and more desirable level on which to achieve.  For now, I look forward to one final race on the roads as fall arrives in New England. I can’t wait for noon on Columbus Day at the Boston Commons!

Laying the Foundation for Success at Cross Country Camp

I spent last week at Point Reyes National Seashore, in West Marin Country, at the UC Davis Cross Country camp. This was my eighth year attending camp. There are some traditions that are exactly as they were when I attended my first camp as a freshman and others that have changed greatly over the years. Some of those changes are simply due to changes in logistics, but others have changed as the blend of personalities in the program shift. In some ways camp is always the same, but because the personality of the team changes from year to year, it is also always different. Out of the eight years that I have spent in the program as an athlete and now as a coach, this year was definitely my favorite camp thus far.

Last year we introduced a run that quickly became dubbed “the monster long run”. It begins at the trailhead for Sky Trail and immediately climbs a mile into dense forest. The trail narrows and is often very muddy in spots, and after the fairly long uphill out of the parking lot, it makes for a tough start. After the initial ascent, Sky Trail drops dramatically down to Coast Trail, which runs along the cliffs above the water. Once on Coast Trail you can finally get rolling into a nice rhythm all the way back to the hostel where we stay. For athletes not ready to bite off the full loop, they stop there after approximately 13 miles. The rest of the group embarks on a two-mile, grinding climb from the hostel back up to the vans at the start of Sky Trail. In all in the loop is only 15 miles, but it takes me over an hour and fifty minutes, which is slow going compared to type of training we get done in Davis and Sacramento. Last season the run felt like an epic adventure. For a number of people it was the longest they had ever spent on their feet in one run. There were some wrong turns made, some bonking, and one person literally crawled in. Some people loved how hard it was; some hated it. Needless to say, there was a high level of anticipation for the run this year. Everyone seemed to be looking forward to the challenge, but no one was underestimating the task that was before him or her. As a result, the run turned out to be almost anticlimactic.  Everyone got the job done, but there was nothing dramatic or epic about the experience. We just ran. And when we were done we refueled, stretched, got back in the vans, and spent the day relaxing. I won’t say it was easy, but it certainly didn’t fit with the memory everyone had built up after the previous year’s long run.

Sky Trailhead

In a lot of ways the essence of the entire trip was embodied in that run.

In past years I have felt like camp has taken a lot of energy (as a coach and an athlete) but this year was easy. The teams worked hard, but in general the routine wasn’t dramatically different from how we have become accustomed to training and living at home, and by the end of the week it didn’t feel like anyone was ready to go home. In general the week ran very smoothly and I credit it to the great dynamic this group of athletes has. In the time that I have been an Aggie I’ve been able to witness the program evolve tremendously. In the past three years, specifically, the team has developed a culture in which enjoyment is found in discipline, consistent work, and most importantly, being successful. As a coach in the program and as an athlete that has continued to compete at a high level, I know I have contributed in building this culture, but the energy I gain from being immersed in such an environment far surpasses the energy I put into helping create it. What I do on a daily basis suddenly doesn’t seem as big a deal as I could make it out to be, when there are 36 athletes around me, training with their own purposes, holding each other accountable to goals, and making each other better every single day. While my races and goals are different than theirs, I feed off their collective energy and together we lay down work, day upon day, week upon week, year upon year, in our quest for success. As much as I am looking forward to the races I have ahead of me this fall, I am equally eager for the cross-country season to unfold and to witness the fruition of the work the Aggies are putting in now.