Monday, March 23, 2015

Part 2: The Learning Curve

I started out somewhat normal. My first 5k I ever ran was on July 4th, 2000 during the summer before my freshman year in high school. I ran the race with my dad which is the only race I have ever ran with him. My time was 19:55 and I had no clue what I was doing, but knew I loved to race.

High school running was something different. Being under the guidance of one of Texas' best high school coaches, I really began to grow and enjoy the sport in a team aspect. My freshman year was a great experience that I will never forget. Many of the upperclassmen on the team took me under their wing and looked out for me which meant a lot to me at that age.

I don't remember my best cross country times during the fall of 2000, but I do remember that I was at the top of the JV team and made a Varsity alternate spot for the Regional and State meets. Our team placed 2nd overall at the Texas state meet and since I was an alternate, I received a medal which is still one of the most prestigious medals I own since the state of Texas has such deep running competition.

During track season, I really set my sights on the mile. While the 800m is what brought me into running, there was something about the mile that everyone loved and appreciated. I was chasing the famed Andrew Cook's freshman mile record of 4:39.9 that year. During the JV 1600m district race in 2001, I took first overall with a time of 4:40.2. I fell .3seconds short of the record, which ended up on the back of my team shirt the next season as ".3 Seconds".  

My sophomore year was a quite a bit different. I was feeling much more confident during the fall cross country season and had progression to one of the top 5-6 guys on the team. I was able to decrease my times down into the mid to low 16's for most races, which was a significant improvement from my freshman year. Everything was going great until the District cross country meet that we hosted at our home course. 

Our men's team finished first and I had a strong showing during one of the more competitive meets of the season. I was headed back out onto the course to cheer on the guys JV team when I was talking with Coach T near the finish line. He was always ALL over the course and was the best at cheering his runners on, so he was also headed back out to cheer everyone on. Right after we spoke, I turned to run off and not 10seconds later I turn around and he was laying on the ground. His son was standing over him and he was not moving. I ran over (along with a couple of other people nearby) to find him seizing with his eyes rolled back into his head. I just stood there in shock. I had no idea what to do. I was literally just talking with him and now he was laying in front of me having a seizure.

Luckily, someone ran and notified his wife (a nurse) and she came to his rescue. As the JV finishers were finishing, the required ambulance at the race came over and took him away to the hospital. We had no idea of his status and our whole team was in disbelief.

A true testament to the comradery of the sport was what happened after all races were finished. All of the teams came together (hundreds of kids/adults) and created a circle in the field and prayed for our coach. I am not sure I have ever been humbled as much as I was at the moment. There were people we were fiercely competing against the past couple of hours and now they were there supporting our team in a dire time. Truly inspiring.

Miraculously, Coach T survived. He was reportedly "dead" for minutes on the way to the hospital. The cause was from a massive heart attack. He would, obviously, not be back for the remainder of that school year which made training very difficult as he was the rock for the team. I was able to visit him a few times in the months after the heart attack and every time it was pretty difficult. We were very close prior to the heart attack, but he did not remember me when he saw me. He was having to re-learn everything from mundane tasks to his family's names. It was very hard to see him like this.

Track season went okay. I ended up with personal bests of 4:32 and 1:59 for the 1600m and 800m respectively. The training just wasn't the same without Coach T there and the team, unfortunately, slacked off quite a bit without his presence. However, coming into my junior year was going to put me as the number one runner on the team. Over the summer, I was gearing up for a very fast and very telling year within my running career..

( You can read a short article on Coach T's recovery and review here: )

Monday, February 2, 2015

Part 1: The Beginning

I thought it would be a beneficial to post my history in regards to running. This may give some people a quick review of where my running came from, past accomplishments, and past struggles. This may prove boring to some, but it gives a good insight into where I came from.

The first part will be aptly named - "The Beginning".

"Part 1: The Beginning"

When I was younger, I was always outdoors. Whether I was riding my bike, playing with friends, or just out exploring - I loved being outside. I remember being out late with friends running around the neighborhood and playing tag, hide and go seek, or ringing and running houses. Looking back, I should have realized where my talents lay since I was always chosen as the "runner" for ringing and running houses (doorbell ditching).  I played soccer from age 5 to 12 and was mildly successful. I was never a standout player, but could hold my own on the field. I enjoyed soccer, but for some reason I never pursued it past age 12.
I ended my soccer stint in the 7th grade. The "cool" thing in middle school was to be on the football team, so I decided that was the sport I wanted to pursue. However, being short and scrawny at the time did not get me much play time at all (literally none). I remember always being on the sidelines and wanting a sport that I could excel at, but had no idea what I could possibly do since there was nothing else "popular" that I was good at. So that spring I went out for the track team - just as all of the football players did. The coaches tried to figure out which events are best for each kid, but we had so many people that I think it was difficult to spend time on every individual. I kind of stood silent in the back and even on our "mile" runs, I would be mixed in the middle of the pack. Eventually, I landed on pole vaulting (I think just because one of my friends was doing it). It was fun, but I was terrible at it. Something about a short, weak, skinny kid trying to fling himself through the air and over a bar just did not work out. Once again, I did not compete in any track & field events that year and watched from the sidelines.

8th grade came around. Same thing, different year. I went out for the football team again and played a very brief time in one or two games that resulted in no tackles or ball touches. Yaaaay. I was on the brink of heading to high school the next year and seriously wondered what sport(s) I could do to fit in. I think I was more concerned about "fitting in" and "being cool" at that age, as is normal I guess. Before I knew it, track & field was back around and I wasn't sure what event(s) I wanted to attempt. I started practicing with some of the middle distance guys and fared somewhat well in workouts, so my coaches decided to keep me in that group. Unfortunately, I did not run a single race throughout the season - until the District meet. Apparently, every kid needs to run at least one race during the season so they waited until the end. I was given the task of running the 800m which is, of course, one of the hardest events in track & field.  I don't remember the whole race, but I do remember the last 100m and getting outkicked. I finished 2nd overall. I was stunned. My coaches couldn't believe it. I'm pretty sure my parents would have never guessed it as well. I believe my time was around 2:13ish. I was finally given a chance at a sport and I excelled at it. It was an amazing feeling.

Our local high school had a great head coach (Coach T) that really believed in "recruiting" kids out of middle schools for cross country programs. Our 8th grade class had a "rally" in our gym in which Coach T and some of his athletes visited and talked about the program. After this "rally", Coach T came up to me and discussed the program and said that he would be very excited if I would become a part of it. After all of my failures at other sports, it really meant a lot to me that a coach actually wanted me to be a part of their team. I knew at that point that I had finally found a sport that I was good at. If only I knew how much of an impact the people I met through the sport and the sport itself would have on me...

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014 - Year in Review

Since I just started this blog at the beginning of 2015, I thought it would only be fitting to review 2014. I'll highlight some running and life events in chronological order that happened in 2014..

- In January, I was selected to become part of the Fleet Feet Racing Team. This selection has been a huge help with motivation and support of my running comeback - especially at such an early stage (only a few months after starting back running). A big shout out to our Fleet Feet Huntsville store for having this team and selecting me to be a part of it. Fleet Feet Racing Team

- Once I decided I was going to take running seriously again, I contacted my old college team mate Will Rodgers at RunningLane was created by knowledgeable and competitive runners to assist runners of all talents reach their goals. I would not be as far along as I am without their help and guidance. Definitely check them out. RunningLane and RunningLane on Facebook

- I was selected as part of the Earthfare Earthlete Ambassador program. This was another great program that I am thankful I was selected for. Earthfare provides the best organic and nutritional foods in the Huntsville area and I am proud to support them. Earthfare

- The spring racing season started out with the Covefest 5k. This was a flat, fast course but unfortunately I believe it was a 3mile course instead of a 5k since I finished 1st overall with a 17:07.

- My next spring race was the Double Helix 5k in Research Park. With good competition, I was able to get 2nd overall with a 17:25 finish. Not too bad and was feeling much better.

- My last goal race of the spring was a last spur of the moment to try and get under 17min for the 5k. My workouts had proven that I was in shape to do so, so we picked the certified and fast course at the PCRA 5k in Priceville. A BIG thank you to Brandon York for assisting me with pacing duties for the first two miles. I felt great, but my lack of endurance showed up on the last mile. I finished with a 17:02 and the overall win by almost 2min. A good race, but just shy of my goal.

- After that race, my summer running was essentially was put on hold. My wife and I welcomed our baby boy, Leland, into the world on June 18. It was one of the best moments of my life. My wife had a pretty rough delivery, so we are very thankful that both her and Leland are okay. 

- Shortly after that, I started having some heartburn issues. We scheduled an endoscopy in July, but had to stop it shortly after it started because of my abnormal heart rhythm. Long story short, this was followed with a appointment at The Heart Center to perform a stress test, echocardiogram, and eventually a cardiac MRI. All of these tests came back normal and the structure of my heart is perfectly fine (GREAT news!). Apparently, my rhythm is just weird (actual electrical rhythm - my heart rate, heartbeat, blood pressure, etc are all normal).

- Unfortunately, these medical issues put quite a damper on my training. I was a little paranoid until I got the all clear and even then I wasn't 100% mentally into it. My mileage total for the month of October was only a mere 50miles.

- Jumping back into training, I had the Liz Hurley 5k coming up. With not much training under my belt, I was able to finish 6th overall with a 17:26 which was almost 1min faster than my 2013 time. I was very excited about this race and executed a very nice race plan.

- After this race, I started to put the hammer down on some training mileage in preparation for the Recover from the Holiday's 50k on December 31. I chose to do this 50k since it is a very laid back event and simply 10 loops of a 3mile course. A few weeks out from the race, I was able to complete a 17mile training run (my longest run ever) with Brandon York averaging under 7min pace (last few miles in the 6:30's or less), so I was feeling fairly confident in being able to complete the race. The goal was to finish between 4:30-5hours.

- The 50k started out great. I ran with a few others during the first 6miles, but after that it was a solo journey. I was running most miles between 7:40-8:00 pace for the first 22miles and feeling good. I was in 3rd place by a few minutes and was wondering if I was actually going to finish 3rd overall on my debut 50k. Unfortunately, my legs decided otherwise and started cramping very bad around mile 23. It was downhill from there. I was limited to having to walk the uphills and jog the downhills (~10min pace) for the last 8 or so miles. In that time I was passed by 11 people, but I still stuck with the grind and finished 14th overall in 4:52 - still within my goal!

There were a few races and events that I left out, but that summarizes the year pretty well as far as running and large life events go. Looking forward to see what 2015 has to offer!