Check out Part 1, “The Rise“, if you haven’t already!
The rise, the peak, and the fall. A year in review.
Winning is everything. Second, ninth, one hundredth, they’re all the same. Outside of your close knit group and yourself, you can have mini milestones, personal records, breakthrough performances, disappointments and big failures that your ride or dies will take notice. But toe the line as the winner, things change.
A week after the US track and field championships, I dove straight into Tinman training. No gimmicks, nothing hard, nothing easy, just a well-balanced and scientific approach to training. In previous training plans, I’d make an emphasis to establish a build, base, and peak phase. Where each phase had specific training components that would help me peak for a race down the road. Tom’s training plan meshed all of these components together to ensure I was a well-rounded athlete all year long. This was a completely new experience for me and for the first time in my life I never felt burnt out and always felt ready to race on any given day. An idea that would have seemed mystical to me back in the day but seems like an obvious approach now that i reflect on it. Every week felt easier and fitness was coming at me fast… but I didn’t really know how fast.
My first test was at the US 10 mile championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota. To say I was excited to test out my new fitness was an understatement. When the gun finally went off, I didn’t hold back and took the field out in 9:05 through two miles (Strava). Heck, my high school PR in the two mile was 9:14. I was feeling fast… Super-fast. Never in my life had I felt so effortless.
After graduating college, I made a stretch goal of placing top ten at a US championship event. Up until this point, the best I had placed was 16th at the US club cross country championships in 2017. After flying through the first two miles, I had a strong inkling that today was going to be my day. With a little less than 2 miles to go, my body began to form its own opinion. Side cramps started taking over and I had to watch as my top ten place slipped away. I waltzed in at disappointing 13th place but was energized with my performance. I had set a personal record by over a minute and knew there was a lot left in the tank if my body held up.
Back to the grinding stone I went.
A month after the US 10 mile championships, I got a second chance to test my limits at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. I had just completed the best week of training of my life and workouts were finally clicking after 14 weeks of grinding. I knew I was due for a breakout day.
My goal going into the race was to run sub 63:20 which would put me under the Olympic Marathon trials standard of 64:00 and beat my personal record of 64:08. I was also fortunate enough to be racing with my former college teammate Reed Fischer who was gunning for 63:00 in his debut half marathon. I figured I would try to hang onto him as long as I could to accomplish my mission.
To save you all the boredom, it wasn’t until mile 10 of the half marathon when my swag was born. I was hanging onto Edwin Kibichy and Reed Fischer as we crossed the 10 mile marker about 10 seconds off of 63:00 pace after being on pace all race. A stroke of adrenaline hit me to get us back on track so I took off and started clicking off 4:44 mile pace. The faster I progressed, the better I felt. Never in my life had I felt so strong. Mile 11 4:44, Mile 12, 4:37, mile 13 4:35 before breaking the tape in a new course record of 62:39 (Strava). I was bigger and badder than I had ever imagined. I was back.
Shortly after the race, my agent called to congratulate me on my performance and gauge what this performance meant for my goals at the US marathon championships taking place a month later. I couldn’t contain my newly discovered ego and confidently said I’d be going for the win. I even called a victory in a rabbit press release the week before the race. The big headed brogan was back.
Running has always been a part of my identity. As soon as I was able, my dad mapped out a mile route for me to run and thus began the creation of me. Even while I was a baseball player, student, wrestler, coworker, or friend I was always identified as that guy who runs. An identity that I can’t escape and an identity that I wholeheartedly embrace.
I built my whole life around one characteristic only to find out that characteristic can fade away. I struggled and fought to bring that identity back for years only to dig a deeper grave through over-training. I was a nobody. My identity had vanished.
I failed for over 2,555 days and struggled to grasp who I was. Over time, I found new outlets to define myself through work, hobbies, friends and family but deep down I knew who I wanted to be. I knew I was better than my results and I was going to damn well prove it.
Welcome to the greatest 6 minutes of my life:
This race was something so much bigger than a national title. This was a pursuit of finding me again. If I had given up on my pursuit, I never would have experienced the greatest moment of my life.
“if you give up on your dream, you’ll never know when your next big breakthrough is about to happen.”