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.
Most would call it an ego but I write it off to competitiveness. Growing up, I had many lessons of failure. I distinctly remember playing my first year of little league sitting in right field, most of the time not completely understanding how the sport worked. I went around tagging people with my glove hoping it would get people out. Little did I know, you needed the ball to do so. With the help of teammates laughing at me and a sympathetic babysitter, I trained all off-season and got my first dose of work ethic. The next year, I helped pitch our team to an undefeated season. After that, I spent every off-season practicing football, baseball, running, and basketball with all the neighborhood kids. Calling up everyone’s home phones the old fashion way and setting up play dates. I quickly learned that if you wanted something, you could work for it.
I applied my newfound knowledge to everything in life. If I lost, I needed to figure out how to get better. With the help of coaches, teammates, parents, and a competitive brother, I won state titles in baseball, cross-country, and track. I competed at the varsity level in wrestling, was elected class president, excelled in the classroom, and received all state honors in orchestra. You give me a goal and I was going to achieve it.
There you have it, a big headed, ego driven (it’s just competitiveness y’all), goal smashing, naïve little boy. I took my high school eagerness into college ready to take on more and I got it. I finished the year as the second fastest division I true freshmen in the 10k. Only behind the infamous Parker Stinson. At this point, I can barely fit my giant noggin through doorways.
(enter reality check)
The next 7 years, I fail. I fail a lot. I’m put through a slow and painful dismantling. Brick by brick, my running foundation was removed until nothing was left. Each year was met with more disappointment and a stronger drive to work harder. I had spent my childhood proving that work ethic equates to success and I was going to prove the same in college. Work harder and good things will come. At my peak, I was running 114×100 meter hill repeats on Tuesday, 10 mile tempo on Thursday, 14×800 meter hill repeats on Saturday, and 20 mile long run on Sunday for a total of 120 miles a week. I wasn’t afraid to work hard, I had worked hard my whole life.
Mental fortitude never let me down but my body’s ability to keep up faltered. Mono, two stress fractures, and a four year bout with anemia attempted to slow me down but I found other ways to keep working hard. My body was telling me no but I had bigger plans. Eventually, my mind started to give up on me. My senior year, I’d often go on late night runs hoping I’d be hit by a car so I’d have an excuse to stop. I was defeated, ego checked, and my identity was in crisis mode. I finished my senior year of college running slower than any previously year. I was humbled but I wasn’t done. I needed to win again.
I wasted a college career chasing greatness but only found failure. Although, not complete failure. l learned an invaluable lesson about balance and its key to implementing in my life and training if I wanted to find long-term success. While balance was at the forefront of my mind, I still wanted to prove to myself that I was better than my outdated PRs. Lots of self-doubt comes into play when you don’t PR after 4 years. Especially when all of the biology books state male bodies peak in their mid to late 20’s. Even if I was doing minimal work, my times should have improved. I was once one of the best runners in the nation and I wanted to prove those capabilities still existed.
Post collegiate, I spent the next few years under training to compensate for my years of over training. Often running as far as my body felt for the day plus mixing in a weekly workout and long run to keep the legs sharp. My body began to bounce back, my chronic anemia resolved, I saw some improvement and even won a couple races. My love for running slowly crawled its way back.
By year three, my performances had become stagnant and my peers in high school and college had begun to surpass me. While my competitiveness was anxious to hop on the training wagon to catch up, I was patient with my process and knew what I needed to do to get back to my old self. It wasn’t until my former college teammate Reed Fischer placed fourth in the 10k at the US track and field championships that I knew it was time. I was jealous, the fire had been lit. I had patiently waited three years to get back after it and now it was my turn to find success. I was tired of watching my friends celebrate victories and PRs while I watched from the sidelines. The next day, I contacted Reed’s coach, Tom (Tinman) Schwartz and thus began the rise.