Winter Training camp began with a nice long drive from ZAP to Tallahassee, FL. The drive can only be measured by things like the number of times you hear Taylor Swift’s Blank Space or the number of padiddles you saw from oncoming traffic. For the record it was 11 and 51. Driving alone for 9-10 hours is an extremely odd experience. You have your ups and downs, the time goes by so slowly, and then one minute, you’re there and it’s over. I didn’t know it at the time, but that drive was foreshadowing the next 10 weeks.
I used Tallahassee (7 weeks) and then Greenville or G-Vegas (3 weeks) as a platform to focus up on my running. My focus and drive were semi-comparable to the fabled Quinton Cassidy. But instead of living as a hermit in the woods of Northern Florida, I was living in a heartbreak hotel with my teammates. But like him, all I really did during this trip is run, eat, and sleep. Part of this focus was avoiding such vices as drinking, junk food, staying up late, and well, women. Yes, I was about as fun as a funeral.
However, doing all the right things doesn’t guarantee success or in my case, health. My indoor season was a short one. I might have been a little overly optimistic about where my fitness was, especially coming off the Mexico debacle. I opened up at the Auburn Invite in Birmingham, AL. Although I looked at this meet as a rust buster, it hurt quite a bit to get roughed up by some college guys. I ran 4:11/8:30, marks I haven’t run since my freshmen year of college. Two weeks later I ran just under 4:05 for a Mile up in Boston. I ran much better, but still didn’t have the strength to kick with the leaders. Things were looking up though, I was running better workouts, more mileage, and faster times in each race. Each week of quality training was starting to compound on itself and it looked like I should be in shape to run around my 3K pr (7:52) at the Millrose Games. But sometimes things take a wrong turn. It was pretty tough for me to have to pull the plug on the Millrose games due to my 3rdsickness in 11 weeks, but I guess the Rolling Stones had it right when they wrote You can’t always get what you want. I don’t believe in Karma, but you have to wonder if your luck is just that bad. Or maybe it’s just Murphy’s fuckin Law. Anyways, it was very frustrating to have another major setback, especially when I was finally starting to round into shape. There are two directions to go, but one correct way. Go back to what you know, get healthy and get back to work.
The Cold War ended in victory after a week of extra care, but it didn’t come without its losses, namely some fitness. But it was time to get back to work in preparation for my outdoor season. The first target on the calendar was the Encinitas Mile out in California.
I made my way out to the West Coast last Thursday in two parts. The first part was a drive from Greenville, SC to the Charlotte Airport. Over the past couple of weeks I have been watching the Netflix original House of Cards, so it was pretty cool to drive through Frank Underwood’s hometown of Gaffney, SC. Unfortunately the Peachoid water tower was under construction so I couldn’t get that coveted fan-boy instagram photo. But hey, there will be other opportunities. The second part of the trip was the 5 hour direct flight to San Diego.
Upon arrival I met up with Mark Sarno, one of the race directors and my host for the weekend. Man what an awesome guy. We immediately bonded over some major commonalities, namely being a miler, music (including both playing the drums), and nerding out over his comic book collection, so epic!! Both he and his wife Laura were incredible hosts, they made me feel right at home and part of their family. I also met some other great people over the course of the trip. It was pretty much a dream come true to meet 3:47 miler Steve Scott, a guy I have looked up to for years. He didn’t disappoint either, he’s an awesome dude. It was also pretty awesome to meet the man behind the McMillan Running Calculator, Greg McMillan. I have been using his equivalent performances calculator since early high school to set racing goals. Again, another awesome guy. But I made a really good friend in Nick Scarpello, a former Big Ten Conference competitor at Penn State, and my rabbit for this race. Nick showed me around the area which was cool because we got to run at some pretty sweet places, and check out the beaches.
On the morning of the race I got myself into a pretty funny situation on the shakeout run. I actually got locked out of the house after shutting the door. Whoops haha. I spent the next 15 minutes climbing around the outside fences of Mark and Laura’s beautiful home. After checking every door and window, I searched for a spare key under every object near the house to no success. Had to laugh at myself for getting locked out. Decided to just relax on the doorsteps and watch the sun come up over the mountains. There was no reason to sweat anything because I knew when Nick came to pick me up it would get sorted out, which it did.
Got to the meet with more than enough time to settle in and prepare myself for my first race in 6 weeks. I did a really good job relaxing myself and taking care of business to get fully loosened up for the race. About 10 minutes before the start, my main competition had to pull out due to an injury. That was a little disappointing, but there was still a race to be run and won. Nick was going to pace me to the half mile turn around cone in 2:02, which was good because this was my first road mile, and the first time I have ever run a race with a 180 degree turn. His pacing would take a lot of the burden off of me to the lead the whole way.
In the end, the race just didn’t play out for a fast time. It was a slight uphill on the way out with a breeze, so Nick had to do a lot of work. I took over the lead at the half way point as planned in around 2:07. Knowing that I wasn’t on a crazy pace I didn’t have the urgency to push it from that far out. Instead I settled in to save for a kick. I saw two challenges from two different guys from 800 to 1K, and 1K to the 1200. I made a pretty strong move between 300 and 400 meters out to secure my first win as a professional!! What a memorable moment!!
I won in 4:14, but the time is irrelevant, I came out here with one job and one goal, win the race, and that’s what I did. It felt pretty damn cool to win a race again, it’s been a little while since the last one and the feeling never gets old.
The Encinitas Mile was a really cool event, they had heats for all levels of runners, including a dog mile. I felt very honored to be invited to this race, and win it. The crowd was very supportive and fun. I met so many great people who came down to the event to race or watch. After getting breakfast with the finishers, Nick and I set out to go surfing. We drove just north of Encinitas to Taramar Beach. I didn’t have a lot of success catching waves which helped me earn the title of the Carlsbad Kook haha.
Capped off the trip with a long run in the morning with Mark and Nick, and an awesome going away breakfast with Mark and Laura. It was a shame that I had to leave because I felt so in my element hanging out with Scarp and Mark, and cooking with Laura. There really isn’t enough words to describe my gratitude for their hospitality, it was next to none (Mom if you’re reading this, you know you’re still the best). I had such an amazing experience, I accomplished everything I set out to do on this trip.
It’s hard to believe that 10 weeks have gone by. It had its ups and downs, it was short and long, but it ended on a high note. It feels good to return to the mountains and get back to work.
Fade to Black.