2011 In Review

I am back from my Caribbean cruise and my last winter break ever is now over. Last Wednesday I arrived back in Flagstaff, delighted by the lack of snow on the ground. I had my last first day of class this week. Weird. Looking forward to finishing this thing called “school.” The NAU Track team already had their first meet a week ago, so coaching has certainly begun in earnest.

Before I continue on with my adventures of 2012, I want to recap 2011 (as I did for 2009 and 2010)…

2011 began with my right hand in a brace. At the end of 2010 I had a bit of a sore knee, so I sought refuge in the pool and on the bike. While on a bike ride I took a wet corner too sharp and crashed. I got some pretty good scrapes on my leg and ended up with a broken bone in my wrist. When people saw the brace on my right hand and asked, “What happened?,” I would reply, “Cross training.”

My parents showed, once again, who the favorite child is and took me to Hawaii. We spent a couple of days in Honolulu, then flying over to Kauai to see my Aunt Pauline. I had a wonderful time with my parents, as I always do, relaxing on the beach and eating some really good meals.

My final track seasons snuck up quickly, making my indoor debut at the Husky Classic. After a tough winter, I really wanted to see where I was at and go for a big PR in the 3k. Instead, I matched the same time I had ran at that meet three years prior, 8:26. At that meet I got to watch Chris Solinsky destroy a fairly solid field in the mile. I wrote a piece in homage of him and all the other members of the FTC crew.

Sharing the lead in the "5k" with Ahmed Osman and Andrew Belus

I took my first trip of the year to Pocatello, ID for the indoor conference champs. There was quite a fiasco in the 5k with us running an extra lap (5200m PR!). The 3k was another lack-luster performance for me and we lost the meet as a team by half a point. That was tough to take, especially since I knew I was capable of so much more.

Back to the Flagstaff trials I went and started logging my signature 100-mile weeks. I ran three consecutive centuries heading into my first outdoor meet at the Stanford Invitational. Finally I set a new PR in the 5k, running 14:37. I fell off a bit the last mile of the race, so I was confident with a little rest I would be able to bring that time down even more.

My next major race was my 25-lap debut, the 10k at the Mt. Sac Invitational. That whole race, meet, trip was an experience and one I won’t soon forget. I set myself up for a great time, hitting halfway in 14:52 and feeling good. 10k on the track is a delicate thing, as I learned that night, and pushing just a little too hard can make the wheels come right off. I struggled the last few kilometers. I rallied best I could the last lap and closed in a 31 second 200, passing another runner in the closing meters to finish in 30:01. That final kick would prove to be worth so much more than a couple seconds.

2011 I was fortunate to meet some amazing people, and Bernard Lagat was one of them. The amount of talent he has is just ridiculous. I asked him about world championship and Olympic races, and heard about some of his training. Thanks to David McNeill and Mo for inviting me over to share a few meals with this legend.

I like to think of myself as a pretty resilient runner. In my long running career, I have only had a few injuries. My 2010 track campaign, however, was canned with a sever case of Plica Syndrome in the knee. And after a steeplechase workout in April of 2011, my track season took a turn for the worse. Within days of the workout I wasn’t running — forced to cross train just a couple weeks before the conference championships. I went into the meet a little banged up, but determined to give it everything I had.

When the meet was all said and done, I had just two points to my name (thanks to a 7th place finish in the 10k) and the biggest blister I have ever seen! In terms of racing, it was probably one of my worst track meets ever. But it was clear that I made an impression on a few of my teammates, and that made it all worth it.

My season looked to be all but finished. There was still a very outside chance that I could qualify for the NCAA Preliminary round in the 10k, but things were not looking good. I was ranked 65th, and only 48 athletes were accepted. In perhaps the greatest miracle of my 24 years, I was given the chance to compete for NAU one more time.

I had booked my ticket to Eugene, OR and enjoyed every minute of that trip. I was well aware of the gravity of the situation — competing in my last track meet ever, in my first track meet ever in Track Town USA. My parents and my Farfar came to watch, which means so much to me now. At the conclusion of those 25 laps at Hayward Field, I effectively became once a runner.

With the end of collegiate athletics, I began a new dream in triathlons. I was now a “bona fide” collegiate recruit, identified by USA Triathlon, and began working with Ian Murray of Triathlon Training Series. Before things got too serious, I had some fun racing in the Tahoe Relays and spending time with friends back in Simi doing stuff like this…

I began my triathlon season at the Breath of Life in Ventura, winning for the second consecutive year. My swimming had improved a lot from 2010, but in ever race I would do in 2011, it was clear that a lot of work still needed to be done in the pool. I headed north for my next race: The San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island.

Once again I have the best supporters. Thank you to Danielle Hunt, Mo and her parents, Peg and Chris, for coming out to cheer me on!

This would be my first chance to earn an elite license by finishing within the top 3. I started the race out with a good swim, the best bike I have ever had, and a solid run to take the victory! I had such a good time that week with Mo and her family (and Danielle Hunt as well!) and capping it off with that win was special.

In July I spent about a week at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. I finally got to meet Barb Lindquist, who I owe a lot of my success as a triathlete to, as well as a few other athletes in the same boat with me.

At the end of August I traveled to Burlington, Vermont for the Age Group National Championships. I wanted to make it 3-for-3 on the year and take the W, but came up short. There were certainly some very talented athletes there, ones that I will hopefully have a chance to race again in the future.

Once I returned to Flagstaff for my last year of grad school, I morphed into Coach PD. I couldn’t just go cold turkey from the Lumberjack cross country team and I am very thankful Coach Heins asked me to join the coaching staff for the year. I had a great time traveling with the team to the meets, really enjoying the lack of nerves I am used to from lining up at the start line with a few hundred of the fittest athletes in the NCAA.

At this point I was now officially a pro triathlete, which most people assume means that I make money from the sport. Not yet. I went to the Interbike convention in Las Vegas to sell myself. I learned that I have a lot to learn in this department.

I continued to focus most of my energy on improving my swim. I did a 200-800 swim test to measure my improvement, and came up with 2:10/9:41 (3″/29″ improvements). I still got destroyed in my first pro race at the Myrtle Beach ITU Pan American Cup about a week later. Honestly I was just happy to finish the race and to be able to take away a few valuable lessons for next year.

Tim Freriks, a friend and runner on the cross country team, said this in a local newspaper interview:

LJ: From an athlete???s standpoint, there have been a lot of teammates, mentors and coaches that have influenced you as a player. Out of all of them in the past or present, who has influenced you the most in your career, or as a person?

TF: There are two big ones. One of which was my high school coach. He really influenced the mentality that I have now, working hard and grinding through it. And also Jason Pedersen; he???s a graduate assistant coach for us now. His mentality and work ethic is like second to none. He was running 110 miles a week, he ate right, slept well, [and was a] straight-A student in mechanical engineering, so it was a template I wanted to follow. He did it right and it paid off, so I want to do the same thing.

That made my day.

In November I jumped into a little race down in Phoenix, the AMICA 19.7 sprint. I had taken a bit of time off from the bike, and that was clear in that race. I finished only 26″ out of winning $500, and learned that you can’t fake anything in the professional ranks.

Finally, before 2011 was over, I wrote about my barrier to success. I swam 40,000 yards in a week for the first time, and planned to focus on the swim throughout the winter.

On to 2012!

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