Thankful for Running

12-Jaclyn451As the tagline of RunPD suggests, I’ve been running for about as long as I can remember. My sister, Jaclyn, got the family started by joining the Simi Valley Running Rebels (then it was part of the Simi Valley Vikings, actually). This motivated my mom to take it up as an adult despite never running growing up. It took just a couple of years following Jaclyn and my mom around track meets and cross country courses before my brother, Andrew, and I decided to join in on the??fun.

Many years, practices, races, and careers have past since then.??To say running has shaped our lives is an understatement. Many of our closest friends and fondest memories came from the sport. Both Jaclyn and I would have attended different universities had it not been for our high school running, and it’s crazy to think how different our lives would be now. Heck, running is 1/3rd of my current profession!

I am thankful for a lot of things, but it seems fitting to highlight running during this time of year for my family. For quite a while now, Thanksgiving and running have gone hand-in-hand.

Today, my mom and I raced in a local turkey trot here in Simi.**


A couple years ago, I raced in one of the biggest and oldest turkey trots in Cincinnati when I was in Northern Kentucky visiting some of Mo’s family for the holiday.

I spent four of the six years I was at NAU in Terre Haute, IN on the Monday before Thanksgiving at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. In 2009, the Lumberjacks finished??4th.


Before that, my family made a trip nearly every year between 1997-2005 to Fresno, CA for the CIF State Cross Country Championships. Jaclyn??was Royal High School’s first ever individual qualifier. In 2001, Andrew was apart of the school’s first team qualification — that team finished as a very surprising??runner-up. In 2003, my team backed that up with another 2nd, and then went onto winning Royal’s first state titles in any sport in 2004 and 2005.

2005 Royal Cross Country

Finally, as I joked on Facebook earlier this week, Hillside Middle School’s Turkey Trot was dominated by kids named “Pedersen” and “Ramirez”– our closest family friends — in the ’90’s and up until 2001. Back then I wasn’t racing for money, but only for glory in the form of t-shirts that didn’t actually fit until four years later.10620829_10203981574832348_1002107068959833302_n

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for running, all the people and memories it has brought me, and to be able to still find joy in it everyday.

Tom the Turkey says, "Happy Thanksgiving!"
Tom the Turkey says, “Happy Thanksgiving!”

**I finished 2nd at Simi Valley’s “Thanksgiving Day 5k” today to former high school teammate, Jun Reichl. It was a fun race running in front with him. I don’t think either of us wanted to push it especially hard, and opted to leave it down to a sprint finish, and he won! My mom also raced, finishing 3rd in her age group! What’s more impressive is that she was preparing our turkey at 5:30 am before the race, and she hasn’t stopped cooking since! Strava file of the race (15:56) and some photos on Facebook??from my dad.

Ironman Arizona: watching a full triathlon

Have you ever done a full triathlon?

Whenever I tell someone I am a professional triathlete, I usually get a response like, “Do you do Ironman?” Or, “Have you done the one on Hawaii?” I usually get a look of disinterest when I tell them I specialize in Olympic distance races, and have yet to complete a “full triathlon.” Sorry, but I’m not slow enough to be an Ironman triathlete. I take that back — that was mean. I have always respected the idea of racing for eight hours or more, I’m just more interested in that one to two hour zone.

Since I have been staying with my girl friend Mo in Tucson the past three weeks, I decided to make the quick drive up to Tempe yesterday to watch friends Jordan Rapp and Trevor Wurtele (also The Triathlon Squad teammate) compete at Ironman Arizona and see what this??long course triathlon business is all about. (Shout out to Mo and her #2 ranked and undefeated University of Arizona women’s cross country team competing at this weekend’s NCAA Championships!)



In case you didn't know...
In case you didn’t know…

When I got to the course, the pro men and women had just started the bike. I found the man in the orange shirt in Starbucks, of course, who had celebrity Heather Wurtele with him! Heather’s parents, whom are very proud Canadians, were also there and came out to watch their son-in-law race. (We took it easy on the Rob Ford jokes.) After getting a quick jolt of energy (coffee for them, recharge of my phone and camera for myself), we headed back to the course to see the end of the first lap of the bike.??After the first lap, Matt Reed was on the front of the big lead group and both Jordan and Trevor had cut a bit of their swim deficit to the leaders. By the second lap, Jordan had ridden through the leaders and was now on the front! Trevor had also cut out a lot of time to the main pack.

Matt Reed led the way at the end of the first bike lap.
Matt Reed led the way at the end of the first bike lap.
Jordan Rapp had the fastest bike split of the day.
Jordan Rapp had the fastest bike split of the day.
Coach Paulo giving Trevor Wurtele time gaps.
Coach Paulo giving Trevor Wurtele time gaps.

The bike looks like it gets pretty crazy out there. With a three lap course, the pro’s are lapping much slower riders after just an hour or so of racing. Other than the first lap, it seems like referees would have a hell of a time trying to catch anyone drafting — there are just people everywhere! I am thankful that I do not have to deal with that craziness as a short course triathlete.

After getting some water, a snack (bag of cheetos for myself), bathroom, and some more sitting around (checking Twitter), the guys finally started to come into T2. Jordan led, followed by Pedro Gomes in 2nd and Trevor in 3rd. Jordan had a couple minutes on Pedro Gomes, and I think about six minutes on Trevor and the pack just behind.

Trevor Wurtele was 3rd coming into T2.
Trevor Wurtele was 3rd coming into T2.
Jordan Rapp headed out of T2 with a sizable lead.
Jordan Rapp headed out of T2 with a sizable lead.

The run was definitely more entertaining to watch than the bike. We ran across Tempe Town Lake on the Mill Ave bridge and were able to see them four times each lap + the finish. It struck me that no one really seemed to be running very fast — because they weren’t. Ironman run pace is so much slower than any pace you will ever see competitive runners or short course triathletes running. That isn’t to say it is, or even??looks, easy. Just another observation I made yesterday leading me to the conclusion that Ironman is??hard (because if it were easy, they would be running faster!).

Jordan would hold his lead through the first lap before Victor del Corral came charging by to take the victory. After about midway through the bike, Jordan was basically on his own the rest of the day. Kudos to him for “keeping the pressure on,” as Paulo likes to say, and holding onto 2nd place.

Jordan Rapp: "keep the pressure on"
Jordan Rapp: “keep the pressure on”
Victor del Corral early on the run.
Victor del Corral early on the run.
Apparently the race began with thousands of people swimming here -- that was over five hours ago.
Apparently the race began with thousands of people swimming here — that was over five hours ago.

Trevor’s race was pretty exciting. Between spots 3-7 there was quite a lot of passing going on. After starting the run in 3rd, Trevor fell back to 6th at one point, moved back up to 4th, and ended up finishing in 6th. The race was ON the whole time. I struggled with what I should yell to both Trevor and Jordan as they ran passed each time. Generally when I am watching a race, I have constructive comments to make, or I try to say something that will help inspire and get their inner-voice to give some positive self talk. I realized I have no idea what they must be going through at this stage of the race. I felt unqualified to yell much of anything besides, “GO TREVOR!” or, “COME ON JORDAN!”


Some of the guys Trevor was battling:

Pedro Gomes
Pedro Gomes of Portugal
Marc Duelson of Germany
Marc Duelson of Germany
Jens Petersen-Bach
Jens Petersen-Bach of Denmark
Denis Chevrot of France
Denis Chevrot of France

After about 7.5 hours of racing, it hit me: they were still racing! These guys are animals!


Long course spectating looks a lot like this. Note to self: bring more nutrition next time. I was starving!
Long course spectating looks a lot like this. Note to self: bring more nutrition next time. I was starving!

Some final takeaways. After watching, does this make me want to do an Ironman???I do, but not tomorrow. Watching Ironman Arizona really did make me more interested in doing one, but not enough to throw the Olympic dream out the window. I have doubted whether I would ever want to do one as a pro, but I think after yesterday, I actually would like to give it a go as a pro, perhaps in the twilight years of my career as you often see from other ITU-focused athletes.

I know how much hard work these athletes put into their training and I have always respected them for that. I think yesterday gave me some new appreciation for what these guys (and girls, of course) put themselves through on the individual day. This race is so long that there is no doubt everyone goes through some very very dark moments, hopefully spaced out with some really high highs. It was pretty inspiring seeing the quantity of athletes out there just drilling themselves, going for it, and blowing up.

Again, not something I’m dying to do tomorrow, but a “full triathlon” is something I’d like to experience in my life.

Wrestling with Olympic Dreams

Wrestling, one of the earliest and most elemental Olympic sports, was dropped from the Summer Games on Tuesday in a stunning and widely criticized decision by the??International Olympic Committee. (The New York Times)

I am a fan of The Olympic Games; I love everything about the Games, and everything that they stand for. They are the pinnacle of competition, perhaps the most ethnically diverse event in the world, and they only occur once every four years — which amounts to perhaps just one or two opportunities for each generation to compete. Being an Olympic Champion is rare; being an Olympian is rare; the Games themselves are rare. Is there any wonder why??anyone might dedicate their entire lives to??the dream?

I have. I am doing it now. I have moved away from home, away from a great relationship, put off higher education, distanced myself from a successful career in Engineering, and asked family to fund it all. I’m not the first person to do this — I’m confident that every Olympian has had to make similar, and often more drastic, sacrifices. For me and my fellow??dreamers, these sacrifices are easy to make knowing that we will someday have our chance to become Olympians.??Carpe diem.??If I don’t make it, it won’t be for lack of effort or commitment, but for lack of ability.??If that is my Olympic fate, that is something I can live with. I just didn’t have what it takes. The Olympics are for the very best??only.

Now imagine if the Olympics were gone. My daily motivations and sacrifices would all be in vain. All for nothing. I can’t imagine how devastating that would be. Sadly, this is what wrestlers around the world were faced with this morning. Kids that have already begun to devote themselves to??their task, being the best wrestler the world has ever seen, are now looking at a future without their dream. Perhaps I am being dramatic, but to me, this news is just devastating.

I’m not going to get into the merits of wrestling as an Olympic sport, and whether another sport should be on the chopping block instead. For any sport that has been apart of The Games for a number of Olympic quadrennials to be dropped is sad. The Olympics are about tradition, and with the exclusion of wrestling from The Games, part of that tradition is??dying.

But I realize the IOC has reasons to limit the number of events included. With every sport that is added, The Games become more and more diluted. Amazing stories, great performances, and whole sports get lost in the Olympic frenzy. But I can’t complain,??my dream wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for the IOC’s vision to keep The Games modern and evolving with the rest of the world.

I guess what I am trying to say here is that The Olympic Games are special and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I am thankful that I still have a chance to pursue my Olympic dream, and today was a great reminder of just how precious that is. You often hear people talk about the journey being just as rewarding as the end result. Well here’s to taking a moment to realize I am on that journey, now, and how fortunate I am to still be on a path that leads to The Olympics.

Brownlee Brothers Documentary

Photo: Janos M. Schmidt/ITU Media

In my mind, Alistair Brownlee is the greatest triathlete competing today. His record at the highest level of the sport, ITU’s World Triathlon Series, is staggering: 12 wins out of 15 that he’s competed at. No other men have more than 3 wins. He was World Junior, U23, and Senior Champion, a feat that no one else has accomplished before. And then there is that Olympic Gold. He is certainly one of the most dominant athletes of any sport.

Gatorade UK followed Alistair and his brother Jonathan (Bronze medalist) as they prepared for the London Olympics. This video isn’t one of those training day videos like we’ve seen Specialized do with other triathletes (which are great too), but more of a series of interviews from different perspectives stating why they are the best in the world.??In this documentary, I think it shows it is a combination of three things.

    1. They have the genetics. No one becomes the best at anything without having a certain level of talent. Alistair has said in the past that he thinks he’s actually pretty slow and doesn’t naturally possess that fast twitch that some of his competitors do, making him sound like just another clumsy endurance athlete. His “talent” lies in his capacity to train. Much like Galen Rupp’s “key to success lies in his ability to recover (via Steve Magness),” the Brownlee Boys are so good because they can handle more training.

I marvel at the capacity that they have for training and the focus that they’ve got on training… They do have to push themselves beyond what a normal person would push themselves through. But they actually quite enjoy doing that — that’s what they do.

    1. That quote touches on the next point. They have a passion for their sport. The physical capacity to train means nothing if you can’t motivate yourself to push hard everyday. They like to swim, bike, run; they like to compete; they love to win, and that’s what they’ve spent their lives doing.

??When Alistair got injured, it wasn’t about “Oh I’m not going to be able to race in this race; I’m not going to be able to do that and I’m not going to be able to do that.” It was just purely a, “Oh, I just can’t go out and run.” And that’s what he loves doing, that’s how he relaxes, that’s how he de-stresses, that’s just what he loves doing.

Obviously obsessiveness can drive you to get up everyday and drive you to do that, but I think it can’t necessarily drive you to push that little bit further when you need to sometimes, and I think that’s when enjoyment and love for the sport take you that little bit further.

  1. Finally, they have each other. They have the ultimate daily training environment in the world (in Northern England of all places…). To be the best, you have to surround yourself with the best.

I have had the advantage to train with the world’s best triathlete. I can see exactly what he did, exactly what he did the year before to become world champion, and exactly what he’s doing now. It’s a massive advantage because you’re learning from the best, you’re learning from the top of the sport, and you think, “you know, you’ve got to be right.”

As I move forward with my own triathlon career, I will aim to maximize those three things in an effort to see my full potential. Whether that is winning a sprint finish with one of the Brownlee brothers or simply standing on a podium at a Continental Cup race, only time will tell.

June 2015: This video used to be posted on Youtube. The video has since been removed. Here is a link to the video on Universal Sports.

Want more Brownlees?

The Brownlees co-authored a book called Swim, Bike, Run: Our Triathlon Story. In the book, Alistair and Jonathan recount their upbringing and how they got involved with triathlons. They also share some of their secrets that make them two of the best triathletes in the history of the sport. Buy it now on Amazon.

Sir Steven Redgrave: Playing on the river

In the plethora of NBC Olympic coverage we have recorded on the DVR, I came across this gem. It is an interview with Mary Carillo and Sir Steven Redgrave. Redgrave is considered to be one of the greatest British athletes of all time, and should be included in conversations of greatest Olympians of all time, with five gold medals in five consecutive Olympics (1984-2000). He is not a swimmer, cyclist, nor runner, but a rower. Still, Olympic Champions across all sports have a lot in common, and his words really resonate with me as I look ahead to “the next challenge.”

Every now and again you sort of look back and think, “God, how did I achieve what I achieved of winning the Olympics five times over without missing one?” But at the time it was all about the next challenge. “Are you going to give up or carry on? Do I go and get a real job or do you still want to play on the river?”

When we see someone like Michael Phelps, who’s done so much for so long, much like yourself, what is the nature of that sacrifice? How do you do something like that?

I think if you treat it as a sacrifice you could only do it for a short period of time; so it has to become a love, it has to become a passion. When people talk to me about my Olympic gold medals they want to talk about that moment; that moment of crossing the line; that moment of standing on the podium; that moment of your achievement. But actually what I look back on is the Olympiad — the four years of time between each games; is the preparation; is the hardships. That’s a hell of a lot of commitment to put in to say, “Yeah, it’s just that moment that you have that medal put around your neck,” or, “That moment as your bows go through the finishing line.”

I have found my passion, all I have to do is to get out and play on the river every day.

Losing Sleep

Amazing racing all across the country this weekend. 13:07.15 USR; 13:08.28 CR; 13:57.04 HSR; 3:54.54 CR; 7:43.08 ACR; 8:09.72 AR… the list goes on. had a nice recap of the weekend’s events, with a “Top 10 Moments in Distance Running this weekend.” Coming in at #6 was

6. Ryan Hill outkicks Diego Estrada (7:44.63) to run one of fastest collegiate 3000’s ever (and fastest ever by an American collegian)

Watch the race:

I’ve written about Diego’s attitude toward racing before, and after listening to his latest interview, it is clear to me that I still have a lot to learn from him. He really isn’t afraid to go to that dark, uncomfortable cave and go to work. In fact, he seems to flourish in that environment.

He’s yet to win a national title. Since November’s NCAA Cross Championships, where he was picked as one of the favorites to win, he says he’s “lossed a little bit of sleep.” “It shouldn’t consume me but it does.” Even after breaking the “American” Collegiate Record: “I feel like I need a little bit of redemption.”

Diego wants to be a winner. It “consumes” him. Whether it is in a few weeks at NCAA Indoor Champs, this outdoor season, or in the years ahead, I have no doubts that Diego will be a winner.

Less than three weeks until my 2012 season-opener — time to get consumed.


Watch more videos on Flotrack

Be inspirational

Jason my son ran the Mt SAC 4k youth boys race last month and improved on your SV Rebels record by 10 seconds. He will be attending Royal next year and looked toward your record as motivation! Thanks for the inspiration!

Just received this message via facebook. In my last post I wrote that I worked hard as a collegiate athlete to reach my goals. Every session I found countless ways to motivate myself to keep pushing. I remember during my final cross country season last year, I commonly said to myself, “All-American. All-American. All-American.” I would repeat it over and over and over again until the day’s work was done. It got me through mile repeats at Ft. Tuthill and long progression runs out at Bellemont.

But very rarely, if ever, did I use the power of my own performance over someone else’s for motivation. I set that “record” that this dad told me about probably 10 years ago. 10 years after giving it my all out on the hollowed grounds of the Mt. Sac cross country course, a kid comes along and uses my performance as motivation to be better — better than I was and better than himself. How cool is that?

There seems to be a theme developing here: hard work. I was recently watching a video of a training session with 3x Ironman World Champ Craig Alexander where he said, “The people that win don’t just have the most talent; they work the hardest.” I am coming to the sport of triathlon with very little swim or bike experience, but I am naive enough to think I have what it takes to be great regardless. I have an attitude and mindset in my favor. I will work hard and be inspired by others’ performances, in hopes that my hard work will someday inspire someone else. Try it yourself. It is incredibly powerful.