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  • Prenats Bound

    Posted on October 13th, 2010

    Tomorrow afternoon the NAU cross country team will be heading down the mountain to Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport enroute to beautiful Terre Haute, IN. Over the last half decade or so Terre Haute has really become a mecca of collegiate cross country; it is home to the NCAA Division 1 Pre National and National Championship meets. This weekend over 100 cross country teams will be flocking there — close to 1,000 runners — as well as countless friends, family and fans alike.

    This will be my fourth appearance at the Pre National meet, and my sixth time competing in Terre Haute. The course isn’t really anything too special; rolling hills, all grass and several loops making for a good spectator experience. To many, however, I think Terre Haute holds a special place in their hearts. It is a place where dreams have come true, or have been crushed. The unthinkable has happened on several occasions (see Jenny Barringer and Stanford last year), although it has also been the stage for the favorites a few times as well (see Sam Chalenga last year; Oregon and Sally Kipyego of years past).

    Luckily I will be showing up to Terre Haute with many more fond memories than bad ones. Last year I had one of my greatest cross country races of my long career there at the NCAA Championships, where I achieved my season-long goal of finishing within the top 100 and scoring for the fourth best team in the nation.

    But this time I am hoping to be a different runner than in trips past. My goal this year is much more ambitious, to earn an All-American certificate. Achieving that goal is so much more than just showing up on November 22 fit and healthy. I have tried to keep an attitude of someone that has one last thing to prove. Each morning, as I leave my room, I see that Post-It note above my light switch that says “Do you want to be an All-American today?” Everyday I answer that with a simple “yes” and try to live up to that promise.

    Saturday will really be some proving grounds for me. It isn’t nationals, so I obviously won’t be earning, or losing, an All-American certificate. But this will be my first opportunity to race many of the hundreds of other athletes with similar aspirations as me. I will no doubt be thinking, “this is your All-American season” as I try to show myself, and others, that my dream is within my grasps — I just have to seize it each and every day so that I can live it each and every day after November 22.

    Race assignments can be found here. There will be live coverage of the race provided by Flotrack. NAU’s race starts at 12:10pm eastern/9:10 pacific.

  • Stanford Invitational

    Posted on September 26th, 2010
    The infamous picture from my last visit to the Stanford Cross Country Invitational, back in 2005

    The infamous picture from my last trip to the Stanford Cross Country Invitational, back in 2005

    On Saturday I returned to the Stanford Cross Country Invitational in Palo Alto, CA for the first time in five years. I had a great race last time I was there, finishing 10th in the 5k Seeded race as an 18-year old senior at Royal High School. Unfortunately, shortly after that race I was plagued by IT band problems and ultimately missed six weeks of running. Thanks to a supportive team and lots of hours in the pool and on the bike, I was able to finish up the season on a positive note.

    This time was a bit different — I’m now a 23-year old graduate student finishing my fifth year of eligibility at NAU. The course has changed since then, now much flatter and longer at 8km. But standing on the starting line before the race, I realized not much has changed. Not the important things anyway. I still love this sport and I am still both amazed and inspired by the energy of a competitive cross country race. Hundreds of bodies pushing themselves across an undulating course as fast as possible for not just their own selfish gratification, but more importantly for the benefit of their six teammates that toed the line with them. What a beautiful thing. “I love the energy of the start of a cross country race,” I said under my breath as we did strides.

    I was pumped.

    The Race

    Start of the 2010 Stanford Invitational. Photo courtesy of Track And Field Photo Magazine.

    I got out pretty good behind David McNeill and Matt Coloe and luckily I didn’t fall coming off the starting line like in my last two races (George Kyte Classic and Strawberry Fields Triathlon). If you ask me, the course narrows a bit too quickly for a mens collegiate field of this size and as a result, there was a bad pileup less the 800m into the race. Rounding a sharp right hand turn, an LMU runner in front of me got tripped off and I guess I jumped out of the way, getting away unscathed. Matt was just behind me and his leg went right into the bottom of my foot and I thought for sure my spikes must have just shredded his shin. He went right around me after that, so I assumed he was fine (and after the race we confirmed that he didn’t get too banged up). I got back into the race and tried to slowly close the gap that had formed.

    Look closely, Andrew is just wearing socks.

    A couple hundred meters after the fall, Andrew Belus came by me and said, “PD, step on my left heel.” I looked down and saw that Andrew was running with only one spike, losing the other shoe back in the pile up. I think I said something like, “Dude, I’m not stepping on your heel.” In my mind, there were three possible outcomes: a) I was going to stab him in the achilles with my spikes, b) I will miss all together and we’ll have to try again, or c) I’m going to trip him or both of us. Reluctantly accepting my wishes, Andrew stepped off the course to yank the other shoe off so he was just running with two socks on. If there is anyone on our team that could handle racing 7k without shoes, Andrew is the guy. He is a “minimalist,” logging most of his miles on beat up racing flats and always looking for opportunities to get in some barefoot miles.

    While this was going on, Dave had broken away from the field with a sizable lead. Tim Freriks and Matt were also running aggressively near the back of the front pack and I knew that’s where Andrew and I belonged. I worked my way up to my teammates, passing a few runners along the way.

    The Stanford course is on a golf course with several loops tracing back over one another. Since we were unable to run the course the day before, the repetitive nature had me and Matt a bit confused on where exactly in the race we were. Heading back toward the finish line for the second time or so, I began to surge thinking the race was almost over. I hadn’t heard any splits or noticed any markers, so in my not-so-alert mental state I was easily confused. Luckily I did have some doubt so I didn’t kick all out; my comrade Matt wasn’t so fortunate as he let out a full on end-of-the-race sprint with about 2 kilometers remaining. Ouch.

    Heading to the finish "for real" this time.

    I was able to bounce back from my lapse in judgment thanks to my large aerobic base from five consecutive 100 mile weeks. I passed a few more guys the last lap and had my eyes locked on Dylan Knight from UCLA. I ran out of real estate and finished with the same time as him, 24:15 — good enough for an 11 second PR! In my chase for Dylan, I got rushed from behind by an Arkansas runner who ended up 2 seconds ahead of me. In my defense, the guy from Arkansas, Bryan Cantero, is a 1:50 800/3:41 1500 guy from France (10/18 seconds faster than my PRs!). I’ll get him next time.

    Dave won the race in a very fast 23:18. I was second for our team in 19th with Andrew just behind me in 23rd at 24:23, a 36 second PR. Tim was next in 45th at 24:47, followed by freshman Bahlbi Gebreyohanns in 56th at 25:01. Matt faded back to 80th in 25:17 and Joe Withers closed out our top-7 in 85th at 25:23. As a team we finished back in 3rd, way behind Stanford and Arkansas.

    Overall I am pleased with my performance. I wish I was more aware of where I was at in the race, but that won’t be an issue at Pre Nationals where I am very familiar with the course. As a team, considering the team we brought, I thought we did pretty well. Andrew had a great race considering the circumstances. He is a tough dude that loves to race — a huge asset to our team. Tim knows he can be up near me and Andrew and I know he has some great races in him this season. This was Matt’s first introduction to NCAA cross country, so I have high hopes for him in the future as well. . . especially if he doesn’t kick 2km out!

    We returned to Flagstaff last night and we are ready to get back to work. A few of us had a great 18 mile long run this morning discussing the race and what lies ahead for us. Exciting things I hope.

    Our next race is in three weeks at Pre Nationals in Terre Haute, IN — a place I have grown quite fond of. Can’t wait!

    Special thanks to my family for coming out and always supporting me! My mom, dad, Farfar (translates to “father’s father” in Danish), brother, sister and her boyfriend came out to see me race. I’m so lucky to have their support.

    The Pedersens

    Results | Race Recap on

  • George Kyte Classic

    Posted on September 7th, 2010

    On Saturday NAU held its annual season-opener at the George Kyte Classic at Buffalo Park. Buffalo Park is home to many past, present and future NAU Cross Country workouts and it is fitting that we open up our season there each year. The meet is always very low key for us — we don’t run most of our best runners and the ones that do generally treat the race as a tempo run. Since I had not ran a race since November of last year (excluding the summer triathlons) I wanted to at the very least treat it as a race and maybe push it a little harder the last mile or so.

    Unlike years past, with torrential rain, Saturday was very dry and hot. I tried to keep hydrated before the race and even took a Salt Stick to make sure my electrolytes were topped off as well. We started with our usual warm up 1 hour before the race with ~15 minutes of easy jogging and then looked for shade to stretch under. 20 minutes before the race we did a 3 minute LT (about 5:30 pace) to really wake the legs up. A few strides and we were ready to go.

    The Race

    Almost fell on my face right on the starting line

    I got off to a terrible start by nearly landing flat on my face on the gravel. My teammate Andrew Belus lent a quick hand and was there to do what teammates do: pick each other up (couldn’t help myself). I quickly regained my balance and worked my way to the front of the pack, and then settled into a comfortable pace. I checked behind me to make sure Tim Freriks and red shirt freshman Daniel Filipcik were behind me. The goal was to be about 5:15 at the mile and we passed the 1 mile mark right at 5:15.

    The course is made up of two roughly two-mile loops and a mile loop. At the end of the first lap, Andrew, Tim and I were still together at 10:37. From there we slowly strung apart. By this point there were only two guys ahead of me. I closed in on 2nd place towards the end of the 2nd lap and came through in 21:18 (10:41). 2nd place opened up a gap on me at this point and I think he was motivated by the gap between him and 1st place narrowing considerably. Unfortunately I fought with myself about whether to really push through the pain and race it, or keep it somewhat under control. Despite my inner conflict I managed to catch 2nd place with about 400 to go. It was clear he was more prepared to do battle than I as he threw in a big surge that I decided not to try to cover. Congrats to him for fighting; shame on me for letting up. Oh well, it is early. (Plus, didn’t Coach say “tempo?”)

    Everyone was quite a bit slower than last year, which, collectively as a team, we have blamed on the hot temperatures. I finished in 26:22, 22 seconds slower than last year. But no worries. If workouts compared to last year are any indication, we will all run much faster in the near future.

    Next Up

    Next up for some of the Lumberjacks is the Aztec Invitational in San Diego, CA on the 18th. For those of you who have been following along for a while, I had a great race there last year and even led the darn thing until finally surrendering the top three spots to my teammates. This year I will not be racing, but will be there to enjoy the 16-hour round trip bus ride and team bonding. One week later we will be in Palo Alto, CA for the Stanford Invitational — a meet I haven’t raced since high school. I’m really excited to return to Northern California to see the #1 ranked team in the country (we are ranked #3 by the way) and to set a big PR in the 8k.

    Shout Out

    I almost forgot to give a shout out to my parents for coming out to watch me race this weekend! I love it when they come to visit (eating at good restaurants is one of the many perks)! Please take a look at my Dad’s great pictures from the meet below.

    Results | Photos (by Erik Pedersen) | Recap by (including quotes from yours truly)

  • Northern Arizona ‘Team to Beat’

    Posted on August 12th, 2010

    Running Times Magazine just released some preseason rankings for the 2010 cross country season. The article’s writer, Brian Metzler, chose NAU as the “team to beat.” Read the article.

    Metzler also picked David McNeill as one of the contenders for the individual title, citing his two wins against Sam Chalenga at 5000m in the last six months.

    Check out the great photos that say “courtesy of Northern Arizona University.” I’m pretty sure those are my Dad’s!

    Metzler also interviewed Coach Eric Heins here.

  • Back in Flagstaff

    Posted on January 14th, 2010

    On Sunday I returned to Flagstaff after a great four week stay in Simi Valley. I have not been able to jump back into training with my teammates, as I am still fighting a sore knee. The good news is that I got an MRI and there is nothing serious — no tears. Basically there is some inflammation behind the patella (knee cap) that is causing the pain. When the swelling goes away, the pain should follow suit.

    My last post I mentioned setting resolutions, or goals, for the new year. With this minor setback, I may have to alter a few ambitions, but hopefully the big picture remains the same.

    2010 Goals

    • Continue to improve my running by logging high mileage weeks.
      • This track season I really want to improve my 5000 time of 14:50 and my steeplechase of 9:09.
      • Compete at NCAA Cross Country Championships once again and improve on my 95th place finish of 2009. The ultimate goal is to be an All-American — top 40.
    • Improve my swimming.
      • I will try to get in the pool at least once a week for the entire year. Obviously, when time and running permits, I will spend more time in the pool.
      • Seek out coaching to improve my stroke.
      • Compete in some of the Ventura Splash and Dash aquathlon series events, assuming the series continues in 2010.
    • Compete in more triathlons.
      • I had a great time competing in the Breath of Life triathlon last June, and will likely do this one again.
      • As of now, the San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island in July is on my calendar. As I understand the rules, if I am one of the top-3 amateurs I will earn my elite license.

    Now for a shout out: Congratulations to my girlfriend, Tina Johnson, for her first Half Marathon last Saturday! My parents and I went down to Irvine to watch Tina compete in her first race over 5k! She did a great job and I am so very impressed and proud that she has become a runner just like me.

  • 2009 Cross Country

    Posted on December 4th, 2009

    The 2009 NCAA cross country season finished a week and a half ago now. Going home for the Thanksgiving holiday allowed some time for me to think about the season, go over what went well and what needs some improving, and to start thinking about the next season.

    I officially started the 2009 cross country season on July 6th, a week after my triathlon. I jumped into a 70 mile week and followed with 80 and 90 mile weeks. It may seem a bit aggressive, but I wanted to get in as many 100 mile weeks as I could. The following week was 77 miles in 6 days (My only day off during the season. Just happened to be the only day all season that I couldn’t make any time to go for a run.) and then I started my first 100 mile week of seven.

    This season was a huge success for me. I accomplished both of the goals I set in the Summer: make the top-7 and place in the top 100 at NCAAs. As some of my teammates had some struggles this season, I was actually the only person on the team to score at all seven meets (George Kyte, Aztec, Cowboy Jamboree, Pre-Nationals, Conference, Regionals and NCAAs). When all was said and done, I logged 1,806 miles this season. I have never been as diligent about logging mileage as I was this season, so I do not have a reference to compare with, but I believe that this season far surpassed the mileage I have run in the past. Since high school, I have had a steady increase in mileage and I attribute a lot of the improvements I am making now to that.

    In Jack Daniel’s Running Formula, he says something along the lines that the benefits of high mileage are long lasting. My old teammate Marten Bostrom, who was known to run upwards of 120 mile weeks while running collegiality, talked about the benefits he gained from running such high mileage. Now, about seven months after joining the century club, I am convinced.

    With this in mind, I had a meeting with Coach Heins yesterday talking about goals for the upcoming indoor and outdoor track seasons. I told him that my ultimate goal in collegiate running was to leave NAU as an All-American — no easy task, but that is why it would mean so much. My best opportunity to reach this goal will be next year’s cross country season and everything I do until November 2010 will hopefully be preparing me. We agreed that a year of high mileage is the obvious route to take. Over the next 12 months, I will try to build my aerobic system more and more with a plethora of 100+ mile weeks.

    This is not to say that I am not looking forward to competing on the track this Winter and Spring. For indoors, I will focus on running a good conference meet and contributing to another Big Sky Conference title. If training is going well, and depending on how some of my teammates are running, I may get the opportunity to run a 5,000 at the University of Washington in Seattle. For outdoors, the main goal is to qualify for the first round of the NCAA Championships (aka “Super Regionals”). In the steeplechase, a sub-9 minute performance should get me in. If I am running well enough in the 5,000, a time in the low 14 minute range may be good enough.

    Then there is the 10,000. As of now, I do not have plans to make my 25 lap debut this Spring. If the high mileage is feeling good, and Coach thinks I am ready for a good effort, then I will suck it up and give it my best. 25 laps just seems so brutal.

    As for now, I am running easy a few days a week and doing some swimming. Since I want to give triathlons a serious try post college, I will try to get into the pool regularly all season. If I can swim once a week up until Summer, I should be way ahead of where I was when I started swimming a lot last May. Next week I will start running more, probably around 70 miles, and should be running 100 miles again shortly after the new year.

    Looking forward to may miles of trials, trials of miles ahead…