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.

Stanford Invitational 5000

Last weekend Coach Heins took a small group of five from the distance team out to Palo Alto, CA to run some fast times and enjoy the good weather. However, whether either of those was actually accomplished is debatable. We were welcomed to California with rainy skies that wouldn’t let up but for maybe three times: when we got on the track to do our strides on Friday, about 10 minutes prior and 30 minutes after our race on Saturday morning, and during the faster heats on Saturday night. Otherwise, it was raining.

My trusty sidekick Tim Freriks and I raced, as I just mentioned, on Saturday morning in the slowest heat of the 5k. Like most distance runners, Timmy is a pretty consistent guy — he has thought through most things and rarely flip flops. So when we heard that we were in the slower morning section, just like our 3k last month at Husky Invitational, Tim was a little upset that we wouldn’t be racing in the evening with the more intense atmosphere. Since I haven’t really raced outdoor track since 2008 (2 races in 2009 as a redshirt), I could care less. (Sorry to throw you under the bus, Tim)

The race had a fairly large field, with two alleys and 27 total athletes. The first mile or so was pretty bumpy, but I was more than comfortable holding my own in the pack. In these “slower” heats, there tends to be a lot of freshmen and sophomores who are not as experienced. They probably haven’t done battle in the middle of the main pack at NCAA Cross before. (where you learn to fight or die)

The pace started off quick enough, running 69s for the first 800. The pace lagged a bit from there, and Tim took it over. Once he started pushing the pace, the race strung out a lot. I felt fairly comfortable through about halfway, but began to slow considerably the last mile. My last few laps had some 72s in there, which really killed my time. I ended up closing in just a 68 and running 14:37.66 for 13th place. After the race, Coach Heins told me I looked really tired the last mile, which is probably the result of three consecutive 100-mile weeks and a 20 miler six days before the race. All that considered, I’m content with a 13 second PR to start off the season.

Next up is a STEEPLECHASE in Albuquerque this Saturday. This will be my first steeple since 2009. The goal is just to get one in for experience points, but of course I’m always looking to run a PR (9:09 in 2008).

Watch more video of 2011 Stanford Invitational on


Big Sky Indoor Championships

Holt Arena: home to Idaho State's wooden indoor track

A couple weeks ago now, the NAU track team traveled to Pocatello, ID for the Big Sky Indoor Championships at Idaho State’s Holt Arena. I, along with a few other lucky teammates, was signed up for the 5k-3k double. 40 laps is a lot of laps on a banked wooden track. 41 is even more.


Yes, you read that right. Five thousand and two hundred meters. They made us run an extra lap. So what, right? Everyone had to do it. What’s an extra lap. Well here is how it happened.

As we gathered on the starting line before the race, I noticed the lap counter was on the ground. An older fellow dressed in obnoxiously orange attire (Go Tigers!) was fiddling with the lap counter. From what I could discern, the first digit of the lap counter was stuck and he couldn’t get it to go to “2.” About this time I noticed the gun went up and got ready to start the race. I came by the first lap in a good position near the front. Still no lap counter. Finally, as we rounded our fourth bend, there was the lap counter, showing 24 laps remaining. This is a joke, right? Do they really think we just ran a 200m in 70 seconds? As each lap went by, I hoped they would correct their error, but to no avail. Eventually, I canned it and realized they had no clue. But then I started to wonder about the other competitors. Did they realize the mistake? When will they kick? Are they going to run the full 5.2k or will they stop when we are supposed to. As you might guess, this is a terrible state of mind to be in when racing.

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

In the end we ended up running that extra 200m, and no one else in the field seemed to really notice. Of course I voiced my frustrations to one of the officials after I finished to which she replied, “Oh, it was off.” I guess I should give them some credit for thinking something might be off. Good work, gang. After the race, there was some talk about protesting the finish, because at 5000m NAU’s finishing places were 1-3-5-6-8 (24 points) as opposed to 2-3-5-6-7 (23 points). We decided that wasn’t fair and let it be.


By this point in the meet it had come down to a two-way dog fight between NAU and Sacramento State. Sac State had no one competing in the 3k, so it was up to the distance crew to close the gap on them. Before the race, a few of us made some very sarcastic comments to the officials about counting the laps correctly. I was happy I wasn’t the only one that was annoyed.

Diego took the race out at a solid pace, just like he had promised. Andrew Belus followed close behind and then I tucked in after him. Around we went, hitting the mile just under 4:30. I knew exactly where my race was, and that was right on Andrew’s heels, but I just couldn’t hang. A few runners slowly passed me, and Andrew continued to do battle up ahead. In the end, Diego won, Andrew was 4th was a huge PR of 8:25 (converts to ~8:15!), I was 6th in 8:35.53 and Tim Freriks was 7th.

Our 4×4 team somehow managed to win even though they were in the slower heat. We thought everything was working out perfectly. Then they read the scores: we lost the meet by HALF A POINT! Brutal. Now that mistake in the 5k hurts even more, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. I’m proud of the team as a whole, and especially John Yatsko, for rallying behind each other. This was definitely NOT the most talented team NAU has taken to a Big Sky Track Championship, but, since I have been here, it was the best team effort.

A little side note: in 2008 the Indoor Championships were also hosted by Idaho State. On that occasion, Sacramento State won both men’s and women’s titles, like this year. In 2008, NAU went to Sacramento for the Outdoor Championship and took the men’s title home. By chance, the Outdoor Championships are in Sacramento once again. Will history repeat itself? You know what I think.

Back in Flagstaff

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.

Sun Angel 5k

Saturday was the Sun Angel Classic at Arizona State University. It was an all-day affair with premiere events in the evening. I was scheduled to run the 5k at 9:25 pm, just an hour or so before my usual bed time. Unfortunately, due to rain earlier in the day, the race was postponed an hour!

“Great things happen to people who make great things happen to themselves. That was all I was thinking, ‘I got to make a great thing happen.'” Simon Whitfield

My plan for the race was to try to run 70 seconds/lap from the gun and really start racing the second half. I told myself to run smart the first 2km, run tough the second 2km, and then get after it — try to makes something great happen.

The race was pretty crowded, 34 runners lined the starting line, and the start was kind of hectic. I tried to tuck in on the rail near the back to avoid any of the mess. After ~300m of jockeying for position, I found myself in a comfortable spot. My first two laps were about 69s and I was feeling pretty good. “Run smart” I kept trying to tell myself. I came around the 1600 mark at 4:40 and was on the back of a pack of about 5 runners. Perfect. The next mile I hit a few 71s and came through the 3200 in 9:23 (technically a Personal Record from 9:25 in high school). The next mile was pretty tough and I started to fade. I think I probably had some 75s laps in there, yet people were still coming back to me. I charged on the best I could and finished in 19th with a time of 14:50.69; a PR by 0.11 seconds set 51 weeks earlier.

I guess a PR is a PR… I ran five thousand meters faster than I ever had before. With the 100 mile weeks I had put in since the beginning of March I thought I would be much faster than I was one year ago. I don’t like to make excuses, but I do try to learn something from every race. Here are some thoughts about the race:

  • I think I did a good job trying to adjust to the late start time and not let it affect me psychologically. Thursday and Friday night I stayed up past midnight to try to adjust (I still got 9+ hours of sleep).
  • I should have eaten more of a dinner before the race. Since the race ended up being over an hour late, I think I had not eaten anything other than bars in six or seven hours… definitely not best. A sandwich around 6 pm would have been best I think.
  • I was excited to get out there and run a new PR. Some of my more recent races I have not had the best racing attitude and it shows in my performances. Racing hurts, and you have to be prepared to embrace it.
  • My trip to Las Vegas last week probably didn’t help my performance. I took a day off when I was scheduled for an easy day and was not able to get in my prescribed long run.

I will be back at ASU in two weeks for my next race, 3000m Steeplechase. This will be my last race of my short 2009 outdoor track campaign and my last chance to impress my coach and teammates before cross country season comes around.

Sun Angel Classic Results | Race Video