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  • Big Sky Outdoor Championships

    Posted on May 16th, 2011

    Saturday marked my final Big Sky Conference Championship, and depending on factors now out of my control, possibly my last track meet ever. I have known this moment was coming for a while now, but writing those words really makes it sink in. I may never wear an NAU Lumberjack singlet again.

    But before I get too sappy, let me fill you in on the lead up to Big Sky and the races. About two and half weeks earlier, while doing a relatively easy steeplechase workout, I felt some soreness in my Achilles. I didn’t think much of it as it didn’t bother me too much during the workout. The next day it was worse, and by two days after the workout I wasn’t running. I decided to forgo my final tune up meet before Big Sky, the Double Dual Meet down in Tempe, so that I could get healthy. The pain persisted and I took to the pool and, whenever possible, the bike. I told Coach Heins that I felt my Achilles would hold up better in a 10k then the steeplechase, so the decision was made to effectively never race a steeplechase again — at least not for NAU anyway.

    The Achilles pain continued throughout the final build up to Big Sky, limiting my running to just workouts, some of which I was unable to finish. In the two weeks prior to this weekend, I probably logged less than 30 miles. There were two possiblities: I would feel fresh or completely flat.

    10000m

    Tim Freriks leading the 10k

    While warming up for the 10k on Friday evening my Achilles felt pretty good — probably the best it had felt in a week. The conditions were much better than the last time I raced at Sacramento State in 2008 when temperatures were over 100 degrees. There was just a calm breeze and the sun setting. With just 13 entries in the race, it felt like a very low-key affair. Orders from Coach were to take the race out at a respectable pace of around 74 seconds and picking it up in the 2nd 5k. My initial plan heading into the race was to go for a Regional qualifying mark, which I thought would take about 29:50. Once Coach told me his plan, I realized that if I went for the PR I could blow up after 5k and fade badly in the later stages of the race. Considering the lack of work I had done leading up to the race, this was a good possibility. Conference Championships are about team titles, not individual glory. The decision was easy.

    Sophomore Tim Freriks took the lead the first mile and put the pace right where it needed to be. I took the pacing duties for a couple laps, followed by junior Ahmed Osman and freshman Bahlbi Gebreyohanns (aka “BB”). At around two miles, the group dwindled down to a pack of five: the four Lumberjacks and Nick Atwood from Montana State. I was clearly having a tough time hanging with them, and when Coach yelled to Ahmed to not press too hard as to not drop me, Atwood took that as a hint to surge. Great move tactically for him. That was the end of me and I would run all but the final 400m of the race alone.

    "A slow and painful death"

    About halfway through the race I began to feel a blister starting to form on the ball of my left foot. Since I have done so little running in the last few weeks, it was no surprise that I would suffer from a little blister or two. As the race continued, the pain increased with each step, and by the final mile it was affecting my stride. I was told by a few different teammates watching the race that they could tell I was limping the final 800m, but they assumed it was due to my Achilles.

    While the blister on my foot was growing, my lead over 6th place was shrinking. I was dieing a slow and painful death. With one lap remaining, Bowe Ebding of Eastern Washington came by me with Ben Ashkettle. I tried to respond with a sprint. The pain in my foot suddenly increased tenfold and I limped home to finish 7th place, scoring just two points, in 31:03.98. I threw myself to the ground, looked at my foot, and saw blood on my shoe. “Blood has run through my compression socks and my shoe? This must be bad.” I ripped off my shoe and saw the damage. Somehow I managed to tear off the thick calloused skin on the ball of my foot, hardened from thousands and thousands of miles, right off. Below are a couple of pictures of the carnage. Sorry if you have a weak stomach.

    First look

    Athletic trainers removing the "old" skin with a scalpel

     

     

    5000m

    After treating the foot and getting a tough night of sleep (Tim and I were suffering from cases of “gut rot.” Something about 25 laps…), I started to think about Saturday’s race. It was quite painful to walk, and I initially thought I wouldn’t be able to run. I talked to coach just before warming up and he said, “I don’t think you should run it.” I asked if it would make a difference and he replied, “Yeah, if you win it it will make a difference.” Well that wasn’t going to happen, but he said if we were within 30 points with just the 5k and 4×400 relay remaining, the team had a chance at winning the conference title.

    At first I thought, “what if I don’t run and we lose by a couple of points. How would I feel if I hadn’t at least tried?” After beginning my warm ups, I turned that negative thought into, “what if I score a point or two and that is the difference?” Once again, from there it was an easy decision for me. I had six other teammates lining up for the 5k, maybe just by standing next to them on the starting line I could inspire one of them to be tough. Then it would be worth it.

    In the end, I didn’t score any points in that 5k. I was almost last, finishing 18th in 15:10.03. This race could have been my last. I was injured and might as well have not raced. What a rough way to finish up my college career.

    Or maybe not. I didn’t contribute to the team score, but there were my teammates. My teammates shined, scoring 29 points and setting three PR’s. What if I did have an impact on one of them? Maybe one of them dug a little deeper because they knew I was somewhere on that track limping behind them, hoping they could to it because I couldn’t.

    On Sunday, Tim wrote this on my Facebook wall to wish me a “Happy Birthday:”

    On the last day that you were closer to 18 than 30, I saw the runner that summed up Jason Pedersen for me. Determined to make a run at a point or two for his team with half his foot torn off… More than talent, training regimes, or determination, that selfless attitude is what has allowed the Lumberjacks to be a top-10 NCAA team the last four years in a row. You’ve shown me the ropes, and as you move on to bigger and better things I feel like I have some size 17+ shoes to fill. As Coach (italicized) Mo would say, be proud of your legacy here on this team because you have left a burning impression on the minds of all those that come after you. Happy birthday big guy, 24 years isn’t all that many when you know the best is yet to come. To many more inspiring years, it’s almost time to show the triathlon world what J. PD is all about!

    I am forever indebted to Tim for writing this and making me feel like my futile effort in that 5k was anything but. After reading this message Tim wrote, my Dad said to me over the phone, “It seems like a rough way to finish up, but it is clear that you made an impression on at least a few people by running that race. I wouldn’t have raced if I were you, but I’m proud of you for doing it.”

    The end?

    Before I continue on this path of I-will-never-race-on-the-track-again, I will wait to see if I have one more race. I am currently ranked 65th in the West Region for the 10k, and 48 people qualify. So 17 people need to decide they have better things to do in a week and a half than to run 25 laps at Hayward Field. Yes, it is a stretch. I will know for sure on Thursday.

  • 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 NAUAthletics.com