Cowboy Jamboree

Yesterday Northern Arizona’s cross country teams competed in the 73rd Cowboy Jamboree hosted by Oklahoma State in Stillwater. This meet would be the first challenging race of the season for as the mens field was very competitive with nationally ranked #2 Oklahoma State, #13 William and Marry and #1 in Division II Adams State.

Heading to Oklahoma, I wanted to improve on my 25:14 with hopes of being around graduate Mark Fruin’s mark of 24:49 from last year’s race. An hour or so before the race, Coach Heins told me Ahmed Osman, Jordan Chipangama and Diego Estrada would be taking it out hard from the gun. Ben Ashkettle would be going out a little more conservative as it was his first race back. I had envisioned getting out like I normally do and moving up through the race with Ben once he passed me.

As we got together as a team just before the start, Coach Heins told us he wanted all of us to get out hard and really get after it. So I threw out my plans of a conservative start and we did exactly what Coach Heins asked. I came through the 800m mark in 2:22 and I crossed the mile in about 4:42 a couple of seconds behind teammates Diego and Ben who were leading the race. Jordan and Ahmed were somewhere in the pack between me and the leaders.

After about 2.5km, the course goes into a woodsy area with a number of steep inclines and descents on a wood chip path. It is a pretty cool course, weaving through trees and spectators running through the woods. I crossed the 2 mile in 9:35 and around that point about 5 orange Oklahoma State jerseys passed me. Knowing I would be a scoring member of the team, I followed along and tried to stay on OSU’s 5th man.

I came through the 5km in 15:12, only 2 seconds slower than last years leaders and just 22 seconds off my track PR. I knew I would be setting a PR today, hopefully under 25 minutes. I continued following the bright orange jersey and suddenly, one of those orange jerseys came back to me! I would later find out that was David Chirchir (15th at NCAA’s two years ago). Coach Seth Watkins found me in the woods and reminded me that I was the 5th man, and if we wanted to win this meet, I could make it happen.

A few more runners came back to me in the final 800m, and with about 400m to go, I finally passed that OSU runner that I had been following for the last few miles (Jonathon Stublaski). With about 200m to go, the course kicks up one more time before a flat sprint to the finish. As I crested the final incline, I saw one more orange jersey and I knew this one was Girma Mecheso (18th place last year at NCAA’s). I was able to kick by him, but unfortunately Stublaski had a better kick and finished a second ahead of me.

Just before crossing the line, I saw the clock read 24:32. Knowing that I was the 5th NAU runner, I was fairly certain we had won the meet and felt the urge for a little celebration across the line. I am glad I restrained myself as I had no idea what place I had finished and would later find out the score was much closer than I thought.

Jordan won the race, apparently with a big move with 1km to go, in 23:44. Diego finished 5th in 23:55, Ben and Ahmed were 13th and 14th in 24:22, I was 19th, Tim Freriks was 40th in 25:07 and Simon Gilna was 65th in 25:30.

Hours after the race was over, we finally got a phone call (we were already on our way to the airport in Oklahoma City) that we had won. William and Mary finished just 7 points behind us and Adams State finished 3rd ahead of 4th place Oklahoma State. I was really surprised that 1) William and Mary was so close (I mostly focused on the orange jerseys in the race and nearly forgot about W&M. Scanning through the results I was happy to see that I beat their 5th man, even if it was by just a half a second.) and 2) Oklahoma State finished 4th at their own invitational (even if they sat out German Fernandez and Ryan Vail).

I was 42 seconds off my time from last year. 24:32 would have made me our second best runner. I can think of many great performances in my 16 cross country season, and a few stick out as breakthroughs; this one definitely ranks high on that list. Looking forward this season, I know I still have room to improve as I ran 90+ miles last week. Once we throw World Championships competitor David McNeill into the mix, the team looks even better. It will be tough for me to be a scorer on the team, but I am super motivated to putting myself ahead of every other team’s 5th man. If I can make every team in the country’s top-5, except NAU’s, we are gonna be tough to beat at Nationals.

Results | Recap on | Video on Flotrack

Doing Work at 7,000 Feet

Summer is always over too soon. I leave behind a summer of great opportunity (internship at ITT Aerospace Controls), my first Olympic distance triathlon, training with friends and great memories from my brother’s wedding.

I have made my way back up to Flagstaff, Arizona for another year of school and running. Tina and I made the ~7 hour drive on Tuesday. Let the acclimating begin.

Upon arriving Tuesday, I got an easy 5 mile run in with Kam, Darius, Joe and even a few minutes with Tina. I averaged slower than 7:30 pace so natuarally I felt great. That evening, my new roommate Myles Kloer cooked a delicious dinner for his Mom, sisters and his roommates. He’ll be a great fit.

Wednesday I got an 11 mile run in on Soldier’s Loop then headed over to my physical at NAU’s Skydome. Later in the evening I got to meet most of my teammates for the year at our compliance meeting.

Thursday I helped move freshmen into Reilly Hall from 8-noon. I was exhausted all day (part of the acclimation process I think), but my legs perked up in the afternoon for a 12 mile run with some strides.

Yesterday we had our first workout as a team at Buffalo Park: 4×2?? mile repeats. We were supposed to be going 80%, but I admit I definitely was running harder than that. I was happy to see that I was 15 seconds faster on the same workout a year ago. I am feeling fit and I think I still have lots of room for improvement in the near future. A few short months will confirm or deny this.

In the evening Tina and I drove down to Munds Park to meet some UCLA cross country runners for dinner. They are staying in a cabin there for a few weeks of altitude training. Tina and I were amazed to see so many large, beautiful homes down there as we have passed through Munds Park many times on our way to and from Phoenix. From the highway, all you can see is a mobile home park, a couple gas stations and a church. Nevertheless, we had great food and enjoyed a game of the Royal favorite Go Home. Of course, my team won. (Thanks for the clutch rolling Tina. Sorry Kelcie… you really have Alex to blame.)

Today was a recovery run. 11.5 miles to the base of Fisher Point with Andrew Belus, Ben Ashkettle and Simon Gilna. We stopped briefly on the run just to look at the beautiful setting. If I ever get a mountain bike out there I will take pictures.

Tomorrow we will be doing a long run, hopefully ~18 miles for me to put me at 100 miles for the third consecutive week. My miles of trials is only just beginning.

Summer training, Internship & Cross Country

Wow, is it August already? Nearly done with another summer break. I don’t have too many of these left actually, which is kind of depressing.

Since the triathlon, I have been increasing my mileage to prepare for what I believe will be my 16th cross country season (I took the 2000 season off to keep me feeling fresh. Great decision). Since the break I have logged 70, 80 and 90 mile weeks and should finish this week a bit over 80 with a day off. I have started to throw in a few workouts and I have been happy with all of them. The plan is to get in a couple of 100 mile weeks before I head back to Flagstaff on the 18th.

I am really excited about this season and I have high hopes. In 2008 I had a great season and would love to continue to build on it. The team is looking great with returners David McNeill (competing in the World Championships in Berlin for his native Australia this month), Ben Ashkettle, Diego Estrada and myself. Ahmed Osman had a great track season breaking 29 minutes in the 10k and finishing the year as an All-American. We have lots of new faces coming in that should mix it up with the rest of us.

Just like last year, it looks like I will be fighting for my spot on the team.

The only thing standing in my way lately is work. I got a 6-week internship at ITT Aerospace Controls. It is a great opportunity especially since my resume is lacking in experience. I am learning a lot and I am being included in a lot of different aspects. With that said, it does make running a little more difficult. Many of my weekdays lately consist of waking up at ~6, commuting to work 35-45 minutes each way, working 8-9 hours, getting my run in, dinner and then off to bed by 10. I just barely fit everything in, but barely is enough. I hope.

I can see how trying to do anything well in addition to working full time (e.g. running, triathlons, studying, parenting) would be extremely difficult. It is crazy to think that for many years, the world’s best athletes had to be amateurs and could not be paid for competing in their sport.

19 Days!

I am down to less than 20 days until the Breath of Life Ventura Triathlon. I am getting a little anxious, especially when I think about that 1500m ocean swim. I hope sharks sleep in on Sunday mornings.

Training has been going pretty well as I have been hitting it pretty hard. My swimming is really starting to come around. My goal of 26:00 is looking more and more attainable with each session in the pool… and I am still not doing flip turns! (I really need to get on that)

Biking is not progressing quite like the swimming, but I think that is simply because I don’t spend enough time on the bike. I have been looking at what some other triathletes do in terms of training, and they tend to spend the most time on the bike. As of right now, I’m looking at about 47% running, 26% swimming, and 27% biking. I have done a couple 40 mile rides (which is long for me) and plan on doing at least one 50 miler before the race.

I have mostly been doing easy runs with only a few workouts on a whim. Last week Charlie Serrano was preparing for a track 10k with 10 400s with 2 minutes rest. I thought, “What the hell,” and jumped in with him. I averaged about 63 seconds which was a little faster than I expected. Great news as it seems I haven’t lost much run fitness since my season ended. That means I need to make sure I take a little break after this triathlon before I jump into the summer mileage.

Shout out to former teammate Marten Bostrom for winning the Fontana Days Half Marathon in a PR of 1:03:41. Marten is headed home to Finland after spending four years studying and running at NAU. One of my current teammates, Ben Ashkettle, finished just behind Marten.