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  • Getting to know The Lumberjacks: Lauren Hill & WOW

    Posted on November 10th, 2010

    About a week ago I did another interview at “Thankful Thursdays.” This one was at a fairly new Greek restaurant, Taverna (the gyro dinner is delicious and a steal at $12). Once again I took advantage of the large congregation of Lumberjacks and interviewed junior Lauren Hill. I threw a couple new questions in there to keep things fresh.

    If any of you have suggestions on any questions you would like to hear, or some requests for specific Lumberjacks to be interviewed, leave a comment below.

    Flotrack Workout Wednesday

    The Tuesday following Pre Nationals, Flotrack’s Ryan Fenton came out to watch and record one of our workouts. We did 6xmile out at Ft. Tuthill on 7:00 go’s, which is among our hardest workouts of the season. Fortunately I was able to have a great workout in front of the camera and under the hot lights. I even got a great shout out from Coach Heins, “Jason Pedersen he’s just a grinder. . . He just wants to be on a team that has a shot to do something special in November.” Thanks for the compliment Coach, and I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Track and Field Videos on Flotrack

  • 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.

  • 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…

  • NCAA Cross Country Championships

    Posted on November 27th, 2009

    What a season. I have so much to say about this season that I think I will break it up into several posts. Today, I want to recap the race while it is still fresh in my mind. This weekend I will have some more time to reflect on everything.

    2009 Division 1 NCAA Cross Country Championships

    2009 Division 1 NCAA Cross Country Championships

    Pre-Race

    Heading into this race, I tried to do everything the same way that I have done it all season. Pre-race rituals get you to the starting line feeling the same way every time. If the feeling is good, the routine is good. Likewise, if the feelings are bad, the routine needs some adjusting.

    8AM my roommate Jordan Chipangama and I awoke from a great night’s sleep on the cozy beds of the Terre Haute Hilton Garden Inn. We met our teammates for a 10 minute shakeout and then ate breakfast. For me: oatmeal, banana and a blueberry bagel.

    Unlike Pre-Nationals, we all made the ride to the course together. Before leaving the van, Coach Heins told each of us that he believed in us and that he believed we could achieve our personal goals. He recognized the importance of the race, and told us, “Pressure bursts pipes, but it also makes diamonds.”

    With those words resonating in our heads, we went through our usual warm up routine: 2 mile warm up 60 minutes before, some stretching and a 3 minute LT 20 minutes before the race. It seems we were able to iron out any of the problems we had earlier in the season as everything was like clock work before the race.

    Diego Estrada's name was written on our hands

    Diego Estrada's name was written on our hands

    Half the battle was already over. I was standing on the starting line with my teammates at the National Championships healthy and almost 1,800 miles of training behind me. Unfortunately, Diego Estrada was unable to race, but he was definitely there with us and we hoped to represent him well. We all wrote his name on our hands to remind us that, if Diego was racing, he would run the only way he knows how — guts and glory all the way.

    Senior Simon Gilna gives a final speech

    Senior Simon Gilna gives a final speech

    In the team clap before the race, senior Simon Gilna reminded us, “Believe we can become diamonds, guys. This is the greatest day to be a Lumberjack!” And with that, we raced.

    The Race

    The moment before the gun was fired was an eternity. I stared at the gun intensely, thinking, “Here we go.” Then it was over and we were on our way.

    Heading into the race, I had planned to get out well, perhaps as high as 60th. I went with a bit more comfortable start and was probably somewhere in the top 150. I came flying through the 1km in 2:48. The pace seemed fast, but it was fast for everyone. I continued on in about the same position and came through the mile in 4:37. I found Oregon’s AJ Acosta and Stanford’s Brendan Gregg (Oregon’s 6th and Stanford’s 5th man) and decided to run off them for a while. I hit 2k in 5:50 and 3k in 8:55.

    Me and Ahmed Osman approaching 5k

    Me and Ahmed Osman approaching 5k

    Acosta began moving up through the field, so I followed behind him. As we approached 5k in 15:11, I was very happy to see Ahmed Osman come by me. I gave him some encouragement, something like, “Lets go buddy.” Ahmed would spend the second half of the race passing lots of people. Passing people wasn’t as easy for me.

    I was hurting. But this is the National Championships and no one wins anything without a fight. I slowly went by one runner at a time until 6k when I noticed the next runner was German Fernandez. Either I am having the best race of my life or German was having the worst of his. Judging by the desperation in German’s coach’s voice as he cheered him on, I think it was a little of both. So I went by German without looking back.

    Around 7k it hit me, it is almost all over; just over 9 minutes to go. I tried to push a little bit harder and came through the 8k in 24:38, 5 seconds faster than my 8k time at Pre-Nationals and equalling my course PR set last year. There was no question that I would be setting a big PR today, but how many runners could I pass?

    I continually heard coaches yelling to their runners around me that they were around 100th. In the beginning of the season I set a goal to be in the top 100. It is a very exciting thing to realize you are on the verge of besting a longterm goal. I decided several months and many miles ago that I would work as hard as I had to to reach top 100. Now, with the absence of one of our best runners, that goal was so much more important to me. I was the 5th man, in the thick of the race, and my points mattered.

    Kicking with everything I have left

    Kicking with everything I have left

    With 1k remaining, I tried to put the hammer down and continued passing runners one by one. As we made our last turn, Coach Seth Watkins reminded me, “You want it!” I did want it and I thought about Diego. Diego would finish strong like he always does, leaving everything out on the course. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a gap ahead of me and I spent most of the finish closing the gap. Once I finally bridged the gap, I was able to pass a couple runners.

    I finished in 95th place in 30:52.3, 99 places and 51 seconds better than last year. My season was over and I reached my goal. I was content. I talked to my teammates and heard that David McNeill was 2nd and Jordan was 5th! NAU had by far the best 1-2 punch in the country. Ben Ashkettle finished 59th and Ahmed was 74th. Andrew Belus finished 149th and Simon was 196th.

    2009 Northern Arizona Cross Country, Fourth Place

    2009 Northern Arizona Cross Country, Fourth Place

    As a team we finished 4th, on the podium. We were all very happy with the outcome. Upon looking at the results, Oklahoma State won with 127 points to our 190. In team scoring, I scored 75 points. If Diego had run, he would have had to be 12th in team scoring, which was 14th overall, for us to win the meet. Most of the season, Diego ran just behind Jordan, and assuming today he was within 15 seconds of him, he would have been 14th.

    As I have talked to family and friends since Monday, and explain the situation with Diego, many of them think it is a bummer that we were so close. We were so close, but once we swallowed the pill and realized that Diego would not be competing, new goals had to be created. A guy like Diego Estrada simply cannot be replaced. Heading into the meet, I think each of us wanted to compete in a way that would have put us in the hunt had Diego been there — and that is exactly what we did.

    I am very proud of my team for never backing down in the face of adversity. This race, this season, this team will forever hold a very special place in my heart.

    Thank you David McNeill, Jordan Chipangama, Ben Ashkettle, Ahmed Osman, Andrew Belus, Simon Gilna, Diego Estrada, Kam Holbrook, Tim Freriks, Darius Terry, Joe Withers, Eric Lynch, Scott Blair and Dan Lanzilotti.

    Results: Indvidual Team | Recap on NAUAthletics.com | Recap on Letsrun.com | Highlight Video on NAUAthletics.com | Photos (Album 1 & 2)

  • Nationals Send Off

    Posted on November 20th, 2009

    The NCAA Cross Country Championships are now three days away. All the hard work is done. The only thing left to do is rest and do everything possible to make sure that I am feeling fresh and ready to race Monday morning.

    Feeling fresh is all about tapering just right. If I taper too much, I risk feeling flat on race day. If I don’t taper enough then I won’t be rested enough. The taper is definitely not an exact science and philosophies vary from one coach to the next.

    Tee to Green Workout at Flag Ranch Golf Course

    Tee to Green Workout at Flag Ranch Golf Course

    Keeping all this in mind, Tuesday was NAU’s penultimate workout of the season. We went out to Flag Ranch Golf Course, about a five minute drive West of campus, to do a “Tee to Green” fartlek. As the name suggests, we ran pick ups from one hole’s tee off to its green and jogged from the green to the next hole’s tee off. The idea was to get in about 20 minutes of hard  running on a soft surface similar to what we will be racing on without feeling the usual mental drain of a workout. Coach Heins said we could go as hard or easy as we liked on the pick ups, going completely off of feel. It was really a fun workout and I think we got out of it exactly what Coach wanted us to.

    This afternoon we will have one last workout on Cardinal field to freshen us up. After the workout, there is a team send off dinner at Jotini’s on the Green at the Continental golf course at 6:00pm (2380 N Oakmont Dr.). All are welcome to come, have dinner, and show your NAU team spirit!

    After the dinner, we will be heading down the mountain and staying the night in Phoenix. We have an early morning flight tomorrow and will be traveling for most of the day. Shortly after arriving in Terre Haute, there will be a banquet for all the teams. Tomorrow night or Sunday I should have a little update about the banquet.

    See you at Jotini’s!

  • Mountain Regionals

    Posted on November 15th, 2009

    Yesterday the Northern Arizona Cross Country teams competed at the Mountain Regionals in Albuquerque, New Mexico. If you are at all unfamiliar with collegiate cross country, Regionals is the qualifying meet for the NCAA Championships. The top-2 teams from each region (there are 9 regions total) as well as 13 at-large selections will qualify for Nationals. This system promises to have the very best teams at the championship competing against eachother. As Letsrun.com says, “XC Nats are like the All-Star game, the entire playoffs and the Super Bowl all in one cold, remote town (Terre Haute, Indiana and the LaVerne Gibson XC course). And it happens on a Monday afternoon and takes all of 30 minutes.

    Heading into the weekend, we knew we just had to be in the top-4 to get into Nationals. Since nationals is only 9 days after Regionals, and both races are 10km instead of the usual 8km, it makes sense to run as conservatively as possible. This leaves me with an interesting feeling towards the race. These type of races, where you are 99% sure the team will qualify to the next meet, can be tough to get really excited for. In 8 days, no one will care, or likely remember for that matter, who finished where at Regionals… assuming you qualified for Nationals of course. Yesterday’s Regionals was nothing more than a business trip.

    We started off the morning with the usual 10 minute shakeout at 6:45 am. Sky was cloudy, but the roads had dried from Friday’s rain. Unfortunately, we had a casualty in roommate Kam Holbrook. Kam had to take a couple days off this week due to pain in his left mid foot (mid foot sprain?) and decided he couldn’t race on it. Freshman Tim Freriks was then bumped up and took Kam’s spot in the race.

    Shortly after arriving at the course it began drizzling.  I really don’t mind racing in the rain, especially when it is so light, but it can make warming up before the race a pain. By the time we began our warm up, the rain ceased and wouldn’t pick back up till after the race.

    Start of the Mens Mountain Regionals

    Start of the Mens Mountain Regionals

    After about a 200m straight, the course turns onto some dirt with uneven footing and then makes its way back onto a fairway. This made for a physical start and I was glad I got out well… probably in the 25-30 range. I settled in and continued to run just off the leaders in about 30th place coming through the 1k mark in 2:59 and the mile in somewhere around 4:50.

    The course is made up of three loops that wind up and down three fairways, so spectators were everywhere. The crowd was quite loud, which brought me back to my high school cross country days in California where some meets would have thousands of spectators lining most of the course.

    I came through 2 miles around 9:50 in about 35th. I remember feeling a side stitch coming on around 3.5k. I took a few deep breaths and it either went away or I just forgot about it because I don’t remember thinking about it the rest of the race. My 5k time was about 15:30 and I still felt pretty good.

    At 8k (25:0x), Coach Heins told me I was fine right where I was and to just relax and hold my position. From there I found Nick Atwood, who has turned into a bit of a conference rival for me, and decided to race him the rest of the way. With about a kilometer to go, he opened up a gap. With 400m left, I was able to move by him and another one of his teammates and hold them off till the finish. I finished in 33rd with a time of 31:26.9.

    I ran this same course in 2006 and finished 71st in 33:29. Last year I was 50th in Fort Collins, Colorado. It is good to see a steady improvement over the years with a 2+ minute course PR.

    David McNeill took home the individual title for the second year in a row and finished with a time of 29:51. Ben Ashkettle has been steadily moving up all season, finishing 8th yesterday. We will need another big effort from him, and the rest of the team for that matter, on Novemeber 23rd. The team finished 4th behind BYU, Colorado and New Mexico. As we thought, it was good enough for an at-large selection.

    Looking ahead toward Nationals in 8 days, we have a fairly light week of training. It will be my lowest mileage week since taking time off after my triathlon at the end of June. Leading up to the race I will be posting more frequent updates here on RunPD.com with how the taper is going and more thoughts on the race.

    Results | Race Recap on NAUAthletics.com | Photos (coming soon)

  • Pre-Nationals

    Posted on October 26th, 2009

    Just over a week ago, Northern Arizona was back in action at the Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, In. Every year, most of the top ranked teams in the nation flock to the location of the national championships for a chance to see the course and see where they stack up among the nation’s best.

    The field is split up into more-or-less equal fields in the “White” and “Blue” race. This year, NAU competed in the Blue race with defending national champions Oregon and third ranked Alabama.

    Our race was scheduled for 11AM, so we made plans to meet as a team at 7 for a 10 minute shakeout run. This was 4 AM PST, but luckily we did our travel on Thursday so we had a day of adjusting under our belt.

    Breakfast followed with the usual oatmeal, banana and bagel after the shakeout. After a little stretching and relaxing, we headed off to the course at 9:30… with most of the team. Unfortunately, Jordan Chipangama (winner of the Aztec Invitational and Cowboy Jamboree) and Ahmed Osman (our expected 5th man) thought we would be returning to the hotel after the course to shower, so they did not have their bags packed. Coach Heins made a quick decision to take the rest of us to the course to begin warming up, and Coach Watkins would bring Jordan and Ahmed to the course when they were ready (we later found out that it didn’t go as planned… Jordan and Ahmed hopped into a taxi, but got to the course just as we started to warm up).

    Our instructions were to get out like we want to at nationals and to race from there. After winning the Cowboy Jamboree two weeks earlier, we didn’t need to have a great race to ensure our place at the national championships.

    Temperature was around 45F with a little wind and the course was a little soggy from rain the previous few days. It felt cold standing on the line, but once the gun went off, I never thought about the temperature which is a good thing. I was focused on the task at hand, racing.

    I got out well in the first 800m somewhere around 50th place and came through the 1 kilometer in 2:48. Seems really fast, but there is quite a bit of downhill in that first kilometer. I was so focused on seeing my split that I hardly realized that I was right on teammate Ben Ashkettle’s shoulder.

    From there I could see 7 yellow Oregon jerseys packing it up front. Some of them should come back to me. I continued with the pack, passing 2k in 5:56. As the field winded through the course, I could see the front pack and saw Dave McNeill, Jordan Chipangama and Diego Estrada up there. I specifically remember thinking, “Dave looks like he is jogging.”

    Moving to the 5k, I was passing a few runners that had clearly gone out way too hard, but was being passed at an equal rate. Shortly after crossing the 5k in 15:25, Coach Watkins told me I was in about 60th. I was 65th last year, and I know I am a lot better than that. I kept pushing and passed a few more runners. Things were looking good until about 7k.

    Just ahead I saw Dave fading bad. Coach Heins was there to point out the unfortunate truth, “PD, you are our 5th man today!” It is never a good day when a team’s 6th man is passing its 1st. But who says it has to be a bad day? We won the Cowboy Jamboree without Dave running, surely we are still a great team without him.

    As I passed Dave, he was clearly hurting bad. I did not know it at the time, but he said after the race that he came down with the worse side stitch of all time. (ALL TIME! Stupid Kanye…) With about 600m to go, Dave made one last effort to salvage some points and came flying by me. It wasn’t to be and he faded to 61st.

    Knowing I was a scoring man gave me that little bit of extra drive and I was able to pass a few runners in the final stretch to finish 53rd in 24:43. As a team we finished 3rd, behind first place Oregon and one point behind Alabama. Jordan and Diego had great days once again, finishing 3rd and 4th, and Ben moved way up from Cowboy Jamboree finishing in 16th.

    After the race, Coach Heins reminded us that a loss is not always such a bad thing. 5 weeks out from Nationals, there is still plenty of work to be done. With Dave’s off day and the less-than-ideal morning that Ahmed and Jordan had, we definitely have a lot of upside. Had Dave finished with our Ben, we would have beat Oregon.

    My individual race was good, but not great. The course was definitely slower than last year, which accounts for running 5 seconds slower and placing 12 spots better. I am dissapointed that I finished one place behind Oregon’s 7th man. At Nationals, I want to make a difference for my team, and if I’m not a scorer, that means placing on every other team’s top-5. I know I can run with those guys and I just have to believe during the race. I have seven 100 mile weeks under my belt this season and a bump up to 10k at Nationals will play in my favor.

    Results | Recap on NAUAthletics.com | Video on Flotrack

  • Cowboy Jamboree

    Posted on October 4th, 2009

    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 NAUAthletics.com | Video on Flotrack