Crossroads

“I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees.” Robert Johnson, king of the Delta blues

The past seventeen years have been invested in pursuing my mother’s dream of me obtaining a college education. That endpoint was reached last year, and for the first time in my life, I’m at a crossroads.

While most of you may know me as a “runner”, I also have a keen interest in pursuing a career path that doesn’t just involve me wearing booty shorts and sleeveless tees. This past spring, I was given a job offer that (I believe, and hope) would kick start a career path towards something that I would like to see myself doing somewhere down the road, however: the notion of working full-time does not resonate within the running community.

Running is a craft that I have been working at for several years. The sacrifices made down the line to be a collegiate athlete has allowed me to write several chapters in my life that are filled with memories, but: how can I end this section without a climactic ending?

I have this goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials in the Marathon.

In my opinion, those who do reach that plateau tend to pay a hefty price. The elites and sub-elites seem to be working dead-end jobs that allow them to be flexible so they can train properly. It is not uncommon to see a runner winning a local 5K road race working at your local running shoe store the next day. Regardless, these individuals are pursuing their own “personal legend”, making them the source for my inspiration.

“There is so much noise. The noise from your friends, family, society, television set can be so loud and distracting at times that it doesn’t allow you to listen to your own heartbeat.” Dr. Ali Resapour

What did I do when I reached my crossroad? I took an unmarked path and got lost. Thus, leading me to backpack and camp out into the Santa Cruz mountains. Now, I am by no means an outdoor enthusiast. I would much rather prefer blending tasty fruit smoothies and rocking out in the warm confines of my home over camping and fighting off pestering bugs, but, I was advised to go camp out on my own, where the noise is very limited and the beat of the heart is loud. Along with solitude, I wanted to challenge my willpower and see if I truly can manage a career path and be an elite runner. The goal was to manage running ten miles in the morning and hiking an average of twelve miles in the afternoon with a 80 liter/30-35 pound backpack strapped.

Trees

A glimpse of the sun hovering above the large Redwoods.

06/23/2014 and 06/24/2014:
Big Basin Headquarters to Waddel Beach and back (combined 17.8 miles).
I drove down to Big Basin State Park Sunday night and positioned my tent out at the local campground. I didn’t bring much with me aside from a sleeping bag, yoga mat for cushioning, pre-made egg white and peanut butter sandwiches (they taste about as pleasant as they sound), water canteen, toiletry, camera, and a journal to write about my experiences . I noticed that I was the only one who had traveled alone, and it really hit me. The night was a struggle. I was constantly tossing and turning in my tent, trying to position myself so I can get a night’s worth of rest. I also had this false assumption that a gang of raccoons was waiting to beat me up right outside of my tent, but, I finally mustered up the courage to go out to use the bathroom. I woke up the next morning with about three hours of sleep under my belt and did my run. I ran approximately ten miles into the marked trails of Big Basin. After my run, I packed my backpack and ventured out to Waddel Beach. The hike wasn’t too strenuous. I was feeling great from my run and was consumed by the thrill traveling out to the beach. The elevation wasn’t too daunting as it had limited change, but, carrying a 30-35 pound backpack definitely does take a toll on your body. I reached the beach around 6:00 pm and camped out. Aside from my journal entry, I didn’t do much. I was exhausted and fell asleep listening to the sounds of the waves crashing ashore. I woke up Tuesday morning with soreness from the day prior, but it was manageable and I headed back to Big Basin with ease. The downhill really helped but the afternoon ten mile run was still rough. I now had the appetite of Joey Chestnut (defending Nation’s hot dog eating champion), but had promised myself that I would only eat the food that I had packed from home.

“Be honest with the pen”. An Italian journal that I keep whenever I feel the need to write.

06/25/2014:
Big Basin Headquarters to Santa Cruz Mountains and back (43.5 mi)
I woke up Wednesday morning completely drained. The night was brutal for me as I had difficultly positioning myself on the hard surface. The strain accumulated from the past two days had caught up to me, making it rough for me to get some shut-eye. Regardless, I had a task at hand: another ten mile morning run followed by a 14.5 mile hike. You can see the common trend of my hikes being daunting, but this one wasn’t all too bad…at first. The towering redwood trees made the forest enchanting and the beauty of nature reached its peak at Berry Creek Falls (approximately 4 miles from Big Basin). Two miles later, I reached the top: Santa Cruz mountains. The mountain top made those once menacing redwood trees seem microscopic (okay, they were still huge but you get the point).

Berry Creek Falls

Capturing the essence of Berry Creek Falls.

Suddenly, my heart dropped. There was a sign at the peak of the mountain top and it reads: Big Basin, 8.5 miles away. I had underestimated the distance back and all of the backpackers had left. I was alone on the mountain top. One word to describe the next two hours: frantic. I was rushing down, racing the light and fighting off the shadows of the redwood trees. Those 8 miles were perhaps the biggest challenge of the whole trip.

It was then where I had realized that If I decide to pursue elite running and a career path, they would be carried with added weight. For me, the weight of my backpack was symbolic, as it represented the difficulty of juggling both. However, I was determined to complete my hike. The last few miles were filled with uncertainty. It was nightfall and the trail marks was difficult to see. The rangers had closed the gates and I was likely the only one on the trail. However, I wasn’t afraid at that point. I had already climbed mountains and invested a lot of effort towards reaching my destination. Fear was irrelevant at that point. Long story short, I made it back and the end-result was much sweeter. The aches and pains accumulated throughout the journey were covered by the pleasure of the destination. I hitched my tent and slept the night away.

06/26/2014 and 06/27/2014
I can’t really describe how I felt physically because I’ve never been this exhausted in my life, I was bruised and battered by now. Regardless, I completed my runs in the mornings and hiked in the afternoons. A sense of relief was in the air on the last day. I already had a great sense of direction (that’s a first) on the Santa Cruz mountains. I took out my camera and re-enacted my favorite parts of the hike by taking comical “selfies” and capturing the essence of the forest at the same time.

There you have it: 5 days and a combined total of 111 miles ran and hiked. This journey tested both my physical and mental stamina but it also washed away any anxiety of my pre-assumed crossroads. Although competitively training and working do not go hand-in-hand, it is something that my heart has set upon. I am by no means a naturalist: I cannot listen to the forest. What I did listen to during my expedition was the beat of my own heart and by doing so, it unveiled my consciousness. Whatever facade that I might carry on in my daily life was non-existent when I was alone: I was in my purest form. If I ever reach another crossroad in my life, I can listen to that heartbeat and follow my own path.

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The Process (2012 Cross Country Season In Review)

“I just want to have a breakout season.” These were the words that were uttered to my teammate during training camp late August while going through my daily post-run cycle in the trainer’s room.

Last year, I placed 89th at the NCAA West Regionals in Stanford. Although my time of 31:12 was good for a Saint Mary’s school record, I wasn’t anywhere near where I wanted to be: with the front pack. I was given much praise from both my teammates and the SMC community for my accomplishments, but, deep down inside I knew that I was much better. Certainly better than most of the runners that beat me on that gloomy day in Palo Alto. My definition of “better” isn’t based on speed or endurance, but the way you approach the sport. I knew from the bottom of my heart that I was better than most of the runners simply because of the sacrifice that I put into running. Sure, anyone can do base mileage, strides, and when the season looms, hard, fast interval repeats, but not everyone can sacrifice.

August 15th, 2012

There were great expectations placed onto my shoulders (by myself) heading into camp. Before I signed my NLI to run for Saint Mary’s College, I made a promise to the coaches as I stood up in front of them in their office and uttered these words: “I will not let you down.” The coaches invested a lot into me becoming a Gael and in exchange, I wanted to give them a full return: A WCC First-Team accolade. The West Coast Conference is home to two nationally ranked men’s teams: Portland and BYU. That meant a top ten finish wasn’t going to be easy, but, I had great faith in the process and more importantly, in myself.

Hence, coming into the season my motto was: faith. Faith is abstract; it does not have concrete existence. What was concrete was my 5K personal best, a 14:48. A 14:48 5K would have placed me right outside of the top 20 WCC 5K times, meaning a top 10 finish at conference would be an uphill battle. Instead, I focused on something else: the process. The process, which included running 876 miles throughout the summer (12 weeks), core and leg workouts, and a strict diet regiment which consisted of leafy greens, whole grain pasta, egg whites, and protein shakes. Having faith in the process, but, more importantly, in myself was the key to fighting whatever adversity/challenges that I was going to face entering the season.

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The word “Faith” written in Punjabi. Before every race, I would look at my right shoe for inspiration. Having faith in the process as well as myself was a huge key to my success this season.

The Process

As the school year began, I had altered the process. The core and leg workouts were already in the barn. I had never felt stronger (as a runner) in my life. Instead, I replaced it with…tons of push-ups! Push-ups are perhaps the greatest, most simplistic exercise ever created. It not only works your chest, but your shoulders, biceps, triceps, butt, and hamstrings.

During the weekdays, I would wake up at six every morning, take a few bites from my protein bar and would start doing intervals of push-ups. Five sets to 50 push-ups with a minute rest in between, and on the sixth set, do 50 diamond (triceps) push-ups (300 total). Breakfast throughout September and October wasn’t anything special: either cereal with a spinach-banana smoothie or, if I was running late for class (which was common), I would crack several eggs, remove the yolk and just drink it from a cup (salmonella don’t scare me!). I didn’t really have a set diet; I just ate what was right and rewarded myself with a treat every now and then.

As for running, my mileage was consistent as I hovered around the mid to late 80’s. My daily runs focused solely on recovery: solid 11-12 mile runs around 6:30 to 6:45 pace However, I am a firm believer in hammering out long runs. Sunday morning long runs, along with workout Wednesdays were critical to the process as long runs were usually in the 16 to 18 mile range, but, the pace was always fast, around 6:00-6:20 minutes/mile usually done on hilly terrain (the right run).

Adjusting to early morning workouts, along with the higher mileage and strict dieting was difficult, yet manageable. Recovering from the carnage happened to be troublesome at times for me as exhaustion and fatigue formed a dark cloud over academics and extra-curricular activities. I eventually let one plate drop as I stopped working for my school’s Health and Wellness Center (PATCH). Along with severing ties with PATCH, I opted out of running for senior class senate in my school. From there on, I led a full-on “runner’s lifestyle”. If I wasn’t training, I was recovering (ice baths, protein shakes, and static stretching). If I wasn’t recovering, I spent whatever time I had in the library doing school work.

WCC Preview

Sixteen weeks and 1,235.66 miles later, I had my first test: WCC Preview. The WCC preview was hosted by Portland, who at that time was ranked sixth in the nation. The race also consisted of DII powerhouse Chico State, led by a sub-29 minute 10K runner Isaac Chavez, Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount, Santa Clara, and a few other schools that I cannot recall at the moment. Despite battling cold and flu-like symptoms, I knew that this was my time. My time to show the conference where I belong: in the front. Along with being sick, I slept for approximately fifty minutes the night prior to the race, but, the lack of sleep was not a problem as the adrenaline and excitement of the process had consumed me. On September 15, 2012, I got to showcase my talent, and I did as I ran with the front pack and finished 4th, trailing only Portland’s top two and one unattached individual. WCC Preview turned out to be a success as I finally caught the eyes of conference foes. At the same time, I understood that I hadn’t proved anything yet as we were still several weeks away from the post-season. Anything can happen.

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Establishing myself as a front-runner early on into the season.

Stanford/Bronco Invite

I continued to stay committed to the process and as the days slowly progressed, came the Stanford Invite. The Stanford Invite is recognized on as one of the most prestigious meets in the nation. Despite my performance at the WCC preview meet, I understood that this was my opportunity to showcase my talent on a national level. The meet was hosted by ninth ranked Stanford and had twenty nine teams entered. This was also my chance to show schools *cough* (Sac State, UCSB, USF) that had overlooked me in high school and Junior College that I was indeed a prime-time performer. The gun went off and I immediately saw myself wallowing in a sea of runners (the middle pack). I remained patient as I took advantage of the downhills on the grassy golf course and eventually worked my way up to a twelfth place finish. Coming in twelfth place at the Stanford Invite is no joke as the finish, along with a personal best of 24:35 had elevated me into the top 100 Division I performances for the year. I was getting noticed.

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Dueling it out with a couple of Stanford runners in the prestigious Stanford Invitational. On the far left, #3260 is Tyler Stutzman [originally from Virginia] (4:01 mile/8:06 3k). Next to me, #3253 is Mike Atchoo [originally from Michigan] (3:59 miler).

I finally started to create a buzz. Not only was I a legit contender for a top 10 WCC finish, but, was in the talks of possibly qualifying for NCAA nationals. Despite the buzz garnered in the coach’s office, I shifted my focus to the next task: Bronco Invite. The Bronco Invite, hosted by Santa Clara, is a generally flat course. Despite the 24:35 ran at Stanford, I knew that the only way to solidify myself as a legit contender for a national berth was to run sub 24 minutes on the 8K (5 mile) course. There was one task at hand prior to the Bronco Invite, an interval session. The workout prior to Bronco was a 10 by 1 kilometer repeat with a 90 second break in between done on a rigorous, grassy course which consisted of a pretty tough hill. The splits given to me were pedestrian: 3:01 to 3:03, preparing me to run a 24:05-24:15 8k, I knew I was better. As the workout started, I shifted my focus towards going fast, must faster than projected as I ran the first repeat in 2:57. Throughout the workout I constantly ignored my coach’s plea (sorry Carbs!) to go slower and continued to split much faster. The last kilometer was special, hammering a 2:48 as I flexed into the finish. The average of the 1k’s was 2:55 (23:35 pace). I was ready.

There wasn’t any pressure coming into the Bronco Invite. By this time, I knew that I was going to kick some ass, I had swagger. What was uncertain was whether or not the buzz about me becoming a serious contender for nationals was still up in the air. The race started out pedestrian for me, as I was caught in a traffic of mediocrity. By this time, I had become claustrophobic of middle of the pack running so I started throwing elbows, eventually weaving my way out into the front pack. The race played into my hands as I felt strong, despite having a side stitch in my lower abdomen. I coasted to a third place finish (out of 189 runners), running a sub 24:00 minute 8K (23:53 – a school best) and was recognized as the first non-Portland/BYU runner in our conference to do so. I now had a target on my back.

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One of the greatest moments of my XC career: running through the finish line realizing that I had just ran a sub 24 minute 8k, a school record.

Obstacles

The night of Bronco onwards was difficult. Few hours after my sub 24 minute performance, I had to babysit. Babysitting wasn’t the problem for me. The problem was, the couple that I had to babysit for decided to stay a few hours past the agreed upon time of midnight and came back, hammered, at three in the morning. I was lucky to get in a few hours of sleep and the next morning we had a long run scheduled. For the sake of my aching muscles, I decided to forego the long run and shortened it to a twelve mile up-tempo run. After the long run, I took a short nap and went off to the library as I had a ten page paper due the next day…which I hadn’t started (oops). The WCC Championships were two weeks away and mid-term week couldn’t have come at a worse time. The stress of school started to take over as I now started sleeping three to four hours. Mid-term break was on that same week, but, for some reason, I still couldn’t sleep longer than four hours a day. WCC Championships was around the corner and the thought of it had consumed me.

The weekend before the big race, we had our one last “tough” workout for the season. The workout consisted of running two 1 mile repeats, three 1 kilometer repeats, and one more mile to finish it off. Despite being exhausted from mid-term week, I was focused, splitting the last mile in 4:27 on a tough half-mile loop. I was satisfied with the workout, so satisfied that I now guaranteed my teammates a top ten finish at the WCC Championships, all-Conference honors. Later that day, I decided to purchase a rather expensive outfit for the annual WCC Championship banquet. The banquet recognizes both the men’s and women’s team champions along with the top ten individual who made all-Conference. Knowing this, I went to Macy’s and decided to go all out and purchase a pretty snazzy outfit. I saw the receipt as I was trying out my new outfit at home; I unknowingly spent forty-five dollars on my tie. Failure was not an option.

WCC Championships

The day before the big race was hell. I now had averaged about four hours of sleep for two whole weeks and it finally started to show. We were scheduled to leave campus at seven in the morning and I had woken up feeling like absolute crap, something wasn’t right. I got dressed and rushed off to meet the team before departing to Portland. We eventually reached Fern Hill Park, site of the WCC Championships for our routine course jog-thru. Except this time, the course was damp and wet as it was demolished by the heavy Oregon rain, looking nothing like it did six weeks prior. The jog was miserable and I was exhausted from the airport shenanigans and had trouble keeping up with my team. Something was wrong, terribly wrong. We eventually reached our hotel where I had a chance to take an ice bath before dinner. By this time, my forehead was burning up and I was feeling dizzy. I took my ice bath and allowed my roommate for the night to take one as well. As I was dressing back up, I started to feel dizzy, really dizzy. My head was spinning and then…I collapsed. For a solid couple of minutes, I had fainted, only to get right back up as I heard my roommate drain the water. I couldn’t let anyone know.

After surviving dinner, I went back into my room where I finally had a chance to relax, taking a solid two hour nap and eventually falling asleep later on for four more hours (six hours total). I woke up feeling exhausted (slightly better than the day before). I was running on the emotions. The process had all culminated to this: WCC Championships and I was ready to take what was mine, a top ten finish. The rain had not settled and it continued to pour on Fern Hill Park, making this my first muddy cross country race. Coming into the race, I felt like I had a great strategy. The course consists of a gradual uphill and a solid downhill. I had projected myself to run a sub 23:50 8k, believing that it would put me in contention of possibly winning it. As I did all year, I would take the hills easy as it was normal for runners to pass me by, but I took advantage of my long legs on the downhill’s and would surge aggressively to regain ground. The strategy was inspired during a hill threshold workout my junior year where I practically jogged the uphill’s but would sprint the downhills. The result was a much faster time than the one done prior where I would run the uphills faster. Doing this, I release less lactic acid and save myself for dyer situations.

Despite not feeling my usual self, I toed the line. I looked down to my right shoe for inspiration as I waited for the gun to go off, as the word “faith” was written on it in Punjabi. I had to not only put my faith in “the process”, but, in myself as well. Although I consider myself to be a humble person, I do not believe that anyone else had the strength or the spirit to endure what I had endured throughout the entirety of the process and that was all the confidence that I needed. As the gun went off, I dashed straight to the front, taking the lead from the start. The first downhill surge had given me a ten meter lead on the front pack. Despite the nervous look on my coach’s face, I was comfortable and I stayed true to my strategy by allowing the competition to gain ground on the uphill. The first mile came and went at a smooth 4:46 as I heard BYU frontrunner and eventually All-American Jared Ward tell his teammates to surge up to me. I was now mixing it up with the BYU and Portland front-pack and then all of a sudden, I let out the girliest shriek imaginable. I got slashed (spiked) by an LMU runner. At that time, I felt minimal pain as my focus was shifted towards bringing home All-Conference honors along with beating our rival Santa Clara. I continued to race with the front pack, cruising through the second mile somewhat comfortably. Towards the 5K mark we approached the downhill where I shifted my speed, running aggressively and then, the unimaginable happened, I slipped and fell.

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Taking the lead at the start of the WCC Championships. The race featured three All-Americans: Jared Ward (BYU), Tyler Thatcher (BYU), and Scott Fauble (Portland).

Within a blink of an eye, I went from running with the front pack to somewhere between 13-18th place. The first thing that came into mind wasn’t my training or the sacrifices that I had made. Instead, it was the forty-five dollar tie that I had bought for the banquet thinking, “I spent way too much on a damn tie to not get all-Conference recognition!” I got right back up and this time, I could feel my ankle swelling up as well as the lactic acid that had consumed my legs from the fall. I was now running on will power. I knew that I had a strenuous task ahead of me. Despite this, I started to pick off runners gradually, one by one until I worked myself back up into the mix. With two kilometers to go, I made one last hard surge, passing a BYU and a Portland runner. I now entered the last mile not knowing what place I was in. The only thing lingering on the back of my mind was the promise that I had made to the coaches, to not let them down. The last mile onwards was hellacious, knowing that the two runners that I had previously passed by were breathing down my neck, I was holding on for dear life. I held onto my position as I saw the finish line, sprinting away from my worst nightmare: failure. I dashed across the finish line and instantly counted the runners that had finished in front of me. I made all-Conference.

Onwards

The 2012 cross country season was one to remember. I had accomplished all of my goals and then some. I ran regionals with a purpose to not only qualify for nationals but to perhaps move on from running. Don’t get me wrong, I love running and competing but I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot since committing myself entirely to the sport starting from senior year of high school. Instead, I missed nationals by eleven seconds (three spots) and was devastated. Nonetheless, I had a tremendous season, accomplishing a lot and going where no SMC runner has gone before, to the podium, and obtaining all-Regional honors. I honestly couldn’t have done it without a great supporting cast. Coach Carberry and Kinsey had given a once average runner the opportunity to showcase his work ethic and talent in the West Coast Conference and the opportunity to become great is all that I really need. My teammates from both the men’s and women’s side, as well as the SMC community, were vital as well. Being told that I inspire them was all the motivation that I needed to endure the entirety of the XC season. However, there was one individual that was an inspiration to me, my partner in crime (i.e. my workout partner), Nick Ellingson. Suffering a torn quad during training camp only to come back several weeks later and run a 24:48 at Conference was nothing short of remarkable. You’ll be hearing more of him. With that being said, I am excited as I continue onwards with my running journey. As of now, I am just enjoying the process; you’ll see me at XC Nationals.

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Standing on the podium at the 2012 DI XC West Regionals with the best the west had to offer. I had finally established myself as a “front-runner”.

Special thanks to those who have stuck with me well before I made a name as a runner, I love you guys.

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Saint Mary’s College of California has been honored in the prestigious 2013 edition of Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. The newly revised guidebook praised Saint Mary’s educational approach as “powerful” and “a mechanism of change.”

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Saint Mary’s is the only Catholic college, and the only California college, in the history of the 40-school list. Colleges That Change Lives says the academic and spiritual mission of Saint Mary’s is fundamental to its success with students, noting that “the Lasallian tradition fuels the college’s perspective on teaching and learning: Education is powerful, and it comes with a deep responsibility to improve the world.”

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My Sacrifice

My Sacrifice (Summer Base 2012)

     Well, here I am. Twelve weeks and 876 miles later, I have successfully completed Summer Base training for the upcoming 2012 cross country season. At the conclusion of my 5k track race at the West Coast Invite, I got a reality check. The reality check is that I am not a professional wrestler, but a runner. My obsession with professional wrestling and obtaining a more “Rock like” physique escalated at the start of the New Year as I had become determined to pack on muscle to garner a higher self-esteem, building myself up to 172 pounds. Now for running, weighing 172 pounds is out of the norm as most successful runners range anywhere between 145-160 (for my height of 6 feet). Gaining 9 pounds of muscle is what I believed had prevented me from having the breakout season that I had yearned for. Now, I understand that I achieved a personal record in the 5k, running a 14:48, but I honestly believe that the time could have been much faster. The reality check hit my when I finished took 11th place in a field that consisted of 28 runners. What had hit me even harder was that a hand full of runners that I had beaten in cross country had finished ahead of me (not to mention a handful of Gonzaga runners who had never beaten me before). Although I did not meet my expectations of breaking 14:40 for the season, I believe that I had the aerobic fitness to do so, despite my unique build.

     With the memories of the West Coast Invite looming in my head, I started summer base with a new found dedication to the sport of cross country. Training in terms of running is no problem for me. What was difficult for me was to do was to live the “runner’s lifestyle”. In distance running, there is no room for bulking up and building pure muscle, because the added weight can literally hold you down from achieving faster times. Therefore, I had to give up my second passion: the gym, and dedicate myself solely to becoming a better runner by training hard. Yet at the same time, training does not restrain itself to running. Training is also inter-twined (nice word) with your diet and recovery habits (i.e. sleeping, physical activity, etc). Therefore, in order to train harder, I not only had to run a lot more, but I also had to do core, diet, and recover properly as well. In order to do so, I constructed a summer diet that consisted of lots of dark green veggies, wheat bread, fruit smoothies, and of course, protein as well as a core regimen, both inter-twining with the 12 week summer base program set up by my assistant coach which has me starting off at 55 miles and eventually building up into the mid 80’s through mid-August, right before training camp starts.

     I have a theory that people over-emphasize “high” mileage, in a sense that far too many people believe that by running a lot of miles, one will automatically become a better, faster runner. The reason why I do not believe this to be true is due to the fact that I have seen far too many people run themselves into the ground, believing that high mileage was the key to their running successes. However, I do believe in “higher” mileage, and in order to obtain higher mileage, one must have patience. Although I am entering the later years of my collegiate cross country career, I still maintain my patience, because as I’ve mentioned, running is only one-third of the training triangle. If I diet and recover properly, I not only increase the quantity of my running, but my quality as well.

     The first week of base started off great. I started running seven to eight miles a day, averaging around 6:30 pace and my “long run” of 12 miles was done easily at 6:32 pace. I officially started my core and diet on the second week of base. The second and third week of base was anything but easy as I was trying to acclimate to the new found running lifestyle of core and leg workouts, all while maintaining a strict diet and building mileage. The pace during weeks two and three slowed down as I averaged between late 6:30’s to mid 6:40’s, usually feeling a bit fatigued every other day. The toughest part of training was recovering efficiently. Recovering in the form of nutrition was no problem for me. Getting some sleep definitely was. During the summer, I got an internship over at City Hall in San Francisco for five days a week and the commute, along with the actual internship cumulated to about 35 hours a week so finding time to sleep was difficult for me. I averaged roughly around 5 to 6 hours of sleep, which is far below the norm of 7 hours a day. However, I eventually got acclimated to sleeping a lot less. This proved true when I started to feel a lot better during the fourth week of base as I compiled seventy miles with the climactic 15 miler done during one of the hottest nights of the year (not to mention getting lost at the end of it). The fifth week started off with a much needed day off as I spent my Sunday lounging, doing absolutely nothing because the day before I not only did a long run, but I spent several hours moving furniture out of a two-story house.  After a successful down-week, I got straight into the mileage as I built up to seventy-five miles by the time week six came around. The seventh week of base was perhaps my most successful. I not only had an awesome Monday run, but a very fast, yet unintentional up-tempo Tuesday and Wednesday runs that had me averaging around late 6:20 pace. I eventually came down to earth on Friday as I didn’t even bother timing my run, knowing that it was going to be a long ten miler. I capped off the week with yet another solid 15 miler that rolled me straight into the eighth week. For some particular reason, I felt rather lethargic during the eighth week of base, as my up-tempo Monday run had me at mid 6:40 pace, which is snail’s pace by my standards, and a Tuesday regular run that wasn’t any more impressive. The week eventually started to improve as I ran my up-tempo 10 miler at mid 6:30 pace out in Lafayette, and hit my first double of the summer later that night. In what I thought to be a tough week of training had turned for the better, as I had ran my fastest 16 mile long run that I had ever done, finishing at a time of 1:41.48 (6:17 pace). What had made the run even better was that I had the energy to do strides right after as I capped off my first 80 mile week of the year. The ninth week was my second down week of the summer, as I took Sunday off and ran comfortably throughout the week, knowing that I had my first tempo workout the following week.

     Finally, the home stretch. Weeks ten through twelve revolved around three workouts: a solid up-tempo run, the actual tempo workout (the most important of the three), and of course, the long run. Anything in between was purely recovery. Knowing I had to secure these specific workouts, I felt the need to conserve energy so I decided to stop doing lower body workouts, workouts such as butt squats/planks, and hamstring curls, feeling that I had more than enough strength in those two areas. Also, I was slated to run 250 miles within a three week span, something that I had never done in my life. Week ten started off with me doing two up-tempo seven mile runs on Monday, both ran around mid-6:30 pace and a recovery day the next. Wednesday was my first official “work-out” of the summer, a five mile temp on the Iron horse trail. The workout was a success as I had ran the five miler in exactly 26 minutes (25:57 8k), a twenty-five second personal best from January. The great part of the workout was that I had felt smooth as my heart rate fluctuated around 180-185 for the most part. The crappy part was that since I had driven to Danville by myself, my cool down was a grueling 5 miler that had my stomach growling around the third mile. I finished week ten with a 16 miler, capping off a solid 80 mile week. Week eleven was another solid week for me. Getting adequate sleep wasn’t a problem for me anymore as I had completed my internship and had a lot more time on my hands, running 85 miles all in singles with a solid 15 mile fartlek session that consisted of running three sets to two 800’s at 2:20 pace. Finally, on the last week of summer base, I had one more tempo run in my way as I had to run a 6 miler at the Iron Horse trail. The run went just as smooth as the one done two weeks before as I ran it in 31:24 (32:28 10k pace), a forty-five second personal best and I capped the 88 mile week with a solid 20 miler, my longest run done, ever.

     Twelve weeks and 876 miles later, I can honestly say that I am in the best shape of my life. I trimmed down to a lean 165 pounds, several pounds lighter than I was back in May, and more importantly, the quality of my runs have progressed just as much as the quantity of mileage, leaving me to feel more confident about myself as a runner. People often say that I run simply because I love it. I would say that is half true as I believe myself to have a rather love-hate relationship with running. A great portion of my love for running comes for reasons of self-betterment. Running is a very humbling sport and to do what some can only imagine doing leaves me feeling grateful. More importantly, my peers look up to me as I am often told that I am somewhat of an inspiration. From running the weekly mile in P.E class sophomore year, to running on a division 1 cross country team, my peers have noticed that I have made great strides but my success would not have been possible without making sacrifices. I have sacrificed a great amount of time to the sport of running, time that could have gone towards doing what normal people do: living life. Instead, I find myself dedicating my heart to something that has taken me to places that I could’ve only dreamed of several years ago. There’s no way that I could’ve afforded to attend Saint Mary’s, a private college had it not been for running and as of now, I am entering my senior year on pace to fulfill my mother’s dream of a college education. As I enter the later stages of my collegiate career, I will continue to work hard towards to goal of obtaining peace with competitive running, all for the purpose of evolving and moving on to future endeavors…and who knows, I might try to revive my passion for art or become the first great Indian professional wrestler! But as of now, I am a runner and for the next fifteen months I will continue to do what I have been doing for so long and will do it the only way I know how to-by goin’ hard.

 

 

 

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