To Finish Was To Win

‘The blonde hair, the purple everything, the coach, the tenacity of that team, and the Devastation Tour. This was the beginning.13 years have gone by since that first cross country practice in ’03. I remember the cone run at Cibolo, the 1k repeats in Bentwood, Fulkerson’s simple but effective coaching, and I remember the fun I had.

And here I am, a different time, and a different place, more miles, still having fun, and on that same quest for greatness.

The last 31 days leading up to the Olympic Trials was the most roller coaster, stressed out, anxious, relaxing, hyped up set of days I have ever experienced as a runner. I went from feeling like a million bucks at mile 10 in Jacksonville on Jan 3, to wondering for the next month if I would even make it to the line at the Trials. As most know, I got a little overexcited getting back to my big mileage weeks after a bad race at Jax half, and wound up overexerting my hip flexor. The next few weeks consisted of taking down time and getting into the pool. Something I did not want to be doing leading up to the biggest race of my life. When the cards are dealt a certain way, you learn to play the hand in front of you.

After a couple weeks of downtime, aqua jogging, easy running, and hundreds of dollars in massages/physical therapy (thanks Mark Kendall, Darbs, and Mondo Sports), I made it to Los Angeles. Thursday was pretty uneventful as we arrived in the morning and settled into our downtown Airbnb casa. Friday consisted of a shakeout run down Figueroa in the heat, and then the athlete meetings. After turning our bottles in, picking up our bibs, catching up with friends, and getting last minute details from USATF officials, it was off to chill for the rest of the night.

Saturday morning.

Just like that, race day arrived. I got up, ate some breakfast, got my stuff together, and made the short walk with Scotty Mac to the start line. The tension in the athlete pre-staging area was thick. Everyone was sitting around chit chatting about different stuff, but primarily the weather. It was roughly low 60’s about 1.5 hours before the race, and everyone thought it was going to linger like that for a little bit. But mother nature stayed true to form, and the temp rose. About 15 minutes before the start, we dropped our gear, laced up our flats, and headed to the line.

I had always said that getting to the start line was going to be harder than the race itself. But I made it. It is an indescribable feeling standing on the line with the nations best marathoners. But I knew we all belonged there, and we would equally suffer for the next 26.2 miles.

They blasted the horn and off we went. I thought the race would go out a bit slower because of the warm temps, but I was so wrong. I was with the ”dead last” pack of 20 guys for the first two miles, and we still came through 2-3 miles at roughly 5:15, or close to marathon goal pace. I wasn’t worried, I just laughed as I watched my ”conservative race plan” go right out the window. As we made our way into our first 6 mile loop, I joined up with my other Skechers Brethren and proceeded to click off some solid miles.

We came through the first couple of loops and I was feeling pretty decent. Our pack cruised through the half marathon at 70 minutes, and then out of no where I started having a small bad patch. I expected to have a couple of these, so I decided to slow it down and regroup. I brought down my pace for the next 3-4 miles from 515/520 to 5:40’s, with the hope to recover a little. I came up to mile 20 and my legs just started feeling AWFUL. I thought the dead legs would pass, but that feeling never went away. I tried a couple of times to pick up the pace, but they just weren’t responding. I decided to just enjoy the race and at the very least, finish. I came across the line with 1,000 emotions. But mostly, just a feeling of pure bliss.

Afterwards I overheard someone say, “To finish the race, was to win.” Despite the slow time, the lack luster performance from myself, I am proud of what I accomplished.

Did the heat affect me? Mentally, no, but physically, yeah probably. I think the combination of the hip flexor injury, the heat, and not having the ”veteran marathon legs” did me in. But at the end of the day, I know that I did everything I could in that race.

As a runner, we all welcome pain, we all want to push our bodies to the breaking point, and we all want to suffer. The Olympic Trials helped me realize the glory every single runner achieved in not necessarily winning the race or setting a personal best, but suffering.

What will I remember the most about the Olympic Trials? The heat. The smell of USC”s campus. But most importantly – how many people supported me. How many people were inspired by me just BEING there, let alone finishing the race. The overwhelming amount of people that reached out, near and far, to wish me luck, to congratulate me. My family and friends on the LA streets, cheering me on every step of that race. That”s what I won”t ever forget. Running in itself is a pretty selfish sport, until you see the people it can touch, and inspire.

Looking back on the last 13 years of my running, and just my life in general up to this point, reminds me of this quote from Joe Walsh: “You know, there’s a philosopher who says, “As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos, and random events, non-related events, smashing into each other and causing this situation or that situation. And then, this happens, and it’s overwhelming, and it just looks like what in the world is going on?! And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel. But at the time, it don’t.”

The only difference is, my novel isn’t finished yet. I”m just getting started. The Devastation Tour continues.

A few thank you’s are in order: My coach Derick at Durata Training. This guy believed in me, supported me, coached me, and helped me get this far. Thanks for everything. Skechers Performance – A brand that has gone all in with supporting athletes. My family and friends without whom I would not be here.

Also, congrats to Meb, Galen, Jared, Shalane, Amy, and Desi. I know y’all will represent us well in Rio. #America

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