The rise, the peak, and the fall. A year in review.
Winning is everything. Second, ninth, one hundredth, they're all the same. Outside of your close knit friends and yourself, you can have mini milestones, personal records, breakthrough performances, disappointments, and failures that your ride or dies will take notice. But toe the line as the winner, everything changes.
Most would call it an ego but I write it off to competitiveness. Growing up, I had many lessons of failure. I distinctly remember playing my first year of little league sitting in right field, most of the time not completely understanding how the sport worked. I went around tagging people with my glove hoping it would get people out, little did I know you needed the ball to do so. With the help of teammates laughing at me and a sympathetic babysitter, I trained all off-season and got my first dose of work ethic. The next year, I helped pitch our team to an undefeated season. After that, I spent every off-season practicing football, baseball, running, and basketball with all the neighborhood kids. Calling up everyone's home phones the old fashion way and setting up play dates. I quickly learned that if you wanted something, you could work for it.
I applied my newfound knowledge to everything in life. If I lost, I needed to figure out how to get better. With the help of coaches, teammates, parents, and a competitive brother, I won state titles in baseball, cross-country, track, and competed at the varsity level in wrestling. I was class president, excelled in the classroom, and received accolades in orchestra. You give me a goal and I was going to get it.
There you have it, a big headed, ego driven (it's just competitiveness y'all), goal smashing, naïve little boy. I came into college ready to take on more and I got it. I finished the year as the second fastest division I true freshmen in the 10k. Only behind the infamous Parker Stinson. At this point, I can barely fit my giant noggin through doorways.
(enter reality check)
The next 7 years, I fail. I fail a lot. I'm put through a slow and painful dismantling. Brick by brick, my running foundation was removed until I was left with nothing. Each year was met with more disappointment and a stronger drive to work harder. I had spent my childhood proving that work ethic equates to success. Work harder and good things will come. At my peak, I was running 114x100 meter hill repeats on Tuesday, 10 mile tempo on Thursday, 14x800 meter hill repeats on Saturday, and 20 mile long run on Sunday for a total of 120 miles a week. I wasn't afraid to work hard, I had worked hard my whole life.
Mental fortitude never let me down but my body's ability to keep up faltered. Mono, two stress fractures, and a four year bout with anemia attempted to slow me down but I found other ways to keep working hard. My body was screaming ENOUGH but I had bigger plans. Eventually, my mind started to give up on me. My senior year, I'd often go on late night runs hoping I'd be hit by a car so I'd have an excuse to stop. I was defeated, ego checked, and my identity was in crisis mode. I finished my senior year of college running slower than any year previously. I was humbled but I wasn't done. I needed to win again.
I wasted a college career chasing greatness but only caught an invaluable lesson. I knew I had to find more balance in life and in training but I also wanted to prove to myself that I was still as good as I thought. I was once one of the best runners in the nation and I knew that talent still existed.
Determined to find my love for running again, I spent the next three years undertraining. Often running as far as my body felt for the day and mixing in a weekly workout and long run to keep the legs sharp. My body began to bounce back, my chronic anemia resolved, I saw some improvement and even won a couple races. My love for running was finding its way back.
By year three, my performances had become stagnant and my peers in high school and college had begun to surpass me. While my competitiveness was anxious to hop on the training wagon to catch up, I was patient with my process. It wasn't until my former college teammate Reed Fischer placed fourth at the US 10k championship that I knew it was time. I'll be the first to admit that I was jealous, the fire had been lit. The next day I contacted Reed's coach Tom (Tinman) Schwartz.
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