NCAA West Regional Championships

58 pieces of peanut butter toast. 24 Races. 5 years. One Dream: The NCAA XC National Championships. As I went into this week I knew that it would take another race at peak performance for me to be an All-Region runner in the top 25 and qualify as an individual for nationals. The race was setup to be a perfect day with some fast times. On Thursday, during our warmups, the smoke from the nearby fires was strong and it was a very windy day. The forecast for the race said both the wind and smoke would die down, and it really did. It was sunny, but not too warm at the noon race start, with nearly no wind. The course in Sacramento was the same as two years ago; Three big two mile loops, no hills, barely any dirt, and wide turns and straightaways. Much better than the San Diego course from two weeks ago, and an even faster course than the Wisconsin course from Pre-Nationals. 

From the gun, I got out in a really good position. I was up with the lead 20-30 people, which was exactly where I needed to be. I felt like I was cruising, not working too hard, and putting myself in a good position for when the pack started to pull away. The pack rolled through the first mile around 4:42, and Jose was right there with me. Around the 2k mark there was a little bit of a jumble on a turn and Washington State runner went down right in front of me. My legs did not make it out of this race unscathed. I’ve got spike marks on the front of both of my legs and my right knee. I was right in the middle of the pack and instead of using energy to put my hands up to tell people I was there, I would just let my legs do the talking as I ran into them. As we rounded the turn to start the loop for the second time, I was in a very good position. I was sitting somewhere around 15th-20th place and still didn’t feel like I was working too hard to be there. About 4k into the race I passed Jose, and took the lead for the Spartans. Just a little over 2k later there was a nasty fall on the inside of one of the turns and it took out a lot of the pack. I managed to avoid the runner as he went down right in front of me, but it was still a mess. I was getting shoved from all sides as I collided with other runners around me. I found myself near the top 10 on the outside-left part of the course trying avoid a similar occurrence on the next right turn that was rapidly approaching. This is where the race really took off. The lead pack started to make a surge to separate themselves going into the third loop, and I was not able to cover it. In the span of about 800 meters, I fell from around 10th all the way to 50th. The lead pack dropped me, Jose passed me, and I felt like I had hit a wall. Physically I felt gassed, and wasn’t sure how much I had left in me. I hit the 8k mark and told myself that it doesn’t matter what happens, but I’m not letting this race kill me here. I haven’t trained this hard, put in hundreds of miles this season, and devoted my life to this sport to give up because it’s two kilometers longer than I’m used to. There was UCLA runner directly in front of me, and a St. Mary’s runner in front of him and I set my sights on them. It turned into just picking off one runner after another, and not letting anyone else get passed me. I found something left in the last 2k of the race and just focused on relaxing my arms and having good form. When we got the last kilometer, I just went to the arms. If someone was going to try and pass me, they were going to have to work for it harder than I was. 

I finished 42nd overall and 1st for the Spartans with a time of 30:27.4. It’s the highest finish I’ve had in the West Region Meet by 15 places and the fastest time I’ve run for a 10k by 20 seconds. I’m content with the finish, but I wanted to make it to Nationals. It’s the race that I’ve been dreaming of running for 5 years, and it’s unfortunate that I couldn’t make that happen in my last year. Things don’t always go as we plan them, but I’ve been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to run for the Spartans and have everything go as well as it has. It’s been one hell of a ride, and I can’t believe that this is the end of my collegiate cross country career. I’ve grown so much as a runner and a person and this has been a truly life changing experience for me. I want to thank everyone who reads the blog for following my journey these past five years, for supporting me, for reaching out to me after the races, and for being the best audience that I could ask for. It’s been so great, and I can’t wait to be back for the first official season of the reinstated Men’s Track Program. I’ll close with a quote by Bruce that I feel applies to my dream of nationals, the effort I put into trying to hit that goal, and where it’ll live on forever.

“Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost, I’ll be there on time and I’ll pay the cost, For wanting things that can only be found In the darkness on the edge of town.”

See you in the Darkness on the Edge of Town.

-Craig 

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Mountain West Conference Championships

The conference championships have always been one of my favorite races of the season, although historically it hasn’t gone great for me. My best conference race was my freshman year, followed with the mess that was the Reno race, and my last effort in 2016 with poor racing tactics at Boise. I’ve been looking forward to this race for two weeks to really see how my training not only this year, but also all of last year has helped me become a better runner. This year was a special year because the race was back at sea level in San Diego. So I wanted to make sure my last conference race was my best one yet. 

We left San Jose Thursday morning at 9am, landed in San Diego, and went straight to the course for our pre-race warmup. The course was not very flat with an even mix of uphill and downhill, a fair amount of curves, and a lot of dirt. We still laced up the spikes, but had some smaller pyramids in them than we raced with at Wisconsin. The race was designed to be two bigger loops, followed by two smaller loops. It was nice to start with the big loops and then finish with a smaller loop. Friday morning began with a 5:45am wakeup and a 5:55am shakeout run. After that, I had the classic three pieces of peanut butter toast with the bread I make sure I always bring. We left to go to the course and Bruce reminded me that I was Born to Run. My parents said a brief hello before the race, we went for the usual 20 minute warmup, and then it was time to rock and roll. 

The starter of the race gave the “On your mark” command and fired the gun very quickly which I think threw off some of the racers. It allowed me to get out well in the pack and situate myself right up in the front. Because of the narrow course and mixed terrain at the start, there was a lot of jostling, pushing, and running into other people on the turns. The course was not equipped well to handle the pack of people that we started out with. Around 1.5K I got clipped from behind on one of the turns and would have gone down if I hadn’t grabbed the back of a nearby Air Force runner. Shortly after, a Boise runner clipped the back of my spikes and went down, so it was really tight conditions. The entire first loop was pretty packed up with the leaders pulling slightly ahead of the rest of the pack around the 2K mark. By the time we hit the downhill of the second loop, it pack was still at least 20-25 people strong and barely starting to accordion. I worked on maintaining the pack I was in for the second lap, and once I passed the 4K mark, I knew it was time to pick it up. On the downhill at the start of the third lap I had caught up to Jose and was sitting around 14th place. I worked the downhill to get the next pack and just maintain going up the hill. There were a couple Air Force, Wyoming, and Boise runners ahead of me so I worked to make sure I either passed them or kept moving with them in the pack. The third lap was shorter than the first two, so in no time we were back to the start for the fourth and final lap. I was somewhere around 10th place at 7K with an Air Force guy right on my tail, a Boise runner in front of me, and a Wyoming runner just past him. The last three minutes of the race, my form went to absolute garbage. My arms were flailing, I was going really wide on the turns, and I was hurting. I passed the Boise guy early on into the final 1K, and moved in front of the Wyoming guy with just enough to go that he couldn’t catch me at the finish. When I got to the top of the hill with about 150 meters left in the race, I didn’t have much left. I was leaning forward so much people though I was going to fall, and with about 20 meters left into the race I was gone.

 I don’t remember finishing the race or the athletic trainer that was there to catch me from passing out or being rushed to the medical tent. I struggled to control my breathing, my heart rate was very high, I was overheated, dizzy, and on the verge of passing out. They gave me water and gatorade, and then tried to cool me down as fast as possible. I had a bag of ice under my head, two on my upper body, and one on my stomach. I was so hot that the ice was steaming as it melted so quickly. I was in the athletic tent for about 40 minutes with the athletic trainers before I tried to get up and walk. I felt like a baby giraffe trying to walk out of there and make my way over to the team. My parents were there waiting for me and they walked me over to the tent.

I literally gave it all I had in the race. There was nothing more that I could have done, and I’m so, so happy with the results. I finished with a time of 24:58 and placed 8th overall, which gave me the distinction of All-Conference Second Team. I can’t say that that place was worth the state of exhaustion I was put in afterwards, but it definitely made me feel better knowing that I left everything I had out there. Coach Sarver and Coach Wick both agreed this time that I had executed the race perfectly, and had brought the bread better than ever before. 

Our next race is the NCAA West Regionals on November 9th in Sacramento, where I and the rest of the Spartans try to qualify for the NCAA nationals meet back in Wisconsin. Two weeks is going to go by faster than I can think, and I can’t wait to be back with another post about how it goes. See ya real soon. 

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All-Conference 2nd Team
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The Spartans! 

Pre-Nationals

It’s been quite the weekend out in Madison. Lots of flights, running, and some great accents from the locals. We started early Friday morning leaving San Jose for Madison at 6:30 with a short layover in Denver. We went straight to the course after the flight and did our pre race day run, some drills, and learned the course. This is different from most courses in the West because it’s designed to be a cross country course! It’s not a golf course we’re using for the weekend, it’s a cross country course year round, and boy was it nice. It’s got some inclines, wide straights and turns, downhills, and a great straightaway for the finish. The race is two medium loops, a small inner loop, and a big loop that drops you at a long straightaway to finish. I was really excited to have a chance to be out here. The past 5 years I’ve been on this team, we’ve been working for a chance to get to a big meet like this and it only makes the program stronger for the future.

Race day started out with a fairly late wake up call of 8:00 followed by a short 10 minute shakeout run and breakfast. I had the usual peanut butter toast and added a hot cup of chamomile tea to calm the nerves a little bit. We left the hotel at 10:30am with a 12:30pm start time for our race. At 11:40am we hit the course to warmup, stripped off some of our layers, and laced up the spikes.

At race time it was about 47°F with a slight breeze, but nothing too bad. We brought out the gold half tights paired with the light blue Spartans singlets. Most of the field was wearing gloves, and I’m happy I had those during the race today. We started off quick from the gun. I got out well, got jostled a little bit, took a spike to the knee and left leg, but got into a good position with Huruy. I kept contact with a pack and settled into the race and was in for a surprise just before 2K with a hill we weren’t able to run the day before. The second loop was a little slower and looking back at the race, this is where I needed to push a little harder. I slowed down a little bit and dropped back in the pack as we rounded 4K, and turned into the shortest loop of the course. I passed Huruy right at this point and started moving my way down the course. There was a small pack of guy that I kept in my sights and used them to keep moving up. I used the uphill around 6.5K to move past the guys struggling up it and closed the ground on another pack in front of me. After 7K, I made it my goal to make sure no one passed me to the finish. And to the best of my knowledge, I did just that. I finished in 62nd place with a time of 24:48, and second for the Spartans.

I’m very happy with my time and my placement and I brought the bread all the way to Wisconsin! This was around where Coach Wick and I predicted I would finish. We changed the recipe of the bread for this week, adding a harder start and grinding harder at 4K and it still needs to be perfected. I know a bit more places I can work harder, and with more training in the upcoming weeks, I’ll only be getting stronger. The next race is the Mountain West Conference Championships in San Diego on October 26th. It’ll be nice have a race in some warmer conditions! See you in two weeks.

Stanford Invitational

It’s been a month since our last meet, but the time has been full of hard workouts, higher mileage weeks, and a lot of time in the training room. But with these four weeks of training under my belt, my fitness is in a really good spot with even more room for improvement.

Today started with a 6am wake up call from Bruce Springsteen and the usual three pieces of peanut butter toast. I watched an episode of ‘The Office’, and then Charlie and I walked up to meet Coach Wick at 7:30.

My race was scheduled for 10:30 and the weather was a little warm, but not as bad as it’s been in past years. The course also changed this year. They had us running on a lot more dirt, longer grass, and made sharper turns. Overall, it was a slower course. We did the usual 20 minute warmup, drills, and spiked up for the first time this season.

The start was actually smoother than it’s been in years past, with no one going down on the sharp left turn 200 meters from the start. I got out with good speed, but was jostling around the pack trying to find some space to run and not get boxed in on the turns. The footing this year was worse than years previous and it really showed in the times. There were lots of times where my shoes couldn’t grip through the hay and dirt and it was frustrating to lose a few steps every time we ran through these patches. Since the course also changed, I got really confused on where we were going in the first lap, so it took me the first loop to get used to that and then I understood where I could move past people on the course. Charlie was with me through the first 2k loop, and then I put my sights on Huruy, passing him around the 5k mark. He and I worked well the rest of the race with me leading him through 6k, Huruy pulling ahead of me around 7k, and then working together up the hill to the finish. I finished 24th overall as 2nd man for the Spartans with a time of 24:47.7. Coach Wick agreed with me that I brought the bread today, but the recipe can be even better by the time we get to the West Region meet.

Jose had a great day and moved well with the front pack placing 10th with a time of 24:21, Huruy was 3rd man in 29th place with a time of 25:03, our freshman Luis was in 39th place running 25:18, and Edgar and Charlie finished right next to each other in 59th and 60th with times of 25:37.0 and 25:37.7 respectively. And rounding out the Spartans competing today was Evarsito in 110th place with a time of 26:52.

As a team we placed 5th on the day with a score that I think the team is happy with. Our next meet is in two weeks in Madison, Wisconsin for the Pre-nationals race. It’ll be the biggest test for the Spartans in recent history and provide a good place to see how we can perform at the West Region meet in November. It’s the exciting part of season now where we’ll have races every two weeks, so I hope you’re excited, because I am. See ya soon!

San Francisco Invitational

This is it. The final cross country season of my spartan career. I can still remember the first race here 5 season ago, where did the time go? It feels good to be back running at the start of a season after redshirting last fall and my injury stricken spring. I’m not as far into my training as I should be due to an IT band injury at the start of August, so I’m just getting back into the swing of things. Today’s race was more of a workout/tempo than an all out race.

It started like most race days, waking up just before Bruce could remind me I was Born to Run. I followed this up by bringing the bread and making the classic three pieces of peanut butter toast. We left campus at 7:15 and made the hour long trek up to Golden Gate Park for the race. The women were first with their 6k at 10:00 and we followed them with a 10:45 start time. The weather was cool and overcast, and nice weather for a race. We did the 20 minute warmup, drills, strides and headed to the start line.

When the gun when off, I had no traction and slipped on the grass. I regained my footing and got into a good position at the start and stayed towards the outside of the group to keep from getting boxed in. I stayed in the middle of the pack through the first mile and then they started to move away. Because I was treating this more as a workout and less as a race I just focused on keeping an even pace. And for the first three loops, I did just that. I didn’t try to move with any of the packs in front of me or pick anyone off, I just kept cruising. For the entire race I was averaging a 5:17 mile, so a little faster than I would have gone had I run a tempo workout instead of the race. I picked it just a little bit on the last loop and finished 6th for the Spartans in 41st with a time of 26:17.

At this race 2 years ago I ran 26:03. So for this being just a workout, I’m pleased with the overall time. It was necessary to get me into the racing mindset and to provide a good base for me to build from. Now we’ve got a solid 4 week training block until our next race in Sacramento on September 29th. See ya in a month!

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NCAA West Region Outdoor Championships

It’s been one hell of a season and only two races long. Unfortunately this is the end of the road for my season, but I couldn’t be more happy that I was given the opportunity to run at the NCAA outdoor championships. Four days after the race at the Mt. Sac relays, I developed an Achilles injury and was back to cross training for another two weeks. At this point in just the spring season I’ve had 7 weeks of running and 12 weeks of with zero miles logged and just cross training. The injury wasn’t the end of my season, but it ultimately killed most of my training momentum I had gained in the weeks previous. Nonetheless I charged forward and made the best that I could make out of it. I had a good week and a half of training before this race and I doing everything that I could to set myself up for a good race.

The race was set for 8:30pm, as I was in the second of three heats. I woke up without Bruce because it was a late race, but rocked out to him on the van ride over to the stadium. For breakfast, naturally I had my classic peanut butter toast. And for the rest of the day I read a good Clive Cussler book and walked around and tried to keep the blood flowing throughout the day. We left the hotel at 6:20pm and headed over to the track and I did my warmup an hour before my race.

The warmup for this race was good. For once in a seemingly long time, I actually felt good and didn’t have and pain in my Achilles, back, or IT band. I did clean practice hurdles, my first since my last race, and was focused on the race. I was so focused, I completely forgot to race with my headband. I didn’t realize until I had finished my race that I didn’t wear it. I didn’t know what to expect in this race, I knew it would be fast, but I knew what I had to do.

The plan was to get in a good position early on and then run right around 70 seconds per lap. And I did a good job of that. I was boxed early on because I started as hip #1 and was on the rail, but still set myself up for good positioning and clean barriers. The first water jump wasn’t bad, but not great either. I had too much time in this race to focus too much on my technique and towards the middle and end of the race, it really because apparent I was favoring my right leg so I wouldn’t put strain on my left Achilles. I was still in the mix for the second and third laps of the race, and that’s when the leaders started to make their moves to string the race out. I think that if I had better and more consistent training this season I could have moved with them. But I felt weak and undertrained, and I tried to hold on the best that I could. I had some more bad jumps and clipped my heal on knee on two barriers. The last lap I picked it up a little bit and didn’t quit my fight. I finished in 12 in my heat and 36th overall in the event with a time of 9:03.88. No bread being brought today.

I’m very proud that I had the opportunity to represent San Jose State for the first time in over 30 years at the national championships, and I know exactly what I need to work on to get back here next year and go even further into the season. I’m using today as a a learning experience for the type of race, the strategy I need to work on for next season, and how I can work on my all around strength.

Today was also my last time racing against Noah McDermott. He was in the third heat, but we’ve been battling back and forth for the last four years on the track and in the fall during cross country season. He’s a great competitor and a great runner and I wish him all the best as he continues his post collegiate running career. Hard to believe that four years ago him and I were out in Eugene racing at US Junior Nationals and that our times were in the 9:30’s! It’s really been quite a journey.

I’m excited to see what I can do this upcoming fall with a solid summer of training, working on preventing injuries, and just an even greater desire to race faster and better. Bruce says it best,

“Baby we were born to Run”

See you in the fall

-Craig

My last collegiate race with Noah McDermott

Mt Sac Relays

It’s been almost 9 months since I’ve been on the track, and it feels really good to be back bringing the bread. Before I get to the race, I’ll go into more detail of why my season is starting so late.

In late January, I was recovering from a nagging ankle injury I had since the middle of December. I had just started running again, and 10 days into my training something went wrong with my IT band. Still not really sure what happened, but it wasn’t good. I couldn’t walk or run without being in a huge amounts of pain, and it made training difficult. I was unsure if I would actually have a track season this spring. I was working with an athletic trainer for over an hour every day on rehab, going for 28 mile long rides on my bike, and simulating track workouts on an elliptical. Mentally, it was tough to have such good training in the fall to having to prepare for not running at all in the spring. Literally going nowhere on stationary machines also took its toll because it was hard to find the positives in my training, and it was tough to go to practice to watch the team leave you behind for their morning run. Looking at it now, if I had started my running a week or two later, I wouldn’t have had enough training to run this race yesterday so I’m extremely lucky with the timing of everything. My training to get here wasn’t much easier. After my coach, athletic trainer, and I decided that I was okay to start running again, I was ramping up the training nearly 20 miles every week. We’d throw in tempos, fartleks, and track work, that was pushing the physical limits of what I should have been doing at the time. I was treading a fine line between having more high quality training and pushing my body further than I should have, and that’s obvious from the shin splints I’ve had for the past week. So that’s the insight of what’s been going on with my season and where my mind is going into this race.

We drove down on Wednesday with a largely uneventful car ride, with a lot of The Byrds that Charlie keep requesting, and not much else. Thursday included a nice shakeout with Coach Wick in the morning and then a lazy day in the hotel as I was trying to recover for a slight cold I had. I just had to make sure I was all ready to go for my race Friday.

We left the hotel Friday at 4:15pm, and drove to El Camino College for my race at 6:55pm. The weather was pretty close to perfect with a good temperature but a little bit of a wind down the backstretch. I did my 20 minute warmup, did some light hurdle drills and a few test jumps on the turf to make sure my shin wasn’t going to bother me today. With a good warmup a lot of nerves and a brief sense of calm, I headed to the hipping tent to go out to the track.

The race started out fast. I went straight the back of the pack and rolled through the 200m mark at 36 seconds, but that was okay with me because I knew what times I needed to run (71 seconds per lap). If I got too caught up in the pack, then I was a little afraid that I would blow up. I moved through the first full lap (600m) at 70.13 with clean barriers and a clear path to the water jump. I stayed exactly where I needed to be and kept clipping off the times that I needed to run while keeping the pack right in front of me. My lap splits couldn’t have been any more perfect than doing this in a workout. 36, 70, 71, 71, 71, 72, 71, 67. There was probably only three of four bad hurdles on the day and two of those were on the last lap. With two laps to go, I just focused on maintaining my speed and picking off the people as they slowed up a little bit. With 300m to go in the race, I really started to move up. I passed a group of people on the outside, had probably my worst water jump in a long time, and had very poor form on the last barrier. I was tired, everything was burning, and I was struggling to breathe, but I finished just a second off my time last year with an 8:54.39. This time should also take me to the first round of NCAA Nationals (yes we have that this year).

I’ve feel like I have a huge weight lifted off my shoulders from running a race without any pain, doing it with 5 weeks of training, and potentially getting a qualifying mark for first round of nationals. Now I get the next six weeks to focus on my training and hopefully move onto the final round of nationals. I’ll be back in a few weeks with another race, so I’ll be back soon.

Last Lap Video

Silicon Valley Elite Turkey Trot

Happy Thanksgiving! Today was the second race of my season, my second road race ever, and my first 5k Turkey Trot (Gobble Gobble Gobble)! I was entered in the elite section of the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot, which was scheduled for 8am. The really nice thing about this race was where it started, about two and a half miles away from my house. It started out like so many of my races with a nice serenade from Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” followed by the usual three pieces of peanut butter toast as I got ready to bring the bread.

It was a bit strange not having to drive anywhere to get to the start line, so I just stayed at my house until about 6:55, when I left to meet Jose at the main fountain on San Jose State’s campus. We did our twenty minute warmup down the Guadalupe River Trail, did some drills and just tried to mentally prepare for the race ahead. Jose has run this race multiple times in the past, so I was really happy to have someone who knew the race and how it runs.

There were about thirty elites entered into the race with guys who have run low 13:10’s and lots of 13:30 guys. So with my PR of 14:33, I was a little nervous going into this race. We got out pretty hard. There was a lot of jostling in the first 200 meters, and it got tight as we throttled down a single street lane. After the first 600 meters it started to spread out a bit more. I felt like I got out where I wanted too, not caught up with the leaders, but not too slow. My plan was to work with Jose for as long as I could and never let him get too far ahead of me. After the first lap, we settled into the race and guys who went out a bit too hard started to pay the price. Jose and I rolled through the mile around 4:35, a little slower than we wanted but not too bad. I kept keying off the guys ahead of me and working on not letting them pull further away. I rolled through the second mile at 9:25, but I didn’t feel like I had slowed down and run a 4:50, so I’m a bit skeptical that was the actual time for that mile. With one lap left, I knew I had some work to still get the finish that I wanted. I caught up to Jose with about 1000 meters left in the race, and kept going after the guys ahead of him. At this point I was off in no-mans-land, and just trying to hang on and finish the race. I was hurting a good amount, and couldn’t really feel my arms as I made the turn down the last straightaway to the finish.

I finished in 20th place, with a time of 14:39 officially, and Jose was just being me in 22nd place with 14:49. Not a PR for me or what I wanted to run today (14:15), but a time I’m pleased with. I ran a smart, gritty race, and never stopped working. Being in 8k/10k shape is a lot different than Steeplechase/5k shape, so to run within 6 seconds of my PR makes me happy. I’m definitely taking this as a learning opportunity and a great way for me to get the feel of what it’s like to run with other elite athletes. I’m really excited to see what I can do on the track this spring. With the training I’ve had this fall, the confidence I’ve built in my racing, and some big PR’s on the season, it’s going to be an amazing spring season. I can’t wait to be back on the track to write for all of you again. Until then, see you on the track.

-Craig

The Bronco Invitational

Hello for the first and last time of my 2017 Cross Country season. Because my summer racing in Israel went so late into July, my coach and I thought it would be best for me to redshirt this season. In doing so, I’ve been having some of the best training of my life. I’ve been doing higher milage weeks, getting faster in my workouts, and being able to really push myself hard in training. The good part about this season is that it now gives me a fifth and final season in both cross and track for the 2018/2019 season. The downside is that I don’t have many opportunities to race this fall because of the distance to get to meets and the limited quantity of good meets. But I’m happy I got out to run the Bronco Invitational in Baylands Park this year.

This race is generally one of the quickest courses that the team will compete in for the season. It’s a great combination of dirt, a small patches of grass, and a little concrete that makes for a quick race. I was both excited and nervous to start racing so late into the season without having any sort of rust-buster. The race got moved up to 8:00 due to fear of poor conditions from the wildfires raging up north in Napa and Sonoma. I woke up with Bruce reminding me what I was born to do today and had my three pieces of peanut butter toast. I left my house and got the pitch black park at 6:25, waiting for the rest of the team to show up. Quickly thereafter we did our 20 minute warmup, some drills, strides, and headed over to the line for the start.

I got out really well in the race this year. I jumped around a little bit to not be boxed in for the first turn and went straight into the front. If you recall the last time I did that at the Mountain West Conference meet last year, I panicked a lot a dropped back fast. This time, I knew that I could run with the front of the pack and not be too far out of my league. I held the lead for just a little bit, and then merged in with the rest of the lead pack. The first lap was fine, and I knew where I needed to work a little bit. Last year on the second loop, with the little hills, I slowed down a little bit too much. This year I attacked the hills and moved into a good spot. Close enough to see the leaders, but not pushing myself above what I could handle. After the first of the three big loops, there was a little separation between where I was and the lead pack. I was pulling a couple guys along with me, but I closed that gap by the end of the second lap. The third and final lap was where I really started to put good work in. I was in about 13th or 14th place with a little over 1600 meters to go, when I started making my move. I caught up to Jose with abut 1200 to go and was sitting in 11th place. I was moving with an old high school rival of mine, UCLA’s George Gleason, and we were both using each other to bring that final push to the finish. We both moved up really well in the final 800 of the race and I just narrowly got ahead of him in the home stretch. I finished in a time of 23:48.3 in 6th place overall.

This is a really nice improvement from my 24:11 last season, and it makes me even more excited to see what I can do this spring on the track. This is the only real post of my  “cross country season” and I’ll also be running a 5k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. I’ll have a nice posting about that race too. Until then, see you on the trails.

-Craig

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20th Maccabiah Games: 5k

Boker Tov! It’s been a quite a long track season, and now it’s finally coming to an end. Three days after the 10km road race, I was back on the track for a nighttime 5k in the stadium at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. 

I didn’t wake up to any alarm since the race was at night, so I postponed Bruce until the ride over to the track. I was planning on eating three pieces of peanut butter bread (the line for the toaster was too long) but I could only manage to eat two. My teammate, Samuel, had the third piece and I don’t want to take credit or anything but I think it helped him get the silver medal in the 800 and the 4x400m. Just kidding, he did that by running some super smart, savvy races. The rest of the day included playing cards, watching Netflix, and just trying to stay distracted. At 6pm I took the shuttle from the hotel to the track for my race at 8:35pm. I listened to Bruce tell me I was Born to Run in the Promosed Land at the Darkness on the Edge of Town. I went for my usual 20 minute warmup, did some drilled, spiked up, and got onto the track. 

The race started out jogging the first lap at around 77 seconds, which is when the two Israeli’s and South African runner jumped to the front and pushed the pace down to about 67. I stayed off them a little bit and just kept going at around 70/71 per lap. With eight laps to go I caught back up to the lead pack, who had slowed down dramatically. Here’s where I made a stupid decision in the race. I saw the guy in third and thought that I could beat him. So instead of slowing down, matching their pace and then kicking at the end, I took the lead. My next mistake was not ratcheting the pace down. I knew these guys could kick me, and I wasn’t pushing enough to run the kick out of them. I kept going by in 70/71 maybe a couple 72’s in there, and just about 2 laps to go the group of three passed me and took off. Mentally, I gave up right there and I hate myself for doing it. I pride myself on fighting through races and always kicking at the end, but when these guys passed me I convinced myself I couldn’t catch them. I got 4th since I had a bad mentality in the race, and I’m sure I’ll never let that happen ever again in any 5k or 10k I run in the future. 

I couldn’t get the result I wanted, time or medal wise, with a 14:54 and 4th place, but it taught me a very important lesson in running the 5k: Don’t ever count yourself out. It such a simple thing to say, but so hard to execute. This past year I’ve struggled a lot with that in the jumps I’ve made in my running and I’m finally coming around to understanding that it’s not a fluke that I’m running fast times. My times come through hard work, good training, and efficient racing, and I’ll continue to work on that into the next seasons. 

There’s a song I like to listen to before every race by my uncle, Nelson Wright, called Orphans of The Past”, which I really think sums up track racing. 

“Every chord has a line, every passage has its time, the road has a reason that he won’t have to answer for”

I’ll see you on the road

-Craig

Last Race with the “d Squad”