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

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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”

The 20th Maccabiah: 10K

Hello from Israel! It’s a bit surreal to be competing for team USA in Israel, but the races are finally underway six days into the competition. The first race was a 10k road race, and it’s quite the story. Let’s get started.

The race wasn’t scheduled until 7:45pm, so I spent most of the day in the hotel. Don’t worry, a friend of mine helped me find peanut butter, so I had the classic three pieces of peanut butter toast. Later in the day, I took a nice walk around the Jerusalem Forest to clam my nerves. We left the hotel at 5:45pm, got dropped off a mile away from the start of he course and walked over. I did my usual warmup about 50 minutes out from the race, came back, and then found out the race was pushed back to 8:15pm. Then it was moved forward to 8:05, then back to 8:10, then back up to 8:05… Then since there was a road race for the general population at the same time, there were 2000 people racing, and security guards who wouldn’t let Maccabiah athletes to get to the front of the race. Overall, the race was not well designed for the competitive runners, and it was too hard to get any accurate information.

Anyway… The race started out well. I went right to the front and had the motorcycle leading me through the streets of Jerusalem. Just around 500m, I had a South African runner who was hanging right on my back. Around 3k into the race he threw in a surge, and that was the last I saw of him. So I was off in no man’s land, with at least 1 minute between me and 3rd at just around the 4k mark. Then the course got bad. Then next 1500m we’re all up a hill. And it was brutal. The course was not designed to anyone to run fast, and now I knew why. Around 7k, we turned up a street and went through the Jaffa Gate into the Old City. That was a cool experience to run through there, but road flats are not meant to run on slick cobblestone paths, so that slowed me down a bit. By the time I had gotten to the 9k marker, I knew there was no way for anyone to pass me, and I was hurting, so I didn’t kill myself to get up the last hill to the finish.

I finished in 2nd place in both the Open race and the Maccabiah Competiton in 34:xx. So not an earth shattering, but the course wasn’t ever going to be fast.

The craziest part of the night was the medal ceremony. It was pretty surreal to stand on the medal podium, hold up the American flag and get a silver medal. I’m so excited to have been a part of the 10k, even if I wanted to pull my hair out at how disorganized it was. My next race is the 5k and 4×400 on the track on Thursday night. 


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Portland Track Festival

Hello again! We’re two weeks into June and I’m still pushing my track season on for another month, but naturally I’m still bringing the bread. It’s been about two months since my last steeplechase at the Mt. Sac Relays where I set my current PR of 8:53. The race today up in Portland, Oregon gave me a perfect opportunity to have a shot at getting the SJSU Steeplechase record and also have one more race before the Maccabiah games in Israel. 
The race today wasn’t until 5:50pm, so I had a lot of time to wait around. Due to the fact my race was so late in the day, I woke up without Bruce and had some cherios before I ate my peanut butter toast. I played some cards with my dad, let him win a couple of rounds, and then eventually we headed over to the track at Lewis & Clark College at 3:30pm. Closer to race time, I did my usual 20 minute warmup, drills, put on my #Blkkngs headband, and headed to the start line. 

Out of the three steeple’s I’ve raced this season, this one had the best competition. I was seeded 9th in a field of 11 athletes, and was hungry to get a good time. I started out the race in the front for the first 200 meters, but unlike other races, I didn’t panic. I made sure that the lead pack was never more than one second ahead of me, and kept moving up well throughout the race. I was running 70’s and 71’s for most of the race, with a couple 72’s sprikled in. Where I excelled the most in the race was my water jumps. I saw the other competitors lose precious seconds on the water jumps, and I had maybe one that was sub par. Because of this I was able to make big move in the last two laps of the race and set myself up for a third place finish. 

I finished in 3rd place with a time of 8:50.9. It’s not quite what I wanted to run, I didn’t get the school record, and I’m a bit bummed it wasn’t under 8:50. But, it’s still a 3 second PR for me. With all things considered, I’m happy with my performance and even more excited to see what I’ll be able to do in a 10k road race and 5k track race in Israel for Team USA. I leave for Israel on June 27th and I race the 10th and 13th of July. I’ll have two separate postings for each of those races. See you soon!

Spartan Up!

Last Chance Meet

The Last Chance Meet is always a fun one. The dynamic is different from big meets like the Mt. Sac or Stanford Invitational, but still presents an opportunity to run good times. Today was my last chance at running a 5k before the Maccabiah Games this July in Israel. I would have preferred to run another steeplechase, since I think I can break the SJSU school record of 8:46 with the training that I’ve been having, but I figured there would be better competition in the 5k.

The morning started out like a normal race day with some toast and Bruce Springsteen getting me in the race day mindset. We left San Jose at 9:00am with the earlier racers running at 11am. My race wasn’t until 2pm so I just listened to some more Bruce and joked around with Raul and Huruy. Before I knew it, we were starting our warmup and drills to get ready for the race.

The race started out well. I rolled through the first 200m in 33, but I was with the pack that I needed to be with, so I stuck on to the back of them. Then things got a little rough. Unfortunately, there was a really fast group at the front, then there was me and my group, but no one between us. From the second to fifth lap, I was leading the chase pack and doing all the work for the rest of the group. It was really windy on the backstretch, and I was fed up with doing all the work. So halfway through the fifth lap, I put on the brakes. Like I literally started doing a workout pace. That pissed off a couple of people behind me, which was the plan, and they moved to the front and started leading. I let them lead for the next two laps, taking us through seven and a half laps before I took the lead again. When I did that, I was consistently running 70 second laps and moving up on some people who couldn’t hang with the front group. I rolled through two miles at 9:25 overall and a 4:42 mile. Over the next 4.5 laps, I worked hard to get my lap times lower. Unlike the 5k at Stanford, I knew that I was making up ground and getting faster lap times. I felt a lot better in this race, even with some strong winds, but still managed to push hard. I closed my last 400 meters in 66 seconds to finish 4th overall with a time of 14:33.35. As for the other guys on the team, Raul finally…finally broke 15 in the race with a 14:56, and Huruy had a great second chance at the 5k running 14:47.

The end of the season is always bittersweet. It’s fantastic to be able to see these tremendous improvements in training and racing year over year, but it also brings a close to some teammate’s time at San Jose State. This year on the men’s team, Raul will be graduating and leaving us to pursue a new running career with a running club of his choice. On the women’s team, Karina and Jessie are both graduating with big plans for their futures.

Just one more little update with the First Round of NCAA’s. So I’ve run the qualifying time to get me into the race, but some new rules are keeping me from actually getting entered. Coach Wick and the athletics compliance office at SJSU is doing everything that they can in their power to be able to get me to race in Austin a week and a half from now. If the NCAA denies our appeal, then that will officially end my season. But I can’t wait to be back here in a couple of months to write about the Macabbiah Games. It’s an exciting time! I’ll be back soon with one (maybe 2) last post of the season. Stay tuned….

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My last race with Raul 

Cardinal Classic

Wow, I haven’t had back to back races in a long time. This race was a bit of a change up for me, since I was running the 5000 meters in the Cardinal Classic at Stanford. It was setup for a 7:47pm night race, with a pretty loaded field. Jose was also racing with me today, which gave me a nice warm-up partner and racing buddy.

I skipped the morning routine since I didn’t race until much later in the day. I had my two pieces of peanut butter toast for lunch and listened to some Bruce. Then I just hung out at my house until I got picked up by Coach Wick. We headed up the road and got ready to bring the bread.

The race started out a bit slow. I was on the inside of the waterfall start, and went straight to the front, since no one wanted to take it. Then the outside pack closed in on me, and everyone passed me. I rolled through the first couple laps where I needed to be time wise, but the pack started to drop me. I rolled through the mile at 4:38 and was stuck out in no man’s land. It got hard to tell if the people that also fell off the pack were going really slow, or if I was actually catching up to them. I came through the two mile at 9:22. Just a little off the pace I wanted, but not too bad. Unfortunately, my legs were already spent and I couldn’t keep going at the pace I needed. I was running 72 second laps for the last mile with a 69 last lap. I finished in 14th of 19 runners in a pretty loaded field with a time of 14:40.98.

I’m content with the time, but I still wanted the race to be a little bit quicker. With a quick turn around from a tough race last week, stress from school, and some long nights of homework, I’ll take this time. I know that everything can only get better and faster from here, so I’m excited to finally have run a 5k. My next race will be in San Francisco for the Last Chance Meet where I’ll be running either my second 1500 or 5k of the season depending on the field and if I can run a decent time. My next steeplechase will be in Austin, TX for the first round of nationals. See ya soon!

Mt. Sac Relays 

This meet took me back to my SoCal roots. The Mt. Sac Relays presented another opportunity to run a fast steeplechase. The race was on a Thursday, so we’ve had a bit of a weird training schedule leading up to this. 

We left San Jose in Wednesday morning and with a travel day full of driving, me complaining about traffic on the 5 and why we should have taken the 405, and a pasta party dinner at my parents house there was never a dull moment. It was a pretty good travel day, and set it up well for a nice Thursday race. 

Thursday started without a serenade from Bruce Springsteen since I woke up without an alarm. My race wasn’t until 4:50pm, so I woke up on my own around 7:00am and had eggs, potatoes, and peanut butter matzah for breakfast. Then for the rest of the day I just distracted myself with a lot of episodes of Spongebob. Which was probably the best thing I could do, since it kept me from stressing out too much about my race. We headed out of the hotel at 2:15 and I had my usual pre-race Bruce concert in the car ride over. 

I did my usual pre race warmup, put on my obniously large bib (I hate bibs, so this didn’t help their case), and did my drills and such. From there I went to the checkin tent, and headed onto the track. 

The race stared out well. I hung onto the front group well from the start and kept myself in a good position. There was a lot of jostling right from the start and I got spiked a couple times throughout the race. I felt better physically than in the SF race, but this was a much more tactical race. I was moving out into lanes 3 and 4 to have space for clean barrier hurdles, and would swing wide on the water jump to not have people smack me in the face. They ended up doing that anyway. I tried to focus more on just holding a good position in the race and not worrying about the time. I sat in 6th for most of the race and let the other guys do the work for me. I was hitting 71-73’s consistently for the laps, so I was good. Then with 3 laps to go, I saw I was 4 seconds ahead of the SF Distance Carnival time. I kept my cool that lap, and started to move up with 2 laps to go. I was in 5th with 2 laps to go, and with 200 meters to go, I had pulled into second place. My body was beat up from spikes, hitting a couple barriers with my trail leg, and some less than stellar water jumps, but I held onto it to finish with a six second PR at 8:53.03. 

I changed my race tactics and still had a stellar race and I’m gaining a lot of confidence overall in my races. I’m extremely excited to have this time as it should take me to the first round of the NCAA Outdoor Championship in Austin, TX. I’ll keep you posted with that info when I find out. Also huge thanks to my mom for coming out today to see my race. My next meet is potentially a 5k at the Stanford Invitistional next week. See ya really soon! 

San Francisco Distance Carnival 2017

I hope everyone’s missed the steeplechase as much as I have. Because today was a fantastic day for the steeple. It started like every other meet with Bruce Springsteen slowly waking me up and then the three pieces of peanut butter toast. I mean, how could a day with Springsteen and toast be bad? My race was scheduled for 2:37pm, on my favorite track, at San Francisco State. We left campus at 10am and took the short trip up to the city to wait around until the race.

I did my usual warmup before the race, and the drills, but I was really nervous. I haven’t had a really successful steeple since this race in 2016, and this season’s training hasn’t been filled with much steeple practice. So with this being my first race, obviously I wanted it to be a good race, but I didn’t know my ability since it’s been so long since one of these races. All I could plan was to keep in contact with a pack, and pick people off as the race progressed.

The gun went off, and I went pretty much straight to the mid/back of the pack. There were 19 runners in this heat, and since I was hip number 18, I was stuck in lane two for the first 300 meters of the race. My first water jump was good. I got a little to high, but kept my stride going just fine. The next lap I worked on keeping contact with the people in front of me and keeping my pace consistent. I could already feel the tiredness start to creep into my legs, but I had to keep fighting it. The second water jump was a little worse. I don’t really know what happened, but I landed weird and lurched forward when my lead leg landed. It was weird, since I had a good clearance and didn’t two foot land. Anyway, I was with an Alaska Anchorage and Cal Poly guy at this point, and they were the people I was working with. After that, all my water jumps were pretty good, and my barrier clearances were all pretty solid. I’m pretty happy with this, since in the past I struggled a bit with the water jumps. There was only one part of the race where my arms and legs got tangled with the Alaska runner after he landed poorly on a barrier hurdle. My goal for the race was to run a 4:55 mile for the first four, and I came through in 4:50. The fifth lap I slowed down, and eventually moved around the slower runners and started to push harder on the sixth lap to get in a good position. With one lap to go, I saw the time right around 7:52. I had been averaging a 71 second lap pace for most of the race, so I knew it was possible for me to break the 9 minute barrier. I just had to move. According to Coach Wick, I was getting extremely close to hitting the barriers on my hurdles but I didn’t notice a thing. I was just focusing on going as fast as possible. I made the turn down the homestretch and saw 8:47 on the clock. I cleared the last barrier, put my head down, and pushed as hard as I could, and oh man I did it. I ran 8:59.6…… 8:59.6. That’s a 21 second PR from this race exactly one year ago.

This time also puts me in the record books at San Jose State, as I’m the first Spartan in 34 years to get his name added to the Top-10 All Time List in any event. I’m really excited to see what I can do with another good race in two weeks at Mt. Sac (if they accept the time I ran today) or the Bryan Clay Invitation at Azusa Pacific. It was also great to have my sister Edee, and Uncle Ed come out to watch me today.