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”

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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.

Hornet Invitational

Oh boy! Track season is finally here. It’s halfway through the semester and it seemed like this week would never come. Fortunately I didn’t have to drive myself to Sacramento, so I didn’t have to worry about my car breaking down again this year.

I woke up to at 5:45am with the usual three pieces of peanut butter toast and Bruce Springsteen serenade. The team left San Jose at 7am to embark on the two hour drive to Sacramento State. The car ride was full of interesting conversations, like how I apparently use too many pairs of socks in a week, but mostly just kept me distracted from thinking too much about the race.

The race was the 1500m. I haven’t done this race since the Last Chance Meet in 2015, where I ran a 4:05, so I didn’t really know what to expect. There were six heats of the event and I was in heat number two. It wasn’t the fastest heat of the day, but it still had good competition to race against. All of the other guys were also racing in the 1500, so it was nice to have people to warm up with for a change at a track meet, and Huruy was also in my heat. I got to bring out my black Adidas spikes that I raced with in high school, so it was time for some serious speed.

The race started out well, I didn’t drop too far back in the pack at the start like I used to do in high school. I went though the first 300m in just about 46 seconds, which was right where I wanted to be. Huruy was with me through the first lap, and then I moved up right in front of him. The second lap went fine, and honestly I don’t remember it at all. I just knew I had to maintain my position and proximity to the pack of people. There was a group of people that had started to split just a little bit, so I worked to make sure I didn’t lose them. The third lap came, and I could feel my hamstrings starting to get a little heavier, but looking back I should have pushed myself a little bit harder here. When we cross the line with 400m to go, Huruy moved up in front of me, and I hoped in the second lane to start making my move. The nice thing about a 1500 is that when you get to the 1200 meter mark, you’ve only got 300 meters to go. It also helps that at least twice a week in practice we’ve done 200 or 300 meter intervals at the end of an interval workout. I was moving at a good clip with 200 to go, and when I got to the last 100 meters, I was struggling to maintain the pace. Fun fact, when I go into oxygen depletion I can’t see out of my left eye, and that’s what happened in this race. I was fighting just to make it that last 30 meters. I finished in 8th place in my heat and 25th overall with a time of 3:59.03. My first time going sub 4:00 in the 1500!

Overall, I think this was a good first effort and a great way to get the track season started. I can’t wait to get back into the steeplechase at the San Francisco Distance Carnival which will be on March 31st. See you soon!

Pre-Maccabiah Games 2017

Today is an exciting day for me. I’ve officially confirmed my place on Team USA in the Maccabiah games this summer in Israel! The games will take place from July 4th – July 18th, and will feature over 1,000 athletes from the United States, and over 8,000 from around the world. With that being said, this event is not all expenses paid. In order to compete, I need to fundraise $8,000 to cover plane tickets, transportation in Israel, food, hotels, and all that good stuff that makes the event happen. If you can support me on my journey to compete at an international stage I would be grateful for your support. The website for my personal fundraising is currently live, and can be found at this link: http://support.maccabiusa.com/goto/cthuff

I’ll post again when the link is up and running (haha, great pun). Thank you in advance for supporting me, I couldn’t have gotten this far without the support I’ve received.

NCAA West Regional Championships

Hello for the final time of 2016. Crazy to think that I’ve already spent three years running at San Jose State. As is tradition, the season always ends with the NCAA Championships. This year, the West Regional championships were in Sacramento. It’s a lot better than going to Seattle, since we didn’t have to fly and it wasn’t raining. We drove up Thursday afternoon and ran the course. It’s pretty warm up in Sacramento these couple of days, so even different from two weeks ago from Boise. The course was pretty nice. Three loops around, with really long and wide straightaways. It was similar to Seattle, but with kinda longer grass. The drive up, was pretty uneventful as was the warmup, so that kinda wrapped up Thursday.

Race day started with an 8:00 wake up call and shakeout run, where we saw wild turkeys roaming the streets of Sacramento. Breakfast consisted of the usual 3 pieces of peanut butter toast, since I brought the bread. We didn’t have to leave the hotel until  10:00, with a 12 o’clock race time, so we wouldn’t have to sit out in the heat for too long. We got in the usual 20 minute warmup, leg swings, and drills before the race, so it was looking like it’d be a good day.

I started out this race a lot better than Boise. I got out strong, and was up with the top 20 for the first mile. I knew that if I didn’t want to blow up, I’d have to ease off a little bit. I settled into a good position with Huruy, and then just kept moving. I saw UCLA’s George Gleason, who I ran against in high school, and kept him in my sights as the target to keep moving up with. There were certain parts of the race that just felt like I was flying down the straightaway as if I was in a moment of zen. At the end of the second loop, I already felt like I was pushing myself to my limits. My dad reminded me, today on this Veterans Day, that my pain was temporary and it’s going to hurt, but to think of his father in a fox hole in the midst of the Korean War. Whenever my mind drifted to pain in the race, I shut it down with this thought and kept pushing onward. Around the start of the third lap, I moved into second place for the Spartans and really put on the heat. I broke it into smaller sections, “only 2k so that’s like 6 minutes” I would tell myself. When I saw the 9k marker on the course, I put on the afterburners. I felt like I was giving it my all, and even I couldn’t believe that I was still moving up at the rate I was. I ended up finishing in 57th place with a time of 30:47.3. Which are two big improvements in both time and place to from years previous.

Overall, the Spartans moved up once again. We placed 11th overall out of 29 teams. Leading the way for the Spartans was Jose in 8th place overall (possibly a Nationals Qualifier). I was the second man. In Third was Huruy in 74th running 31:13.5, followed up by Ben in 90th place running 31:43.0, and rounding the scoring spots was Josue in 115th running 32:12.9. Not too far behind was Raul in 133rd running 32:31.6, and last but not least making his 10k debut was Evaristo in 176th running 33:53.7. It’s been quite the season, with more ups than downs, and I’m proud to have raced with this group of guys.

Before I close for the year, I’d like to take a minute to remember my mom’s father and thank him for his service in World War II. This race last year in Seattle was the last time that I had the opportunity to see him before he passed away, and there’s not a race that goes by without me thinking of him. He was always supportive of my running career and even tried to watch me race last year in the pouring rain. I’ve always been extremely lucky to have the support of my family and it’s made a world of difference. Today, my mom, dad, brother, and sister-in-law were all out there supporting me. I want to thank everyone who reads the blog for supporting me in running and allowing me to share my amazing opportunities with every one of you. With that, I’ll close with a Vic’s Vibe, one of my grandfather’s many sayings.

“Onward, upward, and forward!”

See you on the track,

Craig

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