Hinkle at USATF Indoors

Hinkle at USATF Indoors

[ Photo credit: Joseph Hale @jkh_photo ]

By Jenna Hinkle

Since I got a late start to my cross country season, I decided not to take a long break after USATF National Club Cross Country Championships. Instead, I took a short two days off before fully throwing myself into training for the indoor track season. My winter training was mentally one of the hardest training cycles I have had to date. I was used to taking the holiday season to relax and decompress from running. Instead, this year I found myself setting out on a solo 16 mile long run tempo the day of Christmas Eve. However, I was able to stay true to my training throughout December and January with the singular goal in mind of qualifying for the USATF Indoor Championships.

I kicked off my indoor season at the UW Opener in Seattle, Washington with the 3000m. Being the first indoor race of my career, I was excited both to test my fitness and find out what all the indoor hype was about. Let me tell you, the "indoor cough" is a real thing. I opened up with a 9 second PR, bringing my time down from a 9:24 to 9:15, and securing my spot in the 2 mile at the USATF Indoor Championships. This gave me the flexibility to hop in to other events, thus my next race I signed up for a 5k. I PR'd by just over half a second, a good indicator for my overall fitness this early in the year.

Before heading to the USATF Indoor Championships I got to stop by the HOKA ONE ONE headquarters and receive a "care package" full of HOKA gear, including a new uniform for the meet. I cannot thank HOKA enough for all the support they provide us, as I left their headquarters feeling even more excited for the national championships! I then began a smooth travel day to New York, ending with my arrival at the hotel in Staten Island. The next morning, I woke up and decided to make my way into the city for my shake out run. I caught the Staten Island Ferry, which passes closely by the Statue of Liberty, before jumping on the subway to Central Park. I spent the next 40 minutes running through Central Park while taking in all the sights it had to offer. One the things I enjoy the most about being a runner is the opportunity the sport has given me to travel and explore new places. Running through Central Park, I reflected about how grateful I was to both the Aggies Running Club and HOKA ONE ONE for the opportunity to go on this trip and pursue my passion.

Race day seemed to come quickly as I was soon catching an Uber to the Ocean Breeze Athletic facility. While my trip to New York was a solo one, I did not feel alone, as I received so much support from my HOKA Aggie teammates back home. I was also introduced to other runners affiliated with HOKA, reminding me of the community that comes with running. I took this support into the race as I found myself positioned right where I wanted to be in the lead pack. I passed through the mile in the PR pace of 4:56, feeling smooth and confident. Unfortunately, on the back stretch of my next lap my heel was clipped and I found myself sprawled out on the track. Having never fallen during a race before my initial reaction was shock, followed by a wave of disappointment as the lead pack had already opened up a large gap. However, determined not to drop out I picked myself up and finished the race.

While my race did not go as planned, the USATF Indoor Championships were still a great learning experience for me. I learned what it feels like to race on a big stage, and being surrounded by the best runners in the country reignited my passion to compete at the highest level. It is safe to say my experience this past weekend has sent me into the outdoor season with a heightened focus and lofty goals. Time to fly!

USATF Indoor Championships Results

Back up after a trip down to the track surface, heel-clipped… [ Photo credit: Joseph Hale @jkh_photo ]

Back up after a trip down to the track surface, heel-clipped… [ Photo credit: Joseph Hale @jkh_photo ]

Dix Dishes It On Club Nats 2018

Dix Dishes It On Club Nats 2018

By Roger Dix

Understandably, a number of Aggies who remembered the last time the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships were held in Spokane may have been reticent to make the trip this time. Memories of race time temps in the teens and a vicious 40 mph cross wind might have been a little much to overcome. As I tracked the daily temps for Spokane in the preceding weeks and days it was certainly comforting to see daytime highs in the mid 30s and lows barely dropping to the 20s, with little wind or precipitation. It was cold running weather for a California guy but nothing outrageous.

I think that most California runners who make the annual pilgrimage to Club XC Nationals in December are very used to the fact that almost every other spot in the US is much colder than we are used to. We understand that while 50 degrees is cool in California, 50 degrees for Club XC Nationals would feel amazingly warm. With what I have seen California XC runners expose themselves to in December, I feel that it takes a special toughness to run XC no matter where the individual comes from.

Several top local area runners were on my flight from Sacramento to Spokane, including Aggie teammates Peanut Harms and Tom Cushman. With all of the good runner conversation it felt like the shortest two hour flight I had ever been on. As we got off the plane I could feel a distinct wintery chill, but in actuality it was highly tolerable. That night we received our room and roommate assignments, amd went out for dinner followed by a team meeting. The next morning after breakfast we all received our HOKA ONE ONE swag (thanks HOKA!) that made us the best looking team at Club Nats. In the early afternoon we had our course preview. It was a great looking course and no snow!

One difference between this year and years past was the pre-meet dinner. Instead of going to a restaurant where we would invariably be out for a couple hours, we had dinner catered to a convention room in our hotel. Dinner was fabulous, and there was plenty of food for runners who needed to feed their high-metabolism appetites with seconds and thirds. It was very relaxing and a good team bonding exercise, during which everyone introduced themselves.

I was really proud of the way everyone ran their heart out on Saturday. It was great to see a team-complete for the men's super seniors and women's seniors. We had some outstanding performances, including an age group championship for Patti Gray Bellan in the women's 55-59 age group; Jaime Halpern finishing 9th place in the Masters while just two years shy of being a senior; and our open men's and women's teams finishing 5th and 7th against the best runners in the country.

As to my own race, I felt like I competed and ran hard on the 6.46 mile course. There were a lot of tough runners in the field but I could hold my head high knowing I raced hard. I must say thank you to the wonderful Aggie cheering section. Whenever I heard my teammates along the course, I tried to give them something to cheer about by summoning the strength to move up a place or two.

It was a wonderful experience and I hope to see more of my Aggie brothers and sisters toe the line next year at Club Nationals. Huge kudos to HOKA ONE ONE for all the support, and to Kevin and Noreen Searls for their tireless and relentless dedication to making sure all the runners are well taken care of as set about competing.

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Reid on 2018 Club Nats

Reid on 2018 Club Nats

By Phillip Reid

My 12th year at the USATF Club XC Nationals ranks among one of my best overall experiences. The travel day was smooth. The bulk of the Open Men’s team departed from SLO Airport, stopping at SFO before finally landing in Spokane, Washington. We had assembled a solid group this year with several new faces mixed in with some seasoned vets. Upon arrival in Spokane, we were greeted with temps in the low 20 degrees (F) range and plenty of salt on the roads--something foreign to us California kids. We jumped in the rental cars and drove to the hotel where we crashed for the night.

The next day, my roommate Will Geiken and I went to breakfast where we found many of our fellow teammates. After breakfast, we were surprised with a full spread of brand new HOKA ONE ONE gear being distributed in the lobby! Huge shout out to Joe Rubio, Kevin Searls, and HOKA ONE ONE for making this happen.

Following gear acquisition, the team went to Plante's Ferry Park, site of the race and located about 20 minutes away from our hotel. The course profile was grass loops over rolling hills with some tight turns and a couple of long straightaways. I've always liked these kinds of courses, with some challenging features to even the playing field without being too technical. Completing my strides and drills near the start line, I had a flashback to the 2012 edition of Club Nats in Lexignton, KY. At that race, my good friend Brandon Shirk uttered, "I'm going out HARD," seconds prior to the gun. He wasn't joking and he accelerated 30 meters ahead of the entire field taking me and many others with him in an all-out first 800m uphill and into the wind. Lesson learned.

We returned to the hotel after our team practice and hung out until dinner, which was held in our very own hotel ballroom. As with any Aggie affair, you must introduce yourself, listing your name, team (e.g., open/masters) high school, and college. Dinner was delicious and the company was even better.

Race day started with a standard routine of light breakfast, gear organization, and a hip hop mega mix. With temps in the mid-30s, no precipitation, and only a light wind, conditions seemed favorable. I was feeling good as we progressed through our warm up. We reported to the start line along with 450 other competitors, elbows pressed together and trying to get a couple extra inches of space.

The gun went off and I maneuvered into the top 50 during the first lap. There were plenty of Aggies on the course cheering and offering encouragement which helped out a lot. I started feeling pretty good in the middle laps and moved up steadily. I found my way in no man's land in the latter stages of the race but kept trying to pass as many people as I could. In the final 200 meters, I summoned every last bit of speed left in my old body to out-lean Luke Puskedra right at the finish line. I finished 28th overall, leading the team to a 7th place finish.

On the surface, this may have seemed like just another Club Nats experience. However, fostering connections with my new teammates and strengthening my friendships with people I've known for years made this one of the best trips yet. Big thanks to HOKA ONE ONE for the support, and for the tireless efforts of Kevin and Noreen Searls!

Club Nats Results

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Bellan Races Club XC Nats, Thinks Back On The First Wave

Bellan Races Club XC Nats, Thinks Back On The First Wave

By Patti Gray Bellan

Having the opportunity to dust off my spikes and take a stab at racing again after a VERY long hiatus has given me the opportunity to view so much progress in our sport. It was a privilege to meet the new, young, Aggie women and see them get down to business! The success of our Open Women's Team at XC Nationals, and the chance to race again with some of my old friends and competitors (e.g., Cal Poly SLO Hall of Famer Robyn Schmidt), has caused me to reflect on my personal experiences in this sport, and on how it was to ride that first wave of female distance running.

Those of you who also rode that first wave might remember a time when girls did not have their own cross country teams. Yes, during my freshman year of high school I ran on the boys' team, and was scored as a boy along with a few other girls at meets. Racing mostly boys was super tough as no boy wanted to get "girled." Maybe that made me stronger! Title 9 was then passed, and so in my sophomore year we were able to race in a separate girls' division. Sadly our girls' team had to forfeit most of the time unless we could beg a few friends to just walk the two mile course to fill our team. Muscles and sweat were not as cool then as they are now for girls and women!

Long before there were lycra tights and jog bras, The AIAW, not the NCAA, was the governing body for women’s collegiate sports. In 1981 I ran at the last AIAW National Track and Field Championship.

Patti with Coach Sue Miller - AIAW Nationals - 2nd Place 3000m - 1981

Patti with Coach Sue Miller - AIAW Nationals - 2nd Place 3000m - 1981

The following year I competed at the first NCAA DIV II and DIV I National Track and Field Championships where I became the first ever champion in the 3000m and 5000m at the DII National Meet.

1982 NCAA DIV I Nationals 5000m

1982 NCAA DIV I Nationals 5000m

My teammate and super famous Aggie, Linda Somers Smith, took 4th in the 10,000m as part of her debut track season. Until these championships, women had never competed alongside the men at nationals. Back then some of the male coaches were very concerned that the women athletes would be a distraction, really.

Patti and Linda - 1982

Patti and Linda - 1982

Being part of that first wave of female distance runners also included qualifying for the first ever Olympic Trials Marathon for women. Up until the 1984 games, the longest women's event in the Olympics was the 3000m. There still was not a 5,000m or 10,000m available at the ’84 Games, which is what forced me to move up to the marathon at a young age.

Qualified! - Nike OTC Marathon - 1983

Qualified! - Nike OTC Marathon - 1983

While I was in great shape heading into the trials, I suffered the only major injury of my career two weeks before the trials and was not able to compete. However, I was in the stands at the Los Angeles Coliseum when Joan Benoit entered the stadium to take the gold medal for team U.S.A. It still brings tears to my eyes.

Soon women were racing marathons like never before, but things were not yet equal. After winning the California International Marathon in 1987, in what felt like a hurricane, I was awarded the same prize money as the men’s winner. That was not always the case back then as usually the female purse was smaller. However, CIM thought it very important to pay women the same amount; revolutionary! Most recently I remember that Christine Olen (long time Aggie and best training partner ever) and I jumped into a few Idaho races to tune up for this year’s XC Nationals. In one of these races, the top 3 finishers were masters women! I never thought I would see that, not even at a small local race.

Tena Anex Harms

Tena Anex Harms

While all of these are historic/achievement oriented memories relating to being a part of the first wave, it is my first Aggie Running Club memory that really gets at what being an Aggie and creating wave after wave for our future runners is all about. I first met Peanut Harms and, more importantly, Tena Anex Harms (sorry, Nut!) during the summer of '81 after my first track season at UC Davis. Tena invited me for a run in the Bay Area. I was totally psyched to run with her as Tena was all over the record board at Davis. Her example and encouragement helped motivate me to follow in her footsteps and to keep paying the Aggie spirit forward.

Since the days that Tena and I ran for UC Davis, she as a pioneer and me as part of that first wave, a lot has changed in women's distance running. It fills me with pride to belong to a club that prioritizes the continued development of our women alongside our men, through coaching, training groups, and the huge support from HOKA ONE ONE.

Now, I want to hear your pioneering and first wave stories. I know there are quite a few to tell from both the men and women. Let’s share all of them so we can be reminded to keep ourselves at the forefront of opportunity and possibility.

GO AGS!

Get Strong, then Go Long: Reichert Reflects on 2018 Club XC Nats

Get Strong, then Go Long: Reichert Reflects on 2018 Club XC Nats

This year’s trip to Spokane was my 6th time competing at Cross Country Club Nationals for the Aggies; however, this year was markedly different, with my husband and daughter traveling along as supporters. I gave birth to my daughter Madeline in early 2018, and in the subsequent months I methodically worked my way back into “fighting shape”. One day, one mile at at time.

Geiken Recaps 2018 XC

Geiken Recaps 2018 XC

By Will Geiken

Last year’s cross country circuit ended up being a season-long duel between Scott and I that culminated with my barely holding him off in the points despite his phenomenal race at PA’s. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised that this year’s circuit was equally arduous. However, rather than being a reprise of last fall, this year I found myself sparring with the world’s most handsome runner, the embodiment of all that is good in the world, the one and only "Strongman" Rajpaul Pannu.

Coming into the season, my individual aim was to replicate my experience from last year, where I raced myself into shape and, in doing so, put in enough high finishes to take the circuit while preparing to get after it at Club Cross. I also wanted to ensure that I was doing my part in helping the open men take the team circuit, so getting in five races fit the bill.

With those individual and team goals in mind, and just one workout under my belt, I ran headfirst into the season at Golden Gate Park. There I surprised myself with a fourth place finish in an Aggie sweep. It looked like I was already off to a better start than the previous year. Meanwhile, Raj had already won at Santa Cruz, where the Aggies took the team win; placed second at Empire Open; and placed second at Golden Gate, giving him a significant lead in the circuit.

The next weekend, I set out to defend the individual title at Garin Park, but, as many runners have discovered, Phil is very hard to beat in the last 600m of a race. Finishing second did give me a boost in points though, and the race gave the open men three of the five required team wins.

The following weekend was another course I hoped to defend on, John Lawson, and this time I was able to hammer out a win on the winding turns and small hills. Raj finished close behind in fourth, narrowing his lead to one second place finish’s worth of points and helping give the open men their fourth team win.

Two weeks later I raced at Matt Yeo and was surprised when Paddy O’Leary, a SFRC trail runner who I’d held off on the single track of John Lawson, pulled away from me on the flat dirt track that is the Aggie Open. All credit to Paddy for an impressive race, and, as you will have noted, this left Raj and I tied in the standings. The team battle, however, was over for the regular season, with the open men having taken five wins leading into PA’s.

The stage was set for an individual showdown the following Saturday, where Raj and I went head to head on the hills of San Bruno. With no worries for team standings, this race was strictly for points, and while I ended up edging Raj out for the win, I found that racing for points can be treacherous. In the week between Matt Yeo and San Bruno, I began noticing a minor strain in my abdomen, and while the pain was never severe enough to affect my races, it should have served as a warning that my body was feeling the stress. But, as runners will do when confronted with minor setbacks in the middle of a season, I trained through and hit several more weeks of hard running before PA’s.

Due to the fires, PA’s was pushed from the weekend before Thanksgiving to the weekend after, which meant that I was racing the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot three days before PA’s instead of four days after, but that kind of turn around is generally doable. At the Turkey Trot, I made it through the first mile just off the lead pack and then ran what felt like my maximum effort for the remainder of the race. The result was a bit of a shock though, as my time was significantly slower than I’ve run on more challenging courses. I did my best to just ignore the result, as I needed to be ready for PA’s on Sunday, but, as you probably guessed, Sunday’s race went the same way. When the Aggies around me started racing during the second and third loops, my legs didn’t have the go they had had earlier in the season. I finished 11th, and while the team side of things could hardly have gone better, with Aggies taking the first 11 spots, I was hoping to have been more of a factor than I was. At the end of the day though, all congrats to Raj. He ran a commanding race, and he absolutely deserved the circuit win. He’s also a great teammate and an all-around great person for anyone who followed the Garden Street "beef."

With just two weeks before Club Cross, I dropped to minimal mileage and devoted my efforts to recovery. For the most part, it worked. By the time we got to Spokane, I was feeling close to normal again. Unfortunately, my legs feeling normal didn’t prevent a new pair of spikes from creating a beautiful blister on my right foot, making the many accelerations necessary to run fast in Spokane painful and sapping. It was a fittingly frustrating end to my personal season, but being with teammates and family made for a fun trip all the same. Additionally, a number of Aggies had great days that should be celebrated, including the open women who took fifth place!

Looking at the season, my key takeaway is that I was trying to focus on too many things. I was doing workouts to be fit for a half marathon in January, while wanting to be in peak XC fitness in December, while racing hard in September, October, and November. Complimented by a job that involves walking around for most of the day, I didn’t give my body enough time to recover. To my credit, following a similar plan this past spring had worked out fine, but that may have also played a role in the events of this fall. By the middle of the season I was tired, but we all get tired when training, and I was still hitting the workouts. What I didn’t realize was that I was building up a deficit, the exact nature of which I’m still not entirely sure of, and I ended up paying that deficit the week of Thanksgiving. I approached that week as bullheadedly as I was approaching the season, thinking, "I’m going to race twice, and the only thing that can stop me is me." Sure enough, what stopped me was me, and I was forced to self-evaluate in the days leading up to Club Cross, which is never where you want to be in championship season.

It would be dishonest for me to say that I’m content having learned a valuable lesson and moving on from here. The truth is that I’m disappointed (not in the team, we took the PA circuit and saw some solid performances this fall); just in me. However, I know that it won’t do me any good to hold on to that feeling for long, so I’ll be doing my best to drop that and get on with running. After all, I’m still alive, I’m still having fun, and there’s a big race in Houston coming up…

As always, thank you to the many fantastic people in my life who love and support me. It’s a privilege to be able to run, and, even with the ups and downs of racing, I’m repeatedly impressed by how much I have to be thankful for.

USATF Club XC Nationals

PAUSATF XC 2018

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Hinkle Returns To Racing In Style

Hinkle Returns To Racing In Style

By Jenna Hinkle

Dana Point Turkey Trot

I took a long and much needed break from running after four years of non-stop competing in college. After my two months off, I felt ready to recommit but I jumped back into training a little too quickly and found myself dealing with my first injury. While the injury was slight, it resulted in less than ideal training for the following couple of weeks.

Finally, a month out from PA's, my hamstring felt good enough for me to start intensifying my training. I had a solid three weeks of workouts heading into the Dana Point Turkey Trot but still felt a bit unsure of my fitness level. This was compounded by the fact that I had never run a 10k before. That being said, I was excited to hop into a race with no expectations and I was free to just focus on competing.

At the starting line I ran into Danielle Shanahan, a runner for HOKA’s NAZ elite club who I knew well from college competitions. She told me she was planning to go out in 5:25 pace so I decided to start with her and see how it felt. We went through the first mile in exactly that, which felt a bit uncomfortable to me for the beginning of the race. Therefore, I decided to back off her pace and run with the woman in third place. My next three miles were 5:31, 5:30, 5:33.

I was still working with the same woman going into the fifth mile when I felt our pace slow considerably. We crossed the five-mile mark and I checked my watch to see a 5:46. I decided it was time to make my move. I picked up the pace back to 5:25 to secure third place and finish with a total time of 34:37. Overall, I was happy with my performance, and Dana Point put on a great event.

PA Championships

The PA Champs race in Golden Gate Park was tough for me. My legs were feeling pretty tired from the Dana Point Turkey Trot and a lot of driving. In addition, I found the grass and mud in the park hard to navigate, and I quickly fell off the first two women (my teammate Liza and the eventual winner from the Strava club). From there I just tried to work with my teammate Natalie to finish as high as I could for the team. I ended up third and Natalie took fourth, helping the HOKA ONE ONE Aggies win the team competition.

I think hills are definitely something I need to work on in the future because even the small rollers felt challenging to me. Other than the actual race itself, I had a lot of fun at PA’s. It was really nice to meet everyone and feel like I was a part of a team again. I am excited to mentally be in a place where I feel motivated to be training and competing again.

Pacific Association XC Championships

Dana Point Turkey Trot

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Geiken Reflects on 4th of July & Short Course Wins

Geiken Reflects on 4th of July & Short Course Wins

By Will Geiken

There is a running joke amongst a few of the SLO-based Aggies that started on the drive up to SF for the Stowe Lake 5k earlier this spring. After we left late for the race, the ever-optimistic Sean Davidson spent much of the ride repeatedly and loudly stating, "we're not gonna make it." Being the nervous individual that I can be, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as he did. However, repetition can make any number of things funny, and by the end of the ride I was smiling with each pessimistic utterance. Even as we stood on the starting line, Sean, the sunshine-rainbow that he is, turned to me, grinned, and whispered, "we're not gonna make it."

Since that race, the much-repeated phrase has become a theme for the season as a whole. When we entered our times for Nationals, and waited for days to find out if they were going to fill the fields, "we're not gonna make it" took on a whole new meaning. Thankfully, we were wrong in that case as well.

And because some jokes never die, when we left for the Freedom Fest 5k in Morgan Hill, we left late and showed up only to be greeted by a runner’s nightmare: horrendously long lines at the bathrooms. Sean, Mark, and Carlos resigned themselves to waiting while Kevin and I jogged off to get in something resembling a warm up before the gun went off. At the starting line, I had about two-thirds of the running and drills I’d normally get in done, whereas Sean only had about one-sixth. Knowing that he and I were likely to lead the race, I took advantage of my slightly warmer legs, as well as a desire to find some redemption for my race at Nationals, and got out hard. The strategy, which also happens to be essentially the only way I've won a PA race to date, worked out again. After about a mile, I had a gap on the field, and from there I worked on driving forward and keeping the pressure on all the way through the finish.

On the team side of things, Sean, Scott, Bryan, Mark, Carlos, and Kevin cemented another solid win for the Aggies. After some celebratory breakfast burritos, we set out to enjoy the holiday in classic Aggie style. Happy Summer everyone! 

This race also marks the end of the 2018 PA Short Course circuit, and due to high levels of participation, I ended up coming out on top. My focus for the spring was making some improvements on the track, so using the short course as a way to get in harder efforts without burning out chasing PR's ended up being doubly beneficial. I've already given a blanket thank you to my family, friends, and teammates for their support this track season, so I’ll throw in some Academy-style name dropping. 

Thanks to Bonnie Broderick and Stacy Geiken for hosting the Aggies before many of the Bay Area races this spring. Thanks to Joe Rubio for naming dozens of 1980 Olympians while we run dozens of laps around the Poly track. Thanks to Phil Reid for coming out of track retirement and showing us how to run the 5k. Thanks to Sean Davidson for coming back from injury to show me what mental fortitude really looks like. Thanks to Wes Geiken for putting me up after Mt. SAC and sharing that sushi with me. Thanks to Sara Geiken for countless Gatorades and that ever-important lacrosse ball. Thanks to HOKA for providing us with new shoes to train and race in. Thanks to Mando and Socorro for being the world's most accommodating landlords. Thanks to everyone else whose name I didn't drop as well. It's only because I think this has stopped being entertaining and is running a bit long.

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Terry 2nd at The One Mile Bang

Terry 2nd at The One Mile Bang

By Darius Terry

This spring has been full of injuries, but I was finally healthy enough to compete in my first race since the Reach for a Star 5k back in March. Unsure of my fitness, I did not really have high expectations going into the Los Gatos Bang Mile, but figured I might magically feel good on race day. 

Luckily, the race went out much slower than last year. We came through the 400m mark in 63, at which point I was sitting in a pack of eight or so. By the 800m mark I was sitting in a pack of three. I tried to give it one final surge for the win with about 300m remaining, but my body would not respond. I hung on for a 2nd place finish. 

One Mile Bang Results

Shoe: HOKA ONE ONE Carbon Rocket 

Geiken Embedded at Track & Field Nationals

Geiken Embedded at Track & Field Nationals

By Will Geiken

I went to my first track and field national championships in June of 1993. What makes that random statistic somewhat interesting is that I was born in May of 1993. Only a few weeks into life and my indoctrination by the Aggies was already well under way. Questionable parenting aside, it was also the first of many trips I've taken to watch some of the best athletes in the US compete. 

Fast-forwarding a bit, the first national championships that I remember attending were the 2008 Olympic trials. Many thanks to my dad and the entire Aggie crew for welcoming me and showing me how enjoyable watching track can be. As those who were there can attest, it was a fantastic meet that had more than enough drama to enthrall a young track fan. By the end of the ten day spectacle, and I don't think I'm romanticizing the memory when I say this, I knew that I wanted to take part in the action on the other side of the railing at some point in my life. I also knew that, even if I ran a lot, it might never be a reality. 

In the years since, I've had the privilege of attending several more national championships, and each one has increased my desire to qualify. Of course, the meets are also incredibly fun to be at, and I have many great memories with my dad and others that center around those trips. 

Then, last year, my running took a dramatic step forward. Suddenly, and unexpectedly, I was a part of the conversation for those last few spots at Nationals. While I didn't end up qualifying, what had been a distant dream was now a tangible possibility.

Starting this track season, I knew that I might be able to get in with my 10k time from the previous season, but I also knew that there were no guarantees. I still had to race well, and my early season times were far from confidence inspiring. By the time I got to June, I wasn't sure if I was ready to run anything close to my PR, let alone fast enough to feel like I would belong at Nationals. I went into my race at Portland knowing only that it was going to hurt. In my mind, if I ran anything close to my PR, it would be a good day. Some days though, we have it, and at Portland my lack of expectations led to my best track race of the spring. Not only did the race go well from a mental standpoint, I even eked out a one second PR. Now, 25 laps is a long way to go for a one second PR, but, as a friend said when I told him that I had PR'd but by just a second, "we take those!" 

After that weekend there were four Aggies with times that put us in the conversation for Nationals. There was also one with an auto-qualifying time which, as we learned, is the way to go as far as minimizing anxiety. As an aside, props to Derek for a fantastic spring. Meanwhile though, Phil, Sean, Raj, and I entered our times with the USATF and waited to see who else wanted to run in Iowa. And we kept waiting. For almost a week after the entry deadline we watched as our times, despite being in the top 24, registered as "not qualified" and "not accepted." I won't speak for Phil, Sean, or Raj, but I haven't been that anxious since Christmas Eve 1998. Finally, the Monday just three days before the meet began, we were all notified that our entries had been accepted. 25 years after my first trip to the meet, I was going to run on the other side of the railing. A little poetic, right?

In this case though, my excitement probably worked against me. The race itself played out as anticipated with a moderate first half followed by surges and some aggressive racing at the front. I tried to be ready for it, but when the time came to latch on, I ended up falling behind. I think it's fair to say that I was too happy to be there, and, during the last eight laps of the race, I didn't have the necessary masochistic mindset to compete for every last spot. It hurts a little to say it, but, if I'm honest, I don't think I took full advantage of the privilege of getting to race at Nationals. I left the stadium that night with what I've learned to call "10k tummy" and some mixed feelings to match. Of course, it's hard to spend too much time mulling things over when you're at a track meet with Aggies, and we managed to have a pretty good time for the rest of the trip. Shout out to Joe, Sean, Phil, Derek, and Raj for making the weekend a lifelong memory. As special as it was for me to get to compete at Nationals, it was made even more so by getting to go with teammates and our coach. I certainly learned a lot from the experience, and I intend to be back in Des Moines next summer for a little redemption.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record at this point, but I can't thank my family, friends, teammates, and coach enough for all the support they've given me this season. It's a special thing to feel so much love, and I'm incredibly grateful for it.

https://results.usatf.org/2018Outdoors/

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