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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PANNU QUALIFIES FOR U.S. CHAMPIONSHIPS

PANNU QUALIFIES FOR U.S. CHAMPIONSHIPS

Former Saint Mary’s cross country and track athlete Rajpaul Pannu will represent the Gaels at this week’s USA Track and Field Championships at Drake University, qualifying in the 10,000 meters as the first-ever Gael, current or former, to qualify for the meet.

The World's First Centipede

The World's First Centipede

Now, 40 years after our first UCD Aggie Centipede, I still find it hard to believe that this fun-loving group of runners I trained with, raced with and socialized with for so many years at UCD put together the idea to run in the world’ first Centipede which has now become so famous. We had no idea this would happen at the time. I don't believe that any one of us involved in that first 1978 UCD Aggie Centipede thought, when we were creating it, that this Centipede idea would be anything more than a one-time deal of doing something new and different for the upcoming 1978 Bay to Breakers race, and having some fun along the way.

Geiken Wins Stowe Lake 5k

Geiken Wins Stowe Lake 5k

By Will Geiken

In a quiet, sunlit clearing of Golden Gate park sits a set of dilapidated tennis courts and a decrepit restroom. I’m guessing that very few people have had the pleasure of enjoying the peaceful serenity of the empty courts on a Sunday morning, that even fewer have run loops around those courts, and that only a select few have enjoyed running loops around those courts while waiting for their friends to use the restroom. And yet, there I was, jogging in circles as Sean took his turn at the head. Fortunately, I had Neil and Nicholas for company, and together we avoided looking like lunatics, or at least lonely lunatics. 

With Sean’s exit, it was my turn. As I passed by him I heard him utter the words that no one wants to hear when heading into a restroom. “There’s no door on the stall,” he declared with a finality that sent my heart plummeting.

Upon entering I discovered that not only was there no door, but an individual coming into the restroom was immediately met with a view of the open stall. Fortunately for me, the stall was unoccupied, and I hurried to get things over with.

Alas, I was not quick enough. Only moments after my arrival, a few Strawberry Canyon boys darkened the restroom door. I laughingly explained that there was no door to try and ease the shock of turning a corner and being confronted with a defecating man, but my efforts were in vain. They fled immediately. “Well good,” I thought. No one likes a voyeur.

Only a few seconds after the Strawbs' departure, poor Nicholas entered the restroom. Our eyes met, and in his face I saw a flash of repulsion and, at the same time, a kindred understanding. He knew that he was to be next. I grimaced in apology, and he departed without delay. However, despite the fleeting and awkward nature of the moment, I feel that Nicholas and I have been made closer by it.

But enough of restrooms and the beauty of shared discomfort. Eventually we managed to break free of the tennis courts and made our way over to the start. After only a quick set of strides, the soothing voice of Pete Sweeney called us to the line and got the race underway.

I put in a fast first ten steps intending to settle behind whomever took the lead only to find that Max Norris, a Strava athlete, had the same intent with much better execution. Thus, only a few meters into a race I had intended to run strategically, I wound up at the front of a pace line. I took a few winding steps to see if Max really wanted to sit that badly, and he followed me like the body of a snake behind its head. “Well, that’s that,” I thought to myself.

For the first mile I kept the pace earnest while keeping my breathing relaxed. With some slight undulations we came through at a modest 4:52 before beginning our loop of Stowe lake. Now, because there were some hills around the lake, and because I have a reputation to uphold, this was where I began to try and gain some separation. My first few bursts were unsuccessful, but, at what proved to be the steepest of the little hills, I crested and found that I could no longer hear the slap of shoes right behind my own.

With some breathing room, I kept the tempo up and worked on trying to extend the gap with fast turns and tangents. This gave me a bit more to work with as we broke from the lake and entered the last mile. Running on open road, I continued to up the pace, hoping to put enough distance between Max and myself that I could enjoy the lead. But in spite of my efforts, and with all credit to Max and Nicholas on their duel over the last mile, I never got far enough from the footsteps to relax. It was a blessing in disguise though, as there’s nothing like running scared to keep your knees lifting and your arms driving through the finish.

After crossing the line, I turned and watched as Nicholas, Sean, Neil, Reesey, Reed, and Carlos clinched a commanding team win. Meanwhile the Aggie ladies put a scare in the SRA Elite and beat out the ever-impressive Impalas. Fast forward through a long and taxing cool down, and we gathered for Celebratory post-race beer and bagels from Gordon Abbott. Twas a good day, a good day indeed.

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Thorne Wins 2018 SLO Half

Thorne Wins 2018 SLO Half

By Kara Thorne

Three weeks leading into the SLO Half Marathon were stressful for two reasons: 

First, I started having issues with my go-to workout/race shoe. The HOKA ONE ONE Tracer had recently become too narrow for my foot. My third and fourth metatarsals started going numb when I'd wear them for longer than 5 miles. I have never had an issue finding a shoe that I have full confidence in until recently. My most favorite HOKA shoe thus far has been the EVO Racer 2, which I had the amazing opportunity to wear test (thank you, HOKA ONE ONE and HOKA Aggies for the opportunity to provide feedback!). Unfortunately, I ran the guts out of my wear test pair and wasn't able to get another in time for the half. I decided to grab a fresh pair of the Hupana... I had worn the Hupana during a few long runs (15 milers) and some workouts (1k reps), so I knew it would get me across the line. What I didn't realize was that it would disappear on my feet. The best shoe for anybody is the one that you're not thinking about during a run.

Second, was how my workouts had been going. Hit and miss workouts definitely don't bring confidence. One day, during a 5 mile tempo, I stopped 4 times. No, not for traffic. Just stopped. My last stop was with 400m to go. I finished the workout by sitting on the curb wondering what the hell was going on. The last time I found myself sitting on a curb instead of running was in high school when my team and I would be sipping on slurpees from 7 Eleven. 

A 10 x 1k workout, 15 days out from the race, was Ah-Mazingly smooth and strong, even with the wind changing directions on the Cal Poly track. I felt great, but I was still concerned with my longer-effort workouts. Sure, I could crush k's, but if I couldn't figure out an effort that was sustainable over 13.1 miles, I'd be in trouble. Add in the fact that the new SLO Half course was challenging from the gun (literally! We started on an overpass!!), I felt that I could be in a whole world of pain. With all the turns during the downtown portion of the course and the hilly portion starting with a slap in your face hill on Johnson, I knew that I had to run within myself and base everything off of effort, not time. 

Several months ago, my goal was to break the event record. That didn't happen, but I did cross the line first. I realized around a mile and a half in that the race would be a solo effort and a total battle of mind over matter. My mantra was "just don't stop" and I didn't look back once. Overcoming doubt and pushing negative thoughts away are things to celebrate, no matter your finishing time. 

Overall, the event was fantastic. From the Grizzly Youth Academy and all of the other volunteers/supporters, to the entire team at RaceSLO, THANK YOU for such an amazing event. 

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