1. When did you start running?
We had to run the physical fitness test every year in elementary school, does that count? I started running seriously when I was about 13. My older sister would run a 5 mile loop quite often, and I would go with her once or twice a week to keep her company. After a few weeks, I was running faster than her so she would tell me to go ahead.
2. What was your first competition?
My first real race was in 8th grade. It was a 2 mile cross-country race, and I won partly because the two guys in front of me took a wrong turn. They were these huge tall guys, and I didn’t think I could beat them until they took a wrong turn and then I was in front. I was running scared thinking they’d catch me and the experience taught me to pay attention to the course.
3. What helped you decide that you wanted to run through college and beyond?
When I started doing well at state meets in high school, I realized I could get scholarships to run in college. Coming from a family of 8 kids, a scholarship to run seemed like a smart choice. Plus, I wanted to keep doing it for the love of it.
4. What events did you compete in and what awards have you received for running?
HIGH SCHOOL CROSS-COUNTRY
• 3-time All-State
• 4th place running the 5K – best time 15:27
HIGH SCHOOL TRACK
• Qualified for the State Tournament all 4 years
• 6th place running the 3200m as a Freshman – best time 9:36
• 2nd place running the mile as a Junior – best time 4:15
• 4-time All-American
• 7th and 2nd in the Distance Medley Relay (running the anchor leg in the 1600m)
• 9th and 1st in the 3000m Steeplechase
• 2006 NCAA 3000m Steeplechase National Champion
5. What is it like at the NCAA tournament?
It’s like being able to eat dessert after you’re completely stuffed. You’ve worked so hard to get there and you’re tired from a long season of races, but you don’t want to pass up the best part. In some ways it’s bitter-sweet. There are so many people there and the excitement of it all gets the adrenaline flowing. You just expect yourself to have a good race because everyone else does.
All the best competitors in the NCAA are there. A lot of people get freaked out from all of it, but I’ve learned to embrace it. I just tell myself this is where I want to be. I used to tell myself, “I would rather be anywhere but here.” Now I just soak it all up. Look around at all the fans, try to see my wife and family in the crowd, and just enjoy it. I realize that there are plenty of people who would love to be in that race.
6. What special training did you do for the NCAA tournament and what was your daily routine?
Before NCAA, I did more speed work over the hurdles to get ready for a fast last lap in the Steeplechase. I cut back my mileage a lot that week since I was racing on Friday and Saturday. Generally I don’t really monitor what I eat the week of races. My wife already cooks healthy meals, but when eating out I try not to get too greasy. I do get plenty of sleep though. Two nights before the race I don’t set the alarm. The night before I try to get at least 8 hours, and I’ll take a nap of up to an hour each of those days and the race day if I feel like it.
7. What strategy did you use to win the Steeplechase Championship?
My strategy to win was to sit and kick. With two laps left I wanted to be in position to take off and just give it my all. I was lucky that the pace went out easy and I could sit back in the middle of the group. Then with about 600m (1 and 1/2 laps) left, I took off. Coach had me prepared for a fast lap, and I took it.
8. What do you do for a typical training week?
During the off-season I’ll run about 90 miles a week, Monday through Saturday. I’ll throw in one or two hard workouts during that time, but I’m mostly just building a base and getting aerobically fit.
During the season I’ll still do that much mileage unless I have a race that weekend. Then I’ll cut it back to 50 to 70 miles. The difference is that I’ll do at least 2 hard workouts on the track. This is fast stuff to get an anaerobic workout into the legs.
9. What are your favorite foods and drinks both before and after a race?
Before an afternoon race I like Reese’s Puffs and a banana. If it’s an evening race, I’ll have a 6″ turkey sub from Subway. Both of these meals are consumed at least 4 hours before I race. Then I might have a granola bar, preferably Cookies n’ Cream. I generally drink Gatorade and water to stay hydrated. This is about the closest I get to anorexia, but I feel light and haven’t ever had the displeasure of throwing up after a race.
10. What tournaments are you working toward now and do you see yourself continuing to be a professional runner?
I plan on running until it’s no fun or it interferes with other plans or I get injured. Now that I’ve finished the USA Championships, I will be running in the Pan-Am Games in mid-July and then going to Osaka, Japan at the end of August for the World Games. It will be a dream come true to represent the United States and I’m planning on the Olympics next summer. I want to run professionally as long as I can. It just comes down to whether I’ll be able to make time and how long this old body will hold up.
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