That was the only thing rattling through my head as I stood at the start line of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials. Well, actually it wasn’t that PG, but you get the picture.
The energy and roar of the crowd that filled Hayward was palpable. But it was all still just white noise in the back of my head. “I’m super screwed”, I kept repeating to myself.
I looked to my left and right, at the guys who on any other day would be good buddies. But not today. Today, they were some of the best athletes in the country, and they were the only thing standing between me and my dreams.
“Two laps. Just two laps,” I told my legs. The starter raised his gun and called us to toe the line.
I thought, “This wasn’t supposed to happen this way.” And then…
The gun went off and for a fleeting moment, with a surge of adrenaline, I gained some confidence. “I can push through this”. On my next step, a shooting pain struck my lower back and then intensified. My stride completely unraveled and by 200 meters I knew my potential berth to the 2016 Olympic Games were over…
Let me explain. About two weeks before the Olympic Trials I strained my lower back so bad that I could hardly walk, let alone run. An accumulation of injuries in the two months preceding the Olympic Trials led to a lack of consistent training and confidence. To say I was at an all time low in my track and field career both mentally and physically would be an understatement.
So, that day as I struggled to cross the line in an embarrassingly obvious dead effing last, I knew there was a good possibility that my running career was over. I fought with that thought for some time. Then I played and replayed every step, every run, every physio session from the previous year. Thinking if I could just go back in time to the exact moment where things went wrong…
If you’re a runner, I’m sure you know the feeling well. We’ve all been there. But why?
I know that I haven’t reached my full potential yet. And had I been healthy, I could’ve – for lack of something less cliche – been a contender.
But I wasn’t ready to give up.
On my last day in Eugene, and only hours before I was set to fly back home, I sat down with Coach Robert Gary of Asics Furman Elite. He was a fast-talking, refreshingly energetic guy and he wanted to discuss the possibility of having me join his team.
We talked about training philosophies, workouts, and the resources that his team could provide me. The more we talked, the more hopeful I became about my career. I tried to picture myself moving to Greenville, South Carolina; a town that I had never heard of until that moment. And for all the excitement I felt, my heart sank at the same time.
You see, I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to call the small, beautiful, coastal town of Santa Barbara, California my home for the past ten years. Together with my friends, girlfriend and dog, it was paradise. A total runner’s dream.
Sunshine year-round, the Santa Ynez mountains to the north, and miles upon miles of untouched Gaviota Coast trails overlooking the shimmering Pacific Coast for me to run on.
But for how great my personal life was, my running career needed a change.
After some discussion, and with the support of friends, family, and most importantly my girlfriend, we decided if I were going to continue my track and field career, this would be the best possible option.
It was one of the hardest choices I have had to make in my life. But I did it.
I packed up everything I owned, shoved it into my car, and left. As I drove away, I could see my girlfriend and dog in the rear-view mirror – between the cracks of all my crap piled high in the back seat.
And that’s when reality sank in.
I was saying ‘see ya’ to ten years of memories. I wondered how many miles I’d run and if there was anywhere I hadn’t explored or accidentally stumbled upon.
Ten minutes later, before I had even crossed the Santa Barbara County Line, my girlfriend called and asked me, “Are you there yet?”. I laughed it off and headed East.
“A leap of faith.”
I kept telling this to myself as I drove through the twilight hours across the endless state of Texas. No amount of music could keep my mind from wandering back to the question: “Am I doing the right thing here?” The most frustrating part was, I wouldn’t really know until I settled in, and officially became a part of Asics Furman Elite.
I kept thinking of what the team was offering me. A gorgeous campus, Furman University, great track, weight room, training room, pool, alter Gs, Dexa scans, and other amenities I’m sure I’m forgetting about. Everything I didn’t have, but desperately needed access to.
A leap of faith. I repeated it to myself as I checked into a Motel 6 at 2am in a town that had a population hardly greater than my freshman class at UCSB.
But I made it here. And since then, time has flown by.
My training is in full swing and things feel right for the first time in I can’t remember how long. My fitness is coming along, the team is meshing well, and I have the utmost confidence in Coach Gary’s training vision. But not so much his choice of nicknames. My doubts are gone. I know I made the right choice and even though it’s hard, I feel it is paying off.
Long story short, thanks.
Thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way, everyone who makes Furman Elite possible, my new teammates and friends, and to Asics who continues to support me on this journey of a lifetime.
I took a leap of faith, and you all leapt with me. I’m working hard to make you proud.