USA’s was over a week ago, and a lot of people have been tiptoeing around me like I’m going to jump off a bridge; but I can happily report that I’m alive and well. Now I’m in Europe about to chronicle this year’s edition of “ALF Overseas.” About 3500 of you followed along on the first edition, providing entertaining commentary along the way, and I trust this summer will be even better. But first, I want to wrap up my whopping two-race American track season with some thoughts on Nationals (which requires a brief flashback to 2010).

Part 1 of 2

The Backstory:
It was only one year ago that I was talking about how awesome my balls were on ESPN.

(If you don’t know the back-story, a huge move with 600 meters to go in the 5k resulted in a surprise victory at the USA Championships.)

USATF Championships 2011I’ll never forget how impossible it was to sleep the night after the race as countless thoughts that led to that moment passed through my mind: barely missing the Olympic Team in 2008; the feelings of betrayal associated with the whole thing; the foot injury from hell that followed and the 18 months of stop-and-start recovery that prevented me from redeeming myself; the financial stress of being an out-of-work pro runner; Mark Rowland’s patience; how hard running is when you are out of shape; all the hours of physio; eating humble pie; the encouraging words; finding a deeper purpose in my running; learning to believe again….

…All of those experiences built toward that special moment with 600 meters to go when I saw a chance to win, and I went for it. As I took the lead and sprinted like a crazy person, all I could feel was the inertia of movement and a blaring commitment to draining every ounce of power from my aching muscles. But in addition to that, I was also sprinting for my way of life, for my health insurance, for my sponsorship, for the chance to continue doing what I love. After four years without a national title and a string of bad luck, to put it bluntly, that race saved my career.

After winning USA’s, I couldn’t wait to share my excitement with everyone. This blog had just started to develop a big following in the months prior. I wrote about my experiences as I built up my fitness and mentality one brick at a time, and the words I heard from my community along the way became the mortar holding it all together. It truly felt like a shared journey.

Big Plans for 2011:
Going into the 2011 season, I couldn’t wait to write about something other than recovering from injury and climbing out of a deep dark pit. As much as I enjoyed the writing and sharing in 2010, I was ready to write about something else. For example, there is a level of performance that can only surface after significant obstacles try to tear down your spirit. You emerge (or so I’ve heard) from the other side into a purple patch, where it seems you can do no wrong for a while. After such a rough go for so long, I couldn’t wait to experience all the upcoming goodness I was sure to have, and write about it!

Sure I’d have “problems” to write about too: there will always be challenges. But I imagined they would be things like coping with pressure, or staying motivated, or what to cook for dinner.

Read Part 2: Reality Bites, (and I Bite Back)