With the opening of the Summer Games a week away, we sat with the Midwestern Steeplechase star to talk about his discovery of competing as a young boy, the decision to train for the pros, and how his experience at the 2012 London Games has prepared him for the biggest moment of his career.
When did you know track and field was your calling?
I did cross country and track all through high school and found that I did really well almost immediately. I never really thought about working on my form, it was just, like, go out and run, and run as fast as you can for as long as you can. I eventually got hooked on that feeling of winning and running races. My love for the competition and the sport continued to get stronger as the years went on.
Embracing differences, relying on teamwork. What was difficult about running in high school?
Running, especially cross-country, was looked at as a “nerdy sport”, but I found that it had a really strong team dynamic to it, which made it really fun. My teammates and I really came together, supporting each other. We knew we were different from the other athletes in school, so we embraced and perpetuated it.
You were only at college for one year before you decided to pursue professional running. How did you make that decision?
My coach at University of Wisconsin, Jerry Schumacher, told me that he wasn’t going to be coming back to Wisconsin the next year and he was taking a group of professional runners out to Portland to coach. He asked if I wanted to join him and I immediately said yes. I then took a step back and really had to think about what that would mean for my career as a runner, and my life in general. It meant I would have to give up collegiate racing and that team bond. It ended up being a much bigger decision than I initially thought, but ultimately, I knew that moving to Portland to train and race with other professionals would be one of the best things for my running career.
Things worked out pretty well for you. You won the 3000m Steeplechase in 2012 Olympic Trials and competed at the London Games. Now, you’re about to head to Rio. How has that experience prepped you for your second Olympics?
When I was in London, it was hard not to get extremely worked up when you’re constantly reminded that you’re at the Olympics. For about a week leading up to your race, you’re walking around the Olympic Village surrounded by every athlete competing and it’s easy to get awestruck by the U.S. Basketball Team or Michael Phelps or any number of the great competitors. But this year, it’s nice that I’ve been there already. This time I’ll be there to do my best and compete and try to win a medal.
How has HOTSHOT impacted your running?
When I first started drinking HOTSHOT, I would take it before a normal training run to gauge what it did to my body. I felt like I was in the zone and totally in tune with my body. I was able to run free and really fast. With HOTSHOT, my stride and my form feel perfect, and I felt very efficient and strong. It’s a great feeling when you have training days like that, especially when you’re out running by yourself and you’re able to just go out and run fast.
What’s a typical day of training?
A typical training day would be wake up at 7 a.m., eat breakfast, go out to Nike and run 50 – 70 minutes in the morning and then come home, have lunch, relax for a couple of hours. We then have our core session, which is a weigh workout and core stability work for about an hour followed by another 30-50 minute run. Then I go home, shower, make dinner, eat and relax for about an hour before bed. I love the lifestyle, honestly. I wish I could do this forever, but I know that I can’t, so I’m making the most out of it.
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