by Jeff Sadler
It was a cool August evening in Ocean City. We had just finished dinner, and I made my way downstairs to get ready for bed. The windows were open, and the stars now seemed near enough to reach out and touch in all of their twinkling brilliance. A gentle breeze made its way across the room, dropping the temperature and bringing with it a scent of memories from past trips to the beach as a kid.
Bob, my employer from a newly-minted job opportunity, had invited me up to the Jersey Shore for the week prior to the US 20k Championships. This was both for work-related purposes and also as a short reprieve before I hopped on a train bound for New Haven, CT. I had come to know Bob as a friend through his son, with whom I ran and roomed at Baylor. Over the past several months, I’ve been grateful for his example of 1) how priorities should be shaped and 2) how to balance God’s many gifts and entrusted responsibilities. Rest had been no exception to his example, and I’m reminded that it is an action of humility, as if to say, “My energy and capabilities are limited, but You, O Lord, still sustain and restore me time and again.”
The only Baylor flag in Ocean City.
My trip to the NE for the 20k Champs was definitely the more urgent item at hand, but the more important race would be the US Marathon Championships in a month. Thus, I had sent a brief email to an elite athlete recruiter for the host Twin Cities Marathon and received a reply informing me they would respond if they opened up the field, given my time was just above the qualifying standard. It was now Thursday, a week later, and restlessness was building.
I couldn’t help but have frustration from the past few years. Was this worth continuing? Amidst all of my chasing of the wind during recent months, I had come to the brink of calling it a career. My patience and motivation were waning as I thought back over the last 5 marathons that I had attempted to train for and compete in…injury, injury, injury, injury, cancelled due to weather. Was this going to be a disappointing sixth missed opportunity? Was I overlooking some clue here? Should I move on and focus solely on my post-running career? I decided to take a walk and left my phone on the bed. I couldn’t bother refreshing the email any more hoping for that blue dot and corresponding ding.
I stepped into the night and crossed the street barefoot to reach the sand. Most of the tourists and residents had long since made their way home, so the only conversation came from the waves. The moon was full tonight and provided subtle light and gravitational pull on creation below. I walked a bit down the coast, the occasional evening jogger and solitary seagull gliding by, trying to enjoy the evening and shift my perspective. We had flown down this same coast earlier in the day on a friend’s private plane. It was amazing the new insight that flight brought as to the ample activity transpiring around us…a boardwalk with thousands of people that had gone unnoticed, a Ferris wheel, and miles of marshland sprawling off into the horizon. Kind of like this moment and many times before where I’m so focused on the now and the me, that I forget to take into account where I’ve been, where I’m going, who’s involved, and the unseen pieces being orchestrated into place.
Bay-side shot of the Jersey Shore, looking out into the Atlantic.
I turned around and ambled towards the house still pondering. Stepping across the threshold, I found a lone email in my inbox:
We are opening our field and will be able to provide you a comp entry into the US Men’s Championship field on Oct 5th in the Twin Cities. I have attached a registration link along with directions. Please do this as soon as possible.
Let me know if you have other questions.”
Hmmm…yeah, I’d say that’s a prime example. Praise God!
One month later – US Marathon Champs…
What is that sound?!!…oh yeah, my alarm. Reaching over, I slid my finger across the screen…5:00AM. I laid there a second, gathering my thoughts, before slowly making my way to the bathroom. Singlet and bib, shorts, and flats with timing chip lay off to the side – the white Rogue AC lettering contrasting nicely against the cool blue Adidas apparel in the ambient light. I had organized everything the night before, knowing that I wouldn’t want any unnecessary responsibility this morning.
One of the cooler kits I’ve worn – race-day blue!
I stuck my head underneath the sink, threw on some clothes, and made my way up to the hospitality suite. Many of the athletes were already bustling about…some stumbling around, others teeming with excitement like they had been awake for hours. Coffee, bagels, bananas, granola, yogurt, peanut butter, toast, oatmeal, and more were spread across multiple tables – every possible request on the morning of a marathon accommodated. I saw Dave and gave a quick, “Good morning” and “Thank you!” Not only had he accepted my entry into the field (email above), but yesterday, he had made it possible for me to have access to an elite aid station setup. Typically for this race, only the top 20 seeded athletes are allowed their own fluids throughout the race, and my bib read “41.” So, clearly this would have meant utilizing the cups of water and Gatorade handed out by volunteers if not for his suggestion to see if one of those top athletes had withdrawn.
The bottles that went Rogue.
I walked back to the elevator, shoeless and with bagel and steaming cup of coffee in hand, turning my attention to the race. I had a few minutes to read and relax before gathering my stuff and heading down to catch the bus to the start line. The exhaust visible in the crisp air indicated to every onlooker that it was a chilly morning…good news!
Scotty was already on board, and I made my way back to an open seat next to him. We exchanged a few words before I put in some headphones and started thinking about what my coach, Steve Sisson, and I had talked about…conservative early, first 5 miles at 5:50 pace…then, no faster than 5:40 until the hill at mile 20…run the hill, time will most likely be 15-30 sec slower…then launch down the hill…resulting in a PR. The bus lurched forward as nerves stirred a bit and lyrics streamed truths into my head and heart.
After arriving and resting for half an hour in a hotel lobby across the square, Dave led the procession of athletes to the baggage drop area, adjacent to the starting line. I wondered what the average spectator or runner thought as we passed by…if they knew the thoughts that each of us carried. Did they see us as unapproachable with Adidas plastered over everything, or did they realize that I would relish having a genuine conversation with them? Scotty, Allison, and I had done a 10-minute warm-up and were now incorporating drills, stretching, and strides. A few minutes later, the national anthem, a last-minute bathroom break, and then game time!
The horn rung loud and true – piercing the morning chill with swift reassurance as runners poured across the line. I couldn’t help but smile as I settled in, confidently letting the first group go, and preparing myself for the effort to come. This race was the culmination and continuation of a great amount of growth that had stemmed from this latest stretch of the story.
A reassuring nod of encouragement came from Steve at mile 4 – very conservative as planned. Scott’s dad, mom, and wife were at mile 7…thumbs up – feeling good and starting to get into a rhythm. I grabbed a quick swig of water and PowerBar gel at mile 8. Dad and mom cheered on at mile 11…big smile…well, at least on the inside – starting to roll now. Guys are coming back, as I begin to reap the benefit of patiently waiting my turn. My aunt and two cousins wave and take pictures at mile 14…sub-5:30 pace now. Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, Jeff. Lyrics from this morning, “It’s Your breath in our lungs, so we pour out our praise,” flood my mind. Deep breath, calm…focus.
Last gel at mile 17 as I pass a few runners…spectator yells out, “22, 23…Sadler (written on my bib), you’re #24! Catch those guys.” What…? My seed is 41. Don’t be overwhelmed, keep your cadence. Forget the seed times, they’re meaningless. Mile 20 came just before the hill – 5:16…oops, a little fast. Legs are fatiguing a bit, but I’ve come too far. Come on, Jeff, lift your head and keep picking guys off. Steve at mile 21… “This is it. You have to focus.” The pace is dropping off, but I recalled what Steve had said… “The pace will slow on the hill.” Don’t let go yet. More lyrics fill my mind: “I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open.” Another wave of determination takes hold.
Mile 14 – Photo cred to my cousin, Nicholas, and his brother, Christopher.
We finally crest the hill and I see St. Paul’s Cathedral – majestic and reverent with the sun beginning to peek around the historic dome rising above. There it is; the finish line…one quarter of a mile left straight downhill. My calves are shot; lights are starting to flicker…just…hold…on. The masses line both the left and right sides of the finishing stretch. The chute takes up the entire street, and I am nearly all alone…giving it a surreal atmosphere and magnifying the aura of a US Championship as confirmed by the banner in front of me now. This…this is the completion of so much more than just a race, more than just answering the question, “How did I get here?;” but a checkpoint to remind myself of Who this is all for and the purpose of this striving.
My body was spent in those last steps, as I struggled to stay on my feet. 2:25:58, :59, 2:26:00, :01. 2:26:01 for 26.2 miles, over a 3-minute PR. Deep breath. Volunteers rush to hold me up and walk me to the recovery tent. No matter how feeble I was in that moment, I had run with perseverance and finished with a full heart. I could rest, be still, and know that God is good. This is a race worth running.
by Cate Westenhover
Just under a year ago, in the throes of procrastination at the end of my last semester of grad school, I set up a profile on the online dating site OK Cupid. I got extremely lucky and the first guy I met ended up becoming my fiancé. In three weeks, Jake and I are getting married. I think it’s an incredibly romantic story even if my brother describes us meeting online and starting a serious relationship two weeks later as me “ordering a boyfriend off Amazon.” Believe me, John; if I were capable of that, I’d have done it much sooner.
As much as OK Cupid played a role in Jake and me finding each other, we have Rogue, and our whole great pursuit of running, to thank as well. Sit yourselves down, and get ready to hear our cheesy but true story.
I’ve run almost my whole life – since I was 8 years old, running next to my mom because she said it was the PE Credit for my home schooling. I’d always hoped to fall in love with a guy who ran – how could anyone understand me if he didn’t get why I ran? But somehow it hadn’t happened, all through college, and after graduation I settled with the idea that I might have to date outside the running circles.
I joined OK Cupid to meet some diverse people, but when I saw on Jake’s profile that his ideal girl would “be able to run 5-10 miles at 7:30 pace,” I thought maybe I wouldn’t have to branch out too much. As dorky as that criteria is for a potential girlfriend, I didn’t mind it when it was applied to me.
In Jake’s first message to me on OK Cupid he casually dropped that he had run in college, but he now trained with a marathon group at Rogue. When we became friends on Facebook, I saw we had 12 mutual friends already. This was before I had started working at Rogue downtown or joined Rogue AC, but I had worked at Rogue the summer before so I knew a few great Rogues. All of this really mitigated the potentially creepy factor of our online meeting and first real-life meeting.
As the months passed, Jake and I kept realizing all the connections we’ve had through running even before we met. Of course there’s the shared understanding of what it is to be a runner and live the running lifestyle, but in addition to that we’ve been on adjacent roads for a while now. It was only a matter of time…
We both ran for our college teams (Jake at TCU, me at Baylor), and since we were in the same conference we had been at several of the same cross country and track races over the last few years. I had no idea who he was, but Jake claims to have recognized me at races as “that fast girl from Baylor.” What’s weirder is that we were at one of the same races before Jake had even moved to Texas. In 2008, both of our teams were at the Paul Short Invite a thousand miles from here in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
It blows my mind that we were in the same place at the same time, again and again. There was Lehigh, the Baylor Twilight Invite, the TCU Invite, Big 12s, Regionals, the Austin Turkey Trot last fall, and then the Rogue connection last summer. There was the 7 at 7 social run which we both attended but on varying weeks, there was my boss who was one of Jake’s running buddies, there was the pub run downtown last summer that I went to but Jake skipped out on…We’re almost kind of mad that no one in Rogue tried to match-make us earlier.
However, left to our own devices, our paths did cross eventually, and here we are today. Through training and working at Rogue, I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with Jake in our day-to-day busy lives. Last winter I got to see Jake finish his Saturday long runs back at the store when I was working. I got to train next to him this summer, hopping in his marathon group for base training. Now we get to see each other coming and going from practice. I get to see him sweating during the core class that goes on during my Monday night shift. My coworkers have started to joke that he’s at Rogue so often that he should start working there too.
The point is, we owe Rogue a lot of thanks for fostering our relationship and helping it grow. Our story is full of Rogue. And what’s cooler is that this fall, things are going full circle. In December, Jake and I plan to travel with our respective teams to compete in the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships. This year the race is on my birthday (holla! Turning 25), and it’s at Lehigh University, on the same course where Jake and I both stood together, unknowingly, over six years ago.
I’m glad the paths have finally synced up.
by Cate Westenhover
158 people move to Austin every day, and the Austin natives are getting scarcer. I’m one of them – I was lucky enough to grow up here, and five years away at college was all I needed to absolutely confirm that I belong here.
I was the black sheep of the family for leaving at all, although I barely did. It was assumed I would follow my parents and older siblings in attending UT Austin.
Steve Sisson, our coach at Rogue now, was the coach at UT during my senior year of high school. Steve hosted me for a visit; I met the team, and sat in his office underneath his Pre poster while we talked training. He had dinner at my house with my parents. My dream of being a longhorn seemed close.
But rebel child that I was, I ended up accepting a last-minute scholarship to run track at Baylor, 90 miles up the road. Between academic and athletic aid, Baylor was cheaper, and I followed the money. Turning down the opportunity to compete for UT was difficult, and telling Steve on the phone that I’d accepted another offer was even harder.
Baylor treated me well, and there’s no doubt in my mind that it was the place for me.
But I could never quite get Austin out of my head. There were the summers spent at home, running countless laps of Town Lake, when UT seemed so close. Also, since Baylor and UT were both in the Big 12, we raced each other a lot. Steve always cheered for me, even when we hadn’t talked for months. He never held it against me that I went to Baylor.
After five and a half years and two degrees at Baylor, I was done with school but not with running. I knew I wanted to be part of a post-collegiate group, but I’d missed my last year of competing at Baylor thanks to an injury, and my prospects of joining a team seemed bleak. Like any wanderlust-filled college grad I’d schemed about moving to Colorado or Arizona to make my living in the mountains. I’d never considered joining Rogue AC even though it was right under my nose; joining the hometown team and staying in Austin seemed too easy.
I moved back home after graduation in December, unsure of the future and a little demoralized. While I scoped out the vague future, I took a job at Rogue Running, the retail side of Rogue. I’d worked there the summer before, and I was impressed with their authenticity and dedication to Austin’s running community through the hundreds of runners they coach each year. It was easy to see that this was where I wanted to work, being around people who shared my passion. After a couple weeks, it became clear that this was where I should run, too.
Steve was kind enough to bring me on the Rogue AC team as out of shape as I was, and I started workouts with the team in February. I think what made me feel really welcome at Rogue though was when Steve told me “I’m only sorry I didn’t get to coach you during college too.”
I found a home, and it was here all along. Rogue IS Austin, and I’m so proud to be part of an organization that supports Austin’s runners so deeply. It’s an honor to rep Rogue on the retail floor and now on the race course.
by Jeff Sadler
Well…I expected to be writing this from the Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas – no doubt riddled with typos from sheer mental and physical fatigue following a successful Dallas Marathon performance; however, an unexpected and sudden visit from Jack Frost (enter Carl’s hyperlink of Michael Keaton animating a friendly snowman here) rendered this expectation frozen in its tracks as I received an email Friday afternoon informing me of the race cancellation. Instead, you the reader, will have to settle for this post coming from the homey little location known in Austin as the one and only Bennu Coffeeshop. So I invite you into the warmth and lure that many of you have experienced in the comfort of your favorite reading spot by the fire or hidden away in a cozy nook with hot chocolate lingering on your lips and soothing your throat down to your toes (unless you used almond milk and water to make it), thawing from the inside out.
Thanksgiving warmth and solace.
Training has been going well…really well, and I have made strides throughout this training block that I did not anticipate and have set goals that at one point I did not think feasible. This is in part from the ability to stay healthy for an extended amount of time which affords the opportunity to stay consistent in training. Many times while training and competing at a high level, you find yourself on the brink of injury; but, with the help of such assets as Trigger Point Performance, Pieter Kroon and Dr. Ted Spears at Sports Performance International, Advanced Rehab, Carly Pollack at Nutritional Wisdom, and massages from Doug Consiglio and Kip Chemirmir of Kiprunning Sports Massage, I have been immensely blessed regardless of outcome or injury status…
One lap down, 104 laps to go!
…which brings me to the marathon. Yes, I would be lying through my teeth if I said that I was not initially disappointed; I have entered five marathons over the past three years and have been able to run in two due to weather or injury. With the marathon, so much energy and anticipation go into such an enduring commitment that lasts for months at a time. I was ready to roll, but multiple factors must be considered: weather, health (injury or illness), hydration and nutrition, sleep, course terrain, and sometimes even instances such as Boston earlier this year that found many of us in fervent prayer and grappling for explanations. Many throughout the Rogue community know these circumstances all too well and can relate. There is simply too much at stake and too empty a prize if you place all your hopes and expectations into such a fleeting race day. Through experience and disappointment of this in my own right and even more revelation given beyond my control, I have realized that I cannot miss out on the opportunities that are placed before me each day; the laughs, grit, tears, elation of success, friends, and blessing of overall good health are worth paying attention to. If I am so enamored and consumed with the distant goal of X (marathon, dream job, marriage, etc.), what relationships, memories, and growth opportunities am I missing out on in the present? I do deem it important to have an end goal in mind – to know where you have come from and the desired destination – but not without first defining your purpose in doing so and maximizing the incremental steps in getting there.
Over the course of this season I have come to know better my teammates and my coach, participate in meaningful and impactful programs such as Marathon High, pursue a medical career at the University of Texas, and become a member of inspiring body-of-Christ followers at Providence Church. I have delved into lives to see what makes these close friends of mine tick…their struggles, their successes, their passions and goals. One such example was Thanksgiving a few weekends ago, when our very own JT Sullivan, Dave Edwards, and David, Bethany and young Eli Adams became honorary members of the Sadler family over feasting, fellowship, and football. JT, while currently hampered by injury, has become a close friend and roommate and has been extremely uplifting as he is patiently waiting for his opportunity to step back on the track; Dave, in his first time living away from home and family in California, has shown great commitment to this team in a step of faith; and the Adams family, with David recovering from surgery due to previous injury, has celebrated the birth of a son and have been hugely encouraging friends and steadfast examples. I could relay many more instances and stories of the Rogue AC members, whom have graciously come with encouraging words and consolation about being unable to race the marathon this past weekend.
Something about family.
Steve Sisson has been critical in developing my athletic endeavors along the way and has been very open to my thoughts and ideas as we have tackled this common goal together. It has been fun getting to know him, and I’m sure many of you in the Rogue community have experienced this first hand. I, also, cannot forget going through Carly’s 10-day nutritional detox that really aligned my diet moving forward and left me four pounds lighter. Nor can I dismiss the mental grounds that have been made this season, as I have graduated from feeling like an inferior athlete coming out of college to believing I can, Lord willing, contribute and excel in this new environment. One workout at a time, I find myself climbing and clawing my way into the pack and it has been very rewarding to see hard work come to fruition.
Marathon High continues to grow and reach kids around the city of Austin. If you have not heard of this program, please check it out at marathonhigh.com. I have no doubt that you will be inspired by the cause, and I only wish that we as the coaches could adequately relay the implications this has on these developing individuals. Hope, confidence, and belief are all amply supplied to the kids along with the volunteers involved as we are touched time and again with the smiles of accomplishment. Marathon High continues to expand and share its profound message of encouragement, and it needs donations and support from you guys.
Peace indeed! First Saturday long run.
School has been tough as I have tried to re-install time management and homework back into my vocabulary and shift from a business-minded graduate from 2011 to a wide-eyed and humbled 5th-year freshman seeking to learn and be in awe of the intricacies of God’s glorious creation. Being a Baylor Bear… (sorry, just going to take a minute here to wipe away a tear of happiness and enjoy a Big XII title), I have not quite assimilated into the Longhorn fandom, but I have learned much and gained many genuine friends in the process.
These are just a few takeaways that I cannot afford to overlook. If I let this marathon outcome linger, I would be missing the richness and depth of these experiences. Know your purpose for training and secure it in a worthy prize, because without it you may be unknowingly standing upon shifting sand subject to the tossing of unpredictable waves. This approach would be without a doubt to the detriment of what lies ahead… and in my case, next weekend to be exact. With Dallas not an option, I will be joining the team in Bend, Oregon on Saturday at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships and I need to be ready and focused. A 10k may be slightly shorter than 26.2 miles, but I’m stoked to race with a Rogue singlet and let out the training and fitness that I know is down in there somewhere. I didn’t see this one coming, but then again there is only One who can and I’m not going to waste His gift.
“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails […] The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.”