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Churn by Chris Gowell

DSC07293It has been several months since my last dialogue. So much water under the bridge, so many more spike marks etched into my skin. In short, broke the Welsh national indoor record with a 3.57.2, ran the first sub 4 minute mile on Welsh soil in 20 years, raced some in Europe, and came 10th in the commonwealth games in what was the most magnificent experience of my life in front of some 50,000 people.

My wife Juliane and I travelled to Amsterdam, Istanbul, Dubai, Nepal, and then back to the USA to initiate training after a long and well-earned break.  Nepal was a blast. It reinitiated my love for running, it brought on a sense of primal instinct that awakens my passion for running. The day I have reached my full potential on the track, you’ll see me atop a mountain, in the woods or galloping a coastal path somewhere for miles and miles. Maybe I’ll challenge Paul Terranova someday?!

Running, I realize, has become method of mental stability, an avenue to birth a better day. Running is one of the only things in life I can truly control, I own it, It’s all me and no one else. Not many 800 meter/milers yearn for long reflective runs, but it is during such a time and places that life occurs: Motion and nature harmoniously coinciding. Memories and ambitions present themselves all at once, nothing makes sense but it’s as clear as day. Admittedly, this is a strange attitude as ‘professional’ track athlete, but I find it a useful way to enjoy running, be thankful for its gift while it lasts, meet good people on the way and take nothing for granted.nepal

Perhaps more relevant, I had a below par indoor racing season, however, training has been very deliberate this year and the outdoor season is bound to produce some head turning performances. I have been at Rogue since Jaunuary 2011, it’s hard to believe that all these years have passed, yet they are still standing by me along with a great support system. I have been monumentally fortunate in my time as an athlete and I will keep plugging away to produce the results I know are possible.

I was once told by a teacher in high school that ‘sport is a great leveler’. That statement will always be with me because it is through sport that all people are equal, particularly in running. That is what makes the running community so unique and special, whether it’s Rogue running or the Lliswerry Runners in Newport, South Wales: A runner is a runner at whatever standard, we all churn, we all work to a particular standard and a true runner knows what I mean in the 3rd paragraph.

I’m constantly reminded of this when I see droves of Rogue runners knocking out their long run and all returning with a smile their face, always checking in and asking how things are going. It is to all these supporters I owe so much to.

Here’s to keeping on churning

Cheers,

Gowell

Ablution

by Chris Gowell

It was colder than a witch’s tit in Boston when I lumbered off the plane, the day before my single attempt at the Welsh indoor mile record of 3.57.7. My only race indoors was to be a record and PR attempt. Why not? I’m done with the ‘rust buster’ generation. Every professional athlete that I look up to can pull a time out of their ass at any given moment, and if I’m supposedly professional then I best be damn sure I run like one.

Steve and I have switched things up in training. People who know me well know I experiment a lot, whether that’s recklessly, recreationally, or practically; I’m not one to keep doing the same thing for too long, except of course a strict coffee and IPA regime.

Deleterious vices aside, with the incredible strength gained in this program I had such a great base to build a little speed endurance. Steve gave me 3 key workouts the weeks leading up to the race.

  • The first was 10*400 m off 1 minute recovery. It went 58,59,60,60, 62. I was so smashed I had to take a 5 minute rest. I came back to hit the last 5 only to hit a 62 & 65. I blew up. Awful. A typical miler workout failed.
  • The next session was 3 sets of 3 200’s off 30 seconds recovery in 26/27, followed by 400 m in 52. This was a step in the right direction but I’ve done it a lot quicker in previous attempts. I was wrecked after the workout.
  • The final workout was 800 m in 1.58, 600 in 1.24 and a 300 in 38 with 5 minutes recovery. Decent, but it was devilishly hard, and my legs filled up with lactic at paces I need for the mile. There was no indication a fast time was in me.

The week of the race I was visualizing a lot. Visualizing how to run a 3.56 and how easy it would be. Although training hasn’t indicated anything earth shattering, it was time to let go of all doubts and acknowledge the years and years of training. Mentally, I was priming myself for a special race. The Tuesday before, the team and I had a great 7 mile run on Town Lake, averaging around 5.08 pace per mile on gravel. It was a key indicator that I may not be the fastest miler out there for this time of year, but I’m strong as hell.

Race Day

After eating Nepalese food the night before (another experiment), I was quick to resume the weird regime. My wife and I found a Turkish restaurant in which massive quantities of unknown foods were consumed. I then napped all day, ate candy and chips for lunch then it was time to leave the hotel to the venue.

My wife was late getting back from getting her eyebrows done (don’t ask), so our original plan to get a cab to the venue was scrapped. I decided to run to the race venue for my warm up, which was 2 miles away, spikes in hand and race uniform underneath my many layers.  It was about 10 degrees outside and I didn’t have gloves.

After plowing through icy roads, I got to the venue and needed a crap (I take baking soda before all races under a mile to act as a lactate buffer, but unfortunately it doubles as a laxative in large quantities. I’m no lab experts so I just guessed); however, the queue (line) was massive and I needed to expedite my warm up. Any plan of an ablution was abandoned, I’d miss the race. Realizing the race was in 15 minutes I put my spikes on and clenched my butt cheeks. Strides only made the situation worse, but I tried anyway.

After half a stride, no drills and certainly no stretching it was time to toe the line.

“On your marks”.

All thoughts had disappeared and after 1 lap but I was last; however, no disasters of the obvious nature had presented themselves so I settled into a decent pace and worked on making my way to the front, slowly but surely. It felt like a 3k but then I realized we were going slower than sub 4 minute pace. 2.01 at the half-way point.

With 600 to go I felt great. I was thinking, “I could do this all day.” With 400 to go it was now time to make my way to a winning position and just before the last lap I had a sudden realization that I felt good with 200 to go! This hasn’t happened in years. With a mixture of shock at feeling good, still needing a crap, and ample adrenaline, I made hay and just sprinted. It was a hasty move but I wasn’t going to waste this rare opportunity.

I gapped everyone and as I came to the home straight; I stared at the clock. The record was on. Not worried about the rest of the field I stared harder, as if it could get me there quicker. I got piped (passed) on the line. I had lost concentration on actually winning and not worrying about time.

That being said, joy quickly drowned out my 2nd place sadness as I looked at my time. 3.57.2. A PR and a new Welsh national record. I had pulled it off.

In conclusion: At this point in my career it really doesn’t matter the circumstances, how I’m feeling or what stars have to align to run well. No one wants to hear excuses, or that you missed an afternoon run, or that you ate gluten in 2010 and you’re one of a million people with gluten intolerance. The fact of the matter is, I don’t particularly care about missing running, and I don’t care about health, diet or being sober. I just run.  When I can, and when it matters most.

zilker workout

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

by Christopher Gowell

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog; my last deadline fell by the wayside due to computer aids. Not a whole lot has changed other than a general regression in most things. I’ve gone in and out of losing my head, which is unfortunately happening more frequently. I’m moody on most occasions, often unapproachable, much to the distaste of my teammates. My bed time has moved from 10pm to 9pm, much to the distaste of my wife. More body parts hurt. My coffee consumption has tripled. My nightly routine consists of the news at 6 followed by Wheel of Fortune, and sometimes, during evenings of madness, Antiques Roadshow, although I prefer the British version.

I had a wonderful Christmas, mostly filled with things that are likely to stifle my running potential. I even took a 3 week grace period. Running was of extreme difficulty; therefore, I simply didn’t run, believing that soon my motivation would return, while each day that passed only made it slip further from my grasp.

That being said, on the 3rd week, after catching my reflection with utter disgust, I broke into a sudden sprint. I was back. 2 weeks into my comeback and I’m fitter, faster and stronger than ever.  Rest has been my savior and I’ve never felt this good. Knowing this and learning from a lot of mistakes the hard way, I have also decided to dramatically cut my mileage. 3 years at 90-100 has served a great purpose but it’s not for me. I unblushingly quote Einstein – “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Clearly I’m no Einstein, but I’m living by this rule. This also means more gluten, more dairy, and an overabundance of life, because life is good.

The indoor season looms large and I’m shooting for the Welsh indoor mile record of 3.57.7; I ran 3:57.8 last year, which was frustrating but still great that I ran my first sub 4 mile. I plan to have a lot of fun and keep an open mind. The fact I still have this opportunity at 28 is a miracle, and I have many to thank for it. The only way I can show gratitude is to run fast as fuck.

Cheers!

Well, here I am. What are your other two wishes?

by Carl Stones

It was a cold day in hell.  The tile hallways of Brackenridge were quiet and cold, its inhabitants locked in the grips of a Halloween hangover.  Most had already gone home at the urging of the 5 o’clock whistle, but one room remained crowded and tense, waiting only for me.  Mere hours after its fall, I ended my 9 month protest of the Berlin Wall  and pushed through the birth canal to breathe my first unassisted breaths of fresh air.  And just like that, a 23 inch, 8 pound and 15 ounce ball of pure chaos was sprung upon this world.

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Standing in front of my older brother, Dan, being a little angel.

Excluding a 2 year stint in Austin, I spent my childhood meandering along the mean streets of Round Rock, Texas.  Though we had a nice house, I preferred time spent outdoors climbing trees, exploring woods and pastures, spelunking, or standing in front of a hockey net to help better my older brother’s slap shot accuracy.  The latter wasn’t the best job in the world, but most of the bruises would heal in time.  I digress.

Educational years

Despite spending my first 5 years of life being what some might call “a terrible little shit,” I eventually warped into a fairly respectable and well-behaved child by the time I started my schooling.  Soon after school began so did my involvement in soccer, cub scouts, basketball, and the like.  I even had a brief winning streak in orienteering, though I decided to retire undefeated fairly soon thereafter.  Sometimes after too much time at the top you just need to step away and pursue other exploits; it’s the same reason MJ stepped away to try baseball, golf, and playing with the Wizards.  I digress.  Eventually one thing led to another and running, which had only been a means of keeping fit for other exploits up to this point, worked its way into my limelight where it remains to this day.  High school was mostly a blur that I’d prefer never to revisit, but the running was good.  I ran in the Maroon and White singlet of the Round Rock Dragons under Coach Andy Jackson and it’s thanks to him, and his coaching that I was able to continue competing beyond adolescence.

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Slowing down to enjoy the ride as I crawl the last 80 meters with heat stroke.

Of all the schools and all the beautiful parts of the country that I could have spent the next 4 years of my life, I chose to run for Steve Gulley at the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I majored in kinesiology and dabbled in psychology and neuroscience.  The adjustment was rough; winters were arctic, springs were windy; summers were hot; college was harder than high school, both academically and athletically.  But rough adjustments aside, friends were made, times were run, studying was done, relationships were had, All-American honors were earned, and then I left as quietly as I arrived.

Self-Destructive Zones

Despite having no plans whatsoever to run post-collegiately, and no plans to move anywhere remotely near Texas, I found myself at a coffee table outside of Rogue Running on a hot summer day to meet with Steve Sisson and Jeff Knight.  I was fresh off a trip to Trinidad where I won double gold at their national championships, so I’d say my stock was pretty high*, and I decided to give it a shot.

Anyways, here I am in Austin, Texas, doing the things I never thought I would.  Eventually Steve and Ruth will have to take me out to the pasture, at which point I’ll pursue my plans and dreams beyond this running world, but I’m thoroughly enjoying this detour for now.  My youth still flows as vibrantly as the Nile (even though Chris’ seems to be drying up faster than Lake Travis), so I’ll continue on at 100 mph for as long as I can.  There’s still so much to experience and accomplish that even 100 mph just may not get me there, but that’s ok.  I’ve yet to stumble upon this thing people refer to as ‘mortality,’ and so it’s in this immortal state that I will flourish for the time being; living the dream and chasing the devil, wherever it may take me.

“The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

-John Muir

*My stock was not high at all.  Trinidad has incredibly uncompetitive distance races at their national championships.

The Chronicles of Gowell

Life

September 26th, 1985 at 9lbs & 6oz, 2 front teeth, tainted skin and a menacing grimace. I didn’t smile until I was 5 years old, I hated Donald Duck, and I loved building bird boxes strictly for blue tits. I didn’t mind grey tits, but there was something about those blue ones. No other birds were welcome in my box

10-16

I became obsessed with golf, shooting my first and only hole in one at 13 years old, winning a few tournaments here and there, including the Welsh U13 championships. I got down to a handicap of 3 at 16 years old. However, one evening after a team match victory, my cronies and I took a golf buggy for a joy ride, inevitably crashing into a parked motorcycle, thus banning us for the remainder of the summer….

——–

Concurrently, from 15 years of age I was running in school competitions, similar to that of the American system – area, districts, regional, state, national. I HATED running, always mustering excuses not to run, wishing the world would end the day of the competition. Surely, I thought, a virulent pestilence would strike me where I stand? I didn’t know what training was, so I only competed. Unfortunately I kept winning the rounds of each region. From Newport schools, Gwent schools, East Wales, and finally the Welsh U15 Championship in the 800 meters.

To make matters worse, I even held my own in cross country at the U15 level, winning my first attempt at the regional schools championships, eventually coming 12th in the UK for U15. Never has such misery shackled me than during those races.

——

16 – Head going

The banned summer from golf, good lord! I lost my head and took to the weights to impress the ladies. I didn’t impress any ladies but I was in great shape, sculpting my now famed man breasts that linger to this day, even 100 mile weeks do not seem to crop them. In any case, I went on to get my first national medal in the indoor 800 when I was 17.

At 18 I was a fully-fledged 800M runner, with tits. I won my first UK National title In the 800 (U20), going onto the World Junior championships and running 1:49. That was pretty cool. Despite the massive discomfort and general peril of racing, the snippet of joy after winning eclipsed that of any negative emotion. It’s what keeps us fools hanging on.

University – head went

Between 18 and 21 I fully lost my head, attending university and experimenting with unthinkable indulgences. At times, during rare repentance, I’d scour the darkest streets for answers of questions I dare not ask. Despite this, I won the National U23 championships in the 800. I’m not entirely sure how I pulled that one off, though I have a guess: Youth.  My university experience was a worthy one. Meanwhile, my golf improved but only recreationally. Golf was always a great escape for me, and something I could do at a high level with a hangover.

At 22, my coach, mentor, and closest friend – Ann Hill – sadly passed away. From this, I needed a drastic change to stifle my rapid demise. My current lifestyle wasn’t sustainable. I yearned for something different. I needed it. I contacted Baylor University to see if they’d take me. They did without hesitation.

Ageism

Indeed, it was the right choice, achieving 6th, 4th and 7th in the NCAA championships. I met amazing people and loved Texas, loved Baylor and loved country. People give Waco a hard time. The thing I love about Waco is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything, it just is, and that’s all it needs to be. I enjoyed the simple life.

After my masters I needed another transition, and sure enough I spoke to Steve Sisson on the phone and met with Steve and Ruth, then signed. “What people!” I thought. Rogue is the future.

Here I am! I met my wife, Juliane, 18 months ago and without hesitation I knew she was the woman I’d marry. Furthermore, I’m still improving with the help and grace of Rogue and Adidas. Sure, I’m a dying breed, my days are numbered, but life is good.

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A typical day.