In an effort to avoid too dull of a blog, I’ll try and err on the side of brevity. For anyone who does not know me, cross country is not particularly “my thing”. I have an abundance of respect for the athletes who thrive in the hills, mud, and grass I just prefer a flatter more predictable route. But, since leaving college I’ve really worked on embracing cross country a bit more (which is easier to do when you only have to commit yourself to 2 races for the year). So I strapped on my adidas spikes in December and I was fortunate enough to have them run my feet all the way to Scotland (people should really invest in a pair of adizero spikes, they’re exceptionally good at turning people international) and that was pretty neat. I’d never been outside the continental US so needless to say it was a pretty incredible experience, despite being someone who is not necessarily pro-elements (wind, ice, rain, hills, creeks running through the course, etc.).
Such an amazing opportunity did come at a bit of a price: extending my cross season well beyond what it normally is. I love running, I really do, but sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I just want to take a break, and sometimes I don’t want to run indoor and I kind of think that’s ok. My dad once told me to choose my battles, which is an incredibly difficult piece of advice to follow for me in particular (I’m sure Mark Feigen could easily validate that for you). But I realized that I want to be able to show the hard work Steve, Ruth, Anthony, and SPI put into me, through my performances. I’d also really like to be able to give a nice big thank you to Adidas, and my parents of course, for their support via some low numbers on the track, that’s why I decided to skip over indoors and focus on outdoors.
So that’s kind of what I’ve been doing the past couple of months – not running indoor. I decided it was a good time to get some solid training in, and Steve saw it as a prime opportunity to have me run some of my least favorite workouts and that’s where I am now, running workouts and excited for outdoor.
by Alli Mendez
Summer is officially over and we are at the beginning of my favorite time of the year – FALL TRAINING! Call me crazy, but it’s true. I have been on Rogue AC for 3 years and have witnessed the team evolve as is significantly evident by looking at the depth. As we begin a new season, we do so with lots of new talent. Although I’ve never been one that’s short on words, it’s difficult to describe the camaraderie that develops when you have a group of post-collegiate runners together, further enhancing each of our desires of reaching our next level.
Further enhancing each of our desires of reaching our next level…of hugs!
This fall season marks my 9th year of running. Though it could be viewed as a relatively short time, I’ve learned SO much over the years. It can best be described as a rollercoaster ride but it’s been the BEST ride ever! I do admit that I do have a love/hate relationship with running. I have dealt with the highs and celebrations of good races; the lows and tsunamis of tears that followed bad races, and I mustn’t forget the frustration and pain of various injuries. When I started running cross country and track during my junior of high school, I sensed (and hoped) I wouldn’t be hanging up my spikes once I graduated. Though I only ran cross country and track my last two years of high school, I might have not pursued running in college if it weren’t for my high school coach. Coach Toby Howell, was the first to get me excited about the sport. I distinctly remember he would often use yellow caution tape as a tool to join the slower runners to their faster counterparts to help push us! He encouraged a competitive spirit, yet was deliberate in making it fun. Cross country season was always exciting; I loved running through the dirt and mud, the smell of the fresh cut grass, and not to mention the steep hills! Next, switch gears to spring and track season, there is something about running around in circles that I loved, which is probably why I race the 10k, the longest race on the track!
Hook Them, Longhorns!
Fast forward to being a walk-on athlete at THE University of Texas. I was elated and extremely proud to be a part of the Women’s Cross Country & Track teams and in the capable hands of Coach Steve Sisson. His enthusiasm helped me maintain my excitement for running. Having trained with Steve for the past 7 years now (WOW!!), his energy and enthusiasm for this sport is truly what continues to catapult me further. One funny thing about Steve: he will get mad at me if I’m running too slow and he’ll also get mad if I’m running too fast! Seriously!?! Over the years, we have developed a unique and solid coach/athlete relationship; Steve can read me like a book and knows exactly which buttons to push if necessary. He knows when I’m happy; he knows when I’m grumpy. He even knows where to find me when I hide from him after a terrible race! It’s uncanny how “on target” his sixth sense can be. Looking back to my college years I would have laughed and said, “There’s no way!” if someone had told me I was going to be a professional runner. But since my very first day of training at UT, Steve has told me repeatedly that you can achieve anything you want if you just BELIEVE in yourself and are willing to do the work. Steve has seen and helped me develop into the runner I am today and I give him all the credit for my accomplishments thus far. His love of running is infectious and it shows in me and everyone he coaches.
This hug was brought to you by AT&T
Both Coach Howell and Steve have instilled an excitement and love for running that runs SO deep, that now I would like to pass on the same enthusiasm. In a conscious effort to give back to the Austin community, I have decided to make a few positive changes and seize the opportunity to share my passion for running with local Austin youths and possibly make a difference in their lives. In doing so, I have recently joined the coaching staff of the Marathon High program and plan to help all of the kiddos under my tutelage accomplish their goal of crossing the Austin Marathon finish line in February 2015! I want to share with them that running IS fun and finishing a marathon is a HUGE accomplishment. Not only will they learn the mechanics of running and benefits of a healthy lifestyle, but practical lessons in self-confidence, discipline and determination; skills that can be applied to their daily lives. This is the first year my schedule has allowed me be a part of the Marathon High program and I am extremely excited. I’ve seen a few of my fellow teammates (who are also coaches) participate every year and the excitement and euphoria they experience as they watch “their kids” cross the finish line is PRICELESS! I can’t wait!
Whether gearing up for my next workout, race, or my weekly Marathon High coaching, I sincerely love what I do and want to do BIG things. With a new season ahead I cannot wait to see what is in store and could not be more excited for Rogue AC this coming year!!! See you at the finish line!
by Anne Jones
I was born and proudly raised in inner-city Houston, Texas. In fact, the hospital in which I was born, all of the houses in which I have lived, and all of the schools that I attended until college are within the same two-and-a-half-mile radius. I went through the public school system, never ran at night, and learned to love hurricanes since it meant school would be cancelled.
As a child, I was the epitome of a tomboy. Although I have a younger sister and brother, I wanted nothing more than to be EXACTLY like my older brother. This led to my first of many awkward phases—the “Anne-drew” phase, as my family dubbed it. I cut off all of my hair, wore lots of flannel and red high-tops, and attempted to pee while standing up on one too many occasions. In addition to pretending to be a boy, my hobbies included writing persuasive essays to my parents about a variety of perceived needs, collecting rocks for my rock collection, playing with my imaginary penguin, and building stick villages in the sand.
Such admirable tomboy efforts spoiled by my sunflower and watering can t-shirt.
I kicked off my schooling at Edgar Allen Poe Elementary School; the first of my many age-inappropriately named schools. The school had two sports teams—a basketball team and a track team. Everyone tried out for both, and I made the surprisingly competitive track team in both 4th and 5th grade. Thus began my love for sprinting. I started growing my hair out, but still stuck with the flannel.
I continued on to Lanier Middle School—home of the mighty Purple Pups. There I took the next natural step for a lanky, 12-year-old girl trying to be her brother by joining the boys’ football team in 7th grade. After one standout season highlighted by zero receptions, one attempt at a tackle, too much attention, and a good amount of sexual harassment, I made the difficult decision to hang up the cleats. I then tried out for, and failed to make, the track team in 7th grade. I dabbled in lacrosse instead and continued this dabbling until my sophomore year of high school. In 8th grade I tried out again and made the team as a long-jumper. I was eventually put in a couple of sprints and relays as well, which confirmed my love for and belief that I was definitely a sprinter.
“Mean mugging” was just one of the many psychological games I played with my competition.
Asymmetrical wearing of the shoulder pads limited our team’s full potential.
Next in my list of Houston’s poorly named public schools is the Lamar High School Redskins. As you may expect of an inner-city Houston public school, Lamar was a sprint powerhouse and always had big-time track athletes. And this is where you might notice a slight deviation from my teammates’ blogs, as I was not one of those big-time athletes. I did not suddenly happen upon any secret talents, and did not “accidentally win state” or win much of anything at all. Instead, I owe my success to an amazing team and a coach that has continued to be a mentor and best friend to me, Kelly Thompson. I signed up for a track class my freshman year and enjoyed a modest amount of success on the Freshman team as a 200 and 400 meter runner, and again in the same events my sophomore year on the JV team. I also ran cross country my sophomore year to hang out with my friends and was ecstatic when I ran a lightning-fast 2-mile PR of 15:07 for 11th place at the JV district meet.
Over the following two years, I thankfully dropped a few minutes from my 2-mile time, reluctantly moved to longer distances (and coincidentally the Varsity team), and won a district title in the 1600m. I competed in every distance from the 200 meters up to the 3200 meters—including being thrown in the 300 hurdles and the long jump for some extra points at district; however, I never qualified past the regional meet and always played a supporting role to my faster teammates. I was therefore shocked when schools started recruiting me, thanks largely to Coach Thompson. I had my heart set on Rice University—conveniently placed inside my two-and-a-half-mile nest and where my boyfriend Daniel had just signed a scholarship to play baseball.
I met Steve Sisson my senior year when he was in Houston to recruit some of these aforementioned faster teammates and sat, completely star-struck, with him in my living room. He offered me a walk-on spot on the UT team, but I was terrified of the thought of leaving my friends and family. Fate has its ways, though. After an unofficial visit to UT in January and a rejection from Rice in early July, I made some late moves and somehow found myself on UT track and cross country teams in August. Here, I had the best five years of my life alongside a team of my best friends and an incredibly caring and invested coach in Steve. Nevertheless, I played the same supportive role at Texas and enjoyed only about the same modest level of success as I did in high school. I struggled in the political and business-like culture of Texas athletics and was plagued by multiple femoral stress injuries. In fact, I was fresh out of the pool from a femoral stress reaction when I ran at the 2013 NCAA Cross Country meet—the highlight of my collegiate career. I ran an excruciatingly embarrassing race, but it was such an incredible experience nonetheless.
Hiding behind longer locks and tight-fitting clothing, I still wear flannel on the inside.
I spent this past summer trying to pretend like I was ok with leaving the sport of running, but I’ve always been a bad actress and never felt like I reached my potential at UT. I approached Steve at the end of August for advice. I never dreamed he would offer me this chance to train with my now-current teammates—a bunch of professional athletes who enjoyed success as All-Americans and in USA Championship berths. I graduated from UT in 2012 with a degree in Biology and continued straight into Pharmacy school at UT, where I will remain until 2016 when I graduate as Dr. Jones. I plan to continue training, at least until then, with the hope that I will finally achieve success that is anything but modest.
by Alli Mendez
Much to the dismay of my older siblings, my parents planned to create another life, so on August 18th, 1988, out came a princess. I was born in the small Dallas suburb of Rockwall, into a family that, like most, was not normal (in a good way of course). Growing up I remember my dad taking my sister and me out on 2 mile bike rides where he would run and we would bike alongside. Every time we returned home I always wanted to go again while my sister would be on her knees ready to puke, so my dad knew I had more energy than the average kid. My extreme outbursts and frequent screaming at the top of my lungs as a baby allowed my dad to come to the realization that, while past attempts to get my sister involved in a sport had failed, I would undoubtedly succeed in some form of physical activity.
Impossible is nothing. Not even a 3 foot counter top can keep a can of Potato Sticks safe from my two-foot reach.
My mom enrolled me in ballet at age 3 and by age 5, I was on a competitive dance team. I loved dance! I loved the frilly costumes, make-up, glitter, performing…everything! Since my dad’s side of the family were all runners- my great grandmother was a sprinter in high school, my grandfather qualified for the Boston marathon in 1980, and my dad and his brothers (one of whom is Richard Mendez who runs for Gilbert’s Gazelles in Austin) all ran in high school and continue to run today – it was a natural instinct for me to run. Sometimes when we got in trouble in dance, we had to run laps outside our studio. While others complained, I was ecstatic for the chance to allow my feet to strike the pavement! In PE class I loved running around the gym and come 6th grade I even decided to race and win our annual turkey trot. The summer before my junior year of high school, my dad found an article in the paper about Rockwall High School Cross Country Tryouts. The coach, Toby Howell said I could join the JV team but I had to run a 2 mile time trial first. I ran a blazing 13:30. Though I had no clue what that meant at the time, it earned me a second place finish the girls team and, needless to say, a varsity spot.
While I was still dancing on my high school drill team on Friday nights, I would wake up at 5:30am on Saturday mornings to compete in the cross-country meets. My track coach and dance coach were both very supportive of my juggling the two sports. As dancing slowly started to fade from my interests, running began to take its place. After graduating high school, I put my ballerina shoes away and focused solely on running. My next challenge was to follow my aspirations and attend the University of Texas at Austin; however, my fascination and love for UT Austin did not change the fact that I was not going to get accepted. Since I wasn’t in the top 10% of my class, I didn’t even waste energy applying.
I made the decision to move to Austin anyway, enroll in community college and transfer in the following year. My parents were completely supportive of me and I couldn’t be happier to have such a wonderful group of people believe in me. I wanted to put myself in a situation where I could see the University every day to keep me motivated and focused on my goals. I felt like Rudy trying to get into Notre Dame. My mom apparently called Steve on his second day of work to tell him about me and let him know that I wanted to walk on once I got accepted (she told me this after the fact).
One year later my hard work paid off and I was accepted to UT Austin! My next goal was to walk on to the team. Most girls on the team were studs in high school and on scholarship, but I tried my hardest to keep up. I would describe my 5 years at UT as a positive learning experience. After only running 2 years in high school I didn’t know what a long run was, what stress fractures were, or that you needed to “race smart”. I was completely naïve to running. This is where Steve’s influence came in as I was slowly molded into his creation. I would simply describe myself as a guinea pig in a lab being tested by Steve to see ‘what will happen if I do this…’ I trusted Steve so I didn’t care what he did; I simply listened and kept running. My feelings toward running became a true love/hate relationship. I had suffered through a few injuries and was always at the cusp of making the Big 12 Indoor and Outdoor conference team without ever quite accomplishing my goals. I felt defeated so many times that I finally went to Steve’s office and told him I wanted to quit.
There’s really nothing worse than being photo-bombed by a Sisson.
While feeling like I hit rock bottom, this mental and physical break was actually a blessing in disguise. After an entire summer off, 2 miles a day eventually turned into 75 mile weeks. I told Steve I was ready to come back and train as a post-collegiate athlete. I was a little scared about running against the “big dogs” after such a long break, but little did I know, this time off would be a major turning point in my career.
I woke up one day and told myself I wanted to not just be a good runner but an AMAZING one. I continued to train with UT for my first post-collegiate year and saw major improvements from the previous years. My high school mile PR of 5:45 is now my average mile pace for the half marathon (thanks to Steve). Maybe it was the confidence I finally gave myself, or having a more positive attitude, or maybe it was because I finally believed in myself. I don’t know. What I can confidently say is that I had lost sight of what I was really running for: myself. I feel in order to do well in something you have to do it for yourself. I let the intimidation that came from being on a prestigious collegiate team allow me to lose sight of this. That being said, I would have never wanted to wear any other jersey than the burnt orange of Texas.
Unfortunately they only make spikes in the neon orange of Oklahoma State.
After a year of consistent training and a few solid races, I finally earned my spot on Rogue AC. I never would have expected that I would be a professional runner; though I was never an All-American or even a conference scorer in college, this has not stopped me from chasing the goals and dreams I set for myself. In 4 weeks I will be racing in the Philly Half Marathon to try to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. I am very thankful for the opportunities Rogue has given me, and I am very fortunate to have the faith that Steve, my family and boyfriend all have in me. Funny enough, I strongly believe if I had not had that long summer off, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Sometimes you find the answer when you just stop looking.