Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Great Weekend of Relays!

    Another year of the Drake Relays has come and passed. This event, which has taken place annually for the past 103 years occurs on the last weekend of April when some of the world’s best athletes in track and field make their way to Des Moines to compete! This year certainly didn’t disappoint, there were some very exciting races! As a member of the track team, you can probably guess where I spent most of my time the past few days. One downside to the Relays is its timing: it occurs right before the last week of school, a time where I should probably be immersed in my studies, they got shoved to the wayside for the last few days. That means today and for the rest of the year, I’ll be studying hard and trying to finish out the school year strong! (It’s amazing how many parallels there are between running, faith, school, etc…). A few highlights of this year were:

•    The Weather! – the forecast looked pretty bad all week, but luckily the rain held off and never advanced into anything beyond a light drizzle. The meet was temporary suspended for a half hour or so on Friday night, but other than that, we were really blessed with the weather. It would have been nice to be a bit warmer, but I’m certainly not complaining with this years conditions compared to years’ past.
•    The Distance Carnival – takes place on Thursday night, it’s the night when everyone packs the stadium to watch athletes run the 5k (12.5 laps) and the 10k (25 laps)… not! In all honesty, it’s probably my one of my favorite events to watch for several reasons.
1.    As a distance runner myself, it’s impressive to watch a bunch of athletes push themselves for an extended period of time. Their efforts resonate with me.
2.    The Isisseretes are in the house! They’re a youth drumline and play throughout the night! They’re really good, and I don’t know what it is about the drums, but I just love it! In the fall, I was hoping to be able to run in the 10k this past Thursday, but I’m still not fit enough to compete with those guys. I know with that kind of competition and the drums, I’d for sure be on my way to a new personal best! Check out a video of them below!
•    Relays on the Road – A road race (8k or half-marathon) that takes place on the Saturday of relays, close to 1,000 people ran this year. I ran as well, and was hoping to dip under 26:00 (my old PB from cross country was 26:10) and I ended up running 25:38, which was good enough for 6th place. I was really pleased with my performance, and it should be a good enough time for me to run the 10k at our conference meet in Wichita, KA in the two weeks.
•    Salute to Our Troops Ceremony – This year a ceremony to honor and remember members of our ceremony kicked off the Saturday afternoon session. My coach was looking for volunteers to help carry a flag out onto the field for the “National Anthem” and “God Bless America”. I thought we’d only need a few people, but boy was I wrong! It turned out that this was no ordinary flag – it covers the entire field: end zone to end zone and sideline to sideline and weighs about 1,100 lbs! We ended up scrambling to get enough people to pull this off, we rounded up spectators, athletes, anyone we could find. The process itself was very interesting, and I learned a lot about the history of our flag from some of the Veterans who helped out as well. One thing I didn’t know is that it’s very disrespectful for any part of the flag to touch the ground. In order for this to be avoided, when it’s unveiled, people have to run under it to make sure this doesn’t happen. That was my job in the ceremony. It was something really cool to be a part of, when I was under the flag I couldn’t see anything outside, but the crowd loved it, and they even had fireworks! Check out some of the pictures I took below!
•    Catching up with old Friends – Relays is one of the best times to catch up with alumni and old friends. This year I got to see several former teammates who graduated last year (who I hadn’t seen until this weekend) and a friend from a Christian running camp I attended in CA the past two summers. The races always bring them back!

The Flag Unveiled! I'm somewhere under it in the lower right-hand corner

Unloading the flag from the truck

The line was about 80m long!

Underneath the flag during the National Anthem, making sure it doesn't touch the ground

With Boaz Lalang, winner of the Men's Invitational Mile, and a favorite to medal in the 800m this summer in London.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Street Painting!

     One of Drake’s richest traditions, street painting on Carpenter Avenue in between Cowles Library and Jewett Hall took place this past Friday, and it was a blast! If you’re not familiar with street painting, it’s a kick off to the Drake Relays festivities when 54 different student organizations/clubs create a design to reflect their group’s characteristics and uniqueness and the Relays theme. This year’s theme is “Memories in Motion”.
    This was my second year street painting, and this year I even created the Chemistry Club’s square design with my friend and former cross country teammate, Josh (He’s also my VP in Chem. Club). We both consider ourselves to be artistically challenged, but we were both pleased with the output of our work. This year there were actually more designs submitted than squares available, so we felt relieved that our design was selected!
    We decided to make molecules that were running, and dub our theme “Molecules in Motion”. We had to throw the blue oval on their too!
    Overall, there are three stages to street painting:
1.    Background Painting – our color was yellow this year
2.    Sketching – clubs sketch their designs using chalk to prepare for the actual painting
3.    Street Painting! – This when most of the work is actually done. Three hours are allotted for each club to complete their square, and at the end of the night, a winner is selected based on their creativity and how well their square reflects the theme. After clubs have finished painting (or before for that matter too) pain flies everywhere. It’s impossible to leave the street without being fully covered in paint!

Drake has a lot of talented artists! I think it’s safe to say that the Chemistry Club didn’t come close to winning the contest, but I’d give us an ‘A’ for execution! A lot of the designs are very complex, and some clubs took all three hours to finish their design. Walking up and down the street at the end of the night, I was thoroughly impressed. Each square was individually unique and beautiful in its own sense.
One of my favorite designs was actually a collaboration between five organizations: The five clubs teamed up to paint the Earths across all five squares, while adding their own character in other areas of the square at the same time. It’s really cool.
    After washing all of the paint out my hair, I’m really looking forward to this upcoming week. It’ll be full of excitement and track races, and I look forward to cheering on my teammates (and some of my high school teammates) in the relays, and look forward to running a competitive 8k in the “Relays on the Roads” race on Saturday morning! It’s going to be a great week! Check out pictures of our design and some of the square below!
Phase 1: Background Painting

Phase 2: Sketching (hard to see due to the contrast and sunlight)

Phase 3: Street Painting

Molecules in Motion!

The Blue Oval (I painted the blue!)

Not too shabby, looks like we planned!

Josh and I
The cool multi-organization collaboration

The 2012 Campus Fellowship Square! It turned out well! So much detail, I really like how they captured some of the main events we do throughout the year.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

Back on (the) Track

            This past Friday marked my first track race in one year! Up until about four weeks ago, I’d been dealing with a knee injury that just wouldn’t go away or show any signs of healing. In late October at the end of my cross country season, I slowly began to get pain behind my kneecap, and one morning my body had finally had enough, and it hurt just to walk around.
            In between October and February, I saw upwards of six different doctors and physical therapists – all of which gave me different opinions about my injury. Some were convinced the problem was rooted in some of the smaller ligaments of the knee, while others were certain I had a high calf strain or lower hamstring strain. The first breakthrough came when I saw the track team’s doctor at the start of the second semester. He identified a muscle imbalance in some of my smaller hip abductor/adductor muscles. His best guess was to do some rehab exercises, and see how the knee responded after my balance had been retained. He predicted from that night in early February that my recovery would take another six weeks or so. He ended up being spot on!
            By spring break, I had built up to running for 35 minutes, and started to sprinkle in a few tempo runs to try to get back into decent shape for outdoor track season. In the NCAA, you’re allowed five years to use four years of athletic eligibility, and my freshman year I redshirted my outdoor track season (or saved my eligibility) so I knew that’d I’d run this outdoor season if I could, and realized that the results might be a bit ugly: trying to race after a five month layoff and only three weeks of buildup running doesn’t point to running a fast time relative to where I’d been in the past where I had months upon months of consistent running and workouts built up to base my fitness off of.
            However, in the few weeks I have been running, the workouts have been encouraging. I’ve only done a few tempo runs and three legitimate track workouts, but each has informed me that working out hard in the pool and the elliptical machines have been worth it! My body responded well to the faster pace running, and a workout of 800m repeats I did about a week ago indicated that I could run about 15:45 for 5k, or maintain 5:05/mi for 3.1 miles.
            When the gun went off Friday night, it was surreal. There was no hope in sight for months, and here I was again, racing, back on the track, one year later. I was just pumped to be running for joy again, running for the Lord, and getting the most talent out of myself that He put in me. I didn’t have a performance goal I was shooting for because I don’t think you can accurately assess your fitness after only running for three weeks. My coach and I talked about a conservative race plan of hanging back early in the race, so I wouldn’t blow up and crawl the last mile or two to the finish line. I figured if I raced smart, I’d be able to run about 15:50 or so, which is a bit off of my personal best (pb) of 15:38.
            Early on in the race, I was surprised how easy things felt! The weather was perfect, and I ran a smart race. I went through the first mile about 10 seconds faster than I expected to in 4:54, but I felt smooth and knew I could maintain this pace for a while longer. I crossed through two miles in 9:55, and this is when I think I knew I could challenge my pb. With 1600m to go (4 laps, or just under a mile), I saw 10:35 on the clock, so I’d need about a 5:00 mile to get a new record, I was up to the challenge. At this point in the race, a lot of guys who went out hard were starting to crash, so I passed probably 5-6 guys in the last mile, which also boosted my confidence. With one lap to go, I knew I was still on pace, and gave that last lap everything I had and crossed the line in 15:34, a 4 second pb!
            When I look back on the race, I just remember how much fun it was! It had been so long since I’d raced, that I almost forgot how good it feels to go out and give your best effort. I’m still not sure why my body was able to run as fast as it did two days ago, but I’m excited for the next month or so! Workouts are going well and some more big races are coming up, so more pbs are on the horizon!
            I would not have been in the position I was Friday night if it wasn’t for the help of many people! Almost everyday leading up to the race, I did rehab exercises with our track trainer Gary, who put me through sometimes up to 90 minutes of core/hip strengthening drills. He believed and saw potential in me, and was willing to invest a boatload of time into getting me better. I was also able to receive treatment at DMU from a Med student named Katie. She helped relieve pressure points in my legs, and saw that I had a really tight IT band. I think loosening that up certainly improved my knee as well. I also had encouragement from lots of friends and family. My first race back, my parents made the trip down from the Twin Cities to watch me run, I heard their support the whole race, which certainly helped propel me to a new pb.
            It’s funny how things work out sometimes. At points over winterbreak and early on in the semester I had to accept the fact that my competitive running career may be over. It’s something I love to do, but I’m thankful that it’s not the lord of my life anymore! God works in cool and mysterious ways, and decided to bring running back when all hope seemed lost. I’m pumped to see what else he has in store for the future. For this track season, the rest of this semester, and life.

With dad, we went to the Waveland Cafe for breakfast yesterday, it was excellent!

My mom!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Chemistry Against Cancer!

     About a week ago, Drake partook in the annual “Relay for Life”, a volunteer-driven fundraising event sponsored by the American Cancer Society. If you’re unfamiliar with the event, you can read more about it HERE.
    This year I was the captain of the Chemistry Club’s team, and our theme was Chemistry Against Cancer! The chemistry club is composed of students who will mostly be entering medical and/or research related fields, so it was awesome to help out and raise support for a good cause that many of us will be directly involved with someday. Our team was composed of 17 members (all students, and one lab instructor), and we ended up raising just over $600 for the event through our individual fundraising efforts.
    One of the coolest things this year was that we were also able to donate an additional $2,5000 from our club’s funds! At the beginning of each semester, we sell lab notebooks and goggles to raise funds to support kids in chemistry and a few social events each semester. For the past few years, we’ve had a surplus of money in our account that wasn’t doing much, so we decided to make a big donation! With this donation, we were one of the top fundraising team at Drake this year!
    The actual event is really cool! Teams walk around a track (located in the Knapp Center) from 6pm-6am to raise awareness and honor those who have had cancer. There’s also lots of free food and fun activities including comedians, sports competitions, and my favorite, free foot massages.
    Something I was unaware of before the night of the event was that the lab instructor on our team, Greg, is actually a survivor of Leukemia. He’s a really cool guy! He graduated from Drake in 2009, after going through chemotherapy in all four years at Drake! That’s impressive! In the fall of 2010, the cancer was completely gone! He actually was the top fundraiser on our team, and I was really glad we could make the extra donation, because he’s living proof that events like this matter and make a difference! Check out some of the pictures of our team below! Thanks to all those who have donated, you’re money helps so many people, and is being invested to find a cure for cancer! Happy Easter!

Team Chemistry Against Cancer!

We had to do a goofy photo!

With Greg at the "Hope" letters. Cancer survivor right there!

The free foot massages were off the chain! I got one after Shivali did.

Enjoying the evening!