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Joe Gray Named PNW Athlete of the Year

Posted by: Garden of Life on Wednesday, February 19, 2014
This weekend Boulder, Colorado was the host of the 2014 USA Cross Country National Championships. Boulder is known as a running Mecca in the US for its surplus of trails and training groups. If you are fast and you need someone to run with who is also fast, you will have a buddy within no time. Really this is the case with many places around the World. The difference for Boulder is that there has been a long history of great runners who have passed through and who have resided in towns close by. Obviously, there are places that are much better, but Boulder gets a name by luck of the draw....in my opinion. Still a great town with beautiful mountains as you gander West. Very similar to the view you get in Colorado Springs.
 
The Course
 
Upon awakening in Boulder after my first night sleeping there I woke up with a headache which was strange. My breathing was even a little off as if I was running at a higher altitude than Boulders' listed 5,600 feet. I got a little nervous after that but in reality altitude doesn't feel good even if you train there all the time. I have always raced well at altitude because of my racing style/strategy. Even when I have trained at altitude for a long time, when it comes time for a fast session at altitude it still hurts as if I had just come from sea level. So, coming into this Championship I terminated the thought that I somehow would have an advantage over sea level guys. The course was flat as a pancake, but pretty muddy as 5 races would take place before the start of the Men's race set for 12:15. The course had one dip where athletes had to hop over a small muddy pit. Some thought this was technical, however it really wasn't. Going into race day I was disappointed with the course and figured I wouldn't be able to compete with the likes of guys who have run faster than me on the track with this course being so flat.
 
Race Day
 
The gun went off and the elite field got out pretty quick then settled for a bit, which shocked me. I found myself in the top 15 and I felt pretty comfortable. This caught me off guard as in my last race I felt horrible early on. Then I thought about it, before my last race I had a hard race the weekend before and a long trip back to America from Scotland so my legs were probably not ready for another hard session. For this race my body was ready and I was rested for the first time in a long while. My training had started to ramp up and I was even able to keep my volume up this week before a Championship....rare for me! We hit the first 2k in around 6:02 and even with the muddy 2k loop I felt somewhat comfortable with that pace.
Photo Courtesy of Glen Delman. Thanks Glen!!

 As we hit the 3k mark you can see I was right in the mix of things. I would go back a few spots shortly after due to a slippage, but for the most part I was with the front pack. With about 4k to go I was really feeling strong. I saw a few guys up front that I have never been close to in the past so I was a little nervous thinking I was running out of my head and thinking "surely I will blow up"?? Thankfully I kept rolling and was able to pass about 3-4 guys in the closing kilometers to finish 4th in the USA National Championships! Very respectable field out there so placing 4th is a huge honor. Every single guy in the top 10 could have more than likely won a National Title if they were running a Championship in another country.

In America, there are bundles of fast elites so to place top 10 at a National Championship in Cross Country is a tough feat. The XC Championship is usually one of the stronger Championship events each year with elites from across the US making the trip. We even have our real heroes in America, our Uniformed services including: Army, Navy, Air Force and I think even the Marines fielding teams to compete with the Pro/Rec/Sub-elite XC racers as well as against the other branches of our military. I always love checking the results after the race to see who wins that battle!

Thank you Adam Chase for the pic!

My nutritional sponsor Garden of Life has been really supportive with helping me out with clean sources of protein/supplements that have really supported my recovery and post workout regimen so my body has never felt better. I must also thank SCOTT Sports for their continued support of my dreams and creating shoes that not only look good but feel good to the body! I have been able to keep injuries at bay thanks to Cathey Chiropractic and Joes Body Shop Deep Tissue Massage so I have been able to boost my training to get some results. Being healthy allows you to put in the work necessary to compete, so my combination of supporters here are very much a vital part of my success.

Next up, I travel to Trinidad & Tobago to represent Team USA for the 15th time in my career at the North American Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Cross Country Championships!

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