Sunday, January 8, 2012

Paul Burke, The True Comeback Story

So, every so often I write a story over someone... Someone with an interesting tale. Past stories/write-ups can be found here:

Just recently I got ahold of the man, The Myth, The Legend... Paul Burke. In my most annoying, perhaps, standard voice... "Hey, Paul! What's up home-dawg!" I asked Paul if he'd be up for an interview, and low and behold, the story is to be told.

What made you decide for the comeback this year? How did you feel about the past cross country season?

Paul Burke- I had been building my mileage all summer and had finally crossed the 100mpw marker. Since, I'm from Wyoming and go to school at the University of Wyoming, I know some guys on the team. My old high school teammate, Taylor Kelting, and UW's number 1 guy, Greg Miller, came to me asking me to run for the team this year. We had a very strong top four runners... (I interrupt... "Ah, like the 4 musketeers!")

*awkward pause* Paul continues, "And if I could contribute to the top 5, it looked like we would have a shot at making nationals. I thought about it for a while, spoke with my parents, etc, and decided "what the hell?" Since, I'm a fifth year senior I saw it as my last opportunity to run collegiately, and I didn't want to have any thoughts of "what if" twenty years from now. (It should be noted, Paul has not run collegiately since the 2008 track season, and re-entered last cross country season of 11'). Unfortunately we had some injury problems on the team and didn't make it to nationals. I joined a month into the season and only ran three races, but I felt they went well. I don't think I ever really reached peak fitness due to the short season, but it was very encouraging and I'm looking forward to track."

During my sophomore year of OSU, there was a new class welcomed onto the team, "The Freshman". Two Minnesotans, two Missouri kids, and then a Wyoming guy... "Paul Burke". Paul slightly big in comparison to the stature of a typical scrawny runner, abnormally large fists, curly hair, and always repping peach fuzz and a smile. Paul was what parents called, "The All-American guy."

Jedi Squirrels- -

As the first day of practice came about, a 4 mile tempo run on the track. Paul came in slightly out of shape, as the tempo had to be divided up into 800m segments. Afterwards, a few separate groups went there ways on the cool down, and in my group, some chit chat commenced on the cool down. Which basically was simple personal, yet friendly, attacks.

"Hey, your mom still easy?"

"About as easy as yours"

*oooh burn*

"You're gay"

"That's not what your mom said last night"


Yes, people, the jokes were a little more in-depth than noted. I can't seem to recall the exact logistics, as I was currently preoccupied with thoughts of cake, ice cream cake.

I then pipe up, "Alright guys, I got a joke...."


"Alright, let's hear it"

"So... There's an over abundance of squirrels at a church. To such a degree, they began to take over the church and started to overwhelm the members of the church, in such a manner, that SOMETHING had to be done to rid these rodents. At first, they tried to lead the squirrels astray by food and other resources. As this did not work and these varmints kept coming back. Another time, the members gathered these squirrels and took them far out into the country. Only later to see the squirrels making their way back onto the church's grounds. FINALLY, one member of the church puts forth one brilliant idea. He commences to make the squirrels honorary members of the church... And now they only come back for Easter and Christmas!"

*Long awkward pause*

FINALLY... One guys speaks up..... "Clay, never... and I mean NEVER tell that joke or any joke for the matter again, and may God HELP your soul."


Teammate: "Hey, I kind of liked it..."

Another guy: "That's what she said!" ... And back to regular convo.

As we discussed the freshman's future potential and who would be good. Paul gets brought up... I blurt, "I'm taking Paul under my wing, I like him!!!" One guy murmurs... "Poor guy". I look over, "What?" I said, "That'll be good for him!"

"Why and when did you start running?"

Paul Burke-"I've been running my whole life, but it was mostly on the playground until I joined cross-country in 7th grade. I did it because I was the fastest distance runner at my school growing up. So, I thought I might have potential in the sport. I can be extremely competitive, and running allows me to truly test my limitations against others." 

"Ah, so you like hunting people and animals down?!" Paul Burke- "Uhg, What Clay?"... "I said, I can relate, GREAT answer Paul :) !" Paul murmurs, "The kid's still a beat off".... "What Paul?" "Uhg, I said, "That's great, Clay!"

As weeks passed, and months, Paul started to get his form back. By the end of first semester, he clipped off a 55 minute 10 mile tempo, over gravel, hills AND in a snowstorm. Rumor has it, on that run, Paul encountered a Grizzly Bear. Legend by told, Paul simply showed the Bear his fist. The Bear proceeded to eat itself, as it would be a less painful way to die. That poor bear didn't stand a chance in hell.

People began to give Paul his due respect, and as I said from the beginning, "Give him time". Come track season, Paul ran a fine 3000 meter steeple chase and his future years in college were looking 'promising'. The year ends, and thus preparation for cross country was the next plan of action.

By cross time, later to find out, Paul was going to attend Wyoming. That's all I heard aside from some snickers about his future and it being a "closed case". Not much later, and hearing from Paul, the man himself, he said he was still going to run. My thoughts, "Please do, don't let your talents get away from you."

"Who inspired you most along the way?"

Paul Burke- "No one person in particular. I have had many great teammates and friends throughout my career who helped me relax and enjoy the little things but also helped me realize what it took to excel in the sport. Everyone I ran with from freshman year of high school through college contributed to my success in some way. As for pros, I love watching videos of Pre, Coe, El G, Lagat, and Solinsky. Solinsky's 10k AR finish gives me chills every time. "

Animals talk?--- ---

Every so often, I'd talk to Paul and catch. He always seemed like he was doing well, and he kept saying he was training. Typically, and MANY runners find themselves in a similar situation. They wanted to get a new atmosphere for whatever reason, and thus are no longer tied down to train at "this time" and do "so and so" instructed training. In conclusion, causing 99% of runners to no longer be competitive, and "They're done". It's almost an easy bet to make, as is almost ALWAYS the case.

That's what's fascinating with Paul, he was not the standard case. Far from it. Over the 3 1/2 years he was not connected to a college team, I'd mention to him, "You really should run for the University of Wyoming!" By Paul's 5th and final season of collegiate eligibility, Paul made the decision and for whatever reason... He joined. I was pumped when he mentioned it on Facebook and thought, "Awesome, he'll have fun with it.". That was saying the least, as I occasionally lurked results and noticed Paul's performance at conference, at a VERY stacked conference, "WOW, PAUL GOT 8TH?! HOLY COW?!" As I saw names behind Paul... "Damn, he just handed a collegiate All-American his as..."

"Any defining moment(s) in your running career?"

Paul Burke- "I came into cross-country in the best shape of my life my junior year of high school. I was expected to run away with the state title, but after training and health issues and collapsing near the finish at the state meet, I ended up 6th. It was the worst race of my life, and no one thought I'd ever win again. I took indoor track off to train on my own, and that only caused people to gossip about me and spread rumors that I was lazy and tired of running. It seemed everything I did was misunderstood. I came out for spring track and won by 12 seconds in 4:24.0 in my first race (To be noted, this is at ELEVATION), a PR by more than 3 seconds, a meet record, and the fastest time anyone had run in the state in more than 6 years. It quieted a lot of the naysayers, but it also proved to me I could come back and win again. It gave me a lot of confidence in myself and extinguished all self-doubt."

Then came Regionals.... Paul spoke up to his coach beforehand, "Today coach, I will run to one song and one song only!", cue music-  (In a monotone voice that can be heard at the end of commercials, "Please, do not take the context of the songs lyrics for any deeper, hidden meaning. The words are simply provocative... IT GET'S THE PEOPLE GOING!"

"So, Pauly B, may I call you Pauly B? But anyhow, can you entail how regionals played out for you? From my standpoint, you were kind of an underdog going into the race(Regionals) for an individual bid in making NCAA XC..."

Paul Burke- "Regionals was kind of a surprise. I knew I was in good shape and was hoping to be All Region, but I didn't think I had a shot at nationals realistically since I was 8th just in our conference. I would have had to beat about 6 guys at Regionals that I didn't beat at conference just to have a chance, so I kind of went in the race without any high hopes. It was also my first competitive 10k, and I didn't want to run too aggressively and then die. I ran a smart race going out controlled, running mostly even splits until the last mile which was significantly faster than the others (4:40ish) but I finished knowing I could have run faster had I pressed more during miles 4 and 5. To top it off, coming down the last 400m, I passed several guys, one of them being Nate Jewkes from Southern Utah. There were guys in front of me, but none were close enough to real in and I wasn't gaining on any of them. At 9900m of a 10000m race, you're hurting, and with no one to catch and no one around me, I was only running at about 99%. With 20m to go Jewkes comes out of nowhere and gets half a step on me and there was just no time to react in that short of distance. He nipped me by 0.3 seconds and ended up being the last individual to qualify for nationals. I had beaten everyone from our conference except for the MWC champion, a 3:59/7:54/13:36 guy, but I was so down on myself knowing I had let an opportunity slip through my fingers. It was the reminder I needed after a four-year absence from racing that you never give anything less than your all when running a race, especially when there's a chance for something great, no matter how small that chance may be. 

"Highs in running? Low's in running?"

Paul Burke-"There've been many of both over the years, though they've leveled out some since leaving collegiate running my freshman year. I've learned to appreciate life without running, and though I still love running and will run as long as I can, it's not the only thing I care about. I can take it very seriously without it controlling my happiness. That being said, any period of injury is a low, and any PR or major win is a high. I also love the natural high one gets after a really tough workout or race. There’s nothing like putting in a really hard effort with your teammates."

"Any interesting thoughts, or anything random to add on your mind?"

Paul Burke-"If you want to be the best runner you can be, learn everything you can about the sport, particularly what training brings people to success. Learn from guys like Arthur Lydiard and Jack Daniels, but also from your own training history...

Run happy."

-Clay J. Mayes the 3rd

Thursday, July 14, 2011

400m repats.... ALL DAY, EVERYDAY... A "Torrential" downpour

As mentioned, I'm going to list my training, and give more running to running accounts of my training. And I can finally say my goal again, "I want to make the Olympic Trials Marathon this January." I have pushed back my qualifier attempt, given the broken femur, torn hip flexor, and torn glute... but if at first you don't succeed, try, try, again. So, I'll shoot for a qualifier this November or December as I will take the half marathon qualifying route. To which, that is a sub 65 half marathon. A harder qualifier than the marathon itself, at a respectable 4.58 mile pace or faster for 13.1 miles. 'Juicy.'

Help an orphan squirrel-

To build up confidence, and what I'm famous for, 400m repeats.

3 weeks ago, as of tomorrow, I will have done the following the last  handful of 400m workouts in this repetition - 16- Then went to altitude- 18- 16- 22- 27- 30... And today was 34. Problem with today's workout, a respectable storm was coming through, and I  postponed the workout. As it was a last minute decision in the process of finishing up a warm-up. Rarely, will I cancel a workout snow, rain, ice, or whatever, but today, with the hail that came down 10 minutes later, I decided, "For once Clay, you weren't 'completely' retarded."

2 minutes later, "Nevermind, scratch that," I was already in a pissed off mood. My thoughts, "Mother nature can go kill herself before she wins this battle."

As I procrastinated with the 400m workout, it was already dusk. Another issue, a rather large storm cloud was approaching. I thought, it doesn't look 'that' bad. I mean, the hail was already done... And it probably didn't help that I was jamming to this as the apocalypse of storm clouds approached-

As the warm-up is finished, I find myself brushing my right foot across the gravel/dirt track, "smoothing" it out. Problem is, I estimated doing this for a solid 5 minutes. To tell you the truth, there was nothing wrong with it, as I kept sliding my foot from side to side on the ground, scattering now non-existent gravel across the underlying dirt. At times, I can be a 'bit' OCD, to such a degree, people notice... Usually not... "Usually." At times, "Clay, if you touch your shoe laces one more time... ONE MORE TIME, I SWEAR... I SWEAR!!!"

Typically, I do have it under control, but sometimes, eerrrr, "I HAVE to fix that, I HAVE to touch that." The only time it affects my daily life is when I'm taking notes in class. As I will repeatedly write over everything I've written down, over and over and over again til the point  it looks ridiculously bolded, inky, and of course, 'cool'. - 20 minutes later - Class ends, and I'll have little to nothing of what the teacher said, as I could only focus on re-writing over a paragraph I had, 'lucky me,' it included my thoughts making a time machine. Personal thoughts on the issue, "Money."

I throw down a few light strides. I throw off my black nike pants, a grey rain jacket, change into my workout socks, "Yes," there is such a thing, and of course, throw on bright green racing flats. As a few drops are shed from the sky, a dark loom in the air, let's get'it down.

As I churn the first few repeats, I feel rusty. Beginning to wonder if my 7.5 mile tempo I did was still in the legs, "Aaaaaaannnnndddd, it was." As is human nature, the brain, and I believe it's the left side, is the side that produces negative thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Crazy as it goes, being self conscious of the long workout, annoyed by being tired.... My thoughts, "Will you shut the hell up! I'm in charge." Beginning to get more "Errrr" from the weather, and the already tired legs, I will NOT be denied this workout. I will NOT.

By repeat #5 it starts raining, actually, that's an understatement, it POURS. Repeat after repeat and 10 into the count of 34, wind picks up, lightning streaks across the sky from all directions. "Bring it on, Bitch!"

Even more pissed off, as if, mother nature was to have some say in my workout, I continue forth. As I paced back in forth, 60-70 seconds between reps, a walk-joggish rest in-between, wind blasting heaving rains in my face... Again, and again, and again... This would not lead to me being a happy camper, by any means.

By the the 16th repeat, the track is completely saturated, the inside of the track containing a puddle all around the 400 meter gravel oval. And yet, I still would NOT be denied this.

Perseverance, well if that's what you want to call it, but it's more than that. It's some kid that makes out a false enemy and thinks mother nature is some symbolic being trying to piss him off, and boy... I still believe it.

I know what you're thinking reading this, what is wrong with this kid?! I assure you, that question has been asked many times, each time, nothing more than a baffled response of, "I don't know..." and look of confusion is put forth.

Repeat after repeat, feet striking the ground, crunching of the gravel, water splashing, gravel gathering places only the imagination can think of, I continued forth.

By repeat 27, cold and the continued blasting of heavy rain into my face, to which, only led to me making sure I was to win this battle. And I swear to God, I will kill mother nature. My current thoughts can be expressed in this song-

By repeat 34, the last and final repeat, a slight chill in the air, and what do you know, the bitch, known as mother nature, stops the pouring, no wind, no nothing. As I roll off the final repeat, "FINALLY!" My favorite part in running, the cool-down. I can listen to some music, and gather my thoughts. As I grab my bag, and trot to the bleachers to change from soaked racing flats into soaked trainers, I did not care. I get to enjoy the cool-down, that's all I cared about momentarily.

I kid you not, and I couldn't make this up if I tried. It starts to rain... that's an understatement... a torrential downpour is cast forth, as some sort of sick joke. "Well, so much for listening to some jams to enhance my buzz from the workout. Lightning being cast forth, rain slapping my face, I did not care anymore. Tired of being soaked, cold, and yes, the continuing of rain slapping me in the face for the whole 2 hour workout. I decided... to cut the cool-down short. I proceeded to trot 10 minutes, and call it a day. I immediately proceed to trot over to my car, Shout out to the sky, "TAKE THAT BITCH!" And gladly went home, and wrote in my journal, Clay - 1 vs. Mother Nature - 0.

By the way, I don't have a journal. I'm not 'that' nerdy. Close though!

To the people that want an update on training, here is the last 8 days, and "Yes," the volume and miles of runs and workouts is growing fast.

July 6th-

 25 min. warmup- 30x400m, gravel/dirt track- 30 minute cool-down

20 minute bike later

July 7th-

70 minute run

25 minute run later

July 8th-

35 minute run

80 minute run later

July 9th- My EASY day-

35 minutes easy

25 minutes easy later

July 10th

3 mile warmup- 12k tempo, that raised 1000 feet first half (Dear God, that was tough)- 10 minute cool-down

50 minute run later

July 11th-

70 minute run

22 minute run later, followed immediately by 16 minute bike spin

-Sore as a mug-

July 12th- 

80 minutes/strides

20 minute run later

July 13th-

3 mile run

20 minute warmup- 34x400m in torrential downpour on gravel/dirt track-10 minute cooldown. (Pushing bike off till tomorrow, and 'light drills', SECRET drills)

Run range from 6000-7300 feet for these 8 days of running/training. Also, typically on rolling hills, excluding 400m repeat days.

I may take a down week for 400ms next week (maybe 26?), then do 40 the next week. I might race a mile road race, and/or 3k road race that occur on the week days next week... I'll keep you informed!

-clay j. mayes the 3rd


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Despite your efforts... You have succeeded!

Alright, I've been a little out of the loop in keeping up with 'The Blog', but I'll try to keep it more informative, as I believe all injuries are now under control. 



Just over a handful of weeks ago, I took a couple weeks off due to a chronic achilles problem. The source of injury? Taking all the time off for my femur. My thoughts, "Are you F'ing kidding me". No lie, I've been mentally burnt, dealing with my torn hip flexor, cracked femur, torn glute, and now achilles issues. If one's will power isn't tested here, I don't know when it is. 

As I find myself talking to, yet another doctor, and me giving him the spill. He agreed on the injury flaring up from tendons being weakened from the time off, and the fact of it slowly warming up as the weeks passed by getting back into running. 

I ran on a vertical break in my femur, to which, was roughly several inches to a foot long in the break... for six weeks. "Ya, ya"... It was painful and borderline rough. It was do-able though. This achilles thing, not so. The pain was too much, as I do have a high pain tolerance, but "Enough is enough" was my current mentality. So, I pretty much said, "Fuck you Achilles" and stabbed that bastard with a much feared and NEVER prescribe cortisone shot to that area, "A last resort, if you will". And btw, I apologize for the language, I used it for 'emphasis', as my old Canadian friend used to say when I'd give him flack for cussing.

The achilles problem did NOT go away with that cortisone shot. It did allow me to FINALLY walk around without hobbling in pain...  As I previously could not walk around without shoes on, half the time having to have a boot on, in order, to lessen the pain. So, I did the smart thing. I took advantage of this, and began strengthening drills and rehab, and yes, was able to easy-run-it. "A new you"

6 weeks later, in full swing, and back up to par. Far from the task at hand, but rolling, to the extent, "Hey, this is Clay's ego... Ya, I'm faster than you." As I say this to a random 80 year woman in Wal-Mart.... Just had to let her know! Kidding... mostly..

I will NOW start posting my running/training here, as promised a long time ago. Although, I won't go into the same depth with stories, I will make an effort to do so, 'here and there'... with requests from others.

Here has been the past 9 days of training:

June 15th

20 minute warmup- 16x400m (hot as a mug) on a turf field- 14 minute cooldown. 

2nd run- 15 minutes and SECRET DRILLS.

June 16th

35 minute run. 

2nd run- 60 minutes

June 17th

4 mile run- 

2nd run- 18 minute warmup- 1200m tempo pace, 2 minute jog- 12 x 60 seconds (fast)- 70 second jog in-between- 2 mile cooldown and SECRET DRILLS

June 18th

30 minute run.

2nd run- 60 minute run (turf field)

June 19th

11 mile progression, first day at altitude. At 6000 feet and got down to 5.30 last mile. Comfortable. Annnnnnd.....

2nd run of the day, 32 minutes. Meditated for 30 minutes later.

June 20th

18 minute warmup- 18x400m on a secluded dirt track at 6500 feet... "No problem", but with the wind of 20 mph I was on suicide watch by repeat number 4. 18 minute cooldown. SECRET DRILLS.

No second run... Decided to knit.

June 21st

9 mile run, 7000 feet and 'then some', "Chilled". 

2nd run- 50 minutes

June 22nd

65 minute trail run over hills

2nd run- 30 minutes

June 23rd

20 min. warmup- 16x400m at dirt track, nice weather, aside from altitude. 18 min. cooldown.

2nd run- 30 minutes, 15 min. fast spin on stationary bike, and SECRET DRILLS.

IF YOU BLOODSUCKERS WANT MORE, "Fine". I'll share a SHORT story, as I try to bring consistency back to Le Blog. In every athletes life, they have their DEFINING moments. 

I have a few... And I will share one.

Roughly a year or so into the sport, I called up an elite master's runner and asked if I could go on a run with him. The guy being 46, and recently running a 16.06 5k to his name in a road race. I, on the otherhand, a puny 8th grader, weighing in at mega 90 pounds, and my current 5k pr at the time being 17.17. 

His name being, Pete, an elite master's running in the Tulsa community, and ironically living in the same town as me. The small town of Claremore, just 15,000 or so inhabitants at the time, by no means a running community, yet producing one of the nations best masters runners, and as for me, "An aspiring runner."

Pete would always give me a few pointers, road race to road race, and now, "Taking me under his wing." As I would be hard on myself, by 'this and that' performance, he would keep my head straight. As I would learn the importance of taking a step back, learning there is a mentality to the sport. I would say this is hard to explain, but I learned an 'intuition' in the sport of running. 

As I called Pete up, he told me, "Ya, come on out! We'll do an 11 miler. I got a route." As I met with Pete the next day, we talked and stretched, and then proceeded onward to the run. The thing is, Pete did NOT hold back when I ran with him. Whether joining him for a long run, or workout, he ran true to what he originally planned on running. He was NOT workout warrior by any means, but rather, very meticulous in his training. Thriving off quality miles on his important days, and so forth. And lucky me, today was one of those 'quality' days for Pete. As we set forth, the pace attainable, the weather pleasant, only to have a slightly chill to it, but pleasant none-the-less. 

We clicked off a couple miles, and so forth, as the pace continued to build, and so did my effort that was being put forth. "Luckily", Pete picked the freaking most hilly route Claremore had to offer. Did I tell you, Pete liked hills?"

As we turned around at 5.5 miles, and into the a strong headwind, "Luckily", the wind was actually to our back the first 5.5 miles... Again, "Luckily." As my little hard headed self continued forward, I did what I could to zone out from the pain. Pete, un-phased, which is quite standard. 

As for me, well, I began to enter a world of hurt. Being a test of will, or the God's of bad weather, but at 7.5 miles or so into the run, the weirdest weather began to stir up, as we ran along. With winds picking up more fiercely, and I kid you not, with a quick flash, it began to pour snow pallets. Not the soft, 'fun' kind of snow, the kind that hurt. Pete clicking along, still un-phased. Me... Well, I had one and one thought only, "Where the HELL is oncoming traffic?!" I kept looking for cars, ANY CARS! And wanted to end it, as my pride wouldn't allow me to say anything about the hastened pace, or less than ideal weather. "Unluckily," not ONE car drove by. 

And "Yes", I was being serious about looking for oncoming traffic.

Pete looks over, seeing me red faced, cold from the drastically weather change, most likely drooling on myself... "Hey, tuck in behind me." As Pete MAKES sure I tuck in, rather than let my ego completely kill myself. I'm able to hold on as the run progresses, hill after hill, a random snow storm, some strong winds, and a 'brisk' running pace, the run finally comes to an end, "THANK GOD!"

I try to play it cool, "Ya, that was a good run!" *short pause* Although, I couldn't help, but spit out, "But that last hill KILLED me."

Pete, plain faced, looks over at me, "What hill?"

I clearly try to explain, "That hill..." Pointing off in its direction.

Pete pipes up, "I didn't notice that hill or any other hills for that matter."

Me:  :|

After being in a state of confusion, Pete finally tells me, "Look, it may be windy, hilly, or whatever. You can't worry about how bad some factor is. You have to face it, and conquer it without thinking twice about it."

I learned to hold this advice close to me for years.

To the point, my junior year at OU, I would routinely say on runs when someone complained about the wind or hills, "What hill?", "What wind?" As they would be thrown off, and sincerely try to explain which hill, or convince me, "It was windy." After a while, they finally caught on. To the point, they pulled the same junk on me, routinely. Ha, that being said, running... It's a mentality. That's it in short. 

p.s. If you want to tick someone off, say stuff like this on a run... Serious.

Spark notes: Pete holds 49 age group and single age records for the state of Oklahoma, to which, Oklahoma is known famously for many of its great masters runners it's produced. Pete being one of the best, as he's still going strong, and to what I believe, will run a 16.3x before this years end, perhaps faster. I wouldn't be surprised in the least bit. 

What's ironic, is this past year and a half, both Pete and I obtained long lay-off injuries. Although, at times, it didn't look so great for a comeback, we both have made our way back into the mix. 

As for me, I hope to FINALLY make a comeback this Sunday in a very respectable field, and if not so, then the next race, if not then... Then the next race... As I will continue to put forth whatever effort is needed to succeed, as I've learned from Pete, "It's a mentality, it's a lifestyle." 

...Although, this Sunday I am racing at 6000 feet, and have by no means, had enough time to adapt to it, but I'm sure you'd know what Pete would say,

"What altitude?"


-clay j. mayes the 3rd