Looking Back on 2016 and Forward to 2017

The year 2016 marked my first full year of serious training. It has now become a big part of my life. My non-running friends make fun of me, and strangers think I’m crazy. For me, it’s a way to get away, collect my thoughts, and push myself. And most importantly, it’s a social event. I estimate that 75% of my miles are run with another person.

Brett Rosauer and I battling right before the infamous spillway during Valhalla 12.4.

Here are some 2016 highlights:

Chilling with Pete Kostelnick during his amazing record run across the US.

Final Thoughts of 2016

2016 went great. I competed in my first ultra and immediately decided that I prefer trail and ultra running to marathon and road racing. I also visited Colorado for the first time and immediately fell in love. Lastly, I began working with a coach, David Roche, in October. He will prove to be a valuable asset to my running. He has provided me with smarter training, accountability, and a sounding board for questions and ideas.

I may have only won one race in 2016 (and it wasn’t a “real” race), but I’m not concerned with that. More wins will come later. My goal was to see progress and learn how to run ultras, and I accomplished this. I chose competitive races where I would be forced to push myself, and I will continue to select races based on competition level as I move forward.

Thorsday at the start of Valhalla 12.4. It was a nice and toasty 20 degrees.

Looking Forward to 2017

My early 2017 race schedule is as follows. The rest of 2017 will be determined as the year plays out.

  • Feb 25: Psycho WyCo Run Toto Run 50k
  • Apr 17: Boston Marathon (fun run, not race)
  • May 13: Ice Age 50 mile

I’m also hoping to do more traveling in 2017. I’m making a quick trip to Colorado this weekend and visiting Bend, OR in August. If you want to go on any running trips with me this summer, let me know! My summers are super flexible.

It seems weird for me to say, but as of now, I don’t have any specific goals for 2017. My main focus is executing Roche’s training plan and having fun. I trust that he will put me in the best position to improve. Of course, once I get closer to Ice Age 50, I will take a look at my fitness level and begin making race specific goals.

Thank you to everyone for such a great 2016. Let’s have some fun in 2017!

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Why You Should Negative Split a Race Sometime

On October 8th, I ran The Runner’s Flat 50k in Cedar Falls, IA. The race came only three weeks after my 41.5 mile DNF at The North Face Wisconsin 50 miler, in which I started out way too hard. After TNF, Scott Gall (winner of TNF and race director of TRF) suggested I learn how to run a 50k before moving to 50 milers. Thus, TRF 50k gave me a great opportunity to practice running a race.

Strava data for the race can be found here.

The race had some high end competition. Devin Allbaugh is a stud road runner who began racing trails this summer and was competing in his first ultra, while Chase Nowak has been racking up ultra wins in Wisconsin and Minnesota – most notably the Ice Age 50 miler.

Due to flooding, the race course had to be moved to four loops of twisty and mostly flat mountain bike trail. The course was very runnable, but the tight curves would force you to slow down. However, it was still a fast course, despite being slower than the previous course.

TRF Race Course
Just a couple turns…

I was running this race with a purpose, and I only had one goal. I didn’t care how slow I ran, and I didn’t care what place I finished in. My singular goal was to negative split the four laps.

Negative splitting is hard, especially on trail runs. To me, choosing your pace in a road marathon is easy. If you have properly trained, you should know the exact pace you can sustain for your road marathon. However, on trails, you don’t know the exact pace you can run (unless you train on the trails or have previously ran the race). In order to race well, you must really be able to listen to your body.

I admittedly tend to be a “go big or go home” type of runner. As I usually say, “I want to give myself a chance”. I still believe that is okay, but it is important to find that sweet spot where you give yourself a chance to run your best race, but you don’t kill yourself in the first half. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find that sweet spot in my two previous ultras. In both races, I unnecessarily spent time walking. Thus, the purpose of this training race was to run a race with a different point of view.

In the end, I was able to successfully negative split the four laps. I even had a huge negative split between the first and second half of the run. It felt awesome!

You should negative split a race sometime. Here is why:

It keeps you focused

During the race, I was solely focused on myself. I wasn’t racing Devin and Chase. I was only racing my previous lap. They were way ahead of me after the first mile of the race, and I never once bothered to ask anyone how far ahead the leaders were. I only focused on slowly picking up the pace throughout. It was great to not have outside distractions.

It feels great.

Usually, the last quarter an ultra feels like death. This was not the case for me. I felt stronger as the race went on, and I was smiling the entire time. Instead of walking during the final lap, I was running my fastest miles. I felt like I was flying – such a glorious feeling. I don’t care that I didn’t win. I’ve never had so much fun in a race before.

You can still go all out.

Typically, runners get slower during an ultra. This gave me an opportunity to gain good ground on the leaders during the last lap. I finished the race in third place, and the winner, Devin, put the majority of his ground on me during the first lap of the race. I was able to close very hard and almost caught second place. I really enjoy looking at the time gaps in the Strava Flyby. You can see a nice concave shape where I am running faster than the leaders during the latter stages of the race. Even though I started out slow, I still finished the last lap of the race as hard as I could.

Time Gaps: Devin in blue, Chase in Red

Race Results:

  1. Devin Allbaugh – 3:22:36
  2. Chase Nowak – 3:31:20
  3. Lance Cundy – 3:33:58

I was very happy with my finishing time. My average pace was 6:53, which I felt was pretty fast for those curves. I had also already put in 66 miles during the first 5 days of that week, so I was not running on fresh legs. In the end, I learned that negative splitting works. You should try it sometime!

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Race Report: The North Face Endurance Challenge – Wisconsin

Race result: DNF at 41.5 miles. You can see my race data on Strava.

The North Face Wisconsin 50 miler did not go the way I wanted, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. In the end, it was a great learning experience, and that’s exactly what I need right now. They say it usually takes a few ultras before you get the hang of them. I’ll start by walking you through the race. At the end, I’ll provide my overall analysis and what I learned.


Mark Thompson and I departed Iowa City around 2:00pm, and we picked up Joe Lahart in Cedar Rapids. During the car ride, Broccoli came on the radio. Mark got real excited because he heard a song that talked about broccoli, salmon, bagels, and capers. Then I told him what the song was really about. Haha! While driving into Madison, I alerted Mark that I could really use a pee stop. Next thing you know, we hit a traffic jam with a 25 minute delay. I barely survived. In Madison, we picked up our packets and grabbed supper at Great Dane Pub. My pre-race meal was meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans.

We got to our hotel in Delafield around 8:00pm, and Brett Rosauer showed up shortly thereafter. After getting everything ready for the race, we settled into bed around 10:00pm. Alarms were set for 3:00am. I tossed and turned until midnight. It was miserable.


I woke up at 3:00am, showered, and ate oatmeal from a coffee cup. We departed the hotel at 4:00am and arrived at the race site at 4:20am. We put on our shoes, adjusted our headlamps, made last second bathroom trips, and went to the start line.

Miles 1 – 11.5

Scott Gall took off at a quick pace as expected. I hung back and eventually connected with two runners: Travis Lavin and Steve Lawrence. Within 3 miles, they had already saved me from taking a wrong turn. (Red and orange look very similar under headlamps.) That scared me. They were running slightly faster than I wanted to, but I settled in behind them. I figured I would back off once we finished our small loops and headed for the meadows. At mile 10.5, Gall popped out of the woods and joined us. He pulled Steve away, but Travis hung back with me. I hit the 11.5 aid station at a 7:02 pace. That was too fast! In the end, if I was averaging closer to 7:30 here, my race could have gone way differently. I should have listened to my own advice. Remember, when I said I couldn’t have any miles under 7? Well I did that 5 times.

Miles 11.5 – 21.5

During this section, I began to settle down. But first, I had to endure a painful mile. The terrain here was rocky and full of roots, and I got lazy. I tripped once, but saved myself with my hands. Within a quarter mile, I stubbed my toe and tripped again. This time, I completely fell. My headlamp went flying, I scraped up my leg, and I was covered in dirt. After limping for a quarter mile, I finally got back into a rhythm. But as soon as I got in that rhythm, I stepped wrongly on a rock and rolled my ankle. I have pretty good ankles, but this was a nasty roll. I limped for a quarter mile, but then I was fine.

Around mile 13, I finally hit the meadows. This is what I had been waiting for, and this was the terrain I was incorrectly expecting for the majority of the race. Here, I got in a really good rhythm. My breathing was controlled, and my legs felt smooth. However, I could begin to feel the buildup in my legs from the first 10 miles. Toward the end of this section, I slipped past Travis into a comfortable third place. Unfortunately, he would end up dropping with an ankle issue at mile 29.

Getting into a rhythm.

Miles 21.5 – 26

This section got a little rough. The trail had a lot of quick, steep up and downs. I was smart on the ups, but I hit the downhill hard. I prefer to let gravity pull me quickly down the hills, which usually gives me an edge. Unfortunately, all this pounding was beginning to add up in my feet. They began to kill at this point. They hated the downs. Instead of wearing trail shoes, I had to chosen to wear racing flats. My feet didn’t approve of this. I need to roughen up my sensitive feet a little more.

Miles 26 – 32

This section was part of an out and back with the turnaround at mile 31. This was my chance to see how I fared with the competition. At the turnaround, Gall was 20 minutes ahead of me, and Steve was 18. Gall looked good, but Steve appeared to be in rough shape. Mark was 10 minutes behind me and looked great. I cruised through this portion and felt like I was in a great place mentally and physically. When I met Joe, he alerted me that I was only 10 minutes behind 2nd place. This meant I gained 10 minutes on him during this section. I felt really good here, and I thought an all Iowan podium was going to be a possibility.

Sweet picture posted by TNF. I could barley tell it was me.

Miles 32 – 35

This is where things started to go downhill. I took an extended stop at the mile 32 aid station to refill my bottle with Tailwind. Then, I had to hit the rough stuff again. I was just trying to survive this section. My miles got slower, my feet hurt even worse, and it was starting to get warm out. My morale started to get low, but I wasn’t out of it yet.

Miles 35 – 41.5

Brutal! Mark caught me at the mile 35 aid station. We ran together for a mile. He was awesome and tried to keep me going after the all Iowan podium, but after a mile, I couldn’t keep up. The sharp up and downs were destroying my legs and feet. I rallied for a bit, but my legs just wouldn’t go. Even though I was in fourth, I thought the podium was still in play. I just needed to keep moving forward at a decent pace. However, I couldn’t even maintain “decent”. The terrain turned to rocky gravel and sand. Pretty soon, I was walking gingerly. My legs had nothing left. This is when a drop become a real possibility. I told myself I couldn’t drop if I was in fourth. Between miles 39 and 40, I was finally passed. When I was passed, I gave one final effort, pushed on, and ran behind 4th for a quarter mile until he slowly slipped away. Next thing thing I know, I “ran” a 17:26 mile. My day was done. I dropped at 41.5 miles. My average pace had slowed to 8:41 per mile.

The final portion to the 41.5 aid station was miserable. We opened up in a meadow, so I could see the aid station in the distance. I knew I was going to drop, but the aid station was still a half mile away. It took forever to reach. It was tough to control my emotions at this point. And of course, a photographer was on the course right before the aid station.

Could I have finished? Yes. Would it be worth it? Not for me. I wasn’t going to gain anything by finishing. I would have won an age group award and kept some pride, but by dropping, I saved my legs and probably shortened my recovery by a week. It was a pretty easy decision. I never had a goal to just finish. I was out there to race. If you know me, that’s my personality. In the end, I made some early mistakes that jeopardized my race. I just need to be smarter.


After dropping, I quickly got a ride from race officials back to start. (Thank you!) The worst part about dropping was sending the text to my parents. When I got back to the start, I called Brett, who I knew would have already finished his 50k. He was surprised to see my call, and he asked me if I had seen my surprise at the finish line. I was confused. It turns out that my parents had driven 6 hours and planned on surprising me at the finish. I ruined their surprise. I found them and shed a couple tears. They gave me a hug and were the supportive parents that they always are. I appreciated them coming.

Race Results

Gall won in 6:32. Major props to Steve who rallied and finished 2nd in 6:46. Mark hit a low point after 41.5 but was able to finish in third at 7:04. Joe finished in 11th and won his age group. In the 50k, Brett came away with 2nd place.

Bottom left to bottom right, clockwise: Mark, Brett, Me, and Joe

Race Night

Mark, Joe, and I stayed the night in Madison. I got to enjoy my first Airbnb and my first time in Madison. We hit up State Street Brats and found an awesome craft beer bar named HopCat.

My sports world had a rough day. I had my DNF, Notre Dame lost, SDSU lost, and Iowa lost. I also suffered my first ever bee sting after the race.

Final Thoughts

I obviously went out too hard. Mark is a veteran at this stuff, and I should have hung back with him. I still think I could have challenged Gall, but that chance was lost in the first 11.5 miles. The course was also much more challenging than expected. I was expecting smooth trail with long, gradual climbs. This only ended up being about 10% of the course. Instead, we had rough trail with short, steep hills that definitely slowed things down. I should have adjusted my expectations when I realized this. I also think I should have worn trail shoes because of how much my feet hurt. On the bright side, I felt that I fueled pretty well. I took in my nutrition as planned and didn’t bonk. I felt like

I went into the race well prepared. I just didn’t execute. I feel very fit right now, and it sucks to have not taken advantage of my training. I will learn!

Fun Facts

  • Ages of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd: 42, 38, and 38. Experience matters.
  • Despite running 8.5 less miles than Mark, Strava estimated that I still burned more calories than him. That’s what happens when you are 6’3″ and weigh nearly 40 more pounds.

What did I learn?

  1. I need to be patient. 50 miles is a long way. Just chill.
  2. I need to be confident and trust myself. I shouldn’t have worried about getting lost.
  3. Did I say I need to be patient?

Did I accomplish my goals?

I didn’t run 6:15, but I did have fun! 1 out of 2 isn’t bad. Despite the DNF, I still had a smile on my face. The overall experience was great, and I still had an awesome time.

How do I feel now?

It’s been three days, but my legs feel great. However, my feet still kill. The big toe that I stubbed is black and blue. The forefoot of both feet are bruised, and my ankle still hurts. Once my feet get better, it should be a quick recovery.

What’s next?

Good question. I have some ideas, but first thing is first: recover. Once I recover, I’ll make a plan of action. I need some revenge!


  • Nike LunaRacer 4
  • Thorsday Singlet
  • Nike Aeroswift Race Shorts 2″
  • Thorsday Trucker Hat
  • Stance Crew Socks
  • Nike Trail Kiger Vest
  • Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Watch
  • Petzl Tikka+ Headlamp


  • 600 calories from Tailwind (orange)
  • 100 calories from Clif Shot Energy Gel (citrus)
  • Roughly 100 ounces of water
  • Sips of Mt Dew from a few aid stations

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Goals and Strategies for The North Face Endurance Challenge Wisconsin

You don’t run 50 miles without a plan. (If you know me, I don’t do anything without a plan!) Therefore, I have two main goals for The North Face Endurance Challenge – Wisconsin 50 miler:

  1. Finish in 6 hours and 15 minutes
  2. Have fun

How am I going to accomplish these goals? Check out below.

Scott Gall and I in Colorado

Finish in 6 Hours and 15 Minutes

When running an ultra, strategy becomes very important. It doesn’t matter how fast you can run. It matters how you pace yourself and how you fuel.

6 hours and 15 minutes is a 7:30 min/mile pace. The trail has rolling hills but no big climbs. Talking with Mark, we have estimated that to be a 7:00-7:10 effort on flat roads. I think I can do that.

I’m sure we will talk strategy on the car ride to Wisconsin, but I would love to run the first 10 miles with fellow Thorsmen, Mark and Joe. I would like to ease into things and run around a 7:30 pace for those 10 miles. I don’t want to start out slower, but I definitely don’t want to let adrenaline push me below a 7:00 pace. After 10 miles, I need to find a good rhythm. I think that rhythm can be around a 7:15 pace. From there on out, it’s about staying in a rhythm and finishing strong. For a perfect day, I’ve got to be able to put in a push between miles 40-50.

Do I think I can run faster than 6 hours and 15 minutes? Absolutely. However, for that to happen, pacing and strategy will have to be on point. As you just read, I do plan on starting out a little faster than goal pace. I want to give myself a chance. If I die a little bit and lose pace towards the end, that’s okay in my book. If I crash and burn, then I really did something wrong.

Fueling will be key. They say an ultra is not about how fast you can run. It’s about how much you can eat. The goal is to fuel early and often. I will be wearing a hydration pack with two 16oz bottles. One bottle will hold water, and the other will hold water with 4 scoops of Tailwind (100 calories per scoop). I will carry 4 more scoops of Tailwind in my pack, so that I can refill once near the halfway point. During my last 20 mile run, I took two drinks of Tailwind every two miles, which worked very well, so I will continue that during the race. I will carry Clif Shot Energy Gels (100 calories) on me. I plan on taking at least two. As I’m sure I will want real food at some point, I will also carry two Honey Stinger Waffles (150 calories). If I accomplish my fueling goal, which is easier said than done, I’m looking at 1300 calories. Lastly, I plan on refilling the bottle of water at each aid station.

Placing depends on who shows up to the race, so my finishing time is more important. In past years, 6 hours and 15 minutes would get 2nd. I just found out that the 3-time defending champion, Tyler Sigl, will be running the 50k. That leaves the podium wide open for Iowans. Scott Gall (pictured above), who I travelled to Colorado with this summer, is a nationally known name who will be the favorite. There is the definite possibility of another fast person, but without an entrants list, I think I fall in line next. Of course, I would definitely like to be on the podium. Mark and Joe will be challenging me too. Last ultra, Mark snuck up on me during the last 5 miles. Furthermore, I can’t forget that if I run a great race, I could challenge Gall near the end. Anything can happen in an ultra!

Finding out about Sigl definitely changes things. Knowing that I have a shot to win (it’s not a big chance, but it’s there) certainly makes pacing more difficult. I know my heart will want to go out with Gall, but I have to let my head rule. I cannot let myself start too quickly.

Lastly, I have to be flexible with this goal. I must be willing to adjust along the way. I haven’t seen the course, so I don’t know what I’m truly capable of running. I’ve talked with previous runners, examined the elevation chart, and read about it online, but I won’t know what I can do until I’m on it. There is also supposed to be rain leading up to the race. If the course receives a ton of rain, it could get sloppy and slow things down.

What do I think is going to be the most challenging part? Mile 35. The mental aspect of an ultra is huge. I’m in new territory after mile 35. (However, I can tell myself I’ve ran for 5 hours before, so maybe that will get me to mile 41.) When I reach a low point, which will happen, I have to do four things:

  1. Think of my other goal. Have fun and smile!
  2. Remember running up and down Pikes Peak with Gall.
  3. Remember grinding out those long runs during my big weeks.
  4. Think of all the awesome support you guys have provided!

I tried to prepare myself for the low point. That’s why I ran 124 boring laps around a track. That’s why I purposely ran long runs on legs that wanted to collapse. If I stay positive and patient, I can get out of the low points quickly.

Have Fun

This goal is not flexible. It’s easy:

  1. I’m going to smile.
  2. I’m going to cheer on fellow runners during the out and back sections.
  3. I’m going to chat with aid station workers.

If I can following the strategies I just laid out, Saturday will be a great day. I can’t wait to see what happens!

If you want to follow my progress, you can sign up for live updates here.

If you missed it, check out how I spent my summer training for this race.

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Preparing to Race 50 Miles

On Saturday, I run my first 50 mile race. Am I crazy? Nope. Am I ready? Yup! Let me tell you how I prepared for The North Face Endurance Challenge – Wisconsin 50 mile race. Then, you can make the decision if I’m crazy.

Let’s rewind to the spring. After learning more and more about the ultrarunning world, I began to get the itch. I had finished a 50k in February, and despite falling from 2nd to 5th in the last five miles, I was ready to go further. Before I could plan my big fall race, I needed to concentrate on my second marathon. Once I happily ran a 2:39:44 in rain and wind at the Illinois Marathon, I knew I was ready to train for something different throughout the summer.

Mark Thompson, a fellow Thorsday member and veteran ultrarunner, and I began making plans. First, we joined a trip to Colorado to run up and down Pikes Peak in July. Then, we signed up for TNF WI in September. My plan was to spend early summer on hill work so I could handle Colorado. After Colorado, it would be time to build up the distance. Here is how our ‘Summer of Field Trips’ went.

Week 1: 79 miles. I started summer with a killer 15.6 miles at Lake MacBride. It was on one of the first hot and humid days of the year.

Week 2: 90 miles. Twelve Thorsmen attacked Swiss Valley Nature Center, which includes the largest hills in Iowa: a measly 250 feet. The run was 17.1 miles with 2,500 feet gained.

Thorsday looking like trouble after Swiss Valley

Week 3: 80 miles. Four Thorsmen hit up Wildcat Den for 18.7 miles with 2,200 feet of elevation gain.

Weeks 4 and 5: 72  and 70 miles. These two weeks included a last second trip to Wyoming and Colorado. Fellow Thorsmen, Brett Rosauer, his roommate Nick, and I spent two days in Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming, four days near Denver, and two days in Fort Collins. We ran places such as Medicine Bow Peak, Mount Evans, Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and Magnolia Road. The seven run trip ended with 80 miles and 13,000 feet gained. In Colorado, I learned that I handle altitude very well. I even did multiple 2-mile repeats at 14,000 feet on top of Mount Evans.

Battling snow on my way up Medicine Bow Peak

Week 6: 80 miles. Five Thorsmen visited Lake Darling. While there, we got in 19.5 miles of mostly flat trail. I needed that after Colorado.

Week 7: 112 miles. Three Thorsmen ventured to Colorado Springs. Mark, Joe Lahart, and I joined an adventure trip led by Scott Gall and The Runner’s Flat. It just so happens that Mark, Joe, Scott, and I are all running TNF WI. Since Scott was originally from the area, he knew the best places to run near CO Springs. The highlight of the trip was a run up and down Pikes Peak on Barr Trail. The up, which is 12.6 miles with 7,300 feet gain, took 3:08 running time. Running back down was a quick 2:00 (Strava).We even got to meet Zach Miller at Barr Camp. Pikes Peak was a huge confidence booster. By the end of this trip, I learned I run up hills pretty well for an Iowan. My 72 hour stats from CO Springs included 68 miles with 16,000 feet gained.

Thorsday on top of Pikes Peak

Week 8: 62 miles. Colorado destroyed my legs, so I backed off until the weekend, which was a trip to Decorah. On Saturday, we did 18 miles on the beautiful trails around town. On Sunday, we ran 17 miles at Yellow River Forest. These two days added another 3,600 feet of elevation gain to my legs. This concluded a 30 day stretch where I ran for at least 2 hours and 20 minutes on 9 of the 30 days. I was hurting.

Week 9: 55 miles. At this point, I’m just trying to recover from Colorado.

Week 10: 70 miles. I’m still hurting but ran a hilly (for Iowa) trail half marathon called Mines of Spain. It included 13.1 miles with 1,300 feet gain. The hills felt great, but I couldn’t keep up with speedster Devin Allbaugh on the flats. I finished 2nd in a little slower time than I wanted. Colorado still wouldn’t go away.

Weeks 10, 11, and 12. 86, 89, and 85 miles. I called these my BIG weeks. Even though they weren’t peak mileage, they include my longest runs at peak time. These weeks were a struggle to get my legs back, but the main goal was hitting the long runs. In a 15 day stretch during these three weeks, I went 25, 31, and 26 miles. The 50k was a Thorsday event done on the track. We called it mental training. The last 44 laps (11 miles), were challenging. I ran the 26 miler on my 26th birthday at the end of these three weeks. Through these long runs, I learned how to get into a rhythm and fight through my dead legs.

Approximately lap 100 of 124

Week 11. 60 miles. This was the first week of my taper. A 20 mile run in the Black Hills at 6,000 feet altitude was another big confidence booster. That run on the Mickelson Trail gained 1,500 feet.

Week 12: 53 miles. I decided not to do a long run this week. I probably tapered more than usual for an ultra, but my legs were on the edge. They needed all the taper they could get.

Week 13: Race Week. I’m ready!

My Final Analysis: Overall, I’m very happy with my training. The mileage wasn’t crazy high, but I’ve only been running seriously for 1.5 years, so I need to be careful. Also, the two Colorado trips were invaluable, and the elevation gain only made me stronger and put more time on my feet. I also successfully completed my key long runs. If I could make one change, I would have added more tempo runs. However, I’m not sure my legs could have handled it, and the long runs were my top priority anyway. I can’t wait for Saturday!

Check out my race strategy and goals!

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Why I Chose PhD School

In August, I will begin work on a PhD in Economics at the University of Iowa. The program will take five years and is designed to set me on the career path to be a college professor. People often ask me why I want to keep going to school and work on a doctorate. I don’t have one true answer. Instead, many small reasons joined together to help me make my decision. These reasons represent my personality, motivations, and goals in life. Here they are!


For more on making tough choices, read my post on Big Decisions are about the Little Things.

It presents a great opportunity. The Economics PhD program at Iowa provides a great fit for me. It has been successful and has had great placements in the past, yet it isn’t a top dog. It is small and collaborative, which will be important for me, since I don’t have a background in economics. I didn’t really expect to get accepted to Iowa, so I believe I was accepted for a reason. I can’t pass up this chance. I will also never have this chance again.

It gives me the most potential. I have a Master’s Degree in Mathematics, but I still feel limited. There are jobs that I still won’t qualify for, and I don’t like that. With a PhD, I can qualify for any type of job. I can be a college professor or a research scientist or an entrepreneur. It will also allow me to attend conferences, meet people, and create connections. This will only open up more opportunities for me.

I like learning and teaching. Like most successful people, I want to be a lifelong learner. I definitely don’t need school to learn, but when you are in a school setting, it is much easier to concentrate your efforts on learning. Also, teaching has always been a passion of mine. When I was in high school, I thought about being a high school teacher and coach. With a PhD, I could teach at the college level. Thus, more school equals the opportunity to learn and teach.

It will be a challenge. If you personally know me, you know that I like challenges. I tend to do unnecessarily crazy things just to say I did it. Now, I’m not going to work on a PhD just to say I did it, but I look forward to the challenge of learning a new subject. It will motivate me to dig in and get the most out of my experience. In the end, I will come away as a wiser, more discipline person.

It creates freedom. I’m not ready for a 9 to 5 job. I want to meet people, attend conferences, and not have a strict lifestyle. While at school, I will be fully concentrated in my studies, but I will also be able to do some things that I couldn’t otherwise.

It gives me a chance to go somewhere and experience something new. I have lived in South Dakota all my life. Don’t get me wrong, South Dakota is great. But, I need to experience new people and new things. Iowa City will be that place. Everybody tells me how cool Iowa City is, and I can’t wait to live there. Even though it is a college town, there will be many like-minded people around me. It is also not far from many large cities.

I can still be an entrepreneur. This spring, I saw an article on LinkedIn about Iowa City being one of the top new hubs for entrepreneurs. (Thanks to Joel for finding the link to the article!) This excited me as I was making my school and life decisions. In Iowa City, I can expect to find people with similar interests. Maybe I will find someone who I can start a company with. I also hope to get involved with the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, which is located in my building at Iowa.

I couldn’t find the perfect job. I have had my eyes open for possible jobs for the past two years. Nothing jumped out to me as the perfect job. I had some great opportunities for jobs that many people would be happy with, but they weren’t perfect. Could I really expect to find the “perfect” job out of college? No. But I am certainly going to try. Now, I will have five more years to find that opportunity with a new range of options.

It keeps me young. If I stay in college, I am still young and have no responsibilities. That’s how it works, right?

That Other Guy: Tony Fiegen

The following appeared on Statographics.com on May 23, 2013. May 24th sequentially became #TonyFiegenDay across eastern South Dakota…



CBS’s Bill Raftery thought South Dakota State University (NOT San Diego State) had only one senior on their basketball team this year. Most of the media only talked about one senior. But the Jackrabbits had TWO seniors. One will be playing in the NBA next year. The other will be preparing for Medical School. Everybody knows Nate Wolters. But do you know Tony Fiegen?

How Smart is Tony Fiegen?

Who needs to play in the NBA when you have the brains to be a doctor? This May, Fiegen received a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a specialization in Pre-Medicine. In June, Fiegen will begin working at the Sanford Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls. He will prepare for the MCAT and begin applying for medical schools this summer. When asked what schools he plans on applying to, he does not provide specific answers. The only college he named was USD. Imagine that. Would an SDSU basketball player actually go to school at archrival USD? Fiegen would not have a problem with it. He did consider playing overseas, but decided a better job at the Heart Hospital and Medical School would be the best road to travel. When asked about the correlation between basketball and academics, Fiegen responded, “It’s hard for me to try really hard in one thing, and then not try as hard, or hard at all in another thing … Academics has always been super important.”

Tony Fiegen’s Generosity

Fiegen recently spent a week in Haiti with much of the SDSU basketball team, coaching staff, and boosters. The mission trip was part of the Samaritan’s Feet and Feed the Hunger programs. While on the trip, Fiegen and the others washed feet and provided shoes for underprivileged children and families, and they also visited orphanages to feed the hungry. Although some private donations were used, the players raised the majority of the money through individual fundraising. Tony said about the kids in Haiti: “They were just starving for love, so they got really attached very quickly, and it was just a lot of fun playing with them.” To recap, Tony Fiegen left for Haiti less than a week after graduating college. While most college kids are still celebrating, Fiegen decided to help others.


Fiegen on Wolters

Nate Wolters will likely be taken in late June in the NBA draft. (See our comparison Statographic vs. Trey Burke.) But Fiegen couldn’t be any happier for him. When asked for a player comparison to Wolters, Fiegen did not provide a specific answer. Steve Nash, Goran Dragic, and Jason Kidd were players that Tony remembered the media mentioning. Fiegen said Wolter’s style is so unique that it takes a mix of players to come up with a comparison. While spending his entire career in Wolter’s shadow, Fiegen didn’t blink. He continued to be the hustling, hard working, undersized big man who did all the little things for the benefit of the team. He didn’t want accolades and didn’t want recognition. On the basketball floor, he just wanted to do whatever it took to win. When I tried to get Fiegen to take some credit and admit to being humble, he just threw it back at Wolters. He said about Wolters, “He is so humble. He actually pushed a lot of credit off of his shoulders and onto our plates …  , so I actually thought we received our fair share of credit. It never bothered me, and I can guarantee it never bothered my teammates either”

Faithful Fiegen

Off the basketball floor, Fiegen knows there is much more to life than basketball. His faith ruled above academics, which ruled above basketball. You can often see Fiegen at the Newman Center on Sundays on SDSU’s campus. In regard to his faith, he has been watching his Aunt Patty battle cancer for 16 years. He sees her battle and knows that nothing else compares. He admires her faith and positive attitude throughout the fight. He has used his faith to understand that these things happen for a reason. After watching his Aunt Patty suffer, Fiegen said, “No test, no basketball game, no matter how it turns out, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t mater as much as you think.” SDSU basketball may be number one in some peoples’ hearts, but faith is number one in Tony Fiegen’s heart.

Final Farewell

SDSU basketball will always be remembered for Nate Wolters. But don’t forget about the Madison, South Dakota, boy who committed to SDSU as a high school sophomore (along with Chad White). You will probably see him in a local gym near you, but more importantly, he might just be taking care of our kids some day.

Random Fiegen Facts

Player he modeled his basketball game after: DeJuan Blair, C San Antonio Spurs

Best athlete he played against in AAU: Michael Floyd, WR Arizona Cardinals

10 years from now: graduated from Medical School with a wife and children

Favorite Bible verse: Matthew Ch. 6: 31-34: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ … But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Message for the youth: “Set your goals high and work for them, because if you set your goals where they should be, it’s going to require a lot of hard work. And even if you don’t achieve them, it shows longevity, and it shows commitment. And those are both things you need for the rest of your life,”

SDSU basketball weightlifting: power clean record holder and Strength and Conditioning All-American

Favorite part about SDSU basketball: relationships with coaching staff, teammates, family, and new friends

Toughest part about SDSU basketball: balancing academics and athletics

Key to continued success at SDSU: getting over the hump of making the NCAA tournament

SDSU’s strength next year: experience

Tomorrow, May 24th is Tony Fiegen Day. Use #TonyFiegenDay or tweet @TonyFiegen and show him some love!

Written by Lance Cundy, analyst at Statographics. Follow Statographics on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr for sweet sports visuals.