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Each year, one of the highlights of the Millrose Games is the High School Invitational Mile for boys and girls. In order to earn a place on the starting line, athletes must run a time that will get the attention of the race selection committee. This year, DyeStat will follow five runners as they try to earn an invitation to the February 1st race.

Below is the blog for Half Hollow Hills West NY senior Kyle Merber.

Kyle was invited to participate in the Millrose Games HS mile after his win at the Hispanic Games.

Week 6

The judge's tallies are in…this week was tied for the best week ever…like, lifetime ever! It started off with a workout on Monday that went pretty good. I was a little tight and the wind was a killer, but it was a "fast" workout which is rare for me during the winter so I did my best. I ran 2x [800,200,200] hitting all my paces, but afterwards I was a bit winded, literally.

Tuesday everyone was in good spirit when my coach decided it would be an amusing joke to dress up like me at practice. Well, I really hope that's not what I look like every day, because he looked plain ridiculous. He was wearing every color in the rainbow, plus a funny hat and I just stared at him in complete confusion. It turns out he read my blog…and he said, "Well today 'we' are going to go running." So he ran the first couple minutes of my team's run with us, which was a crepic (crazy/epic) event that goes down in the history books. The rest of the week was just easy road runs leading up until Friday.

We walked into MSG and the only thing I could say was, "WOW!" as I looked down in awe on the track and infield. I have been there plenty of times, and normally I would look down and see either a basketball court, a hockey rink or a circus. The arena has so much history surrounding it and it is a place where many legends and heroes had performed before.  I sat around for a few hours watching races and taking it all in, then it was time for me to go down and warm up so the adrenaline started rushing. My coach and I entered the warm up room and I immediately noticed that I was going to have to do about 15 laps of this tiny little room for the warm up (I would've paid for a treadmill). For the second week in a row, I found myself warming up in the same vicinity as guys like Lagat, Mottram, Rupp and other prodigious professionals. Sometimes it is easy to forget that these guys are real people. I don't know if that makes sense, but we always hold them in such high regard we often don't associate them as actual humans just because they run like machines.

After clerking in, they kept us right beyond the arena and we were all trying to poke our heads out and catch a glimpse of the crowd and "THE BEAST," Adam Nelson. That guy is not only an amazing shot-putter, but a great entertainer. He got the crowd so rowdy and loud that it would only make our race that much crazier. When it was our turn to walk out on the track my heart was pounding and my legs were shaking. I did one strider and then reminded myself, "Just have fun!" It is so simple, but we often forget that is why we run. I did a lap on the track and heard all my friends screaming and going bonkers (did I really just use bonkers in a sentence?).

After the introductions and brief silence, the gun went off and I immediately blocked out everything and just made sure I stayed in contact with the leaders the whole race. Nick Crits set a blistering pace the first quarter of about 59 seconds. Everyone just tried to remain as relaxed as possible until everyone settled in. The large majority of the race is a blur, as I was living in the moment. I knew if I could just sit right there in a comfortable position right behind the pace I would give myself a chance over the last 400. There was a lot of jostling and everyone was constantly fighting for position, but as my coach had told me, I just needed to stay in contact which would be an extremely demanding task. The talent in the race was unbelievable and nobody was letting up. At one point, with about 4 laps to go, I felt a quick moment of self doubt; I thought the pain was becoming unbearable. However, I quickly looked to the crowd and saw all the emotion in the fans' faces and it gave me a boost of confidence and a second wind. With about 2 laps to go I saw my opening and I just tried to take it. I knew Robby Andrews has a blistering kick over the last 200 meters, so I just wanted to get the first jump. Although the pain and discomfort were unbelievable, I just reminded myself of that corny saying, "Pain is temporary, but pride is forever."

I was fighting through it the whole last lap, like I was trying to catch someone and I didn't notice until the last step that I had it. I crossed the line and just looked around in disbelief. I looked into the crowd and I saw a ton of people yelling and clapping. I was in complete euphoria and I just put my hands in my head wondering to myself, "What did I just do?!?!" It is a moment I will never forget and will cherish for the rest of my life. The Millrose Games has so much prestige and has so much history; it is really a huge honor and I am so thankful for the experience.

From the first time I watched the Millrose games on TV as a freshman I had wanted to run in such a venue. But I really set my mind on the goal when I first read 'Once A Runner' and the scene that describes the Wannamaker mile. I remember sitting on my couch on Christmas Day reading that scene and it giving me chills. Friday night went just as I had always dreamed it would, and if I could, I would go back and read that scene again (but the g/f wanted to borrow it).

Unfortunately for me, this is my last blog entry so I just want to thank DyeStat for giving me the opportunity to participate in this new feature. I have really enjoyed writing a summary of my training/life and I hope that everyone has been somewhat entertained by my entries. Since I will no longer have a way of communicating my weekly thoughts to a large majority of the track community I want to conclude by reminding everyone just to have fun. I remember someone once told me, "It's not the destination that is important, it's the journey," and that has stuck with me my entire life. Every coach has their own formula and methods and there are thousands of ways to be successful. If an athlete can just consistently work hard and have fun, then everything will eventually come together. Thanks for all the support especially to my coaches, friends and family!


P.S-"Running to him was real, the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free."

Week 5

This was one of the best weeks ever…like lifetime ever! It started off with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is right up there with Christmas because gift giving and equality/peace are right on the same level. We had our league meet the day before, so Monday was a nice easy day with my friend Foon. We ran 6 miles at night because "running during the day is overrated," but do not fret, we wore a lot of bright colors to make sure everyone could see us.

Tuesday was a sweet workout because I finally didn't have to run 1200's or more, so I actually was able to use some of my speed to help me along. The workout was a combination of 1000's and 200's and I felt solid, which is definitely a good sign the week of a big race. Wednesday I just ran nice and easy on the roads with the team for about 30 minutes. Thursday was an eventful day because I had to go to school in the morning for my calculus midterm and then hurry home and go catch a plane to Boston. The whole week I had midterms, but unfortunately for some (teachers and parents) I caught the "worst" (I love it) disease ever…SENIORITIS!!!! Basically I was so excited for my race all week that I didn't really study too much, but people must have their priorities and I know mine.

Thursday I got into Boston at about 1:30 and it was the best plane ride ever. I got on the plane and immediately fell asleep and the next thing I knew we were parked at the gate. I slept really poorly though, and when I woke up I could've sworn someone punched me in the ribcage. I did my run in the parks by the hotel which was quiet and peaceful. Friday we went to Reebok headquarters and they hooked us up with a lot of free stuff and shoes which was basically the greatest gift a runner could have. I was in shock because my two favorite holidays (MLK day and X-Mas) were only a few days apart. Later we went back to the hotel and got changed into all of our new stuff and went for a run. Joseph Franklin, Taye and I probably chose the best running group ever…9 girls. The run went by really quickly and I felt good and knew I would be ready the next day.

Saturday was a lot of fun at the meet. As soon as we walked into the warm-up area we saw basically every professional ever and I was in complete awe. Right in front of me were all the guys I look up to and admire. The race was a whole new experience and it was by far the most competitive field I have ever been in. They went out very fast and I was hoping the leaders would come back to me but they never did. I ran splits of 62-64-64-59(for the 1600) which was a bit faster than I have ever gone out, but I was happy to know I can still kick off a faster pace. I closed well for the last 200 and was very content with the 3-second PR. The whole experience was very humbling to be in the presence of so many great milers and I know I have a lot to learn. After the race we got to meet the legendary [Craig] Mottram and speak to him about some interesting topics. Earlier that day we actually went to his hotel and made a call to his room and he gave us some autographs. The whole experience was amazing and I wouldn't do a thing differently. The next day I was a little sore and just jogged lightly to get some lactic acid out of my system.

My next race is at the prestigious 101st Millrose Games, and I expect it to be extremely competitive! Ever since freshman year it has been my absolute dream to run at the Games and to think it is going to happen this Friday is unbelievable.

Week 4

This week was all about getting in some prime training before back-to-back weekends of big racing. I haven't really run a big race since the Hispanic Games, so I have been able to really run some exceptional workouts and put in the necessary work to better my times. Monday was an important workout that is typical of the type of training I do during the winter months in order to build up the necessary strength to pull me through the last 800 of a race. The workout was 3x1200 w/ 4min rest [3:29, 3:28, 3:31] followed by 3x1000 w/ 2min rest [2:57,2:58,2:52]. I hit all the times that I was aiming to hit and felt really strong for the whole workout and I can tell that my 3rd quarter is going to continually improve.

Tuesday we (my coach always says "we" are running a workout, but I have yet to see him run one with me) ran a threshold-type run of 3 miles in about 15:35, then a 4 minute rest and 1 mile in 5:20ish. I was a bit lethargic from the day before, but I survived so I am not complaining. Wednesday was a nice easy day of relaxing on the roads with an easy 30 minute run with all the distance guys. Some people would call these endurance runs, but they are more like story time on-the-go. Thursday I ran a nice progressive run on the roads for 5 miles. I originally I set out just to run a decent paced run at roughly 6 minute pace, but I think I got a little carried away. It eventually turned into a tempo-type run with the last few miles being a lot faster than I first meant it to be.

Friday I ran another nice and easy 4 miles on the road by myself. This run was a fun run because I got some quality thinking or "philosophizing" in. My mind really wandered on this run onto all crazy types of topics that if I were to share with the world, I would probably be shunned by society. My friend Leroy and I came up with the crazy idea that we should go up to Yale and watch the track meet even though our team was not competing in it. He has already been accepted to Yale, so he wanted to go walk around campus and I just really like track meets, cause I am a geek like that, so it worked out for the both of us.

We left early in the morning and drove for a couple hours before finally reaching New Haven. Unfortunately we got lost in the confusing city of New Haven and were left driving around aimlessly until we swallowed our pride and asked for directions (I guess the stereotype that men don't ask for directions has been proven wrong). We got there and watched some races and hung out with our girls' team who went to actually race. I needed to go on a run so I decided to go on a run/cool down with Mary Kate Champagne after her 3k. We explored New Haven for a bit and Angel Ortega joined us shortly after his race. Apparently we weren't running fast enough for him so he ditched us.

Sunday we had our league meet, which was an awesome day. I tripled, running the 3200 in about 10 flat, the 1600 in about 4:37 and the anchor in our 4x800 in about 2:01. I was definitely content with my day because I felt very good in all three events and we were fortunate enough to walk away with the League III team title. It was definitely a productive week and I hit 40 miles easily without strain.

I just quickly want to mention some of the things that I do in addition to what I write about every week. The large majority of days I run a mile warm up and a mile cool down before and after each run. I also think that one of the most essential and overlooked parts of a training plan are the striders performed immediately before and after the main run of the day. Through all parts of the season it is expected of a runner to run fast and be able to compete (no pressure or anything). I have found that in order to do so I must stay in contact with my speed and by doing 4x110y striders twice a day, I believe I enable myself to do so. We (the distance group) normally practice changing gears by dramatically picking it up every 20 yards for the first 60. The last 50 yards are basically an all out sprint and I feel like this really contributes a lot to the final kick at the end of a race. Running all out during practice for even a short spurt becomes conducive to maintaining your kick. Most major mile races will come down to the last lap and you need to be able to switch gears quickly in order to compete.

My next race is at the Boston Indoor Games.

Week 3

My favorite run each week has always been the long run, and doing it with a friend just makes it so much more fun. Therefore I decided to start my week off by doing one with Brendan Martin (future teammate at Columbia!!!!!!!!!!!!). We became friends my sophomore year when we started running against each other, and last year we were county rivals battling it out each week for bragging rights the next day. Every Saturday was followed up by the traditional long run.

The run went quite well and I felt as if I was just gliding along, which made it easy to carry on a conversation. Afterwards, we continued our tradition with IHOP where I got the never-ending pancakes, but unfortunately it ended quickly (they give you way too much side food). Monday was a light workout that wasn't exactly the most arduous task, but I was still feeling a bit torpid from the day before. I ran it comfortably and hit all my times so I couldn't complain. Tuesday was a much harder threshold workout that I was not looking forward to. My two least favorite things are running 1200's and threshold runs, but those seem to be the things we do the most (I'll go into my training philosophy later). The workout called for 3x2mile at 10:24 with 2 minutes rest, and I started out with two 10:25's. Going into the third one I wasn't exactly feeling fresh, but I knew that this would be the most beneficial to my strength. Through 2400 I was barely hitting pace, but with 800 to go I had a big second wind, which is a man's best friend, and was able to finish in 10:17. Overall, I was extremely pleased with this workout because last year I averaged 11 minutes.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were all easy runs on the roads followed up by 4x100 barefoot striders on the turf. Saturday I was at the Molloy Stanner games for the 4x800. We were very excited about winning against such high-caliber teams; however, our 8:07 fell a bit short of our goal of sub-8. I got the baton in second and caught up to first and sat for about 300 meters. I came through at 61 which was definitely a little slower than I had anticipated, so I picked up the pace and opened up a gap. I ended up running the last 400 in 56 for a final split of 1:58 which felt incredibly smooth and fluid. The week as a whole was definitely a success because of the good training I put in. I only hit 35 miles for the week, but I do not put a major emphasis on the numbers during the season.

Everyone has their own idea of what the perfect training plan is and because I fit under the category of everyone, I have my own. I personally believe that there are three things that are required in order to become a better runner: consistency, rest and taking care of your body (I am completely stealing this from John Kenworthy so consider this my works cited). I think that the most important thing is to be a consistent hard worker; however, it should be done intelligently. Just because you are able to run all-out in practice everyday doesn't mean that it will automatically carry over into you becoming a better runner. Being consistent consists of not only following a plan, but getting up to run everyday, being dedicated and most importantly, being healthy.

During the season I do not try and run an extremely high amount of mileage because I want to be healthy and be able to run the workouts I am given. I keep up with my long run and I do not neglect endurance runs, so although the number at the end of the week may be low, I know that I hit all different areas of training. This leads right into rest, which is something that any plan must contain because it is the basis of improving. You become a better runner when you stress a system and allow it to recover and come back stronger. Finally, you must always take care of your body, because without it you're not going to get very far. This means eating healthy, sleeping right, icing, getting in the weight room, staying away from harmful substances and listening to what your body is saying. If your body tells you that you need rest, you probably should take an easy day because it could save your season. I believe that if a runner can work within the limits of these three components of training, then they are bound to be successful. And we must always remember that the main goal is always to have fun because it is JUST a sport.

My next race will be at my league meet Sunday at Suffolk West.

Week 2

This weekend was what I would consider my first REALLY big race of the season at the Hispanic Games. The week started out good, with the New Year's/Mom's B-day celebrations, and it continued to be a good week with my workout on Tuesday. I ran 4x1200 with 4 min rest averaging about 3:33; exactly what the workout called for. The rest of the week was just normal distance runs all of which went well.

The race was on Saturday at The Armory, and I was really excited for this one because it was my first chance to qualify for Millrose. I ended up warming up a little earlier than I originally intended, so I luckily had time to just walk around the Armory waiting. During this walkabout, I probably received about fifteen "G2G4GOLD!!!!!!" or "Go for the gold!" or a similar variation. It seems as though this has become some type of pre-race tradition now and it really helps me relax and laugh (I also get to talk to cool dyestatters...shout out to the PG!). During my down time I also ventured to the bathroom which is always an event at the Armory. For those of you who haven't experienced it, imagine a small hot box with a low roof and a track as a floor. There are three lanes that go roughly 30 meters and you have about 3 different teams trying to do handoffs while 30+ people are jogging around them. Then you have people like me that need to cross this traffic to get into the bathroom. It is like a new game they invented which is a perfect hybrid of Frogger and Mario, except it's not as fun in person without 3 lives or mushrooms.

So the race went off and as my coaches and I discussed, I would sit back and let someone else take the pace. (Danbury's) Willie Ahearn took it out and ran even 65's for the first 1200. I just tried to stay in contact and not let anyone get in between us, so I would be able to see if anyone made a move. With about 300 to go I kicked it in with the help of the crowd and held on to get the bid and a personal best of 4:15.13. It was a good day and I felt very comfortable--both physically and now mentally. Knowing that I made it took a lot of pressure off and now my team can concentrate on the relays the next couple weeks. A lot of guys had good races and personal bests which is always a good thing. After the race I was lucky enough to meet the famous SteveU before embarking on a 4-mile cooldown to NJ with Willie.

At this point in the season, I can't help but be extremely happy. This time last year I was running 16 seconds slower on the same training plan that I am following this year. I am running in the low 40's mileage-wise with a strength workout a week (mainly 800's-1200's), some sort of tempo run and the rest are distance runs. I think the main difference this season compared to past ones is that I have been in the weight room a bit more. Though I have not hit the 130lb. barrier yet, and am still quite gaunt, I can feel the difference during the end of a race. Thanks for reading this far, I know this was a long one, and hopefully you guys continue to check back every week. Thanks for the continued support.

P.S-Everyone should check out www.5starxc.com - It is the camp I have gone to the past two yrs and this year I am a counselor. But only come if you want to learn a lot and have fun.

Week 1

So after a good XC season of consistent performances and improvements, I switched to track mode after taking 4 days off and a few more days of jogging. This winter season I am really focusing on the mile with hopes of running some personal bests and possibly making the Millrose Games. After 2 weeks of training I opened up my season at the Bishop Loughlin games in the 1k. I was kind of nervous before the race since I had only run two workouts at that point in the season. Both workouts were more strength based and I never really went faster than a 33 sec 200. The first lap was just a huge shock with a 29 opening 200. I hadn't run that fast in practice since last June besides one time in XC. We basically just ran 30's for the entire race coming through the half in 2:02 and closing in 29 for a 2: 31.6. I was definitely pleased with a 6 second PB (previously from sophmore year). Robby Andrews ran a great race and kicked very hard with 200 to go, but unfortunately my legs could not stay with him. This past Friday evening I won a local 3200m race at Suffolk Community College in 9:29. I just tried to stay as relaxed as possible and feel good.

This weekend I ran at the Brown Invitational in Rhode Island. Friday I ran the 1600 leg on the DMR in the first heat and then the anchor leg of the 4x800 on Saturday. I was handed the baton in first by about a second and took the race out in about 64 before Tom Elnick took the lead from me. He set an honest pace, but with a little over 400 to go I kicked it in and felt very good. I was able to close in 58 and finish with a 4:18 and an extremely dry mouth. I was very happy because I felt so comfortable and I think I had some gas left in the tank for the next day. I was originally entered to run the mile but my coach decided it would be best to scratch because he thought two back-to-back miles early in the season probably isn't the best idea for the long run. Instead we chose to work on my speed a little and I ran a 1:58/59 800. It was a fun weekend and I am extremely proud of my team right now. Both relays were the same and composed of Christian Dottin, Harold Jamison and Jared Squires They all ran great races both days and are really improving consistently. My next race is in the mile at the Hispanic Games which should be extremely competitive.

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