Feeling Strong as Outdoor Season Approaches

It’s starting to heat up out here on the West Coast and I’m really starting to feel like it’s that time as we get ready for the first outdoor meets of the season next month. My body reacts to that change and it starts to feel like it’s ready.

The offseason went by really quick. I’ve been training for a couple months now, but to be back in a race all of a sudden, felt quick.

During indoors, I ran the 60-meter hurdles, so it’s a little different than the 100, but I don’t really prepare any differently. Actually, we didn’t even do much hurdling in training before I went out for the three meets I ran in. We don’t put much focus on indoors, so we were training straight through the meets. The races are more of a way to break up training and have some fun.

It felt good to get back in it, but I could definitely tell I have some work to do. I ran my fastest time of the indoor season at the Millrose Games in New York and that was the same time I ran last year.

The week of that meet, we didn’t hurdle at all in training. I just went and that’s when I ran my fastest time, so it may have helped to prepare that way. I was pleased that despite not really hurdling and being in the middle of fall training that I was able to run that time.

Obviously you always want to win the meets you’re in. I think that’s every competitor’s focus, whether you’re ready or not. But I also use indoors to see what I need to work on. It’s an opportunity to get back into the feel and groove of things. I worked a little bit on my arms as I was going over the hurdles, things like that I noticed. I feel better about where I am coming out of indoors than I did going in.

Coming off a strong healthy season for myself last year, it motivates me to keep working hard to maintain that health. It had been a while since I made it through a whole season healthy and I ran better times than I had in a while last year, so that gives me confidence as I approach the new season. I just want to maintain that as I get ready for the 2013 outdoor season.

Being healthy has allowed me to keep a focus on what’s ahead for me and not worry about injuries or going to physical therapy and overcoming things that happened in the past. When you can focus on training and just going harder and harder, mentally it helps you feel good about yourself and your preparation.

For this season, my goal is the same as it has been every year of my career and that’s to be the best.  I want to make the World Championship team this year and be competing for the USA over in Moscow at Worlds. Once I get there, I want to win the gold medal. That’s the goal that I work toward every day. I know that everybody else out there is working for the same thing, whether they say it or not.

That’s the crazy part, it’s kind of an unspoken thing, but we’re all working toward the exact same goal and you always have to remember that. When you’re training and going hard, you think about how everyone else is doing the same thing, so you can’t let up.

Back to Work

I’ve been back on the track for about a month now, and it feels like I never left. We started training in early December, and after a few weeks, I feel like I’m right where I need to be, and I’m building a great base.

I’m honestly doing a little better than I thought I was going to do. The first two weeks of training are just so grueling you almost feel like you’ve never run track before, after sitting for the offseason and trying to get back into the groove of it. It’s hard to get back into that routine of going hard, and tiring your body out every day. But after a week or two, you fall right back into place. That doesn’t mean the workouts get any easier, though.

I’ve made a few changes in my training going into this season. The biggest was in my weight-training program. I started working with Travelle Gaines, who is a really well known trainer and works with a lot of NFL players. So far, he has been amazing. He’s encouraging and very down to earth.

The atmosphere is very different from what I’m used to for weight training. There are a lot of pro athletes who train with Travelle in there working hard daily. Being in that kind of atmosphere for any athlete, I think, is motivating. You have no choice but to jump in, train the same way and not lag.

I really like Travelle because he’s very knowledgeable and he makes me work hard. I could see a difference in my body and my strength level in just the first two weeks. I like the areas of my body that we’re strengthening, and I like the non-stop workouts. That’s like my personality: go, go, go.


I’m thankful for everyone that had helped me and previously trained with because they were there at that time to help me with what I was trying to accomplish. But I’m happy to have moved on to this atmosphere, and Travelle as a coach. I have no doubt that he’s going to help me get better.

My average day starts at around 6 a.m, so I can say my prayers, eat breakfast and get ready. I have to be in the weight room to meet Travelle at 8 a.m., and we work out non-stop for an hour. It’s a lot of circuit training and he doesn’t let me stop moving for that hour. From there, I head over to UCLA to do my running workout with the group and Bobby Kersee.

The group is a little smaller this year because some people retired or are taking some time off, so there’s just five of us. We’ve been doing a little more hurdling early this year, and that’s the earliest we’ve ever pulled out the hurdles, so that’s something different that I like. But mostly we just run.

We never know what Bobby has planned before we get there. There’s never really a set timeframe for our workouts. It’s more based on how many meters we’re running that day, and how those are broken down. But it always feels good when you get through that workout, and you’re like, “Wow, I did better than I thought I could.”

I can remember one workout in particular that was pretty crazy. He had us start off with two fast 500ms, and he had us thinking we were done. Our legs were really heavy and had a lot of lactic acid build-up, and then he had us walk 400 meters, get on the line and start another sprint. We don’t usually do that many, but by the end of the workout, we’d done a few 200s, a couple 300s and then an all-out 200 at the end. It really broke us down, but that’s the kind of training that we like. When you break your body down like that, that’s what gets you to where you need to be.

There’s definitely a method to his madness. Sometimes we don’t understand what he’s doing, where he’s coming from or why he’s doing what he is, but it’s proven to work. I think a lot of athletes feel that way about their training and can relate to that. All we know is that it works.

NEW HORIZONS
I still have my sights set on doing indoors this season. Usually we train through indoors, but I think I’ll be ready to go and put out a good race when the time comes in February.

With the recent events in Connecticut and with my uncle passing, one of the things I’ve realized is that I want to take everything I’m doing and just enjoy it, because you never know when it can be taken away from you. I’m really appreciative and thankful for the opportunities that I have. A lot of people would kill to be in the position we’re in, and to be able to compete on a world-class level in any sport.

I never want to be complacent or complain or take anything for granted, because it can all be gone and it will be gone one day. I’m not going to run track forever. I don’t want to look back and say I didn’t enjoy this or appreciate these moments.

A place to set and knock down goals.

I’m looking ahead to 2013 an opportunity and a clean slate. 2012 was a great year. Yeah, I wanted some things to go differently, but I’m always a person who is humbled and thankful. I did the best that I could in every race. There are always things that you can do better on or change or add to your workouts. But I can really say that I left the line for every race knowing that I put it all out there.

I just want to continue doing that on the track and in my life period, putting it all out there, putting my best foot forward and working hard. And the things I wasn’t able to do make me even hungrier and drive me to work even harder going forward.

Another thing I’ve learned is that if you stay stuck in the past, it’s really hard to jump into your future, whether it goes the way you want it to or not. I just leave it all behind, because in track, with it being a World Championship year especially, people forget what you’ve done. It’s all about what you’re going to do and the World Championships. When the next Olympics comes around, it will be the same thing. You can’t dwell on what you’ve accomplished because no one else does, and you end up left behind.

I pretty much have the same goal I always have and that’s to be the best. Every time anyone steps on the line, they want to be the best. My goal is to be the best hurdler, go to World Championships and win a gold medal. Whatever it is at the top of my game that I can accomplish, that’s my goal.

Living Unstructured and Loving It

One of the best parts of the offseason for a track and field athlete is living without that day-to-day structure that you have during the season.

I don’t have to live on a structured planned out schedule for these few months. My time is my own. I’m able to eat and sleep whenever I want to. I can take a nap. I can stay up late and sleep in. It’s pretty nice. Some days I’ll just lay around for a few hours catching up on TV shows that I missed while I was traveling during the season. I’m just going to enjoy it.

I went on a little trip to Miami last week with a few of my friends. We just wanted to go and relax out there on the beach to kind of unwind. I also have another trip coming up to Mexico with some other friends and training partners. It’s just a few ways to relax and enjoy life.

There are only a few months here where I don’t have to get up and go train every day, and break down my body. So I’ve been doing a lot of chilling out and resting. This rest period is very important for a track and field athlete. I’ve been going for massages just to work the muscles and help them refresh.

The time off has also given me a chance to do things around the house, like some fall cleaning to get rid of some stuff and run errands. I’ve been going through pictures we took last Christmas and I’m just now getting the chance to hang them up.

It’s actually nice to be able to do some of those little tedious things that take time out of your day.

It’s time that, during the season, I don’t have because when you’re training you have to balance it out with rest and can’t be doing too much running around. There’s always something you have to do in regard to training or the season that’s more important.

The time off is nice, but after a while, you do start to miss training. It’s been such a big part of my life for so long. Training to me is like brushing my teeth every day. That’s how it honestly feels. It becomes a habit. So I’ll find myself sitting around and feel like I need to be doing something or I need to go on a run or get back to training. I have to remind myself to just take advantage of this time because it will be over before I know it.

Bobby has us start at different times every year, but I’ll probably start around the beginning of November and I’m excited because I’m probably going to be running some indoor races before the outdoor season starts. As long as my body is feeling right and I feel like I can go out there and be competitive, then I’m definitely going to do it.

Looking Back, Moving Forward and Celebrating a VMA BDay

I’m coming off one of the most successful track seasons of my career. Pushing aside what happened at Trials, it was a pretty good year for me.

When I missed out on the Olympics, I never would have imagined the rest of my season going as well as it did. In those first few days after Trials, I was questioning whether I would ever be successful at this. It was in that next race I ran in Paris on July 6th that things clicked and it was different. I ran a season’s best that day, a 12.59. It was my best time since 2007.

It wasn’t the fastest time, but at that moment, given where I had been emotionally those few days before, I was so appreciative of it. Even though I didn’t win that race, it was probably my best meet of the season since it was my fastest time. That’s how I gauge it, not on whether I win or not. It was a positive for me and brought an upside to my season.

After that, I started to look at the rest of the season a little differently. I knew that I could go out and win some races, try to get a decent world ranking and go for the Diamond League title. I thought maybe I could even get another season’s best or maybe a PR. I really started looking forward to racing again. It gave me some confidence and I finished out that post-Trials stretch with two wins and several fast times.

I came home after that and kept working. Having to stay home and train while the Olympics were going on was really hard. I wanted to try to get another season’s best or at least pick back up where I left off before the Olympics. I didn’t want to go backwards. I think I did pretty well managing that. I just tried to maintain everything I did before. It’s hard to push yourself when you’re just by yourself and everyone was gone at the Olympics.

My coach Bobby Kersee gave me some workouts to do and Shawn helped me out by coaching me through my flat running and my hurdling. I kept up the training and kept up in the weight room. I just tried to remember how I’d run before and focus on how I could try and better my time. That was my goal, to better my times and get wins.

I have a lot of faith in my training. I don’t think that the way I trained and the things I did kept me from succeeding at trials, I just don’t think I peaked at the right time. I think I peaked a little later in the season than I’d like to, but I never felt it coming on. I went over there ready to have fun and I ran my season’s best. That was a peak for me.

Watching the Olympics and then going to Europe and facing those runners that I saw run the event at the Olympics motivated me. It made me want to be on my P’s and Q’s and see what I could do the rest of the season. I went on to win two more races after the Olympics against some of the best competition in the world. I’m proud of that.

My last race in Croatia at the Zagreb meet is the one that will stick with me. It felt good to go out with a bang and finish my season with a W. We were all tired at that point, but I had a good time. It was a good feeling to end right there. I’ve only finished two whole seasons in my career. It’s hard to finish a whole season injury-free in this sport because it’s so long. But to finish what I started and do it with a W sticks out to me the most.

I know now that I have that in me. This is something that I love and I’m not going to give it up. There are a lot of athletes I saw this year that really triumphed and I was at these meets so I saw them go through their ups and downs. Some of these people made their first team this year. For me, I’ve made teams before and I know I can do it again. But just watching those people never give up and being patient, it’s inspiring.

VMA BDAY
The day after I got back home from that meet in Croatia, a friend of mine surprised me for my birthday with tickets to the MTV Video Music Awards here in LA.

Enjoying my early birthday present!

It was a last-second thing the day before my birthday and she totally got me. I was going to get my hair done and she called me and told me to be ready in a few hours. It was exciting.

I’d never been to the VMA’s before. I’ve been to the BET Awards and a lot of other functions down here, but not the VMA’s.

It was interesting to pull back the curtain and see how everything is done behind the scenes. It’s so different from what you would see on TV during the show. They’re constantly setting and re-setting the stages.

When you’re watching at home, it makes it look like the performers have just come out when their performance starts, but you can see them already sitting there when you’re at the show.

They’ll be presenting awards and saying “next we’ll have a performance from such and such” and that artist is already sitting on stage waiting. You can watch the stage being built and they’re constantly moving people around in the first row. It’s all very choreographed.

All the people that are standing on the floor by the stage, they keep repositioning them to keep building the stage. It’s almost like they’re a part of the act. It is a lot of work. At first I wanted to be down there by the stage, but after seeing them moved around all the time, I was glad we weren’t down there.

Where we were sitting, we had great seats and could see everything. We had a great view of the entire venue, not just the stage. We were looking around to see all the artists and point out people. We saw Lil Wayne, Nikki Minaj, Drake, Chris Brown, all those guys. That was pretty cool. My favorite performance was Alicia Keys. Pink’s performance was good too.

It was a great start to a great birthday weekend. Everybody treated the whole weekend like it was my birthday all the way until Monday. I had a fantastic birthday, one of the best I’ve ever had.

Watching the Olympics and Finding Motivation

Shawn and I have been spending some time watching the Olympics, but it’s tough. He didn’t really realize how disappointing it was going to be until the opening ceremonies came on. He started feeling a little down watching that.

I didn’t watch the opening ceremonies at all, I just saw people tweeting about it. But if it’s something that upsets you, you have to just turn it off and that’s what we did. I got over it though and caught up on some stuff last week.

Since track and field started, I’ve been watching a lot more. I don’t think I could stay away if I tried. I don’t want to be a sore loser. But I think I speak for everybody who isn’t there when I say you can’t help but have a bit of bitterness to you. We were all training for the same thing and we all had the same goal to go to the games.

But I’m definitely still rooting for Team USA and some of my fellow Trojans over there. There are a lot of Trojans competing, so that made me proud. I’m rooting for them, everybody on Team USA and my training partners.

The 100-meter hurdles is going to be one of the most competitive races of the Games. It’s going to be one of the most, if not the most exciting event over there. You never know who is going to win. Who you expect to win, who you think is going to win, who has been running so great, sometimes it just doesn’t go their way. Then someone else will come up as a huge surprise with a huge time. The mystery of it makes the event that much more exciting.

Sally Pearson has been running really fast times this year and had looked great. A lot of people are picking her as a favorite and rightfully so. But in all honesty, I’ve been telling people — and I’m not just saying this because she’s my training partner and friend — I really do think Dawn Harper is going to get the gold. That’s my prediction. She has the complete race and a great ending. Plus, she’s been there before. She won the gold in 2008, so she’s now a veteran in this. She knows how to compete on a big stage like this.

There are plenty of other candidates to make a run at it though. I saw Kellie Wells a couple times when I was racing over in Europe and she is peaking right now. She’s definitely ready and has just as good a chance to get the gold as Sally or Dawn. Lolo is another one. She’s a veteran and she came through at trials to make the team. I didn’t see her when I was over competing in Europe, but I would not count her out either. You just never know when someone is going to peak. She’s definitely a candidate to get a medal. Tiffany Porter has looked very good this year as well. If she’s healthy and ready to go, you can’t count her out. She’s one of my friends so I’ll be rooting for her to get in there and get a medal.

TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS
It’s really hard to train at this time of the year, when the Olympics are going on and that’s where you wanted to be and where you thought you would be.

You have to be mentally tough to go out there and train hard every day in the track, then go to the weight room and find the motivation to keep doing it. I jumped right back into it after Trials and went over to Europe for a few races, then came back to train. I didn’t want to lose any fitness or anything in my race. I want to finish out the season strong.

I only just recently watched the finals from Trials for the first time. For a long time I didn’t want to watch it at all. When I don’t do well in races, I don’t like to watch them over. Sometimes I will, just to learn from them, but that one I really didn’t want to experience again at first.

I finally watched it three weeks after trials and looked through it twice. After watching it, honestly I couldn’t see anything that I did wrong. I didn’t hit any hurdles. I got out good. It was just my ending. It was a poor ending. Going into the trials I felt really good. I felt that my training was right where it was supposed to be. The trials are always very intense.

I made a mistake at the start in my first round going over the first hurdle. I didn’t land stable, but I made it on to the next round and I was able to correct the mistake. Once that happened I realized how focused I had to be. It let me know that any little thing can happen out there. I made it through again in the second round and I really strongly felt that I would end up in the top three. When that didn’t happen, I’m sure the whole world can imagine my disappointment.

My strong point has always been the beginning of the race. Just naturally, I’ve always had a great start and I have the speed. I got out well in the final. I was focused. I wanted it bad. I was going really well and it just felt like I hit a wall or something. I wasn’t getting off the hurdle quickly and I could feel Dawn pulling away from me.

I still thought maybe I was in it, but unfortunately I wasn’t and I ended up getting a close fourth place. Sometimes looking back, I just wish I could’ve had one more strong hurdle. I wonder what I could’ve done differently. It was still my ending and that’s always been the problem for me so that was frustrating. Those last three to four hurdles are the weak part of my race. I’ve tried to work on it for years. Maybe I just haven’t used the right approach just yet. It’s one of the reasons I think Bobby Kersee is a good coach for me is to work on my endings. I know I’ll get better with him.

REASON TO BELIEVE
One thing I realized at Trials was that I wasn’t the only person leaving there disappointed. There were hundreds of athletes there that experienced that same disappointment as me. But at that time, you feel like it’s only you and in that moment it’s only you that matters.

After the race I had some down time. I cried for days. I just felt like someone had taken a piece of life out of me. To make it to the Olympics has always been something I wanted badly. I really thought that I had a good chance this time. I was healthy the whole year, I was running pretty well, so I thought I would get in there. And to be so close like that, just adds to the disappointment.

Coming off that race, I wasn’t really sure what the next step was for me. But I had a lot of time at the trials afterward because Shawn was there competing and it gave me some time to think before I went over to Europe. Staying there and watching Shawn helped me take my mind off my little mishap. I got to get excited about him going through his rounds and watch my teammates finish competing.

It motivated me. I want to be back where I was again and I know that I can do that because I’ve done it before. But I really have to believe that, because after years of not running as well as you think you can, doubt starts to creep in. You start to believe and feel that maybe that’s all you have.

I prayed about it a lot. I wanted to stay consistent with my faith and my prayers. While I was praying one day, I was reading some of my Buddhist writings that I brought with me, and this passage came up about changing your attitude and believing in yourself.

I realized that I didn’t want to just give up on myself. I had to really believe in myself for once. So I prayed on that. I wanted to really truly at the core of my heart believe in myself. Not just on the surface, but at the core of my being, just believe in me. I trained so hard this year and put in so much work, time, money and everything. I didn’t want to see it end like that when I had a whole summer left to race.

Having that time to think and regain my passion for the sport changed the way I was thinking. I reprogrammed and set new goals for myself, time-based goals. To win the Diamond League, to run a PR if possible, or something close to it. I took that mindset to Paris and turned my season around.

Training Partners and A World Class Coach

I’m getting ready for the U.S. Olympic Trials here in a few days. It’s an exciting time.

Whenever I run an individual race, all I’m thinking about is that race, and what I’m trying to work on at that time. When I’m in a race, I’m in that moment. I’m ready to go, and I know that I have to make this race a good one and execute properly to come out with a good time. My mindset is to live in the moment and take that moment in, but once it’s gone, I’m ready to get back to work on fixing things or racing again.

My long-term goal is to compete in the Olympics and win gold there, but that’s still too far ahead to think about before each race. It does help me when I’m training and doing day-to-day workouts, though. At those times, I think about the Olympics and my overall long-term goals, because in training there is so much more time to think.

You get to hurdle multiple times in a session, so you use those long-term goals to drive you when you’re feeling tired or breaking down. You have to remember what your goals are, and that keeps you going. When I’m getting up at six or seven in the morning to go lift weights, the Olympics are on my mind, because I don’t want to be up at six or seven. It helps you find that extra gear.

Training with the people that I do helps me a lot. It creates a competitive atmosphere. At practice we all train hard, and if I see someone going harder than I think I am, I’m driven to go harder. It brings out the best in all of us. I respect these ladies a lot, and the things that they’ve accomplished.

Those things they’ve done in their careers also drive me to work harder. To see some of them accomplish the things that they have, and see first hand the work they put in to get there, that helps me.

ALLYSON’S TIME
One example of that in my training group is Allyson Felix. I’ve been training with Allyson since 2007, and we’ve been good friends for a while. Watching her become one of the faces of the sport has been great, and it’s very inspiring to me. I’m happy for her because I see the work that she puts in on the track. She does everything so gracefully and quietly.

She’s never been a person who tried to be in the limelight. She never said “I’m gonna be the face of USA Track and Field.” It’s all through her effort and her hard work that paved the way for her to be in that position. She accepted the responsibility gracefully and she’s really a perfect candidate for it.

Handing off to Allyson during the 4x100 at the 2011 Mt. SAC Relays (AP Photo).

I met Allyson when she came on her visit to USC in 2003. Her brother went to school with me at the time and ran on the track team, so I knew him well. Allyson and I became friends through training. We’re both goofy and funny. She’s a riot. She’s funnier than people might think. We always have good laughs, and it’s easy for us to joke and be goofy because we’re both easy-going.

Her boyfriend and my husband are good friends, so we’ll go to movies and stuff together. She’s super likable and an easy-going person. Our whole team does outings like that outside of track, just fun things to ease our minds so we’re not always seeing each other in such a competitive environment.

TRICKS OF THE TRADE
In our training group there are three other hurdlers who run the 100: Dawn Harper, Michelle Perry and Joanna Hayes. We’re all friends, but we also know that when we step on the line at the meet, we’re racing.

There are times during training when you think about not letting those people in on everything you’re doing. I think every athlete feels that way. You always want to have some type of an edge. But training with people in your event also keeps you on your toes. We’re all out there to win. I know each of these ladies is here to win the Olympic gold medal. That’s pretty much an unspoken thing, the reason we’re coming in and training every day.

So we don’t talk much about things like that. When we talk it’s about outside things like relationships, or since Joanna and Michelle have kids, we’ll talk about kids, and how they trained to come back. They look like they were never pregnant, so Dawn and I talk to them about that. It’s more like friendship conversations than anything else.

We all support each other when we’re training, we say congrats when another person wins a race. That’s only right. At the end of the day, we’re all here on the line to win it, but if you get the win, I’m mad because I wanted to get to the win, I’m not mad at that person that won. We all have too much respect for each other for that.

ONE OF A KIND COACH
While I’m on the subject of training, I have to give some serious credit to my coach, Bobby Kersee, who helped me get to this point.

Bobby really knows the body, and he really knows track and field. He’s helped me because he knows the hurdles very well and he knows what it takes to be successful in my event. He knows how to train professionals, exactly when we need rest.

Sometimes coaches will go too hard on an athlete. It will feel like sometimes they don’t get it, especially coaching a professional runner. It’s a little different at this level, and some coaches, I think, like to go too hard and their athletes don’t peak at the right time.

With Bobby, we’ll come to practice, and our bodies may be feeling kind of funky and out of it. But the workout he gives us that day is just perfect for how we felt. It makes you realize that he knows what he’s doing. He can’t feel our pain, but he knows where it comes from and how to plan for it.

Our training always seems to be right on with the way I feel entering that day. I think a part of it is that he really cares about us as athletes, and that breeds results. He knows how to get a fire under you to get you going, how to break you down and build you back up. His style is unlike any other that I have encountered at any level.

Coaching is who Bobby Kersee is. It’s not something that he wants to do or chooses to. It’s really a part of him, and I think that sets him apart as a coach. It’s embedded in his heart.

He was telling our training group a story recently about how he first started coaching the sport when he was still a teenager. He told us that back then, he coached someone at a high school track meet. I’m not sure why a person would want another teenager to coach them, but they did well enough that he started to build a reputation.

As he told us that story, it kind of dawned on me that this is what this man was born to do. He’s been doing this his entire life. He was bred to be a coach and he really has the heart for it. It’s not something where he just woke up one day and said “I think I’m going to coach, I’m kind of good at it.” Coaching is something that is part of him. He loves it and there’s nothing he’d rather be doing.

Feeling Strong and Gaining Confidence

I’m pleased with where I am so far this year and I can’t complain about the results. I competed in three meets and got better each time. My last race was a win and that felt good.

I ran the same time each of my last two races, a 12.66. The first one was in Saint Martin, where I took second place. I was kind of surprised after that one. I felt a little fatigue before and I wasn’t really sure if I ran that fast. But when I ran a couple days later in the Cayman Islands, I felt very good. I felt as fast as I ran and I think I could’ve even gone a little faster if I put a couple pieces together toward the end.

But to finish up that group of meets with a win at Cayman felt good. I think a win is always good for your confidence, no matter who you’re running against. That’s what we’re in this to do is win. But getting that time was most important to me, because I’m trying to get back to my old self.

I feel as good as I have since my injury in 2007 and it’s giving me confidence. That spill I took in 2007 kind of derailed me and I really feel like I’m back on track now. I haven’t run this fast this early in the season since I got injured. I was dealing with little nagging injuries every year since. Everybody gets injured but for me to be back, feeling good, really helps.

I’ve noticed what works best for me is to go out and run a few meets, then come back and get training in before I go out and run again. That’s my strategy. I got out there, I ran three meets and I was able to see where I am. I saw that there were some things I still need to work out toward the end of my race.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been back at home in LA to get some hardcore training in. If I stay away from LA too long I don’t get train the way I want to. When you’re out on the road, in different time zones and traveling every few days, it’s difficult to train hard like you need to. So to run a few meets and then come back and train was definitely part of the program.

My coach, Bobby Kersee, actually requested that all of us in the training group stay here for a few weeks and train. Some of us had meets lined up to run in — I personally had one scheduled on May 25th — but he asked us to skip them so we can get that training in. I waited a couple weeks and now I’ll be running again this weekend at the Harry Jerome Classic in Vancouver.

Since June has arrived and we’re really approaching the Olympic trials, we’re tapering off the training so that I can be sharp for the trials. In these last few weeks we won’t really be doing that good hard training in that makes you tired.

Training for us is when we’re able to run hard, run multiple times at practice and have our legs get tired and get that lactic acid in them. But when you’re approaching a meet where you’re trying to peak and run at your best like the Olympic trials, you don’t want to go into it with heavy, sore legs. Everything I’m doing in training is working into my favor.

SIZING UP THE COMPETITION

Whenever I compete, first and foremost, I’m focusing on myself, making sure I’m running correctly and applying everything that I’ve been working on in practice to the race. That has to be your main focus.

However, as a competitor, I think I speak for all when I say that you can’t help but notice what your competitors are doing or what other people in your event are doing. We’re just fans of the sport anyway, so you’re going to see the race and the results. Plus everybody is posting it all over Twitter and Facebook, so you’re bound to be in the know.

I’ve been facing great competition in my meets. The 100-meter hurdles is just super packed and every hurdler will say so. I’m not exactly sure why the event is so stacked, but I think one of the things that makes it an even playing field is that you’re not just running. You can be the fastest person, but you still have 10 obstacles to get over. If you mess up over just one of them, that can cost you the race. You’re not just running flat, you have to run, and jump over barriers, and do it the right way.

I’m a sprinter at heart. I think I’m naturally fast. Some hurdlers may not be as fast, but they’re very technically sound. They can get over the hurdle fast and off it fast to gain ground that way. So it doesn’t really matter if you’re just purely fast.

The hurdles themselves keep it even. Speed, technique and the ability to finish can all win you a race. You don’t always need to have the full package of a straight sprinter to do well in this event.  There’s a lot more that goes into the hurdles than goes into a sprint race. It’s a very hard event. You have to be focused. There’s a lot of focus that goes into all events but the hurdles in particular is difficult.

That’s why I don’t ever underestimate anyone. Because no matter how fast you are, you still have to get over 10 barriers. That’s what makes our race really great too.

Our event has a very rich history and I think you can see that carry into today with just the amount of American women that compete in the 100-meter hurdles. A lot of people look to those ladies that have run this event in the past and it’s an inspiration for those that follow. When you have someone you look up to, you often want to follow in their footsteps. I think that’s why a lot of ladies do this event.

The times we’ve seen so far this year in the event are about what you would expect for where everybody is right now in their preparation. These hurdlers all have so much talent so no hurdler ever really surprises me when they run if they run fast or slow, because they all have the potential to be the best. I feel like any given day it can be that person’s race or that person’s day.

Everybody is running really fast as a whole this year, not even just in my event, but in track and field period. It’s the Olympic year and I think it’s going to be really exciting because people aren’t playing. They’re ready and the times are proving that. The way everyone is looking, I think it’s going to be a really exciting year for the sport.

Out in the Community

I love getting out in the community and doing whatever I can to help others.

Just recently I was part of a six-week program called Run With Us conducted by the USA Track and Field Foundation. Every week for six weeks we went to John Muir Middle School in Los Angeles to teach kids about fitness, nutrition, eating healthy and living an active lifestyle.

It was an interesting program. It was the first time that USA Track and Field has done the program, so it was new for everyone. It was cool to be one of the first people to implement this in schools.

I think the kids learned a lot and we left a good impression on them for the most part. We got into conversations with them about school and grades, going off to high school and college, so it was about more than just nutrition. They did a lot of goal-setting as well, long-term goals and short goals.

Like anything, some kids take an interest in it and some don’t. But I saw a lot of kids really take to what we were saying. You could just tell by the questions they would ask and the conversations we would have when class was over. Some of them would come up and talk to us about what we do, what we eat and how we train. We taught them a little about that too and why it’s just important in general to be healthy.

It’s imperative to send that message at a young age. Obesity is a constantly growing issue in the U.S. and we should be aware about the things that we eat and the things that are put in our food, starting at a young age. I wasn’t told those things in school and it’s even worse now. But kids still have a choice in what they eat. Yeah, your parents cook your food, but they don’t have to go buy chips and drink soda, that’s stuff that kids are doing on their own. Some of nutrition and eating healthy has to be the responsibility of the kids.

I think as athletes, it’s important for us to share that message. It’s something that already part of our lifestyle, so if we can use that experience and teach some younger people about it, it might save them from becoming obese, getting diabetes or dealing with the other health issues that come along with having a bad diet.

A DISTINCTIVE KIND OF DIFFERENCE
Our whole training group also recently visited the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA. We spent two hours with kids, doing arts and crafts and teaching them about the Olympics. We made medals with them and they made flags. We also gave them hats, took pictures and just hung out for the day.

The kids that at Mattel are in the hospital long term for different illnesses, surgeries and things like that. It was tough to see some of it, but they were in good spirits and I really enjoyed visiting with them. We talked to some of the parents and they told us about some of the illnesses that their children had and what they’ve had to go through.

The person who had the biggest impact on me was a little four-year-old named Ruben. If I’m not mistaken, his mother told me that he’s had 17 heart surgeries. With all that he’s gone through, he’s spent a total of one year in the hospital already. He really couldn’t talk that well, but he tried and was very emotional. We showed him real medals that some of the people in our group have won and when we were making a medal with him he had tears coming down his face. That made me and a few of my teammates cry too.

It was emotional. It made me feel thankful and appreciative of my own life and my own health, but also that I’m in a position that I can put a smile on someone else’s face just by taking time out of my day to sit with them and spend time with them. It really gives you perspective on everything.

Preparation and Recovery

We’re a few races into the season now and I feel great physically. Being healthy just gives me a lot of confidence that I can get back to the times I was running before I got injured. I can hit those times I did when I was coming out of college and even go faster. I’m able now to push my body to the limit.

Injuries are something that comes along with this sport. It can happen to anybody. I’ve seen many great hurdlers or athletes period be setback by injuries. You can be having a really promising season and injuries will just totally shut you down. It happens it can make you have to come to a complete spot, that’s the unfortunate part.

There are definitely things you can learn from being hurt. It’s a little hard sometimes to watch your teammates competing because you wish you were out there running. It was hard to see everybody else progressing while I was sitting there feeling like I was going backwards. But you can learn a lot about your body in recovery. I picked up different things I can do to get stronger and better now that I am healthy.

Sometimes I catch myself looking back and thinking about what I should have done differently. But you live and you learn. I had never really been in that position before, dealing with injuries. I picked up a lot of things that I can do to prevent myself from going down that route again. I learned to err on the side of caution instead of pushing through pain and not really getting proper treatment.

For me, it’s about listening to my body and doing the things I need to do to stay healthy: icing, getting treatment, stretching a lot, not being so active all the time and allowing my body time to rest and recover. I used to move around a lot, do a lot of different activities when I was younger, but as you get older, you don’t recover as fast.

The preparation and recovery aspects of the sport are just as important as the training itself. You can’t just walk out on the track and train. The things that you do before and after are just as vital. After you put in hours of training, you still have to get treatment. You have to ice, you have to rest and you have to stretch out. That’s all a part of being an athlete.

I’ve learned to keep my body stretched out, always get worked on or get treatment and just really listen to what my body is telling me. If I’m feeling kind of funky, I’ll take a day off to rest, do something light or cutback on my routine. When your body is sending you a message, you have to listen.

Having a supporter like Shawn is a definitely a difference maker for me. He’s honest with me about what he sees and it’s very helpful. He’s the one who told me in the beginning of the year to stop wearing heels and sandals, just find a good pair of Nike’s so I’m taking care of my leg muscles and feet. I’m trying to do everything the right way this year so I can really see what I’m capable of and he helps me with that.

We do whatever we can to be a support system for each other. He watches video. I watch video. He’s helped me with my sprinting this year. He built an ice bath for me in the garage so I can jump in there right after practice, making life convenient for me. I’m thankful for that.

Let’s Get it Started!

The 2012 outdoor season is underway!

I’ve done a couple of relays, but my first individual event of the season is on May 1st in Guadeloupe. I’m still not sure how many events I’ll be running before Olympic Trials but I’m looking to do at least five meets between May and July.

Those meets are important as I get ready for trials. You want to use those races and your training to try and peak for trials. It’s a chance to get in race shape, get the race down and get your race patterns under control so you can peak at the right time.

Going into this year, I consider every American hurdler my competition. Our trials are tougher than the actual Olympics. I’m going to have to get through a great caliber of girls just to make the Olympic team.

Being around so many people that have been there, that have accomplished things that I hope to accomplish, any American athlete, It’s definitely motivation for me. It gets me ready. Those are things I want to do and surpass those people if you can.

Competition in the 100-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic trials this summer promises to be stiff.

These are girls that ran fast last year, they’ve made World Championship teams and they’ve had successful careers. The competition is so strong. There isn’t necessarily one person who dominates, especially on the American side. You just never know. We all have to run over 10 hurdles. Anything can happen.

I’ve made some changes to my routine for this season that I can already see paying off. I’ve been trying to do everything really strict this year and just be a little stricter on myself.

I‘ve studied a lot of film over the last few months. I’m filming practices and focusing on how I’m going over the hurdles. That’s helped me a lot, to be able to watch myself afterward. Sometimes I’ll feel a totally different way than how I look. There have been times where I think I’m hurdling good and running correctly, but I look at the film and it’s the total opposite.

I’ve also been watching past races of hurdlers that have come before me to study their technique. I’ve really tried to become a student and focus on what I’m doing and how I can become a better hurdler.

Another thing we’ve worked on this year is speed. In the past, I haven’t done a lot of speed workouts, but I want to work on the total package. Instead of doing just speed endurance and 400-meter training, which has been my training base with my coach Bobby Kersee, I’m doing more sprinting as well. Short sprints in 60, 80, 100 meter clips. I run the 100-meter hurdles, which is a sprint race, so I think working out in sprints is really key to my training. I need to sprint and work on the turnover.

I also have a consistent weight program that has helped me a lot and contributed to my health. I’m lifting four days a week and focusing on a full body strength program. It helps to strengthen my glutes, my hips, things that are key to me being a better hurdler and a better runner period. Those were the things that, when I got injured, were kind of ignored and got weak on me.

RACE WITH NATE?
I’m lucky to have an incredible support system around me. Not many people know I’m good friends with Nate Robinson from the Golden State Warriors. We grew up together in Seattle and still keep in touch. We were on the same club track team and the same team in high school, we both hurdled and he would always try to race me.

People would always try to challenge me because I had a pretty good start and won all the time. So he wanted to race and he won back then, but I think if Nate and I raced today, I would win. But he would probably take the challenge thinking he could win. It would be interesting to see. I don’t think it would be the same result as it was back then.

Nate got his hops from track, but I don't think he could outrun me anymore.

He’s an incredible athlete though. I’m sure that his track background helped him win those Slam Dunk contests he did. Track helps you in all sports. It gives you the speed aspect and he was already an athletic kid so that probably helped him a lot.

THANK YOU!
I want to end with a shout out to all my fans. I’m so thankful for your support. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs the last few years, but I’m grateful to those that have always pulled for me and stayed in my corner. Keep following me and following USA Track and Field. It’s going to be an exciting year.