Support From My Peers, Past and Present

As far behind as I was at the start of this season and after having to play as much catch up as I have, I feel like I’m been doing pretty well so far this year.

I don’t know exactly where I am. I know I’m not in great race shape, but this year, I might have to race myself into shape.

During this eight months I was sidelined, I wasn’t even allowed to trot or jog. Because I hadn’t done any kind of running motion in so long, when I first started running this year, I couldn’t even run smooth.

I had to ease my way into it. I couldn’t do my mileage runs. Stuff that I can normally do and have no problem with, I had to do little-by-little and inch-by-inch. My leg wasn’t strong enough, and my knee hadn’t been pounded on in so long. It’s funny to think back on; now I can workout. At least I know I’m making progress.

But that progress does have a price. Because I’m doing all these different things, sometimes my body is kind of screaming at me. Everything makes me feel sore.

My body is trying to adjust. To help, we do just enough to keep my knee from getting irritated. Bobby Kersee, my coach, is doing a good job of pushing and backing off in that regard.

The other thing that’s incredibly helpful is having my training group by my side. They’re all really supportive. Our group is really close-knit, so even when I wasn’t training, we still would get together and talk all the time. But it’s different when we’re all out there working out together.

It helps a lot in terms of support. We all go through things. We all have little injuries and nicks that hurt us, and we can all share that with each other and go get treatment together after. It lets you know that in track and field, things are going to happen. That’s the nature of the sport. Hurdlers have knee problems and hip problems. Runners have hamstring problems and shin problems.

Training Partners

We all have those things that we go through. We can support each other.

One thing this experience has taught me is that no one is going to run forever, but I’ve built friendships that are going to last forever. Not even just in my training group or in my event. Natasha Hastings and Kristi Castlin have also become really good friends of mine. I talk to them all the time. These are the people I vacation with, and no matter how much time we spend apart, when we talk or we get together, it’s like we haven’t missed a beat.

RESPECT FOR TRACK’S PAST

Another thing that helped me get through the past eight months is having so much support from those people I looked up to in this sport.

To be connected with people like Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Gail Devers, athletes I watched growing up, means everything to me. It makes me feel like I’m right where I’m supposed to be, and this is what I was meant to do.

Gail and Jackie

Back when I was growing up, I never would have thought they would be friends of mine, or I would be able to have contact with them. It’s a privilege I have because I’ve made it this far, and I’m grateful for it.

Even if I’m down, I can always count on positive energy from my conversations with Jackie. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say anything negative before. She checks on me and I like to be able to check on her as well.

Gail and I recently connected via Twitter, which was a fun experience for me. She was one of Bobby’s athletes, and she and Jackie are really good friends. I’ve always been a huge fan of hers. She’s one of the best American hurdlers ever, if not the best. I remember when I was in college, I really looked up to her.

She had that collegiate record in 1986. I was looking at it like, “I was three years old when she set that!”  It was something I really wanted to go after, and try to break. She was really supportive, and congratulated me afterward.

Now, she’s just a very positive role model and person. I see her at different meets, and just like Jackie, she always has something encouraging to say.

Personally, I think it’s important for current athletes to stay connected to those who came before them because of what they’ve done for the sport means for us.

They probably don’t really know how much it means to me to have their support and encouragement. But I looked up to them, and they laid the groundwork for women like me.

They definitely set the stage. They gave us standards to live up to, and records to aspire to break. They gave us something to work for and push past so we can set the stage for the next generation.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee: My Friendship With an Idol

Like a lot of female athletes, I grew up watching Jackie Joyner-Kersee. She was and remains an icon to me.

Now I am also lucky enough to call her a friend and mentor.

When I was younger, I read Jackie’s book, and I remember her coming to Seattle for a clinic about asthma, a condition she has prospered through. I remember all of us being at the Garfield Community Center, and running around following Jackie’s every move, listening to what she was saying. That was a big deal. THE Jackie Joyner-Kersee was in our town.


After seeing her that initial time when I was a kid, I saw her as my career went on — at appearances and things like that — but never really got the chance to talk with her. It wasn’t until after I started training with Bobby that I truly met her. My first year training with Bobby, I hurt my knee and he sent me back to St. Louis to see the doctor, and stay at their house.

All of a sudden, I was under the care of Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

She picked me up at the airport, took me to their house, took me to my doctors appointment, and that’s how my relationship started with her. She treated me like family from day one. In the beginning, I was still star struck, like, “Oh my god, this is Jackie Joyner-Kersee.” It wasn’t until the last couple years that we’ve gotten really close.

She’s a great mentor who gives great advice, someone I consider a friend and like family to me. I was able to build that type of relationship with her because of the type of heart she has. I definitely feel that it’s her who spearheaded the relationship. She takes the time to reach out and have those types of connections with people.

So when I hurt my knee again this year, I went back to St. Louis for the surgery and stayed with Jackie. She looked after me, checked on me and took care of me.

With this latest setback and throughout the different injuries I have dealt with in my career, there have definitely been times that I’ve wanted to quit. But she’s constantly telling me that she’s thinking about me, encouraging me not to give up, and letting me know that I still have what it takes to succeed in this sport. It’s the little things she’s always telling me that mean the most.

I still look at her as THE Jackie Joyner-Kersee, but she’s definitely more like family. There’s nothing I can’t tell her or talk to her about. She’s just pleasant. She works hard and still years after running, she’s still working hard in the community, not for recognition, but because that’s what she feels her duty is.

LOVE AND FORGIVENESS

Since Jackie was letting me stay here, and I feel like I can never truly repay the things that she and Bobby have done for me, I asked if — while I was here — there were any projects she was working on that I could help out with in any way.

She happened to be hosting a program called Love and 4giveness at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis days before my surgery, so I was able to help out with that. There were about 50 middle school-age girls in attendance, and we spent the whole day there. We had breakfast and lunch, did a bunch of activities and contests to encourage them.

Love and 4giveness is something Jackie is really passionate about. It’s based in an area of East St. Louis, where Jackie is from. The goal is to teach kids how to love. That starts by teaching them how to love themselves first, and then goes into how to love people around them, and how to forgive others who have hurt them in their home life or just their peers at school.

She breaks down the whole program into segments. As part of one exercise, she had everybody close their eyes and picture themselves and how they view themselves. The message behind that was to teach them how to love the skin that they’re in, and how to take that same emotion and carry it over into their interactions at school, at work, through sports or anything else.

It emphasizes that whatever your goals are, keep love first and forgive people. You never know if you’re going to be on the other end of that, and need somebody to forgive you. It can go a long way to stopping violence and things like that if we have people forgiving, and just taking that time out to really encourage one another.

It also teaches love and forgiveness through sports. Jackie uses her journey and her love for track as an example. You can have that same love you have for someone for something you do, like track. Sports can be unforgiving because at any moment, things can just change for you. There are so many examples — myself included. But if you have that love, you can get through it.

It was a message that resonated with me and a lot of the other adults there too, including parents who stuck around. A lot of them told Jackie afterward that they needed that message as well, to provide encouragement and reassurance in themselves about their lives.

As another part of the program, Jackie asked me if I would speak during a segment called, “Refuse to Quit.” Being in the situation I’m in and with my whole story in track and field — dealing with injuries but still having success — I was actually the perfect person for Refuse to Quit.

She was really hands-on and she went out and handpicked this stuff for the girls to give them goody bags at the end of the day. Most people probably send someone to does those things, who they tell to grab this and pick up that. But she and her assistant went out and did it all themselves. To be right there witnessing the effort she puts into it was pretty cool.

The whole program was a great experience. But most of all, I enjoyed being in Jackie’s presence, watching her do the things she does in the community, and learning from her. Just watching her preparation for the event was motivating.

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.

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.

On to the Final

Ginnie Crawford is one step away from qualifying for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

GC took second in her heat during the semi-finals of the 100-meter hurdles to qualify automatically to compete in the 100mH final later tonight in TrackTown. Her time of 12.78 in the semi-final was six best among 21 ladies competing in three heats.

Dawn Harper, who trains with Ginnie under coach Bobby Kersee posted the fastest semi-final time at 12.65. GC’s fastest time of the year is just one-hundreth off that lead time, a 12.66 which she ran twice during a tour of the Caribbean last month.

Among others competing for a spot in the Olympics during tonight’s final will be another of Ginnie’s training partners Michelle Perry, Lolo Jones, and Kellie Wells, the 2011 U.S. Outdoor Champion in the event. Only the Top 3 ladies across the line in the final will qualify to represent Team USA at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London this August.

The 100-meter hurdles final is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. PDT. The event will air live on NBC on the east coast during coverage, which begins at 8 p.m. EDT and on tape delay in the west at 8 p.m. PDT on NBC.

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.