I believe in pre-audits, so I will tell you now that I'm sure this will be a fairly long post, so if you don't like to read on a computer screen, like myself, then I totally understand. Maybe you can take breaks and come back like you do a novel or something. I'm sure this is going to be like a short book wrapping up my 2011 season. I'm just going to type whatever comes to my mind like always, so I can't even estimate how long this may be hahahaha!
I know I have been gone away from the blog for a while. For what reason, not
even I know the answer to be honest.
I'm sitting in my hotel room in Newcastle, UK and I've just finished my last competition of the 2011 season. This was an AWESOME, AWESOME meet! I definitely want to add more of these to the list of meets I attend.
When I was chilling in my room before heading out to the track this morning, I thought to myself that writing a blog post would be a fitting end for me to wrap up my thoughts and give insight into my season.
To say that this is how I envisioned my 2011 season going would be a bold face lie, but I can honestly say that given all that has happened, I can not hang my head in utter disappointment. It is incredibly hard for me to ever become down or sadden by anything that happens to me in regards to the sport of track and field. I always feel that everything I do and accomplish is icing on the cake for me because I never envisioned this sport would take me this far in the first place.
People think I'm being funny when I tell them that I figure by this point in my life I would have been circulating my resume and working a 9-5 gig because when I graduated from Howard University, I still didn't have a real idea about "professional track and field". When I was exposed to my first experience of professional track at the Olympic Trials in '04, I saw all the people with Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Unattached next to their names, so I just equated that to what I knew and I knew when I went to meets, if you had Howard or Hampton or FAMU next to your name, that meant you were a team. I was always under the impression that Allen Johnson, Larry Wade and all the other Nike athletes trained together and that's why I figured they were so good.
It was going to be less than a year away from me making my professional debut at the Reebok meet in '05 and I was completely oblivious to what the sport really was. At the time of my appearance in the trials in '04, I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that these athletes trained for four years to try to make the Olympics. I figured they all worked regular jobs the other years and squeezed in training how they could, but if you became really good like Marion Jones then you probably didn't have to work. I figured that because she was the only one I ever saw on TV or mainstream magazines really. That was my train of thought when it came to elite level track and field. I guess I could have asked one of them what was involved, but I didn't care that much, I was ready for track to end so I could start getting ready for two-a-day football practice. I hurt my hamstring bad at the NCAA Regionals and it still wasn't fully healed, so I needed to get on it before football started.
About two weeks after the trials, late in the first week of two-a-days, I had a meeting with an agent by the name of Mark Pryor, who was representing my friend Joel Brown at the time. He's the one that I have to credit with basically schooling me to the basic ins and outs of the sport. He scheduled a meeting with me up at Howard during the break between morning and evening practices in the football offices at Cook Hall. He's one of the first people who ever told me that he saw in me, the talent to be great in the 110 hurdles. For the life of him, he couldn't figure out why I was playing football at the time when I could be getting a start to my track career.
He printed out the entire 2004 110m hurdles top time list. He flipped about three pages and had my name highlighted and my time of 13.55. He flipped to Joel's name and he might have been around 13.33 or something. He told me if I wanted to get paid in the sport, I needed to run faster than 13.35. He told me that no shoe company would be interested unless you could at least run that time. I thought that was out of the realm of possibilities for me to be honest. But he told me about the European Circuit and how the sport was so huge out there and how there was tons of meets to go to and you get paid for ever single one. It was a very informative and thought provoking meeting. He might have become my manager when I did decide to take up the sport on a professional level, but he kept talking about Joel. I didn't know managers had several athletes in every event, I thought they just had one in an event and my business mind was telling me that I would probably always get the short end of the stick if it came to myself and Joel. Once again, I clearly had no idea what was going on. A little while later, I remember surfing around the internet one day and I saw Joel lined up in lane 9 in Zurich looking all skinny and scared, I was like "man my boy made it".
At that time track was the farthest thing from my mind, I forgot the Olympics were going on until I came home one night from football practice and cut on the TV, the 110 hurdles happen to be on and Allen was about to race. I watched it and he fell during the race. I felt very bad for him, that was the only thing I saw from the Games. I didn't even know who Liu Xiang was or that he won the Olympics and ran the world record until sometime in 2005.
I'm getting WAY off base here, I guess that's what happens when I just get to typing.
Anyway, I say all that to say, I had no intentions on going to school and making a career out of this, it kind of just happened. I still find it amazing when I talk to other athletes and they tell me about how they had the whole thing planned out to be a professional track athlete. They had it planned out all the way down to how many years they were going to spend in college, who their list of managers were going to be, what shoe company they wanted to go with etc.
When I moved to Florida in late January of 2005, I lived and trained with 400 meter specialist Mitch Potter. He's easily one of the most talented and gifted runners I have ever had the pleasure to work with. In 2003 he had the track world in the palm of his hand. He won nearly every race for the University of Minnesota and won a gold medal at World Championships in Paris. He could have gone pro easily, but he was persuaded to go back to school for 2004 and that season saw him surpassed in the event by his college teammate. Now those sponsorship deals weren't looking so nice, he ended up in a decent situation, but a far cry from what could have been. We use to sit around the living room some nights and talk about getting this "bread" in track and field, but I got the sense that he could never let the what coulda/shoulda been in 2003 go. I use to tell him to forget about that and go get it again. I use to strive to live the kind of lifestyle he was living at the time. I use to wake up early and go punch the clock working at Nike from 8am-3:30pm, he use to get up around noon and play Halo on Xbox all day until practice time. To me he was living the life. I'm convinced that dwelling on that was one of the main issues that stopped him from reaching his full potential. I know he could have been a 43 guy. Again, I tell that story to emphasize he had a plan, we all do. Often what we plan to do/accomplish seldom, if ever, goes the way we want it.
I had big plans for my 2011 season, but it didn't go how I thought it would. Will I dwell on it? Of course not. People ask me am I sad because I thought I could win Worlds and didn't medal or because I was running so well and then I started running bad and the answer for me is always "no". I'm never the type that gets concerned with what I don't have or what I didn't do. I am much more grateful for what I have, what I did and what I continue to do.
As far as the season goes, it started out right on the track that my coach laid out for it to go. I had an incredibly successful indoor season where I bested my previous personal best four times in the five races I ran for the season. I got a late start than normal for me in regards to the outdoor season because I caught a calf injury in my last indoor meet that held me out of hurdling and heavy training from February 14 to March 13, but I still rebounded and had my fastest career opener when I ran 13.16 at Kim Collins' meet down in St. Kitts. I knew I was right on track, even though I didn't improve my performances in my next meets in Daegu and Shanghai, even losing the race in Shanghai.
I didn't really trip off those performances because my coach told me I would be a bit flat for those meets and he told me do not become short sighted in what we are trying to accomplish this year. He emphasized all season to me "you have won all these races before, now we have to put you in a position to win something you never have." Of course he was referring to the World Championships.
We ran there May 15th, I didn't do another training day until May 23rd. That's how we had training set up. Go very hard for five weeks, complete/active rest for one to bring the elasticity in the legs back, come back and get a week+ of good workouts in before the next competition which happened to be Prefontaine. It was hard for me because after suffering the defeat in Shanghai, I wanted to get back out and work on what I thought went wrong, but I have complete trust in how I am trained and what I am coached to do, so I followed the direction. At Pre, I dropped my 8th career Sub-13 performance, second most for a career all-time behind the indelible Allen Johnson.
I am never somebody who gets caught up in having confidence or not having confidence. I feel like that word is just an all encompassing term sort of like the word virus. You can feel confident as hell and execute poorly and be on the outside looking in, you can also have little confidence but execute your butt off and be right where you need to be.
I was just executing exactly what Brooks asked me to do and how he asked it.
The contract the we all have with Brooks is very simple, it reads like this "Do what I ask, when I ask and how I ask it to be done and I guarantee success". I've made it this far in my career following that basic contract since 2005.
I had three weeks until Nationals and everything was going great, I had no doubt in my mind that I would be on the team, I knew I didn't have to do anything fancy or re-invent the wheel, just don't do anything stupid and I'll be fine, but after the first round, that's the beginning of where my whole season started to unravel.
I got done running, felt great, got worked on lightly and hit the ice bath at the track. A couple minutes later a pain started shooting through the groin on my right side, my first thought was "oh no, this can't be happening! Not now!'. I got worked on that night until after midnight, I was tremendously scared warming up for the semi final, but like I said earlier, confidence is really overrated, it's about execution. I found in the warm up that it only hurt to fully extend off the front block, so I wouldn't do that and when I get into the blocks, I would just point my knee slightly to the right to take the pressure off my groin area, but I could hurdle perfectly fine. I ran a couple of good races and made the team running 13.04 for the win.
Things just got worse when we got home. We got back to training and the pain was radiating from my lower abs to my scrotum, I was really scared then, hoping it wasn't some sort of sports hernia or something. I had the Paris meet coming up, I tried to train at home and couldn't, so I hopped on the first thing smoking to Munich after a couple of days at home. You know that feeling after you finishing you scans and stuff, boy talk about being sick with anticipation! But it was good, no hernia or muscle damage. Only problem was with my back, so I go the regular treatment and when I got adjusted it helped a lot, flew out to Paris and had a good performance running 13.09, but the relief was only temporary.
The morning after the race, it was painful to walk. Same feeling. I remembered I felt good after getting adjusted, so when I went home I just would consistently get adjusted to keep the pain down, but that stopped working too. When I went to the doctors the fourth time and got all the tests and scans done, it was revealed that I had developed a stress reaction in my pubic bone on my right leg, which is my lead leg. They said it is fairly common due to the fact that it bears a lot of weight as well as me being a hurdler. It was creating incredible inflammation in my adductor, hip flexor attachment sites, as well as sciatic nerve compression on that side, but again no muscle damage. I was told flat out that basically no amount of massage, icing, ultra-sound etc was going to make this go away.
Fully extending off the right block pedal became increasingly painful and I couldn't raise my lead leg to a 90 degree angle without a lot of pain. It got to the point where trying to put on jeans or lace up my trainers became a chore, but I was just thankful that the problem wasn't debilitating to the point that I couldn't compete. I have a very high pain tolerance, I just blocked out any discomfort and took the necessary steps away from the track to keep me going.
I had to go back and forth to the doctors five times this year, checking to make sure things weren't getting worse and that I could continue to compete without making matters worse. People that know me know I refuse to ever drop out of races unless I actually can't run and I will never come with the injury excuse at a meet. I've always said that when you put your feet in the blocks and your hands behind that white line, then that means you're ready to compete and nobody wants to hear anything after the fact other than "hey I just got my ass kicked".
I know good and well that injuries are apart of sport, everyone goes through them, it's a part of life when in the sport you're training at world record intervals. The same demands I'm placing on my body as a consistent sub 13 second performer are much different than back in '06 when I was running 13.20s and things didn't need to be perfect for me to run to my level. That being the case, you'll never see me complain when I catch and injury or talk about it all day long and whine to anybody's ears who could hear. I suck it up and try to make it happen. To me 95% of life's issues are black and white and boil down to two options: you're either going to do something or you're not. I chose to keep going, so every sub par performance I had, I signed my name on that picture. Bringing up an injury would have dominated every interview or press conference I had all year. I'm not really in to talking about all that, I'd rather just talk about running hurdles.
I really wanted to make it to Worlds, call me the ultimate optimist when it comes to track, but I'm a firm believer that in the sport you never know what might happen until you go out there and compete. Before Worlds, I read that Blanka Vlasic had a press conference and was in tears because I believe her knee was hurting and she might have to undergo an operation, but she wasn't going to give up and fold the tents before she gave it a shot. It was weeks before the championships and she refused to give up, that's exactly how I felt. I saw people pulling out the meet because they were injured, but for me I could never do it. I honestly don't see how any American athlete could do it unless they were scheduled for or had surgery, couldn't walk or run etc. I know how hard it was for me to earn the right to wear the USA jersey and I refuse to give it up unless I just can not run. In pain, not at my best, scared to not succeed, none of that crosses my mind! They would have to rip my jersey and bib number off of me!
In 2007 at my first World Championships out in Osaka, in my last workout, I strained my right hamstring badly doing starts. I'm on Skype talking to my homies Aubrey Herring and Robby Hughes, they ask me if I am going to pull out. I told them straight up I'd rather DNF (did not finish) than do a DNS (did not start). I told them I never know when I might be able to wear the USA uniform again. I know this isn't my birthright and I may not be at my best but I will try and give it my all. I made it out of the first round barely but coming back the next day, I couldn't even warm up for the semi-finals it hurt so much. I took my butt out there anyway. I got taped up, went to the call room, sprayed on a whole bunch of Stop Pain and drank two 5 hour energies and by the next thing I knew, we were halfway through the race. I went in to that race knowing I had a snowballs chance in hell of making it to the finals, that was even solidified when I saw Liu Xiang, Dayron Robles and Andy Turner were in my semi, but I didn't care. I asked Brooks afterwards what he thought of the race, he told me he didn't have the stomach to watch it because he thought I was going to carted off the track.
I was disappointed that I didn't make it to the finals and subsequently being dropped from most of my remaining races for the season, but I was proud that I rocked the USA jersey and did the absolute best I could under the circumstances. I reiterate, my head never bows in sorrow because of this sport.
Anyway, I get to Daegu and my preparations are already stunted. My left leg is strapped onto the table while getting my right leg stretched and boom, the table collapses and exacerbates the problems in my right leg even more and I had to shut it down.
I did the best I could out there. I felt good in the first round, but it's never the first round that's the problem, it's always the subsequent rounds, coming back on very short rest. In the final, I was just going to let it rip, no need in saving it for the junior prom. Coming out the blocks, as soon as the leg got that extension, it grabbed on me and I panicked but I was going to finish the race. I "thugged" my way through the race and ended up fifth.
I really admire what other athletes like Allyson Felix, Carmelita Jeter, Veronica Cambell-Brown, Walter Dix, Usain Bolt etc for what they were able to accomplish because being in those ballistic type events where anything can go wrong with the muscles and going out there day after day after day on short rest and coming out relatively healthy is very commendable because it is extremely hard to do. I never hesitate to tell them how great I think they are.
I was in doping control after the race and I was asked by another athlete who was in there after a previously finished final if I was going to go to back to my room in the village and cry. They were not being funny or making jokes, it was an honest question because I think they were on the verge. I started laughing and told them, In my professional life, I've never felt that urge. I always remember track is just a part of life, it's not life. They just said "I don't know how you do it D.O."
I went out of the Championships with my head still high because I knew the reason for my underperforming. I think it's only a cause for concern when you are not performing and don't know why. I know exactly why. I don't go from running five consecutive races at 13.10 or better then all of a sudden wake up and forget how to hurdle.
I'm sure a lot of people were probably dumbfounded as to what was going on or reaching for straws to make some sort of rationalization of it. Some probably were light weight celebrating the fact. I only add that in because NOBODY has 100% support from everybody, no matter what you might think of yourself, people are not going to like you for whatever their reasoning is.
I know this sport is definitely one that everyone builds you up to tear you down. I just hear how people were talking about Bolt after the 100 meters where he false started, intimating all kinds of things. Now his playing around and not being serious is a problem, but that sure wasn't the case back in '08 and '09. That's why I never read my press clippings when everything was going right and I don't read them now when they are going not so great. People always ask me "did you read this" or "did you hear that", I never do because if it's an interview, I know the gist of what's there because I gave the interview, if it's someone making a statement, I don't care because I make statements and comments about all kinds of stuff too. We all know the good ole adage of what opinions are akin too, the dumbest thing you can do is engage someone in an argument over an opinion. Now if somebody brings to my attention someone making some sort of personal attack like I remember last year on Track and Field News in regards to a British article, then I'm gonna go see about 'em, anything else is water under the bridge.
I love this quote "if you're not in the huddle, you don't know the play". The flip side of it is, you can not be in the spotlight and not take the bad with the good. That's why I always rely on the outpouring of support from my fans when I read on the blog or twitter or facebook or when I happen to see them in person. I think it's so cool that people I don't even know have my back, I always appreciate that and when things aren't going the way I envisioned, I go back an read my messages. That's why I sign every autograph and take every picture I can.
After Worlds, I went back to the doctors to get updated scans on everything to check the progress and make sure nothing was damaged any further so that I could finish out the season. I committed myself to these competitions earlier and I wasn't going to not run unless I was advised to. I am a professional and this is my job. I don't feel you can only be professional when it suits your best interests, but you must at all times when it concerns your profession. I might have been in a bit of pain but as long as the doctor cleared me of causing major damage, guess what? I'm going to the meets. Another thing I always remember is that in sport and life, there is no bookmark to hold your place so you can come back and pick up where you left off when you're ready. Doesn't work like that. These meets extending invitations and giving these nice appearance fees etc does not go on for ever, so you better take advantage. I go out and give it everything I have in every race and never half-ass. Win, lose or draw.
I refuse to have pity parties for myself. It is tough when every person you see or every interview or press conference asks what happened to you? what went wrong? etc but I harken back to the whole being a professional, gotta take the bad with the good. It sure wasn't a problem answering the same questions over and over last year of why things were going so well was it?
2011 was a stark contrast to my 2010 season. In 2010, I didn't make one visit to the doctors, didn't miss a single day of training due to injury, every move we made came up smelling like roses. I am firmly rooted in the fact that the pendulum of life and sports never swings for you or against you forever. You've got to be able to hang on when it's going against you and never give in because it has to swing in your favor eventually. It's just when you see people give up too soon that they never get that swing back effect. When it's going for you, you've got to position yourself and make the decisions to keep it going for you as long as possible because soon enough your time to be tested will come up.
I can't name a single successful person/athlete who hasn't had to go through the trials and tribulations and have their mettle tested. Remember, there are always plenty of ways to be a winner, but only one way to be a loser and that's to fail but not look beyond the failure.
I've always been good at looking beyond every "failure" in my career and keep plugging away. Go back and check how things turned out for me the seasons after injuries basically shut me down in 2007 and 2009.
The hurdles is one of those events with a high turnover rate. The champion from 2007, wasn't in 2008, who wasn't in 2009, who wasn't in 2010, who wasn't in 2011. I don't panic either, I take solace in the fact that no one is doing anything performance wise that I haven't proven I can do and have done for the past four seasons. If a few people were out challenging the world record, then I would be a little concerned, but it just solidifies that I don't have to do anything much different than what I've been doing to get right back where I feel I need to be. I've been working with some great individuals this season that kept me pieced together and able to compete, I really appreciate their efforts. I've got a great rehab program that I will start after a few weeks of straight downtime. It will mainly address the muscles in my right leg that suffered about 2cm of atrophy in certain measurements due to the injury. Strengthening those areas back as well as addressing the direct cause of the issues are the main focus. Ill be ready come fall training, back at 100%. Looking forward to getting started.
It was great to see Liu Xiang back to full strength this year as well as Dayron Robles after his injury struggles, they produced some great performances this season. They are definitely two of my favorite guys to compete with. The emergence of Jason Richardson this year was also very cool to see. I have seen him run since 2005 and to see his progression from that time until now has been a pleasure, he's always been a cool guy and he's got a coach in John Smith that will have him on the right path for a long time. I hope the day will come when we all will race with each of us at or near our best.
On the track, 2011 didn't turn up how I hoped, but I still feel like I accomplished major things. Winning USA championships, to me, is as meaningful as winning Worlds and Olympics. It's just something I never envisioned myself doing back when I attended my first USA championships and saw how extremely fast they were running. Also winning the high hurdle title in the USA is incredibly hard, we have so much talent and depth it's crazy! I also ran under 13, which I think is so cool. Every time I do it, I still get the same feeling as when I did it the first time. I ran the fastest times over the hurdles indoor and outdoor in the world as well. I didn't win the gold medal or any medal for that case this year, but it was still a pretty decent year.
Away from the track, things really took off for me. Signing three major sponsorship deals aside from the ones I already possessed as well as putting the finishing touches on one more, I was even able to get my mom a nice little deal! I understand that the likelihood of becoming a superstar in the sport of track and field is slim to none, especially being American. If you joined this sport in the attempts to become some national hero, you're also sadly mistaken, but I know that I can do things that will put me in a better position for the remaining years of my life by using track as a vehicle.
For me, It's not always about what people can do for me, sometimes it's about how I can help other people. One of the proudest things I did this year was in conjunction with DC Speed Track Club in Washington, DC, I put on a track meet that attracted almost 800 metro area kids. Three of my sponsors, Nike, Coca-Cola and RivalUs got involved and supplied everything from t-shirts to bags to signage to water coolers and the water, it was a great event. We donated all the left over stuff to the Japan Relief efforts as well. I'm looking forward to doing my annual camp for kids out in Denver, CO this offseason as well and I'm starting the discussion with my financial sponsor about setting up two scholarships at my former high school, one for a senior boy and senior girl to use for college. I signed on for the Classroom Champions program as well, I have been paired with a group of students from Portland, Oregon and I'm really looking forward to that! My company Sub-13 Enterprises is doing great as well.
People wonder how I can handle all this in stride and never be down, here's why: I have a great career that has afforded me the opportunities to live an amazing lifestyle, see things I only saw in magazines, meet great people, make a lot of money, help others with my resources and most importantly be a great provider for my family. My family is THE most important thing to me. They have held me down before I ever stepped foot on a track and they will years after I am long forgotten by this sport. Bottom line, I feel like I'm living the dream! I know it will end someday but that's why I steadily make decisions to set myself up for my future endeavors.
Thanks to all of you who have found myself someone that you can root for. I didn't accomplish all of my goals this season but I will definitely be back making a strong push for the 2012 Olympic Games. Don't be surprised when you see me back and at the top of the podium in London!
For those of you who made it through this novel, I thank you too! Putting thoughts on paper always gives me a good feeling.
Team Nunley Update
3 weeks ago