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One Door Closes, Another Opens

By Jason Pedersen | Feb. 22, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

At the Big Sky 10k

Almost nine months ago I finished up my NCAA eligibility at the NCAA West Track & Field Prelims in the 10,000m. I remember that night very well; it was my first time competing at the regional meet, and my first time competing at Oregon's historic Hayward Field. I was coming off a lingering Achilles injury and dealing with a blister that took up about half of my left foot that I had acquired two weeks prior at my conference championships. Thinking back to that race is quite nostalgic for me as it would be the last time I raced in Northern Arizona's Lumberjacks jersey. As I suffered through all ten thousand meters, I remember thinking, "Is this my last track race?"

What do you do when you are no longer what you have identified yourself as for so many years? I began running in 1993 at the age of 5 and was competing seriously in events like the 800 and 1500 since I was about 8. I found immediate success in the sport, running a 5:00 1500 when I was 9. I continued to run well until high school, with a 9:37 3200m PR as a freshman. Improvements began to slow down, but I was always going in the right direction. Like many Division I athletes, I contemplated continuing to pursue my passion post-collegiately and chasing dreams of grandeur. But the truth is that there is a glass ceiling above everyone's head, and I think I had almost reached mine. After finishing that 10,000m race I was satisfied walking off the track knowing that I had done everything I could to be the very best runner I could be, and to move on.

My pro debut in Myrtle Beach.
(Photo by Wayne Nevrilk)

Had I not had this new hobby of mine called "triathlon" in my back pocket, saying good-bye to track and field would have been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. As cliché as it sounds, when one door closes, you can bet at least one more opens. For me, Collegiate Recruitment Program Coordinator Barb Lindquist opened that door. Barb was instrumental in my rise up the age group ladder, winning the San Francisco Triathlon at Treasure Island, placing fourth at Age Group Nationals and making my pro debut at the Myrtle Beach ITU race — all within four months of concluding my college athletic career. My passion for running never diminished throughout my career, but Olympic dreams were lost along the way. Suddenly, these aspirations had returned and my future as a professional athlete began to brighten up again.

It hasn't been easy. I have had my fair share of fish-out-of-water experiences over the last nine months (although horse-drowning-in-water paints a more accurate picture) as I learn this new sport. In my pro debut I nearly forgot to put on my helmet in the frenzy that is ITU transitions, costing me a 15" penalty! Rookie mistake. But with the help of USAT and my coach Ian Murray, I am now looking forward to my first full season as a professional triathlete, which is sure to have many ups and downs that I look forward to sharing with you on this blog.