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Tyler Day joins the podcast to share what went into the decision to turn professional and sign with the Hoka One One Northern Arizona Elite team after a successful career at Northern Arizona University. Tyler is a six-time All-American and was part of three NCAA championship-winning cross country squads for the Lumberjacks. Most recently, the end of his collegiate career was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic but he managed to set the American collegiate record at the indoor 5,000 meter distance in 13:16.95 at an indoor meet at Boston University in the winter. He has also competed for the U.S. at the 2019 Pan American Games.
In this episode, we look back at his successful NCAA career, his goals for the 2021 outdoor campaign, the Flagstaff running community and much more.
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– How did this pro deal come about? “When HOKA gave me what they had to offer, I was like five days away from reporting to NAU and signing up for Masters classes and talking to my academic advisor and everything.”
– On what he missed out on when the NCAA Indoor Championship was canceled: “If I could think selfishly, I wanted to see if I could actually win an individual title. It’s kind of hard to feel that I’ve done everything that I could in the NCAA except win an individual title. I’ve won three team titles – me and a bunch of other stellar dudes did it. I won all of the awards that I really wanted to shoot for. I just didn’t get the elusive top one. I think the biggest thing that was taken away was that the dudes got runner-up at cross country that year. They were gearing up for a really big indoor season. Regardless if we got fourth or second or first, if we brought back a trophy to Flagstaff, it would have been huge for the track program recruiting-wise and also to the city of Flagstaff. When I was being recruited, it was like, ‘Hey, we’re a cross country school’ and track was the main factor but we were here for cross country. To be able to say that I came here and helped win three (cross country) titles and also bring back a trophy in indoor to help build up a track program would have been great to leave on.”
– Was NAU in his “In my senior year of high school, people were asking me if I applied to NAU. I said, ‘No. They’re not going to look at a dude like me…like at all. 100%’ I wasn’t planning on sending in my records because they weren’t planning on picking up a dude like me. It’s easy. Because I fluked my way into NXN, they were like, ‘Maybe we give this guy a shot.’ And I was probably cheap labor too. Who knows? But going into it, I knew they were a really good team. In my opinion, they were the greatest cross country team to never win a cross country title. To podium three times in four years – third, second, third – they were always right there. It was super consistent. To have them reach out to me and recruit me, I was like, ‘Holy crap’ and super stoked. To have them stick with me and give me an offer, I was really stoked.”
– Which of his three NCAA titles was the sweetest? “That first one we were built with a team of dudes who have come close year after year after year. When we won, that was my first NCAA championship and I was one for one at that point. You see guys like Andy Trouard and Nathan Weitz crying because they were there when they walked off the stage and heard ‘We Are The Champions’ and it was for the other team. Geordie Beamish, Matt Baxter and I were like, ‘This is how you win it? Cool. That’s sick.’ The first one was pretty sweet because we actually did it. A non-Power Five school can do this. Even after all the years of people saying we couldn’t and we’d come close, we actually did it. It kind of helped us bounce off into the next year with that confidence.
– Expectations at NAZ: “I’m going to try and have confidence in myself and know that I do belong here and also trust the system. ‘Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.’ If it gets you there, cool, don’t change it. Don’t reach for the stars if it hasn’t worked for you before. Just do what you need to do if it works for you.”
– What is the NAU way? “I think the NAU way is ‘Chop wood, carry water,’ which is cool because you can say, ‘Oh you’re a Lumberjack so you’d say that.’ We have different people on the team. We have people that are me, who are outgoing and like to show it. You have some people who are more reserved and don’t like to show a lot but at the end they still want to rip your head off. The NAU way is being comfortable in your own skin and when it comes time to work, you’re fighting for the boys and something bigger than yourself for once.”
– Marathon potential? “In one of the first years that coach Mike Smith took the gig (at NAU), we were doing VO2 stuff here. I think we were at Buffalo Park and I was doing a 10-mile sub-T, which is a long threshold run and you have to run a pace where if you go too fast you’re going to bonk and you’re not going to get it if you’re too slow. It’s kind of that nice fine line sweet spot. I would just be ripping those long thresholds and I would be breathing through my nose. I would be talking crap to coach because he was giving me crap before the workout. He was looking at my times and said, ‘Dude, you could be the American record holder for the marathon if you want. Like I’m dead serious.’ People for sure have told me that I’d be a marathoner. Even in talking to some of the pro coaches. One of them told me, ‘If you’re with me you’re going to for sure be a marathoner.’ I know in my heart that my career will end on the roads somewhere in the marathon – hopefully that’s at the end of a marathon and not during it. I will be a marathoner for sure. I would be doing myself a disservice if I don’t do that. It’s just kind of unique that I have some track wheels that I can utilize too.”
Support for this episode comes from Bakline Running. We’re excited to partner with this Brooklyn-based company that’s making active lifestyle and streetwear-inspired apparel. I’m racing a mile in their performance singlet soon but their hits are their shirts, graphic tees and designs with inspiring mantras like “Me vs Me”; “Nothing But Miles”; “The Future Is Female Runners” and more.
Check them out at https://www.bakline.nyc/ and use code CITIUS for 15% off at checkout.
If you’re interested in sponsorship of the podcast or site, please reach out to Chris Chavez at [email protected]. Package and slots for the remainder of 2020 and 2021 are available.