By Chris Lotsbom @ChrisLotsbom
CAPE ELIZABETH, MAINE (02-Aug) -- For Riley Masters, Elliot Krause, and Alexi Pappas, post-collegiate running means three different things at the moment. Transitioning from the NCAA to the professional ranks, all three are at different stages heading into Saturday's TD Beach To Beacon 10-K, a race that they agree will provide valuable experience against a top international field.
While the trio achieved numerous All American honors in college --Masters at the University of Oklahoma, Krause at the University of Wisconsin, and Pappas at the University of Oregon-- the bunch have found themselves beginning a new chapter of their athletics careers with various opportunities.
Following his graduation from Oklahoma, Masters was in an ideal situation, he said.
"I was fortunate enough to jump right into a shoe contract right after NCAA's, so it's been a smooth transition for me," Masters told Race Results Weekly. In a month's time, Masters will move to Seattle, joining the Brooks shoe company training group that also includes former Penn State standout Cas Loxsom.
A native of Bangor --some 110 miles northeast of here-- Masters is looking at tomorrow's race as a fun way to compete close to home.
"This race is just a good way to end my season and come back to Maine for a while, so it's kind of like a homecoming for me," he said.
Though he knows where he'll be in the coming months, Masters believes the transition from collegiate running to professional competition will be something he'll have to become familiar with.
"Not having the usual structure that everyone's used to going back to the collegiate system --you get back and have a cross country season to focus on and a bunch of guys to train with-- it'll be interesting not to have that but it's part of just growing up and adjusting to the transition," he said.
Unlike Masters, Krause is unsure where he will wind up come the fall. Without a shoe contract or training group, the 23-year-old has returned to Madison to be coached by the University of Wisconsin's Mick Byrne.
"For me, it just kind of feels like summer to be honest," he said, comparing it to his past four years. "Working a part-time job and running, so far it hasn't been a problem.
"As far as the day-to-day goes, it's still the same: wake up, run, go to my job for a little bit, then run again."
Krause said he has tried not to let the uncertainty of what lies ahead affect him, though it naturally brings on stress.
"Right now I can't see the future at all, I don't know where I'm going to end up. It should be nice not having the stress of classes, but at the same time I'll have the stress of where my next couple years will be," he said.
Tomorrow's race will be an opportunity for both Masters and Krause to dip their feet into the professional road racing pool. With a field that boasts American Olympians Ryan Hall and Meb Keflezighi, as well as London Marathon course record holder Emmanuel Mutai and former TD Beach to Beacon champion Micah Kogo, the two simply want to do their best and see what happens.
"It's more about getting out there and competing," said Krause. "I'm just hoping to get out there and be competitive. Maybe not be competitive with the guys who have run 2:04 in the marathon, but go out there and stick it out and just get a real hard effort in and see where that ends up."
Masters agreed with Krause's assessment, adding that the experience of racing with the professionals at this stage will only help them in the long run.
"There's a big transition from college to post collegiate, and having an opportunity to run against guys like that, to be in the same race and same field, it make's everything smoother and I feel very fortunate to be in a race with them. I think having this experience will be very beneficial," he said.
Krause went on to compare the experience to the U.S. Cross Country Championships, where collegians and professionals can rub elbows.
"I've had a bit of experience getting my butt kicked by these guys, but hopefully I'll get my butt kicked a little bit less tomorrow," he said. "You just try to get closer and closer to those guys so you can compete with them in the future."
For Pappas, the only recent collegiate graduate in the elite women's field, the choice to join the Nike-supported Oregon Track Club following graduation made perfect sense. After attending the University of Oregon, she fell in love with Eugene and it's community. The resources provided by the OTC Elite program only solidified her decision.
"It's really comforting," she said. "I feel lucky to be one of the incoming girls."
In the fall, Pappas will officially begin training with coach Mark Rowland. When she does start, the 23-year-old says she'll be looking forward to learning from her older teammates.
"There's a lot for me to learn," she said. "I remember Julia Lucas, one of my new teammates, sat me down and was like 'are you ready to be sort of at the bottom?' She meant it in a good way, and that's when I knew it was the right place for me because I'm ready to get my butt kicked a little and hang on to the coattails of some of the amazing Olympic level athletes at the Oregon Track Club."
Joining the OTC Elite will also allow Pappas to continue her film-making career. She is currently working on a fiction narrative based in Eugene, tentatively called "Stick and Chub."
Heading into tomorrow's race, though, Pappas has one thing on her mind: soak in the experience. She had a successful track season where, most notably, she ran a personal best of 9:46.73 in the steeplechase and finished 8th in the national championships.
"Being on the same starting line as these women who have run on the world stage is equally exciting and intimidating," she said. "But I feel mentally I am capable of competing with the best. And now it's just a matter of continuing to develop that mental toughness and experience while also putting in the actual physical work."
PHOTO: Riley Masters (l) and Elliot Krause before tomorrow's TD Beach to Beacon 10-K (photo by Chris Lotsbom for Race Results Weekly)