Racing towards the Gay Games
We continue to follow in the tracks of Roger Barraby as he trains to compete in this year’s Gay Games in Guadalajara.
Recently at a meet in Manchester Connecticut he was asked a series of questions on his journey and his training. Being from Vermont Roger has been very connected to those affected by the recent flooding and the Canadian wildfires. These have made challenges for him to safety practice and the recovery effort has some what hindered fundraising as everyone has pulled together to get life back to normal after the devastating floods.
Even through these adversities he continues to run because as he states below, he’s running not just for himself, but he’s running for the queer community, his hometown, his state, his college, his family and everyone cheering him on.
We'll let him tell you it all himself:
Congratulations on the results from your first two meets! We will get into those in more detail later. How did it feel to be back on the track? I know you like using the phrase “coming out of retirement.”
Thank you, thank you! You make me sound like I’m 73 years old. It is true that I may have said that once or twice… Haha It felt AMAZING to be back on the track, under the lights, wearing skin tight clothing again. When I stepped off the track at the end of the Centennial Conference championship my senior year in college, I told my Coach (Chris Goodling) that I wasn’t finished. I felt like I had more to give. It has taken 5 years, with a couple random road races sprinkled throughout that time, but I’m back! It has been SO nice to have Coach Goodling back in my corner. I would not be making the same progress just by policing myself in my training.
One thing that’s strange is I see my competitors are all older or younger than me. I would say 32+ and 22-. There are not a lot of people in my sport between 23-31, at least outside of the banner athletes.
You DID compete in a road race on June 3rd, right? How do the two compare?
The Murphy Morse 5K was canceled this year, so I ran a time trial throughout my hometown of Windsor, Vermont. By hosting the race on Alumni Day, I made sure there was an audience. Road, trail, indoor and outdoor track are all such different beasts. It poured during the road race and I was alone. I just held my form, kept the watch rolling and pushed. On the track, there were plenty of men to help pull me along. Oh, and the weather was decent!
What did you think of Manchester, and hell, Connecticut as a whole?
You know, I have only been to Connecticut one time. I spent a short afternoon visiting my friend’s place while I was driving through. It felt very suburban and built up. How am I supposed to answer this? I drove down from the forest in the mountains and ended up right outside the big city (to me) of Hartford. I have to give Manchester props though. The meet was organized well and featured solid competition. Everyone was very kind! They gave me a special medal when I told them I was from Vermont and asked how everyone was fairing with the floods. I have been quite lucky to not have personal damage. They wished me safety. It was a very sweet moment.
That’s right! Natural disasters like the smoke from the Canadian wildfires and the flooding from such a rainy summer. What’s next? How have you been navigating these training challenges? Is it helping you to prepare for Mexico?
It has been wild! I am scared to pose the question of what’s next!?! Personally, I had horrible tendon injuries last year. I am happy to be injury free. I was not even walking easily just 18 months ago. For me, if I am in good health and granted the time, energy and money to train and compete, I do it. You never know when you won’t be able to. It is SO true what they say about sitting out being far worse mentally than braving a tough workout. Runners DESPISE not being able to torture our bodies.
As for all the things I’ve had to battle: When it’s not pouring (to the point of flooding), it’s HOT and SMOKY. Just a few weeks ago, my training facility in Windsor was flooded and I was worried I would not be able to use it. But, the high school grounds crew did a fantastic job clearing out vegetation, sweeping silt off the track and even grading the dirt driveway again. We were lucky and we have a great team in town working to keep everything right.
Coach Goodling and I have long had the policy of “if a meet wouldn’t be canceled, neither will your training be.” If there is a blizzard, lightning, hail, etc. I don’t train on the track. I probably will not take the day off, but I’ll be in the pool, on the gym bike, lifting weights, or something else productive. But, if it’s hot, pouring, cold, windy, I’m still out there working harder. You NEVER know what the weather will be during competition and so you have to train through it when you can. I am hoping that’s going to make me a beast in Guadalajara. I know mentally I am ready for a challenge. I face them every single week.
How did Massachusetts treat you?
The second meet in Weston, MA was HOT. I’m talking 90 degrees on the tar. One of my feet developed a horrible blister that I’m still working through. But, I ate well and the people were nice. Haha
How was the competition? Any cute competitors?
Now, the good questions!! I always argue that T&F has the hottest athletes, because there is every type imaginable. If you like bears, go watch the throwing events. You love muscled men and women, come see the sprints. You love tall and thin, here come the jumpers. I have forgotten how overwhelming they can all be up close. Just another challenge at the meet.
Take us through your races. What was it like being back in action?
This season is a bit different. My core event in the past has been the 400 Hurdles. This year, I just have the open track! I’m in the 200/400/800, plus relays later.
In Connecticut, I ran the 800, followed by the 400. I was very nervous for the 800m race, as I haven’t been in a meet setting in more than five years. I just took deep breaths, trusted my training and my warm up and tried to utilize that nervous energy for my race. I was lucky, in that I had men faster and slower than me in the race. I knew I wouldn’t lag behind, nor would I have to set and keep the pace. When the gun went off, I surged to find my pace and ended up riding along in third position. We came through in 30 seconds at the 200, and 64 at the 400. At that point, I knew it would be faster than I had wanted, which was exciting. I did NOT know if I could hold that pace. I just told myself to hold form and use my long legs. I finished in 2:15.78, which was a lifetime best! I never expected to open up better than ever! That first race did exhaust me, so for my 400, I just told myself to get out hard, hold form and see if there is any push left at the end. I finished in a 56.98, which was JUST off my lifetime personal record as well!
In Massachusetts, I entered the 400, followed by the 200. This was a USATF sponsored championship, so I knew the competition would be fierce. For the 400m, I had the same strategy as before. I think I slowed down in the middle, instead of holding pace. Though, I finished in a new lifetime best of 56.83, so I won’t be too hard on myself. The hot day made it tough.
By the 200m race, that blister came into play. I was struggling to walk and bear weight on the ball of my right foot. I could feel it sloshing and stinging. So, I went out a bit gingerly and just held form, thinking about that foot the whole time. But, my training has been so good that I still ran a lifetime best of 25.98. I’m quite happy so far! I know there are things that can be improved.
Where are you heading next?
I have a Time Trial fund raising event in Windsor, VT this weekend and then I will be in Framingham, MA on August 16th.
What obstacles are you and Coach Goodling tackling currently? Any training adjustments after that first meet?
I’m nursing that foot, for sure! It would be horrible to be sidelined by something serious, but silly, like a blister. We have been working more on top speed and block starts on the track. I have found both to be challenging throughout my career, as my frame is quite small. I don’t have a lot of power or muscle. In the gym, we are focused on that power. Even at home, I am trying to incorporate recovery as a daily part of my lifestyle (icing, stretching before bed, massage). Nutrition is something we are JUST starting to approach. It has always felt like the last big frontier, so I am excited to tackle that. I am really enjoying being an open adult athlete, because all of my training is incorporated into my lifestyle. It makes me a healthier, more vibrant adult. It’s not limited to my current season.
How has the support been locally? How does that help?
I am SO grateful to be from such a wonderful, supportive community. Windsor, and Vermont as a whole (New Hampshire, a bit too!) have been so helpful. I have partnered with businesses, music labels, artists and more to raise funds and visibility. I have been featured on the radio and in the newspaper. It gives me and my performances accountability. I am no longer running for just myself. I am running for the queer community, my hometown, my state, my college, my family and anyone else who throws a dollar, a word of encouragement or a pat on the back my way. So many people care and want to see me do well, and it makes me want to do even better.
I know you have many of us excited and invested (financially AND emotionally). We look forward to your next update! Good luck!
Thank you so so much!