An Interview with Cathedral Catholic's Joaquin Martinez de Pinillos

Today we chat with one of the fastest returning runners in California, Cathedral Catholic senior Joaquin Martinez de Pinillos. Last season, he led his teammates to a surprising state championship in Division III after the team finished second at the San Diego Section championship meet the week before. Martinez de Pinillos finished in third place as an individual at the state meet with a time of 15:07.40 on the Woodward Park course and qualified for Nike Cross Nationals (NXN). He had an injury shortened spring track season, but appears to be well on his way to form, as he ran 14.32.1 at the just-completed Woodbridge Classic on Saturday. Photo above is courtesy of Ben Crawford from the '16 Woodbridge race.

1) Looking back at your junior cross country season, can you share the reaction of your team when it was determined that you had won the state team title?

Well, I would be lying if I said that we were expecting to win the state title. We knew we had a chance to podium at state, but winning the whole thing seemed so surreal at the time. After the race, however, Rich Gonzalez approached me and told me that Cathedral Catholic won state. Without even thinking, I sprinted over to my team to tell them the big news and we all sort of freaked out. It's honestly an experience I will never forget and having such great team chemistry made that moment that much better.

2) Previous to the state meet, your team finished in second place at the section final behind La Costa Canyon. What was the plan heading into the state meet for you and team?  

After getting second at CIF and being co-champs in our league, we were hungry for victory -- it was something we had worked so hard for throughout the season. Going into the state meet, our main goal was to podium and beat LCC. We knew that if our top five was able to break the 16-minute barrier, we could have a shot at reaching our goal. Our number five guy clocked in at 16:01, so if you asked me, I would say that we were pretty close. Getting top three at state was our initial goal so winning the whole thing came to us as a surprise. 

3) Aside from the state team title, what were some of your highlights from your junior cross country season? What do you feel was your best race last season? 

I was extremely stoked after my junior cross country season because of how ideal it was. My first big race of the season, Woodbridge, really helped me build my confidence as an athlete who could be competitive in fast races. Last year, I would have to say that my best race as an individual was either Woodbridge or Mt. SAC.

4) How did you get your start in running? What other sports have you participated in aside from cross country and track and field? 

It's actually a funny story. In elementary school, teachers told my parents that I was too hyper in class and that I either needed to join a sport or walk to and from school to get some of the energy out of me. I always found myself getting trouble for talking too loudly or having too much energy in class, so the best solution in my mom's eyes was to join cross country. She signed me up when I got to middle school, so I guess if it wasn't for being a troubled kid in elementary school, I might of never have become a runner in the first place. I used to play some volleyball and I still like to play whenever I can, especially over the summer on the beach courts. I was never really that good but I was good enough to play with some other friends that like playing too, including Michael and Daniel Robinson. 

5) What do you remember about your freshman cross country season? What race do you feel gave you the confidence that you were ready to run with some of the best runners in the state? Who were the older runners (whether on your team or not) who inspired you and you looked up to at that time? 

I remember constantly chasing senior (at the time) Raymond Boffman. In cross country, we were never too far apart in races, so I always tried to stay with Raymond on all of the workouts. He was a real inspiration to me at the time and I couldn't thank him enough for taking me under his wing. Because of him, I was able to meet a lot of people and it made my freshman year a lot of fun.

I don't really remember any race that gave me that kind of confidence my freshman year. It wasn't until my team raced at the Stanford Invitational during my sophomore year that it made me believe that I could stick with some of the better runners in the state. Honestly, all of the top seniors in the San Diego section inspired me to do better because I really wanted to stick with them. They all seemed so cool to me at the time and I wanted to be as good as them one day. They were also really nice people so that made me look up to them that much more. 

6) What were some of your highlights from your 9th and 10th track and field seasons?  

A lot of my favorite events in track were relays. I just had so much fun with them and I loved the excitement of being the fourth leg. I got my chance to be the fourth leg freshman year at the Falcon Relays; our team was doing a 4x800. First place had a decent gap on us, but it was a battle for second. It was my first (and last) time breaking two minutes in the 800 my freshman year, but basically the race came down to a sprint and the excitement of just barely edging out the competition made throwing up after the race totally worth it.

Another highlight of my freshman year was CIF finals. I was pretty far off from going to state, but my goal that season was to break the 4:20 mark in the 1600. I got a 4:17 and ended my freshman year on a high note. Sophomore year was similar in the sense that my best mid-season races came from relays and CIF finals. I was extremely satisfied with the way my Mt. Sac Relays weekend went. I had three events to run: the mile, the 1600m relay, and the SMR (200x200x400x800, can you guess which leg I did?) I was really happy with all of the races but the SMR, in particular, was a definite stand out. We were actually predicted to be last so the thing we kept telling ourselves was, "They don't want us to win."

In elementary school, teachers told my parents that I was too hyper in class and that I either needed to join a sport or walk to and from school to get some of the energy out of me. I always found myself getting trouble for talking too loudly or having too much energy in class, so the best solution in my mom's eyes was to join cross country. 

At the handoff, our team was in fifth place, which is decent for being seeded last. Being third place in the last 200 meters, I really didn't want to let my teammates down, especially because of how close second and first place was, so I was able to shift it into another gear and take the win. The expression on my teammates' faces made winning that race one thousand times better. I guess that's why I really like relays.

I am a big fan of the idea of a team. CIF finals came around and my main goal was to beat University City's Allen Siegler, a highly regarded runner in our section, in the 1600. He was known for his big kick, which no one at the time could beat. I knew that very well, because he has beaten me on multiple occasions. The race didn't go out that fast, clocking in at a 64-65 in the first 400. The race really began on the last lap. I'm not really sure what got into me; I just really wanted to beat him in track once before he left for college. Whatever it was, I was able to out kick him in the last 100 meters. Allen was someone who really inspired me as an athlete and a student. At state, he told me to never forget to put school first and that is something I strive to do. 

7) You had an injury-shortened junior season in track. What was your injury? When did you finally get back to training fully and preparing for the upcoming cross country season? 

I never realized how much not running absolutely sucked until I was forced to not run for about six weeks. After getting an MRI, it was discovered that I had a stress fracture in my upper left tibia. I was devastated. It was something that I never thought could happen to me, but there I was, lightly limping around school waiting for my stress fracture to heal.

All I could do at meets was watch. The trainers at my school were the best I could have ever asked for. They took really good care of me, putting me in the pool every day to do some aqua jogging. It wasn't until two weeks before our league finals that I was able to train. I made it to CIF finals, but I couldn't qualify for state -- I had only 15-20 miles a week under my belt, that was the best case scenario. 

8) What does a typical training week look like for you? What is the distance of your long run? How many workout days? Any morning runs? Strength work?  

A typical week of training starts off with a long run on Monday. At our peak mileage, myself and few others on the team run 13 miles and we are pretty consistent with that throughout the whole season. Our workout days are on Tuesday ("tank top Tuesday") and Thursday.

On Tuesday, we do hill repeats. We do about eight hills which include a parking lot loop after each hill going at a pace a little faster than tempo pace.

On Thursday, we run tempos, starting with a 3-mile tempo and ending with a 2-mile tempo at a 5:25 pace. We have been doing that workout for three weeks now. As for track workouts, we typically don't start those until about two weeks after Woodbridge. I think that it will replace hill repeats as usual. However, we still do hill sprints throughout the season to get that strength training in. We hardly do any morning runs and we hit the weight room two times a week. We also do stair workouts. 

9) Favorite cross country course? Favorite cross country invitational? Favorite cross country workout? Favorite long run? Favorite track invitational? Favorite track event? Favorite track workout? Favorite team (could be XC or TF) tradition? Favorite free time activity? 

My favorite cross country course is either Mt. Sac or the Palos Verdes invite course, which has a hill named "Agony Hill." During the summer, at a Big Bear training camp, we run something know as the "Big Guy Challenge" on the last day before leaving. The run consists of eight miles of hilly death. However, finishing it is one of the most satisfying things ever.

For long runs, there is a cool run that leads to a waterfall which is always cool to see. My favorite track invitational is definitely Mt. Sac Relays and Arcadia. My favorite track event is the 3200, but I take every opportunity to run the 4x400 at league meets because of how fun they are. There isn't really a track workout that I prefer over the other; I just like them all! As for traditions, there is an area near our school in the canyon that have these really long and dark tunnels. It gets to a point where you can't see light on either side. We all go through it in a line at least once a season.

It's pretty tight so we basically have to be on all fours. As sketchy as it can sometimes be, it's a lot of fun, especially as we watch the freshmen do it for the first time. I love playing volleyball, playing ultimate frisbee, working for, playing Nintendo and hanging out with friends. 

10) You were a very talented freshman runner. What have you learned from your own experience that you can share with other young talented runners that you feel can help them in the future? 

Training hard is extremely important. However, I find that training smart is just as important, if not more important. I can't tell you how many times I've witnessed people train really hard early in the offseason, just to have one decent race on the first or second race and then become too tired to be competitive in the late season. My coaches strategy every year is to have us peak at the right time.

When looking for colleges, ask yourself if you would want to go there, even if you didn't run. Season-ending injuries happen so easily, so try to find a school that you don't just love for its running program. 

This is why we tend to start our speed workouts later in the season. To any freshman, experienced or not, run because you love it and run with people that make you love it even more. Take advantage of the people around you because without all of the help I have been given, I know that I wouldn't be as competitive as I am and I truly thankful for those people. When looking for colleges, ask yourself if you would want to go there, even if you didn't run. Season-ending injuries happen so easily, so try to find a school that you don't just love for its running program. 

11) How much will running be a factor when it comes to your college decision? Have you been able to narrow your list of choices to a manageable number? What will other factors go into making your decision? 

It will be a decently large factor. My main goal is to find the perfect balance of athletics and academics. I have brought my list of schools down to about 4-5. I want a school with good vibes and less than 10,000 people in it. Hopefully, I will share more about where I'm going soon! :)

Thank you very much for your time, Joaquin!