Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - What do Russell Wilson, Chris Paul, Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal have in common with 2010 Ketchikan High School graduate Isaac Updike?
Well, like Updike, they are all under contract with Nike.
Updike, 29, said he signed with Nike the morning of Friday’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Eugene, Oregon before he ran in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, as if he didn’t need any more stress for that day.
“Yeah, I was home and took a nap after,” Updike said. “Not a lot was going through my mind when I signed. I was heading for a nap. It was all via email.”
Although Updike finished fifth in the finals in 8:24.72, just missing the top three spots for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, his time was still faster than any of his pre-pandemic races and he has continued to get faster after 2019.
Updike ran an 8:17.74 on April 24 at the same Hayward Field used for the Olympic Trials. It is the fastest American time this season.
Updike and his agent, Stephen Haas, had begun actively searching for sponsors shortly after and were being courted by various entities.
“We had been working the last month or so leading into the trials, really after the race in April, to line some sort of deal up with a sponsorship,” Updike said.
He had the fastest preliminary time in the Olympic Trials 3,000 meter steeplechase with an 8:22.01 and his courtship was about set.
The Nike contract means no more stocking shelves at Fred Meyer or Dicks Sporting Goods, jobs he held to make ends meet while pursuing his track passion.
“Not for a couple years anyway,” Updike said of his pre-contract employment.
One thing the contract definitely won’t change is his humility.
“I will still crash at my brother’s house when I run in Eugene,” he said.
The Nike corporation began in Eugene and it is still the company’s main home base.
“The deal is for two years and an optional third year,” Updike said. “So that will take me through the next Olympic cycle, which is pretty exciting.
The contract has a non-disclosure-agreement concerning financial terms, but just as important are the other aspects of being part of team Nike.
“They will support me and stuff like that,” Updike said. “And they will let me still train under my coach. That was one of the main deciding factors when looking at a couple different companies.”
Aside from a base salary and his same coaches, Updike can expect support with travel and medical expenses and the day-to-day expenses of being an athlete.
“And incentives for running fast times and getting good places and things like that in various meets,” Updike said. “Obviously, the trials and the Olympics are two of the bigger ones.”
Updike will also be able to access the years of Nike’s running science research.
“If you get banged up or you need some very specific gait analysis or some running science they definitely have the resources to help you,” he said. “They have a very good R and D (research and development) side of things and they put a lot of money into having the best gear out there. A lot more than some other companies. So I am excited to be a part of that now. But in terms of day-to-day training and workouts and stuff like that, it is still handled by my coaches Tommy Nohilly and John Trautmann. Nike is just the facilitator in helping me stay healthy and in the right gear.”
Updike said he didn’t think of himself in terms of a product or corporation.
“I think of it as a partnership,” he said. “A lot of it comes down to marketing and that is really what they are paying you for is your brand marketing. You are like a walking billboard in a lot of ways.”
Updike said he was disappointed with his first outing wearing the Nike swoosh.
“It wasn’t really the best showing for my debut in a Nike singlet but I am excited to start working with them,” he said. “I was definitely a little flat. It wasn’t like me toeing the line and thinking I feel flat. I woke up and could tell in my morning shake-out that I was a little tired. Things just didn’t feel right. But at that point there is no sense in worrying about it. You have to push it out of your mind and stick with the plan because at that point you can’t change anything. I tried to stick myself in it and execute our race plan.”
He wanted to be among the top three runners with a lap to go.
“Obviously, I got to that point but had just used a lot more than I should have,” he said. “I was pretty tapped with that one lap to go. I knew that, on any given day, the top three were going to be in that 58-59 second range the last quarter and that’s what ended up happening and I just didn’t have it in my legs.”
Updike had followed the plan of hanging out close enough to respond to any moves being made, but none occurred.
“It was just a really big waiting game,” he said. “But it wasn’t that fast up until to the end. I could tell how I felt versus the time that it was going to be a very tough day for me. Just a lot of will power.”
With 500 meters remaining, Updike had taken a hurdle outside and found himself in the lead and had to “bite the bullet and keep running hard.”
“We were coming up to one lap to go and basically I could tell I didn’t have a kick,” Updike said. “I was tapped out at that point. I was running as hard as I would be able to run.”
Down the back stretch he was passed by race winner Hillary Bor (8:21.34) and runner-up Benard Keter (8:21.81).
Updike was in third coming over the final water jump but was quickly passed by third place finisher Mason Ferlic (8:22.05) and fourth place Daniel Michalski (8:22.54).
“That was the hardest race I have done this season,” Updike said. “And to end up fifth is pretty good for how crappy it felt. In a lot of ways it softens the blow being a little further out than getting out-leaned at the finish for third or something like that. I think that would sting a little more. I don’t think there was a world where I was going to be top three with how I felt yesterday, regardless of how the race went.”
The Nike contract popped up early that morning and they scrambled to get gear. The temperatures had been increasing through the week. He ran harder than most in the preliminaries.
Updike said the flatness he felt wasn’t a caloric deficit or a nutritional issue, more likely was that he had trained at altitude and there is a time-window where your body fatigues.
“Whether it is good stress or bad stress, it is still stress,” he said. “The things that made the race different are all tangible and you can change the equation. It’s not like I don’t know why I felt like this or I’m not sure what happened. I think we know what happened and that’s good. I think the major thing was mis-timing coming down from altitude. There is a little bit of a lethargic state that happens in that one- to two-week range. Generally you want to race a couple days after leaving altitude, or in the two- to three-week range. I knew that was a potential risk with the final on the eight day mark. But again, it is all a learning curve.”
The learning curve begins in a couple weeks in a Sound Running meet at Mt. Sac, California, and Updike will wear a nice new school uniform.
ABOVE - Competitors in the Men’s 3000-meter steeplechase jump over the water hazard Friday, June 25, 2021, during the U.S. Olympic Team Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. (Taylor Balkom/for the Ketchikan Daily News).
BELOW - Isaac Updike and girlfriend Justine Fedronic outside running store Run Hub in Eugene, Oregon, during the Olympic Trials. The couple hold running art by Fedronic that the shop carries. Run Hub supported Updike when he lived in Eugene.