Thursday, June 21, 2012

Given a Chance (Part 2)

           After finding peace in my situation and being o.k. with either outcome I received an email that ended the waiting game. The woman who had been injured informed me that she would not be racing at the Trials. I knew how hard this decision must have been for her. While it was a very difficult decision for her, she felt that those that were healthy and ready to race should be allowed the opportunity to run. Wow. That was impressive. It was a bitter sweet situation to be in because obviously I was ecstatic to be able to race yet my heart went out to the injured runner. She worked very hard to get a spot in the Trials and now that dream for her had come to an end while allowing my dream of racing to come true.
            After hearing the news I called my parents and let them know that I should be in. It isn’t a guarantee until I see my name with the words “accepted” after it but I am in the top 24 and the woman’s track and field chair informed me they would be taking 24 to the Trials. My dad was thrilled and told me he never said a word about my thinking I was out. He told me he knew all along that I would get in. He just had that feeling.
            John was happy to hear the news and pretty much had the same feelings as my dad. They had the faith when mine waivered. I received this text from John, “Why do you run? Remember life is the content not the context. I run because I love to run. Now it would be a blast to run in the context of the Olympic Trials but the content is still simply running. So if I get bumped from the Trials the context is different but life’s content is still there and there’s real joy to be had in that.”
            I now have a renewed energy and feel very blessed yet ready to compete. My training has been going great and for the first time at a Championship meet I feel I am coming into it peaking at the right moment. I am not afraid of my competition or intimidated that this is the Olympic Trials. This is yet another chance for me to do my best and lay my heart out on the track. This is a reward for all the days and hours of practice I have put into getting to this meet. I ran my first 5k in the 4th grade and every day and every year since has been shaping and preparing me for this race.
            I was looking at some of my old blogs and came across one that applies exactly to this situation. I wrote it February 2nd, 2011 and it had nothing to do with not making it into a big meet or running a PR or anything. It was just my thoughts about running and it still holds true today and probably will forever.
            “Running is a lot like life. There will be hard times, ups and downs, but it’s up to you with how you deal with those challenges. You can give in when the going gets tough or believe in yourself and believe that there are no limitations to what you can do.
            Often times when I train for months at a time for a big race and then run the race, I find myself reflecting more on the training leading up to the race. Experiencing joy after a successful finish but feeling more proud of the months of preparation that brought me the results. To me, the reward lies in the journey itself. The beauty about running is you can reap these benefits at any point in your life. So it's never too late to start.”
            So when people ask me why I run? I could list hundreds upon hundreds of reasons why but it is a gift and I wouldn't be the person I am today without it. As Steve Prefontaine once said, "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." And I intend to leave it all out there on the track Monday evening.

Out of My Control (Part 1)

(2011 USATF National Championships)
            Well it has been quite the roller coaster for me these past couple of weeks. After the Portland Track Festival I was in the top 24 for the Trials with one week of competition season left. I have never been so in tune with all the races going on around the country in my entire life. At this point things were out of my control so it may have been more stressful for me to follow every steeple result but it also gave me something to do, something to occupy my time.
            Meet after meet the results would come in and I would let out a sigh of relief as I remained in the top 24. Then the day before the absolute last day to qualify my heart sunk a little as I saw the entries for one last steeple race in Texas. A woman with an Olympic Trials A standard in the 10k and a very talented steepler had decided to race the steeple as it seemed the event that she would be the most competitive in. I kept checking online for the results and around 9pm I saw an online forum exclaiming she had gotten in.
            While I am happy for other people to succeed and reach their goals I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t crushed at the news. This put me 25th in the Nation, one spot out of the Olympic Trials. I couldn’t really control my emotions and I definitely shed a few tears. This may sound silly to some but to have something you worked so hard to achieve not come to fruition within the closing hours is tough. I know I was not alone in my feelings. I would bet that 99% of people have “failed” at some goal of theirs in life. Dreams do not come easy but there is great reward in going for them. This is called living.
            At this point I was not 100% out of the Trials. It would all depend on the field size the USATF decided to take and whether or not any women scratched. I knew this but on Saturday night this was not even registering. All I saw was that Saturday morning I was guaranteed a spot in the Trials and by Saturday night I would have to play the agonizing hurry up and wait game. This happened to me in 2009 and I was not too thrilled about the prospect of doing this again.
            To give you a brief background in 2009 I was ranked 24th in the women’s steeple. This would have been the first USATF Championship I competed in and the first National Championship period. I was ecstatic. After being told I was in I was informed they had decided to only take 18 women. Then I was crushed. I ended up going for a run to run through my frustrations, and yes I ran too hard. Later that night I found out I was going to be accepted in. Talk about a roller coaster. Levi and I quickly packed our truck and made the journey to Eugene. It wasn’t much notice but we made it. I definitely did not race my best that day, it also didn’t help that this was the year they left the women’s water barrier at the men's height, but I was happy to be there. 
(2009 USATF National Championships with Kara and Adam Goucher)
            So here I was in the same position, but on a much larger scale. I was only 1.66 seconds off the Automatic qualifying time and .77 of a second out of 24th for the Olympic Trials. I did not sleep very well Saturday night and Sunday morning I was feeling tired but better. I went for an easy run to think about things. John (my coach) was bummed for me but told me to stay focused and train like I had made it because there was still a chance. I knew of a couple women who were battling injuries so there was a chance. I contacted one of them and was surprised with how honest and nice she was about the situation. She told me she would keep me informed and I was very grateful.
            By Monday, I had come to terms with the outcome either way. I was going to the Trials regardless of my competing or not. My husband Levi made it in the pole vault and my brother/coach John made it in the 3000m steeplechase. I couldn’t have been happier for them. I remember feeling so sad Saturday night but praying so hard for them to make it in. I knew how hard they had worked and did not want them to have to go through the same thing as me.
            Thinking of not making it into the Trials made me reflect on how far I have come and I was not disappointed at all. There was nothing more that I could do. After some praying and support from my friends and family I found peace in the situation. And right when that happened everything changed.

Monday, June 11, 2012

On the Bubble

(Starting line of the 3000m Women's Steeple)
           I have wanted to update my blog for awhile but haven’t really been able to compile my thoughts into a coherent document so bare with me while I ramble on. Since Oxy I focused on my training while biding my time to compete in my last steeple before the Trials. I would hear about good meets with good competition and would feel a draw to compete but rushing into races would not set me up for a PR performance so I sat back, biting my nails, following results, all the while training.
            For twelve days my husband Levi, was in California competing at four different pole vault competitions. During this time I had a lot of time to train, nap, read, and watch lots of movies…yes I was a little bored but I managed the time well. While at the Olympic Training Center Levi was able to jump a new PR. He cleared 5.52m (18’1.25”) which puts him tied for 19th right now! I was ecstatic when I heard the news.
            I was finishing up an easy run with my brother Josh. As we were nearing the house we spotted John (my younger brother) on his way out for a run. As he passed by he told me to check my text from Levi. I looked at Josh and said that must be good news. When I got inside I was too nervous to check my phone. I asked Josh if he got a text from Levi knowing if he did it was going to be great news. Josh said yes and as I picked up my phone I heard him yell, 5.52! He got 5.52! I was so proud of Levi thinking he had just punched his ticket to Eugene for the trials. He can still go higher and I can’t wait for his next breakthrough meet where he jumps to his full potential. So long as he stays in the top 24 and so long as the USATF chooses to take 24 vaulters to the Trials I think he can do it in Eugene.
(Levi Keller vaulting at the Olympic Training Center)
(Up and over!)
            When he came back to Seattle I had one week to continue preparing for the Portland Track Festival where I planned to race my last steeple of the season. The week leading up to the meet I had some good workouts but I spent extra time working on the mental side of my game. I studied and diligently took notes from the Sports Psychology text book I am reading and with each day felt more and more prepared to race well.
            Levi and I drove down to Portland Friday through several downpours. When we got to the track I did my pre-meet shakeout run and right when I finished it started pouring again. Lucky day! We ordered some pizza and went back to our hotel and ate it while watching a movie. The next day I woke up, ate breakfast and headed out for my shakeout run. I honestly did not feel good on my shakeout but told myself I would feel better once the day wore on.
            At 1pm we had to check out of our room. My race had been moved from 5:35pm to 7:10pm so I had quite a lot of time to kill. Apparently someone requested that the time of the steeple be moved to a “cooler” time of the evening. They must not have been from the Pacific Northwest because it was cool all day! We headed to Safeway to get some food for lunch, then to Wells Fargo for some banking and then headed to the track. We had brought our futon mattress and laid it down in the back of our pickup truck and were able to rest in the parking lot while we waited. It was actually quite peaceful in my little truck bed. I continued reading my sports psychology book and prepared for my race.
(Our home away from home while we wait the start of the meet)
            When it finally came time to warm up I was ready. Waiting that long can be hard! When I finished my warm up I was told the meet was 12 minutes behind schedule. I didn’t let this bother me. The time came and they lined us up on the starting line. Runners to your mark…oh wait, go ahead do a stride we aren’t ready yet. 15 minutes later we were back on the line. It turns out they were having trouble getting one of the barriers down on the track. The wheels wouldn’t lock in place which wouldn’t be good if someone were to step on the barrier. I could tell some of the women did not like this delay. I felt ready to go even if I had to wait longer. I felt happy, relaxed, yet very focused and sure of my plan. When I feel this way I have good races. I have discovered the perfect amount of nerves that help and don’t hinder my performance.
            When the gun went off I went right into my race plan. The first kilometer do not lead, stay back 2nd-4th position. I was in 6th. I had trouble over a few of the hurdles since I was pushed toward the outside and couldn’t see them well but I was relaxed and conserving energy. The second kilometer, stay on 79’s. Each time I went by my coach I heard him yell 79. Then with 2 laps to go, start my kick and I did. I took the lead and pushed the pace. We had to go if we wanted that 9:55 mark. One girl went right with me. The bell lap I was going all out. Coming into the last water jump I was neck and neck with a girl. She had the inside and had a better water jump than me and came out slightly ahead. But by the last hurdle with just under 100m to go I had caught her. We both were sprinting all out but I wasn’t able to match her and she got me.
(Fast new shoes from Brooks!)
            I ran a PR and a great race. I gave it my all and did the best that I could on the day. It was bitter sweet being so close to the A standard and knowing I could achieve it yet I was just off the mark and now I am left waiting race results across the country to see if I make it in. I am confident if I do make it in that my training is setting me up for a PR at the Trials. For the first time in a long time I am getting to the end of my season feeling sharp and fast. Not fatigued or over raced. I didn’t over race and chase the mark week in and week out which sets me up well for the end of the season but it is risky because I now run the risk of not making it into the Trials.
(When vaulting goes awry)
            It’s funny how things can change so quickly. Before Portland I figured if I could run even one second faster that would get me in the top 24 and thus into the Olympic Trials. I ran 3 seconds faster at Portland, one second off the A standard and am sitting in 24th right now with several other women doing last chance meets this week with hopes of improving their marks. After Levi jumped 5.52m in Chula Vista, CA I was sure he would be in but a few men have squeaked out 5.53m jumps and he has informed me that the USATF might not take a full field. I am hoping this is not the case. 19th-23rd place has jumped 5.52m. If a few guys jump higher, displacing the 5.52m men outside of the top 24 there is a chance the USATF will take a smaller field to the trials. But there is a chance they will take a larger field as well. In 2008 they took 27 men in the vault. But who knows what they are thinking. In my race, I know exactly how many women they will take (assuming less than 24 women get the A standard). If I am 25th even by .000001 of a second it won’t matter. They will take 24.
            So to sum it up, I am on the bubble, Levi is on the bubble, and my brother John is sitting 23rd yes, on the bubble. I have visions of all of us making it and that would probably be an Olympic Trials first. Brother, sister, husband, wife all competing for a spot on the United States Olympic Team.
            I have had my sights set on the Trials for a long time. But I am at peace with my season. I have run numerous PR’s and there is nothing more that I can do and I am o.k. with that. I have no control over the other athletes and what they run but I can rest easy knowing I gave it my all and God willing that will be good enough to get me to Eugene and on the starting line. 

My PR Performance at The Portland Track Festival:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Spotlight on Seattle

          On May 30th, 2012 I was excited to be invited to a "red carpet" event to help support fellow athlete, Norris Frederick, as he trains for the Olympic Trails and the Olympics.The event was very well organized with lots of elite athletes (ranging from Seattle Seahawk players, Seattle Storm, other Olympic Track and Field hopefuls, and more) and other celebrity guests including X Factor Finalist Phillip Lomax. Marketing strategies like this are a great way to bring exposure to our sport and help financially pursue our dreams!

Here is my interview from the event: