Monday, July 23, 2012

Pressing on...Club Nationals Update

(2nd Place Women's Club Team)
The last few weeks have been pretty busy for me but right now I am starting my downtime from running so I can finally update you on what has been going on. I will start with my trip to Omaha, NE for the USATF Club National Championships.
The weekend after the Olympic Trials I was back on a plane traveling to Omaha, NE. I would lie if I told you I was thrilled to be going. My body and mind were tired but I knew once I got around my teammates it would be a fun trip. I was set to leave Thursday and upon waking had a voicemail from American Airlines stating I had been moved to a different flight due to a delay. After an hour of phone calls and getting bumped around from flight to flight I finally was set to fly out and arrive at 11:30pm the day before the meet. Luckily there weren’t any other problems and I arrived in Omaha and made it to the hotel around midnight.
The time difference made it tough for me to fall asleep but I eventually did and slept in as long as I could. I decided to do an easy two mile shake out and was unpleasantly surprised by the heat. It was already in the 90s and it was only 10:30am. I stayed indoors in the wonderful air conditioning then headed to the track that afternoon.
After the Olympic Trials the last thing I wanted to do was run another steeple chase. My body was tired, my right Achilles was very sore and my left knee was causing me a lot of pain. I had run a lot of steeples throughout the season and I could tell my body was in need of a break. Originally I was going to race the 1500m, 5k and one relay but after talking with some of the Club Members I could tell they really wanted me to do the steeple.
(Club National Steeple)
I had until an hour before the race to decide whether I was going to scratch or not and then last minute I decided to race. My teammates were very supportive of my decision not to race, they knew what a tough season I already had had and so I think they were surprised when they saw me lining up to race.
I took it as easy as I could during the race but in a steeple no matter how easy you run you still have to jump 35 times (7 of those through the water pit) and this is not easy on your body. It was extremely hot, 100+ degrees, maybe even hotter with the heat coming off the track. On my warm up run I had put ice bags under my hat, ice in my sports bra and had wet my shirt all in an attempt to keep my core temperature down. It helped some but within a few minutes the ice was melted and I was roasting!
This whole season I have been very focused on the steeple. I know the splits I need to be at to run certain times. During this steeple I did not want to hear any of my splits, I only wanted to run for the win and the 10 points for my team. I normally do not like tracks where the water jump is on the outside. I am not sure why, maybe because I rarely do them but I was happy to see that the water jump in Omaha was on the outside. This meant my splits would be completely different than what I was used to so I would not “know” exactly where I was at in comparison to my PR.
(1500m pack at Club Nationals)
I ran really smooth over the barriers and won the race. I ran a time that was a lot slower than what I had been running all year but it did not matter. Even though I did not run that fast I was still tired. The heat and travel were definitely not helping. An hour later I ran the 1500m. I ended up getting 6th and again it was a tough race for me. My legs just would not turn over. I was not loading up or breathing too hard but I felt like I just could not run.
(With my good friend Jane Larson as we try to cool off post race)
That night I got a good dinner and went to sleep only to lie in bed for hours with sleep evading me. I had the 5000m in the morning and I think I dozed off around 3 or 4am. When my alarm went off I had maybe rested for 3-4 hours. My teammate Jane and I had a race plan to try and switch off leads every 1km. We had never done anything like this and figured it would be fun and a way to help each other out. Leading up to the race I knew the originally pacing plan was going to be too fast. We decided to slow it down but when the race started found ourselves going even slower than that. I was exhausted at the start. I managed to get 4th place. Our team went 1-4. I just made sure no other teams passed me so we could get the max number of points.
(Feeling the heat in the 5000m)
After the 5k I was at a loss for what had just happened. I felt horrible. I felt like my body could not run. It was just an overall fatigue. I almost started crying and had no idea why. Looking back I know it was due to the long season. This was the first time in a long time I have ever gotten to this point of mental and physical exhaustion. I headed back to the hotel after the race to stay out of the sun. Later in the afternoon I went back to the track and ran the 1200m leg of the Distance Medley Relay. Those were the toughest 3 laps for me but I got through it and our team won the DMR for the second year in a row.
(Women's DMR Champions again!)
(Jane, Will and I showing off our guns)
I was so thankful to be done racing at this meet. Our women’s team managed to get 2nd place! Which I believe is the highest finish for Club Northwest’s women’s team ever. It was great. That night I hung out with my teammates and had a blast getting to know some of them better.
The next morning we got up after very little sleep and headed to the airport. Upon arriving we were informed that we had a plane but no pilots. Their flight last night had been delayed so they had to wait a certain amount of time before they were allowed to fly. This rule makes perfect sense to me but it was really annoying that American Airlines didn’t tell us this before arriving at the airport. We were delayed two hours in Omaha, NE then I was informed that I would have an 8 hour lay over in Texas. This was the straw that broke the camels back and I was ready to cry. I called and called and was put on hold but eventually was put on a flight without an 8 hour layover. Later the gate attendant at the airport managed to get me on the same flight as my teammates to Texas and then on an earlier flight to Seattle. I was very impressed with her especially because of all the work she had to do with an entire flight being delayed so many hours.
(Delayed in the airport)
It felt great to finally get back to Seattle and over the next week I did a lot of sleeping. My last race was set for July 20th in Billings, MT for the Big Sky State Games Montana Mile. All I had to do was hang on for another couple of weeks and then it was time for me to listen to my body and let it rest.
3000m steeplechase: 1500m: 5000m: Distance Medley Relay:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Finally time to Exhale: Update on the Olympic Trials

(Hayward Field)
            Wow. What a journey this year has been. I have not forgotten to update my blog about the Trials but I honestly have been feeling very mentally drained as of late and it has been hard for me to sit down and write. Plus the weekend after the Trials I was traveling to Omaha, NE for the USATF Club Nationals Championships and that was exhausting! But more about that later.
            The whole experience of the Trials was amazing. It wasn’t perfect (i.e. the men’s pole vault competition) but overall it was the best competition I have ever competed at and I am thankful to have been given the opportunity to race. 
(On our way down to Eugene, OR. Levi, Jason, and Scott)
            Levi, Scott (pole vaulter), Jason (pole vaulter), and I drove down to Eugene, OR on Saturday. It was a little more hectic traveling with pole-vaulters as the guys had to carry their poles around trying to find someone who knew where to put them. Each time I travel with pole-vaulters I am reminded how lucky I am to only have to carry my spikes around. Maybe that’s why those guys are so strong? From carrying those bags around everywhere! As they were getting the bags put away Ashton Eaton was on the track getting ready to run his last event of the decathlon, the 1500m. The crowd was going wild and suddenly a huge roar erupted from the stadium. He had just broken the world record! Welcome to Eugene, OR home of the 2012 Olympic Trials. 
(Brooks Goody Bag for the Trials)
            We got checked into our dorms and I headed over to the Brooks house with my brother John, dad and sister to pick up our Olympic Trials “goody bags.” The Brooks house was located right next to the track and was all decked out. Getting my goody bag felt almost like Christmas! It was full of fun Brooks items, sunglasses, Run Eugene T-shirts, a new jacket, new shoes, water bottle, etc. Thank you Brooks for the support! I couldn’t stay visiting long as I had to hurry back to the dorms so I could catch the tail end of dinner.
            Staying at the dorms was great. It was inexpensive (in comparison to local hotels), came with three meals a day, and was located directly next to the track, perfect for a competing athlete. The only downside was the walls did not block out noise very well but that’s why I brought earplugs.
            Sunday morning we headed over to the Brooks Media Breakfast and after that I went for an easy run with some strides at the end. The weather had been off and on rain since we arrived but was warm. I slept well Sunday night and woke up ready to compete. Monday consisted of an easy two mile shake out run in the morning then relaxing. I headed to the track around 3pm and time flew by. I headed out for my warm up and upon returning to the tent was surprised to see them marshaling us into the tent. I noticed some other ladies from my heat continuing their warm up so I did some light drills and extended my time as long as possible until I had to head under the grandstands to await my start. I felt plenty warmed up but looking back if I could change something I would have started my warm up earlier so I could do my regular warm up. It just helps me feel ready mentally and physically.

(Heat two of the women's 3000m steeple)

(Start of the women's steeple)
           It was raining fairly steady but wasn’t cold. The rain wouldn’t bother me. As we got marshaled onto the track I could hear people from each section cheering my name! I didn’t realize how many people I knew were there, so if I didn’t get to thank you in person I am thanking you now for your cheers and support. It really does help.
            The first heat was just finishing up as we stepped onto the track. John told me not to look at the first heat’s results. It wouldn’t make a difference as to how I raced and the less distractions the better. But with the announcer and the screen right in front of me I couldn’t help but see the results. I saw lots of low 9:50’s and knew I would need to be on it and have a good race to make the final.
            My race strategy was to get out to a good position. In too many USA Championship races I have simply put myself in terrible position by going right to the back at the start. This would be o.k. if the races went out really fast but in my past experience, they didn’t. I wanted to get out in 6th-8th position. Maintain that for most of the race then start moving up and work my way into 3rd-5th by the end. If the race was more conservative this would play out in my favor.
            The gun went off and I got out into good position. I was sitting in 7th place with Bridget Franek to my left. I felt relaxed. I got over the hurdles just fine, and then came the first water jump. I do not know what happened but I came up to it to close and pretty much lost all momentum as I hit. I was passed by 3 women on this and now had to fight to work my way back up into position. I never gave up but noticed when 3 laps to go came I did not have another gear to go into. I felt really strong but couldn’t switch gears. Coming off the last 100m I had a very strong kick and almost caught two women in front of me. I crossed the line in 10:00. A very solid time but knew it was not good enough to get me into the final.
            Looking back I think this race was one where I should have hung back a little. Hind sight is always 20/20 and sometimes you have to go for it and see what you can do. I am not upset that I put myself in position to have a big PR but it is disappointing when your plans don’t play out the way you want them to.  
(Great support crew)
            I walked off the track and through the media zone then sat down in the recovery tent to watch John race. The whole time the rain was getting worse and I knew Levi would be up soon to pole vault. I honestly figured they would postpone or cancel the men’s vault like they did for the women since the conditions for them were atrocious.
(My entire family made the trip)

            I watched my brother John run a very courageous race in the men 3k steeple. He really went for it and put himself in the race. In the end his body gave out on him but his mind never did and that is what matters. He has had a tough year coming back from injury and no matter what other people may think or the doubts he might have I am very proud of him and know he has not even touched on his potential!
            After the men’s steeple I headed out for a light cool down as I was waiting to hear if they were going to do the men’s pole vault. I heard a clap of thunder and saw lightning and figured it was safe to say they would be postponed especially since I hadn’t heard any announcements of the event. Little did I know how wrong I was. As I ran around the cemetery lots of emotions came to me. Happiness, disappointment, thankfulness, doubt, eagerness, and optimism. After so much focus over the last year on this race, on this one event, it was over. Now what?
            I headed back into the stadium and heard an announcement about a 3rd attempt. What?!! I raced over to my athlete seating hoping I did not miss Levi’s jumps. I found my dad and sister and asked them if they had seen how Levi was doing. They hadn’t seen him jump yet. But weren’t sure if they missed it as the announcers weren’t announcing the pole vault very well. I searched the infield for Levi and finally saw him, sitting down, helmet off, spikes off. He was out. My brother Josh was sitting in a different section and had a better view of the event and informed me Levi did not make it into the finals. I was crushed for him.
            The event was over in roughly 30 minutes for the men’s pole vault. Levi came to the stands to find me and I was surprised how well he was taking everything. He definitely has the heart of a champion. He was disappointed with the situation but felt he did everything he could in the conditions. Levi told me he decided to come in at the opening height of 5.30 (17’4.5”). It was raining hard but he figured it might get worse so coming in lower might be easier. Turns out the rain stopped for the next height and had he waited he would have had better conditions to vault. During the warm ups men were getting stood up, rejected, and doing a lot of run-throughs. A lot of the elite vaulters were yelling to the officials to stop the event. It wasn’t safe. Brad Walker was trying to get the head official down to the field but the men were ignored. Where the women were given a choice as to vault or not the men had no voice. At one point a stray javelin even landed in their tent causing the men to dive out of harm’s way. Levi vaults with an open grip and this proved detrimental in the rainy conditions. He kept his pole under the tent as dry as possible, put a ton of chalk on his hands, but the moment he stepped onto the runway his chalked washed off his back hand and it was very difficult to hold on. He planted and took every jump which a lot of men were not even taking their jumps when it was their turn to do so as they couldn’t even see the box at the end of the runway. Levi has guts and he showed it. His first attempt he barely touched the bar with his chest and it fell off. He was so close. All he had to do was make a bar and he would have made the final because they didn’t even get enough men to advance to the finals and have a full field. It was very heartbreaking to watch some of the pole-vaulters who had worked so hard for the opportunity to make the Olympics to feel like they weren’t even given a fair chance. I saw men crying as their dreams were crushed. I had a fair opportunity to compete and make the final and after witnessing the pole-vaulters situation it made me a lot less disappointed about my situation.
(Playing with the rock near the Dux Bistro)
            The rest of the week we watched the track meet and were able to witness some amazing performances. On Thursday night I watched the very last throw of the discus competition sail to an A standard and make an Olympic dream come true. I watched a women lay her heart on the line and lean to an A standard in the 5000m barely beating the 4th place finisher. One woman’s dreams came true the other was left devastated. The men’s 5000m showed a gutsy performance by Galen Rupp who broke the Olympic Trials 5000m record set in 1972 by Steve Prefontaine and out kicked Bernard Lagat.

(Relaxing in Athlete Hospitality)
            We relaxed, took advantage of the amazing PT’s and massage therapists available, played games in the athlete hospitality and ate lots of good food. My running was pretty low after my race. The next day I went out for an easy 4 mile run and felt terrible. Wednesday I took the day off. Thursday I managed to run for an hour and Friday I attempted to do a light tempo run but cut it short as my body felt awful. Saturday after getting back to Seattle I headed out for a run. I made it 1 minute out and turned around and came home. This is very unlike me. Sunday I was able to run a medium long run and by Monday my brain and body were starting to come around again. 
           It was amazing to see how much the emotional strain of such a big event can make you feel completely depleted. After being in the dorms for a 7 nights it felt great to get back home. I still feel like I am catching up on rest from the big event but it was worth it. Even though I did not make my ultimate goal of getting into the steeple final I made it to the Trials. It took a lot of sacrifices, help from friends and family, and there were many ups and downs throughout the season but looking back I would not change it for the world. I am very thankful to have been given the opportunity because you do not know what the future may hold.
(Levi and I at the end of this journey)
            I cannot say what my plans are for the future. I will take it a day at a time. I plan to continue to compete and push my body to new levels but if God decides to take my life in another direction I will be ready to pursue that with all my heart.
            Right now if I were to tell you where I would be in 4 years it would be at the 2016 Olympic Trials, maybe with a kid or two, but each day is a gift and the future a mystery so seize every opportunity because you do not know what lies ahead.

***I want to thank Club Northwest, Ruth Hesse at Wallingford Massage Studio, Brooks ID, InHealth Chiropractic, Sports Reaction Center, Powerbar, my friends and family for their amazing support and for always believing, and God for the gifts I have been given.