XC Conference Championships 2016

Please pinch me; I’m pretty sure I’m dreaming.

Today was our conference race, and without further ado- We won individually and as a team, and I was the FIFTH scorer.

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I kind of can’t believe it.

We left campus yesterday morning, rode 5 hours in the vans, and pre-meeted the course in the afternoon.  While the course was at a beautiful state park, it was probably one of the hardest courses we’d ever encountered.  Winding, narrow trails with tricky footing, treacherous roots, rolling hills, and a crazy hill at two miles:

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After 5 miles, drills, and strides, we knocked all time goals out of our heads.  I had wanted to break 22, but I forgot all about that and zeroed in on my other goal– top seven.

We went to dinner (I had a lot of bread, bruschetta, and a chicken pesto pasta dish), did a bit of grocery shopping, and headed back to the hotel for the women’s team meeting.  We hadn’t tapered for conferences, with the focus being on regionals in two weeks.  We were expected to win, so our coach told us to use it as a hard effort and “practice” for regionals.  Get out well, settle in, and pack up.

To be honest, I was in a really weird funk the night before the race.  I felt so sad, and I had no interest in racing.  It was weird and unnerving.  I got a pretty good night’s sleep, though, and woke up this morning feeling a little more excited to race.  But I was kind of dreading the course.

We ran a 10-minute shakeout at 7 am, followed by a rope stretch and then breakfast.  I had the usual oatmeal with almond butter, a banana, cinnamon, and nutmeg, along with a vanilla Siggi’s and a splash of coffee.  My stomach was kind of in knots.

We headed to the course and got there about an hour and a half before the race.  It was windy and chilly, but the sights continued to astonish.  I had another half a banana and tri-berry Nuun.  Again we rope stretched and then headed for our warm-up.  Did drills, strides, and headed to the line.

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The gun went off, and I tried to establish my position but got jostled around on the first steep downhill.  I settled in around 35th place and maybe 10th for my team and didn’t really try to pass anyone until the mile mark.  Surprisingly, I found myself moving up really well as we hit some narrow rolling hills.  Just before 3k, I made contact with one of my teammates, and as we passed our coach, she screamed, “Good! You’re in sixth and seventh!”

That’s when I started thinking, “Whoa.  I could do this.”

There was an incredibly steep hill right after the two mile mark, and it sucked the soul right out of most of the runners.  Our coach had told us not to hammer up this hill-just get up and over it to avoid going lactic- and I kept that in mind as we started the ascent.  It hurt a lot.  We finally reached the top to find…more hills!  At this point, I surged on the smaller uphills, and a gap formed between my teammate and me, leaving me solidly in sixth for our team.

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The entire second half of the race, I mostly thought this: “OK, you are in the top seven and you are going to keep this position if it kills you!  Six minutes of pain left!  Suck it up and get to the finish!!”

I hit 5k, and it was hard to believe I had 1k to go.  I passed a few more girls and saw our fifth runner up ahead.  She has breathing issues and looked like she was struggling.  With 500 to go, I passed her up the last hill, willing her to come with me.  We rounded the last turn and shot out onto the finish straightaway.  I didn’t have the best kick today, but it was enough for seventeenth place overall, fifth place for the team, and a time of 22:31. I couldn’t stop smiling after I’d crossed the line.  For this insane course, I was so happy with it.  (My All-American teammate only ran mid-21s.) And I’m going to regionals!!

We only had time for a 20-minute cool down before the awards ceremony.  Afterwards, we packed up, and I headed home with my mom and spent the afternoon going to my brother’s game and gorging myself on food.  My mom is running the Marine Corps Marathon (her first marathon) tomorrow morning, and I’m staying to cheer her on!  I’m supposed to do a 3-5 mile shakeout run tomorrow, so I’ll try to plan my spectating route accordingly!  Then it’s back to campus for me– let’s hope I get on the right train this time.

Today was a great day!  I’m going to regionals!! (Sorry, I know I already said that, but I’m so excited!)  This was a dream that has gotten me through the hard, soul-crushing training cycles since the beginning of the summer, and now it’s starting to come true!

 

 

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