The best cross country season of my life so far ended Friday in a slightly depressing way.
To put it lightly, regionals did not go as expected for the team.
We were expected to be in the mix to qualify for NCAA Division 1 Nationals in Terre Haute by finishing as one of the top two teams at regionals. Unfortunately, we completely fell apart as a team and finished ninth. Individually, I had a decent race. It wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t that bad. Life is weird.
I’d been experiencing progressively worse piriformis and adductor pain in my right leg to the point where it hurt to sit down, but I got through the race okay. But I’m getting ahead of myself!
We left on Wednesday evening after dinner and arrived at the hotel around 8:30 pm. On Thursday morning, we ate breakfast and headed to the course to pre-meet (5 miles, drills, strides, and a rope stretch). It was then that the pain in my piriformis and adductor started really bothering me. We ran the course, and I think I was overcompensating during that run and the strides that followed, because afterwards I was in a fair amount of pain.
On Friday morning, we completed our ten-minute shakeout at 7 am, followed by a rope stretch and breakfast. Of course I had the typical oatmeal, almond butter, banana, and yogurt, along with black tea.
It was in the sixties and sunny when we got to the course around 9:30. I was excited, nervous about the left side pain, and really, really hoping we would make nationals.
We warmed up for 20 minutes, completed our drills, and headed to the line and did strides. This was the same course that I died on back in September, so I felt a bit apprehensive when the sun started blazing like it did that day. It wasn’t quite as warm, but the temperatures were still unseasonably hot for this time of year!
The gun went off, and I got out badly, not gonna lie. I found myself at the back of the giant pack, but I figured that would happen, so I just tried to get into a rhythm. The first steep downhill-uphill rollercoaster jarred my piriformis/adductor…ouch.
3k through 5k were pretty rough for me, and my legs just felt dead. There’s a giant horrible hill at 4k that seemingly never ends and killed me in September, and I hit that hill with the goal of just trying to get over it. Which I did, yay! But that’s when I saw a couple of my teammates up ahead struggling. That’s also when I figured we weren’t going to make nationals as a team.
I hit the 5k mark in 119th place after losing ten spots and slowing significantly on the hilly middle portion, and I knew I had to rally and have a good last kilometer. My headband fell off 800 meters from the finish (oops), I hit the creek and struggled up the crazy last hill, and threw myself into the final straightaway. At this point, all thoughts of my piriformis had flown from my mind.
That straightaway is about 500 meters long, so at that point in the race, there’s still time to do some work. I found myself running progressively stronger as I neared the finish line, and passed a fair amount of people. I finished in 113th place in 22:38.
After finding out that we had not done well as a team, we took awhile to group back up (some people were struggling with medical issues; our top runner had to get an IV). Our cool down was sad. Afterwards, we watched the men’s 10k; our guys had a solid race and placed higher than their ranking with a very small time spread!
Our top runner was the first one out from qualifying individually for NCAAs, but we learned yesterday that she’d received one of the two at-large bids given out to the entire country! No one deserves it more.
This was definitely not the way we were hoping to end our season, but it’s time to support our teammate at Nationals, take our break, and then refocus for the track season. I’ll do a cross country reflection and track goals post soon.