Greetings from the bus, which we’ll be on for another 5-6 hours- team bonding at its best! We’re driving through farm country right now, so at least the views are beautiful 🙂
This morning, my team raced at the Penn State National Invitational at Penn State (go figure). It was our first 6k this year and probably the most competitive meet of our season. Last year, I got a little overwhelmed but still PRed. This year, I was in a funk for the majority of the trip but knew that my training would carry me to a good time.
TL;DR: 21:20 (56-second PR!) and PRed in the 3-mile and 5k en route!
We left campus on Wednesday and stopped on the way to State College for dinner at our head coach’s family’s house. I did some work and listened to music, but to be honest, the bus ride was not fun. I think I was a thundercloud by the time we arrived in State College at 9:30 pm. After getting there, we did a quick nighttime shakeout run while still extremely full of pasta and brownies…nope, just me? Okay, well, I’ve personally never come so close to puking on a run in my life 😅
On Thursday, we ate breakfast in the hotel and headed to the course for our pre-meet. It was windy and cold, but the course was just as beautiful as last year…a golf course with rolling hills, fast, flat grass, and a super-duper fun uphill second half. The leaves on the trees were fiery shades of red and gold.
After the pre-meet (5 miles, drills, strides, and rope stretch), we went to Wegmans for lunch and had our team meeting back at the hotel. Honestly, this season has been rough for our team. 3 of last year’s top 7 runners are down for the count, which is not ideal. Some other people have been working really hard but haven’t been able to put together performances comparable to last year (yet). But we have a lot of depth and positive energy, so we’re chugging along! Our goal was to get out well, pack up, and use our hill strength to pass women in the second half. My personal goal was definitely sub-22, but I wasn’t sure how far sub-22.
We spent the rest of the afternoon napping and relaxing before going to dinner at Olive Garden. Our party of 30 kind of scared the wait staff a little bit…but they were super accommodating and kept giving us breadsticks.
This morning, we went for a 10-minute shakeout at 7 am and then ate breakfast at the hotel. Of course, I had oatmeal with almond butter, a banana, chia seeds, cinnamon, and a plain Siggi’s, as well as a bit of coffee. While I was still feeling a bit thundercloud-y, I was trying hard to convert the negative energy into positive energy for the race. We arrived at the course, warmed up, did drills, freaked out about the long port-a-potty lines, and went to the line to do strides. After a team huddle and some frog jumps, it was go time.
The gun went off, and we all shot down the green. The Penn State start is fast. With 200 women in the field, it was tricky to get out well, especially as the course narrowed at the half mile mark. I came through the mile in 5:24 in about 50th place, with one teammate ahead of me and no idea where the rest of the team was.
The second and third mile were kind of uneventful…they dragged on but also flew by, if that makes any sense. I recognized some of the women around me and just tried to stay mentally tough and alert. I caught up to my teammate right before two miles, which we came through in 11:06. After that, I thought, “Damn, that’s close to my 2-mile PR. I can run really fast today.”
We hit the hills at 2.5 miles, and I got a little boost from my mom screaming on the sidelines. As I passed 3 miles, a coach yelled, “16:55”, and my jaw actually dropped. That sounded really fast to me! I was excited and nervous and felt strong but also like I was about to hit the wall. I think I came through the 5k in about 17:35, which is a PR!
I felt surprisingly strong during the last long hill, but once we got to the top with 500 to go, the wall was hit. Hard. My last 400 meters were not pretty, but I tried as hard as I could and crossed the finish line in 21:20, first for my team, 40th overall, and 56 seconds faster than my PR from last year on the same course.
While some people on the team ran strong individually, most of my teammates were either mildly dissatisfied or strongly displeased with their personal performances. Additionally, our lack of front-runners really hurt us, and we ended up finishing far back in the team standings. Which just lights the fire under us for the rest of the season!
We cooled down during the men’s race, and our men ran pretty well! Afterwards, we rope stretched, spent time with family, enjoyed muffins and other treats made by the wonderful parents, showered, and went to Wegmans to fuel up for the bus ride. I had some dank pumpkin cheesecake because #perdiem. And now we are trapped on the bus for a long time! #sendwater #sendfood #sendhelp
Overall, I’m pleased with my performance today. Usually, I can think of a point in the race where I could have been stronger, or where I gave up mentally or got complacent or scared. I can’t think of a point in today’s race that I’m particularly disappointed with. Of course, I would have loved to finish stronger, both for myself and for my team, but I never really doubted myself today. Or if I did, I was quick to yell at myself, “What are you thinking?? Don’t give up now!”
I think the biggest takeaway for improvement from this trip was my mental state leading up to the race. I let external factors influence my mood, self-perception, and perception and treatment of others. Not horribly so, but enough to be disappointed in myself. Luckily, I was able to compartmentalize because I truly love racing and competing, for myself and for my team. However, running fast is not the only qualification for being a happy person! It’s not even a relevant qualification! So that’s what I’m going to work on for next time 🙂
Our next race is the conference championships in two weeks. Time to rest up, stay on top of schoolwork (that’s kind of taken a backseat…oops), have fun, practice positive self-talk and positive interpersonal talk, and get ready to kick some Colonial booty!
(Also, I just wrote 1,200 words in like 40 minutes…why can’t I get this motivated for schoolwork??)