Thanksgiving and season wrap-up

Happy Monday! aka the time of year when it is finally socially acceptable to listen to Christmas music.  Due to a fire on campus, the power is out as I’m typing this, so there’s a bit of an eerie vibe.  I also realized how woefully unprepared I am for winter when I had to scrape frost off my car this morning using an old Sweet Frog gift card and a wooden spatula.  #nice.

After five days at home, I woke up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to avoid hitting the post-Thanksgiving traffic on the drive back to school.  I didn’t want to leave that early, but I made a pit stop at Starbucks to motivate myself 😉  It ended up being a good choice because the traffic report on the interstate turned completely red later in the day.

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Thanksgiving break was pretty great.  I drove home last Monday after class and got home in time for dinner!  I hadn’t been home since August and was feeling extremely homesick and burnt out on campus.  After a crazy couple years, my family is feeling a little more “settled”, so even though I’ve been out of the house for longer, it felt more like coming home.  On Tuesday, I ran for the first time since regionals- 30 minutes felt decent, but new strength circuits afterwards killed me off and I could hardly walk on Wednesday!  I ran with a friend on the canal on Wednesday, and it was beautiful outside.

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My family went to a local family friend’s house for Thanksgiving like we do almost every year.  This year, there was quite an eclectic gathering of 20 people.  But it somehow all worked! IMG_9789.jpgThere was an incredible amount of food- two turkeys, three kinds of stuffing, two types of mac and cheese, an addictive sweet potato/brown sugar/pecan casserole, cranberry sauce, roasted vegetables, rice, gravy, salad, mashed potatoes, butternut squash and kale casserole, rolls…the works.  And for dessert: chocolate mousse made by yours truly, pumpkin pie made by my pie-connoisseur-brother (he bruleed the top with a blowtorch), homemade whipped cream, apple crisp, and lemon bites.  Additionally, approximately 15 bottles of red wine were consumed.

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Making homemade whipped cream!

Overall, it was a great Thanksgiving.  So much to be thankful for. 🙂  My brother, dad, and I went hiking and rock scrambling on the Billy Goat Trail on Friday and then went out for pho to warm up.

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Part adrenaline junkie, part monkey

On Saturday, I ran six miles with a high school teammate, went to brunch with some friends from high school, took a bath and finally used my jacuzzi jets after a year and a half, and then we had a dinner party with my stepsister and her family.  I made vegan chocolate chip cookies to accommodate all parties, and even the anti-vegan family members thought they were delicious!  (Pretty much just sub a flax egg for regular eggs and coconut oil for butter.)

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Last Sunday, my team had our Team Thanksgiving.  We made food, dressed up, and played ridiculous games per usual…it was a blast 🙂  And the food was delicious!  I made cranberry sauce, chocolate mousse, and a crockpot dish with butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, pecans, and a spiced apple cider glaze.

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I think that about sums up Thanksgiving break!  Honestly, I did not want to come back yesterday, and I felt pretty depressed about the prospect of being back for a few weeks.  I’m not sure why this is happening my junior year (rather than freshman year), but my roommate mentioned that she felt the same way, which was somewhat reassuring.  Even though we’re still homesick and disenchanted (and in my case, 110% broke), we are excited to get back into training, crush finals, and get ready for Christmas!


On another note, I want to briefly recap my break week and plans for transitioning back into training, as well as some goals for the upcoming track season.

Cross country 2017 recap:

  • Ran approximately 1,300 miles (from May 22 to November 10). So I beat last year’s season total by 9 miles!
  • 5 races
  • After a great summer of training (and not doing much else honestly), I arrived on campus feeling fit and ready to go.  I started working out with the top group, and my team felt cohesive and excited for a strong season.  Unfortunately, team-wise, we never got it together and were plagued with injuries, illness, weird circumstances, etc.  It was very demoralizing.
  • Individually, I felt like I really hit my stride in mid-October, right as my team was starting to fall apart.  My race at Penn State pumped me up for CAAs, and I wanted to try to contend for the win!  However, my body started rebelling, and I had a terrible race at CAAs, finishing 19th.  This persisted through regionals (fatigue, nausea, headaches, every run was bad), and by the end of the season, nothing was going well.
  • Interestingly, weight room did not go well this year.  I adore the weight room; lifting has always been fun for me, and I love to push myself (like chin-ups with chains!) and notice my form stay intact when I get tired during a race.  But this season, it just didn’t click.  I felt weak, tired, and did not progress in the weight room.

SO.  Not the way we wanted to end things, and I’m hungry for so much more.  In retrospect, there were some systematic issues that didn’t work for anyone on the team, and we have had discussions and brainstormed on how to be smarter going forward.


Looking forward to the 2018 track seasons:

After taking ten days off from running, I ran 19 miles and cross trained for 30 minutes last week.  I also completed some new strength circuits that will be incorporated into our training going forward.  20ish minutes of burpees, push-ups, jump squats, etc. left me hobbling around!

I’ve gotten bloodwork done and gone to the doctor to figure out what is wrong with my body.  In addition to the fatigue, my hair has become brittle and thin.  Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten any conclusive answers yet.  Tests for mono, thyroid issues, Lyme disease, anemia, etc. all came back negative.  So we shall see.

Going into track, I’m determined to be smart, listen to my body, and strive for the highest but quietly and humbly put in the work.  This will include:

  • More cross training!  As cross country progressed, I pretty much stopped cross training completely.  Last spring, I couldn’t put together consistent mileage, but cross training left me feeling strong as hell.  While I hope to maintain consistent mileage this season, I want to swim and/or bike at least twice a week.  My mileage might be a little lower, but it’s all about quality and sustainability.
  • Build more explosive power!  I naturally have pretty good speed for a distance runner.  However, my speed has not really developed since coming to college!  I want to incorporate more dynamic explosive exercises into my track training so that the last 400 meters of the 5k are actually impressive. Jumping squats and lunges, burpees, box jumps, and speedwork.  Embrace the pain!
  • Mentality: focus when you need to, relax when you need to, remember that you adore running, and don’t take life too seriously 🙂
  • Yoga!! I did a good job incorporating yoga into my training throughout the summer but definitely slacked in season.  Last spring, some of us would meet for relaxing yoga sessions every Wednesday and Saturday, and I want to restart this!

Already this week, I’m feeling much better than I had been at the end of cross country.  My body seems to have somewhat recovered, and I’ve been running happy.  I have no desire to do anything except easy, maintenance mileage for now, and I’m trying to appreciate every run.  But I still skipped out on doing yoga yesterday.  One step at a time…

 

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Hot, Hilly 5k Race (18:18)

Time for another race report!  If you don’t want to read the whole post, I ran 18:18 on a hot, hilly 5k course, was the third runner for the team, and felt pretty good but there were spots I could have been tougher.

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Anyway.  Two consecutive weekends of hot, hard races make for some tired runners, but our next race is not for three weeks, so we get a bit of a break.  And a nice hard training block 😉

This weekend, we traveled to UVA for the Panorama Farms Invitational.  Panorama Farms is beautiful, with rolling hills, mountains in the distance, hot air balloons in the sky, and a live bluegrass band…but the course is notoriously hellish and hot.  I ran there twice last year- the first time was the worst race experience I have ever had, and the second was regionals.  Not the greatest #mems.

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We left campus yesterday afternoon.  Our van had to stop for a desperate emergency bathroom break 4 miles from the course…we almost made it!  We ran the course (and added on to get to 5 miles), did drills and strides, rope stretched, and had our team meeting.  After that, we went to our hotel, had dinner, went to the grocery store, and prepared for the morning by setting up our flash tats, ribbons, spikes and uniforms, etc.

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This morning, we woke up at 6 am and went for a quick pre-dawn shakeout run before rope stretching and eating breakfast.  My pre-race breakfast: oatmeal, banana, almond butter, chia seeds, plain Greek yogurt, and coffee.

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We headed to the course a little later.  Had a Picky bar and Gatorade.  The men’s race was pushed back before ours to avoid the heat (how is that fair!?), so we watched them start before rope stretching and warming up.

(Our team does a lot of rope stretching.)

After an 18-minute warm-up, drills, and strides, we were soaked in sweat.  It wasn’t actually that hot, but the sun was blazing.  But that was to be expected!  Luckily, throughout the past week, our coach and ourselves put a lot of emphasis on hydration in preparation for this race, so we were all full of water and Gatorade and electrolytes.  Which resulted in 47 bathroom breaks, but at least no one passed out!!

Our goal today was to pack up well.  We were running without our #1, but we had two great workout groups.  The gun went off and we got out well, rocking the new uniforms.  I found myself leading the team for the first 2k in about 20th place, running with women that I had never been near before.  That was pretty cool!

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We started hitting the hills at 2.5k, and two of my teammates passed me on the massive hill at 2 miles.  I lost a few places but kept reminding myself how much better this race was going than last year, which was actually very helpful.  I definitely could have fought better from 3k to 4.5k.  On the last steep hill before the finishing stretch, someone screamed, “YOU EAT HILLS FOR BREAKFAST!” at me.  I looked up and saw our teammate that graduated last year, with whom I spent all summer running.  Seeing her was the best.  I laughed.  (For a millisecond.)

The last 400 meters is one continuous uphill straightaway, and I kicked and caught the girl in front of me.  I soon discovered I had kicked a little too aggressively when I tied up 50 meters from the line and the girl passed me back.  Oh, well.  Crossed the line 18:18 for 25th place overall and third on my team.

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Thanks Mom

After the race, we cooled down for 40 minutes to get to long run mileage (a little under 12 for the day) and then ate pumpkin muffins with upset stomachs.  We’ve done more intelligent things.  I got to briefly see my mom and brother, who had driven the hour and a half down to watch me race, and they brought me fresh vegetables from our CSA along with freshly baked cookies!  It was great to see them for the first time in a month.  My mom also ran a race last weekend- a 20-miler to prep for her upcoming marathon!  She crushed it, finishing second in her age group on a pace that converts to a marathon some 25 minutes faster than she ran last year!

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Takeaways from the race: 1) I am finally starting to believe that I can run “up there” with women that I couldn’t before.  2) Adequate hydration and preparation help to avoid bad heat exhaustion situations 😉 3) I need to work on not getting complacent or mentally giving up on the hardest parts of the course. 4) Our team has depth, yo!  We had the smallest time spread from 1-5 and 1-7 out of all the teams at the invitational.  We had eight runners across the line before any other team had seven.  Even without our #1, and with a girl from our top 5 DNFing due to an asthma attack, we still got fourth overall.  Not. bad.

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Two of our freshmen had amazing in-uniform debuts

I’m either going to get in the pool tomorrow or do a short recovery run.  Looking forward to a solid training block before Penn State, focusing on school (oh yeah, forgot about the fact that it’s #midtermszn), and “not getting too high or too low,” as my coach says.

NCAA D1 Regionals

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.

IMG_0968.JPGI’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.15036212_1218454414910150_586722439243613332_n.jpg

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

6k race (22:16)

Friday was my second 6k ever! And it went really well.

(First 6k ever– a year ago)

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I woke up early, like always, and laid in bed until it was time to shake out at 7:30 am. It was 35 degrees outside- definitely a change from back home!- but it felt really nice. After the shakeout, we rope stretched and ate breakfast before packing up and heading to the course around 9:45. Pre-race breakfast: plain nonfat Fage, oatmeal with a banana and Justin’s almond butter, and a bit of coffee. I also had half of another banana and lemon-lime Nuun closer to race time.

We got to the course, which is on a picturesque golf course, and we rope stretched, warmed up, and did drills and strides. At this point, the temperatures had reached the mid-40s, which actually felt pretty good!

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After a team huddle and stride back, we took off the last of our outer layers and got ready to roll. Honestly, I had a feeling this would be a good day. We had previewed the course multiple times, and while pretty much the entire last mile was uphill, we knew we could do it. After my last race, I had no expectations, and I was feeling a little nervous but also ready to “just run to your fitness level”, as my coach put it.

The gun went off, and I settled in pretty much right away. The plan was to go out relatively conservatively (compared to everyone else) because we knew that it would naturally be fast and we wanted to be able to rally in the second half. The first straightaway was kind of overwhelming, though, with hundreds of women stampeding down the golf course incline into a tight pass. On the first turn, we went from a sprint to almost a dead stop! I kept reminding myself to relax, relax, relax.

The first mile flew by, and it was so downhill that my 5:30something split felt like a 5:50 effort. Even going out in 5:30, I was still in like 150th place. I bunched up with two of my teammates during the second mile, and we came through two miles right over 11:30. Really started trying to pass people as the real hills began.

From 2.5 miles to the finish (6k, or 3.75 miles), there were three pretty intense hills. I dug deep and powered up the first one and told myself I’d be able to recover on the upcoming downhill. That didn’t work too well because I still felt very lactic when I hit the next hill, which was significantly longer, albeit less steep, than the previous one.

The last hill was half a mile long, and it hurt. A lot. Finally made it to the top and rounded the final turn, and we had a quarter mile to go. I kicked with what I had left, and with about 25 meters to go, my teammate (who has a notoriously lethal kick) flew by me. I went with her as much as I could, and we ended up passing a couple other girls before the finish. We finished together in 22:16, which was a 36-second PR for me, a minute PR for her, 5:58 average pace, and converts to an 18:21 5k!

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Happy after big PRs 🙂

Afterwards, we cooled down for about 3 miles, did 4 strides, and cheered on our men’s team, who had a 19-second spread between runners 1-5 over the 5.2 mile race! I downed a vanilla Siggi’s yogurt, rope stretched for a bit, took some pictures, and finally we headed to get food. Stopped at Wegmans for the third time in two days 😉 I treated myself to a pretty amazing post-race meal of a chicken pot pie, sautéed garlic kale, mac and cheese, a cranberry Kombucha, and a Wegmans pumpkin muffin. On point.

Overall, this race was a giant step in the right direction. It was the biggest cross country race I’ve ever participated in (I finished 136th). I’m happy with a PR and know that there’s more in the tank. I’m also thrilled that my teammate and I, who were the two slowest walk-ons entering our freshman year, finished as the seventh and eighth runners for our team!! I think my coach’s philosophy of “we don’t need anyone to run out of their minds. Just run what you are physically capable of” really helped me stay calm and focus on race day.

Now for the not so good news- ended a relationship on Friday night, and the past 1.5 days have been pretty rough.  A veritable rollercoaster of emotion.  Doesn’t help that I’m 100% sleep-deprived.

Summer training week 11: SIXTY MILES + team trip

Happy Sunday!  I hope the past week has been fabulous.  The past three days have been spent with the team during our annual women’s team trip.  I officially hit 60 miles for the first time, got to see almost my entire team,  didn’t have to work too much, and the Olympics began.  It was a pretty good week 🙂

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Summer 2016 week 11 (8/1-8/7):

Monday: AM: 3 miles, sleep deprived but felt good, upper body strength.  PM: 7 miles, drills, strides.  Total = 10
Tuesday: 20 min w/u, fartlek (1:00-1-2-4-8-4-2-1-1 with half-time recovery) around the Mall/Tidal Basin, 15 min c/d.  Felt pretty tired but got through it and the views were AMAZING.  Total = 10
Wednesday:  5 miles easy
Thursday: AM: 7 miles, drills, strides, upper body strength.  New shoes.  PM: 3 miles.  Total = 10
Friday:  20 min w/u, drills, 24 min pace run/tempo on canal with team, 20 min c/d, core.  Felt really strong and controlled, no idea about pace but mentally one of my best tempos.  LOVE being with the team!!  Total = 9
Saturday:  12 miles canal, felt good, pretty relaxed.  Hike later.
Sunday:  AM: yoga class with team.  PM: 4 miles neighborhoods at home.  Legs felt surprisingly good!

Total:  60 miles + hike

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For the most part, this week was awesome!!  The only run that was “eh” was Tuesday’s workout, but the national Mall was beautiful at 6:45 am, so that made up for it.  Switched to new shoes on Thursday.
Friday’s tempo was great- I started out feeling strong and finished feeling strong, staying mentally in it the whole time.  The team looked great and I’m so excited 🙂 Saturday’s long run felt surprisingly good the day after a workout.  Sunday’s yoga class was very rejuvenating and helpful, and my recovery run was good.  And I have officially hit 60 miles for the first time!!
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It was so much fun being with these ladies after not being together all summer!  We worked out together Friday morning, long ran Saturday, each class was in charge of a brunch/dinner/dessert each day (sophomores totally rocked Saturday brunch!), we went hiking, found cute ice cream shops and farmer’s markets, ate insane quantities of peanut butter (just me?), watched the Olympics and 27 Dresses, and had a campfire with lots of s’mores.

There were a few bumps in the road- what else do you expect when you throw together twenty 18-to-22-year-olds that haven’t seen each other all summer- but for the most part, the trip was incredible.  Also needless to say, the house we were staying in did not smell great towards the end.  I don’t think I’ve ever sweat more in my life.  Less than two weeks until we’re back for good!

 

States!!

This is going to be a long post, since I’m recapping three days.

Indoor season is officially over!  We arrived back from our fabulous states trip tired, stuffed, and satisfied.

Day 1:

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Hanging out at a rest stop in the middle of the drive

We left on around noon on Thursday and drove three hours to the meet facility, which was not as nice as the one where our invites, conference, and regional meets were held.  It didn’t have any windows and the air was stuffy and hot.  😦  We went for a 20-minute run down the road next to the facility and then drove to our hotel where we braved the freezing pool.

That night, we went to Olive Garden to carbo-load, even though none of us would be racing for more than two and a half minutes each the next day. (We were running girls’ and boys’ 4x800s.)  Being the typical pig that I am, I devoured a plate of spaghetti and meatballs that was four times as big as my head and probably about 1500 calories.  How do you eat slowly? I finished it in about ten minutes…

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and finished up the t-shirts we’d made.  Our team isn’t exactly well funded (even though we win more meets/championships than any other team at school!!! but let’s save that rant for another day), so our t-shirts were cheap white ones from the crafts store that we’d tie-dyed and Sharpied our names onto the back.  Still authentic, still a team-bonding activity.  We then watched 45 minutes of cat videos before going to bed.  We also took pictures like this:

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We’re the coolest people I know.

Day 2:

Friday was race day, but we weren’t racing until 8 pm (groan), so we had the entire day to waste.  We ate breakfast around 8:30, and I stole some food from the hotel breakfast bar because I have to have PB&J on race day.  It’s a thing.

photo 4-7I spent about an hour and a half working on vocab in order to feel semiproductive, then organized my food stash.  I had quite a collection of snacks.
photo 5-1 Pre-race bananas, post-race banana and Dove dark chocolate, orange, almond butter packets, trail mix, oatmeal, race-day English muffin, PB&J fixin’s, an apple…I also had cheese sticks, Greek yogurt, and Gatorade in the fridge below the counter.  I’m nothing if not prepared with food 😉

Two of my teammates and I went for a walk to the shopping center across the street in order to escape the hotel.  We went to Trader Joe’s, but I didn’t buy anything because I wasn’t so desperate for boysenberry jelly that I would buy a whole jar for one sandwich…

At 4:30, our coach called the four of us racing for a pre-race pep/strategy/let’s-get-serious talk, and I started to have serious nerves.  I’m really not an 800 runner (not because I’m bad at it– I just focus on the mile and two mile instead).  My coach had chosen me for the states relay over my friend who actually does run the 800 because I’d had a better season; I had absolutely no idea what I could run or how to even really race an 800.

We headed over to the track around 5:30 and got there around 6.  We warmed up and checked in, then had a team huddle.  The check-in/pre-race area was in the gym across from the track, so we all had to walk to the track barefoot in order to not scratch up the gym floor.

There were three heats before ours, so we had half an hour more to wait.  I looked around at the other team’s lineups and started internally freaking out when I saw who was running their third legs.  Our team’s lineup is always: 2nd fastest goes first, then 3rd fastest, then 4th fastest, then the fastest girl runs the anchor (meaning I was the third leg).  But some of the other teams had their fastest girl running the third leg, which was a tiny bit terrifying.

The gun went off and my teammate was immediately tripped and almost fell on her face.  Whoops!  After a shaky start, she ran a solid leg and put us in fourth or fifth place.  Our second leg ran phenomenally to put us in a tie for second/third.  I lined up to get the baton, and I realized I was going to get the baton in between two girls who run at the national level.  Eeek!

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In other news, look at my shoulder definition! 😉 Those lifting sessions are paying off.

Since I had no freakin’ clue what an 800 was supposed to feel like, I just tried to stick with the girl in front of me.

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It was fast.

800s are faster than miles and twos.

(Well, duh.  How insightful.)

Anyway, I ran as hard as I could and handed off in fourth place.

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The hand-off wasn’t nearly as awkward as it looks–it’s just that I’m left-handed and she’s right-handed.

My teammate ran a great anchor leg, even though she wasn’t satisified, and we ended up finishing fourth, setting a school indoor record, and recording a US top 20 time!!

Satisfying?  I think yes.  (I also set a 6-second PR, which sounds impressive but remember, I don’t run 800s.)

After the race, we went to yet another pasta restaurant because my teammate (the one pictured above) was also running the next day.  I inhaled yet another giant plate of pasta in 1.56 seconds, and I challenged the boys on my team to an eating contest (but they wouldn’t take it).

Day 3:

One of my teammates and I went for a 15-minute early morning shakeout run to end our season, then came back to the hotel and ate breakfast.  We went back to the track to watch our other teammate race, and she ended up getting second place!!!!  We then hit the road and arrived back home in the evening.

All in all, it was a satisfying, busy weekend, but now I have a ton of homework to do.  I’m now on a ten-day running break, so along with going stir-crazy from exercise deprivation, I’ll try to post about my eating/homework plans for the upcoming week.

MONSTER PR AND RUNNER’S HIGH

As you can probably tell from the title, I have exciting news!! But I’ll get to that. First I have to provide context.

So, because of Tropical Storm Karen, our last scheduled invitational was cancelled last Saturday the 12th. I was disappointed because that’s a fast course and we hadn’t run any fast races yet this season, so I thought my PR would stay where it was (not good) instead of dropping 45 seconds like I thought I could. (Our conference and regional meets are on a not-exactly-speedy 3-mile course, not a 5k course, and the state meet course is slow) 

However, my coaches brought up the idea of entering our girls’ and boys’ varsity teams in an elite invitational scheduled for yesterday. We all agreed and carpooled down to the meet yesterday at 6 am.

We were missing our usual #3 runner, and the two best teams in the state were at the meet (we were 3rd). We knew we had to try extremely hard to make up for her absence and secure that 3rd place spot, or maybe even battle for 2nd.

The gun went off and for probably the first 1200 meters, there was serious pushing and shoving and general aggression going on. The course was fairly narrow, and with over 200 girls trying to get in a good position, it was a war zone. I lost contact with my teammates #4 and #5 but did not let myself freak out too much (I might have muttered a certain profane word that begins with F). Luckily, I channelled some aggression of my own and managed to regain contact with them. I resisted the temptation to look at the clock at the mile mark, and at some point during the second mile, I realized with surprise that I felt awesome. I reached the two mile mark and regained contact with my teammate who had surged ahead of me. We came out of the woods to the sound of probably 400 people cheering, which provided me with a burst of energy. My teammate and I battled it out for the next kilometer, then I surged slightly in front of her with about 800 to go. At this point, we had no idea how our #1 and #2 were doing. The last 500 or so meters were a flat stretch, which was mentally terrible. My teammate put a slight lead on me with about 200 to go, but I managed to stay right behind her. As we kicked it in to the finish, I looked at the clock and realized:

I HAD PR-ED BY 44 SECONDS!!!!!!

After we crossed the line, I was so happy that I didn’t collapse, crawl, and/or put my hands on my knees like I normally do. Instead, we were high-fiving and hugging each other because my teammate, who had finished one second ahead of me, had gotten a 29-second PR. We both felt elated.

We found our #1 and #2 runners and discovered that they had placed 8th and 9th and had both PR-ed as well. We were feeling amazing as a team and were hoping that we had defeated the #2 seeded team, but our 5th runner hadn’t had a great race and we didn’t quite have enough depth to defeat them, especially because their top 2 runners had placed 1st and 2nd. We secured third place by almost 100 points, however, and celebrated with orange slices, bagels, lots of pictures, and a trip to a pretty disgusting diner afterwards!

Overall, I would say that this trip had a great effect on my mental focus. I did exactly what I thought I had the potential to do, and PR-ed by almost more than I could have hoped. This is a great push going into conferences in two weeks. I defeated some girls that I could only dream of defeating last year. And the girls that I was running with last year- well, let’s just say I feel as though I’m on a whole different level this year!

I hope everyone has experienced a runner’s high or the amazing attitude that comes with a fantastic race at some point during their lives. There’s really nothing better ❤

When did cross country become the sport that everyone wants to join?

Yesterday was our first track workout of the season and it certainly was an eye-opener!

I hadn’t really paid attention to the rest of the kids on the team yet this season (bad me, I know) because the varsity team has mostly interacted amongst ourselves and among the other veterans on the team (maybe 20 or 30). So it was definitely time for a reality check. As we were finishing up our daily two-lap warm-up and heading to the stretching circle, a girl in front of me muttered, “there are so many people.” I looked behind me to see… a solid mass of running-clothes-clad teenagers for two hundred meters. Holyyyyyy craaappp.

After stretching, lunges, and wall-sits, Coach told us what our first track workout of the season would be. Sets of 5 min threshold pace, 1 min jog and he’d “pull us off the track when I think you’re done.” I guessed probably five repeats for my normal group of girls (I was right).

We got down to it, and I immediately discovered that running with 10 million kids on the track who don’t really know the meaning of “comfortably hard” = running in lane one, then dodging to lane five, then all the way back past lane one onto the turf and then right through a group of friends running five across in order to keep your pace up. It was the worst experience ever. (Reminds me of my old Girls on the Run 5ks where there would be 50,000 people all starting in the same place.) Also, within five minutes we’d lapped the slowest runners at least twice.

Then, of course, there were those little doe-eyed freshmen who tried to be convenient and helpful and get out of our way. As they heard us coming up behind them (after we’d already mentally mapped out how to get around them), they would dodge dramatically to the side (sometimes turning all the way sideways and running straight out to the sixth or eighth lane)… and directly into us because we were going around them. I appreciate the effort, little James/Jimmy/Joe/Bob, but it would be better if you just stayed where you are.

Finally, Coach started pulling people off the track which cleared up a little bit of space. However, there’s so many of us that it didn’t make that big of a difference to have 20 or 30 kids off the track. And Coach messed up the last two sets so we ended up only doing 4 minutes at threshold pace and 1 minute jog for each of those. It made me a little mad because I felt strong and I had a lot more to give!

Today, Coach told us that there were 110 people on the team. ONE HUNDRED AND TEN!! Out of a school of a little over 2,000, that’s 5 percent of the school! It may not sound like that much, but not a high percentage of the school plays on fall teams. Winter and spring teams are much more popular. Most sports have probably 50 kids. Cross country has 110. And I think I know the reason. Is it because cross country is so freaking fun and everyone wants to put their bodies through pain for an hour and a half every day? I mean, yeah, but…no, that’s probably not the reason a majority of the people joined. Is it because people have seen how much success the girls’ team has had over the past couple years and want bragging rights saying they’re on the most successful girls’ cross country team in school history? Maybe, but our top seven are already determined from last year. Then why is it that there are 40 more people than last year’s team? Because everybody quit field hockey! or wants a bikini body!!!! Seriously. This girl in my grade tweeted a few days ago, “It’s the second day of cross country, why aren’t I skinny yet!??”

KILL YOURSELF PLEASE AND THANK YOU. The point of cross country is not to get a freaking bikini body (although that is a nice lil’ side effect). The point of cross country is to grow mentally and physically stronger and test your limits and learn how to pace yourself and experience a runner’s high and feel exhausted but amazing at the end of a run so that you say to yourself, “Wow. I’m doing things I never thought I could do. I want to continue to do this!!”

Sorry for this extremely long, mildly sarcastic rant of a post. Bye! 🙂