The anticipation of a race used to be the most nerve-racking part. I used to feel the panic all the way up to the moment the gun went off, and then a flush of relief and trust in my fitness once the racing had begun. There was nothing I could change about my preparation once things were underway. This past weekend that was a little different. Nothing had changed from my plans to not lead, even though I knew the second heat was probably going to go out slow, but instead of trusting my strength in a longer kick, I was told to trust my speed. I never could have imagined that the race would go as slow as it did for as long as it did. With only a mile to go, we had barely picked it up and it felt like my entire heat was still in one big clump circling the track.
Now normally at this point nerves are no longer a factor. You’re more than two miles in and it is pretty clear that you’re feeling great and you’re on a roll, or you’re feeling awful and you just want to finish. Yes, I felt great, but who wouldn’t at that pace? We were moving much slower than the pace that it took any woman who qualified to get there. It’s hard to tell how you’re going to handle the turnover. I’ve done it before and I knew I was prepared, but when the moment comes, sometimes it’s not that easy. I have had plenty of workouts that got me in a rhythm at a pace slower than I know I am capable of, but the rhythm is hard to break. And when you are surrounded by more than fifteen very capable women, it is impossible to know how everyone else feels and will respond.
So with three and half laps to go I found myself trying to sneak a peek at the scoreboard screen to see how many were still in the pack, but it was too hard to tell. Three laps to go and the pace started to quicken a little bit. Everyone was getting antsy, and as the top ncaa competitor moved to the lead, I was finally able to tell that I was in a pack of five behind her. I knew we were slower than the first heat, so only four of us (in addition to the leader) were moving on to Eugene. Two laps to go and the nerves came flying in. Be patient started repeating in my head. Not yet, I’m trusting my 1500 speed. The pace was seriously quickening at that point. All of us in that pack knew what it meant. Bell lap; it was time to go, but the others knew it too. 300 to go and it finally started to string out a little bit, but I still wasn’t comfortable. I was on the inside of lane one, and a little bit trapped. I felt like I would have a kick, but if I couldn’t get out of there and other runners started to move on the outside I would have been in trouble. Fortunately, I found my opening and with 200 to go I started to take off. I trusted my speed work and it was worth it.
I can’t emphasize enough how blessed I feel. I know that I have worked very hard to accomplish my goals, but it would have been impossible without the support I have had and the opportunities I have been given, first in getting to Syracuse, and then in the five years that I spent here. This race was incredibly important to me because, even though I’m still hoping to get into the USA meet, it gave me one more ncaa race in orange. It took a lot to get here, and I am thrilled that the end of being orange is still just a beginning for me.