Experience

I wish I had gotten this out sooner after my race last week, but I have had an insanely busy school/homework schedule since the day I returned. Anyway, here it is…

I’ve been struggling to come up with a word to describe how I feel about my race last week. I even almost titled this post (Insert descriptive word here).  My immediate reaction was pretty satisfied.  The USATF National Championship is definitely the highest level of competition with the biggest names of any race I’ve been in.  I came in being just off the A standard.  I was happy to be there at all and I was in it; I wasn’t dropped way off the back at any point.  Of course, my time was not very good, but we went out really slow and I came back a lot faster, just not as fast as some of those big names.  I got my first experience with post-collegiate national championships under my belt.

And then I thought about it more.  After the slow first half, I should have been able to come back faster than I have in any race before.  And while I did come back ten seconds fast than my first half in the second half, I figured out that it was the exact same pace as the second half of my previous 1500 and that one started a lot quicker.  I noticed when I talked to people after the race they weren’t sure what to say because they weren’t sure if I would be happy or not,  and it made me upset because I have had races where I was really, really upset and for good reason, but this wasn’t one of them!  But like I said, once I figured out my paces, I realized they were right to react that way.  It wasn’t all that awesome.  I’m on a different level now and I have to be ready to make moves like the ones that would have been necessary to make it to the final in my race.  I don’t think I subconsciously put myself out of it or anything, but I need to hold myself to a higher standard than “getting here” for my happiness with a race.

That being said, I’m still not upset.  I still feel the same as I explained with my initial reaction to the race.  With the week I had waiting until the last minute, continuously refreshing the entry list page, I am very happy to be here as a competitor.  It’s just an awkward feeling to come off of such a high two weeks ago in Eugene, and then be completely underwhelmed now. But now I am looking at it as great experience. Not that I ever sold myself short this year, or didn’t try, but this meet was a goal that I had for my post-collegiate self. Three months ago, when I ran at Stanford in the 5k and Mt. Sac in the 1500, the thought crossed my mind, was briefly mentioned by my coach, yeah I guess I’m kind of close to the standard. But focus was on NCAAs and my last season as a collegiate. I didn’t plan on making it. And then when I ran at Virginia, I thought sure I’ll try to bring my PR down a bit, but I hadn’t completely expected a 4:13, and getting so close to the A made me want to qualify even more. The way I see it now was that I got a taste. I got to see what it was like so that next year I can show up completely on top of my game.

Also, it was a great weekend to make my post-collegiate plans concrete, but that deserves its own post… 🙂

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Hello Des Moines!

Drake and I got off on the wrong foot. The first time we met was at the 2012 NCAA outdoor championships, and it didn’t go well. It was actually one of the worst races of my career and it was pretty embarrassing and confidence shaking. I tend to judge tracks and the cities they’re in based on the race that I had. This was a lot easier to justify in cross country when the course changed depending on where we were. A track is a track. All of them are 400m flat ovals, but I do it anyway. So last night when I found out that I was accepted into the USATF national championships, I decided that Drake and I need to put our differences aside because I have some racing to do! I don’t care where the track is, I am thrilled to have made it. This year I’m stronger, more experienced, and more confident, so I’m ready to meet Drake again.

This is a little new to me, my first race out of the NCAA. I ran at USATF junior nationals as a freshman at Syracuse, but that was different. I had my whole college career ahead of me. My couches are still helping me out a lot with entering and declaring and how to get there. They will still be with me (and our freshmen who are racing in the junior national championships) at the track and I cannot say enough how much I appreciate that. I’ve been pretty anxious lately thinking about how things will change for me as a post-collegiate runner. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by people who are helping me work it out.

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My first trip to USATF nationals as a junior participant--teammates and I with Kara Goucher

More (hopefully good things!) to come from Des Moines soon!

Guest Post! Brianna Nerud: A Freshman at NCAAs

Being at NCAA’s has so far been unlike any competition I’ve ever experienced before. As a freshman, it definitely has to be a different kind of experience than my seasoned teammate, Lauren Penney, of which this will be her last NCAA experience as a collegiate athlete. I’ve had my fair share of racing experiences, as I was fortunate to have a good high school coach and be a part of a nationally ranked high school team, giving me some experience into the world of higher-level competition. Despite being able to compete at high-level competitions in the past, such as the Junior World Championships, being able to compete at the NCAA DI track and field Championships is similar in some ways, but also an entirely different type of experience. I was so happy to qualify for nationals in itself, and being here has definitely taught me some things about collegiate racing, as well as being a lot of fun. Eugene is a great city, being Track Town USA and all, it was inevitable as a tracklete that I would enjoy my time here, but being able to see Hayward Field, let alone being able to race there was extremely exciting and an unforgettable experience. The environment at a collegiate national championship is so uplifting and inspiring, not only being a collegiate runner, but for anyone! Just the energy here is enough to get you excited about running! Being able to witness people who are just like any of us, passionate people trying to achieve their goals, breaking records and winning national championships is enough to inspire anyone in my opinion. As for my race, the 3000m Steeplechase semifinals, it did not go nearly how I had hoped it would. I went into the race feeling a little tired the last couple days, so I guess I was nervous about that, let alone the general nervousness that comes with being a freshman racing at Hayward Field in the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.  I fell off the pack about halfway through the race and I just couldn’t recover to finish in the top five and move on to the finals, missing my goal as I had hoped to qualify for the finals and see what I could do there, but gaining a lot of national championship and general racing, experience. Nevertheless as my coaches and my teammate Lauren told me after my disappointing race, these things happen. This sport is filled with disappointment and joy, but that is the nature of it and that’s why we love it, because the ups and downs are what remind us that there’s always another day to move forward and another opportunity to do what you love, run. Now, as my racing portion of this experience is complete, it is time to focus on another race tonight, Lauren Penney’s! I am so excited to watch her in the 5k tonight because she is one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever seen and one of the best teammates too! She can compete with anyone in that race and I know she will, I just can’t wait to get out there and cheer her on victory!! It has been a pleasure being a guest blogger in Lauren’s blog, and I’m sure her post race entry will be coming soon!!

Moments of Pride: Goodbye NCAA part 2

Recently I filled out an application that asked me what my proudest running moment was.  This was very difficult for me to answer and I left it blank the first couple of times I looked at it.  Finally, I settled on the 2011 NCAA Cross Country Championships (my senior year), giving the following reason:

First, it was my first experience becoming an All-American, and I became the first female cross country All-American at Syracuse University, which is something I’m very proud of.  Second, becoming an All-American had been a goal of mine all season and I think I had one of my more courageous races, going out faster than I ever had to put myself in position to accomplish it.  Third, my coach’s only advice before I got on the line was, “You’ve worked hard for this, it’s time to go have fun,” and it truly was a race that reminded me that I run because it is something I love to do.

I have been saying to anyone who has asked recently that I have gained a lot of confidence and lately I have been getting anxious and excited instead of nervous.  This is true, except for this past Friday.  I have to say, mixed with my excitement was a nervous twinge.  After all, my record with National Championship performances wasn’t the best.  The videos on replay in my head all day kept alternating between my awesome workouts and my miserable feelings at the last two National Championships I had competed in.  And this one had even more pressure, being my last race in Orange and with a couple extra sets of eyes on me as I was approaching my post-collegiate career.

So as I was looking at myself in the mirror, minutes before heading to the track, trying regain the confidence that has helped me so much this past year, I suddenly remembered filling out that application.  I thought to myself this is no different, I have the same All American goal, I know it might go out very hard and I’ll have to put myself in whatever race I’m given, I did it then so why not now?  And that was it.  I suddenly couldn’t help smiling and I was ready to go.

It turned out only the first lap was fast, but still that meant waiting two nerve-racking miles for the break to come.  I put myself in a nice spot, not boxed in just in case the break came early, and not in the mess so I didn’t waste energy just trying to stay on my feet.  When it came, I was prepared.  A lead pack of six broke away, and I was left with four more.  I knew this was my group.  It was a little windy down the back stretch so I knew I didn’t want to be alone.  Then with 1000m to go, the girl leading my pack tripped right in front of me (major congrats to her because she picked herself up and still placed 10th).  From then on I was alone in seventh, but I knew many others were close behind.  I gave it everything I had, and after a great kick from another girl who passed me with 150m to go, I crossed the finish line realizing I had finally done it.  I actually remember trying to count the girls in front of me while coming down the home stretch, and then thinking you idiot, just finish!

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Eighth place; I just got my All American.  I got to stand on the podium and smile for the pictures (I couldn’t stop smiling) and then I got randomly selected for a drug test :/  (Of course being dehydrated from the race it took two hours and four attempts).  But then I got to have dinner with my parents and try to answer the 48 text messages and uncounted Facebook comments and Tweets.  I am so thankful for all of the support that everyone showed.  I spent the rest of the night with Bri, just watching TV in the room all night, taking it all in.  Of course, typical post-race, I couldn’t sleep at all, which wasn’t helped by the constant need for the bathroom after trying so desperately to go earlier.

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Since then everything has been a bit overwhelming, but exciting nonetheless.  The realization that I am no longer in the NCAA, no longer a Syracuse athlete, is taking its time, but the future planning seems to be happening very quickly.  I’ve said it many times before, but it never seems efficient enough to convey how much I mean it, I am so incredibly thankful for my past five years, and I can’t wait to have many more reasons to write in the future.

A Week in Eugene: Goodbye NCAA part 1

Two weeks short of four years ago, I remember staring out the window of the rental car on the two hour ride from Portland to Eugene.  It was my first trip to historic Hayward Field, a chance to compete on the most famous track in the world, at Junior Nationals.  The seven of us making the trip spent the night before huddled in my dorm room watching Without Limits as if we needed more pumping up for the trip.  I remember the whole week like it was yesterday, touring the town, pictures at the track, pictures on Pre’s trail, pictures at Pre’s rock, lunch at Tracktown Pizza.  I remember watching the elite races, being in awe of the speed, talent, and poise. And now I am lucky enough to end my college career with another week in Eugene.

Getting There
Monday morning, our NCAA distance contingent (made up of myself and Bri, one of our freshmen who qualified in the steeple chase) did our pre-race workout. It wasn’t until after my last 200 that coach said, “Hey that was your last workout!” Still being hopeful for USAs, I can’t say that has really hit me yet. That very well could have been my last workout as an NCAA athlete! I feel like I’ve been pointing out “my lasts” constantly. Really weird feeling.
A couple hours later we were heading to the airport. Much different from the regionals trip, everything went as planned. We had a layover in Charlotte, ate a nice dinner and went for a walk in the airport (since I couldn’t really double) and then hopped on the next plane to Portland. Fortunately, I got a good nap on the plane because we arrived in Portland at 11pm (pst). We spent the night in Portland and drove to Eugene Tuesday morning.

Settling In
This was my third trip to Eugene (got to watch the Olympic Trials last year, in addition to Junior Nat’s), but the first time I got a tour of the town from a native duck. My boyfriend’s future roommate is a true Eugene enthusiast, was an excellent tour guide, and provided a very detailed list of things to do and places to go for the week. I have to admit, it’s a pretty cool campus, even past Hayward Field. It’s very green, full of trees, and buzzing with people (I didn’t realize they were still in class).
Later on, Bri and I went for a run on Pre’s trail, and then looped the track for her to see for the first time. The energy in the area is incredibly motivating and I was starting to get really excited for the weekend of races. After that we met up with Donald, the third Orange qualifier in the 110H, for some dinner at the Wild Duck (I recommend the chef’s special Greek mac n cheese!)

Finally, we embraced our true track nerdiness and huddled around my tablet to watch Without Limits. Unfortunately poor internet connection cut the fun short, but we were all still a bit tired from the time change and travels. It was time for a good night’s sleep.

Track Day One
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By Wednesday we were allowed to be at the track. I have to say, they really know how to make you feel important. The facilities are pretty awesome to begin with; there is a three lane warm up track and a big turf field on the south side of the stadium. The turf field was the athlete hospitality area, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that even our three-person orange crew had its own tent! There was also a large tent with tons of snacks and drinks for the competitors. Between this area and the track were all kinds of fan stands set up with souvenirs and tack memorabilia.
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We got these cards with our credentials. They were signed by aspiring runners from a local middle school with good luck wishes and invitations to write them notes of good luck as well! I thought that was so awesome!
We had a nice run together, around the neighborhood a bit and back to Pre’s trail, before I dropped Bri off. Then I did a 90 second pick-up in the graveyard across the street (Yes, track nerds, the one from the movie) and jogged it back in. Walked back to the hotel, quickest shower ever, and walked back to Hayward to get some dinner at Bepe and Giannis, great Italian place right next to the track.
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Then it was back to the track for some men’s steeple prelims and women’s 10k action. It’s super exciting to see that kind of crowd at a track meet!

Pre-Race Day
My pre-race day was also Bri’s actual race day, so the early part was all about her (look forward to a guest post from Bri on being a freshman at NCAAs coming very soon!) Solid breakfast is pretty important for evening races, so we went to the highly recommended Glenwood. After some delicious french toast, we walked back to the hotel for some vegging out. I don’t like to sit here doing nothing but thinking race, race, race forever, so I pulled out some homework and worked on lesson plans (if you’re a teacher check out ldpnonfictionbookclub.wordpress.com). Then it was time for one last run on Pre’s trail, some strides in my spikes (same Victories I’ve worn all year), and pack it in. I made sure I had plenty of time to shower and get back to cheer for Donald and Bri. Donald got the orange ball rolling with an auto qualifier for the final! And Bri made me proud as a true freshman competing with the best. She has three more years to make it to the final and take the NCAA.
I got Bepe and Giannis penne pesto to go, partly because I wanted to see more races and partly because I didn’t want to sit in a restaurant alone. Then I got to see the men’s 10k and the 1500 of the decathlon. Finally, walked back to the Days Inn and watched an episode of The West Wing before calling it a night. I had a big day ahead of me!