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!
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.
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.