There’s No Place Like Home

Back to Jersey

I’ll admit it, I was not tapping my ruby slippers together trying to get back home.  I loved Syracuse and I felt like it was home for the past five years. I once heard my college coach describe it as a difference between “home people” and “here (Syracuse) people”: people who went home on weekends and stayed home for all of winter, spring, and summer break, and people who stayed on campus the whole semester and breaks, or at least always came back early. I was a here person. I saw my parents every time I raced and visited home occasionally, but visiting was all it was because I lived in Syracuse. So once I got the opportunity to run with the NJNYTC, returning to New Jersey was actually new!

It’s been a month since I moved back to my parents’ house and, believe it or not, I’m actually really loving it for the moment. Part of that could be that I’m done with school, I haven’t started my job yet, and all that’s on my daily agenda is to run. And though my parents don’t love losing half of the garage and basement to my hoarding habit, they’re thrilled I’m here for the time being too.

Roxbury High School

I’ve stayed close with my high school coaches, and one of them is still the head coach at Roxbury so I had been able to stop by when I visited home. I planned on just stopping by for their first day of pre-season practice to say hello and get a look at the team, but got wrapped into a little bit more. Turns out the boys team was going the same pace and distance I needed for the day. I took them out on a nice hill run that was a staple workout when I was in high school. Going back to my roots got me hooked. I’ve always wanted to coach when I become a teacher some day after my competitive running career. For right now (as I said, no school, work hasn’t started yet, and I’m living at home) volunteering to help out my high school coach is a nice addition to running on my daily agenda.

The more I spend time with the team, the more I am finding myself invested in their success. Of course, because it’s Roxbury, I have always wanted to see them do well. But the more I see them grow, I see how much potential they have and I feel the same way about it that I expressed in my post about camp: I want to help them see the awesome things that running can be for them if they put the work in. In the next month I’ll be starting my job and moving, but I really want to make it to some of their meets and follow their progress. It makes me pretty excited for when I become the coach of my own team.

A New Home

Speaking of my own team, I had my first workout with a couple teammates. I had done some workouts on my own this summer, and there were still only a few of us, but it was the start of something. It felt good, and I’m excited about getting started. The whole day, in fact, was about getting started. First, my job became official and I had a meeting to find out more details about what I’m going to be doing. Then I drove through the apartment complex I’ll be living in. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see inside because the office was closed, but I got a good feel for the area. I finished the day with that workout. All of it just a preview of my future life, but the preview looks good to me!

Also, I got to rock my Rogas, Lesko bra and Flyte tank for the workout!
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Run Love

When I was in high school, running camp was the highlight of my summer.  As a younger kid, I never went to day camp or sleep away camp, and I can’t say I ever really wanted to.  But when my teammates showed up to practice at the end of my freshman year spring season with applications for all of us to go to Running Works I was all in. That year had been my introduction to the awesome things running could be for me (check out my first post for the start of that year). I was anxious to do anything that would make running more a part of my life. That August, we headed up to the Poconos for a week of incredible trails, great coaching, a lot of new friends, and amazing memories.

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High school teammates and me at camp

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I continued going to Running Works each summer until I graduated high school, when I was pretty upset that I was too old. Then last summer I got the opportunity to go back to camp, as a counselor. I ran into some of my old counselors out in Oregon at the Olympic Trials and the next thing I knew I was on my way back to the Poconos. Being a counselor is just as fun, if not more, than being a camper. I’ve said it before about my college teammates and about the Oiselle women, but it is just really cool to be surrounded by so many people that are so passionate about the sport.

I think that is a big reason why I want to be a high school coach some day. Of course, I’d like to use the education degrees that I worked on for five years and therefore the high school level makes the most sense, but I also think high school is such an important time for young athletes to be inspired. My college coaches played a major role in my running career, but I wouldn’t have even gotten to them if I hadn’t had my high school experience.

Roxbury and the neighboring towns are even fortunate enough to have youth track programs. I was a volunteer coach for Roxbury’s youth team when I was in high school and it was a great low key way to introduce younger kids to track and field. So between volunteering in town years ago, and being a running camp counselor recently, I feel like I get so excited to show young athletes what the running lifestyle could be for them if they love it enough to put in the hard work.

In less than a week I will be heading back to the Poconos once again. I’m excited to see (and hopefully be part of inspiring) young runners getting started on their journeys, dreaming big about what running will be for them.

Race Day

I wrote this for a class last semester.  I reread it before my first race this season.  Now, sitting alone in my hotel room anticipating the NCAA indoor championship 3k that I will race tonight, I wanted to take it out and read it again.  A lot of people ask me if I get nervous for races, and answering that question was not my intention in writing this, but it is the best answer I have.

One week into my freshman year at Roxbury High School I found myself on a bus, at night, on my way to a cross country meet.  It was at Randolph High School, my town’s biggest rival, and it was going to be huge with great teams from all over New Jersey and New York.  It was the Twilight Meet and my first serious competition as a runner. 
I had past experiences with cross country, but they were nothing compared to my new teammates. I found myself surrounded by ex-Junior Olympic competitors who had been running in big arenas since they were five.  I, on the other hand, had a much different start to my running career. 
I can attribute my introduction to running to my dad, who began running shortly after I was born to get in shape, and ended up falling in love with it.  Being the daddy’s girl I was (and still am), I wanted to do everything just like him.  So at age nine, I ran my first 5k road race with him: The Hangover Run.  The nine-year-old that I was had no idea what the name of this race implied, but I had gone to watch him on New Year’s Day for as long as I could remember and now it was my turn.  I loved the rush, the people cheering, and the attention I got for being a tiny little girl running a big long race. 
I joined the town track team that spring, but I hated it!  The cool kids played soccer anyway.  It was not until four years later that I found myself intentionally getting in trouble at soccer practice so that I was told to run laps that I realized I should give running another try.  And that’s when I fell in love. 
Eventually my love of running lead me to that bus ride, nodding my head the All American Rejects playing in my ear buds while I looked around at my new teammates.  Some of the other girls were old pros and they were going to represent Roxbury in the varsity race of the season opener.  As I sat on that bus, the one thing that kept me calm was knowing that I would not.  I was not a pro and therefore I would be warming up with a JV race that night.  The course was a 3k instead of 5k, and my score would have no impact on how the team placed.  No pressure.
Until there was pressure.  There I was, scrawny fourteen-year-old in a pink Lake George sweat suit I had gotten on vacation that summer, lacing up my shoes and getting ready to warm up for the JV race, when my coach decided I could handle the extra 2k.  To her, no big deal.  To me, time to panic.
All of a sudden my face felt flushed, my hands, which had been cold on that fall night, suddenly started sweat, and the sound of the music that had been playing at the finish line was replaced by the sound of my own beating heart.  What did she mean I was in the varsity race? Was she crazy?
I ran and found my parents to tell them they would have to wait another hour to watch me run.  They were proud and excited for me, but I cannot say the same for myself.  All that I felt was dread.  What if I mess up for the team?  What if everyone here sees me come in last place?  I couldn’t control my shaking body as I walked back to my team’s tent. 
It was then that I ran into Ali, a senior on the team and one of our top two runners.  I looked up to her so much and I wished I would eventually be as good as she was.  “Just relax,” she told me. “You’ll be fine.” She tried to give me a heart-felt pep talk about having confidence and keeping it fun, but it didn’t work.  I found no comfort.  I tried to tell my coach I couldn’t do it.  I tried to convince her that she was making a big mistake.  She wouldn’t hear it.  She had faith.  I tried to tell myself I could always drop out if it was that bad, but then I thought that might be even more embarrassing.  I knew I wasn’t getting out of this.  I jogged my warm-up with the rest of the team, but I did not engage in their light-hearted conversations and laughter.  I was completely silent as every possible bad outcome ran through my head.  We finished jogging, stretched, and marched to the starting line.
Finally, it was race time.  Time to sink or swim.  I stood with my team at the line on that dark night, under the spotlights, staring at the man with the gun in the middle of the field.  The warning whistle rang through my ears and I knew it would soon be time to go.  However, those next five minutes were agonizingly long; something that I have come to learn is a characteristic of all races.  I never wanted to feel like that again.
Arms out. “On your mark!” Why am I sweating so much? Stop shaking. Arms up. “Runners set!” Deep breath, keep it together. BANG!  With a puff of smoke and the sound of the gun, we were off.  My first of many serious races was underway.  Three miles went by in a flash as the adrenalin ran through me.  Now with two-hundred meters to go, every muscle in my body was burning as I saw the finish line getting closer and closer. One-hundred meters.  Fifty meters. Done. 
I had done it. I finished the race.  I didn’t pass out or spontaneously combust.  And I didn’t come in last place!  In fact, I had fun.  I felt the rush that I had four years earlier, and I knew that it was a feeling I wanted to have over and over again.  I chose to swim.
Eight years later, I think about how my life would be different if I sank.  Running gave me the friends that I am closest with today.  It made me decide where to go to college.  It changed my career plans from high school teacher to high school teacher and coach.  It made me decide to put off those career plans while I fulfill my dream of being a professional athlete.  It will always have a major place in my life, and all of those things might be different if I gave up that day.
In those eight years, I have learned to love the sweating palms, the increased heart rate, and the smell of sweat in the crisp autumn air.  Those things changed from meaning anxiety and fear to meaning anxiousness and confidence.  Those things mean it is race day.