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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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!