Olympic Trials

I raced at the Olympic Trials this past week and I’ll be blunt and honest; it did not go how I had hoped. In the steeplechase, there are prelims and finals and I didn’t make it to the finals round. I felt relaxed, confident, excited, and the right amount of nervousness before prelims. Strides the day before felt great- my legs were ready to run fast! So what happened? The gun went off, the race started, and after the first 1000 meters I felt like I couldn’t breath. I struggled through the race, trying to make moves up to the front of the pack but my body wouldn’t let me. It was the worst I’ve felt in a race in a long time and I had to dig deep to even finish the 3k. The only thing I remember from the last two laps is the lap counter telling us two laps to go and wondering if I could run two laps without barriers and water jumps (thankfully I made it through). I had been having trouble breathing while I was training in Dallas but I thought it was just hot and humid and I would feel better once I got somewhere cooler with less humidity. That didn’t happen. I’ve had bad races before- everyone does- but this seemed different. After the race, my coach told me that he thought there might be something wrong with me physically like an iron deficiency or exercise-induced asthma so I’m headed back to Dallas to do some testing and figure out what the problem is so I can get back to feeling like myself again.

 

This was a very upsetting race for me because I had been training all year for this specific race. With so much pain in workouts and so much sacrifice and self discipline to do all the “little things” right through the year it was very hard to see things seem to fall apart when they should have been coming together. I’m not going to say that it’s ok and put on a front of fake happiness because I believe it’s ok to have struggles and admit when you’re going through something hard. However, I am going to say that running- like life – is filled with ups and downs and I still believe God has a plan far greater than any one I could imagine. Even when my body fails me, God never will and that is something that gives me great comfort. Yes, these past few days have been rough watching the trials and wishing so badly that I could be there in the finals but thankfully my hope does not lie in my athletic abilities which will eventually fade away, my hope is in a never changing God who loves me because He loves me because He loves me. He created me perfectly and I know that through the ups and downs in this sport He created me to run and I love worshiping Him through that talent. Even though I didn’t feel like myself at all in that race, I gave it everything I possibly could so there’s no way I can be mad at myself or wonder if things could have gone differently if I were a little more head strong or gave a little more effort. It wasn’t a good race by any means but it is a race where I gave 100% and I’m proud of myself for that.

 

For now, I’m choosing to be positive. I know I’m in good shape; my legs are ready to run fast and as soon as I figure out what’s wrong I’ll be back stronger than ever. I am so so thankful to ASICS who has supported me for a full year now. I love this company and have received support to become a stronger runner and a stronger person and I am so thankful to everyone in the ASICS family who has been part of my journey this year. I’m thankful for my coach; I love his training and feel like I am a stronger runner this year and hopefully I can get into some races later on in the summer to prove that. He is also someone who has grown me as a runner and a person and he never fails to remind me to “have fun,” with running (which, of course, I do!). I’m thankful for my parents, sisters, family, friends, and fans of the sport who have given me an overwhelming amount of love and encouragement. I’m blessed to have the best agent, Flynn Sports, to help me out with travel and administrative work that I hate doing (yall make my life 2000 times easier!). I’m thankful for all the doctors and massage therapists (especiallyyyy Dr. Ford and Lee Ferris) who have helped keep me together this year. I feel so blessed to have all these people around me who support and encourage me. Especially in the past couple of weeks, I have felt an insane amount of inspiration from all of you and I can’t express in words how much it has meant to me. I wish my race were a better representation of the amazing support I have but there are other opportunities and I’m going to continue to follow my dreams because of the way each of these people above inspires me. With that being said, it’s time for me to get out there and run the world, thanks for reading 🙂

Michael Johnson Invitational

michael-johnson-invitational-2016

This past weekend I got the chance to race a 1500 at the Michael Johnson Invitational at Baylor. I always have a reason for racing so this week my reason was to get some speed and to get uncomfortable in a fast pace (or at least, fast for me) so that in a steeple, the pace will seem easier and more comfortable even if it goes out a little quick.

 

The week leading up to the race I was feeling strong. At the beginning of the week, I was very confident in my training and where my body was. That week was also my first week of full track workouts so up until then I had been doing good basework and strength workouts. I was excited to get on the track but also nervous because the track doesn’t lie. On roads and trails there are hills, rough terrain, sometimes inaccurate mile markers (or watches that lie), and workouts like fartleks where I’m just trying to push myself and run fast for a certain time without worrying about how far I’m going each interval. The track, however, is flat, perfectly measured, and how I’ll measure myself every race. So I was feeling strong but a little nervous about how fast I would actually be able to run. On Tuesday before the race, I had some 200s and 400s. I hit the paces I was supposed to, but it was harder than I thought it would be. I felt the lactic acid for sure. I was happy I hit the paces but after that workout, I was more nervous about running a shorter race. Thursday I ran some more 400s and felt a lot more controlled and relaxed so after that workout I was feeling more confident. Talking and communicating with my coach was really good for me too; he always reassures me and he was expecting me to feel how I was feeling. He told me we just got on the track and I have to be patient; it’s all a work in progress and I’ll get faster through the season. This week, he said, was about starting track workouts and getting my legs moving with a quick race. Trust the process. Friday I went out to the track for a shake out. My legs were feeling great and my feet loved feeling fast in spikes. I did a couple of strides Saturday morning before the race and felt like my legs were turning over faster than they had in a while so I was pumped to race in the afternoon.

 

I got unusually nervous before this race and when I asked myself why I was so nervous, I realized that the thoughts I mentioned earlier were my thoughts about where I was physically before the race. However, I am human so my emotions were also controlling some of my nervousness. Racing at Baylor for me means racing in front of a home crowd so even though I could just be making it up in my head, I felt that people I knew/people who had followed my college career were expecting things from me and I was putting more pressure on myself to perform because of these expectations. Whether I’m making it up or not, I thought, “People expect me to be fast now and to always be at my peak, no matter what part of the season it is.” In my head, spectators only see a race on the track so they don’t always know the reason behind someone racing and they don’t always know where someone is in their training. Especially in races early on in the season, it can be easy for me to get caught up in the idea that I have to prove I’m super fast when really, that’s not where I’m at training wise. I’ll be there when I need to be and I’m getting closer with each workout but I would much rather peak later on in the summer than mid April. All of these thoughts and emotions are just part of my personality; failure is my biggest fear so having someone think that I “failed” by not PRing or winning a race, even if that’s not even my race goal, is something I instinctively avoid at all costs. That’s a pride thing and I realized that I needed to put my pride down and humble myself before the race because I would be able to run faster and more relaxed if I could free myself from the need to meet other people’s expectations (or the imaginary expectations I made up that other people expected from me). Truthfully, I do want people to expect things from me because it shows they believe in me, I do want to prove that I’m fast because I believe in myself, and I do want to run fast, however I don’t want this wanting-to-prove-myself to come from a place of pride. Running is not my identity. I want to run fast and I will always do my best and give 100% in a race but I don’t want or need to run in pride or to prove to other people that I’m worth something. I don’t want my races to be an argument to other people that I’m a cool person or that I can do things they didn’t think I could; I want to run because I love running, I want to see how far I can push myself, I want to inspire and encourage people, and I want to glorify God with a talent he’s given me. I’m learning to put my pride down and race knowing my goal and my reason for racing because that is what is most important for me and how I’ll measure my success in a race. I had my race goal and my focus for this race, so once I let go of the need to perform for other people I could execute the plan. So without further ado…

 

Thoughts during the race:

 

Get out! Get out! Get out! Ok don’t get boxed in, just run on the outside for a little bit. You’re fine. Inch your way up. Perfect, not leading but up at the front, stay here. This feels fast (400 split called: “67!”). Yup that’s fast for me. It’s ok, you knew this was going to be a fast race. It’s a good pace, stay with it. Oh man, lactic acid lactic acid. Already? Can I even finish this race? Stop it you’re fine, you’re strong you train for this just stay in it. 800, over halfway there (Girl in first drops out). You’re leading now. Whyyyy are you leading? Because I’m fine, I can do this. Relax. It’s a good pace just keep going. Oh my gosh my legs are screaming. One lap to go. Maggie’s passing, it’s ok stay controlled and latch on. This is hard. You can run one lap…. Thought blackout until 200 to go… ok 200 to go don’t kick too soon. Do I even have a kick? Finish hard, just like the last 200 in practice. I’m getting passed. Oh. My. Gosh. My. Legs. They’re starting to feel wobbly. You only have 100 to go look up you can make it. Stay with them and finish the race. 4:22. Nice, you did what you needed to do. Legs still attached? Sweettt we’re good to go!

 

So that concludes my thoughts during the race. I was happy that during the race I focused on myself and not other people’s expectations for me because I was able to execute my race plan and run for the goals I set for myself instead. Thoughts outside of myself were mostly about placement and healthy competition. Internally, I was able to acknowledge what was happening in my body, accept it, and counter most of my negative thoughts. I’ve learned that in races I’ll always have some negative thoughts because running fast is hard and it hurts but the better I become at countering those negative thoughts and putting my focus on something else, the better I’ll be able to race. I can take that into normal people life too. Something I can work on is getting into position and relaxing there. Sometimes I make too many moves early on in a race because I don’t relax in a position when my positioning was fine and I could have saved energy for later on. This race helped me practice relaxing in a position and I know I’ll get more practice and become better at running relaxed in a group over time.

 

All in all, it was a good race. I hope to run faster 1500s later on in the season and I know I will but this race was just what I needed for my first one. It was really fun to race on the Baylor track again and race Maggie (an old teammate and training partner) and see her run really well. After the race, I got to cheer on the Baylor team, catch up with old teammates, and be encouraged by people who came to watch. I didn’t win and I didn’t PR but I reached my goal and achieved my purpose for racing this race, I learned from it, I was encouraged and built up by people who cheered me on, and I got the chance to let go of something that had been a burden for me so now I can get out there and run the world more freely. And now I really get to start running the world! I’m taking everything I have learned and everything I’m working on and headed out to Stanford this weekend to race a fast steeple in a competitive field (race on Sunday covered by Flotrack). Thanks for reading and following along, get out there and run the world! 🙂

“Be” is for Boston

be-is-for-boston

Last weekend marked my first race of the track season and the first stop on my journey in 2016! I was excited for the race in Boston (a 3k at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix) but nervous as to how I would do in it. I knew the race I was entered in was stacked with great competition from around the world so I was excited to be in such a competitive field but also a little nervous. That week marked my first competition and it also marked my first week back fully on the ground since some tendinitis issues. I ran a time trial earlier in the week that didn’t go so well so I was nervous about being strong in a race. Even though the time trial wasn’t great, it gave me the feeling of a faster effort and I started to feel a little quicker as the week went on.

The trip started out well. I drove from Waco to Plano the day before my flight so I got to do some strides at my old high school track, meet some girls on the Plano track team now, and I got to hang out with my parents a bit before I flew out in the morning. Somehow I managed to get the entire row of seats on the plane to myself so the flight was great and I was able to stretch out and not feel so cramped on the plane. I went to the track and shook out right after I got in and then I got to grab dinner and hang out with one of my best friends from college who’s up in Boston for grad school. I got to see her again the next day, race day, and we grabbed coffee and caught up on life for a good amount of the day before I needed to focus and get in the mindset to race. I’m writing in all this detail (my stop in Plano, hanging out with one of my best friends etc) because these are things that helped me so much this past weekend. A runner who is content and at peace is going to be a fast runner and being able to see my friends, family, and run/meet people who are passionate about running at my old track really filled me up and helped me enjoy the journey of the weekend. I was calm for my race because I put myself around people who love and encourage me and I did things that filled me up and helped me relax.

During the race, I felt good the first mile. We didn’t go out at a very fast pace; it was under five minute pace (which was the fastest I had gone since before my injury), but I still felt relaxed and didn’t feel like I was pushing hard to be in the race at that point. After about the first mile, the pace really started to pick up. Mentally, I was still in the race but my body wasn’t ready for the increase in pace so I fell off from the pack. Even though I fell off, I still felt like I was in a race. My mentality is that I won’t back down or quit even if a race gets hard. I got lapped by Meseret Defar on a 200 meter track (she was 25 seconds ahead of everyone so I didn’t feel tooooo bad about that) but I knew that by finishing this race hard and doing my best, I would be ready for even more mentally challenging races ahead. I stayed in the race and my second mile was only five seconds slower than my first so I know that I didn’t back down and I did my best.

Some people might say I had a really bad race but I don’t see it like that. The time was not good, I have run a lot faster than I ran in that race so I’m not going to say that I’m proud of my time or would be stoked to run that time again because I’m not and I wouldn’t be. However, I am proud of myself for getting out there, doing the best I could, and growing and learning from being in another race. I’m proud of myself for getting out on the track and beginning my track season and I’m proud of myself for not giving up.

One of the most important things I learned from this race is to be in the moment and to be ok with being in that moment. What I mean is this: I can’t spend time worrying about where I wish my body were or where I will be in a few months because that moment is not here. The only place you or I can be is where we physically are right now and the only way I can get better is by doing everything I can in the moment I am in to reach the next level. Is worrying about my future in any way going to help me reach a better future? No, it will probably just make me more stressed which will cause me to worry more which will make me more stressed… you see the cycle. Not all stress is bad, stressors and hard times can make me stronger but when I start to worry I end up stuck. I don’t end up doing anything to propel myself forward; I’m just worried and stagnant. So I am learning how to be in the moment and be happy and calm in that moment. I was happy to be on that track in Boston because it meant I was healthy to run and race. I’m content with where I am in training and I know that by being content and working hard in the moment I’m reaching a better future and have big races ahead of me. I’m loving the moments I’m in, I’m filled up by people I’m around who love and encourage me, and (as my coach always reminds me to do) I’m having so much fun running and making myself stronger every day.

Live in the moment, love people you’re around, and get out there and run the world! 🙂