While I sit in the Nashville airport on my layover back home I have such an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for how abundantly I am blessed. I feel God’s hand in all that goes on in my life and I am so grateful for the lessons I’ve learned throughout the years and the amazing people I’ve had the privilege of associating with.
The best part about competing in these running circuit races is the opportunity I have to meet and associate with such kind, humble, hard working, faithful people. In general, the nature of a runner is someone who is down to earth and recognizes their God-given ability but who also realizes the hard work and effort it requires to run with strength and confidence. Its just so easy to talk to and get to know these like-minded individuals. I draw strength and inspiration from them.
Last night as I was falling asleep I had a deep, lengthy conversation with my roommate for the night, Hannah from College Station, TX. After a very nice dinner and chat with Coach D, I walked into my hotel room around 9 pm and learned that Hannah would be my roommate for the night. As we got settled and wound down for sleep we just seemed to make a connection and couldn’t stop talking. Our conversation covered many topics and delved into some challenges we have each been through. Both of us Christian, we were able to discuss how Christ’s example and teachings have helped us through our greatest trials and we were able to connect on a spiritual level that was very touching.
Maybe it was the fact that we had just returned from an athlete dinner including special guest speaker, Dick Beardsley, 1982 Boston marathon 2nd place finisher. Watch Dick’s 1982 Boston Race video, its excruciating and inspiring all at the same time. Dick’s story is absolutely amazing to understand all of the obstacles and odds he had to overcome. Dick gave his all and was blessed with amazing perspective and character through his challenging Boston “Non-Win.” It made me realize that sometimes the 2nd place finisher’s story and lesson learned is even more special and impactful than the winner’s. His lesson learned….NEVER GIVE UP.
With that in mind, I definitely did not go out on race morning deciding to just settle for 3rd place since that has seemed to be my lot in life recently. I went out to give it my ALL. To lay in on the line and never give up. Maybe this time that would bring me my first National Championship title or maybe it would be 10th place. I was detached from the outcome but completely attached, concretely cemented to the commitment to give my best. I truly believed that I very well COULD win. I knew that Jen was very fit (probably even more fit than she was in Houston when she beat me by 45 seconds,) I was also very aware that Katie McGregor (who was very close behind in Houston) was on the hunt and defending her 15K title from last year. But I also knew as I know in every race, a lot can happen in 9.3 miles and in every race it all boils down to who is feeling the best on that day and who happens to have the fitness and mind power to carry them ahead of the field. I knew my fitness had been improving over the past 6 weeks since Houston and Coach D accidentally admitted to me after my workout last Friday that my fitness was “almost scary” which made me laugh but also gave me a lot of confidence and courage. He quickly corrected himself, “Well I don’t mean, scary…but you know what I mean…better than its ever been.” And he is right, my fitness is better than it has ever been in my life.
So with Coach’s confidence as well as my family, friends, teammates, and God’s support, I went to the starting line excited and happy. I knew it was going to be a great day. I also felt a quiet confidence as I wore a running skirt in memory of Sally Meyerhoff. I joked with Katie McGregor that the skirts would “call down the powers of Sally on our behalf.” Sally is an elite marathoner and triathlete who was killed on Tuesday in a cycling accident. With news of her passing coming just days before the 15K champs, friends in the running circuit community scrambled to get the word out on how to pay tribute to Sally in Saturday’s race. Katie McGregor sent out FB messages to everyone, inviting us to wear running skirts and/or pink compression socks along with a pink ribbon in our hair since Sally always liked to be decked out in fun apparal and often raced in such. I called Nicole DeBoom at Skirt Sports on Thursday morning before my flight and asked her to donate a dozen skirts so I could hand them out to athletes who did not have one at the elite athlete meeting. She was happy to oblige and had them ready for me a few minutes later as I stopped by to pick them up. Megan Brown from Toronto, CA also had connections with another company out of Canada who donated some fun skirts. We made sure anyone who wanted to race in a skirt had received one. As we toed the line, the race announcer gave some kind words and we paused for 15 seconds of silence for Sally, a woman whose presence will be greatly missed in the running community.
The announcer said, ready, set, go! And we were off.
The race pack went out tight and thick. Lots-o-ladies cruising along at a 5:28 first mile. I didn’t actually get my mile splits as I was too focussed and zoned in. My good friend Carolyn Mather, a.k.a. Pippi Longstocking (I’ll post pics of her awesome ensemble soon) told me some splits afterwards. The first 5k was comfortable and tightly-knit as we came through in 16:44. After 5k, Jen decided to rev up the throttle and she suddenly started dropping the pace down to 5:12-5:08 range for the middle 5k. I went with her for a couple of miles until just after the 5 mile mark when I realized I had been sticking to her at this faster pace for over two miles and I was becoming far too uncomfortable to expect myself to continue on that pace for the final 4 miles. In order to avoid major destruction, I backed off the pace a bit and got into my own rythm, probably slowing to 5:25-5:35 pace. Again, I am not sure my splits because I didn’t really take them but I do know I came through 10K in 32:58, which means I ran a 16:14 for the middle 5K. With a little gap on the rest of the field thanks to Jen’s surge, I had some moving room. I wasn’t yet giving up on 1st place because I knew there was a slim possibility that Jen would come back to me, but that was not likely. I was racing for 2nd place and I hoped to be able to push it hard enough to at least beat the winning time from last year (I actually had no idea what that time was, but I pushed the mental time machine button and imagined Katie McGregor right next to me pushing it in to the finish). While she was the champion last year, Katie happened to be having an off day today and was back a few spots. What I did not realize was that Megan Hogan was hunting me down quite ambitiously and apparently she came within a few seconds of me right before the bridge with a mile to go. She is so light on her feet I never even heard her and was just racing for time and trying to stay close to Jen.
Jen had a good 20 seconds on me and I knew the men were creeping up on us too. With this being an “equalizer race” we had a 6 minute head start but with the amazing “burning forest” that IS men’s distance running right now, I could feel the heat. I was running hard and charging up the hill when Mo Trafeh floated by. As I crested the hill at the peak of the long bridge, a few more men raced on by and I tried to draw strength from their quick strides and amazing power. I got exited as I cruised into the downhill off the bridge because having grown up racing in Utah where nearly every race is aided, downhill running is one of my strong points. I felt confident that no female could possibly catch me now. I must have been near 5 minute pace or faster for the final half mile.
I crossed the line 21-25 seconds behind Jen and realized that Megan Hogan was just a few seconds behind me (its a good thing I kept pushing for time!!) According to the results Megan was only one second behind? Seems strange to me because I never even heard her and in the video it looks like more than one second, but whatev. I had my finish time on my watch as 49:52 but the results say 49:56. My final 5K split worked out to be 16:54ish. Carolyn and Coach D gave me hugs of congratulations and we celebrated the slaying of “the third place monkey.” Race finish areas are always fun as all the competitors come in and congratulate each other. A job well done by all and high fives, pats on the back, and sometimes grueling stories ensue. My teammates, Colleen and Sara came in within seconds of each other, 14th and 15th place. It was clear that USA-Minnesota had won the team competition but hard to tell whether Running Republic of Boulder was ahead or behind Boulder Running Company (we found out later that we secured the 2nd place team finish!)
Drug Testing. My USADA escort, Amanda was right there with clipboard in hand ready to take me off to drug testing but I was quite dehydrated and needed to drink a lot, change out of my soaked singlet, and jog a bit before I was ready to pee in a cup. She was a good sport and jogged a nice cool down with me in her jeans and turtleneck. Really? A turtleneck on this gorgeous 65 degree day? It must still be winter in Florida.
Carolyn joined us for part of the jogging and we told Amanda it was a good thing she is skinny and fit because I really appreciated her willingness to jog with me so I wasn’t stuck in a cold tent as my legs stiffened up. We jogged to the elite athlete area so I could change out of my wet jersey into my warm ups then we jogged back to the USADA tent with the hope that I could supply the 90ml of “sample” required. It took a couple of tries and Amanda was kind enough to keep jogging with me in-between attempts but I finally gave my full sample and was released.
The awards ceremony was fun as we celebrated the team and individual successes. It was a nice walk to the ferry and back to the Hotel as I realized I only had 15 minutes to shower, pack, and get to the lobby for my ride to the airport. I said my goodbyes to friends, race director Richard, Carolyn, and others as I thanked them for the fun time and wished them well ’till we meet again.
I am excited to get back home to my family and enjoy our peaceful Sunday together. Hopefully I can get some rest in the afternoon. Apparently I have to be careful about my Sunday afternoon naps though because last Sunday as I was napping, Aaron exercised his “power of attorney” on my behalf and agreed for both of us to speak in Church tomorrow. So now I get to wake up early on daylight savings Sunday to speak in our 9 a.m. sacrament meeting! I wrote my talk on the flight out and hopefully will be able to share my message without too much disconnected thought. Its not the most prepared I’ve ever been for a Church talk but public speaking is always an exercise in faith as I am forced to overcome feelings of inadequacy and rely upon the Spirit to speak to people’s soul.
Here are some vids for your viewing pleasure…
Another Post-Race….Kevin forgot he had already interviewed me, I guess.
Post-Race with my teammates Colleen and Sara
Top 10 Females
1 Rhines, Jen 49:31
2 Kennard, Nan 49:56
3 Hogan, Megan 49:57
4 Grandt, Clara 50:34
5 Armstrong, Meghan 51:18
6 McGregor, Katie 51:21
7 Donaghue, Rebecca 51:52
8 Williams, Alisha 51:56
9 Houck, Jen 52:04
10 Cassie Slade 52:22
I’ll get some more photos up as they become available.
Thanks for your support!!
OH, and here is my week in training…
Monday: 7 miles on treadmill at FAC with Emma. Sheets of black ice outside.
Tuesday: A.M. 10.5 miles. Met RRB group at EBCP for a workout. 4X2:30 at 5:30ish pace, 10 minutes at 5:45 pace, 6X60 seconds at 5:20 pace, last one faster. Jog between each.
P.M. 4.5 miles with Renee in 7:03 pace
Wednesday: 10.5 miles in 6:50 pace
Thursday: A.M. 4 miles with Renee, Kristen, and Adrian
Flew to Jacksonville, FL
10 P.M. 4 mile shakeout on the treadmill at the Ramada in Jacksonville
Friday: 5 miles with Colleen. 4 strides and 4X45 seconds at race pace mixed in.
Saturday: Race. Probably 14.5 miles for the day.
Total miles for the week: 60