Running really is the perfect metaphor for life. There are highs, lows, and everything in between. The past two months I have been absolutely in love with my running. I have switched gears, run less mileage, and hit the track more often. I have started to rip off 200s and 400s in times I haven’t run in years. I have felt fresh, rejuvenated, fast, and I must say, excited for the chance to prove my newfound speed to my competitors.
I headed into the USATF Championships confident I would be in the top 3. I have made many World Championship and Olympic teams, and my workouts of late showed a fitness on par with anything I have had before. I knew the race would be uncomfortable but I felt feisty and ready to take on the challenge.
The racing strategy from my coach was to go out and run my own race, not anyone else’s, and this excited me. It’s been a long time since I have run a race where I didn’t have a specific strategy in mind. The freedom to run hard and see how much I could get out of myself was a little scary, but mostly exciting. After all, my workouts have been great, certainly the best my coach has seen. I was ready to try something new and I was ready to run hard.
So what happened? It was a nightmare of a race for me and I blame no one but myself. I obviously went out too hard, suffered in the heat, and struggled to finish the race, let alone contest for the top 3 and a spot on the World Championship Team. Four women ran smarter, harder, and more successful races than me and I finished a distant fifth. I didn’t qualify for the World Championships, and I certainly don’t deserve to go Moscow over the women who finished in front of me. In what seemed like an instant, my dream of getting back to the World Championships in the 10,000 meters was over.
After the initial shock wore off (during which I did an interview – was I really talking about my grandparents and how I was going to live forever?!) (see video below) I began to re-play the race over and over in my mind trying to figure out what went wrong. I stayed up late, and I mean late, obsessing over it with my coach and searching for the places where we went wrong. I realize that at 34 (cough – almost 35) it seems like my coach and I would know what works for me and what doesn’t. But we have only been working together for a year and a half. There is always a learning curve with each other in the first couple of years together as athlete and coach, and we are still discovering what works and what doesn’t.
What happened Thursday was my fault but it taught me, and my coach, a lot. Certainly I would have preferred to learn these things in practice, but sometimes you need to fail on the biggest stage to learn the most.
Am I disappointed? Absolutely. Am I broken hearted? I’m healing. Am I going to wallow in self pity or hide my head in the sand? No way. The story takes a turn that I didn’t see coming, but I’m still forging ahead.
I’m wrapping my head around a new schedule now. I didn’t work this hard to give up after one bad race. Although my goal for the summer was a PR in the 10,000 meters in Moscow, I’m in the process of setting new goals. Things don’t always go the way you want, but that’s no reason to give up. I’m in the process of making my new plan now. It’s going to be a great summer.