Sunday, October 2, 2011

This Is Running Country!

This weekend, my team ran at the Willamette Invitational in Salem, Oregon. One of the biggest races I have ever competed in, my race had around 230 girls, and that was just one of four races. The energy was unreal; Salem, which is only about 45 minutes from Eugene, Oregon, loves running. All of Oregon, really, loves running. You could feel it in the air there. It smelled like competition, desire, and pain... all the things wrapped together that make cross country so hard and so irresistible at the same time.

The weekend started off disastrous. My roommate and I, who is also on the team, didn't wake up to our alarm clock and almost missed the bus. We are both really responsible and dedicated, so needless to say nothing like that had ever happened before. And we felt so guilty. I was seriously worried that the stress was going to affect me the rest of the trip... because it was SO stressful. I can't even explain it. And our coach was NOT happy. But we all let it go, and moved on. And since we are always so dedicated, our coach let it slide.

The night before my race I wrote down these goals:

.Beat as many schools in my conference (NWACC) as possible
.Don't get boxed in at the start
.Never give up
.Short and quick steps up the hill
.Top 30/18:50 for time
Aleisha and I at pre-race dinner... A buffet!
Runners love to eat :)
We had so many things going for us. A lower elevation. A flat course with tons of bark trails, perfect for absorbing the "bounce" in my step. Tons of NWACC teams present.

I was so nervous the day of. We ate Denny's for breakfast, since that was the hotel's continental breakfast... luckily they had my go to pre-race meal, oatmeal. I also had some almonds, raisins, and as always, green tea. Our race didn't start until 11:35... the last of four. So we really had time to let the intensity build up. We also had time to get really cold, and had to keep walking around to keep the chill off. It was honestly perfect racing weather though.

And on the starting line, I tried to imagine every good athletic experience I had ever had. I repeated the quote my coach had said the night before over and over in my head: "If you want success, your will to succeed has to be greater than your fear of failure". I prayed and gave it all to God. It's all for his glory after all. And I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

I'm in the orange... and I totally took out that girl in the pink!

The gun went off so fast. And just like that, the race had started. I didn't get boxed in at the start. In fact, I almost led it through the small little opening that I was so worried about. I briefly thought "why am I doing this?" and then the thought disappeared into the competition. I ran a hard but smart first mile, coming in at around 5:49. I powered up the soap box hill with short quick steps. I focused on the long backstretch of the 2nd mile, keeping intensity and trying to move up. I flew down the soap box hill again, coming into the 3rd mile. That was where it got hard. I wanted to give up, to slow down. And then I remembered a workout I had run that week where I had killed the last mile. And I knew it was in me, I just had to pull it out. So I did. We came around the last loop. We entered the track. I took off, trying to pass people, and I did. Two hundred meters to go, still passing people. One hundred, all I have left.... and then, at ten meters, I got out-strided by a really tall girl. There was nothing I could do, and I didn't know she had been there. I muttered "crap" under my breath, and finished.

But... when I saw the board with my time, I just smiled. 18:37!!!!! Over a minute PR. And I broke 19 minutes. And even though I didn't collapse... even though I do have more I can give... I can honestly say I have never given so much before. And I was so happy. Runners high hit me almost immediately. And I later found out that I got 29th, which means I met my goal :)

I just can't explain how fast it felt. How it was over in the blink of an eye. How I finally found that level of pushing myself as hard (or almost as hard) as I could go. I know why I run now, even though people who don't couldn't possibly understand. It's hard, and it sucks, but its so rewarding. And I want to see what more I can do. How much further I can push myself. I'm so excited for NWACCs.
This is from a totally different race. But its a good running picture :) 

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