Race Recap and Enjoying the Off Season

It’s been a few days since my final race of the season at the USA National Club XC Championships in Seattle, WA and I’m still reveling in the outcome. I finished 13th overall in a time of 20:40, 74 spots better than I finished at this meet a year ago. Although I would have loved to have snuck in the top 10 (just a precious few seconds away!), I am incredibly pleased with the progress I’ve made and I know that I’ll only be stronger over 10 kilometers. I couldn’t ask for a better way to finish my fall campaign and prepare for track season!

I flew up to Seattle a day before the race with my New Balance Silicon Valley teammates. A course preview at Jefferson Golf Course revealed a beautiful XC course consisting of 2k grass loops. Winter weather left the course a bit muddy so times were a tad slow, but all in all Seattle was a great venue for a national XC meet. Crisp fresh air, elegant evergreens, and an arrestingly beautiful city skyline surrounded by snowy mountains - Pacific Northwest, what's not to love?

Seattle streets decked out for Christmas
On race day, as I went through my routine mental prep, I indulged in a deliciously decadent cup of coffee. I’d forgone caffeine in the week preceding the race, since I’d read an article by fitness writer Matt Fitzgerald that stated that caffeine’s performance enhancement properties decrease when caffeine is consumed habitually. Being hopelessly addicted to my morning cup of joe, I figured it best to cut back on the java for a few days, in the hope that when I finally had a cup of coffee, the caffeine boost would give me a little extra oomph. (For more on the relationship between coffee and running, check out this NYT article

Ah, exquisite espresso... :)
Race day brought feelings of both excitement and nerves. For me, it's always a battle between these two emotions, and finding the balance between the two is vital in order to perform well. Thankfully, I had a group of supportive NBSV teammates to lean on and help quell my nerves. An hour before the race, we warmed up in a light rain and after stretching, drills, and a few hard strides, we were ready to go. 

(Photo credit Spencer Allen)
With a blast of a gun, the race was off. I got out comfortably and positioned myself in the top 20, slightly off the lead pack. I knew some women would go out too hard and in the middle 2k I caught some of them, moving up in the field. Yet in retrospect, I probably ran the middle 2k too conservatively. I let the top 10 women get too much of a gap, which I spent the last 2k fighting to make up. With 1000 meters to go I was making up ground, but rapidly running out of time to catch people. I started kicking hard in an effort to reach the group.

(Photo credit Mike Scott)
Full speed ahead, I caught one runner, moving into 12th place. But in the final 50 meters I had an “Oh s**t, I kicked too soon” moment and I ran into trouble. 30 meters to go and NYAC athlete and Georgetown alum Maggie Infeld blew past me on my right. As I strained to match her surge, my legs started to give out from under me. Wobbling, my muscles went to jelly and I stumbled, almost collapsing just meters from the finish. The last 10 meters felt like an eternity as I fought to hold off a hard-charging Tanya Zeferjahn. Somehow I willed my way across the line and then promptly collapsed. Race officials dragged me to the sidelines, admonishing me to "Get up! Keep moving! Runners are coming!” In response, I couldn't help but laugh to myself, thinking “I would move if I could but I can’t!” You know that post-race feeling of complete and utter exhaustion? Yeah, that was me...

On the pain train in the final meters (Photo credit Mike Scott)
After a few minutes I revived and found my NBSV teammates. It was a mixed bag for the team – some solid performances, but some rough days as well. Teammate Kate had been running in the top 20 with me but slipped in the mud on a 90 degree turn and fell, while Kris pulled her hamstring just 200 meters into the race and had to drop out. Despite these tough breaks, our team finished 9th overall, our highest finish at a Club XC Championship (and without some of our top women, who are currently training for the Olympic Marathon Trials!). All in all, it was a successful day for NBSV and for me – I left Seattle happy with my performance, thrilled with my progress in the past year, and more excited than ever for the upcoming track season! :)

Post-race, I’m taking some time off to let my body rest and recharge between XC and track season. I’ve been training without a break since June, so this week brings some much-needed recovery time. In my downtime, I've been living the life of a regular 20-something: staying up late, sleeping in, shopping til I drop, and eating copious amounts of chocolate -- all things I try to minimize during training. It's been refreshing to take a mental and physical break from running, but oddly enough, I’ve never been more eager to get back to the trails and out on the roads. The Track & Field Olympic Trials are just 6 short months away and I'm hankering to start putting in the work needed to get me to the starting line of the 10K in Eugene, Oregon on June 22!
Off Season Indulgences -- Christmas Ale Ginger Snap Ice Cream!
For those whose seasons are also done, enjoy your much-deserved time off -- I hope you come back to training refreshed and energized! Happy holidays to all, and as always, THANK YOU for your love and support :)
Run joyfully,