Missed opportunities... close but no cigar

This past weekend I competed at the USA XC Championships in St. Louis, Missouri, where I finished in 10th overall in the Open Women's 8k race.

It's my first top-10 finish at a US championship, so I'm trying to be happy about that. But it's tough, because I was heartbreakingly close (again!) to a spot on a USA team. 8 seconds and a few key decisions mid-race cost me the opportunity to go to Trinidad to compete at the NACAC Cross-Country Championships. I learned a lot from this race and had plenty of positive takeaways, but it's hard to not see this as a missed opportunity.

Freezing my butt off in the sub-20 degree temps and 20 MPH winds (Photo Credit: Mike Scott)
The front pack went out hard on the heels of the eventual 1-2 finishers Sara Hall and Molly Huddle. I wasn't anticipating the fast start; it didn't jive with my race plan, which was to run the first 4 kilometers under control and then get after it in the last 4k. So, I let the top group go, trying to run my own race. I moved up in the field as the race went on, but ended up coming up short in the final meters. If you watch the race video (fast-forward to 27:30) you can see 7-8-9 finishers Stephanie Garcia, Hilary Orf, Ari Fisher, and me battling down the muddy homestretch. Although I ran a strong last kilometer, I just couldn't catch them. As I cross the finish line, you can see the defeated look on my face - the look of someone who knows they just missed their chance. Oh so close but no cigar.

Final meters... (Photo Credit: Mike Scott)
Obviously I'm a bit disappointed, but I'm not dwelling on the bad. A top 10 finish is a top 10 finish, and that's something to celebrate. Even if Saturday wasn't the day I'd hoped for, it is a step in the right direction, so I'll take it. I'm trying to take my own advice - I often tell the USF runners I coach that PRs and top finishes don't come around all that often, so you gotta take 'em when they come, even if wasn't quite the race you were hoping for. Especially as you get older in this sport, best times and medals are hard to come by, so celebrate the successes when you can. 

Top 10 - USA XC Championships 2012
Post race with NBSVers Steph, Annie, and Kate and honorary member Sara

And post-race, celebrate I did - I went out for dessert at the famed Baileys Chocolate Bar with my NBSV teammates and Ryan and Sara Hall. On Sunday the ladies went on a fun adventure long run through Forest Park, which resulted in us getting kicked out of the St. Louis Zoo - apparently no running allowed! :-) After some post-run eats, we explored the STL area. Now it's back to training here in the city and prepping for the US 15K Road Championships in Florida next month!

At the Arch with Dena, me, Kate, Sara, and Steph

Exploring Forest Park with Kate and Steph - love my teammates! <3