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Wow, 2012 has flown by so fast. It doesn’t seem possible that a year has passed since I started my taper for the Olympic Trials Marathon, and so much of what has happened since then seems like a dream. I’m not even going to pretend that I’m not nervous about 2013, I am – simply because I can’t imagine a year that will top my 2012.
When I crossed the finish line at the Marathon Trials in Houston last January, two thoughts crossed my mind: 1) I was incredibly excited to have run an 8-minute PR and gotten under 2:30, and 2) I assumed that I had zero shot of going to the Olympics since the marathon is the only road event and I hadn’t raced on a track in almost 7 years. Well, I’ve learned my lesson – that you never know what might happen.
January: Olympic Trials Marathon – 5th place, 2:29:45 (previous best 2:37:26). Some people ask me if I wish I’d been more aggressive, taken a chance and gone with the pack, etc. To those people I can only say, “dude, I ran an 8 minute PR. I’m happy and wouldn’t change a thing!” I didn’t even know until September that I would be running this race, so I can’t complain a bit about how it turned out .
January was also when I decided to take the Spring semester off from school, probably the right call, but I’d be done now if I hadn’t taken the break! Instead I’ve got one more semester to go.
February: Got out of the snow and cold in Flagstaff with a 6-week trip to Kenya where I got to see friends, family, and sunshine. I was really shocked by how good I felt after the marathon – I’d expected to take 2-3 weeks off, but I only made it 4 days before I was back running and feeling good. It’s amazing what a difference proper marathon training makes!
March: Wow, this was a BUSY month, here’s how it went down.
March 10: Gate River Run / US 15k Championships – 1st place, 49:41 (previous best 49:58). Came straight from Kenya for this one and really didn’t know how my fitness was. It was supposed to be a rust-buster, so I’d say the rust got busted!
March 18: NYRR NYC ½ Marathon – 5th place, 1:09:55 (previous best 1:10:59). Considering I’d had one of my worst races in a long time the year before, this was a great way to redeem myself. In 2005, after my first ½ marathon, I had said I’d never do another one – it was just too long. I guess I had no clue what I was talking about.
March 24: Azalea Trail Run 10k – 1st place, 32:41. OK, I wasn’t supposed to run this race – so don’t tell my coach that I did. My schedule said “tempo run” run or something like that – I guess I did something like that. Highlight of this weekend was introducing a bunch of Kenyan runners to hot-fudge sundaes!
March 31: Cooper River Bridge Run 10k – 1st place, 33:00. This was my 7th year in a row to run this one, so I wasn’t going to let an hour-long delay at the start get to me! This was my first “big” road race back in 2006, and I still can’t believe I won it. What was my secret? I stole a Pepsi from my husband to drink during the delay!
April: Back to Flagstaff for more altitude and less racing. I did squeeze in two races – one of which would prove to be super important a couple of months later.
April 15: BAA Boston 5k – 4th place, 15:41 (previous best 16:12). Somehow I’d never managed to break 16:00 for 5k, and I was determined to do that. Tried to take pictures while watching the marathon the next day but got so nervous that I had to ask a bystander to take pictures for me so I could cheer!
April 29: Kim McDonald 10,000m – 5th place, 31:33 (previous best 34:21!). OK, I want to go ahead and settle the debate – yes, I was wearing road flats for this race. I hadn’t put on spikes in seven years, and I wasn’t about to risk it for this one. Went in planning to get the Trials “A” standard of 32:45 out of the way and maybe, just maybe, sneak under 32:00 – remember, just two weeks earlier was my first time under 16:00 for 5k. I decided to take a risk early – knowing that I could back off and still get the 32:45. I had some technical issues with my watch (operator error!), so I had to totally run by feel, and I guess I felt good! Only problem with this race was that now I wouldn’t just be “running for fun” at the Trials in June! As it turned out, running wasn’t much fun for me at all in June, and this little race would prove much more important than I thought at the time.
May: OK, so my May looked a lot more like my March. Lots of racing, lots of travel. May also brought with it something pretty exciting – a contract from my newest sponsor, Nike. Lets just say that, for someone who was planning to run after college to make friends and stay in shape, this was a milestone. For the first time in years, my running clothes actually match!
May 6: Lilac Bloomsday 12k – 2nd place, 39:22 (previous best 40:35). I knew one thing going into this race, that the combination of Genoveva Kigen and Mamitu Daska in the field would mean an insane pace from the gun. I decided I’d play it a little conservative and see what happened. Considering Daska ran the 6th fastest 12k ever, I think I’ll call my 2nd place finish a success!
May 12: 5/3rd Riverbank Run 25k – 1st place, 1:24:36 (new American record). Went into this race thinking that I had good fitness out to maybe 20k, and wondering how the last 5k might go. Well, I ended up feeling terrible up till about 20k and then feeling fantastic the last 5k. Shows how much I know. Back when I was an injury-plagued college athlete, I met Joan Benoit-Samuelson at a race and couldn’t believe I was talking to her. To break her record at this race still blows my mind!
May 28: Bolder Boulder 10k – 2nd place, 33:23. I’ve lived the majority of my life at high altitude, but for some reason I had no idea what to expect racing here. My coach told me a few things, friends told me a few different things, and I was starting to get sick – what a combination. One thing I knew – I had learned it at Bloomsday – was that I would not go out with Mamitu Daska’s early pace. I hung back with the pack and waited for the altitude to “hit” like everyone promised it would. One mile, two miles, three miles all passed, and I still felt decent. Somewhere between four and five I decided this Mr. Altitude had missed his chance to get me and I took off – felt good to the end and was amazed to hear the “USA” chant when I rolled into the stadium. So cool. To be on a team with Deena and Magda – after years of having their posters on my wall – was so awesome! Post-race soak in Boulder Creek was great too.
June: June meant back to Georgia for a little sea level time before the Olympic trials – and a bit of a break from travel and racing. In retrospect, I don’t think I need sea level training for anything longer than 5000m, but it was an interesting experiment anyway. For me personally, I’d rather hammer my lungs and heart at altitude – and keep my muscles and connective tissues intact – than get a few extra seconds on my speed sessions and risk a blowout.
For the last ½ of May or so, I had been fighting a persistent little respiratory ailment. It played all sorts of games with me – taunting me until I was ready to go see the doctor, then letting up just enough to convince me not to. It kept doing this for most of June as well, but my training was going OK, and I decided to just be tough – bad idea.
A couple of weeks before the trials, I did get one crazy idea. What if, instead of doing my scheduled workout, I went down to Atlanta and ran a 5k at the ATC All-Comers track meet? Considering I had the trials coming up, and I’d only raced on the track once since college, I decided to go for it. I lined up a pacer to get me through 3k, and on a nice muggy Atlanta night, I managed to crank out a 15:22 in front of about 50 screaming fans – seriously, there were only about 50 people there, but they were AWESOME. Of course that gave me all sorts of confidence about my fitness; I just forgot to worry about my health too.
Fast forward to the 3rd week of June, up in Oregon, where I had to actually run the Trials to make the Olympic team. A few days before leaving for Oregon, my respiratory problems went from annoying to bad, and when I got to Oregon they decided to go from bad to worse. My legs felt OK, but I had one small problem – I couldn’t breath. I spent the night before my race coughing up blood in a cheap Oregon hotel room. I wasn’t sure if I should go to the race or the ER the next day. Well, as it turns out, that didn’t matter – but I sure didn’t know that at the time, and I was scared to death.
Race day rolled around and brought rain, rain, and more rain in that order. Honestly, I tried to convince myself that maybe they would even postpone the race, that they’d never run it in a downpour. Guess I was wrong. Even the warm-up was freezing and soaked, and to be honest, it probably saved me.
Back in March we had gone to lunch with Benard Lagat up in Flagstaff, and he told me something that was really in my mind that day – he said that at the Olympic Trials only one thing matters, making the team. I knew I wasn’t in any condition to finish top 3, breathing is required for that, but with the “A” standard under my belt, I still had a shot.
I was miserable in those conditions, and so was everyone else, and about six laps into the race, I looked at my husband in the stands and he gave me a thumbs-up – meaning the race was not on “A” standard pace, and the fact that I couldn’t breath might not keep me off the Olympic team after all. But I still had to finish – which might explain to a few of you why I was running in lane 2 – in my water-soaked racing flats I thought lane 1 was to slick and risky. I didn’t have a great race, but it was actually my 2nd fastest 10,000m time ever, and I did what I needed to do.
Now I had to get well, and get ready for London – which meant I had to get healthy! June wrapped up with a double course of antibiotics, and July 1 saw me on a flight back to Arizona to enjoy the wonderful summer weather in Flagstaff.
July was a month filled with only one thing – training. I can’t begin to overstate the important role that three guys played in helping me out that month. Matt Llano, Zach Ornelas and Chris Gomez, you guys are the best pacemakers a girl could ask for! I definitely enjoyed being back up at altitude, where I could push myself hard at more humane paces, and the weeks flew by. Before I knew it I was marching into the Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremonies – something so surreal that I still wonder if I was really there.
If I finished out July at the opening ceremonies, then that meant starting August with the actual race. OK, so is it weird that, of all the races I’ve ever run, I was probably least nervous for the Olympics? Seriously, I knew that, if I could handle the complicated warm-up procedures, I was good to go. My training in Flagstaff had gone even better than I had hoped, I was healthy, and I had no doubt about the fact that I was in PR shape – and that I would have a great field to run with and chase that PR.
What I didn’t expect was to be leading the race after the first 200 meters, but I won’t complain. Now I’ve seen the race video, and I know I did really run the whole 25 laps, but all I can remember is knowing that I was on goal pace for the first four laps and then hearing that we had eight laps to go and thinking, “OK, I can do this.” Crossing that finish line and realizing that I had PR’d by over 20 seconds in the biggest race of my life was unbelievable, and I left that stadium feeling the satisfaction of having done my best when it mattered.
The rest of my Olympic experience involved going to as many track & field sessions as possible – as well as watching the women’s marathon – and it was a great experience since I don’t actually get to watch other people race very often!
I didn’t stay in London quite as long as I wanted, but that was just fine because instead I headed to Kenya with Jay and his family for their first visit to my birthplace! We had a blast, even if it did rain almost every single day. Nothing says “welcome to Kenya” quite like a wet matatu ride, and they surely felt very welcomed. They stayed over for two weeks – taking in a safari, meeting so many members of my extended family, and enjoying all the fresh and free avacados from my mom’s tree!
Once they left, it was suddenly September and back to work for me – I had to get ready for the New York City Marathon. Jay had brought a mountain bike to Kenya this time (he somehow managed to take it apart and fit it in his luggage!), and so we spent 5 weeks zipping all over the Kenyan countryside and getting lots of funny stares and occasionally getting lost. The training went well, and we closed out the month by flying back to the US just in time for me to run the US 10 Mile Championships in Minnesota.
Much like in March, I wasn’t really sure how my training in Kenya would translate to a race, so I was again relieved when I found myself breaking the tape to win my second consecutive US 10 Mile title and once again winning the overall title on the USA Running Circuit. One thing that training in Kenya didn’t get me ready for was the cold – it was well below freezing at the start, and in Kenya I’d been wearing a cap and gloves when it hit the upper 40′s!
From Minnesota I flew out to Arizona, where I was greeted by Jay – who had somehow managed to attend his 20-year HS reunion and drive from Georgia to Arizona in the time it took me to win a 10-mile race! I was going to spend one more month in Flagstaff putting the final touches on my marathon training – hoping to have a great race at New York to cap off what had already been an incredible year.
The training went well – though I still think I like summer in Flagstaff a little better than fall – and I went into the last week of October ready to take a shot at that hilly NYC course. Well, I guess the weatherman had other plans.
November was a challenging month to be sure. Without going into all the details of cancellations, rebooking, and even hitch-hiking, I’ll just say that I somehow came out of the 2012 NYC Marathon feeling more worn-out than I have ever felt after a marathon – and I didn’t even run it! I did come out of New York knowing one thing for certain – my running was done for 2012, and I couldn’t complain about anything.
A great run at New York would’ve been the perfect cherry on top, but I can definitely focus on the sundae underneath and be glad for what I did get to do this year.
November also saw Jay’s dad, who is definitely my number one fan, completing successful treatment for bone cancer, and that helps put running in perspective. I used the rest of the month to rest, heal a few aches and pains that kept me company for most of the year, and spend time with friends and family – something that’s tough to do with my usual schedule.
December has been spent getting back into shape – slowly but surely – and doing projects around the house. As I wrap up the final hours of 2012, I can’t help but look back and think that it’s been a true “career year.”
Seriously, if someone had told me when I started running in 2000 that I could have a career that included a sub-2:30 marathon, a sub-1:10 half marathon, an American record, 3 national road titles, winning the USA Running Circuit, and being and Olympian, I would have said they were crazy – but sign me up. Well, that was my 2012 – just 2012 – so a true “career in a year” so to speak.
I can say that it was truly a blessed year for me, and I have to think about each and every person who helped make it possible. To my sponsors, MarathonGuide, Nike, Wrips Wipes and GU Energy; my support teams at Tree Trail Medical, Harbin Clinic Rehabilitation, Wilkens Chiropractic, and all the friends, family and total strangers who’ve helped me out on this long strange trip that running has become – I want to say a huge thanks!
None of this would have happened without you guys – thanks so much for being part of my miracle year! I’m not going to try to name everyone who helped me out along the way, but I do want to give a special thanks to my coach, the legendary Jack Daniels – whose mastery of math helped me see my potential – and to my wonderful husband who’s been there on his bike, mile after mile, always ready with my drinks, my Gu, and the occasional joke to keep things moving.
Wishing all off you a 2013 filled with peace, love and blessings!
Well, it’s been a little while since I updated this thing, and just a few things have happened since then…
For starters, I should probably mention that I’m heading to London as part of the US Olympic Team. Yep, me, the girl who hadn’t run a real race until after my 22nd birthday and who 10 months ago was being told that I would not be eligible to represent the US until 2 months after the closing ceremonies. Well, I guess God likes doing funny things from time to time, and turning me into an Olympian has got to rank pretty high up there.
Anyway, back to the story. Since my last update I finished 2nd at the Bolder Boulder 10k – and teamed up with two of my heroes, Deena Kastor and Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, to lead the US women to a 2nd place finish in the team division. I’ve gone to an all-comers track meet at Emory University where I lowered my 5000m PR from 16:19 to 15:22 for only a $2 entry fee. I’ve traveled from Arizona to Colorado to Georgia to Oregon, back to Georgia and then back to Arizona – and now I’m counting down the days before I board my flight to London!
Over the next few weeks and months I’ll try to connect a few of the dots about how all this happened, but for now, here are a few links to media coverage that might help catch you up on things. All I can say is, I’m not sure what God has in mind for me, but 14 years ago, I accepted a ride from a stranger, and that encounter has brought me here – not that I would encourage riding with strangers! Enjoy.
For those of you with at least a half hour to kill, 25 laps of pain and suffering.
Well, it took 7 years, but I finally got the win at the Cooper River Bridge Run 10k. Back in 2006 this was my first “big” road race, and I finished 4th. In the years since I’ve always been in the top 6, including two 2nd place finishes, but 1st place was just out of reach (2 seconds out of reach last year). This year things finally came together at the right time and it was great to get that win. I’ve now finished every place in the top 6 except 3rd! If you fast-forward to about 5:20 into the video you can see my finish and interview:
Managed to get some videos linked into my “Videos” page in case you’d like to see a little bit about where and how I train. Will be adding more in the next few weeks.
Thanks so much for taking the time to visit my new website. As you can probably see, it’s very much a work in progress, but I hope to make this a place where you can answer all your questions about me, my running, and other things I enjoy. If you have a question that you can’t answer here, just let me know. Thanks again for taking the time to drop in and don’t be a stranger.