I would rather race in a snowstorm than the heat and humidity any day of the week. This is why I was thankful the Outdoor US National Championships were held in Eugene, OR this year. Eugene can usually be counted on to be temperate, even if that means sometimes navigating water jumps in the rain. Last weekend had other plans, however, and temperatures ran in the 90’s for the entire meet.
I was thankful to even participate in the Outdoor US National Championships Track Meet. I’ve spent this track season chasing the auto-qualifying time to get me to the Outdoor Championships. By hitting the auto time (9:53.0 for the women’s steeple), runners automatically get to run at the meet. If you don’t hit the standard, meet officials will fill the field (26 women in the steeple) with a descending order list from race times over the past year. Usually a few people get in who haven’t hit the standard, but it’s better to not have to worry about it.
I started things off by running a 9:59 steeple at the Payton Jordan meet in the beginning of May, followed by a 9:57 at the Hoka High Performance meet 10 days later. I tried again atNashville on June 6 and was running on pace for about 9:48 until I belly flopped into the water pit on my last water jump and finished in 9:54. Even being a second off the auto time was nerve-wrecking since a lot of runners had hit the time or were very close. I signed up for the Portland Track Festival, the last chance to qualify, but had to bow out due to an angry calf muscle. That week I held my breath hoping not too many people would pass my time on the descending order list at the meet.
A few days after Portland declarations to USA’s were due. A couple collegians scratched from the list (unsurprisingly after three long NCAA seasons), and was finally able to exhale as I made the meet with a couple seconds to spare. Even though I was near the bottom of the descending order list, I felt confident I could make the final round of the steeplechase.
As I warmed up for my prelim at 7 pm, I was able to keep my core body temperature from going too high by running with ice packs in my sports bra and a ice-water soaked towel around my neck. But as soon as I the race started, my body heated up and tensed up. I didn’t think running at 7 would be so hot, but the heat had peaked at 5 pm, and there was still direct sun with no cloud cover. I was running near the back for most of the race. I tried to make a move into mid-pack a couple times, but was unable to hold the position and got passed back each time. I was in so much pain I didn’t know where I was in the race. Despite my fatigue I rallied on the last lap to run my fastest lap of the race and I was able to pass a two runners who had gone out too fast. While I got 9th in my race, I got into the finals on time. After the race I was worried that I was not in as of shape as I thought, then I noticed that it had been so hot that the track and melted onto my spikes – something I have never experienced before (and something I hope I never have to experience again). This gave me hope that everyone else had hurt just as much as I had.
Although it was still in the mid-90’s for the Finals on Saturday, I got lucky and there was some cloud cover during the race. I had made a plan to not get caught up going to fast in the heat and I was able to relax at the back of the race for the first mile. With three laps to go my plan was working and I was still feeling good while several runners in front of me showed signs of coming back to me. That’s when I made my move. I ended up passing three runners in those final three laps and finished 12th in 9:56. This just happened to be the same place and time I finished at the 2012 Olympic Trials. I’m happy to have come as far as I have since surgery, but I also had a hard time accepting where I am at right now. I want to be at the front of the pack, challenging for a spot on the World Team. I know I dropped 20 seconds from my PR in 2013, and I can drop that time again. I have put many of the pieces in place to train well next year. Now I just have to put in the work.