2017: My Quickest National Championship

Here it goes, throwback to the USATF 2017 Outdoor Nationals.  I was traveling to Sacramento, CA, to compete in the 20km race walk.  I had done my first 50km race earlier that year, a race I almost didn’t do because I strained my hamstring 6 weeks prior.  Then, as history likes to repeat itself, I strained my other hamstring 6 weeks before nationals in Sacramento.  I was so discouraged, I wasn’t able to do any race walking, just some running to stay fit.  About 2 weeks out I was able to do some easy walking, but it was too late to get any useful training in.  I talked to my dad (my previous race walk coach) and he wanted to come check out my technique after my injury.  He lived about 3 hours away and I told him it wasn’t worth the trip, I was sure my technique was fine.  I was just going to wing it for the race and see what I could do.

My husband drove me and our 3 kids (ages 7, 5, and 1) to Sacramento for my race.  We did the trip in 2 days, arriving the day prior to race day.  We had enough time to pick up my race packet and go check out the course, so we rode the shuttle from packet pick-up to the track.  The race walk was contested on a road course just outside the stadium.  While we were waiting for the shuttle back to where we had left our car, I started feeling really nauseous.  The shuttle was supposed to come every 10 minutes or so, but there had been some traffic delay and we ended up waiting over an hour.  I felt so sick that I asked Patrick to watch the kids and I went and laid down in the grass.  Eventually the shuttle came and we made it back to our car but I was feeling even worse by then, I was so sure that I was going to vomit that I didn’t even want to get in the car.  I somehow made it to the Airbnb, but we skipped stopping at the grocery store to get food, there was no way I was going to manage that.  The peanut butter and bananas that we had in the car would have to do.

My kiddos waiting for the shuttle pick-up

Patrick fed the kids snack foods for dinner, I couldn’t even eat anything.  All I could think about was that I hoped I felt better in the morning so I could race.  I got the kids to bed (which is never an easy feat when traveling) and I was laying on the floor trying to get everything ready that we would need to take to the race.  I remember laying there so miserably nauseous and asking Patrick, “What if I’m pregnant?” 

He looked concerned for a moment and then said with such certainty, “There is no way you could be pregnant,” that I figured it was something I ate and I went to bed praying that I would feel better in the morning.

My alarm went off way too early the next morning and the nausea was mostly gone.  I didn’t want to test my stomach with breakfast, so I sipped on some electrolyte drink and decided that was all I was going to try and consume before the race.  The kids were so tired but I drug them out of bed and had planned to throw some clothes on them, throw them in the car, and head to the race.  All went as planned except Annalie.  It is an understatement to say that she has never been a morning person.  Unbeknownst to me, I had not brought her the correct dress to wear to the race.  And she threw the biggest tantrum about it.  I got the other kids ready and in the car, got everything else we needed loaded up, and Annalie was still in the house screaming and ripping off any clothes that I tried to put on her.  I tried every parenting trick I could think of but nothing worked.  I had stalled at least 20 minutes and we really needed to get to the race.  Eventually Patrick was able to strap her in her carseat kicking and screaming and entirely naked and off we went.  

We got lost on the way to the track, but eventually we got there.  We were pulling into the parking lot roughly 10 minutes before the start of my race.  I left Patrick with the kids (including the still-naked Annalie) with some condolences of, “Sorry, you’ll have to figure something out, I’ve got to get to the start!”  I was still almost a kilometer from the start line, so I ran as fast as I could, thinking sarcastically about what a great warmup I was getting and how I will surely have missed final call for the race by the time I get there.  I got to the start line and someone (I don’t even remember who) handed me my bib number and said that they knew I was going to make it so they had picked it up for me.  So grateful for that, otherwise I would have been too late to get my number and be in the race.

I had a couple minutes to prepare myself before the starting gun went off and then I was racing!  We were on a one kilometer loop course, and by the second loop I saw Patrick with my three kids who were all clothed by then.  My stomach was settled enough (although I had not eaten anything since lunch the day before) and my hamstring was feeling good, I was starting to think I might actually make it through the 20 kilometers.

Start of the women’s race

But then I started getting cautions for bent knee.  Race walking requires that you follow certain rules, maintaining one foot in contact with the ground at all times and keeping your knee straight from the time your foot contacts the ground until it passes under your hip.  There are judges around the course watching and they will caution you if you violate the rules.  They can also write you a disqualification card (“red card”), 3 red cards and you are out of the race.  I had never had technique issues before, but I had been dealing with this hamstring strain, and my dad’s offer to come down and make sure my technique was good before the race was coming back to haunt me.

I hollered at Patrick as I went by that I was getting cautions for bent knee.  Patrick does not know race walking technique, but he does know how to get ahold of my dad.  By the next time I went by Patrick was on the phone with my dad and he was able to relay to me what my dad thought I should do to correct things.  Over the next couple kilometers he was also taking video clips of me and sending them to my dad who was reviewing them and offering feedback on my next lap.  But it was too late, around 12 kilometers into the race I got disqualified.  My first (and only at this point) disqualification.  

I made my way to the other end of the course where Patrick and my kiddos were waiting for me to come by on my next loop and got lots of love and hugs from them.  I called my dad and told him the bad news.  We stayed around and watched everyone finish, then headed back to our Airbnb.

We had to pack up and head out of town because we had a memorial service to attend the next day back in Oregon.  I had just lost one of the great women in my life, she adopted me as her granddaughter when I was 18.  We drove for about 9 of the next 24 hours to make it to her memorial, I was so glad that we got to be there though. 

Another three hours of driving and we were home.  The nausea had come back the afternoon of my race and stayed, I had not been able to eat much, a way too familiar feeling from three prior pregnancies.  A couple days after we got home I took a pregnancy test and sure enough it was positive.  It was a needed rest for my hamstrings while I coped with months of nausea and vomiting, and the next February we had a beautiful baby girl.

Race waddling on my due date
Holding my baby in my arms for the first time

The hamstring didn’t get better though.  When Mira was 9 weeks old I raced a 20k and qualified for the 2018 National Championships, a race I wasn’t even supposed to be doing because of my hamstring, nor was I at any level of fitness that I thought would earn me the qualifying time that I needed.  It happened though, so all 6 of us drove to Iowa for the USATF 2018 Outdoor Nationals.  That year had its own drama going on and I really didn’t want a repeat of 2017.  The highlight of that race though was when I was headed to the start line and my son yelled at me, “Now remember mom, we did all this for you.  Don’t get disqualified!”

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