To put my time in perspective from the U.S. 10 mile Championships, Molly Huddle ran 51:44 on the same course on that same morning.
The 6 minute and 18 second head start that was given to the women, a bonus to the race to see if the men could catch up, grew by over a minute in Molly’s favor between the two of us. Another way to look at this time and my performance would be that the week before, I strung together 8 miles of effort at 7200 feet (elevation) averaging just under 5:00 minute pace. That was considered a relatively easy workout in comparison to other workouts and so imagine my frustration when I failed to hold a 5 minute average through the 10 miles.
Standing on the starting line in my baby blue Hoka One One jersey, I thought to myself that the strides had felt light, the weather was perfect, and I had nothing on my body that deemed a distraction from a spectacular performance. My head was clear of worry and I was excited to be back on the roads competitively. Before the race, my coach, Ben Rosario, had made a point to explain that the early pace may seem fast due to the difference in altitude but to not worry because I would relax as time passed. I took what he said seriously but filed it away in the back of my mind because I trusted that I was strong and figured it would not matter.
Then the gun went off. I came off the line and immediately felt the difference. I blocked out that worry and settled; finding a slot somewhere in the top 15. I felt great! My legs churned at a rate that seemed quick but I couldn’t help but feel a surge of excitement based on how easy it was to run. We made our few turns out of the Minneapolis business district and crossed through the first mile; a 4:52. I panicked. I thought for sure it would be closer to 4:40. I understood why the first mile felt so easy and now the worry crept back in. A surge took place. Parker Stinson had taken the lead early on and was clearly aware of the slow start. We entered into the Minnesota campus and climbed one of the only sharper hills on the course. With the weight of the anxiety about the first mile now making it’s presence, I felt the hill more than I wanted. We crested and I took a deep breathe but nothing felt good. For the next two miles I tried to break the negativity. I watched as Parker and now Jonathan Grey keep the pace hot and I kept creeping toward the back of the now 11 man pack. I looked around for comfort. I wanted to find motivation; seeking pain on any face but I realized these guys were relaxed. Dathan, Sam, Abdi; they all were in control and I was freaking out. My mind won. Somewhere around mile 4 I slipped back. Brian Shrader saw what was happening and attempted to coax me but I had already made up my mind; today was going to be a sub par performance. The slippery slope continued over the next 6 miles. First the chase pack caught me and I attempted to change speeds but I had already buried myself. Group after group caught me as we drew closer to St. Paul and I was only running slower with each passing. I would eventually make my way down the final hill, jogging across the line and just walked straight out of the corral to find Ben and hang my head. I had taken off my shoe due to some pain on the top of my foot and that was the first inquiry but all I could imagine was that It was just a consequence of the weakness I showed for 35 minutes. We talked for a while about the outcome, watched the award ceremony, and then I slinked off back to the hotel where I could try to block out the day and just move on.
To say the least, It was a disappointing morning. When I sit here and look over everything, I can obviously tell that my performance was not who I am by any stretch. However, It was who I chose to be in those 10 miles. I walked up to the line with a puffed up chest and a easy going demeanor but when the going got tough, I made the choice to break down and throw out all of the trust I had in myself, my training, and my program. The numbers give it that perspective. They show a time that has been a workout for me in the past. A 53 minute 10 miler should be a long drawn out tempo that I finish and think “Yeah, that was a strong effort”. Not a finishing time in a race that I die to. My own saying; You can only be as great as the image you have of yourself held a lot of water on that Sunday morning because when I finished, I did not have a strong mental image. I spent those 53 minutes fighting myself and believing anything that my own mind threw at me.
Moving on from this experience, I know I have to remember the last year I had at Texas. I put myself in races and didn’t back down when adversity showed. I ran to win and I think the biggest observation I took from the 10 miler was that I didn’t stand on that starting line thinking about victory. I only thought of safe thoughts. Deep down, I just wanted top 15. I was only hungry for a race that would be considered good and not great. When I put myself in a situation to succeed, I crumbled and thought I bit off more than I could chew. We cannot stand in front of our goals and stoop to something lower in order to protect ourselves. That only begins a negative thought process that allows for yourself to continue to look for the easy way out. That first mile last Sunday was my adversity and I quickly chose to give in. I looked around, figured out that I didn’t want it, and spent the second half of the race suffering in my own mind and already wondering what race was next.
Hopefully one day soon, I can challenge Molly Huddle to another race and try to set the score right. For the time being, this race will remain as a highlighted disappointment in my training that will motivate me to be the best that I can be during every step I take.