I like routine…especially when it comes to competing. I have my way of doing things that I feel helps me compete at the highest level possible. I like to eat the same things and do the same things before each meet.(Chipotle and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and 8 solid hours of sleep the night before, writing AO1 on my hand for the race, listening to my music in a certain order while warming up, etc.) However, especially when I am traveling to a meet, I can’t always have my routine…and as an elite athlete, you have to learn how to compete well and compete hard regardless of the circumstances.
This weekend I competed in my first real indoor race ever in Grand Rapids, MI at Grand Valley State University. (I ran on a dinky indoor track for a meet in HS twice) Azusa Pacific was going out there for a meet, so I decided to compete as well. After flying all day with weather delays on Thursday we finally got to Michigan at about 10:30pm. By the time we got our bags and rental vans and got everyone loaded up it was after 11:30. The plan was to go to Steak & Shake (already not an ideal pre-meet place to eat) but they wouldn’t take our large group because they didn’t have enough help, so we ended up at Denny’s down the road. By the time we got to the hotel it was after 2am and we were leaving for the grocery store at 10am. My morning routine the day of the race is always the most important to me…it’s my time to get my mind right before a race. With my race not being until that evening, and not coming back to the hotel once we left for the track, I had a lot to pack and a lot to do…shakeout run, do my hair (maybe the most important part J), food for the whole day, coaching clothes, racing clothes…which threw a solid night’s sleep out the window. I did my best to roll with the punches and stay composed. Especially as a coach, I knew I couldn’t be complaining about how everything was going wrong. I had to encourage the athletes (and myself) that it’s still possible to race fast despite the lack of familiarity.
Once I finally got through the morning and to the facility, my stress and anxiety levels had gone down a lot. I have never really run an indoor race (other than in high school on a dinky wooden track) before and have only been to a couple to watch. The facilities at Grand Valley are top notch. My race was one of the last ones of the day, but we had athletes competing all throughout the meet, so before I could put my athlete hat on I had to put on my coaching hat. We had some solid performances throughout the meet and I think they handled the disruptions very well.
I managed to squeeze in a nap during the meet (which, as a coach, I would never do, but knowing that I needed to compete that night, I made an exception) and felt a lot better after that. Even with the nap though, being stuck indoors for most of the day was taking its toll. I knew I need to get outside and get some fresh air. So, when it was time to warm up, I bundled up and went outside to run in the cold. (News Flash: The weather in Michigan in February is VERY different than the weather in California in February.) It felt so nice to finally be outside that I didn’t even care how cold it was. I still felt like I was able to warm up and get ready for the race and I wasn’t squished on to the infield of the track like a sardine trying to get ready while avoiding running into people that were just walking around and not paying attention.
I ended up running 9:42 for 3k which is a new PR and can’t wait to race indoors again! Racing indoors is a whole new experience that I don’t know if I can explain. It feels much more intense than an outdoor race, but in an exhilarating way. Overall, I am satisfied with my race. I feel like I really pushed myself as hard as I could. I competed well and did my best to press the pace even when it got uncomfortable. A PR is always a good thing, but it left me hungry for more. It was a great indicator of where I am fitness wise and that I am on the right track, but it’s definitely no reason to settle.
This race proves to me and gives me confidence that I can still run well in less-than ideal conditions. I have always said that racing is all about who can compete well at 90%. Training very rarely goes exactly how you want it to, sometimes travel mishaps happen, etc. But that goes for everyone in the race. There is a very good chance that every other person on the line with you has had some kind of set-back or mishap in their journey to that race. Knowing that gives me confidence in the training that I have been able to do and I’m not going to let a meal or a few hours less of sleep ruin my opportunity to test my physical limits.
I’m not exactly sure what is next for me. That race was pretty much the extent of my indoor season, so now I will be transitioning to outdoor season which means a steeplechase is in my near future and I cannot wait!!